These are ecstatically happy days for Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military grouping that is irrelevant in the modern world. As the BBC commented, “Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may have given a new sense of purpose to the world’s oldest and most successful military alliance.” Spring is in the air, and the world’s “most successful military alliance” is retreating from Afghanistan where it could not win a war against a few thousand raggy baggie insurgents.
Nato forces are quitting a country that has in the past twelve years of their presence become the world’s biggest opium producer and ranks 175 out of 177 on the global corruption scale. The public relations propaganda teams of the US and Nato pour out good news about how many children are now being educated and so forth. But as the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported, civilian casualties rose by 14 per cent last year, and that “since 2009, the armed conflict has claimed the lives of 14,064 Afghan civilians and injured thousands more.” Nato was supposed to protect the population against militants but has achieved nothing except disaster. It is, however, retreating with all propaganda guns blazing.
Because now there is an exciting new challenge for Nato, just like the good old days of the Cold War. The Russia-Ukraine dispute is a wonderful opportunity to meddle militarily.
Hope springs eternal in the Nato military breast, and the fact that the vast majority of Crimea’s inhabitants voted that their province should leave Ukraine and return to be part of Russia has provided a splendid opening for Nato to declare a ‘crisis’ and make a noisy show of preparing for war. (The voluntary accession of Crimea to Russia is called “annexation” by western media. And unless you read Asian newspapers you wouldn’t know that 135 international observers from 23 countries found the referendum to be conducted fairly. There’s a very nasty smell about this propaganda war.)
Recent pronouncements by the US vice president and defense secretary Hagel have been deliberately provocative. Hagel’s theme is that “Article V [of the North Atlantic Treaty] is clear that an attack against any one NATO ally will be considered an attack against all members of NATO. The United States is fully committed to meeting its Article V responsibilities.” — But there is no Russian threat of any kind to any Nato nation. The dispute in Europe concerns Russia and Ukraine and nobody else. Russia is not going to attack any Nato country. End of message.
But you wouldn’t know that from the spoon-fed columns of the western press and the breathy TV interviews. The picture painted is one of a crisis in which ravening Russia is intent on invading the 12 former republics and six satellite countries that became independent when the Soviet Union collapsed almost a quarter of a century ago. Just why it would commit economic suicide by trying to do this is not explained. As Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation points out, “You won’t read how the US national-security state refused to dismantle NATO at the end of the Cold War. Or about how NATO has, in violation of US promises to Russia, expanded its membership to include the Eastern European and Baltic countries that once formed part of the Warsaw Pact.”
If you believed the garbage trotted out by such propaganda channels as Britain’s Daily Telegraph (OK, so my formerly favorite paper has become a joke, but people still read it) and their comic equivalents in Washington and New York you would be digging a nuclear bomb shelter right now. They would have us imagine that there is about to be a Muscovite war of conquest and that Russian hordes are massed to strike against the peace-loving countries of Nato whose governments (or some of them) tell their citizens that they are threatened by an entirely bilateral dispute that has nothing whatever to do with them.
The quarrel between Russia and Ukraine is their own affair, and there is no reason whatever for interference from outside.
If Russia invaded Ukraine (which it could quite easily) there would be turbulence and probably violence in other regions along Russia’s border, which would be shatteringly disruptive to Russia’s economic growth and set back development and progress by decades. That’s probably what America wants ; but President Putin wants development and progress and he’s going to achieve that national goal in spite of US moves to obstruct his efforts. And he doesn’t want interference by militaristic Nato — which just might happen if Nato’s generals have their way.
But if Nato dares take one step into Russian territory there will be a mighty reaction. If the citizens in eastern areas of Ukraine vote to again become part of Russia, as did Crimea, then that’s their business. And if Russia goes in militarily to protect them, that’s bilateral business and nothing to do with Nato.
The official head of Nato is always a European politician, in order to try to show the world that it’s a peace-loving organization that works for harmony, reconciliation and all civilized aspirations. But the real head is always a US general and the present Supreme Allied Commander Europe is Air Force General Philip Breedlove who has been grossly over-promoted from latrine orderly.
He, like so many US generals nowadays, can’t resist mouthing off about matters of international importance. He told the Wall Street Journal that Russia has a “very large and very capable and very ready force” on its border with Ukraine, with “the entire suite that would be required to successfully have an incursion into Ukraine, should the decision be made. We think it is ready to go and we think it could accomplish its objectives in between three and five days if directed to make the actions.” Does this idiot not realize that his intemperate sound-off has enraged Moscow? Russia is being threatened by a foreign general. Does anyone imagine that this adolescent attempt at intimidation is going to calm things down?
Of course Russia could take over Ukraine if it wanted. Probably in two days, in fact. But it won’t; and if Nato wants peace, why is Breedlove designing “a package of measures that would include reinforcements by land, air and sea.”? The US is deploying troops to Poland and Estonia and Hagel proclaimed that “There’s an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered.” The warmongers are on the move again. It’s a wonderful time for Nato, with Hagel announcing that “We’re also assessing what additional contributions we can offer to reinforce our allies in central and eastern Europe.”
The US and Nato were defeated in Afghanistan. Their bombing forays into Libya killed hundreds of people who were no threat to any Nato nation and Libya is now a shambles, with countless lawless militias intent on mayhem. The US and Nato have no purpose whatever in the obsolete cause of defending North Atlantic nations from any threat, because there isn’t any threat.
But they desperately want to keep Nato in being and have seized on the Russia-Ukraine dispute to forge a reason for its continued existence. This, of course, has nothing to do with construction of the gigantic new Nato headquarters that has taken ten years to build at a cost overrun of half a billion dollars. It’s likely that you won’t have heard about this financial incompetence, because it’s been kept very quiet, but the whole unfinished project is a shambles. It was necessary to have the colossal complex because of all the new members of Nato that were encouraged to join the martial club to menace Russia from the west. Russia wasn’t expanding anywhere and stated explicitly that it wouldn’t. But Nato stretched out eastwards and its HQ expanded like daisies on a welcoming lawn.
All these thousands of Nato staff officers and bureaucrats have to be given luxurious suites, dining rooms and conference halls, and cost is no barrier. The upkeep of this vast empire is of no consequence : Nato’s taxpayers will pay for all of it — without, of course, being told how much it is costing them — but they get nothing for their money except plush palaces for pen-pushers and warmongering harangues from idiots like bellicose Breedlove and horrible Hagel.
The lights at Nato’s current Headquarters are burning late into the night but the frantic activity of its 4,000 staff members is not because of Nato’s responsibilities to keep about 5,000 soldiers in Kosovo, operate a counter-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean, and maintain some sort of training and advisory presence in Afghanistan, which is all it had to do before it latched on to Ukraine. They are preparing for war.
These are exciting happy days for Nato, because its propaganda machine is convincing the world that there is a Threat from Russia. It’s having a wonderful time, and its vast staffs are busy planning the move of troops and aircraft and ships all round the place to menace a country that has taken no action of any sort against any Nato member.
Propaganda is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.” The citizens of Nato nations are being are being misled by biased information to make them support an aggressive anti-Russian policy. If Nato steps over the line there is going to be war. So maybe digging bomb shelters would be a good idea.
Brian Cloughley lives in France.