NATO Prepares for War: Confrontation and Insanity

The US-NATO military alliance is gearing up for war, and its meeting 8-9 July is yet another step to nuclear confrontation and a gigantic leap backwards in world sanity.  The gathering in Warsaw, capital of implacably anti-Russia Poland (NATO member since 1999, when the US-inspired military push towards Russia’s borders gathered further momentum), is a symbol of Western determination to menace Moscow.

It is ironical that the anti-Russia jamboree is being held two days after publication of Britain’s Chilcot Report about the war on Iraq which damned forever the reputation of the UK’s former prime minister, Tony Blair, on the same day as his puppet-master, the deranged George W Bush, celebrated his 70th birthday.  Both these proven liars were killers on a tiny scale compared with such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao — but their quest for celebrity resulted in a catastrophe whose effects are still being suffered.

On the sixth of June the birthday boy Bush had a party, at the same time as his Iraq-invasion buddy, Blair, was formally told he is a lying, devious, conniving gobbet of perambulating filth.  And neither of them could give a tinker’s damn that the day before their celebrations and condemnation there was hellish mayhem in Baghdad, the city they “liberated” in their evil war.  The BBC reported  “the death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has risen to 250 . . . making it the deadliest such attack since the 2003 US-led invasion.”  Thank you, Bush and Blair, and thank you, NATO, as well, because you declare that “Iraq is one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as “partners across the globe” – with which NATO is developing relations . . .   Relations build on cooperation that developed through the NATO Training Mission in Iraq from 2004 to 2011, during which 15,000 Iraqi officers were trained.”

They weren’t trained very well, were they?  But the military expertise of US-NATO is somewhat suspect — as distinct from its undoubted proficiency in expanding growth, expenditure and influence.

US-NATO is not exactly a joke.  It’s far too expensive and disastrously inefficient to be regarded as any such thing.  But the anomalies and absurdities of that amazingly flawed grouping are such that they attract a grimace of grudging mirth from time to time.

The expense of running the US-NATO machine is colossal.  Not only has it recently opened a vast and luxurious glittering new Palace in Brussels (very quietly, because it didn’t want attention to be drawn to the enormous cost overrun to 2 billion dollars), but it imposes vast annual bills on its 28 member nations.  Certainly the US pays by far the most, but all 26 European countries (Canada pays up too, of course) can ill afford what they have to contribute. There’s no question that NATO has to dance to the American tune, because its entire existence depends on what America provides in cash — much of which is returned with interest by the NATO countries purchase of US weaponry.

The US-NATO alliance failed dismally in its war in Afghanistan.  Its website states that its “mission was to enable the Afghan authorities to provide effective security across the country and ensure that it would never again be a safe haven for terrorists.”   In 2011, at the height of its military fandangos in that unfortunate country, it had 140,000 troops battling a few thousand militants, but now, in 2016, far from there being “effective security,”  it is reported by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; an admirable medical charity) that “Security for the Afghan people has also deteriorated in large swaths of the country, further complicating humanitarian response. Afghan civilians are at greater risk today than at any time since Taliban rule.”

The UN Security Council states that “ The security situation in Afghanistan remains dire, with the Taliban carrying out a spate of attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country in early 2016, causing high levels of casualties to civilians and security forces.”

One of the people who criticized NATO’s war, US Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, wrote that its mighty forces opposing the Taliban had:

“Main Battle Tanks; artillery, mortars, advanced rockets, precision guided missiles, and hand-held rocket launchers . . . a wholly uncontested air force composed of NATO’s most advanced ground attack fighter jets, bombers, AWACS controllers, spy planes, signals-interception aircraft, B 1 bombers, attack helicopters, and massive transport jets to ferry our troops and critical supplies where they are needed . . . thousands of unmanned aerial drones both for intelligence collection and missile-launching . . .”

And, as Davies put it, they couldn’t beat “a bunch of dudes in bed sheets and flip-flops” who didn’t have a single bomber, drone or tank.

Then there came the equally abysmal shambles in Libya, when on 19 March 2011, the United States led NATO countries in a blitz of aircraft and missile strikes against the government of President Muammar Gaddafi. They subjected Libya to 9,658 air attacks and reduced it to an economic wasteland.  Then after the murder of President Gaddafi on 20 October 2011 (as Hillary Clinton laughingly had it, “We came;  We saw;  He died”) there was rejoicing, and US-NATO ceased its bombardment.

After their happy war, Mr Ivo Daalder, the US Representative on NATO’s Council 2009-2013, and Admiral James G (‘Zorba’) Stavridis, the US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (the military commander of NATO) in the same period, wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2012 that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention. The alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime. It succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Gaddafi.”  So everything was going to be wonderful in Libya after the “model intervention” by US-NATO that enabled rebels to topple and murder the President.

But in February 2016 the UN recorded that in Libya  “since the 2011 armed conflict, thousands of individuals remain in detention, the vast majority without any proper examination of their cases . . .   human rights defenders have been targeted, through assassination, attempted murder, abduction, threats, surveillance, and raids on their homes and offices . . . Journalists have been subjected to killings, death threats, arbitrary detention and abduction.”  Daalder and Stavridis are murderous morons.

As Human Rights Watch reports, “Continuing armed clashes have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and interrupted access to basic services, including fuel and electrical power. Forces engaged in the conflict are guilty of arbitrary detention, torture, unlawful killings . . .  In addition, armed groups that pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State are also summarily killing people in areas under their control.”  And now the migrant crisis in Europe is caused, as MSNBC informs us, by “the largest flow of modern African migration funnels through a single country — Libya.  Coming from the south, migrants flee the vestiges of wars that have left entire nations in ruin . . .  Some arrive by choice, others by force. But Libya is the purgatory where most migrants prepare to face the deadliest stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.”   Thank you, US-NATO, for a “model intervention.”

The message is that US-NATO action results in military, political and social disaster.  In this past fifteen years it has achieved nothing but catastrophe in the countries unfortunate enough to have received its military attention.

But US-NATO is always ready to seek new foes, to validate its expensive existence, and the nation upon which its leaders place their hopes is Russia.

NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, speaks of “Russian intimidation of its neighbours” and stressed that NATO’s response to the non-existent threat is with “most intensive strengthening defenses since the Cold War period.”  He claims that  “We don’t seek confrontation with Russia. We do not seek a new Cold War”  — but then supports the US-led massive military maneuvers along Russia’s borders.  He increases the numbers of troops to be permanently based in countries close to Russia’s borders because he champions “enhancement” of “our forward presence in the eastern part of our alliance.”

“Forward presence”? —  The US official definition of “forward presence” is “maintaining forward-deployed or stationed forces overseas to demonstrate national resolve, strengthen alliances, dissuade potential adversaries, and enhance the ability to respond quickly to contingencies.”  In other words — preparing for war.

Mr Stoltenberg’s double-speak may be intended to draw a cloak round the US-NATO military buildup, but at least there are some sane voices that point out the pointlessness and dangers of the alliance’s confrontation.  Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned that all the belligerent military posturing around Russia’s borders will worsen regional security and advised that “What we should not do now is inflame the situation with saber-rattling and warmongering. Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken. We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”

It is heartening to hear such level-headed observations, and he was followed by General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, who was forthright in declaring that Russia’s supposed “aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing.”

The problem is that much of the western public firmly believe that there have indeed been “intelligence assessments” that Russia poses a grave threat to the Baltic States and to much else besides.  The western media is full of warnings, ranging from ponderous to shrill and melodramatic, concerning supposed Russian intentions to invade the countries surrounding it.

As made clear by two open-eyed realists, there is no threat, and the cudgel-brandishing of the US-NATO alliance only inflames the situation — as it is intended to do.  But these sparks of sanity have no effect,  and the US-NATO build up for war against Russia continues.  As the wild-eyed Stoltenberg announced in warnik Warsaw on July 7,

Allies will agree to deploy four robust and multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis. A multinational framework brigade in Romania will provide a tailored presence in south-eastern Europe. NATO will also take further steps to improve cyber defences, civil preparedness and to defend against ballistic missile attack from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

To project stability beyond our borders, leaders will agree to extend NATO’s training mission in Iraq and to broaden the Alliance’s role in the central Mediterranean . . .  NATO will continue its military and financial support for Afghanistan and will strengthen political and practical cooperation with Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.

Last week President Putin told his diplomatic service that

NATO seems to be making a show of its anti-Russian stance. NATO not only seeks to find in Russia’s actions pretexts to affirm its own legitimacy and the need for its existence, but is also taking genuinely confrontational steps.

The number of military exercises has increased dramatically, including in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. We are constantly accused of military activity, but where? Only on our own soil. We are supposed to accept as normal the military build-up on our borders. Rapid reaction forces are being deployed in Poland and the Baltic countries, and there is a build-up in offensive weapons.

I never thought I’d agree with Moscow, after a military life that involved many years of supporting confrontation with the Kremlin.  (A tour as reconnaissance officer for a NATO nuclear missile regiment in Germany focuses the mind a bit.)  But circumstances change.

It’s a great pity that NATO has expanded with the prime mission of confronting Russia.  And I wouldn’t like to be serving in a nuclear missile regiment right now — on either side — because the US-NATO military alliance is intent on confrontation to the limit.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.