NATO – Our Enemy

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact should have ushered in a time of peace, but the debate at the time was about how to respond. Some were for closer relations with post-Soviet Russia, reduction in arms spending and the benefits of a peace dividend, however, this would create a problem for the US. The spin had always been that NATO had defended the West against the Soviet Union but in reality, NATO had been crucial in providing the US with a bridgehead to Europe and Asia and imposing US leadership of the Western alliance.

Zbigniew Brzezinski then advisor to US President Clinton summed up the US’s three priorities as:

“to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence amongst eh vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together” by barbarians he meant Russia and China. It is clear that the US needed NATO to ensure US influence in Europe and to contain competitors.

The new thinking was spelt out in a Pentagon strategy document in 1992:

‘Our primary objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the old Soviet Union or elsewhere… the new strategy requires that we work to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would be sufficient, if tightly controlled, to generated global power.’

This was only a year after the Warsaw Pack fell apart and James Baker (US Secretary of State) assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move East of Germany. ‘NATO will not extend by a single inch to the East’ he promised. Hollow words, as it turned out, NATO expanded to incorporate its first three former Warsaw Pack countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, a month before its 1999 attack on Serbia.

In 2004, seven other Baltic states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania followed, and by 2019, thirteen Eastern European and Balkan countries had joined NATO, even more, were candidates for membership and twelve new NATO  bases had been built east of Germany taking NATO  right up to the border of Russia.

In 1992 the European Union Maastricht Treaty enshrined the right of EU states to be part of NATO and defined NATO as the foundation of defence of the EU – in effect it tied the EU to the US and the further expansion of the Western military alliance and in the process, opened up Easter Europe to Western business, further alienated Russia.

The 2014 crisis in Ukraine was the fruit of NATO’s push eastward. With NATO’s influence in the region, Ukraine’s President, Kuchma signed a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and committed to joining NATO in 2002. his successor President Yushchenko was invited to the Brussels NATO  summit in 2005 and the 2008 NATO  summit gave the green light to Ukraine’s entry into the NATO club. However, the plan was scuppered in 2010 when the newly elected president Yanukovych signalled he had no intention of joining the Alliance.  

NATO by this time had developed close links with parts of the Ukrainian military, (we know that the CIA and FBI were working in the country at that time) and when the anti-government demonstrations started in early 2014, used as a pretext for NATO  to reassert its influence.

In 2014 NATO increased pressure on Russia. At the summit in Wales, they announced the ‘Readiness Action Plan’ to respond quickly and firmly to any new challenges’ created by ‘military aggression of Russia against Ukraine’. From 2014-2018 the US spent ten billion dollars on increasing the US and NATO  firepower in the region. US forces were stationed permanently on Polish territory and massive military exercises were conducted in the Baltic states – Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine – which are now effectively integrated into NATO operations.

The day after my 80th birthday Russia crossed the border into Ukraine the ensuing war has caused massive suffering and destruction. There is in my mind no justification for ANY war, however, it is crucial to understand that NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe was one of the causes of the war.

What was Putin playing at?

In a statement made by President Putin, he said the initial aim was to ‘demilitarise and denazify’ Ukraine. He did not say that Ukraine should have no military capacity at all but removed any possibility of Ukraine posing a military threat to Russia, or allowing itself to be used by others with that in mind (joining NATO). Denazify, is more a propaganda word- yes there are indeed Nazis in Ukraine, some of them embedded within the state apparatus, but they hardly dominate political life.

There has been much speculation as to why Putin ordered the invasion when he did. Did he simply run out of patience with the failure of the Kyiv government to honour the Minsk agreement on resolving the Donbas crisis?  Certainly, Zelensky’s persecution of pro-Russian politicians and media was foreclosing his political options and making military action the only remaining means to secure his objectives. Putin had marched his army up the hill what was he to do with them, march them down again – was he to withdraw his forces from the border – withdraw with his demands unmet, no this would have been unthinkable – humiliating.  

Putin’s invasion was ‘worse than a crime it was a blunder’ whatever the final outcome on the field of battle the resolution of this war seems likely to be deeply damaging to Russia. The integration of Finland and Sweden into NATO is only the down–payment.

Russia could not tolerate Ukraine becoming another NATO base, a direct threat to its only warm water port and the Black Sea its only access to the Mediterranean Sea, much as the USA would not tolerate a hostile Mexico, or Mexico forming a military pact with China, it could be said, true. But if the US was then to invade its southern neighbour would we say ‘fair enough?

Unjustified, however, does not mean unprovoked.

Stay safe.

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