Obama affirms NATO’s self-fulfilling prophecy to relevance

100415a-HQ28-001 NATO Headquarters Brussels.

US President Obama’s visit to the former Soviet republic of Estonia can’t be more timely as talks of establishing a rapid military force to counter the perceived Russian aggression and fighting between the government of Kiev and separatist rebels in the East intensifies.

During the visit to Estonia, Obama announced that the “door to NATO membership will remain open” and reaffirmed the principles that guided NATO, such as strengthening countries outside the alliance, including Ukraine, to improve their military.

The visit comes a day before a NATO summit to be held in Wales. Dubbed as “the most important gathering of NATO leaders in more than a decade”, the summit will discuss issues relating to America’s failure in Afghanistan, the new threat of Islamic extremism, and the situation in Ukraine.

On the one hand, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk flirted with the NATO membership, stating his eagerness in making Ukraine part of the military alliance, “I consider the most correct decision would be to accept Ukraine as a member of NATO.”

Interestingly, France also made news when it changed its mind on the delivery of two Mistral warships to Russia, ordered back in 2011, because of their ‘concern’ over the situation in Ukraine. While all this is happening, four NATO warships from the US, France, Canada, and Spain will reportedly enter the Black Sea sometime this week and a military drill involving US troops will be held in Ukrainian territory this month.

A return to NATO’S core mission

There is no doubt that the situation in Ukraine has ‘reawakened’ NATO’s reason for existing after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Contemporary observers agree that after the Cold War, with no main adversary to confront, NATO faced a nagging existential threat. For its main advocate at least, the United States has made sure wars for profit will continue to emerge, as long as it sticks to its policy of meddling in other country’s affairs.

Indeed, the alliance has come a long way of finding its raison d’etre to exist, from the much opposed Balkan wars in the 1990s to its intervention beyond Europe, namely the failed military adventure of the Afghanistan war. Eyebrows were raised during the surprise war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, but pragmatism prevailed over talks of Georgia’s annexation to the Western military alliance, as doing so might provoke Moscow’s sensitivities.

Needless to say, the situation in Ukraine today is more of an existential threat to Russia’s security than during the Georgian conflict, because of the existence of its Black Sea fleet in the Crimea. If all of Russia’s actions vis-à-vis Ukraine can be summarized in one line, then it definitely would be that Russia’s core security concerns would have been breached if Ukraine were to host the overt stationing of NATO forces there as a result of its membership.

The West’s intervention in stoking regime change in Kiev has finally paid off with the installation of a leader who is bent on welcoming imperialist money and military but with the side effect of rousing the ire of Russia. For his part though, Putin has calmly outlined his 7-step plan to stop hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. Whether his plan will be recognized by Kiev remains to be seen, but it is unlikely to be taken seriously as Ukraine’s leaders are too busy inviting the West for NATO membership.

In a recent statement, Arseny Yatsenyuk insisted on Western meddling in Moscow’s sphere of influence as if Ukraine was part of the EU, saying “we are waiting for decisions from NATO and the EU on how to stop the aggressor.” He further rejected Putin’s peace plan, stating it is “an attempt of eyewash for the international community ahead of NATO summit and an attempt to avoid inevitable decisions from the EU on the new wave of sanctions against Russia.”

The EU also has not minced its chance to further escalate their relationship with Russia, where incoming European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogheirini announced that a new round of sanctions will be decided within a week.

At the present trajectory of international relations, it is tempting to assume that over the course of 20 years, the West, particularly NATO, has had its way with its relentless expansion towards the East. Indeed, the military alliance has essentially ‘invaded’ former Warsaw Pact members. To Russia’s eyes though, a further expansion to its very borders are a real cause for concern, especially in these days of World War memories, where the wounds from Russia’s involvement in the imperialist wars are still relatively fresh. We can only hope the West does not provoke Russia to act on those memories and fears.


NATO’s Expansion to Ukraine


While the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the intervention in Libya and the supply of illegal weapons to Syrian rebels are relatively fresh in our memory, here we are again being bombarded by words of deceit about the crisis in Ukraine.

By now we should be familiar that Washington, like the fallen angel from heaven, is at its best when it deceives.

By now we should’ve learned how Lucifer tricked the earliest people, by how he careful used words to poison his victims.

By now we know that when America uses the words ‘humanitarian intervention’, ‘democracy’, ‘peaceful protests’, ‘isolation’,  ‘rebel moderates’, ‘international community’, ‘all-inclusive minority-protecting’, it is exercising its right of spreading lies, double standards, and hypocrisy.

NATO’S Expansions to the East

Perhaps the earliest incursion and betrayal of Russian trust regarding Eastern Europe can be traced back to the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989. At the time, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to a united Germany, as long as Western powers maintain non-incorporation of the united German state into NATO. Nevertheless, Germany joined NATO in 1990, despite previous assurances from George Bush Sr. together with then US Secretary of State James Baker, and then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

At issue then was the Soviet withdrawal from East Germany, which they had the right to protect under a treaty negotiated between the allies after World War II. The Soviet leader agreed to pullout 380,000 Soviet troops in the East, under the condition the US and NATO will not expand to a united Germany.

Conn Hallinan best summarizes the exchanges at the time:

The Russians were willing to exit their troops, but only if US and NATO forces did not fill the vacuum. On Feb. 9, Gorbachev told Baker “any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.” Baker assured him that “NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward.”

The Baker-Gorbachev meeting was followed the next day by a meeting between Gorbachev and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who assured the Soviet leader that “naturally NATO could not expand its territory” into East Germany. And, in a parallel meeting between West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Genscher told Shevardnadze “for us, it stands firm: NATO will not expand to the East.”

But no one anticipated that the USSR will disintegrate a mere two years later. Having faced an existential challenge after the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO needed to take a decision on how to become a relevant organization after. And by now, it is clear its interests lie in expanding to the East, to Russia’s very borders.

In 1999 NATO membership was given to former Soviet bloc countries, including to Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary. The Atlantic alliance further ate into former Soviet republics with the incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 2004, together with other former Russian allies Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary. Another decade would pass until Albania and Croatia joined the NATO. Not to mention big American bases in Turkey, the West now has a united front against Russia, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Of course treaties and bases are a different matter from actually conducting wars. The Cold War triumphalism of the Reagan years extended well into the Clinton era, which was marked by Western incursions exploiting Russian weakness in the 1990s, namely the Bosnian War and Kosovo War. Perhaps a reality check is useful for determining which block of countries pose a threat to international peace and order.

In the case of the ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Kosovo, Adam Roberts asked the right questions:

Was NATO right to launch Operation Allied Force without at least making an attempt to get authorization from the Security Council? The argument for having at least tried is that the effort would have shown respect for the UN and would have enabled people around the world to see exactly which states were refusing to authorize action to stop atrocities.

Finally the US will be in Russia’s borders

Indeed it may not be a surprise now that the West’s exploitation of the events in Ukraine is part of a larger pattern of expansion and aggression towards Russia. Except for Belarus, Ukraine is perhaps the last straw Russia will be tackling in the relentless military expansion of the West.

Stephen Kinzer of Brown University sums it up accurately:

From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. It has brought 12 countries in Central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.

Although the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania hosts active forward NATO air bases, seeing the fall of another former Soviet republic presents perhaps the completion of Russia’s suspicion of the West’s intentions.

As if it’s true the West is ‘just all rhetoric’ and ‘all bark but no bite’, in the recent weeks we are witness to NATO advances towards Russia by deploying forces in the Baltics and Poland as well as sending a guided missile destroyer into the Black Sea, an area where Russia sees as the central issue of the Ukraine crisis.

As for Russia’s strategy in the region, with almost all of the former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe now a part of NATO, it is clear it has no intentions to expand. Russian forces are in Ukraine under a treaty, which the Western media often portrays as an ‘invasion force’ except that such a force has been there for the past 15 years.

RT News summarizes the facts well:

  • A Russian naval presence in Crimea dates to 1783 when the port city of Sevastopol was founded by Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin. Crimea was part of Russia until Nikita Khruschev gave it to Ukraine in 1954.
  • In 1997, amid the wreckage of the USSR, Russia & Ukraine signed a Partition Treaty determining the fate of the military bases and vessels in Crimea. The deal sparked widespread officer ‘defections’ to Russia and was ratified by the Russian & Ukrainian parliaments in 1999. Russia received 81.7 percent of the fleet’s ships after paying the Ukrainian government US$526.5 million.
  • The deal allowed the Russian Black Sea Fleet to stay in Crimea until 2017. This was extended by another 25 years to 2042 with a 5-year extension option in 2010.
  • Moscow annually writes off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequencies, and to compensate for the Black Sea Fleet’s environmental impact.
  • Russia has two airbases in Crimea, in Kacha and Gvardeysky.
  • Russian naval units are permitted to implement security measures at their permanent post as well as during re-deployments in cooperation with Ukrainian forces, in accordance with Russia’s armed forces procedures.

Unfortunately, we can only look back at the concern of Khrushchev in the 1960s and Gorbachev in the 1980s being played out today by the West and Russia, not to mention, perhaps, during the thug war that defeated Russia during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century. We only hope Crimean history does not repeat itself.