Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Now we know what NATO is for!

by Colman Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 06:54:08 AM EST

I've often wondered. From Seamus Milne's piece in the the Guardian today:

As the academic Richard Sakwa puts it in his book Frontline Ukraine, Nato now “exists to manage the risks created by its existence”.
Of course. Silly me.


Display:
The continued support of the military infrastructure and the flow of funds to contractors is, of course, a necessary evil rather than the aim of the exercise.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 06:56:14 AM EST
It's only going to get worse.  

The UK already has troops on the ground, training Ukrainian military.  And, now the US is joining in.

WASHINGTON -- The US Army is preparing to send approximately 300 troops at a time to train Ukrainian forces in western Ukraine, according to documents posted on a government contracting site.

A solicitation posted in late February said that the US government is looking for a contractor to provide seven 50-passenger buses from March 5 through Oct. 31 for the purpose of ferrying up to 300 US troops from the L'viv International airport to the International Peace Keeping and Security Center at the Yavoriv training range in the far west of Ukraine...

The Army will rotate 300 troops at a time it appears, with March, May, July, August and October being the relief dates for each group.

The plan to train four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard comes as part of a US State Department initiative "to assist Ukraine in strengthening its law enforcement capabilities, conduct internal defense, and maintain rule of law," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman told Defense News this year.

I can't help but think of the supposed French response when the British asked what they could offer at the start of WWI.  One dead soldier. Hopefully, the fact that this training is taking place in Lviv will make that a near impossibility, but wisdom of putting troops on the ground in a country at war while believing you can remain a non-combatant is one that I question.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 11:04:19 AM EST
Military mission creep invariably starts when we send "advisers" who will be there for training "well behind the lines".

Who then find themselves at the front being seen as aggressors and in a leadership role by the other side. And who then get themselves killed. This escalating tension then requires more "advisers", support personnel, infrastructure providers and platoon level deployment "for protection".

and then the USS Maddox gets itself shot at (allegedly) and all hell breaks loose

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 02:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO lost its raison d'etre and became mired in confusion. We got a debate on what the mission of NATO should be now that the End of History and the Time of Eternal Peace and Stability had arrived, as predicted by Francis Fukuyama.

Well, it was not to be. After two decades of confused flailing, President Putin has graciously found NATO a new mission: the same as the old one. General Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, said it best. The purpose of the Alliance is "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

I'll drink to that.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 06:56:38 PM EST
Funny how 'Keeping the Germans down' has failed so spectacularly on the economic predation front. But, of course, we know that economic is completely separate from military force and politics. How could economic policy via European Institutions accomplish for Germany what the Wehrmacht could not? Better yet, it works reasonably well for most Western elites.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 10:50:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is all in the mental capture. Bernays should be proud.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Mar 5th, 2015 at 10:52:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a recent discussion here about the Yugoslavia break-up.

I just noticed this article (at Washington's Blog):

How the West Got Hooked On "Humanitarian War"

Quite an alternative perspective.

by das monde on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 12:53:29 AM EST
Sakwa's statement is correct, at least in a sense that it became correct through the times when Moscow was unhappy with NATO's eastward expansion and the whole complexity of the US involvement in European affairs post '91. In that complex mix and the dnamics of NATO enlargement where one would say 'it's just promotion of democracy and security' the other would say 'it's not just that, it's the promotion of particular American interests', both would be right.

Over time Russia chose to see the latter as the most important facet of the complex American presence in Europe and at its doorstep in Eastern Europe. That perception is now a hard-wired reality for the Kremlin and the Western diplomatic approach can't just brush that aside.

So, in the environment of Ukrainian crisis and Western - Russia relations NATO is a part of the problem. It can become a part of the solution solution through either military defeat of Russia or through a regime change in Moscow where some small circle of pro-Western politicians will run the show. Neither option seems realistic and both of them will cost immensely.

Oh, and hi, it's my first post at Eurotrib. :)

by Prospero on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 04:06:18 AM EST
Welcome to ET!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 04:08:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Russian interpretation of events was obvious, could and should have been predicted and could and should have been forestalled.

Instead they were treated as a defeated, spent enemy and patronised - seriously, missile defence in Poland is against Iran? - and the game played out as you'd expect. Either NATO are stupid or they wanted this outcome. Or a bit of both.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 04:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a significant shift some time during the first term of the Bush the Lesser presidency. I remember a summit early on when Putin and Bush appeared to be the best of buddies, but within a couple of years it appeared the US had not been dealing in good faith and Puting got pissed off and hardened Russia's position.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 05:13:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the early 00ies it was crazy conspiracy theories to suggest FSB planted bombs in Moscow in 1999 to re-start the Chechnya war so that Putin could enter his first presidential election as war President. in 2007 this was entered into testimony in the United States House of Representatives:

Russian apartment bombings - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"With Yeltsin and his family facing possible criminal prosecution, however, a plan was put into motion to put in place a successor who would guarantee that Yeltsin and his family would be safe from prosecution and the criminal division of property in the country would not be subject to reexamination. For "Operation Successor" to succeed, however, it was necessary to have a massive provocation. In my view, this provocation was the bombing in September, 1999 of the apartment building bombings in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. In the aftermath of these attacks, which claimed 300 lives, a new war was launched against Chechnya. Putin, the newly appointed prime minister who was put in charge of that war, achieved overnight popularity. Yeltsin resigned early. Putin was elected president and his first act was to guarantee Yeltsin immunity from prosecution."[153]

I have always had the shift connected with Putin taking back state control over oil and gas, but I fail to pinpoint any particular event.

by fjallstrom on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 07:34:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being entered as testimony in the US House doesn't mean it is true. See Clapper or Iraqi WMDs.....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 07:40:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, but it is serious instead of silly.

Russia was among friends of the west, where evidence is needed to even suspect a government of killing people for power.Now it has gone from friend to foe and then the general assumption is that the government kills people for fun.

Either way it doesn't say anything about what is true.

by fjallstrom on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 09:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Things went south probably before that. Here's a short insight form George Kennan, from his 1998 interview regarding Senate's approval of NATO expansion:


...
 ''I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,'' said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. ''I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.''

''What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was,'' added Mr. Kennan, who was present at the creation of NATO and whose anonymous 1947 article in the journal Foreign Affairs, signed ''X,'' defined America's cold-war containment policy for 40 years. ''I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.
...
''It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong.''
...

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/02/opinion/foreign-affairs-now-a-word-from-x.html

With or without Putin Kremlin would see this as a fundamental security problem for Russia. Those who do not share such a view in Russia have a public support in the order of a statistical error.

Whether that POV is fundamentally right, or is a mixed bag of misconceptions, fears, and some objective truth etc, is beyond the point. It is one of the few pillars of Russia's strategic culture and it must be taken seriously.

by Prospero on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 08:11:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the debate on NATO expansion is upside down. Even the wording, "expansion", is wrong. It creates an erroneous picture of NATO as a prime mover, expanding its borders eastwards to surround Russia.

The reality is that a large number of sovereign states decided they wanted to join NATO. Why did they want to join NATO? Well, that might just have something to do with half a century of Communist dictatorship and Soviet occupation.

Nations have a right to choose their own destinies. They have the right to decide, entirely by themselves, what organizations to apply for membership in. What people perhaps should ask themselves is why these countries do not want to join a defense alliance with Russia.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:50:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that this is the current standard NATO defence, but I seem to remember discussions of pressure being put on countries to join NATO as a precondition for aid and for EU membership.  
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:56:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it doesn't explain the missile defence in Poland class bullshit.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't.

But first of all, that was US craziness, not NATO. And it was probably about Iran. Take a look at a globe and draw a line from Iran to important European or American targets, and that line will pass pretty close to Poland.

And secondly, there was no reason at all for Russia to care one bit, at least from a nuclear deterrence perspective. If Russia wants to nuke Europe or the US, no missile defence will help. The warheads will get through. They are pretty much impossible to shoot down, and even if you figure out how to do it, you can saturate any missile defence by just firing more missiles. This is because anti-missile missiles have costs of the same magnitude as nuclear missiles have, but the latter can carry a large number of warheads per missile. You just can't win an arms race against nuclear missiles with your own missile defence system.

Still, a missile defence system in Poland would have reduced the ability of Russia to launch conventional decapitating strikes with its world-class semi-ballistic missile systems, like Iskander. Being able to weaken that ability would have been a good and stabilizing factor in the theater.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 12:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would also have allowed the Americans to believe that they had a first strike capability that might be fast enough to cripple the Russian command and control structures before a second strike could be launched.

The Americans would have to be insane to actually believe this. But, well... Bush.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 02:49:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really.  Russia has a very credible submarine second strike capability.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 07:09:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Credible to sane people, yes.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 08:20:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pending nuclear annihilation tend to concentrate minds.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 11:49:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the idea, yes.

However, if you are sitting in Russia and watching a regime that just started two land wars in Asia build what could even by a generous observer be mistaken for a first-strike capability right on your border...

... it's hard to blame you for becoming a little nervous.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 11:58:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one could mistake that facility for a first strike option. For the reasons I mentioned previously in the thread.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 12:24:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those are not arguments for why medium-range missiles on your border is not a first-strike capability, those are arguments for why nobody would want to spend money on putting a first-strike capability on your border.

The problem with the "no sane person would want to do that" line of reasoning is that that is also the reason the first world war didn't happen.

The further, more specific problem with that line of reasoning, in this context, is that the official reason for the facilities in question is not possible. So if you accept the notion that the Americans were building a missile defense system in Poland, then you are already operating under the assumption that the Americans are insane. Now we're just haggling over the flavor of insanity involved.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 01:18:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't agree, at all. It's perfectly reasonable to think that the system was not about Russia, but about Iran. Indeed, given the mechanics involved, it looks far more likely that was the reason. Still a stupid idea though.

And really, it only looks like a system built to support a first-strike if you are ready to accept a Russian retaliatory second strike. And I see absolutely no reason why anyone would think in those terms. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you somewhere, because what you're saying is not making much sense to me.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 01:53:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Russia or Iran (or ISIS for that matter) want to send nuclear bombs into Europe or even the USA, they won't use missiles. These are expensive and relatively unreliable.

But container traffic is a reliable way of sending stuff around the world and, so long as you can plan a month or so in advance, your weapon will be delivered safe and sound right to the heart of your target.

So missile defense is doubly stupid and reflects an inability to move away from Cold War silliness

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 12:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're probably right. But standard nuclear doctrine is to assume that the first strike is a decapitation attack that takes out the other side's ability to return fire, then you take out secondary targets providing infrastructure and military support, and finally - if there's anyone left to care - you take out the major political and population centres.

Nuking Washington and London with container-based H-bombs reverses that. It has the advantage that the nukees can't be sure who the enemy is - Russia, or China, or North Korea, or Iran, or India, or Pakistan, or even Israel, or even nutters on your own side.

So you can't launch a retaliatory attack without doing a lot of guessing and hoping and perhaps some hard science analysing isotope signatures and yield patterns. None of which are likely in the chaos immediately following.

So the downside is that it's not actually a decapitation. Someone nukes ten US cities with containers, what's left of the US military assumes it was Russia and/or China because why not, eh, and off it all goes.

Fallout and nuclear winter kill almost everyone, and it's not exactly a scenario made of win.

The US establishment is worried about all of this. Obama has been enthusiastically replacing nuclear command officers, for reasons that aren't entirely public.

I think it doesn't even need nukes. A massive cyber-attack is enough to take down the Internet and the utility grid in most Western countries. It's a much more immediate threat because it can be done selectively and surgically and made to look like a lot of unfortunate coincidences rather than one big ham-fisted slap down.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 07:21:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will await the opinion of those more familiar than I with the ease with which ALL characteristic radiation from such a weapon could be stopped sufficiently that it would only be detectable by opening the container. I really don't know. But the possibility could raise some counter uncertainties by the senders. Presumably, they wouldn't do it if they thought there was ANY chance that one would be found before it or any of them went off. With the device in hand the sender becomes more likely to be identifiable to a reasonable certainty.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 06:12:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can, but then you can't tell the bomb to blow up by remote control - which you want, because container shipping lines keep anything from 60 to 90 % schedule reliability.

But actually, the question you should be asking is "are shipping containers routinely monitored for radioactivity?"

To which the answer is "no, and building that capability would be expensive."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2015 at 02:23:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
About what I thought. I recall reading of systems that could detect such radiation but that they were not widely deployed, not terribly portable and were a budget line concern. Detecting neutrons, neutrinos and the products of their decay is not for something that you plug into your smartphone for a walk amongst the containers. It may be possible to fit such a detector on the back of a truck and drive through the isles of stack containers in a port or sweep across the stacks of containers on a ship entering port. Knowledge that such a system existed in a given port would raise doubts by a potential state sponsor, even if the chance of it being used was low.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2015 at 08:33:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could probably catch most containers by monitoring the baker's dozen biggest transshipment hubs for each of the major carriers.

But detection is not the biggest problem with using commercial container shipping as deployment mode for an atomic first strike. The biggest problem is that commercial container shipping needs to still be serving your country by the time you decide that you would like New York to go away.

Which means you can only really use this deployment mode if you make your first strike completely out of the blue.

This is not what most people want to use nukes for. Most people who would like to have nukes want them in order to use them as back-stop of their conventional power plays - to provide an ultimate step on the escalation ladder that cannot be challenged.

And the kind of people who would use atomic weapons for out-of-the-blue first strikes are not the kind of people who can afford to buy atomic weapons. Nevermind setting up and maintaining the advanced industrial engineering infrastructure required to produce them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2015 at 12:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't need actual containers on actual container ships, so there's no need to pass the cargo through the usual channels. Any other kind of merchant ship will do - even a large hired fishing vessel owned by a dumb captain who thinks he's being paid not to ask questions.

Modern warheads are incredibly small, so the container is optional. I suspect it's perfectly possible to transport a warhead on a small yacht or cruiser. It's certainly possible on those floating palaces oligarchs like to flaunt.

Security on the Thames in London is practically non-existent. I don't know what it's like in Washington. But I do know the Pentagon has a nearby marina, so it's probably not that high.

Which means you can only really use this deployment mode if you make your first strike completely out of the blue.

I'm guessing that would be the aim - a completely unexpected decapitation strike of unknown origin.

The point is the old Cold War machinery seems completely defenceless against a sneak attack. TSA shoe-pantomimes impress me a lot less than some hint that someone has taken the possibility seriously and set up credible defences against it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2015 at 05:33:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That kind of out-of-the-blue decapitation first strikes are not prevented by security measures. There simply is no way you can secure any halfway open society against an out-of-the-blue atomic attack. In the same way you might as well abandon any thought of securing your society against political assassins going after soft targets like newspapers or airports.

The thing that prevents this from happening is that most people with access to atomic weapons have a strong vested interest in the continued survival of industrial civilization.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2015 at 02:11:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That a sovereign decision was taken on NATO membership is not debatable, it is the truth, but not the whole truth.

Parts of the truth are that the expansion also underscored the inter-alliance issues (American role in Europe e.g.), it was also a product of internal American political debates, a product of European inability to create more robust security institutions, a product of bureaucracy perpetuation,  etc.

Another part of the truth is that after '91 there was no communist dictatorship nor SU. So, the logical answer to the question 'why join NATO?' was fear of Russia, whether rational or irrational. Thus the expansion of NATO through East European members got unmistakable anti-Russian flavor.

Since alliances, at the end, do not really exist without answering the 'who is our enemy' question, we arrive at the logical conclusion that NATO's 'expansion' to East was indeed anti-Russian step in its essence. If it had no internal content in that matter shortly after the end of the Cold War, it soon got one, conciously or unconciously.

by Prospero on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 03:28:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but surely the fundamental failure relates to the shock doctrine reforms imposed on/advised to Russia that turned it effectively into a semi-failed state.

A better, slower transition out to a post-Soviet economy could have helped create a Russia that actually had real economic interests in becoming "part of Europe."

Whether that would have been enough to stave off malign US thinking is debatable, but at least there might have been a chance to create some kind of actual alignment of interests.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 05:42:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was, IMO, in part, the Clinton Administration taking the opportunity to posture as tough on security and standing up for the formerly oppressed to keep them from falling back under foreign (Russian) domination and part of the price for the Wall Street support his administration had received. The first part goes back to the old 'soft on Communism' accusation, 'soft on defense', 'who lost China' BS that has long come from the right. Bush 41, Jim Baker and that administration pretty much kept their promises to Gorbachev. I don't know if Clinton and his top people knew or cared about the possibility of a better world that George Kennan was so passionately trying to defend. It is also part of the problem of relying on key foreign affairs advisers such as Madeline Albright and Zbig who could not help but see the world significantly in the light of the fates of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Then there were the appropriate ethnic minorities involved who needed to be kept in the fold. In the US politics often starts at the border. It is so much easier to scapegoat people who are not constituents.

Ironically, the line the attendees at Clinton's first nomination came away chanting "Without vision the people perish!" and this was a massive failure of vision.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:04:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.

The issue of Baker's promise (or should I say 'promise') was definitely lost in transition from Bush to Clinton. Washington didn't think much of it anyway, it was more of a tactical step to move forward with the German reunification plan and win Soviet approval. It was Moscow's error not to get that in writing, it would add more credence to their case.

The whole 'what of America in Europe' debate grew rapidly with the Bob Dole's attacks on Clinton regarding Bosnian War sometime during and after 1993, asking for heavy American involvement. Clinton's response, in effect, was to promote NATO as a vehicle for America's involvement and in parallel to that to tap the Eastern European immigrants' votes for '96 election. With passivity of EU on the security matters and the mood in Czech Republic and Poland, it was almost a perfect storm for the NATO to start moving to the East.

by Prospero on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 04:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this harping about the supposed promise is pretty pointless. Even if there was one, the EU would have expanded to the east anyway and russia would then haven been unhappy about that.

And there surely never was a "no eastern EU enlargement" promise.

by IM on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 05:11:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I tend to agree that the Russian insistence in that issue is not on solid grounds.

From what I've read on the matter (and it's way more that few journo articles) it is hard to say whether the American 'promise' was given for E. Germany or for E. Europe as a whole, and either way it was never put through relevant paperwork and transformed into solid deal. Even if it was blatant lie, which it probably wasn't since Baker at the time had no vision on NATO's expansion, an even if Genscher was more direct on the same matter, Russians came of more as a sore losers than anything else.

In the end one could easily point the finger at Gorbachev and Shevardnadze for not doing their jobs on that matter. Very poor statecraft performance from that lot.

by Prospero on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 10:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't argue that the Russians has good statecraft there, but, still, it was an opportunity we walked away from. However, that was inevitable once the 'shock doctrine' crew got to work in Russia for Wall Street. But almost all of my current understanding of economics and, especially finance and development, has only come since 2008, so I had few clues as to what was afoot.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 02:50:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spiegel has a (far as I can tell) good write-up on it. The ending:

NATO's Eastward Expansion: Calming Russian Fears - SPIEGEL ONLINE

In late May 1990, Gorbachev finally agreed to a unified Germany joining NATO. But why didn't Gorbachev and Shevardnadze get the West's commitments in writing at a time when they still held all the cards? "The Warsaw Pact still existed at the beginning of 1990," Gorbachev says today. "Merely the notion that NATO might expand to include the countries in this alliance sounded completely absurd at the time."

Some leading Western politicians were under the impression that the Kremlin leader and his foreign minister were ignoring reality and, as Baker said, were "in denial" about the demise of the Soviet Union as a major power.

On the other hand, the Baltic countries were still part of the Soviet Union, and NATO membership seemed light years away. And in some parts of Eastern Europe, peace-oriented dissidents were now in power, men like then-Czech President Vaclav Havel who, if he had had his way, would not only have dissolved the Warsaw Pact, but NATO along with it.

No Eastern European government was striving to join NATO in that early phase, and the Western alliance had absolutely no interest in taking on new members. It was too expensive, an unnecessary provocation of Moscow and, if worse came to worst, did the Western governments truly expect French, Italian or German soldiers to risk their lives for Poland and Hungary?

Then, in 1991, came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the war in Bosnia, with its hundred thousand dead, raised fears of a Balkanization of Eastern Europe. And in the United States President Bill Clinton, following his inauguration in 1993, was searching for a new mission for the Western alliance.

Suddenly everyone wanted to join NATO, and soon NATO wanted to accept everyone.

The dispute over history was about to begin.

by fjallstrom on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 04:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How quickly we forget the zeitgeist of an earlier era, and thus the conclusions which naturally follow there from. Plus, at that time, much of my knowledge of modern Germany were based on the very first edition of Geoffrey Barraclough's "Orgins of Modern Germany", which really started with a single short summary of the developments prior to the emergence of Prussia and then proceeded to describe the subsequent process of accretion for a brief to the Imperial War College in
Britain during WW II. I had found a copy of this in the Oklahoma State University library, while History was only my second minor subject and was fascinated. (I would very much like to find a copy as it is vastly different from the later editions.) The rest of my then knowledge of German history was from the course work I had in Russian, French and English 'national history course sequences. Add to that the fact that I was working 60+ hours a week and had a pre-school child at home, often missed the evening news on TV and primarily relied on the LA Times, which, at the time, had a fairly good foreign news section. Even so, little of what was in the Spiegel article was covered in any detail, mostly just the fact of the conferences.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 08:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
>we arrive at the logical conclusion that NATO's 'expansion' to East was indeed anti-Russian step in its essence.<

and the EU expansion?

by IM on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 05:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that Russian elite (its various clans to be exact) has a firm view on relations with the EU and EU's expansion.

As I said, they tend to look for the American involvement in these projects and react to them. More often then not they are clumsy, aggressive and look like that they dislike the whole Western integration project even if they only really hate/fear few of its pieces (said American involvement primarily).

We saw that in summer 2013 when Kremlin mounted an economic pressure on Kiev due to the coming Eastern Partnership/DCFTA deal. They started blocking various Ukrainian export projects and creating media pressure. There was a nice Spiegel article on the prelude of the Maidan and Yanukovich's refusal to sign EaP, where they said that in the private meeting at the one of the Moscow airports Putin laid out the Russian capabilities to economically hurt Ukraine if the treaty with EU was signed. Yanuk came back to Kiev and asked some economic institute to calculate the whole possible damage. He told Stefan Fuhle that the estimate was in the area of 150B$. Fuhle was mad since he thought that Yanukovich is simply lying and is refusing to sign the EaP for selfish political reasons alone.

But in essence, Russian politicians usually say that they do not fear the EU alone, either because they are friendly to it or because they have a disdain for it. Putin said so repeatedly. Ironically, when they were hitting Ukraine over EaP/DCFTA issue they were again acting over fear that it will irreversibly suck Ukraine into American orbit, not just EU.

Russian have a true difficulty of systematically telling apart separate American geopolitical interests from European (either through EU or nationally) interests and from various other promotions of social norms (human rights, democracy, rule of law etc etc).

Sorry for long posts, I just want to be clear. :)  

by Prospero on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 10:40:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Better write diaries than be sorry for long comments...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 10:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That just proves that the russion babbling about NATO is just a pretext. They don't want any ex-satellites moving out of their orbit in any way.
by IM on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 08:51:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, of course they don't like it. But usually they don't send tanks volunteers spending their holidays in the old brother republics.
by generic on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 09:07:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it does.

Bitching about the broken promise serves to give a bit of morality and a more legitimate wrapping to the 'NATO is endangering Russia' position in front of the local and global auditorium.

But it is not the cause of that fear, nor its eventual falsehood (if it is the case) in any way makes their fear less real and less truthful when they speak of it.

by Prospero on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 04:49:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sovereign states decided they wanted to join NATO.

And the Kurds want their own country, but what other states and peoples want is not the question. The question is what it is in the interests of the US and NATO to grant. If the goal was a united Europe that was at peace with Russia, accepting these countries into NATP was not the thing to do. This could always have been revisited had Russian behavior re its former republics and Comintern allies been threatening in more specific ways than just assuming that Russia will always want them back. On some level there is no doubt that Russia would. The question, the answer to which was preempted by NATO expansion, is whether Russia would have tried. Finland survived. The rest is counterfactual speculation.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:20:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A number of countries were told that NATO membership was a prerequisite for EU membership. Yes, I know that's bullshit, but that's what the public was told in at least some of the former Eastern bloc countries.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 10:22:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good reading of Bosnia and Croatia.

Slovenia's break was mild because of the monoethnic culture. It was clear from the start, however, that the Serbs in the Krajina and East Slavonia, and the Muslims in Mostar, were going to have a hard time of it in an independent Croatia. When Germany recognized them prematurely, Baker actually admonished Germany (and opposed them) as being reckless. Do not forget the Vance-Owen compact which set the lines for contemporary Bosnia back in 1991-1992.

Then Baker came on board the war wagon after the real fighting started. And in the end, even after Vance-Owen, even after 100,000 people had died, many more were ethnically cleansed, the USA and NATO ended up with the biggest military base outside the USs borders in the entire world: Camp Bondsteel.

Madeleine Albright and her infamous comment to Colin Powell: "What good is an army if you're not going to use it?" Or even worse, "Is it worth it for 500,000 Iraqi children to die for lack of food and medicine?" Albright: "Yes."

Add lunatic Wesley "I will start ww3" Clark to the mix and you have a boiling cauldron.

Prior to that, GHW Bush was actually recalcitrant to start wars. Remember, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the US Ambassador there, April Glaspie, defended Saddam (they were buddy, buddy) because the Kuwaitis were stealing oil from the Rumaila oil field (like the "I'll drink your milkshake" scene from the film "There Will Be Blood"). It wasn't until Thatcher called GHWB and told him to buck up that the USA actually began banging the war drums. GHWB was actually a war veteran. He apparently needed Thatcher to tell him about war's necessity. And of course, his own reticence to go to battle was understood internally as well because the USA, and general Schwarzkopf, knew there was no point in occupying Iraq. They turned away from Baghdad after establishing the no-fly zone. A lesson GHWB's war mongering son could never ever grasp.

Samantha Power, who wrote the an excellent book on genocide, has Obama's ear. Unfortunately, she adventurous sense of using the military as well.

by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 12:06:26 PM EST
Maybe there are finally some european politicians becoming more critical towarda NATO - its about time.

Germany Concerned about Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine - SPIEGEL ONLINE

US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel's efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin's approach. And NATO's top commander in Europe hasn't been helping either.
by Fran on Sun Mar 8th, 2015 at 01:01:29 PM EST
by Bjinse on Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 07:30:02 AM EST
Isn't this all taking the 50s nostalgia thing a bit far?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 07:54:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia has a right to deploy nuclear weapons on the entirety of its sovereign territory (and in international waters and airspace), and as they consider occupied Crimea a part of Russia...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 09:08:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel is getting into it as well.
Right-wing media outlet Israel National News published an opinion piece Tuesday calling on Israel to launch nuclear bombs at Iran and Germany, only days after the outlet came under fire for publishing a piece accusing a war widow of killing her husband over her pro-peace views.

In the opinion article published Tuesday, the author claims that only through nuclear annihilation of Iran and Germany, with 20 or 30 nuclear bombs each, can Israelis prevent the state's destruction.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 10:10:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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