by Mike Whitney, published on the Unz Review, February 26, 2022
“No matter who tries to stand in our way… they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history…. I hope that my words will be heard.” Vladimir Putin issues warning to any country that tries to stop Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine
In a move that can only be regarded as a major escalation, NATO officials announced on Friday that they would deploy troops from its Combat-Ready Response Force to support the Ukrainian regime in its war with Russia. The Alliance will also send additional weapons which will be used to blunt the Russian offensive that has already seized large parts of the country and obliterated most of Ukraine’s defensive capability. It is impossible to overstate the gravity of NATO’s action which assigns such importance to preserving its ‘junta regime’ in Kiev that they would willingly pit NATO against a nuclear-armed Russia in what could become a much broader regional war. Clearly, the strategic objectives of this murky conflict go far beyond the mere control of an ethnically-divided, failed state situated between Europe and Asia. Ukraine is no longer just a geopolitical trophy for western elites, but a last-gasp effort for Washington to prove it still controls the levers of global power. Here’s the story from Reuters:
“NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday the alliance was deploying parts of its combat-ready response force and would continue to send weapons to Ukraine, including air defenses, while saying that Russia was trying to topple the Ukrainian government.
“We see rhetoric, the messages, which is strongly indicating that the aim is to remove the democratically elected government in Kyiv,” he told a news conference following a virtual meeting of NATO leaders. (“NATO allies to provide more weapons to Ukraine, Stoltenberg says”, Reuters)
Stoltenberg’s decision gives Russian president Vladimir Putin no choice but to locate and destroy whatever weapons or troops enter the country that could be used to kill or injure Russian servicemen. Naturally, the killing of NATO personnel could be used to further escalate the conflict plunging the region into a much wider and more violent conflagration. Here’s more from Stoltenberg’s press conference on Friday:
“Yesterday, NATO Allies activated our defense plans… on land, at sea, and in the air…. The United States, Canada and European Allies have deployed thousands more troops to the eastern part of the Alliance… We now have over 100 jets at high alert operating in over 30 different locations… and over 120 ships from the High North to the Mediterranean… including three strike carrier groups….
We have many planes operating in the eastern part of the Alliance (and) several Allies have partly already assigned troops and forces to the NATO Response Force.”
Weapon support also includes “air defence systems…” (which could be used to enforce a no-fly zone.)
This is the most serious security crisis we have faced in Europe for decades……. It is about how Russia is actually challenging core values for security, and demanding that NATO should withdraw all forces and infrastructure from almost half of our members. And they have stated that if we don’t meet their demands, there will be “military-technical consequences.” So, we have to take this seriously. And that’s exactly why we are now deploying the NATO Response Force, for the first time in a collective defense context.” (NATO’s Virtual Summit, Feb 25, 2022)
Stoltenberg is right, Russia is challenging NATO’s core values on security, and demanding that Alliance roll back its forces and infrastructure from Russia’s doorstep. What Stoltenberg fails to mention is that NATO expansion poses an existential threat to Russia by placing missile sites, military bases and combat troops on its border. He also fails to mention that NATO expansion violates agreements (to which all of the NATO members are signatores) stipulating that all parties to the agreement will refrain from any action that could affect the security interests of the other members. In Istanbul (1999) and in Astana (2010), the US and the other 56 countries in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) signed documents “that contained interrelated principles to ensure the indivisibility of security.”
What that means in practical terms, is that nations cannot put military bases and missile sites in locations that pose a threat to other members. It means that parties must refrain from using their respective territories to carry out or assist armed aggression against other members. It means that parties are prohibited from acting in a manner that runs counter to the principles laid out in the treaty. It means that Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO if its membership poses a threat to Russian security.
So, yes, Russia is challenging NATO’s approach to security, mainly because NATO’s approach is built on the rubble of treaties that the member states already signed and approved but now refuse to honor because it doesn’t advance their geopolitical objectives.
Stoltenberg would like us all to believe that joining NATO should simply be a matter of personal choice (“Every nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements”) like choosing which flavor of ice cream one wants to eat. But that is not how leaders protect their countries from potential threats. Those threats can only be mitigated when other nations agree that they “will NOT strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of others.” That’s the bottom line and that is never going to change. National security is every leader’s highest priority and it always will be. Stoltenberg rejects this fundamental tenet of global security, and his rejection has paved the way to war. If you want to know who’s responsible for the war in Ukraine: Blame NATO. Here’s how Putin summed it up:
“Over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.
Why is this happening? Where did this insolent manner of talking down from the height of their exceptionalism, infallibility and all-permissiveness come from? What is the explanation for this contemptuous and disdainful attitude to our interests and absolutely legitimate demands?”
“For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line which we have spoken about on numerous occasions. They have crossed it.” (“Address by the President of the Russian Federation“, Kremlin, RU)
It’s worth noting, that Stoltenberg has been chosen to become Norway’s next Central Bank chief which illustrates the cozy relationship between the Big Money and the geopolitical machinations that invariably end in war. We can only wonder whether this risky gambit in Ukraine is actually an attempt to preserve a western financial system that is so thoroughly-marinated in corruption that its markets require monthly infusions of billions of dollars in digital cash to prevent a system-wide meltdown followed by a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar. By keeping Russia down, Stoltenberg’s backers might be hoping they can breathe new life into the rotting corpse of the imperial system. But whatever the reason may be, the deploying of NATO Combat-Ready Response Force greatly increases the chances of a miscalculation that could lead to disaster. Check out this short blurb from an article by Ulrich Kühn who points out the risks of current strategy:
“President Biden and other Western leaders have made it clear repeatedly that they would not send forces to Ukraine. ….That does not mean, however, that unintended actions by Russia… or by individual NATO member states could not spark a larger conflict that no one planned. During the next hours, days, and weeks, the risk of what strategists call “inadvertent escalation” will increase….
Another possible scenario for inadvertent escalation is linked to western calls for arming Ukrainian forces. A day before the Russian assault, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced, “the UK will shortly be providing a further package of military support to Ukraine. This will include lethal aid in the form of defensive weapons and non-lethal aid.” As morally justified such calls might sound in the current environment, the question remains: How will weapons be transferred to Ukraine, now that Russia has established air dominance over the country? They would almost certainly not be flown in but would have to be provided using land or sea routes. It would thus be in the interest of the Russian military to gain quick control over Ukraine’s western borders with NATO allies. Possible efforts by individual NATO member states to send additional military equipment via the Ukrainian land borders could be met with fierce Russian resistance and may lead to skirmishes between Russian and NATO personnel.” (The pathways of inadvertent escalation: Is a NATO-Russia war (now) possible?” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
So, what does this excerpt tell us?
It tells us that the foreign policy establishment has already “gamed-out” the developments we now see unfolding. NATO would like to lure Putin into attacking their supply-lines, so the action could be used to justify greater involvement in the conflict. In other words, what we’re seeing is a calculated effort to (incrementally) increase the probability of a war between Russia and NATO. There’s nothing that would please Uncle Sam more than to see Russia bogged down in bloody quagmire that further isolates Moscow from Europe and prevents the type of economic integration needed to draw the continents together into the world’s largest free trade zone. Washington wants to avoid that scenario at all cost. Check out this quote from Russian economist Sergie Glaziev:
“To maintain their world dominance, the (US) is provoking another war in Europe. A war is always good for America. They even call the Second World War which killed 50 million people in Europe and Russia, a good war. It was good for America because the US emerged from this war as the world’s leading power. The Cold War which ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union was also good for them. Now the US again wants to maintain its leadership at the expense of Europe. US leadership is being threatened by a rapidly rising China. The world today is shifting to yet another cycle, this time political. This cycle lasts centuries and is associated with the global institutions of regulatory economics.
We are now moving from the American cycle of capital accumulation to an Asian cycle. This is another crisis that is challenging US hegemony. To maintain their leading position in the face of competition with a rising China and other Asian countries Americans are starting a war in Europe. They want to weaken Europe, break up Russia, and subjugate the entire Eurasian continent. That is, instead of a development zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which is proposed by President Putin, the US wants to start a chaotic war on this territory, embroil all Europe in a war, devalue to European capital, write off its public debt, under the burden of which the US is already falling apart, write off what they owe to Europe and Russia, subjugate our economic space and establish control over resources of the giant Eurasian continent. They believe that this is the only way they can maintain their hegemony and beat China….
Russia and Ukraine are the victims of this war which is being fomented by the Americans. But Europe is also a victim because the war aims to target European welfare and to destabilize Europe. Americans expect the European capital and brain drain to America will continue. That’s why they are setting all of Europe on fire. It’s very strange that European leaders are going along with them.” (Watch this extraordinary 2014 Interview with Russian intellectual Sergei Glaziev that was posted at The Saker website nearly 10 years ago)
The deployment of NATO’s Combat-Ready Response Force provides more evidence that the Alliance is an aggressive and war-mongering organization which undermines European security and puts the entire world at risk. As America’s cat’s-paw on the continent, NATO invariably acts in Washington’s interests. With that is mind, we should expect to see a steady intensification of hostilities directed at Russia, all of which are designed to further divide the continents while tightening Washington’s grip on power.
(Correction (by author): NATO troops will not operate within Ukraine but exclusively in NATO member states. This was not clear from NATO’s original communique. The question remains, however, is the providing of heavy weapons an act of war? In my opinion, it would be quite easy for NATO to end the fighting by simply agreeing to make Ukraine permanently neutral, implementing the Minsk Protocol, and abandoning all plans to deploy nuclear missiles to Poland and Romania. Putin’s only demand is that NATO seriously address Russia’s legitimate security concerns.)
Mike Whitney is a journalist who lives in Washington state, USA, interested in politics and economics from a libertarian perspective. He has written extensively on the Russiagate and COVID-19 coups. He is a contributor to the book Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, and writes a column for the Unz Review.