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NATO, Back in Business at the Old Stand


by Patrick Armstrong, via Sic Semper Tyrannis

Spare a thought for the travails of NATO drones over the past couple of decades.  About 25 years ago I was in competition for a job on the International Staff at NATO.  I’ve forgotten most of the details but it would have paid about US$100,000.  Tax free.  Plus benefits.  What would have been the equivalent salary, in the real world, to that, do you suppose?  In return, NATO started work sometime Monday afternoon and knocked off early on Friday and essentially took meetings the rest of the time.  And Brussels is a convenient base for travelling around Europe.  But I didn’t get the job.

The Warsaw Pact imploded, followed by the USSR and NATO’s raison d’être disappeared.  A colleague who finally got a position on the Canadian delegation (no big IS salaries for them!) seriously wondered whether NATO would last through his time there.

Well, it did.  Expansion (soon officially changed to the more anodyne “enlargement”) gave employment.  NATO, it piously said, cannot stop people from freely applying to join, can it?  Of course, given that most of these countries wanted to be neutral originally – the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine in 1990 has these words: “The Ukrainian SSR solemnly declares its intention of becoming a permanently neutral state that does not participate in military blocs…” – it took time and money to persuade people to “freely” apply. In the case of Ukraine two decades, two colour revolutions and five billion USD and 500 thousand Euros.  We see similar efforts today with the campaigns in Sweden and Finland. Nothing spontaneous at all, actually.

Kosovo was a problem for the NATO drones.  Not in the initial execution that is; that narrative was smoothly crafted – walking blood banks, rape camps, genocide, the monster Milosevic – the MSM obediently fell into line.  No, the problem was the terrifying realisation that it wasn’t working and that a land invasion might have to be fumbled together.  But Chernomyrdin persuaded Milosevic to give up, the worst did not come to pass and everybody could congratulate themselves on writing a new page of military history: “virtual war“, air power alone can win wars and similar certainties that are not so certain today.

Then came 911 and NATO was required in Afghanistan.  Expansion and Kosovo had been fun for NATO drones: visiting European centres as honoured guests treated to the best of everything, making speeches about stability and the necessity to make a stand against evil but not much in the way of hard or unpleasant work.  Afghanistan, on the other hand, was a nasty dangerous place where the locals all hated you but concealed their hatred until you stopped paying them.  Like most of the regime-change wars with which we have grown so familiar, Afghanistan started with a bang and the Taliban government was overthrown in weeks.  But the war goes on and on. Obama will leave 8400 US troops there for his successor; he had promised to end it in 2014.  John McCain thinks the US needs a “permanent presence” there.  Complete, of course, with NATO allies.

In short, NATO membership is not attractive if all it involves is interminable rotations through Afghanistan.  A dreary prospect indeed.

Besides the multitude of unpleasant locations with few hotels and bars, another problem with the “War on Terror” is that the enemy is small and feeble – IEDs, suicide vests, small arms.  Small money weapons that don’t require big money weapons systems to counter.

 A third problem, of course, is that NATO & Co is not exactly winning these wars.  So either it must stop talking about them (the word “Afghanistan” appears only 8 times) or start uttering complete nonsense as in “These efforts mark an important step to strengthen Libya’s democratic transition” (§30).

NATO must remain and expand – it’s a necessary control mechanism for Washington (and so is the EU, as we have just learned with the EU-NATO amalgamation).  Let a former American official explain Why NATO is vital for American interests: “Vladimir Putin’s aggression”, “weakening and potentially fractured European Union” and “tsunami of violence spreading from the Levant and North Africa into Europe itself”.  In short: Russia’s resistance to NATO expansion; the EU’s failure; instability resulting from NATO attacks in the Middle East. Compelling reasons indeed.  To paraphrase that great American Statesman, Homer Simpson, NATO is the solution to the problems it creates.  But it badly needs a new raison d’être in order to keep the members in, attract new ones and to allow bigger profits.  Jihadists in Afghanistan don’t serve the purpose any more.

So, our drones need something more attractive to retain their enthusiasm, pay and perqs.  The communiqué from the Warsaw NATO summit is their answer.  This 16,489 word panegyric to itself modestly states that NATO is “an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law” (§2).  The Warsaw Summit brings us back to the tried and true – Russia.  The communiqué uses the word “Russia” 57 times and “Ukraine” 32 times for a total of 89. By contrast, “terrorism” and “ISIL” only 27 times, “jihad”, “Islam” and “Ebola” not at all.  It’s clear where the emphasis now is.

Section 10 will serve as a summary of it all:

Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace. In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.

Nevertheless, NATO, ever patient and ever virtuous, says “We remain open to a periodic, focused and meaningful dialogue” (§2) with Russia.

NATO’s relentless expansion, its untrustworthiness (see Libya), military exercises in and around Russia, overthrow of governments in Ukraine and other neighbours, fall in this screed somewhere between unremarkable and non-existent: Russia is to blame for everything.  The “serious deterioration of the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula” is its fault (§7), the non-fulfilment of the Minsk Agreement is its fault (§9), Russia’s reaction to BMD is “unacceptable and counterproductive” (§59), as are its provocations “in the periphery of NATO territory” (§5).

NATO-Land is like Laputa – it floats in some imaginary place where Crimea is a hellish nightmare for the inhabitants, Libya ever “transitions” towards democracy and scholars, looking for sunbeams in cucumbers, find Russians hiding under the cucumber beds.  What “deterioration of human rights” in Crimea?  The Minsk Agreement requires nothing from Russia: the word “Russia”does not appear in it; has any of these people read it?  Is it Russia’s fault that this clause still awaits fulfillment “On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections“?  Is it really so outrageous that the Russians don’t believe that NATO has “no intention to redesign this [BMD] system” (§59)?  There was “no intention” to expand NATO or to blow up Libya either; no wonder Moscow won’t trust NATO’s word.  (Oh, and it would be wrong to suggest that NATO promised not to permanently station troops in its new territories – that promise only held until enough accusations could be manufactured.  In any case, these new troops NATO promises (§40) won’t be permanent; they’ll just be permanently rotating.)  Yes, Russia does have military exercises on the edge of NATO now that NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia; is it supposed to only have exercises in central Siberia now, or would they be provocatively close to American troops in Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria?

Always difficult out of this catalogue of nonsense to pick a favourite but I think this one is the standout: “[Russia’s] long-standing non-implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty” (§69) Russia actually ratified the amended treaty: no one in NATO did!

And, lest we forget weapons sales: “We welcome Allied efforts to address, as appropriate, existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment.” (§78)

So, after dreary years of trudging through the inhospitable mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq, years of defeat, years of trivial profits, NATO drones have entered the sunny uplands.  Russia is again the enemy, NATO has a big enemy that needs big money projects like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship, trillion dollar nuclear weapons programs, Crusader SPGs and decades-long deployments in places with good restaurants where the people don’t hate you.

Europe will again be united against the Russian Threat© under Washington’s leadership even more tightly now that the EU and NATO are openly under the same management.  Promotions and prosperity all round!

All is well.

Apart for the niggling facts that NATO & Co are still losing their wars, haven’t got the money they used to have, are actually under attack from different enemies, have populations that are growing restive, are in a demographic decline, have militaries that are rusting out and fading away, have stagnant economies and populations that don’t actually want to go to war for Estonia.  Oh, and European banks need a bailout.  And NATO’s pressure brings Russia and China (0 mentions) ever closer.  Repeating lies, nonsense and fantasies at twice the volume is not actually a sign of strength.

So, it’s not really a bright new future, it’s just Miss Havisham reliving the happiness of her engagement day.


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