NATO war machine destabilizes the world

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Within the global context, rather than within a narrow European one, the war in Ukraine is a geopolitical proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Since their coup and regime change operation in Ukraine in 2014, the U.S. and its NATO allies have built up Ukraine’s military capability. This build-up included weapons as well as training so that Ukraine essentially became integrated into the NATO system without being an official member of the alliance.

The Russian military operation is designed for “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, according to Moscow. However, what the final state of Ukraine will be is open to question. Already, Russia has recognized Lugansk and Donetsk as independent and sovereign states. Additionally, it may well end up controlling the entire Black Sea coastal zone beyond even Odessa.

As a result, Ukraine could be partitioned with just a rump state remaining. There are various possible scenarios. Its eastern and southern zone, which was the former Russian “Novorossiya,” could become separated from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Should this occur, only time will tell whether former Polish lands in the western part of Ukraine are reattached to Poland, whether former Hungarian lands are reattached to Hungary, and whether a rump Ukraine state will be neutralized.

Washington and NATO

Created in 1949, NATO became one of several Cold War alliances designed to contain Eurasia, meaning the Soviet Union and China. It was obsolete in 1991, the year the Warsaw Pact dissolved and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. But for three decades NATO has sought a pretext for its continued existence.

Over the years, NATO has added various countries to its fold, but it was its eastward movement toward Russia in the late 1990s that understandably sparked deep concern in Moscow.

The Russian military operation in Ukraine was triggered by a combination of factors, which included this NATO expansion as well as the rejection of diplomacy by the United States and NATO. Russia addressed its December 17, 2021 diplomatic proposal to NATO rather than to the EU because it regarded the foreign policy of the latter as controlled by the United States via NATO.

The Ukraine crisis has triggered much speculation about the future of Europe. Some believe that NATO has been strengthened and that there is increased European unity and support for NATO. Additionally, it is said that the U.S. has strengthened its leadership in NATO and Europe. This view is projected by Washington but it may be wishful thinking.

It is true that the Ukraine crisis has sparked European expressions of concern for NATO and calls for increased military spending on it. The United States for decades has complained about European NATO members not spending their fair share. Washington has over the years demanded that NATO members allocate 2 percent of their budgets for military spending. The slogan “burden sharing” has been used to little avail.

Of course, the European allies have preferred to let Uncle Sam, meaning American taxpayers, pick up the bill for European security. Europeans have had no problem getting away with such opportunism and cynicism. Naive and reckless U.S. politicians have had no problem voting billions of dollars for NATO and the Pentagon.

From the outset in 1949, some conservative U.S. politicians rejected calls to join NATO. They considered it an “entangling alliance” and unnecessary. They argued that Europe should and could undertake its own defense. Most of these were Republicans following the lead of Senator Robert Taft, who was then known as “Mr. Republican.” The influential senator was the son of President William Howard Taft (1857-1930).

Former President Donald Trump picked up this anti-NATO sentiment in his political base as a campaign ploy. This “isolationist” streak in some minority Republican Party factions is persistent. When he was in office, Trump grumbled some but then came around to supporting NATO. At the outset of his administration, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis flew around the world reassuring allies, including NATO members, that Washington would stick by its alliances. Thus, business as usual.

Today, both political parties in the United States are effectively neoconized. This means that the influence of the Cold War neoconservative policy network dominates them. This network combines with leftover Cold War hawk circles as well as with the liberal humanitarian interventionist circles. Thus, the political elite coalesces around what has been called the “new cold war.”

The “new cold war” was first described by the foremost U.S. Soviet and Russian expert back in the late 1990s. Ambassador George Kennan then warned that the eastward expansion of NATO would trigger a “new cold war.” Russia would react negatively to such expansion and would take steps it deemed necessary to counter an increased threat from the West.

Kennan was, of course, correct. The “new cold war” began in the late 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion just as he said. We are today witnessing its consequence in the newest European war.

The future of NATO

NATO expansion did not stop in Eastern Europe. Over the last three decades, NATO expansion was globalized. The Afghan war is one example of “out of area” NATO activity. But other examples are less known and have included political-military initiatives in the Mediterranean, in Eurasia, and even with Japan. A leading proponent of NATO expansion and globalization was the late Madeleine Albright, who was influential in Washington and served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001.

Albright was at first a student of Zbigniew Brzezinski and then one of his protégés. A Polish-Canadian, Brzezinski became a U.S. citizen after his graduate studies in the country. His father was a former Polish diplomat and thus ill-disposed to the Soviet Union and Russia. U.S. neoconservatives approved of Brzezinski’s anti-Russia stance and Albright’s influence on the present U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is consequential.

Some critics now say that the Ukraine crisis was provoked in a calculated way by Washington. They say that the Russian operation provides the basis to strengthen U.S. control over Europe. Strengthening the NATO war machine in the face of Russian “aggression” provides Washington with more leverage over the fate of Europe, critics say.

But is this a temporary phenomenon? There are a number of contradictions and divisions in Europe today. They existed before the Ukraine crisis and now are deepened. Poland and the Baltic states are obsessed with Russia and take extreme hawkish positions. On the other hand, states like Germany and France are more restrained and calculating.

Will economic pressures moderate European attitudes? The harsh sanctions imposed on Russia have a built-in blowback effect against Europe, given the pattern of regional and global economics. What will the political side effects be as inflation mounts for energy, transportation and food? What will the average European think about their worsening standard of living and economic squeeze? The classic “guns or butter” dilemma may well raise its head in Europe, as well as in the United States, in the coming months.

After the cessation of hostilities in the Ukraine crisis, what will the future of Europe be? Clearly, the Russian military operation is a historic game-changer but what will the new game be?

The world should hope that Europe finds a way to stability and peace through an earnest and effective process of diplomacy and negotiations. Only through new and inclusive security architecture will “Old World” Europe find any respite from its centuries of internal turmoil.