NATO’s Provocative Anti-Russian Moves

Exclusive: Official Washington’s demonization of Vladimir Putin and the neocon “group think” about “Russian aggression” have fueled a reckless drive to move NATO forces up to Russia’s border, thus heightening risks of nuclear war and not serving real U.S. national interests, writes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Twenty-seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO is back flexing its muscles as if nothing had changed since the days of the Soviet Union. Defense ministers from the enlarged, 28-member organization agreed recently to strengthen the alliance’s “forward presence” in Eastern Europe. If their new policy is endorsed at a summit in Poland this summer, NATO will begin deploying thousands of troops in Poland and the Baltic states, right up against Russia’s borders.

In other words, the Western alliance will redouble its military commitment to a Polish government whose right-wing, anti-Russian, and autocratic policies are so egregious that even the stanchly neo-conservative editorial page of the Washington Post saw fit to condemn the new leaders’ encroachments on democracy and the rule of law.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Worse yet, NATO’s provocative commitment will include a potential threat to start World War III on behalf of that government. Most Americans are unaware that NATO’s policies, reaffirmed by the Obama administration, view nuclear weapons as a “core component” of the alliance’s capacity to repel even a conventional attack on one of its member states.

An accidental clash of forces, perhaps triggered by military exercises gone awry, could potentially lead NATO to use its nuclear weapons against Russian troops on Poland’s borders. Or, just as catastrophically, it could prompt Russian forces to attack NATO’s nuclear stockpiles preemptively.

Either scenario could trigger a much wider nuclear war. The British television channel BBC Two explored such a scenario, involving Latvia, in a chilling “war game” film that aired earlier this month.

Rather than let small, distant countries put U.S. national security at risk, the United States should, as an interim step short of disbanding NATO, demand the elimination of theater, or nonstrategic, nuclear weapons from NATO stockpiles. (Theater weapons are smaller and shorter in range than the large warheads carried by intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers.)

England and France would retain their independent, sovereign nuclear deterrents. But the United States would prevail on NATO to withdraw the 200 nuclear bombs it now stations at air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and even Turkey. It would also forgo costly and destabilizing plans to deploy a new generation of highly accurate B61 bombs in Germany.

Eliminating NATO’s theater nuclear weapons would dramatically reduce security concerns about terrorist attacks, a threat highlighted by an Air Force security review in 2008. It would also eliminate them as tempting targets of a Russian preemptive attack in case a conflict begins to spin out of control.

A unilateral elimination of theater nuclear weapons would leave Western nations with thousands of nuclear warheads, enough to wipe out much of human civilization along with Russia. It would also leave the United States alone with an 8-to-1 advantage over Russia in military spending.

Political leaders from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway called for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from European soil in 2010, saying they had “lost all military importance” and had become a liability.

U.S. military leaders were inclined to agree. In 2008, the U.S. European Command, once a champion of theater nuclear weapons, acknowledged they were no longer important as a deterrent. When asked in 2010 if tactical nuclear weapons in Europe bought NATO any additional security, General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared simply, “No.”

In today’s political climate, however, demonizers of Russia insist that self-interested steps to eliminate our unneeded weapons would somehow reward Vladimir Putin.

Last year, two leading congressional Republicans, Alabama’s Mike Rogers, chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, and Ohio’s Mike Turner, chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, demanded that the United States deploy more nuclear weapons to Europe to counter Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

In 2014, Bush-era right-wingers John Bolton and John Yoo advocated reintroducing theater nuclear missiles into Europe. Either move would simply result in tit-for-tat responses by Russia, leaving both sides mired in a counterproductive arms race.

Other strategic analysts concede that “tactical nuclear arms in Europe are literally outdated”, obsolete both technically and in terms of strategy, but say that withdrawing them “would look like capitulation to Russia and thus encourage Putin to continue pressing his luck.” In other words, the United States should allow its security to be held hostage not only to the whims of Poland and Latvia, but also to Russia’s alleged perceptions.

In an ideal world, NATO would negotiate away its theater nuclear weapons as part of a bilateral treaty to reduce Russia’s own arsenal of smaller weapons, which may number 1,000 or more. But insistence on a negotiated deal has long been an excuse for inaction. And giving any single NATO member a veto will ensure that the alliance’s nuclear policies never change.

Russia’s numerical superiority, moreover, buys it no military advantage. If it launched nuclear weapons in Europe, odds are that the conflict would escalate quickly to engage the strategic nuclear forces of the United States, the UK, and France, leaving Russia a radioactive slag heap. That’s why Russian military doctrine firmly envisions using nuclear weapons only as a last resort, either to respond to a nuclear attack or to resist foreign aggression that “would put in danger the very existence of the state.”

Russia today hangs onto its theater nuclear weapons because its conventional forces have been radically weakened by the collapse of the USSR, the loss of control over Eastern Europe, and a succession of economic crises, including of late the collapse of oil prices.

In a recent commentary, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, dismissed claims of Russia’s growing threat to U.S. security as “belligerent nonsense.”

“It remains the case that NATO countries hugely outspend Moscow when it comes to military procurement,” he observed. “There is no evidence whatsoever that Russia, as when it was the Soviet Union, is embarked on a wanton course of global expansion. This is a country that unilaterally pulled its occupying troops out of Eastern Europe, a door closing on the Cold War.”

Rohrbacher added, “Obviously, some highly influential people can’t accept that and leave the Cold War behind, their mindsets and careers linked to a lingering enmity between the Kremlin and the White House. In particular, they can be found as think tank strategists and arms merchants.”

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

19 comments for “NATO’s Provocative Anti-Russian Moves

  1. AndJusticeForAll
    February 14, 2016 at 10:58

    In the halls of big politics talks could be about whatever. The whole question is what is really an authority of representatives and do talks end up in an official document to confirm agreements. So far no official agreement between NATO and RF was published. RF start playing this card right after KGB agent got to Kremlin. RF systematically violates its own obligations the old ones (for example to remove their army from Moldova) and new ones (Minsk agreements) threatening almost all countries along its border. In 2008 attacked Georgia and successfully convincing that Georgia was an aggressor. RF mass media and politicians talk about how RF tanks would reach Warsaw in two days, turn US into nuclear dust. RF president admitted that when they planed attack on Crimea they were considering to use nuclear weapon against Kyiv. RF shows constant growing threat without any real reasons. Inside the country the population is brainwashed to prepare for war, old bomb shelters are being re-evaluated, non-stop propaganda about Great Patriotic war and cold war. That is very peaceful behavior.
    At that background NATO response was to include a few former Warsaw pack countries with weak economies and almost no military, and then considerably drop military spending across all countries, allow RF representatives into NATO headquarter, start selling military equipment and technology to RF, building modern military training stations, helicopter carriers. Germany has less battle ready tanks and artillery than terrorists on Donbass. And now when RF shows no signs of slowing down and continuing aggression against Ukraine, beefing up troops around Baltic countries, deploying nuclear warheads to Kalinigrad, NATO responded by parading a few Humvees in Baltic countries and scheduling military exercises with 1000 troops and promises to deploy more ground forces and bringing a few A10 to Turkey. That is very provocative move.

    • Oleg
      February 14, 2016 at 16:36

      ”Donbass terrorists”, “Attack on Crimea”, “Nuclear attack agaist Kiev” — that sums it up. These propagandistic cliches from Nuland’s cookbook just tell me “stop paying attention”. You’ve chosen a wrong site, Wolfsangel.

      • AndJusticeForAll
        February 14, 2016 at 17:58

        Oleg, as in the other topic it was mentioned do not fall into ad-hominem. RF president said about nuclear attack and that it was military operation. Are you going to deny that?

        • Oleg
          February 15, 2016 at 10:02

          Yes, I am — he never said that. They were placed there to deter any hasty NATO moves which actually worked perfectly. He would not ever use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear nation (the only precedent in history I believe is the US bombing Japan). Even though Ukraine’s Defense minister claimed that Russia has already nuclear–bombed the Donetsk airport — believe it or not ))))

          • AndJusticeForAll
            February 16, 2016 at 07:45

            Oleg, you are not accurate about both facts. In the documentary path to home RF president clearly admitted that they were loading nuclear warheads and were considering to use them. About bombing Donetsk airport. That is not accurate as well. He claimed that terrorists possibly used tactical nuclear projectiles from Pion system (what is capable to do it) in Lugansk airport.They initially thought about this because of huge damage to some fortifications. Later it was cleared.
            Coming back to the topic. I do not say NATO is innocent, Iraq is a mess and probably triggered ISIS and Syria events. My arguments are NATO did not promise anything to RF about not expanding to the East that is documented and available to public (hall talks do not count), NATO only reacts to what RF is doing, because budgets were systematically going down comparing to cold was times, overall military preparedness is low, a bunch of talks not deeds, US and EU were giving away military technology to RF, opening markets and sources of funds. Recently that is changing as a reaction. RF propaganda is great in convincing the world that they are victims of evil NATO, articles like this one and some comments are good examples.

  2. Sam
    February 14, 2016 at 06:52

    Many thoughtful people in the US would gladly dump the flag-waving bully-boys whose counterparts rule large businesses. But few are thoughtful: they are controlled by the mass media owned by the oligarchy. Those who have learned the truth will “let the next generation clean up the mess” and the next generations will do the same by the time they see the mess. It will likely take militarism to displace the militarists, but that is unlikely until the US has been reduced to poverty by blockade.

    Perhaps NATO will at last see that they must unify against the US as their worst enemy. But not until the militarists are removed elsewhere.

    Perhaps people will see that the “war on terror” is an infantile trick used throughout history by the right wing to dominate and destroy democracies, and that it is in fact a War on Democracy and humanity by its lowest element.

  3. Tristan
    February 13, 2016 at 20:04

    American government foreign policy has allowed itself to become subjected to the imperial dictates of its true masters, globalized capital. These masters are progeny of the same profiteers from past conflicts.

    Now that debt and finance are open weapons of war, and in the homeland 75% of all spending is on war materials and related pockets to be lined, the necessary accompanying conflicts must be fueled. The greater the presupposed and propagandized threat(s) the more the profit. With allies who in all intents are enemies, enemies who function as allies, and potential partners pilloried as evil empires intent on global domination, the public in the west has been effectively propagandized as to not know Eastasia from Eurasia and is being seduced by a constant Two Minutes of Hate. Not much bread, but quite a bit of circus.

    This short sighted greed mindset is often sighted as an indicator of failed policies by the U.S., but it shouldn’t be seen as such. The conflicts and destruction, the allocation of funds which are diverted into the hands of a very few at an immense cost to the majority, need to be recognized for what they are. Functioning systems implementing policies that are providing the results expected by the and for the beneficiaries of these policies.

    We have entered into an age where if we reflect on the twisted designs of the imperial empires of the early 20th century, we will note some similarity but now a more intensely brutal, technological, and concentrated version today. The 21st century and the gains in technology now have only increased the destruction in a manner that I doubt humanity will be able to weather.

    Greed, pretending to be a policy, can only wreck the worst upon we humans.

  4. Next
    February 13, 2016 at 17:25

    NATO will be claiming it has the right to station troops and missiles at Moscow’s city limits.

    Leaving the fate of humanity in the hands of the Russophobic Polish hotheads is simply madness. Those fools might one day wake up from a bad dream induced by too much pierogi and decide to start a glorious war with Russia which all of NATO would be obligated to join.

    • Brad Benson
      February 14, 2016 at 07:22

      It’s not the Poles we have to worry about. It’s people like NATO General Craig Breedlove, Senator John McCain and, of course, Victoria Nuland.

      Here’s the German Magazine ‘Der Spiegel’s’ Article on the raucous Bayerischer Hof Hotel Meeting in which US War Criminals plotted to destroy the Ukrainian Peace Process on the eve of Merkel’s trip to Minsk.

      This was originally recorded and reported in the German Daily “Bild Zeitung” and since that time, these slimy bastards have continued to try to undermine European Peace. However, they have been a little more careful.\

      • John
        February 14, 2016 at 12:07

        Don’t forget Turkey…

    • Brad Benson
      February 14, 2016 at 07:22

      It’s not the Poles we have to worry about. It’s people like NATO General Craig Breedlove, Senator John McCain and, of course, Victoria Nuland.

      Here’s the German Magazine ‘Der Spiegel’s’ Article on the raucous Bayerischer Hof Hotel Meeting in which US War Criminals plotted to destroy the Ukrainian Peace Process on the eve of Merkel’s trip to Minsk.

      This was originally recorded and reported in the German Daily “Bild Zeitung” and since that time, these slimy bastards have continued to try to undermine European Peace. However, they have been a little more careful.\

    • Brad Benson
      February 14, 2016 at 07:22

      It’s not the Poles we have to worry about. It’s people like NATO General Craig Breedlove, Senator John McCain and, of course, Victoria Nuland.

      Here’s the German Magazine ‘Der Spiegel’s’ Article on the raucous Bayerischer Hof Hotel Meeting in which US War Criminals plotted to destroy the Ukrainian Peace Process on the eve of Merkel’s trip to Minsk.

      This was originally recorded and reported in the German Daily “Bild Zeitung” and since that time, these slimy bastards have continued to try to undermine European Peace. However, they have been a little more careful.\

    • Lana
      February 21, 2016 at 03:35

      Sadly true

    • Lana
      February 21, 2016 at 03:36

      Sadly true

  5. midnite_rule
    February 13, 2016 at 16:02

    I don’t know if anyone here has read NATO’s “refutation” of Russian “lies” on their website.

    This is some of the most transparent propaganda you will ever see.

    For instance they claim Russia lies about the US trying to encircle Russia because “Russia shares land borders with 14 countries… only five of them are NATO members.” Which is technically true, but conveniently leaves out facts like the US military bases on Japanese and South Korean soil. Two countries that for obvious reasons aren’t members of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but whose US military presence hardly differs from NATO bases.

    NATO also claims it never made any promise to Soviet leaders that NATO would not expand eastward following German reunification. To do this they take a quote from Mikhail Gorbachev out of context, but they make the mistake of linking to the full interview:

    The full context makes it clear there was indeed a promise; admittedly not about expansion into former Warsaw Pact nations, but rather into East Germany. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker used the words “NATO will not move one inch further east.” Gorbachev calls the expansions “definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990.” Which is hard to argue with, I mean it’s rather like an abusive husband making a solemn vow to his wife that he will never hit her again, only to stab her to death seconds later.

    NATO’s lies are unbelievably brazen.

    • Joe L.
      February 13, 2016 at 20:34

      Der Spiegel: “Did the West Break its’ promise to Moscow”

      After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

      On Feb. 10, 1990, between 4 and 6:30 p.m., Genscher spoke with Shevardnadze. According to the German record of the conversation, which was only recently declassified, Genscher said: “We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.” And because the conversion revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: “As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.”

  6. Abe
    February 13, 2016 at 15:44

    Developed in 2005, the new US nuclear doctrine (Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (DJNO) calls for “integrating conventional and nuclear attacks” under a unified and “integrated” Command and Control (C2).

    War planning is largely described as a management decision-making process, where military and strategic objectives are to be achieved, through a mix of instruments, with little concern for the resulting loss of human life.

    Military planning focuses on “the most efficient use of force”, i.e. an optimal arrangement of different weapons systems to achieve stated military goals. In this context, nuclear and conventional weapons are considered to be “part of the tool box”, from which military commanders can pick and choose the instruments that they require in accordance with “evolving circumstances” in the war theater.

    None of these weapons in the Pentagon’s “tool box”, including conventional bunker buster bombs, cluster bombs, mini-nukes, chemical and biological weapons are described as “weapons of mass destruction” when used by the United States of America and its coalition partners.

    The following statements in the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations suggest that tactical nuclear weapons are ready to be used:

    “Integrating conventional and nuclear attacks will ensure the most efficient use of force and provide U.S. leaders with a broader range of strike options to address immediate contingencies. Integration of conventional and nuclear forces is therefore crucial to the success of any comprehensive strategy. This integration will ensure optimal targeting, minimal collateral damage, and reduce the probability of escalation.”

    “Nuclear weapons and associated systems may be deployed into theaters, but combatant commanders have no authority to employ them until that authority is specifically granted by the president.”

    “Deployed nuclear-strike capabilities include … theater-based, nuclear-capable dual-role aircraft.”

    “Nuclear-capable aircraft offer a greater degree of flexibility in escalation control because they may be a highly visible sign of resolve and, once ordered to conduct a nuclear strike, are recallable, if necessary. Aircraft-delivered weapons also provide strike capability across the range of nuclear operations.”

    The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed as Senate Joint Resolution 23 by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, remains in effect.

    The AUMF allows the President of the United States “to take action to deter and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States” without consulting Congress, and the War Powers Resolution “allows” the president to attack anybody in the “global war on terror.”

    The AUMF has been cited by a wide variety of US officials as justification for continuing US military actions all over the world.

    Americans appear to be willing to support any course of action that could potentially protect them from real or imagined “threats”.

    National Security Presidential Directives (NSPDs) were used to promulgate Presidential decisions on national security matters.

    NSPD 17, National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction (2002) promises to respond to a WMD threat with nuclear weapons.

    NSPD 35, Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (2004) is classified.

    Nuclear weapons enthusiasts who occupied key positions in the top echelons of the Bush administration, including Stephen Hadley, Robert Joseph and John Bolton, have been clamoring against the Iran nuclear deal. One can imagine how they might advise a future Republican President.

  7. Tom Welsh
    February 13, 2016 at 12:44

    Ah, a voice of sanity! Accordingly, it will be ignored.

    • Tristan
      February 13, 2016 at 20:21

      What? Couldn’t hear you over the four year election cycle. Did you say saints need to be bombed?

  8. dahoit
    February 13, 2016 at 11:39

    If these wackos think Americans want war over stupid Eastern European idiots fascist tendencies and ultra nationalism,their insanity must be nipped in the bud by the American voter this fall.
    Go Putin!Go Trump!

Comments are closed.