UKRAINE CRISIS: When a NATO Foreign Minister Accused the Alliance of ‘War-Mongering’ Against Russia

In 2016, the German foreign minister accused NATO of ‘saber-rattling’ and a top NATO general said Russia was no threat, words that take on new meaning today, wrote Joe Lauria.

First published June 27, 2016.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
June 27, 2016

A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the United States. An unlikely blow against Washington’s information war on Moscow has been delivered by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has shockingly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of “war-mongering” against Russia.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Since the Bush administration’s twisting of events in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, which the E.U. blamed on Georgia, Western populations have been subjected to the steady message that Russia is a “threat” to the West and is guilty of “aggression.”

This reached a peak with the false narrative of events in Ukraine, in which blatant evidence of the West’s complicity in a violent coups d’état was omitted from corporate media accounts, while Russia’s assistance to eastern Ukrainians resisting the coup has been framed as a Russian “invasion.”

The disinformation campaign has reached the depths of popular culture, including the EuroVision song contest and sports doping scandals, to ensure widespread popular support for U.S. hostile intentions against Russia.

The Russian “aggression” narrative, based largely on lies of omission, has prepared the way for the U.S. to install a missile-shield in Romania with offensive capabilities and to stage significant NATO war games with 31,000 troops on Russia’s borders. For the first time in 75 years, German troops retraced the steps of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.

U.S. Designs on Russia

The U.S. is eyeing a post-Putin Russia in which a Wall Street-friendly leader like Boris Yeltsin can be restored to reopen the country to Western exploitation. But Vladimir Putin is no Yeltsin and has proven a tough nut for the U.S. to crack.

Washington’s modus operandi is to continually provoke and blame an opponent until it stands up for itself, as Putin’s Russia has done, then accuse it of “aggression” and attack in “self-defense.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Austria on June 24, 2014. (Official Russian government photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Austria on June 24, 2014. (Russian government)

In this way, Washington builds popular support for its own version of events and resistance to the other side of the story. Unfortunately it is not a new trick in the U.S. playbook.

“The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception,” wrote Mark Twain.

So suddenly, after many years of an air-tight, anti-Russia campaign believed unquestioningly by hundreds of millions of Westerners, comes Steinmeier blurting out the most significant truth about Russia uttered by a Western official perhaps in decades.

“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering,” Steinmeier stunningly told Bild am Sontag newspaper. “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”

Instead Steinmeier called for dialogue with Moscow. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he said, saying it would be “fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence.”

In keeping with the U.S. propaganda strategy, the U.S. corporate media virtually ignored the remarks, which should have been front-page news. The New York Times did not report Steinmeier’s statement, but two days later ran a Reuter’s story only online leading with the U.S. military’s rejection of his remarks.

NATO General: Russia is No Threat

Just a day after Steinmeier was quoted in Bild, General Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s military committee, dropped another bombshell. Pavel told a Brussels press conference flat out that Russia was not at a threat to the West.

NATO headquarters in Brussels. (NATO)

“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” he said.

What? What happened to Russian “aggression” and the Russian “threat?” What is the meaning then of the fear of Russia pounded every day into the heads of Western citizens? Is it all a lie?

Two extraordinary on-the-record admissions by two men, Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Europe’s most powerful nation, and an active NATO general in charge of the military committee, both revealing that what Western officials repeat every day is indeed a lie, a lie that may be acknowledged in private but would never before be mentioned in public.

Two years ago I was in a background briefing with a senior European ambassador at his country’s U.N. mission in New York and could hardly believe my ears when he said talk about Russia’s threat to Eastern Europe was “all hype” designed to give NATO “a reason to exist.” Yet this same ambassador in public Security Council meetings would viciously attack Russia.

[Read: “UKRAINE CRISIS: German Navy Chief Resigns; Britain Spreads Fears of Russian ‘Coup’ & Wider War”]

But the hype is about more than just saving NATO. The fear campaign feeds the American and European military industries and most importantly puts pressure on the Russian government, which the U.S. wants overthrown.

Were these remarks made out of the exasperation of knowing all along that the Russian threat is hype? Were they made out of genuine concern that things could get out of hand under reckless and delusional leaders in Washington leading to a hot war with Russia?

Neither man has been disciplined for speaking out. Does this signal a change in official German thinking? Will German businessmen who deal with Russia and have opposed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, which were forced on Germany by the U.S., be listened to?

Were Steinmeier’s remarks a one-off act of rebellion, or is Germany indeed considering defying Washington on sanctions and regime change in Moscow? Is the German government finally going to act in Germany’s own interests? Such a move would spark a European defiance of the United States not seen since the days when Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO in 1966 to preserve French independence.

The last time European governments broke with Washington on a major issue was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Then France and Germany joined Russia on the U.N. Security Council in blocking the war’s authorization (although Britain supported it). But France and Germany then voted for a resolution several months later that essentially condoned the invasion.

It’s Up to the European Public

One has to ask whether a conditioned German public is ready to see through the lies about Russia. Last November, I flew from St. Petersburg to Berlin and discussed this very question with a number of well-educated Germans.

Russian marchers honoring family members who fought in World War II. (Photo from RT)

Russian marchers honoring family members who fought in World War II. (Photo from RT)

I had visited Russia for the first time since 1995, 20 years before to the month. Those were the days of the Yeltsin-Jeffery Sachs Russia, of the unbridled neoliberal capitalism of the Wall Street-oligarch alliance that plundered the country leaving millions of Russians destitute.

Outside train stations I saw homeless encampments replete with campfires. Policemen were stopping motorists for bribes. I ran from two men intent on robbing me until I lost them in a Metro station. That’s the Russia the neocons in Washington and the knaves and buccaneers on Wall Street want to see again.

The Russia I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 20 years later, was orderly and prosperous, as modern as any European city. It is a testament to Russia’s resistance to American attempts to restore its political and financial control. Russia is a capitalist country. But on its own terms. It is fully aware of American machinations to undermine it.

In Berlin I met several Germans, educated, liberal and completely aware, unlike most Americans, of how the United Sates has abused its post-World War II power. And yet when I asked them all why there are still U.S. military bases in Germany 70 years after the war and 25 years after the Cold War ended, and who the Americans were protecting them from, the universal answer was: Russia.

History shows European fears of Russia to be completely overblown. Germany and other Western powers have invaded Russia three times in the last two centuries: France in 1812, U.S., Britain and France in the 1918 Russian Civil War, and Germany again in 1941. Except for Imperial Russia’s incursion into East Prussia after war was declared on it in 1914, the reverse has never been true.

In his memoirs Harry Truman admitted that false fear of Russia was the “tragedy and shame of our time” during the Cold War that he had much to do with in part to revive the U.S. post-war economy with military spending. George Kennan, the State Department official who advised a non-military containment of the Soviet Union, conceded as early as 1947 that Soviet moves in Eastern Europe were defensive and constituted no threat. In the 1990s, Kennan also decried NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders.

With its vast natural resources, Russia has been the big prize for the West for centuries, and is still today in neocon-driven Washington. But Germany, especially, has benefited from trade with Russia and has no need to join the U.S. imperial project. But can it avert a catastrophe?

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe

20 comments for “UKRAINE CRISIS: When a NATO Foreign Minister Accused the Alliance of ‘War-Mongering’ Against Russia

  1. Henry Dyck Sr.
    January 28, 2022 at 06:37

    Well said. Ir is, as you have said, an old story, that repeats itself over and over. When will western countries finally say it’s enoough

  2. delia ruhe
    January 28, 2022 at 06:17

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier is a very intelligent man. And I doubt he wants people to think he’s stupid and went along with the official narrative because he doesn’t know any better. As a consequence, he’s a political standout. He seems to have cultivated honesty, since he can’t open his mouth without saying it like it is. It must have made his colleagues squirm with ill-concealed embarrassment. He is so refreshing, and he makes me wonder whether our democracies would be in such shabby shape today if we’d had consistently a majority of Steinmeier-type political candidates listed on our election ballots.

  3. David Otness
    January 28, 2022 at 01:19

    From Stephen Gowan’s blog “What’s Left”—What Makes the United States Richer than its G7 Partners? Imperialism, not Lower Taxes
    September 17, 2021
    “The postwar international order, authored by the newly emergent hegemonic power, the United States, integrated the defeated Axis powers, along with the weakened French and British Empires, into an international order, defined by Washington, informed by Wall Street’s values, and aimed at promoting corporate USA’s prosperity.

    To ensure its former imperial rivals would now accommodate, rather than compete with, US economic interests in a new US-defined world order, the United States occupied militarily Germany, Japan, Italy, and the UK. For almost 80 years, the United States has maintained a robust military presence in each of these countries. Why? In 2002, in an interview with United Press International, Alexander Haig, former Supreme Commander of NATO and US Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, explained.

    Q — Why is the United States still stationing 70,000 troops in Germany?

    A — A lot of good reasons for that. This presence is the basis for our influence in the European region and for the cooperation of allied nations…. A lot of people forget it is also the bona fide of our economic success. The presence of U.S. troops keeps European markets open to us. If those troops weren’t there, those markets would probably be more difficult to access.

    Q — I didn’t forget. I just didn’t know that if the United States didn’t maintain 70,000 troops in Germany, European markets might be closed to American goods and services.

    A — On occasion, even with our presence, we have confronted protectionism in a number of industries, such as automotive and aerospace.

    In other words, the markets of former imperial rivals were integrated into the US market, and the glue that bound them to the United States, and continues to bind them–as The New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman once put it–is “the hidden fist” of “the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

    Washington would also integrate its former European imperial competitors into NATO, placing their militaries under formal US command, and thereby taking future inter-imperialist military rivalry off the table. At the same time, NATO allows Washington to exploit the fettered militaries of its former rivals as force multipliers in the pursuit of specifically US goals in the US-defined international realm.”

  4. john stanley
    January 27, 2022 at 19:45

    The ignorance of most of the US population and the endless crap they are fed by the commercial mass media in the form of spy movies and other juvenile fantasies must go some way to bolstering this view of Russia as another Mordor with endless armies of trolls and other whatnots dressed in black with wings.
    The educational system in the US is sharply divided between the have and the have-nots and getting steadily worse. Refer to Professor Thomas Pickety’s recent publication on Capital and Ideology for the real harsh statistics. Promoting the existence of external enemies such as Russia and China is the only way the US can divert their peoples attention from the coming collapse of the US and UK economies and the poverty of the bottom 50% of the US and UK populations.

  5. Sally-Alice Thompson
    January 27, 2022 at 18:00

    German safety is at stake if Nato is successful in instigating war. They’re the ones who will have bombs raining down on their schools, hospitals, etc. Again, we anticipate no violence within our borders. Maybe the Germans are considering that fact.

  6. Skip Edwards
    January 27, 2022 at 14:39

    “The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception,” wrote Mark Twain.

  7. mgr
    January 27, 2022 at 13:55

    As the lies mount, the US undermines its credibility even more. Good. Since it cannot even control itself, it has no business leading anyone anywhere. The inevitable “emperor wears no clothes” moment is coming. Lack of integrity does that.

  8. Robert Emmett
    January 27, 2022 at 11:13

    The 2nd & 3rd paragraphs lay out the crooked operation as clearly & cleanly as ever I’ve seen. Good writing there, Joe.

    Just like to support that insight about mediacorps’ role. You know, the ones that buy & control the public’s airwaves. The barkers for high & mighty choosers of what story to plant. Pow! Right in the kisser!

    And how then the many chosen few swallow it whole. “For you never ask questions/when God’s on your side.” (B. Dylan, c. 1963)

    Liked that Twain quote quite a lot.

  9. TP Graf
    January 27, 2022 at 08:34

    Meanwhile, Pelosi and company work on their multi-hundred-million-dollar “emergency” “Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022.” Which includes 155M for Radio Free Europe. (That’s a lot of propaganda.) Of course, there is page after page of Russian sanctions for every Putin associate and every bank and natural resource in the country. I lament greatly the unbalanced, diabolical, paid for minds that run this country.

    • Realist
      January 28, 2022 at 01:26

      Not surprising that the US Congress is so punctilious in its attention to the details of trying to thoroughly destroy the Russian Federation. The mentally ill reprobates running our government have had much experience in laying waste to several entire societies on the other side of the globe for the sin of merely trying to run their own affairs. I think the deluded freaks in Washington fancy themselves leaders of the Roman Republic and want to totally eradicate Moscow as the Romans did Carthage. Watch them try to even salt the earth there should they get the chance. Plutonium salts most likely.

      I swear, every congress critter must have an obligatory pre-frontal lobotomy during his or her initial orientation session because I have never seen such a large aggregate of IQ-deficient cretins anywhere else in this world–not even at the Dunning Mental Asylum in Chicago.

  10. nwwoods
    January 26, 2022 at 21:15

    Frustrating waking daily up to Canada’s government mouthpiece, the CBC News Network parroting New York Times anti-Russian/anti Chinese falsehoods manufactured out of whole cloth by official Washington and London war mongers.

  11. Patricia Tursi
    January 26, 2022 at 16:06

    It is my understanding that Russia has one warm-water port which is located in Crimea. I can’t help but wonder if Biden is still stuck in his blackmail mode with Russia. His son had a seat on Russia’s gas board and the Russian AG? Was investigating. Biden ordered the AG (?) Be fired or Ukraine wouldn’t get the large loan money from the US. Biden was also invved with shady deals in China with his son. What a total unethical, perhaps criminal, person we have acting as president. He is also incompetent due to brain deterioration. Having witnessed many presidents since 1936, I would say we are in serious devolvement.

    • JohnA
      January 27, 2022 at 04:35

      Hunter Biden’s ‘directorships’ were with a Ukrainian company, not Russian. The AG you talk about was Ukrainian. But you are correct about the Russian naval port in Crimea. A port, incidentally, that the Obama government was inviting tenders for, to develop an American base there, post US coup Maidan, when the Russians would be evicted! No wonder, Crimea wanted and was able to reunite with mother Russia.

      • Realist
        January 28, 2022 at 01:47

        The two-faced Obama, who deliberately and very provocatively got the ball rolling on this new Cold War with Russia should go down in history (assuming it is still written in our future) as one of our worst presidents. He was credited with far too much intelligence just because of his sonorous and well-articulated voice. Behind the mask he had an empty head, and was easily bought off for the many perks he now loves to flaunt. Ever since Clinton, this country has had an uninterrupted run of especially incapable and unscrupulous characters from both parties in its presidency. Biden is nothing more than a marionette whose strings are pulled by the most bellicose Russophobic Neocons.

  12. Moi
    January 26, 2022 at 15:36

    I believe that the US is intent on what its version of a win/win:
    – sanction/weaken Russia;
    – make energy so expensive that it damages European export industries;
    – sell expensive US gas in Europe;
    – pump out the armaments that will be used in any conflict.

    The US has successfully picked up half of the $20b in Australian exports to China lost due to Canberra following Washington’s diktats. Now the US is trying to steal European export markets.

    I’ve stated in other forums that we should watch for LNG bulk carriers suddenly heading to Europe for an indication of the US kick-off date for hostilities. Yesterday’s NY Times reported that the US is suddenly scrambling to find alternate energy sources and today the news is that the US believes that a conflict will begin by mid-February.

    So we can expect Ukraine to attack the Donbass during the China olympics because then the US can hope to get back at Xi at the same time.

    • Lois Gagnon
      January 27, 2022 at 11:18

      I suspect your prediction of Ukraine attacking the Donbas during the Winter Olympics in China will turn out to be prescient. This kind of timing has been used before. It’s gotten to the point where the Western provocateurs either believe we’re too propagandized to pick up on these things or they simply don’t give a damn if we notice.

      • January 28, 2022 at 08:08

        Thank you Joe for this.Today I will not say much but only wonder how Western citizens are so ignorant of the world outside theirs when even outsiders like me very far away in Africa,East Africa to be exact is somehow informed more than them? How long will it take for them to understand that? The West taught most Africans to read but surprisingly,they read and know more about what happens in West or the world than Western societies. It’s time for them to learn more about the world beyond their for a more stable and secure World for us all.

  13. January 26, 2022 at 15:24

    And of course, the head of the German Navy was just sacked for admissions of the same nature. It takes extremely brave people to get in the way of the military industrial complex against which Ike warned us about 62 years ago, especially as it has been joined by entrenched bureaucracy.

  14. Realist
    January 26, 2022 at 15:07

    I have been saying for the last 8 years that Europe, bucking its subservience to the USA, would be the key to ending Cold War II which Barack Obama so foolishly rekindled with the coup that Nuland, McCain and Pyatt engineered against the Yanukovich government in Kiev.

    We are not there yet, but the words of Admiral Schonbach, French president Macron and those of former German FM Steinmeier in 2016 may get the ball rolling. Even more important may have been the recent words of the Croatian president who announced that he would pull his country’s troop out of NATO if that body started a war with Russia. Heretofore Croatia has been a typical knee-jerk Eastern European vassal of the USA, a typical highly conservative and dogmatically pro-Western “Intermarium” country aligned with the Visegrads like Poland and Hungary. Hopefully, an American lackey no more! Perhaps it was not futile for Putin and Lavrov to independently present their case to NATO and not merely its American overlords.

  15. jo6pac
    January 26, 2022 at 13:34

    Thanks for the truth.

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