Just when there seemed to be a glimmer of real change in
US-Russian relations -- Russia giving in to the US on START and assuring the continuation of the Kyrgyz US airbase -- the logic of US
empire reasserts itself with a slap in the Russian face. Even Poland, Russia�s
age-old nemesis, is trying to bury the hatchet, after the shocking air crash
near Katyn, a tragic, if farcical, repeat of the WWII massacre on Stalin�s
In another echo of that war -- Hitler�s siege of Leningrad
-- NATO cold-bloodedly chose Tallinn, Estonia, a stone�s throw from St
Petersburg, as the venue of its latest deliberations about expanding eastward
and how best to convince the world and Russia in particular to comply with its
ambitious plans to bring the world to heel.
The two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting on 22-23 April
focused on the military alliance�s 21st century Strategic Concept and on the
war in Afghanistan. Top on the agenda was putting paid to any notion that
nuclear weapons might be removed from Europe; rather, they would be integrated
into the Pentagon�s pan-European interceptor missile programme in line with the
US Department of Defence�s new Nuclear Posture Review.
Proclaimed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen:
�Missile defence is no replacement for an effective deterrent. But it can
complement it. Because there are states, or other actors, who might not be
rational enough to be deterred by our nuclear weapons. But they might be
deterred by the realisation that their few missiles might not get through our
Fogh seems to be saying: If, say, Iran launches nuclear war
against Europe, we are ready. What he is really saying is: If the US launches a
war against Iran, an interceptor system could prevent effective retaliation.
Revealing his personal opinion that NATO must embrace the US
missile defence system as its own, Fogh philosophised, �The missile threat to
Europe is clear . . . which means, to my mind, that we need to take on Alliance
missile defence as a NATO mission. In Lisbon, NATO nations will decide if
missile defence for our European territory and population should become an
Alliance mission. I make no secret that I think it should.�
These NATO meetings, once held every three years, are now
annual and even semi-annual events, often hosted by its new members: the Czech
Republic in 2002, Romania in 2008, and now Estonia, with another one in
Portugal in November to finalise the new Strategic Concept and formally embrace
Reagan�s Star Wars fantasy as NATO�s own.
Just to make sure Russia understands its role in NATO�s
plans for Russia�s �near abroad,� Fogh said, �We need a visible presence of
NATO across the entire territory of our Alliance. And we see a perfect example
here in this region. We have put in place arrangements to police the Baltic
airspace. We also need to guard against new risks and threats to the security
of our nations, such as energy cut-offs or cyber attacks.� He might as well
have come right out and told Russia: Watch out! Any disputes with your
neighbours are now NATO�s business.
In a jab at Germany for suggesting last November that US
nuclear weapons could be removed at long last from Europe, he said, �A credible
Alliance nuclear posture and the demonstration of Alliance solidarity� requires
�peacetime basing of nuclear forces . . . in Europe. The Alliance will
therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe.�
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any reductions
should be tied to a nuclear pullback by Russia. In other words, if Russia
meekly joins NATO Estonia-fashion and gives up its nuclear weapons altogether,
NATO might reconsider its nuclear presence in Europe, another slap in the
Russian face and a violation of the gentleman�s agreement between Reagan and
Gorbachev for the withdrawal of all US and Soviet troops and nuclear weapons
from Europe in the 1980s.
Currently there are from 200-400 US tactical nuclear weapons
stored on air bases in Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and
Turkey. All but Britain are non-nuclear states, and the storage of US nuclear
weapons on their territories means the US not only broke its promise to
Gorbachev, but that it is in violation of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Clinton�s invitation last month for Russia to join in the
proposed NATO missile defence (really just the new public face of the US
system) was of course a ruse or a taunt (does humourless Hillary perhaps have a
sense of humour after all?). Even if Russia took her up on this, the Pentagon�s
new Prompt Global Strike programme �is striving for fast-strike, first-strike
conventional weapons military superiority that could render Russia�s nuclear
forces easy to neutralise, hence useless,� according to analyst Rick Rozoff.
Former head of the Russian Air Force General Anatoly Kornukov described the
recent launching of the X-37B �mini shuttle� as further evidence of the US
weaponisation of space. �Now the US will be able to deliver a strike in a short
time without due resistance. Aggressors from space could turn Russia into
something like Iraq or Yugoslavia.�
Having no alternative, Russia reluctantly yielded to the US
Star Wars project by the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty 8
April. To mollify superhawks in the Senate, US Missile Defence Agency official
Patrick O�Reilly immediately told a hearing of the House Armed Services
subcommittee on defence appropriations: �The new START treaty actually reduces
constraints on the development of the missile defence programme,� unconcerned
that he was making the Russians look like fools or even cowards.
But the boasting in Tallinn and Washington is not being met
with silence. Russian officials have warned that START may come to a halt if US
provocations against Russia continue. As the NATO meeting closed, in Moscow,
Russian Foreign Ministry official Andrei Nesterenko said with exasperation, �It
is not clear to us why Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems are being
deployed near the Russian border. Nor have we an answer to the question about
what threats will be tackled in the drill which will be held very close to
Russia�s Kaliningrad region.�
The other issue on the NATO agenda that just won�t go away,
no matter how many lives and bombs NATO throws at it, is of course Afghanistan.
Setting the stage for a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan, the meeting
adopted a plan that sets conditions for removing troops from a lead role by the
end of this year, proposing to transfer security to Afghan police if there is
reconciliation with the Taliban and a durable civilian government in place.
This would allow Obama to meet his deadline for starting to pull out American
troops by July 2011.
The sole �rational� voice at the Tallinn talkfest, NATO
chief civilian representative Mark Sedwill, did not give much succour to
attendees: �To many Afghans, this is essentially us fighting our war for our
reasons on their soil.� He was no doubt thinking of the recent poll --
conducted by the US in US-occupied areas of Kandahar -- where 85 percent said
they viewed the Taliban as their brothers and want the occupation troops out
immediately. The recent surges have brought only increased deaths on all sides
-- soldiers, insurgents, civilians alike. Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded they be called off
and threatened to join the Taliban himself.
Fogh pondered as to how to engage Russia on this issue �to
the benefit of Europe�s security and its political unity,� even as Russia bends
over backwards to accommodate the NATO war effort with its open skies policy
and acceptance of the US base in Kyrgyzstan with nary a murmur of protest.
As NATO trumpeted its military prowess in the Baltic minnow,
Russia undertook some quiet, �rational� diplomacy with a far more important
neighbour, signing a deal on gas supplies and the future of the Russian naval base
in Sevastopol. In exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas deliveries,
Ukraine will allow the Russian Black Sea Fleet to remain in Crimea and will not
join NATO until at least 2042, a �political-strategic� victory, said Volodymyr
Fesenko, the head of the Penta Centre for Applied Political Studies in Kiev.
�Russia not only preserves a military presence in the Black Sea basin and on
Ukrainian territory, but also has a factor of influence on external security
policy and internal affairs in Ukraine.� Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich
said that Ukraine would receive from Russia �a real investment of resources,
specifically gas, of around $40 billion dollars� over the next 10 years.
Russia heals wounds while NATO is signing its own death
warrant with its current hubris. The people of Europe, as opposed to their
compliant politicians, want to be nuclear-free, just as they want their troops
out of Afghanistan or wherever, and at some point will have their say. The
Dutch government already collapsed on the issue. Estonians, still in their
honeymoon stage with NATO, fete their Euro-warriors and willingly send their
handful of troops to kill Afghans, but their more blas� cousins, the Finns,
have recently joined the Euro majority in wanting their troops out either
immediately or within the year. Their mutual WWII foe, Germany, is even less
enthusiastic, with 62 percent wanting out. Their mutual WWII ally, Britain, is
even less so, with 77 percent wanting out.
A recent memo from the CIA -- which has nothing to do with
NATO, of course -- targets France and Germany to shore up public support using
propaganda about drugs, terrorism and women�s rights. But the best-laid plans
of mice and men go oft awry.
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at ericwalberg.com.