How warmongers are trying to influence the outcome of talks between Russia and NATO.
While US State Department officials look for possible compromises with Moscow on European security (an issue that really is difficult for them since they need to save face), the Russophobe lobby from various institutions are actively calling for a tough stance. Let’s take a look at what they’re proposing.
Former intelligence officer Christopher Bort, who represents the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes: “Few in the West are eager to take Putin up on his bargains, especially when they’re accompanied by falsehoods so brazen that they come across as blackmail. Even if Western governments could compromise on key positions – closing NATO’s open door for Ukraine, for instance, or refraining from criticizing human rights violations within Russia – Putin’s duplicitous packaging fosters an assumption that he is merely testing his interlocutors for signs of weakness and has no intention of fulfilling his end of the bargain.” In other words, there is no need to accommodate Russia’s proposals.
CSIS Vice President Seth Jones, in co-authorship with former CIA paramilitary officer Philip Wasielewski, reflects on Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine”. As if there have been absolutely no proposals to normalise relations, they suggest a raft of measures that include not only severe economic sanctions, but also the provision of free military technology and equipment, humanitarian support and intelligence to Ukraine, as well as CIA-led covert actions if the relevant laws cannot be passed in US Congress.
According to Daniel Kochis and Luke Coffey from the conservative Heritage Foundation: “Time may be on the side of the U.S. and its allies: Russia cannot, for domestic financial and political reasons, maintain its massive buildup near Ukraine indefinitely; nor can it ignore that in a few weeks, winter will recede in Ukraine (thus making defense easier), that Ukrainian forces continue to field new systems that will make further incursion more costly, or that its intervention in Kazakhstan has changed some of the geopolitical calculus. Having agreed to talks with Russia, the U.S. and its allies must exit them with as little damage as possible, then set about the task of further bolstering NATO’s collective defense and Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.”
They suggest seven rules that the US should adhere to:
“1. Not offer to close NATO’s door, even halfway … The U.S. and its allies must send a clear message that NATO’s open-door policy remains firmly in place for those countries that meet the criteria … While the Administration may be tempted to offer up a moratorium on new membership in exchange for de-escalation (especially for nations that are far from ready to join), such guarantees are not only wrong in principle, but Russia would also pressure the Alliance to extend such a moratorium in perpetuity, thereby receiving a de facto veto on enlargement.
2. Not sacrifice invaluable training exercises with European partners … America’s greatest asset is its network of alliances, and the grease that keeps those alliances humming from a military standpoint are regular training exercises, which help allies to develop cohesiveness and joint operational awareness, while stress testing command and control, new capabilities, and tactics.
3. Not allow Russia to dictate when, where, and with whom the U.S. exercises.
4. Not negotiate Ukraine’s right to self-defense … As authorized by successive National Defense Authorization Acts, the U.S. should appropriate funds to increase its assistance to the Ukrainian military, including more anti-armor weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, and small arms with fewer, or more flexible, restrictions … [T]he U.S. should seek ways to support the development and capabilities of the Ukrainian navy.
5. Not pull U.S. troops from Europe. U.S. troops remain in Europe first and foremost because it is in U.S. national security interests.
6. Not concede U.S. and NATO presence in Allied Eastern European countries. Another key concession demanded by Russia is the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops and weapons systems from any NATO member that joined the Alliance after 1997. The U.S. and NATO should reject Russia’s demands, which would affect nearly half the Alliance members, outright.
7. Not agree to vague promises, which the U.S. may regret in the future. While it may be tempting to concede to a Russian demand that is not immediately relevant, whether NATO membership for nowhere-near-ready countries, limits on the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and intermediate-range systems in Europe, or even U.S. support for civil society in Russia and neighboring nations, guarantees made in haste may come back to haunt the U.S. in the decades to come.”
NATO’s think tank, the Atlantic Council, has taken the most odious position.
In an article published in the New Atlanticist on 14 January, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee, writes: “In the United Kingdom, the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which I chair, will soon launch a new investigation into Russian and kleptocratic money laundering, building on our work in 2018. But a wider conversation needs to take place: Western allies should establish a common set of ethical standards for former politicians to stop this “Schroederization” by restricting them from working for the state companies of hostile authoritarian states and associated firms. Across Europe, we – Western elites – should be taken off the market for kleptocrats.”
Commenting on the talks on 17 January, Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, writes: “The United States and Europe are … well placed to prevail in this standoff if they keep up their determination and strength under pressure. As during the Cold War, the Kremlin has the tactical advantage of being able to threaten and bluster at will. But, as we also learned in the Cold War, domestic tyranny keeps Russia economically weak, politically brittle, and ultimately unable to sustain a prolonged confrontation with the United States and Europe. At home, Putin has all the guns. But Russian society does not seem enthusiastic about a long war against Ukraine. Launching one would be a risky roll of the dice for Putin. If the Kremlin does so, or otherwise provokes the West sufficiently, it is likely to generate sustained counterpressure that will end badly for it … The United States and Europe should have no part of this. They should be patient, determined, and respond firmly to provocations. Then the Kremlin just might find a way to move from ultimatums to a more productive discussion of European security, perhaps re-establishing arms-control, transparency, and stabilization measures that the Kremlin has ignored, violated, or denigrated in recent years. There is a way ahead, but the coming weeks could be rough.”
On 18 January, Christopher Skaluba and Conor Rodihan from the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security suggested that the lack of a consensus on security issues with Russia is not a problem. NATO is a strong alliance, and its members are flexible enough to act outside the framework of NATO itself.
Strange as it may seem, the most balanced view has been that of Samuel Charap from the RAND Corporation, who writes: “In December 1996, NATO allies declared they had ‘no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members’ – the so-called ‘three no’s.’ This declaration was made before any of the new members joined the alliance. If it was acceptable for NATO to make such a commitment to self-restraint 25 years ago, it should be acceptable today. A statement that the alliance has no intention to offer Ukraine membership at present should only be made in return for a tangible drawdown of Russian forces on the border … If acknowledging this reality averts a conflict that might destroy Ukraine and destabilize Europe, that seems like a small price to pay.”
But NATO appears to have an extremely poor memory. It doesn’t even remember the promises made to Mikhail Gorbachev that the alliance would not expand eastwards following German reunification. Given that these are the amnesiacs they’ll be dealing with, it seems Russian diplomats are facing some extremely difficult negotiations.