For a reasonable relationship between NATO and Russia

For a reasonable relationship between NATO and Russia

by Dario Rivolta*

Some time ago I spoke with a friend who works at a certain, not necessarily transparent Office, over a politician whom I knew as absolutely straightforward person. “When a secret service wants to nail down a person”, he told me, “it does not have to be that the has committed criminal acts. Witnesses testifying against him will be purchased, or they are blackmailed, and evidence can be produced.”

War decisions are done by using lies

To me came to mind then the “evidence”, which were presented at a UN-Security Council session by the then Secretary of State Colin Powell in a theatrical manner, to prove that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was preparing to use them. Months after the fall of the dictator, it was discovered that it was a professional lie. But in the meantime due to these lies the scared Western public had supported the war decisions of their governments. Something similar happened already in the war against Serbia. European and American newspapers were full of photographs with alleged mass graves in which the Serbs had buried hundreds of poor, defenseless Kosovars. In this case too, this turned out to be a hoax, but only after the end of the conflict. The coroners of different nationalities who were sent to the appropriate places to prove the committed offenses had to write in their reports that almost all “mines” have consisted only of moved earth and that no bodies have been found. Only in a few of them were human bodies. The doctors added that it was not possible to determine whether there were really Kosovars or more Serbs, and that her death very likely refers to the time after the start of the bombing.

“Propaganda lies are an important factor in international politics”

Whether we like it or not, the propaganda lies are an important factor in international politics, and the insidious it is, the more efficient it is. To mobilise public opinion against the interests of a potential enemy for its own benefit, you have to portray him as aggressive, representing evil and so on. This type of propaganda, of which one has made use in all eras, today acts multiplied thanks to the mass media. It is often used to hide one’s own interests or to convince “friendly” countries that their interests are in danger.

Bogeyman Russia

When I read in the press or hear a politician speak what danger today’s Russia means for Europe, I suspect, to stand just in front of such an above-described propaganda: Putin is ready for occupying the countries of the former Warsaw Pact? The attack against Ukraine and the “occupation” of the Crimea were just a test run? Are we dealing with an unscrupulous, power-hungry dictator? Is NATO (including Erdogan) still the only bulwark of democracy to protect the “free world”?

NATO and Russia reinforce military maneuvres

What is certain is that NATO and Russia reinforce the present military  maneuvres on both sides of the borders. They thus increase alarmingly the opportunities of “close encounters” with the risk of losing control. However, it is not clear whether it is the expansion of NATO and the appropriate  maneuvres, which involve a reaction of the Russians, or whether, conversely, the “provocation” from Moscow urge NATO to preventively “encircle” the country.

New NATO bases in Romania and Poland

On 12 May, a new American missile base with the declared aim of the defense of Europe from possible attacks by Iranian ballistic missiles was opened in Deveselu, Romania. One day later, the work for the construction of a similar base was launched in Poland, which is to be completed by the end of 2018. “Too bad” that the missiles from Tehran have a range of less than 2000 kilometers according to the statements of western experts, and thus can reach not a single European country, much as they should like to. Incidentally, the command locations for “our” missiles are not on NATO bases but in Ramstein, a purely American base in Germany. In the meantime, they announced that five thousand tons of ammunition in 415 containers are to be sent to Germany, along with dozens of tanks for military exercises in Georgia and neutral Moldova. As if that were not enough, the US Defence Secretary Carter wants four new battalions to dislocate to Eastern Europe and on 7 June exercises took place in Poland, which were attended by 25,000 soldiers. No wonder if Moscow feels threatened and threatens with reprisals?

Scenarios of deterrence

The new Commander of the Atlantic Alliance, a certain Curtis Scaparrotti (Italian name, but of American nationality), claims that a “Russia recovering again, committed to act as a world power”, is our enemy. Even Obama says: “We favour an open dialogue and try to cooperate with Russia, but we want to be safe, prepared, and strong, and we want to encourage Russia (sic!) to keep its military activity in accordance with the international agreements. But didn’t just the United States give unilateral notice of cancelling the ABM Treaty (treaty against anti-ballistic missiles), which was signed by both parties in 1987? NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg states, that we will “already tonight be ready to fight against the Russian threat, if deterrence fails.” Unfortunately also Moscow applies its “deterrence” and responds by manoeuvring in vicinity to the border and moving new missiles into the enclave of Kaliningrad.
Of course, we all hope that it is only deterrence, when American warships are sent to the Baltic Sea, and then the United States complain that Russian planes fly in the “dangerous nearness”. We are faced with deterrent scenarios again and again with escalation of armaments and mutual provocations, which we believed to have behind us.
If these are just “simple alerts”, for how long will this continue? Is it for sure, that within this whole amount of efforts and accusations no misfortune will happen, and then each party will accuse the other one to be responsible? What may be the consequences?

“Is Moscow really endangering the security of Europe today?”

I’m not a pacifist at any price and have never been. But I know that there must be real and understandable reasons to justify a war, or even hostility between states. Which are the true reasons of the conflict, apart from the large-scale propaganda mutually applied? Is Russia recovering again? Will it go back into the position of a world power? And? Which country would not like to emerge from an economic and political low, it used to stay in? And doesn’t the size of this huge country, which is rich of very important raw materials, allow claiming and taking an appropriate role in the world up? Is Moscow really endangering the security of Europe today?

Expansion of NATO is not a friendly act

Even if the Russians wanted to appropriate the former Warsaw Pact Nations, they could not afford it. The internal economic crisis, the backwardness of the infrastructure and – generally speaking – their weapons arsenal doesn’t allow them an aggression against NATO or any of its Member States. On the contrary, Russia could withstand in a defensive war quite well: the territory is that big and people are that patriotic that all attempts to get Russia down have failed in the last two centuries. Except Ural and Caucasus, Russia is an enormous plain without natural borders. Already Napoleon and Hitler were lost in these areas in short time, and it is understandable that Moscow demands that the neighbouring countries should not represent a threat to its own security. Because Russia is not a member of the military organisation of NATO, it is logical that the expansion of NATO into its neighbouring countries cannot be interpreted by the Russian Government as a friendly act.

Character and common sense are in demand

Instead of thinking today on possible expansion, the Russians can take much more benefit from concentrating on their internal development – as well thanks to our know-how and our cooperation – rather than to load the costs and responsibility, to manage unruly and in this case even hostile countries. Foreign Minister Lavrov recently declared: “I repeat, we are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific.”
Is he lying? That would be absurd, because he states exactly what reasonably corresponds to the interests of his country.
Instead of believing those who ceaselessly conjure up a purported Russian threat, I rather follow the words of Henry Kissinger, the last large expert of international politics, who has led American foreign policy after the second World War: “Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States.” If this is stated by someone, who has resumed diplomatic relations with China to counter the Soviet Union during the cold war, for sure we can’t suspect him to be naive or to “arrange with the enemy”.
It’s time that we Europeans pull out from the harmful influence of some nostalgic Dr Strangelove and to focus on our true interests disillusioned and with sense of reality. Is there still anybody in Brussels or in Washington with a little bit of character and common sense?     •
(Translation from the Italian original by Current Concerns)

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