But nobody knows what's gonna happen tomorrow
We try not to show how frightened we are
If you let me - I'll protect you - however I can
You've got to believe it'll be alright in the end
The civil war in the Ukraine has more or less halted, with last week’s negotiated truce, without being formally won by one of both parties or having ended in a draw.
In spite of some exchanges of hostile fire and some local clashes, the truce seems to stand, fortunately. Now that the smoke has lifted a little, it is safe to state that this war has almost only yielded losers.
As a matter of fact, the Ukraine has been more or less split up and the Western, EU/NATO-oriented part of the country lost the heavy industry and the coal mines in the East, as valuable sources of national income.
Besides that, the current government knows that it will be at a short leash of ‘Mother Russia’, without having the opportunity soon of becoming a full member of either the European Union or the NATO. Would the country choose to pursue these memberships anyway or would the country sail a too independent course at other (political) occasions, the civil war in the East could be fired up again very easily.
For various reasons, Russia’s ‘triumph’ in its conflict with Ukraine is also a Pyrrhic victory.
Yes, the country has proven itself the top-dog in the conflict – even without having participated in the war officially – while at the same time making a fool of the Western world. Russia exposed that big words only came from a big and safe distance (read: The US and the United Kingdom), while the continental, Western European countries – with many business strings attached – operated much more cautious, afraid as they were to lose their lucrative business contracts.
Nevertheless, Russia has condemned itself to a deep economic crisis on its hometurf, as a consequence of the mounting difficulties for its financial markets, banking system and large multinationals, as well as the diminished imports and exports of goods, agricultural produce and natural resources: consequences of the various boycotts and bans.
At the same time, the country lost the scarce amount of trust it still had left in the Western world after its earlier adventures in Chechnia and Georgia, and the (seemingly) increasingly erratic behaviour of President Vladimir Putin.
The United States, represented by President Barrack Obama, have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that ‘speaking loudly, while carrying a Supersoaker’ is not exactly the same as ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick’ (i.e. famous quote of President Theodore Roosevelt).
And the European Union?! It was the same ol’ same ol’, with:
- The former Warsaw Pact countries (a.o. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) and the Scandinavian countries, which would have prefered to directly sent the whole NATO to Russia, for a thorough demonstration of intimidation tactics;
- The United Kingdom, using big words from a safe
distance and without having many business strings attached with Russia;
- The Dutch being angry [due to the terrible accident with the MH17], but not too angry, as they simply can’t afford to lose the Russians as customers and suppliers for their agricultural produce, their ‘international gas roundabout’ and the exports of other goods and services;
- The French, initially thinking that they still could
deliver their earlier ordered marine vessels to Russia, mindful of the motto:
sanctions are sanctions, but business and jobs are business and jobs;
- Germany, in the role of Russia’s ‘European friend of last resort’, with chancellor Angela Merkel being very reluctant towards heavy sanctions, eyeful as she was for the vast German exports interests in Russia.
So when it eventually came to sanctions against Russia, the EU chose for sanctions that hurt… just a little, like a nasty wasp. Very annoying, but not really threatening for the country or its leadership, as not all business ties could be put under jeopardy in the eyes of the Europeans.
And in the end all came down to this: one would like to think, that in this time of mounting international tensions within the European continent, the EU would at least be urged to choose the strongest “High Representative for Foreign Affairs” who they could find, as a heavy-weight European representative, strong negotiator and liaison for foreign affairs. Well, it became …. Federica – “Who?” – Mogherini.
The individual member states of the European Union thought that it would be easier to protect their interests on their own, than through a coordinated approach… Again, the European Union have been exposed as ‘28 frogs in a wheelbarrow’, which can be easily neglected when there are real conflicts in the world: powerless and even pathetic in their dividedness and utter lack of cooperation and common interests.
Summarizing, all participating countries in this escalated conflict between Russia and Ukraine are ultimately losers, as the drawbacks of this conflict for all involved countries (including the United States) have been much higher than the advantages.
However, there is one clear winner of this conflict: the NATO. The victory of this organization is – in contrary to what you would think – a worrisome development, in my humble opinion.
After the Cold War had ended, the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization seemed to become a ‘Ronin’: a Samurai without a master.
As its former archenemies, the Soviet Union and the whole Warsaw Pact, had ceased to exist overnight and a period of political thaw had set in between the East and the West, the primary ‘raison d’etre’ for the NATO – defending its members against Soviet agression – suddenly disappeared.
Still, instead of being dismantled as a factually obsolete organization, like what happened to the Warsaw pact, the NATO kept itself alive by looking for new enemies and adversaries and trying to find reasons for starting new battle operations, while picking up the political “gains” of these battles.
In the process, the NATO – as well as its member states – changed from a merely strategic defence force, specialized in large scale ground wars against the (former) Soviet Union and the East European countries, into a tactical defence and attack squad, specialized in small, ‘quick and dirty’ operations, often under an American leadership. In other words: the NATO became the strong arm of the ‘policeman of the world’.
Consequently, the NATO managed to get involved in all kinds of regional conflicts with a very remote risk for world-peace, but yet a high profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya etc. At the same time, the NATO tried to expand its organization as well: by offering ex-Warsaw pact countries, like Poland or the Baltic States a membership, while simultaneously cultivating the historical animosities with Russia. This was of course not very hard to achieve with Vladimir Putin as Russian president.
The NATO even started to hunt for new members on ‘Russia’s former home turf’ aka the old Soviet Union:
“Georgia, Ukraine, Moldavia?! Everybody is welcome and we do it in everybody’s interest and only with the best intentions. That those foolish Russians don’t understand our intentions is not our problem. We come in peace and bring lots of beads and mirrors for our candidate members”.
The most dangerous ingredient of this ‘commercialization of the NATO, in its struggle for survival’ was that the NATO not only needed friends, but also clear and dangerous enemies to protect its member states from.
The Russians, as far as they were concerned, had been shell-shocked during the implosion of the Soviet Union under Michail Gorbachev and the subsequent wild west years of Boris Yeltsin in the nineties. This time brought the rise of the so-called “Oligarchs”, who looted the country from its national possessions and natural resources, which made them extremely rich in the process. When the young, intelligent and determined streetfighter Vladimir Putin came into power, he was hellbent to restore some of the power, might and ‘splendour’ of the former Soviet Union. He wanted to make an end to both the national firesale of his home country and the open flirts of the former ‘vassal states’ Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine with NATO membership.
Putin played by the rules when this was feasible, but he did not hesitate to create new rules and realities when he deemed this necessary for success. He also countered opposition against his government and his personal position in a rather brutal way, synchronizing his personal interests with the interests of Russia.
In doing this, he was supported by a population, which rather wanted to have a strong man in the Kremlin, who gave Russia back its pride and self-confidence, than the two ‘wimps’ Yeltsin and Gorbachev. Both former Soviet states like Chechnia, Georgia and Ukraine, as well as adversaries from politics and media learned to fear the long and strong arm of Putin.
In the process, Russia slowly but surely turned again into the ideal ‘new’ archenemy of the NATO. The NATO itself did virtually everything to fire up the hostile and suspicious feelings among the Russians against the United States and the European Union, who were the NATO in a different form.
When for instance the NATO developed the plan for a anti-rocket shield against Iranian ballistic missiles, the radar and anti-missile installations were planned in the Czech republic and Poland. As the following picture shows, this was a ridiculous choice for protecting Europe against Iranian missiles, but a perfect choice to guard the continent against Russian ballistic missiles.
|The probable trajectory of Iranian ballistic missiles, |
versus Russian ballistic missiles
Picture courtesy of Google Earth
Click to enlarge
The Russians, who are not stupid, pierced easily through this Jedi mind trick of the NATO and took it for what it was: a disguised attempt to disrupt the balance within the mutual nuclear deterrance system, to gain a strategic advantage for the western world. And with its open recruiting of new members in the former Soviet Union, the NATO further disrupted the cautious equilibrium between the almighty United States plus the European Union and the former-superpower-with-a-newfound-attitude Russia.
The fact that Russia is a far-from-ideal country and (yet) very much a failed democracy does not change the circumstance that the NATO has been deliberately playing with fire, in my humble opinion, in order to create and nurture its own enemies, necessary for its sheer survival.
Every time that I hear the gung ho statements of NATO chairman Anders Fogh Rasmussen against Russia and every time when I see that the situation between the Western world and Russia has further escalated over Ukraine, I cannot help but thinking that this not only happens due to the, by itself condemnable Russian behaviour, but also in the interest of the NATO. A NATO that needs its old archenemy as a reason for its very existence…
The scary part of this NATO tactics of slow escalation is that people, organizations and countries, which are playing with fire, can get burned eventually. A burn which could leave very serious marks all over the world…