Elite and Media Support for NATO, Increasing Threat of War with Russia
Eleven years ago at NATO’s April 2008 summit in Bucharest, it was agreed the former Soviet states of Georgia and the Ukraine “will become members of NATO”. Early that same month, America’s increasingly unpopular president George W. Bush was also present in the Romanian capital, so as to reaffirm his nation’s desire to “welcome Georgia and Ukraine” into NATO.
A few weeks later in June 2008 Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, remarked that should Georgia accede to the United States-run organization it “would lead to another stage of confrontation”.
Following extensive skirmishes in summer 2008 along Russia’s southern frontier, on 7 August of that year Moscow-led forces launched an intervention into Georgian territory – a military incursion that experienced Russian expert Richard Sakwa, of the University of Kent, described as “a response to the threat of NATO enlargement” and also “in effect the first of the ‘wars to stop NATO enlargement’”.
It may be important to briefly recall the modern history of Georgia, a country which shares a 700 kilometre border with Russia along the vast Caucasus region: Georgia comprised part of the Russian empire for well over a century until 1918, and was subsequently under the USSR’s sphere for seven decades before the latter dissolved in 1991. Georgia has an ingrained association with Russia which cannot be erased by Western flattering and assurances.
By 13 August 2008, after a week of fighting Russian troops captured Gori in central Georgia, a small and seemingly inconsequential city comprising about 50,000 people. Though the significance of taking Gori may have been lost on many westerners, that town was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin in December 1878. Stalin remains the longest serving head of state in Russian history, having ruled under a dictatorship for almost three decades until his death in March 1953, aged 74.
As is well documented, Stalin was a despot responsible for terrible massacres like the Great Purge. Yet his name is still a prominent one today in both Russia and Georgia. The principal reason behind this is that Stalin presided over the victory against Hitler’s Reich, which stands as the bloodiest battle in world history costing more than 25 million Soviet lives.
Despite the impending danger to Moscow in late autumn 1941, which Hitler planned to completely destroy, Stalin did not flee eastwards but remained put in the Kremlin. Though the Soviet dictator merits justified condemnation for his crimes, he could not be accused of cowardice in the face of Hitler’s attack.
Meanwhile, the Russian assault on Gori and destruction of Georgian military bases in and around the vicinity, was a psychological blow inflicted upon the country’s then Western-backed figures – such as Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president who received part of his education in private universities in New York and Washington. Saakashvili later described American senator John McCain as “the world’s greatest statesman”, while long after the US invasion of Iraq he praised president Bush II for being “a decisive and visionary leader”.
During the conflict in Georgia, by mid-August 2008 Russian units had advanced to within 25 miles of the capital Tbilisi in the south-east; just at that point, they were ordered to cease advancing and turn about northwards. The war’s conclusion bore witness to Russia’s recognition of the Caucasus territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia while installing army bases there, through which thousands of Russian soldiers remain.
A few days ago, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg highlighted in a speech to Congress in Washington that America is the “backbone of our alliance”, and there would not be a peaceful Europe “without the sacrifice and commitment of the United States”. Stoltenberg made no reference to the illegal US-NATO invasion of Yugoslavia 20 years ago, that killed thousands of people through which various war crimes were committed, while destabilizing much of the Balkans region.
Last month, Stoltenberg stated unequivocally during a trip to Tbilisi “that Georgia will become a member of NATO”. In recent weeks, ending on 29 March, there were “NATO-Georgia military exercises” near Tbilisi which represented another clear provocation of Moscow. It is not too dissimilar to the US patrols in South Korea which have driven the North Koreans to distraction, as one can appreciate.
Should Georgia move towards NATO integration, another intervention from the north may well ensue. On this occasion, Russian forces would be likely to advance as far as Tbilisi to occupy the Georgian heartland. One can only ponder how the Americans would react in such a case.
Last August, Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Washington’s coercing of Georgia to join NATO “could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for”. NATO’s ongoing efforts to entice more states bordering Russia to accede (after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), are further increasing the risk of a devastating nuclear war between the US and Russia. This is openly recognized by scholars and non-profit organizations such as the bulletin of atomic scientists.
Little reported by commercial media, is the presence of dozens of US nuclear weapons in the military bases of four EU countries: Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands; while to the south NATO member Turkey also holds American nuclear devices. These states are, in actual fact, five de facto nuclear nations.
Russia has herself constituted the status of nuclear superpower for decades, and there is consequently little doubt that NATO’s march eastwards has become an existential threat to humanity.
It is remarkable to witness the strong support that NATO retains from famous institutions and elite figures who are, as a result, actively encouraging a nuclear conflict.
The New York Times, on 14 January 2019, outlined under a heading of “new concerns over Russia” that NATO is a “military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years” while the Ukraine and Georgia are “two non-NATO members with aspirations to join the alliance”.
There is no mention in the New York Times’ analysis pertaining to NATO’s rapid growth following Soviet disintegration, and the grave danger to our world should the Ukraine and Georgia merge to the organization. Nor does the New York Times’ evaluation discuss NATO aggression directed at Afghanistan, Libya, etc.
NATO leaders, in reality Washington, have sought policies that George Kennan, former US ambassador and diplomat, lamented “would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves”. Over the past generation, NATO has degenerated into what is a criminal and far-reaching branch of US imperialism.
In relation to Russia, readers of mass media will also have to do much digging upon discovering that the country has repeatedly been attacked in modern history. Huge invasions of Russia occurred across consecutive centuries, firstly by Charles XII of the Swedish Empire (in 1708), just over a hundred years later through Napoleon Bonaparte of the French colonial empire (in 1812), and lastly by Hitler of the Third Reich (in 1941). These assaults were eventually repelled, but not before the Russian state endured some of the most staggering losses ever seen.
In the meantime, the Daily Telegraph assures its readers that NATO has been a “cornerstone of the continent’s security” and bolstered “by the fact that America possesses the second biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world”. However, the Telegraph complains that “the ambitions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia have changed the picture” as “Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine” and “then invaded eastern Ukraine”.
As with the New York Times, there is not a word expounded in the Telegraph account of NATO itself having “changed the picture” with its march to Russia’s very boundaries. In mainstream accounts, there is quite often a most glaring lack of historical understanding and perspective on display, along with a presumably deliberate omission of important facts.
The core issue regarding Russia’s “seizure of Crimea” is seldom ever addressed amid the reams of press coverage rebuking the Kremlin on this subject. Moscow’s March 2014 takeover of the Crimea came as a riposte to the February 2014 US-sponsored coup in the Ukraine –which has continuously been described in shoddy press reports as “a pro-democracy revolution” which “turned it [the Ukraine] away from Russia and towards the West”.
In reality the “pro-democracy revolution” was an illegitimate putsch involving firm American backing, as let slip by president Barack Obama on CNN in February 2015; which overthrew a democratically elected president and established an elite rabble, that further contained far-right individuals like Andriy Parubiy, Dmytro Yarosh and Oleh Makhnitskyi. The Western public are routinely spared such unpalatable details, nor are they informed that 30% of Ukrainians speak Russian as their first tongue, much of whom reside in eastern Ukraine.
The Crimea itself, a strategically vital peninsula located on the Black Sea, comprised part of Russia’s empire from 1783 to 1917, and was subsequently under Soviet domain for 70 years. The Crimea’s two million inhabitants are made up of two thirds ethnic Russians. Over 80% of Crimeans profess their native lingo to be Russian, in comparison to less than 5% of the populace who speak Ukrainian as a first language.
Russia has inevitably influenced some of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, a nation it shares a 1,000 kilometre western border with. Moscow may further intervene militarily in the Ukraine, should NATO forge ahead with plans to absorb that country, and it could again lead to nuclear weapon engagement between the US and Russia. One can imagine how America would react, were a Russian-backed coup to oust Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
In the Guardian, a recently retired British senior diplomat wrote last week of his view that, “After two decades of discretionary wars, NATO has come back home, giving top priority to the security of allies in the face of Russia’s aggressive military posture and reckless behaviour”.
The comment relating to NATO’s “discretionary wars”, such as the illegal invasions of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya, provides another useful insight into the disregard that Britain’s elites hold for international law. In the post-1945 era, British author Mark Curtis outlines in his books – with much supporting evidence – that Britain has been the world’s second biggest outlaw state (with America in poll position). The USSR or Russia do not enter the fray.
British governments, both Conservative and Labour, have in the post-World War II years reverted to a long list of illicit measures, in order to cling on to vestiges of her evaporating empire; they have partly instituted or supported a range of dictatorships in South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, while backing flagrant neo-Nazi regimes in the likes of Chile and South Africa.
The typical British elite has much preferred to support a dictator that will promise the UK access to mineral riches, rather than provide backing to a president legitimately elected by popular vote. Should the despot start killing his own people, be it Suharto of Indonesia or Pinochet of Chile, it has not unduly concerned influential Britons. Indeed, London has sometimes paved the way by supplying arms and material assistance to the death squads.
Margaret Thatcher, prime minister for over a decade until November 1990, described the brutal mass murderer General Suharto as “One of our very best and most valuable friends”. Along with US president Ronald Reagan, Thatcher furnished much military aid to Suharto, and the tyrant received separate invitations to London, including a trip to Buckingham Palace in 1979.
Other dictators like the Shah of Iran have been distinguished too with state visits to the English capital, also enjoying outings to mingle with Britain’s royalty. Propped up by America and Britain, the Shah ruled Iran for a quarter of a century until 1979, compiling a deplorable human rights record. Unperturbed, the Shah was a friend to the West throughout, with Thatcher heralding him in 1978 as “one of the world’s most far-sighted statesmen, whose experience is unrivalled. No other leader has given his country more dynamic leadership”. So it continues.
Under another decade of appalling premiership with Tony Blair until June 2007, the historian Curtis noted that during his tenure, “the Blair government is seriously out of control – an outlaw state, undertaking its foreign policy in open contempt for international ethical standards, including riding roughshod over the United Nations… but it has been obscured by a web of government propaganda and media and parliament’s failure to disclose the reality of state policy”. Due to such factors as these, the grim truth often underlining state power is largely shielded from public scrutiny.
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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.