Russian Wedge-Driving into NATO

President Putin’s government made a concession to the military after being rebuffed by the United States when its national security adviser from Stanford, Condi Rice, advised the White House under President George Bush Jr that the Russians were of no account. Having reached out to the United States with helpful intelligence information after 9.11, against the forcefully expressed  wishes of his military and Russian intelligence, Putin was then put back in his box by the White House with a calculated policy of cold indifference.

No one likes to look like a chump who has been had, and it was the successor administration under the well-meaning but incompetent President Obama, and its naive ambassador, Mike McFaul,  ironically also from Stanford, that faced the damaging consequences. The concession made to the Russian military  was to reverse the agreement on limiting medium and intermediate range missile systems that Gorbachev had signed in 1987.

The Russian military hated the agreement because, they believed, it removed a means whereby Washington’s commitment to NATO’s defence could be decoupled from European allies of the United States. Insane as it may now seem, and contrary to what some experts insisted at the time, Soviet General Staff planning in the 1970s allowed for war in the European theatre separately from war at a strategic level with the United States. At the very least this would permit Moscow to browbeat America’s European allies without fear of retribution. In the real world, of course, no sensible politician would press the nuclear button, so some experts – mainly but not entirely from Washington DC – rather over-confidently dismissed the need to counter Soviet plans. Yet international relations is about optics as well as reality, just as the health of a capitalist economy is about business confidence as well as crude numbers.

The crisis within NATO in 1978-79 was over whether the US would counter the Soviet attempt to drive a wedge into NATO with the deployment of the SS-20 mobile, multiple warhead, intermediate range missile. The Soviet ship of state was already lurching and taking on water when Gorbachev came to power in 1985 as General Secretary of the CPSU. He immediately faced a headwind – the threat of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) – from Reagan that he was ill-equipped to surmount. The Kremlin finally saw sense and faced the inevitable. Gorbachev signed the INF treaty in December 1987 and soon abandoned  forward positions in Eastern/Central Europe in 1989. Soon after, the Soviet Union completely collapsed in 1992.

The reversion of Russian military planning to the position of the 1970s was objected to by the Obama administration. But Moscow dismissed the objections because they saw the United States, as under Carter, to be weak. And, as happened after Carter with the electoral victory of revanchist Ronald Reagan, the Russians met with their come-uppance with the victory of Donald Trump. Believe it or not, whatever has been said, the sober Russian assessment of Trump was that he could well prove to be another Reagan. But even more important than Trump was the fact that the Democrats on the Hill seethed at the Russian attempt to steal an advantage. The furore over Russian interference in US electoral politics and the bizarre attempt to frame Trump as a Russian agent by Hillary Clinton’s diehard supporters at the DNC and their allies in the deep state at home and abroad, represent a massive obstacle to improved Russo-American relations that shows no sign of having exhausted itself. Particularly as Congress continues to push for ever-stronger and ever more economic sanctions against Moscow, it does, in fact, gives us every indication of getting worse. Moreover, and this is a novelty, the Germans are – certainly on ZDF (“Heute Journal”, 1 August) – finally waking up to the fact that the United States does not necessarily have to stand four square behind an ally that makes itself helplessly dependent on Russian natural gas, and therefore open to Russian blackmail, while under-paying its bills to NATO and adopting a stance on trade that Trump finds inequitable.

Today, 2 August, in response to the  final abandonment of the INF treaty by the United States, the hardline Vzglyad ru* tells us that the United States cannot actually afford to build an intermediate range response to the Russians because the Democrats will not vote for it. “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on” (Na smeshite moi botinki) was the brutal response of one reader. To say the least, the newspaper’s reasoning has a hole or two in it. Not least that, even though senator John McCain is no longer with us chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Democratic Party has not quite yet been taken over by the pacifist, socialist avantgarde. The era of magic realism has not yet begun. Second, for some time now the Russian military have been hammering on about the asymmetrical and multi-dimensional nature of the threat that the United States poses to the security of Russia. If that assessment is serious, then Moscow should not necessarily expect a symmetrical response.

  • Evgeniya Shestak,

Пентагону может не хватить денег на разработку ракет средней дальности, Vzglyad. ru

2 августа 2019, 13:28
Фото: U.S. Air Force
Текст: Евгения Шестак