Question: Russia’s Defense Ministry has released a statement inviting NATO experts to Moscow for consultations in September on the military-political situation in Europe. What do you make of this invitation?
Answer: Again this is an excellent example of Russian diplomacy at work. Recall the NATO alliance held a meeting in Warsaw last month in which Russia was denoted as “a source of instability.” Inviting NATO to Moscow for consultations will be a test to determine what “a source of instability means.” The Russians want to know to what degree the American-led military alliance is interested in dialogue. And to probably gauge how separate members view Washington’s bellicose stance regarding Russia.
Q.: You mentioned the Warsaw meeting. From a public relations perspective, the alliance presented the world (and directed against Russia) with the image of unity (around the U.S.). That’s the PR side – what the real picture?
A.: NATO is a military alliance in disarray – the more it feels it must convince member states of its importance, the more people are realizing that it has already become irrelevant. NATO simply does not address Europe’s real security issues.
There is ample evidence many in western Europe are wary of Washington’s harsh Cold War-like rhetoric. The same rhetoric creates the conditions for a possible conflict with Russia – a conflict that is entirely unnecessary and unjustified. The absence of any meaningful Russian threat obviously worries many Europeans. Collective security means what it describes – security for all and not just because Washington’s “thinktankistan “whips the alliance up into a frenzy worrying some member states are losing their faith in solely American initiatives.
Q.: What specifically are the Russians looking for in Moscow meeting?
A.: Moscow sees new anti-missile installations coming on line in eastern Europe. Moscow also sees the largest NATO military exercises on its borders since the end of the Cold War. There is also the issue of NATO and Russian planes buzzing each other in flight in the Baltic. There isn’t much Russia can do about this. That’s why it is wise to at least regulate some of the areas of growing tensions. Russia is also considering the possibility of performing military flights over the Baltic only with ID transponders on. This of course will allow NATO forces to track Russian flights. But Russia will insist NATO planes do the same. I would expect other confidence building measures.
Moscow also most definitely will inform NATO officials that Russia is undertaking robust security measures in the Black Sea. In regard to Ukraine, the Russians will again query why the Kiev government is not pushed to fulfill its Minsk Agreement obligations. I have no doubt the Russians are more knowledgeable about Ukraine’s dire military condition than any NATO official!
Q.: Assuming NATO official do agree to visit Moscow, it will be after the Turkish president has visited. Is there any connection here – any dots to connect?
A.: Turkey’s continued membership in NATO is not seriously questioned at the moment. While Turkey’s level of engagement with the alliance certainly is. Erdogan has been painted himself in a dangerous foreign policy corner. Just prior to the coup attempt Erdogan started a process of rapprochement with some of Turkey’s neighbors, including Russia. Turkey’s membership within the alliance gives the country leverage with Washington. Erdogan certainly has demands that will not please the Americans, but he is not foolish enough to exit Turkey from the alliance and make himself an enemy of Washington – when such things happens Washington evokes forced regime change. Erdogan is a survivor and a grand manipulator.
Q.: Are NATO and Russia doomed to be adversaries? How possible is a “hot conflict?”
A.: Both will be adversaries as long as Washington dictates Europe’s security policies. The U.S. refuses to recognize Russia’s legitimate security interests and that creates tensions. In the meantime, Europe is held hostage. A “hot conflict” is entirely possible and there are surely those in Washington eagerly planning for this. NATO is an American project – its members and Russia have little choice but to act and re-act according to Washington’s self-serving and self-centered view of the world.
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.