If US President Donald Trump was indeed aspiring for his country to “get along” with Russia, he must have been perturbed with recent comments made by his second-in-command. Mike Pence’s tour of central and eastern Europe last week seemed like an exercise in agitating Russia. One of the US Vice-President’s more ill-chosen remarks could be heard at his speech to NATO troops in Georgia: “We stand here today in the gap – on a front line of freedom, a front line compromised by Russian aggression nearly a decade ago.”
Georgia, it should be noted, is situated on the Russian border just south of the Caucasus. It would be interesting to note Pence’s reaction if pro-Russian forces were performing military exercises in northern Mexico. In that case he would not be heard uttering such phrases as “a front line of freedom”.
Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European Politics at University of Kent, wrote that, “The Russo-Georgian war of August 2008 was in effect the first of the wars to stop NATO enlargement.” Sakwa also outlined a “fateful geographical paradox: that NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence”. NATO enlargement has been described by people such as respected former US ambassador George Kennan as “a fateful error” and a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions”.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower (US President, 1953-61) became the supreme commander of NATO in December 1950. Two months later Eisenhower wrote: “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defence purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed.” It has failed beyond his recognition. Over 60 years later US troops are still present in Europe, with a surge of further thousands having arrived earlier this year. The US has long provided NATO with about 75% of its funding.
How would Eisenhower feel about these policies if he were alive today? Twenty years ago his granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, was among dozens of American “military, political and academic leaders who joined her in signing an open letter to President Clinton” protesting against NATO’s expansionist ideals. It has fallen on deaf ears, certainly with regard to Pence, who said while visiting Estonia last week: “A strong and united NATO is more necessary today than at any point since the collapse of Communism… And no threat looms larger in the Baltic states than the spectre of aggression from your unpredictable neighbour in the east.”
Estonia is another country situated on Russia’s frontiers – its border is a little over 200 miles from St Petersburg. Yet it didn’t prevent Pence from describing Estonia as belonging to “the western Balkans”. Parts of eastern Europe have been handed a new title it appears. Last week, Estonia’s pro-Western Prime Minister Juri Ratasdiscussed the possibility with Pence of erecting US surface-to-air missiles in the country, but said they “didn’t talk about a date or time”. How reassuring of him. A similar comparison should again be made, how would the US react if Russia was discussing the possibility of placing its missiles in Canada? The American response would not be “unpredictable” one can safely assume.
It’s obvious that NATO has long become a serious threat to global security. Various NATO members possess nuclear weapons such as Britain, France and Germany. Increasing tensions up to Russia’s borders is a terribly dangerous policy. Seumus Milne of the Guardian wrote that, “After the USSR collapsed, the Warsaw Pact was duly dissolved. But NATO was not, despite having lost the ostensible reason for its existence.” That was alleged protection from “Soviet domination”.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made verbal promises to allow a reunified Germany to become part of NATO. In return, Gorbachev was given “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward”. It was an amazing concession by the Soviet President considering Germany had invaded Russia twice that century, virtually destroying her both times. Immediately, NATO was moved eastwards as US President George H. W. Bush brazenly violated the verbal agreement. Bill Clinton later accelerated NATO expansion right up to Russia’s borders. Gorbachev protested bitterly at the time but it was his fault if he was naive enough to trust the word of Western leaders. The violation of the agreement was accepted with quiet approval in the US, and also in Europe, with the EU obediently performing its subjugation role.
James Warburg, financial adviser to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote in his book, How Useful Is NATO?: “It seems that NATO has become an outmoded instrument for the pursuit of free-world interests. Perhaps NATO could be used as a bargaining counter for an eventual peace settlement in Europe, but it may already be too late to use NATO even for this purpose.” Warburg penned this in 1960, when by then he had concluded that NATO was “outmoded”. It was also written just months before Eisenhower’s 10-year time span for NATO had elapsed.
One of the main reasons for NATO’s creation in 1949 was to counter the threat of Europe acting independent of the US’s wishes. It has certainly done the trick in that regard. A second crucial reason was outlined by NATO’s then Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at a conference in 2007. De Hoop Scheffer informed thosepresent that, “NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West”, and also to guard sea routes used by tankers and other “crucial infrastructure”. Not high on the Secretary-General’s list was protection from “Russian aggression”.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.