News Russian President Vladimir Putin scrambled his military for large scale military drills recently elicited a predictable western media response. With NATO pressing on Russia’s front door, some policy makers and media seem determined to force a war on the rest of us. Tensions in between western powers and Russia are reaching ever increasing heights, even with a new American president’s tendencies toward reconciliation. Is NATO off the reservation? This is the question some experts are asking.
NATO’s provocative stance, especially given President Donald Trump’s more moderate rhetoric, it calls to question the European allies’ real intentions and US command cohesiveness. Unless President Trump is upping the ante for coming dealings with Mr. Putin by leveraging NATO, something is just not right where the European theater is concerned. Former President Barack Obama’s disastrous policies seemed certain to be reversed by the new president, but German soldiers and tanks on Russia’s borders casts a dark shadow for Mr. Putin and his countrymen. RT news reported that when the Russian Air Force was put on high alert as part of a sudden combat readiness check ordered by President Vladimir Putin, the “west” immediately accused Russia of preparing for war. My question for NATO leadership and European leaders is; “What would you expect Mr. Putin to prepare for, a luau or tiki party?” Here’s the situation.
For several years Vladmir Putin tried in vain to establish better relations with the EU. The Russians sought free visa travel, unrestricted commerce, and an end to Cold War games around her borders. But even after American President Ronald Reagan had promise no eastward moves by NATO, the promise gave way to continued encirclement. This is undisputed, and a fact. From George Soros’ subversive NGO moves inside Russia, to the CIA and covert actions in the Caucasus, and finally the Euromaidan regime change, it is not Russia that has been on the offensive. This, despite the propaganda bull horns in Washington, London, and Berlin (I leave out Brussels purposely), is the reality. Since the Sochi Olympics mud slinging began, and since US Senator John McCain rallied Nazis in Ukraine to join the hegemony, we have been in a state of war. This is irrefutable as well, though some will argue.
In preparation for his departure, US President Obama approved the biggest the “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War,” by posting four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. But this was a minor move compared to other exercise and strategies. While continual multinational training and security cooperation activities with partners in eastern Europe go on in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary probably would not rouse the Russian bear. What did awaken the waiting beast though was the deployment by Obama of hitherto abandoned Sky Wars initiative. For those unfamiliar with Anti-ballistic missiles, please allow me to explain.
The Euromaidan coup in Kiev not withstanding, the EU and NATO crowding up against Russia was an act of aggression even if Snow White had ordered it. The first act of the new government was to order Russian language out! Anyone who’s studied history knows, the identity of Ukraine is inextricably tied to its own language, and that of Russia. Millions in that country feared for the kind of repression the Nazis exacted on them. When Vladmir Putin came to the rescue in Crimea, all hell broke loose. Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine fighting to separate from Ukraine, made the situation still more complicated. What is NOT complicated is whose fault this was. I’ll leave this part of the discussion for another paper. The reason I mention Ukraine is because of strategic import. Crimea was Russian since forever, but the naval bases at Sevastopol are the key to understanding this crisis. Not only could Vladimir Putin not allow Russians to be abused by the Kiev Nazis and radicals, he could not allow his nation to lose those bases. NATO in Crimea? That my friends, will happen over all of our dead bodies.
The Donbass, the eastern part of Ukraine now being shelled daily by Kiev forces, it’s seconds away from Russian cities and targets for intermediate ballistic missiles. Seconds. Luhansk to the east of Donetsk, it’s less than 500 miles from Russia’s Caspian fleet. NATO in control of that city allows for cutting off the entire southeastern part of Russia from the interior. To the North of Luhansk, Kharkiv is 386 miles from the center of Moscow.
When the new ABM Aegis systems went live in Romania at Deveselu, Vladimir Putin said that Russia had “no choice” but to target Romania. I won’t get too far into the technicalities and capabilities of these systems, Aegis is an advanced shipboard system I am familiar with from my time in the US Navy at Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the Ticonderoga Class cruisers were deployed first initially. These ships were originally designed to protect carrier battle groups from missile attack, but later developments brought into play the so-called Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, designed to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry. Still more recent developments of the SM-3 and SM-2 Block IV interceptor missiles provide for not only reentry phase interception, but midflight destruction above Earth’s atmosphere as well. What this means is, the US or NATO could have a first strike advantage over a Russian counterstrike. Make no mistake here, so-called terminal endo-atmospheric defensive capability of these missiles has been proven in Navy tests, so Putin’s fears are warranted.
A second Aegis ABM system is being set up in Poland as well, but something Mr. Putin said is more important than multiple Aegis sites. These land based modules can not only fire anti-missile missiles, but offensive weapons as well.
CBS News says Vladimir Putin is rattling his saber at NATO, when the reality is something completely different. Putin’s snap drills on this massive level have two purposes. First, actual readiness in the event of some crazy NATO move is what any leader would do. Second, Mr. Putin is sending the message “Hey, stop playing around, we are serious.” This is what any capable pragmatist would do, in the face of a rampaging bully storming across the schoolyard. “Stop, don’t make me” is one hell of a lot better than “Surprise!” Obama essentially created his very own Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse, that’s what this situation is. What worries me is the fact President Trump has not ordered General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO, to stand down.
If Mr. Trump is letting NATO run amok as a bargaining table chip, then that makes sense. However, if there is some disconnect, some unseen game going on – we are in a dangerous situation indeed. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or Star Wars, was a program initiated by President Ronald Reagan, and later negotiated out of existence. Barack Obama put the initiative back in play even with the old criticism SDI will disrupt the strategic doctrine of Mutual assured destruction. Herein lies the greatest danger, and the biggest threat Mr. Putin sees. The “Obama strategic doctrine” is based on the potential for the US to WIN a nuclear war with Russia. This report at Global Research by Eric Zuesse outlines this disastrous strategy. Termed Nuclear Primacy, the idea of a first devastating strike is out of Dr. Strangelove. Even discussing the potential could cause the Russians to preempt in order not to be destroyed. In short, the Neocons and Obama tilted the balance of power too far. We’re lucky Putin is the patient pragmatist in my view.
What’s paramount now is that more people understand the gravity of the situation. But informing people has become almost impossible with “Fake News” coming from once trusted sources in the US and in Europe. Much is made of propaganda channels in Russia, when Russia is not the one stationing first strike weapons across the border from the United States. Not yet anyway. We have to pass these discussions along, and to look at what is happening with clear vision. Romanians do not want to be turned to ashes over a missile base for America or Germany on their soil. Neither do Russians want to be vaporized because they feared another World War II. And when old enemies line up battle tanks on the frontier, believe me Russians grow uneasy still.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.