The role of armed forces has been the focus of a lot of literature, works of art and films in every nation. They often portray military personnel as patriots who genuinely love their compatriots and their homelands, and who serve their nations willingly and not because of benefits and privileges they receive. The Eternal Flame, impressive memorials and modest obelisks, as well as works of fiction and art all ensure that out contemporaries and descendants continue and will continue to remember the bravery of those who were among the first to take up arms, who protected their commanders with their own bodies from deadly attacks, and who fought to their death in battlefields.
These are the reasons why inhabitants of territories freed of enemies feel gratitude or even love towards soldiers who made this possible. And even in times of peace, people have the same regard for military personnel because if any crisis were to erupt, armed forces would be there to help!
Servicemen and more senior military personnel face numerous hardships and challenges as they have to assess current risks and threats, and also find optimal ways of defending their homeland and the civilian population.
Unfortunately, the current Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the globe has shown that not every country or even military alliance and especially its leadership have handled the current crisis successfully, since they all seemed to have forgotten about their key mission – to protect civilian populations.
In China, as soon as the COVID-19 outbreak began, military personnel were charged with more than just guarding and protecting. Units of engineers from the People’s Liberation Army immediately began building additional hospitals; arranged food and water supplies for vulnerable populations, and provided necessary medical aid not only in China but in neighboring countries.
In the Russian Federation, similar steps were taken. Armed forces that include engineers started constructing new hospitals straight away; air force squadrons were created, and 15 military transport aircraft carrying medical and humanitarian aid, necessary equipment and medical corps personnel were sent to Italy, followed by 11 planes with similar cargo to Serbia. There are ongoing discussions about providing such assistance from the Russian military to other countries.
But why are US or NATO servicemen not taking similar steps? The American military did ensure that a US Navy hospital ship was deployed to New York, and that “members of the Individual Ready Reserve” were called on to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus on a voluntary basis. In addition, on 1 February, “US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper instructed General Terrence O’Shaughnessy to” prepare to take over as commander-in-chief in the event of a worst-case scenario.
So has the US military built additional hospitals in an American city with the highest number of individuals whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 and confirmed Coronavirus cases? Or have NATO’s armed forces helped Italy, Spain or other member states of the alliance?
In the author’s opinion, the answer to both of these questions is “No”. Instead, US and NATO senior military personnel continue their “war games” and drills in the Baltic countries, and their discussions about future plans of the Alliance.
At the beginning of April, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of NATO member states agreed to enhance their “training mission in Iraq” to combat terrorism. They also decided “to coordinate the necessary military support to combat” the Coronavirus crisis but the author is unsure what countries such aid will be provided to.
Instead of medical aid, the United States delivered 128 Javelin anti-tank missile weapon systems (produced by a Joint Venture between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin) to Estonia “as part of a larger contract signed by the Estonian Center for Defense Investment and the US”. This year, according to err.ee, the annual Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) military exercise, organized form Estonia, will be smaller in scale than usual. Still a few thousand active-duty servicemen and members of an Allied battle group stationed in Tapa, Estonia, will take part in the drills.
On 31 March, Estonian think-tank International Centre for Defence and Security and the Center for European Policy Analysis research institute issued a report entitled “Until Something Moves. Reinforcing The Baltic Region in Crisis and War”. The document focused on movement of NATO military forces within Europe, or more specifically on the Alliance’s capabilities to effectively move fresh troops to and increase their size on the eastern front if a military conflict were to start in the Baltic region. Again, the report made no mention of any specific aid that would be provided by NATO to Baltic countries or other members of the alliance affected by the spread of the Coronavirus. After all, why would NATO be tasked with protecting civilians?
The author believes that NATO’s spin doctors are trying to take advantage of the tragic situation in Italy to sow discord and to devalue the importance of medical aid being provided to Italy but not by either the United States or NATO nations. The disinformation campaign was launched not only by Italian (e.g. newspaper La Stampa) but also American (e.g. CNN and Bloomberg) media outlets. They attempted to portray the assistance provided by Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt as a propaganda ploy aimed at sowing discord in the united anti-Russian front within the European Union.
And now consider the number of citizens of NATO member states who are experiencing difficulties due to the Coronavirus pandemic outside of the United States or Europe. Has the USA or the EU attempted to bring these individuals home? And why is Russia actively repatriating its citizens? The author thinks that the answer is obvious. Neither the United States nor the EU are prepared for their return, as these individuals will contribute to an increase in unemployment rates (after all, they will most likely find it difficult to find jobs), plus the US and EU health and social welfare systems already cannot handle all the challenges facing those who live within their borders. Hence, the return of such people could turn into a disaster!
The author would also like to add another point. At the beginning of April, the United States, which is still trying to draw Georgia into NATO, gave $1.1 million to Tbilisi to assist its fight against the Coronavirus. In Georgia, this is equivalent to approximately 25 cents per capita. So is this really how much an average Georgian citizen is worth to the United States? The author believes that the USA values its other “strategic partners” similarly.
Considering the lackluster response to the Coronavirus outbreak by US and NATO armed forces, it is not surprising that there have been numerous anti-NATO protests in Europe lately. According to the author, recently, anti-NATO billboards appeared in Istočno Sarajevo. Some of them depict NATO planes with more or less the following message: “Instead of providing aid, NATO aircraft have flown half a million tests for the Coronavirus out of Italy”.
The author believes that NATO (established in 1949) has come to the end of the road and so has US hegemony. At present, in the year 2020, US and European security objectives no longer coincide. An alliance with Europe is not viewed by the United States under Donald Trump’s leadership as being in line with US economic, political or national security interests. It is rumored that if Donald Trump were re-elected as President, the USA would withdraw from NATO at the beginning of his second presidential term.
And it is doubtful that anyone would regret such an outcome with the exception of Baltic nations, which receive military aid from individual NATO member-states.
And who needs a military alliance that does not come to anyone’s aid during a pandemic?
Vladimir Odintsov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.