NATO Shows Resolve (to Provoke Russia and Frighten Everybody)

2700 U.S. soldiers backed by a column of tanks are rolling across the central lowlands of Poland, in an operation dubbed “Atlantic Resolve.” It is, according to the Guardian, “the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war.”

The first troops have crossed the German border and arrived in Zagan, the Silesian town where the Nazis held POWs during World War II, and will advance east towards the Belarus border. (Poland shares a border with Russia — the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad — to the north, but is separated from the Russian mainland by Belarus and Ukraine.) The troops will be increased to 3500 and eventually be stationed in Estonia (which borders Russia), Bulgaria, and Romania.

The Russians are not happy. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declares:

We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It the U.S.] is not even a European state.

The Russians are right to be concerned. What if 3000 Russian troops had amassed in Acapulco, intending to advance towards the Rio Grande? Congress would be calling for war. Atlantic Resolve simply illustrates that NATO is resolved to threaten and anger Russia. Why? Because Russia invaded Ukraine, we’re told, in 2014, thereby threatening NATO, don’t you see? And before that, in 2008, it invaded Georgia. Don’t you see how aggressive and expansive it has been?

I wonder how many people in this benighted country realize that neither Ukraine nor Georgia has never been part of NATO, but that the U.S. wanted to include them in that (antiquated, Cold War) alliance, very badly. U.S. NGOs without any respect for other countries’ political processes, poured millions into the “Rose Revolution” in 2004 that brought down the Eduard Shevardnadze regime, replacing it with the NATO enthusiast and Russophobe Mikhail Sakaashvili.

It spent, through “NGOs” like the National Endowment for Democracy, about $5 billion in Ukraine in an effort in 2013-14 to change the regime from one (under the elected President Viktor Yanukovych) opposed to NATO membership, to one (under the leadership propelled into power by the February 22, 2014 coup) that craves it.

I wonder how many know where Ukraine is on a map, or know that it is the largest country wholly within Europe, or know that the first Russian state materialized around Kiev about 1100 years ago. Or that Ukraine was only an independent country (in the form of two duchies, spin-offs of Kievan Rus) for about 100 years before falling under Polish-Lithuanian sovereignty (from the 14th century to 1654), then Russian sovereignty (to 1917),  before becoming a Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. Or that most of the people east of the Dnieper River are culturally and linguistically Russian, as they have been for centuries, and that they have legitimate fears of the ultra-nationalists that have seized power in Kiev.

How many know that each time a TV anchor refers in passing to “Russia’s invasion” of Ukraine, he or she is merely echoing the State Department line — the line of the department whose Ukraine desk head Victoria Nuland oversaw the coup plans? Such “reportage” depicts secessionists in the east as Putin pawns, and the armed resistance to the regime’s forces as foreign in origin. Without so much as a satellite image of tanks rolling across the border, the story (which denies the people of the region any agency at all) relies on constant repetition.

The role of Russia — in refusing to accept the legitimacy of the newly appointed prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyev, while accepting that of the newly-elected President Petro Poroshenko; in arranging for the Minsk Protocol (between Russia, Ukraine, and the two breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk) that involves a ceasefire monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and autonomy and new elections for the Donbass region as part of a federal system — is ignored. Kiev’s violations of the agreement are ignored.

The re-absorption of Crimea (Russian territory from 1783 to 1954) is part of the bogus “invasion.” The mostly ethnic Russian population welcomed the peaceful reunification as defense from the Russophobes in Kiev. Members of the 38,000 strong Russian military force on the peninsula simply secured government buildings and supervised the departure of Ukrainian troops who elected to leave; many opted instead to join the Russian Army.

Moscow took a risk in Crimea; international condemnation and sanctions have followed. But to have not acted decisively (and “pre-emptively”) would have been to risk loss, after 230 years, of the base of the Black Sea Fleet absolutely crucial to Russian security. More: it would have been to risk Ukrainian demands for Russian withdrawal, and NATO’s assumption of control over the strategic peninsula where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met (in Yalta) on February 1945 to celebrate wartime victories. Back when Soviet troops — those gallant allies of the west—were 40 miles from Berlin, and the Soviets, Americans and Brits were all friends. How ironic it would be if the U.S. were to wrench Crimea away seventy years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its bloc!

The State Department’s MO, and that of its auxiliary press, is to:

(1) avoid any mention of NATO, and how in the post-Cold War era it has — despite George H. W. Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that NATO would not advance “one inch” eastward — expanded by 13 members (from 15 to 28), surrounding Russia and bordering it in Poland and Estonia;

(2) avoid any discussion of how the U.S.  (which regards any interference in its political process as a cardinal sin) has attempted to generate “color revolutions” to bring pro-NATO politicians to power in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, and has been implicated in many more election-fixing operations than the Russians;

(3) denigrate, insult and belittle Putin personally while virtually conflating him with the Russian state, encouraging the general conviction that the man is just indefensible, and to side with Russia is to side with the enemy;

(4) repeat again and again that Putin wants to recreate the old Soviet empire and has his eyes especially on the Baltic states where so many ethnic Russians live.

And so, of course, with European allies quaking in their boots at a sudden Russian attack, it makes sense to send 3000 U.S. troops to Poland, in war games simulating a NATO invasion of Russia! To defend Poland, in its hour of need! It shows resolve, in the face of Russian provocations in Georgia and in Ukraine, to stay the course of NATO expansion — all the while pleading that it’s crucial for Europe’s “security” versus an expanding Russia.

What better example of carefully crafted, and very dangerous, fake news?

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Gary.