If insanity means trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is best understood in a psychiatrist’s office. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that NATO plans to expand east by inviting Montenegro to join is guaranteed to destroy hopeful prospects of renewed cooperation between Russia and Western powers over Syria.
The move follows NATO’s recent defense of Turkey’s calculated and provocative decision to bring down a Russian bomber just seconds after it may have entered Turkish air space. More important, planned expansion follows years of bad faith on the part of NATO toward Russia, led by Washington.
A map showing stages of NATO’s expansion. Dark blue showing original members; lighter blue the “round one” members; aqua the “round two” members; yellow represents neutral states; and brown and red (including Ukraine), otherwise aligned. On the map, Montenegro is one of the tiny brown spots on the eastern Adriatic.
NATO’s eastward expansion following the purported end of the Cold War lies at the heart of Russia’s chilly reaction to Washington’s attempts to build a uni-polar world. Many authorities agree that in 1989, Secretary of State James Baker and West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher explicitly promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not “take advantage” of upheaval in Eastern Europe by expanding toward Russia.
But it didn’t take long for the Western allies to break that promise and flex their muscles against a radically weakened Russia that had been stripped of most of its empire after the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1999, against Russian opposition, NATO absorbed the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. In 2004, it added Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Albania and Croatia joined next in 2009.
The latest move to incorporate tiny Montenegro followed a 2011 decision by NATO to formally recognize several aspiring members, including also Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Macedonia.
Most brazenly of all, in 2008, NATO invited Ukraine to join the Western alliance, putting Russia on the defensive. That aggressive announcement set the stage for the dangerous escalation of military tension between the world’s two great nuclear powers after the 2014 Ukrainian putsch that ousted the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was friendly toward Moscow.
There is much that could be said about the madness of Washington leading NATO deeper into needless confrontation with Russia — exactly how will guaranteeing Montenegro’s security and antagonizing the Kremlin advance U.S. interests? — but many of the keenest observations have already been crowd-sourced, so to speak, through an unlikely source: insightful comments from New York Times readers to an article on the topic, such as:
“Obama will do just about anything to prevent collaboration with Russia against ISIS, even increasing the threat of war between the nuclear superpowers.” – JDD, New York
“I am completely lost. Why are we going to any and every length to alienate and threaten Russia when Russia is the staunchest ally we have in fighting against wildly violent insurgents in the Middle East who are a threat to us all? The way in which we have vilified Russia, as though only wishing another Cold War, is beyond all my understanding. Russia should be our partner now.” – Nancy, Great Neck
“In the ‘poor timing’ department, it looks like we couldn’t have thought of a better way to plant obstacles in the path of improving relations with the Russians – say what you will about Putin – at a time when both sides really need the dialogue. This NATO business could have been easily postponed. Or scrapped.” – Rocky, CT
“We can all rest safely, Montenegro is now firmly in our corner. It was touch and go there for a while, but now – Onward to Victory!!” – Clotario, NYC
“Why do we suggest such stupid ideas. Assad is a pimple. Montenegro is a nothing regarding NATO. The enemy is ISIS and probably Turkey, but certainly ISIS. Keep your eyes on the ball. The ball is flattening ISIS. It is not to make Russia mad. How stupid can our government be? We are not fighting the Cold War of the 1960’s. Sheesh!” – Dick Diamond, Bay City, OR
“The US will now have to defend Montenegro should the tiny country come under attack. How many Americans could find Montenegro on a map? This is in addition to the other 27 NATO countries that the US is currently obligated to go to war for should they come under attack. All this happens while the US has a $19 trillion debt and annual deficits of $500 billion. The US is currently fighting endless and counter-productive wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq while our gallant allies hold our coats. Add Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and other Asia/Pacific countries that the US is obligated to defend under current treaties. Congress has appropriated $300 billion in infrastructure spending over 5 years while trillions of dollars are needed. Yet there is always money to sustain the empire. Our priorities are so misplaced.” – Jeff Clark, Reston, VA
“I’m also no fan of Russia, but the US and the West seems a lot more concerned with weakening Russia and expanding their political agendas than truly fighting ISIS and radical Islam. The world will greatly suffer for this self-centered myopia.” – Peisinoe, New York
“Great, more aggression against Russia by our government and NATO that they will of course deny. There is no other explanation for them inviting a tiny powerless Montenegro with no military to speak of to join NATO other than get closer to Russia’s borders and threaten the Russians. Of course, this means more money for the military industrial complex, the usual winner. Then there is Kerry’s delusional statement about not allowing the Syrian government ‘to implode’ although it is Assad and his allies who are holding it together. Without them, Syria will devolve into anarchy like Libya with Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Sunni Extremists running everything. When will Obama wake up and join reality?” – Simon, Tampa
“Russia is no saint, but in 1996 the West should have listened to the legendary diplomat and father of Cold War containment policy, George Kennan, who warned that NATO’s expansion into former Soviet territory was a ‘strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.’ The current crisis with Russia over Ukraine came as no surprise to those of us who understand that great powers react negatively to encroachment by foreign alliances. We may think of NATO as a values-based organization devoted to peace and democracy, but the Russians see it as a threat to their security.” – Adam, Minneapolis
Jonathan Marshall, consortiumnews.com