NATO has expedited the process of concentrating forces at the Russian border.
But its activities are not limited to the deployment of troops and ships. The bloc’s leadership states that it may now have grounds to use force if a major cyberattack is launched against it by persons in a non-alliance country like Russia. Such an action could trigger a collective response by NATO. «A severe cyberattack may be classified as a case for the alliance. Then NATO can and must react», NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published by Germany’s Bild newspaper on June 16.
He spoke after the June 14 decision was made by NATO defense ministers to designate cyber as an official operational domain of warfare, along with air, sea, and land.
The NATO meeting stressed that a cyberattack could rise to the level of a military assault and could trigger the Article 5, which allows the alliance to go to the collective defense of another member that has been attacked.
Specifically, the West is alleging that Russian hackers had copied the emails on Hillary Clinton’s home computer.
It’s well known that Hillary Clinton broke the rules and used an unsecured home computer. Now if somebody took advantage of her negligence, it might constitute an attack against the United States and require 28 NATO member states to go to war, if the US government decides it is the right thing to do!
The recent attack on the Democratic National Convention servers, which leaked the Democrats confidential files on Trump and Hillary donors’ lists, was blamed on Russian hackers who allegedly worked for the government.
Later it surfaced that it was done by a hacker, who had no relation to Russia.
NATO’s story about Russia threatening the West is questioned by a Foreign Minister of a leading alliance member who has criticized NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe as «warmongering» and called for phasing out the European Union sanctions against Russia if there is substantial progress in the peace process in Ukraine. «What we should avoid today is inflaming the situation by warmongering and stomping boots», German Foreign Minister Steinmeier told Bild in an interview.
Sharply criticizing the ongoing NATO war games in Eastern Europe, Steinmeier said that inflaming the standoff with Russia would endanger European security and increase risk of reviving an «old confrontation». The statement was made ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw to kick off on July 8. The Minister believes that the ongoing large-scale Anakonda-16 NATO military exercise in Poland, simulating the repulsion of «Russian aggression» against the country, is counterproductive. The training event was the first time German tanks crossed Poland from west to east since the WWII.
«Let me be clear: there will be more NATO troops in Poland after the Warsaw Summit» Jens Stoltenberg said last month. «Anyone who thinks you can increase security in the alliance with symbolic parades of tanks near the eastern borders is mistaken», he added.
Rather than inflaming the situation further «through saber-rattling and warmongering», there ought to be more space for dialogue and cooperation with Moscow, Steinmeier said contradicting NATO’s leadership. It would be «fatal to now narrow the focus to the military, and seek a remedy solely through a policy of deterrence», German FM said, calling to give way to diplomacy instead of military posturing.
In a separate interview also published on June 19, Steinmeier said, the European Union sanctions against Russia should be gradually eased if there is substantial progress in the peace process.
«Sanctions are not an end in themselves. They should rather give incentives for a change in behavior», Steinmeier told the Redaktions Netzwerk Deutschland, a network of local newspapers.
The comments by Steinmeier were the sharpest indications of a division within Germany’s ruling coalition over policy towards Russia. Steinmeier’s Social Democrats have backed a more conciliatory stance toward Moscow than Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, the Christian Democrats. Merkel has repeatedly said that sanctions imposed against Russia can only be lifted once a peace agreement, known as the Minsk accords, is fully implemented.
Steinmeier’s stance also testifies to the fact that there is no unity on Russia’s policy inside NATO.
For instance, right after his statement, Stephen Sestanovich, the George F Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, demanded Steinmeier’s resignation.
Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, welcomed Steinmeier's comments as a «voice of reason». «Steinmeier spoke against Stoltenberg's course for scaring Russia. Some voices of reason could be heard from behind the curtain of threats and hysterics», Pushkov said in a tweet July 17.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that NATO has «an absolutely slapdash attitude to our position on anything», adding that it was the US that had unilaterally quit the missile defense treaty, which was initially signed to «provide strategic balance in the world».
NATO «needs a foreign enemy, otherwise what would be the reason for the existence of such an organization», the Russian President concluded.
Putin assured his audience that he does not want to proceed to a new Cold War, as «no one wants it». «However dramatic the logic of the development of international relations might seem on the outside, it’s not the logic of global confrontation», he explained.
NATO’s bellicosity towards Russia appears to go far enough to split the alliance. It’s serious enough to make the disagreements surface and become public domain right before the NATO summit expected to take a number of decisions doomed to provoke Russia and give rise to tensions in Europe. Steinmeier’s statement reflects a growing concern among leading Western politicians over the wisdom of the anti-Russian stand.