The propaganda coming from the West is doing its utmost to convince the world that – given the growth of the «existential threat» posed by Russia (in the words of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford) – only Euro-Atlantic solidarity can guarantee the world’s stability. And the political and military leaders of the alliance are stubbornly clinging to their claim of its purely defensive character. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that notion yet once again during a recent interview on June 30: «NATO is a collective defense organization and has a responsibility to ensure we are prepared to defend all allies... [We] will take new decisions to strengthen our defense and deterrence». The secretary general also declared, «All our measures are defensive, proportionate, and in line with our international commitments», but that «Russia’s increased military activity, frequent and large scale snap exercises close to NATO’s eastern borders and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric are destabilizing».
That brings to mind a recent statement on this same topic from Germany’s minister of defense, Ursula von der Leyen: Nato, so she claims, is «solely a defensive alliance».
However, NATO officials, despite their own obvious guile or poor grasp of history, should not be pinning their hopes on the world’s ignorance and amnesia. Many nations (and not only in Europe) know all about the North Atlantic alliance’s «love of peace» – some from studying history and others from first-hand experience. It’s easy to understand why the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry immediately reacted to the statement by the head of the German military agency: «In regard to the assertion of the defensive nature of the alliance’s actions, it would be worth taking another look at the dramatic aftermath of NATO’s operations in Yugoslavia [in 1999] and Libya [in 2011]. Could Germany’s minister of defense, Ursula von der Leyen, explain to the whole world whom exactly the alliance was defending against, so selflessly and with such generous use of ammunition?»
Back when we lived in a distinctly bipolar world, the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) was a deterrent that could stand up to NATO and go toe to toe. But after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO began its transformation into a force that assumed the authority to almost single-handedly decide which nations to punish for their failure to live up to «Western standards of democracy», and that slow, stealthy process was accompanied by copious political rhetoric, demagogy, and outright duplicity.
The Charter of Paris for a New Europe, adopted by the CSCE in November 1990, seemed to mark the official end to an era of confrontation and division. «Security is indivisible», the charter proclaimed, «and the security of every participating State is inseparably linked to that of all the others. We therefore pledge to co-operate in strengthening confidence and security among us». This inspiring rhetoric was reflected in the North Atlantic Council’s Rome Declaration from Nov. 7-8, 1991, which asserts that «[t]he world has changed dramatically» and that security in the Euro-Atlantic region has improved significantly compared with the previous four decades. Those attending that session even acknowledged that «[t]he challenges we will face in this new Europe cannot be comprehensively addressed by one institution alone... Consequently, we are working toward a new European security architecture in which NATO, the CSCE, the European Community, the WEU and the Council of Europe complement each other».
Naturally the Warsaw Pact was not included among those organizations, since that military alliance of formerly socialist countries had been disbanded back on March 31, 1991. But its former member states hadn’t gone anywhere, and the efforts to «break them in» began innocently enough – by inducting them into the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), which was established in December of that year. At first that council incorporated the countries of NATO as well as another nine states in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Then in March 1992 all the CIS nations joined the NACC, and Georgia and Albania were added in June. Western leaders, basking in their Cold War victory, «delicately» ducked one obvious question: if the Warsaw Pact had been disbanded, why did the North Atlantic alliance need to be preserved?
NATO leaders proclaimed that the NACC was intended to lay the foundations for the future security of Europe. To accomplish this, the alliance set about to provide practical assistance to the formerly socialist countries in order to help them resolve the challenges of their «transitional period». The alliance leaders’ task was made easier by the NACC’s governance procedures, which had been approved well in advance and with careful intent: its members were predominately NATO countries and there was no principle of consensus-based decision-making. Today it is clear that this was how the foundations were laid for the process of transferring these states (not only the formerly socialist countries, but also former Soviet republics) over to Western political and military standards.
The most important step in this direction was NATO’s initiative to induct the NACC countries into a new cooperative program, the Partnership for Peace (PfP), which had been drawn up in the US and whose active cheerleaders included Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger. Its official objectives included «facilitating transparency in national defense planning and budgeting processes» and «maintaining the capability and readiness to contribute to operations under the authority of the UN and/or the responsibility of the OSCE», etc. But in reality, the program played a central role in moving that bloc toward the Russian border.
The countries of Eastern Europe (they then became the first to swell NATO’s ranks) actively helped the advocates of the alliance’s eastward expansion convert the PfP from its position as an alternative to a NATO expansion into a «waiting room» for its future members. As early as October 1991, the foreign ministers of Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia expressed their countries’ desire to take a practical part in the bloc’s work. This initiative found support in December 1991 at an NACC session attended by 16 NATO countries and nine CEE states. The rollout of the PfP program signified a transition to direct bilateral military contacts with the alliance.
This clearly indicates that the leaders in the West were brazenly lying when they promised not to expand NATO’s membership and called the new state of Russia their «partner». Although the political dialog made some accommodation for Russia, this did not in any way signify a renunciation of the preservation of the alliance’s military structure or of its eastward advance.
The first and most crucial step toward NATO’s territorial expansion was the decision to admit the newly-united Germany into its ranks. Subsequent years saw three waves of expansion, as a result of which nine CEE states entered the alliance, as well as the three formerly Soviet Baltic republics. Another dozen states are members of the Membership Action Plan, Intensified Dialogue, and Individual Partnership Action Plan, including Georgia and Ukraine. The new, 2010 version of NATO’s Strategic Concept directly affirmed its commitment to expanding the bloc – the best way to achieve «our goal of a Europe whole and free, and sharing common values».
Given that context, Chuck Hagel, who was head of the Pentagon at the time, was clearly throwing down the gauntlet when he claimed that the alliance «must deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable Army – on NATO’s doorstep».
The founders of the alliance have charted a course that includes more than just the numerical expansion of its membership. Even the 1991 Strategic Concept was rooted in the idea of the expansion of the NATO mission beyond the borders of its previously defined jurisdiction, which according to the Washington Treaty included the territories of member states and the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer – the parallel of latitude 23°26′ degrees north of the Equator. This expansion of the mission also necessitated a new concept of defense, because now the goal was to defend not just the allies’ territories, but also their interests. The aforementioned 2010 Strategic Concept included the observation that «[t]he Alliance is affected by, and can affect, political and security developments beyond its borders», which essentially proves that the alliance was attempting to claim a global domain. In reality, that document merely reflected the long-established practice of using the alliance forces to intervene in events in regions far removed from what was once its stated jurisdiction – such as in Yugoslavia, Libya, or Afghanistan, and now in Ukraine.
Any examination of the alliance’s almost 70-year history provides evidence that its primary objective – as its first secretary general, Britain’s Lord Lionel Ismay, put it: «to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down» – has remained fundamentally unchanged, despite the inherent sarcasm in this axiom. Only the Soviet Union has now been replaced by Russia.
The president of the Russian Federation pointed this out once again in his June 30 speech at a conference of Russia’s ambassadors and representatives to international organizations. «NATO’s anti-Russian stance is intentionally flagrant today. The alliance is not only examining Russia’s behavior in an attempt to substantiate its own legitimacy and the rationale for its existence, it is also taking tangible, confrontational steps against us», stated Putin.
In this context, one other statement made by the Russian head of state during the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum also seems critically important. Commenting on the active assistance lent to the regime in Kiev by the US and NATO, Vladimir Putin declared, «In my opinion, this is being done, among other things, to justify the existence of the North Atlantic bloc. They need an external adversary, an external enemy – otherwise why is this organization necessary in the first place? There is no Warsaw Pact, no Soviet Union – who is it directed against?»
The president of the Russian Federation warned that if we continue to follow the path of this logic, inflaming tensions and redoubling our efforts to frighten one another, eventually we will find ourselves faced with a Cold War. But, he claimed, «Our logic is totally different. It is focused on cooperation and the search for compromise».
He who has ears, let him hear.