There are a handful of basic facts and some water-under-the-bridge history that should be reviewed before Washington runs the world into a ditch. The crack-up may be sooner than expected. Not that revisiting the record will change anything or prevent the crack-up. Après nous, le déluge.
NATO is a military alliance. It is not the EU, the European Union—which is to say, not an enlarged, updated Hanseatic League, an economic organization created by Europeans. NATO was brought into existence by Washington in the aftermath of the Second World War.
It was finally noticed that America’s former ally, the Soviet Union, the engine of world Communism, had expanded its territory into the very heart of Europe. Stalin had outsmarted everyone, including that mountebank, Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
President Franklin Roosevelt was responsible for the Soviet expansion in too many ways to chronicle here. So now, postwar—in response to the renewed war-cry of the hyperactive British bulldog about something he called the Iron Curtain—Washington was off to the races yet again. For a third time.
Under American leadership—Europe was a wreck, England bankrupt, and France a nullity—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was launched in 1949. It was a military pact designed to confront a nightmare created by America’s intervention on behalf of the British Empire in two European wars.
Communism was in vogue at the time—the Roosevelt Administration had, in fact, been shot through, top to bottom, with Stalin’s agents—and the USSR stretched from the Pacific Ocean to central Germany. In London, Soviet master-spy Kim Philby had just missed becoming chief of British counter-intelligence.
When I talk about American intervention, I’m referring to both the Great War (1914-18) and to its preordained sequel, the Second World War. Taken together, they constitute a European civil war in two parts.
[This internecine conflict could perhaps have been prevented altogether with some old-fashioned, even-handed American diplomacy, like what Theodore Roosevelt achieved in the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.]
Thanks to the Great War’s aftermath—to wit, an English and French “victory” and the Versailles “peace” Conference of 1919—Europe was primed for another bloodbath. All this is clear in retrospect.
Without American interference—both public and private—in the affairs of Europe back then, there likely would have been no destruction of the Romanov dynasty, and hence no world Communist movement to speak of. And subsequently, decades later, no Pearl Harbor—the backdoor to war—and hence, no Red China.
If it had not been for Woodrow Wilson’s last-minute declaration of war against Germany, the European belligerents—the Central Powers led by Germany and the Allies led by England—would have had no choice but to negotiate a peaceful settlement among themselves.
Indeed, as a practical matter Germany had won the war on the battlefield. European primacy would have endured. Old Europe could have renewed itself. But such a prospect was not acceptable to the honorable gentlemen moving their chess pieces in London. It was too great a shock to their exceptionalism.
They could not swallow it. Germania delenda est. London had to drag America into the war on England’s side to tip the balance. Prime Minister Lloyd George & Associates feverishly conspired to achieve that goal. Albion Perfide. Something to do with the Balfour Declaration.
The alternative, a negotiated peace with Germany, was anathema. The dishonest tactic of dragging the American people into a war that England had declared but could not win would be perfected by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt decades later.
So NATO was formed in 1949 as a kind of necessity. If you are going to save the world, you are obliged, in your own self-interest at least, to clean up afterwards. Concurrent with countering the Soviet threat, NATO served as a front organization for Washington’s foreign policy.
From the British perspective, Baron Hastings Ismay candidly proclaimed: NATO EXISTS FOR THREE REASONS–TO KEEP THE RUSSIANS OUT, THE AMERICANS IN, AND THE GERMANS DOWN. Ismay was NATO’s first Secretary General. London was now an annex of Washington. The British Empire had self-destructed. The Americans were indeed “in”.
Did NATO succeed over the long haul, in its primary mission of countering the Soviets? Affirmative. The USSR imploded in 1989. Mission accomplished. That is, the mission as stated for public consumption.
The Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991, when the eastern satellites of Moscow, including East Germany, threw off the deadweight of Communism. Germany reunited peacefully.
Germany was no longer “down” but Russia was still definitely “out”. And America was still “in”. NATO remained in place. Why? There was no need.
Much has been made of the fact, when trying to explain the outbreak of the present war in Ukraine, that Washington broke its word to Moscow in negotiations over the unification of Germany back in the 1990s. True enough.
Gorbachev and Yeltsin were promised that NATO, of which Germany was a member, would not expand “one inch” to the east after German unification. Why should it? Then Washington proceeded to push NATO eastward, along the road to Ukraine, where everything eventually blew up.
This begs the big question: why didn’t NATO, instead of expanding at the close of the Cold War, simply shut down when the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union disappeared?
In theory and in fact, the Communist threat from the east had evaporated. The raison d’être for NATO was gone. Why not cash “the peace dividend” for the American people?
That was too easy, too honest and logical. The essential problem was, the powers-that-be in Washington did not want to leave Europe. They wanted to launch their new world order with themselves in charge.
The world-shattering hubris involved is best exemplified in the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine (1992). Washington was intoxicated, and remains so today. That is the explanation for Ukraine.
Washington recommitted to maintain its hegemony over Europe, using NATO as the primary front, with the bogus threat of non-Communist Russia as the pretext. NATO soon expanded eastward.
Put yourself inside the Kremlin for a moment back then. You are watching a growing military alliance of European states under Washington’s control. It is marching eastward toward your front door.
The objective of this military alliance can only be Russia, a Russia that had courageously thrown off the yoke of Communism and reached out to the West for help to reorganize itself and recover.
Understandably, the Kremlin leadership was alarmed and perplexed at this new turn of events. It was unexpected. Russia was being targeted by a gaggle of European vassal states under the leadership of the American superpower whose motives and sanity were now suspect.
I repeat, NATO is a military alliance. What more is there to understand?
The Washington foreign policy establishment paints Vladimir Putin as nothing less than a repeat of Joseph Stalin. It ignores what motivated Putin since at least the Munich Security Conference of 2007, as if he arrived prepackaged from outer space.
This brings us to George Kennan, the man who masterminded the strategy that contained the Soviet Union starting in the late 1940s and throughout the Cold War.
Nowadays, Neocon and Neoliberal commentators have attempted, via tortured logic and wishful thinking, to enlist Kennan as one of their own in their whatever-it-takes crusade against Russia.
This is shameless and childish, because Kennan was one of the few wise men in the U.S. foreign policy galaxy who advised against NATO expansion in the aftermath of the Cold War. He warned against it in no uncertain terms.
Kennan wrote an op-ed for the NY Times in 1997 entitled A Fateful Error which could not be more emphatic…
Item. “… something of the highest importance is at stake here. And perhaps it is not too late to advance a view that, I believe, is not only mine alone but is shared by a number of others with extensive and in most instances more recent experience in Russian matters. The view, bluntly stated, is that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”
Item. “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”
Item. “It is, of course, unfortunate that Russia should be confronted with such a challenge at a time when its executive power is in a state of high uncertainty and near-paralysis. And it is doubly unfortunate considering the total lack of any necessity for this move. Why, with all the hopeful possibilities engendered by the end of the cold war, should East-West relations become centered on the question of who would be allied with whom and, by implication, against whom in some fanciful, totally unforeseeable and most improbable future military conflict?”
Item. “… anyone who gives serious attention to the Russian press cannot fail to note that neither the public nor the Government is waiting for the proposed expansion to occur before reacting to it. Russians are little impressed with American assurances that it reflects no hostile intentions. They would see their prestige (always uppermost in the Russian mind) and their security interests as adversely affected.”
Further to the point, should it be needed, is what Kennan wrote (1987) in At a Century’s Ending, page 118. I have quoted it before in this space, and I do not apologize for quoting it again. Perhaps it is the key to almost everything.
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
Reprinted with the author’s permission.