Image via WikipediaNATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen just can't understand why Russia doesn't see NATO action the same way NATO does. At an international conference in Warsaw, the capital of one of Europe's more accomplished Russophobe nations, Rasmussen said Russian thinking was "outdated." NATO is not Russia's enemy he said, and had no plans to invade its great land mass. In fact, Rasmussen said, NATO seeks "partnership" with the Kremlin. In the next breath, Rasmussen said NATO will keep nuclear weapons in Europe, keep its doors open to new members, (hint hint Georgia and Ukraine) expand its "mission", and support US "missile defense" in Europe. But, Rasmussen continued, if any nation was stirring things up in Europe, it is, you got it, Russia.
Russia's large-scale military exercises with Belarus back in September not far from the borders with Poland sent, in Rasmussen's words, a "bad signal."
The Informant covered that here.
NATO will not take a too rosy view of an announcement on March 12 by Ukraine's general staff.
Ukraine's military brass announced military forces from Russia and Ukraine -- including warships, aircraft and hundreds of soldiers -- will take part in military exercises, codenamed Farvater Mira, or Fairway of Peace, in June.
These are not really new military maneuvers, just a continuation of what was an annual event between 1997 and 2003 when pro-Washington Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko pulled the plug.
Now a new man sits on Ukraine's throne, Viktor Yanukovych, and his gaze is slightly more to the east. For the Kremlin, his election is already starting to pay dividends.
Military exercises are in the air. Soldiers from NATO states will hold their own military maneuvers in the Baltic Sea later this month.
Bet Rasmussen doesn't believe that will send any "bad signals."
Of course when NATO conducts exercises in the Baltics, no one blinks. When the Russians do it on a much less frequent basis it raises shackles in Vilnius, Tallinn, and Riga.
The Baltic and Black Seas are slowly becoming Washington's backwaters.
The US, which does NATO's heavy lifting, has sent at least seven warships to Georgian ports since its August 2008 war with Russia, including the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, which visited a few weeks after the conflict.
The US military footprint expands in the Black Sea region, Washington along with Tel Aviv arms and now rearms Georgia, but, again, according to Rasmussen, it was Russian agression in Georgia that was causing "profound concerns."
Despite a tidal wave of print and other MSM messages pointing the finger at the Russians for unleashing the dogs of war in South Ossetia, the EU came to the obvious conclusion that it was the Georgians, which seems to pain the Guardian. Here's the EU's exhaustive report here.
Turning to nukes, Rasmussen said he supports a world without such weapons, but quickly dismisses such a world of fantasy pined for by the tie-dyed t-shirt crowd.
"But as long as we do have nuclear weapons on earth and as long as we know there are countries and non-state actors that aspire to acquire such nuclear capacities, I think we should have a nuclear capacity as part of our deterrent policy."
A few NATO allies -- Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway -- are acting a little uppity, getting the nerve up to ask the US to take its nuclear weapons out of Europe.
Stars and Stripes, of all publications, quoted a quivering Belgian foreign ministry flak, however, adding provisos.
“This does not mean a call for an immediate withdrawal for all these weapons,” Bart Ouvry, spokesman for Belgium’s Foreign Ministry, said by telephone on Thursday.
The same article offered the following:
The Federation of American Scientists, using information gathered from public records, has calculated in recent years that nuclear weapons were removed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and RAF Lakenheath, England. Based on inspection data, the group said, that means U.S. nuclear weapons in northern Europe remain at Büchel Air Base, Germany; Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium; and Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands. The majority of U.S. nuclear weapons are thought to be kept at three bases around the Mediterranean Sea: Aviano Air Base and Ghedi Air Base in Italy and Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
Having a defense against missile attack, drops the risk factor for a state to use offensive weapons against an adversary.
And, of course, Rasmussen spoke in favor of missile defense, but as no Western official will ever do, did not acknowledge the offensive potential of these 'defensive' weapons.
NATO's shield falls under the US umbrella already in place in the United States, Greenland and Britain.
President Barack Obama has scrapped Bush-era plans for missile defense in central Europe, or has he?
Poland will still deploy US missiles. The real kicker is that they will be deployed some 50 miles from border with Kaliningrad, Russia's outpost in the borders of the EU. Also under Obama, Washington and Warsaw have signed documents to base some 100 American soldiers in Poland.
Another also, the Czech Republic is not out of the missile defense picture at all, and could host some type of nerve-center control center for part of the system.
This all prompts the obvious question: what exactly has Obama scrapped?
Moreover, talks are now underway with Romania and could start soon with Bulgaria to deploy interceptors in those countries. U.S. Ambassador to Sofia James Warlick has said "other countries in the region" could be drawn into the plan.
Romania's potential role in the US plan has already stirred the pot.
The president of breakaway Transdniester, a sliver of land sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova and populated mostly by ethnic Slavs, said he would be willing to host Russian tactical missiles if the Kremlin asked.
Transdniestr's leader Igor Smirnov has said he was prepared to host Russian missiles and made clear it was linked to the latest U.S. missile plans.
"As far as the Iskander (missile) is concerned, we have long said we are ready," he said.
Moldova's former Communist President Vladimir Voronin gave voice to fears probably many in Moldava have, saying Romania's decision to jump aboard the U.S. anti-missile express puts its poor relation Moldova "onto the frontline: of any future confrontations.
Enter the Washington diplomat to kick in White House reality.
The U.S. ambassador to Moldova, Asif Chaudhry, said instead of creating instability, the planned U.S. missile defense plan would 'enhance' the region's security.
How will it enhance the region's security? Mr. Chaudhry left that one to the soothsayers.
Obama is proving to be a slicker foreign policy Machiavellian than the bumbler Bush. To assuage the Europeans, Obama has opened the missile shield discussion to its European allies. Don't doubt for a moment, though, that it will be Washington calling all the shots.
Despite the obvious preponderance of power NATO wields, its more Russophobe members in eastern Europe, Washington's ace in the hole, want an even tougher line vis-a-vis Russia.
At the Warsaw conference, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski -- one-time American Enterprise Institute 'scholar' and erstwhile investment adviser to Rupert Murdoch -- said he wants NATO's new strategic doctrine to include even more security guarantees for central and eastern Europe, so spooked are regional elites of falling under Russia's thumb again.
What NATO could offer them beside the already existing Article Five -- which states an attack on one NATO member is an attack on the entire alliance -- is unclear.
Sikorski has suggested he wouldn't mind seeing his country turned into one big US army camp.
What is clear is that NATO at Washington's urging is pursuing slow but sure mission creep, aiming to become a truly global military machine.