Did NATO betray Russia, breaking the deal to stay out of Eastern Europe?

Summary:  The news that “NATO invites Montenegro to join alliance, defying Russia” has sparked return (again) of stories that the US broke its deal with the Soviet Union to stay out of Eastern Europe. These accusations by Putin and other Russian leaders frame and poison relations with the West. Here are the facts.

Trust broken

Putin’s claims of perfidious behavior by the West show his understanding that the moral high ground is, as so often the case, of value. His most vehement accusations are that the NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe violates agreements made in 1989 and 1990. In his February 2007 speech to the Munich Security Conference he said…

“And we have the right to ask: against whom is this [NATO] expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? … I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr. Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: ‘the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.” Where are these guarantees?”

In his March 2014 speech justifying Russia’s annexation of Crimea (we’re bad, so he’s bad)…

“{Western leaders} have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed before us an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders.”

Many on the US Left take Putin’s claims seriously, an example of the Left’s long affection for tyrants (shared, of course, by the US Right). These claims have have only a weak basis in fact. The last years of the Soviet Union were marked by remarkably hasty and poorly thought-out actions by its leaders. Their reliance on a vague verbal agreement — between Secretary of State James Baker and the USSR’s Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze — was poor statecraft (but by no means their worst errors).

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Can we answer SecDef Gates’ question about NATO and the Af-Pak War?

Robert Gates — Secretary of Defense in the New Obama Administration (also the SecDef in the old Bush Administration; change you should not have believed in) — has asked a question.  It’s an opportunity for participatory democracy!  Can we help him out by answering the question.

Gates asked this question during an interview with Katie Couric on CBS’ 60 Minutes, broadcast 17 May 2009:

The U.S. will have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan when the surge is completed this fall. NATO will have less than half as many, which makes no sense to Gates because terrorist plots spawned in the region are aimed at Europe as well as the U.S.

“I’ve been disappointed with NATO’s response to this ever since I got this job,” Gates told Couric. “NATO as an alliance, if you exclude the United States, has almost two million men under arms. Why they can’t get more than 32,000 to Afghanistan has always been a puzzle to me.

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These days all American Presidents are War Presidents (part 2)

In March I asked “How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?”  Now we know the answer:  for the next 4 years, perhaps the next 8, we will be at war.  If McCain wins – almost certainly.  If McCain cannot complete his term (quite possible), then Palin — probably.  Obama — equally probable.

We saw Gov. Palin’s tough talk in her interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News, and her willingness to lead America into war with Pakistan or Russia — perhaps anyone.  For the details, see …

Obama’s speeches are equally bellicose.  For example, see …

In my March 2008 post I described the ferocity of Obama’s 19 March 2008 speech, perhaps rooted in his confidence about American omnipotence.  But feeding red meat to the American public was nothing new for Obama.  In his August 2007 speech Obama explains how he will wage war far better than did President Bush:

I did not oppose all wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan.

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“The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy”, by George Friedman

Here is another brilliant strategic analysis by George Friedman of Stratfor, about a major geopolitical issue.  While I disagree with many of his specifics (e.g., the state of the Iraq War, the odds of a master settlement with Iran), the reasoning looks sound to me.  But, as is so often the case in American geopolitical thinking today, the grand strategic machinery of his analysis has a few missing cogs.  That is, the broader context is defective.

Most importantly, he never explains why the rise of Russia — reasserting its historic sphere of influence — threatens America or our interests.  Rather he adopts the consensus view that  American global hegemony is a goal — not a means to protect our vital interests — and therefore any threat to our hegemony becomes a cause for war (see his terrifying comments about blockading Russia, an act of war).   Reading this reminds me of what a great American once said:

We have met the enemy… and he is us.

For more on this thinking, please read “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy.” — about our paranoia and hubris.

The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy“, by George Friedman, Stratfor, 2 September 2008 — Reprinted in full.  The underlined headings are mine, not in his text.  It starts slowly, but rapidly picks up speed.

The United States has been fighting a war in the Islamic world since 2001. Its main theaters of operation are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but its politico-military focus spreads throughout the Islamic world, from Mindanao to Morocco. The situation on Aug. 7, 2008, was as follows:

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The world has changed, but many Americans retain their dreams of hegemony

Here are excerpts from 3 articles about the changes to the world order following the Georgia-Russia conflict, and America’s difficulty in adapting to them.

  1. Stratfor asks if the US still has strong levers with which to move Iran?
  2. Expert Americans, like Prof. Kenneth Anderson, retain delusions of American hegemony
  3. Consequences of America’s encouragement of other nations

1.  Stratfor asks if the US still has strong levers with which to move Iran?

Asking the right questions is a key to successful analysis, esp after major events.  We see this done well in Stratfor’s “Intelligence Guidance” of 22 August 2008 — Excerpt:

The Iranian issue is still absolutely on the table. A few weeks ago the plan was to increase sanctions on the Iranians if they did not provide satisfactory answers on uranium enrichment. The United States said that they hadn’t, and the next step would be sanctions in which Russia would participate. The latest word is that those sanctions are dead since the Russians will not play. Everyone is ignoring this, but it is critical.

What is the next step in U.S. relations with Iran? Is Washington going to ramp up the crisis or use this distraction to ditch its policy, cut its losses in the Middle East and come home? Are the Iranians going to reconsider the accommodations they have made in Iraq and try to go for a better deal? Will the Russians encourage the Iranians to do so?

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The good news about COIN in Afghanistan is really bad news

Summary:  We apply to Afghanistan the false lessons about COIN learned in Iraq, doubling down our involvement in foreign lands — projects unrelated to America’s needs, spending funds we do not have.

We are expanding the “Afghanistan Army” — our army, bought and paid for.  We are sending more troops.  We are increasing our control over the war.  Inevitably this makes it our war, not theirs — weakening the legitimacy of the Afghanistan government.  This contradicts one of the primary goals of COIN set forth in FM 3-24, to build up the local government.

As we see in Iraq, this strategy can fail even when it works.  That is, if the local government gains sufficient strength to become viable it can establish its legitimacy only by kicking us out — negating many or most of the benefits to the US from the war.

Also, we probably repeat the history of the Iraq War.  As we increasingly shift from supporting to direct combat roles, our Coalition allies left Iraq.  We should expect the same to happen with NATO in Afghanistan.

Gates Pushing Plan for Afghan Army“, New York Times, 7 August 2008 — Excerpt:

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Comments on the Georgia-Russia fighting: Buchanan is profound, McCain is nuts

Summary:  Patrick Buchanan is one of our few original political writers.  He often says things of great wisdom, and often things which with I totally disagree.  This is one of the former.  Derbyshire’s comments also match my views (except the ambiguous last sentence).  McCain’s bizarre remarks demonstrate why many regard the prospect of his presidency with fear.

Leadership“, by John Derbyshire, National Review Online, 12 August 2008

I agree with this:

As Chamberlain gave a war guarantee to Poland he could not honor, the United States began to hand out NATO war guarantees to six Warsaw Pact nations, the three Baltic republics, and, soon, Ukraine and Georgia. Should a hostile regime come to power in Moscow and reoccupy these nations, we would have to declare war. Yet no matter how much we treasure the newly free Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, their independence is not a vital U.S. interest, and never has been. And the threatened loss of their independence cannot justify war with a nuclear-armed Russia.

… As Britain threw over Japan and drove Italy into the arms of Hitler, Bush pushes Putin’s Russia into the arms of China by meddling in the politics of Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus, planting U.S. bases in Central Asia, and hectoring him for running an autocratic state that does not pass muster with the National Endowment for Democracy.

– from Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, by Patrick J. Buchanan, pp.421-2.

There are some spectacles that are at once tragic and farcical. One such has been the sight of Georgian troops scuttling back from assisting us in whatever it is we imagine we are doing in Iraq, to help defend their homeland, while Condoleezza Rice stamps her foot, George W. Bush watches a basketball game, and John McCain says that he will do such things, what they are, yet he knows not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth.

We are governed by fools. At least Putin knows what he wants, and how to get it. If only freedom had such leaders!

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