Ukraine hesitates but not the NATO commanders

This article is a translation of "Oekraïne aarzelt maar NAVO-commandanten niet".

As the world balances on the edge of the abyss, the Dutch media are going all-out. Covering the drama of flight MH17, the NOS main news bulletin offered images of family members who were overwhelmed by the loss of the absurd, incomprehensible loss of children and other loved ones. They implored ‘Putin’ to ‘return them’; another mourner had written a letter to ‘Putin’ with broadly the same message.

I write the name between quotation marks because the Russian president for a long time now has mutated from a flesh-and-blood human into the embodiment of evil; like Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and Assad before him. The news bulletin of private broadcaster RTL headed the message of a father who had cynically ‘thanked’ ‘Mr. Putin, the separatists OR the Ukraine government’ for the death of his child, by ‘Putin, thanks for killing my only child’.

Of course the shrillest voices for revenge came from the other side of the Atlantic. On the day of disaster, even before the shocking news had been absorbed fully, Hilary Clinton declared that ‘this time Putin had gone too far’, and the incorrigible Cold Warrior (and Englishman) Timothy Garton Ash reminded the readers of the New York Times of the ‘rat-like’ features of the Russian president. 

In the meantime the appetite in Ukraine itself for continuing the war against its own population is much less pronounced.

As I wrote before, the country is made up of 132 distinct nationalities and ethnic groups in all, of which the Russian one is the largest after the Ukrainians properly speaking; the majority of the population considers the collapse of the Soviet Union a disaster (a percentage higher than in Russia itself), and the historic ties with the Slavic world run very deep.

The war is being waged by the leaders in Kiev who seized power after the February coup, with military units reinforced by the fascist Right Sector and comparable groups. The actual army is divided and even in the ‘Rada’, the parliament, majority support for war has now disintegrated. The day before yesterday Yatsenyuk, the ‘prime minister’ of the coup government, resigned because the Kiev parliament refused him extra money for the war (besides blocking a privatisation of the energy pipeline grid). 

In the first place however, this war is being supported by those in the NATO alliance who from 1991 (and of course prior to it) had turned the crusade against Moscow into their main program. Before the Netherlands throws itself into an armed adventure in Eastern Ukraine we would do well to get acquainted with the plans current circulating at the military command level of NATO. 

Thus the commander of Allied Forces Europe, general Philip Breedlove (pictured, centre) has proposed to equip a base in Poland from which a large-scale NATO operation against Russia could be staged.

The ‘Multinational Corps Northeast’ sector in Szczecin (German, Stettin) on the Baltic coast was named in The Times as the most obvious location for such a base. The strategy would be to equip a basis which has materiel and supplies ready so that ‘follow-on forces’, troops flown in in case of a crisis, will find all they need to immediately go into battle. These plans will be on the agenda in the coming NATO summit in Wales in September.

Such a permanent headquarters would be a flagrant violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, the consolation prize for Russia after the NATO expansion that was pushed through after 1994 and which meanwhile has reached the Russian borders—which itself is a violation of the commitment made to Gorbachev in 1991 that NATO would not expand at all. 

Before the Netherlands becomes militarily engaged in Ukraine it may also be worthwhile to listen to another American general, Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military man in the Pentagon. 

His view will also percolate to the NATO summit in Wales. In a speech in Aspen, Colorado, last Thursday, Dempsey declared that ‘the Kremlin’ had made ‘the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives’—a phenomenon of course entirely unknown to the United States military. It would signal a Russian decision to make its influence felt in new ways in the relations with Eastern Europe, Europe as a whole and the United States.

Earlier the same day the spokeswoman of the State Department had run into flak from journalists when she declared that Russian artillery had fired at Ukrainian targets, but this did not keep Dempsey from quoting her. He compared the incident with that in 1939 when Stalin, under the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler, occupied Poland and incorporated 13.5 million inhabitations into the USSR—after which Dempsey returned to ‘Putin’ whom he claims has similar plans. 

This kind of statements is important because they tend to be repeated as propaganda. So watch out for ‘for the first time since Stalin incorporated 13.5 million Poles in 1939’ which I fear will be returning as a mantra. 

Russia feels threatened by NATO, and whoever looks at the map and takes into account the alliance’s actions since 1991, for good reason. If the Netherlands jointly with Australia were to dispatch armed units into eastern Ukraine, after Obama already took the decision to send American military advisers, we will be a step closer to a large war.

Kees van der Pijl

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