Monday, February 15, 2016

No Common Ground

"NATO's policies related to Russia remain unfriendly and opaque -- one could go so far as to say we have slid back to a new Cold War. On almost a daily basis, we're called one of the most terrible threats either to NATO as a whole, or Europe, or to the United States."
"Sometimes I wonder if it's 2016 or if we live in 1962. [Sanctions are] a road that leads nowhere."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
PM Medvedev takes part in Munich Security Conference
Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks during the 52nd Munich Security Conference .
Photographer: Dmitry Astakhov/TASS via Getty Image
"Russia's rhetoric, posture and exercises of its nuclear forces are aimed at intimidating its neighbours, undermining trust and stability in Europe."
"[NATO members will have] to decide to further strengthen the alliance's defence and deterrence."
"I think all politicians would prefer to spend money on education, health, infrastructure. But security doesn't come for free and, as tensions increase, then we have to adapt. When tensions went down after the end of the Cold War there was a peace dividend and defence spending went down. But when tensions are increasing, then we have to again increase our defence investments."
"No one should think that nuclear weapons can be used as part of a conventional conflict -- it would change the nature of any conflict fundamentally."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
A classic understatement of  considerable range and meaning, and an oblique but still readily identifiable nod to Russian President Vladimir Putin's boast of nuclear arsenal viability in defence of Mother Russia when he was addressing a graduating military academy class in Moscow last year. A nuclear-armed Russia was the inference, would bow to no other country -- or multi-national alliance purporting to threaten Russia's sovereign entitlements.

One of which was the demonstration that in illegally entering another country's sovereign territory and claiming part of its geography was henceforth part of Russia in contravention of international standards, earned Moscow the imposed sanctions that its Prime Minister was decrying at the annual Munich conference of national leaders, diplomats and elite defence commanders. Implying that should those sanctions continue, Russia's oppressors would be risking harm to themselves.

Under Mr. Medvedev's pointed aggravation over sanctions, Russia's belligerence, its military incursions into another country's territory, its constant aerial and maritime hazing of other nations' assets and territories, its aggressive posturing hinting at similar plans to be levied against the Baltic States, and the carnage its aerial strikes and ground troops are now incurring in Syria went unmentioned, as though Russia is misunderstood and hard done by in the global community.

At this venue at least, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded the obligation that Europe and the U.S. uphold morally to "stand up to Russia's repeated aggression"; that aside from biting off the Crimean Peninsula and aiming to enlarge Greater Russia's geographic footprint by swallowing more of eastern Ukraine, Russia's Middle East entry has been disastrous. "To date, the vast majority -- in our opinion -- of Russia’s attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups. We think it is critical that the Russians’ targeting changes."

Stressing  unequivocally that largely because of Russia's strident militarism on the world stage, the United States has decided to place a division's full requirement of military equipment at strategic places in Europe, along with another combat brigade in Central and Eastern Europe to augment NATO's new multinational reinforcements in defence of front-line alliance members seen to be most at risk from Russia's potential future plans.

"Those who claim our trans-Atlantic partnership is unravelling -- or those who hope it might unravel -- could not be more wrong", stressed Mr. Kerry.  The avenues leading to dialogue, added Mr. Stoltenberg, should never be closed off, but nor can NATO afford to overlook the defensive necessity to move additional troops and equipment to afford countries bordering Russia the reassurance that as member-nations they are fully protected should any untoward decisions be made by the Kremlin.

The message, loud and clear to Prime Minister Medvedev: "we've got your number", a message he might wish to relay back to his President to consider the implications of, requiring some useful introspection. Aptly reinforced by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite when she spoke her mind that Moscow is all the while "demonstrating open military aggression in Ukraine, open military aggression in Syria", and the concern is what is next on the Russian agenda.

Putin casually mentioned using nuclear bombs in Syria
Putin casually floated the idea of using nuclear weapons in Syria (Picture: Getty/Metro)

"Both the Calibre missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads."                                                                                    Vladimir Putin, to Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu

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