Sunday, July 10, 2016

NATO Summit Concluded

"They [Russia declaring NATO is engaged in 'sabre-rattling'] can say that, but they absolutely know that it isn't."
"It represents solidarity and cohesion in the alliance and a great opportunity. It raises the threshhold of risk. It may be slight but it is definitely there. Terms like tripwire that can be used as descriptors, but what it really does is raise that calculus of risks."
"Do you take any steps against a nation, given that the alliance has decided to put in what will be very credible combat forces not intended to attack, entirely defensive in nature?".
General Jon Vance, Canadian Chief of Staff

"It [Bloomberg graphic] purports to show that Russia is being 'aggressive' by proposing new battalion numbers along its western borders. If the information is accurate, it will mean a total of around 30,000 troops split into three divisions."
"At the same time, NATO wants to send 4,000 soldiers, mostly American and British, to the Baltic States and Poland. This graph is being used as a propaganda tool to make it appear that 4,000 'defensive' NATO personnel are facing off against 30,000 "aggressive" Russians."

"The truth is completely different."
"For starters, the Russian units will be stationed exclusively in Russian sovereign territory. The concept of a country keeping armed forces on its own soil is hardly revolutionary. By contrast, these American and British servicemen and women will be very far away from home."
"Also, the figures are completely misrepresented. As the image below shows, it is Russia which is outnumbered. And vastly so."
RT -- Russian global English-language news network
So, then, according to Moscow and the RT network that expresses Kremlin-approved news perspectives, eastern Europe, the Baltic states and NATO are neurotic about Russia's intentions, and pitifully paranoid. Russia, on the other hand, has good enough reason to be concerned, that its borders contiguous with those of former Russian satellites in the USSR era, are bristling with the presence of malign-purposeful troops representing the military presence of countries of the West, far from home.

Russia's near-abroad, in other words, has been 'occupied', even if by specific invitation, by its nemesis, NATO, representing the strength and power of Western democracies who have no business in the territory of Greater Russia, just happening to abut on once-dependent nations, now professing great fear of Russia reaching its long mechanized tentacles to bring them once again far closer than they prefer to be, to Moscow's embrace.

Mind, they do have the absorbing and mind-boggling recent precedent of Georgia and Moldova losing some of their autonomous regions to Moscow's need to protect its Russian-speaking colleagues who happen to live in the territories that found their independence with the dissolution of Soviet power. With Vladimir Putin's muscle-flexing on those occasions, concern was expressed and there was simply no defensive feints from outside the two nations concerned.

And then came Ukraine, whose independence Moscow could not envision as separate from Greater Russia's. But when push came to shoving the Russian-approved Viktor Yanukovych from his splendid palace, the decision was made to annex Crimea and do the same with the Donetsk region, lending military and weaponry to the Russian-Ukrainians who feel more Russian than Ukrainian, deciding to haul up the geography and move it within Russia's borders, like a board game.

When Vladimir Putin mused about nuclear deterrence, those rumblings were seen as what they were meant to be, a warning to the West which reacted predictably enough, accusing Moscow of nuclear-rattling. So now Moscow is levelling counter-accusations against NATO of sabre-rattling. It's all one unfortunate, giant misunderstanding. Including all the submarine and warplane mischief rattling the nerves of Europe.

The deployment of British, German, American and Canadian super-sized brigades to the Baltics is NATO's preparation for rapid response should President Putin turn his attention away from Syria to launch an acquisitive-exploratory probe elsewhere. NATO remains committed to an ongoing dialogue with Russia, since at heart all sides are reasonable; just that reason has been hijacked by an unfortunate level of distrust, oh and misunderstanding, of course.

Talk about settling comfortably on a precipice: Canadian troops are to be situated in the new year for operation on a Latvian army base, a mere 250 kilometres from Paskov, across the border in Russia, home to three airbases and roughly ten thousand troops of Russia's elite 76 Guards Assault Division.
But relations with Moscow were not the only concern for the NATO summit just concluded in Warsaw. President Obama's statement aside: "We're moving forward with the most significant reinforcement of our collective defence any time since the Cold War".

There is the critical issue of opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the statement that flights by alliance AWACS warplanes to begin in the fall: "a clear signal of our resolve to help tackle terrorism", said Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, of the training and capacity-building mission for Iraqi armed forces. Unfortunately, no word since no obvious discussion let alone consensus on any moves to persuade Bashar al-Assad to remove himself from Syria's self-destruction.

NATO has decided in its 28-member wisdom to focus instead on shutting down human smuggling operations that have succeeded in flooding Europe with the greatest migrant crisis in generations. Not to consider the source of the limitless frantic rush to vacate the death-zone that Syria has become thanks to its regime's focus on the 'terrorists' who have rebelled against his sectarian rule, but how to ensure that those Sunni Syrians fleeing the Shiite regime can be persuaded to remain where they are.

"We will provide greater support to our partners, so they can secure their countries and push back against violent extremism", Mr. Stoltenberg waxed on, referring to help given to Jordan and to Libya, one struggling to ensure that the Islamist menace within doesn't gain the upper hand, the other struggling to keep the ISIL menace that has already established itself from taking control of the entire country.

The ISIL terrorists, as menacingly bloodthirsty as they are, it should be noted, haven't taken the death toll close to approximating those who have died in Syria, viciously abused by their own government.
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