A foreign army consisting of 31,000 soldiers from an anti-American alliance are conducting military “exercises” a few miles from San Diego. Hundreds of tanks converge on the Rio Grande, while jets from 24 countries converge in attack formation, darting through Mexican skies.
It isn’t hard to imagine Washington’s response.
Yet that’s precisely what has been happening on Russia’s border with the NATO alliance, as the cold war returns. Economic sanctions aimed at sinking Russia’s fragile economy, plus a propaganda campaign designed to characterize Russian President Vladimir Putin as the second coming of Stalin – or, in Hillary Clinton’s view, Hitler – have history running in reverse. Once again, an iron curtain is descending across Europe – only this time it’s the West’s doing.
The European Union renewed sanctions against Crimea on Friday: their “crime” – holding a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of voters opted for union with Russia, restoring what had been the status quo since the days of Catherine the Great. And the EU is slated to extend sanctions against the Russian Federation later this week.
Yet dissent against this revival of the cold war is rising in Europe, notably in Germany, where Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is calling for the “gradual” lifting of sanctions to reflect progress in the implementation of the Minsk accords, which call for the demilitarization of Ukraine and elections in rebel-held territory. This reflects a division within Germany’s left-right coalition government: Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are holding out for “full” implementation of the accords. Yet it is the government in Kiev – held hostage by far-right crazies – that has been dragging its feet over Minsk, refusing to grant autonomy to east Ukraine and vowing to continue the war against the rebels in spite of Kiev’s lack of success in pacifying the rebellious region.
Steinmeier went further in another interview, characterizing provocative military exercises conducted near Russia’s borders as “warmongering.” The “drill,” which ended Friday, simulated a Western response to an improbable Russian attack on Poland. “What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmonger,” averred Steinmeier:
“Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken. We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation. [It would be] fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence.”
The reality is that it is NATO that has to be deterred: ever since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the implosion of international communism the West has been advancing eastward, gathering its forces at the very gates of Moscow. They didn’t call the recent exercises “Spearhead” for nothing. Herr Steinmeier is correct that the “tank parade” within spitting distance of the Kremlin is “symbolic,” but neglects to tell us what it symbolizes, which is nothing less than World War III.
The Germans are rebelling against the EU/NATO war on Russia because, as in the old cold war, they will be caught in the middle: if the unthinkable becomes thinkable and hostilities break out Germany will become a battlefield, i.e. a smoking ruin. As Cold War II rears its ugly head, it’s hardly surprising that Euro-neutralism is making a comeback.
Aside from that, the post-cold war structures erected by the new cold warriors are coming apart at the seams: the EU itself is disintegrating, with Euro-skepticism threatening to take Britain out of the Union and the rise of anti-EU parties across Europe challenging the legitimacy of the Brussels bureaucracy.
And here in the US, questions are being raised about the utility of the main bulwark of the anti-Russian foreign policy of the West: former defense secretary Robert Gates wants to know why our European protectorates are failing to pay their fair share of NATO’s mounting costs. And presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has gone much further, declaring that NATO is “very obsolete” and raising the possibility that, if he makes it to the White House, the Western alliance will be no more, or will, at least, take on a much different form.
With the focus of US foreign policy on the Middle East, and the alleged threat of ISIS preoccupying US policymakers, the impending collapse of the post-World War II international order has taken a back seat in the public eye. Yet this development is far more important, in the long run, for the simple reason that relations with Russia far outweigh whatever is happening in, say, Syria – where the Russian factor is key to solving that seemingly intractable problem.
Here, again, the political class and their journalistic camarilla split with the American people: most Americans want nothing to do with Ukraine and its many problems. The elites, however, have taken up the cause of what is one of the world’s most corrupt regimes as if it is a paragon of virtue and democratic liberalism. It is neither: the present rulers came to power in a violent coup, chasing out the democratically-elected President, and paving the way for a far-right regime that openly celebrates World War II collaborators with the Nazis.
The demonization of Putin’s Russia is based on historical illiteracy. It was only a short time ago that Russia was a one-party dictatorship where millions were enslaved by a regime that had as much blood on its hands as Nazi Germany. To fail to acknowledge the enormous progress that country has made, against overwhelming odds, is beyond ridiculous.
The neoconservatives have long held a grudge against Putin for denouncing the Iraq war as a foolish adventure: American liberals use Putin as a piñata, the puncturing of which is supposed to prove how “tough” they are. Indeed, the Clintons have long been among the worst of the Russia-bashers, and a Clinton Restoration will see the US go head-to-head with Putin, not only in Europe but also in Central Asia, where Bill has long been canoodling with various despots.
It’s time to lift the new iron curtain that is descending across Europe. Russia and the United States have many interests in common: a new cold war, which could easily escalate into a hot war, is in no one’s interests.
A scheduling note: For the next two weeks this column will be going to a once-a-week schedule, with a new column appearing on Mondays. The reason: I’m undertaking a new project for the Mises Institute, getting a new book by Murray Rothbard ready for publication. If something major occurs, however, I’ll be right here covering it. In any case, I’ll return to my regular schedule – three-times-a-week – on July 4th.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN