Monday, October 17, 2016

Understand? Yes. Accept? No

It drives me nuts that there are Americans who excuse Russian aggression because Russia of course (!) fears the West.

Cue Ted Galen Carpenter:

NATO can and does menace important Russian interests without posing an existential threat. As I have described elsewhere, it would be a useful mental exercise to consider what the reaction in this country would be if an alliance dominated by another major power, say China, began to add the Caribbean countries, the Central American countries, and the northern tier powers of South America to a military alliance that it controlled. Consider further the probable reaction if the Chinese equivalents of neoconservatives campaigned to bring Canada and Mexico into such an alliance and deploy Chinese military forces in those countries. Would any U.S. leader—indeed, any prudent American—not consider that a threat to the nation’s security?

That is essentially what the United States and NATO have done to Russia. Yet Twardowski believes that the Russians have no legitimate complaints. His response is an operational definition of willful blindness.

Note to readers. I don't believe I've ever read anything by Carpenter that I didn't think was nonsense.

This mental exercise only works if you assume that America and the other state are hostile and enemies. If China created military alliances in the Western hemisphere I sure would worry.

If Britain, Japan, or even France did that, I'd sleep just fine at night.

So for Carpenter's comparison to work, you have to assume that America and Russia were from the beginning enemies.

Yet Carpenter claims that America's expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellites pushed Russia to become our enemy.

Yet if we were friends initially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, why would the expansion of a friendly power's military alliance be more threatening to Russia than the creation of a French or British military alliance in the Western Hemisphere would be to America?

So apparently, we did not in fact push a friendly Russia--which was already suspicious, hostile, and paranoid--into hostility, eh?

Further, Carpenter's argument rests on the defense of the Brezhnev Doctrine when Brezhnev and his communist system is long gone.

Consider that Carpenter's formulation means that because central and eastern European countries once were controlled by Moscow (when it was Soviet), those newly free countries cannot chart their own future and free associations with the West because Moscow (now controlled by Russians) won't like it.

It's not like we conquered those ex-Soviet countries and compelled them to be in our empire to be used as tools to crush the Russians. No, these ex-Soviet vassals chose to join a free association of (mostly) free democracies--NATO--that offered hope of remaining free.

No, according to Carpenter, these countries once controlled by the Soviet empire can never oppose what the Russian empire--however shrunken--wants. They must remain subservient to Russia. Forever.

And what are the limits of this Russian worry about threats to them? It is only in this year in response to Russian aggression both on the ground and verbally with nuclear sabre rattling that NATO decided to put four battalions of ground troops in new NATO countries that border Russia!

Just four thousand NATO ground troops 25 years after the Soviet Union collapsed!

When Russia was the USSR, sitting on the Elbe River with over 20 heavy divisions in East Germany (and many more behind them) wasn't enough of a buffer against a hostile NATO--which was created in response to Russian threats to keep moving west, recall. The Soviets planned to drive to the Rhine River to gain more of a buffer to keep the threats far from Moscow.

So should we understand and accept Russian solutions to their paranoid fears regardless of where the Russians draw the line of security du jour? Do that for long enough and we'll be talking about Hadrian's Wall as the frontline against the Russians.

Fine. Understand that the Russians are a paranoid nuclear-armed mess, which makes them aggressive and perhaps even 100% convinced that their aggression is really defensive in nature.

But that does not mean we have to accept the Russian aggression that flows from being a paranoid nuclear-armed mess.

Don't enable the Russian paranoia--as too many Western analysts do--by going along with their dark fantasies of nefarious Western plots against them.

Oh, and for bonus Carpenter nonsense, in the article he actually blames Georgia for the 2008 war with Russia when possession of a semi-functioning brain stem should make it obvious that Russia set Georgia up, even practicing the war in July prior to their invasion

Georgia was foolish to fall for the provocation, but if Georgia hadn't fallen into the trap, Russia would have just made up an excuse as they did for Ukraine.