Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
THE Russian Federation has an economy which is three times less the size of Germany, while its spending on defense is far below that of the EU troika (France, UK, Germany) that is fanning the anti-Russia hysteria sweeping across US media. Imaginary scenarios are being passed off as fact, such as that Moscow seeks to re-incorporate the Baltic states into the Russian Federation, or to once again absorb Ukraine. Certainly Vladimir Putin took over Crimea, once it became evident that a regime viscerally hostile to Russia was being installed in Kiev with encouragement and assistance from Washington, London, Berlin and Paris. The loss of Crimea to a hostile power would have severely degraded the security of Russia. It had been given to Ukraine by the USSR leadership at a time when that post-1992 country was part of the union of republics formed after the takeover of the Russian empire in 1917.
The “Russia Threat” is necessary to ensure that the “star officers” in NATO continue to enjoy the comforts of peacetime while collecting salaries and allowances on the presumption that all-out war with Russia is around the corner. Given that even today, a majority of citizens in the US believe that Saddam Hussein was the head of Al Qaeda and that Bashar Assad is the primary patron of ISIS, it is clear that “Fake News” did not begin only during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. That so many tens of millions of citizens hold such views is testimony to the strength of belief in the falsehoods repeatedly expressed over these and other leaders who have been less than respectful to Western commands at different periods of time. This is a list that included the late Muammar Kaddafy of Libya, who paid through his excruciatingly cruel death for having several times ridiculed and challenged US and its major European partners, including in the UN General Assembly even after he surrendered his WMD stockpiles to them.
Given the record, where NATO member-states demonise those leaders they plan to take military action against, it is reasonable to infer that NATO may be looking at a limited war with Russia over Crimea. The calculation may be that a military humiliation at the hands of the Cold War alliance would so weaken the goodwill of the Russian people for Vladimir Putin that the alliance could ignite a “Russian Spring” and bring down his government through paralysing the street. A further calculation would be that a post-Putin leader would be as amenable to “advice” from Washington and its allies as Boris Yeltsin was, or at the very least, be eager to secure the friendship of the Western powers, even if the price demanded was the giving of concessions that would hurt the Russian national interest.
Given that the comforts of a well-paid and tranquil life in Europe together with their families would be at risk were Moscow not to be acknowledged as an enemy power, it is no surprise that so many otherwise rational members of the US military’s higher command repeat the mantra of their European friends. Which is that the greatest threat to the alliance and to the people it is presumed to defend comes from Moscow, thereby making those expensive and comfortable deployments in Europe necessary and indeed desirable in the view of taxpayers. Because of the fact that practically all the journalists reporting on military matters have as their sources members of the US and EU military who have a vested interest in playing up the “Russia Threat”, there has for long been a flood of reports that convey an impression of imminent conflict. Indeed, of a conflict already begun between Russia and the NATO powers. Because of such “Fake News” by precisely those television channels and newspapers that excoriate Donald Trump for misrepresenting facts, throughout the US and the EU, there is a growing (and deliberately created) hysteria about Russia that shows little signs of abating. Apart from providing a justification for retaining the hyper-expensive NATO deployments in Europe, the other objective of this propaganda is to steer President Donald Trump away from his stated intention of establishing a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, such that both countries could join together against threats such as ISIS.
However, such a partnership would jeopardize the interests of the huge number of individuals in government and outside whose welfare is anchored to tensions between NATO and the Russian Federation, and hence the use of media to assist in creating a mood of toxicity towards a country that even during the period when the USSR was functioning did not even once challenge the territorial integrity of NATO member-states, and shows no sign of doing so now. Giving a bad name and taking down the career of an individual was demonstrated in the case of the former National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, whose crime was that he was supposed to have asked the Russian side not to retaliate after President Obama baited President Putin by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats from the US.
Whether because of General Flynn or because he wanted to show his goodwill towards post-election Washington, Putin refused to swallow the bait and retaliate. Instead, he took no action whatsoever against US diplomats, even those known to be working for the CIA. Had Putin retaliated, public opinion in the US would quickly have been inflamed by the media into a mood of hostility towards Moscow that would have suited the 21st century proponents of a Cold War that in effect vanished in the mid-1980s, after CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev adopted the principle of Mahatma Gandhi and refused to sanction the use of force against even those members of the Warsaw Pact that were facing a collapse of the Moscow-friendly regimes that were in place since 1945.
Perhaps because Michael Flynn ensured that such an escalation was avoided, he was punished through a clamour for his scalp that proved too vociferous for the Trump administration to resist. For the duration, it would appear that the comfortable billets of NATO commanders stationed in Europe are safe from the threat of a US President who has understood the folly of having bad relations with Russia, a country that has been eager for good relations with the US since the 1970s,but which has yet not succeeded in the face of the machinations of that immense body of interests that favour the continuation of a Cold War between Russia and NATO.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.