By Craig Kane
Twenty years ago, George Kennan, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, described the Senate’s announcement ratifying the eastward expansion of NATO as “the beginning of a new cold war” and a “terrible mistake”. One year later, NATO welcomed former Warsaw Pact countries the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into the organization, and since then there have been three subsequent rounds of enlargement. In 2004, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia were added to the ranks, alongside the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, three former members of the Soviet Union. Then in 2009, Croatia and Albania were granted membership, and in 2017 little Montenegro joined the party. Bosnia, Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine are currently “NATO aspirant countries”, so the group which was founded by 12 countries in 1949 currently has a membership of 29 with the prospect of at least 4 to come.
NATO’s open door policy allows membership to be extended to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”. This policy has been in place since the Alliance’s inception, although it is safe to say that up until the 1990s it appeared highly unlikely that any of the Warsaw Pact countries would ever fit the bill of being in a position to “further the principles of this Treaty”. Russia certainly thought as much.
If we go back to 1990 and the talks surrounding the reunification of Germany, the picture soon becomes blurry, the waters are perennially muddy and the recollections of the guilty parties are both fuzzy and politically charged. What we do know is that the Berlin Wall, the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, was demolished in late 1989. Throughout 1990 it became clear that a united Germany was coming, which unsurprisingly led to deep concern in Moscow. West Germany had been a member of NATO since 1955, predating Checkpoint Charlie et al, but the worry was that the amalgamation of the two Germanys would see a tasty chunk of former Warsaw Pact real estate fall under the auspices of NATO, nevermind that the East German Army was the jewel in the crown of the combined forces from behind the Iron Curtain. This concern was assuaged by the assurance, at least verbally, that NATO would not enlarge its scope to the east, a newly reunified Germany would be as far as it would go. There is no written record of such an agreement, and even those who were on the same side, Mikhail Gorbachev and the late Edvard Shevardnadze, for example, disagree about whether this really happened. It would, however, certainly conform with the conciliatory, diplomatic spirit of the time.
But as the decade progressed it became clear that NATO and its member countries had grown to view the gentlemen’s agreement as a relic of a bygone age, essentially null and void in the march towards the international politics of the new century. So eastward expansion began, under the guise, somewhat ironically for Moscow, of security, to the point now in 2018 where western Russia looks out on NATO troops in the Ukraine, part of a political map which is a patchwork quilt of belligerence. This is the security of the West, Russian disquiet surrounding the military maneuvering and posturing is either a matter of complete irrelevance or a well anticipated consequence. George Kennan was right about expansion being the start of the new Cold War, it is now beyond obvious that the NATO land grab has been inflammatory and hostile towards Russia. This was all calculated, and, somehow, has now been woven into the narrative as a de facto positive which is beyond criticism. NATO expansion is good for all those whose opinion counts, which absolutely doesn’t include Russia. Eastward the course of empire takes its way.
The Project For The New American Century (PNAC) was an extremely influential neo-conservative think tank established in 1997, a year before the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Poles were welcomed into the NATO family. PNAC’s “Statement of Principles” harked back, with an unashamed dollop of romantic affirmation, to the “the Reagan Administration’s success”. This success was tripartite, an active, powerful military ready to engage at the drop of a hat, “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad”, and a US which accepts and revels in its self-appointed role as world leader. PNAC saw the role of the US to be vital to the peace and stability of Europe and beyond, stating this to be its “responsibility” in order to deflect “challenges to our fundamental interests”. Highlighted were the need “to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire”, alongside a call to “embrace the cause of American leadership”.
The action plan was fourfold: increased military spending, destabilisation of regimes acting contrary to the perceived interests and values of the US, promotion of political and economic freedoms, and to maintain the preservation and extension of an international community conducive to the security, prosperity and values of America. This was a “policy of military strength and moral clarity”, presumably Heinrich Himmler’s kind of moral clarity, the type which allows you to remain what he termed “a decent fellow” while 1000 corpses are spread out before you. The prescriptions of PNAC were pragmatic and ideological, unambiguously extending the sphere of American influence worldwide, exporting western style democracy to foreign states whether the people wanted it or not, and corralling the rest of the world through threat into behaviours which would benefit the American regime. The 21st century, it was envisioned, could be one of American world domination, economically, militarily and ethically, all achieved by way of blatant imposition. Justification, if any was needed, could be found by fixing the definition of “ethical” as “being in the interests of America”.
There were twenty-five signatories to the PNAC’s opening Statement of Principles, all of them fine, upstanding, pillars of the establishment, with ten of them taking positions in George W. Bush’s government. Dick Cheney, Vice President from 2001-9, and Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary from 2001-6 are the obvious players, but this number also included Rumsfeld’s deputy and future President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz, George W.’s little brother Jeb, who, among other things, ran against Trump to become Republican presidential nominee, and Robert Kagan, co-founder of the PNAC, the lunatic author of the legendary neoconservative apology Neocon Nation, American morality zealot, and husband of Victoria Nuland, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and currently CEO of the the not-at-all-sinister Centre for a New American Security (CNAS).
CNAS is essentially the successor to the PNAC, as the moniker suggests, with a remit to deliver “pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values”. How eerily familiar. It should really surprise no-one to hear that Hillary Clinton spoke at the knees up thrown to celebrate the launch of the group. Democrat or Republican, it makes no difference, whoever is resident at the White House has their policy shaped by the same inner circle of movers and shakers.
Perhaps the loudest voice involved with PNAC was your friend and mine Mr John Bolton, professional mustache sporter, former American Ambassador to the United Nations (in what was surely a Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary-esque display of contempt), neoconservative soundbyte producer extraordinaire, and current National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. A director of the group, Bolton has throughout his career engaged in bully boy tactics to push the idea that the rest of the world exists in order to pay tribute to the Good Ole’ US of A, and can like it or lump it, which is a pretty good approximation of the agenda which the PNAC pursued.
In 2001 he was a central figure in America’s refusal to allow the UN to carry out spot checks on suspected US biological weapons sites, while pushing hard the weapons of mass destruction lie with regard to the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, a lie which claimed the lives of at least a million Iraqis. That’s his bread and butter though, he seems to have decided a long time ago that his role should be that of a military-industrial complex cheerleader, maneuvering the US into conflict at the drop of a hat. Bolton still argues that the Iraq war and ousting of Saddam Hussein were the right things to do, he’s been advocating for the US to attack North Korea for years, has recently been politicking to get fresh with Iran, and, obviously, is a friend of Israel in more ways than one. A true believer that it is the curse of greatness that it must step over dead bodies and a real candidate for Humanitarian of the Year.
It is easy to see today that the, ever increasing, eastern expansion of NATO sees the principles of PNAC in full effect. It doesn’t matter what the old Soviet regime was told back in 1990, as there was no legally binding agreement in place they have no right to be upset. Besides as the expansion is in America’s interests, this establishes the moral high ground. Why can’t those Ruskies see this? Are they being willfully ignorant? For the entirety of the 21st Century, the US has been channeling the paranoid spirit of the Reagan regime, and by the principles outlined by PNAC it has to find, or manufacture, enemies. Now there is clear criteria by which to identify these, and pre-emptive strikes, whether military, economic or diplomatic, can be carried out, with, not just impunity, but unwavering moral justification.
It is now policy to “shape circumstances”, to engineer supposed crises, to create the perception of a problem and then provide the solution. By the implementation of this fuzzy logic, non-threats become threats, ambivalence to America is now opposition, and strength does not just allow you to set the agenda and the rules, strength is the agenda and the rules. America, under the guidance and motivated by the dictates of the Boltons of the world, sees its agenda, complete with obsession with the preservation of its dominance, as the world’s agenda, its rules as the rules for everyone. American foreign policy is now one of subjugation, where its refusal to bend will never be wrong. The foreign policy blueprint published by PNAC has become the driving force of US foreign policy and the extension of NATO is the manifestation of the promise to preserve an international community which poses no threat to US prosperity, security and values The small matter of NATO pointing a barrage of hardware and weaponry at Russia is beyond irrelevant. Now if only Putin’s and Co were geographically in Europe. Then they could join in with the NATO party. Worse luck.
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