Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dying For Latvia?

Preparing For War: Nato forces in the former Soviet republic of Latvia as part of the 2014 "Silver Arrow" military exercises in the Baltic states. Such naked demonstrations of Nato's extended reach - right up to the borders of the Russian Federation - risk plunging the world into a full-scale nuclear war. Which poses the question: Is Western Civilisation really prepared to incinerate itself for ... Latvia?
 
A WEEK AGO, in London, the United Kingdom moved a step closer to war with the Russian Federation. Launching his book, 2017: War With Russia, General Sir Richard Shirreff (Retd) exhorted the Nato powers to dramatically increase their military presence along Russia’s borders – or risk its opportunistic invasion of the tiny Baltic state of Latvia. Shirreff’s dire predictions, informed by his time as Nato’s deputy-commander, are intended to be taken seriously.
 
We would be wise to do so: not for the reasons Shirreff is putting forward, but because the appearance of literature such as 2017: War With Russia has a very worrying precedent. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, the British people were assailed by a deluge of newspaper and magazine articles identifying Germany as Great Britain’s imminent assailant. The virulently anti-German publisher, Alfred Harmsworth, even went so far as to commission anti-German novels. The title of the most popular example, The Invasion of 1910, even bears an unhealthily close resemblance to Shirreff’s novel.
 
The motivation behind this sort of war propaganda – past and present – arises out of concerns in elite circles that military spending has fallen to levels inconsistent with the maintenance of national security. Published in 1906, The Invasion of 1910 was credited by the authors of the 2001 study, Dressing Up For War, with “inducing an atmosphere of paranoia, mass hysteria and Germanophobia that would climax in the Naval Scare of 1908–09”. This latter event, also whipped-up by the British press, precipitated a full-scale (and extremely profitable) arms race with the German Empire.
 
As Deputy-Commander of Nato, Shirreff aroused the ire of the British Secretary of Defence, Phillip Hammond, by publicly declaring the Cameron Government’s cutbacks in military spending to be a “dangerous gamble”. The retired General was not alone. His fear, that inadequate funding will lead to an anaemic Nato, is shared by many other military leaders across Europe.
 
Their greatest fear, however, is irrelevance. That Nato may no longer possess a legitimate purpose has haunted its commanders ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. US Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump’s, publicly voiced scepticism about Nato’s continued relevance will not have allayed their fear. (It is, surely, no accident that the US President who rides to Europe’s rescue in Shirreff’s novel is a woman!)
 
Of course, the disbanding of Nato would not be a nightmare for its generals only. It would also be a disaster for British, European and American arms manufacturers. In both cases, the prospect of a demilitarised central and eastern Europe could only have been extremely alarming. And yet, this was precisely the undertaking which the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, believed he had extracted from US President George H. W. Bush, in return for terminating the Warsaw Pact and allowing a reunified Germany to remain a Nato member.
 
That the Nato alliance has, since 1991, been extended all the way to the borders of the Russian Federation, even incorporating the EU puppet-states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania (tiny “countries” which spring into existence during periods of Russian weakness, only to be reabsorbed into the territory of their giant neighbour the moment that weakness passes) is, therefore, strategically highly significant. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a more chilling demonstration of the enduring power of what US President Dwight Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex” – and its European subsidiaries.
 
That Russia remains deeply aggrieved by what it regards (with some justification) as Nato’s anti-Russian expansionism is entirely unsurprising. Neither have its grievances with the West been in any way diminished by what it sees as the Nato powers’ donkey-deep involvement in the so-called “colour revolutions” which overthrew the Russia-friendly regimes of Georgia and Ukraine. In the latter case, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, felt sufficiently threatened by the prospect of an openly fascist EU and Nato member on his country’s doorstep, that he first annexed the strategically vital Crimean peninsula, and then extended his nation’s military protection to the Russian-speakers of Ukraine’s breakaway eastern provinces.
 
Clearly Shirreff and his fellow Nato generals felt unmanned by their Russian counterparts’ resolute military action. In provoking Russia’s robust response, however, they did achieve Nato’s over-riding political objective: the reinstatement of Russia as Europe’s (and the World’s?) bogeyman.
 
With the successful precedent of the build-up to the First World War before them, the Nato “war party” is now attempting to leverage public anxiety about Putin’s intentions into the stationing of beefed-up and battle-ready Nato forces on Russia’s borders, provisioned by an EU-wide increase in military spending.
 
After Shirreff’s book, therefore, the question which the peoples of the United States and Europe need to ask themselves is existentially clear: “Are we willing to see ourselves, and the rest of the world, undergo nuclear incineration – for the sake of Latvia?”
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 24 May 2016.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jesus Chris,
Ever occur to you that the countries of Eastern and Central Europe RAN into the arms of Nato and the EU by choice, because they saw it as choosing security and prosperity ?
Much preferable to being puppet states of the Soviet Union?

Who are you to say if Latvia has a right to exist?

And the Kaiser (and others, too) WERE spoiling for a war.

As for fascism, how would you describe Putin?

Your mate Russell Norman was on Q+A on the weekend, saying something similar.
How DARE Eastern and Central Europe choose their own fate? They are in Russia's sphere of influence!

Jigsaw said...

Hard to believe you know so little about the history of the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania that you can dismiss them as EU puppet states. I can recall at school after the war we had a refuge from Estonia in our class- the Russians occupied them from around 1941 until they finally got some autonomy and they are still dealing with a large Russian population that was imposed on them. Putin is proving to have many of the qualities that Stalin had but then maybe you approved of him as well.
Time for another column about the joys of socialism in Venezuela surely....

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting that you describe the Baltic states as EU puppets. As opposed to Russian puppets? It's a huge dose of Realpolitik you've got going there.

Chris Trotter said...

Such passion, Anonymous! Such certainty!

Never mind the facts.

Like the fact that Eastern Europe seems hell-bent on electing far-right governments which are clamouring for harsher and harsher measures against Russia.

Or, that Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania only popped into existence at the end of WWI as buffer states against the dreaded Bolsheviks.

Or, that the Latvians offered the dead bodies of their Jewish neighbours to the German invaders as a sort of welcoming gift.

Or, that the Baltic states were only reborn in the 1990s as staging posts for Nato - right on Russia's doorstep.

Or that a very large subset of the Latvian population are ethnic Russians.

None of these facts matter to you, I know.

Still, I'd like to hear your answer.

Are you truly ready for the world to blow itself up - for Latvia?

Anonymous said...

Do you reject the rights of Eastern and Central European countries to look West, if they choose?


Your criticisms of Latvia could equally be applied to Poland, do you support the Poles right to a nation?

Do you support Putin?

What would you have these former Soviet puppets do?




peter petterson said...

Islam is the potential enemy, not Russia.

Anonymous said...

An intriguing alternative is that Russia does not attack Latvia without provocation, thus avoiding blowing the world up by invading a neighbouring democracy for no reason.

Tiger Mountain said...

“to investigate a problem is to solve it”

the anonymice continue to be pests here, jeez at least consider adopting a consistent “handle” some of you, but such is the internet way I guess; the ex Soviet Republics are as weighted with baggage as the Balkans imo and it is difficult indeed to consider them sensibly out of the context of their recent history

Anonymous said...

Yes I cannot believe that Poland wants to join the war mongering Nato organisation. Are they forgetting the Russian Friendship they have experienced over the last century, the prosperity that Russian control brought for them. I am shocked that a country wants to make their own democratic decision about its own direction! How dare these elected Government pursue NATO membership!

Wayne Mapp said...

I saw the interview, but have yet to read the book.

I think a better analogy would be General Hackett's "The Untold Story, The Third World War", 1978. This book also urged NATO to step up its rearmament programme, which it in fact did. Many would argue that NATO's resolve on this helped bring about the end of the Cold War, and the subsequent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union.

In any event I never believed that World War Three was a real prospect back then, just as I don't think a Russian NATO war is a prospect now. Russia is never going to attack a NATO nation. But I do think if Europe actually fulfills the 2% of GDP on defence commitment (France and the UK already do so, and the US is around 3.5%) then that will help restrain Russia.

But I think General Shirreff's suggestion of aggressive patrolling in the Baltic is unnecessarily provocative. Some level of forward defence deployment in the Baltics, and in Poland makes sense. But there is no need to act like cowboys, which it seems from the interview that Shirreff gets close to.

Russia knows they cannot unwind NATO and its extension to Eastern Europe. But they are determined that it will go no further. Part of the reason for the Russian deployments in eastern Ukraine and the Caucus states is to send an unmistakable message to NATO not to push too hard. I think most NATO nations have well understood that message, including it would seem Donald Trump. Russia is not going to go beyond Eastern Ukraine and NATO is not going to do much to assist west Ukraine.

So yes things might look a bit uneasy, but it seems to me that both NATO and Russia basically understand the rules of the game.

Nick J said...

Russia on the historic record has ejected the Tuetonic knights, Polish Lithuanian invaders, Swedes, Turks, French, Germans. Note that in every case Russian territory was invaded. Twice Russia has been called upon to bring an end to tyrannies that Western Europe failed to control: Napoleon and Hitler. Anon might worry about Russian aggression.....yes the did seize the Baltic states and fight Finland as a buffer to Nazi aggression, in retrospect from a defensive viewpoint a wise if unpopular move.

It would seem Putin is aware of the historic record; what reason have Russians to trust the West? And Europe (and the USA) are fully aware of Russian offensive weakness.

My recommendation is that Anon and the foolish General be given (metaphorical) Admiral Byng treatment. He was shot on his own quarterdeck for cowardice, in this case a charge of wilfull stupidity will suffice.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

"Like the fact that Eastern Europe seems hell-bent on electing far-right governments "

My God, Chris! We can't have people electing governments. That will never do.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

About a quarter of Latvians are ethnic Russians. Most of them migrated their under Soviet rule. Both the Russians and the Chinese have in the past made it their business to try to swamp ethnic minorities with internal migrants. But even so, that leaves about three quarters who are Latvian. And you're suggesting they should become part of Russia?
They have been invaded and occupied since the Teutonic Knights. Finally they were invaded by Russia, after an agreement between Stalin and Hitler that put them in Russia's "sphere of interest." Personally I think this gives them some claim to independence finally. Independence movements existed in the early 20th century, not necessarily among the middle classes, but were suppressed – by the Germans mostly.The states didn't pop up as such, but the bourgeoisie demanded independence because they were afraid of Soviet Russia. History proved them to be correct in that. They were only able to gain independence because the Poles defeated the Russians who became occupied by this Civil War.


Anti-Semitism was and still is rife all over Eastern Europe especially. Poland used to have dozens of knotty religious radio stations spewing out all sorts of anti-Semitic nonsense almost 24 hours a day. Don't know if they still do, but I doubt things have changed. But even so, I don't think that rabbit anti-Semitism means that they should be occupied by Russia, which is equally anti-Semitic to be honest, because I doubt things have changed very much there either.
Their governments may have been right wing, but they did break up the landed estates and distribute land, gaining popular support.
The situation is similar to the Middle East, with ill-defined borders, minorities blah blah blah, but none of this negates their right to a national state. Something we have granted to Jews, Scots, Welsh (not Irish so much) Czechs and Slovaks at the least. So what is it about the Baltic States that makes them somehow an exception? Your dismissal of their rights is just a tad high-handed Chris.

Keith Johnson said...


I am not going to enter an argument with you but will just repeat what is available on the Web in response to your assertions. You should at least weigh this evidence against your rhetoric:

Q: Like the fact that Eastern Europe seems hell-bent on electing far-right governments which are clamouring for harsher and harsher measures against Russia.
A: New Zealand has a right-wing government as does the UK. The Latvian President is a member of the Green Party. The dominant component of the current ruling coalition is the centrist, Euro-sceptic Liepāja Party. It has a coalition agreement with the Union of Greens and Farmers.

Q: Or, that Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania only popped into existence at the end of WWI as buffer states against the dreaded Bolsheviks.
A: Latvia became independent in 1918, compared to Ireland in 1921 – 1949 and New Zealand in 1907 – 1947. Latvia joined the European Union in 2004.

Q: Or, that the Latvians offered the dead bodies of their Jewish neighbours to the German invaders as a sort of welcoming gift.
A: It is estimated that of the 1,900,000 Jews who came under Soviet control as a result of Hitler's and Stalin's pact dividing Eastern Europe, about 400,000—more than one out of five—were deported to Siberia and central Asia. The deportations of Jewish civic leaders and rabbis, members of parliament, and the professional and merchant class only a week before Nazi Germany invaded the Baltics left the Jewish community ill-prepared to organize in the face of the invasion and immediately ensuing Holocaust.
It is estimated that some 75,000 Latvian Jews fell into Nazi hands] Survivor accounts sometimes describe how, even before the Nazi administration began persecuting the Latvian Jews, they had suffered from anti-semitic excesses at the hands of the Latvian activists, although there is some disagreement amongst Jewish historians as to the extent of this phenomenon. Latvian-American Holocaust historian Andrew (Andrievs) Ezergailis argues that there was no "interregnum" period at all in most parts of Latvia, when Latvian activists could have engaged in the persecution of Jews on their own initiative.

Q: Or, that the Baltic states were only reborn in the 1990s as staging posts for NATO - right on Russia's doorstep.
A: The Soviet Union was dissolved on December 26, 1991 as a result of the declaration no. 142-Н of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics.

Q: Or that a very large subset of the Latvian population are ethnic Russians.
A: The number of Russians in Latvia increased significantly during the Soviet occupation of Latvia when the size of the community grew from 10.5% of the total population in 1935 (206,499) to 34.0% in 1989 (905,515). It started to decrease in size again after Latvia re-gained independence in 1991 falling to 26.0% (520,126) in 2014, but recently it has been slowly rising.

Simon Cohen said...

Such passion Chris.Such certainty.Such belief that your interpretation of history is correct !!
As a Jew of Latvian descent I certainly have no truck with the genocide that took place in Latvia [with the active connivance of many Latvians] but are you advocating that Poland,Austria,Germany Romania and Bulgaria also could be invaded by Russia because of their anti semitic past.Not forgetting that Russia has always been the most anti semitic country in Europe and responsible historically for more pogroms than any other European nation.Unfortunately as is usual you confuse what you believe with facts.
Is it relevant that Latvia only gained its independence in 1918 after centuries of oppression from Russia[not the Soviet Union]'So did many other countries after WW1. Do you deny the right of the Czech Republic,Slovakia,Hungary and Poland rights to exist as they also only became independent at the same time.
And as for your argument that a very large subset of the Latvian population are ethnic Russians.That may well be so but many of these peoples ancestors emigrated to Latvia [and the other Baltic States] after the Russian invasion of 1939.In addition it is estimated that over 150,000 Latvians were deported to other parts of the Soviet Union [mainly to Siberia] after thhe Russian invasion. And of course some of the left wing have never quite got over the fact that the Soviets were every bit as bad if not worse than many people in the West portrayed them.Stalin ranks with Hitler as the greatest criminal of the 20th century and what happened to the people of the Baltic Republics after his invasion in 1939 was every bit as bad as what happened to those countries invaded by Nazi Germany.Or do you still deny the Katyn Massacre when 22,000 Poles were murdered on Stalin's orders in 1940.Interestingly your comments remind me of the comments by the Labour Party in the UK in 1938 when they were opposed to any action to save Czechoslovakia from Hitler.Ah but now I see the synergy.Czechoslovakia only popped into existence in 1919.And the socialists [and the right-wingers] in Britain were all saying "Are you truly ready for the world to blow itself up - for Czechoslovakia"

Grant said...

"Such passion, Anonymous! Such certainty!"

Speaking of which...

"Or, that the Latvians offered the dead bodies of their Jewish neighbours to the German invaders as a sort of welcoming gift."

Yes I'm SURE all the Latvians went out and killed All their Jewish neighbours for the Germans and therefore (in your world) deserve to lose their right to nationhood and be subsumed into the Russian federation.


"Or that a very large subset of the Latvian population are ethnic Russians."

This is what happens when your Stalinist colonizers transfer approximately 400,000 Russians into Latvia in order to permanently change the demographic balance of the area.This after Latvia had lost the best part of 250,000 people out of a pre ww2 population of less than 2 million.

I suppose this was one of the methods by which the 'Russians' famously saved western civilization?

Poor bloody Lithuanians have been buggered from all sides since the 12thC when the Teutonic Knights went in and and put them to the sword to force a conversion from paganism to Christianity.

Also, this makes interesting reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_occupation_of_Latvia_in_1940

In particular:"In the reassessment period of the Soviet history that began during the Perestroika, the USSR in 1989 condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and herself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries, including Latvia."

Anonymous said...

The Russians have fervent belief that they are being encircled by Nato and who could blame them . The placement of USA missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic is a direct and public overt threat to Russia. To say that these are to deter attack from Iran is American/ Nato lies and propaganda.
Before the removal of the elected President of the Ukraine there were about 35 American aid agency's active in the Ukraine and it became apparent after the successful coup against the elected President that many of these aid agency's were CIA sponsored and manned.
It is the West (led by the USA and lap-dog followed by British interests) which is causing the problems and tensions in the Baltic states.

NO I would not support western led conflict in Latvia, some organisations in Latvia are trying to deny and dislodge Russian/ Latvian history in the 2nd World War including destroying Russian monuments to Russian war dead, what's the price they are CIA sponsored and manned.
The answer to some of the problems is for constant meaningful dialogue between the Baltic States who surround Russia and Russia.
Keep the Americans and British out of it ,they are intent on War.

Nick R said...

I seem to detect a subtle mourning for the passing of the glorious Soviet Union in this post. How dare those horrible jumped up Latvians try to exercise self-determination? They don't know what's good for them. Back to mother Russia with you!

Psycho Milt said...

Never mind the facts.

Well, never mind irrelevant facts like the ones you list, for sure. None of them have any bearing on whether you have a right to decide whether Latvians have a right to their own country or not. Hint: you don't, they do.

Poland in 1939 was also a country created after WW1 as a buffer against the dreaded Bolsheviks (and the dreaded Hun). And there were plenty in the West asking the cynical question "Are you truly ready for the world to blow itself up - for Poland?" The correct answer back then was "Yes," and it's still the correct answer to your own version of that question.

Jigsaw said...

Interesting to see you criticise someone else for passion and certainty!
I am not prepared to blow up Europe for the sake of anything but you seem determined to blow up the truth just to make a point. Here's just one. The large subset of ethnic Russians were quite deliberately encouraged there by Moscow from the 1940's onward. Many country's of Europe had very dubious histories in WW2 - the Russian treatment of the Poles hardly stands up to much examination but then neither does the history of France, Holland and countless other countries. These Baltic countries want to be part of NATO and when you read about their treatment by the Russians for 50 or so years it's not hard to see why.

Olwyn said...

"...the prospect of a demilitarised central and eastern Europe...was precisely the undertaking which the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, believed he had extracted from US President George H. W. Bush, in return for terminating the Warsaw Pact and allowing a reunified Germany to remain a Nato member."

I have sometimes reflected on the analogy between this military betrayal and the economic betrayal of the Social Democratic/Democratic Socialist parties within the western hemisphere. In both cases people were led to believe that they were rebuilding on a different basis, but that an equilibrium would be maintained. In both cases, once the neo-cons/neo-libs gained the conditions they were after, the equilibrium idea was abandoned. That is where the tension lies now in most Western Labour Parties - whether to hold to the agreement despite betrayal or fight back. And the neo-con/neo-lib lot seem to have nothing left to offer but destruction for the sake of an abstract, financialised scheme they flatter with the name business.

Nick J said...

Wayne, I agree with the general thrust of what you say with regard to the situation as it stands in real politik terms but I am curious to know why you think some level of forward defence deployments in the Baltics, and Poland makes sense"?

Are you infering Russian emnity or ambitions? What evidence have you to justify defense against Russian aggression? Is there such a thing at present? Conversely is there Western aggression?

Nick J said...

Dont dispute what you say Keith. One thing to add is that when the Soviet Union was dissolved it enabled self determination along mainly ethnic / national lines. Woodrow Wilson would have approved in principle. Russian which had dominated the Soviet Union was freed of other nations as much as the Balts, Uzbeks, Kazhaks etc. I dont see any reason Russia would wish these nations to rejoin. Do you?

Patricia said...

Don't you think that by allowing military bases in your country you are implicitly encouraging actual military action. Armies aren't there for just a photo shoot. Their aim is to destroy. In my view it is just PR semantics to say any Country's army outside its own boundaries is there to maintain the peace. Utter bullshit. And no I do not support a world war over Latvia. Or over anything. Keep talking and talking boys. That is the only answer.

Andrew Nichols said...

Lots of pseudonyms from anonymous propaganda swallowers here. Have the guts to use your own name if you really believe your stuff - Pseudonyms are the stuff of cowards CT is bang on the money. With the media in full cry doing what they always do spout the BS of the Establishment, we are right back 100 years ago with consent being raipidly manufactured for war - with a nuclear armed Russia FFS! If Clinton wins we are really in the shit.

Bushbaptist said...

Let's look at this from another angle.

How would the Yanks feel if a very aggressive and heavily armed bunch amassed along it's northern border (or their southern one). Would they say "Oh dear, never mind!" Or would they be somewhat annoyed and angry about it?

Russia has every right to be angry too. The deal that was done when the old Union collapsed was that NATO and the Yanks would stay one country away from the Russian border (buffer states) and the Yanks agreed to that deal only to break it as the bloody Yanks do everywhere.

NATO should be disbanded, it has served it's purpose. From it's inception it was a purely defensive organisation to protect Western Europe from attack. It has now morphed into another aggressive arm of the Yank army and needs to be curbed.

manfred said...

Despite all its faults, the USA is still a somewhat free democracy with legitimate claims to one day provide some dignity for its people. The massive success of Bernie Sanders has proven that. Deep state, imperialism, rugged individualism for the poor, socialism for the rich - all that is real. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Russia is an authoritarian oligarchy with a personality cult to prop it up. The poor get fucked over way more than they do in the US. I still think the West has to work with Russia but they can't be soft.

Russia had a couple of chances - once with social democrat Gorbachev and once when the social democrats were elected to the Duma in 1918.

greywarbler said...

Why do Baltic countries want to be part of NATO? Are they afraid? Are they afraid of Russia more than of the USA? And, if so, are they making a considered decision which is well informed and far seeing? And is it possible that they can remain independent and have freedom of action without interference from neighbours and super powers?

Anonymous said...

"These Baltic countries want to be part of NATO and when you read about their treatment by the Russians for 50 or so years it's not hard to see why."

Is Russia threatening Latvia at the present time? I doubt it, and that's what matters rather than what happened in the "last 50 or so years". Russia, at present, certainly has reason to be concerned about the further extension of NATO.

Wayne Mapp said...

Nick J

A prudent amount of forward deployment acts as a reassurance to the Baltic states (and to Russia) that the NATO commitment to protect each of its members is real.

But it should not be so large or act in a provocative way that will needlessly increase tension.

It would be a good idea if both NATO and Russia agreed on some protocols around this. Russia would not stage large scale offensive maneuvers in the border area. NATO would have only moderate deployments in the Baltics.

Bushbaptist said...

@ manfred;

Russia is huge, multi ethnic and spans 2/3 of the northern hemisphere.It's the size of Nth America with a bit to spare. 10 time zones. It takes a strongman to hold that together be he a Tsar or a Dictator. It could never be a "Free democracy" as we know one to be.

Democracy has just two components: one person -- one vote and the one who gets the most votes wins. It has nothing to do with "freedom" or social responsibility, so one can have a democratically elected Dictator. As long as there are more than one person standing for election, it's a democracy. Vlad was democratically elected like him or not.

In the early 90's Russia was approached to join in with Europe but the Yanks would not have it, they needed an "Enemy" to justify their huge expenditure on their military. They didn't have OBL to hate then!

Nick J said...

Why Wayne the prudence? Is Russia still the "enemy"? Do you see them as the "enemy"? Are we caught in some cold war framework? Thats what I am curious about when reading your post.

mikesh said...

"In the early 90's Russia was approached to join in with Europe but the Yanks would not have it, they needed an "Enemy" to justify their huge expenditure on their military. They didn't have OBL to hate then!"

They were also afraid that a united Russia and Europe would become the dominant player in the world economy. The US would lose its hegemony.

Wayne Mapp said...

Nick J

Russia, in recent times has conducted large scale exercises on borders of the Baltics in recent years.

Is Russia still the "enemy"? Perhaps not in the Cold War sense, but they certainly do not act as a friend in the same manner as say relations between Norway and France. Russia has done enough in recent years which would indicate that the Baltics need a prudent level of spending and reliable relationships.

Of course, as a consequence of history, the Baltic states are more than keen to identify with the West. For them that is the guarantee of their statehood. Twentieth century has taught them that their neighbors are just as likely to be predators as guarantors.

The world might seem safe enough for us but the Baltics have had to suffer a different history.

Finally in respect of Chris's original proposition. Why would anyone risk war over the Baltics? Well, in a sense they wouldn't, in that the whole point of NATO is stop aggression against its members.

NATO would be of no value if its members could not each rely on the mutual security guarantee that it offers. And that means having capable military forces stationed throughout each of its members. NATO works because potential adversaries believe that security guarantees for each of its are meaningful.


greywarbler said...

I'm surprised to read manfred at 8.37. Not because of the expletive but because it assumes so much, it is so partial to the USA.

What do you know of the way that the USA poor feel in comparison to those of Russia? Is there a poor-o-meter that they breathe into that can give comparative readings.

And as for personality methods to sway a populace. Russia uses one, the USA another. Personality cults seems to rule most elections in most countries, and ours, and the USA are unhappy examples.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Wayne. Give us one reason we should accept your foreign policy theories after you claimed Afghanistan and Iraq were stable. :) How's that working out for you lately? I may be a little out of date, but I think experts have decided that the Russian army is rubbish. In spite of the fact that they have poured money into it in recent years, it cannot fight a long war, and it cannot fight a war any distance away from its in country logistical system. Indeed, I read one comment where someone claimed the Poles could see them off without Western help. That might be an exaggeration, but even so, I doubt they would make a move in the foreseeable future. I'm not necessarily against stationing Western troops in the Baltics or Poland however – better to be safe than sorry.

Nick J said...

Thank you Wayne, I'm quite fascinated by the response I see from people on the Right, which is why I prefer to question than rather critique. You are probably aware that I don't necessarily agree with your position, and you are after all an ex National minister. The questions I raised were there to tease out something I think you might have "insider" awareness of why the "West" seems to be reaching a new confrontation with Russia.

Most older NZers see "Russia" (aka the USSR) as the "enemy" because of the communist threat, but that is in the past. As a follower of geo-history I check the track record, as I stated Russia has historically been more often recipient of Western aggression than vice versa. What I am watching today is the advance of NATO (an organisation that should become redundant when the Wall fell) pushing up to the Russian borders. The last time a Western power did this the Russians seized the Baltic states. Do you really think that Baltic independence is encouraged by NATO presence? Might not Russia see this as provocation?

Can you detail to us why NATO seems to think Russia is a threat to the West?

Wayne Mapp said...

Nick J,

To give you a bit more of my thinking on these issues. One of the values of Chris's blog is that his articles can stimulate a worthwhile discussion, without it degenerating into insults and put downs (at least most of the time).

In Europe NATO has much wider support than just from the Right. It is broadly accepted across the political spectrum as one of the bedrocks of European stability (the other being the EU). I appreciate there will be some, essentially from the far left of European politics, who don't see things this way. But the mainstream left parties in Europe accept and support NATO.

When you look at European history of the last hundred years or so, you can see why no-one wants to abandon NATO. Experience tells Europeans that NATO has worked for the last 60 years in helping to keep the peace. This is probably the longest period of peace that Europeans have experienced for many hundreds of years. So to abandon NATO and hope that things will work out fine would be seen to take an enormous risk.

The east Europeans, including the Baltics, especially see it this way. Having escaped the grip of the Iron Curtain, they will do nothing that even hints of emboldening Russia. So for them NATO is by far and away the best guarantor of that.

Support for NATO by the east European states is not primarily about seeing Russia as the enemy, though they certainly see it as potential threat. Rather NATO is seen as the ultimate guarantor of their sovereignty, which has been imperiled many times over the twentieth century.

On my several Ministerial trips to eastern Europe over NATO/ISAF, the east Europeans were enthusiastic contributors to the Afghanistan mission, not because they thought Afghanistan was a vital interest, but rather to demonstrate that they were deeply committed to NATO.

It is almost impossible for us in New Zealand to really appreciate just how deep that commitment to NATO runs in the east Europeans.

From my many conversations with both Left and Right politicians from east Europe, they consider they were extremely lucky to get their sovereignty back in 1990. They had thought they were facing many more decades of being trapped behind the Iron Curtain. So when the Warsaw Pact fortuitously fell apart in 1990, they were desperate to avoid that fate again. Joining NATO was seen as by far their best guarantee that it would not happen again.

For them the US nuclear umbrella is seen as a pretty much certain guarantee that they are safe. So there is no great enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament in East Europe. Security conditions would have to be a lot better than at present. There would need to be a mutual and large reduction in defence expenditure before they could have any trust in that.

I would note that they see New Zealand's nuclear free status as a luxury we can afford, but which they cannot. Essentially they consider, with some justification, that New Zealand is the safest country in the world.

That gives us choices that others do not have, which perhaps we do not really exploit to the extent we should. I wrote about this on Pundit, and intend to expand on that theme in an article in the New Zealand International Review in the Sept/Oct edition.



greywarbler said...

I think Eddie Izzard's contribution is quite as relevant to most of the mish-mash that is called intelligent analysis of war, which must be an oxymoron.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6omQ5JjjLsE

Nick J said...

Thanks Wayne. I can imagine the memory of the Soviet is very strong, it is after all very recent. Myself Im not so sure who is the threat; Russia or NATO. Russia as a resource rich nation, especially with gas and oil seems to me to be better to remain on the defensive and trade. I have a suspicion that what I regard as Western encroachment towards Russia, plus sanctions is driven more by US led opposition to SCO and BRICs. I will be interested to see what a prossibe Trump foreign policy does here.

Tar and Feather The Bastards said...



For the last few years the word "Russia" doesn't seem to have appeared in print, been mentioned on TV News or "Current Affairs" nor been talked about by Western politicians without the word "Aggression" accompanying it. Often a belittling or chastising of Putin accompanies it. This is part of a deliberate strategy by the US, NATO, even Australia - (remember the treatment of Putin when there were Russian warships off Australia during the G20 a few years back ??) to manipulate public opinion into seeing Russia as the cause of any future conflict. No doubt some false Flag excuse will be provided so we will all believe. Make NO MISTAKE - we ARE being primed for war with Russia and I think it's closer than most would believe possible.

Putin warned this week that Russia will not tolerate the anti missile batteries in Poland and Romania and WILL "remove" them if NATO won't

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/05/putin-warns-romania-poland-installing-abm-missiles.html

Nick J said...

Keep them coming Grey....Eddie is onto it.

Robert M said...

.Any real UK anti submarine capability was destroyed when the Nimrod construction programme wss abandoned in 2012 with 9 airframes and all parts and plans for the aircraft being incinerated or melted down. This is the general British approach to disarmament after abandonment of a military type or programme, all the parts, tool and plans to replicate it are destroyed- classically in the case of the Mach 2 P!!54 Jump jets designed by the designer Mr Cam. In 1964 Britain actually had a production line to build the equivalent of the JSF for the RAF and RN- every trace was of course destroyed after the decision by the Wilson Cabinet. Indeed this year when the Mersey museum ran out of money to maintain the Falklands relic HMS Plymouth essential the same as our Leander frigates the Ministry of Defence UK issued the order the Spanish scrap beach-'when the Plymouth arrives- "No trace that this ship ever existed must be extinguished by dawn ( when I suggested to a Navy Captain in 1983 that the Plymouth was like HMNZS Otago he said no. The Plymouth had been cut in half and reconstructed by the RN and was really essentially a Leander. It all rather ironic given that in the last decade Putin has rebuilt the Russian intelligence services to cold war levels and their submarines are now concentrated in the Atlantic and Black Sea once again running for real to harass the US CVNs and coastal defences. THe Russian Navy has also developed new nuclear and diesel submarines and its new missiles in the recent Syria campaign suggest it is likely to be true that its development of anti aircraftt, anti missile and torpedo capabilities will have far exceeded USN progress the new US Navy Virginia class SSN subs being little beyond the technology of the 1980s and poorly crewed. Russia and China put their best on their submarines - where the US and Australia need about 4 people on screens to do the job of onc competent sailors.
In terms of Latvia it should be noted that Putin is demanding the Baltic states offer the Russian armed forces transit rights to the Russian enclave of Kalingrad as always a heavily armed fortress. The supposed end of Communism saw many of the imposed Russian ruling class sent home to Russia and many of course like Maria Sharanova (tennis) essentially moved to the US or even here in NZ. Increasingly putin and the Chinese are using agressive tactics which have shades of the Polish corridor in 1939 and the 1930s general. Given the long range of the Russian airforce Blackjacks and Backfires and the tremendous range of their covering Mig 31/Su34 aircraft able to shoot out Tomahawks at 2000km, I would have thought it logical for Russia to seize NZ within a week of the WW3 suggested by this retired British General Shireff. It would be a simple operation. A few Russian/ Chinese 10,000 ton Destroyers/ Cruisers operating out of Chinese enclave bases in the Sth China sea mill around the Guadcanal and the Solomons and suddently charge toward Auckland at 30 knots with the aim of landing a 1000 amrines on Tamaki Drive to seize Whenuapi and Mangere long stripped airfields for the Backfires and Blackjacks. Another 1000 troops will have been inflitrated into Auckland as Tourists and a few hundred marines will land in Wellington harbour on Rosneath bank under the Iranian embassy off a submarine and trawlers. Piece of cake really. Key would probably surrender rather than send the Maori battalion into action on that Rosneath cliff. My latest efforts to edit wikipedia RNZN /RN articles stalled by a Russian Balt supporter 'Material Scientist' who is presumably a key supporter of the H>CLark/Clinton effort to secure Global Power for the Soviet supporting ' old movement people'- the deluded believers in East German housing blocs and Cuban medicine who dominate kiwi socilogy and social medicine.