A Voice of Sanity Regarding Russia?
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Germany). He is also a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, or SPD for short. As Wikipedia notes, “The SPD is a member of the Party of European Socialists and of the Socialist International, and became a founding member of the Progressive Alliance on 22 May 2013. Established in 1863, the SPD is the oldest extant political party represented in the German Parliament and was one of the first Marxist-influenced parties in the world.” For a bit of perspective, Kaiser Wilhelm I appointed Bismarck President of Prussia, which he would hold until 1890. Needless to say, Steinmeier’s political pedigree is as excellent as it is long-lived. The SDP survived the disasters that were both World Wars and weathered the Cold War, emerging as one of the top two voter favorites in recent elections. It’s no surprise the SDP is a moderating influence in foreign affairs.
So, in mid-June of this year (2016) Steinmeier threw down the rhetorical gauntlet to pro-provocation acolytes in the Berlin and D.C. Think Tanks saying, “What we should not do now, is inflame the situation with loud saber-rattling and war cries.”
Indeed, Germany didn’t fare well in their last go-round with Russia and were it not for the Turkish closure of the Straits in WWI they more than likely would have lost to the Russians. General Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov had designed a way of fighting in the East that kept the Russians out of the trenches and mobile — indeed it was the great war crisis of 1916. Revolution beat out Brusilov’s ability to gather the necessary materiel for a counter-attack, as his military successor Georgi Zhukov did during Operation Uranus, which gutted the German Sixth Army and altered the momentum of the war forever.
One must assume that feeling of catastrophe, which befell Germany in 1945 informs the present occupant’s thinking on matters concerning, what the great English diplomatic historian A.J.P. Taylor called, “The Eastern Question.” Indeed, it is an almost identical arc of instability between Bessarabia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Caucasus and the Baltics that make up Taylor’s first few chapters on the ‘Eastern Question.’ Just attach modern names, like replacing Bessarabia for Moldova and Transdnistria, many of the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the Uniates in the far West of the Ukraine in their Carpathian Mountain fastness or their Orthodox Slav brethren in the far West, not forgetting the patchwork ethnicities of the Crimea, working south eastwards to the Kuban Steppe and then that great tangle of Unchanged Everything known as the Mountain of Tongues, Caucasus, and end the tour off with an outside, Western Security guarantee for three, tiny, indefensible Baltic States better left neutral, but instead aligned against Russia that faces the present German Foreign Minister, or any foreign minister for that matter. This is that rare thing contemporary Europe has forgotten: it’s a rough neighborhood, don’t carry too much cash.
Thus, Minister Steinmeier’s recent words come not from the vacuum of appeasement or the gamesmanship, but from the urgency of the present moment.
The past moment.
And (hopefully) a future moment.
A moment that watches the great Western Alliance, NATO, encircle Russia. (One wonders what effect Brexit might have?)
Right or wrong, and without a doubt avoiding fruitless arguments of just whom provoked whom first (assigning such blame reminds one of a kindergarten playground and touts of ‘my Daddy has a bigger X! Followed by “well, so what! My Daddy has the biggest Y!” Such is the game of children and lesser minds).
The point: Great Powers have not, do not, and will not ever, under any circumstances, find pleasing even a hint of encirclement, much less face the present 24 month-long marathon of “deployments and exercises” that are NATO showing off just how big a dick it has and what it can do with it. (The chart to the upper left is a list of deployments and exercises since 2014 that have been non-stop.) When Steinmeier made his remarks he was [s]peaking at the close of NATO’s Anaconda (I mean, who comes up with these names?) 16 military exercise in Poland. [There he] warned the alliance against saber-rattling, and urged its members to work together with Russia for the security of Europe.”
Steinmeier’s acerbic wit and indubitably correct remarks have gone largely unnoticed in the United States, who, by the way, pays by the most reliable estimate, 75% of the alliance’s bills, which if you can believe it, is up from 50% during the height of the Cold War. Eisenhower is rolling over in his grave.
Back in the hey-day of the Cold War the largest single percentage of NATO’s bill (see chart to the right) went to defending little strategic thingies like the Fulda Gap from a massive multi-division Soviet/Warsaw-Pact surprise attack.
This was a real, existential threat.
Although hindsight indicates it wasn’t nearly as bad in some ways and much more horrible in others.
But let me ask you a question, first: have you visited Russian in the last ten years?
Oh, you have?
So, you’ve seen airplanes, helicopters and other flying machines of war sit just off the tarmac (not Moscow or Petersburg, mind you) in a state of cannibalistic disrepair? You haven’t? Why don’t you check that out and compare it to home? And if you have, well, you know what I’m talking about when I say, Russia has no interest in being an aggressor of any sort. In fact, the airplane and helicopter analogy can be used with Russian tanks, too. Many Russian tanks sit, many hundreds of them still rotting, hundreds of miles away from and behind the border lines of not one but two buffer states: Poland and the Ukraine to the Southwest or Poland and Belarus to the Northwest.
Steinmeier heaps a little irony onto his sarcasm here, proving he’s got more to say on the topic and showing uncanny common sense in a politician. “Anyone who thinks that symbolic tank parades on the Eastern border of the alliance create more security is mistaken,” he said. Those parades aren’t being held by the Soviets, ermm, Russians, either. That be us.
Again folks, this time in instant replay so you can get the full force of our lunacy is what we are doing, not them, the boogey-man: “Anyone who thinks that symbolic tank parades on the Eastern border of the alliance create more security is mistaken.”
Didn’t they parade huge missiles and tanks to scare us enough to wet our pants? Wasn’t that the point? And as I recall, it didn’t work.
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If Germany serves as the bastion of common sense in NATO — which makes sense for two reasons, 1.) much if not most of the war will be fought on your soil and 2.) you vetoed Georgia and the Ukraine from NATO membership (or at least threatened to the point where the bad actors in the United States backed off) — complete, irresponsible, aggressive denial has found a perfect redoubt of arrogant hubris in United States Air Force General Philip Breedlove, former SACEUR — Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Gen. Breedlove, it was recently made public, was actively plotting against presidential policy in the Ukraine to avoid escalating violence and pacify but not appease Russia. Gen. Breedlove, however, figured himself a modern-day Patton and did as much as he could to get a real, live, hot war going between the NATO and Russia. In doing so he clearly betrayed the separation of civilian and military power in the United States and may even have committed a crime. General Breedlove should have been busted down several ranks, his pay and pension cut and made an example of a lá MacArthur. Breedlove was actively backstabbing President Obama fended off skullduggery, double-dealing and perfidy from this general pretty much preventing a war.
One news story details Gen. Breedlove’s double-dealing with Congress and the president, creating a narrative of conflict between the General and Obama where none need be when the focus should best have been on public policy regarding Russia and the Ukraine. “[D]uring briefings to Congress, [Breedlove] notably contradicted the Obama administration regarding the situation in Ukraine (sic), leading to news stories about the conflict between the general and Obama.”
This story might go on for a long while yet. I haven’t discussed Putin, or how Western leaders, mostly Anglo-American see in Putin a kind of reverse-mirror of themselves. Nor have I discussed Russian strategy and all that it requires. Pretty simple actually: keep the Ukraine as a free buffer state between NATO and Russia and that’ll wrap up a great deal of the Russo-NATO issues.
None of that matters until there are more Western leaders with the common sense and decency that Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Minister of Foreign Affairs, has. Getting rid of men and women like Breedlove, on the other hand, is only going to get more difficult. The mid-century meritocracy will peak soon. After the slap on the wrist Gen. Petraeus received, the epitome of the mid-century meritocracy if ever there was one, all for doing what Snowden did, why should the Breedlove’s and his ilk care? So it goes . . . the old game continues with players of lessor and lessor moral fibre in desperate need of an enema.