Paul Rahe discusses the basic existential problems facing NATO and the European Union.
Politics are generational, and there is next to no one left who remembers World War II. The manner in which things spun out of control in the 1920s and 1930s is no longer even a memory. It is all ancient history now. The new generation hardly even remembers the Cold War and does not appreciate how dangerous it once was. The crises that gave rise to NATO have faded into the past. Barack Obama treated our longtime allies with a measure of contempt. Donald Trumpâ€™s off-the-cuff remarks suggest that he may think that he can do without them altogether.
The one thing that NATO could not survive is repudiation by its hegemon. We may live to regret our forgetfulness. …
There is [a] defect to the European Union that cannot be remedied. It is made up of democracies. That is a requirement for membership. But it is not itself democratically governed, and it is difficult to see how it could be. The European elite may be able to bridge linguistic and cultural differences. The peoples of Europe whom they govern cannot. The European Parliament will never be a properly representative body.
In consequence, the EU is governed by a commission appointed by the governments of its members and dominated by its most economically efficient member, Germany. In practice, there is no provision for a redress of grievances and little room for a correction of course. The ordinary citizens of the countries within the union have next to no say about the regulations under which they live and work. In effect, they are subjects within an oligarchy; and, thanks to the crisis to which the common currency gave rise and to the refugee crisis produced by the war in Iraq and Syria, there is now seething discontent. There is no way to vent that frustration by throwing the rascals out.
In the long run, such discontent is inevitable. The citizens in the various countries in Europe are unlikely to be satisfied with a situation in which they are not masters in their own homes. The more intrusive and pervasive the EU becomes, the more it will be resented. And sooner or later, when a crisis presents itself, there will be an explosion.
If the EU is to survive, the European elite will have to acknowledge that the ambition to turn the old customs union into a proper federation was folly, the currency union will have to be dismantled or reduced in extent, and the welter of regulations will have to be cut back. Charles de Gaulle envisioned a Europe des patries. It is only in such a Europe that the distinct peoples of Europe can be self-governing. Sometimes, less is more. …
Which attacks, you know, really, are what we used to call An Act of War.
Personally, I think the Belgian Army, all by itself, would be quite adequate to march through all the territories controlled by ISIS, shoot all armed opposition, and generally do to that portion of the Fertile Crescent what Sherman did for a 50 mile-wide stretch of territory between Atlanta and Savannah. But Belgium is, after all, part of NATO, and the NATO Treaty says that attack on one NATO member state is an attack on all of them. So all of NATO ought to declare war, today, and start assembling Operation Sherman, the military expedition intended to make large portions of Northern Syria and Western Iraq howl.
Syrian rebels blow up Russian rescue helicopter with TOW missile.
The ecstatic ululations of “Allahu Akbar!” make my blood boil, and here we find ourselves, allied with Turkey which just shot down a Russian fighter in defense of Islamist insurgents.
But, as Walter Russell Mead points out, if we don’t stand by Turkey, who ever is going to believe we will stand by the Baltic States or Poland and the rest of Central Europe or do anything meaningful to stop Russia swallowing Ukraine?
The rapid deterioration of global order took an ugly turn this morning and we all moved a little closer to the abyss: Two Turkish F-16s have shot down what appears to be a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Syrian border. Two Russian pilots parachuted out of the plane as it went down in flames. One pilot was captured by Turkmen fighters in Latakia province, with early reports indicating the second pilot did not survive the ordeal. Turkey is claiming the bomber was warned ten times about being in Turkish airspace before it was shot down. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called for a special consultation with Turkeyâ€™s NATO allies.
The facts of the case arenâ€™t clear as I write. The Kremlin is calling it a â€œvery serious incidentâ€ but said it was still studying the specifics. Russiaâ€™s initial spin appeared to be that the plane was brought down by fire from the ground, but that story is not likely to hold for long given that Turkey is insisting it did the shooting. The plane was â€œexclusively over Syrian territory throughout its entire flightâ€, Russiaâ€™s foreign ministry maintained. â€œThis is recorded by objective controls.â€ Turkey, however, has released a radar trace of the incident purporting to show that the plane had crossed into Turkish airspace over the province of Hatay.
Russia has been flying missions over Latakia province since it began combat operation in Syria at the very end of September, and has by some accounts upped their intensity since Russia fingered ISIS as the party responsible for the downing of its civilian airliner over the Sinai. ISIS is not known to be operating in Latakia, however, and just yesterday, Prime Minister Davutoglu had said that Turkey would â€œnot hesitateâ€ to act on Syrian soil to protect the Turkmen people. (The Syrian Turkmen minority is one of many groups scattered between China and Bulgaria who speak a Turkic language and share cultural and historical roots with the Turks of Turkey.)
Regardless of the facts of this case, the root cause of the problem is continued aggressive Russian activity in and around Turkish airspace. That aggression was bound to cause problems at some point. Whether Russia or Turkey is more to blame with respect to this particular situation, overall there is no doubt that Russia is the country that bears the political responsibility for the incident.
Itâ€™s now critical that Russia not be allowed to intimidate or pressure Turkey over the episode. That means NATO support. Turkey, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, is a full-fledged NATO member, and failing to stand behind it threatens to unravel the alliance. Putinâ€™s number one goal, we must remember, is to break NATOâ€”or at minimum to show that it is a paper tiger.
Ankara— Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known by the MÄ°T acronym, has drawn a lot of attention and criticism for his controversial comments about ISIS.
Mr. Hakan Fidan, Turkish President’s staunchest ally, condemned Russian military intervention in Syria, accusing Moscow of trying to ‘smother’ Syria’s Islamist revolution and serious breach of United Nations law.
A more cheerful perspective comes from an anonymous Facebook friend who is apparently some sort of US spook, and who is very hostile personally to Russian intervention in Syria:
Never forget that Turkey’s army is 3X larger than Russia’s, is better trained and equipped, has far better air support, and that they have access to 60 nuclear weapons held for them in a U.S. bunker at Incirlik.
And then there’s this: Turkey is a member of NATO, has been forever, and has as much right to invoke Article 5 as do Germany, France, UK or the US.
Putin was warned, explicitly, by dozens of us that the risks of a shoot down like yesterday’s were “very high” when he put his foot in the shitpile. He didn’t listen.
These days, the Russian aggression against Ukraine is causing NATO maneuvers all over Central Europe in an effort to send a message to Vladimir Putin. Upon arriving in the Czech Republic, US soldiers were welcomed with this sign.
Max Fisher identifies the key term in Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric.
Russian President Vladimir Putin just dropped the biggest, scariest dogwhistle of the Ukraine crisis: “Novorossiya.”
The word literally means “new Russia” â€” it was an old, imperial-era term for southern Ukraine, when it was part of the Russian Empire, and is now a term used by Russia ultra-nationalists who want to re-conquer the area.
Putin has used the word twice during the crisis. First, he used it in April, about a month after Russia had invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, subtly suggesting that the annexation was justified because Crimea was in Novorossiya and thus inherently part of Russia.
He used it again on Thursday, in an official presidential statement addressed to the eastern Ukrainian rebels that have seized parts of the country â€” and whom he addressed as “the militia of Novorossiya.”
Anne Applebaum, who has written a book on the totalitarian genocides committed in Europe’s Eastern Borderlands during the last century, tells us that she suddenly feels as if she is living in the Summer of 1939, and warns, on the basis of familiarity with the kinds of things which appear in the Russian press which the New York Times is never going to report, just how scary the thoughts are that Russia is thinking.
A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. â€œUkraine must be cleansed of idiots,â€ he wrote â€” and then called for the â€œgenocideâ€ of the â€œrace of bastards.â€
But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky â€” the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot â€” argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries â€” â€œdwarf states,â€ he called them â€” and show the West who really holds power in Europe: â€œNothing threatens America, itâ€™s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,â€ he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovskyâ€™s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always â€œgets the party going.â€
A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovskyâ€™s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes â€” perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city â€” to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that wonâ€™t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly â€œpracticedâ€ a nuclear attack on Warsaw.
Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe itâ€™s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But â€œMein Kampfâ€ also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalinâ€™s orders to â€œliquidateâ€ whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.
Charles Krauthammer rants over the disarray of the NATO coalition and the irresolution of its leadership.
As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.
And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Qaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add â€œunless he changes his approach.â€ Approach, mind you.
In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation â€” a dismaying expression of Obamaâ€™s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to . . . what? Save Third World people from massacre?
Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still canâ€™t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.
This confusion is purely the result of Obamaâ€™s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely â€œone of the partners among many,â€ he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead â€” no one has anything near our capabilities, experience, and resources â€” America is led by a man determined that it should not.
A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If youâ€™re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.
Unnamed sources indicate that reductions in defense spending being contemplated by Britain’s coalition government would be so drastic as to threaten the very existence of the United Kingdom as a strategic partner and fundamentally undermine the NATO alliance.
All leaks emerging out of the new British government’s defense review indicate a budgetary bloodbath is in the offing. Later reports indicate that the review was seeking cuts as deep as 15 percent in the UKâ€™s defense budget. Later reports suggested reductions in the range of 10 percent. In addition, it is reported that the review will conclude that the Ministry of Defense must pay the entire cost for modernizing the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent from its own funds. British defense spending is likely to fall below two percent of GDP, which is a threshold for strategic irrelevance.
Even at the smaller figure, such cuts would have a dramatic, even catastrophic, impact on the British military. Entire Army brigades would have to be disbanded, fighter squadrons eliminated and naval vessels scrapped. One or both of the UK’s planned new aircraft carriers could be cancelled, new intelligence programs terminated and the number of Joint Strike Fighters to be bought reduced.
Increasingly rare among U.S. allies, Britain retains the will and so far the means to oppose hegemony and aggression in critical parts of the world. This is the basis of the so-called special relationship. Without the means to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S., of what good is British will alone? Without both will and wallet, how long can the special relationship continue?
The UK’s review may prove the final straw breaking the back of the U.S. willingness to underwrite the defense of Europe. Other NATO countries are conducting their own reviews looking to reduce government expenditures in the wake of the recent global financial crisis. Further defense cuts by major NATO nations will render moot the Alliance’s new strategic concept.
So alarming is the current trend that both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates made mention of it at a recent NATO summit. Gates warned against the expectation that the U.S. would pick up the check if Europe reduced its defense spending. Clinton noted that NATO is premised on the idea of the common defense to which every member must contribute.
NATO could be sustained so long as a core group of countries were willing to invest sufficiently in their military capabilities. Britain was the symbol of Europe’ willingness to remain a relevant force in regional and global security. The review is likely to mean the end of the United Kingdom as a nation of military note. As goes Britain, so will go NATO.
The combination of Turkish state-run television’s recently debuted prime-time drama, Ayrilik “Farewell,” depicting Israeli Defence Force soldiers as bloodthirsty war criminals murdering women and children with the announcement of a long-term Turkish strategic alliance with Syria, and the Erdogan government causing the cancellation of NATO military exercises may all be signs of a major and permanent rupture in relations between Turkey and the Western Alliance.
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.
It isn’t that Ankara’s behavior changed fundamentally in recent days. There is nothing new in its massive hostility toward Israel and its effusive solicitousness toward the likes of Syria and Hamas. Since the Islamist AKP party first won control over the Turkish government in the 2002 elections, led by AKP chairman Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks have incrementally and inexorably moved the formerly pro-Western Muslim democracy into the radical Islamist camp populated by the likes of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Hamas. …
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.
It isn’t that Ankara’s behavior changed fundamentally in recent days. There is nothing new in its massive hostility toward Israel and its effusive solicitousness toward the likes of Syria and Hamas. Since the Islamist AKP party first won control over the Turkish government in the 2002 elections, led by AKP chairman Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks have incrementally and inexorably moved the formerly pro-Western Muslim democracy into the radical Islamist camp populated by the likes of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Hamas.
Spook86 would like to think all this simply represents a diplomatic feint aimed at covering up some impending activities involving Turkish airspace, but I suspect he is too optimistic.
A regular military exercise involving the U.S., Israel, Italy, Turkey (and other NATO elements) was suddenly cancelled last week, just days before it was scheduled to begin.
The U.S. suddenly scrapped plans for the Antolian Eagle drill after Ankara announced plans to pull-out of the exercise, citing participation by Israeli Air Force units. Turkish officials told their counterparts in Tel Aviv they could not abide IAF participation in the exercise, believing the Israeli jets would be the same ones that bombed Palestinian targets in Gaza earlier this year, during Operation Cast Lead.
According to the Jerusalem Post (and Israeli Radio), the final cancellation came after U.S. and other NATO members threatened to pull out if the IAF was not allowed to participate. …
There is a chance that the new “rift” between Tel Aviv and Ankara in genuine, and rooted in Turkey’s reaction to the Israeli campaign in Gaza. But there is also the very real possibility that the exercise cancellation is a hint of things to come–an operation that may require access to Turkish airspace, without the “formal” approval of the general staff, or the civilian government.
The Irish Times reports an Estonian mole working for the Russian Intelligence services probably represents the most damaging penetration of Western security since Aldrich Ames.
Echoes of the Cold War have returned to Nato headquarters in Brussels after an Estonian general was unmasked as a â€œsleeperâ€ spy who passed top secret alliance information to Moscow.
Herman Simm (61), a retired official in Estoniaâ€™s defence ministry, has been arrested along with his wife on suspicion that they were recruited by KGB officers before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
After Estoniaâ€™s independence in 1991, state prosecutors believe Mr Simm made contact with the KGBâ€™s successor foreign intelligence agency, the SVR.
The former police chief was the perfectly placed mole: between 1995 and 2006 he helped set up the high-security system for handling all sensitive Nato documents ahead of Estoniaâ€™s accession to the alliance in 2004.
That has alarmed Estoniaâ€™s Nato allies, who are talking about the greatest intelligence breach since the CIA counter-intelligence chief Aldrich Ames was exposed as a Soviet mole in 1994.
Mr Jaanus RahumÃ¤gi, chairman of the Estonian parliamentâ€™s security watchdog, admits that the spy has caused â€œhistoric damageâ€ to the alliance.
Anne Applebaum caught a totalitarian news double-header on television last night.
The rise of China to the status of a major economic power and relative prosperity creates opportunities its regime is only too likely to misuse. Meanwhile, Russia was delivering a lesson on how to misuse power.
For the best possible illustration of why Islamic terrorism may one day be considered the least of our problems, look no farther than the BBC’s split-screen coverage of yesterday’s Olympic opening ceremonies. On one side, fireworks sparkled, and thousands of exotically dressed Chinese dancers bent their bodies into the shape of doves, the cosmos and more. On the other side, gray Russian tanks were shown rolling into South Ossetia, a rebel province of Georgia. The effect was striking: Two of the world’s rising powers were strutting their stuff.
The difference, of course, is that one event has been rehearsed for years, while the other, if not a total surprise, was not actually scheduled to take place this week. That, too, is significant: The Chinese challenge to Western power has been a long time coming, and it is in a certain sense predictable. As a rule, the Chinese do not make sudden moves and do not try to provoke crises.
Russia, by contrast, is an unpredictable power, which makes responding to Moscow more difficult. In fact, Russian politics have become so utterly opaque that it is not easy to say why this particular “frozen” conflict has escalated right now. …
Previous tensions, both in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the other piece of Georgia that has declared sovereignty, have somehow been resolved without a war. Someone, clearly, wanted this one to go further.
Both sides have deeper motives for fighting. The Russians want to prevent Georgia from joining NATO, as Georgia, a Western-oriented democracy — George Bush has called the country a ” beacon of liberty” — has long wanted to do. In this, they will almost certainly succeed: No Western power has any interest in a military ally that is involved in a major military conflict with Russia.
The Georgian leadership, by contrast, had come to believe that the constant pressure of Russian aggression, coupled with the West’s failure to accept Georgia into NATO, compelled them to demonstrate “self-reliance.” President Mikheil Saakashvili has indeed been buying weapons in preparation for this moment. Those who know him say he believed a military conflict was inevitable but could be won if conducted cleverly. As of last night, with Russian soldiers fighting in South Ossetia — only a few dozen miles from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital — it seemed as though he might have miscalculated, badly. Russia has not sent 150 tanks across that border in order to lose.
Svante Cornell believes Russian behavior is all about Georgia’s potential NATO membership.