According to US President Joe Biden, America’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is “sacred.”
To be fair, NATO has proved to be one of the most enduring multilateral military alliances in history. Yet the mission it was designed for, to defend Western Europe from a Soviet invasion during the Cold War, has been over for decades.
Like most bureaucracies, however, NATO did not go away when it had helped to achieve an astonishingly bloodless victory in the Cold War. Instead, like most bureaucracies, it mutated and expanded.
The Soviet threat was gone after the Cold War, yet the uncertainty of a new Russia remained. But what were the extent and nature of that threat?
Well, if NATO wanted to keep growing, Russia would likely oppose it. So the NATO bureaucracy had to remove all obstacles to its continued existence. The smaller, less capable Russian Federation that replaced the Soviet Union would become the new (old) enemy of Europe that would justify NATO’s expansion.
And NATO, being this sacred, quasi-religious military alliance, would even court a third world war over the admission of new states such as Ukraine into its alliance over the fierce objections of Moscow.
NATO: the self-licking ice cream cone
“Self-licking ice cream cone” is a term used in American politics to describe “a process, department, institution, or other thing that offers few benefits and exists primarily to justify or perpetuate its own existence.”
This is NATO today. Only Western elites benefit from its existence. The rest of us, clearly, are now the targets of a potential nuclear world war because of its existence.
Come to think of it, NATO’s mission after the Cold War became much like the definition of God that one finds in The Book of the Twenty-Four Philosophers: NATO’s center was everywhere, and its circumference was nowhere, but it exerted a mass that attracted all non-Russian nations of Europe and repelled Russia (even when Russian leaders asked about joining the fabled military alliance after the Cold War).
Maybe that’s what Biden meant by NATO being a sacred alliance.
I’m not an expert on the sacredness of military alliances, and I know even less how a modern American president who represents the most secular elements of American society can make the connection that NATO is “sacred.”
But preserving – or, rather, expanding – NATO has become its primary commandment, its divine purpose, since the Soviet Union’s collapse.
It is why we are all being made to pretend Ukraine was a member of NATO (and therefore eligible for the mutual-defense component of the NATO charter’s Article V) when the Russians invaded their country.
To be clear: Ukraine was not and never has been a member of NATO. While it has been wronged by Russia, it was not an American responsibility to risk wider war with Russia over Ukraine, especially after the initial Russian invasion had been successfully repulsed by Ukraine last year (and, at that point, real negotiations to end the war should have occurred).
What’s more, because Ukraine’s territorial integrity is in question today, it technically would not qualify for membership even if all NATO members were open to the prospect (which they are not).
Mearsheimer maddens Washington
University of Chicago Professor John J Mearsheimer is probably the most well-known American theorist in international relations today. And he has gotten himself into some hot water for openly challenging THE OFFICIAL NARRATIVE™ surrounding the Russo-Ukrainian war.
To Mearsheimer, the reason the conflict is happening at all is precisely NATO’s seemingly endless expansion posing Moscow with a serious security dilemma: Everywhere Moscow’s leadership looked they saw NATO’s flag being moved closer to their borders.
In the West, it is verboten to dare acknowledge the concerns of what the other side in a conflict might have. The old Sun Tzu axiom of knowing one’s enemy eludes the great American and European strategic thinkers who are holed up in their nuclear bunkers, crying nuclear havoc and letting slip the dogs of world war.
I’m sure somewhere in the training most American diplomats receive at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service they are taught that it is always preferable to vilify and besmirch a nuclear-armed rival, like Russia, that has reached its threshold for peaceful co-existence with us Americans, rather than attempt to prevent a potential nuclear war through negotiation (especially when that potential war is waged over an issue, like Ukraine, that is of no real strategic value to the United States).
Alas, Mearsheimer’s general conclusion is apt. Which is why the neoconservative cabal currently running US foreign policy has waged a full-throated attack against Mearsheimer’s character and intellect, which far outstrips the combined intelligence of the current Foggy Bottom-White House-Langley crew.
Yes, NATO expansion is (partly) to blame
Russia had been consistent in its claim that Ukraine should remain neutral. In fact, Vladimir Putin raged that NATO “promised us in the 1990s that [it] would not move an inch to the East. You cheated us shamelessly” on the eve of his illegal invasion of Ukraine.
It doesn’t matter that America’s leadership doesn’t view the situation the same way. What matters is how Putin and his siloviki perceive the matter, since they are clearly acting on those perceptions.
Since the presidency of George W Bush, however, the Americans have called for the incorporation of former Soviet states as far afield from the original core of NATO as Georgia in the South Caucasus and Ukraine. Every time NATO leaders burbled on about incorporating these states into the ever-growing alliance, Russian leaders rebuked them both publicly and privately.
Russian concerns were never once seriously considered by anyone in the West. Yes, Russia has violated international law and order with its invasion of Ukraine last year. It has committed horrific human rights abuses that cannot – and should not – be forgotten.
Putin is a bad guy on a good day, let alone on the dark and terrible days of the sort we have all been made to live through recently. But antagonizing this villain has served little good thus far.
For years, the Russians accepted Ukraine as an independent and neutral state. That started changing with the Orange Revolution in 2004. Once that occurred, Putin disbelieved that the West could be trusted; that the seemingly endless American war against tyranny and terror would stop with Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Putin, whether correct or not, began to see the nefarious hand of American intelligence services lurking behind every corner. NATO expansion into Ukraine was the vehicle, Putin believed, that Washington would use to depose him and bust Russia into a million pieces.
And now that Russia has fully mobilized and its elite has coalesced around Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule, the West is yet again calling for Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO.
Each time the Western powers do this, they only militate Russia more against Ukraine, thereby ensuring that Ukraine’s survival, to say nothing of world peace, is an impossibility.
A violent path to peace: NATO’s shame and blame plan
Since the war began last year, the West has given all kinds of stipulations for how peace could be achieved. They have ranged from the impossible all the way to the farcical. Various Western leaders have stated that the war would end only if the Russian people overthrew Putin or if the Russian Federation collapsed into smaller states.
Sure, like Putin is just going to go quietly into that good night!
But negotiation to at least buy Ukraine and the West time to rehabilitate its drained and strained resources? Heaven forbid!
Now there is talk coming out of NATO’s leadership that they’ll consider a peaceful end of the war only if Ukraine is incorporated into NATO. You go for that next lick of the ice cream cone … and hope it doesn’t give you a head freeze, NATO! Talk about not getting it. NATO expansion is the one thing that the West could call for that would ensure the war never ends.
To end the current war, then, the very idea of Ukraine either joining NATO directly or being given some kind of special protection by NATO to deter future Russian aggression will not work. It will only spur greater conflict.
What Western leaders should be saying is that they’ll entertain a peace agreement that sees Kiev being given the Western portion of Ukraine and Moscow walking away with Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Then both sides should agree to restore Ukraine’s neutrality and be done with the matter.
Of course, that won’t happen now, not with the group of arrogant and ignorant leaders running the Western alliance or with the desperate and crazy leaders in Moscow.
Biden, the postmodern Holy Roman Emperor
If President Biden believes NATO has some “sacred” mission, then total warfare – including with nuclear arms – is the only way forward for him. After all, Russia is an apostate in this new postmodern religion.
If reasonable statesmen were to sit down at a big, beautiful table and negotiate as great leaders are supposed to, the divine mission of post-Cold War NATO will have been sullied by Western leaders’ unbelief.
Biden, fancying himself as some New Age Holy Roman Emperor, cannot dare countenance how or why anyone would question the logic of endless NATO expansion any more than one would question the laws of gravity or the sky being blue.
For Biden and his high priests in the foreign policy establishment, NATO expansion is an immutable law of physics; supporting it is a sign of faith. This is why the world stands at the brink of oblivion. It’s a willful choice, not an accident or a misunderstanding.
As I wrote in a previous article, Moscow will not under any circumstance negotiate now that it has fully mobilized. It now appears that America’s leaders will not compromise, even as Ukraine’s losses mount and the world rallies to stop the war, because doing so would violate the holy writ that Biden and his team believe they are operating under.
There will be no more peace in our time. The god of Western neoliberals and neoconservatives commands it to be so.