Reality seeps into Ukraine propaganda fog and more on NATO Summit folly
Is reality finally starting to penetrate the western propaganda fog?
The following quote in the Washington Post suggests that reality may finally be starting to penetrate the Western media propaganda fog that has hidden — and continues to hide — from Western publics the consequences of a futile strategy to “entirely vanquish” the Russian tyrant and his armies:
The leadership in Kyiv and its Western backers must now face the sobering realities that diplomacy and a negotiated settlement may be the only way to prevent even more Ukrainian territory from falling to Russia.
The article cited is Russia’s Brutal War in the Donbas proves Ukraine can’t win (19fortyfive.com, 6 July 2022) and, unlike the WP article introduced above, is not paywalled. Its author is Daniel Davis, a retired U.S. Army colonel and frequent commentator on right-wing Fox News.
We strongly suggest reading it in its entirety, to get a sense of the magnitude of the big lie most of the Western media is peddling on the actual military situation on the ground in Ukraine. (Note that Media Bias Fact Check rates 19fortyfive.com as a factually accurate media source with a “right-center bias”.)
The Rideau Institute comments:
It will become increasingly obvious that the failure of Canada, the USA and other NATO members to follow the wiser lead of France and Germany in support of a negotiated settlement — back when the terms would have been infinitely more favourable to Ukraine — will have devastating consequences for Ukraine.
The architect of this policy, insofar as Canada is concerned, is Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and this extraordinary tunnel vision, in our view, should be the death knell of her none-too-hidden ambition to one day ditch the “deputy” in her title.
In the meantime, it is not too late for Canada to change course.
We reiterate our call for Canada to support France and Germany and others within NATO who wish the Alliance to start playing a constructive role in support of Ukraine reaching a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine conflict, on as fair and just terms as can now be managed.
For more on the scope of the Western attack on all things Russian, including Russian culture, see Don’t cancel Russian culture (Nina L Khrushcheva, socialeurope.eu, 1 July 2022).
MORE NATO SUMMIT ANALYSIS
We build on last week’s analysis of the epically misguided 2022 NATO Madrid Summit with incisive commentary from two seasoned analysts, Dr. Ian Davis, head of NATO WATCH, and Michel T. Klare, a Five Colleges professor emeritus of Peace and World Security Studies and The Nation’s defence correspondent.
As has now become the custom (one assumes because of the penchant of many to only read the headlines), the title of the NATO WATCH briefing by Dr. Ian Davis pithily delivers its key messages: Summit prepares ground for ‘NATOisation of Europe’ and continues collision course with China and high levels of military spending (natowatch.org, 8 July 2022).
The Rideau Institute comments:
Does anyone think any of these outcomes will help the world respond to the immense and looming threats of climate change and inequality now facing us (let alone the ever-present and growing threat of nuclear annihilation)?
The good news is that the promised massive increase in the NATO Response Force (NRF) — from a force of 40,000 to one of 300,000 that can supposedly deploy within 30 days — remains “aspirational” at best.
Reminding us that the NRF, originally created at the Prague Summit in 2002, has never achieved “detailed troop contributions”, Davis concludes:
Thus, 20 years on from its creation, the NRF’s reliability and credibility as a rapidly first-in response force is still unproven.
He quickly goes on to warn of the danger should a “revamped NRF” actually get up and running:
A rapid response force of 300,000 troops would have the potential to be a significant expeditionary force for spearheading offensive operations in out of area conflicts. This force is likely to be destabilising, not only in the context of relations with Russia, but also potentially with China.
In contrast, Davis has a much more positive view of the package of measures to shore up NATO’s Eastern flank, including the creation of a new permanent army headquarters in Poland:
The changes to the Forward Presence posture appear to be a proportionate and measured confidence-building approach that meets the security concerns of member states on the eastern flank without further escalating the conflict with Russia.
On the other hand, veteran peace and security analyst Professor Michael T. Klare writes:
These major commitments will move the center of gravity of US force deployments in Europe—now numbering over 100,000 military personnel—much closer to Russia’s land border and to the air and sea space adjoining Russia in the Baltic and Black Seas.
This, in turn, will increase the risk of a clash with Russian forces that might escalate into a major conventional war and, from there, to a catastrophic nuclear war.
Further detailed NATO WATCH briefings over next 12 months
Indicating that NATO WATCH will publish a series of briefings over the next 12 months that “will explore the implications of the New Strategic Concept in more detail”, the current briefing includes commentary on two additional aspects:
the new approach to China and the continuing reliance on nuclear ‘deterrence’.
NATO Strategic Concept and China
Excerpts from paragraph 13 of the NATO Strategic Concept 2022 read:
13. The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values…. It strives to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains. The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests.
Reminding us that the first — then minor — reference to China in a NATO statement was at the London Summit in 2019, Davis goes on:
The new emphasis on China is in part the realization of President Biden’s strategy to build a coalition of like-minded nations to confront China over its activities.
A statement from China’s EU mission on the references in the Strategic Concept to that country, asks:
Who’s challenging global security and undermining world peace? Are there any wars or conflicts over the years where NATO is not involved?
The Chinese statement continues:
We urge NATO to stop provoking confrontation by drawing ideological lines, abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game approach, and stop spreading disinformation and provocative statements against China.
It is worth noting that, in marked contrast to the NATO — and Western — use of the highly ambiguous phrase “rules-based international order” (whose rules, what international order) — the PRC asserts:
China always upholds the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
The Rideau Institute comments:
One can certainly challenge Chinese adherence to this pledge in specific circumstances, but the question remains, why is the West so loath to pledging its adherence to international law?
Ian Davis acknowledges
the rightly widespread and justified disquiet at China’s behaviour in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and concern at the possible consequences of the self-assertive nationalism increasingly displayed since Xi Jinping came to power.
In his view, however, and we agree:
the sweeping hostility to China shown in the Strategic Concept is a disproportionate response to those concerns.
There is a real danger of this approach entrenching a systemic three bloc rivalry between China, Russia and NATO-EU-US, with all the attendant risks – from nuclear war to missed opportunities to address the existential threat of climate change and future pandemics.
Michael Klare also emphasizes the adoption by NATO of “the anti-China agenda of the Biden administration”and the view that “the only conceivable response to this” is
to mobilize alliance members for a longterm struggle to resist and overpower those “authoritarian actors”, especially China.
He elaborates further:
This means not only acquiring advanced nuclear, conventional, and cyber weaponry, but also developing enhanced security ties with like-minded states on China’s periphery.
The consequences, in Klare’s view, are clear:
And so, with NATO now committed to an anti-China stance in Asia, we must view the Ukraine conflict as but the opening act in a long-term struggle for global power between the major Western powers and those labeled as “authoritarian actors,” notably Russia and China.
This will involve competition and conflict in nearly every sphere: economic, diplomatic, technological, and cultural, among others.
Regarding the economic warfare dimension, Klare predicts:
These, and other such ventures, are sure to result in broken supply chains, rising prices, and other economic dislocations, while ignoring such common perils as climate change and recurring pandemics.
But it is in the military sphere where, in Klare’s view, “the greatest danger lurks”:
At the very least, this competitive drive will result in periodic crises and clashes over such flash points as Taiwan and the South China Sea; in the worst-case scenarios, these encounters will trigger full-scale wars with a high risk of nuclear escalation.
Alluding to the increasingly dire straits of American democracy, Klare concludes that nothing President Biden has said in justifying NATO’s new stance
is likely to persuade the average US citizen that a global campaign to contain China—with all the costs and risks that entails—will do anything to address the mounting problems that confront us all.
Public and parliamentary scrutiny of NATO China strategy urgently needed
In a shocking reminder that, despite painting the clash with China (and Russia) as war of democracies over autocracies, Western publics and parliaments have not been involved in the shaping of NATO’s China strategy in any way, Davis concludes (in characteristically understated fashion):
To avoid NATO being drawn into a great power competition, further public and parliamentary scrutiny of the motivations, advantages and shortcomings of this strategy is needed.
NATO’s nuclear posture
This is an issue we canvassed at some length in last week’s post, noting as Davis does, the lack of “explicit changes,” despite highly problematic differences of “emphasis and language”. He writes:
NATO’s controversial nuclear sharing arrangements are given greater prominence….
Davis also contrasts the NATO critique of increased military investments by “authoritarian actors” in “sophisticated conventional, nuclear and missile capabilities” with the failure to acknowledge the nuclear weapon modernisation programmes of France, the United Kingdom or the United States, writing:
US spending on nuclear weapons is expected to climb by $140 billion over the next ten years, while the UK has just lifted the ceiling on its nuclear weapons arsenal.
Davis expands on our critique of increased NATO reliance on nuclear deterrence with the concept of “unjust peace”, writing:
all nuclear armed states (including those within NATO) pose a threat to peace and security.
And as the vast majority of the world’s states have concluded, the goal of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is a safer and more secure path to take.
There is much that can be said about the escalatory risks of deploying so many heavily equipped forces on Russia’s land, sea, and air borders, especially when taking note of NATO’s commitment to the use [of] nuclear weapons in response to an overpowering Russian assault.
This applies in particular to the US tactical nuclear munitions stored at Allied bases in Europe for potential use by “dual-capable” aircraft (planes capable of delivering either nuclear or conventional munitions), such as the F-35s deployed in Germany, Italy, and the UK.
With Vladimir Putin regularly threatening the use of nuclear weapons in response to a NATO attack on Russia, the danger of miscalculation and overreaction in a crisis can only increase.
NATO and nuclear arms control
Dr. Davis writes:
The alliance continues to treat nuclear arms control as an afterthought rather than a guiding principle, and the Strategic Concept contains no new ideas for strengthening it.
Moreover, in an extremely regressive step we failed to note in last week’s post, the 2022 Strategic Concept omits the (unmet) 2010 SC commitment in paragraph 24 to:
seek to create the conditions for further [nuclear] reductions in the future.
Davis aptly concludes:
With global stockpiles of nuclear weapons expected to increase in the coming years for the first time since the end of the Cold War, and the risk of such weapons being used the greatest it has been in decades, NATO appears to be part of the problem.
NATO, weapons systems and artificial intelligence
In our 12 July 2021 blog post we quoted Dr. Ian Davis on NATO thinking on weapons systems and artificial intelligence:
Exactly where the alliance falls on the spectrum between permitting AI-powered military technology in some applications and regulating or banning it in others is expected to be part of the Strategic Concept debate.
However, and unbelievably, the 2022 Strategic Concept is silent on this issue. This is despite the fact that at least 40 countries, including Brazil and China (on use only), Pakistan, and two NATO member states (Croatia and Spain) want a ban on autonomous weapons systems, aka killer robots, arguing that human control is necessary to judge the proportionality of attacks and to assign blame for war crimes.
Ian Davis comments:
Preserving meaningful human control over the use of force is an ethical imperative and a legal necessity.
In the view of
the Rideau Institute:
The NATO leadership void on this issue speaks volumes on the emptiness of their stated commitment to arms control.
In our blog post of 7 June 2021 we lamented the abject failure of the Government of Canada to “advance international efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems” as the then Foreign Minister had been mandated to do way back in December 2019.
Since then, we have reviewed a 2021 commentary tabled at the UN by Canada on this issue which includes this assertion:
Canada is committed to maintaining appropriate human involvement in the use of military capability which can exert force. Systems that are fully autonomous would leave no room for appropriate human involvement, and would be unacceptable on that basis. War must remain, at its root, a human enterprise.
Why then is Canada not listed by Ian Davis as one of the NATO members committed to such a ban? The answer lies in language in paragraph two of the document:
This commentary reflects current thinking and understanding of the underlying technology, and is offered without prejudice to Canada’s position on future discussions.
To be clear here: a ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) was a 2019 Liberal election promise, and then formed part of the ministerial mandate of two Foreign Ministers — Champagne and Garneau — but was not included in the mandate of Melanie Joly, our current Foreign Minister. Indeed, there is no mention of any type of arms control activity in her mandate.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
This government’s commitment to working for an international ban on LAWS has degenerated from a leadership role in securing such a measure to weasel words that suggest we might not even support a ban at all.
One wants to weep.
We call on the Government of Canada to unequivocally state its support for, and determination to work toward, a ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems in all appropriate UN forums and, to that end, to work within NATO to advance its positive role in securing such a ban.
Expanding NATO partnerships in (alleged support) of the rules-based international order
The Madrid Summit Declaration commits the alliance to
move forward with strengthening our engagement with existing and potential new interlocutors beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.
This includes increased cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners on “cyber defence, new technologies, maritime security, climate change and countering disinformation” and a defence capacity-building package for Mauritania.
In his commentary on these efforts, Davis echoed our oft-repeated concern over double standards:
the United States and several other NATO member states remain vulnerable to accusations of the selective application of international norms and rules that they expect others to follow.
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
NATO’s approach to expanded partnerships looks much less like a genuine effort to shore up international law and much more like blindly following the USA as it seeks to “maintain its disproportionate global power and privileges” even as its domestic failures multiply.
NATO unity and Ukraine
Ian Davis writes:
Unsurprisingly, the core message from within the Madrid Summit was that NATO has regained vitality and reaffirmed its strategic purpose, not least by displaying unity and solidarity in countering Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
He notes that this “unity and determination” have “resonated” with the public, with attitudes towards NATO at or near 10-year highs in most of Europe:
A median of 65% across 11 member states said they had a favourable view of NATO, while 26% said they had an unfavourable view.
However, Davis goes on to emphasize there are “fundamental and largely unanswered questions” about the future of this alliance unity:
while all member states agree that Russia is responsible for the war, and support Ukraine’s defensive efforts, there are clear differences on what should constitute the West’s ultimate strategic goals—both in terms of how the war should end and in how to deal with Russia in the medium term.
NATO and internal threats to western liberal democracy
In Ian Davis’ view — and we agree — there is a danger that the emphasis on Russia and China as threats to the West underplays the many internal threats to Western liberal democracy:
Socioeconomic inequality, demographic changes and cultural anxieties are driving internal extremism within several member states.
While the 2022 Strategic Concept refers to the need to enhance ‘resilience’ this is almost entirely framed in the context of external coercion by Russia and China, and completely ignores home-grown malign and illiberal influences within member states.
NATO’s democratic deficit
Ian Davis also draws attention to a topic that rarely, if ever, receives attention in the Canadian media — the democratic deficit within the Alliance itself, where NATO’s lack of transparency stands in marked contrast to access to information laws already in place in its 30 member states.
The issue of improving transparency and accountability in NATO was once again overlooked in the 2022 Strategic Concept.
NATO and the rest of the world
There is a further lesson that Dr. Davis draws from the Madrid Summit and the new Strategic Concept, presented in characteristic understatement:
As NATO prepares to do more to address instability in Africa and other regions of the world, it is unclear whether the right lessons have been learnt from the strategic failure in Afghanistan and the 2011 intervention in Libya.
His overall assessment merits inclusion in its entirety:
the 2022 Strategic Concept sets NATO on a path that is likely to lead to a further deterioration in relations between the world’s ‘great’ powers. It is a path that seeks to protect the interests of some of the most militarised states in the world rather than one that protects humanity.
At a time when humanity and the planet face an array of profound and pressing common challenges, it is hard to escape the conclusion that international cooperation to address those challenges became even harder as a result of the Madrid Summit.
OSCE PARLIAMENTARIANS WANT CONFLICT RESOLUTION FOR UKRAINE
For a more enlightened approach to the Ukraine conflict and attendant risks, see the OSCE Birmingham Declaration, adopted on 6 July 2022 by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) at its 2022 Annual Session.
The Basel Peace Office summarizes the Declaration:
it condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supports the legal measures that are being implemented in response, calls for nuclear restraint including the adoption of no-first-use policies by all nuclear armed and allied states, and encourages all parties in the Ukraine conflict to use conflict resolution mechanisms and negotiations to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The Declaration further notes that the war is creating a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as well as regionally and globally, with negative impacts on food security, energy, climate and human displacement (refugees). As such, OSCEPA
encourages the intensification of result-oriented mediation efforts and negotiations in the framework of the existing platforms for conflict resolution.
Ukraine and lessons from World War One
We end this week’s blog post with a thought-provoking article from the Quincy Institute entitled Ignoring the ghosts of the ‘Great War’ at our own peril (George Beebe, responsiblestatecraft.org, 1 July 2022).
We commend the full article to readers and include here the third and final lesson discussed therein:
The animating principle of the Versailles treaty was retributive: depriving Germany of territory, inflicting pain on its economy, and crippling its defense industry so as to minimize chances that it might once again pose a threat to its neighbors.
That this approach boomeranged on the war’s victors so spectacularly, yet so closely mirrors the war objectives that many insist the West should now have for Russia, should give us all pause.
Photo credit: NATO (Official Photo Heads of State and Government)