The Failure Of This Week's US-NATO-Russia Meetings Make War More Likely

by | Jan 15, 2022


In the late 1990s the US military-industrial-media complex lobbied the Clinton administration to extend NATO. The sole purpose was to win more customers for US weapons. Russia protested. It had offered to integrate itself into a new European security architecture but on equal terms with the US The US rejected that. It wanted Russia to subordinate itself to US whims.

Since then NATO has been extended five times and moved closer and closer to Russia’s border. Leaving Russia, a large country with many resources, outside of Europe’s security structure guaranteed that Russia would try to come back from the miserable 1990s and regain its former power.

In 2014 the US sponsored a coup against the democratically elected government of the Ukraine, Russia’s neighbor and relative, and installed its proxies. To prevent an eventual integration of the Ukraine into NATO Russia arranged for an uprising against the coup in the eastern Ukraine. As long as the Ukraine has an internal conflict it can not join NATO.

In 2018 the Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty which had been created under the Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan to eliminate nuclear missiles in Europe. Now the US made plans to station new nuclear missiles in Europe which would threaten Russia. These required a Russian response.

Meanwhile the US and other NATO states have deployed significant ‘training’ units to the Ukraine and continue to send weapons to it. This is a sneaking integration of the Ukraine into NATO structures without the formal guarantees.

In late 2021 the US started to make noise about alleged Russian military concentrations at its western border. There were groundless allegations that Russia was threatening to invade the Ukraine which was begging to enter NATO. The purpose was to justify a further extension of NATO and more NATO deployments near Russia.

Russia has had enough of such nonsense. It moved to press the US for a new security architecture in Europe that would not threaten Russia. The rumors about Russian action in the Ukraine helped to press President Joe Biden into agreeing to talks.

After Russia had detailed its security demands towards the US and NATO a series of talks were held.

I had warned that these would likely not be successful as the US had shown no signs to move on core Russian demands. As expected the talks with the US on Monday failed. The US made some remarks that it would like to negotiate some side issues but not on the core of Russia’s request to end the extension of NATO and to stop new missile deployments.

Wednesday’s talks with NATO had similar results as had today’s talks with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

As Russia had previously announced it will not consider further talks as there is nothing to expect from them:

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he saw ‘no grounds’ to continue the talks, in a blow to the efforts to ease tensions. His comments came as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Vienna in the latest attempt to avert a major European crisis as Russia masses troops on Ukraine’s border.

Speaking on Russian television, Ryabkov said the United States and its allies have rejected Russia’s key demands — including its call for an end to NATO’s open-door policy for new members — offering to negotiate only on topics of secondary interest to Moscow.

‘There is, to a certain extent, a dead end or a difference in approaches,’ he said. Without some sign of flexibility from the United States, ‘I do not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions.’

Other Russian government officials made similar points:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who described the Western position as ‘arrogant, unyielding and uncompromising,’ said that President Vladimir Putin would decide on further action after receiving written responses to Moscow’s demands next week.

In addition to calling the talks unsuccessful, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday highlighted a bill announced the day before by US Democratic senators for tough new sanctions against Russians, including Putin, if there is military action against Ukraine.

Peskov called it ‘extremely negative, especially against the background of the ongoing series of negotiations, albeit unsuccessful, but negotiations.’ Sanctioning a head of state ‘is an outrageous measure that is comparable to breaking off relations,’ he said.

Peskov also accused the United States and NATO of escalating the conflict with efforts to ‘entice’ new countries to join NATO.

Peskov’s last remarks relate to recent noise from Finland and Sweden that they may consider to join NATO.

The US had promised to send a written response to Russia’s demands by next week. NATO has likewise said that it would dispatch a letter within a week’s time frame. If those letters do not include substantial concessions to Russia it will have to act.

The Washington Post piece quoted above is headlined Russia ratchets up pressure on Europe, says ‘no grounds’ for further talks on security amid heightened tensions. The Post tries to frame the issues as an European and NATO problem.

However, Russia does not even talk with Europe as it is no longer relevant. The security demands are made towards the US and the issues can only be solved by the White House.

Russia has spoken of “military-technical measures” it would have to take should all talks fail.

It has now started to hint at some of the possibilities:

Russia on Thursday sharply raised the stakes in its dispute with the West over Ukraine, with a top diplomat refusing to rule out a Russian military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the United States mount.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in Monday’s talks with the US in Geneva, said in televised remarks that he would ‘neither confirm nor exclude’ the possibility that Russia could send military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if the talks fail and US pressure on Russia mounts.

Russia does not need to station missiles in Cuba but it could request access for its navy to one or more decent harbors in the wider area:

While voicing concern that NATO could potentially use Ukrainian territory for the deployment of missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes, Putin noted that Russian warships armed with the latest Zircon hypersonic cruise missile would give Russia a similar capability if deployed in neutral waters.

The timing is interesting. As of today Zircon missiles were officially accepted for Russia’s military services. Currently there are five Russian navy ships configured to carry these new hypersonic weapons with many more to come:

At this stage the carriers of Zirkon are FFGs pr. 22350 (Admiral Gorshkov-class), pr. 20385 Corvettes and modernized pr. 1155 FFGs, Udaloy-class (see Marshal Shaposhnikov). All in all we can see already at least 5 Zircon carriers afloat in Russia’s surface fleet with the number growing to 11 by mid 2020s, which, by that time submarine carriers of Zircon also adding to the number of carriers. Welcome to the new era of the naval warfare. I assume that some of the Karakurts (pr. 22800) and pr. 21631 Buyan class will also be able to carry Zircon or its ‘smaller’ 500 kilometer range version Zircon Llite. And, of course, once completed, Admiral Nakhimov nuclear battlecruiser will carry a shitload of Zircons. We can only guess how many, since among 174 VLS on Nakhimov, 80 will be loaded with anti-surface missiles.

Now, we expect new Vladimir Putin’s address to Federal Assembly fairly soon (it was expected, quoting Peskov, ‘early in 2022’), so will see what other things Putin will be talking about.

That speech will be as interesting as the one in 2018 (vid) during which Putin announced a number of new weapon systems which the US has no way to counter. Expect more of those.

Russia may also deploy new weapons aiming at Europe:

Russia said on Monday it may be forced to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to what it sees as NATO’s plans to do the same.

The warning from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised the risk of a new arms build-up on the continent, with East-West tensions at their worst since the Cold War ended three decades ago.

Ryabkov said Russia would be forced to act if the West declined to join it in a moratorium on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe – part of a package of security guarantees it is seeking as the price for defusing the crisis over Ukraine.

Lack of progress towards a political and diplomatic solution would lead Russia to respond in a military way, with military technology, Ryabkov told Russia’s RIA news agency.

‘That is, it will be a confrontation, this will be the next round,’ he said, referring to the potential deployment of the missiles by Russia.

Intermediate-range nuclear weapons – those with a range of 500 to 5,500 km (310 to 3,400 miles) – were banned in Europe under a 1987 treaty between then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan in what was hailed at the time as a major easing of Cold War tensions. By 1991, the two sides had destroyed nearly 2,700 of them.

The US is building new missile sites in Poland and Romania. It claims that these are missile defense installations with the same AEGIS combat system type as used on many US warships. The new AEGIS ashore installations are claimed to defend the US against Iranian and North Korean missiles. That is of course bollocks.

The AEGIS systems uses the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System to store and fire its missiles. Those new sides, the US claims, will have air defense missiles in their launch containers. However the same containers can be used to fire nuclear armed Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAMs). It would be very easy for the US to change out the missiles without anyone noticing it.

Tomahawks have a range of 1,550 miles (2.500 km). From Poland and Romania they can reach Moscow and other Russian centers in a short time. The US Defense Department says that the system in Poland will become operational at the end of this year.

At the end of last year the US also reactivated its 56th Artillery Command in Europe:

‘It will further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects and employment of future long-range surface to surface fires across the [US Army Europe and US Army Africa] area of responsibility,’ Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, the new unit’s commander, said before the Monday announcement in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The 56th Artillery Command traces its lineage to a Cold War-era unit, the 56th Field Artillery Command, which served as the headquarters for Pershing missile operations in Europe. It was inactivated in June 1991 following the signing four years earlier of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty curbing the use of midrange ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons.

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of US Army Europe and Africa, called the decision to bring back the 56th Artillery Command, ‘extremely good news.’

It was clear that Russia would not leave that “extremely good news” without a response.

It will likely deploy some of its 9M729 cruise missiles (NATO code SSC-8 Screwdriver), currently stationed behind the Ural mountain range, at its western border, in Belarus and in Kaliningrad. These can be nuclear armed and would cover most European capitals and NATO’s headquarters.

The whole situation is a completely unnecessary mess. NATO has long lost its cold war capabilities. The European armies are just a shadow of their former selves and the US military has again and again demonstrate its inability to fight. To reject Russia’s demands under these circumstance is not only pure arrogance but also idiotic:

On January 12, 2022 — a date that will live in hypocrisy — NATO member states declared their heroic determination to fight to the last Ukrainian. They did this by in effect rejecting Russia’s conditions for agreement with the alliance, centered on the demand that NATO rule out further expansion to Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics.

The hypocrisy and idiocy — over which historians of the future are likely to shake their heads in bewilderment — lie in the fact that NATO has no real intention of admitting Ukraine, nor of fighting Russia in Ukraine. Both Washington and Brussels have openly ruled this out. Indeed, NATO could not do so even if it wanted to. US forces in Europe are wholly inadequate to the purpose, as are what is left of the British and French armies.

Anatol Lieven, who wrote the above, sees some possible compromises. Especially US pressure on the Ukraine to finally make piece with its east:

The United States however now needs to move very fast to offer these compromises. If it does not, then a new war looks increasingly possible. This war would be a disaster for all parties concerned: for NATO, whose military impotence would be cruelly emphasized; for Russia, that would suffer severe economic damage and be forced into a position of dependency on China with grave implications for Russia’s future; and above all for the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who would lose their lives. In fact, the only country that would benefit unequivocally from such a war would be China —and I wasn’t aware that US and NATO policies are designed to further the geopolitical aims of Beijing.

NATO’s uselessness and lack of real purpose are well known:

The problem is that they have been ingested by two other ambitions that are not modest and rational at all. The first is the US desire for universal hegemony, including the right to dictate other countries’ political systems and what influence they will be allowed to possess beyond their own borders.

The second is the European elites’ belief in the European Union of as a kind of moral superpower, expanding to embrace the whole of Europe (without Russia of course), and setting a liberal internationalist example to the world; but a militarily impotent superpower that relies for security on the United States, via NATO.

These projects have now manifestly failed.

If we can recognize this failure and return to a more modest view of ourselves and our role in the world, we can also abandon the empty and hypocritical false promise of further NATO expansion and seek a reasonably cooperative relationship with Russia. Or we can go on living in our world of make-believe, though make-believe worlds have a way of being shattered by harsh realities.

That is something no one should want.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.