The Incredible Shrinking NATO

by | Jul 17, 2023


I’ve been waiting for the hubbub to die down since the NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11-12 July 2023, waiting for someone — anyone — to point out the obvious reason for why the Ukraine’s cocaine-sniffing mascot-president Zelensky, having been lionized only a year ago, has suddenly fallen into disfavor with this organization.

Yes, the Ukraine might still some day be invited to start the long and arduous process of joining NATO, but only after some undefined number of NATO members decide that it has done enough to comply with “NATO standards” (I’ll explain what those are later) and various other vague things. Keeping in mind that back on 20 September 2018 the Ukrainian parliament approved amendments to the constitution that would make the accession of the country to NATO and the EU a central goal and the main foreign policy objective, such a turn of events is most embarrassing for the mascot president and his backers and handlers.

Oh, the vicissitudes of fortune! Lots of analysis and commentators offered ready explanations for this turn of events. Yet not a single one of them saw it fit to dig just the tiniest bit and discover the glaringly obvious reason for this momentous shift. Perhaps all of them, for a variety of reasons, loathe to admit the reality of what NATO is, what it does, and why the Ukraine is suddenly a threat rather than a boon to its core mission. You may want to read all of that commentary at your leisure — if you have trouble falling asleep. The official NATO Summit Communiqué, fantastically verbose and filled with irrelevancies, makes for particularly somniferous reading.

So, what did the Ukraine do to fall into such disfavor? Perhaps it did something that jeopardized NATO’s core mission? That seems like a good guess. But then what is NATO’s core mission?

In the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” Hannibal Lecter refers to a quote by Marcus Aurelius when he says to Clarice Starling, “First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?” The quote is from Book Three of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, and it emphasizes the importance of understanding the essence of things.

NATO was formed on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, more popularly known as the Washington Treaty, supposedly for the purpose of thwarting the Soviet Union in Europe. The USSR responded by forming the Warsaw Treaty Organization (also known as the Warsaw Pact) — a political and military alliance established on May 14, 1955 between the Soviet Union and several Eastern European countries for the express purpose of defending them from NATO. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved on 1 July 1991 and, shortly thereafter, on 26 December 1991, the USSR itself followed suit, but NATO continues to exist. By this point, the Warsaw Pact had existed for slightly less than NATO has existed, and the USSR had existed for only slightly more than that. Clearly, the communist threat as a rationale for NATO’s existence was but a ruse, a smokescreen… a red herring.

So, what was NATO’s real purpose? There are many ways to answer this question, but the Ukraine’s sudden fall from grace offers what is perhaps the most graphic explanation.

• Was it that the war there was dragging on? No, a slow burn would be exactly what the Pentagon ordered, so that it would have a chance to keep up with Russia’s hectic pace of weapons and ammunition deliveries.

• Was it that the Ukraine was losing the war? No, the Ukraine wasn’t losing; it just wasn’t winning. In particular, its attacks on Russia’s defensive lines, which the Russian troops termed “meat attacks” because of the huge and useless losses they incurred on the Ukrainian side, seemed rather futile.

• Was it that the Ukraine was about to be defeated? Again, no, the Russians were happy to advance a few kilometers here and there, with their main objective the establishment of a buffer zone wide enough so that Ukrainian artillery would stop shelling what are now Russian civilian districts.

• Was it that NATO ran out of weapons and ammo to give to the Ukrainians? Again, no, there is still quite a lot of semi-obsolete junk that could be handed over to the Ukrainians.

So, what did the Ukrainians do to raise the ire of the Pentagon so suddenly, and as a direct consequence, fall into disfavor with NATO? In short, the Ukrainians demonstrated that NATO’s weapons are crap. Evidence of this built up slowly over time. First, it turned out that various bits of US-made shoulder-fired junk — anti-aircraft Stingers, anti-tank Javelins, etc — are rather worse than useless in modern combat. Next, it turned out that the M777 howitzer and the HIMARS rocket complex are rather fragile and aren’t field-maintainable.

The next wonder-weapon thrown at the Ukrainian problem was the Patriot missile battery. It was deployed near Kiev and the Russians quickly made a joke of it. They attacked it with their super-cheap Geranium 5 “flying moped” drones, causing it to turn on its active radar, thereby unmasking its position, and then fire off its entire load of rockets — a million dollars’ worth! — after which point it just sat there, unmasked and defenseless, and was taken out by a single Russian precision rocket strike.

This was sure to have seriously pissed off US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, whose major personal cash cow happens to be Raytheon, the maker of the Patriot. Yes, the Patriot proved useless using the First Gulf War, where it failed to protect Israel against ancient Iraqi Scud missiles; and it proved useless later on when it failed to protect Saudi oil installation against ancient Yemeni Scud missiles… but you aren’t supposed to advertise that fact. And now this!

And to top it all off, the German-donated Leopard 2 tanks and the US-donated Bradley infantry vehicles, not to mention the silly French wheeled non-tanks, performed absolutely miserably during the recent Ukrainian efforts to approach, never mind penetrate, Russia’s first line of defense. Rubbing salt into the wounds, Putin remarked off-the-cuff that Western armor burns rather more easily than the old Soviet-made stuff.

The latest desperate move would be to give the Ukrainian air force (which, by the way, no longer exists) some older F-16 fighter jets. These can be anywhere up to 50 years old and are peculiar in having an air intake that’s very close to the ground, making them very effective as runway vacuum cleaners during takeoff. They cannot operate from the dirty and pitted runways that are typical in the Ukraine because the debris would get sucked into the engine and destroy it.

If the Ukrainians attempt to pave new runways for them, the Russians would instantly spot this from the geosynchronous satellite that is permanently pointed at Ukrainian territory. Rather than put some fresh bomb craters on these new runways, they could do something more subtle: use one of their super-cheap Geranium 2’s to spread metal shaving for the F-16’s engines to vacuum up… and burn up in flight. And since these are single-engine planes, there is no possibility of limping home on the remaining engine: the pilot would have to catapult and the plane would crash. But there is an even more important reason why the idea of giving F-16’s for the Ukraine is unworkable: these planes are able to carry nuclear bombs and Russia has already announced that it would see this step as a nuclear escalation. But provoking a nuclear conflict with Russia is verboten, so F-16’s are a no-go.

Why is the failure of relentlessly propagandized Western weaponry more important than just about anything else, including the increasingly dire state of Western finances, the ridiculous failure of anti-Russian sanctions, the obscenely huge numbers of Ukrainian casualties or the general Western fatigue with all things Ukrainian and especially with the flood of Ukrainian refugees that the West can no longer cope with?

The reason is simple: NATO is not a defensive organization (remember, USSR has been gone for over 30 years); nor is it an offensive organization (well, it did bomb Serbia and a few other relatively defenseless countries, but it can’t possibly think about facing off against Russia or any other well-armed nation).

Rather, NATO is a captive buyers’ club for US-made weapons. That is what vaunted NATO standards, with which the Ukraine must comply before it is deemed worthy to be invited to join NATO, are all about: to comply with these standards, your weapons have to be mostly US-made. That is also the reason for all of the various wars of choice, from Serbia to Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria: these were demonstration projects for US weapons, with the additional goal of using up the weapons and the munitions so that the Pentagon and the rest of NATO would have to reorder them. The geopolitical rationales for these military conflicts are mere rationalizations. For instance, between 1964 and 1973, the US dropped more than 2.5 million tons of bombs on Laos during 580,000 bombing sorties—equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. What was the geopolitical rationale? Nobody can even remember if there ever was one. But those bombs were about to expire and needed to be used up and reordered to keep the money flowing.

Read the whole article here.


  • Dmitry Orlov

    Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and writer on subjects related to "potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States", something he has called "permanent crisis".

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