Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Finland last week, one week before a NATO summit largely focused on Russia. Mr. Putin made the day-trip to see Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö at his summer residence, and the focus was clearly one of some foreboding. With Finland considering joining the NATO military alliance, Russia may be left with no choice but to counter strategically, should the western alliance continue to push.
As is typical form, western media has attempted to shift blame for the current crisis to Russia. News from Politico and other corporate owned sources parrots the Associated Press line, that Russia is an aggressor NATO needs to face off with. To quote a recent report:
"Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the U.S. commander of ground forces in Europe said NATO would currently be unable to protect the Baltic states against a Russian attack."
All across Europe, people are being offered the same fearsome message. The Zeit tells interested Germans the Russian bear is seething, and on the doorstep, and that NATO does not stand a chance of stopping the ravaging beast. NATO is at once painted as a bunch of hapless nincompoops babbling 10 different languages over blackberries, and in other media the military alliance is made up of well coordinated Rambos. The message from Germany is fairly clear though, Mrs. Merkel's spanking new army is in the offing. (See this report on Germany's expanded role)
Confusion, the "fog of war" transfigured to suit civilians in their homes and on their smart phones, this is the message I have been receiving for some time. And in the meantime, Vladimir Putin is consistently clear:
Putin: "NATO would gladly fight Russia to the last Finnish soldier"
NATO, hapless and hopelessly outgunned or not, is headed by modern day caricatures from the Stanley Kubric classic "Dr. Strangelove". Movie buffs will recall the ever present image of George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson (below from the film). a wild man with All American features, insistent that a first strike win over the Soviets should be launched. General Philip M. Breedlove, former head of the US European Command and supreme commander of NATO forces, is the subject of hacked emails to the same effect. As reported by RT, a plan to drag Russia into some kind of Baltics conflict is framed well. With names like Breedlove, Iraq "shock and awe" architect and alleged D.C. Madam client, Harlan Ullman, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wesley Clark, and Barack Obama (POTUS) himself rolled in, the story attests to just how dangerous a situation our world is in.
Breedlove, Dr. Strangelove fans will be delighted to know, was "retired" from CENTCOM, NATO, and the US military right after his gmail accounts were hacked. The reader may want to take a look at these emails via DCLeaks. It is interesting to note too, that mainstream media scarcely uttered a peep over the NATO commander's being relieved. Breedlove handing over European Command to Army General Curtis Scaparrotti was scarcely a footnote on CNN and other media channels. And the hacked emails are not reported at all. This is inconceivable given the tenor of Breedlove's discourse with . I quote from one such mail, one the reader can glean the callousness and ease with which these people describe conflict in East Urkaine. On "strategies" to get policy under strategic control the Senior Advisor of the Atlantic Council, tells Breedlove:
"Second, we need to take some risk. Obama or Kerry needs to be convinced that Putin must be confronted on the grounds that if we do not know his intent or preferred outcome, we will have no choice except to arm the Ukrainians. And that will not be a minor effort as we harbor no doubts that in this case, defeat not deterrence of the Separatists must be the end game. That will mean the possibility of a long, bloody conflict that makes life worse in Ukraine--east and west--and Russia as well because more and harsher sanctions will be employed."
So the stance Mr. Putin is taking over Finland as a potential NATO partner is more than moderate, and more than appropriate. The ludicrous idea NATO could defend any Baltic state from a full scale Russian onslaught should be warning enough. Even at the height of the Cold War, Germany itself was not defensible. Russia has maintained since the Nazis were defeated ample military resources to crush even an American expeditionary force. Nothing short of limited thermonuclear war has ever been assessed as an outcome, and Washington knows this. Mr. Putin holds most of the proverbial cards where Finland goes. This is made more clear in his talks with the press following the meetup in Finland. At a point, Putin points to Finland-Russia economic potential:
"About 7,000 Finnish companies operate in Russia today and many of them are localising their production. Finland’s investment is almost $7 billion, and Russia’s investment in the Finnish economy is $2.5 billion. We continue implementing major projects, such as the construction of a nuclear power plant with the participation of Russia’s Rosatom in the north-west of Finland. The overall investment exceeds $7 billion."
However, even as futile a defense of the Baltics or Finland might be in reality, Washington's key advisers like Rand Corporation mimic Breedlove's madness. This report speaks of an "affordable" deployment of some brigades, aircraft support, and naval measures to keep Russia at bay in the event of war. In reality, the advise is a recipe for catastrophe. It reads more like a military industrial complex purchase order than a strategy. To quote:
"A force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades — adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities — could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states."
While this report is not the place for in depth military assessments, the performance of Russia air forces over Syria bears looking at. While Rand, Stratfor, and Military.com etc. laud western military magnificence, Russia is decidedly NOT Iraq or Afghanistan. The west cannot fly air support over Eastern Europe while systems like the S-300VM4, S-400 and S-500 mobile air defense platforms. Air cover, as indicated by Rand, would be non-existent on the borders of Russia. And naval interjections would be impossible even more so. All that NATO can achieve in the Baltics or Finland, is to ensure a big-red bullseye is painted on these Russian neighbors.
In concluding we can look at more unbiased studies in the west to decipher Europe's situation better. RAND and most western think tanks are destined to push the American military industrial machine up front. Meanwhile, the Center for Security Studies in Zurich reports tell us the Americans and the European leadership know full well the score with Russia. A map I found in one of the reports is telling, and this recent situation report (PDF) from Switzerland's intelligence agency are damning. In the latter, NATO and west sanctions seem intended to be ongoing until 2020, a concept no EU citizen has been appraised of.
"Europe probably now faces a sustained period of confrontation between the West and Russia at the political, economic and military levels. The conflict in Ukraine, the West's subsequent economic sanctions against Russia, Russia's sanctions against the EU, the recession in the Russian economy and Russia's military action in Syria are an expression of this confrontation, which will probably drag on far into the 2020s. A process has been set in motion which over time is likely to lead to the formation of competing zones of interest on the European continent."
While NATO's moves can be show to be something of a ruse, the desire for crisis is real. Europeans are approaching the propaganda and fear mongering as one might expect. At the same time American strategist clearly have a more crisp view of reality. A recent War College study tells the reader full well, that the likelihood of Russia launching an attack on the Baltics or Finland is almost zero. The study by the US Army Strategic Studies Institute reveals the real strategy, one of using NATO as a wedge to prevent Russian political influence to spread. It is Mr. Putin's detente, policies, and a resurgent Russia the west think tanks are afraid of. In speaking of an "ambiguous threat" from Russia, the report says:
"Meanwhile, the United States and its allies must employ a coordinated, whole of government effort to address capabilities beyond the scope of the military, such as law enforcement, that are critical to addressing an ambiguous threat."
Studying America thought about Russia and Vladimir Putin, the utter hard headedness of western thinking emerges. While the Army intelligence (and CIA counterparts) seem to understand how "misunderstood" Russia and Putin are, even the proponents of "learning Russia" like Sun Tsu might, it is a limited concept. What I am getting in all this is, westerners are reticent on their own shortcomings, only begrudgingly. The deeper construct of proper detente eludes even the smartest among them. It's as if the corporate elite have even brainwashed the brainwashers. Putin warning Finland is straightforward, but a western think tank will surely over-think even this.
Finland cannot be protected by NATO. NATO will only ensure that country's resistance to Russian influence. Putin knows this too, but he is forced to play the game within the confines. At least for now. At this point in time, the EU and the status quo in the west needs all the allies it can get. Having just lost Britain as an economic union partner, I think we are destined to see a lot more jockeying for political position - and the incumbent saber rattling that goes along. Underneath it all, the informed reader can measure his or her own horror at the impending potential for catastrophe.
Now, maybe Mr. Putin's parrying makes more sense.