Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Joe Did What? Lake NATO


Remember all those earnest realists explaining how the Russian Federation was literally forced!—forced, I tell you!—to march into Ukraine because of the increasingly threatening expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through the states of the former Warsaw Pact from the Balkans to the Baltic, as we kept hearing from Professor Mearsheimer and Messrs. Greenwald and Carlson and most recently Bob-Bob Kennedy. 

I wrote about it with some sympathy myself back at the beginning of February 2022, in the context of the argument I was making back then, that there wasn't going to be any invasion of Ukraine because Vladimir Vladimirovich couldn't possibly be that stupid.

I came down on an idea I got from Slate's Fred Kaplan, who was holding that Putin's real object in threatening to invade Ukraine was to split NATO up, between the timid French and Germans and the aggressive Poles and Americans, and make the alliance not work. In which, Kaplan went on to say, if that was his idea, he had already proven colossally wrong:

Biden and his diplomats, who had made missteps in other realms, suddenly turned super competent. Biden was comfortable with trans-Atlantic matters; NATO had been the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy during his decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as vice president. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been at his side, as top staffer, for many of those years. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had eked out results at the toughest negotiating tables. Their efforts held together the 30-state NATO alliance in opposing Moscow’s moves and threatening firm action in response to any further invasion of Ukraine’s territory.

Which, I'm starting to think right now, could be the real reason for the war: when Putin, seeing his bluff called, had "no choice" as the dictators always say but to keep pretending he hadn't been bluffing. The world was going to have to pay for his having been wrong.

So that now, with the accession of Finland and Sweden to the treaty after such a long refusal, and the coming entry of Ukraine (what I hear is they've come up with a solution in which members won't have to send Article 5 support to parts of Ukraine that are already under Russian occupation, in Donbas and Crimea, so the fact of Ukraine being at war doesn't change the situation), Russia is really surrounded, on north, west, and south, as surrounded as it can possibly be. That's what Putin has done—turned his own worst nightmare into reality. Congratulations, Vladimir Vladimirovich!

All the most implausible thoughts on Russia are starting to become plausible. Russian draft refusers are able to stay with impunity in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia; perhaps even inside the Federation, in the anarchy of thug-ruled Chechnya and Dagestan. A private army, the Wagner Orchestra, was able to seize the southwestern military base at Rostov without hindrance and march on Moscow a couple of weeks ago, shooting down six helicopters and a fighter plane, and captured a Russian MRAP patrol vehicle and a Tigr-M infantry mobility vehicle, with I have no idea how many pilots and others killed or captured, and Putin came out to condemn them in the strongest possible terms, as traitors, who were going to be punished, or at least exiled to Minsk in Belarus, except that doesn't seem to have happened at all; instead of fleeing to Minsk on June 24,  Yevgeny Prigozhin was in Moscow on June 29 meeting with Putin, with all his commanders, for a meeting that lasted three hours, as we learned yesterday from Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, along with some other remarkable details.

Boxes of money seized from Yevgeny Prigozhin's Petersburg office in the raids of June 24, gold bars and cash said to total 10 billion rubles ($111 million), plus a startling collection of wigs. Photo by fontanka.ru via The Moscow Times. Anyway they returned all the money, to Prigozhin's driver, while Prigozhin himself was at that Kremlin meeting on June 29.

I can't believe they gave the money back! (Nina Khrushcheva was also gobsmacked.) The warlord period has really begun.

Also, remember how Trump spent his presidency threatening to break up NATO because the member countries weren't paying what he seemed to think of as their club dues (not actually payments made to the organization, but meeting the goal of spending 2% of their national GDP on defense)? At the Vilnius summit, the nations just agreed that they absolutely would do that (no details as yet).

Biden really is the most effective foreign policy president since Eisenhower, maybe Roosevelt. It's just astonishing.

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