Lord Hastings Ismay, Winston Churchill’s trusted military advisor and NATO’s first secretary-general (1952-1957), famously quipped in the early days of his tenure that the purpose of the Alliance was to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
In the early 1950s Ismay’s adage made sense. Stalin’s armored divisions, encamped in the heart of Europe, could arguably reach English Channel ports in 72 hours unless deterred by a credible U.S.-led alliance. NATO’s beginnings were facilitated by the Soviets’ failed Berlin blockade and the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. Even though this new nation was ably guided in its early days by the "Old Man," Konrad Adenauer, its very birth—so soon after Der Untergang (the downfall) of Germany in 1945—gave rise to some old apprehensions on the west side of the Rhine and across the Channel.
Fast-forward to 2021, however, and the geostrategic picture becomes unrecognizable. The United States “has reaffirmed its support for Ukraine in light of Russia’s ‘destabilizing actions’ in the region,” reported Deutsche Welle on April 1. “US asks Russia to explain Ukrainian border ‘provocations,’” the same source announced on April 6.
Between those two dates came the news that Ukraine would hold joint military drills with NATO hearlding the first deployment of NATO’s active-duty personnel to Ukraine since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Less than a month earlier (March 8) it was announced that American B-1B Lancer bombers were being deployed in Norway for the first time, in the vicinity of the Nordic country’s land border with Russia. (Back in May 2020 USAF B-1B Lancers joined Ukrainian warplanes during “training missions” in the Black Sea region.) On April 4, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvilli expressed the former Soviet republic’s “determination to become a full-fledged member of NATO” as the organization celebrated its 72nd anniversary that day.
These developments bring to mind the statement made in Ukraine’s capital Kiev by President George W. Bush on April 1, 2008: “Helping Ukraine move toward NATO membership is in the interest of every member in the alliance and will help advance security and freedom in this region and around the world.” Here we have proof positive that the idiotic Drang nach Osten (Drive to the East), initiated by Bush II’s neoconservative cabal in the early years of this century, is gathering steam again under their “neoliberal” twins Blinken & Co.
Within the alliance, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain—as well as the less important members Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Greece, and Portugal—are opposed to NATO membership for Ukraine (as well as Georgia) primarily because they take the view that “Europe” cannot afford to be a hostage to the visceral Russophobia of NATO-for-ever enthusiasts in Washington and their ethnically obsessed allies in the three Baltic republics and Warsaw.
An immediate test of who prevails is the Nord Stream pipeline project. If completed it will cut across the Baltic Sea from Vyborg in Russia to Rostock in Germany, thus circumventing both Poland and Ukraine.
Last February it looked like a compromise would be found, but in March—with breathtaking arrogance which belied its “Diplomacy is Back” slogan—the Biden administration attempted to prevent the project’s completion. Imposing sanctions against the companies and individuals involved, it also threatened sanctions against participating state entities, launching a massive campaign of disinformation and intimidation. Lord Ismay undoubtedly would be impressed by this exercise in keeping Russia out, America in, and Germany down. Try to imagine Russia or China intervening to stop a pipeline connecting northern Alberta to southern California, on the basis that it is strategically undesirable, period.
For the time being Germany seems determined to resist the pressure, but we should never trust Chancellor Angela Merkel’s instincts, let alone her considered judgment. The Germans are also unenthusiastic about NATO expansion along the Black Sea coast—with the notable exception of the Greens (around 20 percent of the electorate), who have morphed over the past quarter-century into a monstrous party of globalized cultural postmodernism imposed by NATO’s merciless military force, notably in the Balkans.
Adherence to the North Atlantic Treaty includes a defense guarantee: Article V of the Charter states that an attack on one is an attack on all. The U.S. would supposedly provide its protective cover to a new client, right in Russia's geopolitical backyard, in an area that had never been deemed vital to America’s security interests. From the standpoint of those interests, accepting Ukraine into NATO would mean one of two things: either the United States is serious that it would risk a thermonuclear war for the sake of the status of Sebastopol and Donetsk, which is insane; or the United States is not serious, which would be frivolous and dangerous.
President Bill Clinton tried to evade the issue, 25 years ago, in his usual fashion by questioning the meaning of words and asserting that Article V “does not define what actions constitute ‘an attack’ or prejudge what Alliance decisions might then be made in such circumstances.” He claimed the right of the U.S. “to exercise individual and collective judgment over this question.”
I wrote at the time, and I’ll say it again: such fudge cannot be the basis of strategy. It evokes earlier Western experiments with security guarantees in the region, leading to Czechoslovakia’s carve-up in 1938, and Poland’s destruction in September 1939. They warn us that promises nonchalantly given today may turn into bounced checks or smoldering cities tomorrow.
After almost a century, the lesson of the 1925 Locarno Pact is clear: security guarantees that are not based on the provider’s complete resolve to fight a fully blown war in order to fulfill them are worse than no guarantees at all. It would be dangerously naïve to assume that the U.S. would indeed honor the guarantee under Article V of the NATO treaty or assume responsibility for open-ended maintenance of potentially disputed frontiers that were arbitrarily drawn by the likes of Nikita S. Khrushchev and bear little relation to ethnicity or history.
NATO has morphed into something it was never intended to be: a vehicle for the attainment of U.S. hegemonistic objectives on a global scale. Further expansion would merely cement and perpetuate NATO’s new, U.S.-invented and imposed mission as a self-appointed promoter of “democracy”—as seen in action here at home last fall and winter—and protector of “human rights” (for Muslims and LGBTQ+ types first and foremost). Bill Clinton’s air war against the Serbs marked a decisive shift in NATO’s mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational security force based on the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention.” The trusty keeper of the gate of the 1950s morphed into a roaming vigilante in 1999.
NATO and the uses to which the U.S. puts it constitute a messy tangle of contradictions. Outwardly, it still claims to be what it used to be: a defensive organization dedicated to collective security. But with Marxism-Leninism relegated to the ash heap of history, the U.S. entered its Prometheus Unbound moment and NATO has morphed from a defensive alliance into a vehicle for the attainment of the global ambitions of evil and unhinged people who control the U.S. foreign and security policy.
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Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor of Chronicles, is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and Defeating Jihad.