“…The general said Russia was needed in the international community; however, this was impossible at the moment due to the country’s “sole respect for power.”
“He emphasised that about 7,000 Russian troops were stationed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two territories viewed by the international community as Georgian regions occupied by Russia.
“In Hodges’ words, about 20,000 Russian troops are currently present in the Crimea peninsula occupied by Russia, and about 20 Ukrainian soldiers were last week killed during clashes with Moscow-supported separatists in Eastern Ukraine regardless of ceasefire agreements.
“This is a serious challenge; this is not an academic exercise and the only way we keep it from becoming a real crisis is if we stick together, the Alliance stick together and demonstrate that we are committed,” the US general noted.
“He added that Lithuania had been precisely meeting the commitments assumed during the last NATO Summit in Wales by not only boosting defense spending but also by organising exercises and developing its Armed Forces.
“Ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the three Baltic States seek deployment of an international Allied battalion of about 1,000 soldiers in each of their territories. NATO’s Military Committee has given a green light to stationing of the units in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland…”
NATO is continuing its military buildup and “exercises” on Russia’s borders, Moscow is taking “counter-measures,” while the US mainstream media remains silent.
This installment returns to the large-scale NATO military buildup on Russia’s Western frontiers, again on land, sea, and in the air, now featuring Operation “Anaconda-2016,” an “exercise” involving more than 30,000 American and other NATO forces in Poland.
Batchelor asks whether alarmed warnings by informed analysts, including three longtime Russian residents in the United States, that actual war may be imminent are plausible. Cohen thinks this worst-case scenario cannot be ruled out, for several reasons. The NATO build up is not episodic but intended to grow and be permanent, and be ratified at the NATO summit in Warsaw in July. No such hostile forces have amassed on Russia’s Western frontiers—now from the Baltic to the Black Sea—since the Nazi German invasion in 1941. (The inclusion of a German contingent among the NATO forces has further awakened that memory in Russia.) The only explanation given by the US-led NATO is “Putin’s aggression” in Ukraine, but that was more than two years ago. (Claims that he is now menacing the small Baltic states and Poland are clearly without any basis in fact.) Not surprisingly, Cohen reports, Moscow is reinforcing its own conventional and strategic (probably nuclear) forces on its Western territories, bringing the two powers to a Cuban missile crisis–like confrontation. Even leaving aside accidental military acts, there are many other potential tripwires, from Ukraine and Turkey to Syria.
Astonishingly, this looming possibility of war with Russia has gone largely unreported and entirely undebated in mainstream American media. Neither Batchelor nor Cohen can think of a precedent for such a media blackout or indifference. The situation, according to Cohen, is quite different in Russia, where NATO’s buildup is hotly debated on, for example, prime-time television talk shows. Opinions vary as to the actual threat, but one growing opinion is that “a scent of a great war is in the air” and that Putin has not done enough to ready the country at home or abroad. Analogously, a leading Russian journalist publicly criticized the Kremlin for not having intervened militarily in Kiev in February 2014, when the ongoing crisis began with the overthrow of a pro-Russian Ukrainian president. That is, Putin also has a public opinion to consider as he decides how to react to NATO’s buildup.
By Stephen F. Cohen