By Nicholas Stender
The U.S.-led NATO military alliance reaffirmed its desire for further confrontation and conflict with Russia at its just-concluded meeting in Madrid. A new “Strategic Concept” document that lays out the organization’s priorities, endorsed by NATO leaders at the summit, named Russia as “the most significant and direct threat” globally. Continued confrontation will lead to dangerous escalations, even risking nuclear war and total catastrophe for humanity.
Aggression against Russia is set to continue in a multi-pronged economic, military and diplomatic offensive. U.S. President Joe Biden announced plans to create a “reverse oil cartel” in an attempt to limit Russian profits from oil exports. Shortly before the summit, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg debuted a proposal to massively increase NATO’s “rapid reaction force” over sevenfold from its current 40,000 troops to over 300,000 troops, many of whom will be stationed in close proximity to Russia’s border. The NATO summit also finalized the decision to expand the alliance to include Sweden and Finland, expanding the NATO border with Russia by more than 800 miles.
Despite the assertions of the Strategic Concept document, NATO is not a defensive alliance but a tool to ensure U.S. domination of Europe – and the globe. Relentless eastward expansion of the military alliance, in contravention of guarantees given to the Soviet Union at the close of the Cold War, cannot be construed in any way other than an attempt to box Russia into a corner. NATO expansion along with the U.S. government’s unilateral ripping up of arms control accords like the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and Open Skies Treaty have brought the NATO war machine to the very doorstep of Russia.
On Wednesday, Stoltenberg admitted that plans against Russia had been brewing for years. “We actually prepared for this possibility for a long time,” he said. “It’s not as if NATO suddenly woke up on the 24th of February and realized that Russia was dangerous.”
“The reality is that we also have been preparing for this since 2014 because that’s the reason why we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, why NATO allies have started to invest more in defense,” Stoltenberg commented. These comments demonstrate the bad faith position taken by NATO from the start of the Ukraine crisis. Instead of working towards a solution to the crisis, NATO, having designated Russia as an enemy, continued to ratchet up the escalation, preventing any hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The major weapons manufacturing corporations are thrilled that they have new customers for their expensive products.
Crowning the major increase in troop presence, the largest since the Cold War, is the announcement that the 5th Army Corps of the U.S. Army will set up a permanent base in Poland for the first time ever. The 5th Army Corps will increase logistical capacity and communication between the different national armies of NATO. To supplement this the United States has pledged to station rotational brigades in Romania and the Baltic countries. These rotational brigades are a long way off from the 260,000 troop increase that Stoltenberg and Biden announced but signal the war-like posture of the United States and NATO. Privately several defense ministers of NATO countries expressed skepticism towards this number, with the capitalist press reporting that the defense ministers of NATO countries were not consulted about the number before the announcement was made. But the political message signaling NATO’s intent to escalate was delivered loud and clear.
Sweden and Finland were announced as new members of NATO as part of a grotesque quid-pro-quo deal with Turkey’s president Erdogan. Turkey’s government demanded that Sweden and Finland extradite accused members of the Kurdistan Workers Party to Turkey as a condition for Turkey’s approval and repress the group’s alleged activities in those countries. To sweeten the deal, Biden approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and canceled a ban on U.S. weapons sales after Turkey purchased the Russian made S-400 air defense system. The expansion of the alliance will put hostile NATO troops only about 100 miles away from Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg.
On the economic front, confrontation is set to continue as Biden floated the plan for a price cap on Russian oil. Western governments are frustrated that their sanctions failed to cause a quick collapse of the Russian economy like they had hoped. The Russian currency is at its highest level since 2015 and the skyrocketing global price of oil has helped offset the effect of restrictions on Russian exports. What has materialized, however, is a massive cost of living increase for the working class in NATO countries.
Inflation, driven in part by the rise in global food and energy prices due to the war in Ukraine, has wreaked havoc across the globe. Seemingly oblivious to the plight of working people, Western politicians have drawn up a new plan to put the squeeze on Russia. Under the proposed plan NATO countries would attempt to single out Russian oil on the market and organize a cartel that would pledge to pay a low cost for it. This is accompanied with the threat to embargo Russian oil that is not sold at the price decided upon by Western governments.
It’s clear this scheme is far-fetched. The plan relies on other countries outside of Europe and the United States participating in the cartel. There is no indication that China or India, two major purchasers of Russian oil, are going to allow the West to determine the terms of oil sales. Instead of seeking ways to deepen a war that they helped provoke, Western governments should act to address the cost of living crisis hurting so many working class people in their countries.
The above article was originally published here by Liberation.