NATO vs Russia: ‘US tries to create enemy out of nothing’

Reuters / Kacper Pempel
The Ukrainian crisis is about Ukraine, but not about Central or Western Europe, says Jonathan Steele, Guardian international affairs columnist. But NATO needs to justify its existence and sell arms, that’s why a demonization of Russia is taking place.

On Monday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter claimed America will provide more aircraft, weapons and soldiers to NATO’s rapid reaction force in Europe. This is meant to help Europe face security threats including Russia. Earlier, the US announced plans to store battle tanks, combat vehicles and heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 troops in Eastern Europe.

RT:Washington says no US troops will move to Europe immediately, but they could be made available within 48 hours if requested. What kind of request are we talking about? What's the danger Europe has to be afraid of?

Jonathan Steele: It means exactly that they will be on standby and they will be flown to Europe within 48 or 72 hours maximum. Whether this is going to change anything is doubtful because they could fly there anyway. So the fact that they are on standby doesn’t really change anything, it’s just part of saber rattling. The threat they claim is from Russia. And I think, as Ashton Carter said, they think Russia is trying to recreate a Soviet-style sphere of influence across Europe. This of course is a complete exaggeration, if not nonsense… To accuse Russia of planning to extend its sphere of influence is an astonishing accusation.

READ MORE: US will provide weapons, aircraft, forces to NATO’s rapid response force in E. Europe – Pentagon

RT:NATO's all about cooperation and yet Washington is planning to send more of its own soldiers to Eastern Europe. Can the White House not rely on its partners?

JS: I think it’s meant just to give a lead because they are trying to get to all the NATO member countries to apply 2 percent of their GDP to defense, and many of them are behind, including Britain. They want to give a lead and say “We are showing the way, we are supplying more arms, men, equipment, logistics and you must follow suits”. So it’s meant to try to persuade the NATO allies to follow suit.

RT:Can the alliance really afford more military spending right now?

JS: That’s the reason why it isn’t 2 percent at the moment. It’s because countries can’t do that and many of them have to cut their budgets and these huge austerity programs going on throughout Europe and defense is unpopular. Public opinion doesn’t see the need for increasing defense expenditure especially since we’ve had two very unpopular wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – and people don’t want to spend more money on defense and they don’t believe politicians’ analyses that Russia is a threat.

RT:And what about people who are living nearby? Are they happy with the growing military presence?

JS: I think many of them are dubious about it. They don’t want to be the frontline in any kind of a new hot war that might develop in Europe. So there is a great deal of concern as well as the economic issues. The trouble is that the US is trying to create an enemy out of nothing. The Ukrainian crisis is about Ukraine, it’s not about the Baltics, it’s certainly not about Central Europe or Western Europe. But NATO is a big bureaucratic empire, they have to have a reason for existence, that’s a good thing for the US arms manufacturers to cascade or sell their arms to Western European countries, and so there is a lot of heavy corporate interest involved in all this demonization of Russia.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.