NATO summit and the idiocy of Western imperialism

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Soldiers walk after a demonstration of their skills during a military police exercise, ahead of the NATO summit in July in Warsaw, at the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland © Kacper Pempel
As NATO delegates gather in Warsaw to discuss the alleged threat posed by Russia, Russia continues to confront the threat posed by ISIS in the Middle East and beyond. It begs the question of when will this idiocy end?

Russia’s role in fighting ISIS in Syria has, along with the efforts of their Syrian allies, been key in denuding this modern incarnation of the Khmer Rouge of the strength that saw it erupt across Syria and Iraq in 2014.

NATO played a major role in opening the door to the explosion of terrorism and extremism across the region during this period. It’s intervention in the conflict in Libya between March and October of 2011 – under the auspices of Operation Unified Protector, which replaced the US-led Operation Odyssey Dawn - witnessed the willful and grievous manipulation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, mandating a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect civilians, into a mission of regime change with the objective of providing air support to rebel forces intent on toppling Muammar Gaddafi and his government.

Without this intervention the rebels would not have been able to succeed in defeating the forces loyal to the Libyan leader. Gaddafi, it should be recalled, fell wounded into rebel hands and was brutally murdered after his convoy was hit in a NATO airstrike.

The record shows that upon the murder of Gaddafi, Libya descended into a swamp of civil conflict. Indeed, a country that once enjoyed a high level of development within Africa and the Middle East African was turned into a failed state and another front in the struggle against ISIS.

In Europe, meanwhile, NATO’s objective of placing a cordon sanitaire around Russia at a time when Russian aircraft, airmen, and military personnel are leading the international struggle against ISIS – a struggle being waged not only in the interests of people and civilians in Syria and the wider Middle East, but also in the interests of people and civilians throughout Europe and the West given the nature of this equal opportunities menace – has to count as a new level of absurdity. At the very moment Russian aircraft have been pounding ISIS and other terrorist targets across Syria, NATO troops, aircraft, and ships have been conducting extensive military exercises across Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.

For all the propaganda about ‘Russian aggression’ and the deluge of anti-Putin rhetoric, NATO’s belligerent stance towards Moscow is not a defensive but an offensive one, given Russia’s refusal to allow the West to continue to ride roughshod over international law and treat national sovereignty as a gift to be bestowed or taken away at the behest of Washington rather than the inviolable right enshrined in the UN Charter.

The extent of the hypocrisy which passes for democracy in Western capitals today is contained in the following counter-factual question of what the response would be to Russia and China conducting military exercises in northern Mexico or southern Canada, close to the US border, while their navies do likewise in the Gulf of Mexico? Likewise, what would be the US reaction to the deployment of a Russian missile defense system in Cuba? Indeed, we already know the answer to the second question vis-à-vis the Cuban Missile Crisis, which in 1962 brought the world the closest it has ever been to a nuclear conflagration.

In 2016 the world has never been more interconnected and interdependent economically, geopolitically or, most crucially, when it comes to meeting the threat of global terrorism. As such there is simply no excuse for a reprise of the cold war attitudes underpinning the NATO summit in Warsaw. Russia, rather than a threat to peace and security, is a major economy interested in mutually beneficial relations with its Baltic and European neighbors and the United States. However those relations cannot be forged at the expense of its own security and legitimate rights. Sanctions, military exercises, the invocation of cold war rhetoric, attempts to maintain a unipolarity that is both unsustainable and untenable, these are all impediments to stability, peaceful co-existence, and prosperity for all.

Looking ahead, based on the findings of a recent UK parliamentary select committee report into UK-Russia relations, we see reason for both hope and despair. While on the one hand the report acknowledges that “dialogue between NATO and Russia is essential,” and asserts that “in the long term, the UK wanted a better relationship with Russia,” on the other it claims that “Russia’s actions in Ukraine demonstrated the ruthlessness with which it will assert its plans and its willingness to ignore international law.”

Russia’s actions in Crimea were taken in response to the unconstitutional overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government by forces within the country in which anti-Russian nationalists and neo-fascists were prominent. Their efforts were supported and encouraged by various Western politicians, resulting in the democratic rights of civilians living in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine, adjacent to Russia’s border, being quashed.

Without Russian intervention in Crimea a brutal and bloody civil conflict would have been the inevitable result as the unconstitutional government in Kiev sought to extend its writ throughout the country. In a referendum held to determine the future of Crimea’s 2 million citizens, 80 percent of the votes cast were in favor of seceding from Ukraine and re-joining Russia as part of the Russian Federation. Such a referendum, it should be noted, was not forthcoming when it came to Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.

Meanwhile, in Donbass and other regions of eastern Ukraine anti-Kiev rebels have been fighting to maintain the democratic rights violated by the aforementioned 2014 coup in Kiev. These are Ukrainian citizens who enjoy language, ethnic, and cultural links to Russia. Both are not mutually exclusive and contradict the view prevalent in Kiev and Western capitals that hating Russia is a non-negotiable condition of being Ukrainian. It is not and never has been.

Ultimately, the claim that Russia has “ignored international law” in Ukraine is false, while the expansion of NATO’s presence in Europe all the way up to its borders has nothing to do with security and everything to do with imperialism.

As NATO delegates sit down to meet in Warsaw they do so as people who are living in the past. The present and the future demand an end to a world divided between states who assert the right to speak and those that are expected to shut up and listen.

In the world of today all states must have the right to speak and all must listen.

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