Where the facts stand tall like trees in the desert
The Western MSM is fond of saying, over and over (Google it), that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Putin lives in a world of his own. It's a misquotation, as the German Chancellery attempted to say, but the correction was trampled in the rush to smear Putin. So, with the background that “authoritative” media sources are telling us that Putin lives in ga-ga land, let’s travel to NATO-Land.
As our guide to NATO-Land, we turn our reptilian eyes on “NATO-Russia relations: the facts”. An official publication on NATO’s home page. So even we turtles have to take it seriously. Its introduction, better put that I could ever hope to do, is:
Since Russia began its illegal military intervention in Ukraine, Russian officials have accused NATO of a series of provocations, threats and hostile actions stretching back over 25 years. This webpage sets out the facts.
“The facts”. Well, that sure says it, doesn’t it? There's Facts and there's the deluded nonsense that Putin trolls vomit forth. NATO-Land is REAL; Putin-Land is IMAGINARY. In NATO-Land the facts stand, tall and straight.
But you have to keep a sense of wonder and humor on the tour. We learn that it is very wrong for the Russians to say that NATO’s operation in Afghanistan was a failure. Well, its not just Russians who say that, but you decide for yourself: here is NATO-Land's explanation.
But, alas, some of the assertions, sorry, “facts”, in NATO-Land are imaginary: has anyone, even the most vodka-soaked Putin troll, ever suggested that NATO was trying to set up a base in Crimea? Not that I know of. But we do know that the United States Navy was – we have a procurement document – but admittedly, that’s not every-single-NATO-member-consensus-formal-written-down-agreement-on-a-base. Of course the USA is a member of NATO and might be amenable to letting other NATO members use the base. But that’s not the same thing at all, in NATO-Land.
Was Russia/USSR promised NATO wouldn't expand? Not at all:
Every formal decision which NATO takes is adopted by consensus and recorded in writing. There is no written record of any such decision having been taken by the Alliance.
Well, no, it was never an official NATO promise and it wasn’t written down, and nobody in Russia, or anywhere else, says that it was. But it was promised. Here are the, as they say in NATO-Land, facts, from Foreign Affairs, of all places. Moscow’s problem was that it was a “gentleman’s agreement”. And the gentleman’s agreement was soon broken. Sea-lawyerly arguments that it was never said in exactly those words, or never written down, or never passed by everybody in NATO are just post facto sophistry.
Let’s take a look at NATO’s intervention in Libya. (By the way, this was a NATO-less-Germany-intervention. But it’s still a NATO-intervention. A US base in Crimea is not a NATO base. This, that, some, all. Slippery concept, this NATO-Land). Anyway, the intervention was not “illegitimate” at all.
UNSCR 1973 authorized the international community “to take all necessary measures’’ to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”. This is what NATO did, with the political and military support of regional states and members of the Arab League.
Well, here’s the actual text of the resolution, which goes on to specify arms embargoes, no-fly zones and other details; you decide whether giving weapons to the rebels, putting troops on the ground and, in effect, commanding the anti Qaddafi forces is a “legitimate” interpretation. The justificatory accusations in the resolution, accepted as true in “The Facts” , were probably mostly false too, as the Belfer Center at Harvard concluded, too late to change anything:
NATO's action magnified the conflict's duration about sixfold and its death toll at least sevenfold, while also exacerbating human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, Islamic radicalism, and weapons proliferation in Libya and its neighbors. If Libya was a "model intervention" then it was a model of failure.
Ukraine’s present authorities are “legitimate” in NATO-Land. Well, actually, given that he is not dead, not incapacitated, has not resigned and has not been impeached, Yanukovich is still the legitimate president of Ukraine. Here is Article 108 of Ukraine's Constitution. Pretty irrelevant today, I admit, but you’d think NATO, so full of virtue, could have finessed the unconstitutionality of his overthrow better than that.
But I do have to agree with one “fact” in NATO-Land: no, the cases of Kosovo and Crimea are not identical. There was a secession referendum in Crimea but not in Kosovo. And, as to whether Kosovo is or is not a “precedent” that’s a matter for some discussion – here’s the Wikipedia entry. Personally, I would be inclined to say that if somebody thinks it’s a precedent and acts on it, then saying it isn’t is a bit irrelevant. Almost as irrelevant, in fact, as quoting Article 108 of the Ukrainian Constitution in present circumstances.
Some of NATO’s “facts” are simply straw men “CLAIM: NATO has bases all around the world”; no, I don’t think anybody in the Kremlin makes that claim; it’s the United States that has bases all around the world.
“Claim: NATO has advanced its infrastructure towards Russia's borders”. Well, in NATO-Land it has advanced – how could they deny it? – but, because it was done “transparently” it’s all right.
There was no “military base” in Georgia, just a “training center”.
In our further explorations of NATO-Land, let us move to the latest utterance by the principal inhabitant, NATO’s Secretary General. From his “Doorstep statement” on Thursday:
We are seeing new threats, new challenges. To the east, we see aggressive actions by Russia, destabilizing Ukraine, violating international law, and they have annexed a part of another country. And that is the first time since World War Two that this has happened in Europe.
Then, a few minutes later, in answer to a question, he said:
Because we think it is important that Russia – which is our biggest neighbor in Europe – and NATO are able to work together on important issues, like for instance, fighting terror.
A world in which you can call someone aggressive and expect cooperation in the next breath is not any world that I’m familiar with. NATO-Land is an imaginary place.
It’s pretty scary: we’re living in the real world; we’re told that Putin is living in some imaginary universe and it’s pretty clear that that NATO is living somewhere off-world too.
So I guess it’s time to get a shovel, some sandbags and stock up on water and dried food.