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Lack of a Coherent NATO Policy

Biden Calls Putin a Butcher and Russia Thinks the US was Behind the Crocus Hall Attack

4 mins read
Russian Crocus City Hall amphitheater interiors, day after terrorist attack on 22 March 2024

Speaking in North Carolina on a rare campaign stop. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a butcher.”  Before that, Biden had referred to Putin as a “thug” and a “crazy SOB.”

Language like that permeates the political arena in other NATO countries too.  The German government will no longer refer to Vladimir Putin as the President of Russia.  Instead he will just be called “Putin,” not even Vladimir Putin.

Neither the US or NATO has declared war on Russia, and Russia has not declared war on the West. 

The Russians know that NATO’s spymasters have been working overtime trying to overthrow “Putin” including at least one attempted coup d’etat and numerous efforts to kill Putin, which included a hit on his Kremlin office with Kamikaze drones.

It seems that the US and its allies have concluded that “Putin” is the danger, not Russia per se.  NATO in some cases had, what it thought, were replacement candidates (Navalny, Prigozhin).  But not always.  Sometimes the idea was just to destabilize “the regime” and hope for a good outcome.

Naturally this presents a jaundiced and peculiar view of how political power works and how major countries operate.  Somehow the “thinking” is that destroying “Putin” will bring about radical change and a reduced Russian “threat.”

Russia is a significant nuclear power with all kinds of powerful weapons at its disposal.  Playing the “Putin” game also exacerbates the tension that exists between NATO and Russia, and generates talk about the “nuclear option.”  Even “Putin” has reminded NATO that Russia is a nuclear power, in response to what Russia sees as US and NATO provocations.

Meanwhile in Europe there is more and more talk that if Ukraine loses to Russia, Russia will attack in Europe, even strike NATO countries.

This is an interesting argument for many reasons.  One of them is there is absolutely no concrete evidence that Russia aims to attack any NATO country, or even other non-NATO members such as Moldova.  The lack of evidence does not seem to matter to those who promote the idea of a coming Russian onslaught on NATO.

The Russia “will attack” argument overlooks the fact that Russia does not need to wait to defeat Ukraine to launch an attack, if in fact it wants to do so.  The significant arms transfers, training of Ukrainian troops in Germany, Poland and the UK, the significant intelligence activities operated from NATO soil, notably including AWACS aircraft and high flying multi-sensor drones used to target Russian cities and Russia’s Kerch Strait mega bridge, all of these and more are sufficient provocation for Russia to act.  Russia has done very little, since the drones and AWACS operate in international airspace. Putin has held the line on how far Russia is willing to go, undermining the characterization of him as reckless.”

The second argument relates to the provocation of transferring long range weapons to attack Russia.  Transferring such weapons could be seen an act of war by NATO, yet the Russians, who have complained, have not done more than that.  

The most interesting case is the Taurus cruise missile, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has (so far) refused to send to Ukraine.  His foreign minister and defense minister want to send these missiles to Ukraine in order to attack targets inside Russian territory; the EU has voted to send them, even though it is technically outside of its provenance.  

Taurus is a terrain-hugging air launched long range deep strike cruise missile that features a tandem warhead optimised for bunker busting.  It is the only long range system in the German arsenal.  It is considered stealthy mostly because it uses externally generated contour maps that allow it to fly very low as it nears its target.  It is a bunker buster based on its tandem warhead, so for example it can bust through a roadway and then explode destroying what is below, such as bridge pylons.

Apparently the Russians warned Scholz that supplying Taurus would be an act of war against Russia, saying that Russia will hold Germany responsible.  That warning unnerved Scholz.

It isn’t clear whether Scholz will hold out in denying transfers of the Taurus to Ukraine.  His coalition is, to say the least, unstable.  The fact that his two main national security ministers openly oppose his decision is evidence enough.

None of this has stopped Macron from beating the drum and threatening to send French troops to Ukraine.  Whether this is done incrementally and sub-rosa, or openly and abruptly, does not matter much.  Not only will the Russians seek to destroy the French presence in Ukraine, but they would have a casus belli as France is a NATO member.  Washington is against any French troop deployment, but it isn’t clear whether France will “obey” Washington.  An impetuous French leader, whose domestic political support is slipping, may take a chance and cause a third world war.

Beyond the rude language now coming from the US and Europe, and Macron-like threats, and beyond the looming danger of nuclear war, is the complete lack of any coherent policy alternative.  This is most evident, at least as perceived by the Russians, in the recent deadly attack on the Crocus Hall theater by terrorists somehow connected to an Afghan-branch of ISIS. The Russians see this as another destabilization operation aimed at “Putin.”  They believe, quite openly, that the Crocus Hall attack was organized by the US and UK, mentioning in explicit terms, CIA.  Russia also thinks it was the Ukrainian services that “worked” the operation, planting the cache of weapons and providing a safe harbor for the escaping terrorists.  

The open question is how will Russia respond to the Crocus attack and the war-crowd in the US and NATO?  What is clear is that the US and NATO have resorted to name calling and, at least as the Russians see it, black operations aimed at destabilizing the Kremlin.  None of this can lead to any good outcome.

Stephen Bryen

Stephen Bryen is a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and is a leading expert in security strategy and technology. Bryen writes for Asia Times, American Thinker, Epoch Times, Newsweek, Washington Times, the Jewish Policy Center and others.

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