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Occam's Razor: How NATO 'betraying' Russia is a complete fiction

Monday, March 07, 2022

amb
This is not Russia
Matthias Knab, Opalesque:

I was born 1963 in (then West-) Germany and can remember a few things. I lived through the Cold War, saw the Falling of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dreams for a better world which Putin trashed. Although it's impossible to know 360 degrees of the truth, but let me add a few chips to the puzzle:

1. In 1994 Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for US, UK and Russia's commitment to defend its territorial integrity (the Budapest memorandum). The Russians breached the agreement in 2014 by invading and annexing parts of Ukraine, and now again.

2. The U.S.S.R. was never offered a formal guarantee on the limits of NATO expansion post-1990. There is NOTHING contractual that says so. Some reading on this: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/exposing-the-myth-of-western-betrayal-of-russia/

and for those who want to go a bit deeper:

https://www.rferl.org/a/nato-expansion-russia-mislead/31263602.html

Let's take advice from Occam's Razor. If there REALLY would be a written agreement, then Russia would be producing it and whack it around everybody's ears. In an article for the Brookings Institution in 2014, Stephen Pifer, the former US ambassador in the 90s, already predicted that for Putin, "The West's alleged promise not to enlarge the alliance will undoubtedly remain a standard element of his anti-NATO spin." Don't fall for his lies.

3. What's undoubtedly well documented is that 1997 in Helsinki, Yeltsin accepted a formula under which Russia would live with a NATO that included several former Soviet satellite states. This was the first time Russia admitted that nations had the right to pick their friends and alliances.

"Also, don't forget that it's these countries are ASKING to join NATO. The request is coming from THEM. NATO isn't conquering them.

WHY would a country want to join NATO? Could it be because they are afraid that Russia might invade them? That Russia is a kleptocracy run by a ruthless dictator, and they might lose the freedoms they fought for?

And joining NATO would mean a small number of NATO troops and hardware would be based in your country as a small insurance policy against a Russian invasion, so you could continue to grow your country and economy and your population could prosper.

These countries WANT to join NATO, they DON'T want Russia anymore. If a country wants to join NATO and NATO wants them, that's their business, it's not Russia's, nor China's, nor Iran's.

"If NATO was a war-mongering conquering army gobbling up territory for an empire, I'd feel MUCH differently about it. But it just seems to be an insurance policy against Russia. And Russia just made the VERY best case one could make for joining NATO", Eric Ross.

4. Therefore, the myth of "Nato's betrayal" Putin brought up at the 2007 Munich Security Conference is a complete lie. I do remember the utter confusion this talk created at that time. People weren't "getting it" and asking "what did Putin smoke?" There was wide disbelief that he could say the things they just heard him saying with overt aggression.

Now we know, it's a false narrative he has continued to build and use as justification to keep Russia isolated from the West so that he and his buddies can continue to plunder it.

"This narrative that NATO is about to invade I was told daily since the first grade in USSR which gave me terrible nightmares. This is an old myth that was supposed to keep poor Soviet citizens in obedience. We had to wipe the ass with newspapers as the party was building thousands of nuclear submarines capable of destroying all the life on the planet several times over. The logic was that you cannot question the party and it's ok to stay poor because otherwise all the horrors of WW2 will certainly follow after NATO invasion. The Soviet unit collapsed and instead of genocide by NATO, Eastern Europe had a fantastic improvement in the standard of living." (Misha Fomytskyi)

Russia has the talent, the history, the resources, but instead of diversifying and building a strong economy, things have been going the wrong way. Purchasing power declines, Russians are getting poorer. The brain drain is tremendous.

"The 'Russian geopolitical lens' that Putin talks so much about, is this myth that was circulating in the minds of the Russians: that Soviet Union was doing really well in 1991, and the only reason it fell is because three men drank too much vodka and signed an agreement effectively dissolving USSR. And Putin wants to be the Terminator that goes back in time to change that one moment. Granted, that is a pure delusion; USSR decayed organically from the inside and over decades of time. But Putin liked the myth and repeated it so much, that he started believing it himself." (Yaroslav U.)

"I travelled to Moscow in 2012 and happened to be there during the May Day parade and saw the full might of the Russian military display (no, I'm not a closet arms dealer). But I came away with the definite sense that Russians needed us to be their enemy in order to be important in the world: they WANT to be our enemy even though we have so much in common and so much we can do together. Americans didn't really see Russia as their enemy at that time; this is changing this week." (Eric Ross)

You can see how Putin and his followers keep up the myth of Russia having to "battle the West" and now "fight the Nazis".

5. It is now equally well known that Putin is a kleptocrat with estimated $360bn amassed (see Panama Papers, Bill Browder's "Red Notice" book, or Catherine Belton's "Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West")

6. As I read recently from Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, "There are no ex-dictators, there are only dead dictators, and Putin knows it. Trying to predict what Putin will do to maintain power is very difficult." So the risks are massive, but are these really NATO's fault?

7. Russian former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has been warning the world for well over a decade - mostly to no avail, sadly - about the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin. For example, in 2015 and 2016 he published these op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, Putin's Culture of Fear and Death and The U.S.S.R. Fell - and the World Fell Asleep, and in 2016 he published this book, Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped. His recommendation is now to "Call out Putin's lackeys in the free world. The lobbyists, the law firms, the former politicians like German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who chairs two of Putin's strategically important energy companies. This includes the fifth columnists of all political stripes who side with a dictator for ideology or Russian cash."

8. Putin needs a history lesson:

Built on fantasy and fabrication, Putin's Feb. 22nd address manufactured a succession of events that bear little resemblance to the real, rich history of a powerful, independent Ukraine that for centuries dwarfed an independent Russia in importance, even size. It is a frightening insight into the deep thinking of the path Putin would like to follow. It should send chills across the Baltic states through Central Asia and beyond -- all once republics of the Soviet Union, amalgamated at gunpoint from the time of the Russian Revolution to the end of World War II. Putin seems to believe it is his mission to recreate the old Soviet Union. And apparently, he intends to start with Ukraine.

At its peak in the early 1200s, Kyiv's population of 100,000 was among the world's largest cities. Putin's claim that "before the 17th century, a portion of this territory rejoined the Russian state," is equally fictitious since for much of this period, it was actually controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was repeatedly attacked by Crimean Tatars.

"Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia," Putin continued. Well, in fact, as the late historian of Ukraine Orest Subtelny observed, in the years when the Soviet Union was being born after World War I, "Ukraine probably fought longer for independence and paid a higher price in lives than any other East European nation."

Indeed, there was a bitter civil war between the Whites and Reds (Bolshevik) forces that finally led to a bloody takeover by the communists when their forces seized Kyiv in February 1919. "In 1919, total chaos engulfed Ukraine. Indeed, in the modern history of Europe no country experienced such complete anarchy, bitter civil strife, and total collapse of authority," Subtelny continued. "Six different armies ... operated on its territory. Kiev changed hands five time in less than a year."

9. 47-year-old economist Ingrida Šimonyte, Prime Minister of Lithuania, says we also shouldn't forget what Russia did to Europe post 1945: "Sometimes I hear that we should be grateful to the Russians, because they liberated the continent from the Nazis. Then I say: Yes, but then they forgot to withdraw their troops. In our case for 50 years. That makes it very personal for me. I spent 16 years of my life under Soviet occupation. That was more than enough for me." <

The Soviets also kept Eastern Germany occupied until the people stood up against it in 1989. Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden, East Germany at that time. In fact, given his fluency in German, Putin was the engagement officer between the KGB and the German equivalent, the "Staatssicherheit". In 1989 in Germany the people succeeded what earlier uprisings (1953 in East Germany, Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Prague Spring (1968) in Czechoslovakia) did not accomplish as the Soviets sent tanks, murdered people and put an end to it. The "Eastern Bloc", made up of countries the Soviets controlled with an iron fist, included Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania at that time.

Read this on Putin's "formative years" in Germany and why he fears democracy:

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32066222

10. The fireman who starts the fires. "Every geopolitical conflict in that region since 1999 was engineered by Putin, so that he could offer his "solution". (Yaroslav U.)

Let's look at Georgia whose effort to join NATO began in 2005. In 2006, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously for a bill which calls for the integration of Georgia into NATO. On January 5, 2008 Georgia held a non-binding referendum on NATO membership with 77% voting in favor.

During the NATO summit in Bucharest, United States and Poland called for Georgia to be allowed to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP). The alliance decided NOT to offer Georgia a MAP due to opposition from Germany and France, who feared the decision would anger Russia. In August 7, 2008, Russia invaded Georgia with a larger assault.

On the Russian encroachment map, let's also not forget to draw "Transdnistria" in Moldova, a fake country created and supported by Putin; Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, two fake countries on Georgian land created and supported by Putin to intimidate Georgia. Let's also not forget the ever-increasing Russian intrusions into non-Russian airspace and waters.

"I'm still stuck on 'why would we allow Russia to tell us to refuse to admit other countries into NATO' (which is by definition a defense against Russian invasion) when Russia continues to threaten them with invasion? Why does Russia get a say in this?

That's a bit like saying 'India, you aren't allowed to defend the Himalayas because China feels threatened by you and wants to take this territory.' Makes no sense to me: India is of course going to defend itself BECAUSE China wants that territory. Same with NATO: join so Russia won't invade you." (Eric Ross)

11. The recent Putin landgrab

Although Abkhazia and South Ossetia belong to Georgia under international law, they are recognized as independent by Russia and have been de facto controlled for years.

Nevertheless, Thursday still turned into a special day in Tbilisi. That's because at a press conference, Kobakhidze announced his party's decision to apply for EU membership "without delay." The application was handed over to Brussels the same day. Was it pressure from the opposition or does Tbilisi suddenly see a favorable window after Selensky demanded immediate EU membership for Ukraine in Brussels? Actually, Tbilisi did not want to apply until the year after next. So far, both countries are linked to the EU through an association agreement.

So is Moldova, another state where Russia's war against Ukraine is likely to raise fears. Moldova is considered the poorest country in Europe; but of course that doesn't matter to the tens of thousands who have since fled the war from Ukraine to the neighboring country. They are safe there. But already on the second day of the attacks, Moldova also had to mourn war victims. A chemical tanker flying the Moldovan flag was hit by a missile near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

The situation is so delicate for Moldova that the parliament has declared a state of emergency for 60 days. Large demonstrations are banned for that long, and "undesirables" could be sent out of the country. The new Moldovan government, as well as President Maia Sandu, are striving for the closest possible ties with the EU, but have so far also tried to maintain a pragmatically good relationship with Russia. This is because a large part of the population has so far felt more connected to Russia. The problem for Moldova is that Russian soldiers are stationed in the breakaway territory of Transnistria, which is effectively controlled by Moscow. The Moldovan leadership would like to get rid of them.

With the war, the situation has changed yet again. The concern in Moldova now is that the Russian military will try to capture the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. This would open the way practically all the way to Transnistria; there would be a direct link between Russia, the Donbass, the southern Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Kherson, Odessa, all the way to Tiraspol, officially Moldova's second largest city. Any attempts to regain control of the breakaway territory would be rendered moot.

But the Moldovan government apparently does not want to just sit back and watch the situation unfold. President Maia Sandu signed a formal application to join the European Union as recently as Thursday. "We want to live in peace and prosperity and be part of the free world," she said.

Back to Ukraine, a single number shows how far the country is behind after 30 years of brutal privatization, oligarchy and political ups and downs. Despite extremely fertile farmland, despite all the advances in the steel and IT industries, the annual GDP per capita is just 2900 euros. This corresponds roughly to the level in Morocco or Bolivia - and one thirteenth of the German value. Even if you include the significantly lower cost of living, the overall economic performance in the Federal Republic is still more than four times as high. The war will worsen this relationship again - possibly for decades to come.

Almost all factories, smelters and works in the iron and steel industry, which contribute a massive 12 percent to GDP, are in the Donets Basin - the region that Putin wants to keep under his own sphere of influence or even his own state. "Should Ukraine lose this strategically important region, it would be an economic catastrophe," says Grigoriadis. "Putin knows that too, of course: he is pushing ahead with the detachment of the Donbass from Kyiv in order to prevent Ukraine from being viable as an independent country."

Selensky's transformation into a statesman could inspire many young Ukrainians. The situation for the government in Kyiv would be even more dramatic if the country had to give up the Crimean Peninsula, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014, the region around the port city of Odessa and other parts in the east of the country claimed by Moscow, in addition to the Donbass: Ukraine would lose as a result access to the Black and Azov Seas and would no longer be able to ship goods directly to Europe or China.

12. Rather than falling for Putin's lies and blaming NATO, we should be "irritated that there is such corruption in Russia, that there are practically no elections and no independent court, that the opposition is liquidated, the province is impoverished, Nemtsov is killed, that television degenerates into a propaganda tool", says Vladimir Sorokin, Russian writer and dramatist, one of the most popular in modern Russian literature.

Thanks to ERIC Ross, Misha Fomytsky,i Yaroslav U., Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA, for their contributions.

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