Spheres of Influence, State Sovereignty, and The European Missile Crisis

On the surface, casual observers might be forgiven for thinking that Russia’s security guarantee requests do indeed amount to an undeclared sphere of influence that’s occurring at the expense of the Central & Eastern European countries’ sovereignty, but that’s actually not the case if one takes the time to think more deeply about it.

The undeclared US-provoked missile crisis in Europe that prompted Russia’s security guarantee proposals (which aren’t “ultimatums” like some in the Alternative and Mainstream Media falsely described them) has led to discussions about spheres of influence and state sovereignty. These have mostly been talked about from the Western perspective of accusing Russia of wanting to “recreate the Soviet Union” at the expense of the Central & Eastern European (CEE) countries’ interests. Moscow of course denied these allegations and rightly reminded the world that it’s the US-led West that’s carving out spheres of influence all across the world in ways that infringe upon their targets’ sovereignty.

Even so, it’s important to address these topics from the Russian perspective in the context of Moscow’s security guarantee proposals since the Eurasian Great Power is requesting that NATO formally halt its expansion eastward, agree not to deploy strike weapons near Russia’s borders, and roll back its military infrastructure to the pre-1997 status quo prior to the former Warsaw Pact’s members joining the US-led alliance. On the surface, casual observers might be forgiven for thinking that these requests do indeed amount to an undeclared sphere of influence that’s occurring at the expense of the CEE countries’ sovereignty, but that’s actually not the case if one takes the time to think more deeply about it.

For starters, observers should reflect on the actual cause of the undeclared US-provoked missile crisis in Europe. Washington broke its verbal promise to Moscow at the end of the Old Cold War not to expand NATO eastward. It also ended up violating the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act that prevented the permanent deployment of US forces to those former Warsaw Pact countries. The reason why it did this was because some members of its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) wanted to neutralize Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities with the intent of forcing the Eurasian Great Power into a position of nuclear blackmail.

President Putin has been warning about this since his famous Munich Speech in 2007 but his words regrettably went unheeded. Russian intelligence now suspects that the US plans to deploy strike weapons, including hypersonic ones, to the region under the cover of “anti-missile systems” in response to a provocation that they’re accused of plotting in Eastern Ukraine. That’s why the country immediately proposed high-level talks with the US aimed at averting that scenario which Russia regards as constituting an imminent threat to its national security interests. This also explains why it described its security guarantees as red lines and promised to take action if they’re respected.

There’s a concept in International Relations theory called the “security dilemma” that basically says that one country’s seemingly defensive moves can be interpreted by others as giving them a military edge that can in turn be leveraged to improve the odds of them carrying out offensive action. In response, the other country then bolsters its own defensive capabilities, which are then interpreted the same way by the first state whose seemingly defensive moves initially sparked those suspicions, and so on and so forth. In the contemporary context, NATO’s continual expansion eastward and deployment of military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders under its “defensive” pretext was seen as offensive by Russia.

While it’s true that every country has the sovereign right to choose whoever they want to militarily ally with, it’s also equally true that these decisions will elicit certain reactions from others who – in keeping with the “security dilemma” paradigm – are bound to interpret those moves as preemptively offensive ones and not strictly defensive and reactionary moves. Moreover, just because every country can theoretically choose whoever to ally with doesn’t mean that their desired ally has to accept them, especially if they’re aware that doing so could worsen the existing “security dilemma” and consequently contribute to further regional uncertainty and instability.

That’s precisely the problem at play nowadays. Russia never took NATO’s “defensive” pretexts for expanding seriously and always suspected it of having ulterior motives. That alliance, however, continued incorporating new members and then deploying its military infrastructure within their borders, even going as far as to violate the 1997 Founding Act. Worse still, they declared in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine will inevitably join NATO, which was a red line for Russia for the reasons that were earlier explained. While the NATO countries have the right to join the bloc and conduct their military affairs however they want, they also shouldn’t do so irresponsibly at the expense of Russian interests.

It was actually the US that was carving out a sphere of influence this entire time through the expansion of NATO under implausibly “defensive” pretexts that completely ignored the “security dilemma” that these moves provoked from Russia. While the CEE countries flexed their sovereignty with respect to joining whatever bloc they wanted, they also simultaneously surrendered their military sovereignty afterwards to the US, though that was ironically enough their sovereign choice to do so. Furthermore, NATO’s continued military expansion eastward towards Russia’s borders infringed on that country’s strategic sovereignty by risking the eventual neutralization of its nuclear second-strike capabilities.

American officials and their allied Western Mainstream Media outlets are therefore gaslighting their target audience by claiming that it’s Russia that wants to carve out a sphere of influence at the expense of others’ sovereignty. All that Moscow is doing is reminding the West that the CEE countries’ sovereign right to join whatever bloc they want has occurred at the expense of its own national security interests. It was therefore highly irresponsible, reckless, and arguably extremely dangerous for the US to take advantage of this sovereignty pretext for the purpose of expanding its own sphere of influence, especially in military-strategic ways that provoked the latest “security dilemma”.

What’s needed is for pragmatism and realism to return to Russian-Western ties after they’ve been dominated by the West’s ideological crusade to neutralize Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities at all costs. The US’ exploitation of state sovereignty as the pretext for accepting every applicant’s membership into NATO served as a cover for expanding its military-strategic sphere of influence at Russia’s expense. Just because any country can join any military bloc doesn’t mean that it has to automatically be admitted into it, the same as such countries enjoy the right to do whatever they want with their military within their borders but also shouldn’t ignore the reaction that others have to this.

The US-led West is muddying the narrative waters because it feels very uncomfortable that Russia’s publicly called it out at the highest levels. They’re panicking since they fear that those within their “narrative sphere of influence” in the West might start wondering whether Russia actually has some decent points, which could in turn get those folks to have less faith in their own leaders and therefore no longer support their anti-Russian warmongering. That’s why the US-led West is gaslighting with its claims that it’s Russia and not them that’s carving out spheres of influence at the expense of other’s sovereignty.

Since the US already has a sphere of military-strategic influence in the CEE countries, it must now responsibly leverage it in order to de-escalate the tensions with Russia that its undeclared missile crisis provoked. Those countries already surrendered their military sovereignty to their American overlord and therefore don’t have a say in whatever it is that their patron agrees to with Moscow. They voluntarily did so for reasons that only their leaders at the time can account for if challenged to do so though it’s unlikely that they’ll ever provide an answer, let alone a truthful one. Nevertheless, this is the state of affairs as it objectively exists in the present and cannot realistically be denied by any sincere observers.

That being the case, this means that the CEE countries are already within a sphere of influence – albeit an American one and not the fearmongered Russian sphere – and agreed to surrender aspects of their sovereignty long ago by joining that US-led alliance. There’s no turning back the clock and pretending that this isn’t what happened. With this in mind, all the US-led Western hype about spheres of influence and sovereignty is actually hypocritical since it’s they themselves who this refers to and not Russia. Accepting these observations as the most objectively accurate ones, the conclusion is that the US must responsibly leverage its regional sphere of influence to successfully de-escalate tensions with Russia.

By Andrew Korybko
Source: OneWorld

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