The Russian proposal to the United States for a bilateral treaty establishing security guarantees, made public by the Kremlin on December 17, 2021, received a double response from the United States and Nato on January 26, 2022, a month and a half later.
The Russian proposal stipulates that both countries respect the UN Charter and, in addition, that Washington respects the word it has given orally on the non-extension of Nato beyond the Oder-Neisse line that separates Germany from Poland.
The United States is keeping its response secret. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured that his country rejects any limitation on NATO expansion. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace went further, assuring the House of Commons that: “Many countries have joined the Alliance not because Nato has forced them to, but because of the freely expressed will of the governments and peoples of those countries.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recalled that the United States, the United Kingdom and all OSCE member states are signatories to the 1999 Istanbul and 2010 Astana Declarations. These two documents, signed by 57 heads of state and government, lay down two principles:
– 1. Each country is free to join a military alliance of its choice;
– 2. Each country has the obligation not to strengthen its security at the expense of others.
However, there is no doubt that the accession of the former members of the Warsaw Pact to Nato, involving the deployment of US weapons on their territory, threatens Russia’s security.
Ben Wallace’s remark about the will of the people to join NATO is factually wrong. For example, in the September 30, 2018 referendum on the membership of the Northern Macedonians in Nato, although 91.46% of voters said “Yes”, they represented only 33.75% of the voters. Moreover, no NATO membership is valid until it is accepted by every NATO member state.
NATO’s response, also secret, was explained by its Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg . It includes three proposals and one demand:
– Reopen the respective diplomatic missions of NATO and Russia;
– To initiate new discussions on arms control and the rules applicable to intermediate and short-range missiles;
– Propose new rules of transparency on military exercises and nuclear doctrines.
– Evacuate Transnistria, Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia that the Russian military occupies in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.
These three proposals aim to reduce the risk of nuclear war. They differ from the known US response in that they are subject to real negotiations. They show that NATO members are aware of the risks of nuclear war.
The demand for the evacuation of Transnistria, Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia shows once again that the Western bloc refuses the right of peoples to self-determination as stated in the UN Charter. The history of these four territories attests that they are inhabited by peoples distinct from Moldovans, Ukrainians and Georgians. There was no ethnic cleansing. Each people chose their independence by referendum. Moreover, the independent Crimea has applied for membership in the Russian Federation, which has accepted it.
It is as if the United States and NATO were deaf to Russia.
In recent weeks, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom have sent arms to Ukraine or deployed troops to defend it . Not only did the US and British press swarm with rumors of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, but the press in Central, Eastern and Baltic Europe followed suit. Yet the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, have repeatedly said that there is no such risk, that their country is not threatened in the short term .
This dissonance within the Western bloc is shocking. It confirms that the United States is thinking outside the box. Certainly, Russia was expecting a US refusal of its treaty proposal, but not to belch out arguments that do not include any of its own. President Biden seems to have adopted the strategy chosen by his predecessor Richard Nixon against the USSR, that of the Madman theory: to use a threatening tone of voice to intimidate the opponent and make him back down. Or, in the words of Professor Thomas Schelling, to make “a threat that leaves room for chance”. This strategy failed in the Vietnam War. It is unlikely to succeed the second time around, especially since President Vladimir Putin’s team is much more capable than that of First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. It is the poker player’s bluff against the chess player’s calculation.
The tension around Ukraine could easily find a diplomatic solution. First, because if Washington and Brussels (NATO headquarters) keep repeating that Ukraine has the right to join the Alliance, there is no question of it today, nor even in the medium term. Secondly, because it would be enough for the Alliance to reiterate its 1996 declaration that it has “no intention, no plan, and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of its new members” – the three “No’s” – for everything to return to normal, in the short term, on the military level . The fact remains that the question posed by Russia is not the presence of U.S. weapons in Ukraine, but in a much more general way, that of respect for the Treaties.
While the two great powers are playing this strange game, some of the United States’ allies are making their differences known.
First, the United Kingdom, which has revived the Stay-Behind networks of the Cold War. It is often forgotten that the Atlantic Alliance is historically a joint creation of the United States and the United Kingdom. It is true that, in the words of President Charles de Gaulle, NATO is only a screen for US domination of Europe, because the Supreme Commander of the Alliance is always a US officer, but the political decisions are taken jointly by Washington and London, the other Allies being only vassals. This is not what the North Atlantic Treaty says, but it has been verified again in the war against Libya. The Atlantic Council did not meet to decide on the attack on Tripoli because some members were opposed to it. The decision was taken in a secret meeting in Naples by the United States and the United Kingdom alone, in the presence of a few allies they had chosen.
This suzerain role of Washington and London had led them throughout the Cold War to maintain stay-behind networks to intervene in the domestic politics of member states with their agreement in principle, but without their knowledge . These interventions included the assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the overthrow of the Greek republican regime and the installation of the military regime of the colonels. In France, NATO supported the OAS (Organization of the Secret Army) to carry out some 40 assassination attempts on President De Gaulle. The Pentagon has publicly revealed that these networks -never dissolved, despite multiple announcements- had been extended to Ukraine. Russia has concluded that Ukraine is a de facto member of the Alliance, but cannot count on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to ensure its security.
London has also announced that it is strengthening its military solidarity with Poland as part of a trilateral alliance with Ukraine . In a few weeks, Warsaw has become the hub through which all the aid to Kiev flows. However, the Poles do not want to expose themselves excessively. That is why they have offered to let Russia inspect the US bases on its territory on the condition that they can inspect the Russian bases in the Kaliningrad enclave .
The United States and the United Kingdom are worried about the lack of enthusiasm of the new German government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
– Berlin has refused to allow British aircraft to fly over its territory to arm Ukraine. According to the treaties, the Germans could not have objected if the request had come from the Pentagon.
– Berlin is asking to decouple the Ukrainian issue from the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is essential to its economy.
– Finally, it is not respecting its commitment to devote 2% of its GDP to its defence, using only 1.5%.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken came in person to lecture the Scholtz government, but instead of negotiating with Russia, Germany is entangled in the internal negotiations of its government coalition.
That leaves the French case. President Emmanuel Macron has reopened negotiations in the Normandy format to implement the Minsk Agreements and pacify Ukraine. He has held extensive talks with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin. But the problem lies elsewhere: it is the Ukrainians who refuse to implement the agreement they signed. They are the ones who are keeping the civil war in Donbass going.
Back to Washington. The political class is unanimous against Russia, but divided on the means to make it bend. For three weeks, it has been debating terrible sanctions. However, if it adopts them now, Moscow will be sanctioned before it invades Ukraine and will therefore be able to do so without fear of retaliation. On a more serious note, the Republicans support the proposals of the Heritage Foundation , while the Democrats cling to those of the Center for American Progress . All of them are well aware that implementing the commitments made at the OSCE by signing the Istanbul Declaration of 1999 and the Astana Declaration of 2010 would be the beginning of the end. The “American Empire” is threatened, not by Russia, but by international law, which so far remains unenforced.
The question is: what means is Russia prepared to use to force Washington to respect international law (in the sense of the UN and not in the sense of the United States)? The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Serge Riabkov, had left some doubt about a possible transfer of missiles to Cuba or Venezuela. But the vice-president of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, declared that this was “out of the question” because it would run counter to the interests of these two countries ; a way of underlining that the presence of US weapons in Central and Eastern Europe runs counter to the interests of the countries that host them.
So we must look elsewhere. To Syria, for example. Thus the Syrian and Russian air forces have begun joint maneuvers over the Golan Heights, legally Syrian according to the UN, but which Israel illegally annexed in 1981. The Tsahal did not dare to fire on these planes. Compliance with the Treaties is not only a matter for the United States, but also for Israel.
Washington’s slowness to respond to the Russian proposal for the end of 2021 and the visible hysteria in Congress have awakened China. The latter has registered the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), enacted on December 27, 2021. It provides for a gigantic defense budget (excluding the atomic bomb) of 768 billion dollars! No one has read the entire text (2,186 pages), but its philosophy is clearly to isolate Beijing. So Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, did not fail to warn his US counterpart, Antony Blinken… to respond to Moscow’s “justified” demands. Step by step, the Sino-Russian entente is being confirmed; an axis that is far too powerful for the United States and its allies.
A final remark. When Washington informed Moscow that it was finalizing its written reply on January 23, it made it clear that it wanted to keep it secret . Russia agreed to this. The only possible explanation for this move is that the White House was preparing to hold different talks with its interlocutors. The West is now leaving Democracy to enter into secret diplomacy.