NATO and the new Cold War by Volker Brauch

In the period between 1999 and 2023, 14 states of the former Warsaw Pact were admitted to NATO in several stages: an increasing threat to the Russian Federation due to the ongoing shift of NATO’s eastern borders to Russian territory. In 2018, Trump terminated the Arms Control Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty & in 2020 the Open Skies Treaty.

NATO and the new Cold War
by Volker Brauch
[This article posted on 3/1/2024 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the turnaround with a special fund of 100 billion, the increase in the annual military budget of at least 2 percent of the federal domestic product and the proclaimed “war readiness” by Defense Minister Pistorius, it is clear that the Euro-Atlantic security order of the 1990s is a thing of the past. We find ourselves in unsecured pre-war times and in a phase of development of an unchecked arms spiral.

Contrary to the prevailing view that the peace order of almost two decades has fundamentally changed in Europe with Russia’s “unprovoked war of aggression in violation of international law”, there were already significant factors that contributed to the current situation before that.

In the period between 1999 and 2023, 14 states of the former Warsaw Pact were admitted to NATO in several stages: an increasing threat to the Russian Federation due to the ongoing shift of NATO’s eastern borders to Russian territory.

In 2018, former US President Trump unceremoniously terminated the Arms Control Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and, two years later, the Open Skies Treaty. All regulations on disarmament and peacekeeping with the destruction of tanks, artillery and medium-range missiles no longer exist. Trump’s threat to withdraw from NATO in the same year led to a greater willingness on the part of most allies to step up their military spending. A further step towards jeopardizing Europe’s security order.

With Georgia and Ukraine declaring their intention to join NATO, Russia’s southern flank is exposed to a further military threat.

These factors had already destabilized Europe’s security situation before the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. The invasion of Ukraine, which violated international law, did not come out of nowhere and had a history. Even NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg declared a year ago that the war did not begin on February 24, 2022 (invasion of the Donbass by Russian troops), but back in 2014.

The West is responding to the war with the narrative that military security can only be established through armament and deterrence. BND head Bruno Kahl assumes that Vladimir Putin would not shy away from an attack on NATO, especially if Ukraine were forced to give up. Europe must not capitulate to this. Stoltenberg declared that a “Russian victory over Ukraine would be a tragedy for the world”, urging Europe not to give up on the military victory over Russia. The dangers inherent in this blinkered view are an aspect that is not mentioned at all. The development of the war in Ukraine alone shows a permanent military escalation without any restrictions. To date, the German government has channeled at least 30 billion euros in money, weapons and informal and logistical aid to Ukraine (not including the costs of taking in refugees). The latest Ukrainian demand to be supplied with Taurus cruise missiles is just another step in this direction. The Greens and FDP are already in favor of this. Step by step, we are moving towards a situation in which even the use of nuclear warheads can no longer be ruled out.

The Russian-Ukrainian war has thrown the Euro-Atlantic security architecture completely out of kilter. “We cannot rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty of the territorial integrity of alliance partners,” declare the NATO countries. Major maneuvers that have been suspended for decades are taking place again. The four-stage large-scale maneuver Quadriga 2024, the largest NATO exercise in decades, is designed to last over four months with 90,000 soldiers from all countries. Germany is participating with 12,000 soldiers.

The expansion of NATO through the accession of Finland and a further 1,300 km of NATO border with Russia is seen as a threat by Putin. According to Russian statements, Moscow feels compelled to respond “militarily and in other ways”. Russia speaks of a “destructive course”. Euro-Atlantic solidarity is nothing more than an aggressive approach towards Russia.

According to NATO, the German army (Bundeswehr) needs twice as much special funding of 200 billion euros to meet the military demands of the future. Thirty-five new F 35 bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs have been ordered. Germany’s nuclear sharing will soon be discussed within NATO. The Cold War is returning and the arms race continues to spiral upwards unhindered. Germany is deploying a combat brigade to the eastern flank to defend its NATO partner Lithuania. More soldiers, more expenditure, more military presence. When Nato Secretary General Stoltenberg was asked whether there was a Cold War again, he replied that we live in a world “in which there is a hot war in Europe”. At the NATO summit in Madrid, the allies agreed that more than 20 billion euros would be made available by the end of 2030. According to the information provided, the civilian and military budgets are to be increased by 10 percent each year from 2023 onwards. NATO is increasing its rapid reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000 soldiers. The USA is signaling that it no longer feels bound by the restrictions on troop deployments resulting from the NATO-Russia Founding Act. In this 1997 agreement, NATO had promised to refrain from permanently stationing large troop units on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact. The USA announces the transfer of military units to Europe and the establishment of a new headquarters in Poland. Russia threatens with “compensatory measures”.

The NATO planning games assume that after the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Baltic countries will be caught in the crosshairs of a Russian imperial occupation. Previous defense plans were based on the assumption that the Baltic states would be overrun and then fought free by NATO troops. Estimates assume a recovery and reconstruction phase for Russia of six to ten years before it would be in a position to wage a new war of aggression. According to the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), NATO states would have a window of five to nine years to prevent a possible attack by Russia. As Russian policy has already switched to a war economy, the West has an enormous amount of catching up to do in order to catch up.

A large proportion of Russian oil transports are handled via the Baltic Sea, which is accompanied by the Russian navy for protection. However, the Baltic Sea is a relatively small operational area in which NATO warships also operate. Not surprisingly, risky ship maneuvers have already been recorded. Similarly, there have already been a number of near misses and incidents involving combat aircraft from both military blocs. A potential danger for which there is as yet no regulated scenario to prevent an unforeseen escalation. A “stupid thing” that gets out of hand can have highly explosive consequences.

This development, the end of which is not in sight, has consequences: Consumer prices shoot up, in the sense of potential savings to finance an arms build-up, the social budget is massively cut. Maintaining the debt brake does the rest. The health, care and education sectors are not getting back on their feet and are being driven further down by privatization. Economic sectors are falling into the red, farmers are resisting the bleeding of their profession, the expansion and maintenance of infrastructure is stagnating and the energy transition is becoming invisible, but the doubling of military aid to Ukraine is not a problem. So far, Ukraine has received 18 billion euros in military aid. Germany ranks second after the USA.

However, there must be a reason for this social investment in such an intensive rearmament project. The West and NATO are still assuming a victory and the expulsion of Russia from Ukrainian territory. If this happens, it will be payday, because the billions in loans, payments and investments will have to be repaid. Repayment by means of the power of disposal over Ukraine’s extensive mineral resources would be indispensable on the part of Western donors. Lithium in particular, which is urgently needed for the energy transition and the construction of electric motors, is at the heart of this. The largest deposits in Europe are located in the Donetsk-Luhansk region. A good reason to provide Ukraine with such massive military support. Western capital interests are clearly in the foreground.

The left and the peace movement are facing a mammoth task. It is not only the upcoming Easter marches that should provide a reason to educate and organize extensively. The huge numbers of participants in demonstrations against the AfD and the right can be an encouragement in this regard.

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