(Oriental Review, 1. 8. 2014)
Congressional Hawks have been peddling the idea of a “Russian Aggression Prevention Act” since the beginning of May, but it has only been during the recent media-inspired hysteria that it began to gain traction. If passed into law, it would amount to a sweeping NATO offensive across all of Russia’s former soviet western periphery and would be the first official act of the ‘New Cold War’. Much has been written about the overall thematic consequences for US-Russian relations by Paul Craig Roberts and Patrick Buchanan illustrated how the US plans to use the legislation to subvert the Russian government from within via its support for ‘NGOs’ (and the prioritized ‘refugee’ status for journalists, ‘dissidents’, and various activists that is included in the document). What has not been explored, however, are some of the finer, yet no less important, aspects of the Act’s implementation. Whether it be NATO expansion into the Balkans or the destabilization of the Caucasus, bill S. 2277 more accurately could be described as the American Aggression Enabling Act (AAEA), as it represents a surge of US offensive military capability against Russian interests in its western flank.
Part I: The NATO Tumor Grows
The AAEA represents the cancerous growth of NATO throughout all of its targeted territories. Some of its most important details are that the EU and NATO are working hand-in-hand, NATO aims to swallow the Balkans, and the Missile Defense Shield (MDS) is to proceed at full speed ahead, with all of the resultant consequences thereof.
Good Cop, Bad Cop:
Although not explicitly stated in the AAEA itself, if one steps back and examines the overall context of the document, it is obvious that the EU and NATO have been working in lockstep to advance each other’s goals. In fact, an overall pattern can be ascertained:
(1) The EU makes some form of outreach to the targeted state(s) (e.g. The Eastern Partnership)
(2) Economic links between the EU and the target are nominally institutionalized (e.g. an EU Association Agreement)
(3) Shadow NATO (via major non-NATO ally status) moves in to defend the economic integration process
The EU presents the friendly, ‘humanitarian’ face to disarm the targeted state’s population while Shadow NATO inconspicuously attempts to absorb the country. This is the tried-and-tested technique of ‘good cop, bad cop’.
The Balkans or Bust:
The US is aggressively promoting its Armed Forces and NATO’s expansion into the Balkans as part of the AAEA. It stipulates that Obama must increase military cooperation with Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia, besides Azerbaijan and prescribed major non-NATO allies Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Although it is unlikely that Serbia will be integrated into the fold (it is a strong Russian ally and vividly remembers the bloody bombings of 1999), the move still represents a major expansion of US military influence in Europe. One must keep in mind that the formerly forgotten-about Balkans are now at the forefront of this ‘New Cold War’, with the US and some European actors trying to sabotage Russia’s South Stream gas project which, ironically, certain EU members had agreed to in the first place. Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia are all entities abutting Serbia, which is planned to be one of the hubs of South Stream, so their inclusion into the enhanced NATO security framework suggested by the AAEA can be seen as surrounding Serbia prior to destabilizing it once more. In the context of bitter energy geopolitics, the US’ seemingly unexpected push into the Balkans makes absolute sense.
Missile Defense and NATO’s Northern Expansion:
Included in the AAEA is the directive to accelerate the rollout of the Missile Defense Shield (MDS). This was already envisioned to have land, sea, and space components per the phased adaptive approach framework. What makes the AAEA different, however, is that it wants to ‘poke Russia in the eyes’ and go forward with something that Moscow has already stated would certainly be a red line. Russia holds this stance because it believes that a MDS would neutralize its nuclear second-strike capability, thereby giving the US a monopoly on carrying out a nuclear first strike and shattering the mutual assured destruction concept that kept the peace between the two nuclear titans for decades.
Russia’s response thus far has been to deploy Iskander missiles to the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. One of the dual purposes of the US’ MDS is to goad Russia into taking more such defensive actions that could then be propagandized as ‘offensive’, thereby exaggerating ‘the Russian threat’ and contributing to fear mongering among the Swedish and Finnish citizenry. The end result is to push these countries deeper into the NATO apparatus. Finland has already saidthat it could hold a referendum on joining as early as April 2015 after the next round of parliamentary elections, with its Defense Minister already actively lobbying for this to happen. Sweden, on the other hand, already engages in such close cooperation with NATO that it’s already a shadow member in its own right, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is one of the most prominent Russophobic policy makers on the continent. Because of a joint agreement on military security, Finland can only join NATO together with Sweden, meaning that if any move is made, it would likely be a ‘double whammy’ to get the two states in at once. It goes without saying that if Russia would not allow NATO to be deployed in Georgia or Ukraine, it most definitely would not allow it to be deployed along the Russo-Finnish border, further increasing the chances of yet another crisis in NATO-Russian relations sometime down the line.
Part II: Destabilization by Design
The second thrust of the US’ aggression in Eurasia is the purposeful destabilization of Russia’s interests in the Near Abroad. Specifically, the AAEA’s provisions would lead to an endangered security situation for Belarus, mayhem in Moldova, and an aggravation of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia. All of these work against Russian interests and place Moscow on the strategic defensive.
Bunkering in Belarus:
One of the US’ designs is to bunker Belarus in and surround it with offensive NATO military capabilities. American aggression against Belarus is old news, going back most sensationally to the mid-2000s when Condoleeza Rice declared the country to be the “last dictatorship in Europe”, thereby putting its head on the chopping block for regime change. Although unsuccessful in overthrowing the government via a Color Revolution, Washington still pumps millions of dollars into the country to support “democracy” (likely in the same vein and with the same intended result as it did in Ukraine with its $5 billion investment). If the AAEA’s goal of placing permanent NATO bases in Poland and the Baltics comes to fruition, as well as the goal of Shadow NATO integration of Ukraine, Belarus could very well find itself almost surrounded by hostile forces pressuring it to accede to their demands. Making the situation even more high-risk, Belarus and Russia have a mutual security agreement via the CSTO, meaning that any act of force against Belarus will be treated as an act against Russia itself. This remarkably raises the stakes of NATO’s power play and increases the chance of direct conflict with Russia.
Flying largely under the radar of most analysts, Moldova is prime for a full-scale meltdown as it is rushed into Western institutions. First and foremost, the country already signed the EU Association Agreement in late June and, for the first time in its history, will be sending a representative to the upcoming NATO summit in September. Although nominal neutrality is a hallmark of the country’s constitution, this does not mean that it cannot enter Shadow NATO via major non-NATO ally designation or potentially enact a ‘referendum’ to change this statute.
What is critical here is that there are two ticking time bombs in Moldova that will likely go off as Western ‘integration’ proceeds at record speed; Transnistria and the lesser-known Gagauzia. The former is the renowned frozen conflict from the 1990s where Russia still has over a thousand troops stationed. It voted to join the Russian Federation in 2006 but to no avail. In May, Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin was harassed by Moldovan security after he visited Transnistria to collect signatures in favor of reunification with Russia. His plane was forced to land in Chisinau after Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities restricted their airspace to him, creating a diplomatic incident which would be unthinkable to do to a Western politician, let alone of such stature. Moreover, the territory is currently experiencing a blockade by both Moldova and Ukraine. Transnistria does not accept the authority of Chisinau and sees no attraction to the EU, instead preferring the Russian-led Eurasian Union. These radically divergent paths, coupled with NATO’s ambitions and Russia’s existing military position, place Moldova on the brink of destabilization.
Not only that, but Gagauzia is also a simmering issue waiting to boil over. Ari Rusila conductedresearch on this relatively unknown entity back in April and found that, just like Transnistria, it too is moving closer to Russia. Just as fast as Moldova is moving westward, Gagauzia appears to be moving eastward, and it is asserting its self-determination with every step of the way. He writes that it held a February 2014 referendum to join the Customs Union and that it also voted to place independence on the table if Moldova loses or surrenders its sovereignty. These two options could be taken to mean joining the EU or merging with Romania, and if Gagauzia officially moves away from the centralized Moldovan state, it could lead to military reprisals by Chisinau. All that it takes to set off the two Transnistrian and Gagauzian time bombs is to shove Moldova into the EU and NATO, both of which are already being fast-tracked by the West.
Lost in the mix of the more headline-grabbing aspects of the AAEA, the legislation also mandates that the US increase its military cooperation with Azerbaijan and provide the same amount of security assistance to it, in league with NATO, as it would to the major non-NATO allies and Balkan states. This is an exceptionally important detail that mustn’t be overlooked by any observer. Armenia, Azerbaijan’s bitter rival, made the fateful decision to turn its back on the EU and move towards the Eurasian Union, much to the ire of Brussels. Hillary Clinton, speaking on behalf of the State Department in late-2012, made known her country’s intention to “figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent” Eurasian integration, signaling that Armenia, after having made its decision to move in this direction, will now be targeted just like Ukraine was.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which, although frozen, threatens to heat up at any moment. By throwing its hat squarely behind Azerbaijan, the US is showing that it is not a neutral party to the conflict and cannot be trusted within the OSCE Minsk Group. The move for a more clearly defined and open US-Azeri military alliance has been a long time in coming, however. The US has been using Azerbaijan as a geostrategic energy outpost between Russia and Iran since the 1990s, and the creation of the BTC pipeline only increased its significance in the eyes of Western decision makers. Baku is also close friends with Israel, supplying about 40% of its oil, and it has been rumored to host Israeli drone bases for use against Iran. The Jerusalem Post also reports that Israel sells “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms” to the country, further cementing their military-strategic relationship.
Armenia, on the other hand, has a mutual security guarantee with Russia through the CSTO, just like Belarus does. It is a traditional Russia ally and even hosts the 102nd military base outside the capital of Yerevan. Armenia has been blockaded by both Turkey and Azerbaijan since the early 1990s, and the vast majority of its foreign trade must move through Georgia before going to Russia or to other countries via port. With Georgia trying to join the EU, the scenario could arise where costly tariffs are enacted against outside (Armenian) goods entering the Union, even if they are only transiting through, further strangling the already weakened Armenian economy and promoting social unrest. To put things into perspective, Azerbaijan’s defense budget is larger than the entire state budget of Armenia, and Azeri President Aliyev has a track record of threatening military force to retake Nagorno Karabkah.
In sum, any renewed outbreak of war between Azerbaijan (now close to becoming a US military ally) and Armenia (protected under Russia’s defense umbrella) would be a de-facto US-Russian proxy war that could quickly draw in both powers. What’s more, Azerbaijan closely cooperates with Turkey, whom it has close ethnic, cultural, and linguistic ties, and Ankara’s involvement in any future conflict could quickly draw in the entire NATO alliance. By cozying up so closely with Azerbaijan and working to asphyxiate Armenia, the US is pushing itself closer to a direct conflict with Russia.
It has been definitively established that the US’ so-called ‘Russian Aggression Prevention Act’ is nothing more than Orwellian Doublespeak for an American Aggression Enabling Act. Aside from the more well-known aspects of the proposal, the lesser-known ones are just as significant in throwing America and its NATO clique closer to war with Russia. By rabidly expanding NATO at all costs via indirect means, the US is plainly showing that it does not care whatsoever for Russia’s security concerns. In fact, it wants to push the envelope and expand NATO in as many simultaneous directions as it can. The swallowing of the Balkans, the staging ground of Russia’s strategic South Stream project, and the movement to incorporate Sweden and Finland into NATO are Washington’s way of imposing full dominance over the continent’s last nominally neutral areas, a move which will surely lead to a determined Russian push back, especially as regards the defense of Serbia and NATO expansion into Finland.
Furthermore, the AAEA aims to threaten Russian interests in Belarus, Moldova, and Armenia, three countries where Moscow has deployed troops and two of which are mutual security partners. This is a calculated attempt at weakening Russia’s position in the Near Abroad and continuing to place it on the strategic defense. All together, everything within the American Aggression Enabling Act clearly shows that the US has strapped up its boots and is eager to go on the offensive against Russia. The ‘Reset’ was nothing more than an underhanded way to buy the necessary time to organize this campaign against all of Russia’s interests on its western flank, and it appears to be in full swing. If it passes into law, the bill will be seen in hindsight as the one action which single-handedly ushered in the ‘New Cold War’ and could quite possibly revert Europe back to the powder keg that it once was 100 years ago.
Andrew Korybko is the American political correspondent of Voice of Russia who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.
ORIENTAL REVIEW is an independent Moscow-based Internet journal focusing on current political issues in Eurasia and beyond.