Our host describes activities in the political and diplomatic domain and I have no argument with this analysis. If we want to know why NATO persisted after 91 then we need to consider what other purposes it has served since then and that may help us look to the future. I have two to offer.

First, NATO is a shell organization for moving money from national treasures to elsewhere. If you can influence NATO then you can redirect that money. Complexity in purchasing standards is an advantage for the suppliers that can best master that complexity. In other words the biggest equipment and services vendors end up almost dictating procurement standards to the buyers through NATO and new members need to get up to standard.

Second, and related, is organizational inertia. As in any public or private organization, the component parts are all people with their interests: careers, org charts, budgets, pensions, status and reputations. Only oversight from political leaders can call these people to account when they are acting as a class and that almost never happens because the politicians are acting as a class too, as Aurelien has described at length, and partly due to the influence of donors, e.g. the suppliers I mentioned above, and the revolving door. When Donald Trump made a stink about NATO costing too much for the value it was delivering to the USA, all other politicians (excepting the overtly Trump aligned) sang in a perfect chorus of aghast indignation along with the NATO staff. It's hard to be a mainstream Euro-pol and anti-NATO.

So there exists a complex (did Eisenhower borrow that word from Jung? irdk) mostly visible by its capital extraction and self preservation that only political will could possibly bring under control.

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"If there is one thing worse for NATO than the present crisis, it would be some kind of civil war in Ukraine where the alliance was forced to take sides" as opposed to the situation for the 8 years prior to 2022 which can be described as Ukraine in a state of civil war in which NATO chose to take sides? Really this just demonstrates the state of zugzwang that the west seems to have entered with regards to Ukraine: go forwards - lose; go backwards - lose.

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I suspect the authors summary to be quite accurate as to the state of geopolitics in 1990, but it seems apparent that we have since moved into a new era of unbridled US power over the actions and dispositions of the European vassals.

We have, after all, destroyed their economic future and forced them to disarm, there's really no demand they will say no to.

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To ascertain some of the statements made here, from the mouth of a former CIA working under Dick Cheney:

“The choice that we faced in Ukraine — and I'm using the past tense there intentionally — was whether Russia exercised a veto over NATO involvement in Ukraine on the negotiating table or on the battlefield,” said George Beebe, a former director of Russia analysis at the CIA and special adviser on Russia to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “And we elected to make sure that the veto was exercised on the battlefield, hoping that either Putin would stay his hand or that the military operation would fail.”


I do think a lot of discussion is pointless though. The war will not end until there is a declaration from Ukraine that it will never seek to join NATO, with the appropriate changes in the Ukrainian Constitution, reverting to the original one, which among other things reflected the statements btw RSF, Ukriane, and Belarus at the dissolution of USSR, that is they will be neutral militarily towards eachother.

But the details of the essay are very informative, especially for those not privy to how big organizations and bureaucracies work.

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Very interesting, one of the more worthwhile clarifications of this mess I've seen.

Regarding the persistence of NATO after the Soviet collapse it would be useful to look more closely at the maneuvering that occurred during the Yugoslav crisis. Grossly summarizing work by Peter Gowan, Diana Johnstone and Susan Woodward, the option of supporting continuation of the Yugoslav federation by offering IMF help in dealing with its Volcker-related debt problem was scotched in favor of a breakup that would allow greater economic penetration by Germany, France, and the US. Once the breakup was underway, the US encouraged a militarization of the conflict, most significantly by early on supporting Bosnian factions who threatened Bosnian Serbs, encouraging Serbian retaliation. Intervention to manage the ensuing conflict required military resources beyond the immediate capacity of European states and they chose to ride along on the wings of US jets to a "resolution."

In the process, the possibility of a European-based security order organized around the OSCE and including Russia vanished into the memory hole. A program of excluding Russia from European security arrangements, a hallmark of the Cold War, continued. This was the primary goal of the US and set the stage for the current catastrophe.

Perhaps this is tendentious, but in my view it is a plausible account and should be directly addressed. Too often what we are presented with are more detailed histories that fail -- in many cases deliberately I suspect -- to clearly define how broad US geostrategic goals shaped the post-Cold War international order.

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Thanks for this explanation.

In the end, these are all the good and complicated reasons why having Ukraine join NATO is a bad idea. It will make the alliance unmanageable if not useless. And probably some members though about that. If suddenly some of them think that far ahead anyway.

But is it no just much more simple ?

The US want to keep this card when, sooner or later, there will be negotiations with the Russians. After all, isn't it one of the reasons Russia intervened in Ukraine ? So if Putin wants this political victory, he will have to give something else. Something more valuable to the US than the Ukrainian NATO membership...

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Jul 19, 2023·edited Jul 19, 2023

Like quoting Bible verses to an armed robber.

The robber doesn't care how correct you are, how close and nuanced your reading of the law is. The robber is utterly indifferent to the high-minded sentiments expressed in "Thou Shalt Not Steal".

The robber is going to do what he wants to do.

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NATO's existence spans my life, so far. Hopefully I outlive it.

I cannot pinpoint the year where performing arts subsumed serious deliberation over substantive policy, but NATO seems to be a show running past its drawing power. The newer members motivation for joining appears to be marketing -- pictures of the leaders on a stage with the old colonial powers which these leaders think projects gravitas.

To me it appears that the losing side of World War 2 wrote the history. Russia's enormous contribution was denigrated and the US and GB happily took credit for the win. That Russia had enormous manufacturing capacity, coupled with highly trained troops under competent generals escaped notice. Of course, in the late stages of my life this should not come as a surprise -- Russia has been the target of vicious propaganda since 1917. Germany, GB, and the US had more in common than GB and the US with Russia.

So when one considers that the US has not fought a major land war on its soil and is configured as an expeditionary force it is not too shocking to see that NATO just is not prepared for a major conflict with Russia. This is really not a shame other than the dumpster fire of cash burned up on overly complex and unreliable weapons systems.

Western citizens need to take these matters into their own hands and throw out the warmongering leadership. The billionaires will have to make do without Russian resources under their thumb.

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I think another factor in rejecting the former ukraine 's "application to join NATO" (😂, yeah, right) was that the former ukraine revealed to the whole world just how useless American expensive military junk was when fielded against Russian armour and 21st century battlefield tech.

As the old saying goes: if you want to make an enemy for life, criticise him in public.

And NATO's shoddy martial goods in this case did the talking before that silly little man in the tshirt even opened his mouth.

Next: China!!

(That should be fun!!)

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This is a very enlightening description of the history and mechanisms of NATO.

Though it should be noted this is a conflict between East and West. A fault line in human relations in which the Iliad and the Odyssey are only the point where The Narrative became passed on. Given it goes to the Homo Sapiens moving in on the Neanderthals and the Cro Magnon.

Up through Genghis Khan, it was primarily East pushing West, but recently, with colonialism and the Great Game, as well as Napoleon and Hitler, it's been the West pushing back.

Ukraine might be a country, but it's not a nation, with a singular history. If it was, the logical course of action would be something similar to Turkey, playing the sides off each other and being a bridge, not the battleground. Basically it's a civil war, between its western Europe oriented side and its eastern, Russian oriented side.

Just theorizing here, but my sense is that Europe, being composed of nations with fairly immoveable territorial boundaries, such as channels, mountains, forests, peninsulas, rivers, etc. has developed such that the various cultures can sustain some fairly distinct animosities for very long periods of time, Such that the feedback between nature and nurture, human foibles and situational realities, has produced a mindset that is distinctly European.

While Russia and the various Stans have evolved on the steppes, where the territorial boundaries between tribes and cultures are not as clear cut, emphasizing different psychological factors. Such as both a stronger reliance on cultural bonds to hold groups together, as well as a greater need to interact across those group boundaries. Which might help explain how all the various ethnicities that make up Russia can function as a larger nation, in ways Europe is finding it profoundly difficult to do so, without a recent war to remind them why it's necessary.

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thanks for your commentary aurelien... i especially liked your insight in this paragraph below -

"At some point in the 1990s, the concept of a “security guarantee,” never very robust in the first place, began to break down completely, but without anybody really noticing. This helps to account, I think, for the vengeful and hysterical attitude of so many western leaders over the Ukraine crisis: their anger is directed in part against their own predecessors, who left them a delayed action bomb, which they now no longer have the capability to defuse, and alleged “security guarantees” which now turn out to be worthless."

but overall - i think you are over thinking in your post here - not a bad habit and some fruits come from it, but i think it is much simpler then this.. nato is a cia creation meant to keep russia out, germany down and the usa on top.. in this regard it has worked.. think back to the 1962 missile crisis... how is what the usa is doing here any different? they want to have nukes on russias border.. any security agreement can't work with a recognition of all countries security needs..

as for usa and ukraine, it was brought to our attention that in 1994 the usa was working on creating the perfect storm for russia in ukraine.. see barry r posen - this might not be the full picture, but you get the idea http://ssp.mit.edu/news/2022/from-1994-posens-a-defense-concept-for-ukraine

nato has been a successful cia project, but inside the success has also been the seeds of its own demise.. we are seeing this now, although i suspect nato will stick around for some time still.. bottom line - the pedals are off the rose and the end is in sight...

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Thank you for an interesting and informed discussion with a lot of points on which I agree. I suggest though that perhaps you exaggerate the European "fealty" to Nato. Leaving aside mon Général, the Western European tendency has been to resist US encroachment while reluctantly buying expensive US equipment for years before things like Eurofighter / Typhoon &c got, er, off the ground. And with good reason in that the US defence industry could generally shave prices for run-on production for instance, and cut them to prevent the growth of a competitor.

And the resistance to Ukraine as a Nato member has wider ramifications than the limited range of scenarios that you adumbrate. Assuming a continuing Russian state (of some description), there are plenty of arguments for not including Ukraine in Nato - while perhaps supplying various levels of guarantees of independence - so as to maintain a dialogue with Russia.

A more worrying possibility perhaps is that suggested by the economic tendency inside Ukraine with the attempted destruction of trade unions and a general neo-liberal approach to the economy (I hope that claims of the Kyev council taking over destroyed buildings to flog them off to developers is not a serious issue, but you never know.) If this tendency continues Ukraine will have a quite different set of taskmasters to answer to, in the global financial world; and even if they are not all Elon Musk, the direction of travel might be very worrying.

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Aurelien wrote:


Another possibility is simply a hard-headed government that decides that the priority is good relations with Russia, since ultimately the West cannot be relied upon, and so is ready to make whatever concessions Russia requires. If such a government results from a democratic election (which it might well) it would be hard for NATO to oppose its policies, though the alliance would doubtless try.


Not going to happen, the votes for that traditionally came from the areas that Russia is now in the process of annexing. As it is just suggesting this as politician with the current mood in the rest of the Ukraine is (political) suicide. Would such a government be formed by some miracle then there is a good chance that the Ukraine will descent into a civil war where the Nazis, Neo-Nazis, and other assorted anti-Russia hardliners would go after the government.

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Thanks Aurelien

This also may be useful, NATO turning into to a (now) global police operation

'Perpetual Police?: Kosovo and the Elision of Police and Military Violence'

by Howard Caygill


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I have long felt that part of NATO's job was to place a lot of American military north of Africa. After 1991 this became a major focus; but they can't talk about it.

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Thank you, Aurelien, for going through the structure of NATO and the ways in which Ukraine would be able to participate in and influence the decisions of the various parts of NATO, for better or worse, mostly worse.

I suspect most people think of NATO as this amorphous military group that is tasked with protecting Europe from the nasty Russians. Very few people understand the workings of organizations like this and how they have a very important and widespread influence on foreign policy and world affairs.


Have you thought about asking Yves Smith if she would include a link to your latest piece in the daily Links post at NC? Otherwise, perhaps she wouldn't object if you put a link in the comments section of Links. Your comments there are always full of good information and analysis, and I think you could get a lot of traffic from doing that.

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