Offensive Double-Think… Russia ‘Not Allowed Sphere of Influence’ As NATO Missiles Encroach on Russian Border

It is exasperating that self-evident, legitimate security concerns enumerated by Russia have been repeatedly ignored or rebuffed by NATO.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg fulminated at the alliance’s summit in Riga this week, declaring that Russia is not permitted to have a “sphere of influence”. However, the risible hypocrisy and double-think in Stoltenberg’s logic are that the United States-led NATO military bloc is evidently permitted to expand a sphere of influence all around Russia. And not merely a sphere of influence, it is a threatening build-up of NATO missiles and other offensive infrastructure on Russia’s border.

The expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been relentless over the past three decades despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Founded in 1949 at the beginning of the Cold War, NATO has doubled the number of its member states to the current 30, a continental recruitment drive all the way from the newly reunified Germany right up to Russian territory. The eastward expansion of NATO is a repudiation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act in 1997.

NATO proponents claim the alliance is essentially concerned with defense and is not a threat to Russia. Such a view is impossibly naive, if not cynically duplicitous. The bloc’s more recent members in Eastern Europe, including Poland and the Baltic states – formerly Warsaw Pact members – are vehemently anti-Russia in their national politics. These states have also promoted a paranoid fear that Russia is plotting to invade Europe and is waging hybrid warfare.

But this is not simply a case of the tail wagging the dog. The United States – the head of NATO – has placed missile systems on European territory that pose a direct threat to Russia’s national security. As NATO expands around Russia’s borders that jeopardizes strategic stability.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted this week: “The alliance’s military infrastructure is being irresponsibly brought closer to Russia’s borders in Romania and Poland, deploying an anti-missile defense system that can be used as a strike complex. American medium-range missiles are about to appear in Europe, bringing back the nightmare scenario of a military confrontation.”

The expulsion of Russian diplomats by NATO on the back of unsubstantiated allegations of spying, as well as countless other media campaigns claiming malign conduct by Russia against Western democracies, all points to a fundamental ideology of hostility.

It is exasperating that self-evident, legitimate security concerns enumerated by Russia have been repeatedly ignored or rebuffed by NATO.

Russia again this week stipulated that the proposed accession to NATO by Ukraine is a “red line”. Ukraine is a former member of the Soviet Union which declared independence in 1991. It shares a border with Russia and centuries of culture. If Ukraine were to become a member of NATO, its territory would drastically compromise Russia’s national defense. The same applies to Georgia, another former Soviet Republic that NATO is also seeking to admit.

Moscow’s concerns are all the more heightened by a pattern of NATO geopolitical gaming in Ukraine and Georgia. The latter was pitted against Russia in a brief war in 2008 owing to NATO goading. In Ukraine, a coup d’état in 2014 against an elected government friendly to Moscow was backed by the US and its European allies which ushered in a Russophobic regime in Kiev. That regime has waged a war against the ethnic Russian people of eastern Ukraine for over seven years.

It is ludicrous to contemplate NATO membership being extended to either Ukraine or Georgia. Given the bloc’s so-called collective defense pact, such a move would inevitably lead to a wider war with Russia.

Yet when Moscow again stated its red line this week, the NATO bloc reacted with high-handed disdain.

Stoltenberg pounded the podium while addressing NATO foreign ministers, saying: “Russia has no veto. Russia has no say. And Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence, trying to control its neighbors.”

What the United States and NATO partners want is a one-way street. They want to pave an assault course all the way to Russia’s territory using Russophobic regimes as proxies. And then when Russia mobilizes armed forces on its territory for defenses it is accused of “threatening invasion” against entities that are bristling with belligerence. NATO wants a sphere of influence to intimidate Russia and if Moscow objects to this dynamic then it is accused of exercising an unreasonable veto.

The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented build-up of hostile forces around Russia’s borders by the United States and its NATO allies. Yet this reality is inverted to lay the blame on Russia. This crass narrative, it has to be concluded, is nothing less than psychological warfare on top of unprecedented military threats. Indeed, they are integral parts.

Russia has made it abundantly clear what constitutes inviolable national security on its western borders and the Black Sea. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said that it is deeply misguided of foreign powers if they do not think Russia will respond robustly to threats.

As Sergei Lavrov pointed out this week, the nightmare of confrontation has returned. It is deplorable that the security conditions in Europe have deteriorated to such a precarious level. But a large part of the deterioration is due to the double-think and hypocrisy of the US and NATO.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the embodiment of double-think. At the NATO summit in Riga, he was warning Russia that it would be hit with severe costs if it invaded Ukraine. Then when he met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, convened in Stockholm, Blinken was photographed earnestly shaking Lavrov’s arm with both hands. The American envoy went on to say, “diplomacy is the only way to resolve this potential crisis”. A crisis, it should be said, that Blinken has greatly created from his baseless claims of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If confrontation is to be averted then the United States and its NATO partners need to start listening to Russia’s serious apprehensions about the alliance’s eastward expansion. Moscow is proposing a formal agreement to that effect. Are Washington and European capitals capable of reaching an understanding through dialogue and diplomacy? The record over three decades is not promising. A bloody nose may be the only language to get through at this stage.