The UK is to take over the rotating leadership of Nato’s “very high readiness” joint task force, created after the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales in 2014. Three thousand British troops, based in Britain and Germany, will eventually make up the bulk of the 5,000-strong detachment, with forces from countries including Denmark, Spain, Estonia and the US.
How many will survive to regret this?
Stripping away innuendo and insinuation, an article by Deborah Haynes in Warsaw records that five hundred British troops will be stationed from next year in Estonia and 150 will form an “enduring” presence in Poland. The forces will be “defensive in nature but clearly combat capable”, a Whitehall source said. They will be part of a commitment by NATO to station four new battalions, totalling about 4,000 personnel, as part of a reinforcement of NATO’s border with Russia. A further 3,000 British military personnel will lead a new emergency task force in 2017.
In a strategic use of terminology, the force will be described as a “persistent” or “enduring” presence, to avoid breaking a longstanding deal with Russia that Nato will not “permanently” deploy troops on its eastern flank.
The Murdoch Times reports that there is (American/NATO?) concern that countries such as Germany and France are seeking to build a European army rather than focussing their military resources on NATO.
The article twice anticipates a verbal rebuke from Moscow and records that NATO members who are neighbours of Russia are concerned that President Putin may seek to create unrest within their borders as well.
David Cameron is reported to have said: “The UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe.”
Many readers, however, will feel apprehensive – certainly not proud – echoing Germany’s foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in warning against “saber-rattling and war cries” directed toward Russia and joining the United States Conference of Mayors, in condemnation of NATO’s Anaconda War Games and massing of troops on Russia’s border.
The United States Conference of Mayors, town and city leaders administering populations greater than 30,000, condemned NATO’s Anaconda War Games on Russia’s border as increasing the threat of nuclear conflict.
“NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia”, according to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-general
But Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, reports at length on ‘European wargames’. NATO has been supporting Kevadtorm (“Spring Storm”): a military ‘exercise’ in which around 1,000 troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Portugal, have been deployed to Estonia to train and ‘play the enemy’ (above).
Across the Baltic, under the alliance’s aegis, Latvia held “Summer Shield” with 1,100 troops, Lithuania has begun “Iron Wolf”, with 5,000 troops and in June, “Saber Strike” saw thousands of US troops airlifted into the entire region and in Poland, “Anakonda”, a 31,000-man war game closed a few weeks ago.
It is said that NATO is worried by Russia’s plans
More than 2,000 exercises and wargames, snap drills and rapid mobilisation exercises will be held, that could see tens of thousands of troops deployed in Russia’s western military zone. NATO’s defence ministers in Brussels will ask for 3,000 to 4,000 NATO troops, in four battalions — one American, one British, one Canadian and one German — to be stationed in the three Baltic states and Poland on a “persistent” basis.
The alliance’s political unity is being challenged by a divergence of views
Next week Warsaw’s NATO biennial summit will take place but some NATO members have other priorities: Southern European members are preoccupied by the Mediterranean migrant crisis and Jones reports that Germany, whose diplomats are known to have the closest ties to the Russian government, fears that NATO is entering into a wildly irresponsible game of military bluff.
With activity in Afghanistan winding down, the Wales NATO summit focussed on responding to the Ukrainian crisis, but ‘dovish voices’ in the alliance believed further mobilisation would be too provocative at the time.
Jones writes that Russia perceives the US game-plan as a military formula of “regime change” to topple or destabilise governments that do not bend to western economic and democratic values.
Russia says that its borderland military build-up is a response to NATO’s own growing military presence. In May 2014, Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, speaking at the Moscow International Security Conference, described NATO’s reinforcement of the Baltic states and Poland as part of a grander game to expand aggressively the alliance’s influence in Ukraine and, by implication, Russia itself. Successive conflicts after 1990, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Arab Spring were seen as part of a continuum, as were the Rose revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange revolution in Ukraine (2004), the green movement in Iran (2009) and most recently, the Syrian civil war.
The Rand Corporation is a think-tank founded by the Douglas Aircraft Company and now funded by the US government, university collaborators & private sources, with clients including the CIA and Defence Advanced Research Projects. It has concluded that with its current forces, “NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members”.
However, one general says it would be unable to deploy “east of the Oder” in the event of outright war. It would simply be too vulnerable during transit and deployment and the logistical planning for the spearhead rapid reaction brigade VJTF would be hampered by:
The United States Conference of Mayors’ resolution added: “The Obama administration has not only reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency, but also decided to spend on trillion dollars to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control”. It seems, however, that NATO, backed by the Rand Corporation is calling for additional expenditure to counter the alleged Russian threat.
The country’s mayors are a voice of peace and reason in the face of mounting influence by the foreign policy establishment and defense lobbyists, and have rendered similar resolutions calling for the United States to pursue a less threatening foreign policy for 11 consecutive years.
A clear and persuasive article in the Friend, 17 June 2016
Over the years my wife and I have been to Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague, Amsterdam and Florence and walked across a Rhine footbridge into Germany into the small German town of Kehl. In all these places we were genuinely welcomed and felt a real sense of being Europeans.
While conceding that the EU has its shortcomings, we believe that as individuals and as a nation we have much to learn and to gain from continued membership. This view is shared by many financial, medical, cultural, trade and human rights organisations with a much greater insight than we can claim.
We would be deeply concerned if, in event of Brexit, the UK became even more dependent on the expansionist foreign and military policy of the United States, which, I believe, has a long record of ousting elected democracies by force.
The US accounts for almost half of all global spending on weapons; it sells to the UK the missiles needed for our Trident weapons of mass destruction, and it provides huge military support to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries that, arguably, have fomented instability in the Middle East.
We believe it would be much harder to solve problems diplomatically if the UK were to leave the EU, and that such an exit would itself trigger serious political/financial instability within Europe, to the great cost of ordinary people.
The EU can do much to improve employment conditions and human rights, which could be greatly furthered by further international research and development collaboration, projects in transport, education and climate change prevention.
Ken and Kay Veitch
Cheshire East Area Meeting
Jill Segger opened her article on Ekklesia’s website by recalling David Cameron’s suggestion that Brexit could put European peace at risk and Boris Johnson, ridiculing him with a reference to Germany crossing the border into France and continues:
This kind of political vaudeville demeans the very concept of peace making and keeping, of conflict avoidance and resolution, of memory, sorrow and of the responsibility which we all bear for making it possible for populations to live and flourish in freedom from war. It is historically and morally illiterate and is contrived to sow fear.
I am old enough to have experienced the shadow of the war which ended in the decade before I was born. As a young child, I saw around me men – still in youth or early middle-life – whose bodies had been fractured by war. I had too, a child’s incomplete awareness of the ruin wrought in minds and souls by physical horror and tormented consciences.
The founding fathers of what was to become the European Union belonged to that wounded generation and to the one which was formed by the war of 1914-18. Churchill, Schuman, De Gaulle, Adenauer, Heath and their younger contemporaries, were formed by the two huge conflicts of the 20th century which had their origins, if not their ultimate boundaries, in Europe. For these men, ‘never again’ had a meaning which we must neither lose nor cheapen in pursuit of lesser goals.
As the last generation to have experienced the horror of continental war passes, so too may our understanding of the irenic agency of sharing economic power and a degree of sovereignty. Ties of shared interest, cooperation and knowledge are the enemies of that concept of ‘otherness’ which may be exploited for alienation and hostility in times of difference. It is in the spreading of that shared interest that we may best maintain what was envisaged in the Schuman Declaration of May 1950.
That vision realised that coal and steel – the raw materials of weapons production – were key to ensuring that nation states which had long seen their military-industrial complexes as the tools of competing empires, would instead develop a common interest. Battleships and bombers were to be beaten into BMWs and railways. Thus the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the EU, gave us the connection to sustainable peace in words which are still relevant almost seven decades later: “The pooling of coal and steel production… will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.”
Of course Europe has, during those decades, been subject to incidences of failure which mark the human condition. Armed conflict has occurred in the former Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Crimea. But these are not EU states and though a Europe committed to peace must consider its responsibilities and its potential here, let us not lose sight of the fact that it is truly impossible to imagine France and Germany ever at war again.
It is this seed of cooperation sown in the psyche of Europe which has inspired and kept peace. Steel and coal were the engines of moral movement among millions of Europeans. That role was not, and never will be, fulfilled by Nato. A military alliance, requiring its members to contribute two per cent of their GDP for armaments, is as for removed from that redemptive vision of changing the destinies of nations, once bounded by the making and usage of weaponry, as it is possible to conceive. It can never be an instrument of peace.
Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the choice to strive for understanding and solidarity, to root out injustice and hatred in ourselves and others, to make policies which will enable the sowing of peace and to cultivate societies which will sustain it. This is our legacy from statesmen who had seen their continent sundered and deformed by total war twice in the space of 25 years.
And it is far too precious an inheritance to be demeaned by the ahistoric and morally inadequate knockabout of shallow, opportunistic politicians.
In 2002 a state visit: – welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the Blairs:
Truth in the words of a ‘prophet without honour’
“Whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, might we agree that the destruction of two states — Iraq and Libya and semi-destruction of Syria — have been western foreign policy disasters?
“When you destroy a state the gates to every corner of hell are opened — no frontiers, no police, no law, no education, no infrastructure, no government, a Hobbesian war of all against all. After Iraq one might have thought western policymakers would have paused before turning Libya into a 1000km breach in the previously reasonably solid southern Mediterranean border through which refugees and Islamist jihadis now pour or export weapons and Islamist ideology”.
The Times reports that the five year conflict in Syria has claimed at least 250,000 lives.
Continued (minus anti-Russian bias):
“Of course we all celebrate an uprising against nasty authoritarians and there are no end of them to chose from in the Middle East, the Gulf, parts of Africa and further afield. It is so easy to start fuelling a conflict but so hard to say it is time to end it, hold our noses and let death and internal politics take the place of external intervention. Restoring state authority in Iraq, Libya and Syria should now be the supreme object of statecraft . . . “
Instead of the destroyed or semi-destroyed states and tsunamis of refugees that have been the main fruits of western policy this decade, we could build a stable Euro-Mediterranean region where investment can replace intervention on its southern and eastern littorals and return the EU to growth, prosperity and confidence.
The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.
Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.
After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.
A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.
These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.
The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.
World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.
If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.
Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.
An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.
In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.
In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.