Forward presence: NATO and war’s unlovely euphemism
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization website reported on January 27 that senior officials from NATO Headquarters and what were described as Allied governments (presumably representatives of individual NATO member states) briefed the Forum for Security Co-operation of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on “the history, evolution and future of NATO’s forward presence in the eastern and south-eastern part of the Alliance.”
Burcu San, the Director for Operations in NATO’s Operations Division, alternately identified as NATO’s Director of Preparedness, led the virtual meeting by outlining the military bloc’s qualitatively expanding deployments along Russia’s western border. What she, and NATO, innocuously term forward presence. Specifically the latter consists of four battlegroups, one each in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Those four nations all border Russian territory, either the mainland of the country or its Kaliningrad exclave. (The latter being coveted by Lithuania and Poland if not by its former owner, Germany.)
She also detailed “a number of tailored measures” for the Black Sea region, the southern part of Russia’s western flank.
In general, San attempted to justify the expansion of troops, warships, war planes, missiles, radar, armor, cyber warfare centers and training facilities by the military alliance of thirty full members and forty partners along Russia’s western borders from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea by the following alleged casus belli. In her precise words:
Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.
Russia’s ongoing destabilization of eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s military build-up in the Baltic region and beyond.
Since Poland joined NATO in 1999 and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania four years later, eight and twelve years respectively after the disappearance of the Soviet Union, its ostensible reason for existing, NATO has deployed, established and expanded air bases, a Patriot missile battery, heavy armor, a cyber warfare center, a missile defense site and other military hardware and operations in the four above-mentioned Baltic nations.
If Russia responds to those indisputable threats to its national security by adopting defensive measures on its own territory it is accused of effectively posing a threat to NATO with its U.S. and allied missiles, war planes and warships.
On January 28 the NATO website reported on the dispatching of U.S. and NATO warships and war planes to the Black Sea, including the USS Donald Cook and the USS Porter, both equipped with Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptors. The sort that would shoot down Russian missiles should they be launched in retaliation for a U.S.-NATO attack on, say, Crimea.
The purpose of the ship-based and ground-based missile defense system being completed in Romania and Poland and in the Baltic and Black Seas is, according to Pentagon and NATO rationale going back to 2009, to defend the U.S. and NATO countries from ballistic missiles fired from Iran, North Korea and Syria.
In fact, though, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, in speaking of the current buildup of air and naval forces in the Black Sea, and the deployment of two American anti-missile warships, didn’t say a word about Iran, North Korea and Syria. Instead she said:
“The Black Sea is of strategic importance to NATO. Three Allies – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – are littoral states, while Georgia and Ukraine are close partners. In response to Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its ongoing military build-up in the Black Sea, the Alliance has increased its defensive presence in the region and remains strongly committed to Black Sea security”.
Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine are all NATO members or NATO partners and outposts on the Black Sea. Russia is the only other nation with a Black Sea coast. It is also the sole target of Western military “forward presence” along the cordon sanitaire that now separates Russia from the rest of Europe.