Defense One published an advocacy piece masquerading as an analysis on January 11 by Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia and senior advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO’s top military commander. She flouted the first credential in her article, brinkmanship and modesty rarely coexisting.
The title of the screed is as coarse and sensationalist as its content: If Putin is not deterred from seizing another chunk of sovereign territory, he won’t stop there. The copy editor missed the chance to substitute the verb biting for seizing, more evocative of a bear famished by a harsh Russian winter and blindly devouring the first geopolitical scraps he lays his paws on. Surely that’s the atavistic image Farkas intended to implant in the subconscious of her readers.
Speaking of Ms Farkas, her elevation to the upper echelons of the American defense and diplomatic communities – perhaps the last word should be singular – is indicative of the capture of top command posts there recently by the distaff side of the nation, what archaically is – or was – known as the gentle sex. Among her – what is the feminine for confreres? – colleagues in recent years one thinks of Victoria Nuland, Wendy Sherman, Fiona Hill, Julianne Smith (new NATO ambassador), Susan Rice, Nikki Haley, Michèle Flournoy, Rosa Brooks, Karen Donfried (Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs), Kristina Kvien (de facto ambassador to Ukraine), Kelly Degnan (ambassador to Georgia), fire breathers and war drum beaters all. Think that until now the top levels of the American international war machine have been deprived of the talents of half the population. Now with women at long last gaining their rightful place there, imagine how much more can be done. And will.
After the meeting of Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in June of 2021, she was quoted in Newsweek as stating: “What I want is for Biden to very clearly explain what the risk is to Vladimir Putin, that we are not going to back down if we are attacked by Russia, and we’re going to be the ones that decide what a ‘cyber Pearl Harbor’ is, which means Russia doesn’t control the escalation dynamic.”
In her recent offering she baldly states – without presenting the faintest scintilla of evidence – that “Putin is more likely than not to invade Ukraine again in the coming weeks.” With the utmost assurance and confidence, as from one who has never doubted she was right and anyone who didn’t agree with her was ipso facto wrong. That’s how one gets ahead in her world. With brashness, egomania and ruthlessness. And she knows because she – personally – “helped President Barack Obama manage the U.S. and international response to Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and our effort to keep Moscow from occupying the whole country into 2015.” But for her, Russian troops would be drinking vodka on the banks of the Dnieper and Russian bruins attacking poultry farms on the outskirts of Lvov. The Zelensky government should commission a tutelary icon of her.
Far from limiting itself to threats of sanctions, disconnection from the SWIFT system, pressuring Germany to cancel Nord Stream 2, etc., she asseverates, U.S. leaders must assemble a coalition of the willing – her exact expression, chosen knowing full well the precedent for it – “readying military forces to deter Putin and, if necessary, prepare for war.”
If she possesses a virtue, if anyone trying to push the world toward a potential nuclear cataclysm could have one, it’s that she doesn’t prevaricate.
To rally support for that most dangerous of all demands she engages in fear-mongering approaching the apocalyptic, with hyperbole of scope in keeping with magniloquence of claim, in stating that if Russia is not firmly put in its place, “we will remain stuck in a crisis not just over Ukraine but about the future of the global order….”
Again with the pseudo-omniscience symptomatic of delusions of grandiosity and persecution (they necessarily go together) she affirms as plainly as though she was witnessing the event before her own eyes that “Putin will move swiftly, grab some land, consolidate his gains, and set his sights on the next satellite state in his long game to restore all the pre-1991 borders.” The borders, she adds, of the “sphere of geographical influence he deems was unjustly stripped from Great Russia.” Perhaps one of her fellow World War III cheerleaders should explain to her that “Great Russia” has no relation to the country within what she terms pre-1991 borders; to wit, the Soviet Union.
If her former employers, the Pentagon and NATO, don’t rally the world for war with Russia, the way the Jimmy Carter-Zbigniew Brzezinski administration did with the assistance of its Chinese and Saudi allies in January of 1980 after the first contingent of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan – clearly the precedent for her appeal – “Russian gains will spell the beginning of the end of the international order.” Moreover, the most dire threat her type is currently capable of contemplating (or pretending to care about), “the rules-based international order will collapse.” The United Nations will perish, just as the League of Nations earlier – and readers are expected to know what succeeded that: world war.
Short of comets hurtling toward the earth, giant vortices opening in the oceans and swallowing entire continents and frozen prehistoric giants reviving and ravenously striding the streets of America’s cities, she has conjured up most every catastrophe needed to alarm the uninformed and credulous and convince them that for the good of humanity the U.S. and NATO must strike first.
In her own words, “Yes, this is alarming, but it’s not alarmist.” Readers could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The very next sentence is: “Nuclear Russia is a revisionist, revanchist power acting already as if there is no international order or United Nations, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, UN Charter, Helsinki Accords or any of the host of regional agreements Moscow has signed.”
Is it possible to add to that condemnation? That such a reckless statement could be issued by someone who has been and, through her Council on Foreign Relations and think tank connections, remains in the corridors of national foreign policy decision-making indeed is alarming. Just as her language is indeed alarmist.
To indicate on the map where Russia should be struck with a “mustering of American and European forces,” she accuses Russia of establishing military bases in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. By Georgia she means Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russian peacekeepers were deployed thirty years ago, and by Moldova, where Russian peacekeepers – currently 1,500 – have been stationed for the same period of time. The amount of Russian forces in all the locations she mentioned are collectively far fewer than were deployed to Washington D.C. a year ago. She demands that Russian forces be evicted from Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Referring to Russia reclaiming Crimea in 2014, Farkas states that event was “the first time military force had been employed to change borders in Europe since Hitler’s invasions,” as though NATO’s 78-day air war against Yugoslavia in 1999 to wrest Kosovo from it had never occurred. Experienced readers were awaiting the inevitable Hitler allusion, to which she added that the aforesaid action was “an audacious rebuke of the world order established at the end of the World War II.”
To follow up on her demand for a U.S./NATO-led international coalition of the willing, and to prove the term wasn’t fortuitous, she concedes that, “To be sure, nuclear-armed Russia is far more powerful than Saddam’s Iraq,” but even the possibility of nuclear conflict doesn’t cause her to reflect on the consequences. Hardly. “The horrible possibility exists that Americans, with our European allies, must use our military to roll back Russians – even at risk of direct combat.”
Washington shouldn’t cast a glance backward, shouldn’t hesitate a second. “Biden should go to the United Nations immediately to rally the global community of nations. We must build a new coalition of the willing to enforce the state sovereignty enshrined in the UN Charter.”
Again, that is what the U.S. did 42 years ago to rally support against Russia – and for armed religious extremists – in Afghanistan. The result of that policy is known to all. But this time, as Farkas herself concedes, the confrontation possesses a nuclear dimension.