Friday, September 23, 2016

NATO flexes muscles

This month British Army soldiers joined by troops from 14 NATO allied countries to take part in Exercise Venerable Gauntlet. The UK-led exercise is aimed at improving the interoperability between different units within the framework of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) Brigade. VJTF will be deployed to protect Nato allies from potential threats and acts of aggression. The UK is to commit 1,000 troops a year to the taskforce until 2020, the MoD said. UK Defence Minister Earl Howe said: “The UK is one of the leading members of Nato, standing ready to defend partners in Eastern Europe against any threat. Today, I have seen first-hand the contribution British forces are making to reassurance our Nato allies that we are ready to protect them at a moment’s notice.” The UK will also train thousands of Ukrainian soldiers by the end of March 2017. NATO is moving ahead with its deployment of 4,000 troops to the Russian border. They are spoken of as “tripwires,” creating the rationale for military escalation by NATO in the event of a conflict between the Baltic States and Russia, substantially increasing the chances of a full-scale war between the two most powerful nuclear powers.

"NATO was created in 1949, as the accompaniment of an American and British decision to establish a West German state," Carolyn Eisenberg, a history professor at Hofstra University, wrote. "It was not a response to the division of Europe, it was one of its causes… Though often forgotten, there was no Russian-led Warsaw Pact, when NATO was born." The Warsaw Pact was a treaty between the Soviets and seven other countries that was created in 1955 in response to West Germany joining NATO”.

NATO expansions in 1999, 2004 and 2009 were seen by Russia as a violation of a 1990 agreement that NATO would not expand east. There was no legally binding promise between the US and Russia against NATO enlargement, but in 2014 former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said NATO's eastward creep certainly violated the spirit of the 1990 agreement.

Although much of NATO's posture has focused on the USSR and now Russia, the alliance has engaged in other military campaigns as well -- notably, in Afghanistan after 9/11 and the 2011 bombing of Libya. Two earlier NATO wars are rarely discussed in detail. The 1999 Kosovo campaign and the 1995 Bosnia campaign are often referenced positively as examples of humanitarian intervention, though the real story is far more complicated.

In 1999, NATO intervened on behalf of the Kosovo Albanians (Kosovars) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic's brutal crackdown against the KLA's armed struggle for independence. Almost entirely forgotten were the instances that Amnesty International and others said constituted NATO war crimes. On April 29, 1999, NATO forces bombed Radio Television of Serbia in Belgrade killing 16 civilians, including technicians and make-up artists. A month later, NATO bombed a bridge in Varvarin, Serbia, killing at least 11 civilians, a targeting decision Amnesty criticized. In another instance, NATO forces destroyed a wing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Significantly, the NATO bombing campaign itself precipitated an increase in violence against Albanians in Kosovo, the very group the military intervention was intended to help. After the bombing began, Milosevic ramped up his campaign of murder and forced displacement. Deaths in Kosovo prior to the NATO campaign are generally estimated at 2,000, committed both by Serbs and the Kosovo Liberation Army. "The character and intensity of the campaign appeared to change, however, after the commencement of NATO bombing," a Human Rights Watch report found. "Using the pretext of the NATO bombing, the government was free to unleash a full-scale offensive on the KLA as well as to order the expulsion of more than 850,000 Kosovar Albanians." And, of course, there were Albanians following the NATO campaign's victory against the Serbian military who proceeded to wage a campaign of terror against Serbian civilians. US Army's official history of the return explain: "Ethnic Albanians, consumed with hatred and resolve to avenge past grievances, initiated a wave of destruction that equaled in method if not in volume what they had experienced earlier during the Serbian ethnic cleansing of the province."

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