Atlantic Council Symposium on NATO Anniversary: Much Breast Thumping and Putin-Bashing

The occasion for the Atlantic Council gathering yesterday and today in Washington, D.C. was allegedly an anniversary of the first expansion of NATO to “new Europe” under the rubric of “Europe Whole and Free.” Although it may have been organized months ahead of time, it became a particular drawing card because of the drumbeat on Ukraine. Not only did they gather a number of foreign ministers and defense ministers from Eastern Europe, but there was a significant number of ambassadors from the D.C. embassies. In order to elevate the attendance, both Kerry and Biden agreed to speak.

Even Robert Kagan was dragged out of whatever cubbyhole he was in to talk about the history of Europe in the 20th century. His thesis: Europe has always had trouble getting its act together in order to overcome a “hegemon.” Russia, of course, is today’s “hegemon,” for Kagan, although in World Wars I and II, it was Germany, which had “become too big for Europe”! It was downhill from there.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was prominently featured, characterizing Putin as “enraged,” and not even as rational as Stalin! He really soft-peddled on China, upbraiding Obama for his blatant policy of containment, which is frightening the Chinese leadership. Zbig, of course, always considered China as a “wedge” against his real bugaboo, Russia. He is no doubt concerned that Obama’s foolishness will bring China closer to Russia, which he wants to avoid at all costs. He also expressed concern about the U.S. “slipping into security arrangements that might not be so good,” perhaps thinking of the upgrading of the Security Pact with Japan.

While Brezezinski doesn’t think the U.S. should get militarily involved in Ukraine, he does want to give them weapons. If Russia invades, he said, the Ukrainians should conduct urban warfare as they “have a history of successful guerilla partisan warfare.” He was aghast at the fact that the Ukrainian troops did not fire on the Russians in Crimea! The Poles, he claimed, would have fought. If the crisis there subsides, he went on, Ukraine should maintain a Finland-like status, not be in NATO but open to the West, should join the EU, but should maintain the traditional economic and industrial ties in the East with Russia, (however that’s supposed to happen).

Sen. McCain was also a speaker at the event. He too called for military equipment to be sent to Ukraine, also noting that they should be prepared for urban, house-to-house guerrilla warfare, and, in contrast was quite happy with Obama’s organizing a defense pact in Asia, although he too seemed to be somewhat unsure of just where Shinzo Abe would be taking all of this in his plans to change the Japanese Constitution.

Kerry’s speech was quite vapid. A lot of generalities about the importance of NATO and unity, calling the crisis in Ukraine “a wake-up call” in which NATO must go back to its original purpose of defending its members. And a specific emphasis on the fact that the borders of NATO countries are inviolable. He didn’t mention Ukraine in that respect. He reiterated his claims that the Ukrainian pseudo-government did at least some of what they were required to do by the Geneva agreements, but Russia did nothing. He said that new sanctions could be imposed if need be and that the U.S. should help Europe in its gas and oil supply.

Teltschik Refutes All the Bluster at Atlantic Council

The only German representative on the dais yesterday at the Atlantic Council conference in Washington, D.C. was Horst Teltschik, who was an advisor to Helmut Kohl during German reunification, and Teltschik was the only individual during the course of the day, who proved to be at all rational.

Teltschik’s remarks rose above a sub-theme of the NATO confab, which was German-bashing. For example, panelist Zgigniew Brzezinski, complained about the “industrial complex that rules Germany.” Its existence has meant that Obama could only do so much with regards to sanctions, and Brezezinski said that Obama had done as much as he could “given the structure of the alliance.”

During the discussion between Teltschik, Brent Scowcroft, and former Netherlands Prime Minister Timmermans, Teltschik went through the “broken promises” given to Putin over the years, beginning with then-European Commission President Romano Prodi’s proposal to build a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Putin later came to Brussels and repeated this proposal, but to no avail. “If the EU had said, let’s go, the results would have been different,” Teltschik said. Helmut Kohl, he explained, had signed 22 agreements with Gorbachov in order to align the Soviet Union with Europe. “The Russians were particularly sensitive on the security issue, so Kohl was keen on embedding security guarantees in the agreements.” But these were later abrogated. “More could have been done to develop the relationship between Russia and NATO.”

Teltschik later talked about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. A few months after the invasion, the Soviets proposed to have a conference on security in Europe, he said. This was accepted by NATO and it led to the establishment of CSCE (today the OSCE). He said that similar negotiations and dialogue ought to be maintained with Russia in spite of the Crimean crisis. “This was not as bad as the invasion of Czechoslovakia,” Teltschik said. “I have no understanding that we give up everything that has been achieved with Russia because of Ukraine.”

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