Russia will have to be on guard and use counter-force to prevent any reckless offensive conduct by the United States and its European minions.
The dangerous tensions that have escalated between the United States, NATO and Russia pose a grave threat to world peace. It's important to remember that the series of high-level talks convened this week in three European cities was initiated by Russia. Moscow put forward stern proposals for a clearer security arrangement in Europe between the U.S.-led NATO military bloc and Russia.
Those proposals include no further eastward expansion of NATO and a rollback of forces and U.S. strike weapons from eastern European states that joined the military alliance after 1997 - Poland, the Baltic states and other former members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. Other proposals include agreed limits to military exercises in the region.
At the very least, it can be noted, there was a willingness among U.S. and NATO partners to sit down with Russian counterparts to discuss these issues. There was also a verbal commitment to continue discussions. Nevertheless, a disappointing outcome was the evident intransigence to consider Russia's main concern which is the possible membership of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics in the ranks for NATO in the future. The U.S. and NATO officials this week said there would be no compromise and that Russia "does not have a veto" on the alliance's membership. This maximalist attitude contravenes principles of mutual and indivisible security. It appears that Russia's concerns were dismissed, and not for the first time either. For years now, Russia's expressed apprehensions about NATO's encroachment on its national borders have been ignored with contemptible complacency.
At the core of the impasse is this: the United States and its NATO allies do not view Russia as an equal and legitimate partner.
The recurring tensions in relations stem from a litany of accusations made against Russia as a malign power. The accusations are baseless and indeed slanderous. But they reveal a mentality of hostility that is endemic among the U.S. and its allies. They seem incapable of viewing Russia as a normal, peaceful nation.
It is inherently characteristic and problematic that the same mentality is shown towards China. And basically towards any foreign nation that does not readily conform to the interests of the United States and its Western allies.
As Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko put it this week: "If NATO countries really want to cooperate with us, they must accept this important role of Russia as a country that guarantees peace in the Euro-Atlantic region and that makes a critical contribution to maintaining peace and stability."
Therein lies the rub. Russia is distorted and vilified as an enemy and malign nation. Numerous strategy papers from the United States and NATO repeatedly define Russia (and China) as a geopolitical adversary and national security threat. On what basis? It is rarely explained or substantiated. The designation of Russia (and China) as a malevolent actor is often based on assertion, prejudice and propaganda.
A recent press conference by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken constituted a reprehensible rant about alleged Russian transgressions. No evidence or substantiation was offered by Blinken who is supposed to be "America's top diplomat". His charges against Russia were full-blown hysterical Russophobia. This mentality is a Cold War one. Lamentably, it is a mindset that is commonly shared by American and NATO member politicians.
The telling thing is that the hostility is not reciprocated by Russia. Moscow, as well as Beijing, have consistently called for cooperative, multipolar international relations based on respect and mutual partnership. In rebuffing the offer of partnership from Russia, the United States and its allies are the ones choosing the path of confrontation and ultimately conflict.
Ironically, Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State who was leading the American delegation in discussions this week, declared that it was Russia that faced "a choice between confrontation and diplomacy". The reverse is the case. Russia has continually proposed diplomatic engagement and resolution of security concerns. It is the U.S. and its allies that are impervious to any form of reciprocation, preferring to treat Russia as "a problem to be contained".
Russia's envoy Grushko remarked: "If NATO moves on to a policy of containment, then there will be a policy of counter-containment from our side. If there is deterrence, there will be counter-deterrence. If there is a search for vulnerabilities in the Russian defense system, then there will also be a search for vulnerabilities in NATO. This is not our choice, but there will be no other path if we fail to reverse the current very dangerous course of events."
In order for peace and security to prevail on a sustainable basis then the onus is on the U.S. and NATO to disarm its Cold War ideology. This, however, is not possible under decades-long existing conditions of American imperial power ambitions. The U.S. ruling system views the world as one of domination and hegemony. Its zero-sum conception of world relations fits into its need to designate perceived rivals as enemies and adversaries.
From its inception immediately following the Second World War, the U.S.-led NATO alliance was and continues to be motivated by containing Russia. Back in 1949, the then Soviet Union was cast as an evil empire to be contained. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cold War did not end. It has continued three decades later. Commenting on the failure to find a compromise this week, analyst Matthew Crosston said that it was not surprising given that the NATO bloc is fundamentally purposed to confront Russia.
The NATO bloc's purpose depends on the idea of Russian containment, says Crosston, a consultant and an executive vice-chairman with ModernDiplomacy.eu.
"I believe NATO will do what it has traditionally done since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, which is truly part of the ultimate problem: it will not acknowledge Russian criticism, it will not directly or explicitly answer Russian questions, and it will not entertain any perspective other than its original founding mission - to counter the one true [perceived] threat to world stability, which for NATO has always been perceived as a powerful, prosperous, and influential Russian Federation," he said.
The dilemma for NATO is that it is a lucrative weapons market for the United States whose military-industrial complex is at the heart of American capitalism. NATO also serves as a vital power-projection platform for U.S. imperialism. This all cannot be surrendered through having normal, peaceful relations with Russia or China, or any other designated enemy. Such peaceful, normal relations are anathema to U.S. global power. That surely is the most deplorable indictment.
When the Cold War was supposed to end in 1991, the United States had a strategic problem: how to plausibly continue the mission of NATO. As the analyst Matthew Crosston points out: "The easiest path to that end goal was to simply reframe the old Soviet narrative with the Russian Federation flag. If Russia is simply the Soviet Union with a new name, then NATO does not need any mission innovation. It does not need any new justification to exist. It doesn't even need to alter any budgets. It can simply continue."
The challenge for security and peace in Europe and internationally is for the United States and its NATO partners to disarm their inherent war-driven ideology that underpins their capitalist economies and imperial ambitions. That will require a fundamental overhaul in the internal politics primarily of the United States. In short, a democratic political economy needs to emerge in the United States instead of a war-driven one that serves its military-industrial complex.
Until that happens, the relations with Russia will continue to be fraught with tensions and ultimately the danger of war. Necessarily, Russia will have to be on guard and use counter-force to prevent any reckless offensive conduct by the United States and its European minions.