NATO Preparing for Combat in Ukraine?

APRIL 12, 2024 – https://www.counterpunch.org/

BY JOHN LAFORGE

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In the midst of the war in Ukraine, NATO in January launched its largest military exercise in 36 years, still underway and continuing through May 31st, a 5-month series of major maneuvers staged largely in new NATO member states, bordering the Russian Federation. Can you say: ‘world war powder-keg’?

Code-named ‘Steadfast Defender,’ the rehearsal involves 90,000 troops from thirty-one NATO states, employing battle ships, jet fighters, drones, tanks, and other vehicles.
In late February operation ‘Nordic Response’ paraded 20,000 soldiers, 50 warships and 100 warplanes from 13 NATO states across land and sea between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland. NATO said the maneuver was integrated with the naval exercise ‘Joint Warrior.’ At the same time, soldiers enacted ‘Brilliant Jump’ in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

In early March, heavy armor from nine NATO states conducted operation ‘Dragon,’ an amphibious, bridge-building crossing the Vistula, the largest river in Poland.

While NATO claimed Nordic Response was not linked to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the Polish military frankly declared that Dragon, ‘demonstrates the ability to counter … the Russian Federation.’

With the war against Russia being funded, armed, and directed by the U.S. and NATO, the war games were announced by NATO’s top commander, U.S. Army General Chris Cavoli, who said it will showcase NATO’s ‘determination to protect … the rules-based international order.’

Coming from the United States, the phrase ‘rules-based international order’ is the laugh-line of the century. Even a partial list of its violations since 1999 alone is demonstrative: the ’99 U.S.-led war on Yugoslavia; the ‘01 U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan; the ‘03 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq; eight years of torturing kidnapped suspects by the Bush/Cheney administration; indefinite, incommunicado detention without charges of suspects at Guantanamo Bay for 23 years; ongoing missile and drone killings in Syria, Somalia, and Yemen; the ‘20 assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. All these military actions are flagrant, criminal abuse of binding international rules-based order including the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. The Bush/Cheney torturers even defied the U.S.’s own Torture Statue, which, upon a conviction, carries the death penalty. President Obama’s decision not to prosecute the architects of the torture regime constitutes criminal negligence itself, and a precedent-setting exoneration of home-grown barbarism. Pax Americans is no rules-based order, but de-based and dis-ordered crime spree of endless, undeclared, unconstitutional war-making — a war crime spree if you will.

But don’t say this crime doesn’t pay. Today, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, or Ramstein Group, is the cabal of 56 militaries (NATO states and 24 others) now profiteering from the war against Russia. According to the Major Arms Sales Notification Tracker from the Forum on the Arms Trade, $46 billion in weapons has been delivered to Ukraine in the first quarter of 2024; $106 billion in 2023; $81 billion in 2022; $36 billion in 2021 — before the Russian invasion; and in 2020 — also well before the invasion — an astronomical $134 billion.

After such a huge investment in the NATO campaign against Russia, today’s very real prospect of Ukraine losing the war has moved France’s President Macron to tell the press, ‘Maybe at some point… we will have to have operations on the ground … to counter the Russian forces.’ Speaking to the French daily Le Parisien, Macron said, ‘France’s strength is that we can do it.’

Macron told the paper, ‘On March 26, representatives of about 20 Western states discussed … an option to send ground troops to Ukraine.’ Macron admitted that the allies did not reach agreement sending in NATO troops (and provoking world war 3), but he did warn, ‘such a scenario could not be ruled out.’ After meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Macron preposterously claimed that the war in Ukraine was an ‘existential’ threat to France and Europe. Mr. Scholz rejected Macron’s jingoism, saying ‘We’ve agreed on no ground troops.’ Yet even Scholz’s push-back was alarmingly weak, as it left open the possible use of NATO fighter jets, heavy bombers, and war ships.

Then, poking back at Chancellor Scholz, France’s top general Thierry Burkhard doubled-down on Macron’s incendiary talk, saying on March 22 that Russia should not expect NATO to limit its support of Ukraine to merely supplying arms.

If ever there was a time for anti-war activism it’s now, before NATO’s world war engulfs everything.

A version of this opinion aired on Nuclear Hotseat on April 10.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.