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Obama Makes a Reckless Bluff

I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty alliance. … Article 5 is crystal clear: An attack on one is an attack on all. So if … you ever ask again, ‘who’ll come to help,’ you’ll know the answer—the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America.

That was Barack Obama in Tallinn, Estonia, last week, reissuing a U.S. war guarantee to the tiniest of the Baltic republics—which his Cold War predecessors would have regarded as certifiable madness. From 1945 to 1989, no president would have dreamed of issuing a blank check for war in Eastern Europe. Our red line was in the heart of Germany. It said to Moscow: Cross the Elbe, and we fight. That red line was made credible by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops permanently stationed in West Germany.

Yet Truman did not use force to break the Berlin Blockade. Ike did not use force to save the Hungarian rebels. JFK fulminated, and observed, when the Wall went up. When Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact armies into Czechoslovakia, LBJ did nothing. Why did these presidents not act? None believed there was any vital U.S. interest in Eastern Europe worth a war with Russia.

And, truth be told, there was no vital interest there then, and there is no vital interest there now. If we would not risk war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Hungary or Czechoslovakia half a century ago, why would we risk it now over Estonia? Cold War presidents routinely issued captive nations resolutions, declaring our belief in the right of the peoples behind the Iron Curtain to be free. But no president regarded their liberation worthy of war.

What has changed?

When did the independence of the Baltic republics, miraculous and welcome as it is, become so critical to us that if Russia intrudes into Estonia, we will treat it as an attack on our homeland? In 1994, George Kennan called the expansion of NATO into the old Soviet bloc “a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” Yet we not only brought into NATO all the Warsaw Pact nations, George W. Bush brought in the Baltic republics.

To see the folly of what we have done, consider Ukraine, which has been involved in a military and political collision with Russia ever since we colluded in the overthrow of its pro-Russian regime.

As neocons cheered the ouster of the corrupt and incompetent, but democratically elected, Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin moved to secure and annex Crimea, and pro-Russian separatists sought to break away from Kiev and achieve independence or reunification with Russia. A question arises: Why do not the pro-Russian separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk have the same right to secede from Ukraine, as Ukraine had to secede from the Soviet Union? And why is this quarrel any of America’s business? Was it the business of Czar Alexander II when the 11 Southern states seceded from the Union and, then, West Virginia seceded from Virginia?

Under the new government of Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine sent its forces to the southeast to crush the separatists. They failed. Rising casualties and a separatist drive on the city of Mariupol have apparently persuaded Kiev to seek a ceasefire and peace. Needless to say, those who celebrated the overthrow of the pro-Russian regime in Kiev are now apoplectic at Kiev’s apparent defeat.

Yet, on Sept. 5, the New York Times wrote, “The Americans have no illusion that Ukraine could ever prevail in a war with Russia.” That is realism. But if Ukraine’s cause is militarily hopeless, what would be Estonia’s chances in a clash with Moscow? Estonia has three percent of Ukraine’s population and is less than one-tenth its size. If Moscow decided to take Estonia, it could do so in 48 hours.

And should Putin engage in so rash an act, what would NATO do? Would 28 NATO nations declare war and send troops? Would the United States declare war on Russia and conduct air strikes on Russian forces inside and outside Estonia? Would we send aircraft carriers into the Baltic Sea? Would we start a war with Russia that could lead to early use of tactical atomic weapons, devastating Estonia and causing massive deaths?

How would NATO save Estonia without destroying Estonia?

To eliminate second thoughts about our war guarantee to Estonia, some in Washington are calling for permanent U.S. bases and the stationing of U.S. troops in the Baltic states, so that any Russian incursion would lead to U.S. causalities and a definite clash with Russia. Presumably this threat would deter Russia in perpetuity.

But if it doesn’t deter Putin, or if a future Russian ruler regards it as a bluff and chastises Estonia, what do we do then? Put the B-2s on alert and go to DEFCON-2, as we did in the Cuban missile crisis?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "Obama Makes a Reckless Bluff"

#1 Comment By balconesfault On September 8, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

Estonia is, for better or worse, a member of NATO.

Hungary and Czechoslovakia were not.

Is the pitch here for the US to dissolve NATO? If so, why not just come out and say that directly?

#2 Comment By Chris Atwood On September 8, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

If there was a “like” button I’d press it on Balconesfault’s comment–it says exactly what needs to be said and no more.

#3 Comment By HeartRight On September 8, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

balconesfault says:

Estonia is, for better or worse, a member of NATO.
The triplet of Baltic states whose militaries appear to be somewhere between 1300 and 5000 men in size, according to Auntie Beeb, are not members but useless luggage. Liabilities, not assets.

And the neigborhood isn’t quite as nice as that of, say, Luxembourg.

#4 Comment By Joe A On September 8, 2014 @ 8:29 pm

And if Obama hadn’t said it, Buchanon would be criticizing Obama for abandoning our great NATO allies.

Criticism for the sake of criticism.

Meaningless drivel from a meandering mind.

#5 Comment By vato_loco_frisco On September 8, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

Just as no pre-9/11 administration would have ever seriously contemplated sending US troops into the Warsaw Pact countries, post-1991 Russia is unlikely to have territorial ambitions in the Baltics, especially Estonia. Why would they? With Kaliningrad, the Russians have direct shipping access to the Baltics and beyond. Obama’s saber-rattling is empty, which is something the Estonians, having surely seen what happened with “line in the sand” in the Syrian desert, should seriously mull over.

#6 Comment By Rick On September 9, 2014 @ 12:20 am

How this author can casually and without explanation equate breaking our treaty obligations to the most important Western strategic alliance with not having marched into Soviet territory when Soviet tanks crushed internal uprisings is utterly beyond me.

#7 Comment By apc27 On September 9, 2014 @ 12:55 am

@ balconesfault

If anything, Mr Buchanan is trying to save NATO, as at the moment the first, most plausible, test of the Alliance will lead to its dissolution.

Of all NATO states, Baltic countries offer the greatest possibility of the security guarantee actually being needed (this threat is WAY overblown, as shown by their paltry defence spending, but that is another topic).

What will happen if Russia invades Estonia, for example? Germany will declare war on Russia? Italy will declare war on Russia? France? Spain? Turkey?

Even if the US decides that the risk of seeing Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, other cities burn in fires of nuclear holocaust, is worth that tiny plot of land on the other side of the globe, do you think ALL other members would agree?

If not, that is the end of NATO.

In reality, its likely that no one would fight for Estonia, not to the death anyway. What keeps them safe are not our useless security guarantees, that no one means to uphold, but lack of any real interest on the part of Russia to take them and weather even the limited and mostly economic fallout of such an action.

Such interest though was present in Georgia and is present in Ukraine, hence our current problems.

#8 Comment By genetuttle On September 9, 2014 @ 5:43 am

Good arguments as always from Buchanan. We agree on the Ukraine, and Buchanan doesn’t like the global trade system anyway, so he’d probably welcome any decision to drastically cut trade in reaction to Russian aggression or to a Chinaman forgetting to use a handkerchief when sneezing.

But the analogy with Hungary or Czechoslovakia is off because Russia’s invasions there had not constituted a fundamental change in the status-quo – those countries had already been accepted, however begrudgingly, as Moscow’s de-facto territory. A Europe strong and now fully committed to preventing a violent change of the status-quo regarding its borders, through invasion of an alliance member that is itself so committed to remaining an alliance member, is quite different. A key phrase is “strong and fully committed.” Though we have good reasons to doubt such European resolve, if Europe could muster it up, and the US resolve were just as strong, the risk of a Russian invasion of the Baltic countries would be minimal.

Perhaps we could dispense with all alliances and build up fortress America. I don’t think that’s such a reckless or unrealistic notion. But if we are to maintain an alliance with a Europe ready to stand up in defense of its most fundamental interests – its territorial integrity — then a line already drawn should be respected. Wavering on such fundamentals is usually more dangerous than clarity.

#9 Comment By HeartRight On September 9, 2014 @ 8:09 am

Perhaps we could dispense with all alliances and build up fortress America.

Or you could construct alliances based on synerg. That used to be the point of NATO, you know?

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 9, 2014 @ 8:28 am

Former CIA analyst and chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch Ray McGovern wrote on May 15th:

“[The] U.S. and NATO reneged on a series of commitments:

“[1] not to enlarge the Alliance;

“[2] then (after NATO was expanded contrary to that commitment), not to deploy substantial forces on the territories of new NATO members;

“[3] and then not to move NATO infrastructure to the Russian border.”

Then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock took part in the Bush-Gorbachev talks in Malta (Dec, 1989) and in the Baker-Shevardnadze talks (Feb 1990) and he confirms the U.S. commitment to Russia that NATO would not be enlarged.

But the U.S. reneged on its commitment not to expand NATO and by 2004 Estonia had been brought into NATO.

Estonia sits directly on the Russian border – 90 miles from St. Petersburg (Leningrad). Estonia has 1.3 million people, a population smaller than Phoenix, Arizona.

The German army made the Estonia stop on its way to Moscow in 1940. The Russians remember that. So do the Germans. The Germans aren’t going back to Estonia. We Americans aren’t going to Estonia either.

The upshot: NATO won’t defend Estonia.

For balconesfault I think “the pitch here”– Pat Buchanan’s point — is this: Since NATO won’t defend Estonia – repeat: WILL NOT DEFEND ESTONIA – why on earth would the President of the United States say that we would?

Hence, Pat Buchanan’s title: “Obama makes a reckless bluff.”

The trouble with this bluff is that the Russians don’t believe it, we don’t believe it. Nobody believes it.

#11 Comment By Passing By On September 9, 2014 @ 8:31 am

Mr. Buchanan seems stuck in the 1970s.

First, the Red Army was arguably the strongest conventional force in the world back then. But Mr. Putin no longer has that Red Army at his disposal. Twenty years after the USSR’s collapse, Russia’s conventional armed forces have eroded badly. If open war started (e.g., over Estonia), our European allies could likely defeat them unassisted. And with full-on US participation, the fight would be lop-sided.

Second, NATO’s strategy in such a war would be quite different from the 1970s. Back then, it was defensive–block a Soviet advance into NATO territory. And of course, Mr. Buchanan is right that it would be hard for NATO to block a Russian invasion of Estonia. Today, a sensible NATO strategy would seize more-accessible Russian territory, to exchange for Estonia when the conflict’s end was negotiated.

Mr. Putin knows all these things as well as Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Obama do (which is why he’s unlikely to precipitate a conflict with NATO). Only Mr. Buchanan seems confused about the matter.

#12 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On September 9, 2014 @ 8:56 am

So we hear from those who would be comfortable with the rise of new Soviet Union–of course, it would have a different name–as long it expanded incrementally. We have no vital national interest in tiny plots of land on the Baltic. Then we will have none in Poland ; Slovakia ; Hungary . . . . We hear from those who think it is all right for small nations to be destroyed ; obviously only big ones have a real right to exist. I hope this is not American Conservatism ; it was a joyful discovery for me to find that there is a real American conservatism, and not the sorry right that has usurped the name, so I hope that I will not now find it represented by people willing to throw some to the wolves in the hope that the wolves will then not come after the rest of us.

#13 Comment By apc27 On September 9, 2014 @ 9:53 am

@Stephen Reynolds,

Right… so the take away is that if Russia were to re-occupy the Baltics, without the West declaring war on it, it would become MORE capable of endangering the US?

It would not have a festering wound on its body, demanding constant inflows of blood and treasure. It would not suffer from truly crippling economic sanctions. It would not STILL have an ocean to cross. It would not STILL have an American dragon to deal with, as US might has no analogy in the animal kingdom.

Your first point about the right of small nations to exist is somewhat sensible. In real world though that right does not extend beyond the willingness of a patron (US) to pay for the small states’ (Baltics and others) security. And that price can be too high. It would also help if the small states in question actually bothered to develop the capabilities that would make the cost of taking them not worth the effort (which they don’t, just look at their pathetic percentage of GDP military spending). In the end though, if a great power REALLY wants to take its small neighbor, it will. The hope is that during the next fluctuation in its power, that independence can be regained (which is how the Eastern Europe has emerged after the fall of the USSR in the first place).

Your second point, on the other hand, that Russia AFTER invading the Baltics would become MORE capable than BEFORE… Seriously?

#14 Comment By Mr. Patrick On September 9, 2014 @ 10:21 am

I keep hearing that nuclear war for Estonia is unthinkable. But under what conditions was nuclear war ever thinkable? It’s a horror, and it’s supposed to be the ultimate horror. If Russia does no longer fears it (which I don’t believe is the case), that’s because Russia’s foreign policy and leadership has become hopelessly deranged; no list of concessions would then likely restore its sanity in any event.

#15 Comment By EstonianWolf On September 9, 2014 @ 10:36 am

Unfortunately, the author has missed the key point: the best war is the one avoided. That was the purpose of Mr Obama’s speech in Tallinn. Putin has proved that he is a crazy gambler, parallels between his actions this year and Hitler’s in mid 1930’s are fully appropriate. He’s been challenging the peace in Europe. What if Mr Chamberlain had had the balls to “bluff” in time? Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Just a note: Estonian defence forces are no joke. We have draft service that provides a well-trained reserve (only Greece and Finland also still do in Europe) plus professional forces that have earned high marks from all allies. Defence spending has been 2+% of GDP throughout (only US, France and Greece match that in NATO). If Russia would invade, it would be anything but a walk in the park for them – but let’s hope it will never happen again.

#16 Comment By James Canning On September 9, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

The guarantee to the Baltics was made when they became members of Nato. Obama was not setting a new policy.

#17 Comment By Leon Berton On September 9, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

Supposedly, the U.S. contributes about 21% of the funding to sustain NATO, an organizational instrument forged in 1949 within a very different historical context in which Stalin’s Soviet Union was in ascendency.

It now has some 28 member states and serious consideration should be made as to whether Putin’s Russia(s) actually are, and will be, what was the Soviet Union faced throughout most of the 20th century.

Isn’t there some way to seriously reexamine our commitment to NATO in light of George Washington’s recommendation that our alliances and treaties always be subject to revision in our favor, along with Eisenhower’s warning about not letting our policies be manipulated by the interests of those who pertain to the military-industrial-Congressional complex?

#18 Comment By HeartRight On September 9, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

Stephen Reynolds says:
September 9, 2014 at 8:56 am

So we hear from those who would be comfortable with the rise of new Soviet Union–of course, it would have a different name–as long it expanded incrementally. We have no vital national interest in tiny plots of land on the Baltic.

Buh-loney.

Courland ( That’s the baltic states ) was Russian before before America was founded.
But then again, Poland was Polish before Muscovy became Russia.

We hear from those who think it is all right for small nations to be destroyed ; obviously only big ones have a real right to exist.

As a matter of fact, States do not even have the right to demand that tresspassers go back where they came from unless they have the actually power to contest a tresspass.

Although it would be stretching the point to say that Might makes Right, it is an underlying assumption in the laws of war and peace that in the absence of Might, there is no such thing as a Right.

Of course, it is possible that the Might be supplied by an outside Power – in the form of a guaranty.
It is perfectly possible that Mr Obama was seeking to do just that.

EstonianWolf says:
Just a note: Estonian defence forces are no joke.
How many battalions?

We have draft service that provides a well-trained reserve
What proportion would defect?

What if Mr Chamberlain had had the balls to “bluff” in time?
He would have lost – and knew it.

He prevaricated but it must be said that he made good use of the time gained, to get Britain on war-footing. With fighterplanes that were monoplanes just like the German bombers, rather than biplanes that made the Gloster Gladiator of 39 ( still a hopeless biplane, of course ) look advanced. Caught off balance by 10 years of doing nothing, and with 10 years of doing nothing being the official policy, he had to play for time.

#19 Comment By Majumder On September 9, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

“Yet Truman did not use force to break the Berlin Blockade. Ike did not use force to save the Hungarian rebels.”

Sir:

In those days, there was a very strong global military opponent of America called the U.S.S.R.

That’s why it was not in America’s interest to start a World War III in those days.

However, today Russia is a very weak country, militarily and economically speaking.

Now, America can very easily flex its muscle against Russia.

And, after destroying the Russians, America will invade India and the People’s Republic of China in order to permanently establish American military supremacy for the next thousand years!

#20 Comment By Brian Allan Cobb On September 9, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

Why has Russia never been invited to join NATO?

#21 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 9, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

This unusual incident occurred last Friday morning, less than 48 hours after President Obama delivered his speech in Estonia.

The incident — given its context — may be of some interest to those involved in the Obama-in-Estonia discussion. Here are three accounts: From RT (Russian Television) News, from The Guardian (U.K.), and from Vox:

“Estonian security officer detained in Russia on suspicion of spying” — RT News (Russian Television News) Sept. 5, 2014

[2]

“Russia says detained Estonian police officer is a spy” — The Guardian (U.K.) with Agence France-Presse in Moscow — Sept. 7, 2014

[3]

“This is bad: Russia ‘abducts’ Estonian officer after Obama says US will defend Estonia” — Vox — Sept. 9, 2014

[4]

It could be that this is a minor incident unrelated to the background of tensions over NATO. But because the incident in so unusual in terms of the past two decades of Russia/Estonia relations, it is worth being aware of — and worth following.

#22 Comment By harry colin On September 9, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

Expanding NATO was a foolish idea; it should have been disbanded after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Why on earth do we still have troops in Germany 20+ years after the collapse of communism? It is somewhere between an albatross and a sorry mechanism for unwarranted interference and meddling in other nations issues.

The suggestion made here that absent US involvement, NATO could defeat Russia is beyond ludicrous. NATO couldn’t even manage to intervene in a military non-entity like Libya without US involvement. Russia could move into Estonia over a weekend and then what? European land armies will come to push them out? Russia still maintains tactical nukes as well; wait until the first one strikes the NATO staging areas on the North German plain and see how committed the Germans would be to then roll the Leopards into the Baltics.

#23 Comment By Teton County On September 9, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

A “red line” in Estonia? The old, “Let me be clear” preface is a dead giveaway…a meaningless statement, like everything else President Inert says.

#24 Comment By philadelphialawyer On September 9, 2014 @ 11:02 pm

Bah!

The “bluff,” “reckless” or not, in violation of informal agreements with Russia or not, occurred when NATO expanded to include great swaths of Eastern Europe, including former Soviet territory, in general, and Estonia in particular. All Obama is doing, as others have pointed out, is reiterating what is already standard policy, and what is already a treaty obligation of the USA.

I think a good case could be made that the Russians have no designs on any CURRENT NATO members (as other posters have mentioned), and thus the Obama statement is neither a bluff nor a ringing, Churchillian-like pronunciamundo of the inviolable of American commitments and so on. Rather, the Obama statement is designed to demonstrate toughness and solidarity to the East Europeans, while not so subtly signaling to the Russians that he recognizes the differences between Ukraine and Estonia. “Don’t you dare do X!” when X is not under contemplation, is almost an admission that doing Y is not such a big deal. With X obviously being invading Estonia while Y is messing around with Ukraine’s border regions.

Obama is basically telling the East Europeans to shut up, that we have their back, to the extent that they are NATO members, as we have always had, but that we are not going to war over Ukraine. And telling the Russians the same thing, even though they don’t really need to hear the first part, ie the part about Estonia and the other NATO members.

Cold War comparisons are totally off the mark, again, as other posters have demonstrated. But, even at that, at no time did the US say anything less about the then current NATO members, including the weakest and most exposed to theoretical Russian attack, than Obama is saying now about Estonia. The US never said it would fight for the Balkans, or the Czechs, or the Hungarians, etc. But it did say that it would fight for the Norway, Greece and Turkey, even though any one of those countries, realistically, might have been overrun by a crazily reckless USSR before NATO could effectively counter attack.

#25 Comment By Sergey from St-Petersburg On September 10, 2014 @ 2:34 am

What do you know about catastrophic depopulation and economic bankruptcy Estonia and Latvia? What do you know about the discriminatory policy of the local versions of apartheid against the huge Russian community in Estonia and Latvia? So the situation can be more absurd. But what do USA do then, if pro-Russian separatists will start to try to sought to break away from Estonia (or Latvia) and achieve independence or reunification with Russia (and Estonian or Latvian forces to be defeated)??? So if Moscow decided to take Estonia, it could do so in 3-4 hours. What Americans want to defend if the local ideology of nationalisms are based on the glorification of collaborators and Nazis of WWII?

#26 Comment By Sergey from St-Petersburg On September 10, 2014 @ 3:14 am

Passing By seems stuck in primitive propaganda of the 1990s.
So he must to see more real fact, as the Red or Russian Army was and remained arguably the strongest conventional force in the world. It’s funny if do you think, as Obama (or NATO) can has that like Red Army at his disposal. So twenty years after the USSR’s collapse, all and any armed forces have eroded badly.
What do you know about catastrophic depopulation and economic bankruptcy Estonia and Latvia? What do you know about the discriminatory policy of the local versions of apartheid against the huge Russian community in Estonia and Latvia? So the situation can be more absurd. But what do USA do then, if pro-Russian separatists will start to try to sought to break away from Estonia (or Latvia) and achieve independence or reunification with Russia (and Estonian or Latvian forces to be defeated)??? So if Moscow decided to take Estonia, it could do so in 3-4 hours. What Americans want to defend if the local ideology of nationalisms are based on the glorification of collaborators and Nazis of WWII?

#27 Comment By Anton from Russia On September 10, 2014 @ 3:41 am

1) the “Red-line” passed through Germany before, now she is already in Estonia, by the Russian border? Why such an aggressive policy of drawing “red lines”… against States possessing nuclear weapons? Why? We all want a nuclear war?
2) Estonia unwanted, hostile population, a collapsing economy (the economy was historically focused on Russia, Russophobia it breaks down). Estonia is not the Crimea (In 1991 illegally and by force was taken by Ukraine from Russia, in 2014 also was illegally Russia taken from Ukraine), Controlling the Crimea, in control of all the Black sea, the Crimea means that the war against Russia will be “two steps closer”.
3) If Russia is aggressive, then why on the border of Russia arise corrupt fascist state… who believe that their main task is to kill the Russians, with the full support and approval of the United States.
For Eastern Ukraine massively, kill thousands of unarmed ethnic Russians… if they get guns to protect themselves, they are called “terrorists”, “Russian military”… to justify any action.

If Russia is aggressive why war is already underway 600 kilometers from Moscow, although this before no one would have believed?

#28 Comment By CrazyGambler On September 10, 2014 @ 4:13 am

Since the block of NATO was created with the aim of confronting with USSR and now Russia.

#29 Comment By Majumder On September 10, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

“But what does USA do then, if pro-Russian separatists start to try to break away from Estonia (or Latvia)…???” — Sergey from St-Petersburg

American government is very powerful both financially and militarily.

America spent nearly 4,000,000,000,000 dollars in wars of Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade.

So, as you can see, money is not a problem for America!

If the State of Texas wants to secede from the Union, the most powerful American government will not sit idle.

Similarly, if some people of the tiny Baltic states want to rejoin Russia, the most powerful American govt. will not allow that to happen.

Governments of America, France and Great Britain now have accepted homosexual marriage system as cultural norm; but, Russia refuses to adopt homosexual marriage system, which is unacceptable to American elites and American or Western European judiciary.

As you can realize, there exists a big cultural collision course between America (as well as the Western Europe) and Russia now.

Therefore, American govt. will do everything to stop Russia from acting belligerently anymore.

#30 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 10, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

Pat, there are profit-seekers blind with greed in our own country anxious to build expensive nuclear weapons, and home-grown American militarists as mad as those of last-century Japan and Germany anxious to deploy and even launch them.

These dangerous freaks still even regard nuclear war as “winnable,” but in what way and by whom?

#31 Comment By collin On September 10, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

Let us be honest. Estonia:

1) A part of NATO
2) Economically more connected with Europe
3) The average Estonian citizen is doing much better than The Ukraine and better than the average Russian.
4) The number of ethnic Russians is less a part of the population and assimilation is happening much quicker.

And Estonia wants nothing to do with the Russians.

#32 Comment By William Dalton On September 10, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

When he campaigned for the Presidency, Pat Buchanan endorsed having the United States withdraw from NATO. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and its ideologically driven goal of supplanting the governments of the West with Communist regimes, the United States no longer faced the strategic threat the NATO alliance was formed to defend against.

I think it would be appropriate to make this case again, even, or especially, as Russia begins asserting its foreign policy muscle once more. The Baltic States, not only Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also Finland, Denmark, Germany and Poland, belong in NATO, or whatever a mutual defense pact in Europe is called after the departure of the United States, because they are western nations in religion, in language and in culture. This separates them from Russia, with its Cyrillic alphabet, its Orthodox faith, and the heavy influence of its Asian antecedents – Mongol and Muslim invaders of the past – which distinguishes its culture from that of the Baltic.

Russian threats to, or incursions upon, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, should be viewed as the equivalent to threats to Germany and Poland. They just should no longer be viewed as threats to the United States.

Europe is big enough and wealthy enough to defend itself, and Russia is governed by those wise enough not to seek to pick a fight with them. The question is why Europe has not been wise enough not to pick a fight with Russia over such lands as Ukraine and Georgia, which fall on Russia’s side of the historic cultural divide between East and West. I fear the answer is the influence of the United States, too many of whose leaders still aspire to making us the leaders of a global empire. Ending these pretensions may be the most important reason for Americans to insist our country withdraw from the NATO alliance, sooner rather than later.

#33 Comment By balconesfault On September 10, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

Again – the issue is that the US signed off on inclusion of Estonia into NATO in 2004. This is when these issues should have been aired, and not 10 years later.

Now, was that a good idea? Seems like many in the conservative movement were pushing for inclusion of lots of countries into NATO that had nothing to do with America’s strategic interests … and I suspect Bush’s enthusiasm for including Estonia was likely a tacit if not explicit reward for Estonia swelling the ranks of his “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq.

What is the process for kicking someone out of NATO? Because it seems to me that if a country is part of NATO, and is attacked, and NATO members sit on the sidelines … NATO is effectively neutered going forward.

Which brings me back to my original question – Is the pitch here for the US to dissolve NATO? If so, why not just come out and say that directly?

#34 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 11, 2014 @ 2:02 am

“Estonia has been a member of NATO since 29 March 2004. Active NATO membership will always remain the top priority of Estonian security and defence policy, as it allows Estonia to productively participate in international security co-operation and represents the most certain guarantee of Estonia’s national defence.”

[5]

A visit to Estonia to reassure them that as NATO members they are protected seems needlessly redundant.

#35 Comment By EstonianWolf On September 11, 2014 @ 4:22 am

Sergey,

Where do you see the”catastrophic depopulation” of Estonia and Latvia? May I remind you that Estonian population 1991 included Red Army and their families that made up almost 10% of the total population – Estonia was one of the most militarized areas in Europe.
Some 2.5% of the population has left to work in the other EU countries, mostly Finland since 2004. Catastrophe? Hardly, if you consider that Estonia is 1.5 hours by ferry from Finland, a country with some of the highest wages in the world, and there is free movement of labor in the EU. Hey, that’s what we wanted – freedom to move!
Bankruptcy – Estonian public debt is about 10% of GDP, about the same level as Russia and the lowest in EU. Only a minor difference – we don’t export a drop of oil or gas. Also, our private debt is one of the lowest in EU. It’s pretty hard to go bankrupt with no debts, I feel.
Apartheid – sorry but this is pure nonsense. In 1991, about 35% of population were “non-citizens”, meaning immigrants during Soviet occupation, regardless of nationality. Today, about 7% is. Most of these people have not applied for citizenship for purpose, as their status gives them an unique opportunity to move freely in both EU and Russia. The rest have mostly gained Estonian citizenship (can’t be that hard then?) or Russian citizenship.
One more thing: Russia (Yeltsin) had a huge credit in Estonia after USSR broke down and there were all conditions in place for a friendly future. Unfortunately, it took about one year for Russia to resurrect its imperial ambitions and this credit melt away very fast. The following 20 years have seen constant threats and intrusion into our business by Russia. No good will whatsoever. Now you wonder, why the Baltic states were so desperate to join NATO?
Russian foreign policy towards its neighbors has been totally idiotic and counterproductive regardless who’s been in power. USA is ruling the world not because its weapons, but its soft power and good image (justified or not). Russia is doing the opposite and keeps getting new enemies by day. It has managed to do it so “effectively” that there are not even Russia-neutral political powers left in the Baltics – and now in Ukraine, despite the obvious economic benefits that reasonable relations with Russia would ensure. What is Russia winning from this attitude?

#36 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On September 19, 2014 @ 1:41 am

I don’t think I said that if Russia occupied the Baltic states it would be better able to threaten the United States. The point I was trying to make is that if it got away with such a move it would feel more confident to extend its domination to former Warsaw Pact countries. As Mr Dalton points out, a threat to Poland or even Germany can be real without being a threat to the United States. I hope that such a return to the days of the Iron Curtain would not be acceptable to Western Europe, but who knows? I fear it might well be acceptable to Mr Buchanan, but again, who knows?

The Russian correspondents, quite predictably, resort to the “Baltic fascist” canard. It would be pointless to argue about this. Claims that Russians in Estonia and Latvia suffer horrid denials of their human rights, &c., are necessary so that they will not have to confront the real catastrophic depopulation, cause by mass deportations in the 1940s; some were sent to Germany as laborers, but most to the Soviet Union to populate the GULag. As Estonian Wolf rightly points out, Russia had a fine opportunity to establish mutual good will between itself and the Balts when the USSR collapsed, and chose to piss it away.

Russia claims to be the defender of Russians beyond her borders, and as we know from the Karaganov article of 1991 this role is consciously designed to enable Russia to control political processes in the former Soviet “Republics.” Russia also claims to be the defender of Orthodox peoples. I can hardly condemn this, in view of NATO’s ill-advised war on Serbia and America’s undiscriminating support of the anti-Assad insurrectionists. But in view of post-Soviet Russia’s treatment of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, one must view the claim with a sense of irony.

#37 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On September 19, 2014 @ 1:42 am

Correction: Karaganov article of 1992. I am not a wonderful typist.