The growth of NATO

The growth of NATO

It wasn’t inevitable. Everyone was content to keep NATO one country away from the Russian border. Or two, if you include Sweden. NATO has been seen as aggressive, assertive, calm, dormant and essential in turns. By its nature it responds; its inclination is to be proactive. Like all military operations it wants the best forward positions for whichever role it may be called upon to fulfil. Putin’s Troops’ behaviour in Ukraine has been shocking by any standards. But war itself is shocking. You cannot expect an aggressor to knit his way to victory.

The war has precipitated the expansion of NATO. It is the opposite of what Putin was aiming to achieve. His lack of strategy and resource is astonishing considering his armoury. The procession of Mickey Mouse troop movements is an indictment of the whole chain of command, not just Putin. But it is likely that his tendency to meddle has exacerbated the pantomime. In a war, who does what needs to be well defined – and generally stuck to.

It is here that the problem for the anti-Russian forces is centred. What does Putin actually want? Is he making a land-grab? Is his domestic political situation so bad that he needs a play of strength? Is he desperate not to get older? His invasion of Ukraine is probably a somewhat delayed reaction to the break-up of the Soviet Union. It has been making him sore ever since. I also think that he may regard this as the last throw of the dice. Someone should put on his next birthday cake that it doesn’t need to be. Or anything, to calm down the old goat.

Because until he calms down the nuclear threat hangs over us – even more ominously today than before the Finland / Sweden announcement. He must now think that his adventure with an aggressive rat, when he was a child, is being repeated. He  cornered the rat and it turned and chased him. He has sworn ever since that he won’t corner people. It seems he has forgotten to apply that to himself. 

He may, of course, give in on the grounds of Russia’s responsibility for feeding the world. Failing that, I think some nuclear activity is almost inevitable – sooner or later. It may, we pray, be short lived – one attack and one response. That should be enough to frighten even Putin into silence. No nuclear war can extend beyond this without serious, permanent planet damage. On the whole, people want to go on living.

NATO will be on the lookout for trouble. One foot across the border and the guns may get busy. We must, at one and the same time, prepare and restrain NATO. Its obligations are largely military but it finds itself in the middle of a delicate and dangerous political situation. Not that it hasn’t been there before but I doubt it has seen such a tricky balance as it must now perform. The politicians must stay firmly in charge of NATO during this delicate pas de deux.We cannot afford a foot wrong. If and when the time comes to take a decisive nuclear step its purpose and limits must be clearly defined. We will have only one shot. It must reach its mark.

Such action is, of course, at present largely thought of as a response not an initiation. We all naturally hope it won’t happen at all. But as the aggressor grits his teeth, so we must grit ours. Our nuclear experience is limited. At the end of WWII the use of such force was thought to have saved many lives that would have been lost in protracted fighting. The same logic applies today but the potential scale of the response is overwhelming. If to be done, it must be decisive.

We need one courageous leader to tell us when to go. It cannot wait too long. Logistically the Ukraine war is already getting tired. Meanwhile weapons are developing that involve nuclear elements and yet are not conventionally nuclear. The distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear is getting blurred. We are already seeing rockets of a nuclear composition being used – whether by only one side or by both I know not. The truth is that we may slip into a nuclear age without really noticing it.

Would you now take the initiative with a nuclear weapon if it was your decision?

Good morning

John Bittleston

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I shall be delighted to hear from you whatever your views.