This week in my course ‘Russia and the West’ we shall be discussing Russia’s relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Right on cue, NATO’s top military commander, Supreme Allied Commander General Philip Breedlove, has announced a new set of measures designed to counter the supposed Russian threat.
The measures include the following:
- Suspension of a ‘joint program to train counter-narcotics workers from Afghanistan’.
- Halting ‘a project providing spare parts and training for Afghan helicopter technicians’.
- Excluding Russia from ‘an initiative to link radars to provide a fuller picture of airspace in case of hijacking’.
According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘The Kremlin responded angrily, saying the moves would hurt the West as much as Russia, while helping terrorists and other lawbreakers. “It isn’t hard to imagine who will win from the rolling back of joint Russia-NATO collaboration … particularly the fight against terrorism, piracy, and natural and man-made disasters,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “That would definitely not be Russia or NATO member countries”.’
NATO officials actually agree with him. According to one, ‘It’s unfortunate that these projects will be damaged, because they were doing important things. But we have to be able to take a little damage to stand up for our principles.’
There are only two possible explanations for this bout of self-harm. Either, despite its rhetoric, NATO doesn’t actually care that much about Afghanistan, counter-narcotics, and terrorism; or it is acting in a fit of pique, cutting off its nose to spite its face, as the saying goes. I suspect a bit of both.