4 Sep 2014

Ukraine and Islamic State crises give Nato new purpose

I have been to many a summit but the setting of this one has to be one of the more surreal.

It’s no surprise that this is a golf resort. Such locations – luxury blocks surrounded by green space on the edge of a town – are ideal for creating summit bubbles, throwing up rings of steel and keeping any demonstrators at arm’s length.

What makes this summit unique are the props. The rolling hills of the golf course have been dotted with tanks, armored vehicles and fighter jets.


The planes are made of plastic. The vehicles are real. The overall effect is bizarre.

Were they put here to add an element of menace to an execessively benign setting? Nato is after all the world’s biggest military alliance.

Or were they deployed to deter President Obama from playing too much golf?

Whatever the reason they are a fitting image for this summit: the clash of realities, normality overturned.

A year ago Nato organizers booked this resort probably expecting delegates to play a few rounds of golf amid discussions whether the alliance even had a role in the post Cold War, post 9/11 world.

Now, thanks to ISIS and Vladimir Putin, the golf has been canned and the existential soul searching has been replaced by panic and a call for action.

Russia is the new old enemy.

Nato’s Eastern European leaders no longer mice their words and openly talk about Russian aggression while mumbling “we told you so” under their breath.

Islamic State is a nastier more barbaric version of al-Qaeda, like some overblown Hollywood sequel.

And Nato has rediscovered its role. The question is exactly what to do about these dual threats.

The US and the UK want more military action against IS, but only with key Muslim allies like the Turks and possibly Jordan, a non Nato member, in a supporting role.

The model here is the 1991 coalition of the willing against Saddam Hussein.

They also need the new Iraqi government to agree to any action. That’s not the problem, but first we need a new Iraqi government.

Russia is trickier and the stakes are higher because the last thing Nato, or indeed anyone else, wants is a war with a nuclear power on its borders. Former Soviet vassals like Lithuania are hoping the crisis means more protection.

Asked by a colleague whether Nato had her back, the Lithuanian president said curtly: “we will find out when they invade.”

America has also declared Putin public enemy number one. France, Germany and even Britain are treading far more carefully.

The best the Ukrainian president can hope for is moral and financial support, as well as arms and training.

But as a non Nato member he is on the wrong side of the protective fence, and it is impossible to see how western leaders could persuade their electorates to support sacrificing money and blood to support the survival of Ukraine.

This is why our Eastern European friends keep repeating that containing Russia is not just in Ukraine’s or their interest, but also in the interests of every European.

They may be right but who is listening?

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7 reader comments

  1. Beau says:

    What nonsense…

    NATO is a Cold War anachronism that has been hijacked by the NWO as it’s attack dog to enforce it’s western doctrine of illegal and immoral wars.

    Forget the ethics and morals of funding, training and creating ISIS…

    Forget the ethics and morals of forcing an illegal coup in Kiev and supporting neoNAZIs fighting the Russians.

    You and your colleagues might want to overlook the actual facts of the matters in hand – your watchers and readers won’t and we will hold you to account for your ‘sloppy journalism’.

  2. Christopher Lord says:

    NATO should have been closed down years ago. Here we have two major world crises – Ukraine and the Islamic State – and NATO, stuck in the logic of the Cold War, is clearly not capable of addressing either of them. It’s worse than that. We have all been brainwashed into believing that NATO is our final resort. Do we really believe that the right response to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine is to restart all the MAD logic of nuclear war? If not, then what are we really saying? It is all just pretend. This crisis is exactly the kind of crisis that the UN was set up to deal with. Putting all the attention on NATO, as if they know something about Russia that we don’t, is completely counter-productive.

  3. Alan says:

    Is this report tongue in cheek?
    “Nato has rediscovered its role”…wasn’t that supposed to be to counter an attack by the former Soviet Union? Where does it present activities fall into that?
    “The US and the UK want more military action against IS”….To date mainly politicians, the media and financial interests, who exactly are you talking about?
    The article then assumes regime change is a normal function,
    “but first we need a new Iraqi government”
    applying this by inference to Russia? As the former elected president of the Ukraine was deposed by an orchestrated coup, it appears facts have been deposed for opinions in this article.

  4. Leigh Ratcliffe. says:

    First forget about the nuclear weapons. Russian won’t use them. Putin is not a maniac who is willing to trade several million of his citizens.

    Second, forget about American help. We have nuclear weapons because we cannot rely upon American help in this matter. No sane American President would be willing to trade New York for (picking a city at random) Paris.

    Third, Right now we should be supplying Ukraine with something serious in the way of anti-tank and anti-air weaponry. We might not be able to save them but we can make the price of conquest extremely high. Then we need to be able to offer Russian a graceful way out.

  5. Richard pagan says:

    Brilliant ! once again Matt lays on the line

  6. Andrew Dundas says:

    It’s the ‘bureaucrats prerogative’ to advise politicians and the public about what actions are needed. Since none of the latter is an expert the military-industrial complex will win new business.
    None of us will be surprised to learn that this Ukraine war-fever is enabling a muscular President Putin to insist on expensive military manoeuvres to be matched by other States’ military manoeuvres. It all makes work for our bureaucrats to do, and at the expense of tax-payers in Russia, Ukraine and NATO States! And at the expense of their soldiers lives & limbs too.
    Another view is that, as the Ukraine is not a NATO member, we could leave them to their own indebted fate. Their settlement with Russia might be more quickly arrived at.
    Since the Putin’s main complaint is that he doesn’t want Ukraine to become a NATO member & wants ethnic russians to have ‘devo-max’, couldn’t we apply the same formula that has applied in Austria and Finland for 60 years? Those States are neutrals and try not to alarm Russia. Why can’t Ukraine do that too?

  7. Noel says:

    Wonmder if Matt frei is conscious of the radiation from Chernobyl witht he quantity of times he’s been in and out of the Ukraine since covering stories on the the conflict /issues linked to Rusiia and airplane disiasters; No more than the scanners at the airport when the luggae is x rayed.

    the radiation fallout from 26/4/86 apparently affected shweep graing as far as Wales.

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