I know I shouldn’t have read the comments on an article about Canada’s Arctic being vulnerable to Putin’s expansion schemes. It annoys me when people say NATO’s expansion caused the current tensions with Putin’s Empire, saying it is American imperialism that is the driving force behind NATO’s recent moves. I get the sense people believe the USA are the ones making the decisions, that the eastern NATO nations are just doing as they’re told, and they are obeying to the wrong power. Even my limited historic knowledge of eastern Europe says this is wrong.
Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have all suffered from Russian occupation, as has Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. These nations have suffered under Russian, Austrian, Prussian, Nazi, and most recently Soviet occupations. These peoples have been play things for regional powers, “great” powers, and distant ignorant leaders drawing lines on maps for centuries. Are those opposed to NATO asking these peoples to become pawns again?
The comment that sparked this post was about having Canadian troops in Eastern Europe coming home. As if our small forces, mostly company sized groups (+/-60), are the tipping point to spark armageddon. Canadian Forces need to be able to operate with Allies, for their security as well as ours. This is what NATO was set up for, to cooperate on security and to keep the Soviets from using Salami tactics to move across Europe. Divide your enemies is a classic strategy straight from Sun Tzu and is even older.
We see throughout the world a rise in anti liberal-democracy movements, how are any liberal democracies to survive if they don’t work together? Canada can not expect NATO allies to defend us if we dismiss other nations concerns re Russia. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to the east and away from twentieth-century manufacturing and the Atlantic. The economic upheaval this will cause will make Canada, NATO, and NATO partners even more vulnerable. Throw in the costly effects of climate change on the security environment and we should soon see that Canada abandoning allies is Canada betraying itself.
NATO, like all institutions, is in need of reform, and so are the militaries that are NATO members. More needs to be done in readying NATO forces for any eventuality, every nation could be doing more. By more I don’t mean the arbitrary 2% of GDP spending target set by iron mongers, I mean seeing diplomacy as worth investing in for something other than trade deals. Diplomats and spies are the first and second line of defence, military personnel are the last line. It is time to take the domestic politics out of diplomacy and stop letting petty interests get in the way of global security.
Another comment on my FaceBook after sharing the article was about reducing Canada’s defence policy to petty partisan jabs. No political movement in Canada has a monopoly on wanting to secure Canada’s sovereignty, nor does any party have a glowing record when it comes to supporting the Forces or its membership. The Forces have been ground down over decades and lots of new toys or ‘lipstick on a pig’ policies such as going back to old uniforms and ranks are going to fix things.
If we are going to be an effective ally we need flexible, self contained, expeditionary forces that are capable of working in the air, sea, land, and cyberspace. I’ve written before on how I’d structure the Canadian Forces differently. Since I wrote that I would add greater assets for the electronic/cyber element to both defend and attack. It will take political courage to face the institutional push back, do we have politicians with that courage?
We need a government who stands up to iron mongers, and explore the possibility of nationalizing the defence industry, then placing the plants where it makes strategic sense and not political sense. At very least explore price and wage controls to keep costs manageable, along with higher taxes in the defence industry to get our money back from shareholders profiteering from security.
NATO isn’t perfect, no human institution can be, but it is the tool we have to protect from a world leader seemingly bent on having a greater empire than Stalin or Catherine the Great. It isn’t what some of western Europe’s or the USA’s leaders want, their views are irrelevant, it is about people living with the legacy of occupation by the Soviet Union not wanting to return to the status of mere satellite or a region ignored/belittled by Kremlin elites.
Canadian Forces are in Eastern Europe because democratically elected governments want them there. NATO’s move east has been through invitation, it has not gone as far east as some have invited, Ukraine and Georgia would have NATO extend further east. NATO has not accepted those invitations but citizens of NATO nations need to know why Ukraine and Georgia feel threatened. NATO’s strategy in the Cold War was to make the Soviet Union play Hnefatafl when it wanted to play chess, there is no reason to abandon this strategy but, as Sun Tzu recommends, leave them a way to escape.