Defending the deployments in an interview with the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, the outgoing American deputy secretary general of NATO, Alexander Vershbow, claimed the US-led alliance “had no choice.”
“Russia changed the whole paradigm in 2014 with its aggression against Ukraine, its illegal annexation of Crimea,” said Vershbow.
This is a barefaced lie. The crisis in Ukraine was triggered not by “aggression” on the part of the Kremlin oligarchy, but rather the conspiracy of Washington and Berlin to overthrow the elected government in Kiev through the mobilization of violent fascist and right-wing nationalist forces. The US openly associated itself with this coup, with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland bragging that the US had spent $5 billion to further Ukrainian regime change.
The reintegration of Crimea into Russia–it was only placed under Ukrainian administration in 1956, when both Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union–was overwhelmingly supported by the territory’s population in a popular referendum. From Moscow’s standpoint, this was a defensive measure taken to safeguard the historic base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
The coup in Ukraine was the culmination of the relentless military encirclement of Russia, which has seen NATO shift its borders 800 miles eastward. Now, the deployments announced Wednesday have turned into a dead letter the agreement negotiated between NATO and Moscow not to send “substantial” numbers of Western troops into these areas.
In the wake of the Ukrainian coup, US President Barack Obama flew to Estonia to declare Washington’s “eternal” commitment to defend it and the other two Baltic states with “American boots on the ground,” thereby committing the US to war in defense of three tiny territories ruled by right-wing and fanatically anti-Russian governments eager for confrontation.
Further justifying the current NATO buildup, Stoltenberg declared Wednesday, “Close to our borders, Russia continues its assertive military posturing.” Given that NATO has expanded its reach to Russia’s own borders, this effectively means that Russia is a threat because it maintains armed forces on its own soil.
Tensions with Russia, as well as within the NATO alliance itself, have been further ratcheted up over Moscow’s dispatch of an eight-vessel flotilla led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the eastern Mediterranean to support Russian operations in support of the Syrian government.
After reports that this Russian flotilla would stop in Ceuta, the Spanish-ruled port city on the north coast of Africa, for refueling, the NATO powers exerted immense pressure on the Spanish government to refuse to allow the Russian warships to dock there.
British Defense Secretary Michel Fallon declared that his government “would be extremely concerned if a NATO member should consider assisting a Russian carrier group that might end up bombing Syria.”
Spain has reportedly allowed nearly 60 Russian warships to take on fuel and supplies in Ceuta since 2011. The practice led to denunciations in the US Congress and an amendment being attached last May to the US military spending bill requiring the Pentagon to report to Congress on countries hosting Russian vessels.
The Russian media reported Wednesday that Moscow rescinded its request to refuel at the port, while Russian government sources said the ships had adequate fuel and supplies to reach their destination.