By Matthew Clark
1991 saw the end of the great geopolitical contest between the Russian dominated Soviet Union, along with her Warsaw satellite allies, on one side, and the United states, with her North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) subordinate nation allies, on the other side. Ranging roughly from 1945 or 1946 to 1991, the year in which the Soviet Union politically fragmented, the conflicts end brought unipolar status to the United States! She had become the globes hegemon, unchallenged by a subservient, albeit often envious, world. Her President, George H.W. Bush, articulated on a 'New World Order,' while her historians, such as Francis Fukuyama, regaled readers of countless nations on 'The End of History.' Meaning, in this case, a perpetual liberal, American lead, political rule, extending all over the earth. As caretakers of this domain America's lawmakers would decide how they would manage this heavy responsibility. What political vehicle(s) would the United States use to bring stability, the rule of law, and moral supremacy, to international relations? With little hesitation the diplomats, and legislators, of the North American behemoth provided an answer. They would use a tried and true method so often employed by previous great powers. EMPIRE!
One only has to observe the evolution, or perhaps devolution is a more accurate description, of NATO since 1991 to see evidence of the American governments intention. NATO was the military alliance, lead by the United States, which, from it's inception in 1949, had held the Soviet Union in check. With the Soviet collapse the western based NATO alliance faced a systemic risk! Since there was no creditable military threat to Europe, or North America, there really was no reason for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's continued existence!
Nevertheless to liquidate the alliance meant the termination of military, and diplomatic careers, as well as the cancellation of munition contracts with corporations, along with the closures of bases which would inflict financial harm on surrounding communities. Dissolving the military alliance would also mean the loss of hard power on the European continent for the Americans.
Meeting this threat head on, the need for NATO's continued existence was quickly affirmed by the United States, and her western nation allies. In order to solidify the institution a policy of expansion was speedily adopted. Within 13 years the alliance swelled from a membership of 16 countries to 27 nations. A vast majority of the time this enlargement headed in an easterly direction, towards a weakened Russia. (staggering from the political fragmentation of the Soviet Union).
Initially the Russian reaction to the military alliance's growth was one of mild protest, combined with an attempt at accommodation. For instance, after protesting the actions of the NATO military air campaign in the Kosovo war, which was waged against Russian ally Serbia, President Putin of Russia supported the United States in their "War On Terror."
This support of America by the Putin government was augmented by an offer to join NATO itself. Not only was the offer rejected, but the Russian then had to stomach another expansion of the western based treaty organization, in 2004, which brought the alliance physically closer to Russia's border.
Meanwhile in the Middle East, and North Africa, America waged numerous military campaigns, often with the support, and even at the behest, of her NATO nation subjects. These military endeavors, in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, to name three, resulted in tremendous profits for American corporations, who exploited the resources, usually petroleum, of these jurisdictions. A dystopian side effect of these conflicts were the numerous human casualties, and material damage from the battles waged. In the case of Libya the North African country was turned into a failed state.
Observing these developments one could understand Russian anxiety as NATO creeped ever closer to her borders. Western think tanks, such as the Atlantic Council, mused on the possibility of a Russian political disbandment, similar to what had occurred in the Soviet Union. Observing that a diplomatic solution with the military alliance was unlikely, President Putin, in 2007, declared an end to the American unipolar world. Russia, President Putin announced, had rebuilt her economy, along with her military. She was prepared to oppose the United States, as well as the NATO military alliance!
Since the occasion of Vladimir Putin's declaration the hostility of the two jurisdictions has ramped up dramatically. In 2008 NATO announced the intention of admitting Ukraine, and Georgia, into the institution. Putin quickly stated the intention unacceptable. In August 2008 the Russians invaded Georgia after the latter's army took up arms against a local Russian ally. Within 5 days Georgians were defeated. While these events were transpiring in the Caucus region, the nations of NATO, and Russia, jockeyed for influence in Ukraine. General elections in the border country saw the two major party's gravitating to either NATO, (or it's political wing the European Union), or Russia!
In 2014 circumstances accelerated dramatically. An elected Ukrainian government, sympathetic to her Russian neighbour, lead by Viktor Yanukovych, was violently overthrown by a group in line with the western alliance. In reaction to these events Vladimir Putin's government ordered it's military to invade the Crimean Peninsula, an area under Ukraine political control, yet with a majority Russian population ( 77% Russian according to the 2011 Ukrainian census). No opposition was offered to the occupation. Within a month Putin's administration annexed the region, placing it under permanent Russian political control.
Since the 2014 upheaval irregular warfare has occurred in Eastern Ukraine, an area heavily populated with Russian speakers. This tension appears to have increased the Ukrainian governments desire to attain NATO membership. Russia's government had responded, consistently, that it was unacceptable for Ukraine to join the western military alliance. Finally, on February24, 2022, after 8 years of confrontation, Russian armed forced invaded the Ukraine. More than 13 months later the two countries are still at war.
Ukraine is on Russia's border. Since the 1700's it has been the gateway of every foreign invasion into Russia. Charles 12th of Sweden, Napoleon, Great Britain and France during the Crimean War, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, all invaded via Ukraine. Therefore why President Putin is so sensitive on the status of Ukraine is easily understood.
Why does the United States, and her western NATO allies, involve themselves in a nation which is of so little consequence to their interests?
It can be argued the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the European branch of the American Empire. Historically Empires must grow, otherwise they stagnate, decline, then contract. On occasion the inability, or refusal, to expand brings civil war to empires. By the third century A.D. Rome was an Empire on the military defensive, trying to protect what she held. Under multiple stresses the Romans fell into constant civil war. France in the early 1960's, after a period of Empire contraction, experienced rebellion as members of her military conspired to overthrow the nations elected government on the issue of Algerian independence. Finally it was the successful policy of 'containment,' employed by America, and her allies, against the Soviet Union, which vanquished the Communist giant.
As noted, not only earlier in this article, but throughout numerous contemporary media vehicles, the United States is an empire. Her NATO allies are so dependent on her militarily, that they have become subjects of the great power. The empire of the United States, part of which is the NATO nations, needs to expand. The alliance is now almost at Russia's vulnerable Ukraine border. Russia is the largest geographical nation in the world. She has a wealth of natural resources, oil (globes second largest exporter), natural gas, gold, nickel, to name a few. Her agriculture, fully in rebound from the disastrous collectivist policies of the Communist era, is one of the most bountiful on earth. A weakened, shriveled Russia, needing to curry western favour, would most probably result in much wealth being transferred to American oligarchs.
Yet evidence, historical and contemporary, suggests war with The Eurasian giant is a futile enterprise. Russia is a major power, military, and otherwise. She has the worlds largest nuclear missile force. There are 1.5 million personnel within the country's armed forces. Only a fraction of these are battling in Ukraine. An invasion of Russian land is a dubious enterprise (reference Napoleon and Hitler ). Under this circumstance it would seem that the empire of the United States will not expand into Russia, or, for that matter, the Ukraine!
As has been noted failure to expand can be fatal for an empire. In some ways empire is similar to a Ponzi scheme. It needs to constantly enlarge so it can pay for debts incurred during previous acquisitions. If Russia succeeds in stopping NATO growth, it is not difficult to believe that conflicts within the military alliance could fracture the institution. Greece and Turkey could battle over the Aegean, German resentment at the American and Norwegian destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline could manifest violently. Hungarian distrust of the European Union, and sympathy for Russia, might cause a breach between her government, and other western administrations.
There are any number of possibilities in the near future for the empire of America. One of those scenarios, which should not be automatically dismissed, is that frustrated in an attempt to gain Russian homage, she, and the NATO nations, fall upon each other in circumstances that would be familiar to third century Romans!