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30 March 2014


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William R. Cumming

Excellent post and summary IMO! No Kerry is not that smart!

But the idea of Russia in a NATO with or without US makes sense again IMO!

My preference would be US not in NATO! But the preconditions for Russian members ip in NATO would be no nuclear weapons except for Russians in NATO and for US if it remains a NATO.

And second US and Russia guarantee all borders West of the URALS!



Pre conditions to membership? Why bother offering it?

Robert Kenneth Chatel

WRC, I was ready to reply to an earlier version of Col. Lang's post that showed this link: http://my.firedoglake.com/synoia/2014/03/05/nato-to-offer-membership-to-russia/ ,
with the ultimate question regarding Kerry posted by Col. Lang, I believe. I thought the link looked suspicious. It seemed to be an obvious attempt at an April Fools' Day fabrication, although the individual who posted it on FDL had put it up in early March.



That is why I removed it later today. pl

William R. Cumming

Fred! For better or worse IMO Eurasia key to a peaceful world. Perhaps I am dreaming but I do fear that continent and land mass again being the focus of warring states or ethnic groups.

Robert Kenneth Chatel

Thank you for the clarification, Colonel. I thought that must have been the reason. The question of Kerry's competence is worth discussing as well as the history and future of US involvement in NATO and future additions. I have no illusions about one's ability to read Putin's mind or look into his soul.

My father was at the Japanese surrender and later became a chemistry teacher. He showed his students photos of the aftermath of the bombing made available to teachers in the mid-1950s. My generation grew up in the days of air-raid drills in schools and fallout shelters in our cellars. I recall a slogan to the effect that the difference between nuclear thinking and unclear thinking is only one of the spelling. Putin is certainly aware of what MAD means, especially since the then-USSR (the Ukraine) was the site of Chernobyl in 1986, the fallout from which those of us residing in northern Greece at the time well-recall, and the results of which we attribute to my wife's thyroid tumor three years later (fortunately benign), since the cloud carried a radioactive isotope of iodine. School children in many western European countries were given iodine supplements at the time as a prophylactic measure.

Now we have Fukushima and the reports of USN personnel being exposed to that: http://www.ibtimes.com/uss-ronald-reagan-crew-members-sick-cancer-three-years-after-fukushima-contamination-photos-1519170 I find it a bitter and tragic irony that the carrier group involved was the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Group.

In 1981, I saw a performance in the Republic of Ireland of this song by this group (Moving Hearts) as part of an Irish campaign to keep nuclear power out of Northern Ireland, although everyone, especially the locals, knew that nuclear power was an accident waiting to happen, not to mention nuclear weapons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT_RGgFSN3M

robt willmann

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has two interviews, published on 29 and 30 March. There is some overlap, but they are quite interesting.

In the first one, remarking on NATO's push eastward, he says: "We were promised that this would not happen – and we were cheated. We were promised that NATO would not bring its military infrastructure closer to our borders – and we were cheated. We were promised there would be no military installations on the territory of the new NATO members. At first, we just listened to those promises and believed them. Then we started putting them on paper as political obligations, and serious people, Western leaders, signed those documents. But when we asked them how come those political obligations were ignored and whether we can make them legally binding, they told us, 'No, political obligations are enough, and anyway, don’t worry, whatever we do is not against you.' "


In the second one, Lavrov talks a lot about the situation regarding Crimea and Ukraine. He discloses things people have said that are not reported elsewhere. He also notes that: "Incidentally, I was taken aback by what the US President Barack Obama said about Russia being a regional power and about the costs we will have to pay. We did not lose any lives when we responded to the legitimate choice of the Crimean people. The ‘games’ the American played in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives. There is always a price, but in every case it is different."


Lavrov's words sound more like a diplomat than the juvenile posturing language president Obama reads from the teleprompter.

David Habakkuk


It does go somewhat against the grain for me to act as an apologist for Stalin – as will I hope be apparent from my comments on this blog over the years I have no history of sympathy for communism or indeed socialism in any form.

However, the sequence of dates relating to the creation of NATO is important.

The signing of the NATO treaty was on 4 April 1949. The initial Soviet atomic test was on 29 August 1949. However, this did not mean that the Soviets had deliverable nuclear weapons at that point. I cannot locate the reference immediately, but if my memory serves me right the first deployment of nuclear weapons to Soviet forces was in 1953 or 1954.

The unexpected detection of the Soviet test by U.S. scientists on 3 September 1949 left Stalin facing a classic ‘window of vulnerability’, in that there were clearly very good arguments for the U.S. to resort to preventive action before the Soviets could acquire a functioning nuclear and even more thermonuclear arsenal, and effective delivery means.

Ironically, overestimates both of the likely speed of the Soviet nuclear build-up, and of Soviet conventional strength, may have caused the U.S. to ‘self-deter’.

According to the critical NSC 68 paper analysing the implications of the Soviet test, sent to Truman on 14 April 1950, the Red Army had 175 full strength divisions.

At the end of the 1950s, painstaking work by the CIA analyst Raymond Garthoff established that only a portion of these divisions would have been rapidly available for war. In fact, one third had been at full strength, one third at partial strength, one third were cadres. In 1960, Allen Dulles told Garthoff ‘Ray, you’ve got rid of more Soviet divisions than anyone since Hitler!’

According to NSC 68, meanwhile, the U.S. production of motor vehicles was at the time more than ten times that of the Soviet Union. In a speech on 6 November 1941, Stalin had set out his view on the importance of the production of motor vehicles:

‘The present war is a war of engines. The war will be won by the side that has an overwhelming preponderance in engine production. If we aggregate the production of engines in the U.S.A., Great Britain and the U.S.S.R., then we get a superiority of at least three times in comparison with Germany. That is one of the grounds for the inevitable doom of Hitler’s robber imperialism.’

Curiously, this speech was made prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was on 7 December 1941. Clearly, military preparations had been underway in the United States for some time. However, it remains striking that on 4-7 June 1942, the United States, at the Battle of Midway, inflicted – to quote Wikipedia – ‘irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet’, while on 8 November of the same year American troops were landing in force in North Africa.

In the June 1950 edition of the confidential Soviet journal ‘Military Thought’, Major General V. Khlopov argued that despite American strategic air power and plans for its use against the Soviet Union, there was a fatal flaw in the assumptions underlying such plans.

The combination of greater air capabilities in Europe and 'powerful offensive operations on a large scale with a high tempo of advance', he suggested, would mean that 'the bridgehead on which the American militarists count to concentrate and deploy their forces for land engagements will be liquidated and their plans for [winning] the war will be buried with it.' The article was discussed by Garthoff in a study published in 1958.

In September 1952, George Kennan, during his brief and highly unsuccessful mission as ambassador to Moscow, wrote a memorandum to Acheson, in which he argued that exaggerated alarmism about Soviet capabilities and intentions had generated a fundamental misreading of U.S. military strategy in Moscow.

As Kennan summarised the argument in the second volume of his memoirs:

‘the Russians, many disagreeable and disturbing aspects of their behaviour notwithstanding, had had no intention of attacking Western Europe in those postwar years, and thought we must have known it. For this reason, the manner in which NATO was formed and presented to the Western public, i.e. as a response to the “Soviet threat” and as a “deterrent” to Soviet aggression, mystified them and caused them to search for some hidden motive in our policy.’

And the ‘hidden motive’ he attributed to U.S. policy, argued was ‘to bring to a head a military conflict with the Soviet Union as soon as the requisite strength had been created on the Western side.’

The paper is available at http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB14/doc1.htm

In 1959, Michael MccGwire, who, having recently graduated from the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, had – like Colonel Lang’s uncle – been present at the landings in North Africa – had a eureka moment. The vast submarine fleet the Soviets had started constructing in 1950 had not, as he had along with everyone else had thought, been primarily intended to attack NATO convoys in the Atlantic. Submarines equipped with an 100-mm gun but no anti-aircraft capability, such as made up a large proportion of the Soviet fleet, would be useless for this purpose.

Suppose however that the planners of the extraordinarily successful Anglo-American amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Salerno, and Normandy had had to reckon with an effective ‘combined arms’ resistance. Suppose the German/Italian forces had had local air superiority, together with a force of submarines which could venture out at night, and having discharged their torpedoes surface and use the 100mm gun to cause further havoc among the shambles.

So what both Garthoff and MccGwire eventually concluded was that Khlopov’s article was an accurate statement of Soviet threat perceptions, except insofar as it gave an impression of confidence likely to have been much greater than Soviet leaders actually felt at that time. The substantial conventional remobilisation advocated by NSC 68, and implemented after the attack by North Korea on South Korea on 25 June 1950, meant that U.S. forces would no longer have been as weak as they had been at the onset of war.

More significantly, an American pre-emptive nuclear attack could buy time for rapid U.S. remobilisation, leading to amphibious attacks on the Soviet LOC through the Baltics and the ‘soft underbelly’ in the Ukraine. And, of course, Anglo-American support for nationalists in the Baltics and the Ukraine appeared to corroborate these nightmare scenarios.

From mid-1986, Garthoff and MccGwire, both then at Brookings, were telling anyone who would listen that Gorbachev’s adoption of the ‘commons security’ agenda of the Palme Commission was not mere propaganda. In fact, it was underpinned by a belief that the security problems of the Soviet Union had been to a very substantial extent of its own making.

At that point, the belief was widespread among Russian elites that the Western enemy in the Cold War was communism, a creed whose bankruptcy was apparent to most intelligent people by that time, and if that if they accommodated Western concerns, their country’s interests might be respected. Over the subsequent decades, Western policy has been largely successful in disabusing them of both these beliefs.



"We did not lose any lives when we responded to the legitimate choice of the Crimean people. The ‘games’ the American played in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives."

And yet note one of our statesmen, or stateswomen, have had the ability to see this simple fact. How many current members of the Senate and House ran on platforms against our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Even here in the lands of freedom we have a press who won't interview the Russian Federation's Foreign Minister. But boy do we get stories when reports quit their jobs. I think the line went "I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth." Still waiting on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, Fox.......


David Habakkuk

Your point being that the USSR threat was over sold in creating NATO? I can accept that thought having seen so many threats hyped over the decades but in my experience the hype was soon believed by one and all including those who had started the hype. pl


I would argue that there was a specific purpose for naming it the NORTH ATLANTIC Treaty Organization that is long forgotten about in this politically correct world. Shared cultures. That concept is 'naughty' now. I could hear them yelling 'racist'.

William R. Cumming

David H.! Thanks again for another significant comment!

William R. Cumming

PL! Did not the reassembly of the Wehrmacht into the Bundeswehr begin in 1950?

Babak Makkinejad

You wrote:

" clearly very good arguments for the U.S. to resort to preventive action before the Soviets could acquire a functioning nuclear and even more thermonuclear arsenal, and effective delivery means."

I do not think there was any such arguments that were "very good" - and I defer to no less than Gen. Marshall who - in response to Bernard Baruch's machinations for the start of a war with USSR - stated that "it was a very bad idea".


very, very interesting.
Thank you Mr Habakkuk

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

I carry a lot of curious baggage on this. An excerpt from a report in the ‘Telegraph’ from November 2009 is perhaps to the point:

‘Lady Ashton, who was last week appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, was treasurer of CND in the early 1980s. She has said she had no contacts with the Soviet Union and had never accepted money from Moscow.

‘The UK Independence Party has written to Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, asking him to investigate whether Lady Ashton was party to payments allegedly made to CND from the Soviet regime in Moscow.

‘The letter, based on allegations made by Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet dissident, claimed that it is “very likely” that CND received “unidentified income” from Moscow in the 1980s.’

(See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/6653340/Baroness-Ashton-questioned-over-CND-and-Soviet-money.html )

I remember in the early Eighties, when I was a television producer, running into one of my then researchers – a Glaswegian leftist – when I inadvertently encountered a CND march in Hyde Park. He said something like ‘Habakkuk – always marching the other way.’

And then when making a very conventional middle-of-the-road programme about European security a few years later, I came across the work of Michael MccGwire. To my immense surprise, I found that anxieties expressed by CND people, which I had been accustomed to dismiss, were also shared by a former head of Soviet naval intelligence in our Defence Intelligence Staff. This started me on an intellectual journey.

Subsequently, we had the Thatcher revolution. Many of the former CND people, with Tony Blair being a prime example, turned into neocons. Perhaps due to an inveterate habit of antagonism, I went on ‘marching the other way.’ Among other things, I came to think that a lot of people in the former Soviet Union we had been disposed to regard as heroic – Bukovsky being one example, Sharansky another – are complete creeps.


Thank you so much for your post Mr. Habakkuk. Off topic, but on 25 April, Anzac day down here, we will celebrate the centenary of the last time a politician decided that the soft underbelly was a tempting target.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

If one is serious about intelligence analysis, it is necessary that one attempts to get into the head of one’s actual or potential adversaries. This can be difficult, particularly when, as with Stalin, the ‘head’ of one’s adversaries is not a comfortable place to be.

Moreover, there is, commonly, a tension between the need to get into the ‘head’ of one’s adversaries, and the natural human instinct to preserve one’s good opinion of oneself and one’s community, and the collective ‘myths’ of that community.

In the dim and distant days when the British used to think, we were a naval culture. Given the importance, and also the vulnerability, of our sea defences, some of the leaders of the Royal Navy were all too aware that if one was too concerned not to be threatened by how others perceived you, one was liable to lose wars.

An ironical consequence was that our naval intelligence sometimes cautioned against the possible pernicious effects of excessive alarmism. So in 1951 the Director Naval Intelligence, Vice Admiral Longley-Cook, was far more anxious about the possibility of a U.S. ‘preventive war’ than he was about a Soviet attack on Western Europe.

However, to make sense of this period, one has also to understand that when Churchill – having initially suggested that Longley-Cook should be watched as a possible communist dupe – came round to his point of view, was worried precisely because he thought that, if he had been an American, he would have been inclined to opt for preventive war.

It would I think be useful for Iranians if they looked back at the early history of the Cold War with an open mind – and on no account should they rely upon academic Western historiography, much of which is crap.

A good start might be Longley-Cook’s memorandum, available at http://cryptome.org/longley-cook.htm

Another useful text is Michael MccGwire’s July 1987 account of ‘The Genesis of Soviet Threat Perceptions’, available at

From the ‘Executive Summary’:

‘It is an axiom of Western politics that the actions of the Soviet Union created the cold war. So entrenched is this judgment that it carries a corollary with it: Soviet leaders must realize that the resistance of the West – the practice and philosophy of containment – is an inevitable result of their commitment to expansionism. It is difficult in Western perspective to imagine that Soviet leaders could seriously doubt this understanding of the past, however firmly the Soviets may deny it for the sake of public justification.

‘The historical record suggests, however, that the Soviet Union neither intended nor anticipated the intense rivalry that developed. In the wake of World War II, Stalin saw a resurgent Germany in fifteen to twenty years time as the principal threat to Russia, and he sought to preserve a collaborative relationship with the United States as a means of containing the threat. It was not until 1947-48 that he acknowledged belatedly and reluctantly that the primary threat was an ideologically hostile coalition led by the Anglo-Saxon powers.’


After learning of Soviet reaction to the 1983 Able Archer exercise, which simulated possible NATO first strike on USSR (which Soviets feared was going to be the real thing), Reagan supposedly had the following realization (passage is from his memoire and this was lifted from wikipedia.)

"Three years had taught me something surprising about the Russians: Many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans. Perhaps this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did...During my first years in Washington, I think many of us in the administration took it for granted that the Russians, like ourselves, considered it unthinkable that the United States would launch a first strike against them. But the more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike...Well, if that was the case, I was even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and Russians had nothing to fear from us."

Who knows how "honest" Reagan really was with this statement... But it is the right sort of realization, up to a point. No matter how noble and peaceful and just we think we are being, other countries have reasons to distrust and fear us, and such distrust and fear can lead to dangerous things--even if we might not actually mean to do them harm directly. Of course, recent past has only further justified the suspicions that others hold that we do mean them harm, and it is delusional at this stage to believe that we don't "really mean it" even as we engage in further provocations (or, even worse, as we seem to be so eager to do these days, "we really mean it and we hate you too.")

David Habakkuk


Surely the centenary of that catastrophe is next year?

But of course, as you know, many of the most formidable fighters on the British side in both World Wars came from the ‘dominions’. From the description by Guy Gibson of his meeting the ‘aces of Bomber Command’ after he was appointed to lead 617 Squadron prior to the ‘Dam Busters’ operation.

‘From all over the world they had come: from Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.’ Sir Harold ‘Micky’ Martin from New South Wales, one of the great bomber pilots of the war, is buried down the road from me, at Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London.

A truly excellent idea. This is a golden opportunity for some useful ‘hasbara’, and it really should not be missed.

David Habakkuk


Surely the centenary of that catastrophe is next year?

But of course, as you know, many of the most formidable fighters on the British side in both World Wars came from the ‘dominions’. From the description by Guy Gibson of his meeting the ‘aces of Bomber Command’ after he was appointed to lead 617 Squadron prior to the ‘Dam Busters’ operation.

‘From all over the world they had come: from Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.’ Sir Harold ‘Micky’ Martin from New South Wales, one of the great bomber pilots of the war, is buried down the road from me, at Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London.

(Pat – please post this rather than the previous version, where I edited over my previous comment, and by mistake failed to delete it.)


Colonel Lang

As a Norwegian, I'm very happy that NATO has continued to exist. NATO has enabled us to develop a good relationship with Russia, since the Russians can not threaten us with force. We are safe to deal with the Russians on a more equal footing, and it has yielded results, like signing a border treaty after 40 years of off and on negotiations.

The USSR with the WP had about 400 million people, while Russia has about 140 million people. Living in a country of 5 million people next to Russia, I don't see how we could mount a defense strong enough to deter Russia on our own.

And if we can enjoy such security while being part of an alliance of mutual defense, why shouldn't other countries be allowed to do so as well, like the Baltic states? They would be even more vulnerable to Russian pressure than we are.

As for the Russians, I don't remember any serious talk of joining NATO, it was perhaps seen as a long term goal as part of the partnership for peace framework. And logically, Russia would not have been able to join NATO until after the Baltic states and Poland in 2004, and by then Putin had no interest.

As for the Europeans being persuaded that NATO should become an "out of theater" instrument of US power, I don't think many if any were persuaded. Perhaps the Danes and the Dutch. European out of area capability is still pretty small compared to the capability to defend continental Europe with large armored formations.

At least that is my understanding of the current situation.

As for the idea that the Russians would have played nice if NATO did not expand to the east, that is in my humble opinion to ignore Russia's long history. The Russians have a lot of history as a great power, it was only a matter of time before someone came to power that played on this history in order to gain support and legitimacy.

And when I look at the areas controlled by the Russian Empire in 1914, compared to what it is now, there is plenty of "lost territory" for a Russian leader so inclined, to wish to regain.

Ps. I was born in 1977, so I remember the feeling of living under MAD as a child growing up. I think we are a long way away from that situation returning. The weapons are still there, but the will among the people to live under that situation is not there anymore.

Alba Etie

Perhaps 25 April 2014 , might be a good time to read the another poem remembering the Crimea War ; Rudyard Kipling's "The last of the Light Brigade ".



the United States spends 4.4% of GDP on military affairs. Norway spends 1.2%. If NATO is so useful to Norway why are you not spending more money on your NATO committed forces? Are we just a piggy bank for you to drain for your own benefit so that we provide a secure environment for your prosperity? what's in it for us? pl

Babak Makkinejad

And Norway has lots of oil.

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