The ‘Useful Innocents’ of Washington’s Hawks, Or the Tail That Wags the Dog?


There seems to be a collusion, one could even say a conspiracy, if it weren’t so obvious, between parts of political elites in Washington and those in certain capitals of Central and Eastern European countries. This is collusion ideologically inspired by Russophobia and geopolitically led by Washington’s policy of containment and push-back of Russia, which has on its own, without the consent of doctors, come out of the coma induced in the 1990s. 

Such collusion is wrought with dangers, and first of all for those Russia’s smaller neighbours, whose leaders are performing the role of “useful innocents”, to use the expression from Ludwig von Mises 1947 book ”Planned Chaos”, in the containment policy of the United States. Of course, they are “innocent” only in the biblical sense (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23-34). Hating Russia more than loving their own countries such elites play with the security of their own people.

10 January 2017, even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, The Washington Post reported that 17 current and former officials of some East and Central European countries had written a letter to President-Elect Donald Trump with the following message: ”As your treaty-bound allies, we appeal to Americans in the new U.S. Administration and Congress to stand firm in the defense of our common goals and interests: peace, Atlantic strength, and freedom”. Recently the foreign minister of Ukraine as well as the ambassadors to Washington from Poland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia appeared before the Senate appropriations subcommittee during the hearings on “Russian subversive activities” in their countries. As one would expect, the Chairman of the Subcommittee Senator Lindsey Graham – the super-hawk, together with his colleague John McCain – expressed continuing support for these countries “against Russian aggressiveness”. Such preaching for the converted usually doesn’t serve any other purpose except consolidating the ranks of hawks vis-à-vis even remotest signs of the reduction of tension; not to let anybody, today it may be President Trump, even attempting to ease the tension between Russia and the West. At the beginning of March the former President of Estonia Ilves appeared before the Congress’s House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee giving his “expert opinion” on Russia meddling in democratic elections in the US and Europe. Ironically enough, this happened at the same time when Wikileaks revealed CIA’s extensive hacking programmes. One of the most interesting disclosures concerns how the CIA can cover its tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting the hacking is being done in different places — notably, in Russia. In fact, according to WikiLeaks, there’s an entire department dedicated to this. Its job is to “misdirect attribution” by leaving false fingerprints. “If you’ve been at all sceptical about the recent levels of Russia-related hysteria, promoted heavily by U.S. intelligence agencies, alarm bells are probably going off in your head”, writes Danielle Ryan.

This springtime activation of concerted efforts of Washington and Eastern and Central European, including the Baltic, states (whom Donald Rumsfeld called in 2003 a “new Europe” in contradistinction to the old one led then by France and Germany) reminds two previous similar collusions. In the run-up to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the leaders of the CEE (Central and Eastern European) countries addressed a letter to President George W. Bush where they, contrary to France and Germany as well some other US allies, wholeheartedly supported the American policy regarding Iraq. It later became known that the letter was originally written by the State Department in Washington and sent to the CEE leaders for signature. The Estonian Ambassador to NATO, Harri Tiido, in response to a question of the then-Prime Minister Siim Kallas: how should one react to such an offer (or rather order?), answered: ‘If we don’t sign, a big hammer will hit us now. If we sign and it becomes known, small hammers may hit us later’ (H. Tiido, 'The Estonian Letter of Support for Washington was written in Washington’, Postimees, 22 March 2013). Instead of being destroyed right-away, Estonia, like the other CEE countries, chose its moment of shame (actually, some of them may have even been proud of faithfully serving their masters; something like a sycophantic competition between leaders of communist parties of the former Soviet republics when praising the “wisdom“ of the Secretary General in the Kremlin).

In July 2009, almost exactly six months after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the president of the United States, twenty-two politicians and intellectuals from nine countries in central and eastern Europe addressed an open letter to him and his new administration. The signatories expressed their worry about emerging trends of "pragmatism" and "realism" in Washington's foreign policy. They noted with a touch of regret that "central and eastern European countries are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy"; lamented that "(all) is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship"; sense that NATO "is perceived as less and less relevant", and recognize "that America's popularity and influence have fallen in many of our countries", and that "it will take time and work on both sides to make up for what we have lost." This melancholy portrait of a frayed relationship in need of revival was completed by six recommendations, from a "renaissance of NATO" and a "better and more strategic United States-European Union relationship" to making energy security a "transatlantic priority" to nurturing the "multitude of educational, professional, and other networks and friendships that underpin our friendship and alliance." The document conveyed the clear sense of what Bob Dylan, then not yet Nobel laureate, referred to as "a world gone wrong".

 Above I wrote that those “useful innocents“ were innocent only in the biblical sense. However, there usefulness not only for the security of their countries but even for genuine interests of their trans-atlantic patron is questionable. NATO’s expansion to the Russian borders, NATO soldiers and hardware in the Baltics, American marines taking pictures in Estonian Narva with Russian Ivangorod as a background and Russian assymetrical responses, be they on the Baltics, the Black Sea region or in Russia’s Kalingrad enclave squeezed between Lithuania and Poland, are all tangable threats to small Russian neighbours. Even if a NATO–Russia military conflict, as played out, for example, by RAND scenarios or as depicted on the BBC’s documentary, could be contained in its relatively early stages, and Washington and Moscow were spared, my country – Estonia, like her equally small neighbours would certainly be destroyed. Instead of raising tension and ratcheting up propaganda, it would be in the interest of all involved to preserve and venerate cooperative thinking.

Moreover, if I were to act as quite a few American politicians and diplomats do when teaching other nations what is good for them and what is not, I would say that Washington is in dire need of different types of allies who would behave as Jacques Chirac’s Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, did at the UN Security Council in February 2003, when he most eloquently warned the United States against the illegal and presumptuous invasion of Iraq. He turned out to be even more prescient than he could ever have imagined, those fourteen years ago. Not only was Iraq destroyed and the whole Middle East set alight, but also was Washington’s unipolar moment shortened. Real allies are not those who blindly, whatever the reasons of their political myopia, follow their leader ’right or wrong’, but those who dare sometimes to say ’no’ for the sake of general as well as of their own good. Those, who signed abovementioned three letters (2003, 2009, 2017) and again and again repeated what was expected from them at the hearings on the Capitol Hill, don’t understand in their ’innocence’ that their small contribution to the policies of those in Washington, who are determined to do everything to prevent any challenge to the American dominance in the world arising, are undermining their own security. Though serving the role of top dog’s tail may satisfy somebodies political ambitions, it may not be the securist place to be when even smallest skirmishes happen between the bigs; nobody cares much about the tails when throats have to be kept safe.   


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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