Standoff Between Russia and NATO

Commander of NATO forces General Breedlove in his accusations against Russia cited very fanciful figures about so-called Russian presence in Ukraine. The French intelligence has always regarded them as illusive. France does not believe in possible Russian aggression against the Baltic states or Poland.

According to analysis published recently by the Kommersant newspaper and the Carnegie Center, Russians are afraid of NATO and consider it as an aggressor. How valid is this kind of thinking?

We speak about war of sanctions, but banks still finance large-scale projects such as the exploitation of deposits or new plants. There is some kind of cooperation in space and also even in the defense sector ... It looks like the world no longer wants to follow orders from the American helmsman who seeks at all costs to draw the European continent into painful interstate conflict. One thing is certain: 20 years ago Russians believed in the West, its liberal democratic values and social success. Now Russian citizens tend to consider the European experience as a mess whose harmful fruits should be avoided at all costs. French military analyst Philippe Migault, former reporter of Le Figaro, Senior Research Fellow at The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), gave an interview to editor-in-chief of Alexander Artamonov.

A poll conducted by the Russian analogue of the French Institute of Public Opinion, found out that Russian citizens considered NATO's policy towards their country as something hawkish or aggressive. They consider NATO as synonym of aggression as if the entire NATO policy is focused on the anti-Russian containment.

It seems to me that an ordinary Russian citizen is not necessarily aware of all the details of NATO military programs and strategic issues. But in any case NATO's attitude is worrisome to him. Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, at first, Rasmussen, and then his successor Stoltenberg repeated hostile statements toward Russia. We also saw how commander of NATO forces General Breedlove in his accusations against Russia cited very fanciful figures about so-called Russian presence in Ukraine. The French intelligence has always regarded them as illusive.

In recent years number of NATO aggressive statements towards Russia increased, which is in line with the policy of the US authorities. Hillary Clinton warned Russia before leaving her post of Secretary of State that the United States would do everything to prevent the reconstruction of the Soviet Union. And it was said in an extremely aggressive tone. Of course, if I put myself in the shoes of a Russian citizen, I would have a good reason to be worried.

And what is the position of France? As graduate of French Institute for Higher National Defence Studies (IHEDN), I know very well that France has always tried to calm down NATO military games, like the South Ossetia case in 2008 with Nicolas Sarkozy's initiative, or Francois Hollande’s and Angela Merkel’s initiatives in Minsk to cease hostilities in the South-East Ukraine?

Such policy of France is traditional for our country from times of General De Gaulle! We always had a mediating role between NATO hawks and Russia or the Soviet Union before. So, France plays a special role. If France had no fear of being sanctioned by the EU, the Mistrals could already have been delivered. Contrary to some NATO states, France does not believe in a bit in possible Russian aggression against the Baltic states or Poland. Certainly, France expresses solidarity with its NATO partners. At the same time we are not fools: I refer to the statement of General Breedlove. But in France we have our own intelligence sources and we know well where we stand in the Ukrainian crisis. Yes, France will play a special role because we have special relationship with Russia and don’t intend to support the cause of NATO hawks!

The so-called phony war meant that soldiers remained in trenches without fighting against each other. Don’t you see some kind of a parallel with the current situation? The war of sanctions continues, NATO is gearing up to the Russian borders, but at the same time Americans buy Russian combat helicopters for their troops in Afghanistan, France has a space program with Russia, not to mention other joint projects? How can we understand this?

As usual all this is an extraordinary hypocrisy. We are not in the phony war because the phony war was a historical episode that referred to a war that even if declared, had not yet entered in its active military phase. I would say we are in a phony ... peace! Things are pretty weird. Actually we have the American Congress which claims its unquenched sanctions thirst vis-à-vis Russia. And on the other hand we have double purpose equipment programs which continue to exist between the US and Russia. On one side we have dogmatic ideologues who believe that Russia is the axis of evil. And we also have pragmatists who believe that Russia does not really pose a threat and there is real interest to cooperate with it. Americans are very good in hypocrisy! We can see it in the context of the lifting of sanctions against Iran. They have taken a step ahead to come back to the [Iranian] market compared to other western competitors. Why? Because they always have two irons in the fire: the armed forces and the threat to use them and shadow negotiations with aim to be in advantage position when things will settle down.

Commentary. How to believe or not to believe in good intentions of an Alliance that had promised Mikhail Gorbachev not to move forces in an inch towards the Russian borders? Now the American paratroopers conduct military parades in Baltic states and proudly strut the streets of Warsaw. As in days of Truman, who seemed to believe, that "the Russians need us more than we need them", the European game again became an issue between the great powers. For Truman it meant to increase pressure. Good heir of the Potsdam Conference, Obama did the same by winning the reputation of one of the most unpopular president of the United States. 

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