NATO war games conducted in Poland this month, which simulate a Russian invasion, have European politicians on edge. The increasingly confrontational and belligerent actions of NATO even led to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to accuse the military organization of “warmongering” against Russia.
The German government’s coordinator for relations with Russia, Gernot Erler, echoed the concern, saying of the war games, “This is exactly the kind of developments which lead to uncontrolled situations, even war.”
The 10-day military exercises, called Anaconda-16, included 31,000 Polish, US and other troops, and came after NATO leaders agreed to station more troops on countries bordering Russia.
Tensions have steadily escalated between NATO and Russia in the aftermath of the US-backed coup in Ukraine and subsequent civil war. The US and NATO have backed the new government in Kiev, as well as neo-fascist militias, while Russia has backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and formally absorbed Crimea.
Most Western scholars view the primary cause of the overall tension as the expansion of NATO into Russia’s historic sphere of influence.
Ukraine, in particular, has traditionally been understood as a potential flash point for military conflict between the West and Russia. President George H.W. Bush gave a specific pledge not to meddle in a post-Soviet Ukraine, including a pledge to not stoke the historic neo-fascist forces being stoked today, saying “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”
That deal is clearly off but the stakes remain just as high as they did during the Cold War, as Russia and NATO still have the capacity to fight a nuclear war—all of which makes NATO’s “warmongering” extremely irresponsible.