Saturday, 6 June 2015
"Only an insane person and only in a dream can one imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO," the Russian president has told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Putin was correct in that Russia would never "suddenly" attack NATO. There is nothing unpremeditated or sudden about the hybrid war now being conducted by Russia against western Europe, and against Atlantic values per se.
In Moscow there has been some discussion, at high levels, of Putin's 'Legacy War'.
The illegal annexation of Crimea might be seen as a tactical goal, but strategically it was merely a catalyst for a far grander design - the humiliation of the European Union, and a chance to undermine, and possibly even destroy, NATO. The former aim has been achieved, the latter must now appear tantalisingly close.
The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was rather predictable. After all, Moscow had learned from the western non-response to the downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 on September 1st 1983. The west is afraid of conflict. Russia wants conflict.
Article 5 of NATO's Washington Treaty states that "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area".
When an Estonian intelligence officer was seized from Estonian territory on September 5th 2014 by Russian special forces, the Russians did not need to make excuses. NATO did that for them. Article 5 was not invoked. In fact, the only time Article 5 has ever been invoked was after the attacks on the USA on September 11th 2001. Russia now understands that Article 5 has little meaning beyond the protection of direct US interests. Neither the US, nor western European states, will go to war with Russia over the Baltic nations.
And so, when Putin declares that Russia is no threat to NATO, those of us who might understand the Russian mind-set will assume that this means that the ammunition is being issued....