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Si vis pacem, para bellum

What will the West gain when Montenegro’s membership in NATO becomes official? Not much. Barely half a million people live there. The Boise, Idaho, metropolitan area is more populated than that. With roughly 2,000 soldiers, its miniscule army will hardly boost NATO’s military capacity by an iota.

Vladimir Putin wants it and needs it much more than we do, badly enough to assassinate an elected head of state and instigate a regime-change. That’s precisely why he shouldn’t have it.

For years now, the Kremlin has been violently expanding its power, its influence and even its territory in Europe and Asia. Every time Putin racks up a victory and gets away with it, he grows more confident that he can take more. That’s how it goes with expansionist dictators everywhere. So if you don’t want to go to war against Russia—and only an insane person would—the fewer wins in Putin’s column, the better.

Michael Totten

24 comments to Si vis pacem, para bellum

  • Julie near Chicago

    I’ve been a fan of Mr. Totten for quite awhile now. 🙂

  • Laird

    I’m not buying it. I have nothing against Montenegro; I wish them well. But I have zero interest in going to war with Russia to protect it. The same is true of the other irrelevant (from a realpolitik perspective) states we have admitted into NATO over the last decade or so. And I very much doubt that Putin (or anyone else, for that matter) truly believes the US will risk global conflagration over any of them. Whatever is staying Putin’s hand at the moment, it is not fear of NATO.

    I’ve argued this before, but will repeat it: There may be (probably is) value in a pan-European defensive alliance. But the US does not belong in it. NATO once served a useful function, as a counterweight to the Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War era, but that ended when the Soviet Union collapsed (and took with it the Warsaw Pact). Now (and assuming that we actually honor our treaty commitments), it merely serves to ensure that should hostilities ever arise, what would otherwise have been a localized or regional conflict necessarily escalates into a civilization-ending world war. There is no longer a need for “mutually assured destruction”, but that is the only purpose NATO serves. Admitting Montenegro was a mistake. So was admitting Turkey and all those former Soviet client states. And so is continued US membership.

  • Bemused

    Is it possible that the more Countries admitted into the EU and NATO on Putin’s borders the more threatened he feels? We then station missiles, tanks and troops on these borders all pointing at Putin. I fear we may be on a pathway to a large conventional war. I’m sure someone will profit.

  • I’m sure someone will profit.

    Who? And I was not aware that Montenegro was on Putin’s borders, at least not yet 😉

  • I have nothing against Montenegro

    As Totten makes clear. it is not about Montenegro’s interests.

  • Ljh

    I think Serbia is the country needing fasttracking into the western fold. Remember defence of Serbia by Russia was the proximate cause of WW2. Montenegro is just mountains, a valley and some shepherds, Serbia has a long history and culture and is way more important strategically. Handing Kosovo over to the RoPers was an appallingly bad bit of virtue signalling to alienate the Serbs.

  • Mr Ed

    Remember defence of Serbia by Russia was the proximate cause of WW2 (1)

    I prefer to think that it was German aggression against neutral and harmless Belgium and France, because it was.

    I now invoke the Haig Convention.

  • dagny taggart

    in the long run europe is finished, and between an Islamified Europe and Russia would not eastern European states like Montenegro be better off within the geopolitical orbit of the latter?

    and besides, even if Eastern Europe needs saving from the eeevil putin it is not Americas job to babysit it, as trump as pointed out we have already wasted enough blood and treasure for NATO.

  • PeterT

    Generally it isn’t a good idea to put yourself in a situation where you have to react, just to maintain credibility. Better to hang back, and when you feel that you really do have to act, then swoop in with a vengeance and annihilate the enemy.

    Anyway, voting the opposite way to McCain seems like a pretty good rule of thumb for policy making.

  • Laird

    “it is not about Montenegro’s interests.”

    Yes, I get that. But what’s your point? That it somehow is in the interests of the US (or even Europe) to go to war with Russia over Montenegro? Sorry, I don’t see it.

  • bob sykes

    Totten’s comments are outright lies. If there is an aggressor state in the world it is the US: Kosovo/Serbia, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and this week Belarus.

    The neocon monsters like Totten are aggressively pushing for a large-scale war with Russia that would permanently destroy Europe and likely the US, and that might just be their goal.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie, Perry and Mr Ed have beat me to the punch – I agree.

    I respectfully disagree with Laird.

    And I disagree with bob sykes. The idea that the United States is the bad guy n the world started off as Marxist disinformation and then some libertarians (first the late Murray Rothbard and his deluded followers) took up the Soviet disinformation and tried to make it part of libertarianism.

    Listening to Ron Paul (the Ron Paul of now – not the sane Ron Paul of, say, 1980) is like listening to “Radio Moscow” in the old days – everything is twisted into anti American propaganda and disinformation – Lew Rockwell whispered poison into the ear of Ron Paul for many years.

    Naught to do with “war with Russia” – look at a map, Russia can not get to Montenegro.

    This is about political support – and counter FSB intelligence operations.

  • Bob Sykes still spouting Putin’s propaganda I see. Milošević’s Serbia got exactly what it deserved (i.e. not Kosova). Afghanistan’s Taliban government was directly implicated in 9/11 attacks. Iraq, Libya & Syria had long history of attacking other countries (and not just neighbours). And if you think the Ukrainians booting the Putin backed regime out was a USA plot, you do not know what you are talking about & ascribe vastly too much power and influence to the CIA.

  • Rob

    It’s another country in the decision making loop, and one which contributes absolutely nothing.

  • Laird (March 30, 2017 at 4:07 am): “it merely serves to ensure that should hostilities ever arise, what would otherwise have been a localized or regional conflict necessarily escalates into a civilization-ending world war.”

    That was the lesson many took from WWI. They therefore carefully avoided that mistake, and so avoided a repeat of WWI. Instead, they got the quite different WWII.

    There are risks in either path. It is more a left-wing view that states blunder into wars through excessive defensive arming and distrust, and more a right-wing view that the baddies chose to start wars, which grow into larger wars, through not being deterred enough early enough. Colour me more the right-wing view.

    “Admitting Montenegro was a mistake. So was admitting Turkey …”

    Turkey was admitted back when Russia meant Stalin, Turkey’s geographical position was valuable, and the legacy of Kemal still defined Turkey’s polity. I can understand anyone questioning the value of alliance with Erdogan today, but that is a much more recent development.

  • Laird

    Niall, to your points: (1) WWII was an order of magnitude worse than WWI, and any WWIII would likewise be order(s) of magnitude worse still. Nuclear weapons are a game-changer, especially when they are now in so many hands. That’s why I said “civilization-ending”. But the entire purpose of NATO is to ensure escalation to that level once deterrence has failed. I want no part of a suicide pact, especially when it obligates us to ride to the defense of countries of no strategic importance to us. (2) Even during the Ataturk “legacy” years, Turkey was at best an ally of convenience (their convenience, not ours). I don’t criticize them for that; it is only proper that a sovereign nation look primarily to its own interests. To the extent Turkey occupies an important geographical position (a dubious assertion), it could have been secured via some other type of treaty or agreement short of full NATO membership. I continue to maintain that its membership was a mistake, even in 1952.

  • Matra

    Now that the UK is leaving the EU we should now reevaluate the utility of NATO membership. I thought it should’ve been wrapped up a few years after the Cold War. At this point it seems like little more than a protection racket.

    The idea that the United States is the bad guy n the world started off as Marxist disinformation

    True, but today the US ’empire’ – academia, media, H’Wood, NGOs, multinationals, think-tanks, etc – are the ones who are spreading cultural Marxism everywhere they go. Russia is thuggish but it lacks the soft power required to influence minds. (It’s also lacking in hard power as its struggles in the Donbass show). Right now, the US and EU are more dangerous to Europe than Russia.

  • Fraser Orr

    I’m with Laird, and for that matter Jefferson on this. “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Seems like an excellent policy to me.

    Especially so when Europe in particular is quite happy to ride on the coat tails of the American taxpayer. Britain and France both have nuclear weapons, capable of MAD with Russia. Why do the Americans need to be involved in the thousand years of petty squabbles in Europe.

    Along those lines I am baffled by Trump’s desire to expand our already gigantic military. Our navy is basically bigger than the rest of the world’s navy put together, so why exactly do we need just a few more aircraft carriers?

    Especially so when the real threats to America are really quite different. Our military is designed to meddle in other people’s business not defend our country, as is evident as we pour more trillions of dollars and gallons of blood into the petty two thousand year old squabbles in SW Asia.

    Consider this. Here is a real threat and nobody seems to be much engaged in it.


  • Laird

    “The idea that the United States is the bad guy in the world started off as Marxist disinformation”

    That may be true (I defer to Paul’s expertise on this), but it is nonetheless also true that in some respects today the US is the “bad guy” (although not the only one and certainly not all the time). We meddle everywhere in the world. We force everyone else to comply with our rapacious tax laws, idiotic drug laws and various other regulations despite the complete lack of any nexus with the US (we’ve even forced Switzerland to abandon its venerable bank secrecy laws); we carelessly kill civilians via drone strikes putatively aimed at terrorist leaders; we blatantly interfere in other nations’ elections while decrying their (alleged) interference in ours; and basically we stomp all over the planet forcing our will on everyone weak enough not to resist (which means most countries). This not a government of which I can be proud. It hasn’t been for some decades, and it’s only getting worse.

  • Handing Kosovo over to the RoPers was an appallingly bad bit of virtue signalling to alienate the Serbs.

    Oh that is rich. The mass arrests, beatings, torturing & murder in Kosova by the Belgrade government was an appallingly bad bit of ethnic nationalism, something which so alienated the rest of Yugoslavia that Slovenia, then Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovia decided Yugoslavia was heading in such a direction that they were better off out. So fuck the Serbs who backed the Milošević government (which was most of them at the time). Belgrade’s action in Kosova kicked off the war leading to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, so it was only fitting that it was in Kosova that the war finally ended, with a well deserved Serbian defeat.

  • Watchman

    I still remain to be convinced that Russia is a threat. Yes, they appear big and strong, but their GDP is less than six NATO members (if your GDP is less than Italy or Canada, you might not be a global superpower) and GDP per capita is smaller than most of them, and none of Russia’s very limited number of allies have anything like the economic strength of Belgium (interestingly Kazakhstan does have a better GDP per capita than Russia though – things are bad). So whilst Russia probably has the North Korean effect of being able to demonstrate a high proportion of GDP spent on the military (just over 5%), the actual spend is only slightly greater than the UK’s, and indeed a lot less than France and Germany’s combined (so yes, the EU can cope with Russia without the UK in all likelihood – because it spends a lot more on its military and has s much better economic base).

    And their military is hardly modern. They apparently had until recently four modern-standard strike bombers, but as one crashed on the way to Syria (note this – the Russians tend to lose planes to maintance issues a surprisingly large amount) then they now have three. I note most Russian tanks would have been functional in the cold war (or at least their model would), because innovation is not a Russian strongpoint relative to the much wealthier and less militarised western economies.

    And alcholism is still a major problem (hey, there’s one explanation for those maintance issues), as is the fact the birthrate has been negative since the USSR and before (so you have a declining pool of potential soldiers, many of whom are not actually functional). And the system is blatantly corrupt, and therefore not trusted, so inefficiencies abound.

    The USSR beat Germany in World War II by outproducing them and outnumbering them. Russia isn’t capable of doing that against a united NATO (the USSR, which had less of a technological and GDP disadvantage were fully aware of this when quite a lot of now NATO countires were their satellites – and note that Belarus has recently started to drift from the Russian orbit and make approaches to Europe). Russia could probably overrun near neighbours, but could not hope to hold on to them against the resources of NATO members (and hopefully everyone is aware that modern militaries can cope with Russian winters – as could the Germans to be fair to them). And one thing is certain – the Russian government must know all of this, because they at least are clearly not alchoholic idiots. They might hope to make small gains like in Ukraine and Georgia because there will not be the will to oppose them, but they will also be aware that one overstep will destroy their military power or require them to retreat very quickly.

    But this does not mean I don’t see any point in standing up to Russia over Montenegro. For a start, if we believe in personal freedom a government opposed to freedom, that promotes nationalism (and discriminates against sexualities and ideological groups that it sees as counter to this identity) and which assassinates individuals (for those who support the death penalty, without the benefit of trial) is the definition of an enemy. And more practically, as Russia must know it can’t afford to fight NATO (into which countries a fair proportion of its GDP is flowing each year anyway…) then standing up to the Putin regime is actually low risk – it is only in the interest of Putin to make it appear high risk.

    I may have missed something (I haven’t missed the nuclear missles – I’m not advocating threatening Russia’s very existence though, and it is hardly in their interest to use them when that would ensure their own destruction), but is Russia really a scary enemy, or is it simply a bogeyman useful for both its own rulers and for governments here – witness how security threats in Europe are always expressed in terms of Russia and never in terms of Turkey or the Arabic countries?

  • Martin

    The more I hear Putin attacked by American and European neocons, liberals and leftists, as well as jihadist sympathisers, the more I like him.

    I mean, if he pisses off all those scum of the earth, he can’t be such a bad guy.

  • Laird

    Actually, Martin, yes he can. Even if he does piss off all the right people.