By Jan Oberg*
Lund, Sweden, 11 July 2016 (TFF–Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research) – Russia and NATO have offensive capacities and MIMACs (Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex) but NATO’s is a much larger potential threat to Russia than the other way around.
Why does an alliance with such an overwhelming superiority shout and scream and see ghosts on the horizon when, in reality, there are none?
Why does it seem to be intellectually unable to see things from the side of its opponent? Is the show of strength in reality a sign of weakness?
A threat consists of two main things: An intention to do something negative to you + a capability to actually carry it through – thus I + C.
Whenever NATO S-G Stoltenberg – a person who has gone through a serious personality change – speaks, he says nice things like: NATO does not seek confrontation and none of its moves are directed at Russia. NATO countries just have to protect themselves against Russia which they see as a threat.
Typically the talk is about an actor, a country, a leader – not about issues or trends that challenge the Alliance and certainly not that its own war adventures have weakened it in moral and legitimacy terms.
On their own side, NATO leaders buy none of – similar – Russian peace rhetorics. If you ask them why, they would say: Because as long as the Russians have offensive capabilities, there is also a risk that good/defensive official motives may – within weeks – be turned into an offensive, aggressive stance and we will be attacked. Can’t trust them!
But NATO itself excels in offensive projects, plans and capabilities – such as forward positioning, bases, long-range bomber and fighter planes, Ballistic Missile Defense and nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons are by definition never defensive because of their unlimited destructive capacity and because they can, by definition, not be used on one’s own territory.
To put it crudely: If you have no aggressive intentions directed at anyone – then scrap your offensive capabilities including long-range, particularly destructive and nuclear weapons and preserve only what can be used for defense – i.e. if you are attacked.
Why should you scrap the offensive elements? Because, no matter what you say about your intentions, the other side will see you as potential aggressive because you offensive weapons can reach them: If you don’t plan to come to our territory, then why do you have systems that can reach our territory and create unspeakable destruction on our people and culture??
Upholding offensive arsenals is a clear indicator of the possibility that officially stated defensive intentions can change to the opposite – how should NATO otherwise feel threatened by today’s Russia?
The eternal but non-credible threat needed by MIMAC
There are good-hearted people who believe that countries have competent experts who along a series of indicators measure and judge which security challenge are waiting in the future – and a series analyses of the threat towards their country on this or that time horizon.
The probability of each threat is also evaluated – to help politicians with limited budgets to allocate money to guard against some ‘realistic’ but not all possible/thinkable threats.
The – again very good-hearted – people believe that politicians and the industry then decide about the appropriate national defence, the necessary minimum of what we call a (military) defence policy and other measures to meet the challenges.
Unfortunately, as has been known since the last 50 years – except to politicians and the media – this description of security politics has nothing to do with reality.
Here is how it works, instead.
There has, over time, developed in most countries – the US, Denmark, Russia, China, North Korea – a MIMAC, i.e. a Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex. President Dwight D Eisenhower called it the Military-Industrial Complex in his farewell speech and talked about it as a huge threat to democracy. Today it is tons of times bigger and more destructive – and threatening the world and democracy more than ever.
This MIMAC consists of numerically tiny elites in the government, (military and military-related) industry, mainstream media and the legitimating priesthood of academics in state-financed research institutions and private think tanks financed more or less by that industry too – and it churns out huge amounts of new weapons, ever more sophisticated technologies – nuclear weapons one day, drone technology the next, torture psychology manuals the next.
And how do you get the taxpayers to gladly pay for all this at the ’national defence budget’?
By blowing up the threats, by telling people constantly that this or that enemy – it may change from week to week and also be rather constant in some cases like the case of Russia – represents a huge threat against which ”we, the state” has to protect you, our citizens.
Russia operates on the same mechanism, of course but on a much smaller scale.
Russia has no use of NATO territory or any chance of crushing NATO countries. And not a chance! But Mr. Putin too needs to satisfy his MIMAC – for which he needs images of an enemy (and here he has a much easier task than NATO and doesn’t have to invent things they way NATO does).
He needs that enemy also to maintain his political position and popularity among the Russians. If he plays it soft, he will go the way Gorbachev did, or be killed. And some militarist-nationalists might take over who would make us all think back on what a nice guy Putin was in a comparative perspective.
A central word in all this is ’fearology’: Make people fear a Russian invasion in NATO countries and they will accept to pay almost any price for their defence, safety and ’peace’. And obediently ask to become a member of that protective alliance if they are not already.
So, forget about there being a threat that your national security bureaucracy does its best to meet – with more or less military and civilian-political means.
It works the other way around: there is a huge militarist cancer growing on societies – East and West, North and South but more in NATO countries than anywhere else – and its spreading has to be legitimated, to be sold: We are threatened and we provide you, our citizens with the security needed against it. Give us your money and we’ll secure that you sleep well at night.
The bill is bizarre US $ 1700 billion per year around the world – where about 120 billion goes to development aid and the entire budget of the UN is about 30.
Do we have a more secure world today than 10, 20, 50 years ago. No, we don’t. It’s a perpetual mobile.
As long as you can find – or create – an enemy (think ISIS), it works fine. The day you cannot find an enemy that threatens your citizens’ survival you’ll be in real trouble. So, the Western MIMAC loves and cultivates Putin. Without his re-active annexation of Crimea – what would they have done?
Can single leaders cure this terminal civilisational disease?
Why do you think it has been so difficult for President Obama to disarm or take steps towards a nuclear-weapons-free world that he – at the deep personal level – surely would like to see become reality (and worked for as a younger man)?
The answer is: Because there is a US MIMAC that prevents him, a PSYOP operations and a citizenry that has been fooled to believe – by media often ownership-wise related to military corporations like, say, General Electric – that survival is at stake. He would be only the tail that tries to wag the MIMAC dog.
And if Obama should have stood up and really brought about a reduction in all this, he might likely have met the fate that Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, Palme and other peace-oriented people have met: Liquidation.
Foreign and domestic security services, special forces, the murky communities far away from democracy’s limelight know how to do that sort of thing.
And, thus, the drift toward global destruction will continue until hundreds of millions of citizens unite and rise and say no, stop paying tax to the ‘defence’ budget and make friends with all their imagined enemies.
This article was published on July 8, 2016, the day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. It’s the 5th in the TFF Series “The New Cold War”
*About the author: Dr Jan Oberg, Peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.
Visiting professor at ICU (1990-91) and Chuo Universities (1995) in Japan and visiting professor for three months at Nagoya University in 2004 and 2007 and four months in 2009 – at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Oberg has taught peace courses for more than 10 years at the European Peace University (EPU) in Schlaining, Austria and teaches MA courses twice a year at the World Peace Academy (WPA) in Basel, Switzerland. Learn more about Jan Oberg.
About TFF: TFF is an independent think tank, a global network that aims to bring about peace by peaceful means. It inspires a passion for peace from the grassroots to the corridors of power.
TFF is an all-volunteer global network. It promotes conflict-mitigation and reconciliation in general, as well as in a more targeted way in a selected number of conflict regions – through meticulous on-the-ground research, active listening, education and advocacy. Learn more about TFF
2016 Human Wrongs Watch