I have a genuine question to which I am seeking a genuine answer.
Scrolling through Twitter, I am seeing a segment of leftist politics that decries NATO. “I oppose Russian imperialism and NATO expansionism.” That sort of thing.
I’ve honestly never paid much attention to the nature of that argument before, so now I’m curious - what is the leftist argument against NATO? I genuinely don’t know and would like to read a good relatively unbiased perspective on the argument.
My impression is that NATO has been a voluntary organization joined by nations who wish to insulate themselves against possible future Russian aggression - but I also understand that that’s the idyllic view and may not reflect how NATO has actually functioned.
Just because I am sharing this link does not mean I believe or agree with all or most of what is in here. But you asked for that narrative, and this is it.
The fundamental problem is that how can we know what to believe?
If Putin or some leftists say that the US, NATO and the IMF were meddling in Eastern European and Ukranian politics like we used to do with the CIA mostly in South and Central America, that is very believable.
If the US says that Putin is conducting false flag operations to create casus belli, that is very believable.
Yet, both of those things sound like conspiracy theory talk! How many RWNJs have yelled about democrats doing false flags in the US, and now a democratic president says Russia is doing them for real? How many conspiracy people yelled about the CIA doing shady biz, and a lot of it turned out to be right? All the narratives of the situation, whether mainstream or extreme, sound like conspiracy theories.
As just a person who has the ability to read text published by other people, knowing that other people have the power to write any text, and that text bears no physical connection to the real world events I did not personally witness, what am I to believe? The only reasonable path I think is to find sources to trust. I’m sure there are many Ukranian history and political science experts with their phones off the hook appearing on all kinds of podcasts, and that’s what I’m going to look for this week.
One thing above all is clear. Whatever political battles were happening in Ukraine, no matter how underhanded from any side, they were not military battles. Putin is a military aggressor. He ordered armed forces to invade another sovereign nation. Whatever you want to believe NATO was doing, they weren’t doing it with bombs and guns. Losing the political battle, and unwilling to accept failure, Putin has opted to murder many innocent Ukranian people instead. If NATO had lost the political battle and Ukraine had become a state very friendly to Russian interests, I can’t possibly imagine that the US and NATO would have responded similarly.
There is zero indication that NATO was any military threat, now or in the future, to Russia.
Meanwhile, the Russian state has done exactly what the CIA credibly reported that they would do, reports that were broadly corroborated by intelligence services around the world.
There are conspiracies all the time. There are also bad-faith and nonsensical conspiracy theories all the time. This was a real conspiracy, and the “theories” about it were from credible sources and have proved to be correct.
Friend of mine is Ukranian and has family who were getting shelled last night. Thankfully, they are all ok for now but it is a nightmare over there. Martial law and explosions.
Like Scott said: Whatever the geopolitical situation, people’s lives are being annihilated in an act of aggression. It is fucking tragic.
My musings from a private Discord. Everything that follows is my personal speculation.
I seriously wonder if Putin and the senior military/government officials planned this years in advance. But when the CIA leaked the plan, for reasons (reasons we don’t understand yet) they proceeded ANYWAY and went through all the motions regardless of if it worked or not
Maybe the assets in Eastern Ukraine couldn’t easily be stood down. Maybe they were too invested in the idea and decided to ignore even the pretense of a plausible rationale for the invasion.
It’s not clear if they have an “endgame” goal or if they’ve gone off the path of the original plan and are themselves in uncharted territory.
Maybe Russia “just” wants to disarm and destabilize Ukraine. Destroy their military, demoralize their people, leave the implied threat that they will do this again if they continue to pursue NATO protection, and leave a broken nation with a provisional government. “Just” annex the rest of the Crimea region as well as a good chunk of Eastern Ukraine.
I do think Russia did not anticipate a unified NATO.
I think they expected that this invasion would shock Europe, and in the week or so it took to agree on sanctions, they would have pulled back most of the troops and settled on the occupation of specific key areas. That is impossible now.
Considering how much of the plan was predicated on provoking Ukrainian forces into retaliating and making a murky narrative around “who struck first,” it is notable and dangerous that they continue to proceed despite zero such provocations.
What manner of discord…
Excellent point about Putin not expecting a unified NATO to oppose him, especially in light of European (and especially German) reliance on Russian oil/gas in winter.
Another factor that I think Putin badly misplayed was Biden’s strong diplomatic efforts. Who knows for sure, but after the US’s botched and hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, and how Biden was heavily criticized, I’m would imagine that Putin thought that Biden would either be equally “incompetent” regarding the Ukraine, or just in general not want to involve the US in another foreign entanglement.
Say what you will about Biden in general, but in this situation he’s been doing a great job in holding NATO together, wrangling Germany into supporting Russian sanctions, and coming up with alternative gas/oil to ease Europe’s reliance on Russia. Biden has always been experienced dealing with Europe, so it seems Putin badly miscalculated/underestimated Biden.
Sports are just the beginning. I wonder if this will snowball and cut Russia off from most of the rest of the world much like North Korea is. Will ports turn away Russian ships and flights? Will borders turn away people with Russian passports?
That is literally what the proposed sanctions will do.
We’re a long way from proposed to that actually being reality.
Maybe not. The NATO sanctions are extreme and can be enacted quickly.
NATO is an entire organization devoted to being a military threat to Russia: Don’t invade small european country X because its in a military treaty with the US, UK, and Nth other small european countries. This in no way excuses russian aggression but its a bit unrealistic to not even think about this situation through a Realist lens and why russia might see NATO expansion and joint military exercises in adjacent countries as a threatening action in light of the entirety of US-Russian history and NATO’s actions.
I would say military deterrent, rather than threat. Threat implies offensive and first-strike potential.
That is a facile talking point. NATO is clearly a defensive pact and there have been no credible military provocations from NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Only Russia’s government believes NATO is a threat to Russia. The real threat is that Ukraine is a relatively stable self-determined democracy that shares a land border with it.
NATO maintains a minimal troop presence in Eastern Europe. Russia historically has been engaging in literally and directly threatening wargames. NATO’s few exercises have been, in every case, a direct response to Russian provocations.
It is also notable that Ukraine and Finland specifically are seeking NATO protection from Russian aggression. Sweden is also now meeting with NATO, and the expansion of the alliance may be imminent.
It is a bit like saying that an arsonist has a valid concern about the new fire station being built near his house. The only reason the proximity of the fire station is a problem in his eyes is because he intends on setting fires in the area.
Fire fighters aren’t going around checking people for fire starting equipment and taking up residence in people’s homes. They respond when there is an event and their proximity and stated mission brings assurance to those who live in the area that, should a fire break out, there are trained and competent people who will respond.
I just want to aside and say, there is a war going on. And it is only natural that under such circumstances any such discussion is going to tread very close to to almost all the rules in our code of conduct.
Dangerously misleading information is not allowed. There are a lot of intentional misinformation campaigns everywhere. Before you reshare something, make sure it’s for real.
Espousing evil ideologies is not allowed. And neither is advocating violence or other immoral acts. Doesn’t matter for or against which side(s).
Any debates about what should, or can, be done about this should be constructive. After you write a post, look at the pyramid in the code of conduct. Honestly assess where in the pyramid your comment resides. If it’s not in the top half, just delete it.
Horrifying events are happening. There is, and will be more traumatic content generated. Put warnings on it, or don’t share it here.
I have things to do and don’t have time to split hairs over every single post in a very active thread to determine what crosses the line. There’s no full time paid moderators here. So if it gets to the point where it’s too much work for me, I’m gonna close this thread. If it comes to that, you’ll still have ten billion other places on the Internet to discuss these events.
This is a pretty good opinion piece from Slate about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine isn’t really even about NATO, but more about trying to re-establish a Soviet Era or even pre-Soviet Russian Empire hegemony on the region:
"Moreover, this is not even primarily about NATO.
NATO’s eastward expansion may have played a role in straining the relationship between Russia and the West, but mainly because, for Russia, seeing former satellites eagerly abandon it for the greener pastures of Euro-Atlantic integration stung. However, Putin’s rhetoric and actions over almost two decades reveal that his goals extend beyond imposing neutrality on Ukraine or even staving off further NATO expansion. The larger objective is to reestablish Russian political and cultural dominance over a nation that Putin sees as one with Russia, and then follow up by undoing the European rules-based order and security architecture established in the aftermath of World War II. Given these goals, Ukrainian neutrality is a woefully insufficient concession for Putin."
“A longer look at Putin’s two decades in power shows that, above all, he fears political competition in the neighborhood. When mass protests over rigged elections swept across the post-Soviet space in 2003–05, toppling the Georgian and Kyrgyz incumbents and preventing the pro-Russian candidate from taking office in Ukraine, the Kremlin exploded with fiery rhetoric about Western-backed anti-Russian plots. A recent book on conspiracy theories in the Russian media since 1995 shows that the 2003–05 “color revolutions” were the top source of conspiratorial, anti-Western narratives. All 1997–2002 NATO enlargement summits are lower in the ranking of analyzed events. American realists have long argued that Russia was too weak to strike back with actions, but evidence shows that the Kremlin did not react with strong rhetoric either. Instead of decrying NATO expansion, Russia prioritized complaints about Western political “meddling” in its neighboring countries, by which Russia meant U.S. and European support for domestic democratization drives.”