The United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week performed impressive, albeit pathetic, mental gymnastics.
In a press conference, the Pentagon chief called on Russia to be more transparent about troop movements “on the border with Ukraine”. In others words, on Russian soil.
Meanwhile, the absurd hypocrisy sees U.S. and NATO forces brazenly escalating their offensive presence on Russia’s borders, especially in the Black Sea region.
Here’s an Associated Press clip on the Pentagon press conference:
“American officials are unsure why Russian President Vladimir Putin is building up military forces near the border with eastern Ukraine but view it as another example of troubling military moves that demand Moscow’s explanation, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.”
The report quotes Austin as saying:
“We’ll continue to call on Russia to act responsibly and be more transparent on the buildup of the forces around on the border of Ukraine… We’re not sure exactly what Mr Putin is up to.”
This dubious talent for mind-bending mental gymnastics and double-think is shared with other members of the Biden administration. Last week, America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken claimed that Russia was about to invade Ukraine yet at the same time the U.S. Secretary of State confessed similar ignorance about what “Putin is up to”.
How is it possible to engage in meaningful dialogue with such vacuous people who are supposed to be government leaders – and leaders too of the self-declared world’s most powerful, most brilliant nation? No undue offense intended, but it would probably be more productive to engage in a dialogue with the bewildering characters from Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot.
Russia has repeatedly dismissed all claims about it threatening Ukraine or any other country with invasion. Moscow also disputes “unreliable” information touted by the Biden administration and Western media of troop buildup near Ukraine on its western flank. Western media reports have relied on dodgy commercial satellite data purporting to show Russian military maneuvers. It is contemptible that senior U.S. government figures are basing grave allegations against Russia on such ropy sources. That in itself speaks volumes about the deterioration in Washington’s diplomatic professionalism and political intelligence.
Secondly, the salient fact being missed in all the hullabaloo is this: Russian troops and equipment are on Russia’s sovereign territory. It is the height of absurdity for U.S. officials to demand that Russia “explain” and be “more transparent” about its own national defenses. That speaks of a hyper-arrogance among American politicians that are deforming their ability to think reasonably.
There is an analogy here with the outcry this week over Russia’s successful missile test against a Soviet-era satellite in orbit. The Biden administration condemned Russia for creating “space junk” and weaponizing space while ignoring the fact that the U.S. previously carried out the same kind of missile strike and, arguably has been trying to weaponize space since the Reagan administration’s “star wars” program during the 1980s.
In any case, the U.S. charges of Russia’s military buildup on its own territory are made all the more ridiculous when we consider the actual increase in NATO forces in Ukraine and the Black Sea region – right on Russia’s western doorstep.
In a major speech this week delivered at the Russian foreign ministry, President Putin noted again how Western powers have continually failed to register Moscow’s national security concerns over the expansion of NATO forces along Russia’s borders. He described this inability for cognition of what should be an obvious grievance as “very peculiar”.
The Kremlin has suggested that the increasing NATO offensive presence near Russia’s borders is not due to stupidity, but rather is aimed at provoking a conflict. Russia is strenuously resisting the danger of an armed confrontation, and yet the provocations continue.
Nearly two weeks ago, William Burns, the head of the CIA made a high-profile visit to Moscow during which he held discussions with senior Kremlin figures, including President Putin. We can safely assume that Burns was told in no uncertain terms that the buildup of U.S. and NATO forces near Russia’s territory is a red line that will presage a response from Russia.
But these red lines continue to be skirted by Washington and its NATO allies.
More perplexing, too, are the moves by the U.S.-backed Kiev regime to escalate the conflict in Ukraine against the ethnic Russian population in the separatist Donbas region. The ultranationalist regime has been waging a low-intensity war against the Donbas since the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev in 2014. The Americans and other NATO powers are increasing weapon supplies and military trainers to the regime, emboldening it to repudiate any peaceful settlement of the eight-year conflict.
Only last month, Pentagon chief Austin was in Kiev where he recklessly endorsed the joining of the NATO bloc by Ukraine. That is in spite of numerous warnings from Moscow that such a move would be an unacceptable destabilization.
The stepped-up war drills by NATO in the Black Sea region are inevitably leading the Kiev regime to resile from legally binding commitments to the Minsk Peace accord of 2015 – brokered by Russia, Germany and France. The release this week of diplomatic communications by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clearly demonstrates that Germany and France are complicit in turning a blind eye to the Kiev regime’s systematic violation of the Minsk deal.
In this context, Russia is justifiably deeply wary of a confrontation exploding out of the tinderbox conditions in Ukraine and the Black Sea. Given the Russian nation’s tragic history of suffering from past military invasions, it is entirely understandable and indeed vitally prudent that the country’s formidable defenses are on high alert.
It is not for Russia to explain its troops. It is for the United States and its NATO partners to account for their wanton aggression and to desist.
There is something of the theater of absurd in American and European posturing. But it’s far from funny. It’s menacingly deranged.