NATO’s Expansion And New Strategic Concept Broaden The Prospect Of Armageddon

CJ Polychroniou

A bleak future lies ahead.

The 2022 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, which was held in Madrid, Spain, from June 28-30, has produced a new strategic concept for an alliance which only a few years ago was declared “brain-dead” by French President Emmanuel Macron that will define its future for the next ten years.

Indeed, thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the world’s largest military alliance has made a comeback, and with a vengeance. Russia has once again become its main target. The new strategic concept names it as the “most significant and direct threat to the security of allies and to the peace and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.”

Countries with a long history of neutrality, such as Finland and Sweden, will soon be joining NATO after Turkey dropped its opposition. NATO will add 1300 kilometers more of border with Russia. Since 2016, NATO also has an “enhanced forward presence” in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

The western encirclement of Russia, which loomed large both before and after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and has continued with the same zeal even after communism had collapsed, is now virtually complete.

This is a development with staggering implications for international peace and security. NATO was of course a source of instability and a threat to international peace and security throughout the Cold War as it was a central instrument to the US imperial project. With its eastward expansion following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO’s role in restoring America’s unipolar world hegemony sowed the seeds of mistrust between Russia and the western powers and set the stage for the renewal of a protracted conflict, reminiscent of the Cold War.

The U.S.-led and western-centric alliance bears a great deal of responsibility for the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine. Many top foreign relations experts had predicted that NATO’s eastward expansion was a move that would eventually provoke a hostile Russian reaction. Russia had been warning the west about NATO expansion for decades.

In September 1993 Boris Yeltsin send a letter to Bill Clinton in which he warned that an enlargement of NATO might be interpreted by Russia as a national security threat.

“We believe that the eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that,” Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president, told reporters at a 1997 news conference with US President Bill Clinton in Helsinki, where the two signed a statement on arms control.

At the Madrid summit, NATO leaders agreed to a new strategic concept for the alliance that will make the world even more dangerous than it is now. But before we delve into what NATO’s new strategy means for world order, let’s briefly recall the history of the U.S.-led military alliance.

NATO was created in 1949 by the United States and 11 other western nations with the stated objective of acting as a deterrent to an invasion of western Europe by the Soviet Union.

Of course, there was no Soviet military threat. Stalin had no intention of invading western Europe. He was a ruthless tyrant in charge of a police state that he had built, almost single-handedly, but his approach to foreign policy was not driven by ideology but rather by the dictates of Realpolitik. He was an ultra-realist, having no desire for a military confrontation with the Americans and the British on the continent.

“I can deal with Stalin. He is honest—but smart as hell,” Harry Truman wrote in his diary entry dated July 17, 1945, the first day of the Potsdam Conference in Germany.

Indeed, Stalin’s geostrategic approach was not geared towards the export of a revolutionary ideology. “The export of a revolution is nonsense,” he pointed out in a 1936 interview given to Roy Howard, president of the Scripps-Howard Newspapers. Stalin’s primary concern was the security of the Soviet Union. His interest in having Eastern Europe under his thumb was for the purpose of creating a buffer zone between the West and the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union lost as many as 27 million lives during the Second World War, half of her industry, and thousands of villages, towns, and cities were destroyed. That’s the price that it paid for saving the world from Nazi Germany. To be sure, it would be good to remind western readers that “four-fifths of the fighting in Europe took place on the Eastern front, and that’s where Germans suffered virtually all of its casualties,” as Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union/Russian Federation accurately stated during the course of a lecture that he delivered on June 13, 2005, at Kennan Institute.

For all the above reasons, the mere suggestion that Stalin might have any intention of embarking on wild military adventures to conquer Paris or London should have been rejected as utterly ridiculous by any rational policymaker at the time, but obviously that wasn’t the case. Take, for instance, the attitude of an anticommunist reactionary like Winston Churchill. His pathological hatred toward the Soviet Union was so intense that even with Operation Barbarossa well under way, and the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, it was communist Russia, not Nazi Germany, that he considered as the barbaric antithesis of western civilization. “It would be a measureless disaster if Russian barbarism overlaid the culture and independence of the ancient states of Europe” he wrote to Anthony Eden in late 1942.

As stated earlier, NATO’s explicit purpose was to “deter Soviet aggression.” But the creation of NATO had another goal, though it was never mentioned either by NATO leaders or foreign policy experts and commentators. The goal was to cement western Europe’s position in the capitalist world economy with the U.S. at the helm. A year earlier, the Marshall Plan had been introduced, whose purpose was to prevent the spread of communism in western Europe, stabilize the international economic order, and provide markets for U.S. goods. By integrating European countries into NATO, the U.S. was seeking to safeguard its investments in the European economies. In other words, NATO was also seen as a bulwark against radical political change inside different European countries. It was a way to ensure that their future is tied to the capitalist world order. Read more

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Chomsky: Overturn Of “Roe” Shows How Extreme An Outlier The US Has Become

Noam Chomsky

An NPR/Ipsos poll released in January revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that U.S. democracy is “in crisis and at risk of failing.” What the poll does not disclose, of course, is the anomalous situation of the United States in comparison to other democracies. For starters, the U.S. is a very conservative and militaristic country, with a two-party system and a political culture that overwhelmingly favors powerful private interests over the common good. Indeed, in many respects, it operates more like a reactionary plutocracy than a democracy. For instance, the U.S. is the only wealthy country without a universal health care system. It spends more on health care than any other high-income country but has the lowest life expectancy. The U.S. is also a global outlier in terms of gun ownership, gun violence and public mass shootings. Income and wealth inequality is also higher in the U.S. than in almost any other industrialized country, and the U.S. also has the distinction of spending lesson children than almost any other wealthy country. Moreover, as evidenced by the recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court acts for the most part as an agent of reaction.

Indeed, the U.S. is a “highly unusual society, in many ways,” as Noam Chomsky states in the following interview about the economic and political organization of the U.S. polity and the shockingly reactionary rulings of the Supreme Court on guns and abortion.

Chomsky is the father of modern linguistics, a leading dissident and social critic, and one of the world’s most cited intellectuals. His work has influenced a variety of fields, including cognitive science, philosophy, psychology, computer science, mathematics, childhood education and anthropology. He has received numerous awards, including the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal and the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. He is the recipient of dozens of honorary doctorate degrees from some of the world’s most prestigious universities, and is the author of more than 150 books.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, as gun massacres continue to plague U.S. society, the question that naturally pops into mind is this: Why is the U.S. government so uniquely bad among developed countries at tackling issues in general that affects people’s lives? Indeed, it is not just gun violence that makes the U.S. an outlier. It is also a big outlier when it comes to health, income inequality and the environment. In fact, the U.S in an outlier with regard to its overall mode of economic, political and social organization.

Noam Chomsky: We can begin by taking note of an important date in U.S. history: June 23, 2022. On that date, the senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, issued a decision solemnly pronouncing his country completely unhinged, a threat to itself and the world.

Those were not of course Justice Thomas’s words, speaking for the usual 6-3 majority of the reactionary Roberts Court, but they capture their import: In the United States, people may carry a concealed weapon for “self-defense,” with no further justification. In no functioning society have people been living in such terror of their fellow citizens that they need guns for self-defense if they’re taking a walk with their dogs or going to pick up their children at their (properly barricaded) nursery school.

A true sign of the famous American exceptionalism.

Even apart from the lunacy proclaimed from on high on that historic date, the United States is a highly unusual society, in many ways. The most important are the most general. In your words, “its overall mode of economic, political, and social organization.” That merits a few comments.

The basic nature of the modern state capitalist world, including every more or less developed society, was well enough described 250 years ago by Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations and in the Madisonian framework of the Constitution of what was soon to become the most powerful state in world history.

In Smith’s words, the “masters of mankind” are those with economic power — in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England. They are the “principal architects” of government policy, which they shape to ensure that their own interests are “most peculiarly attended to,” however “grievous” the effects on others, including the people of England but more severely those subject to its “savage injustice” abroad. To the extent that they can, in every age they pursue their “vile maxim”: “All for ourselves, nothing for other people.”

In the Madisonian constitutional framework, power was to be in the hands of “the wealth of the nation,” men (women were property, not persons) who recognize the rights of property owners and the need to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” The basic principle was captured succinctly by the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay: “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” His current successors understand that very well, to an unusual extent.

Madison’s doctrine differed from Smith’s description of the world in some important respects. In his book The Sacred Fire of Liberty, Madison scholar Lance Banning writes that Madison “was — to depths that we today are barely able to imagine — an eighteenth-century gentleman of honor.” He expected that those granted power would act as an “enlightened Statesman” and “benevolent philosopher,” “pure and noble,” “men of intelligence, patriotism, property and independent circumstances … whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

His illusions were soon shattered.

In very recent years, the reigning doctrine in the courts has been a variety of “originalism” that would have judges view the world from the perspective of a group of wealthy white male slaveowners, who were indeed reasonably enlightened — by the standards of the 18th century.

A more rational version of “originalism” was ridiculed 70 years ago by Justice Robert Jackson: “Just what our forefathers did envision, or would have envisioned had they foreseen modern conditions, must be divined from materials almost as enigmatic as the dreams Joseph was called upon to interpret for Pharaoh.” That is a saner version than the Bork-Scalia-Alito et al. current version because of the highlighted phrase.

The contortions about “originalism” are of no slight interest. There’s no space to go into it here, but there are a few matters that deserve attention, just keeping to the most dedicated adherents to the doctrine — not the saner version ridiculed by Justice Jackson, but the very recent and now prevailing doctrine, which Jackson presumably would have regarded as too absurd even to discuss.

One issue has to do with the role of historical tradition. In Alito’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, he stresses the importance of relying on historical tradition in determining whether rights are implied in the Constitution (and Amendments). He points out, correctly, that the treatment of women historically gives little basis for according them rights.

In plain words, the history in law and practice is grotesque.

Read more

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Frank Bovenkerk & Jan Rath – Lodewijk Brunt ~ Flaneur in toga

Er is al een tijdje niks verschenen op de blog van onze vader Lo die in 2020 uit ons leven verdween. Dat vinden wij soms zonde van zo’n omvangrijk en divers document. Lodewijk’s oude studievriend en collega Frank Bovenkerk heeft samen met Jan Rath (opvolger van Lodewijk als professor stadsstudies) een uitvoerig en mooi resumé geschreven over het werkzame leven van Lo. Wij willen dat graag plaatsen als aanvulling op al het overige. Beide heren zijn grondig te werk gegaan en hebben zich ook verdiept in de periode nadat Frank en Lo elkaar een beetje uit het oog zijn verloren. Wij, als zoons van Lo, kunnen ons helemaal vinden in de feiten en hoe Frank en Jan het hebben opgeschreven. Vooral het nogal onvoorspelbare karakter van onze vader wordt raak beschreven en iedereen die hem goed kende herkent deze kant van hem wel. Ook de gedrevenheid in zijn wetenschap en vooral zijn grote passie, de stad (en dan vooral Amsterdam), komen in het stuk heel mooi naar voren. Na het lezen van het stuk hebben we toch weer opnieuw bewondering voor hem gekregen en we missen hem nog iedere dag. Papa Lo was trots geweest op dit in memoriam. Wij hopen dat de bezoekers die dit stuk lezen dat met evenveel genoegen doen als ondergetekenden.

Tibor & Omar Brunt


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Trust me (we’ll get to know each other later) – Tagline: blockchain re-invents who and how we trust


I’ve been mulling a wry title for this piece. The passage of deliberation punctuated by flocks of green avians (yes, parrots and in Amsterdam!) dissecting the blue, blue firmament on their screeching way to somewhere possibly exotic, only to pivot and rush back the way they had come mere moments later.

The struggle is to find the depth of pith required to compliment the hint of wit that will sustain attention beyond a headline. ‘Trust me (again)’ comes close as does ‘Trust re-invented’. ‘Trust 2.0’ is potentially smirk worthy but only to those, perhaps, for whom Web 3.0 or Industry 4.0 elicit a familiar nod.

Trust me, this was the best I could do.

Most of us trust someone or something: a distant cousin on your mother’s side, a company, an institution, or even the government. Agreed, it was not strictly necessary to add the word ‘even’ when mentioning the government and yet…

Trust runs through us like Brighton through rock. It’s free and freely given. It’s easily and frequently betrayed only to be given again.

And so…

We trust that the barber is no Sweeney Todd; that government will safeguard state pensions; that the late-night Uber driver is, honestly, just an Uber driver; that the limited-edition Warhol is not, on inspection, a Wharwhole; that the heating engineer can distinguish a water pipe from a gas pipe; that the eviction technician barring entry to Koooolers Nightclub will not sell the enforced copy of your ID to X-Ron3023, a denizen of the dark-web and a close associate of NightKnightBungie100-2; that the recently promoted (former) assistant VP now has access to the executive bathroom on the top floor.

We need trust. The moment maker. The oil in the works. What is there without trust? And I implore you to keep in mind that trust starts with truth and ends with truth, fear leads to more fear, and trust leads to more trust, and we must surely all concur that to be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. Trust Hemmingway to weigh in with ‘The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’

All good. Not a jot of critique from my side. Old school trust. Built over decades, augmented by endorsements of others. The trusted and tested and true assured reliance on character and values and judgement, our innate ability and strength to see the truth of someone or something leading us have confidence (unscientifically, some might say) that our best interests will be represented, or at the very least not compromised.

It’s been a battle – a losing battle – to maintain my willingness to trust those making increasingly frequent requests for, yes, my trust. You can trust us with your profile data, they cry; you can trust our claim that the coffee-famer received a living wage in the production of this premium product; that the energy powering my microwave is not only green but the greenest; and that this cod was sustainably caught in the North Sea using the latest ecologically friendly gear and the discard (read: disposing of dead fish that you’d rather not have caught) was negligible.

Sceptical? Should you find a moment in your local supermarket to peruse the little letters and labels printed on the packaging en route past Dairy and Fresh to where Linda waits patiently at the checkout, you’ll surely agree that the credibility of these claims is enhanced by cutting-edge keywords that include (but are not limited to) WiggleWoggle certified, artisan organic, free range (define range) and farm fresh(ness) – whatever that means.

Further doubts may be placated by a plethora of QR codes and high-quality logos and, without a shred of hesitation on my part, I’d like to state for the record that many of these logos go way beyond clipart.

Look, we’re a few paragraphs in and I’ve not mentioned blockchain which has not been easy. Don’t ask or expect me to defend the many (but not all) justifiable claims that cast blockchain in a poor light. Decades must pass before blockchain’s battered reputational half-life decays to the point of defying detection.

Blockchain. Disruptive? Disreputable? I need to move on as, otherwise, this post will assume book-length dimensions as I attempt to parry what many are thinking. My plea, humbly made, is that you will accept that blockchain is a ‘thing’ and that we’ll save other discussion for later.

[Author’s note: the remainder of this article contains numerous dangerous bends in train of thought, and a range of concepts and terms invented by nerds whose average age is twenty-three. Continue reading only under medical advisement].

How can blockchain replace old school trust? What could possibly supplant the handshake, the written agreement, the unshakeable faith in a bond handed down the generations?

The answer is that blockchain cannot replace any of these things.

Rather, blockchain facilitates alternative forms of trust. Trust between parties that have never met, who have not heard of one another, who do not like each other, who compete with each other and – I’m just putting it out there – do not trust each other. Blockchain facilitates trustless transactions where a distributed network of ‘verifiers of truth’ (nodes) guarantee both the execution of transactions between parties (liveness) as well as the integrity of transactions following agreement (consensus).

Furthermore, blockchain requires no mediating (meddling?) third-party as an enabler and, as a result, there is no centralised authority needed to deny or refuse or scrutinise or record any transaction or interaction between two parties. Humans are not involved in consensus forming and, as a result, there is no opinion-based influence and no ad-hoc bias. Given the same set of inputs, the blockchain will consistently resolve in the same manner each time of asking. Trust me on that.

In considering how blockchain helps reinvent trust, we need to first dispel the notion that blockchain and cryptocurrency are synonymous. The repute of the former tarnished by the ponziness of the latter. Take transactions for example. The first and best-known blockchain network was named ‘Bitcoin’, while the first and best-known cryptocurrency was named ‘bitcoin’ (the branding agency has a lot of explaining to do). And the first transaction involved a bitcoin token on the Bitcoin network. Read more

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Chinese watermonsters – de zee als metafoor


Deze illustratie is afkomstig uit Yuan 1980: 323

Iemand uit Qi maant de heer van Jingguo tegen het ommuren van Xue

De heer van Jingguo stond op het punt [zijn leen] Xue te ommuren, en veel van zijn cliënten maanden hem daartegen. De heer van Jingguo zei tegen de man belast met het aandienen van gasten: “Laat geen cliënten door.”
Onder de mensen uit Qi bevond zich iemand die een verzoek deed: “Ik verzoek drie woorden te mogen spreken. Als het er meer zijn, mag ik levend gekookt worden!”
De heer van Jingguo ontving hem vervolgens. Haastig sprak de cliënt de woorden: “De grote zeevis!” Daarop draaide hij zich om en ging weg.
De heer van Jingguo zei: “Blijf hier!”
De cliënt sprak: “Uw nederige dienaar waagt het niet de dood als spel te beschouwen!”
De heer van Jingguo zei: “Er zal u niets gebeuren, spreek door!
Hij antwoordde: “Heeft u niet van de grote zeevis gehoord? Netten kunnen hem niet tegenhouden, haken kunnen hem niet voortslepen, maar als hij spartelend buiten het water terecht komt, dan kunnen de veenmollen en mieren hun gang met hem gaan. Welnu, de staat Qi is als uw water; waarvoor hebt u Xue nodig, zolang u Qi bezit? Als u Qi kwijtraakt, kunt u de muur om Xue wel zo hoog maken dat hij tot in de hemel reikt, maar dat zal u nog geen voordeel opleveren.”
De heer van Jingguo zei: “Goed.” Daarop zag hij af van het ommuren van Xue. (He 1990: 297-298; alle vertalingen zijn van mijn hand, tenzij anders aangegeven)

Bovenstaande tekst is afkomstig uit de Strategieën der Strijdende Staten, samengesteld in de eerste eeuw voor Christus. De roerige periode der Strijdende Staten duurde van de vijfde tot de derde eeuw voor Christus, en eindigde met de vereniging van heel China door de staat Qin (221 voor Chr.). De teksten zijn waarschijnlijk bedoeld als schooloefeningen in de retoriek: hoe overtuig je heerser A om X te doen (of juist te laten)? In bovenstaande anekdote wordt een niet nader omschreven grote zeevis gebruikt als politieke metafoor. De humeurige heerser is de heer van Jingguo, de jongere broer van de koning en kanselier in de staat Qi, beleend met het gebied Xue. De heer van Jingguo koerst af op een directe confrontatie met de koning. Zijn plannen Xue te ommuren kunnen worden opgevat als een provocatie, een eerste teken dat hij een couppoging beraamt om zijn broer van de troon te stoten. In deze korte tekst trekt de naamloze cliënt eerst op effectieve manier de aandacht van de leenheer, waarna hij zijn boodschap in een aantrekkelijk verhaal verpakt. Read more

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Attie S. van Niekerk & Sytse Strijbos (Eds.) – We cannot continue like this: Facing modernity in Africa and Europe

The book is based on the view that the present trajectory of modern development cannot continue as it is now because it is ecologically unsustainable, it continues to enlarge the gap between rich and poor, and the decolonialisation movement has drawn our attention again to the specific role of religion, culture and value in human affairs and the need for a robust element of indigenisation and contextualisation. This book is strongly focused on the context of Africa, with two chapters that are written by authors from the Netherlands, for the purpose of presenting a North-South dialogue. The book contains reflection on approaches followed in building sustainable human communities in general and reflection on specific efforts to solve sustainability issues. It seeks to integrate academic reflection and insights gained from practical involvement with sustainability issues in local communities and low-income households, with contributions from Theology and Natural and Social Sciences.

Download the book (open access):

This book is the first result of a quite unique and emerging researc collaboration between three organisations, NOVA, the International Institute for Development and Ethics (IIDE) and the Centre for Faith and Community (CFC) that is housed at the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. The central aim is to chart an innovative course in the debate on ‘sustainability and development’. NOVA and IIDE are independent entities that both want to operate as an intermediate between the university and broader society. Read more

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Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (East Berlin 1988)

July 1988. One year before the fall of the Berlin wall, between 200.000 and 300.000 east-berliners witnessed this historical concert. In his speech, they recommended him not to say the word “wall” so he changed it for “barriers”. Epic historical moment.

GERMAN: Es ist schön in Ost-Berlin zu sein. Ich möchte euch sagen ich bin nicht hier für oder gegen eine Regierung, ich bin gekommen um rock’n’roll zu spielen für Ost-Berlinern, in der Hofnung dass eines Tages alle Barrieren obgeriesen warden.

ENGLISH: It’s nice to be in East Berlin. I want to tell you that I’m not here for or against any government, I have come to play rock’n’roll for the East-Berliners, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down.

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