Bill and Hillary’s Interventions Raise New Doubts About NATO


any Americans see the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as our ultimate line of defense. Some view it as an American puppet. Both takes need serious rethinking. NATO and its implicit ties to the European Union (EU) have come to pose an unexpected threat to the United States, and nowhere more dramatically than in Bill and Hillary Clinton’s interventions in the Balkans and Ukraine and her non-ending push for military action, especially in Libya.

“I know the United States has taken some actions against terrorists inside Libya, particularly ISIS training camps,” Hillary told CNN on February 23, “and I support that.”

These actions are open and covert preparations for an allied war in Libya, as I reported last week, drawing on French media. Hillary may not have known the full story when she talked to CNN. But given her experience, contacts, and leading role in promoting the first Libyan war, she certainly knows what’s coming.

NATO’s place in all this has been less clear, reflecting how far the alliance has evolved. At the start in 1949, its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, famously quipped that its purpose was to “keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and the Americans in.” The fall of the Berlin Wall four decades later, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the epic transition from the Common Market to the European Union have made the uses of NATO more complex, less predictable, and potentially more dangerous. The resulting rat’s nest will cause grief no matter who becomes the next US president.

German chancellor Helmut Kohl and President George H.W. Bush opened the door to danger when they hoodwinked Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, into believing that they would not expand NATO to the east. Bill Clinton then led NATO to bring in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. This put the world’s most powerful military alliance right on Russia’s doorstep, feeding a real, if historically overblown, sense of victimhood that Vladimir Putin puts at the heart of his national narrative.

“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday,” he declared in his State of the Nation speech at the end of 2014. “It has been carried out against our country for many years, always, for decades, if not centuries. In short, whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put to use.”

Without question, the proximity of a nuclear-armed NATO has provoked Russia to respond. But Putin has chosen the responses to make, whether preaching an increasingly right-wing Christian nationalism, “the historical reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia,” massing his troops and little green men to back armed conflict in Ukraine, making nuclear threats, or funding Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie here in France and reportedly the right-wing, anti-immigrant AfD in Germany.

NATO’s expansion has also encouraged Eastern European nations – even those not formally members of the alliance, such as Georgia – to bait the Russian bear, foolishly expecting the United States and its allies will come to their aid.

The Balkan Express

Besides pushing NATO beyond its original theater of operations, presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton joined with Germany to redefine NATO’s mission, most dramatically in the former Yugoslavia. As early as 1992, NATO began playing a small role in conjunction with United Nations peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Clinton then pushed for a massive intervention after the July 1995 massacre in the village of Srebrenica, in which Bosnian Serbs rounded up and killed some 8,000 Muslims.

If ever a massive blood-letting cried out for international intervention, Srebrenica seemed the perfect case. But, as so often happens in supposedly humanitarian acts of war, Bill Clinton and his top foreign policy advisers had a much larger agenda and a truly imperial vision.

Richard Holbrooke, a one-time managing director of Lehman Brothers who became ambassador to Germany and assistant secretary of state, saw an expanded NATO as central to preserving American leadership throughout a stable, unified Europe, which would embrace democracy, Western values, and “free-market economies.” Chancellor Kohl, French president Mitterrand, and their allies were just creating a newly strengthened European Union, and would – with the Clinton administration’s encouragement – turn it into a bastion of neo-liberal economics.

Strobe Talbott, Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, saw an expanded NATO primarily in terms of exercising hegemony over a weakened and pliable Russia. Now president of the Brookings Institution, he remains a friend and advisor to the Clintons.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the grand old man of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, saw a much bigger goal in the control of Eurasia and its vast oil and gas reserves. “NATO entrenches American political influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland,” he wrote in The Grand Chessboard. “A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy.”

Only a few savvy outsiders saw at the time the vast scope of these ambitions, which extended beyond Western Europe, beyond the EU, beyond Russia, and into the regions once controlled by the Ottoman Turks. In pushing NATO into Bosnia, the Clinton administration was looking to make the United States “the leader of an informal collection of Muslim nations from the Persian Gulf to the Balkans,” wrote Jacob Heilbrun and Michael Lind in The New York Times in January 1996. “The disintegration of the Soviet Union has prompted the United States to expand its zone of military hegemony into Eastern Europe (through NATO) and into formerly neutral Yugoslavia. And ? most important of all ? the end of the Cold war has permitted America to deepen its involvement in the Middle East.”

Far more than any humanitarian concerns, these imperial ambitions led Washington to push NATO airstrikes against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, which even the normally reluctant Congressman Bernie Sanders voted to support. The Clinton administration then sent Col. Robert Helvey, of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to train 20 militants from the Serbian student group OTPOR in the techniques of strategic nonviolence to undermine the authority of the Serbian leader Slobadan Milosevich, “the Butcher of the Balkans.” Supplied by the United States and backed by NATO, OTPOR overthrew Milosevich and created the pattern for the color revolutions that George W. Bush and Barack Obama would use primarily against pro-Russian governments on the edges of the former Soviet Union.

You can read the story at length in “How Washington Learned to Love Nonviolence,” which I wrote in 2009. But events moved on. As Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton presided over the National Endowment for Democracy, Foggy Bottom’s own “democracy bureaucracy,” and outside contractors like Freedom House to create a second Orange Revolution against Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. You can find this documented in “Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev,” Part I and Part II. Hillary and Bill even played a personal role in the run-up to the coup against Yanukovych, speaking at an oligarch-sponsored conference in Ukrainian Crimea in September 2013.

The role of the Clintons dramatizes two key historical realities. Many progressives tend to whitewash the Democratic Party by blaming the coup on Republican neocons. Their best evidence is the hands-on role played by Victoria Nuland, then assistant secretary of state, the wife of Robert Kagan, one of the neocon founders. But Hillary was Nuland’s long-time boss and mentor, and she exemplifies her party’s long tradition of liberal intervention. Kagan has now turned against the Republicans and endorsed Hillary for president. A historian by trade, he has also been calling himself a liberal interventionist.

Second, where Nuland gained fame for saying “Fuck the EU,” Hillary characteristically used Washington’s coup-making machinery to serve European ambitions to bring Ukraine into the EU – not into NATO, at least not at the time. Obama made this clear in a roundabout way in the April edition of Atlantic Monthly – and in scathing terms.

“There are ways to deter, but it requires you to be very clear ahead of time about what it is worth going to war for and what is not,” he told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg. “Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it.”

What neither the foreign policy realist Obama nor the more interventionist Hillary Clinton has ever made clear is how it was in America’s interest to make a coup in Kiev to help the EU expand to include a conflict-riven and extremely corrupt Ukraine.

Sarkozy’s War

A bigger problem arose over Hillary’s first war in Libya. And, once again, it was never quite the humanitarian venture that both she and Obama made it out to be.

As I reported much too cautiously in April 2011, the story began the previous Autumn, when Nuri Mesmari, Gadhafi’s chief of protocol and one of his closest confidants, came to Paris and began meeting regularly with French intelligence officials. On at least one occasion, at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette on November 16, he reportedly had a long session with close collaborators of French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Shortly after, French soldiers disguised as businessmen travelled to Benghazi to meet secretly with Col. Abdallah Gehani, a Libyan Air Force officer whom Mesmari had identified as about to turn against Gadhafi. On January 22, Gadhafi’s security forces arrested Gehani, but the rebellion was already under way, breaking out on February 17, initially as a peaceful protest, but increasingly with armed force.

Much of what I reported has since been confirmed in Hillary’s secret emails and Exit Gaddafi, a book by Ethan Chorin, a former US diplomat. Sarkozy and his government were in touch with the rebels well before the philosopher and journalist Bernard Henri Levy ever warned of an imminent massacre of civilians in Benghazi ? and months before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Paris on March 14, 2011, with the Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril and gave him her seal of approval.

Some of the story still remains a mystery. On February 25, for example, the too-well-connected Israeli news service Debkafile reported that the night before French, British, and US military advisers landed in the region, dispatched from warships and missile boats off the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk. Was this Israeli-inspired propaganda? Or was the US militarily involved before Hillary gave her go-ahead?

Whatever Washington’s start date, the bigger question is why Clinton and Obama went along with Sarkozy’s war, knowing as her emails state that French companies had been guaranteed the lion’s share of Libya gas and oil. Hillary’s answer comes through all too clearly in the two-part New York Times special on her leading role in yet another war of choice that “ran aground in a tribal country with no functioning government, rival factions and a staggering quantity of arms.”

The defining moment, and one that shows the danger that NATO and our European allies now pose, came on March 19, when the wily Sarkozy met in Paris with British prime minister David Cameron and Secretary Clinton. French jets were already in the air, he told them. “I will recall them if you want me to.” Hillary was not prepared to object. “I’m not going to recall the planes and create the massacre in Benghazi,” she grumbled to an aide. And that was how Sarkozy blackmailed the world’s most powerful nation into a war that served no American interest other than making nice with untrustworthy allies.

Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

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