Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The first meeting between Russia and NATO in two years accomplished very little.

The NATO flag. Public Domain

The first meeting between the NATO alliance and Russia failed to resolve any of the issues between the two groups. AP. The meeting covered issues such as the war in Ukraine, Russia's military activities and the security situation in Afghanistan. The meeting ran 90 minutes longer then it should have as well, despite the failure to reach any agreements. The failure comes after high tensions after Russian planes have harassed a US destroyer. NATO/Russian relations have fallen apart since the annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine war, which the NATO alliance views as an armed insurgency. Both NATO and Russia have been building up forces in the region. 

A Russian SU-24 buzzing the USS Donald Cook. 
My Comment:
At the very least they are talking. Not talking in this kind of situation is always a mistake. Though NATO and Russia are worlds apart right now, the very act of engaging in diplomacy can work to reduce tensions. Even though no agreements were made (or were likely to be made in the first place), at the very least diplomacy has begun again. Hopefully that will reduce tensions.

And make no mistake, tensions are still very high. The above video shows how far the Russians are willing to push NATO and the United States right now. Though the SU-24's looked like they were unarmed, they were clearly doing a practice attack run on the USS Donald Cook.

Though Russia has a long history of buzzing US planes and ships, this is a lot closer then they usually get. And it is incredibly dangerous for everyone involved. Not only does the pilot risk crashing into the ship (or plane), they also risk provoking defensive action. I think in this case it was clear that the attack run was fake, but if someone got trigger happy, the planes could have been shot down. I don't think it is a very good idea for the Russians to pull this kind of crap, but on the other hand, they know we won't respond in kind. They have the advantage and they know it. 

It's always dangerous when these kinds of incidents take place, and the Russians are playing a dangerous game. An accident or a misjudgment could, theoretically, spiral into a war. That almost happened when a similar incident happened at the Turkish/Syrian border. The Turks, a NATO member, got sick of the Russians pulling this kind of thing and shot down a SU-24. Somehow, thankfully, that didn't escalate into a full scale war. But next time we might not be so lucky. 

I think much of the problem lies with the leaders of both America and Russia. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin hate each other. They are on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to politics and they have views that are completely incompatible with each other. As long as those two men are in charge of their countries, tensions will remain high.

Though Vladimir Putin isn't going anywhere, Barack Obama is almost on his way out. Once that happens, the new president might actually be able to reduce the tensions. If that president is Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders, we might actually be able to make some progress with Putin. But if it is Clinton or Kasich, no progress will be made and tensions might even increase thanks to both candidates stance on Syria. If you thought tensions got high when the Turks shot down a SU-24, imagine how bad things will get if Clinton or Kasich shoot down a bunch of Russian jets over their Syrian no-fly zone.

The whole situation bothers me. I never understood why NATO had any interest in Ukraine whatsoever. As far as I am concerned the Ukrainian revolution just overthrew one corrupt government and replaced it with another one. The only difference is the new one was a lot more tolerant of Nazis and far right radicals, and that they don't like Putin. Even if you disagree with that line of thinking, who in their right mind thinks that Ukraine is worth going to war over? What have they ever done for the United States? 

And we should be working with Russia in Syria. Not in the "we will stay out of your way if you stay out of ours", way but "comrades in arms" level of cooperation. ISIS is a global threat and taking them out should be the top priority for every country with interest in the region. And al-Nusra is almost as bad, and deserve just as much attention. It is in both of our best interests to fight ISIS and other Islamist groups but both groups are to stubborn to do what needs to be done. I think everyone involved needs to just swallow their pride and get over it. 

I will admit to being somewhat biased in favor of Russia. Though Vladimir Putin has plenty to criticize, I do think he is a much better leader then our president. I'm convinced that Obama hates America and thinks that nationalism is a four letter word. Putin loves Russia (perhaps just because it makes him powerful) and is un-apologetically nationalist. He also is able to pick out weakness and he has been two steps ahead of Obama for his entire presidency. Even if Russia isn't our friend, I have more respect for them then I do for our own government. Not so much because I want the Russians to win in whatever they are trying to do, but because someone out there is at least trying to be competent. My hope is that the next president can undo the damage that Barack Obama has done to our relations with Russia... 

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