For the west’s masters of war, it’s a good time to be in Wales. A military alliance that has struggled for years to explain why it still exists has got a packed agenda for its Newport summit. Nato may not be at the centre of Barack Obama and David Cameron’s plans to ramp up intervention in the Middle East and wipe the so-called Islamic state “out of existence”. But after 13 years of bloody occupation of Afghanistan and a calamitous intervention in Libya, the western alliance has got an enemy that at last seems to fit its bill. Swinging through the former Soviet republic of Estonia today, the US president declared that Nato was ready to defend Europe from “Russian aggression”.
Nato’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen – who insisted as Danish prime minister in 2003 that “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction … we know” – has released satellite images supposed to demonstrate Russia has invaded Ukraine. Not to be outdone, the British prime minister has compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler.
The summit is planning a rapid reaction force to be deployed across eastern Europe to deter Moscow. Britain is sending troops to Ukraine for exercises. In Washington, Congress hawks are squealing appeasement and demanding action to give Ukraine “a more capable fighting force to resist” Russia.
Any hope that today’s talk of a ceasefire agreement by Ukraine’s president might signal an end to the conflict was sunk when his prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk – an American favourite in Kiev – described Russia as a “terrorist state” and, encouraged by Rasmussen, demanded that Ukraine be allowed to join Nato. It was precisely the threat that Ukraine would be drawn into a military alliance hostile to Russia, despite the opposition of most Ukrainians and its then elected government, that triggered this crisis in the first place. Instead of keeping the peace, Nato has been the cause of escalating tension and war.