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President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015.
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MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: NATO Summit in Warsaw
REFERENCE: Our Memorandum to You, August 30, 2014
We longtime U.S. intelligence officers again wish to convey our concerns and cautions directly to you prior to a critically important NATO summit -- the meeting that begins on July 8 in Warsaw. We were gratified to learn that our referenced memorandum reached you and your advisers before the NATO summit in Wales, and that others too learned of our initiative via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which published a full report on our memorandum on Sept. 4, the day that summit began.
Wales to Warsaw
The Warsaw summit is likely to be at least as important as the last one in Wales and is likely to have even more far-reaching consequences. We find troubling -- if not surprising -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's statement at a pre-summit press event on July 4 that NATO members will agree to "further enhance NATOs military presence in the eastern part of the alliance," adding that the alliance will see its "biggest reinforcement since the Cold War."
The likelihood of a military clash in the air or at sea -- accidental or intentional -- has grown sharply, the more so since, as we explain below, President Obama's control over top U.S./NATO generals, some of whom like to play cowboy, is tenuous. Accordingly we encourage you, as we did before the last NATO summit, to urge your NATO colleagues to bring a "degree of judicious skepticism" to the table at Warsaw -- especially with regard to the perceived threat from Russia.
Many of us have spent decades studying Moscow's foreign policy. We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler's armies launched "Unternehmen Barbarossa" 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead. In our view, it is irresponsibly foolish to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not take countermeasures -- at a time and place of his own choosing.
Putin does not have the option of trying to reassure his generals that what they hear and see from NATO is mere rhetoric and posturing. He is already facing increased pressure to react in an unmistakably forceful way. In sum, Russia is bound to react strongly to what it regards as the unwarranted provocation of large military exercises along its western borders, including in Ukraine.
Before things get still worse, seasoned NATO leaders need to demonstrate a clear preference for statesmanship and give-and-take diplomacy over saber-rattling. Otherwise, some kind of military clash with Russia is likely, with the ever-present danger of escalation to a nuclear exchange.
Extremely worrisome is the fact that many second-generation NATO leaders seem blithely unaware -- or even dismissive -- of that looming possibility. Demagoguery like that coming from former Polish President Lech Walesa, who brags that he would "shoot" at Russian jets that buzz U.S. destroyers assuredly are not at all helpful. Walesa's tone, however, does reflect the macho attitude prevailing today in Poland and some other NATO newcomers.
We believe Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was correct to point out that military posturing on Russia's borders will bring less regional security. We applaud his admonition that, "We are well advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation."
A Need For Candor
Speaking of "pretexts to renew an old confrontation," we believe the time has come to acknowledge that the marked increase in East-West tensions over the past two years originally stemmed from the Western-sponsored coup d'etat in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, and Russia's reaction in annexing Crimea.