No Tricks, NATO
Jude Wanniski
August 27, 1997

 

Memo To: Sen. Jesse Helms
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: NATO Expansion

I know you are for the expansion of NATO, but I hope you are aware that the people of Russia are really not happy about the United States moving so close to their borders that we breathe down their necks. Notice in the story I attach from the Times of London that when we led NATO warships in exercises off the Crimean coast that there were demonstrations by the citizens ashore against our presence. Please note the prostitutes announced that they would have nothing to do with the sailors aboard those ships! Have you ever heard of such a thing. Iím personally for the dissolution of NATO until someone can persuade me what we are supposed to be doing in Europe when there is not any enemy in sight. I really do wonder if you have thought this through yourself, or if you have been carried along by the momentum of the foreign-policy establishment, which loves the idea of all kinds of international bureaucracies. At the very least, I would hope that you insist that the expansion be financed by the taxpayers of Europe. My guess is that as long as the Europeans know the United States is the only Superpower on the block, there are no threats of aggression from any expansionary power, so why should they pay for a bigger NATO? And what the heck are our warships doing steaming around the Crimea? Are they close enough to open fire on the Bosnian Serbs?

FROM RICHARD BEESTON 
IN MOSCOW 

  RUSSIA reacted with suspicion and hostility yesterday as American-led naval exercises opened off the Crimean coast, the sensitive Black Sea peninsula Moscow regards as its backyard. 

  Amid protests by Russian Communists in Crimea and opposition politicians in Moscow, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet repeated his decision to boycott manoeuvres he condemned as provocative and insensitive. 

  Over the weekend US Navy warships, the first to visit Crimea since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, joined vessels from Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia off the coast of the Ukrainian naval base at Donuzlav, north of Sevastopol. 

  Although the foreign forces have taken part only in ceremonial activities marking Ukraine's independence, and most of the military operations will take place at sea, the symbolism was enough to provoke protests by local demonstrators. Three thousand people marched in the naval base of Yevpatoriya demanding "Nato go home." 

  Even the region's prostitutes, who rely on visiting ships for their income, announced earlier this year that they would refuse to service sailors from any Nato warships.

  Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, said yesterday that, although the decision to hold the manoeuvres was an internal matter for Ukraine, it was clearly designed to provoke Russia. 

  "The choice of location for the exercise is unfortunate," the commander said. "The population of Crimea is greatly  politicised, and it is dangerous to have here any activities involving foreign troops." 

  The Kremlin was livid earlier this year when it discovered that the "Sea Breeze-97" exercise involved a scenario whereby Nato forces would invade Crimea to assist Ukraine to put down a conflict provoked by separatist forces. 

  Crimea, whose population is three quarters ethnic Russian, was annexed into the Russian empire by Catherine the Great more than 200 years ago, but then given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. 

  The peninsula's disputed status has led to tense relations between Moscow and Kiev, particularly over sovereignty of Sevastopol and the division of the Black Sea Fleet. 

  Washington and Kiev attempted to ease Moscow's concerns by changing the objective of the naval exercise. Amphibious landings by US Marines will now take place on the coast of the Ukrainian mainland and the armada of 25 warships are supposed to be protecting a humanitarian aid convoy bound for the scene of an earthquake. 

  However, the change in nature of the manoeuvres has done little to calm the mood in Moscow, which is concerned about the loss of its influence in a strategic region. The Black Sea could become as vital to the West as the Gulf is today when, in the coming years, the waterway serves as the main conduit for oil exports from the Caucasus region. Although Russia can maintain the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol for 20 years, under a leasing agreement with Kiev, most of its ships are old and in poor condition. 

  By contrast, the US Navy Sixth Fleet is increasing its presence in the area, and Turkey is boosting its naval capability. 

  Sergei Baburin, the Deputy Speaker of the Russia parliament and a leading opposition figure, described the humanitarian exercises as a blatant attempt to broaden the divisions between Russia and Ukraine. "The experience of Yugoslavia and several other countries shows that so-called humanitarian and peacekeeping operations often serve as a cover for preparing combat operations," he said. "Russia should respond to these military provocations by withdrawing from Nato's Partnership for Peace programme, which has become a smokescreen for Nato expansion."