The Aspired Lake NATO
How the Foreign Policy Blob Tried to Secretly Conquer the Mediterranean
“As far as the sea is concerned, there is no better location anywhere in the known world than Byzantium; its natural defences are superb, and its position also guarantees the city’s prosperity…
It commands the mouth of the Black Sea so that no merchant can enter or leave without Byzantine permission…
If the Byzantines either had made mischief…or if they did not live there in the first place, Greeks would necessarily be denied access…for the strait is so narrow, and there are so many barbarians in close proximity, that the Black Sea would unquestionably become a no-go area for us. ” - Polybius [4.38]
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The History and Geography
The importance of the Black Sea region to the ancient world cannot be overstated. From the time it was opened up to Greek trade and colonization in around the 8th century BC it became a crucial source for all manner of goods, including gold, slaves, and grain. In fact, so many slaves were taken from the Black Sea region that the word “slave” comes from the ethnic group “Slav”: they were enslaved in such quantities their name became the word for the concept of human bondage. There is a fascinating extant letter titled “Voyage Around the Black Sea” from the historian Arrian to the Emperor Hadrian describing all the empire acquires from that region. Due to the writings of Polybius, Arrian, and others, we have a remarkably clear view of the profound importance of Black Sea trade to the ancient world.
Much later in history, as the Russian Empire expanded southward, it finally took the Crimean Khanate [the last holdout of the Mongol Empires] from Ottoman suzerainty, formally annexed Crimea in 1783, and founded the port of Sevastopol [its name an homage to the region’s Greek heritage.] Finally, Russia had access to a warm water port. This “warm water port” theory has been called a myth, but it’s impossible to imagine that Russia didn’t see great value in access to the Black Sea and by extension the Mediterranean. The value of access to the Mediterranean is self-evident. However, the Russians still had a problem: the Turkish Straits, as they are now called, are very narrow. In fact, the Bosphorus is the narrowest “international waterway” in the world, and the Dardanelles [Hellespont in antiquity] are also very narrow and long.
Control of these straits has been very important for all of recorded history. In fact, the city of Troy guarded the entrance to the Dardanelles. From the establishment of Byzantium [now Istanbul], the city has been the key to control of the Bosphorous and thus access to the Black Sea. After many historical conflicts, a treaty called the Montreaux Agreement was signed in 1936 which granted the Turkish Republic full military control over the straits with unimpeded passage for private ships and strict regulations for military vessels. However, Black Sea nations [of which, besides Turkey, only the USSR/Russia ever had a substantial navy] always have the right to return any military ships to their registered port. This is a major reason Turkey has been so important for NATO, as a major conflict is capable of closing the Turkish Straits to Russian military vessels.
On the other side of the Mediterranean lies the famed Rock of Gibraltar [one of the Pillars of Hercules in Roman times]. This impenetrable fortress has been owned by the British since 1704 and guards the narrow Strait of Gibraltar which is the only exit from the Mediterranean to the open sea. Further, Russia’s passage to the open ocean from their major port at St. Petersburg requires passage through the NATO-aligned Danish Straits. These straits are governed by the 1857 Copenhagen Convention which guarantees free passage of commercial and military ships. However that is meaningless in a major war and there is every reason to believe that Denmark would allow the United States to block the straits. Thus, to enter the Mediterranean from the west, Russia must pass through two different significant NATO-aligned straits.
Overall, Russia has long been cursed by geography, and of course, enemies will always seek to exploit that.
The above background concerning Russia’s international maritime access is but one of many things which can impact international relations. For the last decade it has been hard to get a thumb on why the United States foreign policy cabal makes its foreign policy decisions [though never disregard the possibility that they are just that incompetent.] This is especially true as the foreign policy class tends to have some factions about which countries it is best to harass and attack and the reasons are never convincing or credible to the skeptical mind. During the Obama administration a strange series of regime operations began which defied any obvious explanation. Of course, they were described as being related to “human rights,” but no one besides the CNN bots earnestly believes such a thing. What, then, was the point of the subsequent regime change operations in Russia, Syria, and Ukraine? What do these have in common?
I’ll tell you what they have in common: they all impact Russia’s access to the Mediterranean Sea. As it was once a “Roman Lake”, they see the possibility of it wholly belonging to NATO- an ambitious goal that no military power has achieved since the decline of the Roman Empire. The real goal is to destroy Russia’s Mediterranean naval power by going after its safe harbors, its access points, and the homeport itself.
No one else will tell you that this is what has been driving foreign policy: it is a Brad original. Instead people will tell you many other things which they have come up with to make sense of this complex situation.
The Other Theories of American Imperialism
In War and Peace Tolstoy does a funny thing where he is explaining Emperor Alexander’s military advisors and the camps they fall into in terms of their beliefs, and he lists several, and then says something like, “and this next group, which outnumbered all the others combined by 99 to 1, simply wanted their own good and pleasure.” ‘Twas ever thus, among those who encourage and prosecute wars. Some believe in abstract reasons wars are necessary while others seek profit or just love war. It is not worth delving into the stories the court intellectuals tell to promote their pet wars. For our purposes here we’ll forget about what the pro-war “intellectuals” say, because they always have something blather about human rights or holding this position or that in the world.
But among the anti-war sorts of people- doves, non-interventionists, and realists- everyone seems to have an idea of why these wars happen. Of course, we’ve all heard the old “war for oil” trope. Resources are constantly wanted, so that is probably somewhat meaningful but simplistic. There is also the idea that every nation which has been attacked did not have a Rothschild central bank as expressed in this meme:
The Rothschild aspect of that isn’t really backed up by anything, but it is absolutely true that the foreign policy blob has been disproportionately hostile to countries outside of the international banking system. However with how obsessed these people are with sanctions, there is a causal issue here where “rogue” rulers want to be out from under the control of the international banking system, as it will reliably be turned against them in any tense situation. The sort of people the US likes to attack are much more likely to see the necessity of insulation from this cartel than the countries which voluntarily go along with “soft power.”
Another key theory which should always be considered is Justin Raimondo’s “Libertarian Realism” which posits that wars are the result of domestic political concerns: politicians start these wars not because of any specific resource they need, but simply to keep the public distracted from their own scandals and incompetence. This is surely true in general, but doesn’t usually explain the specifics of why countries are chosen.
Personally, I’m a big believer that a major purpose of modern wars is simply to waste munitions that are then rebought from powerful arms merchants; I wonder about wars going back into antiquity because traditionally men supplied their own arms [and the type of soldier they served as was based on which arms the man could afford] but in desperate situations governments purchased huge amounts of weapons to arm the lower classes- expensive weapons. Obviously, this would have represented a large transfer of public resources to specific arms merchants- and if the governments buys them on debt the moneylenders also see a bonanza.
However, countries have to be chosen for a specific reason, the “Ledeen Doctrine” notwithstanding. Though it may seem like it sometimes, they are not drawing these countries out of a hat just to have someone to “throw against a wall” now and again. Every country the American foreign policy class goes after is chosen for one or more reasons specific to that country.
When the winds of the Arab Spring began to blow, every cynic and realist knew that the US would try to make a play. However, it was not initially clear why Gaddafi should be marked for destruction. The Clinton State Department said a genocide was about to happen, both lying and misusing the word “genocide” [killing your opponents is just the normal kind of political violence.] Their large gold reserves made the aforementioned Rothschild theory appealing to many. I managed to come up with a reasonably credible theory that they wanted to steal “The Great Man-Made River” [they bombed the project itself and then they bombed a factory making parts leaving millions without water in the African summer: a massive war crime. At the time it was reported that parts were embargoed and control was given to a French multinational, but that appears to have been memory-holed.] There was some speculation at the time that French President Sarkozy lead the invasion to destroy evidence of his corrupt relationship with Gaddafi, the corruption aspect of which was confirmed.
Still, None of these things adequately explains why the US went after Gaddafi after 42 long years. But “We came, we saw, he died” *cackle. The aforementioned libertarian realism does much to explain Libya, for Sarkozy and Clinton at least, but attacking Libya is still a huge move. Something like that doesn’t get approval unless there are bigger things at play; this wasn’t just their routine bombing to look tough, they straight overthrew Libya, presumably with some knowledge of how a destabilized Libya has historically impacted Europe [or maybe they hadn’t heard of the Punic Wars, the Jugurthine War, or the Barbary Pirates…we are ruled by idiots.]
After the revolution in Libya there may have been slave markets, but what there was not was a Russian naval base. [Though Russia has been expanding its presence in Libya again, as this whole strategy has been a failure.] At the time, though tensions with Russia were up somewhat due to the Russo-Georgian War a few years before, not many at the time thought Russia was a major threat. [In fact, Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney over his Russia-hawkism in a debate the next year.] Thus, to the observer, as far as Libya went, it seemed unlikely attacking Russia’s interests was a significant factor.
So, they had attacked Libya for no clear reason, though perhaps several minor ones. Gaddafi had always been a true rogue on the international stage, so it wasn’t particularly like they turned on him. But it left the question, “Why now?”
One thing was clear, which was the days of our leaders even feigning to value stability were over. They were going to seek their murky and nefarious goals, though hell should bar the way.
Across the Mediterranean, Syria was facing the same Arab Spring uprising. The Assad family and the Syrian Arab Republic have been a long-time client of the USSR and then Russia. This was not a fleeting relationship, and both sides have been devoted to the alliance. Syria first leased the Tartus Naval Base to the USSR in 1971 and since then it has been the USSR and then Russia’s major naval base in the Mediterranean. The United States had a historically antagonistic relationship with the socialist Ba’ath regime in Syria, calling it a State-Sponsor of Terrorism from the time the list came into existence in 1979. However, after Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the CIA using Syria for torture black sites, it appeared there was some chance of relations improving, and Obama did briefly attempt rapprochement.
And then, or so they said, the Syrian government massacred protestors. There is no cause to get into whether or not this is true, as we can disregard the idea that the United States foreign policy blob has any sincere interest in human rights. Unlike Gaddafi’s Libya, since Assad’s Syria was truly a close, long-time ally of Russia, it had been expected that the Western powers would stay away from a full regime-change operation. Russia took strong diplomatic actions to protect the Assad regime.
Initially, the Obama administration showed restraint in Syria and kept to useless diplomatic blusters like calling on Assad to resign and the faux-recognition of a fake government. This all changed when there was an obvious hoax of a chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta. The storyline was that the Assad regime, on the edge of winning its civil war, senselessly chose to gas its own population. Why they would do this thing that had no military utility and would only possibly hurt them a great deal was never asked [by the foreign policy class and their media drones.] The more obvious answer was that the attack was done by terrorists, you know, being as killing civilians for political gain is their whole thing.
Regardless, the ludicrous false flag which anyone should have been able to see through was enough for the US to become inextricably involved in Syria. Suddenly, over a decade into the War on Terror, John McCain was in Syria “Canoodling with Terrorists”, to quote the great Justin Raimondo. While the US was busy actively allying with Al Qaeda and other extremists and generally doing everything to stop peace, they were stunned by the meteoric rise of the Islamic State. The result of all of the US actions in Syria was a direct Russian intervention which proved successful, and the increase of Russia’s footprint in Syria. For the last few years, the US has been protecting Idlib, the last rebel held area, thus enforcing a terrorist safe-haven. [Of course, being a terrorist safe-haven was their excuse for destroying what remained of Afghanistan and then spending 20 years replacing the Taliban with the Taliban.]
Again, the realists and the anti-war among us were left looking for a reason why the US suddenly cared so much about this middle-sized, middle-income country which was not causing any international problems [and in fact was actively working to suppress Islamism.] So why would they do this? Why, after 50 years could the Assad regime no longer exist? Why did they open the box which put the “Assad Curse” upon themselves? What result did they expect to achieve?
The above mentioned “Ledeen Doctrine”, libertarian realism, war for oil, and Rothschild bank theories all apply to Syria, as well as just generally frustrating Russia for its own sake. It is curious to note that after years of allegedly fighting radical Islam they would go after the sole remaining secular Arab state. [People can call Lebanon secular all they want, but political positions are assigned to specific religious groups.] Apparently secularism in the Middle East is dangerous.
Those theories and the bizarre attack on secularism aside, there are two main theories which seek to explain why they would care so much about overthrowing Assad the ends would justify the means of actively arming and empowering terrorists. The first theory is Pepe Escobar’s “Pipelinestan” theory, which he was promoting for years in advance of US involvement in Syria. This is a variation of the “war for oil” theory, however, whereas oil is a global commodity, the pipeline shipment of oil requires physical control of specific land. Given everything we’re hearing about Nordstream 2 this clearly has some real impact on geopolitics [note that Afghanistan provides access to the massive Caspian Sea Basin oil reserves.] And indeed, though Syria doesn’t seem that damn hard to go around, there was all sorts of oil pipeline mischief going on in Syria as Escobar documented.
The other best theory regarding Syria is Dan Sanchez’s “Northern Front” theory, which posits that the unifying purpose of Western action in the Middle East has been to protect Israel’s northern border. This applies to Syria very directly due to the Golan Heights, an area which Israel seized in the Six Day War of 1967 and which is the source of much of Israel’s water. And indeed, Trump recognized the Golan Heights as belonging to Israel, so the destabilization of Syria absolutely promoted Israel’s policy goals regarding the contested area. While this seems like a whole lot of trouble to go over Israel’s border, there is a large amount of evidence from the the foreign policy class themselves that they find this necessary, primarily from the famous “A Clean Break” document produced in Israel at the time of Netanyahu’s first ascension to power in 1996.
While these theories are both well documented and quite clearly had some impact on policy, there is a big problem with them insofar as there are substantially easier ways to accomplish these same goals. Of course, the foreign policy class just likes warfare, and have a “when you have a hammer” attitude about using it as a foreign policy tool. Still, it is taking it very far to think either of these could be the unifying goal of US Syria policy.
The thing that can’t be done by any other means, however, is removing Russia’s naval base in Syria. [Obviously, they’re also incapable of doing that through overthrowing Assad.]
After the 2004 “Orange Revolution”- a ridiculous mess that had foreign fingerprints all over it- Ukraine was under pro-Western rule until 2010. This changed with the election of Yanukovych, who moved the country on a pro-Russian course. By all accounts, the Yanukovych regime was corrupt and high-handed. However, he was agreed to have been elected in a fair election according to international observers, which to our supposedly democracy-loving foreign policy class should have made an election the solution to the problem. President Yanukovych even agreed to early elections.
Instead of respecting the “democratic process”, the US supported a full blown coup. As Raimondo wrote at the time:
“The police and all signs of organized authority have simply disappeared from the streets of the city: armed bands dressed in medieval armor, carrying bats, crowbars, and sometimes guns roam the streets, dispensing victor’s "justice" to anyone perceived as a Yanukovich supporter.
It’s a coup d’etat, pure and simple, the violent overthrow of a duly elected official, and it is being hailed not only by that champion of "democracy," the United States government, but also by our clearly biased media, which is using this as a bludgeon to beat the hated Vladimir Putin – the latest in a series of overseas villains, second only to Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.”
[Of course, because this is clown world, the Biden administration is now begging Maduro for oil and hoping to improve relations, after years of claiming Guaido is the real president.]
The foreign policy scribblers will say anything, but there is no other word for this but a coup. They have never cared about democracy, they only care about money and power and their twisted goals to get more of both. The level of US meddling in the Ukrainian coup was astonishing. As with the Islamist terrorists in Syria, despite the policy class’s desire to crack down on all forms of far-right politics at home they shamefully supported actual neo-Nazis in Ukraine. They can never let their mischief rest, so the few of us paying attention were left in horror as we saw the rise of Ukrainian fascism. And despite what the media may tell you, it didn’t just peter out after the revolution: the continued presence of fascists in Ukraine’s government is well documented, talking heads notwithstanding:
Besides all of the aforementioned theories on what drives foreign policy, what was going on in Ukraine that was such a vital national security interest that it was worth supporting a coup just before an election? Why would they support neo-Nazi shock troops overthrowing a democratically elected European government? Sure, pipelines, isolating Russia, and everything else, but once again, was there no better way to do that?
And while the US went to war over the false claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, it is extremely well established that Russian has the nukes to destroy the world many times over. There is a reason the foreign policy blob didn’t do anything about the Soviet Union’s brutal crackdown on Hungary back in ‘56.
It was soon after the coup in Ukraine that the overarching theory of US imperial policy became clear to me.
In 2009, the government of Ukraine stated that the Russian lease on Sevastopol- Russia’s only major warm-water port and naval base- would be allowed to expire in 2017. When Yanukovych got in it was extended to 2042. However, that passed in a narrow vote that involved egg throwing and fist fighting. Thus, it was clear what would happen if there was a serious regime change in Kiev.
When Victoria Nuland said “Yats is the guy”, it was obvious to all paying attention that the US foreign policy blob would be deeply influencing the formation of Ukraine’s government; an implacably anti-Russian government would form in Kiev. Pro-Russian separatists seized the government of Crimea. Russia did not waste any time and supported pro-Russian forces. The fact that they were Russian speaking was used as evidence they were Russian nationals, however a large majority of Crimeans speak Russian, so I wouldn’t take too much from that. Regardless, the people who took power held a referendum, where an overwhelming majority voted to join Russia. Amusingly, people claimed the vote was illegitimate because the people who opposed joining Russia did not participate…of course when I don’t vote I am told to not complain.
Russia let the die be cast, and formally incorporated Crimea soon after. The West was apoplectic, because as I’ve explained they control the Post-WW2 Peace and any unapproved border change massively threatens their status quo. Meanwhile they do things like arbitrarily recognize Kosovo simply because it frustrates Russia [the Kosovar government is the actual mafia and has been credibly accused of organ trafficking, by the way.] NATO-Russian relations began a long decline at this point, though very few could tell you anything about Crimea or why it matters. [As a point of interest, the USSR arbitrarily transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954; there is nothing sacred about this border unless you really love commies.]
At the same time, two regions of Eastern Ukraine had declared independence. Russia was unwilling to incorporate these Russian-speaking regions into Russia, even though they asked to join. Besides a small buffer, there is nothing that they provide Russia that it does not already have in large quantities. However, it was still enough to create a frozen conflict, which fested as another Western foreign policy failure until Zelensky was stupid enough to let his country be used as a sacrificial pawn on the imperial chessboard.
Like Libya and Syria before it, the US’s aggressive action in Ukraine had made NATO less able to contain Russia in the Mediterranean, and the Mediterranean was farther from being NATO’s lake. And that was the situation before the invasion, which has seen Ukraine lose more of its Black Sea coast and obviously Ukraine’s navy unsafe in its own territorial waters.
As stated earlier, the sole route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean has always been profoundly important. Two Persian kings have passed huge armies across the straits on pontoon bridges. The Roman Empire made its last stand at Byzantium in 1453. During the First World War the allies failed in a famed amphibious assault upon Gallipoli.
Unlike Americans, people in other countries generally do not have short historical memories. The Turks are fully aware of the value of what they are sitting on by having military control over the Turkish Straits. This is why Turkey was inducted into NATO in 1952 and why it has always been able to stand with modern Western powers despite the many differences in culture and government. NATO has long kept nuclear arms in Turkey [don’t say it though!] Further, Turkey has around 350k active duty military personnel, making it a serious military power. All of this shows that Turkey wholly understands its role as a major regional power.
But US-Turkey relations have been deteriorating for some time. For one thing, Turkey is in a long time conflict with Kurdish separatists, whereas the US is a long-time ally and benefactor of Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq. Turkey was quite unhappy about the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds being empowered by conflicts, whereas the US was actively arming Kurdish groups. As this is, once again, clown world, the US was in a proxy conflict with a country with which it has a mutual defense pact.
Further, the US has consistently complained about human rights in Turkey as Erdogan has cracked down on dissent. They think Turkey will always be on side even as they exclude and insult the nation. This is the strange thing about this entire scheme, is that Turkey is one of our most important military allies, and is absolutely essential for the scheme they’ve attempted to engineer, but they have somehow not considered that an increasingly independent Turkey may go its own way.
Nothing the foreign policy class has done in the last several years would demonstrate that they are treating Turkey with a degree of respect appropriate for people who need the Turkish Straits that badly in any major conflict [or for that matter, a country which can seize our nukes at will.] Or, you know, just if you want to be able to leave Russian ships without coal in the Mediterranean for its own sake because our rulers are dicks.
Meanwhile, despite severe historic animosity, Turkey-Russia relations have improved, and Turkey is indeed now a wild card. In one correct prediction for myself, as I suspected would happen in a conflict between the West and Russia, Turkey has prevented military ships from passing and is calling it neutrality, despite that it massively advantages Russia which has a treaty-designated right to return its ships home. It has long been recognized that Turkey would have to choose between the Montreaux Conventions governing the straits and NATO in an international conflict. Crucially, this treaty prohibits aircraft carriers from passing through the straits due to size limits, which is a major way the US projects power. Why they should choose NATO over Russia is thought to be a foregone conclusion, but Turkey has no regional threats it cannot easily face as long as it can maintain good relations with Russia, and thus NATO provides Turkey very little [seemingly only a guarantee against NATO attacking Turkey.]
In a way, you have to admire the ambition of whoever comes up with this shit [and I vacillate between thinking foreign policy is simply nonsense governed by incompetence and inertia, and that there are high-level people with nefarious long-term goals.] But they seemed to think this would all be much easier than it was in practice- presumably because they are so detached from reality that they don’t see why it should be hard for a non-Mediterranean state to control the entire sea. This despite the fact that only one state situated perfectly in the middle of the sea ever did it in the past.
As with NATO’s expansion, aggressive moves in the Mediterranean and Ukraine have served no purpose but to isolate and harm Russia. It only takes some basic perception to understand that the foreign policy class intends Russia harm and has for a long time. The misinformation about Russia intended to harm Trump, prevent rapprochement, and generate public hatred looked quite a bit different to Russians, who still remember the time that Americans bought their presidential election to keep a corrupt drunkard in power while oligarchs and the West robbed them blind and then made a Jeff Goldblum movie about it. Russia also opposed the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and watched the historic disaster unfold along with the rest of us- they got a pretty good idea of what happens to countries the US goes after. They also got a good idea of how much the US cares about international law, UN approval, and truth generally.
It is possible that Putin miscalculated with his invasion of Ukraine. Aspects of this are certainly strange. I’m trying to wait until the chips fall to make any big judgments as the media coverage is useless. But when the Western policy hacks are talking about the dissolution of your country, go around comparing you to Hitler, launching phony “revolutions” all around you, and blaming you for everything that goes wrong in America, and claiming you can’t have a sphere of influence while they themselves have a huge one, anyone can see they are planning to go after you with everything. It is easy to understand why Putin thought that idleness would allow them to kill him and his country and that his only chance was to make an ambitious move. [None of that makes Putin’s invasion moral, but morality is an unhelpful lens through which to view international relations.]
The US foreign policy class may live on the lie that whatever America does is a priori good and “liberty and democracy”, but many other people can see that that isn’t true. When you go around empowering actual terrorists and neo-Nazis to achieve abstract foreign policy goals you are usually not the good guy [commonly, in international relations, there is no good guy.] That Putin felt he could and had to invade Ukraine demonstrates the ludicrous failure of the United States’ attempts to have full military control of the Mediterranean and create a Lake NATO, the only question is how much harm this insane meddling and adventurism will ultimately cause.
How much would you personally sacrifice to stop the Russian navy from coaling in the Mediterranean? I think that perhaps it is time the public stopped being asked to sacrifice for the insane, avaricious, and hubristic foreign policy class and instead they attempt to just cooperate with other countries- but I always was a dreamer.
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