Has Putin already decided to attack NATO?

Putin seems to have settled on a false narrative about biolabs to justify attacks on Ukraine and NATO.

Evidence is accumulating that Putin made the decision to attack NATO some time ago. If that is true then we are grossly miscalculating by viewing his attack on Ukraine as a regional territorial conflict, and we are making an error in trying to avoid provoking conflict with the West.

A chorus is rapidly building around a narrative of US-backed “biolabs” in Ukraine that were allegedly used to create bio-weapons targeting Russia, a story arc which goes back several years:

  • 2005: The US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health in Ukraine signed an agreement to cooperate around the “prevention of the proliferation of technology, pathogens, and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons.” This was aimed in part at securing relic facilities from the USSR, and was negotiated by then-Senators Barack Obama and Richard Lugar.

I believe that Putin, with broad guidance from Dugin and his network, has already made the decision to use this false set of narratives about biolabs as a casus belli for total war against NATO. The fact that China has also signed onto it and is amplifying it should be cause for grave concern.

Discourse among pundits has settled into a pointless rut: either to enact a no-fly zone and risk engaging Putin, or walk on eggshells and possibly avoid angering him.

But if Putin has already made the decision to go to war with NATO then this only provides him with more time to prepare and maneuver. Even as his war in Ukraine has gone poorly by any measure, that fact only increases his incentives to push for novel and imaginative alternative scenarios.

An Abusive Relationship

We must use the calculus of an abusive relationship: he’s going to hit us, and it’s folly to think that appeasing him will ever keep that from happening. Instead, we should realize the nature of the situation we are in and seek to end it.

The fact that the bio-labs narrative has now become ubiquitous, not only in Russian and Chinese state media but all of their franchises, sub-channels, and reflectors, suggests that it is the settled narrative on which justifications will be built.

Russia’s plan to possibly disconnect from the global internet, perhaps as soon as today, should be seen not only as an effort to insulate its population from scary fringe sites (and true information about what’s happening in Ukraine), but also a defensive measure designed to protect the entire country from cyberattack against critical infrastructure. Seen from that perspective, this is a closing of the moat prior to an attack.

Lastly, I believe that Aleksandr Dugin telegraphed their plans in February 2017 in an essay titled, “The Swamp and the Fire”:

Sorokin stressed that the cyclical nature of society follows only one chain of succession: from the ideational to the idealistic to the sensate. The idealistic cannot follow the sensate, as it is impossible for the Swamp to evolve back into a semi-Swamp. After the Swamp comes the Sun, i.e., the fire, the Spirit — the Spirit in its radical, ideational form. To drain the Swamp, we need solar Fire, a Great Fire which should be in abundance.

The Swamp and Fire are two opposite elements distributed across the the earth. Geopolitics now becomes vertical. Both of them can be found at any point. The meaning of place now is the momentum of the process of draining the Swamp. Where? Here and now.

So all we need now is the Fire.

Indeed, Putin has followed every Duginist prescription in Foundations of Geopolitcs, from the attempt to subjugate Germany, formation of a Eurasian sphere with China, invasion of Ukraine, alliance with the Church, strategic control of the US, bilateral US-UK alliance, Brexit, and attack on EU and NATO. Why, precisely, would Putin deviate from the Duginist playbook on this one point? Just because this seems insane to us does not mean it seems insane to him.

There are, in fact, many ugly scenarios that sit between local war and total war, and it’s a thought-stopping cliché to say that we should not consider them. This is the battlefield we are on — to suggest otherwise is simple denial.

Beyond Punditry

We are trapped in a cage of our own design. The post-war NATO order confines us to the frame of mutually assured destruction and nuclear escalation. Yes, we all know what the rules are and at least in theory how this ends if we screw up. However we, as commentators and members of the public, do not have access to sufficient intelligence necessary to allow for a more complex view of this situation.

What’s needed now is for the intelligence community to engage the administration with timely, nuanced, detailed information that would effectively allow us to defuse this otherwise-unavoidable bomb by (figuratively) clipping the correct wires that would disable Putin’s capabilities. No pundit or public commentator has sufficient access to that intelligence, so chattering from the sidelines further probably isn’t useful. However, to the extent there are factions of people who are scheming about how to end Putin’s regime, we should be aiming to help them.

It is also useful to increase public understanding of the true nature and depth of this dilemma, and the fact that Putin already believes he has the option to declare, with China, total war on NATO and the West using the manufactured bio-labs narrative as casus belli.

Pretending we are somehow in control of that, and modulating our actions accordingly, signals only weakness and lack of understanding.

That doesn’t mean we should recklessly escalate or needlessly take rash actions, but we should not assume we have any say in whether Putin engages with NATO. As far as I can tell, that decision was made many years ago.

It is not fearmongering to consider a range of undesirable scenarios, but rather responsible preparation and strategic planning. Indeed, pollyanna-ism and failure of imagination is a far more frightening prospect than clear-eyed scenario planning and attempting to avoid worst case scenarios.

Let us confront this real and credible threat, without fear, and with open eyes.

We’re interested in the major historical trends that shape current events. Tips? Ideas? Drop us a line via email or Twitter DM. If you enjoy my work, please consider making a donation to World Central Kitchen, to support their work feeding people in times of need.

For an even deeper dive, check out my other writing here on Medium, and my podcast series, “Dave Troy Presents,” wherever you get your podcasts.

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Dave Troy

Dave Troy

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Investigative journalist addressing threats to democracy. Public speaker, writer, podcaster. @davetroy on Twitter. See davetroy.com for contact info.