THIS is the third of a set of edited extracts from James Delingpole’s podcast with the former Swiss Intelligence Officer, Colonel Jacques Baud, on the Russian justification for their invasion of Ukraine. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
JAMES DELINGPOLE: Nato is, in the Western media, presented as a defensive organisation which has guaranteed peace in the West since the Second World War and that it has protected the West from the encroachment, the territorial ambitions of Russia. And it’s stopped the Russian tanks rolling across Lüneburg Heath or whatever. That was always the version represented. Do you think there’s anything in [the argument] that actually Nato is not purely a defensive organisation?
COLONEL JACQUES BAUD: Well, to answer the first question, whether Nato is a defensive organisation. I think Nato is a defensive organisation. The problem is how you define ‘defensive’, you know? And that . . . this goes back to the discussions that you had in the late 1980s in the West by defining the ‘offensive defensive’ or ‘defensive offensive’. Meaning that you can be defensive by taking the initiative. And that’s, in fact, that’s exactly the point on both sides, by the way, because the Soviets had a similar understanding of ‘To what extent are we defensive?’ And if you see that there is some preparedness on the other side, then you will start to defend yourself by launching an offensive. And this is a little bit of . . . the position of Nato.
The problem is that with the end of the Cold War, Nato never realised that there are probably other ways to understand international security, you know, beyond defence/offence and all that . . . For the Russians, OSCE is the model of what would be expected of international security, meaning that instead of security by confrontation, as we had during the Cold War, they expected to have security by cooperation.
I had the opportunity to meet the Russian military, very high level, just after the end of the Cold War, right after the fall of the Wall. We could see that these guys clearly had an ambition to join the Western community. They even suggested that they might enter Nato . . .
Russia was one of the first countries to join the Partnership for Peace, PFP, because for them that was the first step in entering Nato. That was their ambition. They wanted to expand their relationship with Europe. Europe was the model. They’d suffered for 70, 75 years of communist rule. And they had also seen how much the communist rule has destroyed the economy. And they didn’t want to have that again. They saw the Western model as the way to go. And that’s the reason why they were very keen to go along with Europe and with Nato.
The problem is that Nato didn’t understand it that way. The Cold War mentality survived the Cold War, in fact. I was in the Nato between 2012-2017, I noticed that Nato had . . . the same mentality as during the Cold War. I have worked extensively with Nato during my previous life, or in intelligence, but I noticed that Nato hadn’t changed really. The software was still the same.
That’s the main problem. Nato justifies its existence by a confrontation with someone. In the early 2000s, terrorism gave this opportunity. Afghanistan was not really the natural area of operation of Nato, but that was a way to justify the organisation and a way to avoid rethinking the whole concept of Nato. And, in my view, this is a huge mistake 30 years ago.
Today, for instance, Nato is not even able to help Ukraine, because . . . the idea of Nato was to bring all European countries under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. And this is still the same concept, meaning that when you start a conflict with Nato, you don’t know if you end up with a nuclear conflict. And that’s exactly the reason why Nato is unable to help Ukraine, because from the Russian perspective, you never know if this could end up in a nuclear exchange . . .
What affected, in my view, the Nato thinking was the membership of those Eastern European countries like Poland, the Baltic states and all that, because these countries – and we can understand their position, because they have suffered the Soviet rule . . . And, of course, they can have some . . . fears regarding Russia. I understand that.
At the same time, you cannot base the security of a whole continent on the thoughts of three small countries? And that’s exactly what Putin meant . . . in his speech of the victory yesterday – the problem of indivisibility of security, meaning that you cannot have built your own security at the expense of the security of others.
That’s a little bit what Nato forgot when they included the Baltic states and those countries that are next to the Russian border . . . That became obvious in the early 2000s when the US went out of the ABM Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, they then started to have negotiation with Poland, Czech Republic and Romania for stationing anti-ballistic missiles. And that rang a bell then in Russia, because that meant that, suddenly, very close to the Russian border, you started to have missiles station.
Of course, you can argue that those missiles were defensive missiles, but it’s not exactly true, because as you might know, the launchers that are in those positions – meaning Poland and Romania – those launchers, the Mk-41 launcher – are capable of launching both nuclear missiles and anti-ballistic missiles.
From a Russian perspective, if, in a case of crisis, you notice some activities around these missile sites, how do you know that the missile is anti-ballistic or the missile is nuclear? Meaning that the first reaction from a Russian perspective is to launch a pre-emptive strike on those positions, you know?
That’s exactly what Putin said when Macron visited him in early February in Moscow. And during the press conference, Putin explained that, with the current posture of Nato, those European countries could be dragged into a nuclear war, even if they don’t want to.
I think the concern of the Russians is extremely legitimate. And in fact, many strategists or experts in the United States confirmed this point of view and agree that the Russian concern is perfectly legitimate.
[But] Nato was never able to have the intellectual independence . . . And that, I think, is the problem, the problem of Nato is that it’s too American. In fact, instead of serving the interests of Europe, it serves the interests of the United States. And the interests of the United States may not exactly coincide with those of the Europeans. That’s the reason why Europeans have intent to have their own European force, so to say.
DELINGPOLE: You talk about the interest of the United States. But isn’t it even more complicated than that . . . how is it of any benefit to the American people all this . . . I don’t know how much . . . whether Biden will be successful in voting for how many billion dollars’ worth of aid to . . . is it $30billion I think he was promising, or trying to pass through Congress?
BAUD: Yes, $33 billion.
DELINGPOLE: There seems to a faction within the United States, a very powerful faction, which includes Victoria Nuland, which . . . wants to fight a proxy war with Putin to destroy . . . to weaken the Russian economy, and to depose Putin. Well, this is not America, is it? This is the deep state?
BAUD: Well, you’re right. If we have a closer look at how things happen within the US system, you will see that this anti-Russia type of mentality is maintained by a very small intellectual elite. Interestingly enough, this elite is bipartisan, you find them with Democrats and Republicans, but it’s a very small elite within those two main big parties. It’s also interesting to see, for instance, that in the current crisis of Ukraine, since last October or so, people were talking about a reinforcement of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border. Everybody was warning about a possible invasion and things, I guess.
You almost never had intelligence people [making] those warnings, they were all politicians . . . Antony Blinken, the State Secretary, was . . . installed a kind of small group, a Tiger Team, as the Washington Post have mentioned . . . [that] developed the strategy against Russia. But this didn’t, apparently, didn’t involve the intelligence and the military – or not directly.
And that’s exactly what we had in 2002, 2003, before the Gulf War, where Donald Rumsfeld had to bypass the advice of the intelligence community because the CIA and the DIA were not so convinced about these weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And in order to bypass those intelligence agencies, Rumsfeld created its own kind of intelligence structure within the Ministry of Defence. It was a very tiny structure that in fact advised and made all the work, the kind of influence work.
And we had exactly the same mechanism, but within the State Department in the last couple of months . . . revealed by the Washington Post, by the way . . . meaning that the whole crisis was more or less manufactured by a very, very small amount of individuals, very influential, involving a lot of media, but did not directly involve the intelligence community. I always considered that the intelligence community in a country is part of the rule of law, in fact, because the intelligence should bring to the decision-maker facts and objective information to make decisions. And so, in that sense, the intelligence agencies are here to avoid arbitrary or, you know, gut-inspired decisions and things like this.
In situations like the one we have witnessed in the last couple of months, we see that this intelligence community was almost completely bypassed by these small, elite groups. So I don’t know if we can call that directly ‘the deep state’ . . . but what appears clear to me is that these crises was certainly manufactured by some individual.
It’s interesting to see, for instance, that both Antony Blinken and Victoria Nuland are descendants of Ukrainian refugees. Both of them.
DELINGPOLE: So they’ve got bad blood, history?
BAUD: They have an emotional tie with Ukraine. They obviously do not have, let’s say, distance with the problem. They are emotionally involved. And that’s exactly what we see. The decisions regarding Ukraine and Russia are extremely emotional. You see, you have the same thing in Canada. The [deputy] Prime Minister of Canada is also related to Ukraine. In fact, her grandfather – that’s Chrystia Freeland – her grandfather was Ukrainian, or at least was even . . . even I think he was part of . . . he worked with the Germans during the Second World War. But he has ties with Ukraine, meaning that we have a kind of constellation of individuals who are emotionally related to Ukraine. And I think that doesn’t help to make the management of this crisis more rational. We are in some kind of irrationality. And that’s, I think, it’s extremely dangerous to my view.
You can listen to the whole conversation on the James Delingpole Podcast here.