NATO’s Hairline Fissures Part 2: The Use of Western Weapons Inside Russia?

[Last week, we looked at NATO’s divisive debate over Ukraine’s membership. This week, we look at NATO’s disagreement over the use of Western weaponry on targets inside Russia.]

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded after World War II to defend the United States and our Western European allies against the Soviet Union’s and now the Russian Federation’s aggression. Presently, this mission includes collectively agreeing to defend non-member Ukraine against the revanchist Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation.

On his part, Mr. Putin’s chief tactic is to exploit the political divisions within NATO to stem its support for Ukraine and, ultimately, to splinter the alliance into impotence and irrelevance. To wit: NATO members’ debate over Ukraine’s use of NATO weapons on enemy targets in Russia.

The fiction in any proxy war is that while the direct participants are killing each other, a nation or nations supplying the belligerents are securely one step removed and, ergo, not engaged in direct conflict with them. One need not be a foreign policy or national security savant to realize the continuing erosion of the central fiction in this proxy war inches the world ever closer to a prospective use—and likely—exchange of nuclear weapons between Russia and NATO.

For example, if the U.S. and Canada engaged in direct conflict with Russia supplying weaponry to Canada to kill U.S. service personnel only on Canadian soil, most Americans would nevertheless deem Russia our enemy and demand it be militarily engaged by our armed forces as well. Such demands by the American public for retaliation would increase if Russia allowed its weaponry to be used by Canadian forces to kill U.S. forces on American soil.

Initially, in a rare, fleeting moment of strategic sanity, the Biden administration opposed the use of American weapons to kill Russian troops within Russia. As The Telegraph reported, “Joe Biden was left isolated in his refusal to allow US weapons to be fired into Russia by Ukraine after France and Germany relaxed their rules.”

Other NATO allies disagreed. Channeling the ghost of Charles De Gaulle in (of all places) a state visit to Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron theatrically held up a “map showing Russian bases being used to attack Ukraine in the latest offensives” to buttress his argument:

We must allow [the Ukrainians] to neutralise the military sites from which the missiles are fired, the military sites from which Ukraine is attacked. But we must not allow other targets in Russia to be hit, and obviously civilian capabilities. What has changed is that Russia has adapted its practices somewhat. If we say [to the Ukrainians], ‘you don’t have the right to reach the point from which the missiles are fired,’ in fact, we’re telling them ‘we’re delivering you weapons, but you can’t defend yourselves’.

Why NATO “must” or “must not” is assumed, not explained. That these weapons can be used on Ukrainian soil to kill Russian troops on occupied Ukrainian soil is beyond question: “Kyiv’s military has repeatedly used Western weapons such as the US-supplied Himars rocket launchers to hit groupings of Russian soldiers on occupied territory.” Nevertheless, Macron is not alone in his determination to expand NATO’s role in the war.

For example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed the international legality of Western weaponry use: “Ukraine has every opportunity to do so under international law. We have to say it clearly: it is under attack and can defend itself.”

So, too, NATO’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, argued that present limitations “tie the hands of Ukrainians behind their backs.”

Initially, the Biden administration has rightly tried to slow the brakes on expanding NATO’s participation: “‘Our position has not changed at this stage. We neither encourage nor permit the use of US-supplied weapons to strike Russian soil,’ said White House national security spokesman John Kirby, after the Franco-German announcement.’”

Other NATO allies and European nations agreed with the U.S. The European Union is “also deeply divided on the subject,” according to Josep Borrell, its top diplomat. The chief reason for the opposition is the fear of provoking the world’s second-most nuclear-armed nation—Russia—into using them.

Nonetheless, it did not take long for the Biden administration to revert to feckless form and cravenly capitulate to allowing American and other Western weapons to be used on Russian soil. Per Breitbart’s John Hayward: “The decision to let Ukraine strike back with long-range American weapons seems to have been made abruptly. As recently as Thursday afternoon [May 30th], Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh insisted there would be “no change in our policy.”

Less than a day later, that policy had changed. Mr. Hayward cited a “senior American official who had spoken to Fox News:

The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region, so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them. Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile System] or long-range strikes inside of Russia has not changed.

Mr. Putin and his kleptocratic cronies seem unassuaged by the administration’s lawyerly distinction between which U.S. weapons may now be used to kill Russians in Russia. This is after Russia had previously refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons if NATO continued to escalate its military support for Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, is quoted as warning:

Ukraine and its NATO allies will receive such a devastating response that the alliance won’t be able to avoid entering the conflict… Russia regards all long-range weapons used by Ukraine as already being directly controlled by servicemen from NATO countries. This is no military assistance, this is participation in a war against us – and such actions could well become a casus belli.

Vlad “The Vozhd” Putin threatened “serious consequences [tactical nuclear weapons],” ones that if they “occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons? It’s hard to say—do they want a global conflict?”

What the Biden administration wanted was to mend the hairline fissures between itself and key NATO partners like France and Germany. As had been done earlier by delaying the question of NATO membership for Ukraine, the Biden administration hoped this half-measure of allowing some, but not all, American weaponry to be used in Russia to kill Russian troops would forestall a growing divide within the alliance.

That the second most heavily nuclear-armed nation run by a warmongering former KGB Lt. Colonel with a Napoleon complex and delusion of being Ivan the Terrible 2.0 would be irate pales in comparison to the Biden team’s desire to lead from behind and appease its NATO allies France and, to a lesser extent, Germany and others.

Of course, while Russia was infuriated, Ukraine was elated, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling the U.S. decision to liberalize its rules of engagement “a step forward.” Perhaps, but into what? More than anyone, Ukrainians are sadly already aware their nation is in dire straits, for the illegal Russian invasion and occupation have shown no signs of abating. Given the stakes and grave prognostications made by the leaders of NATO’s allied nations, one should be rightfully concerned about how far NATO can and will go to repel the Russian invaders and to perpetuate the unanimity of the alliance’s approach to Ukraine.

When a NATO member allows their weapons to be used on Russian soil, what happens if Russia directly attacks that alliance member with conventional and/or nuclear weapons? What happens if Russia retaliates against them? There will be little time to say “I told you so” before Article 5 is invoked for all members, regardless of their prior restraint and restrictions employed in the war. If it is invoked, it is quite possible some nations, especially those who did not allow their weapons to be used against targets inside Russia, may refuse to honor their treaty commitment and/or seek to withdraw from NATO. What if such a country initially decides to remain and become a collective belligerent, but a subsequent election turns out that government and installs one promising to exit the conflict and, likely, NATO?

There are scores of other scenarios where the splintering of the NATO alliance is more than a remote theoretical possibility. And all the while, Mr. Putin is doing all he can to exacerbate these divisions and rupture the alliance that is the primary obstacle to Russian hegemony in Europe.

Inexplicably, what abets Mr. Putin’s undermining of NATO is a misconception: as Ukraine is not a member of NATO, there is no mandatory need for unanimity of the alliance’s approach. If France, Germany and others wish to have their weapons fired by Ukraine into Russia, such is their ability as sovereign nations to do so (unlike their treaty obligations to pay their fair share of NATO dues). The U.S. has no treaty obligation to do so in the instance of Ukraine, which France and other NATO members realize. Why their insistence that we follow their lead?

It is hard to see France or Germany “going it alone” in allowing their weapons to be used on targets inside Russia. If they did and the Ukraine conflict escalated into their countries being attacked, the U.S. could plausibly refuse to declare war on Russia because our sage advice went unheeded. It certainly would guard against the U.S. being attacked by Russia with conventional and/or nuclear weapons. Alternately, however, if the U.S. is also allowing our weapons to be used inside Russia, it will ensure we have no option but to defend our NATO allies and open ourselves up to a Russian conventional and/or nuclear attack.

America remains western Europe’s security blanket—literally—and the Biden administration has allowed them to use us as a shield against the potential consequences of their saber rattling against Russia, against whom they have shown no desire to do what is necessary to adequately defend themselves. Still, what else can one expect from a Biden administration whose own recklessness and incompetence have manifested itself in the crisis in Ukraine?

Some will argue that preserving the unanimity of NATO’s approach to the defense of non-member Ukraine is worth the risk of widening the conflict into a global war, one that includes the specter of nuclear weapons. And it is true NATO remains a critical bulwark against Russian revanchism. Further, history also reveals how hairline fissures between friends can ultimately undo even the most successful of human endeavors. Indeed, in Part 1, we warned that if NATO’s cohesion is undone by internal political dissension, it will create the very weakness and disunity President John F. Kennedy warned would, above all others, pave the path to war.

Tragically, however, in allowing American and other NATO allies weapons to be used inside Russia to kill Russians, NATO and the world may painfully learn that the same path to war can also be walked with the heedless unanimity of lemmings leaping into the nuclear abyss.

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) served Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Notable Replies

  1. It occurred to me just this morning that one of the primary objectives of The Lightbringer–Chicago Jesus–was to “fundamentally transform” this country. Of course, that transformation includes the diminution of American power and influence, or perhaps even the demolition of America itself.

    It thus stands to reason that the puppet Biden–and those pulling his strings–would manipulate American foreign policy in order to splinter NATO and our other foreign alliances, isolating the US and diminishing our power and prestige.

    And of course, if we get nuked in the process, so much the better according to the puppet master.

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