Breedlove puts NATO credibility at risk

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Report by Christoph Herwarts, in n-tv, March 7, 2015

According to reports, NATO is tricking out [trickst! —tr] their public assessments of the crisis in Ukraine: Russia could be a less massive part of this war than it has long appeared. The Bundesregierung is reportedly stunned.

April 3, 2015

Translated from German by Tom Winter

The accusation is serious: the NATO supreme commander Philip Breedlove is pushing back against the attempts of the federal government to bring the Ukraine crisis to a peaceful resolution. Der Spiegel reports that Breedlove and other Americans would heat up the conflict rather than contribute to its resolution, and that they thereby put the whole credibility of NATO into question. It’s a matter of military propaganda. Breedlove, NATO’s most powerful soldier, has consistently presented an exaggerated Russian role in Ukraine:

—> At the beginning of the crisis, Breedlove spoke of 40,000 soldiers that Russia was assembling at the border and that could attack at any moment. Intelligence services from the NATO countries disagreed, according to Der Spiegel: the real number was significantly lower, and their arrangement had nothing to do with any invasion.

—> November 2014, he reported, referring to OSCE, that tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft gear, and combat troops had crossed the border, whereas OSCE had merely reported internal movements within  east Ukraine.

—> Somewhat later he reported Russian military advisors were in Ukraine, to the number of “250-300, sometimes “300-500.” Then in February, as Angela Merkel in Minsk had just negotiated the ceasefire, Breedlove reported that 50 Russian tanks and dozens of rocket launchers were crossing the border — which the German Intelligence Service could not confirm, despite having their own spy-satellites and exchanges with US intelligence agencies.

—> And now, at the beginning of March, just as hopes in Germany are rising for a lasting ceasefire, Breedlove is saying Russia has over a thousand combat vehicles, with combat troops and artillery battalions in Eastern Ukraine. According to Der Speigel, Berlin doesn’t know what Breedlove is talking about.

The credibility of the West is put at risk

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Though the Federal government is satisfied that Russia provides military support to the separatists, it relies on intelligence from the BND, Bundesnachrichtendienst. [which reports directly to the Chancellery], but in the Chancellery, for months “they are shaking their heads” when NATO talks about Russian troop movements. The government has in fact intervened with NATO to work on [“einzuwerken”!] Breedlove.

Der Spiegel has cited the position of the Chancellery with sufficient detail to make clear that the administration has equipped the periodical with the information. This is a favorite means of applying further pressure without giving overt affront. The message of the Federal Government to NATO and the US, then, is this: the controversial assessments of the situation could damage the credibility of the West; one should combat propaganda not with propaganda, but with arguments of state; it does not go unnoticed that Breedlove spreads his information just when the peace process is in progress. The Federal Government urges the allies to support the process of peace.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attempted to minimize the differences. Though it is true that he himself had twice expressed concern that his own information “did not fully jibe” with that of NATO or the US, Steinmeier, in reaction to the Spiegel report: there oughtn’t arise a dispute; the events are in the deep past.

Breedlove has his own political agenda

Yet there remains the impression that the differences between Germany and the US are drawn. Germany has no intention of getting involved militarily in the Ukraine crisis and giving further damage to its relationship with Russia. The US intends above all else to stop Russia from extending its influence any further and is ready for drastic measures. Barack Obama would readily approve weapons delivery, were Merkel not discouraging him, especially with the Republicans in Congress urging him to it.

Breedlove sides with the agitators in this matter. He demands that the West not foreclose the shipment of arms. The thinking is that he intends, with alarming assessments, to influence political decisions. NATO’s capability to independently verify military information is quite limited, and their information is indistinct.

Translator’s comment:
1. The reference in the first paragraph is to a truncated version of the print magazine’s article. It is here, with the headline “Breedlove irritates the Allies.”
2. Berlin has before used Der Spiegel, and Das Bild, to get semi-official information out before the public. Cf. US-NATO planning session, where the published information could only have come from the BND.

3. The French have also come to have their doubts about NATO’s intelligence. See https://www.fort-russ.com/2015/05/29/head-of-french-military-intelligence-on/
This has also been written up in the Russian press, translated here: https://www.fort-russ.com/2015/04/11/french-intelligence-usa-lied-abou/

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