Misperception and Reality

Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

January 11, 2016



The huge gaps between General Breedlove's allegations and the facts provided by the German intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst), lead one to wonder why he continues to make such allegations. He is not stupid, and would not be acting without approval from his superiors, or at least being convinced that they would not contradict him. 
Breedlove is not a war-monger.  Commenting on a television interview with Breedlove, Jim Miles reports that it was a "fairly benign interview." ... "The answers were much more rational than someone from the Republican right domestically may have provided, but they demonstrate the understandable bias of the ‘western’ views vis a vis NATO, ISIS, and Russia/Ukraine."  Nevertheless, Breedlove does not come across as "someone who is itching for a fight with Russia, nor for the aerial bombing of Syria, perhaps cognizant of his audience which may not be quite as patriotically or geopolitically committed to having NATO contain and dismantle Russia and Syria."  So, if Breedlove is not an aggressive maniac, what is he up to?
I suspect these apparent contradictions are manifestations of a perennial theme in U.S. military/security policy towards Russia.  This community has never been collectively clear or unified regarding U.S. policy towards Russia. Since the collapse of the USSR, there have always been elements of the military/security community that have been genuinely interested in good relations with Russia.  There have also always been elements of that community that have never ceased to view Russia as an enemy. 
The influence of the anti-Russian war party in the U.S. military/security community has waxed and waned depending on the state of U.S.-Russia relations. These have also waxed and waned between friendship and hostility.  However, the war party has always had a hard core that has never wavered in its conviction that Russia is an enemy that must be defeated, or at least weakened as much as possible.  
Breedlove knows that there is ample latent anti-Russian sentiment in the US and other NATO countries that can easily be fired up by allegations like those he has been making.  Many are disposed to accept almost any outrageous allegations about Russia, having no interest in determining their truth or falsity. As long as outrageous allegations do not clash with pre-existing prejudices, they will be widely believed. U.S.-Russia relations may improve.  Russian "good behavior" may make the war party's views of Russia less plausible, and its influence may decline for the time being.  Yet background prejudices change slowly, if at all.  So Breedlove and others in the military/security community who share his perspective will be waiting patiently for the next time Russian behavior does not square with U.S. policy. 
Der Spiegel is a widely-read, influential magazine in Germany, and evidence coming from the Bundesnachrictendienst would carry considerable weight with readers.  Yet Breedlove can rest assured that few will check out the contradictions between his allegations and the Der Spiegel article. Moreover, he knows that it would be virtually impossible to mount an effective challenge to his claims. He knows that repetition over time, in light of background prejudices, will anchor the picture he has been presenting in the public mind. To the extent this strategy is successful, it will provide foundations of public support for the war party's future proposals.   
I suspect Breedlove is preparing the ground for some operation that would draw Russia into an armed conflict that will weaken it militarily, economically, and politically. 


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