Streetwise Professor

July 19, 2018

Freakouts Cause Flashbacks–to Montenegro, of All Places

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:55 pm

The freakout du jour–Trump’s questioning whether it made any sense to have Montenegro in Nato–triggered a flashback (from inauguration day, in fact):

Another example of dysfunction is Montenegro’s impending bid to join Nato. Just what is the rationale for this? There is none: Montenegro brings no military capability, but just adds an additional obligation.

But it’s worse than than. Nato’s biggest weakness is its governance structure, which requires unanimity and consensus in major decisions. This is flagrantly at odds with one of the principles of war–unity of command–and makes Nato decision making cumbersome and driven by the least common denominator. Nato’s governance, in other words, makes it all too easy for an adversary to get inside its decision loop.

Coalitions are always militarily problematic: Napoleon allegedly rejoiced at the news that another nation had joined one of the coalitions against him. Nato’s everybody gets a vote and a trophy philosophy aggravates the inherent problems in military coalitions.

Put differently, decision making power in Nato bears no relationship to contribution and capability. This is a recipe for dysfunction.

So what is the point of adding yet another non-contributor (population 620K!) whose consent is required to undertake anything of importance? This is madness.

It is especially insane when one considers that Montenegro is a Slavic country with longstanding ties to Russia, and in which Russia has a paternalistic interest. Parliamentary elections last year were extremely contentious, with the pro-western incumbents barely hanging on. Post-election, there were allegations of an attempted coup engineered by the Russians. The country is extraordinarily corrupt. All of which means that if you are concerned about Russia undermining Nato, Montenegro is the last country you would want to admit. It is vulnerable to being suborned by Russia. Outside of Nato-who cares what Russia does there? Inside of Nato-that is a serious concern, especially given the nature of Nato governance.

But apparently current Nato members believe that it would be really cool to collect the entire set of European countries: frankly, I can think of no other justification. There is no better illustration of how Nato has lost its way, its strategic purpose, and its ability to think critically.

Now Trump’s particular objection (that Montenegrins are excitable types who might trigger WWIII) was typically Trumpian, in that it was a rather bizarre thought process/formulation that ultimately led to the right conclusion: it makes no sense to include Montenegro in Nato, and doing so can only cause trouble.  Arriving at the correct conclusion based on fractured reasoning–or a fractured articulation of the reasoning–usually occurs only by accident, but it happens enough with Trump that it is unlikely to be totally accidental.  But given that the establishment places undue emphasis on articulateness and verbal polish, the convoluted explanation completely prevents people from taking the conclusion seriously–in part because they are too busy freaking out.

Something that I pointed out in my post goes double–or triple–today.  Simultaneously freaking out about the existential threat posed by Russia and the outrage of objecting to including Montenegro in Nato is utterly illogical to the point of idiocy, and no amount of verbal acuity is going to change that fundamental fact.  That circle cannot be squared.

So here’s what we have on offer: articulate and invariably wildly wrong, or wildly inarticulate and sometimes right, especially on big issues.

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  1. Engineering lore: it’s better to be roughly right than exactly wrong.

    Comment by dearieme — July 20, 2018 @ 3:13 am

  2. So if Montenegro had fallen under Russia’s sway back in 2016 you’d have been happy, or at least, not concerned? Also, what additional commitments will their membership demand of the US? Given your previous stance on Russia I can’t understand why you fail to see the angles here.

    Comment by David Mercer — July 20, 2018 @ 3:14 am


    Comment by LL — July 20, 2018 @ 4:52 am

  4. that National Review article very correctly reflects the debate about US national security interests in keeping European countries safe from the demonstrated encroachment of Putler and his Kremlinoids.

    By way of example, Ann Coulter has bought into the Rooshan propaganda that it’s no big woop for the US if Roosha takes over Ukraine, since, for example, “Crimea has always been part of Roosha” (it has not, and that falsehood ignores the territorial integrity that the US and others, including Roosha, pledged to honor via the Budapest Memorandum, and via other documents).

    At the very least, Roosha poses an existential threat to Europe, and taking over Georgia, Ukraine, Crimea, Moldova, Hungary, Bulgaria, Transdniester, and other territory is a big woop for Europe – and eventually for the US. And even if Montenegro is a dysfunctional cesspool, seems to me that every bit counts, and leads to more.

    And everywhere that the Kremlinoids go, they create a wasteland.

    Comment by elmer — July 20, 2018 @ 8:00 am

  5. one more thing – in order to become a member of NATO, as Ukraine found out, supposedly the aspiring member must meet certain standards.

    Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, such as they were, were put on hold, and the path to NATO was via an initial EU Association Agreement, although NATO did conduct joint exercises with Ukraine (and, by the way, Roosha).

    In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, joined later by West Germany (in 1955) and Spain (in 1982).

    The Nato countries are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

    Comment by elmer — July 20, 2018 @ 8:10 am

  6. I can’t remember who said it but some general once said that after being part of a coalition, his opinion of Napoleon lessened.

    Comment by Green as Grass — July 20, 2018 @ 8:52 am

  7. The thing is – Roosha is a territory held together by force. Always has been. A state in search of a nation.

    And there is a distinction to be made between Kremlinoids and rooshans. The Kremlinoids are the ones who exercise force, for their own benefit, in order to hole the territory together.

    The Kremlinoids, with Putler currently as the nominal head, benefit from “sistema.” And there is no constraint on the Kremlinoids – except for those who are willing to exercise force to constrain the Kremlinoids.

    So here is a comment from one who has experienced Kremlinoid aggression – with suggestions for what to do:

    Former president of Russian target Georgia: After a lifetime of firsthand experience with Russian aggression, I must evaluate Trump’s actions against the historical context. In doing so, I find Trump’s actions speak for themselves.

    Comment by elmer — July 20, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

  8. @David. I explained my angles exactly. Precisely because Montenegro is vulnerable to Russian influence it is a disaster for it to be in Nato. That is totally different from advocating Russian subversion of Montenegro. I explained this clearly in the post.

    Please try harder.

    Comment by cpirrong — July 20, 2018 @ 5:46 pm

  9. @Green–exactly.

    Comment by cpirrong — July 20, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

  10. Shouldn’t it be Monteafricanamerican?

    Comment by dearieme — July 21, 2018 @ 8:08 am

  11. In 1952, the CIA did a report on the history of the resistance movement in Ukraine, available for pdf download here:

    The last page of the report hits the nail on the head:

    1) Lenin and even more after him Stalin became the preservers of Russian imperial unity. In this way, they were the suppressors of the only true motive force in history, the idea of the nation.

    That is a direct quote, and the report is right. There is a valid distinction to be made between Kremlinoids and Russians – and other people and other countries.

    2) The report puts forth the observations of a British Ambassador to the German Republic after WWI, Viscount E. d’Abernon. His view was that it is not in the British interest to have a large, unified Russian empire. He notes that the balkanization of Central Asia would be an unquestionable relief for British policy.

    “The division of Russia into several states with stronger trade interests rather than political ambition would be more favorable for our position on the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean area than the reconstruction of a mighty empire. The secession of the Ukraine would unquestionably make the situation on the Black Sea more secure and healthier and facilitate a commercial control of the straits as a balance to a political control.”

    Quoting from the report, again the last page:

    The Second World War has demonstrated that that Viscount d’Abernon evaluated the Ukrainian problem very clearly whereas the politicians of the democratic west did not. A proper evaluation of the national forces in Eastern Europe during the Second World War would perhaps have led to the overthrow of Hitler and Stalin and brought about a proper balance on the European continent.

    Comment by elmer — July 21, 2018 @ 9:43 am

  12. Let’s put all the wild-eyed charges about Montenegro and war to one side for a moment. The argument that the country is a cesspool of corruption and organised crime is true and has been for nearly three decades. The argument that it will contribute nothing to the Alliance’s collective defence and will only be a consumer of the security provided by others, and it is hard to imagine when it will not be thus, are also sound arguments. So, the question is why anyone would want Montenegro or Macedonia (very similar by the way)or eventually Kosovo as a NATO member is unanswerable.

    But until someone in the US starts asking why NATO needs to enlarge, and why the US ought to extend its deterrent to protect such countries, all these other questions fade into irrelevance. For example, at the Brussels Summit, the SecGen, Stoltenberg, once again stated that Georgia would one day be a member. When exactly is that going to take place, and why? Do we really need Georgia in the Alliance? Will its accession enhance Alliance collective defence? Not bloody likely. And, of course, does anyone really believe that once in the Alliance, NATO can somehow actually defend that country? !!!

    Montenegro, Macedonia and Georgia, like the Baltic States, or even Ukraine, are all examples of NATO enlargement (real or prospective) plans that are intended to make people feel good, not because they make strategic sense. That is because strategic planning is a lost art in NATO and, apparently, in the foreign ministries of the NATO allies. The medium is the message – and the act of inviting these countries to join NATO is more important as being able to really defend them.

    Comment by Ben in Ottawa — July 21, 2018 @ 6:44 pm

  13. Montenegro became a member of NATO in June 2017.

    Montenegro joined NATO in 2017. Its membership bid was opposed by Russia, which maintains close relationships with neighboring Serbia.

    Darmanovic took a generous view of Trump’s comments, suggesting the US President was making a broader point. “I think President Trump actually did not speak on Montenegro. He spoke on 2% on financing and contributing to NATO, and Montenegro was just picked up as an example — maybe because we are one of the tiniest countries in the alliance,” the foreign minister said.

    Comment by elmer — July 21, 2018 @ 8:33 pm

  14. a literary reference – got it from a friend

    Naturally, all those suffering from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) viewed this answer as an attack on the very essence of NATO and a complete misunderstanding of the alliance and its role in the world. Others, a minority, it has to be said, saw in the president’s answer a deep understanding of international conflict and a nuanced appreciation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. In Chapter IV, Gatsby speaks about the horrors of war and… Montenegro:

    “In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn’t advance. We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a decoration — even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!”

    Montenegrin medal Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them — with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines

    He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm.

    “That’s the one from Montenegro.”

    To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look

    “Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”

    “Turn it.”

    “Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”

    Comment by elmer — July 21, 2018 @ 8:34 pm

  15. SWP – what an excellent, excellent choice of words – “freakout du jour”

    Lefties and the media idiots have deliberately chosen to squeal, shriek, scream, etc., and – freak out – at everything Trump does. It is a calculated tactic.

    Another flashback – from June 2001:

    A look back at an earlier encounter between a U.S. president and Russian leader Vladimir Putin: This article originally appeared on Page 1A of The Plain Dealer on June 17, 2001, bylined by Elizabeth Sullivan, and datelined from Slovenia.

    President Bush yesterday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a man he could trust and admire, as the two leaders swapped compliments and jokes after a first meeting they agreed to follow with several more.

    “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul,” Bush said after their two-hour summit at a picturesque country estate in the stony peaks of the Slovenian Alps.

    Bush spontaneously invited Putin to visit him at his Texas ranch. Putin accepted. Bush will visit Putin in Moscow next fall, and the two men also plan to meet in July at the G-8 meeting of major industrialized nations in Genoa, Italy.

    The summit did nothing to unknot a series of tough disputes, including Bush’s desire to void a 1972 arms control treaty with Moscow before building a missile shield, and his vow to expand NATO to Russia’s borders.

    During a joint outdoor news conference by the two leaders, Putin made clear he still has deep reservations on both matters.

    Comment by elmer — July 22, 2018 @ 9:39 am

  16. a little more on Montenegro – and Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania

    In September 1938, Chamberlain referred to the process of the Nazis’ dismembering Czechoslovakia as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.”

    The Baltic states know all too well the consequences of being abandoned to their fate.

    Comment by elmer — July 23, 2018 @ 9:53 am

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