On Tuesday, June 14th, NATO announced that if a NATO member country becomes the victim of a cyber attack by persons in a non-NATO country such as Russia or China, then NATO’s Article V “collective defense” provision requires each NATO member country to join that NATO member country if it decides to strike back against the attacking country. The preliminary decision for this was made two years ago after Crimea abandoned Ukraine and rejoined Russia, of which it had been a part until involuntarily transferred to Ukraine by the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. That NATO decision was made in anticipation of Ukraine’s ultimately becoming a NATO member country, which still hasn’t happened. However, only now is NATO declaring cyber war itself to be included as real “war” under the NATO Treaty’s “collective defense” provision.
NATO is now alleging that because Russian hackers had copied the emails on Hillary Clinton’s home computer, this action of someone in Russia taking advantage of her having privatized her U.S. State Department communications to her unsecured home computer and of such a Russian’s then snooping into the U.S. State Department business that was stored on it, might constitute a Russian attack against the United States of America, and would, if the U.S. President declares it to be a Russian invasion of the U.S., trigger NATO’s mutual-defense clause and so require all NATO nations to join with the U.S. government in going to war against Russia, if the U.S. government so decides.
NATO had produced in 2013 (prior to the take-over of Ukraine) an informational propaganda video alleging that “cyberattacks” by people in Russia or in China that can compromise U.S. national security, could spark an invasion by NATO, if the U.S. President decides that the cyberattack was a hostile act by the Russian or Chinese government. In the video, a British national-security expert notes that this would be an “eminently political decison” for the U.S. President to make, which can be made only by the U.S. President, and which only that person possesses the legal authority to make. NATO, by producing this video, made clear that any NATO-member nation’s leader who can claim that his or her nation has been ‘attacked’ by Russia, possesses the power to initiate a NATO war against Russia. In the current instance, it would be U.S. President Barack Obama. However, this video also said that NATO could not automatically accept such a head-of-state’s allegation calling the cyber-attack an invasion, but instead the country that’s being alleged to have perpetrated the attack would have to have claimed, or else been proven, to have carried it out. With the new NATO policy, which was announced on June 14th, in which a cyber-attack qualifies automatically as constituting “war” just like any traditional attack, such a claim or proof of the target-nation’s guilt might no longer be necessary. But this has been left vague in the published news reports about it.
In the context of the June 14th NATO announcement that cyberwar is on the same status as physical war, Obama might declare the U.S. to have been invaded by Russia when former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails were copied by someone in Russia.
It’s a hot issue now between Russia and the United States, and so, for example, on the same day, June 14th, Reuters headlined “Moscow denies Russian involvement in U.S. DNC hacking”, and reported that, “Russia on Tuesday denied involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee database that U.S. sources said gained access to all opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
In previous times, espionage was treated as being part of warfare, and, after revelations became public that the U.S. was listening in on the phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, espionage has become recognized as being simply a part of routine diplomacy (at least for the United States); but, now, under the new NATO policy, it might be treated as being equivalent to a physical invasion by an enemy nation.
At the upcoming July 8th-9th NATO Summit meeting, which will be happening in the context of NATO’s biggest-ever military exercises on and near the borders of Russia, called “Atlantic Resolve”, prospective NATO plans to invade Russia might be discussed in order to arrive at a consensus plan for the entire alliance. However, even if that happens, it wouldn’t be made public, because war-plans never are.
The origin of this stand-off between the U.S. and Russia goes back to promises that the West had made in 1990 to the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, not to expand NATO up to the borders of Russia, and the West’s subsequent violations of those repeatedly made promises. Gorbachev disbanded the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact, on the basis of those false assurances from Western leaders. Thus, Russia is surrounded now by enemies, including former Warsaw Pact nations and even some former regions of the Soviet Union itself, such as Ukraine and the Baltic republics, which now host NATO forces. NATO is interpreting Russia’s acceptance of the Crimeans’ desire to abandon Ukraine and rejoin Russia following the 2014 Ukrainian coup, as constituting a showing of an intent by Russia to invade NATO nations that had formerly been part of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw Pact, such as Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia; and this is the alleged reason for America’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, and the steep increase in U.S. troops and weapons in those nations that border on Russia.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.