Let’s Provoke

General Disarray

NATO comes under new management in September: current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will step down and he’ll be replaced with a fresh face.

Probably a female face, because, according to Berlingske, “it would look good with a woman to lead the Western defense alliance.”

The article by European correspondent Solveig Gram Jensen is entitled “Forget about logic: here are the unofficial candidates for the west’s most secretive election.”   So it’s being conceded right up front that this “election” is more Byzantine backroom horse-trading stuff than any sort of orderly selection process.

Jensen reviews the pros and cons of the five “candidates” who are apparently on the short-list to replace Stoltenberg.  I list them in the order in which she presents them:

  • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
  • Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 2010
  • Ben Wallace, UK Defense Secretary since 2019
  • Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia since 2021, just re-elected
  • Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark since 2019

The pros and cons Jensen lists for each “candidate” are sensible enough, but it’s striking that although the sex of the three women on that list was counted as a “pro,” the sex of the two men wasn’t counted as a “con.”

That’s the insidious thing about “affirmative action:”  it’s just sanctioned discrimination.  If it’s a plus to be a woman, how can it not be a minus to be a man?

(Also, I couldn’t help noticing that all of these candidates are white.  Isn’t that supposed to be problematic?)

I’ve got no dog in this fight: I think Kallas would be a fine Secretary General based on what little I learned about her reading up on Estonia before and after my recent trip to Tallinn.  Alas, she’s the one Jensen believes is “too critical of Putin.”

The appointment would be perceived as a provocation towards Moscow. Nobody in NATO wants that. Especially countries that already have a less clear position towards the war. Not least France.

“Gentlemen—and ladies—you can’t provoke Moscow in here, this is NATO!”

A couple of weeks ago on Substack, I explored the bewildering first commandment of western defense—“Thou shalt not provoke Russia”—so I won’t dive down that rabbit hole again here.

But the essence is worth repeating:

NATO is not a political alliance, but a military one.  It’s a defensive alliance and its paramount purpose ought to be scaring the hell out of our enemies—and Vladimir Putin is certainly our enemy.  Scaring Russia ought therefore to be a requirement for the Secretary General position, not a liability. Everything NATO does right now ought to be calculated to cause the maximum number of furrowed brows, ulcers, and sleepless nights in both Moscow and Beijing.

The best defense, after all, is to so thoroughly intimidate your enemies that they don’t dare attack you—that they worry what might happen should they even provoke you unintentionally.

Who’s winning that game right now?

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Soren Rasmussen
Soren Rasmussen
9 months ago

Well, yes, but no one has apparently read Sun Tzu or know any history or can muster a modicum of plain old common sense.

Famously, when British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what was the greatest challenge for a statesman, he replied: ‘Events, dear boy, events’. 

The fact that NATO is still playing HR Diversity bingo at this point really tells us everything we need to know about the prevailing mindset among Western leaders, one that is still so secure as to be impervious to being altered by events.