Speaking to the Russian military collegium on July 24, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu criticized NATO, saying the Western military bloc cannot stand Russia being an independent player in international politics and is trying to prevent this by boosting its military presence in Eastern Europe.
In a contrast to NATO’s behavior, Shoigu said, Russia’s military “demonstrates openness, friendliness and the absence of any sort of aggression against foreign countries.” He claimed these qualities were on display during the World Cup, which Russia hosted in mid-July.
In reality, the Russian military stands accused of war crimes in Russia’s own North Caucasus region and in Syria; of provocative, aggressive and dangerous behavior in international airspace and waters; of brutal covert operations around the world, including shooting down the Malaysian passenger jet MH-17, which killed 268 people; the aggressive online operations of its intelligence units in the United States and France, as well as against the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA; shadowy involvement in the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Georgia that claimed thousands of civilian victims; and of consistently violating international treatiesand agreements; such as a nuclear disarmament treaty – that Russia says the U.S. is also violating.
We have left off this list the incidents in the United Kingdom involving poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok, because while these have been blamed directly on Russia, they have not been associated specifically with the Russian military.
What the Experts Say
Stephen Blank, a Russia expert and senior fellow at the American Foreign Relations Council told Polygraph.info: “Of course, Shoigu is brazenly lying, as Russia does not accept the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any of the post-Soviet or post-Warsaw Pact states, and its representatives have stated as much and behaved in the same way many times.”
The Russian Defense Ministry Tweet, above, shows a military drill that began in Crimea on July 25, 2018.
“Russia has committed direct aggression against Georgia and Ukraine and threatened others even with nuclear weapons many times,” Blank said.
Russia, Blank said, is launching a global war to subvert and corrupt governments and socio-economic-media-political institutions across the world, not just in Europe and the U.S. It also sponsors terrorism, whether in Ukraine or in the Middle East, where it supports Hezbollah and Hamas, and provides arms to Iran for arming Hezbollah.
Russia also carries out chemical warfare attacks abroad, as the incidents in the UK have shown, and apparently has revived its biological warfare program, Blank contended.
He added that many, if not all of these cases also show that Russia has utter contempt for international treaties and law, as does its violation of arms control treaties, possibly including the New START treaty.
Steven Pifer, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Polygraph.info: “There are numerous examples that contradict the Defense Minister’s statement.”
“Russia is party to several arms control and confidence-building agreements that require transparency regarding military activities, but is in violation of those agreements,” Pifer said.
“For example, Russia has ‘suspended’ its participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty–even though the treaty has no provision for suspension–and does not provide the notifications and other transparency measures required by that agreement; has failed to provide all of the notifications and information required by the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures; and has limited the access of overflights conducted over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty,” Pifer noted.
He added: “As for the ‘absence of any sort of aggression against foreign countries’, one only has to consider Russia’s military seizure of Crimea in 2014 and its ongoing conflict against Ukraine in the Donbas. NATO only began boosting its military presence on its eastern flank in 2014, as NATO allies became concerned about Russia’s use of military force against Ukraine.”