I was reading this isolationist claptrap from the Cato Institute this morning that basically makes the argument that NATO should reexamine its mission in light of its commitments to the Baltics. The following line obviously struck a nerve:
Indeed, a crisis could result if a future Russian president concludes that NATO’s mere presence in the Baltic region is an intolerable intrusion into Moscow’s rightful sphere of influence.
And that got me thinking about this curious term, ‘sphere of influence’ and what exactly it means. And I began to understand that the term is nothing but a moldy intellectual raisin leftover from the Kissinger years when strategists divided up the world into ‘spheres of influence’ as part of an ambition to create a multi-polar, rather than bipolar (haha) world.
But in reality, throughout the entire Cold War, the concept of spheres of influence was a misnomer. The Soviets had no problems supporting Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries in Latin America. They even parked some weaponry in Cuba as I recall in the early 1960s. They had no respect for an American “sphere of influence.”
Meanwhile we flew spyplanes over Soviet territory, and in the late 40s and early 50s, British intelligence was quite active in the Baltic region. The US and the USSR fought proxy wars from Angola to Vietnam. The world in no way was divided into regions of influence. The very idea smacks of weakling diplomacy at some 19th century conference where empires divide up the spoils at the end of a war.
But even if you go back to my home of New York, you’ll see the same thing. The Dutch originally claimed all the land from the Delaware River to Rhode Island. But then the English took Rhode Island, and the Swedes moved into Delaware, and the English took New Haven, and … surprise … in 1664 the English fleet sailed into New Amsterdam harbor and by show of force took control of the city that is now called New York.
No one, it seems, has ever respected the idea of a sphere of influence. There is just competition between states. That’s all there really is. According to Wikipedia, an SOI is “an area or region over which an organization or state exerts some kind of indirect cultural, economic, military or political domination.”
Good to see that according to Wikipedia, Estonia doesn’t fall under the Russian sphere of influence. As a sidenote, the isolationist conventional thinking is that the Baltics are worthless so they don’t merit defense.
In any case, the U.S. should never have undertaken military commitments to the Baltic republics. These obligations are a dangerous liability, and the U.S. must extricate itself from them.
Too late! Look, the argument that Estonia is indefensible is a false one. As stated previously, Estonia won its war of independence with the limited support of other countries, notably Britain and Finland. In all other previous wars, Estonia has been defensible.
Sweden lost Estonia in the 1710s because all the forces in the Baltic region — Denmark, Poland-Lithuania, and Russia — ganged up on it. Not to mention Charles XII made disasterous tactical decisions (like invading Ukraine). You could say the same for Hitler as well. He made the foolish decision to invade Russia, and lost, not to mention he was fighting a war on two fronts.
Neither of these wars saw the strategy of the War of Independence utilized. In Finland’s Winter War, the strategy of simply defending the state’s borders was used to defeat a larger, more powerful enemy. And that’s the thing. Russia’s armies have been notoriously ill-prepared and disorganized. Given the current crises in the military over there, it seems like it’s a long-standing issue.
But don’t ask me for guidance. I am sure that the gentlemen and women in NATO thought long and hard about military assistance to the Baltic and determined that it was, in fact feasible. Moreover, they recognized that an attack on the Baltics would be a disaster for Europe. The last time something like that happened, it means tens of thousands of refugees pouring into Sweden and Germany.
Not to mention the financial impact such an action would happen when 70 percent of your foreign capital comes from Finland or Sweden. A war in Europe would be a disaster for everybody, and that’s why institutions like NATO exist — to clear everyone’s mind of that alarming option. NATO is a deterrent. It is an institution that arguably preserves the peaceful resolution of conflict. I really wish the Buchananites would wake up and understand that.