A few days ago the New York Times reported on the possibility that NATO might “store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.”

Now the Russian Defense Ministry has responded. Reuters reports that they ain’t happy:

A plan by Washington to station tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia’s border would be the most aggressive U.S. act since the Cold War, and Moscow would retaliate by beefing up its own forces, a Russian defense official said on Monday….
“If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War,” Russian defense ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said.
“Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
He said the Russian response was likely to include speeding up the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, and beefing up Russian forces in ex-Soviet Belarus (emphasis added).

This story has certainly gotten some play. But the bolded statement is what struck me. It’s very revealing — of just how little the Russians believe their own propaganda.

See, the Russian government has accused NATO and the Pentagon of a whole lot of bad, bad things over the past year or so. NATO stands accused of this:

Russia, accused by NATO of airspace violations and increased military activity, hit back at its Cold War foes, alleging a sevenfold jump in reconnaissance flights near its Baltic border by the U.S. and the alliance.
The lack of information flow between the two sides has sapped trust between them, Lieutenant-General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s joint military command center, said in answer to e-mailed questions. Russian fighters flew more than 300 missions in response to NATO and other foreign military aircraft approaching the country’s borders this year, he said….
“The Russian Defense Ministry leadership has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the significant increase of NATO military activity near the Russian borders,” Mizintsev said.

And then on Ukraine in particular, there’s this:

NATO members pushed Ukraine toward dropping its nonaligned status, Russia claimed….
Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Wednesday that unidentified NATO members had pushed Ukraine to make the move in a bid to turn it into a “forward line for confronting Russia.”
Russia said it wants a “neutral” and unified Ukraine as it accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of seeking to turn its neighbor into a hostile state.
The U.S. wields enormous influence over Ukraine, while Russia wants the people of its “near neighbor” to have a good life, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with three Moscow radio stations on Wednesday.

As for the Pentagon, well, there’s this:

Interfax quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov as saying U.S. troops were training Ukrainian forces not only in western Ukraine “as Ukrainian TV channels show, but directly in the combat zone in the area of Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artyomovsk and Volnovakha.”

And here’s my favorite — this is from RT from four days ago, headlined: “US encircling Russia with bioweapons labs, covertly spreads them – Russian FM

The US is obstructing international efforts to eradicate biological weapons, seeking to involve other nations covertly in research on weaponized diseases, Moscow charged….
“American and Georgian authorities are trying to cover up the real nature of this US military unit, which studies highly dangerous infectious diseases. The Pentagon is trying to establish similar covert medico-biological facilities in other countries [in Russia’s neighborhood],” the Russian ministry said.

So, just to review: according to the Russian government, over the past 18 months, NATO and the Pentagon are responsible for splitting apart Russia’s most important neighbor, luring that neighbor into NATO’s clutches, aggressively and repeatedly violating Russian territorial sovereignty via its airspace, training opposition forces in the combat zone right next to Russian soil, and encircling Russia with biological weapons and labs. That seems like a lot of aggression.

No Russian would dare claim that the Baltic states are strategically more important than Ukraine. According to Russian official statements, however, NATO and the Pentagon are subverting Ukraine’s sovereignty and safety by splitting the country, arming secessionist forces, and training them with U.S. boots on the ground. Compared with all of that, how can the placement of heavy weapons for one brigade of U.S. forces in NATO treaty allies in Eastern Europe possibly be the worst thing that NATO or the Pentagon has done since the Cold War?!

It can’t. Oh, sure, Russian Internet trolls can (and will) try to make this argument, but it’s nonsensical. Which leaves one of two possible explanations for General Yakubov’s quote:

  1. A coconut fell on Yakubov’s head just before he issued the statement that caused him to forget all of the last two years; or
  2. Yabukov doesn’t really believe his own government’s prior statements, nor does he care all that much about their truth value.

Readers can probably surmise which explanation makes more sense. Indeed, over time, it seems that Russian government spokesmen have become well versed in Harry Frankfurt’s magnum opus.

Last week Sergei Guriev argued in these pages that in Moscow, “long-term thinking has completely disappeared, and the Russian regime no longer talks about the future.” This dictum applies to their official statements as well. It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not — everyone, including the Russian spokesmen, knows that they will be forgotten soon enough.