Tag Archives: NATO

Trump, Russia, and NATO: Why Tiny Montenegro’s Not Tiny Now, by Ted Snider

Probably 99 percent of Americans can’t find Montenegro on a map, but America’s sons and daughters are now pledged to fight and die for it, if need be. From Ted Snider at antiwar.com:

Donald Trump has just approved Montenegro’s accession into NATO. Montenegro is a tiny nation, and its inclusion doesn’t significantly change the abilities of NATO, but it’s inclusion is huge, and its meaning is significant and clear to Russia.

As the curtain rose on the Donald Trump presidency, the script promised an administration that would warm to Russia and cool to NATO.

The first few scenes did not consistently unfold that way, though. Despite the opening months being crammed with allegations of Russian communications, conspiracies, and cooperations, as recent American actions in Syria have highlighted, the early steps of the new government were, often, hostile to Russia and encouraging to NATO.

Immediately upon assuming the role of Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis called NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to assure him of America’s commitment to “the fundamental and enduring value of NATO for the security of both Europe and North America.” While they were talking, NATO was building up its forces along Russia’s borders as German and Belgian troops moved into Lithuania supposedly to act as a deterrent against Russian incursions. In mid-February, 500 U.S. troops deployed to Romania and another 120 were deployed to Bulgaria as part of the NATO operation known as Atlantic Resolve. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexi Meshkov, revealed Russia’s interpretation of the NATO buildup when he said, “This deployment is of course a threat for us.”

At the same time, 300 US marines were arriving in Norway 900 miles from the Russian border. Russia criticized the move as having no military benefit beyond antagonizing Russia. When Norway joined NATO as a founding member, they made the commitment not to host any foreign forces because of Russian concerns that Norway could serve as a launching ground for an attack on Russia.

At the end of January, US tanks and armored vehicles that were part of a 3,500 troop contingent fired salvos into the air in Poland. General Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army in Europe, said, “this is not just a training exercise. It’s to demonstrate a strategic message that you cannot violate the sovereignty of members of NATO … Moscow will get the message — I’m confident of it.”

To continue reading: Trump, Russia, and NATO: Why Tiny Montenegro’s Not Tiny Now

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Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault, by Sheldon Richman

The $54 billion increase in military spending President Trump requested is more than the entire military budget of every nation except Saudi Arabia and China. From Sheldon Richman at antiwar.com:

President Trump’s budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level. According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries – China and Saudi Arabia – spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Meanwhile, Trump implies that NATO members take advantage of America by not paying enough for own defense. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Washington recently, Trump tweeted: “Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

As we’ve come to expect, Trump gets it wrong. NATO members don’t pay dues to NATO, and they don’t pay the United States for defense. However, NATO requires members to budget at least 2 percent of their GDP for their own militaries. Some members haven’t spent that much, but that has changed in recent years.

Trump leaves the impression that Americans shoulder an unnecessarily large military burden because some NATO members underfund their military establishments. But that’s nonsense because that’s not how things work in Washington. Americans don’t pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less.

At other times Trump seems to acknowledge this. In his campaign he never said the U.S. military budget would be smaller if NATO members paid up. Rather, he said he wanted to make America “strong again” – so strong that no one would dare “mess with us.” His budget message said, “In these dangerous times, this public safety and national security Budget Blueprint is a message to the world—a message of American strength, security, and resolve.” His address to a joint session of Congress also did not justify greater military spending by pointing to how little the allies spend. It was all about making America “great again.”

To continue reading: Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault

McCain and Montenegro: The Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory, by Justin Raimondo

If John McCain has his way,  the US will be obligated to go to war to protect Montenegro? If you don’t see what vital interest the US has in Montenegro, you’re a Putin stooge. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Sure, he’s unhinged – but so is practically everyone else

Just in case you thought the conspiracy theory that Russia secretly controls the US government is exclusively an affliction affecting the Democratic party, Sen. John McCain’s recent performance on the floor of the US Senate should disabuse you of this optimistic notion. Responding to Sen. Rand Paul’s blocking of a vote in favor of the accession of Montenegro to NATO, the failed former GOP presidential candidate let it all hang out:

“I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number, perhaps 98 – at least – of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away. The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”

What’s “remarkable” is that this kind of lunacy is tolerated in the US Senate: I recall that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was rebuked – and silenced – by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell because she read a letter from Coretta Scott King that called into question the motives of Jeff Sessions, then a Senator and a candidate for the office of Attorney General. Surely McCain’s outburst was an even more egregious violation of the rules than Warren’s, and yet McCain was allowed to proceed uninterrupted. Perhaps this is an example of “warmonger’s privilege.”

In a later interview, Sen. Paul sought to explain McCain’s behavior as an indication of the Senator from Arizona’s advanced age: perhaps, he suggested, McCain is “past his prime,” and, by the way, “this is a good argument for term limits.” Well, yes, but in the current political atmosphere – where Vladimir Putin has been elevated to the status of a virtually omnipotent force who has the power to change election results and infiltrate the highest reaches of Western governments – it’s no crazier than anything else we’re hearing out of Washington these days.

To continue reading: McCain and Montenegro: The Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory

Trump the Disruptor, but Justin Raimondo

European powers that be are just as pissed off at Donald Trump as American powers that be. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

If the New York Times is to be believed – a problematic proposition – then it looks as if Trump Derangement Syndrome has gone international. In a front page article headlined “As Trump Era Dawns, A Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World,” we are told:

“The Germans are angry. The Chinese are downright furious. Leaders of NATO are nervous, while their counterparts at the European Union are alarmed.”

Oh heavens-to-Betsy, whatever shall we do?

So what’s the source of this latest Trumpanic? It’s an interview with Tory mandarin Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild, in which the President-elect reiterates what he’s been saying to the American people for the past year, and on the basis of which he won the election: US foreign policy is going to change, and in a big way.

However, to Times reporter Steve Erlanger, this all comes as a big revelation, evidence that “Trump has again focused his penchant for disruption on the rest of the world.” Oh, the poor babies! Perhaps they need to find a safe space in which to park themselves for the next four-to-eight years.

This being the Times, there’s the requisite Russia-baiting:

“No one knows where exactly he is headed – except that the one country he is not criticizing is Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. For now. And that he is an enthusiastic cheerleader of Brexit and an unaffiliated Britain. For now.”

If this reads like a paragraph torn out of one of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s strategy memos, well then consider the source. And speaking of the source, what exactly did Trump say in this supposedly “disruptive” interview that has the Powers That Be in such a tizzy?

To continue reading: Trump the Disruptor

Make No Mistake: Russia Remains the Only Target Country of NATO’s Nuclear Weapons, by Brian Cloughley

What would happen if Russia had all the armaments and troops in Canada and Mexico that the US has in various countries bordering Russia? It would be intolerable, but Russia umbrage at the weapons in neighboring countries is considered provocative. From Brian Cloughley at strategic-culture.org:

Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the world’s five «nuclear weapons states», a description officially recognised in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which lays down that «each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices…»

It is apparent that the word ‘transfer’ involves ownership and not location, because the United States has transferred many nuclear weapons to countries which, although members of the US-NATO military alliance, are not nuclear weapons states. An analysis by the Nuclear Threat Initiative indicates that the US has positioned 160-200 B-61 nuclear warheads «at six bases in five NATO countries: Belgium (10-20), Germany (10-20), Italy (60-70), Netherlands (10-20), and Turkey (60-70)».

According to a NATO statement of December 2015, «A number of NATO member countries contribute a dual-capable aircraft (DCA) capability to the Alliance. These aircraft are available for nuclear roles at various levels of readiness – the highest level of readiness is measured in weeks. In their nuclear role, the aircraft are equipped to carry nuclear bombs and personnel are trained accordingly».

The claim that the readiness level is measured in weeks is intriguing, because, as indicated in the US-NATO Readiness Action Plan of October 2015, the entire alliance is gearing up for war against Russia and, among other blatantly provocative initiatives, is «Raising the readiness and capabilities of the Multinational Corps Northeast Headquarters in Szczecin, Poland and enhancing its role as a hub for regional cooperation».

To continue reading: Make No Mistake: Russia Remains the Only Target Country of NATO’s Nuclear Weapons

NATO’s Rear-Guard Actions, by Brian Cloughley

Why should the US be paying the bulk of the freight to defend Europe from largely nonexistent threats? From Brian Cloughley at strategic-culture.org:

In the military a rearguard action is defined as ‘a defensive action carried out by a retreating army’ and it is an appropriate description of the desperate scrabbling by NATO to convince the rest of the world — and especially Donald Trump — that its existence is justified.

President-elect Trump has never said that the US should actually leave NATO. Certainly Hillary Clinton declared that he ‘wants to pull out of NATO’ but this was just another of her lies, and what he said back in April was that it is ‘obsolete’ which is a gentle way of indicating that it’s hopeless. He did, after all, tell a town hall meeting in Wisconsin: «Maybe Nato will dissolve and that’s OK, not the worst thing in the world», but although that may have sent shivers up the supple spine of NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg, it was by no means a definitive statement of intention.

The fact remains that The Donald is unhappy with NATO, and he’s perfectly right to consider that it’s a vastly expensive and largely ineffective military grouping that indeed should be disbanded. On the other hand, the massive propaganda campaign waged against Russia has convinced much of the world that Moscow has expansionist plans and that the only way to counter its supposed ambitions is to spend more money — lots and lots more money — and deploy troops and aircraft and ships all over the place to make it look as if gallant little NATO is defending the so-called Free World against the might of an illusory aggressor.

To continue reading: NATO’s Rear-Guard Actions

 

Merkel Urged To Temper NATO’s Belligerence, by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

There are at least a few people who think that starting World War III with Russia may not be a brilliant idea. From a group called the Veteran Professionals for Sanity (group members listed in linked article) at antiwar.com:

U.S. intelligence veterans are calling on German Chancellor Merkel to bring a needed dose of realism and restraint to the upcoming NATO conference, which risks escalating the dangerous new Cold War with Russia.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: NATO Summit in Warsaw
REFERENCE: Our Memorandum to You, August 30, 2014

We longtime U.S. intelligence officers again wish to convey our concerns and cautions directly to you prior to a critically important NATO summit – the meeting that begins on July 8 in Warsaw. We were gratified to learn that our referenced memorandum reached you and your advisers before the NATO summit in Wales, and that others too learned of our initiative via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which published a full report on our memorandum on Sept. 4, the day that summit began.

Wales to Warsaw

The Warsaw summit is likely to be at least as important as the last one in Wales and is likely to have even more far-reaching consequences. We find troubling – if not surprising – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement at a pre-summit press event on July 4 that NATO members will agree to “further enhance NATOs military presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” adding that the alliance will see its “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War.”

The likelihood of a military clash in the air or at sea – accidental or intentional – has grown sharply, the more so since, as we explain below, President Obama’s control over top U.S./NATO generals, some of whom like to play cowboy, is tenuous. Accordingly we encourage you, as we did before the last NATO summit, to urge your NATO colleagues to bring a “degree of judicious skepticism” to the table at Warsaw – especially with regard to the perceived threat from Russia.

Many of us have spent decades studying Moscow’s foreign policy. We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s armies launched “Unternehmen Barbarossa” 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead. In our view, it is irresponsibly foolish to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not take countermeasures – at a time and place of his own choosing.

Putin does not have the option of trying to reassure his generals that what they hear and see from NATO is mere rhetoric and posturing. He is already facing increased pressure to react in an unmistakably forceful way. In sum, Russia is bound to react strongly to what it regards as the unwarranted provocation of large military exercises along its western borders, including in Ukraine.

Before things get still worse, seasoned NATO leaders need to demonstrate a clear preference for statesmanship and give-and-take diplomacy over saber-rattling. Otherwise, some kind of military clash with Russia is likely, with the ever-present danger of escalation to a nuclear exchange.

To continue reading: Merkel Urged To Temper NATO’s Belligerence