Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

What’s behind Trump’s demands on NATO?

July 18, 2018

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President Trump last week demanded that NATO allies, who have already pledged to increase their military spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024, raise their spending to 4 percent.

This is supposedly necessary to defend against Russia.  Whether or not he really thinks Russia is that much of a threat, the fact is that the European members of NATO already outspend Russia by a considerable amount.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, Russia’s spending military spending last year was $66.3 billion, down from $69.2 billion in 2016.

France spent $57.8 billion, the UK spent $47.2 billion and Germany spent $44.3 billion—a combined total of $149.3 billion, more than double what Russia spent.  Estimated US spending was $610 billion.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies made different but similar estimates.

Its estimate was that Russia spent $61.2 billion last year, while the UK spent $50.7 billion, France spent $48.6 billion and Germany spent $41.7 billion—a combined total of $141 billion, also more than double Russia’s.  The IISS estimated that US spent $602.8 billion.

So what was the purpose of Trump’s demand?  I think it was to increase sales by the U.S. armaments industry.

I think his motivation was the same for his criticism Germany for importing 70 percent of its natural gas from Russia and planning a second natural gas pipeline across the Baltic.

His goal is to have Germany import American liquefied natural gas (LNG), despite its higher cost and current lack of suitable infrastructure.  Russia is just an excuse.  He wants American companies to get Germany’s business.s.

The European Union countries are competitors of the United States in world trade.  Hence his hostility to the EU.   Russia is not.  Hence his lack of hostility to Russia.

Donald Trump sees foreign affairs in terms of trade, and trade in terms of making deals. That is shortsighted.  The way for the United States to regain our advantage in world trade is by building up our own industry, not by demanding other countries do things that are not in their own interest.

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Trump, Russia and the NATO alliance

July 13, 2018

President Donald Trump wants to (1) force European allies to commit to more than double their military spending to meet the Russian threat and (2) engage in peace negotiations with Vladimir Putin without consulting European allies.

On the one hand, Russia is a menace that the NATO allies must unite against.  On the other hand, Russia is a normal country with which normal negotiations are possible.  And, by the way, U.S. dealings with Russia are no business of our European allies.  So which is it?

Donald Trump

President Trump presents himself as a master negotiator, but he weakened his negotiating position by advertising and widening the divisions in the Western alliance.   I can’t tell what his objectives are, or even if he has specific objectives.

My best guess is that the Putin-Trump talks, like the Trump-Kim Jong-un talks, will end in vague generalities that each side will interpret differently.  Trump’s erratic behavior frightened the South Korean government into talking with North Korea on its own.  Maybe his current behavior will be to frighten the European nations into making their own agreement with Russia.

That’s not to say that a summit meeting with President Putin is a bad idea.  It is just that Trump by his actions has shown that he can’t conduct normal diplomacy.

So what should U.S. policy toward Russia be?  The most important fact about Russia is that it is the only nation with enough nuclear weapons and missiles to destroy the United States.  To be sure, this would involve the destruction of Russia itself.

So American leaders should avoid backing Russia leaders into a position where they might think they have nothing to lose, or in which a nuclear war could be triggered accidentally.

The missile defense systems put in place by the U.S. in Poland and Romania, and the deployment of nuclear missiles to the borders of Russia, gave the Russian leaders reason to think that the U.S. was planning a nuclear first strike.  Their response has been to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons with which they could strike the United States.

The aim of negotiations should be to reduce the nuclear threat on both sides.  I don’t think President Trump understands this issue, and he has surrounded himself with war hawks such as John Bolton who see no point in negotiation.  This is dangerous for both sides.  We need new negotiations to wind down the nuclear threat.

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Why the US bears the cost of NATO

May 26, 2017

My sixth most-viewed post is about a warning in 2011 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to European allies to pay their proportionate share of the cost of the NATO military alliance.

This is much the same as what President Trump is saying now.

I thought then, and I still think, that members of the European Union are strong enough and wealthy enough to protect themselves without relying on the USA.   I thought then, and I still think, that this would be a good thing.

But if the Europeans paid for their own defense, they might be less willing to follow the U.S. lead in military policy.  And, maybe more importantly, they might be less willing to buy their weapons from American manufacturers.

The advantage of paying the piper means that you get to call the tune.

The growing danger of war with Russia

May 25, 2016

There is only one nation in the world with the power to destroy the USA, and that is Russia, with its stockpile of 1,800 operational nuclear weapons.  Russia would be destroyed in the process, so its leaders would be insane to attempt this unless Russia’s own survival were at risk.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have brought this danger closer by extending NATO forces to the borders of Russia, conducting military exercises close to Russia and attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into an anti-Russian alliance.

I can understand why some people in the Baltic states, Poland and other countries formerly under Soviet domination might want U.S. protection and even a U.S. attack on Russia (just as some people in the Caribbean and Central American countries might want the reverse.)

The problem is that NATO forces probably could not defeat the Russia army in a war close to Russia’s borders, just as Russia could not successfully defend a Caribbean or Central American country.

It’s generally admitted that NATO in Cold War times could not stopped a Red Army invasion of western Europe.  That is why the U.S. government has never pledged “no first use” of nuclear weapons.  The US depended on nuclear weapons as an ultimate deterrent, and still does.

Another danger is that, if Russia’s leaders felt threatened, they might strike first.  Or war might be triggered accidentally, as has almost happened many times in the past.

Terrorist movements such as ISIS and Al Qaeda are criminal and loathsome, but they do not threaten the existence of the United States.  Nuclear war does.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama took office saying they intended to improve relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  The fact that this didn’t happen makes me wonder about the power of the un-elected Deep State that Mike Lofgren and others have written about.

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The twilight of NATO?

March 15, 2015

27602NATO was formed as a defensive alliance in which the Americans promised to protect Europe.  It has become an offensive alliance for Europeans to support U.S. interventions.   This does not benefit Europe.   American leaders should not take European support for granted.  I question how long NATO can endure.

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Germany Concerned About Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine by the staff of Der Spiegel

NATO and the Two Central Conflicts of the Ukraine Crisis by Karel von Wolferen, a leading Dutch journalist.

NATO and Ukraine: Links & comments 8/22/14

August 22, 2014

ENGLISH GRAPHIC - DER SPIEGEL 48/2009 Seite 47The Ukraine, Corrupted Journalism and the Atlanticist Faith by Karel van Wolferen, a respected Dutch journalist, for the Unz Review.

Van Wolferen thinks NATO has outlived its usefulness.  Once an alliance to protect western Europe from the Red Army, it is now, he wrote, a means by which the United States drags Europeans into wars that are none of their concern.

When NATO was created, Europe had not fully recovered from the devastation of the Second World War, and would not have been able to stop a Soviet invasion.   We had a great debate here in the United States about whether we wanted to make this commitment, or go back to our traditional isolationist ways.  We decided that safety lay in collective security against aggression.

These conditions no longer apply.  European nations are rich and prosperous, and well able to protect themselves.  We should gradually shift the burden of defending Europe to the Europeans themselves.  If Europeans differ from Americans about what their defense needs are, that is their decision to make.

NATO’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow? by Uwe Klubmann, Matthias Schlepp and Klaus Wiegrafe for Der Spiegel.

I always took it to be a fact that Secretary of State James Baker promised Mikhail Gorbachev that if the Soviet Union withdraw troops from eastern Europe, NATO would not expand eastward to fill the vacuum.  But the people concerned disagree on who said what.  Too bad for Russia that Gorbachev didn’t get Baker’s alleged promise in writing.

What Do the World Bank and IMF Have to Do With the Ukraine Conflict? by Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute, for Inter Press Service.

Mousseau described a new report by the Oakland Institute, an independent think tank, that says World Bank and International Monetary Fund are demanding, in return for loans, that Ukraine impose austerity measures that will increase prices, lower wages, increase taxes and open up Ukraine’s rich farmland for acquisition by foreign corporations.

Ukrainians are trapped in a no-win situation.  Neither NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, the Russian Federation and their own crooked politicians and business oligarchs have their interests at heart.

The war in Ukraine: This is no time for proving your point by Olga Allyonova for Russia Behind the Headlines.

 A heartfelt plea for peace by a Russian journalist.

Secretary Gates’ warning on NATO

June 11, 2011
NATO countries in Europe are in blue. Click map to view.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle this morning reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned NATO allies that the United States can’t continue to support the alliance if European allies don’t do their share.

Robert Gates

Without naming names, he criticized “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”  He said that unless something changes, NATO could cease to exist.

Earlier Gates warned that if the United States cuts back on its military budget, the U.S. government will no longer be able to project its power on a global basis.

Gates stated the alternatives honestly and correctly.  But would the demise of NATO be such a terrible thing?  Would a cutback on the reach of the U.S. military be such a bad thing?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 because leaders of the nations of western Europe, devastated by war, did not believe they could defend themselves against the Red Army.  For more than 40 years, the United States maintained forces in western Europe which, along with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, deterred any thought the Soviet leaders might have had of attacking Europe.

Now the Soviet Union no longer exists.  Western European countries have good relations with the Russian Federation.  True, some of the eastern European countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union want a U.S. guarantee.  NATO has expanded to take many of them in.  But is it the responsibility of United States to bear 43 percent of the world’s military expenditures to provide this reassurance?  If a guarantee is needed, shouldn’t the European nations provide it?

Currently NATO is mainly an adjunct to the U.S. global “war on terror.”  NATO allies were quick to join the United States in 2002 in the invasion of Afghanistan, but the people of France, Britain and other European countries no longer see this as being in their interest.  I think the people of the United States are slowly coming to the same conclusion – that invading foreign countries does not make this country safer.

If the United States did not have military bases on every continent, and military forces able to intervene almost anywhere in the world, there would be fewer U.S. military interventions.  I think this would be a good thing, not a bad thing.

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