The Trump Administration in Washington is ramping up confrontation and preparing for war all over the globe, from the South China Sea to the Baltic via the Persian Gulf. The countries of the US-NATO military alliance have vastly increased their military spending and are boosting deployment of their forces in Europe in accordance with the policy of Enhanced Forward Presence — the positioning of strike aircraft, missile-armed ships and armoured formations as close as possible to Russia’s border.
In March 2018 NATO’s Deputy Secretary General, former US Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, spoke to the media at Warsaw’s military airport and was effusive about the forward movement of US-NATO troops. She “wanted to say what an honour it was to visit the battlegroup that is deployed here in Poland today… I have had the opportunity… over the past few months to visit all four of the battlegroups, and I can see that that promise made among all Allies in Warsaw in 2016 has resulted in certified, effective battlegroups that are training every single day of the week, to provide for the deterrence and defence of this Alliance. So I was very proud to be here.”
It is hugely expensive to move and maintain military forces in foreign countries and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) records that in 2016 “NATO’s collective military expenditure rose to $881 billion” while “European NATO members spent $254 billion in 2016 — over 3 times more than Russia.”
Russia’s $69.2 billion defence outlay in 2016 was one twelfth of US-NATO’s spending on armaments and preparations for war.
In January 2018 the US Department of Defence published its National Defence Strategy which conveyed the message that “the central challenge to US prosperity and security is re-emergence of long-term strategic competition” from Russia and China who are “revisionist powers” and a “growing threat” requiring a vast surge in US military expenditure. The Pentagon’s Mission involves “restoring America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the United States, its allies or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II.”
That is the US-enforced “international order” that involved its disastrous war in Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq that propelled the Middle East to its current state of chaos, and a continuing, sixteen-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, all of which military forays by the global gendarme caused massive destruction and the deaths of uncountable numbers of innocent citizens.
And now the US has some 1.3 million people in the army, navy, air force and Marine Corps, with about 200,000 stationed in over 800 overseas military bases, in order to continue enforcement of “international order.”
The Nuclear Posture Review that was published on February 2, 2018, just after the defence strategy paper (January 19) also makes it clear who the Pentagon considers to be its enemies, mentioning China 47 times, Iran 39 times and Russia 127 times, which makes nonsense of the claim by the State Department that “we do not want to consider Russia an adversary . . . This not a Russia-centric NPR.”
Trump’s “America First” policy has alienated longtime US allies and increased distrust by the many countries being confronted militarily. The irony about this drum-thumping slogan is the US claim that “It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model, gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions,” because this is precisely what “America First” is about : military domination and total ascendancy over the economies of the entire world.
A further irony became apparent just two months after notification of the Nuclear Posture and the equally confrontational National Defence Strategy, when SIPRI published its statistics concerning international military expenditure. There was extensive cover of most of its findings in the Western media, but strangely enough little mention was made of the fact that “at $66.3 billion, Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20 per cent lower than in 2016.”
SIPRI reported that in the year in which Russia reduced its defence expenditure by twenty per cent, “military spending in both Central and Western Europe increased by 12 and 1.7 per cent, respectively . . . total military spending by all 29 NATO members was $900 billion in 2017, accounting for 52 per cent of world spending.”
SIPRI further noted that “The United States continues to have the highest military expenditure in the world. In 2017 the USA spent more on its military than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.”
The Western media’s reporting of President Putin’s speech to Russia’s Federal Assembly on March 1 was intriguing. It concentrated almost entirely on Russia’s weapons’ developments, with the New York Times, for example, reporting that the President “used the speech to reassure Russians that the military buildup was taking place.” The 1500 words of that report were almost entirely devoted to his description of Russian weapons designed to deter US-NATO adventurism, and a mere 65 covered the social improvement programmes he described.
In outlining his priorities the President declared that “the main, key development factor is the well-being of the people and the prosperity of Russian families. Let me remind you that in 2000, 42 million people lived below the poverty line, which amounted to nearly 30 percent – 29 percent of the population. In 2012, this indicator fell to 10 percent. Poverty has increased slightly against the backdrop of the economic crisis. Today, 20 million Russian nationals live in poverty. Of course, this is much fewer than the 42 million people in 2000, but it is still way too many.”
Of course Russia wants to improve the lives of its citizens, and intends to do this, no matter the military buildup round its borders. But it isn’t going to stand back and do nothing while the US-NATO military bloc expands and accelerates towards conflict. Certainly there has been a massive reduction in Russia’s defence budget, while the US and the rest of NATO are vastly increasing military expenditure, but it remains necessary for Russia to maintain its defence capabilities to counter the provocations of the US-NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence menacing its borders.
As noted by the US independent platform Veterans Today, President Putin stated that “American submarines are on permanent alert off the Norwegian coast; they are equipped with missiles that can reach Moscow in 17 minutes. But we dismantled all of our bases in Cuba a long time ago, even the non-strategic ones. And you would call us aggressive?”
Yes, they do, in spite of all the aggression being displayed by US-NATO military deployments and manoeuvres in eastern Europe.
For example, Exercise Siil 2018 was held in Estonia from 2-13 May 2018, involving over 15,000 troops from 10 NATO countries — the UK, US, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — and the five supposedly neutral countries of Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Sweden and Ukraine.
There could not be a plainer signal that the Pentagon and its sub-branch in Brussels are escalating to conflict.