Next Cold War Roundup 6/14/16
Cold War and post-Cold War alliances and commitments forged since World War II have resulted in US security responsibilities becoming grossly overextended and showing signs of significant strain. NATO Anakonda exercises continue in Poland. A meeting of defense ministers was held this week and the full NATO summit in Warsaw will be held in July, where plans for the deployment of troops near the Russian border will be finalized. President Obama changed the rules of engagement for US troops in Afghanistan and authorized escalation. Two US carrier groups are now in the eastern Mediterranean as part of anti-ISIS operations and a show of force toward Russia.
Alliances and Commitments Make US Responsible for Security of 60% of Planet
_ Ted Galen Carpenter of Cato and National Interest published an article, titled, “It’s Time to Prune America’s Overgrown Alliance Network,” in which he notes that:
“Because of the vast number of security obligations the United States has undertaken over the decades, the system now resembles an overgrown garden in desperate need of pruning. Formal and informal security commitments now make the United States responsible for the security of more than sixty percent of the planet.” [Emphasis added]
_ Carpenter proposes three ways of deciding which commitments and allies to “prune”: 1) Get rid of the most useless allies in terms of “economic and military might” (e.g. small NATO members) ; 2) Cut loose the allies who are most dangerous and could “easily drag the United States into an unnecessary war” (e.g. Taiwan, South Korea); 3) “jettison the most odious allies” whose domestic and international norms and activities “offend American values” (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Hungary, Israel). Some alliances fall into more than one of the categories above, such as the Baltic states and should be high on the pruning list.
_ Carpenter wisely advises: “security commitments are a serious business, and we should view them as such” and notes that Congress has “largely abdicated its responsibilities regarding war and peace” and should seriously consider whether they would be willing to take America into large wars with powerful adversaries to defend all of these “allies”.
_ This pruning process would “lead to a fundamental reconsideration of America’s entire grand strategy” which Carpenter says is headed for a fatal crash, while “intellectually bankrupt political and foreign policy establishments” seem to be “oblivious to the danger.”
NATO Exercises in Eastern Europe
_ Atlantic Council did a forum in Lithuania with Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of the US Army in Europe. They chose not to publish video of this event on their YouTube channel, unlike most other events.
_ John Batchelor & Stephen Cohen’s weekly radio segment about the Anakonda military exercises in Poland, missiles and troops deployed on the Russian border, and the high risk of this escalation.
_ There’s a two-part interview with Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at University of Kent, in which he says “NATO Exercises Encircling Russia: U.S. Might be Sleepwalking into a Doomsday Scenario.” (Part 1, Part 2, Transcript)
NATO Defense Ministers Meeting, Escalation of NATO Forces on Russian Border
_ The deployment of NATO forces in the Baltic states and Poland is expected to be approved Tuesday by NATO defense ministers, 3 weeks before a NATO summit in Warsaw. “The four battalions to be agreed on Tuesday are part of a wider NATO deterrent force to be approved in Warsaw in July. It will involve forces on rotation, warehoused equipment ready for an attack and a highly mobile ‘spearhead’ force backed by NATO’s 40,000-strong rapid reaction force.”
_ The troops that will now be deployed on Russia’s border will include German troops. One of the achievements to be announced at the Warsaw summit is the reversal of declining military spending in Europe. “Defence spending by Europe’s NATO states is set to rise for the first time in nearly a decade.” German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said “the years of decline are over” as Germany increases its military budget for the first time in 25 years.
_ There is already talk of even more escalation of NATO force on Russia’s border: “Baltic nations and Poland want a sophisticated anti-missile shield to deter Russia from gaining the upper hand […] That could involve NATO fighter planes and surface-to-air missile interceptors on a much larger scale in the Baltics.”
_ A Pew poll showed that Europeans largely don’t see Russia (or China, or US) as a threat and most don’t want to increase defense spending. There are some standouts, such as Poland who does see Russia as a threat and they, along with the Netherlands, want more defense spending.
_ NATO defense ministers will also discuss a NATO role against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
_ The New York Times claimed there was “no immediate reaction from Moscow” but this is misleading as there have been numerous reactions.
Two US Carrier Groups in the Mediterranean to Send a Message to Russia… or Libya?
_ As we reported in our last roundup on Wednesday, one US carrier group has been moved from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean, and another has been deployed to relieve it. Since the USS Truman’s mission has been extended, and now that the USS Eisenhower has arrived, there are two aircraft carrier groups in the Mediterranean for some period of time. Another important development is that previous explanations about the USS Truman‘s activities were explained as “a demonstration of the flexibility of naval power” but US officials are now calling it a “quick pivot intended to send a clear message to Russia.” On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a dramatic article, filed from “Aboard USS Harry S. Truman.”
_ Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder signaled that moving the Truman was a “flexing of muscle” and stated: “There are undoubtedly folks who are watching that and this is just a graphic representation of what we’re capable of.”
_ An anonymous “military official in Washington” said moving the Truman “was a signal to Moscow and a demonstration of the Navy’s operational flexibility and reach […] It provides some needed presence in the Med to check…the Russians, […] The unpredictability of what we did with Truman kind of makes them think twice.”
_ The Wall Street Journal article then does a pivot itself, and mentions that the carrier groups could be a “vital asset” if the US and allies decide to “begin operations against Islamic State in Libya” which the US is “contemplating.”
_ Russian media describes the mission of the two carrier groups as one of deterrence of Russia and notes that US military presence has been “boosted even further ahead of a NATO summit in Warsaw.”
_ The US Navy sent USS Porter, a guided missile destroyer, into the Black Sea. “The US Navy claimed the ship entered the Black Sea to “promote peace” with its shiny new offensive missile system, which the Navy had described as being installed due to the “Russian threat.” The Porter is the first US ship to enter the Black Sea in 2016.” Russia is calling this a provocation and says there will be a response.
Operation Inherent Resolve, Baghdadi
— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) June 12, 2016
_ AlhlulBayt news agency reported that ISIS caliphate Baghdadi was killed by a US airstrike near Raqqa. “Army Col. Chris Garver, the top spokesman for the coalition in Iraq” said he was aware of the reports but could not confirm it.
Race for Raqqa
_ Video of Syrian army and one Russian soldier was published on YouTube and social media: “regime forces near the Resafa junction, south of al-Taqbah.”
Pentagon vs. CIA in Syria
_ “They can’t even agree who US is actually fighting.” Pentagon sees it as a war against ISIS, CIA sees it as a regime change operation, and the president is vague. “Still, the CIA and Pentagon are both heavily involved in their respective wars, and eagerly undercutting one another in advancement of their respective goals.”
_ Nancy Youssef at the Daily Beast says US-backed rebels in Aleppo are being wiped out as the CIA and Pentagon bicker. She has quotes from both. Pentagon officials told her “that they are not eager to support the rebels in the city of Aleppo because they’re seen as being affiliated with al Qaeda in Syria, or Jabhat al Nusra.” And CIA officials denied the links between rebels and al Qaeda and ripped the Pentagon: “It is a strange thing that DoD hall chatter mimics Russian propaganda.” They’re practically accusing the Pentagon of being “Kremlin trolls” as is a common ploy of war hawks on social media. The CIA claims Assad must be defeated first and only then can ISIS be defeated.
_ One think tank analyst said:“We are not a country of agencies that butt up against each other. The White House needs to decide what its approach is toward Assad and the rebel groups.
Draft Syrian Constitution
_ The Carter Center is working on a draft constitution for Syria and announced an updated working paper. Levant Insight claims the new constitution, though it will have to be adopted by Syrians, was written by the US and Russia. Russia claims they did not participate in the drafting. Levant Insight says it will change Syria completely and the draft constitution shifts more power to local administrations, and a “considerable shift toward a free economy, including the privatization of natural resources [emphasis added]. All references to “Republic” and “Arab” are removed from the name of the country.
_ On Friday the UN-appointed “unity government” in Libya announced that victory over the ~1800 ISIS fighters in Sirte was inevitable within several days as airstrikes, artillery strikes were carried out and there was reported urban combat in the city. On Monday, the fighting had stalled and was mainly at the “western entrance”. ISIS appears to be dug in and launching counterattacks.
_ Twelve former Gaddafi regime officials were released from jail in Tripoli last Thursday and on were found murdered the next day. The UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler tweeted that he was “shocked and dismayed by the reports of murder of so many detainees released by a Tripoli court”. Their “bullet-riddled bodies” were found in various places in the capital city.
Obama Re-Escalates in Afghanistan, Redefines Support Role
_Pres. Obama authorized “greater use of U.S. air power, particularly close air support” in Afghanistan. So much for that withdrawal at the end of 2014. “A group of retired generals and senior diplomats urged Obama last week to forgo those plans.” This also “redefines America’s support role in Afghanistan’s grinding conflict.” Under the current rules of engagement, US troops were allowed to engage only in “extremis” and now they will “more proactively support Afghan conventional forces” which will “give it greater leeway in addressing the shortcomings of Afghan security forces.” Experts admit that it’s hard to predict when Afghan forces will be able to stand on their own against the Taliban.
UN Removed Saudi Arabia From Blacklist After They Threatened Funding
_ “Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had temporarily removed a Saudi Arabia-led coalition from a blacklist because it had threatened to defund United Nations programs, which would imperil children in the region.”
John Brennan Says Released 28 Pages Would Clear Saudi Arabia’s Name re: 9/11
_ CIA director Brennan has changed his tune considerably on the subject of the 28 pages and 9/11. In early May, Brennan opposed the release of the 28 pages saying there was “unvetted” information and it would be a mistake to release them. Now he has had a sudden change of heart and told Saudi-owned Arabiya TV: “I think the 28 pages will be published and I support their publication and everyone will see the evidence that the Saudi government had nothing to do with it.” Have the 28 pages been reviewed and newly redacted in preparation for release to the public?
_ Sen. Bob Graham told ABC News: “The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier. The position of the United States government has been to protect Saudi Arabia.”
_ Congressman Justin Amash says: “CIA director must be referring to different 28 pages than ones I read. Release them and let American people decide. ”
Iran Oil Production
_ Iran’s oil production expansion and exports are moving more rapidly than expected.
Exaggerated Threats of Sectarian Violence in Fallujah
_ Sunni extremist fighters warn civilians in Sunni areas that Shiite militias will slaughter them but civilians escaping ISIS-held areas around Fallujah “said they had tired of grim life under the Islamic State and had been treated well by the militias and Iraqi soldiers […] ‘We were surprised that they treated us so well. Daesh had told us the Shiites wanted revenge and would kill us.'”
Explosives Packaged in Refined Sugar From Dubai Found in Iraq
_ Iraq war updates via social media say that tons of explosive components were found in packages of refined sugar from Dubai. This was found in an “Daesh hideout” northeast of Fallujah and was delivered to Iraq via Turkey. Photos were provided. There have been numerous reports of weapons hidden among humanitarian aid on trucks from Turkey.
Analysis and Opinion
_ French journalist Victor Ayoli is quoted in Russian state news, Sputnik, advising that now is the time for France and Germany to leave NATO because, in his view: “NATO is a war machine that has no other use than to serve the interests of the US financial elite. It is time for the European powers to leave the obsolete bloc and accelerate their rapprochement with Moscow, before Washington’s warmongers drag Europe into a conflict with Russia.”
_ Patrick Smith at Salon: “Our Syria policy is still a mess: These are the dots the media refuses to connect. Russia’s foreign minister reveals a strange talk with John Kerry, and explains much about American foreign policy.”