Next Cold War Roundup 7/8/16
The highly contentious NATO Summit in Warsaw begins today with ceremony, bilateral meetings and expert forums. The national stadium in Warsaw will be used as a venue. The main topics will be the “triple threat” of Russia, Brexit and the problems in the southern NATO region (terrorism, migrants). Progress has stalled in Manbij, Syria, as the Syrian Democratic Forces deal with ISIS counterattacks. The New Syrian Army claims the US stopped providing air support during their battle near the Iraq-Syria border. An Iraqi investigation on possibly war crimes during the anti-ISIS operation in Fallujah has begun.
NATO Warsaw Summit
NATO Warsaw Summit Agenda
- “approve the use of AWACS surveillance aircraft to assist” anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria
- agree to a “new role for NATO in the Central Mediterranean” “to complement the European Union’s Operation Sophia”
- “begin training and capacity-building measures for the Iraqi military inside Iraq, expanding an alliance program that has been training Iraqi officers in Jordan”
- “endorse a decision” to “deploy four multinational battalions totaling around 4,000 troops” in “Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania”
- “approve the formation of a multinational brigade to be based in Romania”
- “steps to improve cyber-defence, civil preparedness and the ability to defend against ballistic missile attacks” in the southeast of NATO territory
Other items from the Warsaw Summit:
- Poland signed a letter of intent with Raytheon “to cooperate on a Polish missile defense program, paving the way for the country’s acquisition of Patriot missiles“
NATO Takes Control of Nuclear Missile “Defense”
_ Stoltenberg announced that the new missile “shield” is now under NATO control, “is initially operational” and that “U.S. ships based in Spain, a radar in Turkey and the missile defense base in Romania can work together under NATO command.” Another piece of the system will be added in Poland soon.
“NATO takes command of a U.S.-built missile shield in Europe on Friday, after France won assurances that the multi-billion-dollar system would not be under Washington’s direct control.”
_ France “needed assurances that control of the shield was genuinely being transferred to NATO, not kept under the command of U.S. generals.” NATO’s top general is always a US general, the head of the European command. In recent years, as evidenced by Breedlove, NATO generals are often much more hawkish than US generals overall. So these “assurances” don’t make much sense.
Russia’s Response to NATO Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Before it was Implemented
_ Russia sees the new NATO missile system as not just an offensive nuclear-capable weapon, but as way to weaken their own defenses and capabilities (because of proximity). Russia talks about their moves in response to placing missiles on their border. And the ladder of escalation begins: “In a sign of the high stakes, Washington’s envoy to NATO, Douglas Lute, warned last month that if Russia were to activate its long-range, networked air defenses in Kaliningrad, that could be an act of war.” All the while, NATO claims they don’t want a new Cold War, they don’t want an escalation.
_ When Russian president Putin was in Greece in May he spoke about the new NATO missile “defense” system:
“At the moment the interceptor missiles installed have a range of 500 kilometers, soon this will go up to 1000 kilometers, and worse than that, they can be rearmed with 2400km-range offensive missiles even today, and it can be done by simply switching the software, so that even the Romanians themselves won’t know. […] “We have the capability to respond. The whole world saw what our medium-range sea-based missiles are capable of [in Syria]. ” [Emphasis added]
_ “Moscow does not believe the European part of it is targeted against a potential threat from Iran.” They believe they are targeting Russia.
“NATO fend us off with vague statements that this is no threat to Russia… That the whole project began as a preventive measure against Iran’s nuclear program. Where is that program now? It doesn’t exist […] “We have been saying since the early 2000s that we will have to react somehow to your moves to undermine international security. No one is listening to us.” [Emphasis added]
_ NATO waves off Russia’s alarm and warnings as a distraction: “The Kremlin has been formally opposing the deployment of BMD on the basis that it would pose a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent and Russian security. Moscow has been using this strategy to prove Russia is a besieged nation surrounded by hostile powers.”
_ And then NATO unwittingly confirms Russia’s claims while intending to refute them: “Describing NATO’s missile defence as a threat to Russia feeds into the currently-promoted narrative. This paints the West as an aggressive force which aims to change Russia’s regime and negate its nuclear deterrent, which Moscow regards as the ultimate guarantee of its sovereignty. […] Russia is in the midst of a currency crisis, with the Russian rouble hitting record low exchange rates. Under pressure by Western sanctions and low oil prices, the Kremlin’s energy-dependent coffers may find it challenging to slow the current rates of domestic policy problems that will likely affect public confidence in the Russian leadership.”
A new EU-NATO “strategic partnership agreement (which shuts out or effectively demotes the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini) The “EU and NATO will deepen cooperation to counter both physical and hybrid attacks” and will use “all ways and means available” to address “challenges emanating from the south and East.”
_ Link to agreement is here.
NATO Family Portrait With Drone Canceled
_ A “family portrait” with NATO heads of state posing in front of NATO’s new Global Hawk drone was canceled, reportedly after the White House decided that wasn’t the kind image they wanted to project. NATO published some video of the NATO drone that will “collect data for the alliance so that brings intelligences to NATO produced by a NATO owned and operated asset and distributed not only to NATO but to all 28 NATO members ”
Nato's new Global Hawk surveillance drone. Was to be a photo opp with heads of state, but White House pulled out. pic.twitter.com/PJtdvWrmkq
— Julian Borger (@julianborger) July 8, 2016
_ The did a conventional family portrait for heads of state instead:
— Oana Lungescu (@NATOpress) July 8, 2016
_ But, NATO’s Stoltenberg apparently still got the drone family portrait in another format.
— RFE/RL (@RFERL) July 8, 2016
NATO Summit Focuses on Triple Threat: Russia, Brexit, Terrorists & Migrants
_ An op-ed by former US ambassador to NATO and foreign policy advisor to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama gives a good sense on the current state of mind and focus of the war party faction at NATO. Ivo Daalder, says that the NATO summit in Warsaw this week will focus on the “triple threat” to Europe, which is Russia, Brexit, and the problems in the southern NATO countries (terrorism and migrants). He says the Warsaw Summit is the most important NATO summit in 25 years.
_ Daalder says Brexit “poses the gravest challenge to the European project and European unity in more than half a century.” He implies that Russia is at fault for all forces which are dividing Europe and the EU: “Russia shows no sign of stepping back from its efforts to challenge NATO’s cohesion.” He doesn’t say how NATO will respond to the “Brexit threat” but that the “task of NATO leaders is to put in place policies and processes that respond to this triple challenge to Europe’s security in ways that are clearly understood by the alliance’s adversaries and supported by increasingly restive publics on both sides of the Atlantic.”
_ Daalder says that the reason NATO is creating permanent military bases on Russia’s border is in response to the increased Russian military exercises in Russia (which are in response to the NATO troops now on their border). His proof that Russia is a threat to Europe is “2,000 exercises and wargames Russian military forces are planning to conduct between June and October” and says that “in response, NATO leaders this week are expected to announce the forward deployment of four combat battalions (about 1,000 troops each) to the three Baltic States and Poland.” All of this, he claims, “provides a clear warning to Moscow not to infringe on NATO’s territorial integrity” even though the Russian troops and exercises are being conducted within Russia as a defensive measure.
_ Daalder says NATO also wants to get involved in anti-terrorist operations in the Middle East, wants to deploy in Iraq, and wants to put NATO ships in the Mediterranean. He says NATO hasn’t been very involved in this but “that could well change, as the European Union, newly embroiled in its own crisis, may prove unable to address these challenges on its own.”
_ Daalder expresses great concern that European countries are turning “inward” too much while addressing their problems at home, says “Warsaw is the time to act,” and that “growing threats to European security require a robust and outward-looking response.” He says: “When nations turn inward, the security and prosperity of all inevitably suffer.” When nations turn inward to deal with urgent problems at home and focus on their domestic economies, they’re also more likely to cut their budget dollars for NATO, which is a threat to NATO’s prosperity.
NATO Military Exercises on Russian Border
_ In a Washinton Post series about military exercises in Baltic states on the Russian border they casually describe an incident between British and Russian fighter jets as “just the latest confrontation between the West and Russia in a region that has fast become a tripwire for conflict between nuclear superpowers” and they note that “encounter each other in the Baltic skies nearly every day.”
_ The NATO military exercises being conducted right now are in Voru, a town 16 miles from the Russian border. “Western leaders” claim they used this location “to deter an attack while avoiding the perception of a military threat to Russia,” which sounds like malarchy. This would be the equivalent of the Russians conducting exercises in the southern suburbs of Montreal or Vancouver.
US Senator Rips Germany For Low NATO Spending
_ The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, Republican war hawk from Tennessee, called Germany “laggards” and said it was “highly offensive” that they don’t spend 2% of their GDP on NATO. “We have 40,000 troops in their country, they feel no threat, they’re living off of us, and I just find it offensive.” Meanwhile, NATO opposed the cutback of US troops in Germany and worked to reverse it.
_ Only a few of the 28 NATO countries meet the 2% of GDP target: Estonia, Great Britain, Greece, Poland and the US. Germany spends “$39.7 billion, or 1.8 percent of its GDP” and is the 4th largest spender.
_ A Pew research poll showed that none of the NATO countries in Europe want to “use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member.” The only two countries where a majority of those polled said yes were the US and Canada.
Reports of War Crimes Near Fallujah by Iraqi Militia
_ “Up to 900 men and boys who fled their homes near Isis’ former stronghold of Fallujah remain missing in Iraq after being abducted by a militia accused of torturing, shooting and beheading civilians.” The PMU militia being accused is a Shia paramilitary militia, Kataaib Hezbollah, which was designated as a terrorist group by the US in 2009 for attacks on US coalition troops. The militia is now fighting alongside the Iraqi army and coalition, backed by US air force. Iraq’s prime minister has ordered an investigation. “The UN has cautioned that male civilians must not be presumed to have links with Isis or be treated as assumed combatants.”
_ Most of the missing men and boys “belong to the dominantly Sunni al-Mahamda tribe, who are viewed with suspicion by Shia paramilitaries as a subset Anbar Province’s Dulaim tribe, which has been part of violent resistance against the Iraqi state.”
Syria: ISIS Counterattack in Manbij, No SDF Progress for 10 Days
_ Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish forces with a sprinkling of Arab forces, have not captured Manbij and are dealing with a serious counteroffensive by ISIS. “Manbij is seen as strategically important to ISIS, as the main route between Jarabulus, on the Turkish border, and their capital of ISIS. The SDF have been contesting ISIS territory in northern Raqqa Province for over a month, though apart from trading some villages, nothing decisive has resulted.”
_ Last weekend ISIS, who were nearly surrounded last month and under siege, “counter attacked on three fronts around the city on Saturday, followed by a further counter attack over Sunday night and in the early hours of Monday.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that there had been no progress for 10 days in Manbij by the SDF.
_ Heavy US airstrikes were used to repel the ISIS counterattack. Operation Inherent Resolve posted on social media about one strike on Tuesday.
— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) July 5, 2016
Syria: New Syrian Army Loss at Iraq-Syria Border
_ There’s new information in a Washington post article (with one journalist on the byline generally sympathetic to the CIA-backed rebels in Syria), about the strange recent battle between ISIS and the New Syrian Army (NSA) near the Syria-Iraq border crossing of Al Bukamal. The Pentagon-backed NSA was assisted by an unnamed CIA-backed rebel group, and was reportedly abandoned by the US and coalition air force due to the large operation outside Fallujah to attack ISIS convoys. The WaPo article suggests that the anti-ISIS coalition might not have enough air power, even though airstrikes were being conducted from numerous locations: two aircraft carrier groups in the Med, one Marine assault group in the Persian Gulf, a French aircraft carrier group in the Gulf, a large airbase in Turkey, and probably other airbase locations in the region. The anti-ISIS coalition has numerous other countries with air power as well, including regional allies, though they probably don’t operate inside Syria.
“The small force never numbered more than 100 men, but was backed in the offensive by a different, CIA-backed group. The New Syrian Army comprises rebels drawn from the local population of Bukamal who were recruited mostly in Turkey in 2015, trained in Jordan and sent into Syria earlier this year with the goal of confronting the Islamic State.” [Emphasis added]
_ Which CIA-backed Syrian rebel group was involved? This could explain why the Russian air force bombed the New Syrian Army garrison at Tanf in an incident that was not well explained in the mainstream media reporting. There’s more to this story. It could be another grudge match between the Pentagon and the CIA. It could be a justification for establishing another US base in Syria or Iraq, or part of the reported push by the generals for more troops and resources to be deployed.
Batchelor & Cohen on Obama’s Proposal to Putin
_ Stephen Cohen, on the John Batchelor Show Tuesday night (podcast here) said one of his sources told him that Pres. Obama has been quietly reaching out to Russian president Putin. He claims that his source is/was a high level figure in US government and that “Obama does not want to leave office with Cold War with Russia as his legacy.” Cohen also mentioned a comment by Putin over the 4th of July weekend about how when America and Russia work together, good things happen. Cohen says that this rapprochement was known to the war hawks in the State Dept. and that’s why the “dissent channel” memo was done.
_ Cohen: There’s a division between factions in Washington, Brussels and the EU where elites disagree on the escalation of the new Cold War between the US and Russia. One side thinks we should push further against Russia and the other thinks it has gone too far. With each deployment of troops and weapons in eastern Europe the danger of incidents and a hot war between nuclear powers increases and the same is true in Syria.
_ Bachelor asks why Obama’s peace gesture should be considered to be genuine. Cohen says there is definitely skepticism in Moscow but Putin’s recent comment included “we do not hold grudges.” Cohen says the stakes are so high and the opposition is enormous. Cohen cites the example that, to everyone’s surprise, Putin agreed to a meeting between NATO Russian council and NATO. Bachelor remains skeptical that the proposals from Obama are genuine.
“The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership The Russia-China Axis”
_ A radio interview with Douglas E. Schoen and Melik Kaylan about their 2014 book “The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership The Russia-China Axis” offers a discussion of their view that the real threat to the US is not the Middle East but the new alliance between Russia and China. Kaylan explained the threat not so much as a military threat but the threat to our economic system and order. In his view, Russia and China are making arguments against the free market capitalist system as a failure in this new era of technology and information. He fears that the global populace might find the Russia-China “Axis” convincing and appealing, for reasons that he believes are rooted in misinformation and ignorance. Kaylan and Schoen think that American’s global influence is waning as Russia’s and China’s is rising and they “argue that only a rebirth of American global leadership can counter the corrosive impact of this antidemocratic alliance, which may soon threaten the peace and security of the world.” Disappointingly, Kaylan and Schoen did not, during the interview, explain their plan for making this “rebirth” happen, or whether it involved regime changes and military force.
_ Douglas Schoen and Melik Kaylan republished the book in electronic form in 2015, with a new Game of Throneish title: “Return to Winter: Russia, China, and the New Cold War Against America“.
Turkey’s Diplomatic Shift
_ On RT’s Crosstalk show this week, Joe Lauria said there is talk about rapprochement between Turkey and Syria (former allies) with Erdogan and Assad meeting in Damascus. Lauria believes that Erdogan is not driven by any ideology, only by self interest and his own power. He believes Erdogan’s actions are short term and not trustworthy, done only to get help with ISIS from Russia in order to survive. Lauria notes that though Erdogan has shifted his problem with the Kurds to a lower priority, that is unlikely to last and he will return to his goal of preventing federation or a Kurdish state when other, more pressing problems are cleared up. Lauria says it’s simply not credible that Erdogan suddenly realizes that the monster he helped create (ISIS) must be destroyed.
Other guests on the show, like Onur Isci, a professor in Ankara, think that Turkey has genuinely realized it’s mistakes and that with a new prime minister is taking the opportunity for a reset. Isci says that adventurism has been a failure and the theme of returning to “mainstream” has been been playing frequently in Ankara, since the election of a new prime minister.