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Trump Pushes the Envelope: NATO Military Exercises Near Russian Border in Northern Norway – August – November, 2018: Part Two – Some Strategic Considerations

November 5, 2018

Rally against the nuclear arms race, June 1982, Denver, Colorado. It coincided with what is referred to as the Second Session on Disarmament at the United Nations in New York. There, a million people demonstrated against the nuclear arms race. In Denver, I don’t remember the number, but believe it was between 25,00-30,000, one of the largest in Colorado until Trumpty-Dumpty was elected and hundreds of thousands took to the street in protest. We’re (we = the world) are going to have to get back in the streets again on this one.

Trump Pushes the Envelope: NATO Military Exercises Near Russian Border in Northern Norway – August – November, 2018: Part Two. (Part One) (Part Three)

1.  Some Global Considerations Behind Trident Juncture 18

Trident Juncture 18, the largest NATO military maneuvers in nearly forty years in northern Norway and the adjoining Arctic Ocean are about to come to an end. They were meant, essentially, to scare the bejesus out of Russia and I have little doubt that they did just that. NATO is preparing for war against Russia. There is no other reasonable conclusion that one can make from the evidence presented. Driven by Washington, if NATO is preparing for war, what kind of war could it be other than nuclear war.

In the midst of these maneuvers close to the Russian border, as a kind of icing on the cake to put the Russians in their place, U.S. President Trump announced that the United States would soon be withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty for short). A double whammy – first the maneuvers themselves, then the announcement of the political consequence: a renewed nuclear weapons arms race.

Having withdrawn the United States from Paris Climate Accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (known in the USA as the misleading “Iran Nuclear Deal,” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Social Organization (UNESCO), his recent announcement that now the United States is pulling out of I.N.F. Treaty – as ominous a development as it appears – should come as no great surprise.

Whether it’s walking away from multilateral or bilateral agreements the Trump Administration has the same goals in mind – strengthening its bargaining position on trade and security issues and removing any and all obstacles to its crash militarization program, through which Washington (and not just Trump) hopes to retain its global hegemony as U.S. ability to compete economically continually erodes. If it, or its proxies,  has essentially lost wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria, Washington still has the world’s greatest nuclear weapons arsenal that it is constantly modernizing and for those who might doubt a U.S. Administration might actually use them, well, there are those two flattened and radiated Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Concerning its disengagement from one multilateral agreement and international commitment after another, the Trump argument in all of these cases is succinct and goes like this: multilateral agreements constrain U.S. bargaining power, better to pull out of such agreements, enter into bilateral agreements in which the United States can maximize its pressure on smaller, politically less influential players, countries which when they ban together in multilateral agreements can exact some pressure on Washington in the negotiating process.

Keep in mind that for some time now, going back several administrations, Democrat and Republican, certainly where it concerns trade, the United States has preferred bilateral agreements to multilateral ones where Washington has to face other sizable players – be it China, the E.U.,  a united regional block, or whatever. As in so many areas, it is not so much that Trump’s fixation on bilateral agreements is a new trend, only that he has taken the tactic to an extreme. Ironically, rather than an indication of American strength, the shift suggests what it is: a striking revelation of U.S. global weakness: Washington can no longer dictate its will to international organizations. Thus, with pomp and ceremony hiding the fact that it is withdrawing from multilateral negotiations with its tail between its legs, Washington pulls out.

But it is not only from multilateral agreements that Trump is withdrawing, but from any agreement, bilateral or multilateral that constrains U.S. power. In the case of the withdrawal from the INF Agreement, the pretext, made with much emotion and little actual proof is that the Russians have violated the agreement but a more plausible explanation is that Washington has trillion dollar plans to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal and a number of agreements, made with the Soviet Union but legally binding on Russia as well, get in the way.

It is only in formations where for various reasons Washington dominates politically and financially – like NATO – that it stays in multilateral arrangements. Even in these arrangements – as Trump’s September European trip exemplifies – the “partners” are threatened: toe the line, cough up more $ – or we’re outta here – that’s the crude message, and the Trump Administration means it. On the other hand, without NATO, there is no way for Washington to surround Russia with military bases and threats of war and invasion – which if you are not aware of it – is what those military bases are about, nothing less.

Trident Juncture 18 is an integral part of these plans.

There is nothing defensive about these military maneuvers.

One has to essentially have an ostrich approach not to understand that the primary goal of such major war games is to surround Russia militarily in such a fashion as to complicate its plans for economic reform, limit is options for improving its relations with what should be one of its natural trading partners – what we used to refer to as “Western Europe,” to keep Western and Central Europe, weak and divided and incapable of pursuing its own regional interests free of Washington pressure and interference. Further all this combines into a warplane against Russia and if there is a war, it will be nuclear.

In a fine piece published at the on-line website, Counterpunch, aptly entitled “The Road To Disaster,” author Carl Boggs gets to the heart of the matter:

The new Pentagon budget calls for expanded U.S./NATO military forces along Russian borders, its purpose to “defeat Russian aggression”, for which nearly seven billion dollars has been specifically earmarked.  Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley says Western troop buildups are needed to “ensure deterrence of further Russian territorial aggression”, the evil Putin supposedly ready to launch an all-out invasion of Europe (reminiscent of many false warnings going back to the Cold War era).  General Curtis Scaparotti, head of the European military command, argues for large additional NATO troop deployments beyond the present 62,000, again to counter Russia’s “heavy military presence” that in fact (aside from Syria) is confined to the home front.  In any event, for Washington the great fear of anti-American terrorism, whether Al Qaeda, ISIS, or other groups, now seems to have lost its moral urgency.

This is the context in which to evaluate Trident Juncture 18.

END2.

The I.N.F. Treaty, signed in 1987, was a landmark anti-nuclear weapons agreement between then U.S President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President, Mikhael Gorbachev. According to the stipulations of the agreement, all intermediate range missiles between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,300 miles) were banned. As a result of the agreement, Russia and the United States destroyed 2,692 missiles. The missiles the Russians destroyed included the SS-20 based in Eastern Europe and the USSR. The Americans destroyed their Pershing II ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, which were based in Western Europe.

The presence of those missiles and the escalating Cold War nuclear arms race that resulted led to one of the greats anti-war movements in Europe in the 20th century – on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the escalating nuclear war danger produced one of the largest and most effective anti-war movements of the 20th century. In the western areas, it was centered around the European Movement for Nuclear Disarmament, known by its acronym, END. In eastern Europe, under difficult conditions, independent anti-nuclear movements sprang up and even the near brain-dead “official” Eastern European peace movements got seriously involved.

The U.S. version of that movement was known as “The Freeze;” it called for a freeze in the research, development and production of nuclear weapons on the part of both the United States and the Soviet Union at the time. It had broad-based support and pushed an otherwise aggressive and militaristic Reagan Administration into negotiating seriously late in the decade with the Soviets.

Nor were these movements limited to Europe and North America. Serious anti-nuclear movements took off in South America, India, the Middle East, Japan. It was a time of global mobilization and it was this worldwide movement – not Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s wife – that forced a less than willing Ronald Reagan and a more willing Mikhael Gorbachev to the bargaining table to sign what was probably the most extensive reduction of nuclear weapons arsenals ever.

Returning to the present, without providing any evidence (once again), Trump accused the Russians of having violated the treaty by creating a Cruise missile that can fly more than 500 kilometers. The Russian government denies that they have done so and arguing that the missile in question, the 9M729 does not have that capability. Actually, the accusation that Russia has been violating the I.N.F. Treaty first surfaced 2014 with claims that the Russians had tested a medium range missile with a range greater than 500 miles (300 km). At the time and up to the present, the Russians asked for proof, documentation that a violation had taken place.

In the U.S. news media, the missile is referred to as the SSC-8. Russians have asked the U.S. government to provide concrete proof that the said missile violates the I.N.F. Treaty, nothing of which has been forthcoming as of late. They argue that Washington is simply looking for way to end its responsibilities required by the treaty, thus removing a barrier towards the full-scale development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. Claiming “the other side” violated the agreement amounts to little more than a cynical pretext for that.

Hints of Washington’s push to withdraw from the treaty were revealed in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual legislation that determines defense policy and spending levels. That bill some 2000 pages long contains a section calling for a new intermediate range missile system. Such a system would both openly violate the I.N.F. Treaty but create certain tensions with Washington’s European allies – all of whom welcomed the treaty and saw its implementation 31 years ago as a major step away from a nuclear confrontation in Europe.

The pattern, seen elsewhere, emerges: an accusation is made of a Russian violation, without providing proof or documentation. It is repeated often enough that the accusation becomes accepted as fact, which then becomes a pretext for Washington doing what it wanted to do in the first place – remove all restrictions on the United States from developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, the country’s last stand in its bid to retain what remains of fast sinking global hegemony.

To be continued…

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