Encircling Russia with US Bases – by Stephen Lendman
In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, everything changed but stayed the same. As a result, today’s stakes are far greater, presenting much larger threats to world peace.
In America, neocons are still dominant. Obama is more belligerent than Bush, waging four wars and various proxy ones. The Israeli Lobby, Christian Right, and other extremist elements drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy.
Congressional majorities support Washington’s imperial agenda, including global militarization against potential challengers and America’s main rivals – China and Russia, encircling them belligerently with bases and strategic weapons. It’s a policy fraught with danger.
NATO has 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia and China.
At the same time, the Middle East and parts of Eurasia have been increasingly militarized with a network of US bases from Qatar to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond – a clear breach of GHW Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that paved the way for unifying Germany in 1990 and dissolving the Soviet Union.
Washington’s promises, of course, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, a hard lesson many nations later learn painfully.
Moreover, the Pentagon has an expanding network of 1,000 or more global bases, including secret and shared ones for greater control. In fact, at a time no nation threatens America, trillions of dollars are spent anyway for what military planners call “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.
Encroaching Belligerently Near Russia’s Borders
In late summer 2009, Obama suspended Bush administration plans for interceptor missiles in Poland and advanced tracking radar in the Czech Republic, both NATO members. Purportedly targeting Iran and other “rogue states,” they, in fact, very much aimed at Russia, what new ones will do when installed.
At issue is assuring first strike capability, preventing or diminishing retaliation if America attacks Russia or China, a potentially catastrophic possibility under any scenario, but especially if nuclear war erupts.
For now, according to Obama, Washington will pursue “stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s allies,” including Poland and the Czech Republic. Tactics alone may change, not hardline imperial policies.
Last September, Defense Secretary Gates explained a four-phase missile shield plan, including deploying Aegis class warships in the Eastern Mediterranean equipped with SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles and anti-satellite interceptors, followed by upgraded land and sea versions when available.
Moreover, stationing SM-3s in Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland were announced. Last summer, in fact, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors and about 100 US troops were sent to eastern Poland, close to Russia’s Kaliningrad region, 200 miles from its border.
This same capability was installed in the Persian Gulf, including supplying regional allies with longer range Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems, the strategy being to have in place impenetrable interceptors from the Baltic to the Arabian, Black and Red Seas.
In addition, a warning system is planned for the Czech Republic and other countries as well as centrally controlled missile interceptors – from Southern and Eastern Europe through the Middle East to close to Russia’s borders, too close perhaps for comfort.
Instead of abandoning Bush’s scheme, Obama’s plans a far more extensive, sophisticated, flexible, mobile system to be developed through 2020. Included is nearly doubling the number of Aegis class warships to 38 by 2015, equipped with state-of-the-art missile interceptors.
As a result, America’s front line capability will shift from Eastern Germany through the Middle East to the Black Sea and other strategic waterways to the Caucasus and Russia proper, encroaching on Moscow with new Eastern European bases in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.
It represents the most significant US presence there since WW II. Currently, only limited troop numbers are involved up to 150 or so permanently, but expect an expanded presence ahead.
Last March, in fact, Secretary of State Clinton said Washington will deploy missile interceptor elements and F-16s in Poland. Russia expressed concern, Dmitry Rogozin, its permanent NATO representative, saying US plans complicate dialogue regarding creating a joint European anti-ballistic missile system, adding:
“Mrs. Clinton’s statement contradicts the foundational relationship (between the) Russian Federation and NATO signed in 1997, (stipulating) that NATO must not strengthen the military structure close to the borders of Russia.”
A Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement also expressed concern, saying:
“We have known about plans regarding (an) anti-ballistic missiles system long ago and we plan to (react in response) in the network of the EuroABM project. As for the idea of (US) Air Force base deployment, it requires an additional explanation.”
In late April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted as well, saying:
“The expansion of NATO infrastructure towards our borders is causing us concern. NATO is not simply a political bloc. It is a military bloc. No one cancelled the agreements on how the bloc reacts to external threats. It is a defense structure,” but it’s acting aggressively.
In a post-G-8 Summit press conference, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said:
“I am not satisfied with the American side’s reaction to my proposals and with NATO’s reaction in general. Why? Because we are wasting time. Even though I spoke about the year 2020 yesterday as a deadline, (the) year when the construction of a four-stage system of the so-called adaptive approach ends. After 2020, if we do not come to terms, a real arms race will begin.”
Perhaps much sooner as he’s gotten no assurances that Russia isn’t being targeted. As a result, he added:
“When we ask for the name of the countries that the shield is aimed at, we get silence. When we ask if the country has missiles (able to strike Europe), the answer is no.”
So “who has those type of missiles” interceptors wish to deter? “We do. So we can only think that this system is being aimed against us.”
He and other Russian officials worry about it expanding to Ukraine and Georgia with missile interceptors, attack aircraft, and US troops on its borders, threatening its security.
Obama in Poland
On May 28, Obama met with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk, discussing, among other issues, reaffirming a US military presence with “American boots on the ground,” including a permanent aerial detachment of F-16s and C-130 transport planes.
White House national security official Liz Sherwood-Randall said:
“What we will be doing is rotating trainers and aircraft to Poland so they can become more inter-operable with NATO. It will be a small permanent presence on the ground and then a rotational presence that will be more substantial.”
On May 28, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said:
“To the east of the Oder River (dividing Germany and Poland), American forces will appear, and this at a time when America is reducing its overall military presence in Europe.”
In fact, redeployment with interceptor missiles, other offensive weapons, and boots on the ground close to Russia’s borders, not reduction, is planned, what clearly has Moscow officials alarmed.
On May 29, however, Obama disingenuously downplayed those concerns, reaffirming mutual defense and inviting Russia to participate in European missile defense plans, saying:
“I am very proud of (America’s) reset process (with Russia). We believe missile defense is something where we can cooperate with Russia….This will not be a threat to the strategic balance.”
Concerned Russian officials very much disagree, Vladimir Putin’s earlier sentiment likely again being discussed.
In February 2007, in response to US planned missile defense then, he said:
“NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. (It) does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represent a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have a right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
At the time, his comments drew a storm of US media Russia bashing, as well as an article by this writer titled, “Reinventing the Evil Empire,” saying:
Russia is back, proud and re-assertive, not about to roll over for America, especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it’s back to the future with a new Cold War, but this time for greater stakes and much larger threats to world peace.
It’s especially true during economic hard times, especially with austerity policies addressing them when social stimulus is needed, provoking spreading discontent for change.
As a result, Western powers may invent threats to distract people, waging greater war for imperial dominance, Russia and China perhaps directly threatened this time.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.