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The Warsaw Summit: NATO’s Blueprint for Aggression

At its summit in Warsaw the NATO alliance reaffirmed its course of aggression and expansion against Russia and the world.

Vladimir Kozin

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The Summit Meeting of the NATO Alliance held in the Polish capital on 8th and 9th July 2016  unfortunately justified the pessimistic forecasts of many analysts.

An analysis of the final documents shows they have been prepared based on an assessment of the current state of the military-political situation in the world, which has been qualified as “more dangerous”.  This has been backed by provocative language and policies and gross distortions of  Russian policy in the international arena.

These actions were founded on the claim of “projecting stability” and “of responding to crises” outside the borders of the states that are members of the Alliance. The areas of “strategic importance” NATO has highlighted are the North Atlantic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Seas.

In order to realise these objectives the Alliance confirmed its previous decisions to establish a division sized rapid reaction force (the “NATO Joint Response Force”) and the so-called “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”, which will be capable of deployment within two to three days.  These forces are to be set up with the participation of seven Member States of the Alliance (the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey and France). Permanent operational liaison connections between these forces and NATO’s Naval Forces (the “NATO Standing Naval Forces”) in these Seas are to be created, tasked with coordinating naval support for these Joint Rapid Reaction Forces in these areas.

In terms of its military capabilities NATO declared its readiness to strengthen its military power in general and its nuclear power in particular.  The documents repeat the wording of declarations made by previous summits that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world. For the first time the final documents however say that the policy of nuclear deterrence of the Alliance will be based, amongst other things, on US nuclear facilities “forward deployed” in Europe – in other words on US strategic and tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe.

NATO’s nuclear powers (the UK, US and France) are to strengthen their offensive nuclear doctrine by lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons. They expressed the hope that other states of the Alliance will be involved “in the division of nuclear burden through appropriate arrangements,” which can be interpreted as Washington’s call to expand the range of non-nuclear states who might sign an agreement with the US “on the division of nuclear liability” (nuclear sharing agreements; also known agreements on “joint nuclear missions”). Although NATO recognised that the circumstances that might cause the Alliance to use nuclear weapons remain “very remote” the Alliance still reserves the right to use nuclear weapons at any time.

The final communique repeated the fairly imprecise formula carried over from previous summits that the Alliance is ready to “contribute to creating the conditions” for further reductions of nuclear weapons in the future on a reciprocal basis.  However no guidance is provided as to the sort of nuclear weapons – strategic or tactical – this might involve. Note that the language in the communique only speaks of a willingness “to contribute to creating the conditions” for nuclear disarmament.  No answer is given to the question implicit in this phrase: what is lacking in “the conditions” today that prevents reaching agreements on nuclear disarmament now? This wording in fact confirms that there is no desire to commit “transatlantic solidarity” to the goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons.

In the final documents NATO has also confirmed the existence of the “Chicago triad” – created at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012.  As previously discussed, US nuclear-missile forces of a strategic and tactical nature, as well as anti-missile systems conventional forms of US weapons are being pushed closer to Russia’s territory, posing a direct military threat to Russia, compromising its national security and those of its allies, as well as thoroughly destabilising the global military-political situation.

Missile issues were in fact given an inordinate amount of attention at the Warsaw Summit. The final communiqué devotes fully eight paragraphs to them.

The Summit committed the Alliance to continuing with the deployment of the US and European segment of the global missile defence infrastructure.  The Alliance announced the creation of “initial operational capability” of NATO ’s missile defence system, which means (according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg) that four US Navy warships providing Aegis “combat information control systems” (CICS) are now permanently based at the Roth naval base in Spain, as well as a US missile early warning radar located at Kyurechikom in Turkey (delivered there in May) to provide operational depth to the US land based missile defence system located in Romania which has been “transferred to the command and control of NATO.”

By way of comparison, the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012 merely announced that the level of “pre-missile defence capacity” had been reached as of March 2011 following the permanent deployment of US naval forces equipped with CICS “Aegis” around the European continent.

At the Warsaw Summit it was announced that a number of NATO allies had declared their willingness to participate in the creation of a multinational missile defence system under the leadership of the USA (NATO members Denmark, Spain, Norway and Germany, as well as the non-NATO states Australia Israel, South Korea and Japan). There is to be enhanced coordination and operational cooperation in the management of the US global missile defence system and NATO.  NATO allies are expected to participate in the development of combat missile equipment and intelligence information and early warning systems, to make their territory available for the construction of US missile bases, and to participate in the subsequent deployment of a global “missile shield”.

The stock justification for strengthening this anti-missile capacity used previously – defence against Iranian and North Korean missile threats – has now been dropped and no longer appears in the documents.  Instead development of anti-missile defences is now justified by the need to confront unspecified “missile threats” emanating from zones “outside the Euro-Atlantic space.”

The Warsaw Summit reiterated that the NATO anti-missile system is defensive in nature.  However, as discussed previously, there is no fundamental obstacle to using the missile defence infrastructure being created in Romania and Poland to install offensive cruise missiles designed to carry out disabling strikes on Russian territory and on the territory of other countries.

The Warsaw Summit did issue some tepid declarations concerning NATO’s supposed willingness to discuss missile problems with Russia.  These announcements were however extremely vague, providing no details of any real offer or mandate to engage Russia in serious negotiations.

As part of the strategy for strengthening the means of “forward deployment” in the eastern part of Europe it was decided to send to the Eastern European countries of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia four battalions from the four countries of the transatlantic alliance (the UK, Canada, USA and Germany).   

Early deployment of naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea under the code-named “Sea Guardian” was also announced.  These will interact with the naval forces of the EU operating under the code-name “Sofia” in the same area.

The Summit also announced a new operational military sphere in cyberspace.

The Summit highlighted the need “to strengthen the nuclear deterrence and defence capability” of the Alliance, including by reversing the tendency for budget spending for military purposes to fall. The meeting recalled that only five of the 28 states that make up the Alliance had reached the 2% of GDP level of military expenditure Alliance membership commits them to.  However it announced that what is already the world’s largest military alliance accounting for more spending on defence than the rest of the world combined was increasing defence spending by 3% (in absolute terms $8 billion). 

In relation to Russia the Warsaw Summit fell back on the stock clichés of the Cold War. The Russian Federation, as stated in the final communiqué, performs “aggressive actions, including provocative activity along the periphery of the territory of NATO member countries” and “manifests a desire to achieve political goals by means of threats and use of force.”

Russia is groundlessly accused of all mortal sins: of increasing the level of instability,  of violating the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997, of the “illegal annexation of Crimea” etc.

In relation to Crimea, the Summit reaffirmed that NATO does not recognise this step.  Thus the situation in Crimea is blithely described in the Summit documents from the perspective of people who have never been there, either before Crimea’s reunification in March 2014 with Russia – Crimea’s historical and spiritual home – or after the event.

Moscow is again charged with unproven involvement in the “destabilisation” of the situation in eastern Ukraine, although the situation there has long been destabilised by the Kiev regime’s armed force and by the economic blockade imposed on the area by the Kiev regime acting with the moral and material support of many countries of the NATO Alliance. The Summit documents refer to Russian “aggression against Ukraine”, but again without indicating the place and time when this aggression is supposed to have taken place.

The final communique refers to the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, but does not recognise that it is the Kiev regime, not the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, who are not implementing it. Without any logic or evidence it states that only Russia is responsible for carrying out the terms of the Minsk agreement, but for some reason says nothing about the responsibilities of the current regime in Kiev and of Germany and France as guarantor States of the Minsk agreements.  Nor does it say anything concerning the need to implement fully all of the Minsk agreements’ 13 points.

The Summit rightly identified the need to reduce the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine.   (According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the beginning of July this year the total number of those killed in the east of Ukraine amounted to 9,470 persons, and the number of those wounded was 21,880).  However nowhere in any of the documents is it anywhere said that these are overwhelmingly the victims of the illegal actions of the armed forces and ultra-right wing militias doing the Kiev regime’s bidding, who have used and are still using heavy weapons against residents of the Donbass in violation of the agreements reached in Minsk last year. According to the UN, as a result of shelling by of the armed forces of Ukraine, in just the month of June this year, 12 civilians were killed and 57 people were injured in the Donbass.

The Warsaw Summit heard a great deal about the large-scale exercises of the Russian Armed Forces on Russia’s own territory.  However NATO has openly admitted that in 2015 it conducted a total of 300 military exercises and manoeuvres, half with a pronounced anti-Russian flavour, which were carried out in close proximity to Russia’s borders.

The documents also condemn Russia’s “aggressive nuclear rhetoric” even though the US has been engaged in such rhetoric for years and also in the sort of practices that go hand in hand with it.  By way of example, the US has never given up its policy of a first use of nuclear weapons and has not removed its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.  By contrast Russia for a long time did have a no policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and withdrew all its tactical nuclear weapons from the territories of the three European states of the former Soviet Union way back in 1994.

The documents call on Russia to respect the provisions of the inoperative Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, implying a wish to revive it.  However there is no hint anywhere that none of the NATO countries ever ratified this Treaty or showed any interest in doing so whilst Russia was observing it.

In order to lull Russia and cause it to lower its guard, the Warsaw summit declared its readiness to seek a “constructive” political dialogue with Russia.  This was backed by a statement that the Alliance “does not seek confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia.”  What I would say about that is that I remember all too well the talk at previous Summits of the Alliance seeking “partnership” between Russia and NATO and what all those fine words in the end came to.

In the event at the same time the Summit was making these seemingly positive pronouncements about seeking dialogue with Russia it left unchanged its April 2014 decision to suspend all forms of military and civilian cooperation with Russia. It announced that the next meeting of the Russia-NATO Council would be held at the ambassadorial level in Brussels on July 13 this year. I wonder how the NATO leadership intends to conduct “constructive” dialogue with Russia when it has already pronounced against Russia the guilty verdict I set out above?

The Summit once again reaffirmed the policy of expanding NATO by confirming its previously announced policy of an “open door” to the accession of other states.   To that end the Warsaw Summit invited Sweden and Finland to participate in the discussion of “security challenges” and to participate in joint military exercises.  It also reaffirmed its course of expanding its operational cooperation with the armed forces of Ukraine and Georgia.

NATO’s next summit will take place not in two years, as was the case previously, but next year in 2017 in its new building in Brussels.

What is the sum total of the Warsaw Summit?  It can be summarised as follows:

(1) From the point of view of political, the Alliance has preserved and even enhanced its aggressive military posture which it seeks to project on a global scale over the long term;

(2) In terms of the military, the Alliance has committed itself to building up its military power far beyond the territories of its member states;

(3) From the standpoint of arms control, it offered nothing concrete or constructive;

(4) In terms of unfreezing the NATO-Russia relationship, the Summit resulted in no new initiatives such as could elicit a positive response from Moscow.   The next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, to be held on 13th July 2016 at ambassadors’ level, will most likely witness another accusatory tirade from the NATO delegation directed at Russia, with shrill condemnations of Russia’s foreign and defence policy;

(5) From the perspective of the global military-political situation, the Summit cemented the dangerous trend towards a qualitatively new phase of the Cold War (“Cold War 2.0”), which was initiated by the US – the Alliance’s leader – in April 2014, and for the outbreak of which the Russian Federation bears no responsibility.

In the prevailing circumstances Russia can do no other than decide the future course of its foreign and defence policy based on these findings, guided at all times by its sacred duty to ensure, consistently and effectively the protection of its own independence and sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian state as well as that of its allies and friends; doing so on the basis of the principles of reasonable sufficiency of military means and making best use of asymmetric technical responses to the growing challenges posed by NATO.

The Warsaw Summit showed once again that the aggressive and militaristic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the major destabilising factor in the world today, as well as the key player in dissipating a huge part of humanity’s material and intellectual resources on a renewed arms race.

One thing the Warsaw Summit has once again made clear.  Current and future generations must be freed once and for all from the block system, which emerged after the Second World War.  Until and unless that happens – with coercive military blocks like NATO being once and for all consigned to past – there can be no secure peace in the world.

The author is Chief Adviser, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a Professor, of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, a Member of the Scientific Board of the National Institute of Global Security Research, a Member of the Gorchakov’s Foundation Club and a Global Senior Fellow National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Global Think Tank Network (GTTN)  in Islamabad Pakistan.  He is also a Ph.D., Senior Researcher (Academic Rank)

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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