This week a record number of world leaders delivered speeches to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). As expected, the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic featured heavily with, unsurprisingly, many world leaders touting their response. Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on how we can bring the international economy back to financial health, while Russian President Vladimir Putin offered UN employees free coronavirus vaccines.
This UNGA meeting is more significant than most, not because it’s virtual, or because it’s the first appearance by both the Russian and Chinese Presidents since 2015. On its 75th anniversary world leaders are “meeting” to opine at a time when we have all been forced to reckon with the current state of the world in very personal ways.
It is a fact that the coronavirus pandemic has given fervent voice to those that for decades have feared the dangers of an uncontained China. Military and technological advancements as well as economic power have provided the Communist country with the ability to remake the global political landscape. These voices find a newly receptive audience, in the halls of government and in our homes, with our usual freedoms constrained by a virus born in China.
In the U.S., policies that take aim at China’s malign global agenda rather than create pathways for greater Chinese investment have become more palatable, and that trend is unlikely to slow for the foreseeable future. But what about in a post-corona economy? What about those nations already under economic pressure, historically vulnerable to outside interference, and struggling to orientate themselves in regions of competing global economic powers the likes of Russia and China? What about staunch U.S. allies like Georgia?
The former Soviet bloc nation is at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, strategically important to the West, not just as a bulwark to Russian regional influence but as a safe alternate route for energy and digital pipelines connecting the Caucasus to Europe as well. It is strategic allies like this that will fall victim to authoritarian influence if we do not vehemently promote and support democratic reforms that deliver economic independence.
U.S. support for Georgia’s membership of NATO and accession to the European Union remains strong and often touted. There is renewed support for a Free Trade Agreement between Georgia and the U.S. within Congress and among those that have assisted and tracked Georgia’s liberalization. However, Russian interference continues to run amok of Georgian democracy and is heavily influencing decisions of strategic importance to the West while harming Georgia’s economic health.
A recent example includes moves by the Georgian government to undermine a U.S. and Europe-backed investment consortium contracted to construct a $2.5 billion deep water seaport at Anaklia on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. The port would have provided critical supply routes binding Central Asian States to the South Caucuses, and countered Russian efforts to control regional supply chains. However, the investment agreement was abruptly revoked by the national government, undoubtedly to the pleasure of Moscow and Beijing.
This week, the Georgian National Communications Commission is set to use new powers rushed through by the Georgian government to expropriate Caucasus Online. This would undermine a business deal between the internet company and NEQSOL Holding, an Azeri firm with company operations in the U.S., the UK, Azerbaijan and more. After originally giving the deal its blessing, the Georgian government has targeted the firm with historic fines, threatened to suspend Caucasus Online’s license, and even amended its communications law – in an untransparent manner – in order to empower the Georgian telecoms regulator to expropriate the company.
Since last November, members of Congress have several times raised concerns with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia about Georgia’s increasingly uncertain business climate and political targeting of specific companies. Congressman Adam Kinzinger wrote in January “Unfortunately, economic indicators show a sharp decline in foreign direct investment in Georgia as American and European companies have suffered harassment, causing many to reconsider their business ventures.”
While it reeks of Russian interference, the motivation behind the Georgian government’s targeting of Caucasus Online is baffling. Azerbaijan is Georgia’s largest investor and the deal to purchase Caucasus Online relates to a much larger strategic project to build fiber optic cables from Azerbaijan into Europe under the Black Sea, providing improved internet access to over 1.8 billion people. This new digital speedway aims to improve regional economic development, facilitate e-commerce in the region, and establish Georgia as a prominent trade hub between Asia and Europe.
It’s almost as if the U.S. is failing to connect the dots — as long as Georgia continues to undermine friendly investment, it inevitably provides a vacuum that China and Russia would be more than happy to fill.
Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the political, economic, financial, cultural, and moral health of the world have been quite unsettling. Most importantly, for centuries there has existed a yawning gap politically between nations whose constitutional foundations have been based on democratic principles and authoritarian states in which the participation of the people in their governments have been either non-existent or merely fictitious. While in the former elected politicians have been accountable in regular intervals to their respective electorates, in the latter either a single dictator or a small minority have reduced the people to fearful, passive, indifferent, and easily corruptible masses. Adding insult to injury, these authoritarian dictators have pretended to use their unlimited powers to transform their states from poverty stricken entities to developing and prosperous democracies. In reality, their sole objective has been to maintain absolute power regardless of the short and long term harm and damage they have caused to the states they have ruled by ruthless brutality.
To wit, this wholesale demoralization on the state level has metastasized globally and has succeeded to corrupt every single international organization. Presently, under the pretext of the notion of absolute equality of states and the aggressive promotion of multiculturalism, this spirit of authoritarianism threatens to annihilate the international order. Furthermore, it is an axiom of every authoritarian dictatorship that a fellow power-crazed and corrupt state is a better partner than a cumbersome democracy. Anti-democratic disposition, therefore, is an absolute sine qua non of acceptance into the club consisting of these malcontent collections of authoritarian dictatorships. Naturally, under their wretched conditions, an almost unimaginable degree of cynicism, falsehood, ignorance, cruelty, and ruthlessness have flourished. Logically, ideological subversion and psychological warfare have been the necessary global extensions of these authoritarian dictatorships, which comprise the majority of states in the world, to maintain their powers domestically as well as internationally.
Today, the whole world faces real turbulent times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decline and even the ruin of national wealth in many countries caused by the highly contagious disease, the expected world-wide recession and even depression, the initial and ongoing mistakes and errors of the various bureaucracies, and the lack of coordination in responding to the pandemic have all contributed to the feeling of uncertainty and outright fear across the globe. In this situation, everyone suffers and will suffer. Moreover, general discontent with governments, their bureaucracies, financial institutions, businesses will certainly lead to silent or open protests. Conspiracy theories are already abound resulting in a spike of ethnic and religious hatred. The circumstances are ripe for sowing ideological confusion, pernicious brainwashing, and even extremist revolutionary schemes. The Communist Party of China and a colorful assortment of communist and socialist organizations throughout the world are pushing a mostly corrupted form of Marxism, hoping to capitalize on the peoples’ fresh misery. As usual, they traffic in an all encompassing revolution that will overthrow capitalism and replace it with a perfect earthly paradise. Conversely, the exploitation of the ubiquitous fear momentarily gripping the vast majority of the world’s population is equally dangerous to domestic as well as international tranquility.
The world is in dire need of global political leadership and great statesmanship. Contrary to the prevailing misplaced admiration, China is not ready, and will not be ready in the foreseeable future, to assume even a leading regional role in Asia. Although President Xi Jinping might disagree, he is not a statesman. Rather he is a tactician in the clothes of a dictator. As a dictator for life, i.e. dictator perpetuus, he has accumulated an immense amount of power. Simultaneously, his list of enemies has also grown exponentially. On the one hand, he has continuously violated both his country’s constitution and the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, of which he has repeatedly declared himself a faithful servant. On the other hand, even with his enormous powers, he has not been able to stop the slow erosion of his government’s powers in the periphery of the People’s Republic. In this context, the continuing disintegration of the Party’s rule is a certainty. Equally importantly, China’s economy has been in steady decline since 2010. Furthermore, China’s finances are a mess, especially within its banking sector. International overextension, mainly driven by President Xi’s personal ambitions and hubris, will only exacerbate China’s financial woes. The undeniable fact that the COVID-19 virus originated in Wuhan will only add to his mounting problems and challenges. Information disseminated by a multitude of officials and media personalities controlled tightly by the Chinese Communist Party, have been mostly lies and fictions. Of course, having been conditioned by over seventy years of ruthless dictatorship, the Chinese people have known better.
However, the least believers in the official propaganda have been those close to President Xi and his colleagues in the Politburo, their top advisers, attendants, and secretaries. Not surprisingly, the most gullible individuals have been those foreigners whose knowledge of China is close to zero. Starting with the corrupt and incompetent director general of the WHO and continuing with the multitude of foreign politicians and journalists, they have been babbling on in unison about how great the Chinese government has been in managing of the coronavirus crisis. Yet, most alarmingly for President Xi, the circumstances of the emergence of this new coronavirus have shed a very negative light on the most vaunted ancient and allegedly superior Chinese culture. The ubiquitous existence of the “wet markets” are stark reminders of the devastating backwardness and periodic hungers of the destructive Mao era. One does not have to possess prophetic qualities to predict that President Xi will fail in his quest to make China the premier superpower. Moreover, it is almost certain that he will not remain the president for life. During his reign and thereafter, China will experience major upheavals and perhaps even a bloody revolution.
Beyond the domestic repercussions, the People’s Republic of China and its Communist Party will certainly face a great and protracted backlash internationally. The list of states demanding to hold China financially responsible for the pandemic and the resulting health, economic, and financial crises is growing daily. In the likely case that China would refuse to pay off, based upon relevant court decisions, confiscations of Chinese properties across the globe must be initiated. Finally, the United States of America must lead the campaign to clean house at the WHO, beginning with the immediate removal of its corrupt and incompetent Director General, the Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Next in line is Russia or as it is officially designated the Russian Federation. As in the case of President Xi, Vladimir Putin is not a statesman. Like the former, the Russian president is also a tactician. Although his declared lofty objective has been to restore Russia to its 20th century greatness, his real political ambition is to cling to power indefinitely. Strategically, Russian politicians have been unable to overcome their geophobia, namely the fact that their territorially immense state stretches from continental Europe to deep into Asia. This geopolitical reality historically has manifested itself in a psycho-ideological schizophrenia. The resulting division between the so-called Westernizers and the Slavophiles has left Russia in a political, economic, and cultural vacuum. This permanent oscillation between two cultures only gave the Russian people uninterrupted misery in the form of autocracy and dictatorship. Byzantine Christianity merely exacerbated the basic characteristics of the Russian people, namely, deceit, dishonesty, falsehood, prevarication, superstition, and fatalism. Putin’s Russia combines all these forces and characteristics into an old fashioned centralized autocracy, in which stagnation and arrested development will keep both the state and the people in shackles. Fundamentally, Russia will never regain its 20th century international status. Beyond its militarism, it will remain both economically and financially a second or even a third rate power.
In its current condition, the European Union is a barely functioning chaotic mess. Unless its member states understand that the key to their survival as a powerful organization is a more perfect union based on undivided solidarity, the European Union’s political, economic, financial, monetary, and cultural disintegration can be predicted with high certainty. Politically, the most important problem is the lack of leadership within and among the various institutions. The European Council presently headed by Donald Tusk has been incapable of providing strategic guidance and of setting policy objectives. The European Commission has been a bureaucratic bottleneck. Its efficiency in implementing EU decisions and common policies has been abysmal. The Council of the European Union, also known as the Council of Ministers, has always resembled more a marauding society than an organ of legislation and execution. The European Parliament has traditionally been the weakest part of the European Union. Its bloated membership and its many caucus groups have relegated the European Parliament to a veritable debating society with questionable legislative benefits.
The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union might signal the beginning of a mass exodus from the organization. The list of unhappy member states is long. Perhaps with the exception of the founding members and the Scandinavian countries, all the other member states have registered their specific complaints and reservations against the political, financial, and economic policies of Brussels. In short, the vision of a united Europe after two devastating wars was and is still very appealing. Yet, in its current condition, the European Union is unbalanced and highly susceptible to real and imaginary dangers.
One of these real dangers is financial. The other closely related danger is the state of the economy. The EURO and the economy have suffered from the fact that both have been designed as inflexible models, incapable of adjusting to changing circumstances. Unlike the United States of America, China, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, and a score of other states, there is not a single new company within the European Union that is based on the emerging technologies of the fourth Industrial Revolution, such as Artificial Intelligence.
Compounding the economic stagnation, the single currency has not contributed to the promotion and a more efficient functioning of the single market. As a result, the eurozone economies have shown anemic growth in the last three decades. Even the quantitative easing (QE) of the European Central Bank (ECB) of the last ten years has run its course and has worn off before the pandemic. The obvious solution would be to correct the inflexible structure within the monetary union.
As far as its defense and foreign policies are concerned, the European Union resembles another chaotic mess. The so-called Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has remained an unfulfilled dream. Disappointments with the competency and efficiency of various organizations of the European Union have caused Greece, Italy, and Spain to act upon their perceived national interests, often to the detriment of the common foreign policy objectives of the entire union. Moreover, the newly admitted members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact have openly revolted against many foreign policy directives of the European Union. In the extreme case of Hungary, its Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pursued a clearly revanchist foreign policy by awarding Hungarian citizenship and voting rights to ethnic Hungarians residing in the neighboring countries.
Emerging anti-Americanism in the guist of anti-Trumpism has only aggravated the already existing tensions between the United States of America and the European Union. Yet, these two powers are also allies in NATO. They both need each other politically, economically, and militarily. The overall effects of the pandemic call for a comprehensive conference with the objective of readjusting the relationship to the new realities of world politics and thus strengthening the alliance between the United States of America and the European Union.
The greater Middle East coupled with South-East Asia are real powder kegs. Enormous domestic problems and challenges have weighed heavily on the politics and the histories of these regions. Centuries old ethnic differences and pigheaded grievances return to inform policies in predictable intervals. Historically, every minority in these two regions has been a volcano ready to erupt at any moment. Religious hostilities disguised as political controversies have been tearing apart families, clans, tribes, societies, and nations to the detriment of their political and economic progress. Added to this mix of enduring miseries are the personal ambitions and hubrises of political leaders that as a rule do not tolerate any competition. Turkey’s Erdogan is feuding with the Islamic Republic of Iran on politics and religion. He also fights the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Sunni world. Meanwhile, the Arabs do not want to return to the past 1918 Ottoman domination, in which the former were treated as less than second class citizens of an Empire. And then there is the Islamic Republic of Iran. A country that was Islamicized by the sword of the Arabs but succeeded to maintain its Persian character and language. Having had adapted a minority version of Islam in the mid-17th century to fight the Sunni Ottoman Empire, the Shi’a religious establishment have fought hard since 1979, to regain Iran’s historic glory and influence.
Meanwhile, the leading Arab states are facing mounting domestic pressures and international challenges. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is struggling to modernize, while its oil revenues are on the decline. Egypt is on the verge of political and economic bankruptcy and total financial ruin. Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been destroyed by the ongoing civil wars. Algeria and Sudan are oscillating between military rule and attempts at civilian transition.
Foreign interference has only exacerbated these situations. None of the intervening powers has contributed to the solution of any major problem in these two regions. On the contrary, they only added new complications to the already existing predicaments. To expect any meaningful changes in the near or longer term is futile. Thus, the greater Middle East and South-East Asia will remain the two regions ready to explode. A second so-called “Arab Spring,” more bloody and more transitional than the first in the near future is a real possibility.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, drew out most of the states of the African continent of their collective socialist slumber. However, this hiatus did not last long. Instead of putting their political houses in order, most of these states reverted back to mild or strict authoritarianism. In this process, they have succumbed to the corrupting influence of Chinese bribes to the detriment of the present and the future of their peoples. Presently, African rulers are busy propping up their autocracies, while keeping the bulk of their nations as near to the lowest degree of miserable existence as possible. Under these conditions, no person could develop his or her abilities without losing every vestige of human dignity, independence, and individuality.
The overall picture is not much better in Central and South America. Mismanagement, corruption, organized criminal syndicates, and masses with mentalities of slaves have rendered the states of the southern hemisphere teetering on the verge of political, economic, and financial abyss. As a consequence, the numbers of peoples voting with their feet and storming the northern borders are staggering. In spite of the new USMCA, the possibility of Mexico turning the corner politically, economically, and financially are fairly slim. The other large South American states, such as Brazil and Argentina are also in dire political, economic and financial conditions. Even Chile, the poster child of the past of good governance, has descended lately into a protracted political chaos.
Indubitably, the only power that could lead a worldwide recovery from the current economic and financial malaise is the United States of America. Although the outbreak of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has been unexpected in its scope and gravity, domestically the Trump Administration has mostly taken the right steps in a timely fashion to curb and mitigate the effects of this pandemic. The closing of the borders, the creation of the Coronavirus Task Force headed by the Vice President, the enhancing of public private partnerships, the stimulus packages, the actions of the Federal Reserve, the harnessing of the nation’s scientific, technological, and manufacturing potential, the rapid increase of tests, and the establishment of daily consultations with the governors, all have contributed to the saving of lives. What is needed now is an exit strategy that will hopefully help the United States of America to move forward by speedily returning to normalcy. Mainly, people must return to work and children to the schools.
Encouragingly the leaders of this nation have been setting a good example. From the daily press briefings at the White House one can surmise that the President, the Vice President, and members of the Task Force understand that the fight against the coronavirus is a learning process, and that mistakes made must not be repeated. Moreover, the stimulus packages and all other measures taken are designed to strengthen the free market by not favoring special groups but the nation at large. In other words, financial and economic assistance is not based on the strength of the players but on what the national economy needs. Finally, the way the Trump Administration has managed the coronavirus crisis has shown the rest of the world the quality of leadership and the character of the American nation.
For the United States of America the question now is: What in addition needs to be done domestically and internationally? For starters, the coronavirus pandemic is not just a political, economic, financial, and health crisis. It is equally important to recognize that the COVID-19 has also unleashed a psychological crisis. To put it more succinctly: the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the entire world and within it almost every large and small community. For these reasons, the recovery measures in the United States of America must be created with a global perspective in mind. Within this global framework solutions must be formulated by strategic thinking. This strategy, in turn, must be based on what the national and the global economies require and not on the political influence and relative economic strength of the players. The rebuilding of the shrinking middle class is imperative. Otherwise, the next crisis will destroy the American economy. Equally important is the need to strengthen the relationship between the politicians and the scientific community. Finally, citizens must vote for politicians with creative ideas and not for political hacks whose only concern is to grab power and cling to it at any cost to the present and the future detriment of the nation.
Internationally, the United States of America is still looking for its place in the world. This search takes place in a world that lacks enduring guiding principles. Presently, nothing is stable. Everything is changeable and replaceable. Consequently, chaos and anarchy are mounting. Disorders are ready to explode into bloody civil wars, regional armed conflicts are multiplying, and even the specter of a larger worldwide confrontation is not out of the question. Under these multiple threats merely managing international affairs is not enough. Successive Republican and Democrat administrations have failed to build on the international successes of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s. Political appointments have been made in the State Department as well as on the ambassadorial levels that have harmed American foreign policy and the global reputation of the United States of America. Civil servants at the State Department have also been hired based on their political leanings and personal connections than their professional abilities. Ambassadors have been rewarded exclusively for their political contributions to presidential campaigns without questioning their suitability to represent the United States of America in the designated country. This practice must be stopped. Otherwise, the United States of America will be considered either unserious or a nation of morons across the globe. Collectively, these individuals cannot inform knowledgeably the policy makers in the federal and local governments.
The multitude of international organizations, starting with the United Nations, must be paid more attention. Discipline must be enforced. Rogue states with outlandish actions must be punished immediately and severely, mostly through economic and financial actions. NATO must be reformed and its cohesion must be strengthened. Those member states that deviate from the political and joint security interests of the organization must be forced to fall in line. The relationship with the European Union must be taken more seriously. Particularly, in light of the present condition of the organization, the White House must rethink its globalist approach and begin to deal more intensively with the individual states.
The bilateral relationship with the People’s Republic of China must also be reevaluated. Instead of viewing it through the fog of five or three thousand years of idealized culture, China must be judged by its past failures and its 20th century misery. Even the successes of the post-Deng era must be objectively analyzed. In particular the role of the Chinese Communist Party that has proven its inflexibility concerning the country’s political and economic progress. The demise of the Soviet Union might provide a fair indication regarding the future prospects of the People’s Republic of China. In this context, to designate China as an enemy does not really help in formulating a coherent American policy. Clearly, Beijing cannot continue taking advantage of Washington and Brussels the old ways. Its expansionist designs must be countered, curbed, and stopped. Its corruption as a tool of foreign policy must be exposed. The inherent racism of the Chinese must be revealed. The false propaganda concerning its successes must be shown to be mostly lies. The substandard quality of Chinese manufactured products must be unmasked. The United States of America must stop relying on the cheap Chinese labor. Manufacturing must be brought back, especially for strategic goods. Otherwise, cooperation where it is mutually beneficial must be maintained and expanded.
In the greater Middle East Iran must be contained without humanistic consideration. The Mullahcracy, particularly an Islamic Republic of Iran armed with nuclear weapons, must be eliminated. The Arab world must be helped to sort out its many problems and challenges. However, getting again involved in the many internal squabbles and rivalries must be stopped. Russia and Turkey will fail abysmally in their quests to benefit from the present chaos and anarchy. The special relationship with the state of Israel must be further strengthened.The only true meaning of a superpower is a system of government that serves as a positive example to the rest of the world. Therefore, the objective domestically must be to strengthen the constitutional principles of the Republic. Within this democratic framework, there is no rational reason to experiment or modify the political and spiritual realms of the nation. Conversely, states across the globe have made repeated attempts at experimenting and modifying their political and spiritual realms. As Italian Fascism, German National Socialism, and Soviet Communism were rejected and defeated in the 20th century, the fashionable cannons of the early 21st century, such as the idiotic doctrine of political correctness, the self-serving call for social justice, and the rallying cry for ersatz human rights, will also end up in the proverbial dustbin of history. In a peaceful and stable world no social policies that contradict the historic traditions of the majority of nations can be sustained for a long time. Due to these factors, the United States of America will continue to remain the shining light of the world throughout the 21st century and beyond, unless the American people will decide otherwise.
The United States should be prepared to act if Putin tries to repeat in Belarus what he did in Ukraine.
America’s great power competitors, China and Russia, are pushing back against the free world. China’s arc stretches from Hong Kong and the South China Sea through the Himalaya border with India and along the Belt and Road intrusions far into Europe. Its debt-trap strategy on the African continent is binding ever more governments to it. Meanwhile, Russia continues its expansionism from Syria, through Crimea and the Donbass all the way to Libya. Across these vast regions, they trample on democracy and the rule of the law, with the ultimate intention of pushing back against American influence. Belarus is becoming the latest theater of competition. Washington should make it unambiguously clear that Russian meddling against the democratic will of the Belorussian people will not stand.
President Donald Trump has succeeded in keeping out of new wars. His firm declaration of his intent to safeguard American national interests has held adversaries at bay, and he has maintained a strong enough defense posture so as not to have to respond to provocations, such as from Iran. Yet an aggressive move by Russia in Belarus on the scale of what took place in Ukraine would be another matter altogether. It is urgent for the United States to underscore how serious the consequences will be if Moscow takes an adventurist wrong step. Vladimir Putin should not think that he can occupy Minsk the way Brezhnev occupied Prague—but the United States should be prepared to act if he tries. This requires mobilization on multiple levels.
First, it is urgent to launch intensive diplomatic consultation with all the NATO members. The transatlantic alliance is not in the best of shape at the moment, to say the least. Some European allies bear a lot of the blame. The world just witnessed the vote of the Security Council where England, France and Germany chose to abstain from extending the arms embargo on Iran, as if more arms in the hands of the Mullahs will bring peace to the Middle East. The E3 are clearly upset at the Trump administration on a range of issues. Plus, European leaders tend to underestimate security threats. In contrast though, the prospect of Russian troops marching through Belarus to the border of the EU may prompt them to think again about the need for a robust defense cooperation. A repeat of the Yugoslav wars may be looming in the European northeast, including another wave of refugees, and Europeans will have to rediscover how much they need the transatlantic alliance. It is time for Washington’s diplomatic corps to be reminding them of the dangers in their neighborhood.
Second, diplomacy has to lay the groundwork for a suspension of the 1997 NATO Russia Founding Act. That post-Cold War document was premised on a non-adversarial relationship with Russia, and the expectation that Russia would contribute to European stability, democracy and peace. Moscow has broken that agreement time and again, in Ukraine, through assassinations in the United Kingdom and in Germany, and through the suppression of democratic forces domestically. The hour has long passed when NATO and the U.S. in particular should be reticent about stationing troops in the Central European countries that became free after 1989. NATO’s European members should hear America make that case and join in supporting defense build ups along the new eastern front that stretches from Estonia to Bulgaria. That troop repositioning will take considerable diplomatic and logistical efforts. The time to start is now. The decision to move troops from Germany to Poland is an auspicious first start.
Third, precisely those eastern flank countries need clear reassurance of American support. Fortunately, the Trump administration has succeeded in building firmer ties in this “new Europe,” but more could be done. A ministerial level gathering in Washington in the fall, including leaders from the Baltics, the Visegrad four, Rumania and Bulgaria would be an opportunity to signal Washington’s firm commitment to friends in those countries and to counteract the Kremlin disinformation campaign that is persistently active and outstrips the State Department’s own meager communication strategies. Yet of equal importance, a Washington gathering of the partners in Eastern Europe would signal to the world that the front line of freedom will not be surrendered to Putin’s addiction to military adventures abroad.
Fourth, it is time as well to pressure “old Europe,” especially the former front-line state, Germany, to live up to its commitments. At stake is not only the evergreen problem of burden-sharing, German underspending on defense. Even more glaring is Berlin’s persistence in collaboration with Russia on projects like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite objections of its European neighbors, despite Crimea, and despite killings carried out by Russian agents in Berlin, nearly in the shadow of the Chancellery. Germany should use its considerable influence in Moscow to forestall any meddling. To do so, it could make completion and operation of the pipeline contingent on Russia staying out of Belarus. Putin already has too much foreign fighting on his hands.
Belarus is part of the European theater, but it is also a piece of the encompassing global competition. Weakness in Northeast Europe will tempt adversaries in East Asia. One has to plan for worst case scenarios: a conventional Russian advance in Belarus could be followed by a Chinese move on Hong Kong or even Taiwan. Preventing such catastrophic developments requires clear expressions of commitment, fortifying our alliance and building a defense posture appropriate to today’s circumstances, not to the last war.
By Sumantra Maita • The Federalist
Bob Gates, perhaps the most farsighted post-Cold War defense secretary, presciently predicted in 2011 “that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress—and in the American body politic writ large—to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”
Gates, who once rightly understood that the Saudis would fight Iranians to the last American, also essentially hinted the same with regards to Germany and Russia, “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”
Put simply, he was saying the Germans would talk about an international liberal order for as long as Americans would pay to defend it. The day they are caught not tangibly supporting this order, they would throw a tantrum and blame Washington. “Future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me—may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he said.
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Four Russian military aircraft conducted low passes against a U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea last week, the first such military provocation since the new Trump administration took office.
The incident took place Feb. 10 and involved the USS Porter, a guided missile destroyer, fending off low flights by what the commander of the ship regarded as potentially dangerous flybys.
“There were several incidents involving multiple Russian aircraft,” said Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, spokesman for the European Command. “They were assessed by the commanding officer as unsafe and unprofessional.”
The first buzzing involved two Russian Su-24 jet fighters followed by a single Su-24 and, in a third incident, an IL-38 transport aircraft. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
Conventional wisdom in our nation’s Capital mistakenly holds that nuclear weapons are not useful in deterring our adversaries, not relevant to meeting new terrorist threats, and not valuable tools of overall American and allied statecraft.
The threats from Ukraine, Ebola and the ISIS are mistakenly used to make the case that nuclear weapons cannot deter most threats to the United States. We are assured the only role our nuclear weapons should play is to stop another country from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons.
From this mistaken idea flows the further conclusion the US needs only a very small deterrent of nuclear warheads for deterrence, some seventy to eighty percent less than what we have deployed today.* Continue reading
NATO faces a challenge to modernize and sustain its nuclear posture and missile defense deployments in Europe at a time of declining defense budgets on the one hand and expanded threats on the other. The threats from Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa are serious and growing from both ballistic missile arsenals and nuclear programs.
At the same time, there are political pressures within NATO pushing for the adoption of a “zero nuclear” posture as well as efforts to delay significantly U.S. and allied missile defense and nuclear modernization deployments. This comes as threatening countries adopt military and political doctrines that emphasize the use of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as instruments of state power. Continue reading
Given the current political climate in the United States and Europe, if a military intervention in Syria were to materialize it would probably be a limited “no-fly plus” aerial bombing campaign similar to NATO’s Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. The overall record for such suppressive bombing campaigns has been positive, with examples that include the Balkans, pre-invasion Afghanistan, and Iraqi Kurdistan. A determinant factor in the success or failure of these campaigns has been the existence of an approximate parity between the military power of the targeted regime and the insurgent forces engaging it. “Boots on the ground” need not always be of the same nationality as the aircraft conducting strikes, but absent a capable ground opposition prospects for eroding a hostile regime and forcing its capitulation are slim. The Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) survival against Assad’s military offensives thus far seems to indicate its capability to rout regime forces if aided by international airstrikes, suggesting that the impact of hypothetical aerial intervention would be significant. Continue reading