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National Security Fairy Tales: US defense spending vs. the rest of the world

defense spendingby Peter Huessy

“The US spends more money on defense than all the countries in the rest of the world together.”

Sound familiar? Years ago, Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream invented the “Oreo” briefing as part of his efforts as founder of Business Executives for National Security (BENS). Each “Oreo” represented $5 billion in defense expenditures. He stacked up the US “Oreos” compared to other countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea, and showed a really big stack of American “Oreos” while the Chinese and Russian “Oreos” were much smaller. Ergo, he concluded, the US can afford to get rid of a lot of its “Oreos” in fact more than half.

This claim is now a common media refrain and favorite fortune cookie analysis of the left. Among those seeking to cut US defense spending dramatically that indeed is their new bumper sticker: “The United States spends more on defense than all the rest of the countries in the world.”

Is the statement true? It actually is not only not true, when you think about it even if it were true, it still remains nonsensical on its face. Continue reading

Americans Disapprove of Obama’s Foreign Policy

ObamaCare-ObamaPresident Barack Obama’s foreign policy approval rating continues to drop as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine remains unresolved, CBS News reports.

Just 36 percent of Americans polled approve of Obama’s foreign policy overall. This compares to the 39 percent approval rating he received just last month.

Forty-six percent of those polled disapprove of how Obama is handling the situation between Russia and Ukraine. Thirty-eight percent approve. Continue reading

Condi Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness, Leadership

Condi RiceSays we can’t afford to be war weary.

by Stephen F. Hayes

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States’ position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama’s ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world.

“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”

Continue reading

Nuclear Disarmament: Our adversaries say, “You First”

Nuclear Disarmamentby Peter Huessy

As world leaders gather in Europe to discuss in part the further lock-down of loose nuclear material as well as how NATO and its friends should move to protect Ukraine and eastern Europe from further Russian predation, we should understand a few important points.

The nuclear summit is looking to “cooperative” countries to secure nuclear material. Its efforts are important. But the bigger picture gives us an unsettled view of the nuclear landscape.

Let’s review where we are.

The US has moved from over 13,600 deployed strategic (delivered long distances) nuclear weapons in the late 1980s prior to START I taking effect to now around 1550. That is a 90+% reduction.

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement in 1987 eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons deployed by both the US and the Soviets throughout eastern Europe and in Asia. Continue reading

Looking the other way while Russia violates missile treaties

ObamaPutin copyHouse leaders seek probe of Obama State Department failure to report Russian nuclear missile treaty violations

by Bill Gertz

Two senior House leaders on Friday requested an investigation by Congress’ General Accountability Office (GAO) into the State Department’s failure to report Russian violations of a 1987 nuclear missile accord.

“It is clear from my subcommittee’s oversight that the administration did not fully disclose what it knew about Russian arms control violations when it was trying to get the New START treaty ratified,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

“Its all-consuming drive to protect its Russia reset policy has gutted our missile defenses, alienated allies, and only encouraged Vladimir Putin’s lawlessness,” he said in a statement. Continue reading

How to stop — or slow — Putin

putin russiaby Charles Krauthammer

The president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council challenges critics of President Obama’s Ukraine policy by saying, “What are you going to do, send the 101st Airborne into Crimea?” Not exactly subtle. And rather silly, considering that no one has proposed such a thing.

The alternative to passivity is not war but a serious foreign policy. For the past five years, Obama’s fruitless accommodationism has invited the kind of aggressiveness demonstrated by Iran in Syria, China in the East China Sea and Russia in Ukraine. But what’s done is done. Put that aside. What is to be done now?

We have three objectives. In ascending order of difficulty: Reassure NATO. Deter further Russian incursion into Ukraine. Reverse the annexation of Crimea. Continue reading

Slashing our nuclear deterrent provides only marginal savings

US-nuclear-missileby Peter Huessy

Steve Pifer of the Brookings Institute recently published an analysis of how one might save significant costs by down-sizing our strategic nuclear deterrent. He explained “Two recent studies make clear that maintaining and recapitalizing U.S. strategic nuclear forces will be expensive, at a time when fiscal realities will undoubtedly continue to constrain the defense budget.” [Opinion: Nukes, Dollars and Sense
Brookings Institute, 10 Mar 14].

Pifer suggests we reduce our strategic submarines from the planned force of Ohio Replacement submarines from 12 to 9; cut our Minuteman force from 420 to 200-300 missiles and put off giving our new strategic bomber any nuclear capability. The total budget savings are not estimated exactly by Brookings but they probably are actually considerably less than implied by the analysis for a variety of reasons.

Reducing Minuteman to 200-300 missiles saves almost nothing in the first decade. You would incur base closing costs which have traditionally eaten up 40% off the “savings” estimated by previous base closing studies. In this case Minuteman, as the recent well done Rand study notes, would cost in the range of $1.8-2.3 a year to modernize. However, cutting missile procurement only saves you funding at the end of the procurement cycle as the RDT&E costs are the same whether you have 200 or 420 missiles. As a result of these factors, savings thus might get to $200-300 million a year. But for what?  Continue reading

The catastrophe of Ukraine

Ukraine Mapby Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi

Although the immediate cause for the people’s uprising against Viktor Yanukovych’s reign was his rejection of a trade agreement with the European Union, the ultimate responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis lies with Vladimir Putin, the revanchist president of the Russian Federation. Now that the Ukrainian people put an end to Putin’s pyrrhic victory over the European Union, the anachronistic character of his attempts at the restoration of the bygone imperial glory of the Soviet Union is becoming all too apparent.

For present-day Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Putin is not Stalin, or even the latter’s successors. The symbol of hope and change of the late 1990s is a disappointment in his second presidential reincarnation. His annual state of the nation address last December was a litany of domestic problems that cannot be solved by increasing repression and over-centralization. His foreign policy of rogue militarism only radicalizes Russia’s neighbors and invites resentment, and even hostility, from the rest of the world. Thus, instead of his promise of “building a new Russia”, Putin is destroying the present and the future of his people, in order to resurrect the past. Continue reading

How Obama Should Have Handled the Crimea Crisis

crimea_russiaHere are the steps a strong leader would have taken.

by Peter Roff

If America had a robust foreign policy, “the crisis in the Crimea” might never have come to pass. If America had a strong president, someone the world regarded as capable and decisive, Russian President Vladimir Putin might have thought twice about sending troops into the region with orders to make it officially a part of the Russian Federation once again.

Unfortunately, America at the moment has neither. Instead, a weak and feckless president who has chosen to surround himself with an ideological and inexperienced national security team is standing by, hands in pockets, because there is likely nothing the United States can do to change the outcome.

A strong president, a Jack Kennedy or a Ronald Reagan — someone who had command of the nation’s policymaking machine and a clear worldview that involved America as the guardian of world freedom against a dark, evil, expansionist regime in Moscow — would have already committed to a series of steps designed to demonstrate the seriousness of America, speaking on behalf of the western world, to recent events. Continue reading

A message Obama needs to deliver and Putin needs to hear

Missile Defenseby George Landrith

Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorized, and his military forces have carried out, an unprovoked armed invasion of a neighboring nation, Ukraine — whose sole transgression was wanting closer diplomatic and economic ties with the West. Despite wide condemnation of the invasion and now the occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, Putin is unrepentant and China is now standing with Russia. As if the invasion wasn’t provocative enough, Putin also test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) only days after the invasion. These are dangerous times.

But it doesn’t stop there. Russia is helping Iran develop nuclear capabilities, giving them cover as they arm terrorists in the Middle East with missiles, and aiding Syria’s Assad cling to power despite his crimes against humanity.

For the past decade American foreign policy has mistakenly operated as if Russia and Putin were allies in making the world more secure and stable. One of Bush’s errors was to believe Putin was a responsible world leader. That was always a bad assumption. Continue reading

Fantasy-Based Foreign Policy

Putin Obama Russiaby Stephen F. Hayes

On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so.

It was a remarkably transparent case of pretending the world is what we wish it to be, rather than seeing it as it is.

On February 28, Russian troops poured into Ukraine. As they did, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. Kerry briefed reporters after their talk, plainly unaware of the developments on the ground. Kerry said that Russia wants to help Ukraine with its economic problems. Lavrov had told him “that they are prepared to be engaged and be involved in helping to deal with the economic transition that needs to take place at this point.” Continue reading

The wages of weakness

Obama Medved Flexibleby Charles Krauthammer

Vladimir Putin is a lucky man. And he’s got three more years of luck to come.

He takes Crimea, and President Obama says it’s not in Russia’s interest, not even strategically clever. Indeed, it’s a sign of weakness.

Really? Crimea belonged to Moscow for 200 years. Russia annexed it 20 years before Jefferson acquired Louisiana. Lost it in the humiliation of the 1990s. Putin got it back in about three days without firing a shot.

Now Russia looms over the rest of eastern and southern Ukraine. Putin can take that anytime he wants — if he wants. He has already destabilized the nationalist government in Kiev. Ukraine is now truncated and on the life support of U.S. and European money (much of which — cash for gas — will end up in Putin’s treasury anyway). Continue reading

One way to respond to Putin: Don’t let him control the Internet

Obama Putinby George Landrith

Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorized, and his military forces have carried out, an armed invasion of a neighboring nation, Ukraine, whose sole transgression was wanting closer diplomatic and economic ties with the West. Despite wide condemnation of the unprovoked attack, Putin is unrepentant and China is now standing with Russia. As if the invasion wasn’t provocative enough, Putin also test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). These are dangerous times.

While the administration’s response has been muted, there has been no shortage of suggested ways the U.S. could signal its strong objection — recalling our ambassador, imposing sanctions, removing Russia from the G8 and reverting back to the G7, sending an naval carrier group to the region, reconstituting plans to build a missile defense capability in Eastern Europe, and maximizing our own energy production to weaken Russia’s economy and its hold on much of Eastern Europe. These ideas have merit, but some are longer-term plans. It is not clear how the administration will respond to this crisis. Continue reading

Will Obama ground America’s top tank-killer?

Warthog Thunderbolt A10 A-10Cutting the functional and economical A-10 would be a mistake

by George Landrith

Budget cutters are rumored to have their eyes on the A-10 Thunderbolt, thinking that retiring it may generate much-needed savings.

When the government shutdown was over, President Obama and members of both parties in Congress said they would work together during the coming months toward a sustainable budget. Let’s all hope they do. Government spending must be brought under control, and we need to be smart about the cuts we make.

Congress should focus on cutting things that provide little in return and preserving things that work well and are cost-effective — especially at the Pentagon. The world is simply too dangerous a place to allow the nation’s defense capability to be hollowed out. As George Washington wisely observed, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” Cuts that are “penny-wise and dollar foolish” do not help the taxpayer or our war fighters. Retiring the A-10 would be the very definition of “penny-wise and dollar foolish.” Continue reading

Even the Hapless Jimmy Carter Wasn’t This Bad

obama-carterby Jack Kelly

Leaders of other countries don’t respect President Barack Obama, said 53 percent of respondents in Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 3-6. That only 53 percent of Americans think this is an indictment of the news media’s coverage of foreign affairs.

He would lead the world by “deed and example,” not try to “bully it into submission,” Sen. Barack Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2007.

In a major foreign policy speech in 2008, Mr. Obama said he would focus on “ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” Continue reading

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