While President Obama was hugging a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the US military was switching on the first part of its Aegis Ashore anti-missile system in Romania, prompting Russian president Vladimir Putin to warn that Romania (and Poland where the next deployment is scheduled) would be "in the cross hairs" of Russian rocketry.
While Obama spoke eloquently in Japan about a "moral awakening" and called for "a world without nuclear weapons" his government was moving forward with a costly plan to renovate the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The contradiction largely went unnoticed but Obama was roundly criticized by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) who wrote in an opinion piece that “The U.S. cannot preach nuclear temperance from a bar stool.”
Obama has been pushing for a $1 trillion program to replace the U.S.’s entire stock of long-range strike bombers, cruise missiles, nuclear submarines and land-based missiles. One has to wonder what is the purpose of such an enormous project. There does not seem to be an imminent threat or even one in the foreseeable future.
Russia, understandably, feels very threatened by US actions. It sees itself being surrounded by a hostile alliance (NATO). Under the Aegis system the bases in Romania and Poland would become launch sites for US missiles (supposedly defensive). Missiles launched from these sites would be within 30 minutes of major Russian cities. Imagine what would happen if Russia were to attempt to establish a so-called missile defence system, with rocket capabilities, in say Venezuela or Nicaragua. We saw how Soviet efforts to establish nuclear bases in Cuba led the world to the brink of a nuclear war.
But, says the US, the Aegis system is not aimed at Russia! No, its there to protect against the threat of nuclear missiles from Iran - notwithstanding the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration has recently reached with that country. I wonder why they even bother with such pathetic justifications. They wouldn't pass muster in a saloon bar or even a high school cafeteria. It just reveals the level of cynicism of those who make such claims and in what low regard they hold their citizens.
The hypocrisy of the United States position is lamentable and laughable, but the real issue is how dangerous this whole project is. Russia has already warned that it will take retaliatory steps against the Aegis missile shield deployment. Vladimir Putin yesterday voiced frustration that Russia's complaints about the missile shield had not been heeded. "We've been repeating like a mantra that we will be forced to respond... Nobody wants to hear us. Nobody wants to conduct negotiations with us." He didn't specify what actions Russia would take, but he insisted that it was not making the first step, only responding to moves by Washington. "We won't take any action until we see rockets in areas that neighbour us."
I think it would be foolish in the extreme to ignore Putin's warnings. Russia feels it is under threat from the West. It has seen NATO pushing further and further east, in spite of promises made at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the re-unification of Germany. New NATO states include the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Poland, Romania and most recently (this month) Montenegro. The former Soviet republics Estonia and Latvia share a border with Russia, and Lithuania and Poland abut long-time Russian ally Belarus. In the south Romania is separated from Russia by Ukraine, now in a state of chaos, following a Western backed coup of questionable legitimacy. Even more threatening to Russia is the stated intent of NATO to one day include Georgia and Ukraine. If this ever happens Russia will be surrounded in its west and south by a hostile military alliance.
One has to wonder why the US and NATO are pursuing this dangerous policy. Russia does not seem to pose a particular threat. All of Russia's so-called 'aggressive' moves have been reactions to US/NATO actions. It seems that the US military establishment and NATO need to generate enemies in order to justify their existence and huge budgets.
I suspect that in Washington a plan has been developed to do to Putin's Russia what Ronald Reagan is somewhat fancifully believed to have done to the Soviet Union i.e. bring it to bankruptcy by forcing it to spend enormously on weapons systems to match the Western military developments. In that way it is probably believed, there will be regime change, Putin will be removed to be replaced by a compliant client government. Of course the fact that there will have to be enormous US and NATO expenditures (Obama's one trillion upgrade plan and more) on its own weapons systems and military is a proposition not difficult to sell in Washington, with its powerful complex of military and armaments lobbies. So this plan will satisfy many of the important players in Washington.
But looked at in a dispassionate way from the point of view of American citizens and indeed citizens of the rest of the world, it seems a deluded and dangerous folly. Why go to such expense and run the risk of nuclear war? Not only is the cost astronomical and the risks incalculable but the outcome is far from certain. Russia has experienced disastrous invasions from the West many times in its history. It suffered far greater losses than any other combatant in the Second World War (and in the First World War). But it never capitulated, and I don't see it capitulating again. The road down which the US and NATO seem to be heading will likely lead to disaster.
Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago when asked what was the most significant failure of US foreign policy in the past twenty-five years didn't choose the obvious answer - the 2003 Iraq invasion, with its huge cost in human life and wasted resources and the destabilization the Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East, the emergence of ISIS etc.
Instead Mearsheimer said that, in his opinion, there is a far greater disaster lurking and that is the total mismanagement of the relationship with Russia ever since the downfall of communism. There is more on Mearsheimer's comments in the following article:
by Phil Giraldi, a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who holds a Ph.D in Modern History from University of London.
In the article Giraldi makes the following comment:
"It should also be noted that much of the negative interaction between Washington and Moscow is driven by the consensus among the western media and the inside the beltway crowd that Russia is again or perhaps is still the enemy du jour. Ironically, the increasingly negative perception of Russia is rarely justified as a reaction in defense of any identifiable serious U.S. interests, not even in the fevered minds of Senator John McCain and his supporting neocon claque. But even though the consequences of U.S. hostility towards Russia can be deadly serious, the Obama Administration is already treating Georgia and Ukraine as if they were de facto members of NATO. Hillary Clinton, who has called Vladimir Putin another Adolf Hitler, has pledged to bring about their admittance into the alliance, which would not in any way make Americans more secure, quite the contrary, as Moscow would surely be forced to react."
Perhaps this explains the extreme reaction from the Republican Party establishment to the now near certainty of Donald Trump being the party's nominee for president. For Trump, in spite of the many rash and incendiary things he has said, has taken a very sanguine view of relations with Moscow. He does not see Putin as a mortal enemy and thinks he could deal with him. Not so Hillary Clinton who no doubt would double down on the current confrontational approach.
Perhaps Trump should be thought of as the idiot savant on this issue or perhaps as the little boy who could not see the Emperor's wonderful clothes.