Aletho News


Lavishing Money on the Pentagon

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | December 14, 2017

Wise parents who celebrate Christmas advise their young children not to make unreasonably grandiose requests of Santa. After all, he has to squeeze down a rather narrow chimney to deliver their presents.

But as Christmas approaches this year, leaders of Congress, the Pentagon, and the Trump White House seem to have forgotten that lesson. Their wish list for the U.S. military, if taken seriously, will bust the federal budget at the very time Republicans are ramming through tax legislation that will shrink Uncle Sam’s savings account by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.

President Trump this week signed into law a $700 billion blueprint for military spending in the current fiscal year. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes funding for more troops, more weapons, more interventions abroad, and more active wars, with Trump’s enthusiastic blessing. “We need our military,” he declared at a White House signing ceremony.

In addition to lavish spending on new weapons — like $10 billion for purchases of the disastrous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — this Christmas legislation for the military includes all sorts of smaller presents, including billions of dollars to fund NATO’s European Deterrence Initiative (whatever happened to Trump’s demand that our allies pay for their own defense?), missile defense systems of doubtful efficacy, and development of a new cruise missile that would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia.

The bill also earmarks $350 million for military aid to Ukraine, including lethal weaponry — a highly provocative measure that Arizona Senator John McCain has long promoted. Independent analysts, including prominent conservative foreign policy experts, warn that such lethal aid would be destabilizing, provocative, and “extraordinarily foolish.”

Under the arcane rules of Congress, the House and Senate must still translate this blueprint into actual budget appropriations. Therein lies the rub. Back in the days when Republicans still claimed to believe in balanced budgets, they led the way in enacting limits on federal spending.

Current law caps core defense spending at $549 billion in fiscal year 2018. The defense authorization bill, in contrast, pegs the request for core Pentagon operations at $634 billion, with another $66 billion to fight ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other hot spots. The latter funds are not subject to budget caps.

At his signing ceremony, Trump called on Congress to overturn its spending cap on the military. Many Republicans would be amenable, but Democrats may demand a parallel relaxation of budget limits on domestic spending, a non-starter for conservatives.

Supporters of increased military spending, led by the Pentagon, point to how overworked the armed services are in today’s world environment.

“We aren’t big enough to do everything we’re being tasked to do,” complained Admiral William Moran, vice chief of naval operations, in recent congressional testimony.

Policing the World

Moran was right: it’s a lot harder to police the world with 300 ships then it was several decades ago with nearly 600 vessels and only one serious foe.

Seen another way, however, budgetary realities might be sending us a message that it’s no longer feasible, or in the national interest, to maintain nearly a quarter million troops in more than 170 countries and territories abroad.

Nor is it necessary for our defense to carry out vast military exercises from the Baltic States to the Sea of Japan in order to maintain dominance in Central Europe, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, North Africa, and any number of other locations — all while conducting live military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Niger, and other war zones.

Those who can’t see their way to setting limits on runaway military spending should reflect on the fact that the roughly $65 billion a year the Pentagon spends on active war-fighting, through the “Overseas Contingency Operations” fund, is roughly equal to Russia’s entire military budget. Only China spends more than that amount. And after those two countries, the next 15 biggest military spenders are all U.S. allies or reasonably friendly toward the United States.

Where Does the Money Go?

Taxpayers should also reflect on the fact that the Pentagon has never passed a full audit and has only a foggy idea of where all its money goes.

“The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced,” Reuters reported last year.

“The Defense Department’s Inspector General . . . said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. . .

“For years, the Inspector General – the Defense Department’s official auditor – has inserted a disclaimer on all military annual reports. The accounting is so unreliable that ‘the basic financial statements may have undetected misstatements that are both material and pervasive.’”

We may not know for sure where the money goes, but we know it amounts to a vast sum every year. Since 9/11, Americans have paid nearly $5 trillion for its foreign wars, according to Brown University’s Cost of War project — or about $25,000 per taxpayer. If Congress really wants to ease the tax burden on middle-class Americans, putting an end to our permanent state of war would be a good place to start.

Jonathan Marshall writes frequently on Pentagon programs, including “US Arms Makers Invest in a New Cold War,” “New Navy Ship Leaking Tax Dollars,” “Trump Adds to Washington’s ‘Swamp’,”  “Learning to Love — and Use — the Bomb,” and “Rising Budget Stakes for Space Warfare.”

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | | 4 Comments

Yemen, Afghanistan in focus as landmine casualties spike

Press TV – December 14, 2017

Landmines killed 8,605 people in several countries in 2016, despite an international ban on the deadly device, a monitoring group says.

According to the annual report released Thursday by Landmine Monitor, about three-quarters of the known casualties were civilians, including more than 1,000 children who were injured and nearly 500 who were killed.

The number of the casualties — which were mostly recorded in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen — showed a 30% surge compared to 2015.

“A few intense conflicts, where utter disregard for civilian safety persists, have resulted in very high numbers of mine casualties for the second year in a row,” Loren Persi, an editor of the Landmine Monitor said.

Persi described the spike as “alarming”, adding that the true number of the victims would be significantly higher if the data gathering were complete.

The surge comes after a 18-year decline in landmine casualties since the Mine Ban Treaty first came into force in 1999.

The treaty bans the use of landmines and other explosive devices placed on or under the ground, designed to blow up when somebody unintentionally steps on them.

These weapons can be continuously deadly weapons for many years, long after the war has ended. About 80% of landmine victims are civilians.

The Mine Ban Treaty, which has been signed by 163 countries, also bans production, stockpiling and transfer of the deadly landmines.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Kiev hails US & Canada for greenlighting lethal arms supplies that could kill Ukraine peace process

RT | December 14, 2017

By including Ukraine on the list of countries approved for lethal weapons sales, Canada has become a side in a bloody civil war, undermining a shaky peace process, a senior Russian senator said, as Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko applauded the move.

Poroshenko praised the US and Canadian governments for stepping up military cooperation with Ukraine, which could lead to lethal weapons from both countries being supplied to the Ukrainian army, embroiled in a long-running civil conflict with rebel militias from breakaway eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk Republics.

“As it was agreed, the United States authorized security assistance for our country and Canada included Ukraine into the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. The door to enhanced defense assistance for Ukraine has been opened,” Poroshenko wrote on Facebook, as US President Donald Trump signed a new Pentagon funding bill and the government in Ottawa revealed its decision to greenlight the export of “certain prohibited firearms, weapons and devices” to Ukraine by including it into its list.

Unlike the Pentagon bill, Canada’s decision sets no preconditions for selling the armaments to Ukraine. The Canadian government’s only precaution is to examine the export applications on a case-by-case basis, to establish who will be using the weapons and how.

This makes Canada a party to the conflict, says Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security.

“A very dangerous precedent has been created: Effectively, Canada has become a party to the internal Ukrainian conflict with all ensuing consequences. And this, above all, means that it assumes responsibility for the actions of the Ukrainian forces, trained by Canadian instructors and equipped with Canadian weapons,” Klintsevich said.

Be arming one side, Canada could tip the relative balance of power, fueling the stalled hostilities and shattering the hopes of peace. “To call a spade a spade, Canada has directly opposed the Minsk Accords,” Klintsevich said.

The US approved $500 million in “defensive lethal assistance” to Ukraine on Wednesday as Trump signed into law the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) drafted by Congress in late November.

The act claims that the US should beef up its military presence in Eastern Europe in face of the perceived “Russian aggression,” as well as to help Ukraine to tackle it. However, the allocation of the funds is conditional on the Ukrainian military undergoing “substantial” reforms. It is ultimately up to the US Secretary of State to decide if Ukraine has met the prerequisites.

Russia may take the issue of weapon sales and lethal aid to Ukraine to the UN Security Council, Yuri Schvytkin, deputy chairman of State Duma’s Defense Committee, told RIA Novosti.

A recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that US arms sales overseas as well as its ongoing military operations were two main factors that drive global weapons trade, that rose for the first time in five years. With 38 firms that account for combined $217.2 billion in weapon sales, the US ranked first on the list of arms manufacturing countries.

In line with its strategy of encircling Russia with NATO contingents and “purely” defensive military equipment, Washington has recently authorized a shipment of 410 Javelin Missiles as well as 72 Javelin Command Launch Units to Georgia.

The promised delivery was slammed by Moscow, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin arguing in November that it “directly encourages Tbilisi to new dangerous adventures in the region.”

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Western leaders misled Gorbachev with promises that NATO wouldn’t expand – released archives

In 1990, Western politicians repeatedly assured Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO wouldn’t expand east of Germany’s borders, but broke that promise less than a decade later, say insider archives from both sides of negotiations following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

Researchers from the respected George Washington University-based National Security Archive, which specializes in obtaining key declassified information from the government, have put together 30 crucial documents that clearly show several top Western officials vowing to Gorbachev in unison that NATO would not expand eastward. Some of these have been publicly available for several years, others have been revealed as a result of Freedom of Information requests for the study.

Through 1990 as the two Germanies, and the leaders of four World War II victors, the USSR, the US, the UK and France, negotiated a reunification treaty, signed by the six parties in Moscow in September, the capitalist states tried to defuse Moscow’s fears that a reunified state in the heart of Europe would present a threat to the Soviet Union.

In February, George H. W. Bush’s secretary of state, James Baker, assured his Soviet counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, that in a post-Cold War Europe NATO would no longer be belligerent – “less of a military organization, much more of a political one, would have no need for independent capability.”

Nonetheless, Baker promised Shevardnadze “iron-clad guarantees that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward.” On the same day in Moscow, he famously told the Soviet General Secretary that the alliance would not move “one inch to the east.”

The following day, February 10, 1990, Helmut Kohl, the future chancellor of a united Germany, repeated the same thought to Gorbachev, even as they disagreed on other issues.

“We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity. We have to find a reasonable resolution. I correctly understand the security interests of the Soviet Union, and I realize that you, Mr. General Secretary, and the Soviet leadership will have to clearly explain what is happening to the Soviet people,” Kohl said.

Later that month, talking with Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel, President George H. W. Bush himself said that “we will not conduct ourselves in the wrong way by saying, ‘We win, you lose.’”

“Tell Gorbachev that… I asked you to tell Gorbachev that we will not conduct ourselves regarding Czechoslovakia or any other country in a way that would complicate the problems he has so frankly discussed with me,” the US president said, talking to the Czech reformer and former dissident.

The French president, Socialist Francois Mitterand, went further and said that he was not in favor of even a unified Germany joining NATO, something he openly shared with the Soviet leader.

In the end, the Soviets moved their forces out of Germany, and later other eastern European states, without a single hostile incident. Among those going home was KGB officer Vladimir Putin, who was stationed in Dresden between 1985 and 1990.

The promise lasted only until 1997, however, when Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were invited into the alliance. In total, 13 Eastern European states have become NATO members since then.

Gorbachev and subsequently Putin have frequently bemoaned the West’s broken promise, with the latter insisting that it fundamentally undermined the fragile trust between an internationally retreating Russia and an ascendant US.

Nonetheless NATO and top Western officials have continued to claim that there was no promise. None of the assurances of non-expansion were included in any treaty documents, which means they were just that – words.

“NATO allies take decisions by consensus and these are recorded. There is no record of any such decision having been taken by NATO. Personal assurances, from NATO leaders, cannot replace alliance consensus and do not constitute a formal NATO agreement,” the alliance said in its official explainer on its website.

Robert Zoellick, a key negotiator during the reunification talks, has also spoken of the promise as a “misperception,” while former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul has labeled the idea of a reneged promise a “myth” in an interview given last year.

But the weight of evidence now uncovered suggests that these stances are disingenuous at best and duplicitous at worst.

December 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

‘Absolutely Ignored’: US Veterans Who Cleaned Up H-Bomb Accident Seek Benefits

Sputnik – 12.12.2017

Yale Law School students have requested a US court to permit a class-action lawsuit on behalf of US Air Force veterans who responded to the catastrophic 1966 hydrogen bomb accident in the Mediterranean Sea, but who have been denied disability benefits.

The 1966 accident occurred when a USAF B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs collided with a USAF KC-135 tanker aircraft during a mid-flight refueling exercise. The refueling nozzle hit the fuselage and caused a major explosion seen by another B-52 pilot a mile away. All four airmen on the FC-135 were killed along with three of the four airmen on board the B-52.

The planes were flying a Cold War airborne alert mission dubbed Operation Chrome. The B-52s, which took off from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in North Carolina, required two mid-flight refuelings over Spain to complete their mission. The accident, which occurred near southern Spain, caused the B-52 to lose its hold on the four Mk-28 hydrogen bombs it was carrying, sending them plummeting down to Earth. Three landed in the fishing village of Palomares, while a third landed in the ocean and was ultimately recovered following a two-and-a-half month search.

“This class action seeks to compel the VA to acknowledge that veterans at Palomares participated in a radiation risk activity that would make any radiogenic conditions they developed presumptively service connected,” said Derek Mraz, one of the Yale Law School students working on the case.

About 1,600 service members were marshalled to Spain to recover the Mk-28s and contain the radiation released after the weapons’ plutonium detonators exploded, though the nuclear payloads themselves did not go off.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has hitherto denied these veterans disability benefits, even though many of them developed cancer, blood disorders, and heart and lung conditions, according to

The motion to allow a class action suit, filed by Yale students on Monday, lists veteran Victor Skaar as the plaintiff and VA Secretary David Shuklin as the defendant.

“It is absolutely ridiculous to see how we have been treated. We’re all hurt. We were ignored, absolutely ignored,” Skaar told the Associated Press.

December 13, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

USA-DPRK: Torpedoing the Outcome of the 2005 Joint Statement

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 11.12.2017

To resolve the nuclear crisis in 2003, six-party talks were established, on which three main groups were formed. The first camp was North Korea, the second – the United States, joined by Japan. The third, the most important and the most numerous, was made up of Russia, China and the “Roh Moo – hyun’s ROK”, a camp of pragmatists who made every effort to ensure that the talks were negotiations, not a series of mutual demarches.

North Koreans immediately filed four demands, under which Pyongyang is prepared not to use nuclear weapons – the signing of the US non-aggression package; establishment of diplomatic relations with the DPRK; ensuring economic cooperation with Japan and South Korea; providing North Korea with light water reactors for energy.

Apparently, these requirements were not very different from what was stipulated in the Framework Agreement, but the American delegation, led by the same Kelly, took a very tough stance. However, the US immediately rose to a “non-negotiable” position from the category “All or nothing,” a complete, confirmed and unconditional liquidation of the nuclear program. In translation from “diplomatic speech” it meant: the DPRK freezes the ENTIRE nuclear program and liquidates the nuclear infrastructure created in the DPRK, and then the United States will check whether the program is really frozen and decide what to give Pyongyang in return. At the same time, the dismantling of the facilities was set at 3 months, which was certainly not feasible, and the idea of the need to prove complete liquidation immediately reminded everyone of the Iraqi experience – but stating problem made it possible to remove the issue of the Americans’ failure to comply with their agreed part of the Agreement Framework. It is clear that in such a situation negotiations were difficult, and the academic circles regarded as a success the fact that the negotiating parties did not quarrel immediately after the first round.

The result of the second round was also the agreement to continue negotiations. However, this stage ended Pyongyang’s attempt at the very last moment to make changes in the joint communiqué on the results of the talks, because of which the closing ceremony was postponed for several hours. The final document was not adopted again.

According to unofficial sources, the United States considered the talks an opportunity to create a united ‘coalition of pressure’ against North Korea and declared in an ultimatum to the DPRK that it should freeze its nuclear program and return to the treaty, or else ….

The northerners responded to “or not” with their ‘bold proposal’ (according to some reports, it sounded something like this: “And what will you do if we hold a nuclear detonation?”). After that, the negotiations were stopped, and the DPRK’s position was presented as extremism and nuclear blackmail, although the demands of the North were to sign a nonaggression pact, diplomatic recognition of the DPRK and to give it more opportunities to participate in international trade. For blackmail, this seems even less than the previous demands of the DPRK, which sought financial assistance in exchange for abandoning the nuclear program.

China’s perseverance had borne fruit, as the Americans came with a specific proposal on the third round of talks on June 23-24, 2004, according to which North Korea could be provided with economic favors in exchange for freezing the nuclear program and transferring North Korea’s nuclear facilities to be under temporary international management of a commission of five powers or the IAEA.

This was a departure from the original American position, but by the end of the three-day talks the situation returned to “No deal”. Nevertheless, North Korea has expressed its readiness to freeze and even liquidate its nuclear facilities on the terms of lifting sanctions and providing energy assistance (2 million kW per year), but in general there was consensus that the freeze of nuclear development would be the first step in the transformation of the peninsula into a nuclear-free zone.

The fourth round of talks was scheduled for September 2004, but was only held in September 2005. This was partly due to the re-election of George W. Bush, after which it became clear that the balance of power in the negotiations will not change much. Partly with the fact that some USA State Department officials made a number of statements that even in the case of nuclear disarmament of the DPRK, the “Korean problem” will remain a problem due to the lack of democracy and respect for human rights.

On February 10, 2005, North Korea withdrew from the six-party talks and for the first time recognized the creation of its own nuclear weapons. “Our nuclear weapons are completely defensive, and they will remain as a force of nuclear deterrence,” said a spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry. And on March, 3rd, 2005, the DPRK declared, that it no longer considers itself bound by the 1999 moratorium on the testing of medium-range ballistic missiles: “Dialogue with the USA ceased in 2001 with the coming to power of the Bush administration, which means that we have the right to resume the tests.”

An important detail of the fourth round of talks, which took place in two stages: July 26 – August 7 and September 13-19, 2005, was the replacement of the head of the American delegation (former Ambassador to the ROK Christopher Hill) and an abundance of bilateral consultations, including North Korean and American. This fact of the changing of the negotiating structure spoke about the greater flexibility of the participants in principle and about the desire of the two main parties to start direct communication. Actually, this is exactly what Pyongyang had been longing for: its main demand at this stage was that the US “recognize North Korea as a partner and treat it with respect.”

The fourth round ended with a very important document the Joint Statement, which fixed the principles for solving the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula: the sides agreed on coordinated steps for the practical implementation of the agreements reached on a phased basis: “The North Korean side declares its right to peaceful use of atomic energy. Other negotiators expressed their recognition of this right and agreed to discuss the issue of granting the DPRK light water reactors at the right time.” In addition, the DPRK reaffirmed its “commitment to abandon all nuclear weapons and ongoing nuclear programs, return as soon as possible to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as well as under IAEA inspections.” China, the ROK, the USA, Japan and Russia, in turn, announced their intention to provide Pyongyang with energy assistance.

The fifth round of talks began on 9-11 November 2005 in an optimistic atmosphere (Pyongyang promised to postpone tests of nuclear weapons), but the DPRK was interrupted after Washington actually torpedoed the decisions of the joint statement by conducting a whole package of ‘hostile actions’: a special Congressional decision to allocate money for subversive activities within North Korea, the appointment of a special representative on the issue of human rights in the DPRK and sanctions against eight North Korean companies unfoundedly accused of money laundering, drug trafficking and other criminal activities. According to US officials, the funds received from the activities of these companies were used to finance the DPRK’s nuclear programs.

In addition, the US froze North Korean accounts at Delta Asia Bank (Macao) for $ 25 million. The seizure of North Korean money was perceived as evidence of their criminal origin, but there is one important nuance. This action was carried out in accordance with the Patriot Act, adopted in the USA on the wave of the fight against terrorism after September 11, 2001, to facilitate the conduction of investigative procedures. In particular, with regard to money that could have been used by terrorists, the act presupposed the possibility of anticipating the seizure of funds in order to make them inaccessible if they were really criminal. In other words, first to seize accounts that seemed suspicious, and then deal with them. However, in the eyes of the world community, which is accustomed to the fact that accounts are seized only when their criminal origin is confirmed, this fact has become “evidence of the criminal nature of the North Korean regime.”

North Korea took this seizure as an attempt to cut it off from the world financial system and give a signal to banks conducting business with the DPRK not to do it anymore because of possible problems with the US, especially because subsequent developments have led to a fear of such consequences, Asian banks have virtually ceased to cooperate with the DPRK.

It is difficult to say whether this was a deliberate attempt to torpedo the success of the Joint Statement, but North Korea’s reaction was predictable and it once again ‘slammed the door’, saying that until the sanctions are lifted, there will be no negotiations, especially since there was no serious evidence that North Korean money was ‘dirty’.

After that, there was a long pause at the talks, as the results of their fourth round were in fact disavowed. On December 20, 2005, the Central Telegraph Agency of Korea reported that “When the Bush administration shut down supplying light water reactors, we will actively develop an independent nuclear power industry based on graphite reactors with a capacity of 50 and 200 megawatts.” Thus, the DPRK denounced its previous promises to abandon all nuclear programs in exchange for security guarantees and economic assistance, and unlike similar actions by the US, this statement is constantly used as an example of Pyongyang’s treachery and unpredictability.

Visibly, the first stage of the six-party talks does not fit into the pattern “The United States is making concessions, and the DPRK is breaking promises over and over again.” Rather – on the contrary. Moreover, the attempt to cut off the DPRK from the world financial system, in the author’s view, buried not only the outcome of the agreement reached in the framework of the 2005 Joint Statement, but also the possibility of voluntary denuclearization after such actions by Washington towards the DPRK, apparently, concluded and more serious compromises were not reached.

Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D. (Hist.) is a leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US ‘Sanctions Ahead of Talks’ Diplomacy: Cunning Plan to Kill INF Treaty

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.12.2017

The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – one of the most significant arms-reduction accomplishments of the Cold War – marked its thirtieth anniversary on December 8. It was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 to ban US and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 and 3,300 miles). Some 2,700 missiles and their launchers have been destroyed. The landmark treaty has served well to prevent a nuclear arms race but today it is the weakest link in the system of nuclear arms control and its future is uncertain.

The United States is set to impose new sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. The US Commerce Department will introduce punitive measure against Russian companies that have provided technology to help develop a new weapon. The December 8 announcement made by the State Department was the first of its sort by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The decision is taken after a lengthy review undertaken by the National Security Council and made public ahead of a meeting of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), the implementing body for the treaty, to bring together US and Russian officials and experts. Past meetings to discuss controversial issues have failed to accomplish results. The missile in question is the so-called Novator 9M729 (SSC-8). Washington alleges the missile has already been deployed in at least two Russian regions.

In addition to the new sanctions, the Defense Department will begin research and development on a new nuclear cruise missile. The fiscal 2018 defense policy bill is authorizing $58 million to develop a new INF-busting road-mobile cruise missile capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads. It should be noted that it would cost billions of dollars and take years to field. One can hardly imagine a US ally in Europe or Asia, agreeing to deploy such a weapon on its territory.

Even more provocatively, in the same budget, Congress has directed the Defense Department to report on the cost to convert existing missile systems, such as the missile-defense interceptor SM-3 currently deployed in Romania, into medium-range nuclear systems. This is a validation of Russia’s concern that the ground-based missile defense systems being deployed in Europe can be used for intermediate range offensive missiles. The bill is also calling on the president to submit to Congress a plan to impose US sanctions on Russians responsible for “ordering or facilitating non-compliance” with the treaty.

The United States first formally accused Russia of developing a missile in violation of the INF back in 2014, and has repeated the accusations several times since then. Earlier this year, Washington said the missile was operational and had been deployed.

Moscow has denied the accusations as groundless and insisted it is committed to the INF pact. Russia said on Dec. 9 it was fully committed to a Cold War-era agreement.

Moscow has its own list of complaints over the US non-compliance. The list includes the drones that can deliver ordnance at ranges between 500 and 5,500 km, and target missiles used for ballistic missile defense (BMD) tests, which have a range exceeding the limits imposed by the treaty and can be potentially weaponized. US drones are cruise missiles because they fall inside the definition of cruise missiles in treaty Article II, paragraph 2: “an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path.”

Russia’s special concern is the use of Mk-41 VLS launcher as an element of the AEGIS Ashore missile defense system operational in Romania and to be deployed in Poland next year. A ship-borne version is designed to fire both Tomahawk cruise missiles and SM-3 interceptors. It gives the US the ability to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles from land. The treaty bans the deployment in Europe of the ground-based intermediate range capable launchers.

It’s worth noting that some elected officials in the United States are setting the stage for withdrawal from the treaty. In July, Senator Tom Cotton, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the US should sidestep the accord. In his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., the senator urged the administration to transfer American missile technologies to allies, particularly Poland, to help develop their own mid-range missiles, despite the fact that only the US and Russia are signatories to the INF Treaty. “The time is coming to consider whether the US should stay in the INF treaty, even if Russia came back into compliance,” he said at the time. Earlier in 2017, the US government offered to help its South Korean counterparts develop new longer-range ballistic missiles that American forces would themselves be unable to employ.

Much has been said about the problems related to the INF Treaty. True, there are problems that should be addressed and the SVC is the right forum to do so. With the treaty torn up, the prospects for a strategic offensive arms treaty after the New START expires in 2021 become blurred. The INF and the New START are the only arms control treaties remaining in force to limit US and Russia’s nuclear forces. Without them, an arms race becomes inevitable. Instead of engaging in futile exchanges of accusations, the parties should jointly work out additional verification measures to eliminate mutual suspicions. That’s what should be done. The US states its goal is to have the treaty in force but it looks like it wants it on its own terms, giving it an exclusive right to define what meets the treaty’s provisions and what does not. Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that the statement about imposing the INF-related sanctions on Russia came before the SVC talks started?

This is an act of intimidation and outright pressure unacceptable for Moscow and the State Department is aware of it. The Russia’s reaction is quite predictable. At the October 2017 Valdai Club meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “If someone… wishes to withdraw from the treaty, for example, our American partners, our response would be… immediate and reciprocal.” The use of ultimatums is a wrong language to speak with Moscow and Washington knows it well.

Then the imposition of sanctions is nothing but a provocative act, pursuing the goal of shifting the blame on Russia for something the US wants to be done – dumping the treaty. A unilateral withdrawal would not be supported internationally and Washington will face problems with allies. But if the US succeeded in creating the image of a victim, which has to do something about the Russia’s “nefarious” plans, it would eat the cake and have it. This is “a pot calling the kettle black” policy. Otherwise, the announcement of sanctions would not precede the talks.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Qatar finalizes $8bn weapons deal with UK

Press TV – December 10, 2017

Qatar has signed a major weapons deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom amid a political stand-off with former Arab allies of the Persian Gulf region.

Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, signed the deal on Sunday in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The agreement, worth USD 8 billion (6.8 billion euros), is the latest to come from Doha amid a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The four cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar six months ago over allegations of its support for terrorism. They have even warned of further action if Doha does not mend its regional policies.

Qatar has showed no sign that it is ready to bow to the pressures while maintaining that it would remain independent in its foreign policy. It has also rejected key conditions put forward by the four countries for normalization, including a downgrade in ties with regional power Iran and expulsion of Turkish troops from the Qatari soil.

The deal signed Sunday is Qatar’s second major military agreement this week. An agreement to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes worth of billions of dollars came on December 7.

Williamson, British defense chief, hailed the Sunday agreement with Qatar and said it was the biggest order for Typhoons in a decade. He said the fighter jets will support “stability in the region and delivering security at home”.

Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region are major customers for weapons made in the West. Spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the countries have signed deals worth of tens of billions of US dollars with major western arm producers over the past years.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japan to host joint missile drills with US, South Korea

Press TV – December 10, 2017

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has announced that a joint drill with the United States and South Korea will be held this week amid an escalated stand-off in the region over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

Onodera said Sunday during a visit to a garrison in northern Japan that the joint missile drills will be held on Monday and Tuesday in waters near Japan.

A defense official said the military exercises will be aimed at “practicing tracking an object and sharing information on it among the three countries”.

“It will translate into a measure against ballistic missiles,” said the Japanese official who declined to be named.

The drills comes despite warnings by North Korea that joint military exercises in the region would escalate a current conflict over the country’s weapons program and prepare the ground for a full nuclear confrontation. Pyongyang has test-fired several ballistic missiles over the past months, including two in July that experts said showed the country’s capability to hit potential targets in the mainland US. North Korea also carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test in August, prompting the US to lead international efforts to further pressure the country through economic means.

North Korea has been specifically worried about repeated drills between US and South Korea, saying they are clear provocations. Washington denies Pyongyang’s allegations that the actions are meant to simulate an invasion of the North, saying they are normal, pre-planned procedures to test the readiness of thousands of US troops stationed in the Korean Peninsula.

The US State Department said the upcoming drills with Japan and South Korea and intensified US engagement in diplomatic efforts in the region were meant to persuade the North to refrain from further developing its weapons program.

“The United States looks forward to continuing its partnership with both these nations so that the DPRK will return to credible talks on denuclearization,” said the department in a Sunday statement, using North Korea’s official name.

Pyongyang rejected the claims about the drills, reiterating its view that they were a provocation. It said in a statement that the upcoming exercise between Japan, the US and South Korea revealed “its intention to mount a surprise nuclear pre-emptive strike against the DPRK”.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

US Allegations of Russia Violating INF Absolutely Unfounded – Moscow

Sputnik – 09.12.2017

The INF treaty, which prohibits the development, deployment and testing of ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles, celebrated its 30th anniversary on December 8.

“The United States has long been claiming that we are allegedly exceeding the limits of the Treaty prohibiting the deployment of cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. But there is an interesting pattern — just as with the well-known statements about ‘Russian meddling in the US elections,’ no real evidence is provided … In other words, the accusations are absolutely unsubstantiated, they are not supported either by the technical characteristics of the launcher allegedly not meeting the Treaty, nor by flight telemetry data. And it is understandable why — because it simply does not exist,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday.

The deputy foreign minister has explained that the US growing “anti-Russian campaign” is an indicator of US wish to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), with Washington appearing to be looking for a pretext and trying to create its own ideas for the introduction of new sanctions against Moscow, adding that the dissolution of the document would deal a hard blow to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

“So anti-Russian propaganda campaign in the context of the INF treaty looks increasingly like an attempt to project US issues onto another entity. Its increase may be a sign of Washington readying to withdraw from this treaty just as it withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,” Ryabkov said.

The high-ranking official has yet again reiterated Moscow’s commitment to the deal, “On our side, we are fully committed to the treaty, always have rigorously implemented it and are ready to continue to do so. However, if one side stops to comply with it, we will have, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said previously, to issue a mirror-like response.”

INF Treaty and Anti-Russia Sanctions

The statement was made in wake of the reported approval of new sanctions against Russia by US President Donald Trump earlier in the day over the alleged violations of the INF deal. The move followed the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s accusations made in September, regarding the alleged violations of the treaty, a claim which has been repeatedly denied and called groundless by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Moscow has also warned the United States against trying to talk to Russia with the language of ultimatums, or to exert military and political pressure.

The 1987 INF treaty prohibits the development, deployment and testing of ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.


Why INF Treaty Between US, Russia Remains Key to Global Security

Trump Approves New Sanctions Against Russia Over Alleged INF Treaty Violations

December 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Trump Approves New Sanctions Against Russia Over Alleged INF Treaty Violations

Sputnik – December 8, 2017

The US Commerce Department will impose sanctions on Russian companies that have provided technology to help develop the new weapon outlawed by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Politico reported on Friday.

US media also reported, citing a senior administration official that US President Donald Trump has approved these new restrictions against Moscow.

Earlier in the day, US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a release the United States is prepared to stop its intermediate-range missile systems research if Russia complies with all the terms of the INF treaty. Nauert explained that while the United States will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, it is now pursuing economic and military measures to induce Russia to return to the INF treaty compliance.

The State Department spokesperson added the United States remains committed to its INF treaty obligations and seeks Russia’s return to compliance with the agreement.Earlier on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow will comply with all the terms of the INF treaty as long as the United States complies with them, and is ready to conduct professional dialogue with Washington.

The Foreign Ministry stressed that the United States was interpreting its commitments under the INF treaty freely while bringing unfounded accusations against Russia of violating the agreement. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry warned the United States against attempting to talk to Russia with the language of ultimatums, or to exert military and political pressure.

In September, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of violating the INF treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the US accusations were groundless, adding that the United States did not present any evidence to support its claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October that, before the INF treaty, US missile capabilities had already included air- and sea-launched missiles, while the Soviet Union had not developed such weapons. Since the INF treaty banned land-based missile launchers, the disarmament was done unilaterally by the Soviet Union.

The 1987 INF treaty prohibits the development, deployment and testing of ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

December 8, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

The Nutball the Neocons Wanted in NATO

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • December 8, 2017

Even interventionists are regretting some of the wars into which they helped plunge the United States in this century.

Among those wars are Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest in our history; Libya, which was left without a stable government; Syria’s civil war, a six-year human rights disaster we helped kick off by arming rebels to overthrow Bashar Assad; and Yemen, where a U.S.-backed Saudi bombing campaign and starvation blockade is causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yet, twice this century, the War Party was beaten back when seeking a clash with Putin’s Russia. And the “neo-isolationists” who won those arguments served America well.

What triggered this observation was an item on Page 1 of Wednesday’s New York Times that read in its entirety:

“Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, led marchers through Kiev after threatening to jump from a five-story building to evade arrest. Page A4″

Who is Saakashvili? The wunderkind elected in 2004 in Tbilisi after a “Rose Revolution” we backed during George W. Bush’s crusade for global democracy.

During the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, Saakashvili sent his army crashing into the tiny enclave of South Ossetia, which had broken free of Georgia when Georgia broke free of Russia.

In overrunning the enclave, however, Saakashvili’s troops killed Russian peacekeepers. Big mistake. Within 24 hours, Putin’s tanks and troops were pouring through Roki Tunnel, running Saakashvili’s army out of South Ossetia, and occupying parts of Georgia itself.

As defeat loomed for the neocon hero, U.S. foreign policy elites were alive with denunciations of “Russian aggression” and calls to send in the 82nd Airborne, bring Georgia into NATO, and station U.S. forces in the Caucasus.

“We are all Georgians!” thundered John McCain.

Not quite. When an outcry arose against getting into a collision with Russia, Bush, reading the nation right, decided to confine U.S. protests to the nonviolent. A wise call.

And Saakashvili? He held power until 2013, and then saw his party defeated, was charged with corruption, and fled to Ukraine. There, President Boris Poroshenko, beneficiary of the Kiev coup the U.S. had backed in 2014, put him in charge of Odessa, one of the most corrupt provinces in a country rife with corruption.

In 2016, an exasperated Saakashvili quit, charged his patron Poroshenko with corruption, and fled Ukraine. In September, with a band of supporters, he made a forced entry back across the border.

Here is the Times’ Andrew Higgins on his latest antics:

“On Tuesday … Saakashvili, onetime darling of the West, took his high-wire political career to bizarre new heights when he climbed onto the roof of his five-story apartment building in the center of Kiev…

“As … hundreds of supporters gathered below, he shouted insults at Ukraine’s leaders … and threatened to jump if security agents tried to grab him.

“Dragged from the roof after denouncing Mr. Poroshenko as a traitor and a thief, the former Georgian leader was detained but then freed by his supporters, who … blocked a security service van before it could take Mr. Saakashvili to a Kiev detention center and allowed him to escape.

“With a Ukrainian flag draped across his shoulders and a pair of handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists, Mr. Saakashvili then led hundreds of supporters in a march across Kiev toward Parliament. Speaking through a bullhorn he called for ‘peaceful protests’ to remove Mr. Poroshenko from office, just as protests had toppled the former President, Victor F. Yanukovych, in February 2014.”

This reads like a script for a Peter Sellers movie in the ’60s.

Yet this clown was president of Georgia, for whose cause in South Ossetia some in our foreign policy elite thought we should go to the brink of war with Russia.

And there was broad support for bringing Georgia into NATO. This would have given Saakashvili an ability to ignite a confrontation with Russia, which could have forced U.S. intervention.

Consider Ukraine. Three years ago, McCain was declaring, in support of the overthrow of the elected pro-Russian government in Kiev, “We are all Ukrainians now.”

Following that coup, U.S. elites were urging us to confront Putin in Crimea, bring Ukraine, as well as Georgia, into NATO, and send Kiev the lethal weapons needed to defeat Russian-backed rebels in the East.

This could have led straight to a Ukraine-Russia war, precipitated by our sending of U.S. arms.

Do we really want to cede to folks of the temperament of Mikhail Saakashvili an ability to instigate a war with a nuclear-armed Russia, which every Cold War president was resolved to avoid, even if it meant accepting Moscow’s hegemony in Eastern Europe all the way to the Elbe?

Watching Saakashvili losing it in the streets of Kiev like some blitzed college student should cause us to reassess the stability of all these allies to whom we have ceded a capacity to drag us into war.

Alliances, after all, are the transmission belts of war.

Copyright 2017

December 8, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 3 Comments