The British government is providing military training to the majority of nations it has blacklisted for human rights violations, a new report reveals.
In a report published on Sunday, the Independent revealed that 16 of the 30 countries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s “human rights priority” watchlist are receiving military support from the UK despite being accused by London itself of issues ranging from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, since 2014, British armed forces have provided “either security or armed forces personnel” to the military forces of Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Britain is a major provider of weapons and equipment such as cluster bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in its year-long military aggression against Yemen that has killed nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children.
Since the conflict began in March 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of nearly $4 billion worth of weaponry to the Saudi kingdom.
British commandos also train Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite allegations that the Persian Gulf monarchy uses such specialist forces to suppress a years-long pro-democracy uprising in the country.
Bahraini forces visited the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, accompanied by troops from Nigeria, the Defense Ministry said.
Nigeria’s top military generals are accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes by causing the deaths of 8,000 people through murder, starvation, suffocation and torture during security operations against the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorists, according to the report.
Andrew Smith, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries known for being “some of the most authoritarian states in the world.”
Moscow does not take seriously US concerns regarding Russia’s and China’s activities in space, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control said Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported earlier in the week that Frank Rose, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, had expressed concern over “the continued development by Russia and China of anti-satellite weapons.”
“Indeed, such statements have been made recently by official representatives of the US administration, fairly regularly. Taking them literally and seriously is impossible. After all, any country, including the United States, has the opportunity to address real concerns, if they arise, through established political and diplomatic means,” Mikhail Ulyanov told RIA Novosti.
“Not only will Washington not use [diplomatic channels], but it actively tries to avoid them,” he added.
Ulyanov noted that the United States itself has been blocking a 2008 proposal by Russia and China on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space, which would “effectively solve the problem of anti-satellite weapons.”
“The Russian-Chinese proposal has gained broad support on the international arena, but its practical implementation is categorically blocked by the United States,” he said.
While China is pushing ahead with its impressive hypersonic weapons program, in its current forms the Chinese sophisticated weaponry cannot threaten the security of the United States and its allies, according to US scholars Erika Solem and Karen Montague.
While the Pentagon officials call China “provocative and expansionist,” it turns out that Beijing is much more concerned about its own defense than alleged “expansionist” plans.
Following in US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s footsteps, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the American commander in charge of military operations in the Asia-Pacific region, named China one of the US’ major challenges, dubbing Beijing “provocative and expansionist” at the April Putrajaya Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
But does China pose a real threat to the US and its regional allies?
According to Erika Solem and Karen Montague of the Potomac Foundation, China’s People’s Liberation Army is “reorganizing itself to be a more modern, effective force.”
“As China streamlines its military and works to improve the quality of its personnel, several cutting edge projects are in the works to provide the People’s Liberation Army with advanced weapons. One of these is the PRC’s hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), called the DF-ZF in China and designated by US defense officials as the Wu-14,” the US scholars write in their analysis for China Brief Volume supported by the Jamestown Foundation and republished by The National Interest.
The scholars draw attention to the fact that development and testing of this new class of hypersonic weaponry is shrouded in secrecy.
“Its eventual operational deployment will represent a significant improvement in the PLARF’s [the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force] conventional and nuclear arsenals, as it has the potential to penetrate even the strongest layered anti-missile defenses of the United States and its allies,” Solem and Montague underscore.
However, upon closer examination, it seems that the threat is exaggerated.
Solem and Montague refer to the fact most of Beijing’s HGV tests have attempted to fly distances of up to 1,750 kilometers (1,087 miles).
“The intended distance of these tests is a strong indicator that China is either less advanced in its HGV development than the United States or is focused on addressing regional threats,” the scholars suggest.
Interestingly enough, the so-called “defensive realism” has long been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy, Stratfor’s February analytical report read. China has never projected its power far beyond its borders, in contrast to major Western realms. There are no signs that the country is seeking global hegemony. Instead it is seemingly far more concerned about its defense and regional leadership.
“Given China’s strategic focus on regional security issues… shorter-range HGV addresses China’s more immediate needs,” Solem and Montague continue, adding however, that the country has the potential to acquire long-range HVGs by using scramjet engine like Boeing’s X-51A.
As of yet, Beijing’s HVGs are still unable to pose a serious challenge to the security of the US and its allies, the scholars conclude.
“There are clear symbolic and military benefits for the nation that successfully develops a hypersonic weapon. The DF-ZF, though impressive, still has a long way to go before it can truly threaten the security of the United States and its allies… Although in its current form the applications of the DF-ZF are constrained to East Asia, it is likely that China will continue to expand the range and capabilities of this weapon,” they note.
Why is China developing HGVs? The answer is to meet the needs of its regional security.
Apparently, the problem is that the US and NATO are spreading their anti-missile defense system in the Asian Pacific, encircling China. Despite China’s opposition, the US is going to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in the Korean Peninsula and implementing the elements of its missile defense in Japan.
The question then arises: who is acting “provocative” in the region?
© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
The Kremlin could one day regret any US detachment from the South China Sea, American geopolitical analyst Tim Daiss insists. Are Washington’s efforts truly aimed at maintaining the freedom of navigation in the region or is it part of Obama’s plan to write the rules and call the shots in the Asia Pacific region?
Russia’s opposition to internationalizing the South China Sea dispute and the US deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has promted deep concerns among American geopolitical analysts.
Moscow’s support for Beijing has put the US plan to pressure China into making concessions on the maritime dispute in the South China Sea at risk. On the other hand, India’s decision to side with China on the issue has caught Western observers by surprise.
“China and Russia have agreed on the need to limit US influence in the Asia Pacific Region. On Friday, following bilateral talks in Beijing Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi expressed opposition to the US deployment of an anti-missile system in South Korea and also said that non-claimants should not take sides in the dispute over maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea,” American geopolitical analyst Tim Daiss wrote in his Op-Ed for Forbes.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has repeatedly stated that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved by the parties directly concerned, while outside powers should refrain from interfering.
A joint communiqué of the 14th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China singed on April 18, 2016, reads:
“Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.”
South China Sea claims map (© Photo: Wikipedia/Voice of America)
The statement coincided with reports that Beijing is seeking Moscow’s support over the South China Sea court battle with the Philippines in the Hague.
Nearly three years ago, the Philippines, backed by America, filed a lawsuit against China in the Hague International Tribunal Court. In October 2015 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague confirmed that it would hold a hearing on the matter. The hearing is expected to take place in May or June 2016.
“China is lobbying Russia for support in opposing international court proceedings launched by the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea,” South China Morning Post reported April 20.
Beijing has reason to believe that Moscow can provide it with juridical assistance to solve the problem, Alexander Shpunt of Russia’s Regnum media outlet suggested.
Shpunt called attention to the fact that on April 20 Moscow won the Yukos case in the District Court in the Hague; a Dutch court overturned an award of $50 billion to former shareholders of the now defunct Yukos oil company that Russia had been ordered to pay by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2014.
The journalist continued that Lavrov’s notion about “outside parties” in the South China Sea dispute is a direct reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that will soon hold hearing on the Philippines’ complaint against China.
This is the issue of utmost importance for Beijing that Moscow has outplayed the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Shpunt emphasized.
However, according to Daiss, Beijing is the major troublemaker in the region that plans to outwit its “much smaller Asian neighbors.”
“Who knows what the future holds geopoliticaly?” he wrote, adding that “the Kremlin could one day regret any US detachment from the South China Sea.”
Like many other Western observers Daiss remained silent about the fact that China’s Asian neighbors are also involved in controversial building activities in the South China Sea region, while, for example, Taiwan’s constructions in the Spratlys are located outside any claimed Taiwanese exclusive economic zone.”Of the six countries claiming an interest in the Spratlys, only Brunei has failed to construct structures, mostly on stilts, on more than 40 of these islets and reefs. Yet the western media again focuses exclusively on [China’s] ‘aggressive’ reclamation and building activities,” Australian lawyer James O’Neill wrote in his article for New Eastern Outlook.
What lies at the root of this double-standard approach? And is Washington really “trying to keep the sea lanes open in the name of freedom of navigation for any and all countries” as Daiss claims?
Apparently, US President Barack Obama’s latest Op-Ed in the Washington Post could shed some light on the matter.
“Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet,” Obama wrote.
“Of course, China’s greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time,” he noted referring to Beijing’s New Silk Road initiative.
“Instead, America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around,” Obama stressed.
Given this, it becomes clear that what Washington is truly interested in is not the freedom of navigation “for any and all countries,” but its dominance in the region.
President Obama never ceases to amaze me.
He has actually cried on stage and grabbed people’s hearts by appealing to emotions, to our yearning to be just, humane and democratic and so on. In recent mainstream media articles, he is seen playing the role of an agonized leader who weighs the delicate balance of humanity and an act of “humanitarian intervention”. Even with his credential as one of the greatest presidents (according to some), his action against Libya caused tremendous suffering to the people of Libya. He has confessed that while it was “the right thing to do”, he regrets the intervention.
That’s that. Right? He is sorry. It was a mistake. He is suffering. He is forgiven and we must move forward.
Well, actually, his act of contrition must be counted as disingenuous by any measure.
The destruction of Libya was a premeditated crime against humanity. It was orchestrated by the Western nations that were about to be squeezed out of colonial business on the African continent. Libyan leader Gaddafi planned to unite Africa and to establish it as an economically independent region cooperating with the rest of the nations of the Global South (1). The intervention was literally an armed robbery to steal the funding and destroy the plan. Tens of thousands were killed as a result of the Western intervention. Libya was literally destroyed. If you are not familiar with the magnitude of the merciless inhumanity of the Western action against Libya, look up a story about the great man-made river of Libya for instance. Or, look up stories about Libyan social programs under Gaddafi, which the US can’t even come close to. It is truly heartbreaking, and the true crime of the Western nations is hidden from the people. The administration and the colluding media have twisted the narrative in the most egregious way to hide the crime, and turned it into a courageous story of an American President with “honesty” and “integrity”. For the good people of the West, the agony of the President appears most tragic.
However, in reality, by destroying Libya, the Obama administration has achieved profound success in preventing the emergence of the United States of Africa and its central banking system, which would utilize rich African resources for the people of Africa.
Now, there is someone else who plays a major supporting role in this theater of deception: Mr. Bernie Sanders. This seasoned politician has cultivated an unprecedented skill in mobilizing popular support. The accuracy of his act is utterly superb. In order to gain political support for himself, and in turn for the Democratic Party, while preserving the imperial nature of US foreign policy, he has expressed a few calculated thoughts:
Forget about Hilary’s emails
In one of the presidential debates, he strongly characterized the issue of Hilary Clinton’s emails as a political tool to distract people from focusing on “real issues”(2). Her emails, however, include valuable facts regarding the Western war crimes, human rights abuses and other nefarious deeds, including valuable facts confirming Western motives in destroying Libya (3). Ms. Clinton is deeply involved in all of these matters and more(4)
Gaddafi was a terrible dictator
Mr. Sanders recently called Gaddafi “a terrible dictator” in one of the presidential debates. In an interview with Fox News, he remarked, “Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer”(5). But more decisively, Mr. Sanders was one of 10 co-sponsors of the Senate resolution calling for the resignation of Gaddafi. The resolution also asked for UN resolutions demanding such drastic measures as establishing a no-fly zone and asset freeze against Libya (5). The demonization of the Libyan leader had been a part of the systematic campaign to justify military action for a while, leading to the actual operation in 2011. Libya’s standard of living, human rights record, varieties of social programs for the people and so on had been recognized as the best among the African nations by the UN before the Western intervention. Many of the demeaning allegations against the Libyan government and its leader were found to be false as well (6). Mr. Sanders’s disparaging remarks against Gaddafi, as well as the co-sponsorship of the Senate resolution and subsequent UN resolutions, comprise a decisive state propaganda campaign which led to the military intervention.
Regime change created a political vacuum for ISIS
Mr. Sanders is extremely skilled in colonizing ideas that closely approach the edge of the imperial boundary. He is so good at attracting people by pointing out the fence surrounding the empire only to prove, however, that the gate is tightly shut.
In one of the presidential debates, he accused Hilary Clinton of engaging in many “regime change” operations. However, this remark is skillfully rendered harmless by containing the whole argument in official imperial narratives. First, it does not involve a discussion of the deaths and destruction endured by the Libyan people. Somehow the empire is immune from international humanitarian laws and the moral imperative of humanity. Second, it does not deal with the fact that ISIS and other extremist groups are funded by the US and its allies, as proven by the governments’ own documents(7). Therefore, it leaves a solid path to continue the war on terror as business as usual. It is very likely that Mr. Sanders will follow Mr. Obama’s footsteps in fighting the war on terror, according to his praise for the President’s handling of it(8), and his own remarks(9) if he is elected as the President. Third, by refusing to talk about the real reasons for “regime change” he allows himself, as well as anyone else, including Ms. Clinton, to “regretfully” engage in “humanitarian interventions” as soon as there is a targeted nation picked by a team of foreign policy experts who have served various administrations. It is of concern that he has been uttering tough remarks against Russia, China, North Korea and so on. All these nations are surrounded by US military bases while being subjected to systematic state propaganda campaigns.
“War is a racket” (10). Every US military intervention accompanies subsequent restructuring of the society and economy according to the interests of the ruling elites. Military intervention also serves the military strategic goals and financial motives of the military industrial complex. Violence, whether it’s inflicted militarily or economically, has been a primary tool in building the hierarchical structure where a powerful few control the vast majority. People’s communities are built by cooperation of the communities and their people, as well as the efforts of bringing “power to the people”, not by exploitation and subjugation of other communities led by the powerful few with their draconian measures. I believe the essence of socialism lies in this very basic notion of democracy. Unless one is willing to work according to the genuine spirit of socialism, use of such a slogan as “political revolution” while calling himself a socialist is highly misleading and dishonest. Again, this reflects Mr. Sanders’ tendency to colonize ideas in mobilizing people only to bring them into the existing framework of the powerful few.
Here is the Catch 22: In order to truly refute the fascist and racist position taken by, for example, Donald Trump, the Bernie supporters must confront Bernie’s imperialism. How can a nation implement socialist policies in the framework of imperialism? How can that be a “political revolution”? Imperial Socialism? There used to be a country that tried something called National Socialism (11). It turned out to be a disaster.
The US already has an invisible racial and economic caste system to mask it’s own crimes domestically. It’s based on the many inhumane, unjust and undemocratic schemes inherited from slavery. It’s grown tremendously to flourish into mass incarceration, gentrification, police killings and the rest of the symptoms of institutionalized racism. The force of slaves who built the nation has been converted into the lives of today’s Blacks and poor, which are squeezed to create profits for the few by the devastating force of the social restructuring process for the profits of private corporations. Imperialism has extended this mechanism globally. As a result, unfortunately, tens of millions of lives have already perished by the US violence across the globe(12). It has turned out to be a disaster, already.
You see what I am saying here? If we do not confront such a notion as imperial socialism now, the best scenario Bernie Sanders can bring to us will be a normalization of imperialism under an imperial socialism. That is basically a feudal world order with an invisible caste system. Over 1,000 military bases across the globe are encircling Russia, China and other potential obstacles ensuring the economic power of the ruling elites. Extremists and dictators are nurtured while potential enemies are demonized. International treaties, TPP, TTIP, TISA and so on, to codify the colonial rule of transnational corporations are waiting to be implemented.
Or, let me put it this way, if I were a super rich imperialist in the US, I would be a diehard Bernie supporter. Leaders like him would be my last hope in prolonging the life of the crumbling hierarchy of money and violence. I would be willing to pay for a slight compromise if I can hang onto the status quo. He would be the one to protect my business and assets with the dignity and righteousness that I deserve. He sounds scary but check out what he’s done so far. He talks about universal healthcare but he was one of the guys who worked on Obamacare. He opposes TPP, but his objections are nationalistic and based on a good old protectionism. He went along with the crime bill for the prison industry, drug war, “urban renewal” and so on and on. And of course we have no worry about him dismantling the war industry. Actually, he might manage to start a big one or two. Did you hear that his hero is Winston Churchill? You get the idea.
The term Mr. Sanders uses, democratic socialism, is Imperial Socialism. “Democratic” refers to “democracy” which has been brought to those untamed nations with bombs.
If you agree with what I am saying here, please do not despair. You are not alone. There are countless people across the globe who oppose imperialism and its crimes. They are aiming to build a truly democratic world of sharing and mutual respect. There will be more of them. We live in the most exciting time of awakening for our species.
I would like to end this piece with a poem by Eric Draitser.
Libya: African Jewel
by ERIC DRAITSER
Snatched away –
blood and sand
alloyed to lifeless aridity:
add water. A man-made
river stolen, siphoned
assets in frozen accounts,
by the electric gaze
of a once buzzing grid,
The Greeks knew this:
tragedies have heroes
and death, covalent bond –
a binary truth
to build myths upon.
Here the wind dries tears,
breaks skin like stone
and stone like steel.
Still, man and martyr stand,
faces to an unforgiving sun.
And with hands that once
they hoist the Green Flag
We are here.
Flag of Socialist Libya (1977–2011)
Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony.
A report by researchers from Rhodium Group as well as the National Committee on US-China Relations showed that investments by China in the US for 2015 stood at $15 billion. However, this could see a major rise as more Chinese companies are expected to bring in their capital to the US.
By the end of 2015 more than 1,900 Chinese-affiliated companies were operating in the US across more than 80 percent of its congressional districts and employing some 90,000 people, said the report.
The study showed that only an eighth of China’s $120 billion in outward investment last year went to the US.
Nevertheless, the amount invested in American businesses is growing rapidly as Beijing wants to shift the economy toward technology, services and greater consumer spending.
More than $5 billion in US deals have been completed in the first three months of this year alone, reported Russia Today on its website.
The study found that last year New York saw the most Chinese investment at $4.1 billion topping California’s $1.8 billion. New York has benefited from deals related to tourism and financial services.
Over the past 15 years, Chinese firms invested $70 million in Californian food and agriculture companies while total investment in the sector across the US reached $7.4 billion, RT added.
The report further added that California will be a top destination in coming years for a variety of Chinese investment in the US, which could reach $200 billion by 2020.
On Sunday, Vice President and CEO of Fosun Group, Liang Xinjun, signed an agreement to purchase Ahava with Executive Director of Gaon Holdings Guy Regev. The deal amounted to $77 million.
The ceremony took place in the presence of high-ranking Israeli officials at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem and was witnessed by Israeli government officials and representatives of both companies.
Under the terms of the agreement, Fosun will acquire the holdings from all Ahava’s shareholders including Gaon Holdings, Shamrock Israel Growth Fund Advisors, Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, and Kibbutz Kalia.
Vice-President of Fosun, Liang Xinjun, said he was pleased with the results of agreement and hopes to bring Ahava into the Chinese market.
Chinese companies and corporations have been active in the Israeli market over the last few years. In 2011, China National Chemical Corporation acquired Adama, which produces pesticides, for a price of $2.4 billion and in 2015 the Chinese company Bright Food acquired a controlling stake in Israel’s largest producer Tnuva, which is heavily involved in dairy goods.
In addition, China is already the world’s largest importer of cosmetics and health products based on minerals from the Dead Sea.
Experts believe that China’s geopolitical presence in Israel will only continue to grow. In particular, due to the construction of the state-owned China Harbor seaport of Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea.
The country’s first private port will not appear before 2021. The project cost is estimated at over one billion dollars. The purpose of the project is to connect Ashdod with the southern Israeli city of Eilat and transport goods to Europe, bypassing the Suez Canal.
The New Development Bank launched by the BRICS will soon issue between 3-5 billion yuan in bonds in China in the second quarter of 2016, a senior bank official said on Thursday.
Leslie Maasdorp, NDB vice-president and chief financial officer, was speaking on the sidelines of the Boao forum in China.
The new lender will prioritise projects aimed at developing renewable energy sources, Maasdorp said.
The five countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, hold equal voting rights.
“The New Development Bank plans to issue its first bond in China because the renminbi value is much more stable (compared with local currencies of other BRICS nations). China has a deep, liquid bond market,” Maasdorp was quoted by China Daily.
Maasdorp also said that the new lender intends to finance one project of each member state with the money raised via its first bond issue.
The new financial institution headquartered in China’s Shanghai has been set up to foster greater financial and development cooperation between the five emerging markets.
The Bank will announce its first investment projects next month.
Maasdorp reiterated on Thursday that the BRICS Bank will adopt a lean structure to aid “speed of execution”.
The bank has received an ‘AAA’ institutional rating from domestic credit rating agencies and has appointed Bank of China and China Development Bank as rating advisers, an official statement said.
The founding members of the NDB have already brought in capital of $1 billion as initial contribution.
Standard Chartered and Goldman Sachs have been appointed as advisers for international ratings.
At a press conference in Shanghai last month, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the NDB “will soon become a strong and well-respected international financial institution, playing a leading role in the changing international financial architecture”.
Very few US official figures are known for their sense of irony, least of all the Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, and it is unfortunate that he and others lacking appreciation of unintentional absurdity would be unable to find dark amusement in the contrast between two recent parallel events.
On February 25 the Defence Secretary and his uniformed glove puppet, Air Force General Breedlove, appeared in front of the House Appropriations Committee to provide justification for spending as much on military affairs as the next eight nations in the world. It is likely he chose Breedlove to accompany him rather than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking Pentagon officer, because Breedlove is the Supreme Allied Commander Europe – the man responsible for carrying out the policy of confrontation with Russia.
Carter is the man who declared last year that «the US military has helped to maintain peace and stability in [Asia] for 70 years», having had a slight lapse of memory about the US war in Vietnam from 1955 to 1973 in which 58,220 members of its military forces lost their lives while hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Vietnam and its unfortunate neighbours died in merciless US bombing onslaughts. Countless thousands of children were sentenced to infirmity and grotesque deformity by Washington’s use of hideous poisons intended to destroy trees other vegetation.
As for the glove puppet, Germany’s Der Spiegel recorded a year ago that «General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington [and said] that Putin had once again ‘upped the ante’ in eastern Ukraine – with ‘well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defence, battalions of artillery’ having been sent to Donbass. ‘What is clear,’ Breedlove said, ‘is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.’ German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander…»
This was not surprising – because there was not a word of truth in any of his wild assertions.
At the very time Carter and Breedlove were speaking to the ever-receptive «support our troops» Congressional Committee («under your leadership, the men and women who serve in the US military answer the call time and again to leave their loved ones, put themselves in harm’s way, and execute challenging missions abroad») the count-down to test-firing a US Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was under way.
The defence secretary told the American public that «It’s a competitive world out there. We compete with China, we compete with Russia, we compete with terrorists. And we have to win».
Minuteman missiles have nuclear warheads and are manufactured by the Boeing Company which is proud that «the Minuteman program established Boeing as a leader in large-scale system integration. Today, the combined heritage of the Minuteman programs of Boeing and Autonetics continues as Boeing Strategic Missile Systems (SMS), supporting the Air Force with system evaluation, testing, training and modernization».
The US arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons includes 450 Boeing ICBMs, each having an explosive power of 475 kilotons (Kt). The US bombs that totally destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 20 Kt.
On February 25 Boeing’s shares opened at 116.35 and went to a high of 117.60. Next day they reached 119.45. In early March they had increased to 123.49. It seems they’re taking off with comparable velocity to their Minuteman missiles, boosted by statements on the part of the military and their legions of supportive politicians that China and Russia are threatening the United States.
Washington fails to realise – simply refuses to understand – that the only thing wanted by Russia and China is that the United States should mind its own business and stay out of other nations’ affairs that do not concern it. Secretary Carter states that militarily «We compete with China, we compete with Russia» – but Russia and China don’t want to compete with the United States. They just want to progress and develop economically and socially and stay in their own backyards, with secure borders, while trading with as many countries as possible.
Neither Russia nor China has 700 military bases in over 40 countries round the world. Neither Russia not China attempts to vastly expand military alliances specifically designed to threaten the United States. Neither Russia nor China possess nuclear-armed Carrier Strike Groups or Amphibious Ready Groups of the type and strength that the US deploys threateningly around the coasts of sovereign nations who prefer to mind their own business.
The latest US move to threaten China is deployment to the South China Sea of the nuclear-armed aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the guided missile destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon. They and their many escort vessels arrived off China on 4 March to join the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and its fleet of ancillary ships.
In another wonderfully ironic episode, just as this mighty US attack fleet was arriving to menace China, Defence Secretary Carter announced to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that «China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea». Mystically, he observed that «Specific actions will have specific consequences» and when asked what these might be, he «told reporters the US military was already increasing deployments to the Asia-Pacific region and would spend $425 million through 2020 to pay for more exercises and training with countries in the region that were affected by China’s actions».
With good historical justification, China maintains that most of the islet chains and groups in the South China Sea are its sovereign territory, although some areas are claimed by Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The United States has got nothing to do with these disputes. Washington has no treaties with any of these nations that would require military intervention in the event of one of them having a disagreement with another country.
The United States has no territory of its own closer than the Pacific island of Guam, where, according to the US Congressional Research Service, «Since 2000, the US military has been building up forward-deployed forces… to increase US operational presence, deterrence, and power projection». In other words, the US build-up is intended to confront China, which is now, understandably, being forced to increase its own military forces to be prepared for what might happen as a result of US «power projection».
Complementing the US muscle-flexing in the South China Sea, the indefatigable Breedlove explained why Washington is indulging in similar antics in Europe. Ignoring the fact that the insurgency against Syria’s government was energetically supported by the US, in training and equipping what it absurdly called «moderate rebel forces», thus contributing to massive destruction and creating a dire refugee problem, Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the refugee crisis in Europe is all the fault of Russia. «Together», he declared, «Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration… to break European resolve».
In a fit of fantasy Breedlove announced that Russia has «chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat» to the United States and its allies, and emphasised that the Supreme Allied Command Europe, «is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary».
The US is deliberately and most aggressively threatening China and Russia. Its military representatives are making belligerent statements that are intended to implant fear in Moscow and Beijing.
But the immature bluster and bravado of such as Breedlove and Carter do not create fear in those they seek to intimidate. They create determination in such countries – the resolve to stand up to the menace presented by the incessant deployment of military force against them.
This is exactly what is happening at the moment, and the US may be in for some nasty surprises.
China is outraged as the US government plans to punish its largest telecom equipment maker ZTE Corps for alleged violations of sanctions on Iran.
China and Iran have close diplomatic, economic, trade and energy ties. Beijing played a key role in a nuclear agreement which came into effect in January and lifted sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The US, however, contends that the deal involves “secondary sanctions” related to Iran’s nuclear program and “primary sanctions” linked to terrorism and human rights accusations are still in place.
The US Commerce Department is set to place export restrictions on ZTE, effective on Tuesday and applying to any company worldwide that ships American-made products to the Chinese company.
The announcement forced ZTE to suspend its shares in Hong Kong Monday.
The company is accused of having signed contracts in 2012 to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software to Iran’s largest telecoms carrier, Telecommunication Co of Iran (TCI).
China’s Foreign Ministry expressed anger at the action, saying it is “opposed to the US citing domestic laws to place sanctions on Chinese enterprises.”
“We hope the US stops this erroneous action and avoids damaging Sino-US trade cooperation and bilateral relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Experts say the move is set to further strain relations between China and the US. Beijing, they say, is likely to retaliate against American companies by tightening market access or regulatory control over US companies in China.
The US move comes as China is trying to make its companies global leaders in next generation IT.
ZTE is already the fourth-largest provider of smart phones to the US market and expanding in Europe. According to its website, the company has operations in 160 countries.
Under the US restrictions, ZTE’s suppliers will need to apply for an export license before selling US equipment or parts to the Chinese company anywhere in the world.
The US restrictions will reportedly also apply to two of ZTE affiliates in China as well as Iran’s ZTE Parsian.
A United Nations meeting in Geneva this week could have enormous implications for United States national security, but it is being ignored by most of the media and by America’s political leaders. It deserves serious attention.
A new policy-making body called the Open Ended Working Group will consider ways to break the current impasse in efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear war. The group expects to make formal recommendations to the UN this fall. The initiative is especially important given recent studies on the catastrophic effects that would follow even a limited use of nuclear weapons.
The group was established by an overwhelming majority at the UN. The U.S. and all of the other nuclear weapons states voted against and are boycotting the meeting. Why?
Robert Wood, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, recently defended the American decision in a tweet: “agenda ignores security dimension of nuclear weapons. Only practical and realistic efforts will lead to a world w/o nukes.” His claim would have more weight if the United States were pursuing “practical and realistic efforts” instead of planning to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades to maintain its nuclear arsenal indefinitely.
The real reason for the boycott is that this meeting will explore ways to make the nine nuclear weapons states, which include Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, live up to their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, which requires them to negotiate the abolition of their nuclear arsenals. It very well may recommend negotiation of a new treaty that will effectively ban nuclear weapons, defining their possession as a violation of international law.
Based on the medical evidence, the nonnuclear weapons states are right to call for the elimination of these weapons.
Over the last three years, a series of major global conferences have explored the medical consequences of nuclear war. The new scientific data presented at these meeting have demonstrated the unacceptable, existential threat to humanity posed by nuclear arsenals.
Representatives of the International Red Cross have testified that the world’s leading disaster relief organization can do nothing significant to mitigate the consequences of even a single nuclear explosion, let alone a nuclear war.
Climate scientists and medical experts have presented new data showing that even a very limited nuclear war would cause catastrophic effects worldwide. The fires caused by as few as 100 small nuclear weapons, less than one-half of one percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals, directed against urban targets, would cause global climate disruption. The resulting decline in food production would trigger a “nuclear famine” across the planet and put up to two billion people at risk. A famine on this scale would be unprecedented in human history. While it would not mean the extinction of our species, it would almost certainly mean the end of modern civilization.
A limited war between India and Pakistan, using less than half of their current arsenals, could cause that kind of famine, as could the use of the nuclear warheads on a single US Trident submarine. The US has 14 of them and an arsenal of nuclear bombers and land-based missiles as well.
A full-scale war between the US and Russia using all of these weapons would cause a “nuclear winter,” with ice-age conditions across the planet persisting for a decade or more. The collapse of food production under these circumstances would lead to the death of the vast majority of the human race. It might cause our extinction as a species.
The US and Russia are now engaged in a new game of nuclear chicken in Europe and the Middle East, with the ever-present danger that one side or the other will miscalculate, or that an accident will trigger a nuclear exchange. There have been at least five occasions since 1979 when either Moscow or Washington prepared to launch a nuclear war, in the mistaken belief that they were already under attack.
The determination to hold on to these weapons stems from a deeply held belief that they somehow make a nation more secure. For most of human history, having more powerful weapons did protect us. But as Albert Einstein observed at the beginning of the nuclear era, the splitting of the atom changed everything, except the way we think and thus we head for unprecedented disaster.
If the use of even a tiny fraction of our nuclear arsenal will cause a global holocaust that engulfs us as well as the rest of humanity, how can these weapons be seen as agents of our security? They are suicide bombs. By possessing them, we are a nation of suicide bombers.
Nuclear weapons, the evidence, is now clear, are the greatest threat to our national security. We need to make their elimination our highest national security priority. The U.S. should start by joining the working group in Geneva and, as the next step toward that goal, working for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Ira Helfand MD practices internal medicine at an urgent care center in Springfield, MA. He is a Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is currently the Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate.