NATO Watch: Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue  

September 18, 2017

NATO Watch is an independent think-tank which examines the role of NATO in public life and advocates for more openness, transparency and accountability within the Alliance. Its news briefs cover a range of NATO-related news items from around the world. See http://natowatch.org/links

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News Briefs deliver NATO-related news items from around the world.

The founding director of NATO Watch is Dr Ian Davis, an independent human security and arms control consultant, writer and activist with over 30 years’ experience in government, academia and the NGO sector. He was Programme Manager for Saferworld 1998 – 2001, co-executive director of BASIC, 2001 – 2007, publications director at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 2014, executive editor of the SIPRI Yearbook from November 2016 and Associate Senior Fellow Armament and Disarmament. See https://uk.linkedin.com/in/iandavisconsultancy.

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The latest paper disseminated is Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue, by Hall Gardner, 4 September 2017.

It opens:

Relations between the US and Russia appear to be almost at the point of no return. Whether justified or not, each side has accused the other of interfering in their respective election processes. Moscow has accused the United States of backing protests that opposed the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections in 2011, and of directly interfering in the Russian presidential elections in March 2012 that brought Vladimir Putin to power. Washington has also accused Moscow of interfering in the November 2016 presidential elections that brought Donald Trump to power. Read on: http://natowatch.org/default/2017/breaking-us-russia-impasse-keeping-door-open-dialogue

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn prescribes a security and foreign policy with integrity and human rights at its core

July 25, 2017

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Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.

In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, added emphasis and links.

In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.

Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.

My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.

Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.

Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

No more hand holding with Donald Trump.

The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.

Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.

I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.

A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain

A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security

I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems 

Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.

I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.

And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.

Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.

There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.

A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.

There is a clear choice at the next election

Do  we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.

See the video here: Chatham House speech and/or read the full text with more on Syria, arms exports and nuclear weapons downloaded from The Spectator.

 

 

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The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 8, 2017

Simon Jenkins: “It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies.

Many of us are now applauding this ‘aid to Syria’

Jenkins reflects that not a week passes without some new horror emanating from the vortex of the Middle East: “So called ‘wars among the peoples’ are, like all civil wars, distinctively terrible. Cities deaden the impact of an infantry advance. Reckless bombing takes over and accidents happen. Saudi Arabia bombs a funeral party in Sanaa. Russia bombs an aid convoy and a hospital in Aleppo. Western planes bomb friendly troops outside Mosul. There is no appetite for British troops on the ground. All talk is of bombing, intervention lite”.

Britain has already contributed too much to Syria’s hell:

  • It helped America create a power vacuum in neighbouring Iraq where Isis could form and flourish.
  • It then encouraged and gave material support to the rebels against Assad in 2012, ensuring that he would need support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
  • American and RAF aircraft killed 80 Syrian soldiers protecting the town of Deir Ezzor from Isis.
  • British ‘intelligence’ has given America information, enabling them to kill many civilians alongside their stated targets.

Syria and the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention: “Affecting to save people by bombing them from a great height is not just ineffective but immoral”

 Walking through Aleppo now

Jenkins gave many examples of this immorality and ineffectiveness – just four follow: ”Some 12,000 coalition bombing sorties have been directed at Isis in northern Iraq in the past two years. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the ‘collateral’ carnage. In Syria, the human rights network estimates that Russian bombs have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis. Last year the Americans bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan. Bombs are unreliable. Stuff happens”.

He explains the appeal of airborne weapons to politicians down the ages

“For rich aggressors against poorly armed foes, they have glamour and immunity to counterattack, and have found new life in so called precision targeting and unmanned drones. In reality they have proved almost useless against fanatical soldiers with mortars and AK 47s. But they look good on television back home. They are ‘something being done’ “.

Jenkins describes the disintegration of the Middle East as a tragedy for Islam, but not the West’s business. Here we disagree, seeing it as a result of Anglo-Saxon West intervention, using soft and hard power.

The Scotsman reports that Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is calling for greater effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict: “The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Corbyn: “Reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement”

The Labour leader said: “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”

Jenkins: Nations and peoples do have a humanitarian obligation to aid those afflicted by war, to relieve suffering, not add to it, to aid those trying to comfort war’s victims and offer sanctuary to its refugees, not to take sides, guns blazing, in other people’s civil wars:

“British politicians would do better to spend their time organising relief than shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs”.

 

 

 


Social media: for militarising the young and pacifying the attacked

March 3, 2017

The blurb: “Social media has become an increasingly vital tool for the armed forces in the 21st Century.

“Not only in order to reach out to a wider and younger audience globally for recruitment and information purposes but as a new front in warfare. What soldiers, airmen and sailors post online can be crucial to winning the hearts and minds of local populations, weakening the enemy’s narrative and as an instrument in the proliferation of cyber warfare”.

The SMi PR group held its 6th Annual Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury. Their programme:

  • to present the latest concepts and ideas on how to enhance the outreach of the military in the digital sphere,
  • the integration of social media activities within the whole spectrum of operations conducted by the military both at home and abroad,
  • to hear from some of the leading voices of social media within the industry and NATO and allied militaries,
  • to focus on the effects of social media on and off the battlefield through training and application,
  • to learn from the commercial sector on how to create an effective social media strategy,
  • to learn from the military about how they are utilizing digital media channels to project their activities to a wider audience,
  • to discover how social media is intertwining with other aspects of warfare to create a multi-levelled war zone both in the real world and the virtual one
  • and to discover how popular social media brands operate with militaries in a defence environment.

The only named sponsor: Thales, the French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, ground transportation and security market.

 

 

 

 


Reinvigorate big power relationships or put an end to sabre-rattling?

November 4, 2016

lord2richardsReading more about General Richards – chief of the defence staff between 2010 and 2013 – gives rise to mixed reactions. In 2010 – to his credit – he said there was no desire to “open up another front” in the Middle East . . . an intelligence-led approach was the current strategy: “Clearly, the primary agencies dealing with this are our intelligence and security agencies. But the military are already helping with their [the Yemenis’] training. I don’t think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that”.

Today the Times reports that General Richards said that Donald Trump would re-boot relations between Moscow and Washington, which are at a post-Cold War low.

By contrast, he thinks, Mrs Clinton would be more likely to set the West on a course for war if she pushed ahead with a safe zone for civilians in Syria: that might require US aircraft to shoot down the Russian fighter jets flying in support of the Assad regime.

Lord Richards, a cross-bench peer, told The Times this week that he believed the only way to prevent a further humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel-held east of Aleppo would be for the rebels to withdraw, removing any reason for Russian planes to attack.

In an interview with The House magazine, which appeared yesterday, he said: “In the Cold War era states coalesced and they had this understanding and it worked — even though there was a massive amount at stake, communications and mutual understanding between Russia and America wasn’t too bad . . . It’s non-state actors like Isis that are the biggest threat to our security. If countries and states could coalesce better to deal with these people — and I think Trump’s instinct is to go down that route — then I think there’s the case for saying that the world certainly won’t be any less safe. It’s that lack of understanding and empathy with each other as big power players that is a risk to us all at the moment. Therefore I think he would reinvigorate big power relationships, which might make the world ironically safer.”

The wisest words come from Dr Ian Davis (SIPRI):

dr-ian-davisDr Davis responded to a letter (FT: “How NATO can neuter Putin’s ‘shock and awe’”) by Dr Harlan Ullman, Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council, US. Dr Ullman acknowledged that Mr Putin “has no intent of starting a war or invading any Nato member”; nevertheless, he recommended turning a variant of shock and awe against Putin. Dr Davis saw this as both irrational and dangerous:

“[S]kilful mediation with Russia is needed in order to transform real antagonisms into pragmatic working relationships and practical agreements . . . The challenge is to see beyond historical positions and attempt to identify and then reframe key issues through careful dialogue. It will take significant effort, yet it may be possible to explore ways of moving beyond presumptions of strictly zero-sum, winner takes-all thinking in Russia-West relations. And put an end to the sabre-rattling of intrusive flights and large scale manoeuvres on both sides”.

 

 

 


‘Great’ Britain rampant – despite Chilcot the British prime minister hastens to aid our special friend

July 8, 2016

The UK is to take over the rotating leadership of Nato’s “very high readiness” joint task force, created after the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales in 2014. Three thousand British troops, based in Britain and Germany, will eventually make up the bulk of the 5,000-strong detachment, with forces from countries including Denmark, Spain, Estonia and the US.

nato troops

How many will survive to regret this?

Stripping away innuendo and insinuation, an article by Deborah Haynes in Warsaw records that five hundred British troops will be stationed from next year in Estonia and 150 will form an “enduring” presence in Poland. The forces will be “defensive in nature but clearly combat capable”, a Whitehall source said. They will be part of a commitment by NATO to station four new battalions, totalling about 4,000 personnel, as part of a reinforcement of NATO’s border with Russia. A further 3,000 British military personnel will lead a new emergency task force in 2017.

In a strategic use of terminology, the force will be described as a “persistent” or “enduring” presence, to avoid breaking a longstanding deal with Russia that Nato will not “permanently” deploy troops on its eastern flank.

The Murdoch Times reports that there is (American/NATO?) concern that countries such as Germany and France are seeking to build a European army rather than focussing their military resources on NATO.

The article twice anticipates a verbal rebuke from Moscow and records that NATO members who are neighbours of Russia are concerned that President Putin may seek to create unrest within their borders as well. 

David Cameron is reported to have said: “The UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe.”

Many readers, however, will feel apprehensive – certainly not proud – echoing Germany’s foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in warning against “saber-rattling and war cries” directed toward Russia and joining the United States Conference of Mayors, in condemnation of NATO’s Anaconda War Games and massing of troops on Russia’s border.

 

 


NATO wargames condemned by the United States Conference of Mayors

July 4, 2016

 

The United States Conference of Mayors, town and city leaders administering populations greater than 30,000, condemned NATO’s Anaconda War Games on Russia’s border as increasing the threat of nuclear conflict.

NATO esthonia 16

“NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia”, according to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-general

But Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, reports at length on ‘European wargames’. NATO has been supporting Kevadtorm (“Spring Storm”): a military ‘exercise’ in which around 1,000 troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Portugal, have been deployed to Estonia to train and ‘play the enemy’ (above).

Across the Baltic, under the alliance’s aegis, Latvia held “Summer Shield” with 1,100 troops, Lithuania has begun “Iron Wolf”, with 5,000 troops and in June, “Saber Strike” saw thousands of US troops airlifted into the entire region and in Poland, “Anakonda”, a 31,000-man war game closed a few weeks ago.

It is said that NATO is worried by Russia’s plans

More than 2,000 exercises and wargames, snap drills and rapid mobilisation exercises will be held, that could see tens of thousands of troops deployed in Russia’s western military zone. NATO’s defence ministers in Brussels will ask for 3,000 to 4,000 NATO troops, in four battalions — one American, one British, one Canadian and one German — to be stationed in the three Baltic states and Poland on a “persistent” basis.

The alliance’s political unity is being challenged by a divergence of views

Next week Warsaw’s NATO biennial summit will take place but some NATO members have other priorities: Southern European members are preoccupied by the Mediterranean migrant crisis and Jones reports that Germany, whose diplomats are known to have the closest ties to the Russian government, fears that NATO is entering into a wildly irresponsible game of military bluff.

With activity in Afghanistan winding down, the Wales NATO summit focussed on responding to the Ukrainian crisis, but ‘dovish voices’ in the alliance believed further mobilisation would be too provocative at the time.

Jones writes that Russia perceives the US game-plan as a military formula of “regime change” to topple or destabilise governments that do not bend to western economic and democratic values.

Russia says that its borderland military build-up is a response to NATO’s own growing military presence. In May 2014, Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, speaking at the Moscow International Security Conference, described NATO’s reinforcement of the Baltic states and Poland as part of a grander game to expand aggressively the alliance’s influence in Ukraine and, by implication, Russia itself. Successive conflicts after 1990, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Arab Spring were seen as part of a continuum, as were the Rose revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange revolution in Ukraine (2004), the green movement in Iran (2009) and most recently, the Syrian civil war.

The Rand Corporation is a think-tank founded by the Douglas Aircraft Company and now funded by the US government, university collaborators & private sources, with clients including the CIA and Defence Advanced Research Projects. It has concluded that with its current forces, “NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members”.

However, one general says it would be unable to deploy “east of the Oder” in the event of outright war. It would simply be too vulnerable during transit and deployment and the logistical planning for the spearhead rapid reaction brigade VJTF would be hampered by:

  • private-sector ownership of infrastructure across Europe, which means NATO now has to deal with many interlocutors to shift even the most modest number of tanks around the continent;
  • military vehicles which do not comply with some countries’ exhaust emission rules;
  • special permits taking weeks to sign off, which have to be applied for before each exercise;
  • though the VJTF is supposed to deploy in no more than 48 hours, the truck drivers transporting its tanks and artillery still need to take their EU-mandated minimum sleeping hours and
  • it takes an average of five days to get the right clearances in place to move troops around Europe, far short of the promised 48 hours rapid response time.

us conf mayors

 The United States Conference of Mayors’ resolution added: “The Obama administration has not only reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency, but also decided to spend on trillion dollars to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control”. It seems, however, that NATO, backed by the Rand Corporation is calling for additional expenditure to counter the alleged Russian threat.

The country’s mayors are a voice of peace and reason in the face of mounting influence by the foreign policy establishment and defense lobbyists, and have rendered similar resolutions calling for the United States to pursue a less threatening foreign policy for 11 consecutive years.