by David Stockman • March 23, 2016If you want to know why we have a $19 trillion national debt and a fiscal structure that will take that already staggering figure to $35 trillion and 140% of GDP within a decade, just consider the latest campaign fracas. That is, the shrieks of disbelief in response to Donald Trump’s sensible suggestion that the Europeans pay for their own defense.
The fact is, NATO has been an obsolete waste for 25 years. Yet the denizens of the Imperial City cannot even seem to grasp that the 4 million Red Army is no more; and that the Soviet Empire, which enslaved 410 million souls to its economic and military service, vanished from the pages of history in December 1991.
What is left is a pitiful remnant—–145 million aging, Vodka-besotted Russians who subsist in what is essentially a failing third world economy. Its larcenous oligarchy of Putin and friends appeared to live high on the hog and to spread a veneer of glitz around Moscow and St. Petersburg. But that was all based on the world’s one-time boom in oil, gas, nickel, aluminum, fertilizer, steel and other commodities and processed industrial materials.
Stated differently, the Russian economy is a glorified oil patch and mining town with a GDP the equivalent of the NYC metropolitan area. And that’s its devastating Achilles Heel.
The central bank driven global commodity and industrial boom is over and done. As a new cycle of epic deflation engulfs the world and further compresses commodity prices and profits, the Russian economy is going down for the count; it’s already been shrunk by nearly 10% in real terms, and the bottom is a long way down from there.
The plain fact is Russia is an economic and military weakling and is not the slightest threat to the security of the United States. None. Nichts. Nada. Nope.
Its entire expenditure for national defense amounts to just $50 billion, but during the current year only $35 billion of that will actually go to the Russian Armed Forces. On an apples-to-apples basis, that’s about three weeks of Pentagon spending!
Even given its non-existent capacity, however, there remains the matter of purported hostile intention and aggressive action. But as amplified below, there has been none. The whole demonization of Putin is based on a false narrative arising from one single event.
To wit, the February 2014 coup in Kiev against Ukraine’s constitutionally elected government was organized, funded and catalyzed by the Washington/NATO apparatus. Putin took defensive action in response because this supremely stupid and illegal provocation threatened vital interests in his own backyard.
The openly hostile government installed in Kiev the very next day by the State Department threatened to join NATO, persecute the Russian-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine, renounce its multi-billion financial obligations to Moscow and imperil Russia’s rental arrangement for the homeport of its Black Sea naval fleet in Sevastopol (Crimea). The latter has been the historic anchor of Russia’s national security policy under czars and commissars alike.
Moreover, the putsch installed by the “regime change” crowd at the CIA, State Department and so-called Endowment for Democracy while Putin was minding his own business at the Sochi Olympics was crawling with adherents of the “Right Sector”. The latter is a fascist movement that looks to a World War II Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera, as its national hero.
That’s right. The new prime minister imposed by US Assistant Secretary of State and card-carrying neocon, Victoria Nuland, and affectionately known as “our man Yats” was part of a neo-Nazi cabal.
Moreover, without the prodding of Washington and the bellicose incitements of the NATO apparatus, Europe wouldn’t even need a military alliance. Save for the manufactured and unnecessary conflict with Russia, Europe has no industrial state enemy on the planet; it doesn’t need to spend even the $250 billion or 2% of GDP that it collectively allocates to defense (waste) at present.
The whole confrontation with Russia including the self-inflicted economic folly of the anti-Putin sanctions is the handiwork of a war machine and its bureaucratic auxiliaries that are long past their sell-by date. That is, the entire “Russian threat” narrative is concocted by generals, admirals, spies, diplomats and other national security apparatchiks who would otherwise be out of power, jobs and cushy pensions.
Naturally, Trump’s GOP rivals crawled out of their time warps to calamity-howl the very idea of getting realistic about NATO. Not surprisingly, Governor Kasich said Trump was “dead wrong”, and then unleashed another barrage of his patented beltway stupid-speak:
The man is still campaigning for the Lithuanian vote in Youngstown—so maybe he has no particular reason to think about the matter. But it least someone should disabuse him of the fairy tale that the nationalist politicians, crypto-Nazi thugs and thieving oligarchs who seized the Ukrainian government are some kind of latter day “freedom fighters”.We clearly have to make sure we strengthen NATO, we have to make sure that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understands we will arm the Ukrainians so they fight for freedom,” Kasich told Anderson Cooper. “We need NATO. NATO is important; we all wish they would do more.”
But Ted Cruz is another matter. When it comes to foreign policy, the guy is just plain whacko. He has been so pumped full of neocon ideology that he fairly oozes jingoistic bile:
Needless to say, there is not a single accurate point in that statement. The truth is more nearly the opposite. And that begins with George H. W Bush’s 1989 promise to Gorbachev that in return for his acquiescence to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not be expanded by “a single inch”.“It has been Russia’s objective, it has been Putin’s objective, for decades to break NATO. What Donald Trump is saying that he would unilaterally surrender to Russia and Putin, give Putin a massive foreign policy victory by breaking NATO and abandoning Europe.”
NATO should have declared victory and been disbanded. The defense budget should have been drastically reduced to a homeland defense force because there were no industrial state enemies left in the world.
As it happened, the Elder Bush’s sensible promise was torn-up and dropped into the White House waste basket by Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. It seems that his reelection was threatened by charges from the GOP rightwing that he was soft on defense. So his solution was to invite Poland, the Baltic states and most of the remainder of the now disbanded Warsaw Pact to join NATO.
What should have been a vestigial alliance of 15 nations slated for zero was transformed into a menacing “Gang of 28” that virtually surrounds Russia. Yet aside from the now 25-month old conflict over the Ukrainian coup and the 2008 intermural fight over the borders of Stalin’s home country of Georgia between Moscow and a local crook, there was never any conflict at all.
During 15 years in power onward from 1999, Putin has demonstrated no desire whatsoever to swallow non-Russian peoples. He has made it clear through the Minsk agreement that he supports an independent government in the Ukraine—-so long as the legitimate demands of the Russian-speak Donbas region for a measure of autonomy and safeguards are implemented.
Nor is Moscow about to invade the already harmless Baltic States or highly independent Poland, let alone the rest of Europe.
So the whole case for NATO’s continued existence turns on the Ukraine matter, and there the facts and history leave no doubt.
Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783 when Catherine the Great bought it from the Turks for hard cash. Thereafter she made Sevastopol the homeport for the Great Black Sea Fleet that has ever since been the fundamental bulwark of Russia’s national security.
For the next 171 years Crimea was an integral part of Russia—a span that exceeds the 166 years that have elapsed since California was annexed by a similar thrust of “Manifest Destiny” on this continent, thereby providing, incidentally, the United States Navy with its own warm-water port in San Diego.
While no foreign forces subsequently invaded the California coasts, it was most definitely not Ukrainian rifles, artillery and blood which famously annihilated The Charge Of The Light Brigade at the Crimean city of Balaclava in 1854; they were Russians patriots defending the homeland from Turks, Europeans and Brits.
Indeed, the portrait of the Russian “hero” hanging in Putin’s office is that of Czar Nicholas I. His brutal 30-year reign brought the Russian Empire to its historical zenith, but, ironically, he is revered in Russian hagiography for another reason—-namely, as the defender of Crimea, even as he lost the 1850s war to the Ottomans and Europeans.
At the end of the day, it’s their Red Line. When the enfeebled Franklin Roosevelt made port in the Crimean city of Yalta in February 1945 he did at least know that he was in Soviet Russia.
Maneuvering to cement his control of the Kremlin in the intrigue-ridden struggle for succession after Stalin’s death a few years later, Nikita Khrushchev allegedly spent 15 minutes reviewing his “gift” of Crimea to his subalterns in Kiev in honor of the decision by their ancestors 300 years earlier to accept the inevitable and become a vassal of Russia.
So Crimea only became part of the Ukraine’s geography by happenstance during the Soviet era of the mid-1950s. And its re-annexation after the provocations of February 2014 is the basis for virtually reigniting the Cold War?
Moreover, the fact that Crimea and the nearby industrial heartland of the Donbas are Russian speaking is not something “trumped up” by Putin. In fact, it is soaked in an 85-year history of blood.
During the 1930s Stalin populated the eastern industrial region (Donbas), which was the coal, steel, machinery and chemical backbone of the Soviet Union, with transplanted Russians for a perverse reason. He knew the Ukrainian Kulaks that he had liquidated in their millions during his catastrophic forced collectivization campaign were seething with hatred for the red regime in Moscow and could not be trusted to remain subjected.
Sure enough. The Ukrainian nationalists of Kiev and the western regions joined the Nazi Wehrmacht on its way to Stalingrad, liquidating Jews, Poles and Reds by the tens of thousands as they marched east in 1943; and after the Red Army finally broke the bloodiest siege in history, the Russian-speakers of the Donbas joined the Red Army on its march back to Germany, liquidating Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in their tens of thousands in retaliation.
So all the Washington sabre rattling about the Ukraine is rooted in an abiding ignorance about the Ukraine’s History of Horribles. The current renewed flare-up of this tragic history was self-evidently and wantonly triggered by Victoria Nuland’s coup; it was not some nefarious aggression by Putin!
And that gets us back to the original question. What kind of warped thinking holds that the addition of Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia, among the other economic and military midgets, to an obsolete NATO alliance adds one iota of safety and security to the citizens of Lincoln NE, Spokane WA or Worcester MA?