politicians from both parties in the US have professed many opinions on NATO in the past few weeks. I think a European perspective is due.
First of all, dear Republicans please stop using Europe as an excuse for enacting your own insane policies (European mismanagement of ghettos is really not the reason to oppress your own citizens with police bigotry mr. Cruz). It was you who started the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Vietnam and what is Europe dealing with now is the result of your war on terror.
Secondly, when talking Republican let’s look at the claim that NATO is obsolete as proposed by mr. Drumpf. The North Atlantic Alliance was indeed created in post-WWII Europe in order to protect Western Europe. Without NATO the Soviet Union would easily take over the west as quickly as it did of the east. At the time US presence was vital, because weakened Europe, destroyed by war, would not stand a chance alone. It is true that the US then payed the majority of the bill. Let’s not forget though that the US rarely does anything selflessly. The Cold War was a geopolitical conflict featuring the Soviet Union and the US as the main stars of the show. Therefore the US had a vested interest in NATO. I am not afraid to say that it has so today too. The US and Russia are not friends. The Cold War is not over. It has just turned into a clandestine operation involving few more players. It doesn’t matter whether they fight a proxy wars in Syria or bully each other’s ships in the Baltic sea. Since 1993 the Russian Federation has involved itself in numerous conflicts either directly or indirectly in places like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The one thing these places have in common is that they are not in NATO. Russian aggression is real and undeniable, so calling NATO obsolete is ludicrous. If Ukraine was in NATO it would never have to face the current situation. Of course you can ask : why doesn’t Europe do something about it then ? Why does it need America ? Russia controls over 140 million people that can be all rallied up towards one goal (Soviet Union has shown that). Europe is fractured among dozens of nations, many of which have only several million inhabitants and each need to follow it’s own democratic processes. That is why Europe alone cannot involve itself in such large scale conflicts.
There was another claim from Senator Sanders that European NATO members should pay more and the USA should not pay 70% of the budget. There is some debate over what the percentage is. There are in fact three separate NATO budgets and the US pays about 22% to each which then adds up. In 2013 the US payed 66,6% of the total budget. Now that surely sounds unfair. After all, EU has 28 members so we should put up more of the budget, but there is also another number to consider. Total population of EU is about 508 million people. US population is roughly 316 million. Now, call me crazy, but the 66% of the budget doesn’t sound that inappropriate. Major European countries like UK, France or Germany do put up a significant amounts of money and so the problem lies with all the small countries. If you have just couple of million people you cannot even dream of defending yourself against 140 million strong Russian bear and so it doesn’t really feel right to put so much money into the army. Nevertheless, there are many small countries that have great military budgets and therein lies the problem, because instead of NATO we are putting money into our personal armies which is money well-embezzled of course. So what Europeans should do is to change the way money going to the army is spend, not to increase the volume. Point taken Senator Sanders.
In the end, the US have much bigger geopolitical interests than the Baltic states for example. The Baltic states just want to be safe and not to end up like Ukraine (It has a reason to worry, Russia historically have always had a fetish for owning small countries around its borders). The US wants to be the world leader and all parties use NATO’s might appropriately, so I think there is really no debate about usefulness of NATO or even who should pay more.
with the Nuclear Security Summit happening I thought to myself : What better way to end the week than prophecy of nuclear disaster. That’s at least what our Mondays usually feel like, right ?
Shortly into his presidency Barrack Obama presented his vision of nuke-free and safer world. With the Iran deal going on, undeniably, we have made some progress towards that. This summit should be a victory march for the administration (or a lap, i guess, since the table at NSS is round-shaped), but it is not so. If fact it is rather a disappointment from one reason specifically. Russia did not bother to come. Sure, there are 56 attendees including all of the nuclear nations, but here’s the thing. Nuclear material is like bed bugs, if you don’t get them all at once, it is like you never tried.
According to some reports Russia owns up to 8-10’000 nuclear warheads (5000 in the most modest estimates) and who knows how much nuclear material in total. It is surely awfully nice of them to bring it down from Soviet era’s 40’000 pieces and vow to non-proliferation and dismantlement, but, as we should already know, Russia finds putting money where its mouth is very difficult (I guess that is justifiable now when their economy is collapsing and the rouble is becoming junk). Traditionally any Russian institution that is not solely devoted to lining pockets of the regime receives low funding and that includes institutions that take care of Russian nuclear material. As stated in CIA report from 2002 just in the 90s Russia lost at least 2 kg of highly-enriched uranium and who knows how much of it has gone missing since, considering the classic Russian love for transparency. I am not an expert, but i’d say that having any amount of enriched uranium unaccounted for is probably not a good thing.
The fact supporting my assumption that the issue of safety of Russian nuclear material hasn’t been solved and is very much on the table was presented by Rose Gottemoeller (U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security) in his remarks to the Nuclear Security Working Group at the NSS 2016 in Washington. Undersecretary Gottemoeller (I guess names of people and their positions at work must match in complexity) mentioned in his speech cases of smuggling of uranium in Moldova and Georgia from 2010 and 2011. I guess it’s clear where the uranium came from and keep in mind those are only the cases we found out about.
Russia has pretty much unrestricted influence over the region containing Georgia, Moldova and parts of Ukraine and without its full cooperation illegal smuggling will never be stopped and the world will never be nuke-free. That is why I would call Nuclear Security Summit a failure. Just like Huckleberry Finn only imagined being in a band of robbers and robbing fortunes, President Obama is just imagining his nuclear-free world.
To end on a positive note I would also like to mention one fruitful effort by the U.S., UK and EU. A landmark swap of nuclear material has been negotiated. UK will ship 700kg of its uranium to U.S. and the U.S. will send back its nuclear waste that will be then converted in France into material useful in diagnosis and treatment of certain kinds of cancer. At least if we cannot make the world safer it is a good thing that we are at least making it healthier.
Just making sure we don’t miss some positive and fun things that happen in the world. I am sure I am not the only one to pick up on it, but there were few funny phrases said during Secretary Kerry’s last trip to Moscow.
As you can see above Secretary Kerry was carrying a briefcase upon his arrival and it got our dear Putin all fired up. Putin said he was “frustrated and upset” upon seeing him carrying something. He admired Kerry’s emancipation and hinted that US economy must not be doing so well if Kerry must carry around his own luggage and only came short of accusing Kerry of trying to bribe Russia. The Secretary said that he’ll show him once they are alone and that Putin would be pleasantly surprised. Just get a room boys, ok ? We have all heard it. If he’s teasing you it’s probably because he likes you.
Secretary Kerry is quite a wild boy though. The president of Russia probably wasn’t enough. Obviously he is on first name basis with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and judging by the amount of nervous laughs and telling each other how terrific they both look I’d say an actual first base could be a possibility….
(obviously they have been getting along for some time)
P.S. Just Kidding !