Tag Archives: NATO

REPEATED DIPLOMATIC GAFFES

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Fifty years ago this month, Sir Winston Churchill died.  Queen Elizabeth II ordered a state funeral, a rare honor, for the great war hero.

Six days later, 110 world leaders attended his funeral.  At the time, the number of countries in the world was not much greater.

Notably absent was the US president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.   It wasn’t just that the president failed to attend, citing illness.  The Vice President Hubert Humphrey was not sent in his place.   Even the Chief Justice failed to turn up.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower attended as a private citizen, honoring his old friend and comrade from the dark days of World War II.   Looking back, Eisenhower could have been sent as the official representative of the United States, but he wasn’t.

This was a serious diplomatic blunder at a time when the Cold War was at its height and America needed its European allies, particularly Britain.   It may, or many not, have been a factor in Britain’s continual refusal to send troops to Vietnam, the only US conflict the British have not supported since the end of the Second World War.

The same mistake was made just under two years ago when only a low ranking official was sent to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Now, the Obama Administration has made a similar error of judgment, for which it has apologized.

This time, the failure was not to attend the demonstration of unity in Paris held on Sunday. 3.7 million people were in attendance throughout the country, most of them in the capital, Paris.

The British, German and Spanish prime ministers were all present; as were the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian leader, two men who would not normally want to be seen with each other.

Neither the US president nor the Vice-President were there.   And nor was the Secretary of State, John Kerry.   In contrast, the President of France, Jacques Chirac, was the first world leader to visit Washington after 9/11.

Diplomatic gaffes like this can lead to serious problems.  I don’t think the Atlantic Alliance is going to disintegrate because the US president failed to turn up in France for the Unity rally, but repeated blunders like this one send a message, that Europe is now of little importance to the US.   The announced closure of 15 US military bases in Europe last week also sent a negative message, that America is losing interest in Europe.  The announcement came just after the Paris terror attacks.   That was also insensitive – at a time when Europe clearly needs some help, the US is withdrawing!

Washington should remember that only once has NATO’s Clause 5 ever been invoked.   This is the clause that states if one member country is attacked, the others must come to its aid.   The one time it was invoked was immediately after September 11th, 2001, when other NATO countries came to America’s aid.

Alliances, like friendship, work both ways.   If friends don’t support friends in times of trouble, the friendship could just fizzle out and die.

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US TO CLOSE 15 MILITARY BASES IN EUROPE

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Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, famously said that the purpose of the organization was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

The announcement today that the US is closing a further 15 bases in Europe, mostly in Germany, shows how times have changed. The Americans no longer see Europe as a priority. It may not be too long until the Americans are no longer “in,” which may also mean the Russians will no longer be “out.”   The Germans have not been “down” for a long time.

The timing of the announcement was rather insensitive, coming 24 hours after the terrorist attack in Paris that left twelve dead.   At precisely the time that Europe is faced with its most serious threat in decades, the US confirms that Asia is the priority, not Europe, the continent where two world wars began.

In the 1950s and 60s, Britain was gradually withdrawing from the world, closing military bases. The closures reflected waning political, military and economic power.   However this announcement is dressed up, it will be perceived the same way.  The US is on the way out.

WILL RUSSIA END NATO?

 

100415a-HQ28-010 NATO Headquarters Brussels.

Time Magazine has an interesting article on “Russia’s Fifth Column” in the latest issue, by Simon Shuster.

The article explains Russia’s modus operandi for re-acquiring its former empire.

The annexation of the Crimea earlier this year and the ongoing problems in eastern Ukraine help give insight.

The idea is to use Russian-speaking people left behind when the Soviet empire collapsed.  There are ten million of them in a number of eastern European countries.  Three notable ones are the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  These countries could see a repeat of Ukraine’s experience.

“… Russia’s military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine has sent the clearest message to Russians everywhere.  Moscow has your back.”

The methodology is similar to Hitler’s 75 years ago – get local German (now Russian speakers) to claim discrimination and provoke conflict.  Russia will do the rest, providing arms to local militias or even sending their own troops in, claiming they are locals protecting their own community.

The three Baltic republics are the most vulnerable.  They are all members of NATO so, if Russia invades, the US and other NATO members are obliged to intervene on their behalf.

“Under Article 5 of the treaty that binds NATO together, Washington and its 27 allies are obliged to come to the defense of any member attacked by a foreign power. Should Russia invade Estonia or Latvia, perhaps using the rationale that it is protecting the Russian minorities in those countries – just as it did in Crimea – the West would face a sobering choice: go to war with a nuclear-armed state or back down and accept that NATO is no more.”

Based on this rationale, which makes sense, Putin could bring about the end of NATO quite quickly. If a Russian invasion of a NATO country does not see Article 5 invoked, it would mean the end of the alliance.

My wife and I are going away for a week starting tomorrow. I will not be posting again until Thursday December 18th.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

NEWS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

News

“Based on current trends China’s economy will overtake America’s in purchasing power terms within the next few years . . . The US is now no longer the world’s sole economic superpower and indeed its share of world output . . . has slipped below the 20% level which we have seen was a useful sign historically of a single dominant economic superpower.” (“America is very close to losing its place in the world as #1.” Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid is quoted.)

Rapidly gaining on the US is China. “Reid offered this prescient quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: ‘Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world.’”

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Turkey is key to dealing with ISIS.

This Middle Eastern nation is the second biggest military power in NATO and is a long-term US ally.   But its new president, former prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is not the secularist his predecessors have been.   Rather, he’s a more religious Sunni Muslim. As ISIS is Sunni, Erdogan’s loyalty to the US is now in doubt. This is serious for the United States – American nuclear missiles are based in the country.

Turkey was also a long time friend of Israel. Erdogan is now comparing Israel to Hitler.

CBS’s security expert, Michael Morrell, said Monday that there are four Islamic terrorist groups that seriously threaten the West. He said that ISIS is not the greatest threat. That accolade goes to ‘Al-Qaeda in the Yemen.’

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Scotland votes tomorrow on breaking away from the United Kingdom. According to opinion polls, the two sides are running neck and neck. If the “Yes” vote wins, there will likely be a financial upheaval.   Already, the Royal Bank of Scotland, once the world’s biggest bank, is saying it will move its HQ from Scotland to London. Other big companies have also said they will head south.

Scotland depends on London for roughly 10% of its spending, money that will no longer be forthcoming. Additionally, breaking away from the UK will leave Scotland with no currency – it will have to join the eurozone, giving Germany effective control over government spending.

Assuming a “yes” vote, there will be eighteen months of discussions aimed at a manageable divorce, before the new country receives its independence.

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The Obama Administration is sending 3,000 US troops to West Africa, mainly Liberia.

The same administration reluctantly agreed to send 500 military advisers to Iraq to train Iraqis to fight ISIS.

Which poses the greatest threat to the United States, ISIS or Ebola?

NATO SUMMIT IN WALES

NATO summit Wales

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO or, in French, OTAN) was formed on the 4th April 1949.  It was said at the time that NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in Europe, the Russians out and the Germans down.”  To the extent that this is true, NATO has been very successful.  The Americans still have a presence in Europe, the Russians have stayed out of NATO member countries, and the Germans work in cooperation with the other member states.

The alliance is now 65 years old. During the Cold War it had 16 member countries; now it has 28.  The greater number came about as the result of the fall of communism.  This, of course, is part of the problem. Russia still has not accepted the fact that many of its former constituent republics don’t want to be associated with their former bosses in Moscow.  This includes Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On the eve of the NATO summit in Newport, Wales, President Obama stopped over in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to reassure the Baltic countries that America will stand by them, if they are attacked by Russia. Reportedly, there has been a great fear that Vladimir Putin will do to them what he has done in Ukraine – invading them and destabilizing them, using their Russian minorities as an excuse.  (Remember, Hitler did the same thing over 75 years ago, invading the Sudetenland to protect the German-speaking minority.)

Today, September 4th, NATO leaders met in Newport to discuss the two great crisis that now confront NATO – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ISIS, or ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or the Levant, which also includes Lebanon).

NATO was established specifically to protect countries from invasion by the communist Soviet Union.  Communism is now dead in Europe but Russia still poses an enormous threat, specifically to countries that were formerly ruled from Moscow.  Mr. Putin once said that the greatest disaster of the twentieth century was the fall of the USSR.  In his mind, countries like Ukraine and the Baltic nations belong to Russia.  It’s as if Great Britain was still claiming the American colonies or India and felt free to invade them at any time! It should be noted that Russia was an expansionist country long before communism – Catherine the Great first acquired the Crimea in the eighteenth century.

Originally, NATO did not project its military power beyond Europe.  However, in 2001, it first invoked Clause 5, which authorizes all member nations to come to the aid of a country that is attacked.  After 9/11, European countries helped the US, patrolling the skies to protect that country from further attacks.  It’s ironic that the organization that was set up to protect Europeans from Russia was instead used in protecting the US from terrorism.  In the following years, NATO troops were used in Afghanistan.  A coalition of some NATO members were also involved in Iraq.

NATO’s outgoing Secretary-General, the former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, today said that NATO faces three serious threats, to the east, the south-east and the south.  These threats are Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ISIL in Iraq, and Syria and Islamic extremists to the south in countries like Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia.

NATO’s solutions are: the formation of a rapid response force to deal with any Russian aggression and the bombing of ISIL insurgents in Iraq and Syria.  At the time of writing, nothing specific has been decided on the problems to the south.

The rapid response force idea has been suggested before but never got off the ground.  The problem is that it would be a multinational force and requires the cooperation of a number of countries.  In a crisis, it’s highly unlikely that there would be such cooperation.

As it is, NATO really is a 3-tier organization.  The US is the leader and has been the “indispensable nation” when it comes to action; Britain, France and Germany are the second tier, almost always ready to back the US and offer some military support; other member countries are too small to make an impact.  Interestingly, when meeting with the Ukrainian leader at the summit, the leaders of the four nations mentioned sat at a round table with him, while other leaders watched from the sidelines.

A serious military threat to all member countries could change things dramatically.

Such a threat could come from Russia or from ISIL.

The Bible shows a major threat from the Middle East, the south-east the NATO Secretary-General was talking about.  A leader of a powerful Mideast nation to the south of Jerusalem is going to attack a northern power – some, at least, of the NATO members.  This is prophesied in Daniel 11:40-44.  In verse 44, the conflict widens to include nations “from the east and the north,” which could include Russia.

A century ago, the European nations, the Russians and the Ottoman Turks were all involved in the First World War.  One hundred years later, the same disputes continue but manifest themselves differently.  NATO members can talk but there is no prospect of solutions in sight.

75 YEARS LATER

Merkel and Putin

75 years ago today Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Two days earlier, Germany had invaded Poland and Hitler’s geopolitical ambitions had become clear.

Within months, Germany conquered other countries in Europe. Eventually, Britain stood alone in Europe against the Third Reich.

It was to be almost two years before Hitler made his fatal mistake, invading Russia.   The month before the declaration of war, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the two countries’ foreign ministers had pledged non-aggression and divided up Poland. Less than two years later, in June 1941, emboldened by success elsewhere, Hitler thought he could succeed where Napoleon failed and conquer Russia. Like Napoleon, he failed.

75 years ago Germany and Russia were the two greatest powers on the continent of Europe. That remains the case today.

This time, of course, it’s Russia’s leader that is the aggressor, invading the Crimea and now trying to take eastern Ukraine. The Europeans, led by Germany, are desperately trying to get Russia to back down, so far without success. Russia’s leader shows no remorse and certainly is not ready to do a strategic rethink. This could be 1939 all over again.

As Gerard Baker put it in yesterday’s Wall St Journal: “In a letter to the rebels, Mr. Putin has resurrected the term ‘Nororossiva,’ or New Russia, the czarist-era name for modern-day Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast, a telling indication of his expanding objectives.”

It’s not the first time Putin has shown czarist credentials. He is frequently shown on television walking vigorously down a long corridor and through an impressive eighteenth century doorway of a czarist palace, in true czarist style.

What will surprise many is that, like the last Czar, Nicholas II, Putin is a devoted Bible reader. He even has a Bible on his private plane, the Russian equivalent of Air Force One. (Accounts of the final captivity of the Romanovs show that the Imperial Family were reading through the minor prophets before they were all assassinated.) One day after the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines plane, Putin was shown lighting candles in an Orthodox cathedral. Was this an example of executive penance?

However, first and foremost, Putin is a Russian nationalist who once described the fall of the Soviet Union as the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century. His recent actions in Ukraine suggest he is trying to resurrect the old Soviet Union (without communism — Putin has done quite well out of Russia’s crony capitalism!).

The question is:  will anybody try to stop him?

Could the world once again be taken by surprise by another pact between Moscow and Berlin? Putin clearly wants Ukraine for his revived Russian Empire. He would also like to see the end of NATO, a very real possibility if he can do a private deal with Germany.

THREE DOWN IN THREE DAYS

NSA

On Monday the French were angry at the US when they learned that the latter had been listening in to French citizens’ phone conversations.

Two days later the Germans were even angrier following revelations that the US government had been listening in to Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone conversations.

In between, the US managed to upset the Saudis.  The Administration in Washington had already lost Egypt.  The last time the US lost a major ally in the Middle East was in 1979 when the Iranian revolution led to the rise of the Ayatollah’s under President Carter.  Some claim this was the start of World War III – a struggle without end against Islamic fundamentalism.  Saudi Arabia is upset with the way the US has been handling (or rather, not handling) the Syrian situation and Iran.

Last night, a dinner was scheduled in Washington for the visiting Brazilian president, who cancelled, to show her anger at US surveillance of Brazil’s leaders.  Mexico has expressed similar concerns following similar revelations from NSA defector, Edward Snowden.

These are serious set-backs for the United States that could lead to the unraveling of alliances that go back decades.

A French think tank has written that “the de-Americanization of the world has begun – emergence of solutions for a multipolar world by 2015.” (Global Europe Bulletin #78)

“It’s one of those times when history accelerates.  Whatever the outcome of the negotiations on the shutdown and debt ceiling, October 2013 is one of them.  It’s the deadlock too far, which has opened the eyes of those who still support the United States.  A leader is followed when he is believed, not when he is ridiculous.”  (GEAB #78; October 16th)

The following paragraph is devastating, written at the height of the US government crisis:

“In fact, if the whole world is holding its breath before this pathetic game of the US elite; it’s not out of compassion, it’s to avoid being swept away in the fall of the world’s first power.  Everyone is trying to free itself from American influence and let go of a United States permanently discredited by recent events over Syria, tapering, shutdown and now the debt ceiling.  The legendary US power is now no more than a nuisance and the world has understood that it’s time to de-Americanise.”

This de-Americanization is partially economic – the dollar index has been steadily dropping as the currency loses value against other currencies due to nations no longer wanting to hold dollar reserves or trade with the currency.

Deuteronomy 28:25 says that the modern Israelites will “become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth” because of their sin.  This is what we see continuing to happen.

Germany has already suggested an overhaul of NATO, the 28-member alliance of western democracies founded 64 years ago, the oldest multinational alliance in the world and the longest lasting in history.

“German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière wants to strengthen cooperation among NATO members and is calling for reform of the military alliance.”  (“NATO Reform:  German plan faces broad opposition,” Der Spiegel, October 22nd)

Under the German proposal, NATO countries would be divided into “clusters,” smaller groups of countries, to be led by a bigger member nation.  This would enable a small group of nations to be used in a military intervention in an area assigned to them.  The idea would give Germany more power within NATO.  It would, for example, allow Germany to lead a group of nations (ten?) in a military action in the Middle East.  The proposal is supported by the US and the UK, but opposed by France.  Washington is happy to see Germany doing more, so that the US can do less in a time of serious defense cuts.

Germany’s defense minister has been tipped to replace Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish NATO Secretary-General, who might retire in a few months.  This would also enhance Germany’s role in the alliance.

The GEAB newsletter is correct – the debacle over Syria and the impasse in Washington, possibly to be repeated in January, have both woken up the world.   Significant changes are likely to take place in the foreseeable future.

The US has seriously upset three allies in three days – the week isn’t over yet!

(The above was written earlier today, Thursday; at 3pm Eastern time, the news reported that Italy has today protested about US surveillance on Italians.  This is the fourth ally in four days; and we still have Friday to go!)

(Further – a later news program revealed that the US has been monitoring the cell phone conversations of 35 world leaders.)