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Will the U.S. Lose Europe to Russia?
By JOHN VINOCUR
PARIS — The United States used to call wayward members of NATO back to the reservation with a whistle or a shout. It decided what was deviation from doctrine, and that decision was pretty much law.
When the Obama administration stamped its foot this time, no one snapped to attention.
Rather, Germany and France, meeting with Russia in Deauville, northern France, last week, signaled that they planned to make such three-cornered get-togethers on international foreign policy and security matters routine, and even extend them to inviting other “partners” — pointing, according to diplomats from two countries, to Turkey becoming a future participant.
That can look like an effort to deal with European security concerns in a manner that keeps NATO, at least in part, at a distance. And it could seem a formula making it easier for Russia to play off — absolutely no novelty here — the European allies against the United States, or NATO and the European Union, against one another.
But there’s more detail in the theoretical Euro-Atlantic apostasy department: Add Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal, made in June, that the European Union and Russia establish their own Political and Security Committee, and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intention, enunciated in Deauville, to establish an E.U.-Russia economic space “with common security concepts.”
Just before the Deauville meeting, Vladimir Chizov, Russia’s ambassador to the E.U., leapt ahead of the Merkel/Sarkozy plans and told a reporter that Russia now wants a formalized relationship with the existing E.U. committee on foreign and security policy. “I don’t expect to be sitting at every committee session,” he said, “but there should be some mechanism that would enable us to take joint steps.”
As for the Obama administration stamping its foot, what it came down to was a senior U.S. official saying: “Since when, I wonder, is European security no longer an issue of American concern, but something for Europe and Russia to resolve? After being at the center of European security for 70 years, it’s strange to hear that it’s no longer a matter of U.S. concern.”
So, a follow-on burst of European contrition? I asked a German official about it. He spoke of German and French loyalty to NATO. And he said, “I understand there are American suspicions.”
“But,” he added, “the United States must accept that the times are changing. There are examples of it having done this. Why wouldn’t it accept our view in this respect?”
The official did not list them, but there are obvious factors explaining the French and German initiatives.
A major one is President Barack Obama’s perceived lack of interest and engagement in Europe. His failure to attend a Berlin ceremony commemorating the end of the Cold War and his cancellation of a meeting involving the E.U.’s new president has had symbolic weight.
At the same time, the U.S. reset with Russia and the administration’s willingness to treat President Dmitri A. Medvedev as a potential Western-oriented partner has given the Germans and French the sense they were free to act on the basis of their own interpretations of the changes in Moscow.
In this European view, the United States has become significantly dependent on Russia through its maintenance of military supply routes to Afghanistan and its heightened pressure, albeit in wavering measure, on Iran. Because the reset is portrayed by the administration to be a U.S. foreign policy success, criticism from Washington of Russia is at a minimum.
Consider this irony: the more Russia makes entry into the E.U.’s decision-making processes on security issues a seeming condition for deals the French and/or Germans want (think, for example, of France’s proposed sale to Moscow of Mistral attack vessels), the more the impression takes hold that the administration’s focus for complaint about the situation has been off-loaded onto the Europeans.
Example: Ivo H. Daalder, the United States’ permanent representative at NATO, gave a speech in Paris last week in which he skipped over the Russians’ maneuvering, but described as “baffling” and “very strange” that “NATO doesn’t have a real strategic partnership with the E.U.”
True enough. On the other hand, Russia is getting a whole series of passes: Ten days ago, when Mr. Medvedev offered Hugo Chávez of Venezuela help to build the country’s first nuclear power station, the State Department expressed concern about technology migrating to “countries that should not have that technology” — but added (bafflingly), that the relationship between Venezuela and Russia (for years Iran’s supplier of nuclear wherewithal) “is not of concern to us.”
Last week, more of the same. When Mr. Medvedev bestowed Russia’s highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony on a group of sleeper spies who were expelled from the United States last July, a State Department spokesman turned away a reporter’s question with a “no comment.” Washington chooses not to say anything either about Mr. Medvedev’s support, repeated in Deauville, for Mr. Sarkozy’s plan, as next year’s president of the G-20 consultative grouping, to focus its attention on limiting the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.
In the Deauville aftermath, the Americans have preferred applauding Mr. Medvedev’s decision to come to a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon next month, following U.S. congressional elections. He is not expected to announce Russian participation in or endorsement of a U.S.-initiated antimissile shield for Europe — the United States’ notionally organic bond in strengthening the alliance’s trans-Atlantic future — yet the Russian president’s appearance as a guest on NATO’s turf could be seen as an important gesture of real cooperation.
Still, for all the Americans’ concern about Europe dealing with Russia on its own, there hardly has been a corresponding public statement from the administration that’s a call for caution about Moscow’s interest in setting up rivalries between NATO and the E.U. For David J. Kramer, a former senior State Department official with responsibility for Russia, the new circumstances show “the Russians now have far more leverage in the U.S. relationship than they should.”
It was unexpected in the circumstances, but at a briefing in the run-up to the Deauville meeting the administration liked so little, a French presidential source put a big asterisk — more than Washington does openly — next to France’s desire to create “an anchorage in the West” out of “fragile” indications of change in Russia.
“We do not have assurance there is a permanent strategic turn,” the Élysée Palace said....
In the aftermath of a trilateral German-French-Russian heads of state meeting, John Vinocur (or a headline writer at the Herald Tribune) wonders whether the U.S. is losing Europe to Russia. There are a few problems with this way of addressing this issue, not least of which is the fact that Russia is in no way capable of providing the same kind of partnership to Europe that the U.S. does. It also confuses an effort to harmonize relations with an alignment, and ignores the point of such a harmonization, which is to mitigate the significant power that Russia already exercises within the European security sphere through its ability to interfere with energy supplies and destabilize Europe's easternmost members.
Finally, as Vinocur points out by citing a French source at Elysée Palace, it's premature to assess whether Russia's Western turn represents a permanent, or even a durable strategic shift. If you take the 2008 Russia-Georgia War as the highwater mark of Russian belligerence toward the U.S. and NATO, certainly the past year points in that direction.
But it bears noting that in the intervening two years, Russia has essentially accomplished all of the foreign policy objectives previously driving that belligerence. NATO's eastward expansion is off the table. The U.S. European-based missile defense system has been modified and multilateralized (although as Richard Weitz's WPR column today makes clear, it remains problematic). And Russian dominance in Central Asia is re-established.
In light of that, Russia's concerns have now begun to resemble more closely those of Europe and the U.S. -- namely, China's expanding influence, both globally and in Central Asia, as well as regional stability in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
That raises the question that poses the biggest problem to this sort of Russia fearmongering: Assuming the very unlikely emergence of an alignment between Europe and Russia that did replace the trans-Atlantic relationship, in what policy and regional areas would that threaten U.S. interests? Central Asia is a contested space mainly to assure European energy security, which such an alignment would logically moot. Interests in Afghanistan overlap entirely, with differences mainly concerning method (counternarcotics policy, in particular). On Iran, Europe is very closely aligned with the U.S. view, and would more likely exercise a moderating influence on Russia than the reverse. And in terms of balancing against China, Russia's Far East territory would provide a very useful northwestern frontier to preoccupy Chinese strategists. As for counterterrorism, counterproliferation and anti-piracy, Russia has been relatively cooperative, even at the height of its belligerent period.
A lot of the anxiety these kinds of summits provoke can be traced to a lingering distrust of European diplomacy, which is seen by most Americans as not Manichean enough. But the flipside of Europe's pragmatism is that it is driven by self-interest. And it will be quite a while before it is in Europe's interest to abandon the trans-Atlantic relationship. In the meantime, a more closely harmonized relationship with Moscow not only resembles the current U.S. policy toward Russia, but is in everyone's interest....
Gen. Shelton confirms, Iraq War based on a series of utter US Lies....
When do the War Crimes Trials begin...???
In his recently published memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior," General Hugh Shelton, who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, called the Iraq war "unnecessary" and said that the Bush team went to war "based on a series of lies."
Shelton also said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon officials pushed for war in Iraq "almost to the point of insubordination."
This is not some voice from the peanut gallery.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is - by law - the highest ranking military officer in the United States armed forces, and the principal military adviser to the President of the United States. The Chairman outranks all respective heads of each service branch, including the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.Thank you, General Shelton, for confirming what Seymour Hersh and many others have been saying since 2003 (and see this)....