US primes NATO to confront Russia, China

nato

By M. K. Bhadrakumar

The
December 3-4 summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in London
resembles a family reunion after the acrimony over the issue of military
spending by America’s European allies. The trend is up for defence spending
across European Allies and Canada. Over $100 billion is expected to be added to
the member states’ defence budgets by end-2020.

More
importantly, the trend at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting at Brussels on
November 19-20, in the run-up to the London summit, showed that despite growing
differences within the alliance, member states closed ranks around three
priority items in the US global agenda escalation of the aggressive policy
toward Russia, militarisation of space and countering China’s rise. The NATO
will follow Washington’s lead to establish a space command by officially
regarding space as “a new operational domain”. According to NATO secretary-general
Jens Stoltenberg, this decision “can allow NATO planners to make a request for
allies to provide capabilities and services, such as satellite communications
and data imagery.”

Stoltenberg
said, “Space is also essential to the alliance’s deterrence and defence,
including the ability to navigate, to gather intelligence, and to detect
missile launches. Around 2,000 satellites orbit the Earth. And around half of
them are owned by NATO countries.” Equally, Washington has been urging the NATO
to officially identify China’s rise as a long-term challenge. According to
media reports, the Brussels meeting acceded to the US demand and decided to
officially begin military surveillance of China.

The US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit out at China after the Brussels meeting:
“Finally, our alliance must address the current and potential long-term threat
posed by the Chinese Communist Party. Seventy years ago, the founding nations
of NATO came together for the cause of freedom and democracy.  We cannot ignore the fundamental differences
and beliefs in the between our countries and those of the Chinese Communist
Party.”

So far so
good. However, it remains to be seen if Washington’s grand design to draw NATO
into its “Indo-Pacific strategy” (read containment of China) will gain
traction. Clearly, the US intends to have a say in the European allies’ growing
business and economic relations with China to delimit Chinese influence in
Europe. The US campaign to block 5G technology from China met with rebuff from
several European countries. On the other hand, the European project has
unravelled and the Franco-German axis that was its anchor sheet has become
shaky. The rift between Paris and Berlin works to Washington’s advantage but,
paradoxically, also hobbles the western alliance system.

The French
President Emmanuel Macron annoyed Germany by his recent calls for better
relations with Russia “to prevent the world from going up in a conflagration”;
his brutally frank remarks about NATO being “brain dead” and the US policy on
Russia being “governmental, political and historical hysteria”; and his
repeated emphasis on a European military policy independent of the US. The
congruence of interests between Berlin and Washington vis-a-vis Macron
manifested itself in the NATO’s endorsement of the US-led escalation against
Russia and China, with France rather isolated. However, this congruence will be
put to test very soon at the summit meeting of the Normandy format over
Ukraine, which France is hosting on December 9, following the NATO’s London
summit. France is helping Russia to negotiate a deal with Ukraine.

The recent
phone calls between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian
counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky underscored the growing interest in Moscow and
Kiev at the leadership level to improve relations between the two countries. In
the final analysis, the French-German relations are of pivotal importance to
not only Europe’s strategic future but the western alliance system as such. If
anyone is in doubt, the French veto in October means sudden death for the
proposal on European Union accession of the Balkan state of North Macedonia,
which NATO is inducting as its newest member. Berlin and Washington are livid,
but a veto is a veto.

With NATO
set up by Washington for a confrontationist posture, Russia and China won’t let
their guard down. Addressing a meeting of the Russian Federation Security
Council on November 22, Putin said, “There are many uncertainty factors…
competition and rivalry are growing stringer and morphing into new forms… The
leading countries are actively developing their offensive weapons… the
so-called ‘nuclear club’ is receiving new members. We are also seriously
concerned about the NATO infrastructure approaching our borders, as well as the
attempts to militarise outer space.”

Putin
stressed, “In these conditions, it is important to make adequate and accurate
forecasts, analyse the possible changes in the global situation, and to use the
forecasts and conclusions to develop our military potential.” The US-led
military build-up against Russia and China will be on display in two big
exercises next year codenamed ‘Defender 2020 in Europe’ and ‘Defender 2020 in
the Pacific’.

Significantly,
only four days before Putin made the above remarks, Chinese President Xi
Jinping told him at a meeting in Brasilia on the sidelines of the BRICS summit
that “the ongoing complex and profound changes in the current international
situation with rising instability and uncertainty urge China and Russia to
establish closer strategic coordination to jointly uphold the basic norms
governing international relations, oppose unilateralism, bullying and
interference in other countries’ affairs, safeguard the respective sovereignty
and security, and create a fair and just international environment.” Putin
responded by saying that “Russia and China have important consensus and common
interests in maintaining global strategic security and stability.

Under the
current situation, the two sides should continue to maintain close strategic communication
and firmly support each other in safeguarding sovereignty, security, and
development rights.” (Chinese MFA) The Russian response is also visible on the
ground. The share of modern weapons and equipment in the Russian Army and Navy
has reached an impressive level of 70 percent. The first pilot batch of
next-generation T-14 Armata tanks will arrive for the Russian troops in late
2019 early 2020.

On November
26, Russian Defence Ministry stated that Moscow’s breakthrough Avangard missile
system with the hypersonic boost-glide vehicle will be deployed on combat duty
with the Strategic Missile Force in December. For the first time, the
electronic warfare systems at Russia’s military base in Tajikistan will be
reinforced with the latest Pole-21 jamming station that can counter cruise
missiles, drones and guided air bombs and precision weapon guidance systems.
Moscow is guarding against the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan.

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