US and NATO Arms Reductions Empower Adversaries

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 12:09 PM

By Larry Bell

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A whole lot has gone wrong with Obama's “collective security" theory whereby as the U.S. retreated from defense commitments in Europe and the Middle East our NATO allies would step up to fill the gaps. Not hardly!
 
Consider vulnerability to Putin’s targeting of Baltic regions on NATO’s eastern periphery, for example. Rather than bolster defenses, Europe has shelved entire divisions. The Netherlands has disbanded its heavy-armor division, and France and the U.K. each now have only about 200 battle tanks.
 
Last year Germany announced plans to cut its troops from a 545,000 level at the end of the Cold War to no more than 180,000; France has shrunk its military forces from 548,000 in 1992 to 213,000, and the U.K. is down from 308,000 in 1990 to 274,000.
 
NATO countries have also been cutting back vital weapon system inventories. This became blatantly apparent when Britain and France both ran out of precision-guided munitions during the Libya campaign.
 
Lack of equitable European commitment to NATO is reflected by meager contributions as percentages of member economies since the end of the Cold War. During 2013 for example, the U.S. contributed 4.4 percent of our GDP compared with 2.4 percent for Britain, 1.9 percent for France, and only 1.3 percent for Germany. In fact the majority of all NATO members reduced defense spending last year. Canada cut back their percentage by 7.6 percent, Italy by 10.3 percent, Hungary by 11.9 percent, and Spain also by 11.9 percent.
 
Last year the U.S. reduced its overall defense spending by approximately 2 percent. While this may not sound like much, America pays for 72 percent of all NATO defense expenditures. President Obama's latest budget proposal will reduce defense spending from the 4.6 percent of GDP in 2011 to 3.5 percent in fiscal 2015, and 2.9 percent by 2017.
 
Russia, on the other hand, is moving in the other direction. They have increased defense spending 79 percent over the past decade, accounting for 4.5 percent of their GDP in 2012. They've also been continuously upgrading their Soviet-era fleet of military transport aircraft, interceptor jets, and other defenses. There’s now little reason to wonder why or to doubt dangerous consequences.
 
Prior to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's nuclear arsenal was spread among Ukraine and other independent nation states. Ukraine’s 1,800 nuclear weapons included short-range tactical weapons, air-launched cruise missiles, and bombers.
 
Properly concerned that these armaments could end up in the wrong hands, the Clinton administration negotiated a 1994 Budapest Memorandum nonproliferation agreement signed by Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. which provided “assurances” that Ukraine (plus Belarus and Kazakhstan) would be protected from threats violating their territorial integrity in exchange for surrendering those stockpiles. China and France later added somewhat weaker assurances in separate attachments to the memorandum.
 
As evidenced by Russia’s Crimea invasion, those assurances have become not only meaningless, but counterproductive as well. In 2008 NATO refused to allow Georgia and Ukraine to even begin the process of joining the alliance, setting those countries up for prospective Russian takeovers. Had Ukraine kept those weapons, their sovereign security position today might be much stronger.
 
Meanwhile, our “New START” with Russia is headed backward, and is getting there fast. The Pentagon recently announced that a scale-back of our nuclear submarine-launched missile and bomber forces will proceed four years ahead of the previously scheduled 2018 implementation date.
 
In 2009 Obama promised to lead a crusade to rid the world of nuclear weapons through treaties and moral example. Then as part of his familiar lead from behind strategy his administration cancelled plans for a missile defense site in Poland to appease Russia’s vehement opposition.
 
And incidentally, that cancelled Polish missile defense installation would also afford some protection to the U.S. against Iranian ICBM strikes.
 
Meanwhile, Russia which has been violating the INF Treaty since 2007 recently conducted test launches of two land-based ICBMs and two submarine-launched ballistic missiles. They are sending submarines designed to carry 16 long-range nuclear missiles to the Southern Hemisphere following a decision last year to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis.
 
America’s New START with Russia has proven to be a false start based upon an age-old deceit practiced by predatory hooligan regimes everywhere whereby peaceful assurances of a bully are negotiated in exchange for disarmament by the gullible. History has repeatedly proven that this is a dangerous fool’s bargain.
 
As a former President John F. Kennedy warned during his inaugural address: “We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain without doubt that they will never be employed.”
 
It’s time to start over with fresh policies evidencing commitment to strength and purposeful leadership that NATO allies and adversaries alike have good reasons to take very seriously.
 
Larry Bell is a professor and endowed professor at the University of Houston, where he directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
 
 

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