Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Alliance is fracturing

In response to the situation in Nigeria, the Obama administration has sent 16 Special Forces troops (my guess?  Green Berets since they are there to "advise and train") plus they are going to use drones to help locate the missing school girls.  I fear its too little and too late.

"In recent days, the world has watched in horror as the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls and threatened to sell them into slavery. The U.S. military has discreetly sent aircraft over Nigeria, and dispatched 16 troops to the country, to try to find the girls."  Time

Hardly a response at all in Nigeria.  In the meantime, US/European solidarity in criticizing Russia's annexation of Crimea is beginning to show signs of fractures.

Exhibit A:  Two weeks ago, three Russian navy ships - the 6,900-tonne destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov and tankers Duban and Sergey Osipov - docked at Ceuta, less than 50miles across the Mediterranean from Gibraltar.  Spain is a NATO member nation which implies a support against the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.  However, Spain has had a beef with the UK using the straights of Gibraltar which the British have controlled since 1713.  Old rivalries die hard.  (Read more here)

Exhibit B:  France (which is not a NATO member) is proceeding with the sale of two military ships to Russia despite the US calling the sale "ill-advised". "To critics, the 1.2 billion euro, or more than $1.6 billion, deal that France struck with Russia has emerged as a classic instance in which a European nation has elevated its business dealings with Moscow over exhortations by the United States to take a firm line on Russian meddling in Ukraine."  N.Y. Times

Exhibit C:  The Spanish and French aren't the only ones who are letting money compromise their resiliency.  Apparently, the US (which is a big NATO member) is interested on only enforcing certain sanctions against Russia.  "The U.S. State Department has issued shipping licenses for two commercial telecommunications satellites preparing for launch this year aboard Russian Proton rockets from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, industry officials said." Space News

What happened to the great NATO alliance?

After Word War II, Europe was divided between west and east.  The West of course were the free European countries, the East were occupied by the Soviet Union.  To prevent further western advancement by the Soviet Union, NATO was created.  It could never really stop the Soviet Union, mainly delay it until the US could mobilize all of its forces.  When the Soviet Union fell, NATO's future began to get questioned.  NATO found a new role in the war on terror running things in Afghanistan as well as directing the air campaign over Libya during the Arab Spring.  However, these actions made it even more apparent that a self-proteciont alliance had probably outlived its usefulness.

Most of the NATO member nations are spending less and less on their militaries.  In the meantime, Russia has increased its spending and is now more on parity with NATO then it has been in years.

Europe is also facing a financial crisis that the European Union has exacerbated rather than solve.  The US is no longer seen as the financial superpower that can help Europe so more countries are turning to Russia and China.  Like the old European courts, today's governments may say one thing but are busy doing quite the opposite.  In this case, public support for economic sanctions against Russia while privately cutting deals to make money.  No wonder Putin looks so smug!

According to an article in the Moscow Times, "A number of European countries are heavily dependent on Russia for their energy needs, and others simply want to continue business-as-usual and not let the events in Ukraine get in the way of making profits." Moscow Times   Which is exactly why the call for crippling sanctions in the same article is not going to happen.

Firs Syria, then Crimea and now Nigeria.  Where happened?

Mark Thompson of Time wrote, "In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unilaterally redrawn Europe’s post-World War II borders by snatching Crimea from Ukraine. Since that deft move, he has acted as a Slavic Geppetto in eastern Ukraine, sowing enough discord in the former Soviet state to keep it off balance, unable to puncture Moscow’s sphere of influence. Beyond dispatching small, tripwire forces to nearby NATO nations, the U.S. military has remained at parade rest."  

Many say after 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are tired and don't want to get involved anymore.  I doubt that is the case since the American public was never asked to sacrifice anything during the war.  A more likely answer can be found in this quote from President Obama, “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?” (Time)  If he truly believes that, then why did he declare the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a "red line" and then proceeded to do nothing about it?  The President appears afraid to confront anyone, especially Putin, and tries to use rhetoric about budgets to disguise his fears.

Not to be outdone, General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying, "As I look forward and think about the need to rebalance the use of military power, I think we will need less direct action because it is the most costly, disruptive and controversial use of American power,” (Time)  That might sound better if Russia didn't just place 40,000 troops into Crimea while the President sat and watched.  And not to diminish one iota the plight of the Nigerian school children but President Asad has massacred 150,000 people since he crossed Mr. Obama's "red line" and suffered not a scratch.

The United States is rapidly turning into an isolationist state once again.  The US did not want to get involved in either World War I or World War II.  The public want the US to stay out.  Both times, isolationist policies prevented the US from becoming involved until it was almost too late.  In neither case did the US suffer any casualties on the homeland (remember Hawaii was not part of the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor).  The short term decision not to become involved in Syria or Crimea may be expedient to the current White House but what about long-term?  Will the next administration but forced into a conflict because we appear not to be willing to do so today?

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