ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

Don’t Fall for Obama’s $3 Billion Arms Buildup at Russia’s Door

Don’t Fall for Obama’s $3 Billion Arms Buildup at Russia’s Door

defense one

On Defenders of the Fatherland Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Feb. 23, 2016. By Lawrence J. Korb,  Eric Goepe

There is no Russian resurgence. Washington is playing on your Cold War fears to get you to pay for something the U.S. does not need and can’t afford.

In one of the key justifications for the new $600 billion defense spending request, the Department of Defense has fallen back on a tried-and-true Cold War boogeyman: the threat of Russian aggression against allies in Europe. While there is no ignoring the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, to interpret these events as some kind of Russian “resurgence” is to grossly inflate the danger Russia poses to NATO and the United States.

Ukraine and Georgia were targeted precisely because they fell outside of U.S. security guarantees, lacked significant strategic importance to the west, and, most importantly from the Russian viewpoint, were making overt moves toward NATO membership. Russia has long opposed the expansion of NATO into its traditional sphere of influence. The reasons are rooted in a history of aggression from Western Europe, as memories of the devastation meted out by Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Hitler still linger.

While Russia suffered little for its war against Georgia, the annexation of Crimea proved to be an incredibly damaging move. Though Crimea has been a historic lynchpin of Russian grand strategy for centuries, its open use of military force and political manipulation there in the midst of the Ukrainian Revolution drew an immediate response in the form of sanctions from the West. Russia is paying a massive economic and diplomatic cost for its aggression against Ukraine, from its ejection from the G8 to the cratering of its currency.

It is important to keep all this in mind when looking at the assumptions underlying the Pentagon’s budget request. President Barack Obama wants to quadruple the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, from $789 million to $3.4 billion. What’s the ERI? It’s a U.S. program started in 2014 in response to the Crimean annexation to bolster the ability of NATO to deal with destabilizing actions. In other words: Obama just asked Congress to fund the biggest military buildup by NATO in Eastern Europe since the Cold War.

But what will this program accomplish? It’s meant to deter further Russian aggression, but fails to identify where that aggression might reasonably fall. A NATO buildup of this magnitude also neglects to take into account just how provocative such a move would be; by concentrating troops on Russia’s border, we are playing into Putin’s long-standing criticisms of NATO encirclement.

Claims that any NATO member is at risk of Russian invasion is a flawed reading of recent history. No matter what one might think of Putin, the idea that he would risk a war with NATO is ridiculous on its face. That is a no-win scenario, and Putin’s past behavior all points to interventions where there is a very minimal risk of western involvement.

The Russian Federation of today is not the Soviet Union of the 1980s, despite the fervent wishes of those looking to restart the Cold War. Moscow’s military spending has increased in real terms and as a percentage of GDP in the last several years. Current estimates figure it between $70 billion and 85 billion (which matches about 15 percent of the U.S. defense budget). But Russia’s economy is in recession. The Russian military no longer has the ability to mobilize the combined forces of the USSR and Warsaw Pact as it once did. Nearly all of its former client states, with the exception of Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, are now NATO members. No amount of spending or technological development by Russia is going to change the fact NATO countries represent over 900 million people who spend nearly a trillion dollars per annum on defense.

The Defense Department is inflating the threat Russia poses, which allows the Obama administration, senior military leaders, and supporters in Congress to justifying maintaining the historic highs in defense spending, which in real terms in now more than the U.S. spent during the Cold War. Meanwhile, the U.S. debt continues to grow ever-staggering heights while critical investment opportunities are ignored. The U.S. budget, despite the $4 trillion price tag this year, is finite. Billions that go to support placing more equipment in Eastern Europe and putting an armored brigade on rotation are billions that cannot be spent retraining U.S. workers or rebuilding America’s failing infrastructure.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, eloquently stated, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Voters and their representatives have a choice to make: continue down the road of reckless spending to counter phantom threats, or acknowledge that to truly secure the future of this country, we must tend to our own house and strengthen its foundations.

Was Dubya (“W”) Bombed On Stage At Somber Dallas Memorial Ceremony?

Party time: George Bush shocks America with little dance at Dallas police memorial service (VIDEO)

Russia-Today

Former first lady Laura Bush, former President George W. Bush, first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama join hands as they sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic during a memorial service for five policemen killed last week in a sniper attack in Dallas, Texas July 12, 2016. © Reuters
Just when it seemed former President George W. Bush was at a safe enough distance from the public eye, he sparked another media storm by swaying side to side to organ music at a memorial service for slain Dallas police officers, as the nation watched on.

Enjoying himself a little too much, Bush threatened to spoil the entire somber mood of the occasion as he held hands with Michelle Obama, who in turn held the hand of her husband, the incumbent president, forming a chain of hands that included other senior White House officials. To his right, Bush held hands with his wife Laura, followed by Joe Biden and his spouse.

 

As everyone tried to keep still and project a sense of togetherness and collective loss, Bush could not contain himself and did a little dance, and even tried to induce others to join in. Michelle Obama was the first victim, and Barack also felt the effects of a sort of wavy motion that had begun.

The tune that made the former president so giddy was an organ and choir version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but if the sound had been off, one might have thought Bush was doing a campfire number.

The former president was also ostensibly the only official on stage wearing a royal blue suit as he stood in a sea of black.

Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Pakistan: Friend or Foe?–TESTIMONY

Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Pakistan: Friend or Foe?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

 

Witnesses

The Honorable Zalmay Khalilzad

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN AND U.N.;
COUNSELOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: SUBCOMMITTEE ON TERRORISM, NONPROLIFERATION, AND TRADE

JULY 12, 2016
PAKISTAN: FRIEND OR FOE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?

[full text of statement]

ZALMAY KHALILZAD
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to offer my assessment and advice on the issue of Pakistan’s support for terrorist and extremist forces. Pakistani proxies pose a severe threat to coalition and Afghan forces and civilians. Indeed, Pakistani policy is the principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. More broadly, Pakistan’s use of extremist and terrorist proxies – including to threaten India — is a significant contributor to the global menace of Islamic extremism. It must be confronted if we are to succeed in defeating terrorism and extremism around the world.

Background  Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11, Pakistan has been playing a perfidious and dangerous double game. It has portrayed itself as a U.S. partner, yet supports the Taliban and the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Since 2005, the Taliban and Haqqani network have regrouped in Pakistan and waged a devastating insurgency against U.S. and Afghan forces.
Poor governance by the Afghan government is a factor in Kabul’s inability to defeat the insurgents. But the Taliban’s resilience can be attributed above all to the strategic decision of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to provide sanctuary and support to these groups.

Pakistan’s Goals  Pakistan views the Taliban as an effective proxy to ensure Pakistani dominance over Afghanistan. Islamabad also believes that continuing the war in Afghanistan will lead to a U.S. withdrawal, which would change the balance of power against the current government and in favor of its proxies. Ultimately, Pakistan seeks the overthrow of the current government in Afghanistan because it is not compliant.

Declaratory Policy vs. Actual Policy  Pakistan understands that its double-game is risky, but it believes that the risk is manageable. Pakistani leaders reason that they can continue to receive U.S. assistance and avoid international isolation even if they support the Taliban and Haqqani network. They have seen little evidence that Washington will force it to choose between U.S. support and its alliance with the Taliban.
Every country has a gap between its declaratory policy and its actual policy. In the case of Pakistan, the gap is huge. Until recently, Pakistani leaders even denied that there were Taliban in their country! Pakistan believes that they can outmaneuver and outwait us. They are adept at offering tactical gestures that make it appear they are being helpful, which they calculate will make it more difficult for the U.S. to take a hardline stance. I have first-hand experience in this regard. As I document in my recently published memoir—The Envoy– the President asked me in 2005 to visit Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf and raise the issue of the Taliban sanctuaries. When I asked Gen. Musharraf why Pakistan was sponsoring the Taliban, he denied that there were any Taliban in Pakistan. He refused to acknowledge that the leadership of the Taliban were residing in Quetta or contend with the fact that its ruling Council bore the name of the capital of Baluchistan. Musharraf instead insisted that I provide him with the names and phone numbers of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Years later, when he was no longer his country’s leader, he boasted to the world of his country’s support for the extremist group.
Recommendations The May 21 killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike has created a golden hour to confront Pakistan. Washington can force Islamabad to make a choice: U.S. aid and international support or a continued relationship with the Haqqani network and irreconcilable Taliban? Catalyzing a decisive effect on Pakistani policy, however, will require the U.S. to escalate pressure on Islamabad. Otherwise the opportunity will dissipate. For Islamabad to break with the Haqqani network and the Taliban, the Pakistani leadership needs to see that continued support for the insurgency will come at a high price. Escalating drone strikes against Haqqani and irreconcilable Taliban leaders would deliver that message, but drone strikes alone will not be enough without corresponding political and financial pressure. On the financial side, Pakistan has been an enormous beneficiary of international support — specifically from Coalition support funds, bilateral assistance, and multilateral assistance from the IMF and World Bank. In addition to cutting off this assistance, Washington should warn Pakistan that it will face escalating
financial sanctions—like those once imposed on Iran—unless it facilitates reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. As an initial step, the U.S. can impose financial and travel restrictions on senior Pakistani officials known to be complicit in the insurgency, and freeze funds in U.S. banks belonging to Pakistani entities—both military and corporate—involved in financing the Taliban. Politically, Pakistan cannot be a member in good standing of the international community so long as its agencies or military services aggress against Afghanistan. Pakistan is currently designated by the United States as a “major non-NATO ally.” This status is wholly inappropriate. Pakistan’s current policy and conduct would better merit its inclusion on the State Department’s list of state-sponsors of terrorism. The U.N. Security Council is an appropriate venue in which to raise Pakistan’s aggression against Afghanistan. To help secure international support for a U.S.-Afghan-sponsored resolution condemning Pakistan, the U.S. should declassify and broadcast information indicating Pakistani support for the insurgency and its narcotics trafficking.
Action at the Security Council would also provide the United States to ask China, one of Pakistan’s staunchest allies, whether it wants to be saddled with another North Korea – a rogue, isolated state surviving on Beijing’s dole. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your consideration on this issue. I look forward to your questions.
[truth in testimony form]

Mr. Bill Roggio
Senior Editor, Long War Journal
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

Tricia Bacon, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, American University
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

 

***Any changes to the witness list will be reflected above.

Pakistan playing dangerous game since Taliban overthrown–Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?

[Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?]

Pakistan playing dangerous game since Taliban overthrown: Khalilzad

Khaama

Zalmay KhalilzadThe former top American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad has said Pakistan has been playing a dangerous game since the Taliban group was overthrown.

In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Khalilzad said Pakistani proxies pose a severe threat to coalition and Afghan forces and civilians. “Indeed, Pakistani policy is the principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.”

Khalilzad further added “More broadly, Pakistan’s use of extremist and terrorist proxies – including to threaten India — is a significant contributor to the global menace of Islamic extremism. It must be confronted if we are to succeed in defeating terrorism and extremism around the world.”

He said since the overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11, Pakistan has been playing a perfidious and dangerous double game. It has portrayed itself as a U.S. partner, yet supports the Taliban and the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Since 2005, the Taliban and Haqqani network have regrouped in Pakistan and waged a devastating insurgency against U.S. and Afghan forces.

According to Khalilzad, poor governance by the Afghan government is a factor in Kabul’s inability to defeat the insurgents. But the Taliban’s resilience can be attributed above all to the strategic decision of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to provide sanctuary and support to these groups.

“Pakistan views the Taliban as an effective proxy to ensure Pakistani dominance over Afghanistan,” Khalilzad added. “Islamabad also believes that continuing the war in Afghanistan will lead to a U.S. withdrawal, which would change the balance of power against the current government and in favor of its proxies. Ultimately, Pakistan seeks the overthrow of the current government in Afghanistan because it is not compliant.”

In his recommendations, Khalilzad said the May 21 killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike has created a golden hour to confront Pakistan. Washington can force Islamabad to make a choice: U.S. aid and international support or a continued relationship with the Haqqani network and irreconcilable Taliban.

“Catalyzing a decisive effect on Pakistani policy, however, will require the U.S. to escalate pressure on Islamabad,” Khalilzad said, adding that “Otherwise the opportunity will dissipate. For Islamabad to break with the Haqqani network and the Taliban, the Pakistani leadership needs to see that continued support for the insurgency will come at a high price.”

He also added that escalating drone strikes against Haqqani and irreconcilable Taliban leaders would deliver that message, but drone strikes alone will not be enough without corresponding political and financial pressure.

On the financial side, Khalilzad said Pakistan has been an enormous beneficiary of international support — specifically from Coalition support funds, bilateral assistance, and multilateral assistance from the IMF and World Bank. In addition to cutting off this assistance, Washington should warn Pakistan that it will face escalating financial sanctions—like those once imposed on Iran—unless it facilitates reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

According to Khalilzad, as an initial step, the U.S. can impose financial and travel restrictions on senior Pakistani officials known to be complicit in the insurgency, and freeze funds in U.S. banks belonging to Pakistani entities—both military and corporate—involved in financing the Taliban.

Politically, Pakistan cannot be a member in good standing of the international community so long as its agencies or military services aggress against Afghanistan, he added.

Khalilzad said the U.N. Security Council is an appropriate venue in which to raise Pakistan’s aggression against Afghanistan. To help secure international support for a U.S.-Afghan-sponsored resolution condemning Pakistan, the U.S. should declassify and broadcast information indicating Pakistani support for the insurgency and its narcotics trafficking.

Syria’s NATO Neighbors, Feeling the Heat of Their Failed War, Reach-Out To Assad

[ Italian intelligence chief visits Syria, discusses counterterrorism cooperation with Assad – report ]

Turkey to develop ties with Syria – PM Yildirim

turkey

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said his country will aim to develop relations with Syria.

Mr Yildirim said Turkey needed to boost diplomatic relations in the region.

His televised speech appears to suggest a sharp U-turn by the government. Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Syria were severed after the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Turkey has long said the only solution for regional peace would be for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go.

Mr Yildirim said the stability of Syria and Iraq were crucial for the success of counter-terrorism efforts.

The news comes at a time of great political instability in the country, says the BBC’s Katy Watson in Istanbul.

In the past year, Turkey has been hit by a wave of bombings from both Kurdish militants and the so-called Islamic State.