How Dangerous Is NATO's Economic Purpose?
by Gaius Publius
I'm going to break the rule normally applied when one asks a question in a title ... by answering it immediately. Using NATO for economic purposes is very dangerous indeed, since it could, and perhaps will, lead to war.
The stated purpose of NATO is "defense," yet it seems to exist for a different purpose — (a) to bring money into the coffers of U.S. corporations by strangling European trade with Russia as an economic competitor to the U.S., and (b) to guarantee billions of dollars in armament sales for U.S. weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon, Grumman and Lockheed.
To expand that point, let's examine the excellent brief interview with economist Michael Hudson above (h/t Naked Capitalism). We start where the interview starts, with a recent speech by Barack Obama re-emphasizing the importance of NATO for U.S. policy-makers.
Obama said (my emphasis everywhere):
"In this challenging moment, I want to take this opportunity to state clearly what will never change. And that is the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common defense. ... The United States has increased our presence here in Europe. NATO is as strong, as nimble, and as ready as ever."Since 2014, people have been calling this new NATO posture a "reset," a reformulation of the alliance in a way that "assumes Russia is not [and will not be] a partner," according to Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove. Guess for yourself what that makes Russia, vis-à-vis NATO? But don't take too much time; the Russians have already figured it out.
Keep in mind that NATO is America's army in Europe, to be used as America chooses — which gives most ordinary Americans the kind of tingle that bypasses thought — yet NATO wouldn't exist without its member nations. Keep that last in mind as you listen to what Michael Hudson says.
Defense? Against What?
First, from the transcript, Hudson on the idea that NATO's purpose is defense:
One of Russia’s leading military strategists said, here’s what the problem is: NATO wants to move bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia. That means that if they launch a missile over us, we have only a few seconds to retaliate. President Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying that Russia doesn’t really have a land army. In fact, today, no country in the world – in the Northern Hemisphere, at least – has a land army that can invade anywhere.Putin is relying on his nuclear arsenal for Russia's defense rather than pouring money into building the kind of army that can take on NATO. If so, what is NATO defending Europe against?
Try to imagine America being invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You can’t imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.
As a matter of fact, what NATO is trying to do is to goad Russia into building up an army so the US can undercut its economy by diverting more and more resources away from the economy towards the military. Russia’s not falling for it. Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to invade the Baltics or Poland.
Europeans Want Trade with Russia, Not Defense Against Them
Which brings us to the real purpose of NATO, to force European purchasers — not just of arms, but of oil and gas, not to mention consumer products — to buy from the U.S. instead of from Russia. Hudson:
Europe is saying, well we really don’t need defense. We’d rather have an economic relationship with Russia. Especially the Germans say they don’t want the sanctions. The Italians say they don’t want the sanctions. The Americans say, we don’t want you to make money off Russia. Buy from us, not from Russia. Buy your agricultural goods and your other goods from us, or at least from countries in the dollar orbit, not from the Russian orbit.We shouldn't lose sight of the arms trade and its value to the multi-billion-dollar U.S. armament industry:
That, essentially, is what Obama meant by the reset. It meant a new Cold War. But the essence of this new Cold War is to fight in the new way, which is a financial war. The military are now only a catalyst for the financial warfare by the United States.
[O]ne of the points made at the NATO meetings was NATO urged countries not to rely on Russian weaponry. There was an insistence by Obama that the NATO countries spend 2 percent of their GDP on NATO, on arms, mainly by buying arms from American military manufacturers, Raytheon, Boeing and the others.According to an early 2000s study at Stanford University:
Now, look at what’s happening in Europe. It’s not even growing 2 percent, because of the austerity that’s being imposed on it. So 2 percent is the entire annual economic growth in Europe. This large amount has to be spent on American arms. So it turns out that this sabre-rattling to Russia is a means of obliging the European countries to pay the United States arms manufacturers for goods, and to basically hold Europe up for ransom, saying if you don’t be a part of this, we’re not going to defend you.
The three largest defense companies in the world are all United States companies. With a combined total revenue in 2001 of $100 billion and employing 400,000 people, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing are three powerhouses of American business.[i] Their combined revenues account for 1% of the United States' $10 trillion GDP.[ii] Each company is on each of the Fortune lists: America’s Most Admired Companies, Global Most Admired Companies, Fortune 500 and Global 500.[iii] Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing are also the three top arms-producing companies in the world.As part of this "pivot" the U.S. has gotten the government of Poland to place a Patriot missile installation within its borders:
Poland to buy US Patriot missiles amid Russia tensionsYou can read the rest — it's very U.S. friendly. But note, first, that the response is to a Russian missile deployment within its own borders, not outside of them, and second, this "multibillion" dollar contract will go entirely to the corporations, like Raytheon, that produce and support the Patriot missile.
President Bronislaw Komorowski said Poland would start talks with the US to finalise the multibillion contract.
The move follows reports that Russia has deployed missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland.
And not to put too fine a point on it: "Poland also plans to buy helicopters, submarines and armoured personnel carriers." Sounds like money to me.
What Does Russia Want? What Will We End Up With?
Finally, take note of this exchange from the interview:
DESVARIEUX: Michael, what about on the Russian side? There are interests that are encouraging this reset?And:
HUDSON: They [the Russians] had hoped that the reset would mean a winding down of military spending. Russia and almost every country would like to use more of its resources for the domestic economy, not for military overhead. America is trying to force Russia to spend more on overhead as part of its economic warfare with Russia.
This was Brzezinski’s plan in Afghanistan, you know, under the Carter administration. The idea was that if you could force Russia to pay more for its military to defend Afghanistan, then its economy would buckle and discontent would spread. This is the essence of American strategy: to spread chaos. Then the Americans can come in and promote nationalist and other localist breakups, and try to break up Russia just as America is trying to push a breakup of China as a long-term strategy.
There’s no way that this cannot backfire on the United States.He's right. There's no way at all this cannot backfire. In blood.
There's No Need for NATO
The good news is that the Germans and French may not go along with it. Early days yet, but still. The solution, of course, is simple. As Hudson put it, "Essentially to dissolve NATO, which France has been pushing now for many years. There’s no need for NATO now that there’s no threat of any military invasion anymore."
Nor should we be blind to that lack of need, despite the guilty testosterone tingle that having a trans-European army at our beck and call offers us.
What Would Hillary Do?
Trouble is, the news these days is filled with items like this, from The Guardian:
Potential Hillary Clinton Pentagon chief calls for increased action against IsisIf you go to that report (pdf) and search on "NATO" you find sections like these, regarding Europe:
A security specialist tipped as the potential defence secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration has set out an agenda that confidently asserts American leadership in the world, backed by strong military force.
Michèle Flournoy, cofounder and chief executive of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) thinktank, launched a report on Monday that some in Washington might be tempted to mischievously characterise as an 18-page job application....
The 55-year-old told the Guardian on Monday: “I don’t want to speak for her, but what I will say is I think the policies she’s already articulated in a series of speeches and in her record as secretary of state suggest that she understands the importance of American leadership in the world, that she is in the bipartisan consensus that has supported a smart approach to US engagement as the best way to protect our interests and also underwrite the global order. ...
The CNAS published its report, Extending American Power[pdf], after a yearlong series of dinner discussions with experts and ex-officials co-chaired by Robert Kagan [a major Bush-era proponent of the Iraq War], who sits on the secretary of state’s foreign affairs policy board, and James Rubin, who was assistant secretary of state and chief spokesman for the state department during the Bill Clinton administration. Its conclusions are endorsed by Flournoy and others.
In a tantalising glimpse of a possible Hillary Clinton foreign policy agenda, the report recommends increased US military action against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Many policymakers tend to forget the centrality of the transatlantic world, strategically, politically, and economically, because for so long the story in Europe had been one of remarkable success. Through the Cold War and then in the two decades that followed the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Europe has been a region of expanding peace and security, growing prosperity, and increasing democracy.On NATO specifically from just the introduction:
To a greater extent than many realize, this success is being threatened now. Strategically it is threatened by growing Russian ambition and willingness to use force, including the invasion of neighboring countries. It is also threatened by British strategic retrenchment, French economic weakness, and historic German strategic ambivalence in the security sphere.
Underwrite credible security guarantees to NATO allies on the frontlines with Russia. Given recent Russian behavior, it is no longer possible to ignore the possible challenge to NATO countries that border Russia. The Baltics in particular are vulnerable to both direct attack and the more complicated “hybrid” warfare that Russia has displayed in Ukraine. To provide reassurance to U.S. allies and also to deter Russian efforts to destabilize these nations, it is necessary to build upon the European Reassurance Initiative and establish a more robust U.S. force presence in appropriate central and eastern Europe countries, which should include a mix of permanently stationed forces, rotationally deployed forces, prepositioned equipment, access arrangements and a more robust schedule of military training and exercises. Such measures should not be seen as inconsistent with international law. On the contrary, they should be regarded as a fully justified, appropriate, and proportionate response to Russia’s violation of the purpose of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. The United States should also work with both NATO and the EU to counter Russian influence-peddling and subversion using corruption and illegal financial manipulation.And this telling paragraph about the true economic goal of the NATO alliance (note the apparent Freudian typo):
Strengthen and modernize economic and resource cooperation. For all of Europe, west, east, and south, it is essential to pursue greater transatlantic economic integration and cooperation. Europe’s continuing energy dependence on Russia is a particular vulnerability. It will take time to reduce that independence [sic, but quite a tell], but that is all the more reason serious efforts should begin now."Reduce that [European] independence" indeed.
Again, building NATO forces outside the U.S. and positioned in countries on Russia's borders, as a response to Russia's internal deployment of its own forces. All to establish American "leadership" and support its corporations' lust for more money. (The section I quoted just above pivots smoothly to making the case for TTIP, the TTP of the Atlantic.)
Kiss Kiss Kill Kill
I get the argument against Trump; I really do. It's just that I don't want Clinton anywhere near U.S. foreign policy.
Kiss kiss, kill kill. They've actually been friends for a very long time.
No, I really don't. Maybe the French, with their resistance to NATO, can save us one more time.