When recently appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, named Russia as the greatest threat to U.S. national security during his confirmation hearing this past July, he caught some by surprise.
Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea represented a disturbing shift in Russian foreign policy that sent shock waves throughout the NATO alliance and until quite recently one could have argued that Dunford’s assessment was unduly alarmist. In March, President Obama referred to Russia as a “regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness…” He also went on to say that Russia is not the United States’ top national security threat and that he was more concerned about a nuclear weapon detonating in New York City. With Russia’s surprise military intervention in Syria, it is now clear that Dunford’s assessment was more accurate than some believed. It may be a regional power acting out of weakness, but Russia has demonstrated that it can profoundly alter the geopolitical status-quo not only in Europe, but in the Middle East, too, having built an “arc of steel” ranging from the Arctic to the Mediterranean Sea.
When superimposing this so-called arc-of-steel over a map of Europe, we find that geography still matters, especially when contemplating strategies to counter the Russian strategy of undermining NATO’s influence and credibility. These air, land and maritime spaces are being increasingly contested as Russia increases its operational tempo with the use of conventional and hybrid capabilities. What is likely already obvious to NATO planners is the fact that there are gaps where controlling, or at the least, influencing these contested spaces, could prove exceedingly difficult by virtue of the fact that they are situated in strategically important non-NATO states. Well to the north are Sweden and Finland, both occupying strategically vital maritime spaces and the latter sharing a large land border with Russia. To the south and southeast of NATO’s flanks are Montenegro and Georgia, respectively, the latter having been invaded by Russia in 2008. These states are considering (Sweden and Finland) or actively seeking (Montenegro and Georgia) NATO membership.
For NATO, the question of further enlargement should largely hinge on three considerations: The strategic value of admitting new members – Russia’s potential reaction – and whether systemic problems within the Alliance undermine the strategic value of expansion.
The Strategic Value of New Members
A logical starting point for evaluating the strategic value of new members is to assess the current military balance between NATO and Russia. In recent years Russia has undertaken comprehensive military reforms which are translating into a more active, more battle-ready, and better suited military to support itsincreasingly assertive foreign policy. Although it is believed that Russia’s military can be checked in certain qualitative terms, these advantages apply to only a few European NATO states. NATO’s largest European members – Germany – the UK and France – have militaries with clear qualitative advantages over Russia, but serious questions surround deployability, preparedness and logistics, which could erase any qualitative advantages.
That said, NATO as a whole maintains a distinct quantitative and qualitative advantage in naval forces. Submarine forces aside, Russia does not possess the ability to seriously challenge NATO naval forces at sea. Russia places great value on its strategic ballistic missile submarines, which would require substantial naval surface forces for protection in any conflict. Similarly, Russia would have little capability to disrupt transatlantic logistical supply lines between the US and Europe, but this could change given that Russia has embarked on an ambitious submarine building program that in 2015 added two nuclear ballistic subs, three nuclear hunter-killer subs and two conventional subs.
Assessing the balance of air and land forces is more difficult, particularly for the latter. The British and French have the only European air forces that have demonstrated the ability to carry-out the full range of combat air missions. Other European air forces suffer from a broad lack of capabilities that limit them to narrow roles. Furthermore, Europe has decommissioned most of its land-based air-defense systems and is phasing out aging aircraft over the next decade with no plans for replacement. Although smaller, the Russian air force is a homogeneous force that is accustomed to acting unitarily. Like the British and French, it iscapable of performing all missions and roles of modern air warfare, with the possible exception of precision and deep strike capability. Russian command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) is markedly inferior to US capabilities, but without US expertise and support, European air forces (France and UK aside) also lag far behind.
Measuring the balance of land forces is much more difficult. Indeed, Europe has far more military personnel than Russia, but this is due largely because of Europe’s generously staffed defense bureaucracy. Questions persist pertaining to training and readiness for both European and Russian land forces. Indeed, despite Russia’s massive efforts to reform its military, European analysts estimate that only 65-percent of their new combat brigades are truly combat-ready. Whatanalysts overlook, however, is that the European Defense Agency rated European land forces as 30.9 percent combat ready and 7.5 percent sustainable deployable. While both European and Russian militaries are beset with numerous challenges, they appear to be moving on opposite trajectories.
For an alliance founded on the core concept of collective defense, the notion that prospective member states should be able to contribute to the overall security of NATO seems rather obvious. Even so, NATO has enlarged itself for purelystrategic and ideological reasons during the Cold War as was the case with Greece and Turkey in 1952 and again with Spain in 1982. Arguably none were in any position to greatly add to NATO’s overall security, but this was an era in which the U.S. was perfectly willing and able to cover Europe with a security (conventional and nuclear) umbrella. Similarly, the more recent rounds of enlargement, which included the Baltic States, Poland and others, was politically driven as there was thought to be no serious security threats to NATO at the time, most notably, from Russia. Clearly times have changed. As NATO’s roster has more than doubled from 12 to 28 countries since its founding in 1949, its military capabilities have slowly atrophied over the past 25 years, while its collective security commitments have steadily increased. Consequently, any discussions within NATO about future enlargement must answer this question affirmatively: Will this new country add to the overall security of the alliance? When posing this question to prospective member states Sweden and Finland, a strong argument can be made for why they should be invited into NATO – assuming membership is what they want.
In this context, admitting Sweden and Finland to NATO would shore up the Alliance’s northern flank. In fact, defending the Baltics against a Russian incursion would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without significant aid from Sweden and Finland, the latter having been attacked by the Soviet Union at the start of World-War II. Controlling the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Finland and the large land border between Finland and Russia would be essential to any campaign defending the Baltics. Moreover, as Sweden and Finland lean more toward NATOthey are apparently asking themselves the same question: Will NATO membership add to our overall security? Increasingly the answer appears to be yes. Nevertheless, NATO membership is far from certain as the Alliance seems to be experiencing expansion fatigue and Sweden and Finland remain reluctant to fully embrace membership.
However, the strategic value of admitting Montenegro and, especially Georgia, is even more uncertain. Even though Vice-President Joseph Biden recently voiced support for Montenegro’s admission to NATO, whether it adds to the Alliance’s overall security remains unclear. Despite being a very small country with few resources, what Montenegro’s membership could do is definitively derail Russia’s plans to construct a naval base there – preventing Russia from gaining greater access to the Mediterranean. Does that add to NATO’s overall security? Perhaps. NATO is scheduled to make a decision on Montenegro’s membership this December.
Georgia, however, is altogether different. On the one hand, Georgia has met virtually every requirement for admission into NATO. It has a very capable military and has actively participated in NATO missions, but because of its 2008 war with Russia, several NATO members are concerned that Georgia’s membership could present a serious security risk. As one Eastern European diplomat put it: “If a country such as Georgia joins NATO, we have to be ready to defend it.” In many respects Georgia would be an excellent addition to NATO, but because of its volatile history with Russia and the very real possibility that it could invoke NATO’s Article V in defense against Russia, membership appears unlikely for the foreseeable future.
Russian Potential Reaction to Enlargement
Any further enlargement must consider how Russia would respond. At play is the classic security dilemma – as one party takes steps to make itself more secure (NATO), the other (Russia) interprets those steps as provocative, leading to the possibility of war. Russia has been unequivocal in saying that it opposes any further NATO enlargement. Precisely how it would respond is unclear, however. Responding directly to Sweden’s consideration to joining NATO, Russia’s ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, said that “Russia would adopt countermeasures … Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and re-orientate our troops and missiles. The country that joins NATO needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to.” Moreover, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Alexander Grushko, expressed the same view with respect to eastward expansion saying there would be “catastrophic consequences” and “[a]ny political game concerning NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine is filled with the most serious, most profound geopolitical consequences for all of Europe.” NATO, therefore, faces the extraordinary challenge of shoring-up its security, while avoiding direct military confrontation with Russia.
NATO’s Systemic Problems
As the Alliance contemplates further enlargement it must view the strategic value of doing so, along with Russia’s possible responses, through the prism of its existing systemic problems. Simply stated – there are serious questions surrounding NATO’s ability to provide collective defense for its existing 28 members. Spending has fallen to dangerous levels as only 5 members are reaching the 2% of GDP spending target on defense. This does not portray a complete picture, however. Belgium spends about 1.1% of GDP on defense, with nearly three-quarters going to personnel costs, a quarter going to operating expenses and barely 1% to acquiring new equipment and modernization. Elsewhere in NATO, whole divisions and weapons systems have been eliminated over the past few decades. This has led to serious interoperability problems as many NATO members are increasingly unable to operate with U.S. forces, the latter being decades ahead of many European counterparts in defense technology.
Additionally, there is perhaps no greater fundamental problem besetting NATO than a lack of common vision among its members and a lack of consensus on how to address the threats confronting the Alliance. Instead, there is a growing consensus within some member states that is deeply troubling. A recent Pew study exposed potentially deep fissures within NATO. It revealed that “at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.” This is arguably the root cause of NATO’s systemic problems and the reason why the Alliance should not undertake further enlargement for the foreseeable future. Admitting new members to an alliance lacking a common vision and anything less than a full commitment to collective defense would further weaken an increasingly overstretched NATO.
This analysis was originally posted on the Streit Council’s blog
SCO: The Cornerstone Rejected by the Builders of a New Eurasia?
Less than a month remains until the next summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which will take place in Qingdao, China on June 9 and 10. The event is already being touted by the media and official figures of the participating countries as one of the most important international events of the year. All the more so because it will mark the first time that the six member states (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) are joined by India and Pakistan. Journalists and analysts were quick to point out that the participants account for a sizeable share of world’s population, territory, natural resources and economic potential. The impressive figures suggest that the SCO will inevitably become a key “load-bearing structure” of the future world order.
There is no denying the strides made by the organization in terms of its institutional development since its inception at the turn of the century. And, of course, it would be bad form to look down on the diplomats, officials and experts who have invested so much energy in building the SCO over the past two decades. However, it is also true that now is not the best time for high fives and victorious statements. The SCO has obviously entered adulthood, but it has not yet emerged as a fully mature international institution. Furthermore, it runs the risk of becoming an “eternal teenager,” with its numerous transition problems and frequent changes in hobbies and attachments, but without any particular occupation or specific purpose in life.
Choosing the Priorities
At the turn of the century, Russia and China were extremely concerned about the growing global and regional instability. On the one hand, the growing threat of international terrorism, political extremism and separatist movements was already quite evident. On the other hand, the reaction of the West, primarily of the United States, to these challenges raised many questions and objections. It is no coincidence that the first substantive SCO document, adopted by the six member states in the summer of 2001, was the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism.
However, in the very first years of the SCO there was a significant disparity in the interpretations of the “three main evils” and ways to counteract them. Not only did these differences persist, but in many instances they even grew over time. For example, the SCO member states backed the Russian counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus in the early 2000s, but Moscow’s decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 was not met with similar support, for obvious reasons. And the reaction of the SCO member states to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was an even more clear signal of the diverging approaches to separatism.
The interpretations of the other two “evils” have also diverged on a number of occasions. These differences would come to the fore every time a conflict emerged, such as in the case of Uzbekistan’s relations with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. What some SCO members viewed as political extremism or downright terrorism others perceived as the legitimate struggle of ethnic minorities for their rights. As for the settlement of complex territorial disputes between China and the post-Soviet states of Central Asia, these problems were mainly resolved through bilateral negotiations, rather than with the help of multilateral SCO mechanisms.
Unfortunately, the SCO cannot as yet boast any significant contribution to solving the Afghan problem, one of the most burning security problems in the region. The SCO Afghanistan Contact Group was established in 2005, and Kabul received observer status within the organization in 2012, but the situation in that country has hardly improved over the past 10 years. It would be wrong to blame the lack of progress exclusively on the SCO, but the organization’s current status of cooperation with Afghanistan is hardly cause for celebration either.
Trying to Diversify
To be fair, the SCO’s work to coordinate efforts in countering international terrorism, separatism and extremism has already brought some practical results and acquired certain positive dynamics. The new Programme of Cooperation among the SCO Member States on Counter-Terrorist, Counter-Separatist and Counter-Extremist Measures for 2019–2021 is expected to be approved at the Qingdao summit. The organization’s anti-drug strategy is in the final stage of development. Other plans include intensifying operations of the SCO’s regional anti-terrorist structure.
Yet it would be an exaggeration to say that the SCO serves as a framework for a common security strategy of its member states. Just like before, the main efforts aimed at developing cooperation are focused on bilateral relations, primarily relations between Russia and the other SCO member states. The SCO itself remains largely a “geopolitical showcase” intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of “non-Western” approaches to multilateral cooperation, and to the world order in general.
At some point, China attempted to shift this focus to less sensitive areas of potential cooperation. In particular, Beijing proposed strengthening the economic dimension of the SCO’s activities, up to and including setting up a free trade zone and fostering economic integration among the member states. Though nobody objected to this proposal, China’s partners proved predictably unprepared for such a development. They all were seriously concerned about Beijing’s possible economic expansion, and none of them was particularly enamoured with the prospect of becoming an economic appendage of China.
Moscow had its own concerns about the Chinese proposals. Russian experts believed that intensified economic cooperation within the SCO aimed at a future free trade zone would eventually lead to that organization replacing the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) as the key driver of Eurasian integration, thus depriving Russia of the central role in this process.
As a result, the idea of a free trade zone was only actively supported by Kazakhstan and has not yet resulted in any detailed expert evaluations. China was eventually forced to shift the focus of its economic strategy in Eurasia from the SCO to the One Belt One Road Initiative, and the free trade zone idea is hardly ever mentioned in the latest SCO documents.
In practice, the role of the SCO was reduced to that of bringing bilateral or tripartite sub-regional economic projects together under one roof. This umbrella organization may have done something to conceal China’s economic domination in the region, but it did not change the essence of the ongoing processes.
With all its teething problems, the SCO’s two potential development trajectories remained relatively open. Until recently, that is. The organization could continue with its attempts to reach a new level of multilateral cooperation on security while trying to expand the scope of this cooperation by tackling unconventional threats and challenges head-on. Or it could strengthen its economic component consistently, gradually nearing the establishment of a free trade zone, albeit not as fast as Beijing would like.
The Development Strategy of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Until 2025 adopted at the July 2015 summit in Ufa was presented in an oversimplified way and allowed for various priorities to be set and various scenarios for the further development of the SCO to be implemented. However, the expansion of the organization that followed two years later changed its prospects significantly, narrowing the once-ample scope of opportunities. By embracing India and Pakistan, the SCO passed an important point of no return in its institutional development.
It is not about the expansion per se. Had the SCO accepted Mongolia, Turkmenistan and Belarus – or even Vietnam or a post-UN sanctions North Korea – as full members, for example, the power balance within the organization would not have change in any significant way. The SCO’s political foundations would also have remained the same. Just like the original six SCO member states, the aforementioned countries are believed to be communist or post-communist; they share many “generic features” and a long history of interaction with one another in a variety of formats. Not all of these countries can be viewed as convenient partners, but it is unlikely that many current members, such as Uzbekistan, can be treated as such either.
The expansion of the SCO through the addition of India and Pakistan presents fundamentally different problems. These two new members radically change the geographic, demographic, strategic and political balance within the SCO. More importantly, they bring the burden of bilateral conflicts, severe political differences, territorial disputes, historical grievances and mutual suspicions to the organization. There are conflicts, territorial disputes and mutual suspicions among the original SCO members, but nothing close to the Kashmir problem when it comes to longevity, intensity and the loss of life.
In addition, neither India nor Pakistan belong to the (post-)communist world: the two countries share the British colonial legacy and have a completely different experience of statehood and political development (incidentally, the SCO’s official languages have always been Russian and Chinese, not English). The SCO must also contend with the complicated relations between India and China.
At the present time, it is difficult to predict how the SCO’s expansion will affect its operation. Most likely, it will now be much more difficult to find a common point of contact on the most pressing strategic, political and economic problems. And there is a new potential complication on the horizon: Iran and Afghanistan are planning to join the organization and will thus bring their own views on global politics and strategic stability and their own ambitions and interests with them.
As has been repeatedly demonstrated by other intergovernmental associations, attempts to expand an organization while trying to deepen ties within it carry significant risks. As a relatively young and not completely developed structure, these risks are particularly high.
One opinion has it that Eurasia is suffering from an “institutional deficit” – a lack of complementary multilateral development and security institutions found in abundance in other regions. This suggests that there should be as many such institutions as possible.
The idea is correct, in a sense: Eurasia is not yet fully formed as an independent region; until recently, its various parts belonged to other geopolitical and civilizational entities. Yet we must remember that a number of inter-regional and global structures gravitate towards Eurasia in one way or another. This means that the SCO is still facing institutional competition, albeit in an implicit and relatively mild form. We have already mentioned the SCO’s rivalry with the EAEU, but this is not the only possible scenario.
For example, the BRICS organization (which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is based on the Eurasian triangle of Russia, India and China (the “RIC” part of the acronym). Now that India is a member of the SCO, the latter has come to reproduce, somewhat belatedly, the Eurasian triangle of BRICS; this implies potential rivalry between the two structures, which the SCO is likely to lose in the end. Even though BRICS was established five years after the SCO, institutionally it is more developed in a number of aspects. Suffice it to compare the New Development Bank (NDB), which is operating successfully under the auspices of BRICS, and the numerous SCO Development Bank and Development Fund projects that have yet to materialize.
In terms of security, much has been said about the dangers of competition between the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Even though the functions of the two organizations do not overlap entirely, and the composition of their participants is different (the CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), the two entities have obviously similar missions. This could actually have come in handy had they competed in resolving the very serious 2010 Kyrgyz crisis, for example. However, both organizations preferred to disassociate themselves, or at least minimize their intervention.
It would be fair to note that, despite the CSTO’s numerous shortcomings, its future as the key security organization at the centre of Eurasia appears to be more favourable than that of the SCO (especially considering the fact that the latter has now been joined by the strategic antipodes of India and Pakistan). In fact, many of the security issues in the region will continue to be resolved bilaterally rather than multilaterally.
So, it turns out that the continuing institutional weakness of the SCO, coupled with its extremely broad mandate and the erosion of the Russia–China core through the adoption of new members can transform the organization into a suitcase without a handle: something too unwieldy to carry but too precious to abandon. It is, of course, true to say that the SCO remains useful as a discussion platform for global and regional problems, with all its ministerial summits and meetings. But can ceremonies and non-specific political declarations remain a sufficient justification for the organization’s existence in the long run?
The European Experience
The solution can often be found in the same place as the problem. It is in the institutional weaknesses of the SCO that its unique role in the Eurasian space can be found. The inclusion of India and Pakistan suggests the direction for the organization’s further development. It is clear that, with India and Pakistan on board – and even more so if Iran and Afghanistan join the club – the SCO will never again be the same group of like-minded countries it was supposed to be two decades ago. Nevertheless, it can become a platform for communication between potential or actual opponents, a tool for developing uniform standards and rules of conduct within the multi-directional and potentially highly conflict-prone Eurasia of the 21st century.
History offers examples of international institutions that were created (and operated successfully) not as alliances united by common goals and values, but rather as mechanisms for the interaction of opponents. Perhaps the most well-known example of this was demonstrated by Europe from the 1970s to the 1990s. Following two years of hard work, the summer of 1975 saw the signing of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (the Helsinki Accords), which postulated the fundamental rules of the game as applied to the continuing division of the European continent.
The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was established as a permanent international forum of all European countries, as well as the United States and Canada. Unlike the OSCE, which superseded it in January 1995, the CSCE was created at a time when any unification of Europe under the umbrella of common values and coinciding interests was out of the question.
1970s Europe and present-day Eurasia are obviously very different. For example, back then, Europe was rigidly bipolar, whereas Eurasia of today is seeing multi-polarity grow in the absence of clearly defined political and military alliances. In 1970s Europe, the pressure of global problems (climate change, the scarcity of resources, migration) was still almost imperceptible, whereas today’s Eurasia is suffering from them more and more each year. Europe was mostly focused on conventional security, whereas Eurasia needs to respond to unconventional challenges, from international terrorism to cybercrime. In Europe, first they agreed on the principles and then they created an appropriate international structure. Something completely different may happen in Eurasia – the existing structure may have to come up with new principles and rules of the game.
But the main thing is that in Eurasia, just like in Europe in the 20th century, there is an urgent need to define the general parameters of interaction in the context of profound differences between the continent’s countries on many fundamental issues – differences that are unlikely to be overcome in the foreseeable future. Managing competition is no less important than developing cooperation in this context. And the SCO could play a very important role here.
The Way to the Future
What does this mean in practice? First, now that the SCO has started expanding, it must continue with this process. The more members there are, the more legitimate the organization will grow. The prospects for further expansion are very good. At the moment, in addition to the eight full members, the SCO includes four observers (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia), 10 candidate observers (Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Qatar, Syria, Ukraine and Vietnam) and six dialogue partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey). In other words, almost 30 Eurasian countries are already in the SCO orbit. In the first years of the SCO’s existence, considerable work was done to develop the criteria and specific provisions, first for obtaining observer status and then for obtaining the status of dialogue partner.
Second, just like in Europe of the 1970s, the SCO might become a platform for discussing and devising the fundamental principles of relations in situations of differing or conflicting interests. New Helsinki Accords for Eurasia? Why not? Not in the format of the original document, of course: the world has changed since then, so too have global politics. The “10 Helsinki principles” should be amended for Eurasia in the light of what has happened over the past four decades.
Third, we must abandon the idea of seeking a “narrow specialism” for the SCO; in fact, the organization’s existing specialisms should be expanded further. As is known, the CSCE was built on the basis of “three baskets” or chapters: 1) “questions relating to security in Europe” – arms control, conflict prevention and confidence-building measures; 2) “cooperation in the fields of economics, of science and technology, and of the environment” – trade and economic aspects of cooperation, as well as environmental security; 3) “cooperation in humanitarian and other fields” – the protection of human rights, the development of democratic institutions, and the monitoring of elections.
In modern Eurasia, the three most important dimensions of international life (security, economic development and the humanitarian dimension) develop primarily in parallel. They are managed by various bureaucratic structures, their budgets rarely overlap, and experts tend to concentrate on one of the three dimensions. The SCO’s updated mechanisms could be instrumental in integrating these three dimensions into uniform multilateral projects.
The future of the SCO may consist not only in successful competition with other Eurasian organizations, ad-hoc coalitions or continental international regimes, but also in the role of integrator for the efforts of numerous players in the Eurasian political arena. If the SCO fills this niche, it will complement other regional and inter-regional structures such as BRICS, the CSTO, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the EAEU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the G20, etc. Moreover, the SCO already has cooperation agreements with most of these organizations. Now it needs to implement those accords in practice.
This will turn the SCO into a cornerstone which, while scornfully rejected today by many ambitious builders of new Eurasian security and development structures, will sit at the heart of the building yet to be erected.
First published in our partner RIAC
America Spends About Half of World’s Military Expenditures
The National Priorities Project headlines “U.S. Military Spending vs. the World” and reports: “World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total.” But it can’t be believed, because, even if other nations aren’t under-reporting their military expenditures, the U.S. certainly is — under-reporting it by about 50%. The reality is approximately twice the official figure, so that America’s current annual military expenditures are around $1.5 trillion, which is to say, almost equal to that entire global estimate of “more than $1.6 trillion in 2015.”
America’s actual annual military budget and expenditures are unknown, because there has never been an audit of the ‘Defense’ Department, though an audit has routinely been promised but never delivered, and Congresses and Presidents haven’t, for example, even so much as just threatened to cut its budget every year by 10% until it is done — there has been no accountability for the Department, at all. Corruption is welcomed, at the ‘Defense’ Department.
Furthermore, many of the military expenditures are hidden. One way that this is done is by funding an unknown large proportion of U.S. military functions at other federal Departments, so as for those operations not to be officially “‘Defense’ Department” budget and expenditures, at all. This, for example, is the reason why Robert Higgs, of The Independent Institute, was able to report, on 15 March 2007, “The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here”. He found that America’s military expenditures, including the ones he could identify at other federal agencies, were actually already nearly a trillion dollars ($934.9 billion) a year:
“To estimate the size of the entire de facto defense budget, I gathered data for fiscal 2006, the most recently completed fiscal year, for which data on actual outlays are now available. In that year, the Department of Defense itself spent $499.4 billion. Defense-related parts of the Department of Energy budget added $16.6 billion. The Department of Homeland Security spent $69.1 billion. The Department of State and international assistance programs laid out $25.3 billion for activities arguably related to defense purposes either directly or indirectly. The Department of Veterans Affairs had outlays of $69.8 billion. The Department of the Treasury, which funds the lion’s share of military retirement costs through its support of the little-known Military Retirement Fund, added $38.5 billion. A large part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s outlays ought to be regarded as defense-related, if only indirectly so. When all of these other parts of the budget are added to the budget for the Pentagon itself, they increase the fiscal 2006 total by nearly half again, to $728.2 billion.”
Furthermore, “Much, if not all, of the budget for the Department of State and for international assistance programs ought to be classified as defense-related, too. In this case, the money serves to buy off potential enemies and to reward friendly governments who assist U.S. efforts to abate perceived threats. … [As regards] Department of Homeland Security, many observers probably would agree that its budget ought to be included in any complete accounting of defense costs. … The Federal Bureau of Investigation … devotes substantial resources to an anti-terrorist program. The Department of the Treasury informs us that it has ‘worked closely with the Departments of State and Justice and the intelligence community to disrupt targets related to al Qaeda, Hizballah, Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as to disrupt state sponsorship of terror.’”
But, almost everything there relied upon mere estimates, because the Congress and the President always supply to the public numbers that are sadly uninterpretable by anyone who wants to know what percentage of the federal government is actually military.
For example, on April 3rd, the White House, as required by law, sent to Congress “the Seven-Day-After report for the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141). The President signed this Act into law on March 23, 2018.”
That’s the current authorized spending for the entire U.S. federal Government. It was broken down there into twelve categories, some of which were for multiple federal Departments, in order to make the reported numbers as uninterpretable as possible — for example, nothing was shown for the Treasury Department, but something was shown for “Financial Services and General Government Appropriations” and it didn’t even mention the “Treasury” Department. And nothing was shown for the Justice Department, nor for the Commerce Department, but something was shown for “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies” (whatever those are). However, as bad as this is, the military (or invasions) department is even less fathomable from the publicly available reports than those other ones are. The ‘Defense’ Department is the only one that’s still “unauditable” so that in one of the attempts to audit it:
“The audits of the FY 1999 DoD financial statements indicated that $7.6 trillion of accounting entries were made to compile them. This startling number is perhaps the most graphic available indicator of just how poor the existing systems are. The magnitude of the problem is further demonstrated by the fact that, of $5.8 trillion of those adjustments that we audited this year, $2.3 trillion were unsupported by reliable explanatory information and audit trails or were made to invalid general ledger accounts.”
Largely as a consequence of this, Wikipedia’s “Military budget of the United States” is a chaotic mess, though useful for links to some sources (all of which are likewise plagued as being uninterpretable).
On 1 March 2011, Chris Hellman headlined “The Real U.S. National Security Budget: The Figure No One Wants You to See”, and he estimated (using basically the same approach that Higgs had done in 2007, except less accurate than Higgs, due to failing to base his numbers on “the most recently completed fiscal year, for which data on actual outlays are now available” but instead using only the President’s budget request) that at that time, the U.S. Government was spending annually on ‘Defense’, “$1,219.2 billion. (That’s more than $1.2 trillion.)” That amount was far less than the totals that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense had been reporting, in some of its periodic investigations (such as the one just cited), to have been missed or undocumented or falsely ‘documented’ as having been spent, by that Department; but, for some mysterious reason, the American people tolerate and re-elect ‘representatives’ who ‘debate’ and rubber-stamp such corruption, which is of enormous benefit to corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, whose sales and profits depend upon the U.S. Government and its allied governments. Any such privatization of the ‘Defense’ industry, in America or any other country — treating its military operations so as to produce profits for investors (investors in mass-murder) — thus guarantees that the national-security function will be heavily loaded with lobbying and graft, because the military industry’s entire market is to one’s own government and to its allied governments: it’s not a consumer market, but a government one. Thus, privatized military suppliers grow virtually to own their government; democracy consequently becomes impossible in such nations. And, one outcome from that is the uninterpretable financial reports by America’s government, regarding ‘Defense’.
For example, probably fewer than 1% of Americans have even been informed by the press as to what the currently authorized annual federal spending for the ‘Defense’ Department is. When the Washington Post, on 23 March 2018, reported their main story about the FY 2018 federal spending authorizations (“In late-night drama, Senate passes $1.3 trillion spending bill, averting government shutdown”), the figure for the ‘Defense’ Department was buried inconspicuously in a 52-word passage within that 1,600-word ‘news’-report, which was otherwise loaded with distractive trivia. This buried passage was: “The legislation funds the federal government for the remainder of the 2018 budget year, through Sept. 30, directing $700 billion toward the military and $591 billion to domestic agencies. The military spending is a $66 billion increase over the 2017 level, and the nondefense spending is $52 billion more than last year.” That’s all. For readers interested in knowing more, it linked to their 2,200-word article, “Here’s what Congress is stuffing into its $1.3 trillion spending bill”, and all that it said about the military portion of the new budget was the 27-word passage, “defense spending generally favored by Republicans is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending favored by Democrats rises by $63 billion.” Though 23 categories of federal spending were sub-headed and summarized individually in that article, ‘Defense’ wasn’t one of them. Nothing about the budget for the U.S. Department of ‘Defense’ — which consumes more than half of the entire budget — was mentioned. However, the reality was that, as Defense News reported it, on 7 February 2018 — and these figures were unchanged in the bill that President Trump finally signed on March 23rd — “Senate leaders have reached a two-year deal that would set defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019.” This year’s $700 billion Pentagon budget thus is 54% of the entire $1.3 trillion FY 2018 U.S. federal budget. Another article in Defense News on that same day, February 7th, noted that, “‘I’d rather we didn’t have to do as much on non-defense, but this is an absolute necessity, that we’ve got these numbers,’ said the Senate Armed Services Committee’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma.” So: 54% of the federal budget wasn’t high enough a percentage to suit that Senator; he wanted yet more taken out of non-‘defense’. How can people (other than stockholders in corporations such as Raytheon) vote for such a person? Deceit has to be part of the answer.
Using similar percentages to those that were employed by Higgs and by Hellman, the current U.S. annual military expenditure is in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion. But that’s more than the total authorized federal spending for all departments. Where can the extra funds be coming from? On 5 February 2018, CNBC bannered “The Treasury is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year”. Then, charts were presented on 10 May 2018 by Dr. Edward Yardeni, headlined “U.S. Government Finance: Debt”, in which is shown that the U.S. federal debt is soaring at around a trillion dollars annually; so, that extra money comes from additions to the federal debt. Future generations of U.S. taxpayers will be paying the price for the profligacy of today’s U.S. aristocracy, who receive all the benefits from this scam off the public, and especially off those future generations. But the far bigger losses are felt abroad, in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, where the targets will be suffering the consequences of America’s invasions and coups.
Notwithstanding its pervasive corruption and enormous uncounted waste, the U.S. military is, by far, the U.S. institution that is respected above all others by the American people. A great deal of domestic propaganda is necessary in order to keep it that way. With so many trillions of dollars that are unaccounted for, it’s do-able. All that’s needed is a tiny percentage of the huge graft to be devoted to funding the operation’s enormous PR for ‘patriotism’. And this treasonous operation has been sustainable, and very successful (for its ultimate beneficiaries), that way, in the U.S., at least for decades.
I have previously explained why specifically military corruption has come to take over the U.S. Government, but not certain other governments
. And the result of its having done so has by now become obvious to people all around the world, except in the United States itself. Furthermore, ever since the first poll was taken on that matter, in 2013, which showed that globally the U.S. was viewed as the biggest national threat to peace in the world, a subsequent poll, in 2017, which unfortunately was taken in fewer countries, showed that this negative impression of the U.S. Government, by the peoples in those fewer countries, had actually increased there during the four intervening years. So: not only is the situation in the U.S. terrible, but the trend in the U.S. appears to be in the direction of even worse. America’s military-industrial complex can buy a glittering ‘patriotic’ image amongst its own public, but America’s image abroad will only become uglier, because the world-at-large dislikes a country that’s addicted to the perpetration of invasions and coups. Just as bullies are feared and disliked, so too are bully-nations. Even if the given bully-aristocracy becomes constantly enriched by their operation, economies throughout the world suffer such an aristocracy, as being an enormous burden; and, unfortunately, the American public will get the blame, not America’s aristocracy — which is the real beneficiary of the entire operation. This deflection of blame, onto the suckered public, precludes any effective response from the publics abroad, such as boycotts of U.S.-branded products and services might be. Instead, American tourists abroad become increasingly perceived as ‘the ugly American’. The restored ‘Cold War’ — this time with no ideological excuse (such as communism) whatsoever — could produce a much stronger global tarnishing of America’s global reputation. The beneficiaries, apparently, just don’t care.
first posted at The Saker
Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in South Asia
Just how well is India a South Asia’s nuclear-armed state, taking care of their nuclear materials? The history paints a daunting picture of liabilities in the event of a mishap that reoccurred in the past. Since India, like Pakistan, is not a party to the NPT, it is not subject to IAEA-NPT safeguards.
Taking a sharp reversal of history, the incidences of nuclear theft date back to the seizure of nuclear fissile material in the early 1980s. However, after the 1998 nuclear testing by India, as well as the fastly swelling Indian nuclear programme – combined with the more than a dozen insurgency movements in India – the threat of theft and possible use of nuclear weapons by sub-national groups and terrorists has been intensified in South Asia. This threat is further swelled because India has been well-known to make clandestine purchases of fissile material from private sellers abroad normally in the old Soviet territories.
While reports of Indian involvement in the theft of nuclear fissile material dates back to the early 1970s, the magnitude of the threat increased manifold in the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 1980s, the CIA had concluded that India was trying to develop a sophisticated Hydrogen bomb. In 1994, on a tip-off, a shipment of beryllium was caught in Vilnius, worth US $ 24 million. The buyer was thought to be either from India or North Korea – though the shipment was caught before it could reach the buyer. Interestingly, as per an Indian parliamentary report, as many as 147 mishaps or security related occurrences were reported in Indian atomic energy plants between 1995 and 1998.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) unearthed a major racket in the theft of uranium in Tamil Nadu, with the seizure of over 8 kg of the nuclear material in granule form and the arrest of three men. The contents of this theft were sent to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) for preliminary analysis and the Centre declared that there were two kinds of substances found in what they said was 6 kg of uranium – natural uranium (U237and U238) and U 235, which is weapons grade uranium. The substances were found in the possession of Arun, a structural engineer, S. Murthy and their associates.
Another uranium theft case to come to light was reported on 27 August 2001, where police caught 200 grams of semi-processed uranium from West Bengal and arrested 2 men. According to the press report, Indian intelligence officials believed that a uranium smuggling gang was operating in West Bengal.
Again, on May 1, 2000, Mumbai police seized 8.3 kgs of uranium. The uranium was termed as depleted but radioactive uranium by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). In this instance, the source of this uranium theft – as cited by the police – had been a local hospital, the Leelavati hospital, in Bandra. The fissile material had been found in the custody of scrap dealers who were caught and charged under the Atomic Energy Act.
Around 9 kg of radioactive uranium, a banned material, has been seized from two persons in Thane, a top police officer said today. Laboratory tests have confirmed that the seized material is depleted uranium, which is a radioactive poisonous heavy metal. According to preliminary investigations, it was brought from abroad and was intended for sale to some unknown parties in Thane.
The Thane police had arrested Kishore Prajapati with 8.86 kilograms of depleted uranium. The uranium was valued at Rs 3 crore per kg. Prajapati a scrap dealer during investigations told the police that he had found the radioactive material in a scrapped Air India aircraft which he had purchased through his contacts.
Most of the accused caught by police have been scrap dealers who are obviously used as front men, which may well indicate the prevalence of organized crime relating to nuclear materials. The source of origin, in most case, as stated by the police, have been cancer hospitals –although the nature and quality of the uranium found in the use of the hospitals has differed from case to case.
So, the focus has to shift to Indian nuclear facilities and the whole issue of their safety – especially in relation to theft and nuclear terrorism. While the rising incidents of nuclear theft create the possibility for a lucrative underground market for potential terrorists, unsafe nuclear facilities create risks for the surrounding populace – which has to live in constant terror of a nuclear accident. Less understood was the most recent racket busting of 31 tons of nuclear material smuggling from India which nonetheless shows their resolve and seriousness about the issue.
When one puts all the reported theft cases in a nutshell, serious questions arises whether India was liable to be a partner in indo-US civil deal? Was the credentials so strong enough for such a deal that surpasses such important revealed mishaps been overlooked? Is India still liable enough with such a daunting history to be a mainstreamed in the most important Nuclear Suppliers Group?
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