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The Secret Logistics of America’s Global Deep State

Eric Zuesse

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Why is America’s Baghdad Embassy the world’s largest embassy — and the largest by far?

“It’s as if the U.S. Embassy is there not only to protect American interests, but to manage the entire world from the heart of the capital, Baghdad.”

— Iraqi Sheikh Qassim Al Ta’ee, as quoted on 27 December 2011 in Al Iraq News and translated by Ibrahim Zaidan from the original Arabic by Nicholas Dagher

Zaidan’s article went on to say:

The world’s largest embassy is situated in the Green Zone and fortified by three walls, another barrier of concrete slabs, followed by barbed wire fences and a wall of sandbags. It covers an area of 104 acres, six times larger than U.N. headquarters in New York and ten times larger than the new embassy Washington is building in Beijing – which is just 10 acres.

[Editor’s’ Note: The ten-acre U.S. Embassy in Beijing is the second largest overseas construction project in the history of the Department of State — and the 104-acre U.S. Embassy in Iraq is the largest.]

So, America’s largest diplomatic mission is surrounded by high concrete walls, is painted in black, brown and grey and is completely isolated from its environment. … The United States announced several months ago that between diplomats and employees, its embassy would include 16,000 people after the pullout of U.S. forces.

On January 1st, Will Sillitoe headlined at the Helsinki Times, “What does the US embassy in Baghdad export to Finland and dozens of other countries?”  and he reported that:

More than a million kilograms of cargo were shipped from Baghdad to different parts of the world, reveals US embassies procurement documents.

Mysterious cargo shipments from the US Embassy in Baghdad to other American embassies and consulates around the world have been revealed on a Wikileaks’ database. Procurement orders of US embassies are public documents, but Wikileaks put them in a searchable database making it easier to analyse.

The database displaying worldwide US embassy orders of goods and services reveals Baghdad as a postal and shipping centre for tonnes of freight.

Though military freight might be expected between the US and Iraq, records show that embassies across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa are all receiving deliveries from Baghdad too.

According to Wikileaks’ database, orders to ship more than 540 tonnes of cargo to the US were made in May 2018. The same document shows other main delivery destinations included 120 tonnes of freight to Europe, and 24 tonnes to South Africa, South America and Central Africa respectively. …

On December 29th, Sillitoe had headlined “Guarded warehouse near airport and mysterious cargos from Baghdad; what is the US embassy in Helsinki up to?”  and he opened:

Why does the US Embassy in Helsinki need a big warehouse near Malmi Airport and what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo sent to Helsinki from Baghdad?

A dilapidated warehouse in Malmi is being used by the US Embassy for unknown operations after a Wikileaks release revealed its location.

The anonymous looking building on Takoraudantie is notable only for the new 427 meter perimeter fence that according to the Wikileaks’ database was ordered by the US Embassy in April 2018.

Situated across the street from the main entrance of Malmi Airport, the warehouse with its 3 meter high security fence appears an unlikely location for official embassy business. Neighbouring companies include a car yard and a tyre warehouse.

Helsinki Times visited the perimeters this weekend. Security personnel, young Finns in uniforms with American flags on their arms, appeared nervous and suspicious when asked to comment on the warehouse. …

Sillitoe closed that article by saying: “The searchable Wikileaks database and info about Finland related activities can be found HERE.”

That link leads to a “US Embassy Shopping List” of 24 separate documents, one of which is “RFP 191Z1018R0002 Mission Iraq Shipping Transportation Services”, dated “5/17/18.”

Item 2 there is “Packing of unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) – Throughout Iraq – U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Baghdad International Zone, U.S. Consulate General in Basrah, U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, U.S. Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, U.S. Erbil Diplomatic Support Center (Note: under the specified unit of measure the U.S. Government contemplates ‘per kilogram’ of gross weight in kilograms)”

The “Quantity Estimated” is “100,000” and the “Unit of Measure” is “kilogram.”

Item 7 is “Storage Services – Monthly Storage of containers – Throughout Iraq – U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Baghdad International Zone, U.S. Consulate General in Basrah, U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, U.S. Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, U.S. Erbil Diplomatic Support Center.”

The “Quantity Estimated” is “100” and the “Unit of Measure” is “40’ Container.”

Item “Section B.5 Sub-CLIN:84E” is “From Republic of Iraq to Western European Countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City, Nicosia)”

The “Quantity Estimated” is “5,000” and the “Unit of Measure” is “kilogram.”

Item “Section B.5 Sub -CLIN:84 F” is “From Republic of Iraq to Eastern European Countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Kosovo)”

The “Quantity Estimated” is “5,000” and the “Unit of Measure” is “kilogram.”

By far the biggest categories for shipments are to the eastern U.S. states: “From Republic of Iraq to the Unites [sp.] States Eastern Time-Zone – the following States: VT, ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NJ, DE, MD, DC, NY, PA, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, WV, MI, OH, IN, KY, GA”

There are 11 such categories:

  • “Section B.5 Sub-CLIN:85A”
  • “Section B.5 Sub-CLIN:86A”
  • “Section B.6 Sub-CLIN:84A”
  • “Section B.6 Sub-CLIN:85A”
  • “Section B.6 Sub-CLIN:86A”
  • “Section B.7 Sub-CLIN:84A”
  • “Section B.7 Sub-CLIN:85A”
  • “Section B.7 Sub-CLIN:86A”
  • “Section B.8 Sub-CLIN:84A”
  • “Section B.8 Sub-CLIN:85A”
  • “Section B.8 Sub-CLIN:86A”

Each one of those eleven will receive 30,000 kilograms, under the contract.

In each of the eleven, the products will be going “From Republic of Iraq to the Unites [sp.] States Eastern Time-Zone – the following States: VT, ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NJ, DE, MD, DC, NY, PA, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, WV, MI, OH, IN, KY, GA”

That’s a total of 330,000 kilograms. That’s 727,525 pounds, or 364 tons, which are going from the world’s largest Embassy, America’s in Baghdad, to America’s eastern states.

In addition, around another 1,091,287 pounds are going from the Baghdad Embassy to other locations throughout the world.

The RFP, or Request For Proposal, informs its recipient that “The Contractor shall provide the services for the base period of the contract,” but “base period” isn’t defined in the RFP. However, the contract does specify that there shall be “a firm fixed unit price for any contract line item number in the Base Year,” and therefore the obligations under any contract will continue for at least one year, but possibly longer (if renewed). Furthermore, the “Type of Solicitation” here is not “Sealed Bid (IFB),” but instead “Negotiated (RFP),” which means that the U.S. Government officials who are “Soliciting” these offers will choose whom to request to present an offer; and, if two or more recipients are being approached and make an offer, then the U.S. official will select the winner that he or she prefers, and won’t be required to accept the lowest-priced one, but can instead take some sort of kickback, as long as there is no evidence of having done that. It can easily be arranged. Furthermore, private arrangements bond the two parties, even if the arrangement is just a one-time deal, because neither party will want the private arrangement to be made public, and if ever it does become public, then both parties will be revealed as guilty; it’ll hurt both parties. Moreover, since any contract may be renewed, the offeror of the contract, which is the Embassy employee, holds the power to affect that — the length of term, and everything that’s associated with it, will be controlled by the Embassy’s side, and not by the contractor’s side. And no matter how brief a contract-term might be, and no matter how many non-Americans might be signing any particular type of contract during any given period of years, none of the private parties will have any motive to make public any kickback. Consequently, there is every motive to keep these arrangements private; and the Embassy employee will always be the more powerful one in any private arrangement that is made with any contractor.

Prior RFPs are also online, for example this one from 16 November 2014. The annual amounts seem to be fairly stable.

On 10 October 2007, while the U.S. Embassy in Iraq was still building, the Congressional Research Service issued to Congress their report, “U.S. Embassy in Iraq”, and it said:

The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (currently Ambassador Ryan Crocker) has full authority for the American presence in Iraq with two exceptions: 1 — military and security matters which are under the authority of General Patraeus, the U.S. Commander of the Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I), and 2 — staff working for international organizations. In areas where diplomacy, military, and/or security activities overlap, the Ambassador and the U.S. Commander cooperate to provide co-equal authority regarding what is best for America and its interests in Iraq.

By “Patraeus” it meant David Petraeus. He was the person who designed the torture-system that was applied by his assistant James Steele and used in Iraq to extract from prisoners everything they knew about Saddam Hussein’s assistance to the 9/11 event. Petraeus subsequently became a regular participant in the annual meetings of the private and secretive Bilderberg group  of representatives of the U.S. and allied nations’ billionaires that constitute The West’s Deep State. Prior to that, Petraeus and Steele had organized and instituted in El Salvador that Government’s death-squads, to eradicate opponents of U.S. control over that country.

The most corrupt parts of the U.S. Government are usually in the military, because the entire Defense Department isn’t audited. It is instead financially an enormous dark hole, even to U.S. Senators and Representatives, and even to the U.S. President. Only members of the U.S. Deep State might have an approximate idea of how much money is getting ‘lost’ in it. After all, the Deep State isn’t, at all, answerable to the public. Since it operates in secret, it can’t be. The consequences of the Deep State, however, can become public, and may contradict what is shown in publicly available documents and public statements, which have been circulated, to the public, by the press. In any nation where a Deep State rules, such contradictions, between public assertions and the actual outcomes, are so commonplace as hardly to be even news at all, if and when they appear, at all.

On 2 July 2017, the great investigative reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhieva headlined “350 Flights Carry Weapons Diplomatic for Terrorists”, and provided documentation of the U.S. CIA’s intricate global network, which secretly “sends $1 billion worth of weapons” through many countries to jihadists in Syria to take down Syria’s Government. Iraq was mentioned 6 times in the original publication of her article, and is mentioned 9 times in the 29 April 2018 updated version. That secret U.S. supply of weapons to jihadist groups to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and his secular, non-sectarian, Baathist Party, is a secret operation, just like the U.S. State Department’s Baghdad Embassy’s operations are, and that Embassy could even be this particular operation’s headquarters.

The 200-page, December 2017, study, “Weapons of the Islamic State: A three-year investigation”, by Conflict Armament Research Ltd., states in its Conclusion:

IS forces, like most non-state armed groups, acquire significant quantities of weapons and ammunition on the battlefield. … Evidence presented in this report, however, confirms that many of the group’s weapons — and notably its ammunition — are newly manufactured, having been delivered to the region since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. These weapons originate in transfers made by external parties, including Saudi Arabia and the United States, to disparate Syrian opposition forces arrayed against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Here are just a few of the details that this passage in the summary was based upon and summarizing:

On pages 36-9, it says:

CAR has documented and traced numerous weapon systems in service with IS forces. Many derive from shipments made to the US government, or to entities operating under US government contracts. The United States has acknowledged its support to Syrian opposition forces, orchestrated primarily through resupply from the territories of Jordan and Turkey.26  All of the shipments originated in EU Member States; in most cases, US retransfers (exports made after purchase by the United States) contravened clauses in end-user certificates (EUCs) issued by the United States to EU supplier governments. The United States signed these certificates prior to transfer, stated that it was the sole end user of the materiel, and committed not to retransfer the materiel without the supplier government’s prior consent. It did not notify the supplier states concerned before [violating that, and] retransferring the materiel. …

On 21 December 2016, Jaysh al-Nasr, a Syrian armed opposition faction active in the Hama Governorate of Syria, published a set of photographs of its fighters.29  In one of these, Jaysh al-Nasr fighters are operating a 9M111MB-1 ATGW30 bearing an identical lot number and a serial number (365) close in sequence to the one CAR documented (286) in Iraq, suggesting both were part of the same supply chain. …

In May 2015, Syrian YPG forces recovered a PG-7T 40 mm rocket from IS forces near Al Hasakah, Syria, where CAR documented it on 20 May 2015. The Government of Bulgaria confirmed that it exported the item to the US Department of the Army through the US company Kiesler Police Supply. The application for the export licence was accompanied by the original EUC issued by the US Department of the Army (with a non-re-export clause) as well as a delivery verification certificate. The item was exported on 23 June 2014.32 …  CAR has yet to receive a reply to a trace request sent to the United States regarding these rockets.

Page 54 says:

Like the United States, Saudi Arabia has provided support to various factions in the Syrian conflict, including through the supply of weapons. Working with the Bulgarian authorities, CAR has traced numerous items deployed by IS forces to initial exports from Bulgaria to Saudi Arabia. These transfers were uniformly subject to non-retransfer clauses concluded between Saudi Arabia and the Government of Bulgaria prior to export. In this respect, onward retransfers by Saudi Arabia of these weapons contravene its commitments to the Government of Bulgaria not to re-export the materiel in question without Bulgaria’s prior consent.

Just like in the case of the Baghdad Embassy’s agreements with contractors, the powerful party in any contract will be the party whose side is paying (the buyer), and not the party whose side is supplying the service or goods (the seller). Money always rules.

The CAR report, which was issued just months after Dilyana Gaytandzhieva’s report, was entirely consistent with, and largely overlapped, hers. The U.S. and Saudi Governments were not only using Al Qaeda as their main proxy in southwestern Syria to lead the jihadist groups to overthrow Syria’s non-sectarian Government, but were also using ISIS in northeastern Syria as their main proxy forces there to overthrow Syria’s Government. After Russia’s entry into the war on 30 September 2015 on the side of Syria’s Government, America’s assistance to Al Qaeda in Syria (Al Nusra) continued in order to help replace that Government by one which would be controlled by the Sauds. And America’s assistance to ISIS was almost totally replaced then by its assistance to ethnocentric Syrian Kurds in the northeast as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which were fighting against both the Government and ISIS. Russia, of course, was against both Al Qaeda-led jihadists and against ISIS jihadists. (Turkey was against ethnocentric Kurds, because those people want to take a chunk out of four nations: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The CIA edited and written Wikipedia’s article on Kurdistan conveniently doesn’t even make note of that key fact.)  So: America was using a complex combination in order to take over Syria for the Sauds ultimately to control. But Russia’s entry into Syria’s air-war on 30 September 2015 has overcome that U.S-led and Saudi financed combination against Syria.

Would any secret facility, anywhere in the world, be better situated to manage that operation, on America’s side, than America’s Baghdad Embassy?

So, the question then arises: who benefits from this enormous Embassy, and from the Deep State of which it is a part? The American public certainly do not.

Generally speaking, the people who get paid to promote endless wars, such as sellers of the constantly receding (propagandistic) “light at the end of the tunnel”, support continuing if not intensifying such wars. Typical is the neoconservative (in foreign affairs) and neoliberal (in domestic affairs) David Bradley, who controls and is the Chairman of Atlantic Media, which publishes the neocon-neolib The Atlantic, and many other public-affairs magazines and websites. His “Defense One” site posted, on 22 March 2018, from its Executive Editor, “The War in Iraq Isn’t Done. Commanders Explain Why and What’s Next”, and closed with “‘We need to be very careful about rushing to the exit, and secure this win,’ said the senior U.S. military official. ‘This is a significant win.’” The “senior U.S. military official” wasn’t identified, other than to say that he “spoke only on background.” But, of course, George W. Bush had already told the world all about this “win,” back in 2003. Salespeople just continue their pitches; it’s what they are paid to do, and so they never stop.

The annual military costs alone, for the U.S. to keep being, as its propaganda euphemistically puts the matter, “policeman for the world” (such as, in the Syrian case, by means of those proxy boots-on-the-ground warriors, the jihadists, and the ethnocentrists among Syria’s Kurds) are actually sufficient, even on their own, to cause America’s soaring federal debt — and that’s not a benefit, but an extreme harm, to the public. Future generations of Americans will be paying the tab for this. And the costs for being “policeman for the world” are enormous. Even just militarily, they’re over a trillion dollars each and every year.

Though current U.S. Defense Department budgets are around $700 billion annually, the United States is actually spending closer to $1.2 trillion annually on the military when all of the nation’s military spending (such as for military retirements, which are paid by the Treasury Department not by the Defense Department) are factored in. The only people who benefit from being “policeman for the world” are the billionaires of the U.S. and (though to only a lesser extent) of its allied countries. And, of course, they pay their lobbyists and propagandists. It’s really being policeman for those billionaires, who own and control all of the international corporations that are headquartered in this alliance. The U.S. public isn’t paying the tab by any cash-and-carry basis; instead, future generations of Americans will be paying the tab, for today’s U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Those billionaires today are the chief beneficiaries. It’s all being done for them and their retinues. That’s why America’s Founders didn’t want there to be any “standing army” at all. They didn’t want there to be any permanent-war government. They wanted military only for national defense — not for any billionaires’ protection or ‘insurance policy’, or what might actually be publicly paid and armed thugs in service abroad as if they were the nation’s armed forces — when, in fact, they are the armed forces for only those billionaires and their servants. America’s Founders wanted no military at all that serves the aristocracy. They wanted no aristocracy, at all. They wanted no “standing army” whatsoever. They wanted only a military that protects the public, when a real military danger, from abroad, to the domestic public, exists. Of course, that’s possible only in a democracy, but the U.S. is no democracy now, even if it might have been in the past.

On 11 December 2017, Montana State University headlined “MSU SCHOLARS FIND $21 TRILLION IN UNAUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT SPENDING; DEFENSE DEPARTMENT TO CONDUCT FIRST-EVER AUDIT”, but the Pentagon’s promised audit has failed to materialize. A major accounting firm was hired for the task but soon quit, saying that the Defense Department’s books were too incomplete to proceed further. Three days before that article was published, a colleague of that MSU team headlined at Forbes, ”Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us?”  and said that the answer was yes. All of this ‘lost’ money was spent merely by the Department of Defense. Just managing the more-than-a-thousand U.S. military bases worldwide requires a lot of money. Any actual war-fighting adds to that U.S. military-base cost — the war-fighting costs are extra. Those military bases etc. are the “standing army.” Protection of our billionaires’ investments abroad, and of their access to raw materials in underdeveloped countries (such as to manufacture cellphones), is an enormously expensive operation. Basically, the American public are hugely subsidizing America’s billionaires. But only future generations of Americans will be paying that debt — plus, of course, the accumulated interest on it.

The Department of Defense isn’t the only federal Department that has ever been unauditable. On 18 June 2013, Luke Johnson and Ryan Grim at Huffington Post bannered “GAO Cannot Audit Federal Government, Cites Department Of Defense Problems” and opened: “The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that it could not complete an audit of the federal government, pointing to serious problems with the Department of Defense. Along with the Pentagon, the GAO cited the Department of Homeland Security as having problems so significant that it was impossible for investigators to audit it. The DHS got a qualified audit for fiscal year 2012, and is seeking an unqualified audit for 2013.” However, on 17 November 2014, the Washington Post headlined “Homeland Security earns clean audit two years running”, and Jerry Markon reported that, “For the second straight year, the Department of Homeland Security has achieved a much sought-after clean audit of its financial statements by an independent auditor.” Furthermore: “for nearly all of its first decade of existence, DHS was unable to achieve a clean audit because it had been created by combining 22 federal agencies and components into one massive department. That led to inherent challenges.” That wasn’t the situation at the Defense Department, which was far different. On 8 December 2017, NPR headlined “Pentagon Announces First-Ever Audit Of The Department Of Defense”, and opened: “‘The Defense Department is starting the first agency-wide financial audit in its history,’ the Pentagon’s news service says.” However, almost as soon as the auditing team began their work, they quit it, because the Department’s books were garbage. Only  the DOD is like that — almost entirely corrupt.

On 2 October 2018, Project Censored headlined “$21 Trillion in Unaccounted-for Government Spending from 1998 to 2015”. However, it falsified. It opened: “Two federal government agencies, the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), may have accumulated as much as $21 trillion in undocumented expenses between 1998 and 2015.” None of that was actually HUD, it was 100% DOD. And all of “the alleged irregularities in DoD and HUD spending” were not merely “alleged,” but they were, in fact, carefully checked and repeatedly verified, and were only at DOD, despite what Project Censored published. This inaccuracy is important. If people don’t know that DOD is the only unaudited federal Department, then they can’t possibly understand why that is the case. The reason it is the case, is that almost all of the “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the U.S. federal government is at  the Defense Department. It has never been auditable. How much do America’s ‘news’-media report this  reality?

DOD is consistently, year after year, and decade after decade, the federal Department or federal or local governmental function, that Gallup’s polling has shown to be more respected by the U.S. public than is any other. (It’s identified there as “The military”. It beats, for examples: “The Supreme Court,” “Congress,” “The public schools,” “The presidency,” “The police,” and “The criminal justice system.”) The most corrupt isn’t the most despised; it is the opposite — it is the most respected.

Secret government tends to be costly for taxpayers, and also tends to add a lot to the governmental debt. An unauditable governmental department, such as the Defense Department is, cannot function, at all, without an enormous amount of corruption. This  is the reality about America’s military. However, there’s much propaganda contradicting it. The news-media also serve those same billionaires.

How likely, then, is it, that America’s Baghdad Embassy serves the U.S. public? It certainly does not serve the Iraqi public. But it does serve the people — whomever they are — who control the U.S. Government. And that’s the Deep State. That’s the reality, but what’s promoted is fantasyland. And this fantasyland, which is promoted, is called “American democracy”. Just ask Big Brother, and he’ll tell you all about it. He always does.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Donald Trump and Nuclear Weapons: A Perilous “Fusion” For Israel

Prof. Louis René Beres

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“All accidental wars are inadvertent and unintended, but not vice-versa.”-Herman Kahn, On Escalation (1965)[1]

It stands to reason that any combination of Donald Trump and nuclear weapons is dangerous to the United States.[2] After all, this presidency has become unambiguously unhinged – one could  now reasonably say “deranged”[3] – and there is corresponding evidence of nuclear apprehensions in high places. This urgent assessment now includes some of the country’s senior military commanders.[4]

Not generally discussed, however, are the indirect security perils posed by this American president to various US allies. In this connection, which could at some point concern an authentic existential threat, Israel comes immediately to mind. This particular expectation is not on account of any reciprocal shortcomings in that country’s nuclear forces and/or decision-making processes (presumptive forces that remain “deliberately ambiguous”[5]), but “simply”[6] as a valid expression of ongoing strategic interdependence.[7]

No state exists alone in the world. No individual state’s military decisions can gainfully disregard the fundamentally systemic nature of world politics. These politics always constitute a system. It follows that when a particular element is strengthened or degraded within components of that system, the ramifications will be felt far and wide.

 For Israel, a country smaller than America’s Lake Michigan, this relationship would become most serious (perhaps even of existential import) when that specific element has its origins in United States nuclear decision-making. One might also affirm about any such scenario, incontestably, that the  US-Israel relationship could even go beyond “most serious” to “extremely urgent” whenever the superpower party was already embroiled in an atomic crisis; that is, in extremis atomicum.[8]

Whatever the contextual particularities, a plausible expectation of intersecting strategic outcomes between the United States and Israel could become existential if it were to involve an irrational,[9] misguided, miscalculated, accidental, unauthorized or otherwise inadvertent firing of American nuclear weapons.[10]

These are not matters for the intellectually faint-hearted, for those citizens who customarily seek refuge in narrowly political phrases or empty political witticisms. In all such complex military matters, there are correspondingly complex nuances of  explanation. As just a matter of definition, for example, an irrational presidential firing must be distinguished analytically from an unauthorized firing of nuclear weapons, and also from several primary forms of inadvertent nuclear war. In essence, an irrational nuclear event would involve a willful presidential order to fire despite the US leader’s anticipation of catastrophic reprisals.

To be sure, there are certain identifiable circumstances in which even a “crazy” order might still be technically rational –  more specifically, circumstances wherein the expected costs of not firing would exceed anticipated costs of firing – but allowing such dire circumstances to arise in the first place would be ominous prima facie, and should be anathema in both Washington and Jerusalem.

It’s time for aptly dialectical assessments. What could actually happen? In any such multi-factorial calculations, pertinent details would be required. In one conceivable scenario, an irrational U.S. presidential attack against a still-nuclearizing Iran –  one that would likely be defended by President Donald Trump as “anticipatory self-defense”[11] – could  produce highly destructive and prompt retaliations against Israel.[12]

In addition, or perhaps in lieu of any such immediate responses, Iran could (1) generate assorted long-term and incremental reprisals, and/or (2) incentivize state and sub-state allies (e.g., Hezbollah) to join collaboratively in the planned reprisals.

From the corollary standpoints of international law and justice,[13] Israel would likely be blameless in all such US-triggered developments. Still, and more meaningfully, that innocence would carry no palliative or exculpatory benefits. None at all.

In the end, these are not fundamentally legal or jurisprudential matters. This is not meant to suggest, inter alia, that characterizations of a preemptive American attack as anticipatory self-defense would necessarily be inappropriate,[14] but only that Jerusalem should always remain focused upon utterly core matters of national survival. Also worth pointing out is that any cascading harms brought upon Israel by an aberrant US presidential decision could sometime be “synergistic.”[15]

This means that the cumulative “whole” of any such harms to Israel would exceed the sum of its separate “parts.”[16]

There is more. In the exercise of US nuclear command authority, as is already generally known,[17] the “two man rule” of redundant nuclear safeguards does not apply at the highest or presidential level. And while it is increasingly under active discussion by certain concerned persons in the uniquely problematic “Trump Era,”[18] fears of presidential irrationality or nuclear error  had generally  been expressed only in surreptitious whispers, almost inaudibly, sotto voce. This tacit refusal to confront head-on an issue of overriding importance has been perilous, to say the least, but will become all the more so during the next several months or years, when President Trump can expect to be tested by Pyongyang. At some point, this ill-prepared US commander-in-chief  could have to make various time-urgent nuclear decisions concerning North Korea’s steadily expanding military nuclearization.

In this regard, Jerusalem will need to “stay tuned.

 There is more dialectical complexity to  be understood. Certain expected and irremediable methodological hindrances will  be at work. Above all, Israeli military planners will need to understand that attaching any scientifically meaningful assessments of probability to predictions of US presidential irrationality or error is not technically possible. Always, forecasting thinkers should be reminded as follows: Scientific affirmations of probability must always be based upon a determinable frequency of pertinent past events.

Significantly, in such matters, there have been no pertinent past events.

It is, of course, cumulatively good news that there have as yet been no clear examples of an American president making irrational decisions about U.S. nuclear weapons.[19] But even this alleged “good news” may not be entirely straightforward. During the Cold War Cuban missile crisis,[20] then President John F. Kennedy ordered his “quarantine” of Cuba (a euphemism or diplomatically sanitized alternative to “blockade,” which is traditionally a casus bellum) with an apparently full awareness of corresponding risks. More precisely, according to Theodore Sorensen, his biographer, JFK seemingly believed that even his intentionally softened escalatory response would carry portentous odds of an ensuing nuclear war with the USSR – odds, he noted at the time, that were “between one out of three, and even.”[21]

Although we now know that any such estimate was necessarily without any scientific foundation, what matters most is that JFK himself believed in these ominously high odds.

Thus, a curious but indispensable question arises. Was JFK actually acting irrationally about unprecedented nuclear matters in October 1962? Was his declared “quarantine” a fully genuine instance of nuclear decisional irrationality, one that turned out to have been well-crafted and successful only by sheer happenstance or dint of circumstance, including Nikita Khrushchev’s abundant and commendable caution?  

Or was it rather an example of what I call, in my own most recent book, the “rationality of pretended irrationality?”[22] And isn’t this exactly the thinking that Israeli COGS and Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan had in mind when he allegedly once urged: “Israel must be seen as a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”?

If actually a deliberate “rationality of pretended irrationality” move, President Kennedy was playing a carefully calculated game of strategy in 1962, much like the game of  “Chicken” once played with automobiles by assorted teen-aged delinquents. In Chicken, where the contestants drive toward each other at high speed, the objective of each player is plainly twofold: (1) not to be chicken, but also (and more gainful) (2) not to be dead.

In offering an informed answer here, permit me two personal anecdotes.

First, regarding McNamara’s widely-reported post-crisis apprehensions of an “Armageddon scenario” over Cuba, I once had a face-to-face occasion to ask the former US Defense Chief about these reports. That was back in the Fall of 1967, during a small academic conference at Princeton. Sitting next to me at dinner one evening, in the fabled Nassau Inn, McNamara responded to my unambiguously direct query with a repetitive nod of his head, and with the simple remark, “I wouldn’t want to experience that again. Ever.”

Those were his exact words.

Second, regarding President Kennedy’s alleged assignment of very high odds to his 1962 quarantine announcement, Sorensen reported that JFK had made this seat-of-the-pants assessment only after telephoning Admiral Arleigh Burke, a former Chairman of the US JCS. When, in 1977, I became Admiral Burke’s roommate for several days in Annapolis, at the annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference, or NAFAC (where Burke and I were serving co-chairs of  a senior panel on “The Use of Force”), I asked him explicitly about Sorensen’s probability numbers. Without any hesitation, the Admiral replied that the Kennedy biographer had reported Burke’s telephone response to Kennedy accurately.

In other words, the young, cool and seemingly unflappable American president may have actually accepted up to even odds of a global thermonuclear war as the expected result of his enforced “quarantine.”

A derivative question now rises. What could we reasonably expect from an old, volatile and (let us be charitable) “intellectually limited” Donald Trump? Indeed, he had “aced”  the cognitive function test by repeating a few words correctly (“the doctors were amazed”), and earlier, he had even demonstrated successfully the ability to drink a glass of water with only one hand, but a probable absence of severe dementia is hardly the proper standard to be applied here.

For Jerusalem, there is another reason why correctly forecasting President Trump’s upcoming nuclear policy decisions could never be based upon any scientifically-garnered probabilities. This reason is not just a question of  logical capacity to assess the odds of any future presidential irrationality involving US nuclear command authority. It is also a matter of Trump being unable to calculate himself the probable outcomes of any particular nuclear decision that he might sometime make.

There is more. This particular forecasting constraint has nothing to do with any specifically personal intellectual deficit on this president’s part, but only with the wholesale absence of pertinent past events. Accordingly, this problem is not an ad hominem issue for Israel, but “merely” a universally daunting artifact of scientific methodologies.

If, for example, this American president or his successor should sometime seek an “expert” probability assessment or prediction concerning a north Korean escalation to nuclear weapons (in the near term, such an escalation could more or less realistically relate to Japan, US forces in the region, and/or certain already-reachable targets in Alaska or Hawaii), there would be no suitably relevant history to draw upon. The same conclusion can now be reached regarding the expected results of any American defensive attack launched against Iran, one where enemy escalatory responses could include not only direct Iranian air attacks on Saudi and/or Gulf oilfields, but also variously indirect Hezbollah aggressions[23] against Israel.[24]

Once again, in any such scenario, there would be no opportunity to render a scientifically meaningful estimation of applicable probabilities.

Returning to the core issue of any prospective U.S. presidential irrationality regarding nuclear weapons, it is conceivable, in principle, that such consequential missteps could become less likely over time, on the more-or-less logical assumption that experience in office would correlate favorably with increased caution.  But it is already the closing days of this president’s current term in office, and that optimistic conclusion could offer only a “common sense” reprieve. At best, in fact, it would represent a “tricky” or contrived extrapolation from certain earlier historical eras, one wherein the main argument would have made some sense in a pre-nuclear past.

In any event, during any still-upcoming nuclear crisis involving the United States, President Trump would have to strike an optimal balance between the always-unavoidable search for “escalation dominance,” and the closely matching need to avoid being locked into any desperate sequence of geo-strategic move and countermove.

Expressed as an appropriately dynamic process, one driven by its own unstoppable inner momentum, this escalatory sequence could create a self-limiting pattern of extrication that would then lead inexorably to either a controlled nuclear exchange or to full-blown nuclear war. Either immediately or over time, the disparate costs of any such war could severely impact Israel, and perhaps assorted other regional states, as well as the United States itself.

Strategic risk-taking can be significantly advantageous up to a point, but figuring out exactly where that critical point should be established is by no means a handily calculable task. Well-documented histories of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis all seem to agree that the superpowers had then come very close to a starkly different and authentically calamitous sort of conclusion. Once again, back at Princeton in 1967, I had heard this cautionary conclusion directly from the US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.

Nuclear strategy is a game that various sane national leaders must sometimes learn to play, but never with any reassuringly plausible assurances of probable outcomes. The only way this “probabilistic unpredictability” can ever change is if, in the years ahead, some actual examples should accumulate of specific nuclear escalations and outcomes. Of course, this sort of accumulation is not something we ought ever to wish for. Instead, it would be far better for us to continue to have to concede a structural incapacity to more reliably “figure the odds” of any nuclear crisis engagement, or of any resultant nuclear war.

 Analysts may learn from this exceedingly complex dialectic that we can’t yet determine usefully just how likely it is that America’s unpredictable sitting president would ever give an irrational order to use American nuclear weapons. But scholars can still reasonably advise Mr. Trump and his counselors that unprecedented nuclear dangers lurk not only (or even primarily) in sudden “bolt from the blue” enemy attacks, but also in certain unanticipated and uncontrolled forms of nuclear escalation[25]. As far as any pretending irrationality is concerned – a tactic that may or may not have figured importantly in the Cuban Missile Crisis, depending upon one’s own particular interpretation of JFK’s 1962 strategic calculations – it could rapidly become a double-edged sword for Donald Trump.

In those circumstances, when centered on the Middle East, the self-destructive sword’s “edge” could inflict measureless or nearly measureless harms upon the United States and upon Israel.

Most purposeless of all would be a President Trump who naively confused copious bluster and bravado with some genuinely convincing rendition of irrationality. From the start, Trump has persistently hinted at the alleged benefits of pretending irrationality in foreign relations, but there is yet no compelling evidence that he also understands the corollary requirement of a policy “follow through.” No doubt, Moshe Dayan had once made a promising point in his own strategic argument that Israel should  be seen as a “mad dog,” but it remains credible that he would have strongly favored certain attendant preparations to ensure Jerusalem’s “escalation dominance.”

These vital preparations would have been based upon a carefully-prepared and incrementally nuanced “ladder” of sequenced retaliations and counter-retaliations.

To be sure, under certain circumstances, the “rationality of pretended irrationality” tactic could represent a manifestly sane move in the bewilderingly complex game of nuclear strategy, but it must always be undertaken together with variously inherent and immutable limitations. Above all, at least for the foreseeable future, this means fashioning national strategic policies without any substantially precise or scientific estimations of probable outcome. Looking ahead, for Israel, it follows that there can be no adequate substitute for maximum caution and prudence in absolutely every instance of strategic risk-taking.

This includes those prospectively fearful circumstances triggered by recognizable instances of US presidential irrationality or miscalculation on nuclear decisions.

Never to be taken lightly, in this regard, is Sigmund Freud’s trenchant observation that history remains littered with the corpses of millions spawned by some form or other of national leadership irrationality or miscalculation.[26] Conspicuously, that observation was offered before nuclear weapons. Today, from a crucial standpoint of nuclear war avoidance, it should be closely pondered in Jerusalem as well as Washington.

For Israel, still more precisely, such concern should derive in large measure from binding alliance ties between the two countries.


[1] Herman Kahn is among the first prominent thinkers associated with the post-war genre of strategic nuclear war. His more important works are On Thermonuclear War (1962) and Thinking About the Unthinkable (1962). Back at Princeton in the mid-1960s, his work became a conceptual  mainstay of our advanced graduate courses dealing with military affairs and world order. His most memorable observation, as I can recall, is that “After a nuclear war, the survivors would envy the dead.”

[2] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon).

[3] What else can one say after an American president makes repeated medical claims that contradict his own most authoritative scientific advisors; asserts that Joe Biden, his rival, “hates and wants to hurt God…;” recommends injecting household disinfectants as therapeutic or prophylactic agents for Covid19 infection; says that children are “almost immune” to Corona virus; and maintains that “only 1%” of those infected” suffer any palpable harms?

[4] See, for current assessments: https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/06/politics/trump-advisers-fears-military-options/index.html 

[5] See by this writer, Louis René Beres, https://www.inss.org.il/publication/changing-direction-updating-israels-nuclear-doctrine/; with USN Admiral (ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney,  https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/02/11/facing-a-nuclear-iran-israel-must-rethink-its-nuclear-ambiguity; and with USAF General John T. Chain, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/could-israel-safely-deter-a-nuclear-iran/260947/. General Chain served as Commander-in-Chief, US Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC); while Admiral Edney is a former Supreme Allied Commander/NATO (SACLANT).

[6] “Everything is very simple in war,” says Clausewitz, in his classic discussion of “friction” in On War, “but the simplest thing is difficult.” Herein, friction refers to the unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning inevitable strategic uncertainties; on presidential under-estimations or over-estimations of US relative power position; and on the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between theories of deterrence, and enemy intent “as it actually is.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, “Uber das Leben und den Charakter von Scharnhorst,” Historisch-politische Zeitschrift, 1 (1832); cited in Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper No. 52, October, 1996, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington, D.C. p. 9.

[7] In this regard, see jointly authored monograph at Tel Aviv University by Professor Louis René Beres and General (USA/ret.) Barry R. McCaffrey, Israel’s Nuclear Strategy and America’s National Security (2016) https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf

[8] For the moment, the arguments presented here are “Trump specific,” but they are also all prospectively generic; that is, they could inhere in the US-Israel relationship per se, and apply irrespective of any particular US White House incumbent.

[9] US presidential expressions of decisional irrationality could take different and overlapping forms. These include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and internal dissonance generated by any authoritative structure of collective decision-making (e.g., the US National Security Council).

[10] Also problematic for the United States and its pertinent allies, especially Israel, would be the firing of American nuclear weapons due to Russian cyber-attacks/cyber-intrusions. In the final analysis, this cyber-war threat is of potentially greater existential import than threats of any continued Russian meddling in America’s elections. Moreover, the threat is still growing while President Trump stubbornly exonerates Vladimir Putin and simultaneously vilifies the FBI plus his own intelligence community. Why?

[11] This president, of course, would have no knowledge about any such matters of national and international law himself. Nonetheless, for the designated lawyers, anticipatory self-defense would represent a permissible use of force before an enemy attack has already been experienced or absorbed. While the usual national obligation to wait until one’s own country has been struck first is formally codified at Article 51 of the UN Charter, the corollary right of anticipatory self-defense derives from customary international law. Moreover, all authoritative sources of international law are sequentially identified at Article 38 of the UN’s Statute of the International Court of Justice.

[12] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep24333?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents    https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/165-MONOGRAPH-Beres-What-Happens-to-Israel-if-the-US-and-Iran-Go-to-War-web-2.pdf

[13] Our system of world politics remains essentially “Westphalian.” The reference here is to the Peace Of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War and created the still-existing decentralized or self-help “state system.” For pertinent legal bases, see: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[14] The earlier-mentioned customary right of “anticipatory self-defense” has its modern origins in The Caroline incident, which revolved around the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 against British rule in Upper Canada. Following this incident, a serious threat of armed attack became generally accepted as adequate justification for certain otherwise-proper preemptive actions. In a formal exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require a prior armed attack. Military preemption, therefore, was to be judged permissible, at least as long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” By extrapolation, today, in the nuclear age, this permissibility ought to be of even greater latitude. See: The Caroline, 2 John B. Moore, A Digest of International Law 412 (1906); reprinted in Louis Henkin, et. al., International law: Cases and Materials 622 (2nd ed., 1987).

[15] See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Modern War Institute, West Point:  https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[16] This is sometimes considered as similar to the concept of a “force multiplier.” A force multiplier is a collection of related characteristics, other than weapons or force size, that may intentionally render a military organization more effective in war. It may include generalship; tactical surprise; tactical mobility; or even certain command and control system enhancements. It could also include imaginative and less-costly forms of preemption, such as assassination or targeted killing; also sabotage. Looking ahead, it could embrace variously integrated components of cyber-defense and cyber-warfare, including a reciprocal capacity to prevent or blunt any incoming cyber attacks. Again, the need for such components could have its conceptual origins in the sorely incoherent and problematic Trump presidency.

[17] I first wrote of such U.S. nuclear authority matters in an earlier book,  Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics, The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

[18] See, for example, the new book by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Tom Colinna, https://newbooksnetwork.com/w-j-perry-and-t-z-collina-the-button-the-new-nuclear-arms-race-and-presidential-power-from-truman-to-trump-benbella-books-2020/

.

[19] See forthcoming book by Jim Sciutto, The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World (Harper Collins, August 2020).

[20] Regarding current US-Russia relations, we are now plausibly in the midst of “Cold War II.” Hypothesizing the emergence of this second Cold War  means expecting that the world system is becoming increasingly bipolar. For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of any such expanding bipolarity, see: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No.4., December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No.4., December 1973, pp, 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.

[21] For authoritative early accounts by this author of nuclear war effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[22] See especially Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy. https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Amid-Chaos-Strategy-Destruction/dp/1442253258

[23] On the crime of “aggression” see: RESOLUTION ON THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No. 31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974; and CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Art. 51.. Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945,  59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, Bevans 1153,  1976, Y.B.U.N. 1043.

[24] This brings to mind the need for identifying ways in which a nuclear war involving Israel might begin directly with events in the Middle East.  There are certain plausible and also more-or-less probable paths to actual nuclear war-fighting in the Middle East: (1) enemy nuclear first-strikes against Israel (not yet a possibility, at least so long as non-Arab Pakistan is excluded  as an enemy state); (2) enemy non-nuclear WMD (weapons of mass destruction) first-strikes against Israel, that elicit Israeli nuclear reprisals, either promptly, or as a consequence of incremental escalatory processes; (3) Israeli nuclear preemptions against hard targets in enemy states with nuclear assets (excluding Pakistan, still not a present possibility); (4) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against hard targets in enemy states, with nuclear assets, that elicit enemy nuclear reprisals, either promptly, or via incremental escalation processes (also not yet a possibility); and (5) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against hard targets in enemy states, without nuclear assets, that elicit substantial enemy biological warfare reprisals, and, reciprocally, Israeli nuclear counter-retaliations. In principle, at least, other paths to nuclear war fighting in the region could include accidental/unintentional/inadvertent/unauthorized nuclear attacks between Israel and pertinent enemy states. Analysts will also have to consider the real prospect of escalations arising from certain WMD terrorism against Israel.

[25] On these issues as a more generic problem, see: Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience (1964) and Herman Kahn, On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios (1965). See also, by this writer, Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1973).

[26] In his exact words: “Fools,  visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great  roles at all times in the history of mankind….Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

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Latin America – Russia: An Agenda for Constructive Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era

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On Tuesday, August 4, the outstanding video-conference “Latin America – Russia: an Agenda for Constructive Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era” was held organized by the Valdai Club , the Russian Embassy in Guatemala, the American Chamber of commerce  (AmCham), the Central American Parliament  (Parlacen) the SIECA(Central American Secretariat for Economic Integration), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the CRIES of Argentina (Regional Coordination of Economic and Social Research).

The video conference was attended by Alexis Rodzianko as moderator (president of AmCham Russia). And an outstanding panel of speakers with:

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov; Nadia de León (chairman of PARLACEN) Melvin Redondo (general secretary of the SIECA); Yaroslav Lissovolik (programme director at Valdai Club); Richard Kozul Wright (director of division on globalization and development strategies UNCTAD);  Daniel Russell (Ceo of USRBC) and Lila Roldan Vásquez (head of the CARI –Argentina- Eurasian studies group)

After a brief presentation and comments by the moderator Alexis Rodzianko (president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce) on the nature of the video-conference and the panelists in it, Russian Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov started the dialogue expressing his satisfaction with the existence of this kind of spaces for reflection in such difficult global times. We quote some of his more outstanding phrases:

Russia and the United States continue their dialogue on joint efforts to combat the pandemic, and this is good news”.

Washington, however, does not abandon its claims for global hegemony. This poses a threat to international stability and security.”.

He stated the need to increase channels of cooperation when the coronavirus is ravaging the entire planet, for the first time in humanity, it faces a threat that affects the entire planet, this poses a dramatic challenge, the frustrating statistics of Covid- 19 have the same effects as a war, this era requires the consolidation of international efforts together and that Russia hopes that large-scale cooperation can act as a vector for a more multipolar world.

He also denounced international actors, the countries that privilege self-interest over those of the international community in times of crisis due to the pandemic. He cataloged irresponsible and short-sighted countries that ignoring the UN declarations, mainly the western powers, continue with sanctions measures to other countries, sanctions that hinder the acquisition of medical supplies and assistance, including Latin American countries, without even foreseeing the lifting of sanctions even for the time of the pandemic.

He was also very critical of the attitude of the United States in various multilateral fields such as its withdrawal from the Open Skies treaties; missile weapons treaties such as INF and START II; the North-American withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

On the cooperation agenda of Latin America – Russia, he highlighted the negative factors that Latin America faces in its current situation:

Latin America continues to face dramatic social inequalities and political de-stabilizations: The US continues its efforts to redraw the political map of Latin America to serve its interests.”

He stressed that:

From Russia with much disappointment and concern some time ago we observed how the Monroe Doctrine and all the ideology linked to it was officially reintroduced by the United States.”.

As positive factors he pondered that for Russia, Latin America has always been a region of political tolerance, economic opportunities and cultural affinity:

  • For Russia, the relationship with Latin America is a value in itself of its foreign policy and bases its cooperation agenda in the region based on a pragmatic and de-ideological vision, Russia does not seek to engage its partners in geopolitical dilemmas where they must choose between friends and enemies”.
  • And these links have always had a positive dynamic in energy, communications, technology, medicine, logistics and transportation. We seek technological and commercial alliances, diversifying their bases”.
  • “A paramount of Russian cooperation with Latin America was the activation in 2019 of the Latin American Institute of Biotechnology (in Managua, Nicaragua) that produces, insulin and interferon and vaccines for Latin American consumption”.

Despite the delicate situation worldwide, the deputy-minister remained optimistic that crises improve prospects for international cooperation, and that Russia-Latin America cooperation will continue to consolidate.

 “During this pandemic, Russian assistance has been received by: Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, in testing teams and personal health protection, in addition to humanitarian aid.”

The possibility of assistance to other countries in the region such as Paraguay, Colombia, and Peru has been addressed.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund announced the signing of an agreement under which 150,000 Avifavir packages will be sent to seven Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay and Uruguay. In addition, Russia will also send supplies of the antiviral drug to South Africa and transfer the technology to Bolivian firm Sigma Corp SRL in order for it to be produced locally.

Closing of the presentation

The deputy-minister Ryabkov cerró su presentación marcando que en las difíciles circunstancias actuales es fundamental evitar la politización de la situación de la pandemia, un verdadero desafío global, que requiere esfuerzos conjuntos entre todos los Estados, y que Rusia está preparada para hacer su aporte y que lo está haciendo.

The deputy-minister Ryabkov closed his presentation by stating that in the current difficult circumstances it is essential to avoid politicizing the situation of the pandemic, a true global challenge, which requires joint efforts between all States, and that Russia is ready to make its contribution, and it’s doing it.

Questions and Answers Section

In the questions and answers section of the dialogue, he answered a question about the role of Russia in the binomial-dilemma that would appear to present itself to Latin America in the strategic competition between the US and China:

Russia won’t be part of that geopolitical game” 

He made it clear that Russia will surely not be part of a possible geopolitical triangular game with the US and China in Latin America, since it does not have the same capabilities as the other two actors (US-China) and that from the strategic vision of Russia relations with Latin America should be characterized by a cooperative logic of mutual benefit (win-win) and pragmatism, the relationship with this region should not emulate previous models of relations between center and periphery and he highlighted the Russian-Argentine relationship as an example of a link of mutual benefit.

Russia will not act for Latin America as an actor to support itself in a counterbalance, to offset the competition between Beijing and Washington in the region, but it will continue to maintain cooperative relations with Latin America, although he clarified that trilateral cooperation, as in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic should not be ruled out.

 “Those practices go against the core elements and principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.”

It was his answer to the question about Russia’s position on the persistent US policies of imposing economic sanctions unilaterally (such as in the blockades against Cuba and Venezuela) that impede the fluidity of international cooperation (in times of pandemic, necessary international aid) and that Russia has also been suffering the same extortionary measures since the referendums that consecrated the return of the Crimean territories to Russia in 2014, and in which in this aspect Russia has not found a “common ground” with the United States for dialogue.

“We have to find ways to ensure relief to the countries most in need and with the fewest resources” 

He argued that it is the responsibility of institutions such as those of the Breton Woods system, the G20, the Club de Paris, the economic powerhouses to find coherent strategies to achieve this objective. Macroeconomic policies of expansion, not austerity, should be promoted globally.

My own questions

As an observer-participant of the digital event, I was able to ask the Deputy-Minister two questions:

 “is there any prospect from Russia to collaborate with South American efforts to “catch up” with the latest technology?”

In this response, he expressed his wish that such cooperation be carried out, since Russia has a lot to contribute, he said regarding the digitization of public services, of special interest today in public health services, other axes of technological cooperation could include biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and he stated that Russia is not exaggerating by claiming that it has made important advances in the development of drugs that help combat Covid-19 in the near future. Regarding this, he highlighted the observations of his presentation, where he mentioned that Russia has significantly promoted the installation of technology in Central America (the Latin American Institute of Biotechnology).Other areas of cooperation of interest mentioned were telecommunications and the peaceful use of nuclear power, agricultural technology.

These cooperation dynamics, he argued, will always be guided by pragmatic visions; Russia will not subject its partners to geopolitical dilemmas.

 is there any interest from Russia to improve Argentina’s naval capabilities in fishing, hydrocarbons, naval surveillance, etc?

In this regard, he pointed out that initial contacts had taken place in the Macri administration and that he is sure that under the administration of President Alberto Fernández these contacts would continue.

He quoted the slogan: “it is the economy, stupid” when explaining the interest that exists between both governments and their respective businessmen to associate in relation to the naval field, but the contacts are still distant.

Regarding fishing exploitation, he acknowledged his lack of knowledge about any Russian-Argentine association project on the subject, but he stressed that this doesn’t mean that it is not an interesting area of cooperation to continue advancing the in the bilateral agenda.

For the last, he emphasized that when travel and contacts will be reestablished, all those axes of cooperation can be discussed further, without major impediments.

From our partner International Affairs

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Hiroshima and the Peace of the Bomb

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Seventy five years ago this week, the world witnessed a cataclysm that was to change the nature of war forever:  The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and worse — while the Japanese argued among themselves about whether and how to surrender — a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later on August 9th.  Now there was no other rational choice, and the Japanese gave up.

If anything good ever came out of a war, it was the generous peace.  The US helped in the reconstruction of the defeated nations.  As a teenaged student in London, I remember visiting Germany a dozen years after the war ended.  Major centers had been flattened by the bombing.  In Hamburg, one would see a few residential buildings and then ruins as far as the eye could see as if a massive earthquake had hit.  A never ending horror across all major cities and a shortage of labor.  So the Turks came … and stayed.  Welcome then, not so much now.   

The Germans were humble — a humility that would gradually diminish with the country’s resurgence as one observed over succeeding decades.  Cleanliness and order are part of the national psyche, particularly the latter.  Everything in order — ‘Alles in ordnung‘.  It even applies on a personal level as someone might ask exactly that if you appear disturbed.  It then means, ‘Everything okay?’

A grease spot on the otherwise fresh tablecloth at breakfast, my fastidious six-year old daughter complained.  It was whisked away with apologies and immediately replaced.  Order restored.  Ordnung muss sein says the German proverb.

In dollar terms, Germany is now the world’s fourth largest economy, Japan the third.  The world has not ended despite economic interests being often cited as a cause of war.  In fact, we are grateful for their products judging by the numbers of their automobile names in the US.  Japan appears to have eclipsed the famed auto giants of the past, GM, Ford and Chrysler and UK icons long forgotten.  And Donald J. Trump has a beef with both countries and is busy pulling out troops from Germany.   Of course the giant dragon of exporters to the US, namely China, is for President Trump our public enemy number one.

The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the end, merely the beginning, and at the back of our minds remains the terrifying hope that it is not the beginning of the end.

Following the US, there soon were other nuclear powers:  the UK and the Soviet Union followed by France, then China.  After China, India was not to be left behind, and after India the same logic applied to Pakistan.  Then there is Israel seeking external security while like diseased fruit, it rots from the inside.  And let us not forget nutty North Korea.

When the US and the Soviet Union faced off with thousands of nuclear weapons, the strategists produced the theory of mutually assured destruction.  Its acronym MAD was closer to the truth than its Pentagon proponents could ever have imagined for they would have destroyed not just each other but the world.

Even India and Pakistan with 100-plus weapons each could cause a nuclear winter from the fall-out and the dust covered skies.  The subsequent crop losses and famines would kill many more across the world than the devastation wrought by the bombs.  It is just one more reason why nation states could eventually become obsolete.

Fortunately, for the human race, nuclear war is more potent in the threat than in the execution; the latter  would certainly certify MAD.  The response to a military threat carrying the phrase ‘by all means necessary’ is enough to cool things down quickly.  It was Pakistan’s reply to India’s threat to expand an incident in the disputed Kashmir region with an attack on mainland Pakistan.  In that sense, nuclear weapons have become a sort of insurance policy.  Pakistan and India have fought several major wars but none since both sides acquired nuclear weapons.  The cost is unthinkable, and one hopes will remain so in the minds of strategists.

Such is the world my generation is leaving to you:  flawed but holding together all the same.

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