The Fox News website headline of November 20 was startling. The world was informed that “Russian Bombers Threaten Guam”, which was an astonishing revelation. What on earth could be happening? Could this “threat” be a run-up to war?
But even Fox News had to report the US Pacific Command statement that “the aircraft were flying safely in international airspace and in accordance with international norms.” There was not the slightest indication that there was any threat to Guam, but this didn’t stop other reports that “two Russian strategic bombers circled the US island of Guam last week in what US defense officials say is the latest in a series of nuclear provocations by Moscow.”
(Guam is an “unincorporated organized territory” of the United States — a colony, in other words — whose citizens are not permitted to vote in US presidential elections and whose member in Congress is not allowed to vote on anything. It lies 6,000 miles from the west coast of the United States and 2,000 miles from the east coast of Russia. In April 2014, President Obama declared that “the United States and Japan are also making sustained progress towards realizing a geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable US force posture in the Asia Pacific, including the development of Guam as a strategic hub.”)
It wasn’t apparent how US defense officials could declare so conclusively that Russia was indulging in “nuclear provocations” but details like that do not matter in the river of anti-Russian propaganda that is surging day by day. The headlines are eye-catching — as well as mind-bending — and the allegations that Russia is intent on war are reaching flood levels.
On December 4 the US House of Representatives passed legislation demonstrating US official hatred of and hostility to Russia. It is now official policy that the United States of America “strongly condemn[s] the actions of the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, which has carried out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries aimed at political and economic domination.”
The sponsor of the legislation stated that “The US, Europe and our allies must aggressively keep the pressure on Mr. Putin to encourage him to change his behaviour.”
It is apparent that these people don’t only want to confront Russia — they want war.
For once the legislators took their cue from the White House, because the president of the United States has said that Russia was involved in the shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft, Flight MH17, over Ukraine. His statement at the recent meeting of the G-20 countries in Australia was the most objectionable and insulting made by any US president about Russia since the height of the Cold War, which he and his Congressional allies have now revived. He announced that the United States was “leading in opposing Russia’s aggression, which is a threat to the world — which we saw in the appalling shoot down of MH17.”
There is no proof whatever that Russia was involved in any way in destruction of MH-17. The results of the inquiry are being kept secret by the western countries involved in examining the circumstances. The final report by the investigating nations (including Ukraine but excluding Russia and, bizarrely, Malaysia, the owner of the aircraft) has not been completed, yet the president of the United States — without a shred of evidence to justify his statement — declared that the shooting down of the aircraft was due to Russia’s “aggression.”
But aggression has for a long time been the trademark of western dealings with Russia.
At the G-20 jamboree the Australian government set the scene for a series of insults directed at President Putin by Britain, Canada and America. On arrival in the country he was met by the assistant defense minister, the governor of the state of Queensland, and the secretary to the Governor General (who is head of state in Australia; the Queen’s representative). To say that this was the ‘C’ Team is to understate matters. It was appalling rudeness to an important visiting head of state to be met by a trio of such officials. It was a planned, calculated and deliberate affront to Russia, its president and its people.
The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, America’s Barack Obama and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia were met by the Governor General, His Excellency Sir Peter Cosgrove, as is the customary courtesy to visiting heads of state. But Mr Putin and his country were purposefully insulted by Sir Peter’s absence at the airport. So, too, was President Hollande of France who was met by the Queensland Health Minister John-Paul Langbroek, an even further dive down the protocol chain. The government of Australia excelled itself in making it abundantly clear who it regards with disdain. This will not be forgotten by those who were insulted.
It should be pointed out that the Governor General is required, constitutionally, to accept the “advice” of the government as to his actions in foreign affairs. Sir Peter, a most civilized person, would not himself have acted in such a crass and juvenile fashion.
The playground immaturity was continued by Britain’s prime minister David Cameron who considered it a great joke to say “I didn’t feel it necessary to bring a warship myself to keep myself safe at this G20.” He was referring to the fact that at the time of Mr Putin’s visit there were two Russian warships and two support vessels in international waters near Australia. The Australian defense department displayed more maturity by stating simply that “the movement of these vessels is entirely consistent with provisions under international law for military vessels to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters,” and the Australian destroyer Parramatta conducted a communications exercise with Russia’s cruiser Varyag, as is the courteous custom of the sea. But Mr Cameron though it terribly witty to poke childish fun at Mr Putin by referring to Russia’s ships in the region.
What is indeed hilarious is the fact that Mr Cameron’s Britain has itself so few ships. He and his predecessors have all but destroyed the Royal Navy, which has no aircraft carriers, no combat aircraft, and only a few other warships — ten submarines, six destroyers and a dozen frigates. (I remember with pride but sorrow when the Royal Navy had two aircraft carriers, a cruiser, a destroyer squadron, a frigate squadron, four submarines and over twenty other vessels in Asian waters alone.) It would have been impossible for Mr Cameron “to bring a warship” because Britain hasn’t got one to send.
In addition to insulting President Putin the G-20 gathering achieved nothing for the world that is in any way binding on those who attended. Although it was a farce of photo-ops and flatulent pomposity it succeeded in showing the level of hatred and contempt for Russia that is so evident in the governments of the United States and some of its allies.
The western media’s cover of Russian affairs is verging on what it was in the Sixties, when hysteria reigned about the Soviet Union. Many of us thought that the West — the US-led NATO grouping — would relax its pressure on Russia after the welcome collapse of the Soviet Union, but this was over-optimistic.
On May 27, 1997 it was agreed that “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its member States, on the one hand, and the Russian Federation, on the other hand” would refrain “from the threat or use of force against each other.”
Russia has not made any “threat or use of force” against any NATO nation. It would be crazy to even hint at doing so because Russia wants peace and trade, especially with the Baltic states and Poland, which are major trading partners. (As well as being, in the case of Lithuania and Poland, recent hosts to US CIA black site prisons in which victims were tortured by psychotic sadists.)
It is obvious that if Russia wanted to take over Ukraine it could have done so months ago without a problem. The military forces of Ukraine are incompetent, and the Russians could have invaded and conquered Ukraine in about three weeks if they had wanted to. But they didn’t and don’t want to do that. Russia doesn’t want to squander billons of dollars on a pointless war, such as those of America on Iraq or in Afghanistan.
All that Moscow wants to do is to ensure justice and freedom for the Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured, pro-Russian inhabitants of the eastern regions of Ukraine — just as it did for the inhabitants of Crimea, who voted to accede to Russia.
The 1997 pact between NATO and Russia includes agreement that NATO will perform its mission without “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.” But in spite of this the US Land Commander Europe, General Frederick Hodges, said on November 23 at a press conference in Lithuania that “The US will keep troops in Poland and the Baltic states for at least the next year.” According to the general this will not contravene the pact because “We have planned rotations out through next year. Units are designated that will continue to do this. There are going to be US army forces here in Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland for as long as is required to deter Russian aggression and to assure our allies.”
In some weird fashion, if the US keeps the same number of different troops menacing Russia there is no “permanent stationing.” How very clever.
The US House of Representatives and the US-led NATO alliance are being aggressive and confrontational. But it is our lives and the future of our world they are playing with. Their belligerence would be understandable if Russia was in any way threatening the Baltic States and Poland. But there isn’t any such threat. There is, however, a threat from western trigger-happy dummies who are spoiling for war.
Brian Cloughley lives in France.