Compete, Deter, and Win With Big Guns and Better Chow in the Baltic States

The censored version of the 2018 US National Defense Strategy has a motto – and, absurdly, a bumper sticker – proclaiming that the United States must "Compete, Deter, and Win" which is an aggressive declaration of uncompromising military confrontation.

As observed by the Brookings Institution, the Strategy "unveiled a global operating model to help centrally manage posture and make it more ‘lethal, agile, and resilient,’ all in line with facilitating the emphasis on fighting and winning conflicts with China or Russia."

Brookings just loves General Mattis, the Defense Secretary, and fawns that "The US military, according to the NDS, will sustain its presence in the Middle East, but will aim to focus on Asia and Europe despite it. This tension plagued the previous administration and will surely be difficult to implement short of Secretary Mattis’s personal and deft hand."

The enemies have been selected and now General Mattis is going to deal with them. This is the the man who declared "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Stand by, world, for the deft and manly hand of General Mattis who is going to ensure that the United States will devote its vastly expanding military might to achieving Competition, Deterrence and Victory.

The craving for military domination began before Mattis was appointed Top Dog in the Pentagon, and China and Russia have been in the sights of Washington for a long time, but it will be interesting to see how Mattis develops US military provocation from the Baltic to the South China Sea.

A headline in the US military magazine Stars and Stripes last September was eye-catching. It told readers that there were "Big guns, better chow for US soldiers on Russia deterrence mission" in Lithuania. The artillery and nourishing provisions were provided for the "500 173rd Airborne Brigade soldiers that swooped into the Baltics this month on a mission to deter Russian aggression."

Then the UK’s Observer newspaper informed us that "US Special Forces have been deployed close to the border with Russia as part of a ‘persistent’ presence of American troops in the Baltics. Dozens of special ops solders are being stationed along Europe’s eastern flank to reassure NATO allies Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The move will also allow the US to monitor Russian maneuvers amid fears of further destabilization following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 . . . US special operations forces will complement around 4,000 NATO troops posted to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in the coming months."

It was noted by Nick Turse on January 9 that "for the past two years the US has maintained a Special Operations contingent in almost every nation on Russia’s western border. As Special Operations Command chief General Raymond Thomas put it last year, ‘We’ve had persistent presence in every country – every NATO country and others on the border with Russia doing phenomenal things with our allies, helping them prepare for their threats."

What threats? What Russian aggression? What destabilization? Russia has never threatened any Baltic State and there is not the slightest evidence that Russia wants to invade Lithuania. Their trade balance is that Russia imports total $2.5 billion a year from Lithuania and exports are $3.3 billion and it is in the best interests of both countries to expand this mutually beneficial arrangement, although it seems a trifle strange that although Lithuania’s exports declined by 2.5 per cent in 2016, this was in part "explained by the drop in exports of oil products (due to American competition)."

But all US and most European mainstream media claim that when the majority of the citizens of Crimea voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia after the coup in Ukraine in 2014, this was somehow evidence of Russian scheming and aggression against Ukraine, extending to the Baltic and goodness knows where else.

The scheming before and during the Ukraine coup was illustrated by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, who, as made clear in a transcript of one of her expletive-garnished conversations, was deeply involved in arranging the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. She was photographed together with the US ambassador handing out cookies to rebels in Kiev’s Maidan Square in December 2013. The goodies were taken to the square by her armed US security guards and when the time was right for the cameras she was given the bags and doled them out. It was a gruesome but well-orchestrated little pantomime. It’s interesting to imagine the hullabaloo, the ululating uproar, the hysterical furor in Washington and the western media if the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs had gone to Zuccotti Park in New York City along with the Russian ambassador during the anti-Wall Street demonstrations in 2011 and, while escorted by armed Russian guards, handed out cookies to the demonstrators.

After the coup, as the BBC reported in March 2014, voters in Crimea "were asked whether they wanted to join Russia, or have greater autonomy within Ukraine" and made their preference clear. In the period between the US-inspired coup in Ukraine and the vote to rejoin Russia there was not a single case of bloodshed in Crimea. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was asked by the government of Crimea to send representatives to monitor the referendum but refused to do so.

There were energetic attempts in the West to paint the post-accession treatment of Ukrainians in Crimea as harsh, but even the ultra-right-wing UK Daily Telegraph reported that "Like many of the Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea, the 600-strong marine battalion in Feodosia has strong local links. Many of the men are either local recruits or have served here so long they have put down roots. Only about 140 of the 600-strong battalion stationed here are expected to return to Ukraine. The remainder, with local family and friends, have opted to remain in Crimea – the land they call home."

Exactly a year after the referendum Forbes noted that ". . . the Crimeans are happy right where they are . . . poll after poll shows that the locals there – be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tatars – are mostly all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine. . . . Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit." Not much evidence of Russian aggression there – but a great deal of evidence of Western interference aimed at destabilizing the region.

The US-NATO military alliance, the Brussels-Washington nexus mentioned by Forbes, refuses to believe that the citizens of the Peninsula are content or that Russia has no desire to "annex" any territory. As Stars and Stripes informs us, the big guns and better chow for US soldiers sent to Russia’s border are "part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the United States’ commitment to deter aggression in Europe in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula." The drumbeat of "annexation" is continuous and as with many propaganda campaigns has succeeded because Western media rarely carry evenhanded accounts of what actually happened. The Psyops campaign directors are guided by the old saying that "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it", which is wrongly attributed to Josef Goebbels but spot on for accuracy.

In February 2015 the Washington Times published an objective piece by Steven Hurst of Associated Press in which he stated that "Since the Soviet collapse [the US-NATO military alliance] – as Moscow had feared – has spread eastward, expanding along a line from Estonia in the north to Romania and Bulgaria in the south. The Kremlin claims it had Western assurances that would not happen. Now, Moscow’s only buffers to a complete NATO encirclement on its western border are Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine. The Kremlin would not have to be paranoid to look at that map with concern."

After the Warsaw Pact disbanded in March 1991 the US-NATO military alliance, although deprived of any reason to continue in existence, not only kept going but in 1999 added Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to its then 16 members. As the BBC noted, these countries became "the first former Soviet bloc states to join NATO, taking the alliance’s borders some 400 miles towards Russia."

NATO continued to expand around Russia’s borders, with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joining in 2004. As President Putin observed in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera in 2015, "we are not expanding anywhere; it is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving towards our borders. Is this a manifestation of our aggression?"

But Big Guns and Better Chow will continue to surge against Russia’s borders, as the US-NATO alliance continues its confrontation. The United States’ declaration about its determination to "Compete, Deter, and Win" is an indication that we’re on our way to a very expensive war.

Brian Cloughley is author of A History of the Pakistan Army.

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