A cornered animal is a dangerous animal. For the elite in Washington, with the terminal decline of their “American Century” and the global empire it built during it, they find themselves in a most unaccommodating corner and thus have become increasingly reckless and dangerous in their decision making.
Compounding matters exponentially is the fact that in that corner and amid Washington’s desperation, they are in possession of thousands of nuclear weapons and an increasing disinterest in the treaties that sought to ensure such weapons were neither used nor proliferated.
The Unspoken Nuclear Threat
The highly destructive trade wars, real wars and political and/or economic interference the US is engaged in worldwide is creating a negative and very tangible impact on the globe. Despite the high costs of Washington’s increasingly disruptive polices and the prominence they assert themselves with across daily headlines, it is perhaps the nuclear threat of an increasingly reckless political order that poses the most danger.
Yet it is often downplayed, spun or left unspoken entirely.
Incremental policy decisions spanning the presidential administrations of George Bush Jr., Barrack Obama and Donald Trump have seen the end of two important nuclear arms treaties signed with the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. Not only have these treaties been unilaterally shredded by the United States, the US immediately took actions these treaties had sought specifically to prevent such as the encircling of Russia with anti-missile systems to prevent Moscow from launching a nuclear retaliation in the wake of a hypothetical US first strike, undermining the entire premise of mutually assured destruction and the keystone of nuclear deterrence.
The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is nearing its expiration in 2021 and policymakers in Washington appear to have little interest in renegotiating its extension or its replacement with a similar or better treaty.
According to Reuters in its 2017 article, “Exclusive: In call with Putin, Trump denounced Obama-era nuclear arms treaty – sources,” it’s claimed that:
In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.
While many may dismiss Trump’s denouncement as an extension of his brash leadership style, it fits in perfectly with an incremental process of unilateral US withdrawal from a series of fundamental nuclear arms treaties, an incremental process almost never mentioned across the US mass media.
Washington Deliberately Walks Toward a Dangerous Nuclear Threat
In 2002, US President George Bush Jr. would unilaterally withdraw the US from the The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty). This was immediately followed by US efforts to encircle Russia with anti-missile systems designed to stymie any Russian nuclear retaliation.
Then in August 2019, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). Despite Trump’s name being associated with the withdrawal, the process of preparing for the withdrawal as well as developing the weapon systems prohibited under it began during the administration of US President Barrack Obama.
Immediately after the US withdrawal from the treaty, intermediate-range missile systems developed in the US were unveiled; systems that most certainly were under development long before the US withdrawal from the treaty.
Apparently, regardless of who is president and whatever their supposed policies are regarding foreign policy, there is a singular continuity of agenda aimed at walking the US away from nuclear arms controls and toward a future of reckless nuclear posturing attempting to upturn the concept of nuclear deterrence and breeding a dangerous arms race with newer, faster and more sophisticated weapons that will reduce the reaction time needed to prevent or react to a nuclear first strike.
While it is still unlikely that the US would ever launch a nuclear first strike, the probability of miscommunications leading to an accidental nuclear exchange is now increased. Why would the US take this risk? Who are the benefactors?
But it is a Lucrative Nuclear Threat
To begin with, every new US military weapon system requires research and development funded by US taxpayers, to the obvious benefit of America’s massive military industrial complex. The production, deployment and maintenance of these weapon systems are likewise highly lucrative for arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon who have developed the missile systems hitherto prohibited by the ABM and INF treaties as well as New START.
Injecting billions upon billions into arms manufacturers who possess the lobbying wherewithal to change US foreign policy including its position on various treaties inhibiting the development and deployment of complex and highly expensive weapon systems is an abundantly obvious motivation for the US’ withdrawal from various nuclear arms control treaties. But it is not the only motivation.
Placing anti-missile systems as well as intermediate-range first strike missiles in nations neighboring Russia is part of a process of further transforming these neighbouring nations into appendages of US military power.
As such, not only are these missile systems deployed along with US military personnel to maintain and operate them, a deepening network of inter-military cooperation is built around the process of deploying such systems. Peripheral military cooperation will undoubtedly lead to an increased US military footprint in these nations as well as deepening interoperability between the US military and the military of nations hosting US troops and missile system.
Logically this translates into joint-training, a growing officer corps in host nations amicable to US means and methods as well as the sale of US arms unrelated to the various nuclear treaties the US has withdrawn from and the missile systems it has deployed as a result.
In other words, citing a non-existent nuclear threat from Russia to sow hysteria and panic and serve as impetus to deploy US missile systems to “meet the threat,” allows the US “to get its foot in the door” regarding a much wider military involvement in nations along Russia’s peripheries.
More of the Same That Led to America’s Decline in the First Place
In Washington, this is imagined as a means to help reverse declining US influence in Europe and serve as a template to save its likewise declining presence in Asia-Pacific opposite Beijing.
In reality, it is simply more of the same sort of non-constructive and unsustainable belligerence that has contributed to America’s decline, belligerence that serves as a stand-in for what should be American industrial, economic, financial and sociocultural competition and collaboration among the nations of the world rather than an increasingly futile attempt to assert American military hegemony upon the world.
America is not going to out-compete the industrial capacity of China or the diplomatic savvy of either Beijing or Moscow by shredding treaties, deploying missiles and using both as an excuse for further military expansion in Europe or East Asia.
Considering this, describing the US as cornered and desperate seems entirely appropriate. The real hope is that the special interests clinging to and benefiting from this dangerous policy will continue to fade as a force in directing America’s future, and other more constructive interests emerging across America’s socioeconomic landscape will displace both them and their policies.
In the meantime, nations like Russia and China targeted by America’s increasingly reckless view on nuclear weapons can construct a new policy architecture to create checks and balances regarding new weaponry within the context of nuclear deterrence. Doing so will further undermine and expose the current special interests driving US policy as irresponsible and as international rogues, pressuring either them or those who may replace them to adopt new and effective nuclear arms controls.
Failure to do so may lead to a cascading effect among nations seeking out nuclear weapons in a desperate bid to create a deterrence against an increasingly alarming US military threat; both nuclear and conventional. Investment in weapons globally redirects resources away from infrastructure and genuine, sustainable socioeconomic progress.
Thus, even if the actual threat of nuclear war is minimal, Washington’s current policy of belligerence is still highly costly to global peace, stability and progress. It is costly not only to Washington’s opponents, but also to the American people who will continue subsidizing corporations like Lockheed and Raytheon while civil infrastructure, healthcare and education at home continue to decline.
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Gunnar Ulson is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
Featured image is from NEO