On April 14th, the Associated Press ran an article quoting several western military leaders about the dangers of the low level of relations between Russia and NATO in general, and the higher risk of nuclear war based on miscalculation or misunderstanding more specifically. General Curtis Scaparrotti, who in his role as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe has only met with his Russian counterpart twice, said the following:
During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked. I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.
….I personally think communication is a very important part of deterrence. So, I think we should have more communication with Russia. It would ensure that we understand each other and why we are doing what we’re doing.
But even in the midst of making this crucial point, Scaparotti knows it’s somehow considered politically gauche to even suggest this modest and reasonable step, and seeks to temper it by adding, “It doesn’t have to be a lot.”
The article goes on to mention the law passed by Congress in 2016 hindering military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. (the dominant force in NATO) and Russia. It was amended in 2018 to allow military communications with the intent of “reducing the risk of conflict.”
Retired U.S. Navy admiral and Commander of NATO in Europe from 2009 to 2013 James Stavidris, doesn’t have a problem with challenging Russia over what the west sees as Moscow overstepping its bounds (e.g. Ukraine and Syria), but he believes that it’s critical for the west and Russia to have dialogue on nuclear arms control issues:
“We are in danger of stumbling backward into a Cold War that is to no one’s advantage,” he said in an email exchange. “Without steady, political-level engagement between the defense establishments, the risk of a true new Cold War rises steadily.”
Former senator Sam Nunn, who co-authored the Nunn-Lugar bill to cooperate with Russia on nuclear disarmament and safety after the end of the Cold War, also expressed concern about the extent of politicization of relations with Russia and the possible consequences:
“You can’t call time out,” he said in an interview. “The nuclear issues go on, and they’re getting more dangerous.”
Nunn co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently with former Secretary of State George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry in which they state:
“A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War.”
However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford was dismissive of these concerns, claiming that the modest senior-level military contacts he has with the head of the Russian military, General Valery Gerasimov, are sufficient and claims that any problems between the west and Russia are due to Russia’s aggression, making it difficult to have relations:
It’s very difficult for us to have normal relationships with a country that has not behaved normally over the last few years. There are major issues that affect our bilateral relationship that have to be addressed, to include where Russia has violated international laws, norms and standards.
Someone from Washington citing Russia’s violation of international law as a justification for cutting or minimizing critical communication. Let’s see, considering that the U.S. invaded Iraq in violation of international law and has been conducting military operations in Syria in violation of international law (it wasn’t authorized by the UN or invited in by the internationally recognized government of Syria, although Russia was) – well, I’ve had fudge that ain’t that rich. Maybe they’re talking about Crimea – oh wait, there was Kosovo which didn’t even have a referendum. Hmmm…..
I do like the idea of international law, but Washington isn’t in any moral position to advocate for it when it has made clear by its own actions that it holds international law in contempt when it is an obstacle to what it wants to do. And no one else on the world stage that is capable of acting independently is going to take such arguments seriously by Washington either. Wouldn’t it be nice if the journalist from the AP would have brought up this inconsistency to General Dunford or at least reminded readers of it in the article? Maybe they could have also reminded Dunford that the U.S. has allied with all kinds of unsavory characters since WWII who have violated international law, like the leaders of Israel and General Suharto of Indonesia. You know, just throw caution to the wind for a moment and conduct a true act of journalism, just for the experience.
Okay, back to reality….
An official from the Russian foreign ministry was quoted in the AP article as reiterating Moscow’s readiness to engage in dialogue to reduce risks.
The next day, the Moscow Times reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who also served as Moscow’s permanent representative to NATO between 2012 and 2018, publicly acknowledged that Russia had ceased all cooperation with the U.S.-led alliance.
In what appeared to be a response to Scaparotti and Stavridis’s comments, Grushko reiterated the dangers of the abysmal state of current relations and increased risk of armed conflict:
“[A]ll sensible people hope it doesn’t happen. It would be a humanitarian catastrophe. I’m sure they understand that in Washington and Brussels.”
Let’s hope so. But…
As if all of this saber-rattling and lack of communication wasn’t bad enough coming from the military and intelligence establishment, Congress seems to be competing for who can come up with the more insane and provocative policy toward the world’s other nuclear superpower. Philip Giraldi reports in a recent article for Unz Review about a new anti-Russia bill introduced in the Senate:
A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.
Call your senators and tell them to oppose this nonsense right out of the gate. You can reach your senators by calling 202-224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to the individual office. Thanks.