Thursday, May 31, 2012

Europe replaces US as cheerleader for military expansion
Dmitry Babich, Voice of Russia, May 30 2012
Europeans seem to have placed themselves at the steering wheel of the international campaign against Syria, showing more and more signs of a belligerent attitude and penchant for military solutions. This new behavior pattern, previously associated with USAians, took hold of the French and British leaders in the last few days. A rather unexpected turn for the previously peaceful nations. Examples? First, West European leaders unanimously agreed to the deployment of the US-made “missile shield” in Central and Eastern Europe (in the 1980s, France strongly objected to the “star wars” program of president Ronald Reagan, and its neighbors had at least some reservations about it). Second, Paris and London became the most vocal supporters of “punishing” the Syrian president Bashar Assad for the slaughter of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla, for which they put the blame squarely on the Syrian government. Numerous newspaper reports make the previously missing connection between the anti-missile shield and the newly pro-active stand of West European nations in the Middle East. A French scholar, Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research, explains that Europe will need its portion of the anti-missile shield in order to be able to intervene militarily in the Middle East with total impunity. Tertrais writes in Le Figaro:
There is no more talk about diverting a massive Soviet nuclear attack. Our objective is to prevent the countries of the Middle East from being in a position to make a strike against the territory of NATO alliance. If Middle Eastern nations had such a capability, it could make Western leaders hesitate if faced with a need to defend our interests in the region or to intervene there in the framework of an international mandate.
No other attitude could be more clear and more dangerous. So, besides the Russian nuclear potential (still a problem in the eyes of the US, since it is the only deterrent to their global ambitions), USAians and Europeans also plan to render defenseless those countries in the Middle East which dare disagree with the Western policies. Vladimir Baranovsky, a professor of international studies at Moscow-based MGIMO University, said while speaking to a conference on European security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations:
What is interesting is the fact that the perspective of a new missile shield did not move West European nations even an inch closer to abandoning their nuclear deterrents. Yes, these countries’ combined nuclear potential amounts to just 2.5% of the combined nuclear capability of the world’s nuclear powers. But the submarine-based nuclear missiles of, say, Great Britain are highly mobile and capable of a strike against an enemy in any part of the globe. And the West European governments stick to the policy of “deliberate ambiguity” on nuclear issues, not bothering to explain which actions of a potential aggressor could prompt their nuclear response.
The recent events in Syria, as well as a military campaign against Libya a year ago, have demonstrated how easy it is for a not very big nation to fall out of favor with the EU’s “grand” members. The massacre in Houla was immediately squarely blamed on the Syrian government. Anyone having a hint of doubt in the “pan-European” version of events is immediately ostracized. It became a rule despite obvious discrepancies in Western press reports from Houla, which first blamed the massacre on the government’s heavy arms, such as tanks and artillery, and later switched to “knives and bullets” purportedly used against children by a pro-government militia Shabiha. According to the NYT, the killers were nonchalant enough to yell “Shabiha with you, Assad” during the murders. A rather strange conduct, to say the least, but enthusiastically accepted by the European public opinion. Nadya Arbatova, the head of the policy research center at Moscow-based IMEMO, reflects:
I can’t see the reason for such a lack of desire to check facts. I would remind you that many European leaders, including former French president Nicolas Sarcozy, received Assad in their capitals, as well as the now dead and silent Ghaddafi. One can’t escape having a feeling that someone is covering up something using indignation over uninvestigated killings as an excuse.
In his article, Bruno Tertrais notes that “common engagement” of European powers in the missile defense shield, for which they are supposed to make a contribution of $200m, does not render Europe’s own nuclear deterrence obsolete or unneeded. In Vladimir Baranovsky’s view, the desire to maintain a nuclear “stick” while also getting an impeccable anti-missile “shield” sets a very bad example for potential proliferators of nuclear arms, including the Middle Eastern countries. Strong nuclear capability plus total impunity indeed makes up a rather dangerous combination for any country.

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