Michael Hudson: US-NATO Border Confrontation with Russia Risks Nuclear War and Loss of European Partners

Yves here. The US press tries to create the impression that our political and trade partners in Europe are all in for our increasingly aggressive confrontation with Russia. This Real News Network segment challenges that simplistic view.

One point that Hudson does not make clear is that it is actually a requirement of NATO that members spend 2% of GDP supporting the alliance. But it hasn’t been observed. The country that pretends to meet its 2% obligation is the UK, but it does that by classifying defense expenditures it would have made regardless as part of its NATO commitment. If I read Hudson correctly, the US is starting to ask NATO members to ante up. Ironically, that’s not that different than the position that Donald Trump is taking (as in his objection to NATO is not the organization per se but the degree to which the US is shouldering the costs).

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Washington.
President Obama met with NATO leaders in Warsaw last weekend to what seemed like a restatement of vows to protect Europe. Let’s take a listen to what the president had to say.

BARACK OBAMA: In this challenging moment, I want to take this opportunity to state clearly what will never change. And that is the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common defense. Throughout my time in office, one of my top foreign policy priorities has been to strengthen our alliances, especially with NATO. And as I reflect on the past eight years, both the progress and the challenges, I can say with confidence that we’ve delivered on that promise. The United States has increased our presence here in Europe. NATO is as strong, as nimble, and as ready as ever.

DESVARIEUX: So ready that the president will be sending 1,000 troops to Poland as one of four battalions that are being sent to countries bordering Russia. But what is really at the heart of this matter? Are these just tactics by the U.S. leading to an escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Russia? And what role should NATO be playing in maintaining a balanced Europe?

Now joining us to help us answer these questions is our guest, Michael Hudson. Michael is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s also the author of many books, including his latest, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy. Thank you so much for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON: It’s good to be here.

DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, we just heard President Obama pledging his allegiance to protecting Europe. Does Europe really need protecting, though?

HUDSON: Well, as soon as Obama made those words, there was a flurry of European statements saying that Obama and NATO were making Europe less secure. The French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that we don’t need NATO. NATO has no role to play in our Russian relations. That leaders of the two major German parties, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, said that NATO was warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present. William Perry, the former head of the Pentagon in the mid-90s, said that NATO was threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in Europe.

One of Russia’s leading military strategists said, here’s what the problem is: NATO wants to move bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia. That means that if they launch a missile over us, we have only a few seconds to retaliate. President Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying that Russia doesn’t really have a land army. In fact, today, no country in the world – in the Northern Hemisphere, at least – has a land army that can invade anywhere.

Try to imagine America being invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You can’t imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.

As a matter of fact, what NATO is trying to do is to goad Russia into building up an army so the US can undercut its economy by diverting more and more resources away from the economy towards the military. Russia’s not falling for it. Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to invade the Baltics or Poland.

But Putin did say that Russia has one means of retaliation. That’s atomic bombs. Atomic weapons are basically defensive. They’re saying that they don’t need an army anymore. Nor does any country need an army if they have an atomic weapon, because if you attack them, then can wipe you out. And they’ll be wiped out, too, but no nation is going to be able to conquer them. No country, really, can conquer any other country in today’s world. That means that Russia can’t conquer Europe by invading and occupying it.

In e effect, Putin and the Russian leaders have said, look, if an American plane goes a little bit off into Russian territory, like ships often try to provoke things, they don’t know whether it’s an atomic attack at all. Russia can’t take a risk. If there’s a little bit of a movement against them, they’re going to launch the hydrogen bombs, and there goes Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Brussels. That’s why you’re having all of these warnings.

Europe seems increasingly terrified that Obama is going to destabilize Eurasia. Even more terrified of Hillary getting in, who’s indicated she’s going to appoint a superhawk, the Cheney protege Michele Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense, and appoint Victoria Nuland as Secretary of State.

I’ve been in Germany twice in the last two months, and they’re really worried that somehow America is telling Europe, let’s you and Russia fight. And basically it’s a crisis.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Michael, I want to get back to your point about how we’re seeing this narrative develop about a potential nuclear war on the horizon. And it seems like it’s quite real. This is not just conjecture, here. We have U.S. and Russia’s military forces warning that a nuclear war is nearer than ever before.

So let’s talk about interests, here. On either side, let’s be as specific as possible, and call a spade a spade. In whose interest is it to keep up this narrative? Because I’m sure there are people not just in the United States that profit from this, but also in Russia. Can you speak to that?

HUDSON: Well, one of the points made at the NATO meetings was NATO urged countries not to rely on Russian weaponry. There was an insistence by Obama that the NATO countries spend 2 percent of their GDP on NATO, on arms, mainly by buying arms from American military manufacturers, Raytheon, Boeing and the others.

Now, look at what’s happening in Europe. It’s not even growing 2 percent, because of the austerity that’s being imposed on it. So 2 percent is the entire annual economic growth in Europe. This large amount has to be spent on American arms. So it turns out that this sabre-rattling to Russia is a means of obliging the European countries to pay the United States arms manufacturers for goods, and to basically hold Europe up for ransom, saying if you don’t be a part of this, we’re not going to defend you.

Europe is saying, well we really don’t need defense. We’d rather have an economic relationship with Russia. Especially the Germans say they don’t want the sanctions. The Italians say they don’t want the sanctions. The Americans say, we don’t want you to make money off Russia. Buy from us, not from Russia. Buy your agricultural goods and your other goods from us, or at least from countries in the dollar orbit, not from the Russian orbit.

That, essentially, is what Obama meant by the reset. It meant a new Cold War. But the essence of this new Cold War is to fight in the new way, which is a financial war. The military are now only a catalyst for the financial warfare by the United States.

The first effect of the reset was to drive Russia into an alliance with China. And now, NATO may be overplaying this right-wing hand so much that it’s driving Germany and Italy and France out of NATO. That is the effect this is–what it’s doing is counter-effective.

DESVARIEUX: Michael, what about on the Russian side? There are interests that are encouraging this reset?
HUDSON: They had hoped that the reset would mean a winding down of military spending. Russia and almost every country would like to use more of its resources for the domestic economy, not for military overhead. America is trying to force Russia to spend more on overhead as part of its economic warfare with Russia.

This was Brzezinski’s plan in Afghanistan, you know, under the Carter administration. The idea was that if you could force Russia to pay more for its military to defend Afghanistan, then its economy would buckle and discontent would spread. This is the essence of American strategy: to spread chaos. Then the Americans can come in and promote nationalist and other localist breakups, and try to break up Russia just as America is trying to push a breakup of China as a long-term strategy. There’s no way that this cannot backfire on the United States.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk about what everyday people could do to move away from accepting this narrative, or move away from this potential reset that President Obama is proposing? What policy decisions could be made to de-escalate this tension?

HUDSON: Essentially to dissolve NATO, which France has been pushing now for many years. There’s no need for NATO now that there’s no threat of any military invasion anymore. Remember after World War II, NATO was put up when there was an idea that European countries should never go to war with each other again. There will never be war between France, Germany, Italy. That’s been solved. There’s no way in which European countries will go to war.

The second thing was, what if Russia would re-invade like it did when it fought against Hitler? Well, there’s no danger of Russia invading anymore. In fact, in 1990, when the Soviet Union broke up, the Ukraine passed a resolution that it wanted to remain neutral and benefit from its neutral buffer pivot between Russia and Europe. The United States then put $5 billion into Ukraine, and spurred a nationalist-ethnic revolution. It took the United States 20 years to turn that around and break up this neutrality.

The U.S. strategy is to prevent neutrality. Europe’s economic interest is to achieve neutrality with Russia, and have economic unity so that there’s little chance of any confrontation with Russia as there is among the European countries themselves.

DESVARIEUX: All right. Michael Hudson, always a pleasure having you on the program. Thank you so much for being with us.

HUDSON: Good to be here.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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  1. pretzelattack

    i didn’t realize flournoy was a cheney apparatchik. almost every day i learn something that makes a clinton administration look even worse.

  2. EndOfTheWorld

    Right, Hillary is the most dangerous of all the candidates. But The Donald looks less attractive, the more I see about him. I saw and interview with Gary Johnson where he spoke out against drones, and of course he wants to legalize marijuana, which is of paramount importance. I think if the libs make it into the debates (a big if) they could get a lot of votes. Their problem is lack of charisma. If they had gone with Jesse Ventura they could have taken the presidency this year. Which again makes it seem like maybe they are just a front for some special interest and not seriously wanting to win.

  3. EndOfTheWorld

    Right, Hillary is the most dangerous of all the candidates. But The Donald looks less attractive, the more I see about him. I saw an interview with Gary Johnson where he spoke out against drones, and of course he wants to legalize marijuana, which is of paramount importance. I think if the libs make it into the debates (a big if) they could get a lot of votes. Their problem is lack of charisma. If they had gone with Jesse Ventura they could have taken the presidency this year. Which again makes it seem like maybe they are just a front for some special interest and not seriously wanting to win.

    1. James Levy

      Hillary is the most dangerous now because she’s in on the Washington Consensus about confrontation. How Trump will respond when he’s fully immersed in the shark tank is anyone’s guess, but I think that they’ve been handling more savvy (LBJ) and more honest (Carter) men than him over the years and none of them have, in the end, bucked the Foreign Policy consensus.

      Jesse Ventura has spoken too many truths, and has too good an idea of the predicament we are in, to be allowed within 50 miles of the White House. He is way beyond Trump’s “stick me in the WH and America will be great again” baloney. Ventura sees the system of power, and knows that it is ruthless and secretive. And he pissed off the military by mentioning their death squads–an inexcusable faux pas in American politics.

      1. pretzelattack

        carter did over the panama canal and how to handle the right wing in el salvador. lbj bought into the war he didn’t have to be handled. moreover, clinton doesn’t have to be handled, she is not only on board she will be running the ship enthusiastically onto the reef. trump we don’t know, but we do know he isn’t as wired in, and is more likely to be a one term president.
        i think he’s a salesman and a bullshit artist, but i dont see why he would push russia into a nuclear confrontation. so far the worst neocons are backing clinton.

      2. EndOfTheWorld

        Yeah, they “handled” JFK and RFK as well. Trump disappointed me with the VP pick. Had to please the republican establishment to get past the convention, but why? Why not pick somebody he liked and fight at the convention. If he is giving in to them now, he will continue to give in. His talk about anti-TPP etc. will evaporate if he’s elected, I’m thinking.

        1. pretzelattack

          likely. we’re screwed on tpp, i just hope to avoid as many wars as possible, but avoid a war with russia first and foremost.

        2. jawbone

          My first thought on hearing that Trump chose Pence was that the really wacko wing of the Repub Party would love to have a Pence presidency…. Has Trump no understanding of how to protect himself from either assassination or from impeachment? Pence is no Quayle and would be welcomed as prez by the PTBs.

          It’s also scary that Trump’s Supreme Court nomination examples are extremely right wing. Which, given that some of his ideas are somewhat more to the center or even leftish, is worrisome. I think he’s already being co-opted into being a “good little R prez.” Buffonish, but will delegate to the satisfaction of the PTBs.

          1. EndOfTheWorld

            By picking Pence, I think Trump is also signaling that he really doesn’t want the job. If he picked somebody that would attack HRC, he could win. Pence is a lapdog of the establishment, who won’t help Trump at all. Trump is figuring he will come out way ahead by just being the losing candidate, which will give him a huge serving of the publicity he so dearly loves. If he’s elected, he’ll be dealing with problems he can’t handle, and may get murdered, to boot.

        3. The Trumpening

          While Jeff Sessions would have been the safest pick in terms of avoiding assassination or impeachment — there are some things to be said about Pence.

          First of all, Trump is executing a hostile takeover of a failed political party. His policies are quite radically at odds with traditional GOP aims (which is kind of why he won the nomination). But he needed to make a nod towards the establishment by basically picking a likeable version of Ted Cruz. Of course I hate Pence but I spoke to several older relatives and acquaintances who lean GOP and love Trump, and they were all quite happy with Pence. There is a kind of ying yang thing going on between the raging alpha heat of Trump and the calm beta dorkiness of Pence

          One interesting phenomenon is that as a Trump victory nears, the GOP have a choice — either get on board the Trump train or get ready for Hillary. I see signs that the traditional GOP are starting to crack under the incessant criticism they are under from pro-Trump forces, especially concerning globalism vs. nationalism, and their warmongering for Israel. While Trump was introducing Pence he went on anti-TPP rampage. it will be Pence adapting to Trump — not the other way around.

          So what better way to start winning converts to Trumpism than by having a staid globalist corporate cuck like Pence undergo a very public conversion to a fire-breathing nationalist Trumpist stud? Now even the loser cucks at National Review, with the spectre of irrelevance looming in the near future, are at least pretending to move towards nationalism by trying to claim they were onto national sovereignty and tougher on immigration before Trump was.

          One thing is clear, the Pence tail will not be wagging the maddog Trump. And Trump is far from foolish — he knows exactly what the stakes are on Russia and how the NeoCons play their games. Once in office he will move swiftly to meet with Putin and calm tensions. The NeoCons want a global US Empire with themselves in the driver’s seat. Trump wants a multilateral world with pay-to-play deals to protect other nations. The only leverage the NeoCons could have over Trump is the threat of impeachment. And so his public conversion of Pence may lead the way for GOP House candidates to run on a pro-Trump platform and thus lower the chances of them joining a globalist NeoCon attempt to impeach Trump.

          1. EndOfTheWorld

            I hope you are right that Trump is trying to win. I think he’s taking a dive by picking Pence. I’d like to see Trump come out in favor of pot legalization—-that would make him popular.

          2. HotFlash

            Once in office he will move swiftly to meet with Putin and calm tensions.

            I am curious, how do you know this?

            1. EndOfTheWorld

              Right, HotFlash, what I’m saying is it’s slowly dawning on Trump what he’s going to have to do if he DOES get elected. I think he’s starting to realize that he can’t play three dimensional chess with guys like Putin and the whole rest of the world and come out on top. He CAN’T “make American great again”—-nobody can. The country has already been trashed, it’s just unfolding in a time-delay fashion. Having said that, I will still vote for him if he comes out in favor of pot legalization. Otherwise, I might cast my vote for Gary Johnson, although he’s a big bulls%$#ter as well. I’m taking a look at Jill Stein, also.

  4. James Levy

    Underlying question: why has the Washington policy elite become so scared that they are pushing this on Obama (who, if we are to believe the stories about Clinton as S of S, has very cautious instincts but can be pushed)?

    This is all very dumb and risky. But you get the feeling from the way the media handles it that “the deal is done” at the center. They want confrontation. But some fear is spurring them on. Climate Change? Dollar Hegemony collapsing? Something we don’t know about, or is out there in plain sight but we don’t see?

    As for Trump, the big problem with him was that as an outsider he’s not in on the deal. He doesn’t seem to read or partake in the insider FP/CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) discourse. Can they bring him on side? My guess is that they absolutely can, but it will take time and they’ll have to curry favor with him and/or scare him shitless (think Truman and Carter), neither things the FP elite are used to or want to engage in. They’ve had unbelievable success since McKinley was pushed into a war with Spain (with the debatable exception of Eisenhower) so their chances of retaining control of US foreign policy are great. What we need to do is figure out why the FP elite are doing what they are doing, expose it, and work like demons to check their power.

    1. pretzelattack

      i think they are so blinded by the belief that us is the superpower and has to do superpower stuff to increase its influence on the world that they just can’t see what’s in front of them. that’s what you get when you put hacks and fanatics in charge of foreign policy.

    2. vidimi

      i wonder if the sense of urgency isn’t due to the rate at which china, and to a much lesser degree, russia are arming themselves. of course, those countries are arming themselves as a response to american aggression, so it’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

      currently, those countries are more than capable of inflicting heavy losses near their borders but can’t do much to project their power away from them. in a few short years, they may be able to do that as well, although both countries are clearly eschewing massive 20th century navies like those of the US.

    3. Medbh

      I’ve heard that WWII ended because of the economic boost from war expenditures and new technologies (don’t know if that’s true). Maybe it’s an right/left acceptable reason to spend money on education, science, and infrastruture?

      Easiest answer is probably arrogance. There’s money and power in war, and the consequences don’t usually impact the elites, or they think they can manage them .

      1. vidimi

        the great depression ended because of the economic boost from war expenditures and new technologies in ww2

    4. DJG

      James Levy and vidimi: I like James Levy’s question, in that sense that I keep wondering if the Poles ever learn anything. Does the Polish government think that this confrontation with Russia is going to be an exception to Poland’s disastrous history in relation to Russia? This aggressiveness is weird. (I understand that the Baltic states are small, weak, and do not want to be occupied again, but Poland? Is anyone there thinking?)

      Yet vidimi refers to the self-licking ice ceam cone. No one seems to have lost ever betting on war futures.

      The situation with the TTP and TTIP is similar. It is an aspect of Anglo-American economic fantasies, and we have discovered that Obama is mainly a fantasist. Yet the Anglo-American elites are starting to have a whiff of the Guns of August, stumbling into war to defend their vaunted honor, their vaunted intelligence, their ethnic snobbery, and their money. After all, wouldn’t Putin know better if he only had gone to Yale?

      1. vidimi

        too right about Poland. it’s like the country has a martyr complex: you’d expect them to consider their position as the eventual battleground in any ground war between russia and nato and that that realisation would push them to take steps that would prevent them becoming a future moonscape, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        to be fair, this is the country that, in 1939, had the world’s strongest cavalry…

        1. Indrid Cold

          Most of these Poles with revanchist sentiment seem to be native born Americans. Poland used to have its foot on Russia’s neck from the 16th to 17th centuries so there’s a history there that it’s Polands glorious duty to lead Russia by the nose.

      2. hreik

        I keep wondering if the Poles ever learn anything

        The Poles lost their intelligentsia oh, about 75 years ago.

    5. Carolinian

      Why? Because they are useless twits with nothing better to do with their time. War is the health of the think tanks. As Hedges would say, it’s the force that gives them meaning.

      My belief is that we will never have an effective left in this country until we once again have a vibrant antiwar movement. This is why some of us were considerably unenthused about Sanders. When it comes to FP views he isn’t much different from his opponent. When he endorsed her he even picked up her language about Iran being the biggest threat.

      1. John Wright

        I remember reading the assertion the USA will stay militaristic until war is brought to its shores.

        The last time a foreign power (now ally Britain) had an invading army in the 48 states was in the war of 1812.

        The various Casus Belli of the USA for military actions such as the sinking of the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, Korean War, the dominoes falling in Vietnam, Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and 9-11 were not USA homeland invasions, by foreign troops, and are not similar in any way to what various parts of Europe experienced in WWI/WWII..

        Here is a quote from Eisenhower from http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/011611b.html, by a former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman who actually met Eisenhower’s bother and a professor Malcolm Moos, who played major roles in drafting the Eisenhower’s farewell speech.

        “Several weeks earlier, he (Eisenhower) had privately told his senior advisers in the Oval Office, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.””

        I found the link a good read, as it gives the background of Eisenhower’s farewell speech, describes the power of the defense industry and offers some 2011 advice to Obama (apparently ignored).

        Clinton is posed to be sitting in the chair, probably erroneously believing she knows the military and uses of military power well, despite Libya, Syria and Iraq/Afghanistan.

        Armchair warrior Hillary Clinton, forced on us by the Democratic party.

    6. tgs

      Underlying question: why has the Washington policy elite become so scared that they are pushing this on Obama

      Considering the criminal recklessness of the US/Nato strategy, that is an excellent question. All I can come up with is that there are elements in our establishment who want war. Of course, saying that does not answer the question.

      In my opinion this is a poor interview. As many on this thread have pointed out, Hudson makes various claims that the interviewer does not make him substantiate.

      ‘Moving nukes to the Russian border’: he must be referring to the missile shield that recently came on line in Romania which is an extremely destabilizing move. I think some have said that the missiles could be made nuclear. Another missile shield is to come on line in Poland. These are said to be necessary to protect Europe from Iranian nuclear attack.

      ‘Europeans are against Nato’: True that Hollande, Renzi and others made the point in Warsaw that Russia is not an enemy. Nonetheless, they keep renewing the sanctions despite the economic costs. As to the Germans, Merkel seems to be fully supportive of the US/Nato strategy. These same european leaders treat Poroshenko as an important member of the club despite the fact that Kiev has done nothing to implement the Minsk accords. I think Hudson overestimates the willingness of European leaders to chart an independent course.

      The shooting down of MH17 was the proximate reason for the european sanctions. And where is that investigation going? The silence there is really telling.

  5. I Have Strange Dreams

    The greatest fear of the US is (with regard to Europe) that Europe and Russia develop closer ties. With Russian resources, European technology and a large, well educated workforce, the US would be knocked from its perch. Europe and Russia also have geopolitics in their favor:

    Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.

    HJ Mackinder

    From this perspective, UK leaving the EU is a positive development.

  6. Betina

    What’s the end game of this bullshit? And yeah, as someone in Europe, I pretty much share the views Hudson is describing. We’re already all armed to our teeth, we have an environmental catastrophe about to unfold that we need to take of. So why?

    1. vidimi

      i worry that the prevailing belief among the elites may be that we can solve our environmental problems by killing off 80% of the population

      1. jawbone

        Hurry up and die, all you 80 %ers. Takers and useless eaters. Be gone!

        That’s the bottom line for the One Percenters — at least those at the center of power, the most wealthy.

        I knew Floury was a hawk, but I had no idea she was a Cheney-ite. Sheesh.

        Oh, Hillary, we hardly knew ya. But your militarism and Corporatism is becoming clearer and clearer.

        Will she be able to fool enough of the people to get the presidency?

        1. NYPaul

          “Will she be able to fool enough of the people to get the presidency?”

          Maybe, maybe not. But, since she’s had years to install the right people, not to mention gobs of money guaranteeing they “know how to count,” their vote will be a mere formality.

          1. Fiver

            Plus Trump is going to drop a nuclear gaffe on himself if Clinton is not at least 4% ahead going into the last week – they’d rather not have to steal it directly with this many eyeballs open.

        2. Tony Wright

          It is a basic ecological principle that if a predator species overpopulated its habitat, its population will collapse due to an increase in conflict, disease and famine. This is what we humans are doing now. And because of our profligate use of fossil fuels we are arcing up the whole process via anthropogenic climate change and causing the sixth great species extinction in the history of the planet in the process. So much for the constructive use of our supposedly unique capacity For consequential thought.
          Maybe the solution is for the US military to carpet bomb the planet with condoms and cannabis seeds – make love, not war, but less babies.
          Damn, then the military would be out of a job. I knew there was a flaw in that theory somewhere….

      2. Tony Wright

        That would probably work , but only if you could do so via a pathogen which was effective against people with no empathy for the other species with which we share the planet, and ultimately depend on for our own survival. That would probably rule out most of the so called elites though. Difficult problem.

  7. ColdWarVet

    All of the current political rhetoric on both sides of aisle indicates that the US is desperately trying to remain relevant in a Europe (world?) that increasingly views it as a useless and dangerous anachronism. Putin is smart to put the emphasis back on nuclear weaponry (provided it doesn’t backfire with an unprovoked all out US attack of course, but the decision over first use is largely out of his hands in any case), which is what first bankrupted the USSR (among other things, of course) back in the day. Now it’s our turn to go clinically insane again trying to appease the nuclear genie. Alas, every generation seems to forget and must learn again the lessons of history for itself. Eric Schlosser’s latest should be required reading in that respect:


  8. Bill Smith

    Is the 2% a guideline, goal or obligation, pledge or target?

    The WSJ article on June 22, 2015 titled “Just Five of 28 NATO Members Meet Defense Spending Goal, Report Says ”The article on September 2, 2015 by Carnegie Europe calls it a pledge in the article “The Politics of 2 Percent: NATO and the Security Vacuum in Europe”

    The German Institute for International and Security Affairs in an article published in August 2014 titled “NATO’s Two Percent Illusion” called it a target.

    Whatever it is, it is not a legal obligation as detailed in the Carnegie Europe article.

    It also appears that Greece, Poland, Estonia also meet the 2% threshold along with the UK and the US. I don’t understand this “The country that pretends to meet its 2% obligation is the UK, but it does that by classifying defense expenditures it would have made regardless as part of its NATO commitment.” Why can’t that claim be made of Greece? Poland, Estonia? And even the US?

    Is there some backup somewhere about the claim that “NATO wants to move [….] atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia”?

    This is an interesting point “Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army” given that this article was published on the site “Kaliningrad, Russia – The Dagger Points East and West” which talked about Russian beefing up the defenses of Kaliningrad.

    Then there was another article posted on this site that talked about the Russians activation of the 1st Guards Tank Army by the Russian military.

    But seem to show the opposite of the claim though one might argue about what exactly a “land army” is.

    Is there a link somewhere to this claim that backs it up in someway: ”There was an insistence by Obama that the NATO countries spend 2 percent of their GDP on NATO, on arms, mainly by buying arms from American military manufacturers.”

    The article certainly has a point but appears to make a number of claims that seem problematic.

  9. yenwoda

    The French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that we don’t need NATO. NATO has no role to play in our Russian relations. That leaders of the two major German parties, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, said that NATO was warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present. William Perry, the former head of the Pentagon in the mid-90s, said that NATO was threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in Europe.

    Leaving aside Hollande’s title, did he (or the real French PM, Valls) really say that we don’t need NATO? I would also be interested to read the article or interview where Perry claims that NATO is trying to provoke a nuclear war. He has always struck me as thoughtful and worth reading.

    1. The Trumpening

      President Hollande said in French before the summit started (not in response to Obama):

      « L’OTAN n’a pas du tout vocation à peser sur les relations que l’Europe doit avoir avec la Russie ; et pour la France, la Russie n’est pas un adversaire, n’est pas une menace »

      It is not at all part of Nato’s mission to weigh in on the relations Europe should have with Russia. And for France, Russia is not an adversary and is not a threat.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Michael Hudson answers:

      Here are the two articles, from Johnsons Russia List
      JRL, July 11, 2016, #18
      Consortiumnews.com, July 10, 2016
      Europe’s NATO Ambivalence
      By Graham E. Fuller
      French President Francois Hollande remarked upon arriving at the just-completed NATO conference in Warsaw, Poland, “NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat.”

      JRL, July 11, 2016, #19
      Russia Beyond the Headlines/ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, http://www.rbth.ru, July 11, 2016
      W.P.: I do. I believe that the danger today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War.

  10. check's in the mail

    2% is not a requirement. It’s a non-binding target articulated in 2002, and nobody in Europe takes it seriously. Estonia and Greece happen to meet it, which is idiotic.

  11. Softie

    Russia is also crucial to China’s energy security. To cut off the energy flow to China via both the Syberian pipelines and the South China Sea is a must before they can start a full-scale war with China.

    To prevent economic integration between Russia and Europe and to control the choke points of China’s energy flow are equally important for implementation of the NWO.

    There’s nothing that can prevent upcoming war with Russia and later war with China.

  12. Michael Hudson

    Here are the two articles, from Johnsons Russia List
    JRL, July 11, 2016, #18
    Consortiumnews.com, July 10, 2016
    Europe’s NATO Ambivalence
    By Graham E. Fuller
    French President Francois Hollande remarked upon arriving at the just-completed NATO conference in Warsaw, Poland, “NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat.”

    JRL, July 11, 2016, #19
    Russia Beyond the Headlines/ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, http://www.rbth.ru, July 11, 2016
    W.P.: I do. I believe that the danger today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War.

    1. yenwoda

      Thanks. I am aware that Perry has been warning about nuclear risks for a long time, and I continue to appreciate his voice. The claim that NATO is trying to provoke nuclear war seemed very atypical for someone who is always thoughtful and measured in discussing international relations. I’m glad to see that Perry did not actually make such a claim.

  13. tongorad

    Leading us to the brink of nuclear Armageddon – how’s that for hope and change? Disastrous presidency.

  14. That Which Sees

    Germany has been doing more than NATO to provoke Russia via EU Expansion especially in The Ukraine:

    Ties between Germany and Russia enter new chill

    Perhaps the ‘special relationship’ of the US and UK will be able to close ranks with Russia once the overburden of German aggression is removed. I wouldn’t want to bet money on this outcome but it is possible. Chances of this would be much higher under a Trump is Presidency as he:
    — Sees the need to back Russia’s solution in Syria, and
    — Does not have to back the Biden family business operations entangled in The Ukraine.

    There is no credible reason to believe that that Germany will become less provocative in future, so EU-Russia relations will remain poor.

    1. That Which Sees

      Darnit….. That is the wrong Reuters link. It is about an entirely different problem between Russia and Germany (migration related).

      If I can find the right link I will post it. There is also bad blood between Germany/EZ and Russia over Cyprus Banks. The workout there negatively impacted Russian citizens and businesses. There are so many problems between these two nations, digging through that article backlog to find the right one is surprisingly challenging.

  15. JTMcPhee

    Seems like this is the Beltway Boolshitters Consensus: “Russia’s rising military: Should the U.S. send more nuclear weapons to Europe? ” http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2015/07/21-us-nuclear-weapons-europe-pifer

    There’s this, with some interesting statistics and numbers accumulated by the Brookings staff: “50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons Today,” http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2014/04/28-50-nuclear-facts But who’s counting?

    And this from the Carnegie Endowment: “The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the U.S.-Russian Relationship,” http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/02/26/role-of-nuclear-weapons-in-u.s.-russian-relationship-pub-62901. See? It’s just a game. What could possibly go wrong? Very Serious People going to their conferences and chatting over $500 lunches while the machinery of weapons making and deployment and war games and profit grind away mostly unseen, busily generating ever more and better opportunities for accident and error.

    Another maybe wishful-thinking thought from people who have been evaluating the risk from the Game of Risk! that the Fokkers who rule us have been so incompetently playing for the last 75 or so years: “Would the United States ever actually use nuclear weapons?” http://thebulletin.org/would-united-states-ever-actually-use-nuclear-weapons Let us forget that “the US” is the only bunch to actually, you know, already USE nuclear weapons…

    And how about the War College types, a couple of whom offer this appraisal: “TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND NATO,” http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1103.pdf
    The preface to which ends with the following: “We are not out of the woods yet.”

    And ZOMFG! Russia Passes US in Nuclear Weapons Race!!!!! http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/russia-nuclear-weapons-start-treaty/2014/10/02/id/598323/

    Stuf like this never happens: http://gizmodo.com/the-computer-simulation-that-almost-started-world-war-i-1686123550

    Does it?

    And we mopes are just along for the ride, those of us who are working are paying to have it done to us, all of us ordinary people will pay the great price…

  16. philip martin

    I disagree with the author’s assertion that no nation in the northern hemisphere (at least) has an army capable of attacking and holding territory belonging to another nation. First off, there’s us. The Russians occupied the Crimea with a minimum of fuss and expense. The French drove jihadists out of Chad and Mali. No one knows what the Chinese could or would do, but the US seems to be at least somewhat concerned.

    If the question is whether there will be a war with large land battles, i.e. the Battle of the Bulge, Kursk, etc., well, of course, that seems pretty unthinkable. So does the idea that Germany and France will go to war again with each other or another European country. However, all it takes is one madman to gain control of a country to upset all of this conventional thinking. Putin? (Fill in the blank)?

    1. vidimi

      Putin has transformed a basketcase of a country into a stable one and gave it its most prosperous decade in over a century. yet he’s a madman because? something is wrong with your narrative.

  17. Olaf Lukk

    I haven’t heard so much chcken little wailing about imaginary nuclear Armageddon since Condi Rice and Dick Cheney were waving mushroom clouds in everyone’s face.
    NATO has apparently supplanted Saddam as the treat to civilization du jour, at least in the minds of those who prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of the reason for its founding. To recap: NATO was formed in response to the Soviet refusal to withdraw from those nations it continued to occupy after WWll: (East) Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslavakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, plus the illegally annexed Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The Soviets maintained control with Russian troops, puppet governments, summary executions, mass deportations, and the infamous Gulag.

    After the USSR collapsed in 1991, all of the nations named above made a point of joining NATO- not to provoke Russia, but to make sure that a future political shift in Russia would not lead to the Russians returning. After five decades of the “Worker’s Paradise”, joining NATO was considered pragmatic self-preservation.

    Mr. Hudson has become so convinced of the duplicity of American neocons and neoliberals that he now ascribes Darth Vader like attributes to them: “This is the essence of American strategy- to spread chaos”, which he follows up with the Pollyannaesque observation that “There’s no need for NATO now that there’s no threat of any military invasion anymore”, conveniently forgetting Ukraine- at least until the next paragraph, when Ukraine somehow becomes not the victim of Russian aggression, but the poster child for the over-reach of those dastardly neocons who, Vader-like, were able to turn a nation of 40 million into neocon patsies incapable of making rational decisions in their own best interests: “The United States…put $5 billion into Ukraine, and spurred a nationalistic- ethnic revolution…it took the United States twenty years to turn around and break up that neutrality”. OMG! A “nationalistic-ethnic revolution! No doubt there were Nazis involved.

    The financial predators who crashed the world economy in ’08 tried to export their brand of capitalism to the former Soviet bloc, with mixed success. Those nations with a history of the rule of law prior to the Cold War have made concrete steps to rejoin the European community. Those without that history- Russia and Ukraine- have reverted back to oligarchic rule, ironically following the neocon example in the West in their own way. Eastern Europe has good reason to distrust Russia, particularly since their “President” (18 years and counting) has opined that the break-up of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical mistake of the 20th Century”. Especially after the example of Ukraine, a nation which had the temerity to decide that it did not want to once again become a Russian backwater dictated to by Moscow.

    Those Progressives, including Mr. Hudson, who think that denigrating every American effort to help Eastern Europe recover from the Soviet era, while at the same time lamenting how poor, innocent Russia is somehow the victim in a scenario of its own making, should keep in mind that every nation has its chauvinists, its neocons, its ambitious militarists, and its 1%. Unilaterally disbanding NATO in the hopes of creating a Kumbaya moment with the Russians is a concept only an armchair internationalist would find plausible. The former members of the Soviet bloc- even 25 years later- would disagree.

    1. Carolinian

      Thanx for the (neocon) party line. You’ve obviously been reading your NYT and watching your History Channel. But if a dip into history is called for then perhaps we should take the time machine back another decade when it was Europe (Germany) that invaded Russia and not the other way around. Surprising how losing 27 million people can create feelings of paranoia. Sometimes, it seems, Chicken Little is right and the sky does fall–especially when those supposedly civilized western nations are in the charge of lunatics.

      But regardless of what Russia and Putin are, or are not, you do not explain why this is any of America’s business any more than US relations with Mexico would be any of Russia’s business. If Europe feels threatened by Russia then let Europe deal with it. Funny how they seemed to be getting along with Russia rather well until the US became involved. But it sounds like you are a fan of the notion that America has a “responsibility to protect” (why?) and that we are there to “help.” These, at least, were the reasons offered for our not so long ago interventions in Iraq and Libya. Thousands died as a result and are still doing so. For them as well the sky did fall. In light of that more recent history it’s quite likely that Eastern Europe would be a lot better off if the US didn’t “help.”

    2. Fiver

      Olaf Lukk,

      Painting Putin’s Russia as if remotely the same entity as the Soviet Union is just plain ridiculous. The simple fact is Putin balked at Russia’s being integrated (financial/corporate power) into the US Empire back around 2002-2003, and the US became instantly hostile, slow burn at first, but clearly headed for trouble, which was delivered in spades. The US and NATO are clearly the aggressors in this ugly, dangerous game – and too many people on both sides of the Atlantic now know it for little things like ‘democracy’ to actually exist anymore.

  18. Russell

    Go President Gore! He was already elected. Let’s just Seat Gore, Now. It would keep Hillary out of the office, and he could be better with foreign policy.
    Go Gore!

  19. H. Alexander Ivey

    “No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.”

    Let me start by saying I greatly appreciate Professor Hudson’s work, but I must disagree with one of his conclusions. He says, “No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.”, a point that I share, as well as did Jan Bloch (Jean de Bloch), an early twentif century financier. Bloch wrote a 6 volume book on the subject of how modern warfare would bankrupt a country that conducted on. And he gave an address on that subject in 1901 to the Royal United Service Institution (UK). For more about Bloch and his prediction, see http://www.historytoday.com/paul-reynolds/man-who-predicted-great-war – apologies for the link but I come from an academic background and can’t resist footnoting.

    But Bloch, and I’m afraid, Professor Hudson, are both wrong in feeling that war had become impossible. War is always possible. The ending has change through. That is the two gentlemen are quite correct. The First World War bankrupted UK, France, and Germany. In fact, Germany did not ‘lose’ that war, they quit. Big difference between being defeated via military means – the Germans were not! and stopping your offense because of you are bankrupt – which is what happened. And so it goes with the US. We got out of Vietnam – Vietnam was ‘lost’ when Congress stopped funding the war.

    My point is simple. War is expensive, very expensive. It will bankrupt a country like Bloch said – it costs so much unproductive resourses that, despite a country being able to create its own money, it will run out of manpower, resources, or the will to fight sooner or later. It will be impossible to ‘win’. But it will always be possible to start.

    For those who feel that the USA is some exception to this phenomemon, I beg to differ. The wars the US is currently fighting are a massive drain on the economy and is, IMHO, one of the two reasons why the US economy is spiraling downward – public corruption is the second, in case you were wondering.

    Another point where I have a quibble is the use of nuclear weapons. In the case of Russia defending its turf and homeland, I would expect Russia to use conventional weapons first, simply because conventional weapons can do the job. For Russia to lose significant ground or resources would require the US and its allies to commit a massive amount of manpower – large enough to see coming, large enough to require the US, et. al., to group and prep them, large enough to require time simply to move them to the ‘front line’, etc. All of which gives time for Russia to prep up a nuclear weapon or two. No need to power up intercontinental missiles, simply drop one or two bombs or nuclear tipped artillery on the concentrated forces. Of course, I don’t expect the US to stop its lunacy of attacking Russia or its immediate neighbors during this interval so nuclear tipped missiles will probably start flying. Who starts them? Well, my money will be on the US of A. As I heard it said of the the Russians, they don’t start wars, but they finish them.

    1. vidimi

      your points support prof. hudson’s argument, not refute them. he said that the costs of a land army would be catastrophic and you proceed to list the countries bankrupted by the first world war. furthermore, from those countries, only france and the UK could maintain only a thin veneer of democracy, the rest were monarchies (yes, the UK was and still is one, too, but a parliamentary one).

      re russia, prof. hudson is just quoting putin’s on record remarks about a full-scale conflict with the west. personally, i think it’s a bluff meant as a deterrent, but it is what he said.

  20. Roland

    Olaf Lukk, when certain ex-Warsaw Pact and ex-Soviet states desired to join NATO, NATO ought to have refused them. It was NATO’s choice whether to expand, not theirs. NATO expanded because it wanted to expand, not because there was any sort of threat from the RF or CIS.

    At no time during the negotiations with the USSR at the end of the Cold War, did US or other NATO leaders declare their intention that NATO should soon expand to the east.

    Bottom line: in the power-political wake of Soviet retreat, the USA and NATO advanced cynically, opportunistically, and rapidly. The map does not lie–one empire shrank, another grew.

    One can easily, and vividly, illustrate how small the threat was, and how little justification there was for NATO to push eastward. During the breakup of the USSR, it is remarkable that the RF made no effort to prevent the new independent Ukraine from retaining powerful nuclear deterrent forces!

    It was Bill Clinton of the USA who pressured Ukraine to give up its only effective means of self-defense. What else would you expect from a globalist such as Clinton? Globalists are nation-haters, and they never find a sovereignty that they don’t try to undermine.

    Therefore, Olaf, don’t you dare try to insinuate that the Russians were the ones in bad faith. Maybe in the 1940’s, but definitely not in 1990’s.

    The expansion of NATO has created distrust and tainted relations with post-Soviet Russia.

    What a waste of the hopes we had in 1989. I am ashamed to say that our Western leaders are the people who squandered one of the most enviable political opportunities in all of modern history.›

    1. Olaf Lukk

      As I noted above, NATO was created in response to the Soviet refusal to withdraw from Eastern Europe after WWll. The Soviets actually proposed joining NATO themselves, hoping to thus legitimize their newly expanded empire, but were rebuffed, with one diplomat making the observation that “It would be like allowing a burglar to join the police force”.

      The Soviets responded by forming the Warsaw Pact- which cynically included those Eastern European nations under Soviet control: (East) Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, but not the Illegally annexed Baltic states, which were in the process of being turned into Russian colonies. The only time the Warsaw Pact forces were used militarily was to put down rebellions by its own members: Hungary in 1956, Czechoslavakia in 1968.

      Unlike the Warsaw Pact, membership in NATO is voluntary. Doesn’t the fact that every Warsaw Pact member- and the Baltic States- all made a point of joining NATO after the collapse of the Soviet “union” suggest that it was Eastern Europe which made that pragmatic decision because, after five decades of occupation and repression, they knew from bitter experience that the Russians could not be trusted? That Eastern Europe joined NATO to cement its membership in Europe, rather than risking once again becoming Russian vassal states because they had no alliances with anyone? The Baltics tried to remain neutral prior to WWll, but Stalin (and Hitler) had no interest in allowing that, as evidenced by the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact.

      I am “insinuating” nothing. I am stating facts. The Soviet machinations before, during, and after WWll are a matter of historical record. Since the Soviet collapse in 1991, the Russians have gone from Communism to oligarchy, barely paying lip service to democracy and capitalism along the way. The primary difference between Russian and American oligarchs is that in Russia, oligarchs who don’t toe the party line are exiled, imprisoned, or shot. In the US, they are given bonuses and bailouts. These days they even get nominated for President, which is probably why Putin and Trump like each other- they are birds of a feather, who both know how to con their supporters.

      But I digress. It is Russian interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine that is the primary cause of Russian tensions with the West. NATO is a convenient red herring, whereby the agressor (Russia) gets to paint itself as the victim.

  21. Roland

    Olaf, you’re still talking almost entirely about things that happened four decades before the expansion of NATO. The 1940’s seem to be all you know about, and all you can talk about. Enough already.

    Why not take a hard look at some big facts of our own time?

    1. NATO’s expansion was NATO’s choice. There was no meaningful threat level from RF to justify the expansion.

    2. RF was OK with Ukraine having nukes. So stop trying to insinuate that the RF had designs against the newly independent states.

    Conclusion is clear: the main responsibility for screwing up the post-Cold War settlement lies upon the Western leaders.

    It’s not the Russian empire that has been expanding. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese who have military bases all over the planet. Read a map, for God’s sake–the truth is plain.t

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