By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Wherein Paul C Roberts presents a novel and profoundly unusual take on Reagan’s intent and policies and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the Appendix, a different interpretation of a major aspect of Dr Roberts’ position is argued by Finian Cunningham. Comment is invited.
Crosspost with fraternal site Global Research, December 28, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts Institute of Political Economy
The English language Russian news agency, Sputnik, reports that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is advising US president-elect Donald Trump how to “bring the United States and Russia closer together to offset China’s military buildup.”
If we take this report at face value, it tells us that Kissinger, an old cold warrior, is working to use Trump’s commitment to better relations with Russia in order to separate Russia from its strategic alliance with China.
China’s military buildup is a response to US provocations against China and US claims to the South China Sea as an area of US national interests. China does not intend to attack the US and certainly not Russia.
Kissinger, who was my colleague at the Center for Strategic and International studies for a dozen years, is aware of the pro-American elites inside Russia, and he is at work creating for them a “China threat” that they can use in their effort to lead Russia into the arms of the West. If this effort is successful, Russia’s sovereignty will be eroded exactly as has the sovereignty of every other country allied with the US.
At President Putin’s last press conference, journalist Marat Sagadatov asked if Russia wasn’t already subject to forms of foreign semi-domination:
“Our economy, industry, ministries and agencies often follow the rules laid down by international organizations and are managed by consulting companies. Even our defense enterprises have foreign consulting firms auditing them.”
The journalist asked, “if it is not time to do some import substitution in this area too?”
Every Russian needs to understand that being part of the West means living by Washington’s rules. The only country in the Western Alliance that has an independent foreign and economic policy is the US.
All of us need to understand that although Trump has been elected president, the neoconservatives remain dominant in US foreign policy, and their commitment to the hegemony of the US as the uni-power remains as strong as ever. The neoconservative ideology has been institutionalized in parts of the CIA, State Department and Pentagon. The neoconservatives retain their influence in media, think tanks, university faculties, foundations, and in the Council on Foreign Relations.
We also need to understand that Trump revels in the role of a tough guy and will say things that can be misinterpreted as my friend, Finian Cunningham, whose columns I read, usually with appreciation, might have done. (See F. Cunningham’s analysis in the Appendix to this article.)
I do not know that Trump will prevail over the vast neoconservative conspiracy. However, it seems clear enough that he is serious about reducing the tensions with Russia that have been building since President Clinton in violation of the George H. W. Bush administration’s promise that NATO would not expand one inch to the East.
Unless Trump were serious, there is no reason for him to announce Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his choice for Secretary of State. In 2013 Mr. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship.
As Professor Michel Chossudovsky has pointed out, a global corporation such as Exxon has interests different from those of the US military/security complex. The military/security complex needs a powerful threat, such as the former “Soviet threat” which has been transformed into the “Russian threat,” in order to justify its hold on an annual budget of approximately one trillion dollars.
In contrast, Exxon wants to be part of the Russian energy business. Therefore, as Secretary of State, Tillerson is motivated to achieve good relations between the US and Russia, whereas for the military/security complex good relations undermine the orchestrated fear on which the military/security budget rests.
Clearly, the military/security complex and the neoconservatives see Trump and Tillerson as threats, which is why the neoconservatives and the armaments tycoons so strongly opposed Trump and why CIA Director John Brennan made wild and unsupported accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential election.
The lines are drawn. The next test will be whether Trump can obtain Senate confirmation of his choice of Tillerson as Secretary of State.
The myth is widespread that President Reagan won the cold war by breaking the Soviet Union financially with an arms race. As one who was involved in Reagan’s effort to end the cold war, I find myself yet again correcting the record.
Reagan never spoke of winning the cold war. He spoke of ending it. Other officials in his government have said the same thing, and Pat Buchanan can verify it.
Reagan wanted to end the Cold War, not win it. He spoke of those “godawful” nuclear weapons. He thought the Soviet economy was in too much difficulty to compete in an arms race. He thought that if he could first cure the stagflation that afflicted the US economy, he could force the Soviets to the negotiating table by going through the motion of launching an arms race. “Star wars” was mainly hype. (Whether or nor the Soviets believed the arms race threat, the American leftwing clearly did and has never got over it.)
Reagan had no intention of dominating the Soviet Union or collapsing it. Unlike Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, he was not controlled by neoconservatives. Reagan fired and prosecuted the neoconservatives in his administration when they operated behind his back and broke the law.
The Soviet Union did not collapse because of Reagan’s determination to end the Cold War. The Soviet collapse was the work of hardline communists, who believed that Gorbachev was loosening the Communist Party’s hold so quickly that Gorbachev was a threat to the existence of the Soviet Union and placed him under house arrest. It was the hardline communist coup against Gorbachev that led to the rise of Yeltsin. No one expected the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The US military/security complex did not want Reagan to end the Cold War, as the Cold War was the foundation of profit and power for the complex. The CIA told Reagan that if he renewed the arms race, the Soviets would win, because the Soviets controlled investment and could allocate a larger share of the economy to the military than Reagan could.
Reagan did not believe the CIA’s claim that the Soviet Union could prevail in an arms race. He formed a secret committee and gave the committee the power to investigate the CIA’s claim that the US would lose an arms race with the Soviet Union. The committee concluded that the CIA was protecting its prerogatives. I know this because I was a member of the committee.
American capitalism and the social safety net would function much better without the drain on the budget of the military/security complex. It is more correct to say that the military/security complex wants a major threat, not an actual arms race. Stateless Muslim terrorists are not a sufficient threat for such a massive US military, and the trouble with an actual arms race as opposed to a threat is that the US armaments corporations would have to produce weapons that work instead of cost overruns that boost profits.
The latest US missile ship has twice broken down and had to be towed into port. The F-35 has cost endless money, has a variety of problems and is already outclassed.
The Russian missiles are hypersonic. The Russian tanks are superior. The explosive power of the Russian Satan II ICBM is terrifying. The morale of the Russian forces is high. They have not been exhausted from 15 years of fighting without much success pointless wars against women and children.
Washington, given the corrupt nature of the US military/security complex, can arms race all it wants without being a danger to Russia or China, much less to the strategic alliance between the two powers.
The neoconservatives are discredited, but they are still a powerful influence on US foreign policy.
Until Trump relegates them to the ideological backwaters, Russia and China had best hold on to their strategic alliance. Anyone attempting to break this alliance is a threat to both Russia and China, and to America and to life on earth.
The original source of this article is Paul Craig Roberts Institute of Political Economy
Copyright © Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Craig Roberts Institute of Political Economy, 2016
US Aims to Break Russia With Arms Race
By Finian Cunningham
Dateline: December 26, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “Sputnik” – Alarm bells about a new arms race between the US and Russia went off this week around the world. President-elect Donald Trump reportedly told US news media “let’s bring it on” after Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier called for a “strengthening” of his country’s nuclear capability.
Moscow later clarified that it had no intention of inciting an arms race. Trump’s side though remained ambiguous about what the new president meant by “greatly expanding” the American nuclear arsenal.
There is a seductive strategic incentive for Washington to incite a nuclear arms race with Russia. The main objective is not to launch an eventual catastrophic war in which neither side would survive. But rather the objective is to break Russia financially. It’s still a kind of warfare, albeit in a different form.
That outcome of breaking Moscow financially would, in turn, lead eventually to Russia’s subjugation by the US. Russia and its rich natural resources would henceforth be just just another domain ruled over by American capital. And geopolitically, Washington would have a free hand to kick the rest of the world around in the absence of any counterweight from a strong Russia, as recent events in Syria all too well illustrate.
The precedent for this war-by-finance scenario can be best seen during the US presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Arguably all through the Cold War decades, since the Second World War, the US and its NATO military alliance always acted aggressively towards the then Soviet Union. The latter was continually obliged to divert inordinate economic resources to maintain some kind of defensive parity.
During the Reagan presidency, the US embarked on a surge in military spending which inevitably induced the Soviet Union to respond likewise. Both countries incurred massive financial problems owing to the accelerated arms race. In the case of the Soviet Union, the unsustainable arms expenditures led to the collapse of its economy, and consequently its political system dissolved in 1991.
However, in the case of the US, it could postpone financial and political disaster because the American dollar as the top international reserve currency allowed Washington to simply keep printing dollars and pile up a mountain of debt. A quarter of a century after the official end of the Cold War, the US stands out as the biggest debtor nation on the planet with a total of $20 trillion in arrears. A day of reckoning is long overdue.
In other words, the US appeared to win the Cold War, not because of superiority from its political, economic or military systems over the Soviet Union. On the contrary, it was only because the US could print money and pile up debt with seeming abandon that gave it a decisive edge; whereas the Soviet system had no such privilege to offload its financial problems on to the rest of the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore prudent when he said this week that he would not allow his country to once again become embroiled in any arms race with the US. One suspects that Putin and his advisors have studied history well and understand that such an arms race – if precipitated – would lead to much more grievous economic and political problems for Moscow than it would for Washington; simply because of the peculiarity of US dollar being unfairly privileged by the global financial system.
Nevertheless, one also suspects that an arms race with Russia is exactly what powerful elements within the US ruling system want.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, American capitalism would not function without the lifeline of government subsidies in the form of its elephantine military-industrial complex. Every year, Washington spends some $600 billion on military – about half of the total government expenditure on education, health and public welfare. Taken together, the US and its NATO allies spend about ten-fold on military sectors what Russia does. (And those figures are the “open” figures, as the secret budget is probably much larger.
American capitalism as a supposedly “free market”, “private enterprise” system is a myth. In reality, it is, by contrast, a centrally planned, subsidized support system for elite profit-making. Massive US military spending year-on-year is crucial to the support system for this kind of economic parasitism. Logically then an arms race induced against Russia would be a welcome boon for the military-industrial complex of corporate manufacturers, Wall Street bankers and mega-rich shareholders.
Trump seems to be aware of this, given his recent admonitions to Lockheed Martin over its exorbitant, publicly subsidized program to build the F-35 fighter jet. Whether Trump is willing to overcome the parasitical nature of the US military-industrial system is another question. It’s doubtful. For what is required is a systematic change brought about by a mass political movement, which Trump, the capitalist billionaire magnate, certainly does not represent.
Another compelling reason for why the US desires an arms race with Russia is that statecraft planners and ideologues in Washington know well that such an escalation would lead to a repetition of the old Cold War strategy of breaking Moscow through a futile financial hole-digging competition.
Russia, as virtually every other nation is, is limited by how much of its economy can sustain military spending. Not so the Americans. Washington can pile up debt with impunity for as long as the global financial system relies on the dollar as the primary reserve currency.
This scenario of aiming to break Russia through financial warfare as triggered by an arms race would also explain why the US-led NATO alliance has intensified its goading of Moscow in recent years. The pretext of “defending Europe” from “Russian aggression” is transparently ludicrous. Contrived grievances of Russia “annexing Crimea” are orchestrated in order to give Washington and its NATO lackeys an excuse to ramp up militarism on Russia’s borders.
Any sane person can see that the objective situation is one of NATO aggression and intimidation towards Russia, in complete reversal of what the Western governments and their servile mass media allege.
This would also explain why the US unilaterally walked away from the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty in 2002. Washington needs to foster instability and insecurity because its otherwise bankrupt economy is only propped up by such instability and war proneness.
The real purpose is not to instigate World War III with Russia, but instead to coerce Moscow into another disastrous arms race.
It is essential that Russia continually strengthens its defense capability. That means upgrading existing systems. The key word here is “strengthening”. Putin was not referring to “expansion”. He was specifically talking about optimizing military capability by being economically and technically efficient.
The reckless warmongering by Washington is a decades-old tendency since the Second World War. Unfortunately, European allies are too subservient or ideologically malleable to stand up to this American belligerence. In that case, Russia must always be vigilant to have the best defense systems to deter any American ultimate aggression.
Putin proudly referred to Russia being capable of defending itself against “any aggressor”.
However, at all costs, Russia must avoid an arms race that would shatter its economy and eventually its national sovereignty. That is exactly what its American adversaries want.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Information Clearing House editorial policy.
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