The UK media have begun speculating about a return to the Cold War. It seems that the Russians are unhappy and have begun flying air force missions outside their territory again. They’re talking about installing missiles aimed at Europe. The reason? The USA wants to build an anti-missile shield to protect Europe from rogue states such as Iran. Poland is to take US missile bases. Radar facilities are to be located in the Czech Republic.
Can we seriously believe that Europe needs a defence against Iranian missiles? If we were to need one, surely the European Union would initiate the project through NATO, whereas the USA has made agreements direct with the Polish and Czech governments without consulting the EU. Why should the USA want a missile shield in Europe? Let’s dismiss the Bush administration’s reasons before we start, although they have mentioned Iran. Moreover, the golden rule is that the USA never acts in others’ interests – only its own.
The background to this is the state of the US economy, which is now in long-term decline. The USA has very little oil left – 20 billion barrels against Iran’s 136, Iraq’s 115 and Russia’s 60. At current rates of extraction its 20 billion will last only 12 years and it currently imports 60 per cent of its requirements. US manufacturing is increasingly uncompetitive in the world market. Moreover, the US current account deficit is at record levels, that is, the USA is spending much more externally than it is earning. This cannot go on indefinitely and a painful adjustment is ahead. I have discussed elsewhere that the Iraq invasion was based on the need for cheap oil to help sustain US competitiveness and the US lifestyle.
One possible reason for needing a missile shield is, therefore, that an invasion of Iran is still being planned. A sudden, short time-scale event would be needed, for example, an attack by Israel, a provocation or false flag incident that could be spun as an attack on NATO. Public opinion will not now accept reasons of the sort given for the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. The Polish and Czech installations could also serve to raise the stakes in anticipation of Russian opposition to an invasion.
It is not clear at present what the precise role of these missiles might be. On present public knowledge, they appear to be the first move in a plan to seize the oil resources of Iran and protect existing gains in Iraq. As for the Iranian missile threat, Iranian missiles do have the range to reach US bases in Poland and Western Europe but even if accurate enough to hit them, would do little damage without nuclear warheads – which the Iranians do not have. The idea of Iran attacking Europe outside US bases is ridiculous.
In the meantime, a valuable incidental effect is to irritate Russia. The Russian political and economic situations are enormously improved since the Cold War, although they still have some way to go. The Russians need incentives to continuing their civilizing trend. Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for energy, and relations are reasonably good. It is conceivable that the EU might work toward making broader economic treaties with Russia – a free trade zone, for example.
This would not necessarily suit the USA. Such a market would boost prosperity and economic power for the region but would reduce the economic importance and political influence of the USA to Europe. Russia’s reactions to having anti-missile missiles placed on EU territory enables the USA and others with an interest in instability to portray the Russians as starting another cold war – which is exactly what is being said at present.
This might be a lot of fun for Poles and Czechs who remember the old Soviet Union days and want to thumb their noses at Russia from within NATO, but it is a very dangerous and unproductive game in the long term. They are obstructing further rapprochement and involving the EU in potentially enormous problems. The Eastern European countries are gaining great advantages as members of the EU. It is incomprehensible that they should undertake unilateral agreements without consultation with the EU and with the benefit of the EU as a whole in mind. Some reciprocity seems to be in order.
As we know, the USA is willing to contemplate the use of nuclear weapons against Iran. We also know that the course of warfare is highly unpredictable. In the Cold War days there used to be talk of a tactical or limited nuclear war. That was code for a nuclear exchange on German territory. The Poles and Czechs should reflect on that.
Tension with Russia doubtless plays well with the American public who probably know as much about that distant country as they do about Iraq and are accustomed to thinking of Russia as an enemy. This justifies a continued high level of military spending, as well as distracting from domestic problems that are at present intensifying daily. As we have seen from the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, defence spending is the best possible means of transferring public funds into private pockets.
This opening move involving Eastern European missiles is too clever to originate with George Bush’s team. One might speculate that the intelligence agencies have re-established their authority by their National Intelligence Estimate contradicting the President on Iran’s nuclear programme. These people have Cold War experience of the Russians as predictable, conservative and safe (unless pushed too far; the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and near nuclear war arose from US expectations that the Russians should tolerate US missiles in Turkey and elsewhere on their borders whereas they would not accept Russian missiles in Cuba). Apparently, they now judge that the Russians will tolerate a little tension and escalation without any active retaliation.
Although the USA has a long record of invasion and destabilization of other countries, the Iraq war and the campaign aimed at attacking Iran surely mark a tipping point. This is the point at which it is undeniable that the USA has chosen to sustain its economy by means of direct military conquest and occupation rather than by peaceful business and trading according to international rules.
That the USA has abandoned the standards of civilized behaviour is further evidenced by the legalization of torture. Its Central Intelligence Agency and military personnel accept neither the laws of other countries nor the laws of the USA itself in their dealings with other nations. They operate outside law. The overt, unashamed creation of the Guantanamo Bay Prison, its associated trials and “extraordinary rendition” are the material evidence of the USA’s attitude to other nations, the rule of law and human rights.
It is a disgrace to the United Kingdom that it has not only cooperated with the USA in these attitudes and adventures, but under our present government and Parliament it has enthusiastically embraced them.
As this is what the “special relationship” with the USA has become, it is time to sever it and commit ourselves fully to our place in Europe and good relations with Russia. Yes, we will lose further autonomy, the EU is inefficient, there’s nepotism, cheating and it has never had its financial accounts approved.
Nevertheless, Europe tolerates all this because it is better than the wars that have twice devastated the continent. The Russians also know what war on their territory means but the USA has never known an invader. Its people cannot conceive the death and suffering that they have inflicted on the undeserving people of Iraq, not for democracy – but for oil.
To visualize what they have done to Iraq, Americans might imagine their destroyed World Trade Centre – but a thousand times worse.