rozoff plus antiwar.com for apr 20/21

US Strategic Command chief calls for nuclear upgrade aimed at China and Russia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 21 2021

On Apr 20 Admiral Charles Richard, commander of STRATCOM, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee alongside his colleague General James Dickinson, commander of SPACECOM, in both open and closed hearings. Richard described his command, which consists of 150k service members from all branches of the armed forces, as a “global warfighting command.” The ultimate global warfighting command as it is in charge of all US nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. His sales pitch to the Senate committee, as that of other top commanders appearing lately before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees, is to secure funding for the expansion and upgrading of military programs and weapons. The weapons he’s promoting are capable of ending life on earth if employed broadly. Barely was his microphone turned on than he, like practically all Pentagon (here and here), State Dept, NSC and CIA officials this year, launched into a tirade against the two-headed threat to peace, security, democracy and human rights and transparency and the rules-based international order and the American way (however one defines it): China-Russia. When discussing that alleged threat he stated:

Russia pursued a strategic partnership with China through bilateral and multi-lateral military exercises, focused primarily on improved military-to-military relations at the highest levels.

To be clear, the Pentagon and its seventy NATO allies and partners treat China and Russia as one monolithic global threat, much as they attempted to portray China and the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In his own words:

China and Russia are challenging our strength through a wide array of activities that warrant a concerted and integrated whole of government response. For the first time in our history, the nation is on a trajectory to face two nuclear-capable, strategic peer adversaries at the same time, who must be deterred differently. We can no longer assume the risk of strategic deterrence failure in conflict will always remain low.

That is not only a stark appraisal, implicitly at least a threat, but it is so specific as to its targets as to leave no doubt whom his global warfighting command is poised to confront. Identifying China and Russia each as “a near-peer, nuclear-armed adversary,” he reiterated the ominous assessment that with them “the risk of a strategic deterrence failure increases.” If that means anything other than if China and Russia, or better yet China-Russia, fail to honor whichever “red line” the US and its allies unilaterally choose to threaten them with the result could prove a nuclear catastrophe; though of course admiral Richard in his testimony only raised the “hypothetical” of Russia and China being the first to use nuclear weapons. Of course.

While forced to acknowledge that the Chinese nuclear arsenal is smaller than those of the US and Russia, nonetheless he said that “Under a veil of secrecy” (an insidious, inscrutable oriental stereotype right out of Sax Rohmer; see the Russian equivalent, below) Beijing is upgrading its military and modernizing its nuclear forces, the very measures Richard was appearing before the Senate to demand the US adopt, in furtherance of such furtive and pernicious designs as pursuing “long-standing goals to establish regional hegemony, deny US power projection in the Indo-Pacific region, and supplant the US as the security partner of choice.” That is, China may want to be the dominant power in its own neighborhood as the US is and for centuries has been in the entire Western Hemisphere, the Pacific region and most of the world; it may desire to limit “power projection” by the mightiest military machine in history off its coast, a military that waged major land wars in Korea and Vietnam within recent memory; China may prefer that every other nation in the Asia-Pacific region not remain or become a military partner of a hostile US and a growing NATO network in the area. Richard’s comment is imperial hubris to a degree that traditionally leads to the gods settling the offender’s hash in short order. He also claimed, whatever this is meant to communicate:

China is already capable of executing any plausible nuclear employment strategy within their region, and will soon be able to do so at inter-continental ranges as well.

Again, much of Richard’s testimony after identifying the China-Russia threat dealt with the demand that the US maintain and modernize what he termed its Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, that is ICBMs (as well as its air-based and sea-based counterparts in the nuclear triad), even stating:

Without US ICBMs, China becomes a strategic nuclear peer.

Yet China cannot be allowed to develop parity with the US and its allies in that sphere. While conceding that China keeps most of its military on a peacetime status, Richard warned that it it has elevated sectors of its military to launch-on-warning and even high alert duty status. With all the denunciations and threats leveled against the nation by the Pentagon, the State Dept and NATO in recent weeks, including Biden assuring Japan that the US would honor its treaty obligation to assist it up to and including with nuclear weapons in a conflict with China, Beijing would be foolhardy not to do so. His anti-China screed would not have been complete without the de rigueur demand for the full force of the Pentagon’s lethal array of forces and weaponry to be used against “Chinese policies or actions that threaten the international rules-based order or undermine regional and global stability.”

After describing the need for the US to position its nuclear triad against perceived Chinese threats, Richard turned his attention to the other half of the diabolical dyad, Russia. The general assessment of that nation’s malign influence (in Pentagonese and State Dept-ese) is this:

Russia continues to seek ways to enhance and reinforce its great power status through actions designed to polarize and erode US leadership in international affairs. It continues to pursue a sphere of influence over and beyond its periphery and interfere with regional states’sovereignty, especially in matters of military security and economics.

A perfect parallel to the above-examined list of alleged Chinese transgressions. The phrase “polarize and erode US leadership in international affairs” is clumsy and ambiguous. Perhaps it was meant to express Russian efforts to polarize third countries in relation to the US and itself and to erode, ie challenge, uncontested American economic, political, cultural and military dominance throughout the world. Not only will Russia not be permitted to rival Washington on a global scale, but like China it will not be allowed to seek “regional hegemony.” It won’t be able to maintain a local sphere of influence or even to share America’s influence with its closest neighbors. (See Ukraine in 2014.) The Russians, “who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique,” as former DNI Clapper delicately phrased it, are accused of compounding their enormities by perpetrating them in league with China. In regard to which dual threat Richard advocated:

Prudence dictates that military planners consider and account for the complex threat environment, enabled by the strategic cooperation of these two nuclear-armed States with global military reach and shared multi-domain offensive capabilities.

The problematical, indeed speculative, capacities he attributes to China and Russia, individually and combined, fall far short of what the US itself indisputably possesses and has possessed since the middle of the last century: the ability to separately and simultaneously reduce Moscow, Beijing and every other capital in the world to a smoldering Hiroshima. The threat, as Richard put it, is that another nation may gain overall nuclear, military, political and diplomatic parity with the US. What has traditionally been the very hallmark of an effective policy of deterrence. The admiral testified that Russia has upgraded its nuclear arsenal and that the US needs to keep pace. He said “our nuclear forces must include a sufficient range of capabilities and attributes” so that Russia never contemplates the use of tactical, theater nuclear weapons in the event of what it views as an overwhelming conventional attack on it by the US and NATO (not his words, of course); a distinct possibility given the encirclement of Russia through NATO expansion over the past twenty-two years. Lastly, perhaps so as not to be too entirely transparent in identifying China and Russia being in the Pentagon’s nuclear gunsights, he made reference to threats ascribed to Iran and North Korea, neither of whom was alluded to as a “near-peer nuclear-armed adversary” or a regional and international threat to American global dominance. In doing which he reflected the sentiment expressed by Blinken in his Mar 24 address at NATO HQ when he placed China, Russia, Iran and North Korea in the same category: the Biden administration’s new Nuclear Axis of Evil.

Several dozen US fighter jets land in Poland for air combat drills
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 20 2021

USAF and Polish government sources confirm that American F-15 and F-16 fighter jets have arrived in Poland for joint exercises with host country aircraft; as a Radio Poland report phrases it, “amid concerns over a Russian troop build-up on the border with neighbouring Ukraine.” The exercises are preplanned though the message they send against the backdrop of Ukrainian-Russian tensions can’t be misinterpreted. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced that several dozen of the F-15s and F-16s landed at Polish airfields and will operate out of air bases in Lask and Krzesiny. The warplanes were accompanied by C-130 military transport planes. US fighter jet squadrons typically consist of twenty-four planes each. While in Poland the aircraft will participate in an Agile Combat Employment exercise. Last year Defense News described the nature and purpose of Agile Combat Employment:

As the USAF prepares for the possibility of a future conflict with a near-peer adversary, it has run into a massive logistical problem: In a time where Russia and China are investing in layers of air- and ground-launched missiles that threaten American air bases, how can the Air Force ensure it will be able to get its planes off the ground? The answer, which the Air Force calls Agile Combat Employment, calls for the service to be able to launch, recover and maintain planes away from its main air bases and instead at unorthodox locations like partner nations’ military airfields or civilian airports.

The USAF Europe-Air Forces Africa press release on the deployment states:

The USAF’s rotational force presence in Poland allows the US and its allies to prepare to respond decisively to an array of global threats and to better support air operations.

After the Agile Combat Employment exercise the F-15s will stay in the country to “train bilaterally with the Polish air force to maintain joint readiness while building interoperability capabilities.” Three years after joining NATO in 1999 the Polish government purchased 48 American-made F-16s, the largest military expenditure in the nation’s history. The nation has also been turning over air bases, infantry bases and other military installations to the Pentagon and NATO since joining the latter military bloc twenty-two years ago. In the past seven years that military build-up has been increased by the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), of which EUCOM states:

The EDI enables the US to enhance the US deterrence posture, increase the readiness and responsiveness of US forces in Europe, support the collective defense and security of NATO allies, and bolster the security and capacity of US allies and partners.

The five components of the program are described as increased spending, exercises and training, enhanced prepositioning, improved infrastructure and build(ing) partnership capacity. EDI operations are conducted under the aegis of Operation Atlantic Resolve, initiated by the Pentagon to increase air, ground and naval presence in Eastern Europe after the war in the Donbass erupted seven years ago. According to a CRS study on American military presence in Poland, there are approximately 6k US military personnel assigned to Operation Atlantic Resolve at any given time. The US maintains around 4.5k troops in Poland on a rotational basis, divided among Operation Atlantic Resolve, the NATO Missile Defense program and the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups based in the country. (The other three NATO Battle Groups are in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.) The NATO Battle Group in Poland is US-led and includes an 857-soldier Armored Cavalry Squadron. Two years ago Washington and Warsaw signed the Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation Regarding US Force Posture in the Republic of Poland, which calls for an additional 1k American troops to be rotated in Poland and for the following new projects to be launched as listed in the bilateral document:

  1. Establishment of a US Division Headquarters (Forward) in Poland.
  2. Establishment and joint use by the US Armed Forces and Polish Armed Forces of the Combat Training Center (CTC) in Drawsko Pomorskie, and eventually in a few other locations in Poland. The US intends to continue to provide US advisors to support the Polish Armed Forces in the establishment of the CTC.
  3. Establishment of a USAF MQ-9 Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) squadron in Poland. The US intends to share information derived from this squadron’s operations, as appropriate, in support of our defense objectives.
  4. Establishment of an aerial port of debarkation to support the movement of forces for training or contingency.
  5. Establishment of an area support group to support current and future US forces in Poland.
  6. Establishment of US SOF capability in Poland to support air, ground, and maritime operations.
  7. Establishment of infrastructure to support the presence of an armored brigade combat team, a combat aviation brigade, and a combat sustainment support battalion.

Enhanced prepositioning, indeed. The Pentagon and its NATO allies began in earnest to transform Poland into a military hub for containing Belarus and Russia, particularly its Kaliningrad exclave, and to consolidate control of the Baltic Sea region decades ago. Since 2014 they have also expanded military presence in the nation to intervene in Ukraine when indicated.

US and Russia Won’t Have Ambassadors in Each Other’s Capitals as Tensions Simmer
Dave DeCamp, AntiWar.com, Apr 20 2021

Due to the hostile policies of the Biden administration, tensions between the US and Russia are soaring. Now, amid the souring relations, the two countries won’t have ambassadors in each other’s capitals, making diplomatic communications even more difficult. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan announced on Tuesday that he is returning to Washington for “consultations.” His announcement came after Russia’s foreign minister suggested Sullivan return to the US for the time being in response to new US sanctions against Moscow and the White House’s decision to expel 10 Russian diplomats. Last month, Russia recalled its ambassador to the US after Biden agreed in an interview that Putin is a “killer” who has “no soul.” Since his comments, Biden has called Putin and proposed an in-person meeting, which US and Russian officials are discussing setting up. Although Biden suggested meeting with Putin, it was after the phone call that the US slapped a wide array of sanctions against Russian officials and entities and expelled the Russian diplomats. Moscow responded by expelling US diplomats and releasing a list of current and former officials who are banned from entering Russia. On top of the rhetoric and the sanctions, the US has also expressed its “unwavering” support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia. The Biden administration is hyping the presence of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border, claiming it is the largest Russian military build-up since 2014. On Monday, the EU claimed that Russia had sent over 150k troops near the border with Ukraine but had to correct the number and said later it was more like 100k. But it’s still not clear how this number has been determined.

EU Walks Back Claim of 150k Russian Troops Near Ukraine Border
Dave DeCamp, AntiWar.com, Apr 19 2021

The EU had to correct a claim made by its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, concerning Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. Borrell told reporters on Monday that there were “over 150k” Russian troops near the border. The number was corrected in a transcript of his briefing on the EU’s website to “over 100k.” Despite the change, it’s still unclear how the EU determined that there are over 100k Russian troops near the border. Russia has announced the deployment of additional forces near Ukraine in recent weeks, but nothing has indicated it sent over 100k troops to the region. Last week, a spokesperson for Zelensky claimed there were 80k troops stationed along the border of Ukraine, with 40k of them in Crimea. The fact that Russia has troops in Crimea is no surprise. Moscow had a military base in the peninsula even before Crimea joined the Russian Federation in 2014. An alarmist report from the Daily Mail published satellite images that it claims show a Russian military build-up at a base in Crimea. But the base is located in southern Crimea, nowhere near the conflict zone in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Demonstrating that the Daily Mail report lacks any credibility, it repeats Borrell’s original claim that 150k Russian troops have amassed as fact. When asked about Borrel’s comments, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said:

What I can tell you is, in general, we have continued to see this build-up increase. And again, that is concerning to us.

While Kirby didn’t offer any numbers, he claimed the Russian troop deployment is “certainly bigger” than the 2014 deployment Kirby said resulted in a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Kremlin Accuses Western Powers of ‘Anti-Russian Psychosis’
Dave DeCamp, AntiWar.com, Apr 20 2021

In the face of constant accusations from Western powers, Moscow said it was not to blame for the rise in tensions and called for an end to what it called “mass anti-Russian psychosis.” The comments were attributed to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov by Reuters. Peskov also denied to reporters that Russia had any involvement in a 2014 explosion at a Czech ammunition depot, something Moscow had just been accused of. On Tuesday, the Czech Republic announced it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats over the alleged 2014 attack, and asked NATO and EU countries to do the same in “solidarity.” The Czech move comes after the US slapped sanctions on Russia and expelled 10 Russian diplomats over its own accusations against Moscow. Piling on to the anti-Russia sentiment, the US State Dept slammed Moscow on Monday for limiting foreign military activity in parts of the Black Sea, calling it an “unprovoked escalation.” According to the Russian news agency Tass, from Apr 24 to Oct 31, “navigation of foreign naval ships and other state vessels in some parts of the Black Sea in Russia’s territorial waters will be suspended.” Limiting military activity in its territorial waters is hardly an escalation by Russia, and the move is clearly a response to reports of Western powers planning to send warships into the Black Sea.

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