US 2016 Presidential Race: Impact on America-Russia Bilateral Relations (II)

US 2016 Presidential Race: Impact on America-Russia Bilateral Relations (II)

Part I

Factors to reckon with

The policy of confrontation with Russia will inevitably raise defense expenditure as the US national debt exceeds $18 trillion (the total national production is $17 trillion) and is projected to approach $21 trillion by 2019. Today America’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 102.6%. The debt is evidently is used in excess, it steals from the future since it must be repaid. 

If the government continues to raise taxes on middle income earners and above, it will become increasingly difficult for many of these individuals to preserve their standard of living. This will result in a reduction of wealth that spans the entire income spectrum, excluding perhaps the super-rich. 

The difficulty will begin with the middle class and eventually creep toward the higher income earners if the debt problem persists. It may be framed under a pretense of patriotism but will really be just another excuse to extract money from American people. To change direction, the US should elect officials who are willing to put the needs of the country ahead of their own agenda as the laws of economics cannot be circumvented. 

Interventionist foreign policy and being «tough» on security issues is extremely costly. Adding confrontation with Russia to the list of burdens to shoulder is hardly a good thing for an ordinary American. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that in 2021 the interest rates expenditure will exceed the military spending. The possibility of default is high, it’s impossible to predict the social, economic and political consequences. 

Boosting military presence in Europe or implementing a program of creating a new type of intermediate range ground-based missiles to be deployed against Russia would significantly increase the already heavy burden. The next US President will have a full plate to say the least. Financial woes may be coming unless America gets a handle on its spending now. If prudency prevails Washington should keep away from costly confrontations.

At that, the US fields new game changing weapons. Defense still consumes almost 20 percent of the U.S. budget, more than anything else. The country is the principal determinant of the current world trend, and its military expenditure now accounts for just under half of the world total at over 40 %. Other states express justified concern and have reasons for adopting military policy to match this reality.

The war in Iraq cost US taxpayers $3 trillion, another half a trillion dollars have been spent on the military operation in Afghanistan. At the same time the cutting age weapons and high-precision munitions are becoming golden assets. The US is facing overstretching, to great extent the problem is a result of living beyond the means and spending too much on wars, the adventures of dubious nature like Iraq.

As elections raced starts US takes further steps to aggravate tensions with Russia

On June 13, the New York Times reported that the US Defense Department is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries. If approved, the proposal would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. The Pentagon’s proposal still requires approval by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and the White House. And political hurdles remain, as the significance of the potential step has stirred concern among some NATO allies about Russia’s reaction to a buildup of equipment. Senior officials briefed on the proposals, who described the internal military planning on the condition of anonymity, said that they expected approval to come before the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels this month.

As the proposal stands now, a company’s worth of equipment — enough for about 150 soldiers — would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion — about 750 soldiers — would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary. Now back to the US national debt problem - specialists are estimating the costs to upgrade railways, build new warehouses and equipment-cleaning facilities, and to replace other Soviet-era facilities to accommodate the heavy American weaponry. The weapons warehouses would be guarded by local or security contractors, and not by American military personnel, to make the mission even costlier. A full brigade’s worth of equipment — formally called the European Activity Set — would include about 1,200 vehicles, including some 250 M1-A2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and armored howitzers.

The current proposal is a violation of breaching the Russia-NATO Founding Act which bans stationing large concentrations of troops in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. In that agreement, NATO pledged that, «in the current and foreseeable security environment», it would not seek «additional permanent stationing of substantial ground combat forces» in the nations closer to Russia. The agreement also says that «NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries».

It should be mentioned that in an interview before the visit to Italy this June, President Putin dismissed fears of any Russian attack on NATO. «I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO», he told the newspaper Corriere Della Sera. «I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia».

If there is no chance Russia would attack NATO, the need for the US to provide expenditure for all those expensive measures cannot be but questioned.

US race: Russia’s attitude

The Kremlin hopes that contenders in the US presidential race will be more regardful of Russian-American relations, which used to be sacrificed to US election campaigns so many times in the past, Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on June 5.

«It is regretful that over the entire period of modern history the bilateral Russian-American relations have been sacrificed to the altar of election campaigns so many times and have been used as an instrument of those campaigns», the Kremlin spokesman said adding that every time that practice had inflicted damage to the Russia-US relations.

«We hope that our bilateral relations will be sacrificed to a lesser degree during the forthcoming election campaign, which is gaining momentum in the United States», Peskov said when asked to comment on Kremlin’s reaction to the harsh and critical remarks of the Republican Party’s candidates about Russia and its President.

«Putin has said more than once that he is absolutely calm about being criticized if this criticism is tactful and decent; if it does not go beyond the reach of reason and if it is not insulting and ill-natured», Peskov said calling Putin’s stance as a normal human attitude to criticism.

The president’s press secretary also said the solution of many global problems was impossible without Russian-US cooperation. «Moscow has always stood for good and mutually beneficial relations based on respect for reciprocal interests», Peskov said noting that Russia was constantly underlying its stance at all levels - from expert to the top one.

«We still believe that it is impossible to resolve many global problems without cooperation and interaction between Russia and the United States», Peskov concluded.

Meeting US assistant State Secretary Victoria Nuland last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated that Moscow was ready to continue dialogue with Washington on all contentious issues, particularly in the military and political spheres. Despite the accumulated skepticism, both sides might be inching towards some sort of understanding, after all.

According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov «a realistic approach is getting the upper hand» in relations with the US, amid the worst tensions since the Cold War».

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama have pragmatic phone discussions «about specific areas of cooperation where both countries could benefit», Lavrov said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Moscow on Tuesday. Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry «do the same on a much more detailed level», he said.

«I wouldn’t call it a new reset», he said, referring to Obama’s policy of seeking improved relations with Russia after his election in 2008. «I would call it the realization of the need for normalcy». (6)

(To be concluded...)

Tags: NATO  Russia  US  Obama