Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics. By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).

 

Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics.

Withdrawing U.S. military dependents from the South would signal seriousness

By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).

 

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On July 4, North Korea successfully test-fired the equivalent of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to hit not only our regional allies but Alaska as well. Leading up to the latest test, President Trump, regrettably, has followed the path of the five previous administrations, believing that cozying up to China’s communist government would be helpful in reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. By now, everyone should understand that will never happen. Let’s be clear: There would be no North Korean nuclear weapons program if it were not for China and Russia. Further, North Korea is the off-site laboratory and test site for Iran’s nuclear program.

Relying on China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program has not only been a dismal failure, but a serious strategic mistake. Mr. Trump needs to stop listening to the Obama holdovers and other “undercover agents” for strategic advice. We should certainly understand by now that China’s strategic objectives include a nuclear-armed North Koreaas a way to lessen U.S. influence not only in South Korea but, ultimately, throughout the Western Pacific. Never forget — China is seeking total hegemony throughout the first island chain, which includes Taiwan and, eventually, the second island chain, which includes Guam, our main support base.

With those clear objectives, China is not about to hand us a victory on the Korean Peninsula without strong actions on our part. The fact that North Korea’s latest missile test was fired from a 16-wheel, road-mobile, transporter-erector-launcher supplied by China should have been particularly galling to Mr. Trump. According to Japanese reports, there are eight China-supplied launchers in North Korea. To rub salt in the wound, both China and Russia issued a joint statement on the day of the North Korean test, proposing to resolve the problem by having North Korea freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile testing (no dismantlement), provided the United States abandons large-scale joint exercises with South Korea.

 

There is simply no equivalence here. These defensive exercises have been a key component of maintaining peace and stability for the past 50 years. Why would we change? Ending these exercises has been a long-term China objective, which Beijing knows is a non-starter. Further, the fact that both China and Russia were able to issue a joint statement on the day of the test indicates that they most likely had advance notification.

On July 6, left-wing, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, following up on his campaign rhetoric, proposed more dialogue with North Korea and said that he is prepared to meet Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He also extended an olive branch by calling for more economic cooperation and a resumption of family reunions. Regrettably, Mr. Moon doesn’t get it: You don’t reward a totalitarian regime for bad behavior. As we have seen many times, such conciliatory gestures are viewed only as a sign of weakness.

According to a July 7 Wall Street Journal article, the Trump administration plans to give diplomacy and economic sanctions more time to resolve the crisis with North Korea. With China, Russia and Iran ignoring the economic sanctions, though, there will be no change in North Korea’s violation of U.N. sanctions. When speaking in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, however, Mr. Trump stated that he was considering “some pretty severe things,” which certainly could imply military action. Previously, the president has stated that since China has failed to help solve the problem, we will have to do it ourselves.

As we have seen over the years, successful diplomacy must have strong, recognized military options. It was “peace through strength” that was key to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Under the current circumstances, without a dramatic change in the dynamics controlling the crisis with North Korea, more diplomatic discussions and potential talks with North Korea like the previous Six Party Talks, will also fail.

To put substance into our past declarations that “all options are being considered,” a dramatic, dynamic change must be introduced into the Korean equation. Accordingly, it is proposed that we plan to withdraw all U.S. military dependents from South Korea. This will not only remove a “hostage force” from the South Korean environment, but would also upset both China and North Korea’s calculations on what further actions are we planning to take. Certainly, it would provide us the freedom to plan a range of military options.

During the time it would take to remove all U.S. military dependents from South Korea, we should begin to massively reinforce our forces in the Western Pacific. This should include two or three attack carrier strike groups as well as four Air Force bomber squadrons, and up to 24 fighter squadrons with accompanying support forces. We should also plan to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea as well as on our forward-deployed submarines. A crash program to provide cruise-missile arsenal ships should also be part of the buildup.

 

Coordination with our allies will need to be factored into our overall planning. In that sense, an expanded military equipment package for Taiwan should also be planned. The unambiguous message that we would be sending is that we will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. It must dismantle its nuclear program or be destroyed.

  • James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

Article

 

 

 

 

GEDRICH: Coping with NATO Freeloaders

GEDRICH: Coping with NATO Freeloaders

 

 

 

by Fred Gedrich 5 Jun 2017

In a recent gathering of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member country leaders at their Brussels, Belgium Headquarters, U.S. President Donald Trump formally asked those whose governments aren’t fulfilling their treaty defense funding obligations to pay up.

His request for payment is appropriate, although met with scorn and snickers by some European leaders, who seemingly would much rather invest their nations’ valuable resources on matters like climate change than their collective and national defense. The subsequent terrorist attack in London provides another grim reminder of the dangers NATO countries face.

NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. The United States, Canada, and several Western European nations created the organization in 1949 to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. It subsequently expanded to 28 member nations and changed its mission after the 1991 Soviet Union collapse.

More than ten years ago all NATO members agreed to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product (goods and services produced) on defense spending to ensure all of them are at a satisfactory defense readiness level. Currently, only 5 of 28 members are meeting their defense funding commitments. As a result, U.S. taxpayers are shouldering the burden of building up the U.S. military to compensate for other member shortfalls. If NATO is to carry out its mission effectively, each member must invest in its defense at prescribed levels to ensure each can respond to contemporary threats in Europe like Russian aggression and radical Islamic terrorism.

Those threats are very real. In recent years, Putin’s Russia seized parts of the Ukraine and Georgia and is intimidating some other European neighbors as well with its military and hefty nuclear arsenal. And who can forget the recent wanton slaughter of innocent civilians in NATO country urban areas by radical Islamic terrorists such as occurred in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States?

How does the NATO funding scheme work? Its most important element is member country readiness, achieved through defense spending of at least 2 percent of each nation’s GDP. The collective GDP for the 28 NATO member nations in 2016 was $38.4 trillion. If all members invested 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending then about $768 billion ($38.4 trillion x 2 percent) would be available for the organization’s common defense.

However, despite repeated attempts by two previous U.S. presidents, Bush and Obama, only a handful of NATO members have met or exceeded their financial defense spending commitments. In fact, as of 2016, only the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, and Greece have done so.

The failure of 23 NATO members to meet their defense funding commitments means that those delinquent nations may not be able to meet the minimum manpower, equipment, and support expected of NATO members in the event of a security emergency, which could be devastating for the countries and the alliance. It also means that there is a collective defense funding shortfall of $134 billion among those nations.

Who are the freeloaders?  The 23 include nearly all of the richest Western European nations. Germany – Europe’s wealthiest NATO member with a $4 trillion GDP – is $38.2 billion short on its $80 billion spending bill by only investing 1.18 percent of its GDP on defense. Italy is $23.1 billion short; Spain is $18.8 billion short; Canada is $16.7 billion short; NATO host Belgium is $5.6 billion short; France is $5.5 billion short; and Luxembourg – which has Europe’s greatest average annual income per person at $102,000 – contributed less than .5 percent of its GDP for defense. There may be an excuse for the newest members from Eastern Europe with developing economies for not being able to meet these funding levels, but there is no excuse for the wealthy nations.

How does NATO make up the defense funding shortfall? Like it always does, delinquent member countries rely on the United States to make up the difference. Since the organization’s founding, the United States has served as its chief benefactor. In 2016, the U.S. invested $672 billion in defense spending, $300 billion more than the alliance required, and supplying about 68 percent of NATO’s total resources.

After President Trump’s payment demand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.”  She might instead consider taking some of the other European leaders for a trip down memory lane to fully appreciate the sacrifices in blood and treasure Americans have made for European nations during the 20th Century. Here are a few things for them to consider:

  • 521, 925 Americans died liberating Europe during World War I and II.
  • 874,848 Americans were wounded in Europe during World War I and II.
  • 104,366 Americans killed during World War I and II never returned home and are buried in European cemeteries.
  • The United States spent about $130 billion current year dollars rebuilding Europe after World War II through the Marshall Plan.

It is largely because of U.S. efforts and American goodwill that Western Europeans survived Germany tyranny during World War I and II and protected Western Europeans, including West Germany, from Soviet Union domination during the Cold War. In addition, it also allowed Chancellor Merkel’s country to eventually overcome its Nazi and communist (East Germany) past and evolve into a free, self-governing unified country that many currently consider Western Europe’s leader.

If Chancellor Merkel and other disenchanted European leaders truly want to take their fate into their own hands, they might want to first consider meeting their NATO defense spending obligations, because it would enhance their own national security as well as the alliance’s – and give Europeans a pathway for their own self-reliance rather than continued U.S. security dependence.  And it would surely please U.S. taxpayers and President Trump if they did.

Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the departments of State and Defense.

 

Memorial Day A Time To Remember Our Heroes By Paul E. Vallely MG, US Army (ret)

Memorial Day

 A Time To Remember Our Heroes

 By

 Paul E. Vallely

MG, US Army (ret)

We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones, for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions  missed at home with family and friends.

For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty.  A special thank you to all families and friends, to the parents who raised them, stood by them and made them honorable men and woman.  We thank the wives, husbands, and loved ones who stood by them and supported them with their love.

May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice.

You who have served and are serving as our brave ones, our heroes, are our national treasures. You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation. Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world. Those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.

Our son speaks from his resting place below our feet. He speaks to me each day from his hallowed space with beautiful skies and mountains majestic white with snow. God bless his soul and  the others buried here and I thank him for his wonderful contribution to our life. He lives forever in our hearts. I fear no evil when I walk with Warriors. We walk in the valley of death but we fear no evil. We are the Masters of our Destiny and the Captain of our souls. You are the wind beneath my wings. I fly with you forever in eternity.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flags and flowers to show the respect of a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. This tradition continues today, and our nation now sets aside the last Monday in May to celebrate the courage of the men and women who have worn America’s colors in war and in peace.

I remember as a young man remembering Memorial that in the morning there was a parade down Main Street, led by a color guard, the high school band, and ranks of veterans from World War I, World War II, and the war of the moment, Korea. The Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red poppies to raise funds for the disabled. Politicians made speeches and citizens prayed in public. It was a solemn annual event that taught us reverence for those who served and sacrificed for our country. It’s no longer so in many places in America, especially in our large urban areas.

Begun as a local observance in the aftermath of the Civil War, the first national commemoration took place on May 30, 1868, at the direction of General John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Though his “General Order No. 11” specified “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion” – meaning only Union soldiers – those who tended the burial sites at Arlington, VA, Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, MS, decided on their own to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate war dead.

For five decades the holiday remained essentially unchanged. But in 1919, as the bodies of young Americans were being returned to the U.S. from the battlefields of World War I, May 30th became a truly national event. It persisted as such until 1971, during Vietnam – the war America wanted to forget – when the Uniform Holiday Act passed by Congress went into effect, and turned Memorial Day into a “three-day weekend.” Since then, it’s become an occasion for appliance, mattress and auto sales, picnics, barbecues and auto races. Thankfully, there are some places besides Arlington National Cemetery like Bigfork, Montana where Memorial Day is still observed as a time to honor America’s war dead.

This Memorial Day we remember those who have served our nation in the past and those who currently serve America today. Although Memorial Day comes only once a year, we must make sure that our service members know how grateful we are every day. It recognizes the sacrifices made by our courageous men and women who have fallen in defense of our nation’s liberty. This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember and honor America’s fallen and current day warriors who are advancing freedom’s cause today. WE salute you one and all.  WE bow before you in respect and humility. May God bless you and God bless America, land of the free and home of the brave.

 

The entire staff at Stand Up America gives thanks to our fallen heroes and their families for their service to the United States of America and preserving and protecting our Constitution and our American way of life. On behalf of a grateful nation, The United States of America, may God bless you. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Always.

 

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“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

(Edmund Burke)

Never forget.

“Look at what they have done to our country” … “United We Stand 911″…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day 29 May in the year of our Lord 2017 as in all the years…

 

 

 

BACK TO NUCLEAR BASICS: DOES UNlateral RESTRAINT WORK?” by Pete Hoekstra

Editor’s Note: From our great friend and regular SUA contributor former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Pete represented Michigan for 18 years in Congress as chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and as a leading bipartisan voice on policy and oversight of national security, education, labor, and economic issues.

 

 

 

“BACK TO NUCLEAR BASICS: DOES UNlateral RESTRAINT WORK?”

By Pete Hoekstra

Nuclear weapons are in the news multiple times each day, with unsettling events in North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia escalating the concern that the United States is entering an era of growing instability and uncertainty.

While there are serious and gathering nuclear threats facing the United States and our allies, there is no need to panic, nor believe that doomsday is just around the corner. But we do need to get on with the task of modernizing our nuclear deterrent, enhancing our ballistic missile defenses and working effectively to stop the proliferation of such weapons.

This essay addresses the question of how best to maintain nuclear deterrence. Critics of the current US modernization plan urge the US to exercise restraint by curtailing the modernization of significant portions of our nuclear deterrent under the assumption that if the United States unilaterally stops “arms racing”, our adversaries such as Russia and China will as well.

My conclusion is three fold: (1) recent history shows restraint does not work; (2) nuclear modernization is absolutely required; and (3) a renewed “peace through strength” policy will both reduce nuclear dangers and restore some stability in international affairs.

First, let’s review the facts of the nuclear landscape.

The United States has deployed in its strategic nuclear forces under 1600 nuclear warheads, at least 1000 warheads less than the Russians. [The Russians have to reduce these numbers to the New Start level by February 2018].

Second, the United States has a few hundred tactical or theater nuclear weapons, less than the 2000-5000 such weapons held by Russia.

Third, the Russians are on a pace to modernize at least 90% of their nuclear deterrent force by the turn of the decade, no later than 2021 it appears. By contrast, the US modernization begins with the deployment of a new bomber, submarine and land based missiles no earlier than from mid-2027 through 2031, so US modernization restraint is hardly called for.

Fourth, and just to be clear, current forces are capable but in need of significant investment. Most of the US forces were fielded 30 or more years ago and are at the end of their service lives. They are thus actually way past due for modernization, and that is the only way they can remain credible and capable as the foundation of our deterrent. Four senior USAF and Navy nuclear commanders underscored this point in HASC testimony on March 8, 2017.

In that context, how should we treat calls for major US restraint in rebuilding our nuclear arms? Perhaps it would be instructive to review the impact of US nuclear unilateral restraint just before and following the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now to be clear, the US and the Soviet Union and then Russia jointly agreed to the INF (1987), START I (July 1991) and START II (January 1993) nuclear weapons treaties. But unlike in the post 1990 period, we significantly invested in a simultaneous modernization of our entire nuclear deterrent during the Reagan administration while also seeking arms control. Peace through strength worked as we secured major reductions in Soviet-era nuclear weapons and the end of the Soviet Union.

It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union did our nuclear investments markedly decline. The US went beyond the joint treaties with Moscow and took a large number of additional unilateral actions in both the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations, many of them codified in the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This restraint included a US nuclear policy which:

“Created no new mission or scenario for nuclear-weapon use and articulated the premise that nuclear weapons play a smaller role in U.S. security today than at any other time in the nuclear age.

“Codified that the United States no longer targets any country with strategic nuclear forces on a day-to-day basis.

“Specified that U.S. strategic bombers were taken off alert. Further, more ballistic missile submarines now patrol on “modified alert” out of the range of their targets than on an “alert” status. The U.S. airborne command and control posts now operate at a reduced tempo.

“Called for continued reduction of defense expenditures for strategic nuclear forces and in the number of associated personnel. The levels for FY 97 were roughly one-third those of FY 88.

“Terminated U.S. ground-force nuclear capability and training for nuclear missions. By FY 97, the number of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe was down from a peak of 7,000 to ‘hundreds.’

“Mandated that all nonstrategic nuclear weapons, including nuclear cruise missiles, depth charges, and torpedoes, be removed from surface ships, multipurpose submarines, and land-based naval aircraft bases. The capability to deploy such weapons on U.S. surface ships has now been eliminated.

“Continued the reduction of the overall U.S. nuclear stockpile–a 59 percent reduction from FY 88 to FY 97. Ninety percent of the nonstrategic nuclear stockpile was eliminated.

The NPR also assumed such unilateral reductions were safe to undertake because the Russians would not brandish for diplomatic or military purposes its nuclear weapons. The study further assumed the Russian leadership was intent on fully joining the “international community of market economies”, and that the Russian nuclear arsenal would not pose a serious threat to the United States. Overall, the report generally foresaw a relatively benign future nuclear environment. (1)

What happened?

In fact, after the American unilateral exercise of nuclear restraint, these serious and adverse nuclear developments followed:

  • The Russians in 2000 turned down START II arguing that Moscow would not agree to the treaty’s ban on multiple warhead land based missiles. Russia insisted that all US work on missile defenses had to be contained within the laboratory with strict adherence to the ABM Treaty. Those conditions were not acceptable to the Clinton administration nor the Congress and thus the treaty never went into effect.
  • North Korea worked to produce nuclear weapons fuel in violation of the 1995 Agreed Framework that purported to end Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Eventually, in 2006 North Korea tested an actual nuclear weapon while advancing its ballistic missile delivery systems.
  • Iran went forward with its nuclear work, both increasing its capacity to make enriched nuclear fuel and seeking help to design warheads.
  • The Khan network out of Pakistan, what I have termed the “Nukes ‘R Us” outfit, expanded its work of distributing nuclear weapons technology and scientific nuclear know-how to North Korea, Libya, and Iran.
  • Pakistan and India, as well, exploded nuclear devices and made plans to sharply increase their inventory of nuclear weapons.
  • China, too, expanded its nuclear capability, and began the construction of what appears to have been $50 billion (my estimate) in missile tunnels and train tracks that would come to house mobile land based missiles, as part of a modernization of all elements of their nuclear deterrent.

In addition, Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea went unchecked, and China unilaterally seized atolls and reefs in the South China Sea on which it is building military bases.

In just the past decade, Russia and China together have rhetorically brandished nuclear weapons three dozen times, threatening to use such weapons in the conduct of their foreign policy, and rhetorically threatening to push the US and its allies to give up important international security objectives or risk nuclear attack.

Recently, both Norway and Denmark, for example, were added to the Russian nuclear target list said the Kremlin, for the “provocative” one for protecting its territorial sea from the incursion of Russian submarines and the other for planning to put a missile defense capability on its Navy Aegis cruisers.

The gathering nuclear threats today cannot be tied to any notion that the US has not evidenced sufficient restraint, including unilateral gestures of nuclear arms control.

China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, seek to replace a rules based civilized order with one of blackmail, coercion, terror and aggression. Acting with restraint in the fact of such aggression is not a policy but it is a faith based hope. Nuclear dangers arose in part because we exercised excessive restraint, what one senior Air Force official described as a “nuclear procurement holiday”created a security vacuum that over a period of the past two decades the bad “hombres” filled.

President Trump has argued that the United States must maintain its nuclear deterrent forces at “the top of the heap” when compared to our adversaries. He has also repeatedly noted that our forces are in need of repair and modernization as Russia and China fully modernize their nuclear forces.

Here the disarmament advocates appear to trying to have it both ways—the claim nothing is wrong with our deterrent as it still is better than the Russians but simultaneously they argue we need to kill large segments of that same force so the Russians don’t engage in an arms race!

For example, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former defense logistics staffer Lawrence Korb both advocate a massive unilateral 97% reduction in America’s nuclear assets plus a one-third reduction in our warheads, arguing that maintaining nuclear parity with the Russians is unnecessary.

If we don’t try to retreat our way to nuclear safety, isn’t the alternative unaffordable? Can we really increase the defense budget adequately to fully modernize the nuclear deterrent?

Again, let us look at the facts. The United States now spends in the neighborhood of 5% of the defense budget on nuclear modernization. At the peak of this effort next decade, we will be spending 6% but only one half of one percent of the Federal budget. That means for every $100 Uncle Sam spends, the nuclear deterrent gets 50 cents.

Looked at another way, this is the equivalent of a household with a $52,000 income—the national per capita GDP average—spending on auto, fire, life, and homeowners insurance $22 a month.

Ok, it may be cheap the critics might admit, but what does it matter if we underfund our defense? What if we simply gamble and spent less?

Well, let’s look at some history.

Prior to World War II and the Korean War, the US defense budgets were dramatically curtailed or sustained at levels incompatible with our security.

We know that the US and its allies were woefully unprepared for both conflicts.

Defense spending in the US was $700 million in 1933; it remained at that level for every year of that decade up to Pearl Harbor.

After WWII, from 1945-50, US defense budgets declined markedly, from near $90 billion at the war’s end to under $10 billion. Just a year prior to the Korean War, the US defense secretary was urging Congress to cut the defense budget down to no more than $7 billion a year.

On December 7th, 1941, and June 25, 1950, respectively, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. These wars killed a combined 81 million people, out of a world population of roughly 2.4 billion, or three percent of all the people alive at the time.

These wars were fought almost entirely without the use of nuclear weapons, with the exception of the bombing of two Japanese cities which historians agree saved the lives of millions of people by ending the war in the Pacific.

Spending $26 billion annually now on nuclear deterrence, increasing to $35 billion by the middle of next decade, is a prudent insurance policy that will annually cost $9 billion more next decade than today.

These are the projected nuclear investments now planned in budgets approved by Congress.

By contrast, Americans spent $11 billion in 2016 just going to the movies.

Today’s investment is with treasure and yes the amount is a lot of money.

But if we get this wrong, tomorrow will be paid in blood.

Just to save $9 billion a year or $28 for every American living today, think of what we are willing to risk. As the advertisement says, you can pay me today, or you can pay me tomorrow.

World War II and the Korean War were fought with conventional weapons. And upwards of 84 million people perished.

The next war could be fought with nuclear ones. And we are willing to take that risk just to save each American $28 a year?

 

 

 

 

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Paul Vallely, MG USA (ret) RBTH Interview: Trump won’t take a confrontational approach with Russia.

U.S. General: Trump won’t take confrontational approach with Russia

March 3, 2017 NIKOLAI SHEVCHENKO, RBTH

What would Trump’s reaction to Crimea have been, and what will the U.S. President discuss with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at their first, as yet unscheduled, meeting? In an exclusive interview with RBTH, retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Vallely and Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst for the Secretary of Defense, share their views on these and other issues in U.S.-Russia relations.

Trump, Crimea and the meeting

RBTH: General, imagine that Crimea happened today. How would Trump have reacted?

Paul E. Vallely: I think he would have wanted to talk to Putin and say “Hey, what’s going on? What’s happened, there’s got to be a reason for this, would you let me know?” Obama could never do that. If you read Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, you find out how he does it.

It’s difficult to guess what he would have done, but we know what his thinking is, and it’s very different from Obama’s. Now, if Russia takes some action somewhere, he is not going to overreact. And if it’s not in the interests of the U.S., if it’s not a threat to the U.S., he is going to think very hard about getting involved.

RBTH: What do you expect from the first meeting between Trump and Putin?

Paul E. Vallely: Putin is going to meet with Trump sooner rather than later. That’s very important. A long time has passed since Mikhail Gorbachev met Ronald Reagan and we are in a very different environment now that looks almost like a new Cold War. But this happens because the media and the Democratic Party blame Russia for everything, which is just ridiculous. There is absolutely no evidence that the Russians affected the U.S. elections by hacking or by any other means.

I think Trump and Putin will discuss issues related to energy, economics. They will talk about the situation in Syria, extremism and how to deal with it. Trump is likely to bring up North Korea as a subject of the discussion too. He will see to it if to bring Crimea and Ukraine as part of the discussion, but he will not be fixated on that. In general, I think Putin respects Trump. I know Trump respects Putin. I would say rather sooner than later we will be surprised about the way things happen.


 

Misunderstanding Russia

RBHT: There are many military representatives in Trump’s inner circle. Do they see Russia as a challenge, a threat, or a potential ally?

Paul E. Vallely: We have a couple of guys who do not understand the new Russia. We still have a contingent of old CIA types who regard Russia as a main threat. I have one person in mind. But I don’t want to name him only because of the transition period. If you quote me on that, he is going to say “Why did he say this about me, I’ve been here for only a week.”

RBTH: Is it true that, among the military members of Trump’s team, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has the most influence with the President?

Paul E. Vallely: Yes, Mattis has an upper hand in pushing his agenda with the White House. Mattis certainly has more power than the other military within the Trump team to shape policy.

RBTH: Does James Mattis see Russia as a threat?

Michael Maloof: Yes, Mattis still regards Russia as a threat, but at the same time he says we can work with Moscow. But it’s important that it was Trump who has brought these people in, knowing what their positions are. And he made it very clear that he wants their opinions, but the ultimate decision remains with him.

Paul E. Vallely: And Trump is very positive about Russia. He does not have any preconceptions that Russia is a threat.

RBTH: Some saw former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation as the closure of an opportunity for Moscow. Was Flynn indeed the Kremlin’s window into the Trump administration?

Is McMaster’s appointment as national security adviser bad news for Moscow?

Paul E. Vallely: Flynn indeed was a window into the Trump administration for Russia. And this was particularly important in light of the legacy Obama had left. Obama never knew how to develop a relationship with Russia. Flynn, on the other hand, has been very proactive in engaging Russia. But even though he had to resign, Trump will still reach out to Moscow.

Trump’s line in the sand

RBTH: Trump seems to be under significant pressure on issues related to Russia. Is it true he has been pressured by the Washington political establishment and the military to change his rhetoric on Russia?

Michael Maloof: To a point. Trump has been more forthcoming about expressing the desire to work with Russia than the old Cold Warriors had. And that’s a part of the changes that are happening in the U.S. now. The country is being mentality oriented into a new direction by the new president. And this is pretty hard when you have old CIA types who are still in their positions and the media, which has been very anti-Russian.  But if Trump makes a decision to cooperate with Russia, they will stand up and salute.

Paul E. Vallely: Definitely, they will stand up and salute. An important thing is that the soldiers are very happy to have Trump as president. And this is what is really important. From that stand point we get a new spirit within the armed forces now.

RBTH: If the military has Trump’s ear, does it mean Trump is going to pursue a more assertive policy towards Russia if he fails to find common ground with Putin?

Paul E. Vallely: No, I don’t think Trump is going to take that approach. Trump and Putin will get along well, and they will make a deal. Trump is not going to take a military confrontational approach to Russia at all.

RBTH: In Syria, what does the U.S. military think about a prospect of cooperating with the Russian military?

Michael Maloof: There is already some level of cooperation. They have video conferences. There was one episode when the U.S. bombed Syrian troops. A serviceman left his post on the U.S. side, and that created the problem. That episode helped establish new procedures to be followed from then on. They are trying to make it work, but that’s the level of cooperation for now.

There is substantial internal resistance within the military against cooperating with the Russians in Syria. There is reluctance on part of the military to share the intelligence, because of the perceived notion that Russia remains the primary threat.

But the whole Syrian thing might change this mindset. From our personal meeting with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, we have an impression that Russia is willing to achieve it too. And this is one of the messages we are bringing back to the U.S.

RBTH: Obama was criticized for drawing a line in the sand on Syria and then not acting upon it. Would Trump be more decisive to act in a similar situation?

Paul E. Vallely: I don’t think Trump will draw any lines to begin with. For Trump, if there’s a threat to the U.S., then we are going to go and take it out. If, in the meantime, we have to work with the Russians to eliminate that threat, then we will. That’s the attitude. Trump is not that kind of person who wants to draw lines. He wants to identify a problem and work with everyone he can to solve it.

Paul E. Vallely is a retired U.S. Army Major General, Chairman of Stand Up America, Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund and NEMO ARMS Inc. He is senior military analyst for Fox News.

Michael Maloof  is a contributing writer for national security affairs for WND and G2Bulletin, a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense, and the author of A Nation Forsaken.

Paul Vallely and Michael Maloof both came to Moscow for a series of events organized by the Valdai Discussion Club, including a private meeting with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Nikolay Shevchenko is a foreign correspondent for Russia Beyond The Headlines and an editor at the Global Ethics Network.

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