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Russia Offers NATO an Olive Branch but There's No Profit in Peace for the Military Industrial Complex


August 24, 2016
Danielle Ryan / RT News & Katharine Q. Seelye / The New York Times

Russia has invited NATO's military experts to Moscow in September and offered a "positive program" for developing relations with the military alliance -- but is reconciliation really what NATO is interested in? Russia's move has been backed up with at least one concrete public proposal: safer flights over the Baltic. However, NATO's existence and the revival of the Cold War "would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market" with billions of US tax dollars.

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/354862-russia-offers-nato-olive-branch/

Russia Offers NATO an Olive Branch,
but Is Reconciliation in NATO Interests?

Danielle Ryan / RT News

(August 6, 2016) -- Russia has invited NATO's military experts to Moscow in September and offered a "positive program" for developing relations with the military alliance -- but is reconciliation really what NATO is interested in?

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the proposal was aimed at decreasing tensions and that Moscow was ready for a constructive approach, despite differences between the two sides. Antonov said the meeting would promote a "de-escalation of tensions and prevent military incidents on the contact line between the sides’ armed forces."

This is Moscow's response to the NATO Summit held in Warsaw in July, at which it was confirmed that four more NATO battalions would be deployed to eastern European NATO states. The bloc also reaffirmed at the summit its contention that Moscow is a "source of instability" in the region.

An Olive Branch
If you were a pessimist, you might write off Russia's move as all talk and no action -- but it's actually been backed up with at least one concrete public proposal: safer flights over the Baltic "as a matter of priority" if both parties agree. Antonov said Russia was ready to address "mutual concerns" with its neighbors over military activity in border areas.

NATO and Russia have traded accusations over their respective activities in the Baltic. NATO has repeatedly accused Russia of flying its jets over the region with transponders switched off, while Moscow has returned the same accusation -- adding that an alternative approach would simply be to cease flights near the Russian border.

Whatever one may say about Russia and its role in the current conflict with NATO, this looks very much like a genuine effort to improve relations with the Western military bloc. Given the level of hostility between the two recently, it might have been expected that any kind of olive branch offered by Russia would be well-received.

Strangely, though, while the offer to perform safer sorties did receive some attention in recent weeks, the public invitation to embark on a joint program for developing relations in general, has so far at least, elicited very little public response from NATO and garnered scant media attention.

One of the only responses has come from non-NATO member Finland’s ministry of defense, which released a statement calling Moscow’s initiative "interesting."

Estonia's defense ministry has said it would carefully consider whether or not to attend consultations with Moscow in September, and others have said that no official invitation has yet been extended.

But does NATO really want to mend fences with Russia? A little historical context is necessary to answer that question.

In Search of a Mission
In 1951, NATO's first supreme allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked: "If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed."

By that measure, the NATO project has well and truly failed: Sixty-five years on, American troops remain in eastern Europe, NATO has expanded eastward to Russia’s doorstep and recently launched the biggest war game exercises in the region since the end of the Cold War. Even the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that such "loud saber-rattling and shrill war cries" directed at Russia would serve no one.

"Whoever believes that symbolic tank parades on the alliance's eastern border will bring more security is mistaken. We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation," he continued.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991, the alliance found itself with a bad case of thumb twiddling. The authors of an op-ed about NATO expansion published by the Chicago Tribune in 1994 noted: "The first priority of any bureaucratic institution is to perpetuate its existence. The second is to expand its functions."

And that’s exactly what NATO did: It perpetuated its existence by offering membership to more and more states, and expanded its functions by entering the business of fighting global terrorism and engaging in regime-change operations. Both, to say the least, have had mixed results.

In Europe, experts are increasingly inclined to call the latest stand-off between NATO and Russia a 'new Cold War' -- while further afield, NATO interventions have wreaked havoc in the Middle East, helping to fuel the rise of Islamic State.

Lining their Pockets
But if there was no threat from Russia post-1991, why then did the alliance continue to expand at all? Feast your eyes on an article brought to Twitter's attention by journalist Mark Ames. Published by the New York Times in 1998, it explained that American arms manufacturers "who stand to gain billions of dollars in sales of weapons, communication systems and other military equipment" were spending millions lobbying for the expansion of NATO. [See full article below -- EAW]

Enlarging the bloc, the Times reported "would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market." NATO was central to their lobbying efforts because it simply offered "so many opportunities."

NATO rules conveniently required new members to upgrade their militaries, replacing old Soviet-made systems. Thus, the sums arms makers spent on lobbying were "relatively small compared with the potential benefits in the new markets provided by a larger NATO, particularly from the sale of big-ticket items like fighter aircraft," the Times report said.

Despite the fact that the biggest beneficiaries were American military contractors, the US still contended that NATO was being expanded to "unite" and "stabilize" Europe. The fact that Russia -- a significant part of Europe -- was being locked out of the new European ‘security’ structure didn't seem to bother anyone.

Times report quoted a Republican aide who joked that the contractors were so eager to sell arms that they’d "probably be giving landlocked Hungary a new navy." Another aide told the Times that Americans themselves didn’t really care about NATO expansion: "The only people who care about this are the think-tank folks and the academics," he admitted.

Yet today Americans are told they must indeed care about NATO -- and they must care about it a lot. When presidential candidate Donald J. Trump suggests that NATO members not paying their bills should cough up or defend themselves, it prompts uproar. Washington’s relationship with its allies in Eastern Europe is sacrosanct, we’re told. It’s all about unity, stability, butterflies and unicorns.

But has the real mission changed? Well, given that the US last year launched a special NATO weapons program aimed at helping struggling NATO members share costs and buy American weapons together, the answer to that is probably "no."

Ongoing tensions in Europe keep the defense dollars rolling in. Russia doesn’t need to be a real threat for this to work. It can just as easily be an imagined one. To keep small and relatively weak NATO members like the Baltics in a state of permanent fear and paranoia, Washington must convince them that they could be invaded by the Russian bear at any minute.

In fact, a letter to the Irish Times recently from a retired army officer even argued: "A limited but devastating war in Europe could suit the economic interests of the US elite" so long as it was maintained at a non-nuclear and regional level.

NATO's primary purpose today therefore is to create threats, real or imaginary, in the minds of its members, allowing US defense contractors to rush in and sell outrageously expensive weaponry to those nations. The "Russia threat" also provides a similarly excellent excuse to maintain astronomically high US defense spending.

No one is suggesting that NATO actually wants full-scale war with Russia or that Vladimir Putin is a victimized angel -- just that Russia can fill the role of convenient bogeyman rather brilliantly simply by existing.

Moscow's latest offer to embark on a "positive program" for developing friendly relations with NATO already looks dead in the water when you look at it that way.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist and media analyst. She has lived in the US and Germany and is currently based in Moscow. She previously worked as a digital desk reporter for the Sunday Business Post in Dublin. She studied political reporting at the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism in Washington, DC and also has a degree in business and German. She focuses on US foreign policy, US-Russia relations and media bias



Arms Contractors Spend to Promote an Expanded NATO
Katharine Q. Seelye / The New York Times

WASHINGTON, DC (March 29, 1998) -- American arms manufacturers, who stand to gain billions of dollars in sales of weapons, communication systems and other military equipment if the Senate approves NATO expansion, have made enormous investments in lobbyists and campaign contributions to promote their cause in Washington.

The end of the cold war has shrunk the arms industry and forced it to diversify.

But expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- first to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, then possibly to more than a dozen other countries -- would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market.

America's six biggest military contractors have spent $51 million on lobbying in the last two years, according to an analysis prepared for The New York Times by the Campaign Study Group, a research company in Springfield, Va.

If lobbying costs were included from all companies that perform military-related activities, like computer and technology firms, they would dwarf the lobbying effort of any other industry.

Not all of the lobbying has been for NATO expansion. The contractors have billions of dollars worth of other business before Congress. But NATO expansion has been a central concern because it offers so many opportunities.

The military industry also remains the most generous contributor to Congressional candidates, the study group said, giving nearly equally to Democrats and Republicans.

The four-dozen companies whose main business is arms have showered candidates with $32.3 million since the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the decade. By comparison, the tobacco lobby spent $26.9 million in that same period, 1991 to 1997.

The top six American military companies increased their contributions to Federal campaign committees as well, to $2.4 million in 1997 from $1.5 million in 1991.

In the last six years, those six companies -- Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Textron Inc., Raytheon, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas -- have given the committees more than $15 million.

'Like any other American manufacturer, they are looking for markets abroad,' said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who opposes the proposed NATO expansion. 'Most every other customer they can think of, we have forbidden them to sell anything to.'

Under NATO rules, new members are required to upgrade their militaries and make them compatible with those of the Western military alliance, which oversees the most sophisticated -- and expensive -- weapons and communication systems in the world. The companies that win the contracts to provide that 'inter-operability' to the aging Soviet-made systems in Eastern Europe will benefit enormously from NATO's eastward expansion.

Thus the sums spent on lobbying and for campaign contributions are relatively small compared with the potential benefits in the new markets provided by a larger NATO, particularly from the sale of big-ticket items like fighter aircraft.

A single F-16, made by Lockheed Martin, costs about $20 million; a single F-18, made by Boeing, costs $40 million to $60 million. Poland alone wants to buy 100 to 150 fighter planes and is weighing offers from Lockheed and Boeing as well as from companies in Britain, France and Russia.

'It's a big deal,' said a Polish official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'They are doing their best,' he said of the companies, which appear to be lobbying more heavily abroad than in Washington. 'They are very active. They are already introducing some business to Polish industries, not necessarily connected to this plane business.'

No one contends that NATO is being expanded for the benefit of military contractors. President Clinton committed himself more than four years ago to broadening the alliance as a way to unite and stabilize Europe, and his Administration has worked tirelessly to promote the expansion as the cornerstone of his legacy in foreign policy.

Nor are the military contractors alone in their support for expansion, although few other constituencies in the United States care as much. There has been virtually no organized opposition to NATO expansion, and the public has not been engaged.

As one Senate aide put it, 'The only people who care about this are the think-tank folks and the academics -- not much of a voting constituency.'

The arms makers quickly latched onto the idea and over time helped the Administration sell it. 'It's not a case of whispering in Clinton's ear and saying, 'Expand NATO because we want to sell arms,' ' said William D. Hartung, author of a recent report for the World Policy Institute, a private arms control group that opposes expansion. 'But they've become one of Clinton's most energetic allies in promoting it.'

The chief vehicle of support for NATO expansion is a group called the US Committee to Expand NATO, which is backed by the arms industry. The committee president is Bruce L. Jackson, who is also director of strategic planning for Lockheed. Corporate sponsors are also supporting ethnic groups that have championed NATO membership for their native countries.

This has led to some skepticism in the Senate. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said the lobbyists had been so effective that the expansion amounted to 'a Marshall Plan for defense contractors who are chomping at the bit to sell weapons and make profits.' A top Republican aide in the Senate joked that the arms makers were so eager for NATO expansion that 'we'll probably be giving landlocked Hungary a new navy.'

That zeal by the contractors, the extensive spadework by the Administration and the support of Senator Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, have led to the virtual certainty that the Senate will approve the treaty to admit the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs.

Debate started two weeks ago but was postponed until later this spring when the subject could receive a more focused hearing. Several senators said they expected that the treaty would easily win the two-thirds vote needed, although some said they favored slowing future expansion of the alliance to other countries, a move that could bring the industry back to Capitol Hill in force.

Several senators said they had been lobbied by the industry, but not excessively so.

The industry is also concentrating its efforts abroad, setting up partnerships in Eastern Europe to give the companies a foothold.

The arms makers have other important business before Congress for which they are lobbying heavily, including the fate of the B-2 bomber and the deployment of a full-scale 'Star Wars' antimissile defense system by 2002, worth more than $4 billion. But NATO expansion has loomed as a rare new source of revenue.

'We've taken the long-term approach to NATO expansion, establishing alliances,' said Charles Manor, a spokesman for Lockheed based in Bethesda, Md. 'When the day arrives and those countries are in a position to buy combat aircraft, we certainly intend on being a competitor.'

He said the Eastern Europeans could not afford the aircraft now and had other priorities. For the immediate future, Lockheed will focus on supplying information systems, telecommunications and infrastructure, he said.

Doug Kennett, a spokesman for Boeing, said his company had not cemented any military deals yet. But, he said, 'we are working with a number of the companies in Eastern Europe in partnering arrangements.' These include a $30 million investment in Aero Vodochody, a Czech manufacturer of light airplanes.

Without NATO membership, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have little incentive to spend their scarce money on arms. Recognizing that problem, the arms industry succeeded in lobbying Congress to establish a loan program in 1996 under which the Pentagon will guarantee loans for defense exports.

The top individual giver to the Democratic Party last year was Bernard L. Schwartz, chairman of Loral Space and Communications, which is partly owned by Lockheed.

He gave $366,000 to Democratic Party committees in 1997, a non-election year. That included $50,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, made shortly after he appeared at a briefing for several senators that was sponsored by the US Committee to Expand NATO.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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