Dangle a couple billion dollars in front of Donald Trump who seems to see himself as America’s premier arms merchant, when he’s not using the presidency to make money for himself and family and you can see his eyes light up.
“Fort Trump,” we will call it, suggested Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who knows how to manipulate an insatiable ego.
Trump responded positively: “Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base, and we are looking at that.”
But even some of the more hawkish military analysts, such as Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe from 2014 to 2017, have argued that this is “unnecessarily provocative.” The idea was roundly rejected by the U.S. and Germany when it was first suggested in 2016.
If the power of the weapons industry were to prevail, however, it wouldn’t be the first time.
In fact, that’s a big part of the story of how we got in this New Cold War in the first place. As the New York Times pointed out:
“At night, Bruce L. Jackson is president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, giving intimate dinners for Senators and foreign officials. By day, he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world’s biggest weapons maker.”
That was 1997. Two years later, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic would join NATO, allowing America’s weapon makers to haul in billions of dollars in new arms sales. Ten more countries would join over the next nine years, bringing NATO’s military to Russia’s doorstep.
The United States and Germany promised Russia in 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, that they would not expand NATO even “an inch” to the east.
Although many Americans have forgotten World War II, the Russians have not: They lost 27 million people to Nazi invaders.
Needless to say, they are not fond of the violent neo-Nazis that the U.S. government has supported in Ukraine, or the idea that Ukraine could end up with the next NATO military base on their border.
These are the most important structural causes of the New Cold War, not Russia’s annexation of Crimea which violated international law or Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Americans are understandably upset about any foreign interference in our elections. As are Hondurans, Chileans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Italians, Iranians and citizens of scores of other countries where the United States has intervened much more heavily sometimes sponsoring military coups to reverse election results.
This even includes Russia itself, where Americans organized and spent heavily to elect their ally, Boris Yeltsin, in 1996.
Election expert Nate Silver noted this week that Russian troll farms, memes and tweets were much too small and without evidence of effectiveness to have made a difference in the 2016 election.
But in any case the New Cold War with Russia has deeper structural causes that will not be resolved through sanctions, threats and certainly not by expanding NATO’s military encirclement of Russia.
Ironically, despite Trump’s personal friendliness with Putin and whatever private financial gains he has sought there he has been more aggressive toward Russia through stepped-up sanctions, sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, proposing to abandon the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty and continuing to expand NATO.
This is no way to manage relations between the two countries that have the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Of course even talking about our new military base in Poland shows how far U.S. foreign policy towards Russia has descended into stupidity and recklessness.
It will take much more public awareness and political mobilization to reverse course.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. Readers may write him at CEPR, Suite 400, 1611 Connecticut Ave., Washington, D.C. 20009.
Please Help ZNet and Z Magazine
Due to problems with our programming that we have only now finally been able to fix, it has been over a year since our last fund raising. As a result, we need your help more than ever to continue to bring the alternative information you have been looking for for 30 years.
Z offers the most useful societal news we can, but in judging what is useful, unlike many other sources we emphasize vision, strategy, and activist relevance. When we address Trump, for example, it is to find ways beyond Trump, not to merely repeat, over and over, how terrible he is. And the same is true for our addressing global warming, poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, and war making. Our priority is always that what we provide has potential for aiding determining what to do, and how best to do it.
In fixing our programming problems, we have updated our system to make becoming a sustainer and giving donations easier. It has been a long process but we are hopeful it will make it more convenient for everyone to help us grow. If you have any trouble, please let us know right away. We need input on any problems to make sure the system can continue to be easy to use for everyone.
The best way to help, however, is to become a monthly or annual sustainer. Sustainers can comment, post blogs, and receive a nightly commentary by direct email.
You can also or alternatively make a one-time donation or get a print subscription to Z Magazine.
Subscribe to Z Magazine here.
Any aid will help greatly. And please email any suggestions for improvements, comments, or problems right away.