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US to Lift Arms Embargo on Vietnam, Solidify Alliance With Japan
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (Sputnik) May 23, 2016


'Projecting Stability'? NATO Vows Even More Anti-Russian Build-Up
Having just finalized the largest military build-up since the end of the Cold War, NATO is openly discussing the possibility of doing more to counter an "assertive Russia."

On Thursday, NATO foreign ministers finalized an agreement which will create a significant increase of military troops in the Baltic. According to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, new deployments could include up 3,500 troops.

"It looks like there could be four, maybe five battalions...the point of these formations is to act as a trip wire," he told reporters.

"It isn't intended to be aggressive."

But while the move has drawn criticism from Moscow as an unnecessarily aggressive buildup along Russia's borders, NATO intends to do even more in the future.

"We will discuss how NATO can do more to project stability," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday, "and at the same time address how NATO can continue to adapt to a more assertive Russia to find the right balance between defense and dialogue."

For the moment the alliance seems to be leaning heavily toward "defense," but according to Douglas Lute, the US permanent representative to NATO, this is largely Russia's fault, for failing to engage in a cooperative dialogue.

"[The Kremlin] has thrown out the rulebook," Lute said, according to Deutsche Welle. "This is not the predictable partner we thought we had."

The alliance continues to justify military buildup under the guise of peace, a contradiction mirrored by Gen. Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for NATO, on Tuesday. The former military leader declared that a military buildup in the Baltics is necessary to avoid nuclear war.

"The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defense capability, this would be nuclear war," he told BBC Radio 4.

"[NATO] should raise the bar sufficiently high for any aggressor to say it is not worth the risk," he added. "I would argue the bar is not high enough at the moment."

The new agreement also opens the door for Montenegro to join NATO.

"It is our expectation that the allies would finalize ratification as soon as possible, so that, in mid next, Montenegro would become a fully fledged member of the alliance," Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said, according to DW.

Writing for AntiWar.com, Jason Ditz points out that Montenegro's inclusion is also aimed at asserting power against Moscow.

"Even the decision to invite tiny Montenegro to the alliance was seen primarily as being about thumbing their nose at Russia for criticizing the continued expansion of NATO deeper into Warsaw Pact territory."

Expect the United States to eliminate its weapons ban against Vietnam while solidifying its security alliance with Japan amid President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Hanoi and Tokyo, but do not expect much progress on nuclear disarmament, experts told Sputnik.

On May 21, Obama is set for a seven-day trip to Asia, including visits to Vietnam and Japan, where he will attend a Group of Seven (G7) summit.

A US arms embargo currently limits military sales to Vietnam, although it was eased slightly in 2014 to allow sales of some military equipment for maritime security.

"From statements, anticipate rolling back of arms embargo as well as a broad set of cooperation with Vietnam to further the overall partnership," National Bureau of Asian Research Director of Political and Security Affairs Tiffany Ma told Sputnik on Friday.

A full or partial rollback in the arms sales ban against Vietnam, she noted, may pave the way for other things.

"For example, access to Cam Ranh Bay would provide the United States with almost immediate, but non-exclusive, use of a strategic port at the edge of the South China Sea at a time when tensions are high and the United States is actively conducting operations in the waters," Ma explained.

Moreover, Ma added, it pays strategic dividends by helping Vietnam diversify its defense partners and shoring up its capacity as an important US ally in Southeast Asia.

However, based on statements out of the White House, she observed, it appears that human rights concerns may continue to be an impediment to lifting the arms embargo on Vietnam.

Expect a reaffirmation of the US-Japanese alliance as the cornerstone of stability in Asia and of cooperation on global transnational issues, Ma claimed.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea, trade issues and North Korea's nuclear program will be on the agenda, according to Ma, albeit not much will likely be said and done on nuclear disarmament.

"The Obama administration's efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles have hinged largely on Russian moves to do the same," Ma argued. "Given that there has been little progress on this front, it is unlikely much progress can be achieved by Obama and [Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo] Abe alone."

American University's Nuclear Studies Institute Director Peter Kuznick told Sputnik that Obama's goal will be trying to secure greater support from both countries for his Asia pivot policies.

"His [Obama's] visit to Japan will solidify his ties to Prime Minister Abe, who has been pursuing a right-wing nationalist agenda and militarization of Japan," Kuznick stated.

Neither Obama nor Abe is interested in nuclear disarmament, though both will "pay lip service to the idea," Kuznick, co-author of "Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said.

Obama, Kuznick observed, has taken some positive steps toward reducing the nuclear threat, especially the Iran nuclear agreement and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), but he has undermined these actions by supporting a trillion dollar nuclear modernization program that will make nuclear weapons more efficient and more usable.

"Such actions are regrettable and make one wonder what is the real purpose of Obama's visit to Hiroshima," Kuznick suggested.

The lifting of the arms embargo on Vietnam and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement will also be on Obama's agenda, he added, which are both seen as ways of limiting China's influence in the region.

The United States has been selling lots of arms to most of China's neighbours and has been trying to reassert itself economically in the region, according to Kuznick.

"It is playing upon China's hardline policies in the South and East China Seas to exacerbate fears in the region, increase hostility and mistrust toward China, and increase US influence," Kuznick concluded.

George Washington University Professor of International Affairs Richard Thornton told Sputnik that Obama will encourage Abe's demarche toward Moscow and will lift the arms embargo on Vietnam, but little progress will be made on the nuclear front.

"With nuclear weapons bristling all along the Asian coast from Russia to North Korea to China, disarmament is a fantasy," Thornton claimed.

China's claims in the Western Pacific will certainly be discussed, Thornton continued, and expect Obama to pledge support for both Hanoi and Tokyo in supporting their claims against Beijing's.

"Whether he will honor such pledges is anybody's guess. So far he has been a paper tiger," Thornton concluded.

Obama plans to arrive in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Sunday. He will also visit Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, before leaving on May 25 for an economic summit in Japan, and then will visit Hiroshima.

Russia Has Last Seen Such Amassing of Hostile Forces on Its Borders in 1941
Russia has not seen such a major military buildup close to its borders since 1941 when the Third Reich sent the Wehrmacht to conquer the Soviet Union, Professor Stephen F. Cohen said in his recent interview on The John Batchelor Show, referring to NATO's increasingly assertive strategy in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

"We have been watching for nearly a month a steady buildup of American and NATO forces along near Russia's borders - on land, on sea and in the air," he said. "There has been nothing like this on Russia's borders, such an amassing of hostile military force, since the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941."

Russia has been concerned with NATO's overall strategy and its recent moves particularly. Last week the US completed its first land-based component of the Aegis missile shield at an air base near Deveselu, Romania. A day later, the alliance held a groundbreaking ceremony in Poland. The Aegis Ashore base is scheduled to be deployed in Redzikowo by 2018.

Moscow has warned that the system could be detrimental for global peace and stability. NATO officials have tried to alleviate Russian concerns by saying that the Aegis system is purely defensive, but Cohen warned that it the complex could be used for other purposes.

"Somebody said that the only defensive weapon in military history is a foxhole; everything else could be used for offensive purposes. [NATO's missile defense system] could be used for offensive purposes. They can launch cruise missiles," he observed.

Russian officials and experts have also questioned whether it was reasonable to build a shield that is supposed to protect the West against Iran's ballistic missiles considering that Tehran does not pose any threat to its neighbors and beyond.

The Islamic Republic is not the real target. "The majority of our missile defense installations ... are directed at Russia. They are not directed at Iran, that's a fairytale. The government puts it out, but nobody believes it," the analyst noted.

Professor Cohen has long warned that Washington's policies towards Russia have been the key reason for the recent cold spell in relations between the two global powers. This trend appears to be getting more dangerous.

"Are we sleepwalking towards an actual war with Russia or is this a plan to provoke a war with Russia?" he asked. "If we are sleepwalking, we all need to yell, 'Wake up!' If they actually now would not mind a war with Russia, then they are crazy. Because there is no way if there is war with Russia on Russia's borders that eventually some kind of nuclear weapons will not come into play."

Source: Sputnik News


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