Countering Washington’s Confrontation

The United States continues to brandish its military power all round the globe and has recently been concentrating on confronting Russia and China. Its policy and deployments were explained by the US Air Force Secretary in September when she declared that Washington felt threatened because “Less than a week ago Russia began the largest exercise on Russian soil in four decades… with more than 300,000 troops and 1000 aircraft.

On the other side of the world, China’s first aircraft carrier was declared combat ready this year, and promptly sailed into the Pacific to conduct flight operations.”

The absurdity of that statement escaped fitting comment by the West’s mainstream media, which also considers it astonishing that Russia should carry out a military exercise in its own territory following the massive build-up by the US-NATO military alliance along its borders. As pointed out on November 15 by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, this expansion can be seen “along the entire stretch of land connecting the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Since October, vast operational resources have been concentrated in the Baltic Region and the north of Europe, due to a series of major international exercises. They are being deployed in addition to NATO regiments already present in the countries of the eastern flank. Those regions have never seen such a military presence since the end of the World War II”.

And it is growing.

Foreign Policy in Focus observes that “In all NATO countries in Eastern Europe, the US Air Force is investing multimillion-dollar sums in the expansion of its air bases, with more than $50 million pouring into a base in Hungary, more than $60 million allocated to the modernization of two air force bases in Romania, and two bases in Slovakia that will be upgraded with more than $100 million, besides various base upgrades in other countries in the region.”

In October President Putin said that “Russia doesn’t threaten anyone and has strictly adhered to its obligations in the sphere of international security and arms control,” but made it clear there would be decisive action if an attack takes place, and “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable, and he will be destroyed.” Russia has “precision hypersonic weapons” exemplified by the Kinzhal missile and a new system, the Avangard, that will enter service in the next few months.

His outlook and approach are echoed by China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, who reminded those attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea on November 17 that “History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, produces no winners.”

In early 2018 President Xi said plainly that China “will forge a powerful military that is ready to respond to the call, to fight and to win a war,” and in October, following Washington’s increasing military activity in and around the South China Sea, the President told his armed forces to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war”, which is as blunt a warning to Washington as might be expected in the circumstances, in which the US is deliberately provoking China by its widely-publicised support for Taiwan. This has gone so far as for the Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to announce that Beijing would never give up “one single piece” of its territory. He warned that “repeated challenges” to China’s stance on Taiwan would lead to military action.

What China and Russia are saying is plain, blunt and unambiguous : stay out of our territory; stop prodding our borders and cease your coat-trailing provocation.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is an unpleasant person, but on November 17 he put things in perspective in his region. When questioned about US Navy operations in the South China Sea he asked in turn “Why do you have to create frictions that will prompt a response from China?”

One of the more ridiculous observations by the US Air Force Secretary concerned the commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier. In tones of hushed horror she revealed that it “was declared combat ready this year, and promptly sailed into the Pacific to conduct flight operations.”

What upsets the US military is the fact that China now has an aircraft carrier that can defend the country from beyond its shores, unlike America’s eleven enormous aircraft carriers which sail round the world’s oceans in order to impose Washington’s will. At the moment there are two carrier groups in the Philippines Sea, ready to move into the South China Sea to conduct more provocative operations.

The Air Force Secretary added to absurdity by declaring that “now all of Southeast Asia is within reach of China’s long-range bombers” — presumably considering it irrelevant that in October, in the latest of a series of provocative operations, two nuclear-capable USAF B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, overflew the South China Sea. As reported in the Air Force Times “the flights were in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, a mission focused on deterring regional challengers.”

Regional challengers? Just who is challenging whom with a “continuous bomber presence”?

Like Russia, China has had to develop advanced weapons to counter the menace patrolling and probing its borders, and these could be employed effectively in the event of US confrontation getting out of hand.

CNN headline in October was “US Navy proposing major show of force to warn China” and it indicated that the “Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China and to demonstrate the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions . . . The plan suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters. The proposal means US ships and aircraft would operate close to Chinese forces.”

If Washington is insane enough to go ahead with this deliberately confrontational fandango, there could be serious consequences. Chinese warships could manoeuvre to bar US Navy vessels from coming with 12 nautical miles of one of its islands in the South China Sea, and if there were attempts by the US to penetrate that barrier, there could well be a serious incident. Should this involve damage to a Chinese ship, Beijing would not stand idly by and would respond appropriately. Given its inventory of weapons, especially its advanced torpedoes, this could involve destruction of one of the US Navy’s carriers.

There are similar possibilities in the north. CNN noted that “Currently the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman is taking the unexpected step of operating in the North Sea — sending a signal to Russia that US military forces can extend their reach to that area.” But if US warships behave aggressively it can be expected that Russia will counter such behaviour most forcefully.

In October the Commander of US Naval Forces Europe, Admiral James Foggo, told the US Naval Institute that “it would be important to have a greater naval presence in Europe than the US has had in the last two or three decades, and that this year’s presence by the Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group were part of the effort to boost presence to reassure allies and to keep an eye on Russian activity. With the Truman Strike Group now back in the region — spending time in Iceland and the North Sea ahead of Trident Juncture [the November 2018 anti-Russia US-NATO exercise based on Norway] — ‘that sends a very strong message that the United States will operate anywhere, either unilaterally or in collaboration with our NATO partners and allies. And like I said, nobody in the world can come close to a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in terms of firepower, dwell and endurance,’ he said.”

Foggo’s diatribe ended with the juvenile but still dangerous pronouncement that “And those guys and gals out on that carrier and the Marines are doing a fantastic job. So we’re keeping the adversaries back on their heels. They don’t know where we’re going next and that’s a good thing. And we’re working more with allies and partners because we have that additional capability. Right now I have — I think, at last count — 495,000 tons of grey-hulled shipping operating in the theatre. And that’s great. I love it.”

This type of trigger-happy immature belligerence is official warning of US policy as regards Russia and China, and it is not surprising that both nations are countering Washington’s confrontation. 

By Brian Cloughley
Source: Strategic Culture

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