Friday

22nd Mar 2019

US to quadruple military spending in Europe

  • US is stockpiling tanks and artillery in eastern Europe to deter 'revanchist Russia' (Photo: 1st BCT, 1st CD)

The US plans to quadruple spending on its military presence in Europe in order to deter Russian aggression, leading US media say.

Defence secretary Ash Carter is expected to unveil the 2017 budget at an event in the Economic Club of Washington, a think tank, on Tuesday (2 February), ahead of its official publication on 9 February.

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  • Ukraine diplomacy has done little to persuade US military on Putin in the 'longer-term' (Photo: G8 UK)

He’ll say spending on weapons and equipment in Europe will, next year, increase from $789 million to $3.4 billion, The New York Times reports, citing unnamed US officials.

“This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor,” one US source said.

Philip Breedlove, the commander of US forces in Europe, also said in a recent strategy paper that “revanchist Russia” is a bigger threat to US and EU security than the migrant crisis or the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The total 2017 military budget is to be $589 billion. It’ll include $7 billion for combating IS, a 35 percent increase, as well as extra money to develop a new intelligence-gathering drone, a strategic Air Force bomber, and a nuclear-missile submarine.

It follows spending of $585 billion this year, down from $700 billion in 2010. But it’s still bigger than the combined spending of the world’s next 15 biggest militaries combined.

By comparison, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK together spend some $180 billion a year. China spends $215 billion, Russia $85 billion, and Saudi Arabia $80 billion.

The US has 65,000 troops in Europe.

It’s stockpiling tanks and artillery in warehouses in the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania. It’s posting more troops to the region on a temporary or “rotational” basis. It’s also helping to build new “command and control” facilities as part of a Nato “high-readiness” force.

Poland, for one, wants more: permanent US bases hosting up to 5,000 troops each, as in the former West Germany in the Cold War.

The idea will be discussed in the run-up to a Nato summit in July.

But any increased US or Nato presence is a red rag to Russia. Moscow says it violates a 1997 treaty, the Nato-Russian Founding Act. The Baltic states and Poland say Russia tore up the act when it invaded Ukraine.

Frozen conflict?

Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, launched last year, prompted fresh talks between US, Nato, and Russia to avoid accidental clashes.

Turkey, a Nato ally, shot down a Russian jet in November that it said violated its airspace. It says another Russian jet crossed the line this week.

The military consultations come amid intensified diplomacy on east Ukraine.

The US believes Russia, a petro-economy, is ready to freeze the conflict in return for relief from economic sanctions amid the prolonged slump in oil prices.

But the US military budget and Breedlove’s words indicate little faith that Russian leader Vladimir Putin intends to pull back from his confrontation with Western powers in the “longer-term.”

When German leader Angela Merkel met Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on Monday, she also said EU sanctions should stay in place until Putin fully complies with a Ukraine ceasefire.

Magnitsky sanctions

Meanwhile, the US, also on Monday blacklisted five more Russian officials over the death of Sergei Magnistky, a Russian anti-corruption activist who was killed in prison in 2009 after exposing a state and mafia embezzlement racket.

Those newly sanctioned include former deputy interior minister Alexey Anichin. Some 39 people have now been sanctioned over the case.

Bill Browder, Magnitsky’s former employer, said on Twitter: “US adds 5 real monsters to Magnitsky list. Bad news: There's 250 monsters still to be sanctioned.”

He’s campaigning for the EU to follow the US blacklist, but to little avail.

Cyprus, for one, in December invited Russian sleuths who were earlier involved in the Magnitsky case to interrogate Browder’s lawyers in Nicosia.

The Cypriot authorities told EUobserver the Russian legal assistance request was not linked to Magnitsky. But the text of the request, seen by EUobserver, shows the Cypriot statement was false.

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

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