Saturday, 18 November 2017
US Army's General Hodges dodges the bullet on UK defence spend?
General Ben Hodges commander of US Army Europe couldn't have timed his remarks on UK defence spend better than just a week before Parliament's review of defence with former UK Chiefs of Staff and Kent's Defence Minister Mchael Fallon resigning and being replaced by the sharpened carrot of new Defence Minister Gavin Williamson.
But General Hodges has surely lobbed a grenade into the debate by calling for more defence spend by UK and NATO? Generals calling for more soldiers and shells is hardly surprising. And it's certainly not unreasonable for the US taxpayer to want to see bang for their buck with Europe sharing more of the defence burden.
The US military had to ship containers full of ammunition because Europe's NATO and defence industries couldn't provide it?
While the UK army and police stumbling over themselves to procure Belgian and German and Austrian machine guns and ammunition suggests the UK defence industry is harmless to the point of being ineffectual.
Presumably there's the same lack of coordination on making and buying cargo planes and helicopters? The regiments of UK defence attaches selling guns only seem to be in USA and Canada unless it's a holiday on the rates?
The 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall soon, rather needs a new Checkpoint Charlie mission for US Army Europe on the tsunami of cocaine and heroin rather than a wave of Russian tanks into Europe. While something seems to have gone wrong - despite the expense of GCHQ and military satellites and radar - with illegal flights into Europe such as KAM Air or gunrunning from Ostend airport.
And how can a Malaysian airline fall off radar and out of the sky in the 21st century? Even switching off its own radar and black box?
And how embarrassing the USAF efforts in Ukraine in WW2 go as unrecognised as the Dambusters anniversary next year and late medals, with Putin even having to step in over the heads of UK MOD officials to recognise the Murmansk convoys.
General Hodges has no view on the right ratio of civil servants to soldiers (even Royal Navy Admirals per ship?) just a bottomless pit of more money needed?
But is the NATO 2% of GDP realistic? And is UK transgressing the boundaries of its share of defence? It's of concern that the NATO quango, calling for more money for itself, is surrounded by no criteria at all of what is included or not in the 2% figure. Hardly viable budgeting from the regiments of military clerks.
Indeed the only output so far seems to be a shiny new HQ building in central Brussels just a few footsteps from the coffers of the EU parliament - and as far from the Russian frontier as is physically possible.
And the average EU spend on defence is 1.3% with UK spending - some would say badly - at least 2.3% already and The New European newspaper citing figures as high as 5.6%.
General Hodges seems to have UK in his sights yet the figures suggest a reduction is best - and his view that UK would be a less viable military partner and NATO ally is at odds with the facts.
Perhaps too the US taxpayer may want greater scrutiny of the US defence budget of 6% of GDP- a new forecast of over $700BN. Few would argue that 8,000 US troops in UK, or 30,000 US troops in US Army Europe are excessive nor 1,000 HQ staff in US Army Europe Kaiserlauten (plus that shiny new NATO HQ in Brussels) or 1,500 staff in US Africa Command in Stuttgart.
But they may question whether both HQ commands could be merged - already Senate figures such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham expressing concern at the lack of information on US troops deployed in Africa after the Niger special forces deaths. Respected journalist Nick Turse also citing the increase in US troops as part of a forever war of drone deaths and kill squads beyond democratic oversight. Details will be published of the Ajadez and Lemonnier bases?
While the US taxpayer - recognising US Army Europe's remit since 1942 might question whether troops based near the French frontier in the wealthiest parts of Southern Germany is viable or value in resisting Russian border-nibbling in Ukraine. Perhaps less so given the bierkellars are stirring once more to the sound of the ADF Nazis, but certainly a Sarajevo Shift to the Visegrad nations is needed with EU reform.
While the Messina and Balkans bridges in Italy are long-delayed from fears of organised crime involvement.
The Soviet tank training grounds of East Germany as was are empty - and a shift east and south in Europe has already begun with UK and US and NATO troops in the Baltic states and Romania.
Surely that can only continue with a revitalised Visegrad 4 and Serbia, Montenegro and Moldova membership to the EU. Russia and Turkey can’t be far behind Georgia and Ukraine too. Perhaps Belarus will be last.
While US Army Europe rightly resist Russian aggression in Donetsk and Crimea and Georgia - and that KGB playbook from Montenegro to Magnitsky. Putin’s 65th birthday marked by protests in dozens of Russian cities and concern in London over the polonium murders and Surrey Police investigation of Perepilichnyy.
And General Hughes beyond mere pounds and pence might want to consider a US move east to the Oder - further may well antagonise a Russia not unreasonably fearful of encirclement and intervention after the German invasions of 1914 and 1945 - and UK and US invasion of 1920.
PM May citing both Russian cyberattacks – and the North Korean cyberattack on the NHS - along with Bear bomber radar probes of UK and Holland as antagonistic as Bear probes over Guam and the 7th Fleet.
Indeed after Putin and his KGB playbook, future Russian leaders may well want to join both NATO and EU and focus on being a European power rather than stretched thin into Asia with only 8M citizens in the Far East. A numbers game that China's 1Bn citizens can only win - and economically the OBOR and Siberian road-rail link through the Bering Strait to Alaska and Vancouver, across the Pacific with dry feet, more useful than sabre-rattling on the Amur again.
The Chinese taxpayer must surely be wondering what 1M PLA troops are doing sat in barracks. They can’t even fit on Mischief Reef or Taiwan. From Hainan to Hartford perhaps many of those troops should be reskilled in solar panels or vaccines or robotics or teaching and nursing?
Surely the new Boston Dynamic Atlas robots funded by the DARPA Big Dog projects are the sort of civil-military technological impetus needed in not just robotics but batteries and vaccines? And Boston Dynamics don't want to forego another bowl of clam chowder by Boston harbour and export to UK and Europe?
Climate Change and the arctic sea route more a pollution concern than a military one.
But how can European or American taxpayers seriously consider massive increases in NATO funding? Not just with NATO troops closer to Moscow than they've ever been requiring more detente than sabre-rattling.
Certainly here in East Kent as the birthplace of USA (No problem. You're welcome. Have a nice day) with Tom Paine and Pocahontas and General Patton's Fortitude, and with Margate twin towned with Crimea since the 1970's, (the Soviet-style tower blocks of Arlington House, council corruption and asbestos in schools the only reminder now of those dark days) surely a New Yalta is required from the ashes of 1945 and the Cold War? At the very least fastforwarding again Kent and Virginia's links from Jamestown onwards.
For only Kaliningrad and TransDniestra as well as Belarus are looking more Soviet than Putin now. While Russia - beyond the KGB/FSB and Generals - must surely want to invest its blood and treasure in peace and prosperity rather than tanks that would rust away on the steppes.
Certainly a revived China must be thinking of a reunited Korea and US troop reductions and arms limits, and Japan its lost Kuriles and Sakhalin with a burgeoning population - perhaps a variant on the Alaska Purchase for a Russia mired in corruption, crime and sanctions.
While thousands of nuclear missiles are an accident waiting to happen rather than a viable military weapon - the mysterious radiation burst last week in Russia and America's 1960's floppy disk a warning of such decrepit technology. And that's without even considering the F35 jets - no wonder the US marines bought up all the UK Harrier jets instead. Is the UK not allowed the Apache software codes? Even if we work with US Coastguard?
US Ambassador in London Woody Johnson, and CEO of Johnson and Johnson, must surely want to expand not just NFL coverage in UK and Europe but medical coverage too whether TB and HIV or cholera that afflicts Yemen and Haiti and Zimbabwe. Surely the Stanford swab programme of a medical early warning system for new strains of flu and TB and food poisoning, and even plague in NYC, of USA trains and suwbways and airports needs importing to UK and Europe?
And a nuclear airburst over Brest-Litovsk or Birmingham (UK) might be preferable than Birmingham (Alabama)for US Army Europe - but not when factored in a nuclear winter or the radiation drift seen from Chernobyl.
And surely US Army Europe's budget should be considered an aspect of the UN 0.7 GNI aid target before the 2018 G20 Summit in Argentina. Or does USA not do USAid or Climate Change now and leave that to the rest of NATO? Norway even manages 1.1% aid.
General Hughes battle cry of more money for the military doesn't seem credible in the post-Empire and post-Cold War and now post-ISIS era.
Time for Change