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THE REFUGEE CRISIS-I

Western Xenophobia and The Third World
Jon Kofas

Xenophobia has been on the rise in the last two decades in the Western World and it has influenced the political arena, not just of conservative parties moving toward a more right wing course, but even centrist ones, under pressure to "protect" the nation from perceived external threats. Is rising xenophobia a reflection of rising nationalism and conservatism in the age of globalization, or is it a reaction to a tangible threat posed by non-whites from the Third World, some who are Muslims, trying to settle in the West and diluting the "purity" of white Judeo-Christian society? Would the Western media, politicians and xenophobes of our era react the same way if instead of Muslim refugees and undocumented Mexican workers the migrants were from the Scandinavian countries? Because they come from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, Western xenophobia assumes racist characteristics, while humanitarianism is tossed aside no matter what the Vatican and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees have to say on the matter. 

A raison de’tre being advanced is that it is not the immigrant and refugee to which many in the Western World object, but that "outsiders" are perceived as a threat to the "purity of the native culture" diluted with influx of people with different skin color, culture and in many cases religion. Many European analysts have been warning that the influx of immigrants, especially Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq, could tear apart the European Union as one after another member is becoming more nationalistic and tries to protect its national borders and its economic and cultural integrity. Just as many Europeans are concerned about the immigrants undercutting the continental bloc that has taken decades to build, many US analysts agree with politicians from both the Republican and Democrat party contending that illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America undermines security and takes away jobs from American citizens. Anti immigration arguments on either side of the Atlantic have become part of the political arena. Right wing populist politicians embrace positions not much different than one would expect from neo-Nazis, thus moving the xenophobia debate issue into the core of what would be otherwise mainstream politics.
What exactly is the scope and magnitude of the so-called European Muslim refugee problem that has its causes in Western military intervention in Muslim countries and in Mexican illegal aliens? Of the 4.5 million Muslim refugees mostly from Syria and Iraq, an estimated 850,000 have crossed from Turkey for various European destinations. Of those, the US has accepted 2,290 in the last five years to join the approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans that make up about 1% of the US population. 
As a percentage of the total population, Muslims in France are 7.5%, Netherlands and Belgium, 6% each, Germany 5.8%. Greece 5.3%, UK and Sweden at 4.6% each, Italy and Slovenia 3.6% each, Bulgaria 13.7% and Russia 10% with the largest total number of 14 million. The total Muslim population in the European Union is 19 million or 3.8% of the total. US Muslim population is roughly 1% of the total, or 3.3 million. This compares with 11.4 million illegal aliens, of which about half are from Mexico owing to the common border. In the age of the US-led war on terror, which has replaced the old East-West conflict, xenophobia reflects not just a deliberate political orientation and cultural prejudice owing to ignorance on the part of xenophobes. At the same time, right wing politicians and businesses have been using the issue to deflect attention away from structural problems society faces owing to downward socioeconomic mobility. However, this is also a manifestation of a far-reaching anxiety on the part of the mainstream society, the media, and the political and social elites. It clearly signals that they lack the means to forge a broad popular consensus around the weakened political economy. Therefore, xenophobia as a means of scapegoating becomes a convenient tool toward that goal.
Migration of people from poor countries, especially Islamic ones in the last decade or so, is symptomatic of imperial policies that the West has been pursuing toward non-Western countries and most certainly not the result of any clash of civilizations as many would opportunistically argue. After all, Muslims co-existed harmoniously with all religions for many centuries from the Emirate of Cordoba in the mid-8th century until the early 16th century when the Spanish Christians expelled the Moriscos (Moors) of Granada to the Kingdom of Castile, Extremadura and Andalusia between 1568 and 1571.
If one deconstructs the "clash of civilizations" theory it is evident that behind it rest Western views of hegemony and transformation policy intended to perpetuate the Islamic countries and indeed even the non-Islamic developing nations under permanent political, economic and strategic dependency on the West. After all, the entire Islamic world was under European colonial control that transformed into a neo-colonial relationship after WWII when the US became the world's preeminent superpower. Moreover, the long-standing Israel-Palestinian conflict in which the US has always sided with Israel against the Palestinians and their Muslim allies has helped to mold xenophobia in the form of Islamophobia. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 that attempted a neutral course between East and West was another step in molding Western anti-Islamic views. This was followed by the US decision to use counterterrorism as the pretext to perpetuate the military industrial complex and Cold War policies after the end of Communism.
Although in the first part of the 21st century, Western xenophobia is associated largely with Muslims, xenophobia is hardly a new phenomenon in politics and culture. Naturally, the influx of Muslim refugees primarily from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya into Europe has intensified not just strong sentiment among racists, but exacerbated the xenophobic rhetoric in the political arena and media. Serving as a convenient distraction from practical solutions to society's systemic problems because it scapegoats migrants, xenophobia engenders fear about a specific tangible enemy. Instead of pointing to the structural flaws in the political economy, politicians and media point to someone to hate for undermining society - the Syrian refugee family that is a potential terrorist, the Mexican family that takes away American jobs and feeds off the welfare system.
Europeans and Americans hardly have a monopoly on xenophobia and this is not a recent phenomenon considering there is evidence of it throughout history in many parts of the world. There are more than 700 books and several thousand articles on this subject that has been prominent from the Golden Age of Pericles in 5th century Athens to the so-called post-racial Obama era that has in reality experienced a sharp rise in xenophobia. Just as the Athenian city-state had formalized the status of foreigners known as Metics and treated them as lesser citizens, the modern state is not much different in so far as it has the power to marginalize legal and illegal immigrants from the mainstream as well as project a negative image of them to society regardless of their contributions to the economy and culture.
Besides fear, ignorance and the irrational in human beings prompted by media indoctrination that molds the dominant culture, mainstream institutions from businesses to churches do their part to keep xenophobia in the public debate. However, the relative decline of the Western middle class and rise of the Asian economy, especially China amid a new Gilded Age when capital is so thoroughly concentrated accounts for the rise of xenophobia. In other words, when the middle class fears its future and that of its children it does not blame the capitalist economy under globalization and neoliberal policies but refugees and immigrants who take low-end jobs to survive in their adopted land.
'Scapegoating psychology' becomes an integral part of the mainstream because it is simply politically and socially unacceptable to challenge the root causes of mass migration from poor and politically unstable countries to richer and more stables one. "In scapegoating, by definition, the enemy must be weaker than those on the attack - which is why even at the height of the financial crisis, popular anger at bankers never became as strong as current Islamophobia. It's the same as the way a guy who's treated as a drudge at work then finds his "strength" by abusing his wife. The more that Muslims can be made to feel like outsiders, the more those who have defined them as other can feel empowered." (Paul Woodward, "Scapegoating-psychology and rising xenophobia in America" September 14, 2010).
Besides the mass psychology of scapegoating that the media and politicians create and perpetuate, the world-economy's weakened core in northwest Europe and US plays a catalytic role in convincing a segment of the masses that their "real enemy" is not caused by domestic and foreign policies intended to continue capital concentration at the expense of the vast majority. The shifting capitalist core from the West to East Asia affects the Western social structure in so far as middle class living standards historically high in industrialized countries have been sliding downward in the past four decades and they are unlikely to improve. In fact, downward socioeconomic mobility will continue across the entire Western World. This trend will only exacerbate xenophobia and afford the opportunity not just the right wing, but even mainstream bourgeois political leaders to blame influx of immigrants for all calamities befalling society. It serves the interests of the political and economic elites to blame the illegal immigrants and Muslim refugees rather than fault the political economy that results in downward socioeconomic mobility.
The "war on terror" has added to the culture of fear surrounding xenophobia that only makes it more legitimate rather than an issue neo-Nazis and other extremists espouse. This allows xenophobes to argue it is all about national security and their ideological position has nothing to do with underlying racism. When the state is itself xenophobic and racist in its policies despite employing democratic rhetoric to present an image of an open society, why would the masses, at least a segment of them, be much different? This is as true in the US that leads the world in "war on terror" with policies intended to justify the continuation of the waning Pax Americana, as it is for the European countries.
As an integral part of a "Nativist" ideology, xenophobia has become part of the mainstream because it has the stamp of legitimacy from the state that rhetorically opposes it but whose policies and practices promote it not just domestically but globally. Although it could be argued this is just a case of nationalism, there are degrees of nationalism ranging from moderate to neo-Nazi aspects that have become part of the political mainstream both in Europe and US.
Source: Countercurrents.org

Comment

Xenophobia has been on the rise in the last two decades in the Western World and it has influenced the political arena, not just of conservative parties moving toward a more right wing course, but even centrist ones, under pressure to "protect" the nation from perceived external threats. Is rising xenophobia a reflection of rising nationalism and conservatism in the age of globalization, or is it a reaction to a tangible threat posed by non-whites from the Third World, some who are Muslims, trying to settle in the West and diluting the "purity" of white Judeo-Christian society? Would the Western media, politicians and xenophobes of our era react the same way if instead of Muslim refugees and undocumented Mexican workers the migrants were from the Scandinavian countries? Because they come from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, Western xenophobia assumes racist characteristics, while humanitarianism is tossed aside no matter what the Vatican and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees have to say on the matter. 

A raison de’tre being advanced is that it is not the immigrant and refugee to which many in the Western World object, but that "outsiders" are perceived as a threat to the "purity of the native culture" diluted with influx of people with different skin color, culture and in many cases religion. Many European analysts have been warning that the influx of immigrants, especially Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq, could tear apart the European Union as one after another member is becoming more nationalistic and tries to protect its national borders and its economic and cultural integrity. Just as many Europeans are concerned about the immigrants undercutting the continental bloc that has taken decades to build, many US analysts agree with politicians from both the Republican and Democrat party contending that illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America undermines security and takes away jobs from American citizens. Anti immigration arguments on either side of the Atlantic have become part of the political arena. Right wing populist politicians embrace positions not much different than one would expect from neo-Nazis, thus moving the xenophobia debate issue into the core of what would be otherwise mainstream politics.
What exactly is the scope and magnitude of the so-called European Muslim refugee problem that has its causes in Western military intervention in Muslim countries and in Mexican illegal aliens? Of the 4.5 million Muslim refugees mostly from Syria and Iraq, an estimated 850,000 have crossed from Turkey for various European destinations. Of those, the US has accepted 2,290 in the last five years to join the approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans that make up about 1% of the US population. 
As a percentage of the total population, Muslims in France are 7.5%, Netherlands and Belgium, 6% each, Germany 5.8%. Greece 5.3%, UK and Sweden at 4.6% each, Italy and Slovenia 3.6% each, Bulgaria 13.7% and Russia 10% with the largest total number of 14 million. The total Muslim population in the European Union is 19 million or 3.8% of the total. US Muslim population is roughly 1% of the total, or 3.3 million. This compares with 11.4 million illegal aliens, of which about half are from Mexico owing to the common border. In the age of the US-led war on terror, which has replaced the old East-West conflict, xenophobia reflects not just a deliberate political orientation and cultural prejudice owing to ignorance on the part of xenophobes. At the same time, right wing politicians and businesses have been using the issue to deflect attention away from structural problems society faces owing to downward socioeconomic mobility. However, this is also a manifestation of a far-reaching anxiety on the part of the mainstream society, the media, and the political and social elites. It clearly signals that they lack the means to forge a broad popular consensus around the weakened political economy. Therefore, xenophobia as a means of scapegoating becomes a convenient tool toward that goal.
Migration of people from poor countries, especially Islamic ones in the last decade or so, is symptomatic of imperial policies that the West has been pursuing toward non-Western countries and most certainly not the result of any clash of civilizations as many would opportunistically argue. After all, Muslims co-existed harmoniously with all religions for many centuries from the Emirate of Cordoba in the mid-8th century until the early 16th century when the Spanish Christians expelled the Moriscos (Moors) of Granada to the Kingdom of Castile, Extremadura and Andalusia between 1568 and 1571.
If one deconstructs the "clash of civilizations" theory it is evident that behind it rest Western views of hegemony and transformation policy intended to perpetuate the Islamic countries and indeed even the non-Islamic developing nations under permanent political, economic and strategic dependency on the West. After all, the entire Islamic world was under European colonial control that transformed into a neo-colonial relationship after WWII when the US became the world's preeminent superpower. Moreover, the long-standing Israel-Palestinian conflict in which the US has always sided with Israel against the Palestinians and their Muslim allies has helped to mold xenophobia in the form of Islamophobia. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 that attempted a neutral course between East and West was another step in molding Western anti-Islamic views. This was followed by the US decision to use counterterrorism as the pretext to perpetuate the military industrial complex and Cold War policies after the end of Communism.
Although in the first part of the 21st century, Western xenophobia is associated largely with Muslims, xenophobia is hardly a new phenomenon in politics and culture. Naturally, the influx of Muslim refugees primarily from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya into Europe has intensified not just strong sentiment among racists, but exacerbated the xenophobic rhetoric in the political arena and media. Serving as a convenient distraction from practical solutions to society's systemic problems because it scapegoats migrants, xenophobia engenders fear about a specific tangible enemy. Instead of pointing to the structural flaws in the political economy, politicians and media point to someone to hate for undermining society - the Syrian refugee family that is a potential terrorist, the Mexican family that takes away American jobs and feeds off the welfare system.
Europeans and Americans hardly have a monopoly on xenophobia and this is not a recent phenomenon considering there is evidence of it throughout history in many parts of the world. There are more than 700 books and several thousand articles on this subject that has been prominent from the Golden Age of Pericles in 5th century Athens to the so-called post-racial Obama era that has in reality experienced a sharp rise in xenophobia. Just as the Athenian city-state had formalized the status of foreigners known as Metics and treated them as lesser citizens, the modern state is not much different in so far as it has the power to marginalize legal and illegal immigrants from the mainstream as well as project a negative image of them to society regardless of their contributions to the economy and culture.
Besides fear, ignorance and the irrational in human beings prompted by media indoctrination that molds the dominant culture, mainstream institutions from businesses to churches do their part to keep xenophobia in the public debate. However, the relative decline of the Western middle class and rise of the Asian economy, especially China amid a new Gilded Age when capital is so thoroughly concentrated accounts for the rise of xenophobia. In other words, when the middle class fears its future and that of its children it does not blame the capitalist economy under globalization and neoliberal policies but refugees and immigrants who take low-end jobs to survive in their adopted land.
'Scapegoating psychology' becomes an integral part of the mainstream because it is simply politically and socially unacceptable to challenge the root causes of mass migration from poor and politically unstable countries to richer and more stables one. "In scapegoating, by definition, the enemy must be weaker than those on the attack - which is why even at the height of the financial crisis, popular anger at bankers never became as strong as current Islamophobia. It's the same as the way a guy who's treated as a drudge at work then finds his "strength" by abusing his wife. The more that Muslims can be made to feel like outsiders, the more those who have defined them as other can feel empowered." (Paul Woodward, "Scapegoating-psychology and rising xenophobia in America" September 14, 2010).
Besides the mass psychology of scapegoating that the media and politicians create and perpetuate, the world-economy's weakened core in northwest Europe and US plays a catalytic role in convincing a segment of the masses that their "real enemy" is not caused by domestic and foreign policies intended to continue capital concentration at the expense of the vast majority. The shifting capitalist core from the West to East Asia affects the Western social structure in so far as middle class living standards historically high in industrialized countries have been sliding downward in the past four decades and they are unlikely to improve. In fact, downward socioeconomic mobility will continue across the entire Western World. This trend will only exacerbate xenophobia and afford the opportunity not just the right wing, but even mainstream bourgeois political leaders to blame influx of immigrants for all calamities befalling society. It serves the interests of the political and economic elites to blame the illegal immigrants and Muslim refugees rather than fault the political economy that results in downward socioeconomic mobility.
The "war on terror" has added to the culture of fear surrounding xenophobia that only makes it more legitimate rather than an issue neo-Nazis and other extremists espouse. This allows xenophobes to argue it is all about national security and their ideological position has nothing to do with underlying racism. When the state is itself xenophobic and racist in its policies despite employing democratic rhetoric to present an image of an open society, why would the masses, at least a segment of them, be much different? This is as true in the US that leads the world in "war on terror" with policies intended to justify the continuation of the waning Pax Americana, as it is for the European countries.
As an integral part of a "Nativist" ideology, xenophobia has become part of the mainstream because it has the stamp of legitimacy from the state that rhetorically opposes it but whose policies and practices promote it not just domestically but globally. Although it could be argued this is just a case of nationalism, there are degrees of nationalism ranging from moderate to neo-Nazi aspects that have become part of the political mainstream both in Europe and US.
Source: Countercurrents.org

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US-Russia tensions in Baltic Sea

Jordan Shilton

The Pentagon announced on 16 April 2016 that it was filing a formal complaint with the Russian Defence Ministry, and US Secretary of State John Kerry threatened retaliatory action, after two incidents involving US and Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.

The Pentagon alleged that a Russian SU-27 fighter jet flew within 50 feet of a US reconnaissance plane in international airspace on April 14, and that a Russian jet and helicopter "buzzed" the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook as it was conducting military exercises with Poland in the Baltic two days earlier.
 
NATO military build-up US
The two incidents demonstrate once again that Washington's aggressive military build-up throughout Eastern Europe, in close collaboration with its NATO allies, has brought the entire region to the brink of war between nuclear powers. The Obama administration seized on the Ukraine crisis provoked by a Western-sponsored coup in Kiev in 2014 to massively expand its military presence in Eastern Europe, so as to encircle and isolate Russia in a region stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea.
While the intensification of US military operations on Russian borders represents an act of aggression, the latest incident also demonstrates the bankruptcy of Moscow's response. The Kremlin oligarchy, which came to power by plundering state resources in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is resorting to a military build-up and the encouragement of reactionary Russian nationalism. Situations are so tense that a miscalculation by either side or even an accident could serve as the trigger for a conflict that could quickly escalate to include the use of nuclear weapons.
Russian military aircraft have conducted a series of "aggressive" overflights of a US destroyer in international waters in the Baltic Sea, a US defense official said.
Secretary of State Kerry admitted as much last week, when he responded to the USS Donald Cook incident by bluntly declaring that the US would have been within its rights to shoot the Russian jet down. Washington's top diplomat labelled the alleged behaviour of the jet as "reckless" and "provocative," while the Pentagon called 14 April's interception of the spy plane as an "erratic and aggressive" act.
Moscow denied the allegations, claiming in a statement that in the case of the spy plane, the Russian Air Force had "detected over the Baltic ocean an unidentified aerial target rapidly approaching the Russian border." Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated that the actions of the Russian aircraft were "in accordance with international standards for the use of air space."
 
Confrontations between NATO and Russian aircraft
Confrontations between NATO and Russian aircraft over the Baltic are becoming routine. According to a January report from United Press International, NATO jets scrambled at least 160 times in 2015 to intercept Russian jets in the Baltic. This figure was a 14 per cent rise from 2014.
The pace of such incidents is likely to rise dramatically in the immediate period ahead. The Obama administration has announced a quadrupling of defence spending for Europe for 2017 to $3.4 billion. The increase will finance the sending of an additional three brigades. A further 16,500 soldiers will be in permanent rotation throughout Eastern Europe, from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania-to whom Obama in September 2014 issued a guarantee of US support in the event of conflict with Russia-to Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the Black Sea states of Romania and Bulgaria.
In this, Washington is aligning itself with virulently right-wing, anti-Russian regimes whose reckless policies could provide the spark that ignites the ongoing standoff.
 
"Russia greater threat than IS"
In comments to the Globsec security forum on the weekend, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski proclaimed Russia to be a greater threat to world peace than the Islamic State. He urged NATO to permanently deploy troops to Poland to protect its eastern border, vowing that he would make an appeal to that end at the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Warsaw in July. "By all evidence, Russia's activity is a sort of existential threat because this activity can destroy countries," Waszczykowski asserted.
Romania, another NATO member, is pushing for the Warsaw summit to adopt a plan for a permanent NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. Romania's defence minister, Mihnea Motoc, said earlier this month on a visit to Georgia that he would be in favour of an enhanced partnership between NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and would-be members Georgia and Ukraine to establish a Black Sea fleet. Motoc said in an interview that the proposed fleet would be open "to NATO members who don't border the Black Sea, yet are constantly present in Black Sea ports and take part in exercises-first of all, to the United States."
At the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014, the alliance committed to have all members spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on their militaries, and agreed the creation of a rapid response force for eastern Europe that has since been expanded to enable tens of thousands of troops to be deployed anywhere within the alliance's territory in a matter of days.
 
'Revival of Cold War'
The lead article in 17 April edition of the New York Times underscored the fact that potential conflicts for which such forces are being prepared would likely involve the deployment of nuclear weapons. In what it described as a revival of the Cold War, the Times described Washington, Russia and China as being engaged in an arms race to develop a new class of small-scale nuclear weapons with capabilities to bypass traditional missile defence shields.
There is an objective significance to the fact that the Times, America's "newspaper of record," has published a front-page article bringing to light a development that has long been the subject of in-depth analysis by US think tanks. A report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments published earlier this year was entitled Rethinking Armageddon: scenario planning in the second nuclear age, reflecting the fact that policymaking circles are considering the practicalities of how to fight and win a military conflict with nuclear weapons.
Since President Obama's 2010 promise not to pursue new nuclear weapons programmes, Washington has announced an additional $1 trillion in funding for the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal. The Times article provides information on the types of weaponry being developed, including a new weapon called a hypersonic glide vehicle. Such weapons, which the US will begin flight-testing next year, could "render missile defences all but useless," the Times noted.
At the conclusion of the biennial nuclear summit in Washington at the end of last month, to which Russia refused to send representatives, Obama expressed concern about "ramping up new and more deadly and more effective systems that end up leading to a whole new escalation of the arms race."
A second Times article published over the weekend on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad makes all too clear that the plans for the deployment of nuclear weapons have moved well beyond the realm of speculation. The Russian territory, located on the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland, was described in testimony to Congress by NATO Commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove in February as a "very militarized piece of property" that was "capable of repelling attacks by air, land or sea."
The six years since Obama's empty pledge to reduce nuclear weapons have seen a vast intensification of US-led aggressive military operations aimed at consolidating American hegemony and weakening Russia and China in key geostrategic regions. As part of the ongoing bombardment of Iraq and Syria, carried out under the pretext of combating terrorism, Washington recently sent nuclear-capable B52 bombers to its Middle East bases, bringing them well within range of Iran and Russia itself.

Comment

The Pentagon announced on 16 April 2016 that it was filing a formal complaint with the Russian Defence Ministry, and US Secretary of State John Kerry threatened retaliatory action, after two incidents involving US and Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.

The Pentagon alleged that a Russian SU-27 fighter jet flew within 50 feet of a US reconnaissance plane in international airspace on April 14, and that a Russian jet and helicopter "buzzed" the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook as it was conducting military exercises with Poland in the Baltic two days earlier.
 
NATO military build-up US
The two incidents demonstrate once again that Washington's aggressive military build-up throughout Eastern Europe, in close collaboration with its NATO allies, has brought the entire region to the brink of war between nuclear powers. The Obama administration seized on the Ukraine crisis provoked by a Western-sponsored coup in Kiev in 2014 to massively expand its military presence in Eastern Europe, so as to encircle and isolate Russia in a region stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea.
While the intensification of US military operations on Russian borders represents an act of aggression, the latest incident also demonstrates the bankruptcy of Moscow's response. The Kremlin oligarchy, which came to power by plundering state resources in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is resorting to a military build-up and the encouragement of reactionary Russian nationalism. Situations are so tense that a miscalculation by either side or even an accident could serve as the trigger for a conflict that could quickly escalate to include the use of nuclear weapons.
Russian military aircraft have conducted a series of "aggressive" overflights of a US destroyer in international waters in the Baltic Sea, a US defense official said.
Secretary of State Kerry admitted as much last week, when he responded to the USS Donald Cook incident by bluntly declaring that the US would have been within its rights to shoot the Russian jet down. Washington's top diplomat labelled the alleged behaviour of the jet as "reckless" and "provocative," while the Pentagon called 14 April's interception of the spy plane as an "erratic and aggressive" act.
Moscow denied the allegations, claiming in a statement that in the case of the spy plane, the Russian Air Force had "detected over the Baltic ocean an unidentified aerial target rapidly approaching the Russian border." Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated that the actions of the Russian aircraft were "in accordance with international standards for the use of air space."
 
Confrontations between NATO and Russian aircraft
Confrontations between NATO and Russian aircraft over the Baltic are becoming routine. According to a January report from United Press International, NATO jets scrambled at least 160 times in 2015 to intercept Russian jets in the Baltic. This figure was a 14 per cent rise from 2014.
The pace of such incidents is likely to rise dramatically in the immediate period ahead. The Obama administration has announced a quadrupling of defence spending for Europe for 2017 to $3.4 billion. The increase will finance the sending of an additional three brigades. A further 16,500 soldiers will be in permanent rotation throughout Eastern Europe, from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania-to whom Obama in September 2014 issued a guarantee of US support in the event of conflict with Russia-to Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the Black Sea states of Romania and Bulgaria.
In this, Washington is aligning itself with virulently right-wing, anti-Russian regimes whose reckless policies could provide the spark that ignites the ongoing standoff.
 
"Russia greater threat than IS"
In comments to the Globsec security forum on the weekend, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski proclaimed Russia to be a greater threat to world peace than the Islamic State. He urged NATO to permanently deploy troops to Poland to protect its eastern border, vowing that he would make an appeal to that end at the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Warsaw in July. "By all evidence, Russia's activity is a sort of existential threat because this activity can destroy countries," Waszczykowski asserted.
Romania, another NATO member, is pushing for the Warsaw summit to adopt a plan for a permanent NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. Romania's defence minister, Mihnea Motoc, said earlier this month on a visit to Georgia that he would be in favour of an enhanced partnership between NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and would-be members Georgia and Ukraine to establish a Black Sea fleet. Motoc said in an interview that the proposed fleet would be open "to NATO members who don't border the Black Sea, yet are constantly present in Black Sea ports and take part in exercises-first of all, to the United States."
At the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014, the alliance committed to have all members spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on their militaries, and agreed the creation of a rapid response force for eastern Europe that has since been expanded to enable tens of thousands of troops to be deployed anywhere within the alliance's territory in a matter of days.
 
'Revival of Cold War'
The lead article in 17 April edition of the New York Times underscored the fact that potential conflicts for which such forces are being prepared would likely involve the deployment of nuclear weapons. In what it described as a revival of the Cold War, the Times described Washington, Russia and China as being engaged in an arms race to develop a new class of small-scale nuclear weapons with capabilities to bypass traditional missile defence shields.
There is an objective significance to the fact that the Times, America's "newspaper of record," has published a front-page article bringing to light a development that has long been the subject of in-depth analysis by US think tanks. A report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments published earlier this year was entitled Rethinking Armageddon: scenario planning in the second nuclear age, reflecting the fact that policymaking circles are considering the practicalities of how to fight and win a military conflict with nuclear weapons.
Since President Obama's 2010 promise not to pursue new nuclear weapons programmes, Washington has announced an additional $1 trillion in funding for the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal. The Times article provides information on the types of weaponry being developed, including a new weapon called a hypersonic glide vehicle. Such weapons, which the US will begin flight-testing next year, could "render missile defences all but useless," the Times noted.
At the conclusion of the biennial nuclear summit in Washington at the end of last month, to which Russia refused to send representatives, Obama expressed concern about "ramping up new and more deadly and more effective systems that end up leading to a whole new escalation of the arms race."
A second Times article published over the weekend on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad makes all too clear that the plans for the deployment of nuclear weapons have moved well beyond the realm of speculation. The Russian territory, located on the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland, was described in testimony to Congress by NATO Commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove in February as a "very militarized piece of property" that was "capable of repelling attacks by air, land or sea."
The six years since Obama's empty pledge to reduce nuclear weapons have seen a vast intensification of US-led aggressive military operations aimed at consolidating American hegemony and weakening Russia and China in key geostrategic regions. As part of the ongoing bombardment of Iraq and Syria, carried out under the pretext of combating terrorism, Washington recently sent nuclear-capable B52 bombers to its Middle East bases, bringing them well within range of Iran and Russia itself.

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