Cold War 2: Who's Provoking Whom? And Washington's Greater Romania Moldovan Play for the Black Sea Region

With NATO's deployment of potentially offensive use on-shore AEGIS launcher systems close to the Black Sea and soon in Poland, and the announcement that German troops will provide one of several battalions planned for permanent rotation in the Baltic states bordering Russia just days before Moscow celebrated its victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, just who is provoking whom in Cold War 2?

Friendly US tanks and planes found near aggressive #Russia and China.

— Nina Byzantina (@NinaByzantina) May 12, 2016

Over at the Unz Review, Mr. Paleocon Patrick J. Buchanan, a man of lifelong anti-Communist credentials who like former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts served in the Reagan Administration, is asking the same questions:

“On Friday [in late April], a Russian SU-27 did a barrel roll over a U.S. RC-135 over the Baltic, the second time in two weeks.

Also in April, the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook, off Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, was twice buzzed by Russian planes.

Vladimir Putin’s message: Keep your spy planes and ships a respectable distance away from us. Apparently, we have not received it.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced that 4,000 NATO troops, including two U.S. battalions, will be moved into Poland and the Baltic States, right on Russia’s border.

“The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the border with a lot of troops,” says Work, who calls this “extraordinarily provocative behavior.”

But how are Russian troops deploying inside Russia “provocative,” while U.S. troops on Russia’s front porch are not? And before we ride this escalator up to a clash, we had best check our hole card.

Germany is to provide one of four battalions to be sent to the Baltic.

But a Bertelsmann Foundation poll last week found that only 31 percent of Germans favor sending their troops to resist a Russian move in the Baltic States or Poland, while 57 percent oppose it, though the NATO treaty requires it.

Last year, a Pew poll found majorities in Italy and France also oppose military action against Russia if she moves into Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia or Poland. If it comes to war in the Baltic, our European allies prefer that we Americans fight it.

Asked on his retirement as Army chief of staff what was the greatest strategic threat to the United States, Gen. Ray Odierno echoed Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, “I believe that Russia is.”

He mentioned threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

Yet, when Gen. Odierno entered the service, all four were part of the Soviet Union, and no Cold War president ever thought any was worth a war.”


#US has activated land-based missile defence station in #Romania with radar and SM-2 missile interceptors

— Warfare Worldwide (@WarfareWW) May 12, 2016

Russia's Anger Over the U.S. BMD System in Romania, Explained: It Ain't About What the SM3 Can Do, It's About What it Represents - NATO Domination of Europe

NATO insists its deployment of over 4,000 U.S. troops to the Baltics, Poland, and the Black Sea countries of Romania and Bulgaria is a defensive response to 'Russian aggression' against Ukraine in Crimea and the Donbass. It also claims that the AEGIS-based ballistic missile defense station it activated this week in Romania (without the Romanian President's presence, incidentally) is purely defensive in nature, designed to protect the Alliance and Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles. The very Persian missiles that, having negotiated a deal with Iran to bring that country's nuclear program under strict U.S/EU supervision in return for lifting decades of sanctions against Tehran, Washington and Brussels admit will not be carrying any nuclear warheads.

NATO declares that its BMD system in Romania and soon to be rolled out in Poland for 2018 are not capable of posing any threat to Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent, which relies on ICBMs and sea-launched missiles fired along polar trajectories. However, in a rare moment of going against the Washington grain, The New York Times extensively quotes the Russian response that the on-shore AEGIS launchers include a (nuclear tipped?) Tomahawk-capable launch tube that is a violation of the 1987 Intermediate Forces (IMF) Treaty that banned American and Russian tactical nuclear missiles from Europe:

“In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Russian defense experts consider the site a threat.

“We still view the destructive actions of the United States and its allies in the area of missile defense as a direct threat to global and regional security,” Ms. Zakharova said.

She said that the Aegis Ashore launchpad was “practically identical” to a system used aboard Aegis warships that is capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles.

While the United States says it has no Tomahawk missiles at the site in Romania, Russian officials say the launchpad violates a 1987 treaty intended to take the superpowers off their hair-trigger nuclear alert, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, by banning land-based cruise and medium-range missiles with a range from 300 to 3,400 miles.

The short flight time of these missiles diminished to mere minutes the window Soviet leaders would have had after a warning to decide whether to launch a second strike, raising the risks of mishaps. Any redeployment of nuclear-capable missiles in Central Europe would roll the clock back to this nerve-racking 1980s status quo.

“We have to announce this openly, without any additional diplomatic formulations,” Ms. Zakharova said of the Russian assertion the site violates the intermediate-range missile ban. “We are talking about violation of this treaty.””


If Defensive SAMs Are Totally OK, Why Shouldn't Russia Deploy S500s to Venezuela?

Strangely, the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest's May 11, 2016 press release almost reads as if the conflict in Ukraine never happened. It also emphasizes the steps the U.S. has taken supposedly to offer cooperation with Russia on missile defense. But when it comes to a fully joint U.S.-Russian system to protect Europe from any conceivable Middle Eastern missile threat, Washington has balked for years prior to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine -- even though one could argue the Russian S-500 system is more advanced, more mobile and cheaper than the American AEGIS based platform. The Russians could also sarcastically note that Washington offering to cooperate with them on a system placed near the home waters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet would be akin to the Russians placing an S400 or S500 system in Venezuela -- and kindly offering cooperation with the Americans to protect South Americans from North Korean ballistic missiles!

Hey Europeans, are you seriously worried about Iranian or North Korean missiles raining down on Paris or Berlin? Russia's S500s can protect you for a lot less than Washington's SM3s!

In a surprise dissent from the general NATO party line, Euractiv, which is not formally associated with the EU, published an article by Stratfor CEO George Friedman critical of the systems in Romania and Poland, calling them ineffective against Russia and directed against an extremely unlikely Iranian or North Korean missile threat to Europe.

The IMF Treaty, AEGIS Ships Sailing Close to Russia, and the Hypersonic Arms Race

To be fair, the Russian argument that the AEGIS on shore launchers could also fire nuclear tipped Tomahawk missiles can be echoed by those Washington hard liners who accuse Moscow of also violating the IMF Treaty, because its Iskander ballistic missiles in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad can easily be fitted with nuclear warheads and extended in range to violate the IMF's limits. As Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz has also written, many in the Pentagon accuse the Russians of testing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on 'flatter' trajectories that in theory, could allow a Russian ICBM launched from the European part of Russia to strike targets in the UK or perhaps far western Germany. But the point is, Russia isn't using its ICBMs that way, and there's no confirmation that the Iskanders it has in Kaliningrad or western Russia are tipped (yet) with nuclear warheads.

The real anger the Russians have about the U.S. BMD systems in Romania and Poland isn't about capabilities present or future, it's what they represent: an American strategy of tension to keep Europe terrified of Russian conventional hypersonic or nuclear weapons and under the umbrella of Washington. By installing systems that could theoretically pose a threat in wartime and requiring Russia to field hypersonic systems such as the Iskander that are ready to take the BMD batteries out, Washington creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of a Russian threat. Washington then uses the Russian hypersonic missile build-up or even 'gap' to justify its own fielding of similar weaponry, claiming that so long as these systems aren't nuclear tipped or on land as opposed to on US Navy ships cruising off Russia's Baltic or Black Sea coasts that they don't violate the IMF Treaty -- despite their flight times being mere minutes from Moscow and seconds from St. Petersburg and Sevastopol.

Moscow's Silent Response to Nuclear Armed Navy Ships in the Baltic and Black Seas:

'Boomers' Off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States

This particular point, incidentally, is why the Russians are engaged in those in-your-face fly bys of ships like the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic or Black Seas -- to let the US Navy know that in an actual shooting war, both the Baltic and Black Seas will instantly become Russian lakes, as Turkey's President Erdogan recently complained. AEGIS ships closer to Russia will essentially be on suicide missions and will likely not survive incoming supersonic or hypersonic Russian missiles long enough to empty their own missile magazines, much less 'protect Europe' via their long range SM4 interceptors. A similar logic applies, incidentally, to any shooting war between the U.S. Navy and China in the South China Sea, where American aircraft carriers and AEGIS vessels would be sitting ducks for Chinese hypersonic missiles and glide vehicles.

On the other side of the coin, Russian attack and ballistic missile submarines (no not The Red October of Tom Clancy fame) are much quieter than they were at the height of the Cold War. Thus the threat conveyed by the Russian Defense Ministry that Borei-class SSBNs may patrol much closer to the continental United States than they did during the first Cold War, in order to shorten the potential U.S. response time to their Bulava missiles fired at bases and missile silos inside the USA.

Those scoffing at such a Russian response as bluster can recall the 2012 Fox News story via Gertz and The Washington Free Beaconabout the US Navy admitting that an Akula-class attack submarine cruised through the Gulf of Mexico undetected for weeks at a time. As a more recent model of Russian technology designed to provide one leg of Russia's nuclear triad for decades to come, the Navy knows the Yury Dolgoruky and its brother ships are much quieter than the late 1990s vintage Akula class attack boats.

Simply put, even with the force multiplier of long range unmanned undersea vehicles, the Navy does not have enough Virginia or Seawolf class attack subs nor a sufficient number of anti-submarine warfare aircraft to successfully track much less sink all of the Russian Boreis or for that matter the newest generation of Chinese SSBNs once they dive further from their home ports into the deep waters of the North Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

The point of all of this is for the Pentagon, CIA and State Department to exploit the echo chamber of alarmism about Russia and terrorism to maintain the Empire's weakening grip over the Continent's politics and ultimately, the EU economy, via the TTIP. Which is Washington's real target anyway. When looking for example, at the Bertelsmann poll of Germans cited by Buchanan in the extended quote above, one sees a growing number of Europeans either unwilling to go to war with Russia even in the extremely unlikely event Moscow were to attack an eastern NATO member, or simply not accepting Washington's propaganda that such a thing is possible.

It is precisely such NATO-skepticism if not apathy Washington needs to counter by provoking Russia wherever possible, not only by permanently stationing German tanks in the Baltic states for the first time since WW2, but also sending troops to Georgia or other areas close to the Russian Federation or its internationally unrecognized post-Soviet satellites, like South Ossetia, and Transnistria.

A map of Transnistria and other post-Soviet statelets in relation to the Black Sea basin:

U.S. Playing Victory Day Games in Moldova

While the U.S. decries dangerous Russian flybys of U.S. Navy ships and reconnaissance aircraft in international waters and airspace near Russia, Washington continues its buildup of forces in Eastern Europe -- including military displays with American troops in constitutionally neutral Moldova on Victory Day, which dozens of Russian-speaking Moldovans protested as a provocation by Washington. American troops and Stryker armored vehicle teams were initially greeted with shouts of 'NATO go home!' and 'Russia!', and later were cordoned off from protesters by riot police in Chisinau. If you watch videos that aren't shown by RFE/RL, the crowds were larger than the U.S.-taxpayer funded news network was willing to show:

Although Moldova is the second poorest country in Europe behind Ukraine, it has strategic importance to both sides of Cold War 2 due to its position between NATO member and historic ruler Romania and the Russian troops-hosting landlocked exclave of Transnistria, wedged between the former Moldovan SSR and southwestern Ukraine's Odessa region.

Under the supervision of the notorious Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, the State Department has been working hard to try to keep a corrupt but pro-EU government in power, after months of peaceful protests by the opposition which includes the pro-Russian Socialist Party. While Moldova exports to the whole EU via its linguistically and culturally close neighbor Romania, it also has close economic ties to Russia, including through hundreds of thousands of Moldovans who send remittances back home while working legally in the Russian Federation. Simply put, just like the Ukraine, Moldova badly needs good business relations with East and West to survive, much less prosper -- but Washington and Brussels policies are all about forcing a 'civilization-al choice' on a poor country.

A U.S. Sponsored Snap Anschluss -- Why Moscow Is Concerned About the U.S. Moves to Bolster Romania's Military and Presence in the Officially Neutral Moldovan Republic

From Moscow's perspective, not only was the display of American military hardware on the greatest day of post-Soviet martial glory a calculated insult, but the joint U.S.-Moldovan military drills through May 20th could be construed as joint NATO preparations for a Romanian takeover of Bucharest's smaller, poorer neighbor. Despite having bombed and invaded at least two sovereign countries since the end of the Cold War (Yugoslavia and Libya), NATO advocates naturally would deny that the Alliance would ever participate in a snap anschluss between Romania and Moldova that could put Romanian tanks on the border with pro-Russian Transnistria. But that precise scenario is why Russia has reportedly been strengthening the fighting capacity of its 1,200+ man garrison in the PMR (Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublika) as well as drilling its airborne (VDV) divisions for a rapid reinforcement of the exclave.

That such reinforcement would require violating Ukrainian or Moldovan air space, should the two countries decide on a full-on blockade of the PMR, is another volatile aspect of the potential 'reheating' of this frozen conflict dating back to the early Nineties. While Moscow would likely have little objection to Moldova eventually rejoining a greater Romania, it needs the headache of pro-Russian Gagaúzia, an autonomous part of Moldova, breaking away in turn to join the Russian-defended PMR like a hole in the head. Nonetheless, we have no doubt that if Transnistria and the Russian garrison there is blockaded or threatened in any way from either Romania or Ukraine, Moscow will use force -- at least the minimal amount required to disable Ukrainian air defense systems in Odessa region and maintain an airlift and possibly river gunboat resupply to the PMR from the Black Sea.

Unfortunately, the State Department's stooges as opposed to the EU's seem far more keen on tearing up Moldovan neutrality than they are on the supposed milk and honey economic benefits of joining the European Union, of whichRomania remains the second poorest member behind Bulgaria. If Hillary Rodham Clinton is the next President of the United States, watch out for a Maidan-style coup in Chisinau, followed by the flowers and flag waving welcoming of a large Romanian 'peacekeeping' contingent accompanied by U.S. 'advisers', sometime in autumn 2017 or spring 2018.

At that point, Russia will be presented with the choice of either accepting a fait accompli and 100s of thousands of pro-Russian Moldovans being absorbed by NATO (while Ukrainian nationalists and neocons gleefully cite it as payback for Russia's actions in Crimea), or of turning Gagaúzia into another rebellious Donbass. That fully NATO war-gamed reaction in turn, could justify a Romanian/Ukrainian pincer move blockade of Transnistria and war between Russia on one side and a coalition between Ukraine and Romania (and perhaps Bulgaria and Turkey joining the USA's cannon fodder coalition) on the other. Although NATO will dismiss them as typically Russian paranoia, such scenarios have already been openly discussed in Russia's geopolitical and military journals.

By the way, the most popular foreign leader among the Moldovan people, according to a survey published by the anti-Kremlin online Russian journal Meduza is: Vladimir Putin.

Life almost imitates art -- 'NATO go home' chants greet American soldiers rolling into Moldova, violating the country's constitutionally-guaranteed neutrality as a non-NATO and non-CSTO aligned state. Below: a scene from California Dreamin', a Romanian film inspired by a true story of a U.S. Army unit that was stuck in Romania for several days during NATO's illegal 1999 aggression against Serbia aka the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The full film with English subtitles is here. Tragically, the director Cristian Nemescu was killed in a car crash shortly before finishing the movie, which was released (posthumously) in 2007.