Saturday November 27, 2021

Dangers of escalation

February 27, 2018

Europe has a history of wars, internecine conflicts, sectarian massacres and destructive armed rebellions. Warmongers in different parts of the continent are once again raising the spectre of a conflagration by projecting Russia as their enemy.

Anti-peace elements in Europe aren’t the only ones who are driving this war hysteria. In fact, arms merchants across the Atlantic are also jubilant over the prospects of a possible destruction in Europe without realising how catastrophic it could turn out to be.

Analysts and commentators in the Western world have repeatedly pointed towards the aggressive Russian attitude towards Ukraine and Georgia and raised a clamour about the danger that Moscow poses to the states that were part of the Soviet Union in the past. But they tend to avoid a few basic questions: Why does Nato still exist long after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the demise of the Soviet Union? What is the purpose of an anti-communist military alliance when no such state exists in the heartland of Europe or in its periphery? Why was Nato not abolished soon after the demise of the socialist bloc?

The Gorbachev-led USSR was assured that no expansion of Nato would be carried out. Later, the West reneged on its promises, claiming that they were merely verbal assurances. Today, the boots of Nato are knocking on the doors of Russia – a country that was destroyed twice by the West over the last 100 years and thrice since the time of Napoleon. Imagine what would have happen if the Ottoman rulers in Turkey started building their military on the borders of Western countries. Would it not have sent a shiver down the spine of Christian Europe? Would they have sat idle and waited to be invaded?

However, Turkey did not do to Europe what Europe did to Russia. Europe is the largest and most lucrative market for Russian gas and oil. Cash-starved Moscow desperately needs to export these natural gifts that help to keep its economy running. Why would Moscow want to destroy this vast land that yields so many economic opportunities? Why would a struggling Russian economy dig its own grave? Why would Russia want to engage in a confrontation that might wipe out its existence as a nation-state when it know that it will be confronted with not only one or two but three nuclear states in case a conflict erupts?

Europe will not benefit from any possible military conflict. It is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. For instance, Europe accounted for 70 percent of Russia’s 2016 crude oil exports while China’s share of these exports stands at 18 percent. One-third of Europe’s gas also comes from Russia. So, if Europe antagonises Moscow, it will end up facing a severe energy crisis that could trigger unrest across the continent.

Attempts are being made to portray Moscow as the biggest threat to Europe. It is true that Russia has the highest number of nuclear warheads and its army, as a single country, is also the largest in the continent. But 21 out of 27 EU countries (after Brexit), with about 90 percent of the union’s population, are members of Nato under US command. America possesses approximately 7,000 nuclear arms. If they are added to France and the UK’s 515 nuclear weapons, there is a strong likelihood that the equation will be far more disturbing for Moscow than is it for its Western rivals.

France and the UK have access to a total of 579 naval assets, including 48 submarines, while Moscow has access to around 351 naval assets, including 63 submarines. Add several hundred American naval assets and submarines to these numbers and a man with even a modicum of common sense would conclude that Putin, with his all rhetoric of being powerful, is no match to the US and its Western allies.

Russia’s 798,527 active personnel and 2,572,500 in reserve are being used by warmongers to frighten Europe. But France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and the UK have 969,000 full-time soldiers. If the soldiers of these countries join hands with the 2,363,675 military personnel of the US, Russia will look like a pygmy. Similarly, there is no comparison between Moscow’s military budget worth GBP 30 billion and America’s defence spending worth over $700 billion. The combined defence budget of France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and the UK is more than GBP 130 billion. In 2015, the EU’s 28 member states earmarked EUR 200 billion. These figures should be enough to indicate where Putin stands in terms of his country’s military spending and defence expenditure?

It appears that some elements within Europe and many warmongers in the US want to raise the spectre of a conflict between Europe and Russia. While this may economically benefit them, it will be a great disservice to the people of Europe. Some analysts believe that one of the key factors prompting warmongers to drive a wedge between Europe and Russia is the Nord Stream 2 project. The project seeks to pipe natural gas from Russia across the Baltic Sea into Germany. This initiative will allow Russia to fulfil its dream of bypassing Ukraine – its traditional middleman for exports to Europe.

The project has been defended by Germany. Sweden has also dropped objections to the Russian gas giant Gazprom’s request to use Swedish ports during the pipeline’s construction. After it was announced in 2015, the project had unleashed a blizzard of opposition, particularly from Eastern European countries and the Obama administration. However, it seems that some elements want to counter this economic project with a military build-up.

According to Italian social scientist Manlio Dinucci, a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic will be set up to protect the sea lines of communication between North America and Europe. A new command for logistics will be set up – which will probably be located in Germany – to improve the movement within Europe of troops and equipment that are essential to the collective defence of Nato states.

The Western military alliance will also establish a new cyber operations centre to further strengthen the alliance’s defences. These measures seem to provoke Moscow. But at times, a petty mischief escalates into a full-blown war. Therefore, Europe and Russia must address this issue through diplomatic channels. Any escalation will be mutually destructive and benefit no one except arms merchants who are keen on wreaking destruction.

The writer is a freelance journalist.