Dec 9, 2013
The Cold War Redux?
Posted on May 30, 2013
By Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch
* In April, during a visit to Jerusalem, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a multibillion-dollar arms package for Israel. Although its final details are still being worked out, it is expected to include V-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor transport planes, KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, and advanced radars and anti-radiation missiles for Israel’s strike aircraft. “We are committed to providing Israel with whatever support is necessary for Israel to maintain military superiority over any state or coalition of states and non-state actors [in the region],” Hagel told reporters when announcing the package.
The U.S. has, of course, long been committed to Israel’s military superiority, so there was something ritualistic about much of Hagel’s performance in Jerusalem. No less predictable were the complaints from Israeli military and intelligence sources that the package didn’t include enough new arms to satisfy Israel’s needs, or were of the wrong kind. The V-22 Osprey, for example, was proclaimed by some to be of marginal military value. Far more surprising was that no red flags went up in the media over what was included. At least two of the items—the KC-135 refueling planes and the anti-radiation missiles (crucial weaponry for disabling an enemy’s air-defense radar system)—could only be intended for one purpose: bolstering Israel’s capacity to conduct a sustained air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities, should it decide to do so.
At present, the biggest military obstacles to such an attack are that country’s inability to completely cripple Iranian anti-aircraft defense systems and mount sustained long-range air strikes. The missiles and the mid-air refueling capability will go a long way toward eliminating such impediments. Although it may take up to a year for all this new hardware to be delivered and come online, the package can only be read as a green light from Washington for Israel to undertake preparations for an attack on Iran, which has long been shielded from tougher U.N. sanctions by China and Russia.
* In March, Russia agreed to sell 24 Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role combat jets and four Lada-class diesel submarines to China on the eve of newly installed President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to Moscow. Although details of the sale have yet to be worked out, observers say that it will represent the most significant transfer of Russian weaponry to China in a decade. The Su-35, a fourth-generation stealth fighter, is superior to any plane now in China’s arsenal, while the Lada is a more advanced, quieter version of the Kilo-class sub it already possesses. Together, the two systems will provide the Chinese with a substantial boost in combat quality.
Not surprisingly, China has responded by bolstering its own naval capabilities, announcing plans for the acquisition of a second aircraft carrier (its first began operational testing in late 2012) and the procurement of advanced arms from Russia to fill gaps in its defense structure. This, in turn, is bound to increase the pressure on Washington from Japan, Taiwan, and other allies to provide yet more weaponry, triggering a classic Cold-War-style arms race in the region.
* On the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s June 24th visit to India, that country’s press was full of reports and rumors about upcoming U.S. military sales. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, was widely quoted as saying that, in addition to sales already in the pipeline, “we think there’s going to be billions of dollars more in the next couple of years.” In his comments, Shapiro referred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who, he said, was heading up an arms sales initiative, “which we think is making some good progress and will, hopefully, lead to an even greater pace of additional defense trade with India.”
To some degree, of course, this can be viewed as a continuation of weapons sales as a domestic economic motor, since U.S. weapons companies have long sought access to India’s vast arms market. But such sales now clearly play another role as well: to lubricate the U.S. drive to incorporate India into the arc of powers encircling China as part of the Obama administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy.
Toward this end, as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns explained back in 2011, “Our two countries launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific to ensure that the world’s two largest democracies pursue strategies that reinforce one another.” Arms transfers are seen by the leaders of both countries as a vital tool in the “containment” of China (though all parties are careful to avoid that old Cold War term). So watch for Kerry to pursue new arms agreements while in New Delhi.
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