Deciphering the Pentagon’s latest anger towards Russia

In successive weeks, the United States has ramped up tensions with Russia. Two highly provocative statements have emanated from the Pentagon. One was the Pentagon report titled 2015 National Military Strategy issued a fortnight ago, at the instance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, naming Russia and China as two world powers with which the US may have to fight a war with “immense consequences.”

The second fusillade came during the testimony by the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford at the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week where he nailed Russia as the greatest threat to the US national security. This is what Dunford said:

“My assessment today … is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security. If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

But for the fact that these words came from a general who has been designated by President Barack Obama as the next chairman of the joint chief of staff to succeed Gen. Martin Dempsey, one could have scoffed at it as sheer bluster.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford

Now, what has happened for taking such an apocalyptic view of the global strategic balance? The fact remains that despite the US’ overwhelming superiority in conventional forces, there is a global strategic stability and it is inconceivable that Russia will use its thermonuclear capabilities except to defend itself against an external attack.

To be sure, the US faces no “existential threat” from Russia and will not face one unless it indulges on its own in some stupid act like launching an aggression against Russia (in which case Moscow is guaranteed to use all the power at its command to resist.) Put differently, the threat the US faces is of Russia’s retaliatory capability, which remains intact despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Indeed, Russia is the only power with such capability, which makes it an existential issue, theoretically, for the US.

But then, what is it that really upsets the US? Three interpretations can be given. One could be that the Pentagon is making a persuasive case to increase its budget by raising the Russia bogey. This is what Charles Tiefer, a Forbes contributor who covers government contracting, the Pentagon and the Congress, estimates.

Tiefer points out that Dunford was not talking about the threat posed by Russia’s conventional arms but he means strategic nuclear threat. Tiefer writes:

“But, as to such a thing going nuclear, it never did in the Cold War.  We still have the enormously powerful strategic nuclear arsenal that deterred even the world-threatening Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.  Why isn’t this still the answer for the future as for the past?”

“Because, as to the future, Gen. Dunford is alluding to the aging of that American strategic triad – ICBM missiles, long-distance bombers, nuclear submarines, and the nuclear weapons they carry.  They have been in place for many decades.  It is General Dunford’s mission to raise the fear level of the American public to the level it will begin to authorize the enormous long-term spending on modernizing that strategic nuclear triad.”

Teifer gives a very simplified list of what the US military wants and estimates its cost to be at the very minimum somewhere between $872 million to $1.082 trillion. Yes, a trillion dollar splash to modernize the whole strategic triad – that’s what Dunford could be arguing for. “Obviously Gen. Dunford will “scare hell out of the country” (as President Truman was told to do at the start of the Cold War) to start down that road,” Teifer concludes.

Of course, we have heard of the military-industrial complex in the US and we know the propensity of all militaries to conjure up exaggerated threat perceptions to create alibi for appropriating disproportionately big military budgets. Teifer may well have a point.

However, there is a second plausible explanation for Dunford’s strange thought process. His rhetoric could be an exhortation to the US’ NATO allies to get in line and to do their part to increase their military spending to at least 2% of their GDP, which Washington has been demanding for a long time. Of course, the US’ European allies largely depend on American weapons and it will be good business for the US war contractors.

But the problem with this argument is that the Europeans are smart enough to figure out that Pentagon is beating the war drums to get them to spend more money on buying American weapons.

Which brings us to a third explanation: Could it be that the US is genuinely getting nervous about Russia and China and what they are up to lately, and the Pentagon is not really exaggerating? Consider the following.

Both the Pentagon report anticipating a war with Russia and China and Dunford’s sensational remarks appeared in the immediate vicinity of the summit meetings of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization at Ufa, which were hosted by Russia. (By the way, in Dunford’s view, Russia is at the top of a list of US concerns that also included China whose rapidly expanding military has alarmed Pentagon officials.)

The heart of the matter is that the salience of the BRICS and SCO summits last week has been the extraordinary surge of the strategic understanding between Russia and China that have been accruing in recent years.

The Russian President put it succinctly when he told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at their meeting in Ufa, “Combining efforts, no doubt we (Russia and China) will overcome all the problems before us.” Such a statement has never before been made openly at a Russia-China exchange at the highest level.

What Putin said effectively makes Russia and China allies insofar as he called for their standing up for each other on issues of core interest to either side. In fact, it goes much beyond that. Putin actually called for the “combining” of efforts by China to defeat the challenges facing the two countries.

He didn’t name the US, but the implication is clear, namely, the US cannot hope to take on Russia or China if they stand shoulder to shoulder and pool their efforts.

Looking back, the single biggest moment of the Ufa summits has been the convergence of the BRICS, SCO and the Eurasian Economic Union on a single platform on July 10. Xi made the suggestion to Putin transform the SCO as “an important platform to dovetail China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with Russia’s aspiration under the Eurasian Economic Union framework, expand room for their practical cooperation and facilitate development, cooperation and prosperity of the whole Eurasian continent.”

Putin agreed that the “decision to align China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with Russia’s aspiration under the Eurasian Economic Union framework will surely instill strong momentum into bilateral economic cooperation.” He proposed in turn that Russia and China “beef up coordination within the SCO and BRICS frameworks, so as jointly enable the two blocs to promote unity and cooperation among the member states and play a key role in issues of their common concern.”

At Ufa, a decision was taken last week to launch negotiations between China and the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia) on an economic partnership agreement to align their rules, mechanisms and cooperation areas, which also envisages a key role for the SCO “as a link and a platform.” Putin said elsewhere that Moscow hopes that the SCO would become a platform to solve international issues.

Suffice it to say, Russia and China have gained such extraordinary “strategic depth” today on the Eurasian landmass that the US’ containment strategies toward them have been rendered ineffectual. More than that, the Russian-Chinese entente in Eurasia also means that the two powers can conduct their economic relations with Europe insulated from US interference.

Clearly, short of launching an outright war against Russia and China (with unpredictable consequences), it becomes impossible for the US to browbeat these two defiant great powers. They are not seeking confrontation with the US, but simply by “combing efforts,” they can make a confrontation far too costly for the US to mount vis-à-vis either of them.

Suffice it to say, the elusive goal of the “New American Century” looks more and more a chimera today. It is this sense of profound disquiet in the American mind that finds its reflection in the Pentagon report and in Dunford’s outburst.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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  • Jay

    The best explanation is that he’s just a robot spouting what his masters tell him to.

  • Janek

    I do not understand the criticism of Gen. Joseph Dunford. You can like America or not and this is your problem but don’t you think that in the light of what is happening in Globalistan it would be rather very stupid if America and its allies did nothing and proceeded pretending that nothing changed and with attitude ‘business as usual’.

  • deliaruhe

    “He didn’t name the US, but the implication is clear, namely, the US
    cannot hope to take on Russia or China if they stand shoulder to
    shoulder and pool their efforts.”

    So this is an excuse to beef up the US nuclear arsenal? The backdrop of Washington hypocrisy against which the US-Iran negotiations are taking place just went into HiDef.

    I don’t see anything “aggressive” about the Russia and China alliance. It makes perfect sense, given that we are in the Eurasian Century — economically, at least. But Washington is clearly in denial, forgetting that it’s Washington itself that has driven Putin into the arms of Beijing. Putin doesn’t really have a choice here, since it’s clear that he’s gonna get nothing but sanctions and other kinds of grief from the US and its vassal states.

    Washington counts on the West’s short-term memory sickness, confident that we have all forgotten that it was the real possibility of NATO (Washington’s private army) moving into Putin’s very backyard that prompted him to seize Crimea back from Ukraine to protect Crimea’s strategically important Russian bases. It didn’t take Washington long to start that petulant, childish argument, “But, mommy, HE started it.” And the Western media fell right into line.

  • James Jerome

    But Janek they can do something, its just that the something that want to do will cause their destruction. Look at what the something the US has done in the Middle East, has cost them. The something they have done in the ME is why they are in a vulnerable position now.

  • James Jerome

    These bellicose statements are the ranting of an empire in decline. The world is evolving, and moving into the 21st century, while the US is still stuck with 19th century ideas about how they want the world to be. The US has shown, that it is not the nation too lead the world into the 21st century with a 19th century, racist, hegemonic, genocidal, agenda.

  • omas bioladen

    US Arrogancy is not yet reckoning of how much they have harmed this planets soul. Let alone starting to be ashamed of it.

  • Janek

    I agree with you, the Middle East was exactly ‘something’ very stupid but that was 15 years ago and at that time nobody in the so called ‘west’, not only USA, had not enough imagination to foresee the consequences of that stupidity. Today situation is what it is and not doing ‘something’ would be equally very stupid. I just hope that this ‘something’ America will do will be not very stupid. I stand behind what I’ve wrote in my first post.

  • Maria

    @President Putin, I am a retired American expat living in Thailand, I am at the end of my life (74 yrs old), I have a very clear view of the US/Russia standoff in East Ukraine:

    Currently, the situation in east Ukraine is “frozen”, but, if Kiev begins to win, with help from US military, the ONLY way for Russia to secure east Ukraine may be to use tactical nuclear weapons against US-backed forces (so, American soldiers may get Nuked by short-range tactical Russian rockets)…US will NOT tolerate this, and WILL retaliate with long-range strategic offensive (Minuteman III, Trident, etc).
    This outcome is not acceptable to you, therefore you WILL accept US/NATO domination of Ukraine & former USSR territories, BECAUSE you know that NATO domination is BETTER than being destroyed by America’s nuclear weapons…President Putin, you are *obviously BLUFFING*, you will NOT EVEN use your small/tactical nukes against American soldiers in Ukraine, I am 100% sure if it!!

  • Maria

    ” is what it is “, I LOVE that stupid expression ( and do you even realize that EVERYTHING is what it is??). It’s exactly like saying “this door is open, except for when it’s closed”. The expression is understandable ONLY because by now, people hearing that phrase know what you’re trying to say anyway.

  • Jay

    “Racist” is something 2015 America most assuredly is not.

    If it were, the whites who allegedly run the US wouldn’t be destined to become a minority in a couple of decades.

    They also wouldn’t be the only group that can be maligned publicly without “consequences.”

  • Janek

    You wrote: “The US has shown, that it is not the nation too lead the world into the
    21st century with a 19th century, racist, hegemonic, genocidal, agenda.”
    So who is ‘fit to lead the world’. Some countries with middle ages mentality from Middle East or may be Russia or China or some other ‘not racist’ country etc. who ally themselves with those deep in middle ages mentality countries. You must be jocking.

  • Janek

    Yes, “situation is what it is” and what are you going to do about it. We can not travel backwards in time so “today situation is what it is” (causal relation) and there is nothing you can do about the past even if you could shrink yourself.

  • James Jerome

    Okay you say what you want like everybody else, I’ll say this, I pray those pentagon generals are stupid enough to got too war with China, Russia or Iran. The result will settle the question forever. I bet that most of you war hawks never served a day in uniform, too cowardly to serve your country and put your own blood on the line. I’m a Vietnam Vet, another war we had no business being involved with.

  • d.g.summers

    Poor analysis.

    Writer didn’t explain how the report states that the US plans to “co-op” China as a future partner.
    The report considers Russia not amenable to taking a second-seat to the US in the New World Order where as China would as long as China can continue to do business.

    Basically, by implication and other signs, the US considers China weaker of the two to be bribed and co-opted.

    The US will see which one, China or Russia, will take the bait.

  • ted

    The ignorance and arrogance of some.Think that the mighty USSA can handle the Russians let alone the China or both at the same time.Is a big mistake.The USSA who has been at War for over 200 Hundred Years.Knows nothing less.But,to built up its Industrial Military Complex and make Amerika even poorer than what it is.I sure do not want War.Many around World don’t want it either.Just the 1%.Ohh…I have a suggestion for China.China should just cut off the money which USSA desperately needs to pay for its over budget projects.I think if that happens.Maybe,nobody will fire a shot.Then,again the USSA is always at War.USSA and Police State are already at war with there citizens.I guess that’s why some Amerikan’s left.They did not want stick it out here and try to fight.But,the sheeple here can’t even conceive the truth how Amerika has become the worst Country.

    If China were to cut lending money to the US for exchange of Debt.Where is the USSA going to replace that money they lost?The Japanese.There already in tank with there economy by just printing.The EU.What!They have whole set of problems.From Greece,Spain,Portugal,Ireland,Italy,and yes France.There are others.The Saudis.Not going to happen.What the Amerikan TaxPayer.There is not enough Taxes coming back in to pay for things.94 million on Welfare,Welfare Programs,and Food Stamps.64 Million going to Social Security,and how many more going to Military retiree’s.That’s to name a few.The USSA Military spends $852 Billion dollars on Military.Active Duty,Reserve,National Guard,Retiree’s,Dependent’s.That’s not all.Alot goes to DARPA and Military Hardware.The other 15 countries spending on their Military do not spend that amount combined.

    Lets not forget.The ones who still collect Unemployment.Then,there’s that lovely,Government Insurance.
    That’s not counting the Department of Justice and all there Agencies.And all the surveillance programs they use.There is even more.So what happens when China stops lending.Many things come to halt.Wait maybe the USSA will solve its problems with the Gold they have.Almost forgot.They supposedly lost the records of inventory when being Audited.Then,there is the promise that the Federal Reserve in New York will give back the Gold to the Germans in how many years.That’s not going to happen.Even Texas is requesting their gold from The Federal Reserve in New York.Due to fact they set a Bouillon Depositary Bank In Texas.I don’t know if that’s going to happen.Because there is no Gold left.And there is the force digital cash on everyone..That’s probably going to fail.One thing.The CIA,DEA,FBI,and other agencies involved with the Drug Cartels.Are they going to have Digital Cash Card for the Suppiler’s and the local pushers.I can’t see that happening.You think the people who are the few still making a decent Income. Want the Government to know what they are spending things on.Let alone the the working poor want the Government to know what they are spending on.I don’t think so.

    China should cut there lending.Especially,Countries that are in BRIC’S.Maybe,people in USSA will wake up.One can only hope.

  • ifigeniaa

    United Nation with Peace and not a war agenda

  • ifigeniaa

    Just check out that almost half of the people in prison in US are blacks. And the majority of the victims of police violence are blacks too.

  • ifigeniaa

    just like me or you

  • ifigeniaa

    USA has no allies, we are just vassals if not, why we have to let us military bases in our countries?

  • ifigeniaa

    But USA didnt say sorry nor pay indemnization to the iraquis people and the media is already forgotten what US did in 2003, but continue to put out news about holocaust, a tragedy of more than 70 years ago, why?.

  • ifigeniaa

    typical american way. Who give you the right to go to Ukraine?

  • Silvije Kovacevic

    Janek, what makes you think that US is fit to lead the World?

  • Silvije Kovacevic

    Those who never experienced war are so much in favor of war. World is changing for sure, I just hope that humanity will be able to choose right

  • Silvije Kovacevic

    Russia could take over Kiev in matter of days if they really want, no need for tactical nukes. Ukrainians have very difficult time with “pro-Russian rebels” alone without Russian army being involved at the large scale. A few hundred or thousand US and NATO soldiers in Ukraine would do very little to prevent Russians from conquering Ukraine in case they decide to launch full-scale attack.

  • jako777

    “If it were, the whites who allegedly run the US wouldn’t be destined to become a minority”

    I can’t believe that you take that as serious argument!?!
    So, what was the alternative (for KKK), to stop that process?!? Kill everybody that is not white; or import some Italian lover stallions and blue eyed Ukrainian girls (for whites only) maybe?!
    It is white elites who favored “métisse” society.
    So here we are. World is changing.
    See EU for example, in 30 years no newborns will be white any longer.

    “They also wouldn’t be the only group that can be maligned publicly without “consequences.”

    Well, I agree there, discrimination is b**ch.Some people are racist, some in denial, some moderate. But for me, no nation or religion is “evil or racist” that’s just bigotry. On the other hand, US has some evil people in charge and for quite some time… so I understand when people are bitter about US.

  • jako777

    “why we have to let us military bases in our countries?”

    How about; be cause they say so…
    And also, nobody has true, permanent “allies” in politics, just interests are eternal…

  • jako777

    Russia would (counter) attack Ukraine ONLY under Georgian “scenario”, (when attacked directly in Crimea.) US would draw back immediately their troops (just like they did in Georgia) if not WW-III would be imminent in the case of killing of US soldiers in Ukraine by Russians.

  • jako777

    Iraq, it was, planed, intended and executed on purpose, so one does not usually say “sorry” afterwords.
    US has deliberate plan of destroying Iraq and wreck havoc in ME among other things.
    It is “super power” policy called :
    “Divide et impera” practiced ever since Roman’s.
    It’s ugly as hell and it brings world domination ( till they one day fail like any other Empire)

  • jako777

    I agree ” that the something”…. “will cause their destruction”
    But than, that is general law of falling Empires, isn’t it? They are stuck with the image of glorious past and they stubbornly try the same OLD solutions on new situations, again and again till they fall…

  • jako777

    That is erroneous judgment Mr.d.g.summers
    Neither China nor Russia will take “bait”.

    1. Russia is “not amenable” be cause Russia is the ONLY country that still can destroy US.
    So it is logical that they are 1st on US (world domination) agenda. China is 2nd, cause once Russia is out of the game it would be possible for US even to attack & nuke China (with no nuclear risk for US at all).
    2. China is “amenable” and needed (for covering US debt) for the moment…So once Russia is subjugated (that is at least the plan.) they intend to take care about China and brake it.

    The problem with that plan is that Russia & China are joining together and help the Empire to fail in world dominance…

  • jako777

    ” what makes you think that US is fit to lead the World?”

    Well…. out of blue, just to mention few strong arguments, they invented Coca-Cola and Nike* shoes!!!

    *(which they produce in Indonesia for 1$ and sell on the West for 100$)

  • Jay

    It’s not the “white” elites that are pushing “métissage,” as “white” Sarkozy did.

    And the alternatives are simple and clear. Close the borders to non-white immigration, and stop extorting the white working and middle classes to fund the breeding of non-whites. After all, you get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you tax.

    Yeah, evil stuff, I know. But “racist” white rulers would have done these things.

  • Jay

    Blacks are disproportionately disposed to commit crime. And that predisposition towards crime brings them disproportionately into violent contact with the police.

    Like, “duh.”

  • Jay

    I’m not a “war hawk,” but thanks for asking.

  • Janek

    Because nobody else can nor has enough imagination.

  • kk wadhwa

    If all Indians r united, USA’ll hv2 giv way2 India also at many places

  • Thaumaturgist

    There is one other dimension here. Republicans in the U.S. Senate, and their supporters, claims that ISIS is an existential threat to the U.S. itself. They want to reinvade Iraq. The American people need to be reminded what an existential threat looks like.

  • Silvije Kovacevic


  • tttbnr

    The war pigs of capital should withdraw from their occupation of Globalistan, if the goal was peace. The goal is not peace, but total domination, which the author notes incites anger with the warrior class because their simple militarism cannot do to Russia and China what it has done to Palestine and Iraq.

  • tttbnr

    The anti-war protesters of 2001 accurately predicted the outcome, as well as the outcomes of the Libyan overthrow and the incitement of the Syrian civil war.

  • tttbnr

    The world’s Baltimore cop.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    The State Department of the United States generally analyses the foreign policy of the US. Not so long ago President Obama entered into an agreement with Putin to mutually reduce the nuclear stockpile of both nations.
    This decision was made after Russia and China had formed a formidable alliance between Russia’s CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and China’s SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization).
    President Obama approached Putin on this short sighted agreement after the US has set forth her “pivot to Asia’ policy and her “Containment of China” policy.
    Of course it did not work. Matters really got out of hand when a democratically elected leader, who was pro Russian and anti NATO, including anti US, in Kiev was ousted out and a pro US leader put in place.
    Putin would not have that. Crimean citizens voted to merge with Russia, Russia sent her troops to encircle Ukraine using Belarus, which is one of the members of Russia’s CSTO as grounds to send her troops practically around Ukraine. Pro Russian rebels fought the pro US government in Kiev, and Russia annexed the sea of Okhotsk to her east… just a few hundred miles from the Bering straits of Alaska. US slaps sanctions on Russia for this merger and Russia counters with Sanctions on NATO nations, most of them European powers. So much bilateral trade between the EU and Moscow came crashing down. Russia opened up markets elsewhere.
    From the State Department to President Obama the foreign policy approach to China and Russia could not have got worse, but it did. In the Middle East Russia supported Damascus while the US and the UK supported the Syrian rebels. ISIS throws a curve ball and the US is now back in the Middle East with her 40 nation coalition, exactly what ISIS wanted. The proverbial “Great Satan” was back and every regional terrorist outfit started aligning themselves with ISIS.
    That is pretty bad, just in that region alone. Then the US trains and arms the Kurdish rebels to take on ISIS. Now it is beginning to read like some Hindu myth.

    The Kurdish movement has been fighting for a homeland for decades, in the mid east. after they were left out of the Sykes/Picot agreement of 1916. Now the US and her coalition were training and arming them to take on ISIS with no guarantee that ISIS will be defeated. Now the Mid East faces two monsters, the Caliphate created by ISIS and the desire of the Kurds to carve up the Mid East to create Kurdistan, regardless if ISIS lives or dies.

    Having realized the massive mistake of this agreement to mutually cut back nuclear stockpiles, the failed containment of China. the coup of Ukraine, and the mess in Syria, Washington picks one of many mistakes to label as the worst. I guess Russia will do for today for tomorrow it may just be another mistake the US has made, that will get the title of the most dangerous threat to the US.
    On a side note the US, aligns with Iran, does not assure the trepidation of Saudi Arabia or Israel and Saudi Arabia goes to Moscow to form a new alliance.

  • Skalla

    74 years old is not the end of your life. With a good and healthy life discipline, you still have another 20 years in you. But I would advise you to open your eyes and see the world as it is. Russia is as much a formidable adversary on land as in the air, be it with conventional or nuclear weapons. This is the mistake all Americans do : thinking that the US has overwhelming superiority. In the past decades, the US has lost every single war it involved itself in (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) and won only two small skirmishes (Grenada and Panama). This should tell you how inadequate the US presently is : just watch what happens in the Spratleys : the US will never dare to challenge China. Forty years ago, there was a very poetic image going around to describe such powers : a “Paper Tiger”. This is what the US has become for crying wolf far too many times. No one really fear the US as a power, but more as a blundering fool who might discharge his weapon in a fit of drunkenness …

  • Maria

    You’re confused: #1) the term “Paper tiger” means someone who is not willing to fight (not someone who IS willing to fight with tragic consequences for all parties involved). The US is indeed willing to fight (that the US may fight for stupid reasons, as some say, is another matter). #2) The US lost in Iraq & A-stan because it was a war of “hearts & minds” of the people who lived there (same reason why the USSR lost in A-stan), these were NOT “conventional wars” for which the US military is designed to fight…The US military was actually designed to fight enemies such as the Russian Army, PLA, etc. (this is why your reference to Iraq & A-stan is meaningless, Oh, and Vietnam was a “people’s war” too)