Friday 3 August 2007

Drumming Up a New Cold War

George Monbiot can be an annoying tree-hugger sometimes especially when it comes to environmental stuff but this article is brilliant. Yet another illustration of how the British government is adept at saying one thing and then doing the complete opposite! All this talk of a second cold war is crazy BS, it's all about the oil, again! In 2003 The Sunday Times reported that Control of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's shares in the Russian oil giant Yukos have passed to renowned banker Jacob Rothschild, under a deal they concluded prior to Mr. Khodorkovsky's arrest.

By signing up to Bush’s missile defence programme, the British government shows it doesn’t give a damn about either peace or democracy

In one short statement to parliament last week, the defence secretary, Des Browne, broke the promises of two prime ministers, potentially misled the House, helped bury an international treaty and dragged Britain into a new cold war. Pretty good going for three stodgy paragraphs.

You probably missed it, but it’s not your fault. In the 48 hours before parliament broke up for the summer, the government made 76 policy announcements(1). It’s a long-standing British tradition: as the MPs and lobby correspondents are packing their bags for their long summer break (they don’t return until October), the government rattles out a series of important decisions which cannot be debated. Gordon Brown’s promise to respect parliamentary democracy didn’t last very long.

Thus, without consultation or discussion, the defence secretary announced that Menwith Hill, the listening station in Yorkshire, will be used by the United States for its missile defence system(2). Having been dragged by the Bush administration into two incipient military defeats, the British government has now embraced another of its global delusions.

Des Browne’s note asserted that the purpose of the missile defence system is “to address the emerging threat from rogue states”. This is a claim that only an idiot or a member of the British government could believe. If, as Browne and Bush maintain, the system is meant to shoot down intercontinental missiles fired by Iran and North Korea (missiles, incidentally, that they do not and might never possess), why are its major components being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic? To bait the Russian bear for fun? In June, Vladimir Putin called Bush’s bluff by offering sites for the missile defence programme in Azerbaijan and southern Russia, which are much closer to Iran(3). Bush turned him down and re-stated his decision to build the facilities in eastern Europe, making it clear that their real purpose is to shoot down Russian missiles.

Nor is it strictly true to call this a defence system. Russia has around 5700 active nuclear warheads(4). The silos in Poland will contain just 10 interceptor missiles. The most likely strategic purpose of the missile defence programme is to mop up any Russian or Chinese missiles which had not been destroyed during a pre-emptive US attack. Far from making the world a safer place, its purpose is to make the annihilation of another country a safer proposition.

This strategic purpose takes second place to a more immediate interest. Because it doesn’t yet work, missile defence is the world’s biggest pork barrel. The potential for spending is unlimited. First a number of massive – and possibly insuperable – technical problems must be overcome. Then it must constantly evolve to respond to the counter-measures Russia and China will deploy: multiple warheads, dummy missiles, radar shields, chaff, balloons and God knows what. For the US arms industry, technical failure means permanent commercial success.

But this is not the only respect in which Browne appears to have misled the House. He claimed to have assurances from the US that “the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they [the Americans] propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic”. Browne must be aware that this is a United States missile defence programme. It incorporates no plans for defending other nations. The British government has handed over its facilities, truncated parliamentary democracy and put its people at risk solely for the benefit of a foreign power.

The diplomatic cost of this idiocy is incalculable. It has already required the abandonment by the US of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which is the bilateral agreement struck between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. It survived both the vicissitudes of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but not George W Bush. Any hope that it might be revived has now been buried by the facts on the ground in Poland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. Two weeks ago Vladimir Putin suspended another long-standing agreement: the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which limited the troops and military hardware Russia could assemble on its borders. In response to the US missile defence programme, Russia has also been testing a new version of its short-range Iskander nuclear missile, and it has been developing a new intercontinental missile with multiple warheads, called the RS-24. Their purpose, according to Sergei Ivanov, the deputy prime minister, is to “overcom[e] any existing or future missile defence systems”(5). The Iskander missiles will be deployed on the European border and aimed at Poland and the Czech Republic. Intermediate-range missiles will be pointed at Menwith Hill.

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