Border Confrontation with Russia Risks Nuclear War
Michael Hudson says that the US-led confrontational
approach of NATO with Russia is driving European
countries to consider disbanding or leaving the
military alliance due to increased security risks
By Michael Hudson
DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network.
I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Washington.
President Obama met with NATO leaders in Warsaw last
weekend to what seemed like a restatement of vows to
protect Europe. Let's take a listen to what the
president had to say.
BARACK OBAMA: In this challenging moment, I want to
take this opportunity to state clearly what will
never change. And that is the unwavering commitment
of the United States to the security and defense of
Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our
commitment to our common defense. Throughout my time
in office, one of my top foreign policy priorities
has been to strengthen our alliances, especially
with NATO. And as I reflect on the past eight years,
both the progress and the challenges, I can say with
confidence that we've delivered on that promise. The
United States has increased our presence here in
Europe. NATO is as strong, as nimble, and as ready
DESVARIEUX: So ready that the president will be
sending 1,000 troops to Poland as one of four
battalions that are being sent to countries
bordering Russia. But what is really at the heart of
this matter? Are these just tactics by the U.S.
leading to an escalation of tensions between the
U.S. and Russia? And what role should NATO be
playing in maintaining a balanced Europe?
Now joining us to help us answer these questions is
our guest, Michael Hudson. Michael is a
Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the
University of Missouri, Kansas City. He's also the
author of many books, including his latest, Killing
the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy
the Global Economy. Thank you so much for joining
MICHAEL HUDSON: It's good to be here.
DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, we just heard President
Obama pledging his allegiance to protecting Europe.
Does Europe really need protecting, though?
HUDSON: Well, as soon as Obama made those words,
there was a fury of European statements saying that
Obama and NATO was making Europe less secure. The
French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that
we don't need NATO. NATO has no role to play in our
Russian relations. That leaders of the two major
German parties, both the Social Democrats and the
Christian Democrats, said that NATO was
warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world
has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at
present. William Perry, the former head of the
Pentagon in the mid-90s, said that NATO was
threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in
And one of Russia's leading military strategists
said here's what the problem is: NATO wants to move
bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of
Russia. That means that if they launch over us, we
have only a few seconds to retaliate. President
Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying
that Russia doesn't really have a land army. In
fact, today, no country in the world, in the
Northern Hemisphere, at least, has a land army that
can invade anywhere. Try to imagine America being
invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You
can't imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can
afford a land army anymore because the costs are so
high that the costs of mounting a land war will just
impoverish the economy.
As a matter of fact, what NATO is trying to do is to
goad Russia into building up an army so it can
undercut its economy by diverting more and more
resources away from the economy towards the
military. Russia's not falling for it. Putin said
that Russia has no intention of mounting a land
army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to
invade the Baltics or Poland. But Putin did say we
have one means of retaliation, and that's atomic
bombs. Atomic weapons are basically defensive.
They're saying, we don't need an army anymore. Nor
does any country need an army if they have an atomic
weapon, because if you attack us we'll wipe you out.
And we'll be wiped out, too, but you're never going
to be able to conquer us. And no country, really,
can conquer any other country. Russia can't conquer
So the effect, Putin and the Russian leaders have
said, look, if they suppose that an American plane
goes a little bit off, like, you know, the ships try
to provoke things, we don't know whether it's an
atomic attack at all. We can't take a risk. If
there's a little bit of a movement against us, we're
going to launch the hydrogen bombs, and there goes
Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Brussels.
That's why you're having all of these warnings. And
Europe is absolutely terrified that Obama is going
to destabilize. And even more terrified of Hillary
getting in, who's indicated she's going to appoint a
superhawk, the Cheney protege Flournoy, as Secretary
of Defense, and appoint Nuland, Victoria Nuland, as
Secretary of State.
And all throughout Europe--I've been in Germany
twice in the last two months, and they're really
worried that somehow America is telling Europe,
let's you and Russia fight. And basically it's a
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Michael, I want to get back to
your point about how we're seeing this narrative
develop about a potential nuclear war on the
horizon. And it seems like it's quite real. This is
not just conjecture, here. We have U.S. and Russia's
military forces warning that a nuclear war is nearer
than ever before.
So let's talk about interests, here. On either side,
let's be as specific as possible, and call a spade a
spade. In whose interest is it to keep up this
narrative? Because I'm sure there are people not
just in the United States that profit from this, but
also in Russia. Can you speak to that?
HUDSON: Well, one of the points made at the NATO
meetings was NATO urged countries not to rely on
Russian weaponry. There was an insistence by Obama
that the NATO countries spend 2 percent of their GDP
on NATO, on arms, mainly by buying arms from
American military manufacturers, Raytheon, Boeing
and the others.
Now, look at what's happening in Europe. It's not
even growing 2 percent because of the austerity
that's being imposed on it. So 2 percent is the
entire annual economic growth in Europe. This large
amount has to be spent on American arms. So it turns
out that this sabre-rattling to Russia merely means,
is a means of obliging the European countries to pay
the United States arms manufacturers for goods, and
to basically hold you up, Europe up for ransom,
saying if you don't be a part of this, we're not
going to defend you, and Europe is saying, well you
know, we really don't need defense. We'd rather have
an economic relationship with Russia. Especially the
Germans say, we don't want the sanctions. The
Italians say, we don't want the sanctions. We don't
want you to make money off Russia. Buy from us, not
from Russia. Buy your agricultural goods and your
other goods from us, from countries in the dollar
orbit, not from the Russian orbit.
And that, essentially, is what Obama meant by the
reset. It meant a new Cold War, but the essence of
the Cold War is to fight in the new way, which is a
financial war, with the military only being a kind
of catalyst for the financial warfare between the
United States on the one hand. And it's now--the
first effect of the reset--was to drive Russia into
an alliance with China. And now, NATO may be
overplaying this right-wing hand so much that it's
driving Germany and Italy and France out of NATO.
That is the effect this is--what it's doing is
DESVARIEUX: Michael, what about on the Russian side?
There are interests that are encouraging this reset?
HUDSON: They had hoped that the reset would mean a
winding down of military. Russia would like to use,
every country would like to use more of its
resources for the domestic economy, not for the
military overhead. And in a way, America is trying
to force Russia to spend more on overhead as part of
its economic warfare with Russia.
This is Brzezinski's plan in Afghanistan, you know,
way under the Carter administration. If you can
force Russia to pay more for its military to defend
Afghanistan, then its economy would buckle and
you'll have discontent there. And then the Americans
can come in and promote nationalist and other
localist breakups, and try to break up Russia just
as America is trying to push a breakup of China as a
long-term strategy. And this is going--there's no
way that this cannot backfire on the United States.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let's talk about what everyday
people could do to move away from accepting this
narrative, or move away from this potential reset
that President Obama is proposing? What policy
decisions could be made to de-escalate this tension?
HUDSON: Essentially to dissolve NATO, which France
has been pushing now for many years. There's no need
for NATO now that there's no threat of any military
invasion anymore. Remember after World War II, NATO
was put up when there was a thought that, well, the
first idea is European countries should never go to
war with each other again. There will never be war
between France, Germany, Italy. That's been solved.
There's no way in which European countries would go
The second thing was, well, what if Russia would
re-invade like it did when it fought against Hitler?
Well, there's no danger of Russia invading anymore.
In fact, in 1990, when the Soviet Union broke up,
the Ukraine passed a resolution that it wanted to
remain neutral and benefit from its sort of neutral
pivot between Russia and Europe. And the United
States put $5 billion into Ukraine, and spurred a
lot of nationalist revolution. And so it took the
United States 20 years to turn that around and to
somehow break up this neutrality.
So the U.S. strategy is to prevent neutrality.
Europe's economic interest is to achieve neutrality
with Russia, and have economic unity so that there's
little chance of any confrontation with Russia as
there is among the European countries themselves.
DESVARIEUX: All right. Michael Hudson, always a
pleasure having you on the program. Thank you so
much for being with us.
HUDSON: Good to be here.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real
Hudson is a Distinguished Research Professor of
Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas
City. He is the author of The Bubble and Beyond and
Finance Capitalism and its Discontents. His most
recent book is titled Killing the Host: How
Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the
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