On February, 2nd the USA presented its new nuclear doctrine which mentions Russia’s and China’s nuclear force as a threat to the United States. Various scenarios of a possible war between the USA on one side, and Russia and China on the other have been voiced among the experts and the military establishment in the last months. Against this backdrop NATO and the USA continue to build up their forces in Eastern Europe. «Eurasia.Expert» asked retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely about the meaning of those signals.
- Mr. Vallely, Pentagon’s budget for 2018 has $200 million allocated for construction and expansion of air facilities in Estonia and Latvia, and also to Hungary, Norway, Romania and Slovakia for continuous utilization of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II aircraft. What new challenges does it bring up for Russia’s and Belarus’ defense?
- Under President Trump the US Department of Defense is rebuilding the Armed Forces across the board. Under Obama, the Armed Forces deteriorated in capability and readiness as well as morale after continual warfare with conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq (the Middle East). In the Obama presidency, the military was weakened, so when Trump became president, he started to strengthen the armed forces. I’m not aware of what is happening in Estonia and Latvia.
I think that we need to remove the idea that Russia is a threat to us and NATO. We should be working with Russia to counter more serious global threats such as Iran and radical Islam. I think that all we need to cooperate to secure peace in the world.
- What will change in terms of NATO’s presence in Europe?
- I think that NATO basically should be focusing more on radical Islam and refugee crisis which have created many militant groups and terrorism in EU countries where there are heavily armed militants that have been supported by ISIS and Al-Qaeda. NATO needs to work on that rather than focus so much on tension on Russia.
- Russia has armed China with S-400 Triumf missile systems. For what purpose does China need this weapon? How will it affect the politico-military situation if the region?
- Well, China just like Russia and USA is improving capabilities of its forces, including nuclear capabilities and their armed forces.
China is projecting their power throughout the world and is greatly expanding their influence in the South-East China Sea area. They want to be sure they can project power when necessary while modernizing their warfare capabilities.
- Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff elaborated on how the possible China-US and Russia-US conflicts would develop. What is Washington’s message behind this announcement?
- General Selva seems to be continuing the dialogue to blame Russia for so for many reasons and China as well. The biggest enemies are Iran, North Korea and the spread of radical Islamic groups. I believe we and NATO should focus more on the real threats and the continuing expansion of radical Islam in Africa and other places in the Middle East. They need to restate what real threats are rather than focus on Russian and Chinese threats.
- The USA is concerned with Russia’s and China’s growing presence in Latin America. “Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit” – Rex Tillerson said. What “foothold” does he mean?
- Chinese companies have greatly expanded in the Caribbean with great influence in the Panama Canal area.
US must secure the soft underbelly (Southern Border) of the US. The concerns are real with illegal border crossings, drug cartels and ISIS with Al-Qaeda many coming from and thru Mexico City.
China is continuing to establish its influence in Afghanistan, Middle East and other parts of the world.
- On February 2nd the USA announced a new nuclear doctrine. According to a document published by the Huffington Post, the major change is that Trump’s administration bolsters the role of nuclear weapons and makes it central in the country’s defence strategy. Does this mean a new nuclear race between Russia and the USA?
- There’s always been expansion of nuclear capabilities of Russia, China and United States, again we observed a huge deterioration over the last decades in nuclear forces of US. Trump noted that he will begin to strengthen the US nuclear arsenal, improve it, and increase in quality and in quantity, in order to guarantee security in the event of a possible attack from Iran and the North Korea
- Recently the US Treasury Department published the much anticipated Kremlin Report and announced that based on it, new sanctions will be imposed on Russian civil servants and businessmen. What is your opinion on that matter?
- Sanctions are unnecessary, they aren’t working against any country. Look at Iran and North Korea, they are continuing to build their nuclear capabilities and especially support the international terrorism. Sanctions are just the way to what we call ‘walk around’. I don’t think that they are effective.