US nuclear buildup shows new arms race has already begun – German FM

World safety requires more disarmament initiatives, not more nukes, says German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, accusing the new US Nuclear Posture Review of endangering Europe.

“The decision by the US government in favor of new tactical nuclear weapons shows that the spiral of a new nuclear arms race is already under way,” Gabriel said in a statement, noting that “like the Cold War times, we in Europe are in particular danger.”

The newly-released US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) refers to Russia’s nuclear modernization as one of the reasons to renovate and upgrade the US nuclear arsenals making them more mobile by developing new, low-yield nuclear weapons.

Gabriel also put part of the blame for the deterioration of international security on Moscow, mentioning its 2014 reunification with Crimea and a “dramatic loss of confidence” in Russia as a result. The instability in the countries along Europe’s southern borders is another challenge to the global order, which “is increasingly being called into question,” Gabriel said.

 
© Greg Baker

But building more nukes is not the answer, he added. Instead, they send the “wrong signal” and trigger a new upward spiral in the arms race.

“Instead of new weapon systems, we need new disarmament initiatives,” Gabriel said, noting that all existing arms control agreements should be “upheld unconditionally” in a concerted effort to create a world free of nuclear weapons.

While not having nuclear weapons of its own, Germany stores about 20 American B61-4 nuclear bombs which it keeps at the Luftwaffe’s Büchel Air Base in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany. The base hosts German Tornado aircraft that can carry the US bombs under a nuclear sharing deal. Starting from 2021, the aging bombs will be gradually replaced by a new variant of the B61, the B-12, which is expected to go into full-scale production in 2020. The new bombs are considered to be more accurate and are set to be stored at the same base which has been housing US nuclear weapons since 2007, despite vocal protests from the German opposition.

 
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee © Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber/U.S. Navy/

Germany’s criticism comes after the US nuclear doctrine was denounced by Russia, China and Iran, all named in the document as potential nuclear threats to the US.

On Sunday the Chinese Foreign Ministry branded the report that accuses it of a major nuclear-build up “presumptuous speculation” calling on Washington to drop its “Cold-War mentality.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet that it violates international non-proliferation treaties and brings the world “closer to annihilation.” 

Decrying the US nuclear ambitions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new nuclear weapon.”

Commenting on the document, Moscow said that the accusations against Russia in the review “have nothing to do with reality,” dismissing Washington’s “aggressive Russia” notion as a straw man, and a pretext for pumping more money into its military industry.

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'Syria chemical weapons probe poisoned by new Russia-US Cold War'

The way the OPCW-UN's investigated the chemical incident in Syria is clearly not what the world expects when it sets up an agency to investigate events like this, and wants to be able to rely on it, says Nicolas J. S. Davies, author of Blood On Our Hands.

Russia on Thursday vetoed a US draft resolution at the UN Security Council to extend the work of a joint inquiry into the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in Syria earlier this year.

RT:  Why do you think the US and Russia failed to agree on this issue?

Nicolas Davies: It’s very hard to understand what has gone wrong with the OPCW investigation here. I mean the inspectors didn’t go within a 100 kilometer of the site, presumably because it’s too dangerous for them because that area is controlled by rebels linked to Al-Qaeda. Yet, they trusted the same rebels to gather samples and have custody of all the physical evidence they then examined, which is a complete violation of the OPCW’s rules for handling materials like that and for conducting an investigation.

@RT_com Russia blocks US-drafted resolution to renew inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in https://on.rt.com/8sfv pic.twitter.com/gYyWfmlQoz

@RT_com Russian resolution on international inquiry into chemical attacks in has failed at UN Security Council https://on.rt.com/8sfv pic.twitter.com/SgBOthDb0t

Then in the report, they issued they seemingly ignored all the contrary evidence that suggested there might have been some other cause for these deaths of 82 people – possibly a bomb hitting another building nearby that was that was storing pesticides – that is one of the theories. But clearly that is not what the world expects of the OPCW or of the UNSC. When the world signs an international treaty and establishes an agency to investigate an incident like this, we expect to be able to rely on it, to conduct its investigations with integrity and to hear from experts from all sides and all points of view. This clearly didn’t happen. There are American experts challenging this … John Gilbert, who used to work for the Defense Department, I believe. So we haven’t had the kind of thorough investigation of this incident that all those ambassadors sitting on the UNSC should be demanding and should expect.

RT:  Do you think we’ll ever get to the bottom of what actually happened in Syria following this latest disagreement at the UNSC?

ND: I don’t know. This just seems to be poisoned by what people are calling a new Cold War between the US and Russia. Frankly, the hostility seems to becoming much more from the American side then the Russian side. But it really threatens the whole world. We’ve got the two countries with more of 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world that seem to be on a collision course. At the same time, we have a crisis on the Korean peninsula, where essentially the North Koreans have come to believe that the only way they can keep their own people safe is to develop weapons that threaten the lives of millions of Americans.

We have to acknowledge that this is just a breakdown in the rule of international law, in the world, and this has really developed for the most part since 9/11, and since the US invasions of Afghanistan, and Iraq and serial US acts of aggression against country after country, for which there has been no legal or political accountability whatsoever…

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Russia-US relations are at their worst since Cold War – Moscow

Relations between Russia and the United States are at their worst since the Cold War, a Russian Foreign Ministry official has said, placing the blame on the Obama administration.

“The current state of relations between Russia and the United States, as we all know, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired. It is no exaggeration to say that our relations today are, in fact, at their worst for the whole period after the Cold War,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Tuesday in the State Duma.

The foundation of cooperation that had been gradually created over the course of many years was almost completely destroyed in a short period of time by the previous US administration,” the minister noted, claiming that former US President Barack Obama and his entourage “began to turn towards a strain, and then a confrontation with us long before the Ukrainian crisis.”

“A variety of pressure tools have been used against Russia… in December 2012, Washington adopted the odious Magnitsky act, launched a permanent hunt for our citizens across the world, as in the case of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, tried to discredit the Olympics in Sochi,” Ryabkov said, noting that after the coup in Kiev in 2014 “the rate of all-out landslide degradation of our relations accelerated sharply.” 

Ryabkov said that the Obama administration acted without common sense both in the run-up to the US election and afterwards, further fueling anti-Russian sentiment.

Just beyond understanding and common sense was what happened before and after the presidential election in the United States… In the wake of slanderous accusations that Russia interfered in the election process, the Obama administration caused Russophobic hysteria,” the minister said.

READ MORE: US eases some restrictions on dealing with Russian Intel, but says 'no shift of policy'

He added that opponents of US President Donald Trump continue to fuel Russophobia in an attempt to discredit the new head of state, who has on a number of occasions expressed a friendlier attitude towards Russia. 

The new president of the United States was immediately faced with a well-established anti-Russian attitude among the Washington elite, shared, in fact, by all the functioning cogs of the American political class. Trump’s opponents continue to fuel Russophobia as one of the central elements to their massive campaign aimed at discrediting the new US administration,” Ryabkov stated.

This strategy, he said, may lead to a further worsening of relations, but Moscow will wait for Trump to settle in before making any definitive conclusions.

It is obvious that to some extent the US-Russia relationship may fall victim to these malicious efforts. We understand this and currently work to minimize the possible damage in this regard… We do not dramatize the situation. We understand that Trump and his appointees need time to fine-tune the foreign policy and specify their priorities,” Ryabkov said.

Among Washington’s tools for putting pressure on Russia are sanctions. In 2014, when a coup in Kiev resulted in the Ukrainian region of Crimea voting to become part of Russia, and conflict emerged between Kiev and eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, the US began imposing sanctions on Russia, with 172 Russian citizens and 350 different entities blacklisted to date, including flagship Russian banks.

Trump has said on several occasions that lifting the sanctions is possible, yet according to Ryabkov, the issue has not yet been discussed with the new administration.

“I once again… declare that in contacts with the Americans, we have not discussed and will not discuss the criteria for lifting sanctions. If we talk about sanctions, because of which, trade with the United States sank by almost a third from $29 billion in 2014 to less than $20 billion last year, we never asked for them to be cancelled and are not going to do it.”

Ryabkov stated that despite the current state of affairs, Moscow hopes to establish constructive cooperation with Washington.

I would like to believe that the change in Washington will create a door of opportunity to improve the situation in the dialogue between our countries… We are open to constructive cooperation with the US,” the minister said, stressing that this dialogue should be built on the basis of equality and “without attempts to blackmail.”

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Unity, but not unanimity? NATO split on countering Russia amid Warsaw summit

NATO leaders are meeting in Warsaw to show the alliance will stand firm against new threats, including a “resurgent Russia.” But low-key discord inside its ranks suggest some members’ willingness to confront Moscow is far from rock-solid.

The 2016 NATO summit opened in the Polish capital on Friday, said to be of paramount importance to both the Atlantic and Europe facing uneasy post-Brexit negotiations and what the bloc calls a “resurgent” Russia.

“This may be the most important moment for our transatlantic alliance since the end of the Cold War,” US President Barack Obama claimed in a pre-summit article he penned for the Financial Times. “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.” 

“NATO will once again send a very clear message that we are here,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the US President, mentioning deployment of troops, military infrastructure and hardware closer to Russia’s borders. 

Despite the hawkish statements, Stoltenberg said the alliance wants “a meaningful and constructive dialogue with Russia” to reduce risks, increase predictability and enhance transparency “in times like these.”

NATO’s massive build-up in the three Baltic countries and Poland is officially labeled “assurance measures,” but not everyone in the alliance is keen to take part in what German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently called “saber-rattling and warmongering.”

Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance's eastern border will bring security is mistaken,” Steinmeier said in defiance of multiple war games in the region. A recent YouGov poll found that 64 percent of Germans agreed with his statement, with only 16 percent rejecting it. 

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, an influential yet moderate politician, said NATO must revise its policy.

“We must ask if the world would be a better place when both sides conduct military exercises on the borders and arm themselves,” he told Passauer Neue Presse on Thursday, adding that it is time for Europe to start a new “disarmament initiative.”

All Russian warplanes will fly over Baltic with transponders on, if NATO does the same

Italy, another European military power, recently said it is wary of NATO’s hardline policy towards Russia. The alliance should "build bridges" in Eastern Europe and cooperate with Moscow to tackle global terrorism, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told Corriere della Sera on Wednesday. 

"We agree with what Steinmeier has said," she added.

According to a Pew Research Center’s June study, only 34 percent of Europeans believe Moscow endangers the continent, tapping instead Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and economic instability as primary challenges to be tackled. 

 
Moscow, which has always opposed NATO’s build-up in its neighborhood, said it is “closely watching” the Warsaw summit and keeping the door for dialogue open.

“We hope common sense will prevail,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.

“It is absurd to speak of a threat coming from Russia when dozens of people are being killed in the heart of Europe, while hundreds die in the Middle East every day,” he stressed. Peskov added that NATO’s “anti-Russian hysteria” and multiple troop deployments do not help find common ground for cooperation.

Currently, the bloc plans to deploy four multinational battalions in the Baltic States and Poland, supplemented by around 1,200 combat vehicles, including 30 aircraft. The build-up also involves drastic increase in scale and pace of large-scale exercise taking place all across Eastern Europe on land and at sea.

“NATO has …military expenditures 12 times bigger than [that of] Russia,” Jan Oberg, peace studies professor, told RT on Friday. “Today we have intellectual dwarfs running NATO and many of the European states who have no idea about conflict resolution and reconciliation.”

The Russian military said it was forced to respond to the emerging security challenge with adequate defensive measures, including creation of new army divisions and strengthening of Navy’s Baltic and Black Sea Fleets.

“We are always accused of some kind of military activity. Where? On our territory. But the things happening on our border – that’s OK,” President Vladimir Putin said in late June.

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