By Finian Cunningham
January 25, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “SCF” – British Prime Minister Theresa May told UK media that she would «press» US President Donald Trump to support the NATO military alliance when she visits Washington DC this week. May said she will remind Trump that NATO is the «bulwark of our defense». The meeting comes at an awkward time as news reports emerged also this week that a British nuclear missile test went badly wrong and targeted the US.
The British submarine-launched intercontinental missile reportedly occurred last June. The test took place off the coast of Florida and the target area was supposed to be thousands of kilometers away in the southern Atlantic Ocean, apparently somewhere near the British colonial territory of St Helena, off Africa.
Details still remain covered up by British authorities, but reports this week say that the missile probably went in the opposite direction and instead traversed the United States. Reportedly, the weapon was not carrying a nuclear warhead. Where it finally landed is not yet publicly disclosed.
No doubt, the American authorities were given advanced notification of the British test fire. But it seems ironic that Theresa May sets herself the mission of «pressing» Trump to continue committing to the NATO «bulwark of defense» – when the British member of the alliance nearly hit America with a faulty ICBM only a few months ago.
May will be the first foreign leader to meet in person with President Trump. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe met Trump earlier, but the latter was technically still only President-Elect then, not yet in office. May’s meeting was due in February but has been brought forward to this week. It’s not clear what prompted the earlier rescheduling – only one week after Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president. Over the weekend, May was tediously hailing the «special relationship» between the two countries, claiming that it would give her more gravitas to urge the American president to continue supporting NATO.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Trump reiterated comments in British and German media interviews in which he labelled NATO as «obsolete». The comments reportedly sparked alarm among European members of the US-led military alliance. Trump’s views appeared to tie in with his «American First» strategy of withdrawing from overseas military commitments.
May told the state-owned BBC over the weekend that she «won’t be afraid» to challenge Trump on redoubling American commitments to NATO and in particular urging the US president to give public assurances to Baltic states of his defense commitment in the «event of Russian aggression».
The British premier won’t have to do much «pressing» on Trump, as she rather self-importantly opined to the BBC. She will find herself pushing at an open door. Trump’s spokesman Ted Malloch also said this weekend that the new president has no intention of shelving NATO. His comments about the organization being «obsolete» were intended to indicate that Trump wants European members of the 28-nation alliance to carry a «fairer share of the financial burden». For decades, the US has accounted for some 70 per cent of NATO’s budget. This is what businessman Trump means by «obsolete». He wants European NATO partners to step up to the plate with increased military spending, which will inevitably end up pumping the US military-industrial complex.
Apart from NATO, the other item on the agenda of the Trump-May meeting this week is trade issues. Britain is keen to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with the US especially in the light of its «Brexit» decision to quit the European Union and its single market. Indeed one can surmise that Britain is not merely keen, but rather is positively desperate to forge new commerce with the US. This is reflected in May and her Cabinet cozying up to Trump ever since his surprise election on November 8. May was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Trump over the phone. And earlier this month, she sent her foreign secretary Boris Johnson to New York to discuss future bilateral trade prospects with the Trump transition team.
The high priority on Britain clinching a bilateral trade deal with the US is another reason why May’s comments about «pressing» Trump on NATO commitment are just haughty pretensions. It’s not hard to imagine that the British prime minister will be super ingratiating towards the new occupant of the White House, being extremely careful to keep him sweet. The notion of May giving Trump a lecture on NATO as «our bulwark of defense» is laughable given her desperation to cut a vitally important trade accord to buoy up post-Brexit Britain in the choppy waters of the global marketplace. Her pretensions of being a stern partner to the US are just British delusions of grandeur to cover up for the cringing fact that Downing Street is running to Washington with a begging bowl. Trump knows that his English dame is a shrinking violet, and while extending diplomatic grace, there is little doubt that the American will let May know in no uncertain terms just who the boss is.
Anyway, as already noted, Trump’s views on NATO are not as radically dismissive as some observers may have gleaned. In typical contradictory fashion, Trump has at other times praised the organization as «important». Also, his Defense Secretary General James «Mad Dog» Mattis reportedly gave an unequivocal commitment to NATO during his confirmation hearings to the Senate earlier this month. Indeed, Mattis said that Russia posed a dire threat to the US-led international order and he pleasingly echoed CIA talking points, accusing Russian leader Vladimir Putin of «trying to break up NATO».
While President Trump has repeatedly called for normalizing relations with Russia, he has nevertheless absented any comments about NATO’s current military escalation in Poland and the Baltic States. If Trump is serious about restoring relations with Russia he should abandon the policy of Russophobia under his predecessor Barack Obama, and begin de-escalating NATO. If anything demonstrates that NATO is «obsolete» it is surely the buildup of patently offensive forces on Russia’s border – by a military organization that was set up in 1949 to combat the Soviet Union, which expired more than 25 years ago.
NATO is the epitome of how the US and its allies refuse to acknowledge a multipolar world comprising nations on an equal basis. NATO is a de facto statement that a select-few of self-anointed nations presume the right to possess nuclear weapons, while other nations are refused this right.
A month after Britain’s failed ICBM test in the Atlantic, British parliamentarians voted to upgrade the country’s Trident nuclear program to the tune of $47 billion. British lawmakers were not informed about the launch failure from the submarine HMS Vengeance off Florida. The information had been kept secret until this week. Had parliamentarians known about the potentially catastrophic misfire, the vote might have gone against upgrading Trident. So much for British democracy! And so much for the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates nuclear-armed states like Britain to disarm its nuclear arsenal, not upgrade it with $47 billion.
This month, the UN ambassador from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) wrote a letter of protest over sanctions that have been slapped on his country over recent ICBM tests. Ambassador Ja Song Nam claimed that there is no international law outlawing any nation from carrying out such tests. It is, in his view, singularly unfair that the DPRK be sanctioned, particularly when it is arguable that such weapons development is in response to US-led aggression under the guise of annual war games around the Korean Peninsula.
The issue becomes even more bitterly ironic given that NATO member Britain is somehow entitled to launch ICBMs at will and without impunity even though the ballistic weapon could have slammed into a populated area in any number of countries – and this from a nuclear power that claims to be part of a «bulwark of defense».
NATO is indeed obsolete. It should be disbanded forthwith owing to it presenting a threat to world security from its provocative imbalance of military forces. NATO military spending is ten times that of Russia’s.
Also obsolete is the US-led international order underpinned by NATO which permits certain nations like Britain to possess and test fire nuclear-capable weapons while ostracizing other nations like the DPRK who dare to challenge this privileged, unjust order.
Western political leaders like Donald Trump and Theresa May are so imbued with arrogant self-entitlement that, unfortunately, there is no prospect of NATO being decommissioned as the truly obsolete war machine that it is. There is no need for May to «press» Trump on supporting NATO. For it is fundamental to the US-led international order and its dysfunctional capitalist economy. Trump won’t scrap it. He will just get others to pay more into it and in effect get them to subsidize the unsustainable American military-industrial complex.
Finian Cunningham, Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages