Britain’s National Students Union in Crisis by Robbie Travers

  • Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) is in crisis. Three major university student associations — Newcastle, Lincoln and Hull — have disaffiliated themselves from the organization.

  • Bouattia’s role is meant to entail representing the best interests of students in the UK. How does endorsing and legitimizing terrorist attacks in Israel the best way to improve conditions for students in the UK? Is Bouattia trying to radicalise students in the UK?
  • When students need representation, the voice often heard is that of the NUS. Is it any wonder that when this voice has a history of endorsing terrorism, including sharing platforms with convicted terrorists, that students may want a different voice?

The United Kingdom’s National Union of Students (NUS) is in crisis. Three major university student associations — Newcastle, Lincoln and Hull — have disaffiliated themselves from the organization, and more are set to follow. NUS is struggling even to retain its previous strongholds, such as Exeter’s Student Association.

The Exeter University campaign to leave the NUS managed to increase the number of votes to defect from roughly 200 to 2546. This stampede occurred despite the massive protests by the “stay” campaign, including text messages to thousands of students and visits to the school by more than 10 senior NUS officials, including two Vice Presidents-elect and the President-elect.

Why are students from so many British universities fighting to leave the NUS? Well, take for example statements by its new president-elect, Malia Bouattia.

Bouattia actively promotes violence against Israel. She has argued that,

“To consider that Palestine will be free only by means of fundraising, non-violent protest and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is problematic… Boycott can be misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people.”

Presumably, then, Bouattia means that violent “resistance” against Israel is something she supports — such as the theocratic group, Hamas, whose policies include preaching genocide against the Jews, or ISIS, who crucify children and also believe in murdering Jews.

Malia Bouattia, the president-elect of the UK National Union of Students, actively promotes terrorist violence against Israelis. (Image source: NUS press office)

Supporting terrorism against the only free state in the Middle East, according to Freedom House, is, and should be, deeply concerning. It is to the students’ credit that they seek to distance themselves from Bouattia’s views.

Bouattia’s role is meant to entail representing the best interests of students in the UK. How does endorsing and legitimizing terrorist attacks in Israel the best way to improve conditions for students in the UK? Is Bouattia trying to radicalise students in the UK? The more Bouattia legitimizes violence, the more students might decide that violent “resistance” is acceptable.

Of course, statements such as Bouattia’s also make Jewish students across the UK feel even more at risk, especially in the wake of rising anti-Semitism throughout the UK.

Bouattia’s remarks at a Middle East Monitor (MEMO) event included arguing that:

“David Cameron and [Israeli PM] Netanyahu seem to be in competition over who can deliver the most over-the-top and outlandish sermons on the apparent existential threat their nation seems to be facing from these invisible ‘terrorists.”

Invisible? Does Bouattia mean that Israel only imagines it is under threat from nations such as Iran, which is on the fast track to acquiring nuclear weapons and which repeats, “Death to Israel”? Or from Hamas, which threatens genocide not only to Israelis but to all Jews? Or from Hezbollah, a puppet of Iran, which has 100,000 missiles pointed at northern border of Israel, a country the size of New Jersey? Or from organizations that openly wish to destroy Israel?

What about the terrorists who murdered Israel’s athletes at the Munich Olympics, in 1972, or who murdered an elderly wheelchair-ridden Jew by throwing him overboard from a ship in 1985? What about the terrorists who spent years blowing up cafes, buses, discotheques — and now the better part of a year in knifing Israeli Jews and car-ramming attacks? All, of course, are totally invisible.

Bouattia also seems to have missed the nine attacks on Israeli military personnel and civilians in January 2016, and the 18 attacks in February 2016. A quick Google search of “list of Palestinian terror attacks” reveals 1,210,000 entries — that is a lot of invisibility. It seems bizarre, therefore, that Bouattia would claim such violent terrorism does not exist.

It also seems bizarre that she implies that there is no threat to the UK from terrorism. A quick Google search of “Terrorism incidents in the United Kingdom” lists 1,130,000 entries — so evidently there is nothing to worry about. These include London’s 7/7/2005 transport system attacks, which included among its victims students such as Atique Sharifi. It also seems odd to state that there is no threat to the UK from terrorism just as London is “preparing for up to 10 simultaneous terror attacks” in the wake of the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015. Subsequent arrests in Paris and Brussels revealed that attacks on central London landmarks such as the London Eye were also planned.

Bouattia, it seems, has either concluded that either the organizations preaching anti-Jewish violence and trying to destroy Israel do not exist — along with those targeting London — or it would appear that she is she is simply not interested in facts.

Bouattia also argued that “Muslims in the UK find themselves in a situation where their democratic freedoms have been comprehensively stripped.” Really? Didn’t London just elect a Muslim mayor, and isn’t the Business Secretary a Muslim, and haven’t there been Muslims in the cabinet and the House of Lords?

Bouattia spoke at an event for the Middle East Monitor, MEMO, an organization which has claimed that Israelis are “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breathe oxygen.” Wouldn’t one think that appearing on the event platform of an organization that promotes negative national stereotypes is the exact opposite of what an “anti-racist” should be doing? Bouattia claims she has “always been a strong campaigner against racism and fascism in all its forms.”

MEMO’s senior editor, Ibrahim Hewitt, also a Holocaust-denier — he has referred to the “so-called Holocaust” — claims that homosexuals would suffer “severe punishments” in an Islamic state for their “great sin.” How should Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) students feel about their newly elected president sharing a platform with an organization whose editor calls for “severe punishments” against homosexuals? The NUS actually campaigns against homophobia and homophobic attitudes, with slogans such as “Zero tolerance to LGBT bullying.” How does appearing at events organized by those who would like to see homosexuals “suffer” help to fight homophobia?

On a final note, it is important to ask, what is the purpose of the NUS? According to the organization’s official website, it is to “make a real difference to the lives of students and its member students’ unions.” Its successes include electing new Black student officers who “will help to make sure that issues such as racism, anonymous marking and a ‘no platform policy against fascists and racists’ remain high in the agenda of their students’ unions.”

When students need representation, the voice often heard is that of the NUS, and that is often channelled through its president, Malia Bouattia. Is it any wonder that when this voice has a history of endorsing terrorism, including sharing platforms with convicted terrorists, that students may want a different voice?

Robbie Travers, a political commentator and consultant, is Executive Director of Agora, former media manager at the Human Security Centre, and a law student at the University of Edinburgh.

Britain’s Muddled Priorities? by Douglas Murray

  • On the one hand, the overwhelming cause of our current security problems is Islamist terror. It is the number one cause of concern to our police, intelligence services and everybody else with the nation’s security at heart. The public expects to be protected from such terror and expects that protection to come from that security establishment.

  • Yet all the time, a vocal lobby of Muslim and non-Muslim figures tries to pretend that the threat is not what it is, or that an attempt to depict any and all efforts to protect the country — even one phrase said by one actor in one simulated attack scenario — is some terrible crime of bigotry.
  • An actor saying “Allahu Akbar” in a simulated terror attack may be offensive to somebody’s religion. But if so, what is more offensive to their religion: one actor saying “Allahu Akbar” as part of a simulation, or countless Muslims around the world shouting the same phrase before real attacks in real time?

Sometimes you can see a whole society’s self-delusion in under a minute. Consider a single minute that occurred in Britain this week.

On Monday night, Greater Manchester Police staged a pre-prepared mock terrorist attack in a Manchester shopping centre in order to test emergency responses capabilities, readiness and response times. At one stage, an actor playing a suicide bomber burst through a doorway in a crowded part of the shopping centre and detonated a fake device.

It turned out that the actor pretending to be a suicide bomber had shouted the words “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is Greatest”) before the simulated attack. This may have helped make the simulation more realistic, but it had an immediate backlash. Nobody complained about the simulated attacks. What disturbed some people was the simulation of the signature Islamist sign-off.

A video still from the mock terrorist attack staged on May 9, 2016 by the police in Manchester, England.

Within hours, the simulated moral outrage machine, social media, began deploring the outrageousness of the exercise. Soon, community spokesmen were on the airwaves, deploring the use of the crucial phrase. Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said,

“[O]n reflection, we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam. We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.”

Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner, Tony Lloyd, tried to explain that,

“it is frustrating the operation has been marred by the ill-judged, unnecessary and unacceptable decision by organisers to have those playing the parts of terrorists to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ before setting off their fake bombs. It didn’t add anything to the event, but has the potential to undermine the great community relations we have in Greater Manchester.”

By now, most of the national papers and the 24-hour news programs were all over the story. That is where the revealing minute happened. On Sky News, interviewer Kay Burley was interviewing one Jahangir Mohammed, who was introduced as a “community worker.” Mr. Mohammed spent some time commenting:

“Like everything, there’s a securitised approach to these things and that’s necessary in training like this. But I think sometimes there’s also a need for them to have a bit of religious and cultural context when they’re doing training like this in a wider setting about the possible implications and the effects on wider society and communities within that society.”

Ms. Burley thanked Mr Mohammed for his illuminating contribution and went onto the next news item. In other main stories, she said,

“One man has died, three others injured after a knife attack at a train station near Munich. The attacker — a 27-year-old German — shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ according to witnesses, before stabbing people at the station in Grafing. He was overpowered at the scene and is now in custody.”

The combination of these two news stories took about one minute.

Whether or not the Grafing attacker turns out to be a non-Muslim with psychiatric issues, as the press is currently suggesting, or an Islamist with or without such issues, this single minute of broadcast footage says so much about the problem that societies such as Britain’s are now in.

On the one hand, the overwhelming cause of our current security problems is Islamist terror. It is the number one cause of concern to our police, intelligence services and everybody else with the nation’s security at heart. The public expects to be protected from such terror and expects that protection to come from that security establishment. Yet all the time, a vocal lobby of Muslim and non-Muslim figures tries to pretend that the threat is not what it is, or that an attempt to depict any and all efforts to protect the country — even one phrase said by one actor in one simulated attack scenario — is some terrible crime of bigotry.

Of course, there would have been no social media backlash and no swift apology from the Greater Manchester Police if the terrorist simulation had involved a “far-right” terrorist. But there is always a backlash if the scenario reflects the real security threat that all our societies are facing. This is yet another occasion in which the general public’s view of people’s priorities is legitimately raised. Why would any Muslim or anyone else genuinely opposed to terror object to the realistic simulation of such an event? One can see, of course, that it may be offensive to somebody’s religion. But if so, what is more offensive to their religion: one actor saying “Allahu Akbar” as part of one simulation, or countless Muslims around the world shouting the same phrase before real attacks in real time?

If I were a Muslim, I would spend every minute of my waking life trying to persuade my co-religionists not to kill people right after shouting about my Allah. I do not think I would bother for a second if a police force, trying to keep people safe, chose realistically to simulate the behaviour of my co-religionists. It is a matter of priorities, and across Britain and many other countries in the world today, our priorities are now seriously awry.

Douglas Murray is a current events analyst and commentator based in London.

Britain’s “Routine and Commonplace” Anti-Semitism by Richard Kemp and Jasper Reid

  • Each of these politicians accused of anti-Semitism was voted into power by an electorate who knew exactly what their views were. Had they not held these views, they would not have been elected.

  • “Anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace.” — Mehdi Hasan, British Muslim political journalist.
  • The consequences of Western politicians’ continued weakness and appeasement are far greater than encouraging anti-Semitism and undermining the State of Israel. It is the fatal and irreversible descent of their own countries.

Battle-hardened British soldiers were moved to tears by the horrors they witnessed at the Nazi charnel house of Bergen-Belsen when they liberated the concentration camp in April 1945. Yet seventy years after thousands of troops fought and died to destroy the regime that murdered six million Jews, the scourge of anti-Semitism is again on the march across Europe.

In just one week, a British student leader, a Labour Party constituency MP, a London council leader, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee and even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have all been accused of being mired in Jew-hatred.

It is the tip of the iceberg. Each of these people was voted into power by an electorate that knew exactly what their views were. Had they not held these views they would not have been elected.

All are on the political left, but the problem does not stop there. The cancer of Jew-hatred today spreads from right to left throughout European nations and in all supranational bodies including the European Union and the United Nations. It is led by politicians, human rights groups and the media, whose contorted worldview has contaminated ordinary people on a scale unimaginable possibly even to the arch-propagandist Dr. Josef Goebbels himself.

Seventy years after thousands of British troops fought and died to destroy the regime that murdered six million Jews, the scourge of anti-Semitism is again on the march. Left: A British soldier talks to an emaciated prisoner after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen in April 1945. Right: An anti-Israel protestor in London holds up a sign saying “Hitler you were right,” in July 2014.

In the 21st Century, outside the Middle East, it is hard to express hatred of Jews publicly. So Jew-haters everywhere have adopted a proxy: the Jewish state. Israel is the acceptable target of their hate. That is why Labour MP Naz Shah’s “solution,” with chilling echoes of Reinhard Heydrich, was to “transport” all the Jews out of Israel, with the obvious implication that this would be done forcibly and violently.

It is why National Union of Students President Malia Bouattia advocated violence against Israel and accused the international media of being “Zionist-led.” It is why Muhammed Butt, a London Labour council leader, shared a Facebook post denouncing Israel as “a terrorist state like ISIS.” It is why former London Mayor and Labour National Executive member Ken Livingstone sought to discredit Zionism by his assertion that Hitler supported it.

Where does all this hatred come from? Its long lineage begins with the Muslim prophet Muhammed and its modern form pre-dates Hitler. Back in the 1920s and 30s, murderous Arab gangs attacked Jewish communities in post-Ottoman, British Mandated Palestine and tried to drive them into the sea. They were stopped by Britain’s Captain Orde Wingate, who taught the Jews to defend themselves, fighting alongside British troops.

A few years later Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, made a deal with Hitler to bring the final solution to the Middle East, but the German advance was halted in its tracks at El Alamein by General Montgomery’s Eighth Army. As soon as the State of Israel was established, 68 years ago this month, by resolution of the United Nations, five Arab armies fell on her with the intent of annihilation. They failed, and ever since have been trying to destroy the Jewish state by military assault and terrorism in all its forms.

Recognizing their collective inability to eliminate Jews from their historic homeland by force, the Arabs have waged a pernicious and all-pervading propaganda war to demonize the Jewish State. Their lies have included the blatant falsehoods that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal under international law; that the Israeli government operates an oppressive apartheid state; that the IDF is strangling Gaza under an unprovoked and illegal siege; that successive Israeli administrations have been the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East; and that Israeli security forces deliberately murder innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Understanding that the might of the pen is magnified by the flash of the sword, the Palestinian leadership and their Iranian paymasters have frequently used violence to seize international attention. Provoking the Israelis into killing Palestinian people to ensure global condemnation was the true purpose behind the Gaza rocket wars and the recent wave of murderous knife attacks and car-rammings.

Why does the West pander to this religiously inspired hatred and bigotry? There are three fundamental reasons. First, Europe especially is consumed by imperial guilt. Those that are seen to have been historically oppressed and exploited can today do no wrong; Westerners must prostrate themselves at their feet.

Second, every European country depends on Arab oil for its continued existence and relishes the return of its petrodollars through arms sales and massive investment into their economies.

Third, Western governments understand the power of their ever-increasing Islamic populations. They fear the extremism of those who reject Western values and want to violently replace them with the ways of Islamic sharia law. And they calculate the mathematics of the Muslim vote at the ballot box.

They know that among these communities there is widespread and innate hatred of Jews and of Israel. Mehdi Hasan, a British Muslim political journalist, has confirmed: “anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace.” Our politicians believe that by appeasement they will satiate the blood lust of the jihadists and gain the support of Muslim voters.

This is why we see Western leaders condemning Israel for insufficient restraint while defending itself from lethal Hamas rockets, when they know full well Israel has done all it can to avoid civilian deaths. It is why not one single EU member state had the courage to vote against the false condemnation of Israel for war crimes in the UN Human Rights Council last year. It is why the British government unequivocally asserts that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal when it knows they are not. It is why Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend and supporter of the Jewish state, accused Israel of turning the Gaza Strip into a ‘prison camp’ when he knew it had not.

These false and malicious condemnations fuel hatred of Israel and of Jewish people everywhere. They are driven and intensified by a media that is dominated by strident, virulent and unyielding anti-Israel bias.

What of the future? Imperial guilt in Europe shows no sign of diminishing. In fact, the ideology behind it is gaining strength as the EU seeks to undermine national identity in its drive for ever-closer union and the creation of a superstate.

Despite developing energy technologies, there is no prospect of significantly reduced dependence on Middle Eastern oil in the foreseeable future. And with the vast influx of refugees from Muslim countries into Europe, the urge to appease their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes can only increase dramatically.

This means Israel and the Jews are going to come under even more intolerable pressure, leading to a greater exodus of Jews from many Western nations and the increasing international isolation of the Jewish state.

But there is an alternative. It is that Western political leaders find the courage to reject the virulent anti-Israel prejudice. To speak what they know to be the truth about the situation in the Middle East. To stop encouraging Palestinian leaders to believe their campaign against Israel is going to achieve its goal of destroying the Jewish state. And rather than supporting Palestinian hate with Western dollars, to impose sanctions against their racist and destructive behaviour.

The consequences of Western politicians’ continued weakness and appeasement are far greater than encouraging anti-Semitism and undermining the State of Israel. It is the fatal and irreversible descent of their own countries. By allowing this anti-Semitic hatred, they are betraying the millions of citizens who have fought and died to oppose the sort of malevolent ideologies that are now incubating it.

Colonel Richard Kemp was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. He served in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Balkans and Northern Ireland and was head of the international terrorism team for the UK Joint Intelligence Committee. Jasper Reid is a British analyst specializing in politics, defense and international security.

Britain and Australia more supportive of Israel than Obama and Kerry by Alan M. Dershowitz

When the British Prime minster and the Australians foreign minister both criticize the Obama administration for being unfair to Israel, you can be sure that something is very wrong with what President Obama and Secretary Kerry have been doing. This is what Theresa May said:


“We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. [W]e are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”2

This is what Julie Bishop, the foreign minister of Australia, said in explaining why Australia would not have voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution:

“In voting at the UN, the [Australian] Coalition government has consistently not supported one-­‐sided resolutions targeting Israel.”

And these are only the public criticisms. In private several other countries have expressed dismay at the problems caused by the last minute moves of the lame duck Obama administration.

Initially, the New York Times failed to report these important international developments,

presumably because they disagree with them. Only after other media featured the British and Australian criticism did they decide to cover it. They did immediately report that the Jewish community – both in the United States and Israel – is divided between right-­‐wing Jews who oppose the Obama administration’s moves and liberal Jews who support them.3 This is simply fake news: Israel is not divided over the Security Council’s resolution and the Kerry speech. All Israeli leaders and the vast majority of its citizens opposed these developments. This is true even of the Israeli leftists and centrists who are critical of Israel’s settlement policies. The same is true with regard to American Jews, despite the New York Times reporting to the contrary. Many liberal Jews and non-­‐

Jews, including Senators Schumer, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, and Wyden have been vocally critical. So have numerous liberal congressmen and pundits.4 I certainly count myself as a liberal Democrat, who opposes Israel’s settlement policies, but who is strongly critical of the Obama/Kerry moves.

Only J Street -­‐-­‐ which carries Obama’s water -­‐-­‐ has expressed support, along with a few handfuls of hard-­‐left reform rabbis and professional Israel bashers, who the Times reporter quoted as if they

were representative of the larger Jewish community.

In contrast to the relative uniformity of the Israel’s leaders and citizens in opposition to the Obama/Kerry initiatives, the Obama administration itself and the Democratic Party are divided.

Most who have expressed views have been critical, but we have not yet heard from several leading Democrats, especially Keith Ellison who is seeking the chairmanship of the DNC. This is an issue on which silence is not a virtue. It is important for all Democrats to stand up and be counted.

There is actually some good news growing out of the Kerry speech. Arab leaders have expressed support for his proposal, which would require the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (or as I prefer to put it “the nation state of the Jewish people.”) Despite this implicit support for such recognition from Arab leaders, the Palestinian Authority adamantly persists in refusing to recognize Israel’s Jewish character.

This is the phony excuse Hanan Ashwari, the official spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, gave for why it would be “against our principles” to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people:

If you want to give religion to states, then this is against our principles. I don’t recognize Islamic states. I don’t recognize Christian states. I don’t recognize Jewish states. A state is a state for all its citizens. It has to be Democratic, inclusive, tolerant, and has to be genuinely representative of all its people. You cannot give added value to any people because of their religion or ethnicity.”5

This statement may win the award for Ashwari as hypocrite of the year. The Palestinian Authority, which she officially represents, has the following in its Constitution:

“Islam is the official religion in Palestine…. The principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.”6

Moreover, the Palestinian Authority recognizes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, which are all countries that define Islam as their state religion and discriminate against non-­‐believers in their particular brand of Islam.

Is Ashwari really saying that the principles of the Palestinian Authority require it to renounce their own Constitution and to withdraw recognition from all their Muslim allies? What about from Great Britain, which has an official state religion? If so, I challenge her to say that explicitly!

Israel is the only state in the Middle East that grants religious equality to all its citizens as a matter of law.7 Israeli Arabs enjoy more rights than do Arabs (let alone Jews) of any Arab state. They serve in all branches of government, including the Knesset and the Supreme Court. They have their own religious authorities recognized by the state.

Contrast this to the Palestinian leadership that has vowed that “not a single” Israeli Jew will be able to reside in the future Palestinian state.8 Furthermore Israeli Jews are banned from Palestinian universities and other institutions.9

So let’s have three cheers for Great Britain and Australia, a cheer and a half for Arab leaders, and a big raspberry for the hypocrisy of Hanan Ashwari and her Palestinian Authority.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

1Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the

2 Michael Birnbaum, British Leader Theresa May Breaks with John Kerry’s Condemnation of Israel, Washington

3 Adam Nagourney& Sharon Otterman, American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-­‐Israel Relations, New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016. See also Peter Baker, In ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Israel, Separate Lives and Divergent Narratives, New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016

4 Rebecca Kheel, Obama Faces Widespread Backlash After Abstaining from UN Israel Vote, The Hill, Dec. 23, 2016.

See e.g. Eli Lake, Obama Fulfills His Prophecy on Israeli Settlements, Bloomberg View, Dec. 27, 2016.

5 CNN New Day with Don Lemon, Dec. 27, 2016.

62002 Basic Laws, Art. 4, available at http://www.palestinianbasiclaw.org/basic-­‐law/2002-­‐basic-­‐law

7 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948

8 Abbas: ‘Not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,’ Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2013, available at http://www.jpost.com/Middle-­‐East/Abbas-­‐wants-­‐not-­‐a-­‐single-­‐Israeli-­‐in-­‐future-­‐Palestinian-­‐state-­‐321470 9Amira Hass, When A Haaretz Journalist Was Asked To Leave A Palestinian University, Sept. 28, 2014

Bring Russia to the Table and Promote America’s Security The Art of the Deal

  • Putin’s Russia is determined to demilitarize NATO in Eastern Europe, end Western economic sanctions, allow the permanent amputation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity including the Crimea, secure Bashar Assad’s rule over all of Syria, and in general establish Moscow in world affairs on a plane of “equal status with Washington”.

  • This last goal is not going to be acceptable to any US president. It would give Russia a veto on U.S. activity abroad and a free hand in its self-proclaimed sphere of influence. Moreover, it would divide NATO, demoralize the EU, and almost certainly encourage further Russian aggression.
  • Energy policy is the key. A smart, aggressive, and self-interested energy policy makes America stronger and the world safer.
  • The US and Europe should agree to hold a major NATO summit in advance of a Trump-Putin sit-down. This move would demonstrate renewed NATO strength and resolve.
  • The proposed American conventional modernization must embrace the entire zone from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It must be coordinated by the U.S. with its allies. It is thus hoped that by doing so, the conventional modernization will help check Russia’s nuclear threats.
  • Realistically, the US-Russia rivalry will remain in place — but a “strong and nationalist United States,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, can be a diplomatic, military and economic “hinge” upon which U.S. efforts to “discourage” Putin from doing things unwise can succeed.

The rivalry between the United States and Russia is entering a new era with the election of Donald Trump. While Trump has made no secret of his desire for better relations between the two nations, he has also called for a more muscular and efficient US military.

The new President seeks to modernize the US nuclear deterrent, expand effective missile defenses, and significantly increase conventional military capability, while reforming and revitalizing NATO.

These plans will no doubt rub up against Mr. Putin’s objectives. Putin’s Russia is determined to demilitarize NATO in Eastern Europe, end Western economic sanctions, allow the permanent amputation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity including the Crimea, secure Bashar Assad’s rule over all of Syria, and in general establish Moscow in world affairs on a plane of “equal status with Washington“.

This last goal is not going to be acceptable to any US president. It would give Russia a veto on U.S. activity abroad and a free hand in its self-proclaimed sphere of influence. Moreover, it would divide NATO, demoralize the EU, and almost certainly encourage further Russian aggression.

Nevertheless, since both sides wish to negotiate, the two urgent tasks for the new administration are: 1. formulation of strategic objectives, and 2. adoption of a strategy that gets the United States and its allies where the US would like to go. That means bringing Russia to the table from a position of US strength, rather than the calculated weakness of the last eight years.

For his part, Putin has redoubled his efforts to intimidate the U.S. and its allies. The examples are many and worrying: the destruction and capture of Aleppo, the exclusion of the U.S. from the diplomacy over Syria, the attempted Russian coup in Montenegro, the re-intensification of fighting in Ukraine, the continuing information warfare against the U.S. and its allies in Europe, and of course the public trumpeting of supposed of nuclear and military superiority.

Strategic Choices and Realities

How can a President Trump strategy negate Russian efforts at intimidation?

The two critical strategies lie with US military and economic power. The military side is already well known. President Trump has not only aggressively embraced the nuclear modernization but his defense team has also publicly advocated rebuilding the conventional deterrent and creating a successful cyber-strategy. The modernization of conventional and nuclear capability and its deployment at the earliest possible time to Europe will have two immediate advantages: it will demonstrate the resolve to uphold US commitments to her NATO allies; and it will force Europe into commitment to raise is defense spending in order to field effective and capable military forces in Central and Eastern Europe — as the new defense secretary highlighted in his Senate testimony.

This enhanced ground, sea, air, cyber, and electronic set of capabilities will reassure Europe and continue to deter Moscow. It will begin to counter balance Putin’s continued threats to use nuclear weapons early in any number of regional scenarios as a means of intimidating the US and its allies to “stand down” before a crises has become a conflict.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense budget is under severe pressure as the drop in oil and gas prices in the past few years has dramatically cut into Russian government revenues. Economic sanctions, too, are hurting Russia’s overall economy and that as well is curtailing government revenue.

It is true that sanctions alone—which will probably continue to at least July unless rescinded—are not a strategy. But when applied together with a real buildup of NATO forces and U.S. comprehensive defense modernization, they constrain Russia’s options as it will have severe difficulty in matching a rebuilt US conventional capability.

In fact, the EU’s decision to continue the sanctions actually reflects the success of Trump’s pressure on Europe in forcing US allies to assume more responsibility for their own self-defense. And this example suggests how economics and defense policies can work together to create strategic outcomes that add to U.S. and allied leverage.

The proposed American conventional modernization must embrace the entire zone from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It must be coordinated by the U.S. with its allies. It is thus hoped that by doing so, the conventional modernization will help check Russia’s nuclear threats.

The US and Europe should agree to hold a major NATO summit in advance of a Trump-Putin sit-down. This move would demonstrate renewed NATO strength and resolve. Simultaneously, a joint U.S. and NATO economic strategy to squeeze Putin’s war machine—both through sanctions and through smart, nationalistic economic policy.

Energy Policy is the Key

Here is where history can be a useful guide. A key pillar of then-President Ronald Reagan’s successful strategy to end the Soviet empire was to dramatically lower energy prices through the decontrol of domestic oil prices in January 1981. Subsequently in 1985 Reagan successfully got both Great Britain and the Saudi Kingdom to cooperate to dramatically increase OPEC oil production. As a result, the price of crude fell from $30 to $6 a barrel and with it $20 billion in lost oil sales revenue annually flowed out of the Soviet exchequer.

Both 1981 and 1985 Reagan administration efforts had the effect of dramatically curtailing Soviet oil export earnings. This meant a serious loss of revenue to the Soviet government which hindered their ability to invest in the military technology modernization effort needed to meet the challenges of the 1970’s revolution in military technology. Soviet industry simply could not meet new defense needs without securing major technology transfers and investments from the West.

Fast forward to 2017. The new President, incoming Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, have long supported increasing US energy production and exports to both Europe and Asia. In a rare moment of energy unity during the previous administration, Congress passed legislation in December 2015 lifting the three-decade old ban on U.S. crude oil exports.

Now we also know Russia is seeking to get OPEC to curtail production to raise oil prices. We also know it is highly unlikely that Russia will actually reduce oil exports given its heavy reliance on oil and gas export earnings to supply the government revenue. Russian energy costs are denominated in rubles, but earnings are in dollars — so there are compelling motives for selling as much oil (and gas) as possible. Russia’s economic capacity to sustain its defense program and its overall state budget rests disproportionately upon its ability to sell oil and gas abroad.

Both sanctions and the low energy prices have affected this capability and preserving them is very much in U.S. interests. Millions of acres of United States government regulated land have just recently been put beyond oil and gas production by executive action by previous administration. This is in addition to the millions of acres owned by the US government already previously put out of bounds for any energy exploration or production.

Increasing US oil and gas production, coupled with Canada and Mexico’s potential could easily make North America the energy giant on the globe, break the back of OPEC, and give the United States significant leverage in world fossil fuel policy and prices. The Keystone pipeline, as well as other pipelines, refineries, and terminals can be greenlit to enhance the production, distribution, and export of American oil and gas.

At a Capitol Hill event two years ago, the Ambassadors from the three Baltic nations told us that getting American natural gas to Eastern Europe would be an extraordinary achievement, as it would—in their words—”turn Russia from an energy bully into an energy supplicant”.

Gas converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG) can be exported from the United States. Once our prices become truly competitive, the European gas terminals already in Lithuania and Poland that began initial operations recently can receive our exports as well.

Beyond that process the EU is constructing interconnectors across all of Central and Eastern Europe that will gradually unify the continent. Those interconnectors and terminals are already adding to Russian difficulties in selling Europe gas–the resource Moscow most uses for political gain because of its historical monopoly position.

The new administration can also accelerate the process which grants terminal construction licenses, as well as approval for oil and gas exports. Alternatives such as the Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan through Turkey to the Balkans, and the exploitation of recently discovered huge deposits of gas found in the Eastern Mediterranean off Israeli, Egyptian, and Cypriot shores for export to Europe can further bolster US energy policy.

Europe, however, is not the only market for American gas and oil. China currently is heavily dependent on high-sulfur coal for its electrical production. Its old coal power plants do not use environmental safeguards and thus air pollution is leading to a significant rise in the incidence of cancers and other serious health problems among China’s population. Combined with India, the two nations have 2.5 billion people while all of Asia taken together now has 4.5 billion people, or nearly 60% of the world’s population. The energy demand of such a population can be a major opportunity for the US energy production sector.

US gas resources as well as new technology that allows for the economically viable and useful capture of coal based carbon green-house gases could help spring an energy revolution in the western Pacific, further enhancing US energy policy as a geostrategic tool. There are East Asian firms in South Korea that are already exploring constructing terminals to store US sourced energy.

These initiatives deserve Federal government, support as they advance American and NATO economic and strategic interests vis a vis Russia and China. As President Ronald Reagan demonstrated, military strength alone while critical does not guarantee global peace and security: a smart, aggressive, and self-interested energy policy makes America stronger and the world safer.

The failed 2009 reset with Russia and Putin’s belligerence does not mean we are doomed to war. As Victor Davis Hanson observes, given our new-found fossil-fuel wealth and our continued technological superiority, we are in an unusually strong position if we would simply seize “realist avenues” where cooperation can benefit both countries.

Realistically, the US-Russia rivalry will remain in place — but a “strong and nationalist United States,” writes Hanson can be a diplomatic, military and economic “hinge” upon which United States efforts to “discourage” Putin from doing things unwise can succeed. That, however, requires an America willing to, in Hanson’s words, “carry huge sticks”.

Unfortunately, America has not done so for nearly the past decade. But changing such a strategy now to one of “peace through strength” is exactly the path we encourage the new administration to take. It worked to end the Cold War. And can be the foundation to secure once again a safer America and an allied Europe. That, indeed, would reflect a new “art of the deal”.

Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at American Foreign Policy Council. Peter Huessy is President of Geostrategic Analysis.

Page 448 of 480
1 446 447 448 449 450 480
Skip to toolbar