From the March 2007 Idaho Observer:

Part 1: Putin and the geopolitics of the "New Cold War"

(Or—What happens when cowboys don’t shoot straight like they used to)

Every word and mark of punctuation in a prepared political speech is carefully chosen before being spoken publicly. When a head of state delivers a prepared speech, each word should be considered as carefully as is was chosen. Failing to apply due consideration to the measured words of a political speech, especially in times of war, is foolish—particularly when a capable military commander and head of state is commenting on the offensive positioning of U.S. nuclear weapons throughout Europe.

by F. William Engdahl

The photo above was taken when presidents Bush and Putin met in Bratislava, Slovakia, Feb. 23-25, 2005. President Bush has publicly stated several times since this meeting that he and "old Vladimir" are friends. Judging from his recent comments, Putin does not view surrounding his nation with offensive nuclear weapons as an act of friendship.

The frank words of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to the assembled participants of the annual Munich Wehrkunde security conference Feb. 10, 2007, have unleashed a storm of self-righteous protest from Western media and politicians. A visitor from another planet might have the impression that the Russian President had abruptly decided to launch a provocative confrontation policy with the West reminiscent of the 1943-1991 Cold War.

However, the details of the developments in NATO and the United States military policies since 1991 are anything but "déjà vu all over again," to paraphrase the legendary New York Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra.

This time round we are already deep in a new cold war and the future of life on this planet hangs in the balance. The debacle in Iraq, or the prospect of a U.S. tactical nuclear pre-emptive strike against Iran are horrible enough to contemplate. But, how do they compare to the U.S. global military buildup against its most formidable remaining global rival, Russia?

The US military policies since the end of the Soviet Union and emergence of the Republic of Russia in 1991 are in need of close examination in this context. Only then will the true meaning of Putin’s frank remarks last February 10 become apparent.

Because of the misleading accounts of many of Putin’s remarks in most western media, it’s worth reading in full in English (go to for the official English translation).

Putin spoke in general terms of Washington’s vision of a "unipolar" world, with "one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making," calling it a "world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And," Putin continued, "at the end of the day this is pernicious, not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within."

Then the Russian president got to the heart of the matter: "Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force—military force—in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

"We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?’

These direct words begin to touch on what Putin is concerned about regarding U.S. foreign and military policy since the end of the Cold War some 18 years back to present. But it is further in the text that he gets explicit about the specific military policies that are the source of his present concerns.

Here is where the speech is worth clarification. Putin warns of the destabilizing effect of "space weapons": " is impossible to sanction the appearance of new, destabilizing, high-tech weapons…a new area of confrontation, especially in outer space. Star wars is no longer a fantasy – it is a reality…In Russia’s opinion, the militarization of outer space could have unpredictable consequences for the international community, and provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear [arms race] era."

Putin then declares, "Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defence system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race?"

To what does Putin refer in that statement? Few are aware that while claiming it is doing so to protect itself against the risk of "rogue state" nuclear missile attack from the likes of North Korea or perhaps, one day, Iran, the U.S. recently announced it is building massive anti-missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The New Cold War

Q: Poland? Missile defense? What’s this all about?

A: Missile Defense and a U.S. Nuclear First Strike

On January 29, 2007, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick J. O‘Reilly, Deputy Director of the Pentagon‘s Missile Defense Agency, announced U.S. plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile defense elements in Europe by 2011, which the Pentagon claims is aimed at protecting American and NATO installations from enemy threats coming from the Middle East, not Russia. Following Putin’s Munich remarks, the U.S. State Department issued a formal comment noting that the Bush administration is "puzzled by the repeated caustic comments about the envisaged system from Moscow."

Oops…Better send that press release back to the Pentagon’s Office of Deception Propaganda for rewrite. The Iran missile threat to NATO installations in Poland somehow isn’t quite convincing. Why not ask long-time NATO member Turkey if the U.S. can place its missile shield there, far closer to Iran? Or maybe Kuwait? Or Israel?

U.S. policy since 1999 has called for building some form of active missile defense despite the end of the Cold War threat from Soviet ICBM or other missile launch. The National Missile Defense Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-38) says so: ‘It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for National Missile Defense."

Missile defense was one of Donald Rumsfeld’s obsessions as Defense Secretary.

Why now?

What is increasingly clear, at least in Moscow and Beijing, is that Washington has a far larger grand strategy behind its seemingly irrational and arbitrary unilateral military moves.

For the Pentagon and the U.S. policy establishment, regardless of political party, the Cold War with Russia never ended. It merely continued in disguised form. This has been the case with presidents Bush #41, Clinton and with Bush #43.

Missile defense sounded plausible if the United States were vulnerable to attack by a tiny band of dedicated Islamic terrorists able to commandeer a Boeing aircraft with boxcutters. The only problem is the missile defense is not aimed at rogue terrorists like bin Laden’s al Qaeda, or states like North Korea and Iran.

From them the threat of a devastating nuclear strike on the territory of the United States is non-existent. The U.S. Navy and Air Force bomber fleet today stands in full preparation to bomb—even nuke—Iran "back to the stone age" over suspicions that she is trying to develop independent nuclear weapon technology. States like Iran have no capability to render America defenseless, without risking nuclear annihilation many times over.

Star Wars. Missile defense came out of the 1980s when Ronald Reagan proposed developing a system of satellites in space, radar bases around the globe and listening stations and interceptor missiles to monitor and shoot down nuclear missiles before they hit their intended target.

It was dubbed "Star Wars" by its critics, but the Pentagon officially has spent more than $130 billion on such a system since 1983. George W. Bush increased that significantly beginning 2002, to $11 billion a year, double the level during the Clinton years. And another $53 billion for the following five years has been budgeted.

Washington’s obsession with nuclear primacy

What Washington did not say, but Putin has now alluded to in Munich, is that the U.S. missile defense is not at all defensive. It is offensive.

The possibility of providing a powerful state, one with the world’s most awesome military machinery, a shield to protect it from limited attack, is aimed directly at Russia, the only other nuclear power with anywhere near the capacity to launch a credible nuclear counterpunch.

Were the United States able to effectively shield itself from a potential Russian response to a U.S. nuclear first strike, the U.S. would be able to simply dictate its terms, not only to Russia, but the entire world. That would be what military people term "nuclear primacy."

That is the real meaning behind Putin’s unusual speech. He isn’t paranoid. He’s being starkly realistic.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, it’s become clear that the U.S. government has never for a moment stopped its pursuit of nuclear primacy. For Washington and the U.S. elites, the Cold War never ended. They just didn’t have the decency to tell us.

The quest for global control of oil and energy pipelines, the quest to establish its military bases across Eurasia, its attempt to modernize and upgrade its nuclear submarine fleet, its Strategic B-52 bomber command, all make sense only when seen through the perspective of the relentless pursuit of U.S. nuclear primacy.

The Bush administration unilaterally abrogated the U.S.-Russian ABM Treaty in December 2001. It is in a race to complete a global network of missile defense as the key to U.S. nuclear primacy. With even a primitive missile defense shield, the U.S. could attack Russian missile silos and submarine fleets with no fear of effective retaliation, as the few remaining Russian nuclear missiles would be unable to launch a response convincing enough to deter a U.S. first strike.

The ability of both sides—the Warsaw Pact and NATO—during the Cold War, to mutually annihilate one another, led to a nuclear stalemate dubbed by military strategists, MAD—mutual assured destruction. It was scary but in a bizarre sense, more stable that what we have today with a unilateral U.S. pursuit of nuclear primacy. The prospect of mutual nuclear annihilation with no decisive advantage for either side, led to a world in which nuclear war had been "unthinkable." Now, the U.S. pursues the possibility of nuclear war as "thinkable." That’s really MAD.

The first nation with a nuclear missile shield would have de facto "first strike" ability. Quite correctly, Lt. Colonel Robert Bowman, Director of the U.S. Air Force missile defense program, recently called missile defense, "the missing link to a first strike."

More alarming is the fact no one outside a handful of Pentagon planners or senior intelligence officials in Washington discusses the implications of Washington’s pursuit of missile defense in Poland, Czech Republic or its drive for Nuclear Primacy.

It calls to mind "Rebuilding America’s Defenses," the September, 2000, report of the hawkish Project for the New American Century, of which Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were members. There they declared, "The United States must develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world.’ [emphasis added].

Before becoming Bush’s Defense Secretary in January 2001, Rumsfeld headed a presidential commission advocating the development of missile defense for the United States.

So eager was the Bush-Cheney administration to advance its missile defense plans, that the president and defense secretary ordered waiving usual operational testing requirements essential to determining whether the highly complex system of systems was effective.

The Rumsfeld missile defense program is strongly opposed within the military command. On March 26, 2004 no less than 49 U.S. generals and admirals signed an open letter to the president, appealing for missile defense postponement.

As they noted, "U.S. technology, already deployed, can pinpoint the source of a ballistic missile launch. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that any state would dare to attack the U.S. with a missile armed with a weapon of mass destruction, or allow a terrorist to do so from its territory, thereby risking annihilation from a devastating U.S. retaliatory strike."

The 49 generals and admirals, including Admiral William J. Crowe, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, went on to argue to the president, "As you have said, Mr. President, our highest priority is to prevent terrorists from acquiring and employing weapons of mass destruction. We agree. We therefore recommend, as the militarily responsible course of action, that you postpone operational deployment of the expensive and untested GMD (Ground-based Missile Defense) system and transfer the associated funding to accelerated programs to secure the multitude of facilities containing nuclear weapons and materials, and to protect our ports and borders against terrorists who may attempt to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States."

What the seasoned military veterans did not say was that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and company had quite another agenda than preemptively addressing rogue terror threats. They were after "full spectrum dominance," the "New World Order, and the elimination, once and for all, of Russia as a potential rival for power.

The rush to deploy a missile defense shield is clearly not aimed at North Korea or terror attacks. It is aimed at Russia and the far smaller nuclear capacities of China. As the 49 generals and admirals noted in their letter to the president in 2004, the U.S. already has more than sufficient nuclear warheads to hit a thousand bunkers or caves of a potential rogue state.

Kier Lieber and Daryl Press, two U.S. military analysts, writing in the influential Foreign Affairs of the New York Council on Foreign Relations in March, 2006, noted, "If the United States’ nuclear modernization were really aimed at rogue states or terrorists, the country’s nuclear force would not need the additional thousand ground-burst warheads it will gain from the W-76 modernization program. The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a pre-emptive disarming strike against Russia or China."

Referring to the aggressive new Pentagon deployment plans for missile defense, Lieber and Press add, "the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one—as an adjunct to a U.S. first strike capability, not as a stand-alone shield. If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China), the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal—if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes…’

This is the real agenda in Washington’s Eurasian Great Game. Naturally, to state so openly would risk tipping Washington’s hand before the noose had been irreversibly tightened around Moscow’s metaphorical neck. So the State Department and Defense Secretary Gates try to make jokes about the recent Russian remarks, as though they were Putin’s paranoid delusions.

This entire U.S. program of missile defense and nuclear first strike modernization is hair-raising enough as an idea. Under the Bush administration, it has been made operational and airborne, hearkening back to the dangerous days of the Cold War with fleets of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers and Trident nuclear missile submarines on ready alert around the clock, a nuclear horror scenario.

Global Strike: Pentagon Conplan 8022

The march towards possible nuclear catastrophe by intent or by miscalculation, as a consequence of the bold new Washington policy, took on significant new gravity in June 2004, only weeks after the 49 generals and admirals took the highly unusual step of writing to their president.

That June, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved a Top Secret order for the armed forces of the United States to implement something called Conplan 8022, "which provides the president a prompt, global strike capability."

The term "Conplan" is Pentagon shorthand for "contingency plan." What "contingencies" are Pentagon planners preparing for? A pre-emptive conventional strike against tiny North Korea or even Iran? Or a full-force pre-emptive nuclear assault on the last formidable nuclear power not under the thumb of U.S. full spectrum dominance—Russia?

The two words, "global strike" are also notable. It’s Pentagon-speak to describe a specific pre-emptive attack which, for the first time since the earliest Cold War days, includes a nuclear option, counter to the traditional U.S. military notion of nuclear weapons being only used in defense to deter attack.

Conplan 8022, as has been noted by some, is unlike traditional Pentagon war plans which have been essentially defensive responses to invasion or attack.

In concert with the aggressive pre-emptive 2002 "Bush Doctrine," Bush’s new Conplan 8022 is offensive. It could be triggered by the mere "perception" of an imminent threat, and carried out by presidential order—without the consent of Congress.

Given the details about false or faked "perceptions" in the Pentagon and the Office of the vice-president about Iraq’s threat of weapons of mass destruction in 2003, the new Conplan 8022 suggests a U.S. president might order the missiles against any and every perceived threat or even potential, unproven threat.

In response to Rumsfeld’s June, 2004 order, General Richard Myers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed the order to make Conplan 8022 operational. Selected nuclear-capable bombers, ICBMs, SSBNs, and "information warfare" (sic) units have been deployed against unnamed high-value targets in "adversary" countries.

Was Iran an adversary country, even though it had never attacked the United States? Was North Korea, even though it had never in five decades launched a direct attack on South Korea, let alone any one else? Is China an "adversary" because it’s simply becoming economically too influential?

Is Russia now an adversary because she refuses to lay back and accept being made what Brzezinski terms a "vassal" state of the American Empire?

Because there has been zero open debate inside the United States about Conplan 8022, there has been virtually no discussion of any of these potentially nuclear-loaded questions.

What makes the June, 2004 Rumsfeld order even more unsettling to a world which truly had hoped nuclear mushroom clouds had become a threat of the past, is that Conplan 8022 contains a significant nuclear attack component.

It’s true that the overall number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. military stockpile has been declining since the end of the Cold War. But not, it seems, because the U.S. is moving the world back from the brink of nuclear war by miscalculation.

The new missile defense expansion to Poland and the Czech Republic is better understood from the point of the remarkable expansion of NATO since 1991. As Putin noted, "NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders… think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: Against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?"

U.S. bases encircle Russia

As Russian strategist and military expert, Yevgeny Primakov, a close adviser to Putin, recently noted, NATO was "founded during the Cold War era as a regional organization to ensure the security of U.S. allies in Europe." He added, "NATO today is acting on the basis of an entirely different philosophy and doctrine, moving outside the European continent and conducting military operations far beyond its bounds. NATO…is rapidly expanding in contravention to earlier accords. The admission of new members to NATO is leading to the expansion of bases that host the U.S. military, air defense systems, as well as ABM components."

Today, NATO member states are not limited to the Cold War core in Western Europe, commanded by an American. NATO also includes former Warsaw Pact or Soviet Union states Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, formerly of Yugoslavia. Candidates to join include the Republic of Georgia, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. Ukraine’s President, Victor Yushchenko, has tried aggressively to bring Ukraine into NATO. This is a clear message to Moscow, not surprisingly, one they don’t seem to welcome with open arms.

New NATO structures have also been formed while old ones were abolished: The NATO Response Force (NRF) was launched at the 2002 Prague Summit. In 2003, just after the fall of Baghdad, a major restructuring of the NATO military commands began. The Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic was abolished. A new command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was established in Norfolk, Virginia. ACT is responsible for driving "transformation" in NATO.

By 2007 Washington had signed an agreement with Japan to co-operate on missile defense development. The U.S. was deeply engaged in testing a missile defense system with Israel. The U.S.has now extended its European Missile Defense to Poland, where the Minister of Defense is a close friend and ally of Pentagon neo-conservative war-hawks and to the Czech Republic. NATO has agreed to put the question of the Ukraine and Republic of Georgia’s bids for NATO membership on a fast track. The Middle East, despite the debacle in Iraq, is being militarized with a permanent network of U.S. bases from Qatar to Iraq and beyond.

On February 15, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a draft, the Orwellian-named NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007, reaffirming U.S. backing for the further enlargement of NATO, including support for Ukraine to join along with Georgia.

From the Russian point of view, NATO’s eastward expansion since the end of the cold war has been in clear breach of an agreement between then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush, which allowed for a peaceful unification of Germany. NATO’s expansion policy is seen as a continuation of a Cold War attempt to surround and isolate Russia.

New bases to guard "democracy?"

An almost unnoticed consequence of Washington’s policy since the bombing of Serbia in 1999 has been establishment of an extraordinary network of new U.S. military bases—bases in parts of the world where it seems little justified as U.S. defensive precautions, given the minimal threat to legitimate U.S. interests, the huge taxpayer expenditures and existing U.S. military commitments worldwide, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In June, 1999, following the bombing of Yugoslavia, U.S. forces began construction of Camp Bondsteel at the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. It was the lynchpin in what was to be a new global network of U.S. bases.

Bondsteel put U.S. air power within easy striking distance of the oil-rich Middle East and Caspian Sea, as well as Russia. Camp Bondsteel was at the time the largest U.S. military base built since the Vietnam War, with nearly 7,000 troops. The base had been built by the largest U.S. military construction company, Halliburton’s KBR. Halliburton’s CEO at the time was Dick Cheney.

Before the start of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the Washington Post matter-of-factly noted, "With the Middle-East increasingly fragile, we will need bases and fly-over rights in the Balkans to protect Caspian Sea oil."

Camp Bondsteel was but the first of a vast chain of U.S. bases that have been built during this decade. The U.S. military went on to build military bases in Hungary, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia, in addition to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, then still legally part of Yugoslavia.

The grand chessboard

One of the most important and least mentioned of the new U.S. bases is in Bulgaria, a former Soviet satellite and now new NATO member. In a conflict (in Pentagon-speak today’s military is deployed to resolve "conflicts" and are no longer in the business of fighting "wars" which inconveniently require declarations from the U.S. Congress), the military would use the Bezmer base in Bulgaria to "surge" men and materiel toward the front lines. Where? In Russia?

The U.S. has been building its bases in Afghanistan. It built three major U.S. bases in the wake of its occupation of Afghanistan in winter of 2001, at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, the US’ main military logistics center; Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand, the largest US base in Afghanistan, was built some 100 kilometers from the border with Iran.

Afghanistan had historically been the heart of the British-Russia Great Game, the struggle for control of Central Asia during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. British strategy was to prevent Russia at all costs from controlling Afghanistan and thereby gaining a warm water port for its navy and threatening Britain’s imperial crown jewel, India.

Afghanistan is also seen by Pentagon planners as highly strategic. It is a platform from which US military might could directly threaten Russia and China as well as Iran and other oil-rich Middle East lands. Little had changed in that respect over more than a century of wars.

Afghanistan is in an extremely vital location, straddling South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Afghanistan also lies along a proposed oil pipeline route from the Caspian Sea oil fields to the Indian Ocean. There the U.S. oil company, Unocal, negotiated, together with Cheney’s Halliburton and with Enron, for exclusive pipeline rights to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to Enron’s huge natural gas power plant at Dabhol near Mumbai.

At that same time, the Pentagon came to an agreement with the government of Kyrgystan in Central Asia, to build a strategically important base there, Manas Air Base at Bishkek’s international airport. Manas is not only near to Afghanistan, it is also in easy striking distance to Caspian Sea oil and gas, as well as to the borders of both China and Russia.

As part of the price of accepting him as a U.S. ally in the War on Terror rather than a foe, Washington extracted an agreement from Pakistan’s military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, to allow the airport at Jacobabad, about 400km north of Karachi, to be used by the U.S. Air Force and NATO "to support their campaign in Afghanistan." Two other U.S. bases were built at Dalbandin and Pasni.

This all is merely a small part of the vast web of U.S.-controlled military bases Washington has been building globally since the so-called end of the Cold War.

It’s becoming clear to much of the rest of the world that Washington might even itself be instigating or provoking wars or conflicts with nations across the world, not merely to control oil, though strategic control of global oil flows had been at the heart of the American Century since the 1920s.

That’s the real significance of what Vladimir Putin said in Munich. He told the world what it did not want to hear: The American emperor’s new clothes did not exist; the emperor was clothed in naked pursuit of global military control.

F. William Engdahl, Global Research Associate Editor, is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, and the soon-to-be published Seeds of Destruction: The Dark Side of Gene Manipulation. This article was drawn from his new book, in preparation, on the history of the American Century. He may be reached through his website:

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