February 2, 2019

President Donald Trump and the neocon sofa samurais who surround him seem determined to pick a fight with China or Russia, or both at the same time.

Later this month, the US and China are due to try to end their long-running trade war which has damaged the economies of both nations. At the heart of the trade dispute are soya beans and pork, the two principal American exports to China, as well as China’s efforts to grab US technology.

I find it amazing that, in 2019 high-tech America, the most important exports to China, aside from aircraft, are the humble soya bean and pigs. Of course, they come from farm country, the heartland of Trump’s political support.

Not a thought has been given to the hellish mistreatment of the pigs themselves, intelligent animals who are turned into inanimate objects known as ‘pork’, or the foul conditions their industrial breeding creates.

China will likely be the first to blink in this test of national wills. It imports less from the US than it exports and is thus vulnerable to trade pressure.
But history amply shows that it’s a bad idea to push China into a corner and make it lose face.

Suave diplomacy is the way to deal with the proud, prickly Chinese. They have refused to play by world trade rules, it is true, and need some serious arm-twisting. But not at a time when the Pentagon is ostentatiously planning a war against China in the western Pacific. The fuse has already been lit.

Meanwhile, the far right neocons, led by the unbalanced John Bolton, have convinced Trump to break the 1987 US-Soviet short and intermediate missile treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. This landmark agreement led to the removal of all US and Soviet land-based missiles from Europe. The pact was regarded as the first major step in reducing nuclear weapons.

The 1987 treaty was a godsend for Europe, which would have been ground zero in any nuclear exchange. It was also a huge relief for Moscow which rightly feared that the highly accurate US Pershing missiles based in Europe could deliver a devastating surprise strike, known as decapitation, on Soviet government leadership targets. Moscow’s retaliation would have razed Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam and other important targets.

Over recent months, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been responding to growing US nuclear threats by vaunting new developments in his nation’s missile technology. If accurate and actually deployed, these new hypersonic and nuclear-powered missiles with immense range will make obsolete all of US anti-missile defenses, a topic much loved by Trump.

Now, Trump & Co. are preparing to junk this crucial piece of Cold War architecture and resume the arms race with Russia. Pentagon sources say the real reason is to counter China’s missiles, which were not a factor in 1987, and have proliferated in recent years. Increasingly accurate, these Chinese tactical and strategic missiles are a major source of concern to the US Navy and US Asian bases.

But the US still has ample land, air and ocean-based nuclear forces to inflict immense damage on China. Violating the bedrock 1987 treaty with Moscow hardly seems worth adding some US nuclear-armed missiles in Guam, Japan or South Korea.

We must also suspect that the Trump White House has resurrected the old Cold War notion of bankrupting the Soviets/Russia by drawing them into a ruinous arms race. The US and its NATO satraps and Japan had a five times larger military capability than the old Soviet Union or today’s threadbare Russia. ‘We’ll spend them into the ground,’ went the old battle cry in Washington. This at least is preferable to a nuclear exchange.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev just denounced the Trump administration’s nuclear policies as a gigantic mistake and threat to mankind. NATO, showing its subservience to Washington, bleated its support for US plans to deploy new medium-ranged missiles in Europe. But, in truth, Europeans are aghast at the prospect of a nuclear war fought in their backyards.

When the history of our era is written, Trump’s reincarnation of Cold War nuclear missile rattling will surely rank as a monumental historic folly. No amount of soya bean or pig sales can make up for that.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2019

This post is in: China, Russia, USA


  1. Mike Smith says:

    My view is the INF treaty was doomed after Bush killed the ABM treaty by words which was the groundwork for later treaties and Obama who killed that same treaty by deeds. It was inevitable that Russia acted is some way to maintain the balance after the US started to change the rules… but it is noteworthy this did not start with Trump.

  2. Excellent analysis and very well written In essence, we have a kook (Bolton) advising madman Trump – something that should be of concern to everyone. I’m inclined to agree, however, with the Pentagon sources that say the US really has the intention of building up short and intermediate missiles to target China more than Russia, but I also think that part of the intent is also to feed the military-industrial complex and create lots of high-paid jobs in that sector. When the military-industrial complex snaps its fingers, you can be sure that a Republican administration will jump obediently.

  3. An interesting feature about that trade war was the balance of trade… the material being imported less the value being exported to a particular country. Prior to the tariffs the difference was heavily weighted with the Chinese exporting more to the US than importing from the US. With the tariffs, both imports and exports have diminished. The net difference, however, has increased. The Americans are worse off as a result of Trump’s efforts. The problem lies not the the Chinese exporters, but with American consumers.
    “At the heart of the trade dispute are soya beans and pork” China has all the electronics stuff it needs, or, can obtain it cheaper than the US can sell it. They even have electronic cars that rival the American Tesla. The Chinese are actively promoting these to help cut CO2 emissions; the Americans are not. The Americans still have climate change deniers in high places.
    It’s in China’s interests to grab US technology where it can. The US does the same, but, to the Americans this is an acceptable business practice. Same goes with the military. If any of the Russian or Chinese spying hasn’t already been done by the Americans, they are studying it to see how it can be implemented.
    “…it’s a bad idea to push China into a corner and make it lose face.” With the new long range ‘hyper’ missile technology, any battlefield may include the US homeland; I’m not sure the Americans have included for this event. America has been spared from the ravages of being a battleground, with the exception of their civil war. This will not be the case in future. It should also be noted that because of the US’s highly involved infrastructure they are incredibly vulnerable to domestic terrorism.
    “Suave diplomacy is the way to deal with the proud, prickly Chinese.” Donald and his dotard ‘goons’ are likely the best to deal with this [Sarky hat off].

    “They have refused to play by world trade rules, it is true, and need some serious arm-twisting.” Are you referring to the Chinese, or, the Americans? Both ‘tribes’ are guilty.
    The Americans want out of the nuclear pact because they want to develop low yield tactical nuclear weapons that can be used in conventional battle; this will, likely, not work. The Americans are using the Russians and Chinese as scapegoats to ‘opt out’.
    “…the unbalanced John Bolton” He’s a real scary guy; I don’t know what rock Trump found him under. The treaty agreed to by Reagan and Gorby was great and a stunning example of what could be achieved with a little diplomacy. Stormy says Trump comes up a little short.
    It seems that China and Russia can develop their own weapons systems without stealing technology from the Americans. China’s anti-aircraft carrier missiles can render these craft obsolete. The US needs its land based aircraft ‘all over the world. Putin’s bragging a few months back about Russia’s new strategy was a very foolish thing to do. Most of the Chinese engineers I met at university were exceptional; this seems to be a national trait.
    I suspect that Putin will not fall into the same hole that his predecessors did regarding financing new weapons’ systems. I’m not sure that ‘spending them into the ground will work’. I’m also surprised that countries like South Korea, Guam or Japan would allow nuclear weapons on their territory; it makes them a ‘first strike’ target.
    If the Europeans are concerned about the prospect of a nuclear war being fought in their backyards, they should maybe raise their voices. It’s like the natural calamities befalling the US, the UK, and Australia. They are some of the world’s largest CO2 emitters based on per capita… it’s time to ‘pay the piper’.
    I received an eMail a couple of days ago from the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’; the Doomsday Clock still sits at 11:58 PM… time to advance it a couple of seconds, perhaps.

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