Mike Pompeo

Who’s US to tell India what weapons it must buy for its’ own defence?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I was seven when the United States sent its nuclear-powered Seventh Fleet to Bay of Bengal to scare India during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Nearly half a century on, it’s making a similar growl, though financial in kind, to freeze India from buying the S-400 missile system from Russia. India, like in 1971, couldn’t care less.

The State Department has warned India of economic sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ) if it went ahead with its buy which India’s military has eyed so longingly for so long. The US appears no wiser to the snub which New Delhi had delivered on secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the same matter six months ago.

The United States might think it’s indispensable enough to wag a finger at India but it’s no better than grand-standing by a fading superpower which thinks the world is still its oyster and its “friends” are no better than courtiers in attendance.

India doesn’t need to flip the history pages to know how the United States has stood down its friends over the centuries. From the day it was born in 1776 when it roped in and then dumped indigenous Delaware Indians in its war against the colonialist British, to the modern times when the likes of Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Manual Noriega (Panama), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Muammar Gadaffi etc come flashing to mind, used and then disposed of, the United States hasn’t been a long-abiding friend with anyone.

Sure, it has strategic Anglo-Saxon brotherhood with UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Mexico is always secure but the United States, by temperament, prefers client-states or vassals. Further, there is no Soviet Union for them to over-extend themselves in pursuit of Global Liberal Order. It is now disengaging itself from the world theatre and be it NATO, Turkey, Japan, Israel or Saudi Arabia all feel abandoned by their big brother from time to time. Remember the drone attack on Aramco when Saudis looked for askance from the US and got nothing in return?

Indo-Pacific and the Great Game

Thus India not only has the historical precedent to judge how convenient the United States is as an ally but it also has the chutzpah to know of its own relevance in Indo-Pacific and the abiding interest it holds for the United States. Since 2016, Council on Foreign Relations which reflects the US foreign policy, rates India as one of the most important piece in its’ global jigsaw.

It’s not to say India doesn’t need the United States for its multiple needs, not the least for its secure borders. Its’ overall trade with the United States was worth $84 billion in 2018. It also has a defence logistics sharing pact –the Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS)– with the United States.

But Russia and S-400 is another thing. India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia in 2018 to buy five systems of this missile whose capability has the NATO in thrall. India signed this deal last year even as the US sanctions against Russia were in place. The S-400 system can shoot four different missile types, forming a near impassable interlocking grid of missiles. These missiles can’t be electronically jammed and its’ range could take care of almost 40,000-feet-high threats in the air. It’s an invaluable buy.

Besides, India has for decades been buying its arsenal from Russia and the fresh buys thus don’t usually have the compatibility issues. Not only the US arms are more expensive, but it’s also not so willing to sell its advanced weapons to India as Russia is. Russia also is an important natural gas provider to India’s monstrous energy needs.

US and its Catch-22 dilemma

 When the first system of S-400 is delivered to India this year—all are slated to be provided by 2024—it could be that the United States might enforce a few economic sanctions. After all, it did end India’s special trade privileges last year in a bid to force New Delhi’s hands in importing more goods. But it would be no better than a slap on the wrist. A hard measure could actually come back to bite the United States for it could halt its own major arms supplies to India, including prime weapons such as F-35 which it has been hard-selling to India for some time now.

Instead of threatening India from an assumed position of an indispensable ally, it would help the United States to work out the tariff dispute—a miffed US president Donald Trump calls India “tariff king”–and keep its Indian friends in good humour. India is too important to be sacrificed in haste, certainly not with the empty rhetoric of a ban in case the S-400 missile is acquired by India. The United States has no option but to keep the pretence of being an “ally” going with India.  

(This first appeared as an OpEd in rt.com)

New US farce in Ankara today is the latest from the West

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Two Mikes from the United States, Mike Pence (vice-president) and Mike Pompeo (secretary of state), would be in Ankara on Thursday which is the latest farce on Turkey’s invasion on Kurds in Syria, now in its 10th day.

Pence and Pompeo have been ridiculed by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan even before they have set foot on Turkish soil but that’s a badge of honour for the two who would defend president Donald Trump till the end of the world even if it tars a fresh coat on their reputation-for-ridicule as the most repulsive figure and worst secretary of state in the history of United States.

Both are on mission of “Saving Kurds” from Turkey which was facilitated in the first place by their boss himself who since then have swung from one extreme to other that would put a spider monkey and its prehensile tail to shame. Trump first questioned Kurds’ loyalty; then vowed to destroy Turkey’s economy and has now indicted latter’s state-owned Halkbank even though the real “sanction” is an eternity away.

This farce outrage for public consumption has been echoed across the Atlantic by the traditional European allies of the United States. European Union and NATO have bristled with fury, a whole lot of European nations, be it heavyweights Britain, France, Germany or lesser lights like Spain, Italy and Netherlands have put embargo on arms export but none of them have ventured to slap debilitating sanctions on Turkey. After all, who would risk millions of refugees dumped on their doorstep, and further beef-up the right-wingers in their own backyard?

Closer home, Erdogan chortled in glee when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took days to condemn his incursion into Syrian territory even though it multiplied manifold the existential threat of the Jewish nation. Saudi Arabia took the potshot against Turkey behind the veil of Arab League, another sound of fury signifying nothing. Israel and Saudi Arabia can neither count on any tangible action from their “big brother” United States in their backyard—after all, what did US do on Aramco attack?—nor have the requisite muscle of their own now that Iran-Syria-Lebanon seem set to write new rules in the “great game” of the Middle East.

Syria has predictably moved forces in its troubled northeastern part but don’t be fooled it’s an operation against Turkey. Both are sidestepping each other’s toes in perfect harmony while a nervous world is being drummed the beats of World War III in their ears by the corrupt Western media. Nothing could be farther from truth.  Both would circle each other in ring but won’t throw a punch in anger: after all its’ referee Vladimir Putin who has every twitch of their muscles on his strings.

Did I miss United Nations? Or Australia? Or Egypt? Nor should you. The cheerleaders and their pom-pom in the piece so far is an essential guide. None of them give a damn to the fate of Kurds who not very long ago were being hailed as the saviours against the Islamic State (IS).

Meanwhile swoon on Erdogan at his bombastic best. He terms US “ugly”; warns Europeans to brace for refugees and tells everyone within his earshot that he stands “tall.” This is worth an Oscar for his domestic audience; a fillip to his loss in local elections in Istanbul in June; which came close on the heels of his drubbing in Ankara and other important cities like Adana, Antalya and Mersin in the March elections. The split in his own AKP (Justice and Development Party) is imminent. The less said about the economy the better: last summer’s balance of payments crisis hasn’t gone away; his son-in-law and finance minister Berat Albayrak is already an unmitigated disaster.

But Erdogan is safe till 2023 elections: his emergency rules allow him to use all the gross revenues. It allows him to talk of Operation Peace Spring against the Kurds; talk of war against terrorism even as he pummels and opens 78 investigations against those who dare to defy him on his move. Such is the farce which is inflicted on you and me; general citizens of the world. The duplicity of the West could shame the shameless but the naked Emperor. Meanwhile, rejoice at Russia which has allowed Syria and Iran to punch farther than their reach. It’s a seminal moment in Putin’s Russia: And it is not a farce.