Ukraine flashpoint and Korea nuclear ambitions a focus for Obama
Earlier this week, NATO announced that it would increase troop numbers, and set up six new command posts on its eastern borders, in a reaction to what it perceived to be Russian aggression in the Ukraine. A 5,000 troop ‘rapid reaction force’ will assist the Ukrainians in the face of intense fighting in the region.
Although the NATO action is not specifically US-led, given the historical associations between the Eastern European powerhouse and the United States, it is obvious that the world’s largest economy has a serious interest in the outcome.
At the same time, the United States is currently pushing for increased sanctions against North Korea, as reports continued to indicate that life in the brutal dictatorship is pretty grim for the overwhelming majority of people.
With these two flashpoints creating blanket news headlines in the last couple of days, the Obama administration now has to decide upon its strategy. Should it consider Russia to be the greatest threat to the United States, is North Korea a bigger menace to stability, or should the government’s attention be more focused on internal issues? Here are some of the arguments for each three of these positions.
As mentioned previously, the historical relationship between Russia and the United States has not exactly been serene. After decades of the Cold War, the Soviet Union ultimately broke up after it overextended itself militarily in Afghanistan. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the death of what was frequently referred to as the Iron Curtain, Russia has steadily built itself back up into the modern and successful economy and state which exists today.
Few would assert that the contemporary Russia is prone to the same level of Stazi-esque tactics which were synonymous with the old Soviet Union. But there have been criticisms of the way that the government operates, particularly from high profile figures such as former world chess champion and political activist Garry Kasparov.
The recent issues related to the Ukraine have highlighted the fact that the current administration, which is intrinsically linked to current president Vladimir Putin, can be extremely ruthless and aggressive. Unquestionably, the current situation in the Ukraine is regrettable in the extreme, and it would seem that at the very least a diplomatic intervention is inevitable.
Russia is obviously a very significant and powerful nation, one of the biggest economies on the planet, benefiting from vast oil and gas reserves. In many ways, the United States is a natural rival and even enemy of Russia given that the US has headed the economic world order for the best part of a century, and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations within which Russia plays an active part are attempting to challenge this order and create new economic institutions, or at the very demanding a more significant stake in the existing ones.
Certainly Russia is extremely powerful militarily, and based on commonly quoted statistics has the world’s largest quotient of nuclear weapons. Any action taken with regard to Russia must be extremely delicate, as ultimately a powerful nuclear entity poses more than merely a threat to the United States.
North Korea is quite rightly one of the most reviled states on the planet. Some of the tragicomic stories which emanate from the East Asian Communist dictatorship may raise a smile due to their sheer ridiculousness, but life under the Supreme Leader of the country, Kim Jong-un, is far from funny.
While there have been many justified criticisms of the US government in recent years, the sort of widespread oppression which Kim imposes over the totality of the population in North Korea is pretty chilling. Although there has also being justified criticism of the United States government’s so-called axis of evil, and the conduct with the US has engaged in towards the countries on the list, it is incredibly difficult to contest the notion that North Korea legitimately fits this description.
Considering that North Korea is allegedly seeking to construct a nuclear weapon, and given the apparently maniacal nature of the government, one can understand why this should be a serious concern for the United States. The US has already diplomatically supported South Korea in an attempt to neutralize any menace which North Korea may pose.
One must say in mitigation that much though the level of State oppression in the country is loathsome, and much though those in charge of the country appear to be borderline insane, it would surely be an act of even greater insanity for North Korea to fire a nuclear weapon, let alone at the United States. This would inevitably lead to its total decimation.
The United States has its fair share of problems at home, not least some pretty huge economic conundrums. While the mainstream media has generally reported the US economy as being in recovery, and certainly there has been some encouraging news with relation to this, any future US Government administration will still face massive issues in the coming years, as demographic and unfunded liabilities pose major spending and revenue problems. Not to mention the fact that the US government is already running a massive budget deficit, and is getting close to being $20 trillion in debt.
President Obama has already undertaken one act which will go down in history during his terms in office, namely signing the first $1 trillion defense budget into existence. Since this occurrence, the Obama Administration has worked hard at cutting government expenditure in this area, and the most recent defense budget off the US government was around $640 billion.
However, this is still 350 percent more than any other nation on the planet, and nearly 800 percent more than any other nation apart from China. While it can be said in mitigation that the US also has by far the largest economy in the world, the average American might not unreasonably wonder how much it benefits from such vast defense expenditure.
Given that the primary argument usually put forward for this is that the huge defense budget provides security for the United States, there is a very strong argument that neither Russia nor North Korea presents any realistic threat to the US mainland provided that the US government does not meddle in matters overseas.