There’s a familiar ring to the U.S. calls to arm Ukraine’s post-coup government. That’s because the same big-money players who stand to benefit from belligerent relations with Russia haven’t forgotten a favorite Cold War tune.
President Obama has said that he won’t rule out arming Ukraine if a recent truce, which has all but evaporated, fails like its predecessor. His comments echoed the advice of a report issued a week prior by three prominent U.S. think tanks: the Brookings Institute, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Atlantic Council. The report advocated sending $1 billion worth of “defensive” military assistance to Kiev’s pro-Western government.
If followed, those recommendations would bring the U.S. and Russia the closest to conflict since the heyday of the Cold War. Russia has said that it would “respond asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts” if the U.S. supplies weapons to Kiev.
The powers with the most skin in the game—France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine—struck a deal on Feb. 12, which outlines the terms for a ceasefire between Kiev and the pro-Russian, breakaway provinces in eastern Ukraine. It envisages a withdrawal of heavy weaponry followed by local elections and constitutional reform by the end of 2015, granting more autonomy to the eastern regions.
But not all is quiet on the eastern front. The truce appears to be headed the route of a nearly identical compromise in September, which broke down immediately afterward.
Moscow’s national security interests are clear. Washington’s are less so, unless you look at the bottom lines of defense contractors.
As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn’t hard to see what they have to gain. Just take a look below at the blow-by-blow history of their Beltway-bandit benefactors:
No Reds Means Seeing Red
Following the end of the Cold War, defense cuts had presented bottom-line problems for America’s military producers. The weapons dealers were told that they had to massively restructure or go bust.
Luckily, carrots were offered. Norm Augustine, a former undersecretary of the Army, advised Defense Secretary William Perry to cover the costs of the industry mergers. Augustine was then the CEO of Martin Marietta — soon to become the head of Lockheed Martin, thanks to the subsidies.
Augustine was also chairman of a Pentagon advisory council on arms-export policy. In that capacity, he was able to secure yet more subsidy guarantees for NATO-compatible weapons sales to former Warsaw Pact countries.
But in order to buy the types of expensive weapons that would stabilize the industry’s books, those countries had to enter into an alliance with the U.S. And some members of Congress were still wary of shelling out money to expand a military alliance that had, on its face, no rationale to exist.
Enter the NATO Expansion Squad
Enter the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Formed in 1996, the Committee wined and dined elected officials to secure their
support for NATO enlargement. Meanwhile, Lockheed buttressed its efforts by spending $1.58 million in federal contributions for the 1996 campaign cycle.
The Committee’s founder and neocon chairman, Bruce Jackson, was so principled in his desire to see freedom around the globe that he didn’t even take a salary. He didn’t have to; he was a vice president at Lockheed Martin.
By Clinton’s second term, everyone was on board. Ron Asmus, a former RAND Corporation analyst and the “intellectual progenitor” of NATO expansion (who would later co-chair the Committee to Expand NATO), ended what was left of the policy debate in the State Department. He worked with Clinton’s diplomatic point man on Eastern Europe, Strobe Talbott.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were all in NATO come 1999. The Baltic States would soon follow. By 2003, those initial inductees had arranged deals to buy just short of $5 billion in fighter jets from Lockheed.
Bruce Jackson began running a new outfit in 2002. It was called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.
(36 F-16s are currently slated for delivery to Iraq at an estimated $3 billion.)