Letter from Washington — From the January 2015 issue

Game On

East vs. West, again

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For many of its original protagonists, NATO expansion has proved an unblemished success. “I see no empirical evidence that enlargement was threatening to Russia,” Jackson told me firmly. “You can’t prove that.” On the other hand, he is no great enthusiast for the economic warfare against Russia levied by the Obama Administration in support of Ukraine. “The moral defense of international intervention is the improvement of the freedom and prosperity of the people in question,” he wrote me recently. “I suspect sanctions will lead to the impoverishment of all concerned, most particularly the Ukrainians [whom] the sanctions policy purports to defend.”

In any event, the vision of Augustine and his peers that an enlarged NATO could be a fruitful market has become a reality. By 2014, the twelve new members had purchased close to $17 billion worth of American weapons, while this past October Romania celebrated the arrival of Eastern Europe’s first $134 million Lockheed Martin Aegis Ashore missile-defense system.

The ebullience expressed by defense lobbyists at Mike Rogers’s breakfast back in March has been amply justified. “Vladimir Putin has solved the sequestration problem for us because he has proven that ground forces are needed to deter Russian aggression,” declared Congressman Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican and chair of an important defense subcommittee, in October. Meanwhile, the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington entity that numbers, inevitably, Norm Augustine among the panjandrums adorning its board of directors, sponsored a panel on “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future.” Michèle Flournoy, defense undersecretary for policy during Obama’s first term, warned the panel, “You can’t expect to defend the nation under sequestration.” Fellow panelist and former Cheney adviser Eric Edelman, who preceded Flournoy in the Pentagon post, echoed her theme. Other speakers demanded that NATO members increase their defense budgets.

At the end of October 2014, as European economies quivered, thanks in part to the sanctions-driven slowdown in trade with Russia, the United States reported a gratifying 3.5 percent jump in gross domestic product for the quarter ending September 3. This spurt was driven, so government economists reported, by a sharp uptick in military spending.

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