' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2005 / 13 Adar I 5765

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Arsenals of tyranny


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | At the end of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a powerful "fireside chat," one that is a fitting backdrop to the visit to Europe being made this week by his successor, George W. Bush. In his radio address, FDR summoned a reluctant America to make the sacrifice necessary to produce the arms urgently needed by freedom-loving people in Britain and elsewhere at risk of being overrun by Nazism and other forms of tyranny. He called the United States "the great arsenal of democracy."

In the course of his travels, Mr. Bush will be meeting with the leaders of a number of countries whose national survival in World War II depended critically upon the industrial output of democracy's indispensable arsenal. His purpose will be to restore relations with these allies strained in recent years by disagreements over the liberation of Iraq and other matters.

Unfortunately, the President's "fence-mending" efforts with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French, German and British counterparts seem likely to founder over the fact that these states are increasingly becoming arsenals for tyranny.

Take Russia. Since the end of the Cold War, the old Soviet military-industrial complex has been kept a going-concern largely as a result of sales of its products to Communist China and other regimes unfriendly to freedom.

Putin's Russia has approved the sale of a vast array of advanced aircraft, missile systems, submarines, other seagoing vessels and armored equipment. Worse yet, the Russians have in many cases transferred not only end-items but manufacturing know-how, enabling the Chinese to produce even larger quantities of such sophisticated equipment in the future — for its own use and for sale, in turn, to other despotic regimes.

Mr. Putin's list of client tyrannies does not end with China. Just last week, he reaffirmed his decision to allow the Iranian mullahocracy to complete construction of a Russian-designed and -supplied nuclear power plant at Bushehr. In so doing, he blithely dismissed American and other concerns that this facility will be used by the Iranian regime to amass fuel for nuclear weapons.

Putin has been no more responsible with respect to appeals to forego the sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian despot, Bashir Assad. Such weapons may well make their way into the hands of the terrorist Hezbollah organization that enjoys safe-haven and sponsorship from Syria and its patron, Iran. The effect would be greatly to escalate the risk of conflict between Israel and Syria and the possibility that Russian-made weapons are used to try to shoot down American pilots operating in and from Iraq.

In addition, the Kremlin has recently agreed to sell as many as 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles to one of this hemisphere's most worrisome, and ambitious, despots: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. These arms will be used by Chavez to equip his allies in fomenting anti-American revolutions throughout Latin America — including, notably, in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas appear poised to retake power.

If Mr. Bush's Russian interlocutor is indifferent to appeals for greater restraint in such sales to freedom's enemies, so it appears are France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder and Britain's Tony Blair. The Three EU Musketeers seem determined to end the arms embargo the European Union imposed on the PRC in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, thereby allowing Europe's military-industrial capacity also to be put in the service of China's ever-more offensively oriented armed forces.

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The sorts of technology transfers that could flow from the EU's arsenal to the Chinese are particularly troubling, insofar as they would complement nicely the formidable weapon systems already provided by Russia. As the American Enterprise Institute's Daniel Blumenthal and Thomas Donnelly pointed out Sunday in an op.ed. article in the Washington Post: "The missing pieces of the People's Liberation Army puzzle are exactly the sorts of command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems that the Europeans are getting ready to sell."

The negative consequences such sales would have for U.S.-European relations are hard to exaggerate. Chinese military doctrine holds that conflict with the United States is inevitable. Preparations now being made by Beijing are not compatible with mere self-defense or even threatening Taiwan. China's blue-water navy capabilities, long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and space-control technologies would, if combined with command and control and other equipment designed to NATO standards, be much more threatening and greatly increase the chances that such gear will be used in the future to kill Americans.

In his "Arsenal of Democracy" address sixty-five years ago, Franklin Roosevelt warned his countrymen: "Frankly and definitely there is danger ahead — danger against which we must prepare. But we well know that we cannot escape danger, or the fear of danger, by crawling into bed and pulling the covers over our heads." He argued that only by arming the British and others fighting the fascists could America prevent "the danger" from afflicting us directly.

Today, it is no less important that we confront the danger posed to us by actual or prospective enemies, this time being armed by those we previously helped secure their freedom. President Bush may be reluctant to remind his hosts in Europe this week that they are "either with us or against us." But if they serve as arsenals for tyranny, the Europeans and Russians should understand that Americans will clearly see them for what they are: "Against us."

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2005, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.