Yesterday the Citadel Group at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj hosted U.S. Ambassador Klemm at the Faculty of European Studies, an event which I was fortunate enough to attend and even participate in marginally.
Ambassador Klemm’s speech (transcript here) focused on a ‘revanchist Russia’ and what NATO and particularly Romania ought to be doing to counter its increasing assertiveness in the Black Sea.
Foremost on the honey-do list was to further beef-up military spending:
“First, Romania should be congratulated for following through on its Wales Commitment on Defense Spending.
This year parliament allocated 1.7% of GDP toward defense spending, on its way to meeting two percent in 2017, and keeping it there for ten years, according to the political agreement reached between all major Romanian political parties last year.
This is a very good first step, and an example I hope the entire Alliance will follow.”
Romania isn’t all that rich of a country last time I checked, but m’kay. Still, one wonders where all that money will eventually end up. Step two gives us a few clues:
“The next step, however, is possibly just as important: ensuring that money is used to modernize the force and develop needed NATO capabilities, in as efficient a manner as possible. An important part of that effort will be to reduce Allied dependence on Russian military equipment and transition to NATO interoperable systems.”
In other words, good job on the military budget increases, Romania, but don’t let your corrupt politicians misappropriate the funds, otherwise we won’t be able to sell you as many shiny new weapons to replace your old Soviet equipment.
The more you think about it, the more the Pentagon, through organizations like NATO, behaves like Apple in that it goes around the world convincing cash-strapped suckers to buy its shiny overpriced technology, whether they actually need it or not—and then the gadgets are constantly updated, repackaged, and sold all over again.
I have to admit that it’s a brilliant strategy. They ought to rename the place Pentagon Valley.
The other aspect of Ambassador Klemm’s visit that I’ll remark on is the Q&A that took place following the speech. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to ask Ambassador Klemm a question regarding Russia, but I’ll have to paraphrase the exchange as I’m yet to find a video or transcript of the Q&A session.
I asked Ambassador Klemm how he would respond to those who say that Russia has a legitimate sphere of influence in the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and the Black Sea. He responded that states in these regions are free to choose which “sphere of interest” they want to be a part of.
To a certain extent, I think he’s right. The relative anarchy of the international system does grant a certain amount of freedom for states to choose alliances, organizations, and ‘spheres of interest’. However, as the crude expression goes, sticking feathers up your butt doesn’t make you a chicken. There are often limits to how far a state can phase out of one sphere and into another, and in the case of certain states, like Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, parts of them are so deeply enveloped within the Russian sphere that attempting to draw them further westward, even if such attempts were eventually successful, would likely be a Pyrrhic victory.
Overall, it was nice to get a visit from the ambassador and his entourage in Cluj. I hope they come back for more Citadel Group events soon.