U.S. Air Force revealed on June 10 that a B-52H Stratofortress, Cold War nuclear mainstay and the bomber used for almost a thousand missions over North and South Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s, flew over parts of Africa as part of the Bomber Task Force Europe mission.
On May 31, U.S. Memorial Day, B-52s flew over all thirty NATO nations, including the five that border Russia, reprising an initiative first launched last August. In recent months all three of the U.S.’s Cold War long-range nuclear-capable bombers – the B-1, B-2 and B-52 – have been crisscrossing the skies of Europe in unambiguous acts of blatant brinkmanship aimed at Russia.
U.S. in Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa announced on the same day that a B-52H Stratofortresses had flown over the Baltic Sea and adjoining regions from June 7-9 with aircraft from three Scandinavian nations in conjunction with the recently-launched U.S.-led Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) war games. NATO allies Denmark and the Netherlands provided F-16 Fighting Falcon to escort the U.S. strategic bombers into and out of the Baltic Sea area.
A squadron of B-52s is currently hosted by the Morón Air Base, Spain. The one deployed to Africa flew over the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea and, according to an Air Force release, “over parts of Northern Africa and all of Western Africa.”
This occurred as the U.S. and its NATO allies began the 7,000-troop African Lion military exercise in Morocco, Senegal and Ghana; the largest war games on the continent.
The Pentagon’s latest geographic unified combatant command, U.S. Africa Command, grew out of regular visits by U.S. Naval Forces Europe ships in the first decade of this century. The geopolitical importance of Gulf of Guinea oil reserves and their easy (and inexpensive) transport across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. were motivating factors.
By 2007 U.S. European Command, the U.S. component of NATO on the continent, gave the nascent Africa Command initial operational capability and the following year full operational capability. European Command and NATO share their top commander, always an American.
In the interim U.S. Naval Forces Europe was transformed into Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Air Forces in Europe into Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, U.S. Army Europe into Army Europe and Africa, and Marines Corps Forces Europe into Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. Those mergers represent more than just the integration of two of the Pentagon’s regional commands; they also reflect unity between the Pentagon and NATO to a degree not seen anywhere to date except in Europe. U.S. European Command is the operational center of NATO in Europe, maintaining bases and centers (and nuclear weapons) throughout the continent from the Baltic Sea to Iberia, from the United Kingdom to Greece, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean coast.
Until its post-Cold War expansion from sixteen to thirty members NATO was a de facto condominium of all former modern European colonial and settler nations in Africa: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. NATO nations participate collectively in all Africa Command exercises: African Lion, Cutlass Express, Operation Flintlock, Justified Accord, Obangame Express and Phoenix Express.
Europe under the uncontested control of the Pentagon through NATO is also reestablishing its colonial role in Africa (with direct military intervention by NATO nations individually and collectively in Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Ivory Coast, Uganda and elsewhere in the past twenty-five years as an indication of more to come).
But not since last year over parts of North Africa, and now over much of the north and all of the west of the continent, has the U.S. flown B-52s over Africa.
Rick Rozoff is a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the manager of Stop NATO. This originally appeared at Anti-Bellum.