empire watch, featured, Russia, Ukraine
Comments 8

Mexican Standoff Goes Nuclear

by Frank Lee
In the red corner…

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

…And in the blue corner…

James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, United States Secretary for Defence

Apart from the criminally insane, (John McCain, Lindsey Graham et al.) nobody wants war, particularly nuclear war. Unfortunately, however, war happens, sometimes by accident sometimes by design. The present standoff between the US/NATO and Russia and China is a case in point. The United States’ ever-present hegemonic ambitions are hardly secret and have been displayed in their most virulent and openly aggressive forms since the collapse of the USSR.

This latter event was a key moment in the present historical conjuncture. During the 1990s, Russia was prostrate and the US/NATO juggernaut was able to take full advantage of the situation. The war against what used to be called the Third World had always been a feature of US foreign policy; however, now with the disappearance of the one geopolitical bloc which could hold the US in check, the US imperial leviathan was able to extend its aggression to both Russia and more lately China. Ex-Soviet satellites, and even ex-Soviet republics in Europe were sucked into the voracious maw of NATO, which was to double in size and expand right up to Russia’s western frontier. In passing, we may note that the collapse of communism also had the effect of an abject surrender of the centre-left/social democratic currents in Europe, and their conversion to both neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

NATO membership meant that the US effectively controlled Europe’s foreign policy, and this policy fait accompli was ratified in the Lisbon Treaty — which meant that Europe’s defence and security policy was outsourced to a non-member of the EU, i.e. the United States, who control NATO. In short, the EU became a civilian wing of NATO. These events were, of course, a naked provocation as was the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The continued policy of provocation became the order of the day. In 2008 NATO announced boldly that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” Thereupon Georgia’s comical President Mikheil Saakasvili bombarded Tskhinvali, capital of the self-declared Republic of South Ossetia that had resisted integration into the current Republic of Georgia since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this instance Russia defended South Ossetia, invading Georgia. It then recognized the independence, both of South Ossetia and of the Republic of Abkhazia, from Georgia. (This may be a tit-for-tat response to the U.S.’s decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia six months earlier.) Then in 2014 came the ultimate provocation: the American backed coup in Ukraine which resulted in the ongoing and open-ended Ukrainian imbroglio 2014-2017. This resulted, inter alia, in the referendum and defection of the Crimea to the Russian Federation, and a nasty little war in the Russian-speaking Donbas, which chose to secede from the Ukraine.

US historian and foreign policy realist John Mearsheimer in 2014 argued, I think correctly, that:

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West.

At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine — beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 — were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbour turned into a Western bastion.

For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labelled a “coup” — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.” Foreign Affairs – Autumn 2014

It should be understood that possible Ukrainian and Georgian membership of NATO is still on the table, which in itself constitutes a provocation. This much was made clear by the NATO Secretary-General – the wretched Jens Stoltenberg – who recently visited Kiev and held discussions with the Kiev Junta boss Poroshenko. US representative in the shape of ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis has also been a recent visitor. The issue of supplying lethal US arms to the Kiev Junta was certainly discussed but no definitive judgement has been made – yet.

So where is all this leading? To the fabled Mexican standoff that’s where. Regarding the issue of lethal arms. The Ukrainians already have these – they have been and were supplied covertly through the Baltics and Poland (naturally Poland) during the earlier period of the war 2014-2016. The Ukrainian Army (UAF) has been trained and equipped by NATO and has 200,000 men under arms, mostly wretched conscripts, who would rather be somewhere else, but with some more effective punitive neo-Nazi units. At present, there are all sorts of rumours circulating of a supposedly imminent invasion of the Donbas by a rejuvenated Ukrainian military. Maybe, but in the past these rumours have generally come to nothing. But be sure that if this turns out to be the case, it will be an American decision, not Poroshenko’s, who is a US/NATO puppet. However, the US investment in the training and arming of UAF is no guarantee of battlefield effectiveness; the US also trained and equipped the Georgian Army as well as the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), both of whom who hardly distinguished themselves in the heat of battle.

If such an invasion does occur the relevant questions would seem to be how will the Russia react. Putin is on record as saying he will ‘not allow’ a Ukrainian army to annihilate the people of the Donbas; this is said to be a Red Line for Putin. As in previous clashes, Russia did at least covertly intervene in the fighting; there were also Russian (and other national) volunteers who fought on the side of the Donbas militias. As for the ethnic Russian population of the Donbas, they want under no circumstances to be reintegrated with their hated enemies in the west and central Ukraine. Too much blood has been split for an implementation of the Minsk agreements, which in any case the Kiev Junta has shown no interest in implementing.

Trying to force the Donbas into a Ukraine governed by the same oligarch/Nazi coalition junta ensconced in Kiev would be like trying to force Protestant Northern Ireland into the Catholic Irish Republic. This would simply lead to a continuation of the war – albeit in a different form.

In the event of renewed hostilities and the Donbas being in danger of being over-run, can Russia stand by and do nothing? In this case it would mean the neo-Nazi battalions will be right on Russia’s border, less than 100 km from the city of Rostov-on-Don. Should Putin be taken at face value when he said he would not contemplate this eventuality?

In the event that the DPR/LPR do fall, this would mean a massive victory for the NATO-backed UAF proxies and a strategic disaster for Russia, who will then be seen as a paper tiger, thereby emboldening the Anglo-Zionist empire in its programme for the destruction of Russia as an independent sovereign state. If Putin does stand firm – as he must – what then will be the reaction of the US/NATO and what would be the political repercussions in Ukraine itself? After heavy defeats suffered by the UAF at Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, a third defeat would be likely to lead to very serious domestic political upheaval. In this scenario, I think both US/NATO would simply turn their backs on the whole failing project, particularly the EU. Who knows?

Ultimately Ukraine is of extreme strategic interest to Russia, but of negligible interest to the United States. Risking a nuclear war with Russia over a tin-pot regime in Ukraine and thereby exposing the US homeland to nuclear decimation over a war they don’t have to fight seems very unlikely. And as for the notion of winning (whatever that means) a nuclear war, I doubt any sane person believes that is possible. See below.

The Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) systems are so unreliable it would almost be an accident if they worked. They’ve never been tested under real conditions and they can be defeated by very basic countermeasures.”
Ted Postol, a professor at MIT and a former scientific advisor for the Pentagon.

When I think of the persistent history of the forlorn idea of the defence against a nuclear attack, I am tempted to think that the notion especially typifies Einstein’s grim and painfully realistic observation that ‘the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking.’ It has certainly been normal in history to think of fashionable defences against evolving military threats. But nuclear weapons unleashed in a large-scale attack bring a sure destruction, one so massive as to rule out any successful defence. Defence in conflict, a traditional mode of thinking, is here no longer plausible. In a nuclear war, the long-standing ‘norm’ of reliance on defence has become a self-deception, a most human and understandable one, and one that is rooted in an aversion to the new reality.”William J Perry – Secretary of State for Defence for the United States 1994-1997.
(‘My Journey at the Nuclear Brink’)

Defending the United States against a major Russian or Chinese ballistic missile attack is currently not feasible. A reliable and affordable defence that could protect America against a Russian ICBM and SLBM force that could launch some 1,500 ballistic missile warheads simply does not exist. While the Chinese force is much smaller, numbering several dozen ICBMs, it probably includes countermeasures that would seriously complicate disruption by missile defines systems…

For the foreseeable future, offense wins the offense-defence relationship. Offensive ballistic missile technology is far more mature than that of missile defence, and cost considerations favour the offense. Adding fourteen more GMD interceptors by 2017 will require the Pentagon to spend about $1 billion. The Russians and Chinese can each add fourteen more warheads to their strategic offensive forces at considerably less cost. One reason that the Russians are building a replacement for their heavy SS-18 ICBM is to have a missile that can carry ten-fifteen warheads as a means of overwhelming a future American missile defence.

It is important to remember that the other side may not sit passively as the U.S. military develops missile defences. Other nuclear powers may choose to build up their strategic offensive forces in response, increasing the number of nuclear weapons targeted at the United States (China comes to mind). Indeed, it was concern that the ABM systems of the 1960s would spark an uncontrollable strategic offensive arms race that led to negotiation of the 1972 ABM Treaty.
None of this is to say that a future technological breakthrough might not produce a change in the offense-defence equation. Some new technology could be developed that would make defence against ballistic missiles far more lethal, cost-effective and attractive, tilting the equation to favour defence instead of offense. But that breakthrough does not appear to be on the horizon, at least not for the next fifteen-twenty years. And a key lesson of the past thirty-two years is that technology in the missile defence area often does not deliver on its potential—at least not as rapidly, or as inexpensively, as originally thought.” The National Interest. March 2015 – Steven Pifer

Steven Pifer directs the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative.

And Finally, from The National Interest 14-08-2017:

Technology, in effect, made Russia America’s insufferable but inescapable Siamese twin. The strategic reality is even more horrific. However demonic, however destructive, however devious, however deserving of being strangled Russia is, the brute fact is that we cannot kill this bastard without committing suicide.” Graham Allison

Setting aside the usual American self-righteous, messianic, ‘indispensable nation’, bombast, – vide supra – the central core of the above statements makes the realpolitik argument very forcefully. (1) The US is not invulnerable and (2) It would suffer massive damage, possibly terminal, in a nuclear exchange, as would the whole world. Ideologues, fools, journalists and mountebanks may wish to assert otherwise but the truth is self-evident and sobering. The media, deep-state, Tweedledum-Tweedledee two party cartel and the MIC, national security state, are pushing America and the rest of the world towards this precipice hoping Russia will surrender. This is, to say the least, an extremely risky strategy. But what if Russia chooses not to surrender? Will any US President be willing to sacrifice New York for Moscow, or Los Angeles for St. Petersburg? I somehow doubt it. Sticking my neck out I think the whole thing is a bluff; to be sure a dangerous one, but I think the realist argument will trump (sorry about the pun) the ideological one. One thing we can be sure of is that appeasement has not worked with the Anglo-Zionist empire and it never will.

To quote Kipling;

He who pays the Dangeld never gets rid of the Dane.”


8 Comments

  1. Ah yes, the much vaunted radar-guided ABM systems, that the US is risking the future of humanity to proliferate? Fortunately, their reputation has taken a bit of a battering recently – about 30,000 tons of battering, in fact. The feted Aegis integrated defence system – reputed to be able to track and destroy a 10m tube (ICBM) travelling at Mach 5 – but, (in the case of the USS McCain and the Fitzgerald) can’t see a 600ft ship about to t-bone them, travelling at 10 knots? Obviously the result of too much Obama era PC ‘equality inclusion’ social engineering: nothing to do with electronic warfare (both ships seem to have been dead in the water when they were hit); or provocative ‘freedom of navigation’ ops – aka: really pissing off the Chinese???

    There is nothing wrong with Frank’s excellent, sane and rational analysis. Unfortunately, I can’t agree with his conclusion – that it’s a bluff… “…as for the notion of winning (whatever that means) a nuclear war, I doubt any sane person believes that is possible”. Unfortunately, from the Sino-Russian POV: they are clearly not dealing with sane and rational players. It can’t be assumed that the neoconservatives proliferating (strike capable) ABM systems is a bluff. Competitive Game Theory dictates that each proliferation is met with a countering proliferation: ratcheting up the tension. Real world developments have overtaken; the current hyped up tension with Pyonyang has allowed the US to force-deploy a complete THAAD battery in South Korea – very much against the liking of the local people. Nevermind that it is not fit for purpose (unless the purpose is first strike): the Chinese are unhappy about the radar penetration of their country. Not a good way to foster trust or cooperation.

    With NATO on a first strike footing; having an ongoing and upgraded ‘Super-Fuzing’ of existing warheads; deploying THAAD and Aegis Ashore batteries; the possible development of intermediate range missiles from next year; plus requesting increased Aegis and SSBN capabilities (more dead duck destroyers and subs); Russia and China developing hypersonic missiles; upgrading to their SS-18 Satan 2s (with hypersonic MIRV warheads); the Russian ‘Dead Man’ automatic launch system… not to mention that peripheral countries like North Korea can see that their only security is with nuclear weapons; threatening proliferation… the world has never been a more dangerous place to be… some ‘bluff’.

    The only sanity is a world free of nuclear weapons.

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  2. michaelk says

    But the rational arguments for not going to war rarely prevail. Countries don’t go to war expecting to lose. In 1914 Austria ‘needed’ a quick and easy victorious war against the far weaker Serbia for internal purposes, to strengthen the regimes grip on power and the Austrian Empire, to show it was still vital and in control; strong and not in longterm decline. Russia mobilized because they couldn’t be seen to abandon Serbia to Austria, even though Russia knew it needed another five years to fully reform and modernize its armed forces. Germany couldn’t allow Russia to crush Austria, its ally, and declared war on Russia and the war juggernaut was rolling and now unstoppable.

    Dragging Russia into a trap in the Ukaine is seen as an opportunity by Nato. An opportunity to defeat Russia and destroy Putin’s prestige, perhaps even something that might even see him toppled and ending up like Gaddafi, dragged battered and bleeding through Red Square by a savage mob. This nightmare for Russia is a dream outcome for the ruling elite in Washington. That this ‘dream’ is a reckless and impossible fantasy, doesn’t stop people in Washington hoping and working for such an outcome.

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  3. Thomas Prentice says

    I wish OffGuardian woul not use the term “Mexican Standoff” which is frankly a US-minted racist term. Thanks.

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  4. Rid the world of nuclear weapons for all time by making their possession illegal, where leaders of nations who refuse to abolish their stocks of weaponry suffer punishment of death. Sacrificing the lives of up to (9) human beings in exchange for saving millions of innocents seems extreme, yet, considering the grim facts presented in this article and many more elsewhere, such a pragmatic solution might be the only effective option left for preventing the unthinkable.

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    • Wars of aggression have been ‘illegal’ under international law since Nuremberg. They have also been waged constantly and with absolute impunity.
      Let’d discuss your idea at the upcoming Bush-Blair trial.

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  5. summitflyer says

    I tend to agree with the author of this article,it is mostly bluster .There will not be a nuclear war over Ukraine especially .The world leaders , although do not state it openly ,know what kind of leadership (sic) Ukraine has.
    There is no leadership, it is run by a group that truly belong in a mental asylum .In this day and age it is totally unacceptable and is a carry over of the second world war mentality.

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