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Is Nuclear War Becoming Thinkable?

People who make their living thinking about defense policy and national security like everything to fit into a nice framework, preferably one that can be visualized on a PowerPoint slide. If you are unfortunate enough to be standing next to two officials speaking Pentagonese during a reception, you will note that their language is full of acronyms relating to projects and obscure government agencies—and that they refer regularly to strategic concepts and systems, including the venerable “triad” of nuclear deterrence.

The “triad” concept holds that when a country fields land-, air-, and submarine-based nuclear capabilities, it greatly increases its chances of being able to retaliate after an attack. In the case of the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, for example, if either side would have launched a first strike and knocked out the other side’s land- or air-based systems, submarines would still have provided a devastating second-strike capability. Nuclear war was such an awful prospect that it long was described as intrinsically the ultimate universal deterrent, rendering an actual armed conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact that might escalate unthinkable.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 seemed to reduce the chance of nuclear war still further, even though the weapons had proliferated. But no one anticipated the level of hostility [1] toward Russia that is now evident, and talk in the Pentagon is again focused on what it would take to win a war against an apparently resurgent Moscow. And for his part, earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin withdrew from a nuclear security pact [2], citing “hostile actions” by the U.S.

To be sure, much of the Pentagon’s animosity regarding Moscow is budget-driven [3], with generals and admirals needing an enemy more formidable than “international terrorism” to justify an enhanced role for their respective branches of the service. Recent general-staff claims that the U.S. Army is “outranged and outgunned” by the Russian military are credible only if one counts tanks and does not consider the opposing air forces. Alarms raised by former general and current self-promoting politician Wesley Clark that Russia has built an “invulnerable” tank have been met with derision. Many of the claims regarding advanced Russian weaponry come from the Ukrainian government, which clearly has an agenda to support as it seeks sophisticated U.S. offensive arms and military aid.

The reality is that Russia, apart from its nuclear arsenal, is a bit of a mouse that roared. Its struggling economy generates a GNP that is on par with that of Italy, and it spends [3] one-seventh as much as the U.S. on the military. It has one aircraft carrier versus 10 in the American arsenal, one-sixth as many helicopters, one-third the number of fighter aircraft, and less than half as many active-duty military personnel. It has no effective military allies, while the U.S. has nearly all of Eastern and Western Europe in NATO.

Official U.S. policy is that NATO provides conventional deterrence at such a level that Russia would not be inclined to start a conflict with any alliance member lest it be defeated in short order. But Russia would have certain advantages if it were to attack without warning, relying on internal lines and deploying locally superior forces. And the reliability of a coordinated NATO response can be questioned, as the raison d’etre for NATO itself is wearing thin even as the alliance has expanded to include countries like Montenegro. One U.S. Army officer observed [3] to journalist Mark Perry, “How many British soldiers do you think want to die for Estonia?”

The problems involved in actually mounting a credible conventional defense in Europe are why there is a second level of deterrence: the nuclear umbrella maintained by the United States, Britain, and France. U.S. officialdom used to suggest that Washington and NATO would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, but that was never an actual policy. Last month there were reports [4] that President Obama had considered committing to “no first use” but was overruled by his cabinet, with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter describing such a pledge as “a sign of weakness.” Two liberal congressmen have since introduced a bill that would prohibit U.S. first use of nuclear weapons, but it appears to have little support and is likely to die in committee.  

Carter, who describes nuclear weapons as the “bedrock” and “guarantor” of U.S. security, recently spoke at several Minuteman missile bases in the United States. He stated that [5] the U.S. and its European allies are now “refreshing” U.S. strategy by integrating conventional and nuclear weapons in order to “deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from nuclear use in a conflict with NATO.” Carter explained that Moscow has little regard “for long-established accords of using nuclear weapons,” raising “serious questions” about “whether they respect the profound caution that Cold War-era leaders showed in respect to brandishing their nuclear weapons.”

Ash Carter also elaborated [6] that “if deterrence fails, you provide the president with options to achieve U.S. and allied objectives … all to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons being used in the first place.” He emphasized “our will and ability to act.” Note that Carter did not suggest that the U.S. would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, and was clearly indicating that such weapons are in the mix of how to respond to what he obviously sees as an increasing Russian threat.

Carter is admittedly an anti-Russian hawk. He is also a physicist by training and is somewhat of an expert on policies relating to the use of nuclear weapons. Some of the changes he has made to our nuclear-deterrent policies were recently observable on CBS’s 60 Minutes, which ran a series [7] on the state of the American nuclear arsenal. On board a nuclear-armed Ohio class submarine, officers spoke openly of the heightened state of alert—back up to a Cold War level—since “Russia invaded Crimea.” A relatively new tactical option was also discussed, referred to as “escalate to de-escalate,” which envisions defeating a conventional attack by means of a nuclear demonstration strike. The nuke would serve as a warning of more to come if the attack continued.

The concept of using a nuke as a warning is not exactly new. “Going nuclear” was considered a viable option during America’s two Iraq wars, if Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was prepared to use them, and it has also been a part of the battle plan should the United States go to war with Iran. But what has changed the calculus is the sophistication of the weapons themselves.

New tactical nuclear weapons, like the latest versions of the U.S. B-61 [8], are small and portable. They can be launched from a bomber or as part of a cruise missile or even from a ground installation or vehicle. Further, their operators can “dial up a yield”—i.e., select the size of the explosion on the bomb itself. That means a demonstration nuclear strike can be effectively “nuclear” while also designed to have a relatively small footprint to reduce both civilian and military casualties. This selectivity makes such a bomb, in the minds of some generals and politicians, potentially an effective warning rather than an automatic escalation of the fighting—and as a result it is a weapon that is much “more usable.” [9]

The Russians, of course, have similar weapons, and by some accounts [10] their nuclear arsenal is more modern than that employed by the U.S. Moscow’s war doctrine was recently spelled out [5] by Putin. He said that Moscow “would reserve the right to use nuclear weapons if the existence of Russia is threatened.” This has been interpreted as Putin acknowledging that his conventional forces cannot go head-to-head with those of the U.S. in the long run—and warning that Russia might be forced to go nuclear first, relatively early on in the conflict, to defend itself.

So one should conclude that both sides confronting each other over Eastern Europe are now prepared to go nuclear under certain circumstances. No one is asking the Poles and Slovaks, whose land might well be the site for such a demonstration, what they think, but their governments are officially on board with NATO strategies designed to deter Russia. Germany has, however, expressed considerable nervousness [11] over the saber-rattling as memories of the Red Army are still somewhat fresh.

And there are frightening indications that some senior military officers might be eager to get things started in the belief that a war with Russia could actually be winnable. Certifiable loose cannons on deck include Wesley Clark, who reportedly tried [12] to engineer a confrontation with Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo in 1999. Crazier still, Gen. Philip Breedlove (who retired earlier this year) worked hard [13] during his time as supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe to get NATO and the U.S. involved in a proxy war over Ukraine. In leaked emails, an interlocutor suggested he and the U.N. secretary general might “fashion a NATO strategy to leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react” to the Russian “threat”; Breedlove found this “very promising.” Breedlove, who has regularly lied about the extent of the Russian presence in Ukraine, has hysterically described Moscow as a “long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies.” The general was also reportedly in contact with State Department Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who helped engineer the coup that overthrew the Ukrainian government in 2014.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is calling Putin a new Hitler [14] while the New York Times editorializes against [15] “Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State.” And the real danger is that the Russian people are watching this display [16] with concern and might soon believe themselves to be backed into a corner by an implacable enemy. Putin has several times warned that there is an increasing perception in Russia that the country is being surrounded and endangered by the continuous expansion of NATO as well as by threats relating to his country’s involvement in Syria. Opinion polls suggest that the average Russian now expects war [17] with the West.

The insistence on the part of the many in the West that Putin must be resisted by using force majeure if necessary is based on gross exaggeration of the actual threat coming from Moscow. That nuclear weapons are now apparently employable in the plans for deterrence on the part of NATO, as well as in the Russian plans for self-defense, should be a terrifying prospect for anyone who cares about what might come next.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

45 Comments (Open | Close)

45 Comments To "Is Nuclear War Becoming Thinkable?"

#1 Comment By Fred Bowman On October 5, 2016 @ 2:25 am

NATO nowadays means Need America to Take Over.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 5, 2016 @ 2:27 am

“That means a demonstration nuclear strike can be effectively “nuclear” while also designed to have a relatively small footprint to reduce both civilian and military casualties.”

Pause. Huh? A small foot print . . . Mount Everest caving in on itself. I am sure you fond that as difficult to write as I did to read. I was sharing with some young college students what I was like during the cold war –

“Nuke ’em til they glow.”

They sat in a kind of stunned silence before asking me really? I told them the Russians had one policy regarding the US.

“We will bury you,” said Premier Kruschev.

I did not tell them that my standard response to all conflicts the US was involved in making the term more warrior call than policy advocacy. Because I wanted them to get a grasp of the environment.

Despite my views on de-escalating the business of regime change. I do believe in a full force response to being attacked. Should war be the case with another state. But talk f small footprints and,
______________________
“This selectivity makes such a bomb, in the minds of some generals and politicians, potentially an effective warning rather than an automatic escalation of the fighting—and as a result it is a weapon that is much “more usable.”

is disconcerting at best and chilling in the worst way. There is no way using any nuclear device is not going to escalate a military exchange. And no mind that entertains it is thinking realistically in my view.

This all sound reminiscent of the talk concerning neutron weapons. Kills the personeell, but leaves little damage to infrastructure. Those were strange discussions during the cold war, I would love to hear the discussions on nuclear strikes as warnings but no escalating effects. I take it they have managed to develop a magnetic shield to contain, the blast, the radiation and the wind blown radiated fallout.

Sounds like the fiction one read crashing through a Tom Swift book.

#3 Comment By bacon On October 5, 2016 @ 4:51 am

Mr. Giraldi writes that the end of the cold war in 1999 seemed to reduce the chances of nuclear war with Russia. From some viewpoints, maybe, but as a serving army officer in Germany as early as the fall of the Berlin wall the talk was that the risk of a nuclear attack from some faction was going up as Soviet control was declining.

In re invulnerable Russian tanks, the pentagon’s constant push to spend more money within the military-industrial sphere can’t be better illustrated than by the continued support of the F-35, the hyper-expensive fighter that can hardly get off the ground in bad weather, and efforts to get rid of the A-10, still the best ground support plane (read “tank buster”) in the world, apparently because it is already paid for, cheap to maintain, cheap to replace as needed and thus just the sort of weapon system they don’t want.

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On October 5, 2016 @ 8:06 am

To me it looks like the U.S. is clinging to the option of nuclear primacy while Russia is only trying to maintain nuclear counter-strike. So we are the ones creating this instability.
[18]

Yeah I know, the paper is from 2006 but the same concepts apply. I highly recommend reading it. To some extent I understand our sense of entitlement. We were the first ones to develop nuclear weapons and could have gone Roman Empire before anyone else developed them but we have to decide whether we are planning for deterrence OR primacy, not straddle the fence.

Why do we need more than 40 tactical nuclear weapons in the most lunatic scenario against countries other than China / Russia? (Iran, N. Korea, etc) I’m thinking in the most lunatic case, we would use about 5 tactical nukes but would need an inventory of about 40. We have hundreds of these things, including 50 in the unstable country of Turkey.

Why do we need 300+ land based ICBM’s that can be destroyed in a first salvo for a counter-strike? We should have about 40 mobile ones.

Why do we need a large bomber fleet in a few well known bases? We should have a small force that rotates between bases.

The structure of our forces and the positioning of our Anti-ballistic missile bases looks like we are structuring for a first strike, not a counter-strike.

Fun fact: the Chinese only have about 300 nukes.

#5 Comment By Doug Huffman On October 5, 2016 @ 9:06 am

Absolutely. Remember that we can’t fix what can’t be spoken and thought.

We survived through the Cold War on Mutually Assured Destruction. All it will take is one or two nuclear-oopsie in the Third World for them to come to their senses – or not.

Better sooner than later.

#6 Comment By SDS On October 5, 2016 @ 9:20 am

Sure would be nice if we had adults at the helm….

Obama seems to be content to let this fester….and with Hillary and Donald as the next options available; no chance of competence or judgement anytime soon….

#7 Comment By Uncle Billy On October 5, 2016 @ 10:40 am

I am getting nervous hearing about the use of “tactical nukes.” If we are engaged in a war in the middle east, that is not going well, there may be a temptation of using tactical nukes, since they can pulverize an enemy on a localized basis (in theory), and not affect a populated nearby city.

This is nonsense. Once we cross the line and use nukes, all bets are off. If we use nukes on an enemy, what will be the blowback? What happens next? We are crossing a line that we do NOT want to cross. The so called Defense Analysts and politicians who advocate the use of tactical nukes are fools and dangerous.

#8 Comment By Room 237 On October 5, 2016 @ 10:57 am

I believe that a “no first use” policy should be avoided — “strategic ambiguity” is better.

As for defense against the Russians, I think at some point we (meaning the US) needs to give Europe an end date for our troops there. With the fall of the Communism, Russian troops are now 800 miles east of Berlin, not a week’s march to the Rhine. As pointed out in many places, a European only NATO can defend itself provided the Europeans take their defense seriously. And why should they if the US will pay for their defense?

Putin is a fascist thug (all these “conservatives” who claim Putin is “one of us” are delusional). Russia is a threat to her immediate neighbors. But all large countries pose a threat to their smaller neighbors in one way or another. The question should be whether Russia is a threat to the United States? Not really, other than all those nuclear weapons they have.

So why not us leave Europe, let Europe defend itself, and not look to get into a war with Russia that is unnecessary.

#9 Comment By Robert Levine On October 5, 2016 @ 11:03 am

The insistence on the part of the many in the West that Putin must be resisted by using force majeure if necessary is based on gross exaggeration of the actual threat coming from Moscow. That nuclear weapons are now apparently employable in the plans for deterrence on the part of NATO, as well as in the Russian plans for self-defense, should be a terrifying prospect for anyone who cares about what might come next.

The level of threat from Russia’s military capabilities to NATO is debatable, but there is no question that Russia has always viewed NATA as a threat, going back to its inception. And Russia would love to see NATO go away, likely (in large part anyway) because of the freedom of action they would then have regarding those states which border Russia.

This is a very old theme in Russian foreign policy, which has always had an imperial aspect (except for the inter-war period, oddly enough, when Stalin would have been content to have been left alone by the Western powers). And it is in the nature of imperial powers not to know when to stop. NATO is a defensive alliance; the fact that Russia has never been able to see it as such is indication enough of Russia’s desire to dominate its neighbors.

That’s not to say that NATO (and the US) have not behaved provocatively and unwisely towards Russia on occasion. But the fact remains that very little that NATO could do would not be viewed as provocative by Russia; that’s inherent in the nature of Russian foreign policy. And it always has been.

Was the expansion of NATO eastwards a provocation? It was certainly viewed that way by Russia. But, if I recall correctly, membership in NATO was a popular cause in those countries which applied. And the reason was simple: Russia was viewed as an existential threat. Hardly surprising, given that Russia had been occupying those countries for decades.

Nuclear weapons were always part of the mix for NATO. “Dial-a-yield” weapons have been around a long time, as have small battlefield nukes, some designed to be fired from artillery. The use of such weapons was always part of NATO’s battlefield strategy when considering how to deal with a Soviet invasion. There is nothing new what Carter is talking about.

If anyone has introduced new elements into the tension between Russia and the West, it’s Putin. Clinton was not incorrect when she pointed out that his statements that he’s just trying to protect ethnic Russians in places like Crimea and Ukraine (and the Baltic states) are reminiscent of Hitler’s claims re the Sudetenland – a claim the Soviet Union never made, and one that’s very provocative on its own. And his drone submarine program is most definitely a ratcheting-up of the arms race.

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On October 5, 2016 @ 11:26 am

“The end of the Cold War in 1991 seemed to reduce the chance of nuclear war still further, even though the weapons had proliferated. But no one anticipated the level of hostility toward Russia that is now evident…”

That’s right: No one anticipated the US hostility toward Russia. Neither did anyone anticipate that the US would push to expand NATO right up to Russia’s borders – an expansion that the US had promised Russia would not happen – an expansion that experienced US diplomats knew at the time was bound to alarm the Russians.

Neither did anyone anticipate that the US would participate in the violent overthrow of the elected government of a country, Ukraine, that shares a long and important border with Russia.

The current discussions of US nuclear policy that Philip Giraldi outlines – discussions so Herman-Kahn-esque and reminiscent of Cold War think-tanks – haven’t arisen in a vacuum. These discussions have arisen from a US policy of deliberately antagonizing and provoking Russia, which just happens to be the only country on the planet with enough deliverable nuclear warheads to annihilate the United States.

A US foreign policy that puts an end to antagonizing Russia and that works instead for good relations with Russia will also put an end to the current Strangelovian lip-flapping over the use of nuclear weapons.

Good relations and cooperation with Russia are signature features of Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

#11 Comment By Hanna Khayyat On October 5, 2016 @ 11:50 am

Hillary Clinton: “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.” Maybe that’s great for israel and its wealthy friends in the USA who write checks to Hillary, but what American interests in Syria justify the risk of nuclear war with Russia?

#12 Comment By Franz Liebkind On October 5, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

To Ms. Khayyat: the answer is “nothing.”

To Mr Giraldi: surely you know that “demonstration” nuclear attacks, presumably in a sparsely-population location in enemy territory, have been wargamed since the Manhattan Project. To the best of my knowledge, the results haven’t been promising.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 5, 2016 @ 1:13 pm

” . . . and efforts to get rid of the A-10, still the best ground support plane (read “tank buster”) in the world, apparently because it is already paid for, cheap to maintain, cheap to replace as needed and thus just the sort of weapon system they don’t want.”

Absolutely.

#14 Comment By Nick Costello On October 5, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

Mr. Giraldi, I’m not sure how this differs doctrinally from NUTS, which is (as I understand it) the framework with which the US nuclear doctrine has worked under since the late 70s. Certainly, it is right to be alarmed at these heightened tensions; but this seems to be a restatement of what is already US nuclear doctrine.

Regards,

Nick

#15 Comment By Charles Cosimano On October 5, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

It is the willingness to use nuclear weapons that makes deterrence credible.

#16 Comment By John S On October 5, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

It seems the more bombs Russia drops, the more the West is to blame. I’d be curious to know Mr. Giraldi’s opinion regarding the recent MH17 report.

#17 Comment By SmoothieX12 On October 5, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

Russian military doctrine makes an emphasis on conventional option, including the use of Precision Guided Munitions. Russia is ready to fight purely conventional conflict in her immediate vicinity. While nuclear concerns are legitimate and should be addressed, the dynamics of such a possible conflict is fairly predictable and it is not good for NATO. Russia does conduct mobilization training and in general is capable to field forces along her borders which will make Vietnam look as the stroll in the park. US Armed Forces never dealt with peer-to-near-peer, let alone peer-to-peer military competitor since 1944. So, I have to disagree with assessments presented in this otherwise good piece, especially since Russian GDP is much larger than that of Italy and Russia produces state-of-the-art military technology for a small fraction of costs. The political fallout of such a conflict near Russia will be, indeed, tectonic. And while I agree with US generals being budget driven, there is a very substantial cultural and even metaphysical aspect to it. As Douglas MacGregor notes:”In 110 days of fighting the German army in France during 1918, the U.S. Army Expeditionary Force sustained 318,000 casualties, including 110,000 killed in action. That’s the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a future war with real armies, air forces, air defenses and naval power.” Russia does have real armed forces. Russia also, certainly, is not interested in attacking Europe.

#18 Comment By CEE1 On October 5, 2016 @ 6:44 pm

“That’s right: No one anticipated the US hostility toward Russia. Neither did anyone anticipate that the US would push to expand NATO right up to Russia’s borders – an expansion that the US had promised Russia would not happen – an expansion that experienced US diplomats knew at the time was bound to alarm the Russians.

Neither did anyone anticipate that the US would participate in the violent overthrow of the elected government of a country, Ukraine, that shares a long and important border with Russia.

The current discussions of US nuclear policy that Philip Giraldi outlines – discussions so Herman-Kahn-esque and reminiscent of Cold War think-tanks – haven’t arisen in a vacuum. These discussions have arisen from a US policy of deliberately antagonizing and provoking Russia”

I second that, Kurt Gayle.
And the vast majority of people here in Eastern Europe see that pretty clearly, too. A few decades ago we all liked and admired the US…today most folks here see your country (quite justifiably, I’m afraid) as an evil aggressor, destroying country after country, overthrowing legitimately elected governments, supporting genocide, and on and on. It’s not Russia and Mr. Putin who are the threat!

#19 Comment By Noreastern On October 5, 2016 @ 7:57 pm

As a scientist extremely interested in military technologies currently employed I can assure you that the US is overall a generation beyond any other nation. After moving air assets into place the US can break Russia in three days and China in two weeks.

But that completely trivializes the importance of nuclear devices in the balance of power in today’s world. Interestingly enough 30 ship born Aegis systems, fully equipped with SM-3 missiles would insulate the US from much of the damage an all out nuclear war. Then of course would come the radioactive fallout from all of those nuclear detonations. No nation is prepared to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war. Heist your heinies to the Southern Hemisphere.

Given the US advantage in conventional warfare (and it will not go away for generations) the best possible policy the government can implement is to limit nuclear proliferation. The Iran deal, whatever. Iran and North Korea can be castrated easily by a single ship born Aegis system within 500 miles of the launch site. The real issue is those 2,000 nuclear devices in the hands of Pakistan, China and Russia. As I was told in my youth duck and cover. Or more accurately kiss your *** goodbye.

#20 Comment By libertarian jerry On October 5, 2016 @ 9:06 pm

The sum of all the fears of the founders of the American Republic and the statesmen of sound mind was that America should go overseas,and to paraphrase,”go slay foreign dragons.” Why and what for? Who benefits? Since when has America become the policeman of the world? Only in the minds of megalomaniac politicians who live in the Washington Beltway la-la land. Politicians,who couldn’t make a living in the American Free Enterprise system if their lives depended on it but want to run the lives and dare I say gamble with the lives of everyday Americans by threatening a nuclear holocaust that would destroy our nation and vaporize millions of innocent men,women and children. And what for? To satisfy their own egotistical warped sense of importance. These politicians,in the name of sanity,should be voted out of power along with the bureaucratic fools who think that a nuclear war,any kind of nuclear war,is winnable. Yes we need nuclear weapons to deter a strike against America. But not as a matter of foreign policy. Any such thoughts are the height of insanity.

children

#21 Comment By spite On October 5, 2016 @ 10:37 pm

If one browses geopolitics forums one increasingly comes across arguments that say nuclear escalation is not such a big threat as it used to be, basically they are saying that a war with Russia and/or China is now feasible. This online argument more than likely originated from the same people that push for ever more money for the military.

The average joe who believes this argument or the military think tank thinker who came up with this idea, of the two, I don’t know which is the scarier one.

#22 Comment By ElteCommInc. On October 5, 2016 @ 10:47 pm

“If anyone has introduced new elements into the tension between Russia and the West, it’s Putin. Clinton was not incorrect when she pointed out that his statements that he’s just trying to protect ethnic Russians in places like Crimea and Ukraine (and the Baltic states) are reminiscent of Hitler’s claims re the Sudetenland – a claim the Soviet Union never made, and one that’s very provocative on its own. And his drone submarine program is most definitely a ratcheting-up of the arms race.”

At the risk of being called a traitor to my country, I am going to have to reject this as utter nonsense.

The history of Europe is riddled with the practice of protecting certain ethnics from one state that live on the ridges of another. It has been this dynamic which has under-girded much of European warfare. There’s nothing new about.

You are aware that the US and the EU initiated and supported a revolution in a democratic state that is cause for the current strife. And the result from which “ethnic Russians” on their feared reprisals, etc. They were not imports from Russia they were citizens of the Ukraine.

Whether i’s the 100 years war, Crimean war, Napoleonic wars, Franco-Prussian . . . all of these conflicts included loyalties to some ethnic contingent living in one region of a state or another. And that has never waned. It’s pat of the socio-political history. And the Ukranians who call themselves “russians by origin” revolted against the revolution or the consequences thereof, it was predictable what would take place as was Russia’s response. The Us may pretend to be in the dark, but the European powers know better.

The arguments containing loyalties to various ethnic people’s located did nit start with Hitler and will not end with Pres. Putin and the Russians. I think there remain tensions over the rock of Gibraltar. Should spain ever make claim to the region inhabited by ethnic Brits across the border . . .

Our behavior and role in the Ukrainian conflict was foolish. And regime change in a democratic state . . . you are kidding yourself and flat out wrong.

Surely, you have heard of Alsace-Lorraine.

#23 Comment By ElteCommInc. On October 5, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

Russia was never going to disappear from the world stage. It would be mistake for anyone to have thought so. But ethnic conflict is not new in Europe nor Asia.

China – Vietnam.

#24 Comment By Basil McDonnell On October 6, 2016 @ 1:08 am

The long-term solution is simple- bring Russia into NATO.

The long-term goal should be the normalization and democratization of Russia to the point where the differences between them and us matter no more than the differences between Denmark and Sweden. It may seem like a distant goal, but look how far we’ve come: until 1989, Russia was the center of an implacable ideological enemy. Now they’re nothing more than another capitalist country- worse than some, better than others. But who can plausibly argue that they differ from the West in ideology?

In Ukraine, isn’t it simply a question of who gets to loot the country: their oligarchs, or our Wall Street? But in the end the money still goes for the same yachts.

The competition is now purely commercial- and purely optional.

Except for those who make their money off it.

Would it be a shock to most Americans now, to be told that the Russians proposed joining NATO in 1993? And they were turned down? “Only one big dog in the pack”, was the reason?

Russia into NATO- and the whole thing goes away.

Keeping Russia as an enemy is just plain madness. The nukes are the worst of it, but none of it has to happen.

Madness.

#25 Comment By Redeemed-Deplorable On October 6, 2016 @ 1:49 am

@Hanna Khayyat

I strongly doubt that further chaos in Syria is good for, much less desired by Israel. Israel benefits from stability in the Mideast, not wars. As a small client state, they aren’t free to speak their mind on these issues.

#26 Comment By David W On October 6, 2016 @ 8:11 am

Obama was overruled by his cabinet?
Doesn’t the president have the authority to make decisions?
This president is the weakest in history, and that is frightening.

#27 Comment By Alex Gludhenkov On October 6, 2016 @ 8:25 am

I read a little commentary. It seems to me that you are not sufficiently aware of the consequences.
16 ago we agreed that NATO would not expand eastward. Now NATO at our borders.
And you really believe that Russian should not worry?
All this talk about the “aggressive” Russia – this is just a camouflage that hides the economic interests.

#28 Comment By Alex Gludhenkov On October 6, 2016 @ 8:42 am

Robert Levine says:
October 5, 2016 at 11:03 am
You write that Putin is guilty, but maybe you will prompt what did Hillary Clinton on the barricades of Ukraine? Everyone lived in peace in Ukraine, and Europe has been at peace, and the Crimea was part of Ukraine and no one cared as long as America has not got into all this.
The government was concerned with rumors that Ukraine is ready to terminate the agreement with Russia to lease the base in the Crimea and to provide these areas of NATO. That was the reason. And yet, “who should” know about it.
The rest of the babble about the evil Putin – it’s unfortunate that it did not happen.
How many wars are now involved the United States? And then you talk about the evil Russian …

#29 Comment By Dan On October 6, 2016 @ 10:13 am

By constantly wishful thinking real, silent and distorts the facts.

Well, for example, communication between the military budgets of Russia and the United States there is no, as Russia bears the cost of their weapons in rubles, not dollars.

But the inefficiency and cost is not zabolachnaya letabschih aircraft and spacecraft makes Russian laughter when the Americans are trying to prove their military advantage comparing budgets.

You do not need Russian aircraft carriers, since Russia is not going to win anyone. A 10 huge ships fueled a flock of supersonic missiles (you did not know that there are some Russian technology??

Or fueled hypersonic Russian torpedoes, cruise missiles, and well, though with a nuclear warhead, though without the same will not forget.

Also worth remembering that the horizon missile detection from US ships rather high (design feature), and the Russian missiles are flying very low.

Therefore, Russian perceive American carriers like big floating coffin.

And do not forget the simple fact – if a conflict starts – Russian would not consider local conflicts – strike will be applied directly by the United States and such as to attack Russia nobody else did not arise.

Country built between two oceans and around Yellowstone – it would be necessary to remember this. One missile Sarmat in the Yellowstone caldera and in a radius of 1000 km of the US will be overwhelmed meter layer of ash, and the continent will become uninhabitable.
Do I need this situation to the Americans – decide for yourself … Are you ready to die for the sake of the profits of the military lobby?
Russian do not want war, remember the terrible sacrifices of the WW II, but in the event of a conflict – there will be no losers or winners – will begin global destruction.

#30 Comment By Ursus_Rexx On October 6, 2016 @ 10:27 am

The end of the Cold War in 1991 seemed to reduce the chance of nuclear war still further, even though the weapons had proliferated…”

What is all this foolish talk about the ‘end’ of the Cold_War’?!
There are between 15,000 – 30,000 REAL, (Vs. Bush’s / Blair’s IMAGINARY…), N.-W.M.D.’s, sitting in their launch tubes,, (just like my paramedic ambulance used to sit, waiting, in the firehouse!), waiting for some G.W. ‘Plausibly, Deniable’ Bush-like sociopath to send a launch – order!

#31 Comment By the lion On October 6, 2016 @ 11:01 am

We have a problem in that the stupid Generals actually think they can win a Nuclear war, they believe that they can shoot the Soviet Nukes out of the sky and that the casualty rate will be acceptable!we saw this week the Russians actually preparing for a Nuclear Attack, one doesnt prepare their public like that just for the fun of it! just a few days ago we also heard the Russians were going to install their best Anti Aircraft missile system in Syria, only the US and its allies actually have aircraft in the vicinity other than the Syrians and Russians and they are not likely to be defending against themselves ISIS Al Nusra and the others do not have aircraft!

Russia is not likely to be imagining the problem and have probably picked up intel relating to the matter! Of course it could also be major preparations for an adverse President after the elections, Clinton was directly responsible for the Syrian conflict she authorized the use of Al Nusra read that as Al Qaeda in Iraq! we understand it is her intent to raise Nuland to the Secretary of State! Of course though Trump is no better here the rumors are that it will be Bolton under a Trump Presidency! Both as bad as each other!

#32 Comment By Michael Kenny On October 6, 2016 @ 11:42 am

It was always clear that at some point in time some rougue state with nuclear weapons was going to resort to nuclear blackmail. It was always clear that the world would have to stand up to the balckmailer. It’s just that we’re all surprised that it has turned out to be post-communist Russia. The flaw in Mr Giraldi’s reasoning is that he assumes that the people of Russia are behind Putin, although we have nothing other than Putin’s (far from disinterested) say so to that effect. Next year, we will be marking the 100th anniversary of a revolution which began with the mutiny of the Russian army, unwilling to fight in a war the soldiers didn’t believe in. What’s different now?

#33 Comment By John S On October 6, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

@Robert Levine
“Was the expansion of NATO eastwards a provocation? It was certainly viewed that way by Russia.”

Not always. See the Russia-NATO Founding Act.

@Basil McDonnell
“The long-term solution is simple- bring Russia into NATO.”

Agreed. The problem is Putin is not willing or able to enact the reforms necessary. The only way he is able to survive politically is by creating monsters for the Russian hoi poloi.

#34 Comment By alex russian On October 6, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

it dosnt matter how much hellicopters you have, it dosnt matter the number of superhightechnology rockets with the inch precision, you will all be dead ,we are all we will…

#35 Comment By Claus Eric Hamle On October 6, 2016 @ 6:55 pm

468 missiles in Romania and Poland and on 32 ships in the Mediterranean to defend us from Iran (!!!!!). That’s the problem. Chief submarine missile engineer Bob Aldridge-www.plrc.org: Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike. They’ve got 2 minutes to react. Launch On Warning and Suicide by mistake caused by the bloody fools in Pentagon/NATO ??? According to Bob Aldridge the US Navy can track and destroy all enemy submarines simultaneously. “Only” for Blackmail ? Or what ?!?

#36 Comment By Gregory On October 6, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

I used to think that the best chances we humans have to destroy ourselves in the near future were going to be resource depletion or an antibiotic resistant superbug, but I’m starting to wonder if it won’t be nuclear weapons. Guess I should go reread Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Maybe millions of years after the world recovers from our annihilation of one another, dogs will rule the world. I really doubt they are capable of the sort of evil that humans are constantly embracing.

#37 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 7, 2016 @ 1:30 am

It’s hard not to have a bleak outlook.

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#38 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 7, 2016 @ 11:18 am

I think the US would do well to consider our role in escalating matters. None of which would require that we cease being an influential or even a dominant player on the world stage.

#39 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On October 8, 2016 @ 2:16 am

I am skeptical of America’s bellicose statements, as well as I can not relate seriously to the terrible alex russian, whose grammar “dosnt matter”, because “you will all be dead, we are all we will … ” Meanwhile, Russian citizens are not so warlike as very conservative. They used to trust the good old usd and they keep under the mattresses about 25-30 billion dollars in cash. Do you really suppose a nuclear attack on the United States so that, after the ruin of the country, these dollars are not worth anything?
In Russia, people are building bridges, elite residential areas ( in which officers and their families receive apartments), entertainment centers. Do you think that it’s all fake, false targets, and actually Russian secretly dig deep shelter for millions of people in the event of a nuclear confrontation with the United States?
Of course entry into the war will not be discussed in a national referendum. The narrow group of interested parties starts a war and only then tens of millions are involved in it. Now there is a clear split among the world’s elite on the issue of how much and in what capacity it needs people on the planet. The planet is overpopulated and the human population should be reduced to 2 billion, or we need a few more billions to break into a new technological way.
From that point of view which will win – the forecast for the future will depend.
President Putin and his administration have stated more than once against the use of the Russian card in inter-clan struggle within the US elite.
Mr. Giraldi, it would be interesting to read in some of your articles the analysis: What are the 10 richest families of the US and Russia? What are they thinking, what books they read, in what relationship they consist?
In the meantime, yesterday, the new water park has opened in the city. I invite you to see the opening and draw the conclusions:
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Peace to all and good luck

#40 Comment By Esti On October 8, 2016 @ 5:42 am

Russian here.
Michael Kenny, maybe it will be a great surprise for you, but most Russians are behind Putin. And most of us, even his political opponents, have a great deal of respect for him. Now – more than ever.

And accusing Russia in blackmail is laughable. USA wages wars around the globe (including supporting Ukraine regime) draws “red lines” for the sovereign nations, and, yet, it is Russia that is blackmailing someone.

John S, Putin doesn’t need to create monsters. We know that we are surrounded by NATO bases and american generals are eager for war (and we don’t need any propaganda for this. Reading american press is quite enough). What more do you need? But make no mistake, Putin is “surviving” not because of existance of someone to threaten Russia, but because Putin made life better and easier than it was in Eltzin era, because he restored national pride and because he acts as a real leader.

#41 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 8, 2016 @ 11:03 am

To paraphrase Emerson, “Warmongers are in the saddle, and they ride America.”

#42 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 8, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

“Therefore, Russian perceive American carriers like big floating coffin.”

But you have to find each of these coffins. And do so before they inflict the damage they are intended to.

“Country built between two oceans and around Yellowstone – it would be necessary to remember this. One missile Sarmat in the Yellowstone caldera and in a radius of 1000 km of the US will be overwhelmed meter layer of ash, and the continent will become uninhabitable.”

I appreciate this analysis. It was interesting. It assumes that the Caldera will bloom upon being struck with a nuclear weapon. It’s based on the theory that the caldera is a huge time bomb just waiting to be released.

I think there are too many factors one has to know to make that occur, that are unknowable, assuming that such a blast would not itself consume and dissipate the pressure it is intended to maximize. But is it interesting.

#43 Comment By Paul Palfey On October 9, 2016 @ 6:35 am

So, nukes are OK but God forbid I cut a fart and contribute to Global Warming.

#44 Comment By Profwatson On October 9, 2016 @ 8:34 am

The enemy is us. We spend more than China and Russia combined by several times. We can cut $500 billion a year out of the one trillion dollar national security state and be safer through better diplomacy. Imagine, that $500 trillion would close the deficit or it could be used for so many things. What we need is better management. Fire the old managers and bring in the new, like Mr. Trump, a person who can think outside of the box.

#45 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 10, 2016 @ 8:20 pm

“As a scientist extremely interested in military technologies currently employed I can assure you that the US is overall a generation beyond any other nation. After moving air assets into place the US can break Russia in three days and China in two weeks.”

To what end, I ask?

One thing is for sure, the Deep State which now rules over us cannot be voted out…