Russian television broadcast a dire sounding piece on February 5th that probably was rather disquieting to most Russians, and also a source of significant dismay to their hopes for a rapprochement in relations following the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. The news agency “Vesti” explained that the US is preparing itself for nuclear war with Russia.
The US Department of Defense published its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. This consists of at least two documents that are public domain that detail the assessment the DoD made about nuclear threats from around the world. The language about Russia is curious, for like Russia, the US repeatedly maintains that there is no desire for anything but good relations.
However, this is unfortunately either a blind claim or a willfully blind claim for the sake of propaganda. Based on the insanity of the US government’s reaction or posture about Russia overall, with the military fears, the sanctions and the most recent incidents of the release of the “Kremlin list” of government heads and successful businessmen and women, and the close flyby of a Russian fighter jet to an American surveillance aircraft, the ever-present “RussiaGate” investigations; and the lack of visible insanity on the Russians’ side, it seems likely that the American version of what is causing the ‘need’ to resolidify ‘defenses’ is lacking in factual evidence and cannot be taken as conclusive or trustworthy.
Not that there is any precedent for this outrageous statement… and if you believe that…
The problem begins with a false premise:
Russia is not the Soviet Union and the Cold War is long over. However, despite our best efforts to sustain a positive relationship, Russia now perceives the United States and NATO as its principal opponent and impediment to realizing its destabilizing geopolitical goals in Eurasia. (Emphasis mine)
This is an extremely bold assertion, though for some of the people who influence the stance of US foreign and military policy, this is how they see it. However, it is also rather skillful sophistry that is achieved by a combination of American desire for hegemony and also, unfortunately, by a certain level of vagueness on both sides.
The Russian component of this vagueness largely seems to rest on the matter of Ukraine. Ukraine itself is rightly understood as the motherland of all the Rus’ (“all the Russias”) from history that runs back over a thousand years. It was Kiev that was the great capital of the early Russian governorate, which slowly expanded to become the Russian Empire.
However, there is also a complicated and deeply tragic history regarding the Ukraine, notably during the Soviet era, when millions of Ukrainians perished in what some in that country now regard as an intentional genocide, perpetrated deliberately against them by the Soviets in Moscow, hence, “Russia.”
This issue itself is complex and warrants, even begs, further exposition, but it is beyond the scope of this article. Some understanding may be gained by reading this piece, which gives an interesting survey of the history of Ukraine. (Be aware though that it still comes from a publication with Western perspective.)
The main point is that Ukraine’s own nationalistic wish is spawned from factors including a national memory that points at Moscow as the source of their problems. The fact that the Russian Federation is not Communist does not deter this point of view, because although the Russian nation is no longer a dictatorship, it still does not always conduct its foreign and national affairs transparently, and the desire for a real sense of self-determination is magnified by the allure of the glittering, wealthy West. The Western powers, most notably the USA, know this and have been teasing the Ukrainians with it.
Some of them, in Kiev and the western areas of the country (not all of which were Soviet territories at one point) have long had ties more to Europe than to Russia, and the inclusion of their territories in the Soviet Union was a source of further bitterness. For many people in Ukraine, their history is of living in a battlefield of foreign powers.
They are understandably almost instinctively upset about any power’s designs on their territory, but it is also easy to manipulate this characteristic, and the United States has led the current struggle for Ukraine yet again. The allure of Western European life seems to be what drew so many to the Euromaidan struggle in 2014, but the present day economy under the pro-Western government also appears to be in a shambles.
At any rate, the historical memory of extremely authoritarian and cruel Soviet rule in the region, plus the present day “vagueness” that seems to exist with regards to Russian foreign affairs, helps the West to cast Russia as an authoritarian nation, led by a “secret Communist”, Vladimir Putin, “who used to be a KGB agent.”
When one gives this information to many Americans, the conclusion they draw is clear.
Now to be sure, Vladimir Putin has been extremely open and candid about his nation and his own assertions of a strong Russian nation are absolutely proper for Russia, as they are for any nation. Nationalism is held extremely strongly in the United States, and again, history plays a part. The recent history of what amounts to world dominance, militarily, scientifically, academically, and culturally, gives a sense to Americans that it is their country which is the guardian of all that is good.
But what are they guarding? That greatness has shown many signs of slipping into decadence, such as happened in the waning days of the Roman Empire, where people lost their vision of becoming great, and have been self-indulgent in their perceived independence, not only of other nations and cultures, but of any power, including the Highest Power. We have seen it become legal to call homosexual unions “marriage” and depravity, drug use, and tremendous unproductive navel-gazing have become more and more prevalent in a nation that, a mere 45 years ago, really stood as a defender of Christian freedom.
It is not possible that a nation living in delusion about itself can have a clear view of those nations outside itself. And Russia has moved in the opposite direction as has the West. The struggle exists, for Russia under Communism suffered great damage to the institutions of family, marriage and Church, but the move of the Federation now is to rebuild these core values. All this while for a time, America seemed to be engaged in self-destruction by attacking these same core values.
Now, America’s military is in an extremely dangerous place. The amount of sheer power the military has is greater than any in the world. Although Russia and China also have incredibly capable military forces, the Chinese are untested in battle thus far, and the Russians are just beginning to show their own incredible capabilities. But the United States has been at war almost continuously since at least as early as 2001, and this projection of power does create experience.
This Nuclear Posture Review shows us the face of a country who is deluded, hysterical, as the Russian media calls it, and they are right. Despite the issues with Russia and Ukraine or Syria, Russia’s political will does not remotely resemble the notion that Russia is in an expansionist stage and that it wants to take over the former Soviet republics and then expand into the West. Russia does want to chart her own course, and as a great power, and one with a long history and long memory of suffering, she wants to try to protect her own people from more suffering.
The American posture points the finger at Russia for being a threat, and then implies that Russia is a threat in very well-crafted language. And this makes the assessment even more dangerous:
Russia has significantly increased the capabilities of its non-nuclear forces to project power into regions adjacent to Russia and, as previously discussed, has violated multiple treaty obligations and other important commitments. Most concerning are Russia’s national security policies, strategy, and doctrine that include an emphasis on the threat of limited nuclear escalation, and its continuing development and fielding of increasingly diverse and expanding nuclear capabilities. Moscow threatens and exercises limited nuclear first use, suggesting a mistaken expectation that coercive nuclear threats or limited first use could paralyze the United States and NATO and thereby end a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. Some in the United States refer to this as Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. “De-escalation” in this sense follows from Moscow’s mistaken assumption of Western capitulation on terms favorable to Moscow.
Effective U.S. deterrence of Russian nuclear attack and non-nuclear strategic attack now requires ensuring that the Russian leadership does not miscalculate regarding the consequences of limited nuclear first use, either regionally or against the United States itself. Russia must instead understand that nuclear first-use, however limited, will fail to achieve its objectives, fundamentally alter the nature of a conflict, and trigger incalculable and intolerable costs for Moscow. Our strategy will ensure Russia understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable.
The U.S. deterrent tailored to Russia, therefore, will be capable of holding at risk, under all conditions, what Russia’s leadership most values. It will pose insurmountable difficulties to any Russian strategy of aggression against the United States, its allies, or partners and ensure the credible prospect of unacceptably dire costs to the Russian leadership if it were to choose aggression.
This is an amazing construction and assertion, and it is extremely dangerous for a nation with simultaneously massive power and a deluded worldview to hold. It is also very difficult to get people who have such a suspicious point of view to back away from that suspicion. There is a great deal of bondage such belief and fear exerts on those who hold it.
That being said, this situation helps explain what many in the alternative media do – to counter media and political bias and to report on events in a light that is hopefully objective and true. The Vesti newspiece was in its own way as alarmist as the American document it reported is. The real way through this is obviously through increased understanding of the truth in all matters – historical, ideological, and in our case here, geopolitical.
The American side has taken several nasty jabs at the Russians recently, in this document and last week’s “Kremlin list”, but there is also hope that the disintegrating “Russiagate” investigation will come to the true conclusions about this matter, and so free the hands of those in America who understand that Russia is anything but an enemy or adversary.