I have been putting off writing about this topic for a very long while. In fact, I wrote several articles trying to explain the self-evident truism that the US/NATO/EU does not have a military option in the Ukrainian war. First, in an article entitled Remembering the Important Lessons of the Cold War I tried to explain that the reason the Cold War did not turn into a hot, shooting, war is that both sides understood that they simply could never win and that any escalation in strikes and counter-strikes could very rapidly lead to a intercontinental nuclear war, something which neither side was willing to risk. In a piece entitled Making Sense of Obama’s Billion Dollar Hammer I tried to show that all the money the US will by pouring into “European security” is just a grandiose bribe for some European elites and that it had no real effect on the ground. A few days later I posted an article entitled Why the US-Russian Nuclear Balance is as Solid as Ever in which I tried to dispel the myth prevalent in the West about the putative state of disrepair of the Russian military in general, and of the Russian nuclear forces in particular. Lastly, in a piece entitled Short Reminder about US and Russian Nuclear Weapons I tried to show that in reality it was the US nuclear forces who were in a state of disrepair. And over and over again, in many comments, I tried to lay out the reasons for which I simply did not believe that the US/NATO/EU would dare to attack Russia. In summary, I will say this: the US is not nearly as powerful as the US propaganda claims. Without going into long debates about what “victory” and “defeat” mean, I will just say that in my personal opinion the last time the US military fought well was in Korea, and even there it had to accept a draw. After that, it was all downhill. This is not the fault of the US solider, by the way, but by the fact that big money and politics got so heavily involved in the US military that they corrupted everything. This is most evident in the USAF which still has superb pilots, but who are given a terrible choice: either fly on good but old aircraft or fly on new but terrible ones (I believe that given the choice, most would chose the former). As for the European NATO allies, they are such a joke that they hardly deserve mention. They even look bad on a parade.
As for a military option in the Ukraine, it appears unthinkable to me not only because, frankly, I don’t see a single military in the West capable of taking on the Russian military in full-scale battle, but also because geography powerfully argues against such a crazy idea (the very same geography which would make it impossible for Russia to try to invade western or even central Europe).
And yet, something in all this very logical reasoning felt wrong to me. A few days ago it finally hit me. What bothered me was
The American Duck
Among the many beautiful and witty expressions and neologisms Americans use, I always loved this one: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. This so-called “Duck test” is funny, but it is also a powerful logical method which ended up chewing at me day after day after day. Here I was, all sure and certain that the US/NATO/EU would never consider such a ludicrous notion as the one of an military attack on Russia or on Russian forces. But kept hearing the voice of the American Duck telling me: look at what they are doing, what does that look like to you? Suspend your conclusions and just tell me what are you observing? Tell me, if they had decided to escalate to the point of a military confrontation with Russia, would they be doing things differently? And a few days ago, I threw in the towel (at the duck, of course) and had to accept that while I did not know what they were thinking or what their intentions really were, it sure looked to me like the western plutocrats had decided to escalate the crisis has high as possible.
In truth, I have to admit that when I studied the theory of deterrence in the 1980 my teachers always insisted that this theory of deterrence was predicated on what they called a “rational player”. To put it simply – how do you deter a lunatic? Or a desperate man with nothing to lose? Or a person hell-bent on mutual destruction? The truth is, you cannot. Deterrence assumes a rational actor making a logical decision about unacceptable costs. As far as I know, nobody has ever developed a theory of deterrence applicable to a madman. When I initially wrote my pieces explaining why I believed that a US/NATO/EU attack was impossible a lot readers posted comments saying that while maybe the top US military command was still mainly composed of rational men, the US imperial elites had clearly gone crazy a long time ago and that they were so stuck in their arrogance, their imperial hubris, there delusion of invincibility and their knee-jerk and systematic use of violence that they could no more be considered as rational. At the time I replied that, yeah, sure, maybe, but what is the point of analyzing something crazy. How do you try to make sense of the suicidally insane?
And yet, this is what I propose to do today. I will try as best I can to try to place myself in the mind of these lunatics and see what they could try doing, and what the consequences of that would be. I will go through several possible plans that these crazies might have starting from the most limited one and then going up the insanity slope.
Plan one: a symbolic and limited intervention
This plan is already underway. We know that there are US military advisers in the Ukraine, including at least one general, we know that the Dutch and Australians will be sending in a lightly armed force to “protect” the investigators at the crash site of MH17 (although how a few men armed with assault rifles can protect anybody from Ukie artillery, tank or mortar fire is anybody’s guess). Then there are all the reports of foreign mercenaries, mostly US and Polish, fighting with the Ukie death squads. There is also some good evidence that Poland is sending military equipment, including aircraft and, possibly, crews. Well, all of that is dumb and serves very little useful purpose, but that is what the West is so good at: pretending. If this plans stays at this level I would say that it is not very important. But, alas, there is a nastier possibility here:
Plan two: a tripwire force
This is just an extension of plan one: bring in a few men, and then have them killed. This would trigger the needed “popular outrage” (carefully fanned and reported by the corporate media) to force the Europeans to accept more US sanctions in Europe or even some kind of “EU-mandated” “peacekeeping force”. Of course, if the Russians or the Novorussians do not take the bait and fail to kill the “observers”, US/NATO false flag teams could easily do that. Just imagine what a heavy-mortar strike on a building with these OSCE observers would look like. The junta in Kiev would be more than happy to “invite” such a “peacekeeping” force into Novorussia and since this would be an “invited” force, no UNSC Resolution would be needed. Finally, such a “peacekeeping” force would be regularly reinforced and augmented until it could basically cover the flanks of the Ukies in their attacks against Novorussia. This force would also assume the command and control of Ukie forces, something which the Ukies could greatly benefit from (their current command and control is a mess).
Plan One and Plan Two assume that Russian forces stay on the other side of the border and that the only opposition to such a deployment could come from the Novorussians. But what if the Russians decided to move into Novorussia either to protect the locals or stop his limited US/NATO/EU “peacekeeping force”? Then the US/NATO/EU would have to take a dramatic escalatory step send in a much bigger force, more capable of defending itself.
Plan three: UPROFOR on the Dniepr?
This is the Yugoslav scenario. The West would send in something on the order of 10 battalions which would each be given an area of responsibility for “peacekeeping”. Then police forces would be also sent to “maintain law and order” and EU commissars would be sent in to “help” the local population “express their will” and “organize” a local government. Soon there would be some kind of EU-run election and all the Novorussian forces would be declared “bandits” from which the local population need to be “protected”. Since Strelkov himself fought in Yugoslavia, as did many other Russians, I don’t believe that the Russians or Novorussians would fall for this one. I think that Russia would express its opposition to such a plan and that if she was ignored, she would move in her own forces along the line of contact.
This might be the US/NATO/EU endgoal: to create a Korea like “line of demarcation” which would isolate the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics from the rest of Novorussia and the rest of the Ukraine, this would mean getting plenty of Kosovo-like “Camp Bonsteels” all along the Russian border and it would make it looks like the “Wartime President of the One Indispensable Nation” “stopped the Russian Bear”. Finally, it would create a perfect Cold War like environment in which the western 1%ers could continue to exploit the 99% while constantly scaring them with the “Russian threat”.
Plan four: Operation Storm in Novorussia and Crimea?
I would not put it past the folks in the Pentagon and Mons to try to pull off an “Operation Storm” in Novorussia and even possibly Crimea. That is the scenario Glazev fears: the US/NATO/EU would put enough forces inside the Ukraine to allow it to survive long enough to mobilize a sufficient number of men and equipment for a lightening fast attack in Novorossia and even possibly Crimea. And, in theory, if we assume the Banderstan does not collapse under its own weight and the economic disaster, the Ukraine has the resources to mobilize far more men and equipment that the tiny People’s Republics of Donestk and Lugansk or even Crimea. But that, again, assumes that Russia will let that happen, which she won’t, so now we have to look at the really crazy plans:
Plan five: First “Desert Steppe Shield” then “Desert Steppe Storm”
That is a crazy notion: to do with Russia what the US did with Iraq. First, to place down a “protection force” in the Ukraine, isolate Russia, and then attack in a full-depth and full-scale determined attack. We are definitely talking about a continental war with a fantastic potential to turn into a world war. This plan would have be based on two crucial assumptions:
1) The US/NATO/EU conventional forces would be capable of defeating the Russian military.
2) If facing conventional defeat, Russia would not use nuclear weapons.
I think that both of these assumptions are deeply mistaken. The first one is based on a mix of propaganda, bean counting and ignorance. The propaganda is something which western military are very good. They are not. Most western armies are a pathetic joke, and those who can fight well (the Brits, the Turks) are too little to matter. That leaves the US military which have capabilities far in excess of what its NATO allies can muster. Just as in WWII all the serious fighting had to be done by German units, in case of a WWIII (or IV?) all the serious fighting would have to be done by Americans. The problem is that the Americans would have an extremely hard time bringing in enough forces to really make the difference. In any case, I have the biggest doubt about the current fighting capabilities of the US Army and Marine Corps. Faced with a Russian battalion defending its own soil I think that an equivalent USA/Marine force would get slaughtered.
The “bean counting” is when you compare all the NATO APCs or tanks to the number available to the Russian military. The corporate media loves this kind of charts in which soldiers, APCs, tanks, aircraft and other gear are compared. Professional analysts never use them simply because they are meaningless. What matters is how much of that gear is actually available for battle, the kind of tactics used, the training and morale of the soldiers, the skills of their commanding officers, and stuff which is *never* mentioned: supplies, logistics, petroluem, lubricants, ammunition, lines of supply, medical standards, even food and weather. Bean counters simply never see that. But one could argue that the number of trucks is more important to a military than the number of tanks. Yet trucks are never counted. But yes, on paper NATO looks huge. Even though most NATO gear could not even survive your average Ukrainian road, nevermind the winter.
But let us assume that the Hollywood image of the US military is true: invincible, best trained, best armed, with a fantastic morale, led by the very best of the best officers, it would easily defeat the primitive Russian military, armed with antiquated weapons and commanded by fat drunken generals. Okay, and then what? If is the official Russian nuclear deterrence doctrine that in this case Russia would use nuclear weapons. Since even in Hollywood movies nobody makes the claim that the US anti-missile systems could stop Iskanders, cruise missiles or even gravity bombs, we would have to accept that the invincible US force would be turned into radioactive particulates and, that, in turn, would leave the US President two terrible choices: a) take the loss and stop b) retaliate and the second option would have to include the location from where the strike came from: Russia proper. That, of course, would place the following choices for the Russian President: a) take the loss or b) strike at the continental United States. At this points nuclear mushrooms would start appearing all over the map.
Now please make no mistake: Russia can not only destroy Mons, the Pentagon and Cheyenne Mountain (just a matter of placing enough warheads on the right spot), but also every single major city in the United States. Sure, the USA can retaliate in kind, but what kind of consolation would that be for anybody left?
I cannot believe that the US deep state would truly, deliberately, want to start a planetary nuclear war. For one thing, US leaders are cowards and they will not want to take such a monumental decision. A far more likely version is that being stupid, arrogant and cowards they will stumble upon just that outcome. Here is how:
Plan six: American football’s “Hail Mary”
In American football there is a specific pass which is used only when seconds are left on the clock and your teams is badly losing anyway. Basically it works like this: every single person who is not defending the quarterback rushes to the endzone, as do all the defenders, and the quarterback then just throws the ball straight into that zone with the very slim hope that one of his own players will catch it and score a touchdown. This is called a “Hail Mary” for very good reason as only a miracle makes such a desperate plan work. Most of the time the ball is either fumbled or caught by the other team. But, very rarely, it works (see here).
I can very much imagine a desperate Obama trying to show the American people that he “has hair on his chest” and that he is not going to let “regional power” challenge the “indispensable nation”. So what he and, really, his administration risks doing is the following: to play a game of chicken hoping against all odds that the Russian will yield. This is my worst nightmare and the worst possible assumption to make because Russia cannot yield.
In March of this year I issued a warning which I entitled “Obama just made things much, much worse in the Ukraine – now Russia is ready for war“. What prompted me to issue that warning was the fact that the Council of the Russian Federation has just unanimously passed a resolution allowing Putin to use Russian armed forces in the Ukraine. Since, this resolution has been repealed at Putin’s request and for obvious political motives, but the mood, the determination is still there. In fact, I think that it has grown much stronger.
There has been much useless speculation about Putin, his motives and his strategy. This is way bigger than just Putin. If the US/NATO/EU really push too far, and that includes a genocide in Novorussia, an attack on Crimea or an attack on Russian forces, Russia will go to war, Putin or no Putin. And Putin knows that. His real base of support is not in the Russian elites (who mostly fear him), but in the Russian people (with whom his current rating are higher than ever before). And Putin himself openly spoke about the “threats to Russian sovereignty” though he did add that because of the Russian nuclear forces there was, in his opinion, no immediate threat to the Russian territory.
If the US decides to play a game of chicken with Russia, then it will do the same thing as a car driver playing a game of chicken against an incoming train: regardless of the train’s driver, the train is on tracks and its momentum is too big: it cannot stop or veer away.
The problem is that the USA has a long record of making absolutely irresponsible statements which end up putting them into a corner from which they cannot bulge without losing face. Just look at the MH17 disaster: the Obama administration immediately rushed to blame the Russians for it, but what will it do when the evidence to the contrary comes out? What if Obama also draws a red line somewhere (it does not really matter where) and then forces Russia to cross it?
Sadly, I can imagine the USA declaring that the US/NATO will defend the Ukie airspace. I think that they are dumb enough to try to seize a Russian ship entering or leaving the Black Sea. Remember – these are the folks who hijacked the aircraft of Bolivian President Evo Morales to try to find Snowden on board. These are the folks who regularly kidnap Russian citizens worldwide (the last time the son of a well-know Russian member of Parliament who was kidnapped in the Maldive Islands). And, of course, these are the folks who did 9/11. Their arrogance knows no limits because they are profoundly evil sociopaths. For them the organization of false flag operations is a normal, standard, procedure. They almost triggered a war between the DPRK and South Korea by sinking a South Korean military vessel. They used chemical weapons in Syria not once, but several times. And the last time we had a Democrat in the White House, he was crazy enough to send two US Aircraft Carrier Groups into the Strait of Taiwan to threaten China.
My biggest fears
This is my biggest fear: some kind of desperate “Hail Mary” maneuver in which the US will try to convince Russia that “look, we are crazy enough to start this thing, so you better back off” not realizing that Russia cannot back off. The other thing which really scares me is that during the Cuban Missile Crisis everybody was aware of the stakes and most people were truly terrified. Now, thanks to the propaganda of the corporate media, almost nobody is afraid and hardly anybody is paying attention. Russia and the USA are on a clear collision course and nobody cares! How come?
Because if 9/11 proved anything is that there are things which most people are simply unwilling to contemplate, no matter how close and real they are. It would only make sense that the Empire of Illusion would be populated by a people in total denial. After all, illusion and denial usually go hand in hand.
Most of you, dear readers and friends, seem to be sharing with me a sense of total distrust in the sanity of our leaders. When I asked you whether you believed that the US/NATO were crazy enough to use military forces against Russia, an overwhelming number of you answered that “yes” and a good part of you was even emphatically sure of that. Why? Because we all know how crazy and deluded are Imperial Overlords are. Crazy and deluded enough not to quality as “rational actor”? Crazy and deluded enough to play a game a chicken with a train? Crazy and deluded enough to risk the planet on “Hail Mary? Alas, I think that this is a very real possibility.
But what does Uncle Sam really want?
There is a gradual realization in Russia that for Uncle Sam this is not about the Ukraine. It is about Russia and, specifically, about regime change in Russia. A vast majority of Russian experts seem to believe that the US wants to overthrow Putin and that this entire war in the Ukraine is a means to achieve that. As a very cynical joke going around now says “Obama is willing to fight Putin down to the very last Ukrainian”. I think that this is correct. The US hopes that one of the following will happen:
1) A Russian military intervention in Novorussia which will allow the US to restart a Cold War v2 on steroid and which will also fully re-enslave Europe to the USA. Putin would then be blamed for falling in the US trap
2) The creation of a US-run “Banderastan” in the Ukraine. That would ‘contain’ and destabilize Russia. Again, Putin would be blamed for letting that happen.
3) A “nationalist Maidan” in Russia: this is what is behind the current Putin-bashing campaign in the blogosphere: to paint Putin as a weak and/or corrupt man, who traded Crimea for the Donbass (you know the tune – these folks even comment on this blog). These efforts are supported and, sometimes, even financed by Russian oligarchs who have a great deal of money involved in the EU and who really don’t need the current tensions. Here Putin would be blamed for not doing enough.
In all three cases, Putin would risk a (patriotically) color coded revolution which would, inevitably, bring either crazy rogue ruler or a clueless fossil to power (a la Zhirinovsky or Zuiganov) or, much better, a pro-American “liberal” (a la Medvedev). I think that all of these plans will fail.
Putin will not give Uncle Sam the intervention he wants. Instead, Russia continue to support the Resistance in Novorussia until Banderastan goes “belly up”, i.e. for another 30-60 days or so. As for the “nationalist Maidan”, the Russian people see straight through this “black PR campaign” and their support for Putin is higher than it ever was. It’s not Putin who does not want to intervene overtly in the Donbass, it is the Russian people. The attempts at stirring up anti-Putin by first stirring-up anti-Strelkov feelings have completely failed and, in fact, they have backfired. A lot of these “hurray-patriots” are now overly called “useful idiots” for the CIA or even provocateurs.
Finally, while they are at this point in time only rumors, there seems to be more and more specialists of the opinion that MH17 was a deliberate false flag by the US. If the news that the Ukies did it ever becomes public, then the entire destabilization plan will go down the tubes. At this point, I would not put anything, no matter how crazy, past the US deep-state.
And that is a very scary thought.