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27 March 2014


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Col: Why is this happening? The fog of collective delusion has settled over the Capitol. Is the risk of being shunned at a Georgetown cocktail party more frightening than a conflagration?

My two cents: the benefits of aggressive policy go to lots of Capitol constituents, but the risk and responsibilty devolve only on the President.

William R. Cumming

Agree with posts! And in fact tactical nuclear weapons is a misnomer!


I dont know why everyone has tried so hard to demonize Putin. The man has shown great restraint so far. If I was him and the POTUS tried to lecture me, I would laugh in his face and do whatever I thought needed doing.
Mr Obama's speech about how at least we tried to go the UN over Iraq was pathetic. Does trying to go through the UN and getting rebuffed yet doing it anyway makes it better? I think the opposite is true.
The people in charge are children. Scratch that, I know children that have a better grasp on reality. I dont think the heavily propagandized American public has a clue how close we are to actual nuclear war or how far our credibility to give human rights lectures has fallen. The bills have come due, time to pay.
A bit of self awareness about hypocrisy and reality is needed. But that will never happen with the courtesans of the Potomac. It was nice knowing you all. Good luck and Godspeed.


I think because it is an election year, there is going to be a lot of chest thumping on the Republican side implying that Obama is weak and a strong Republican president like Romney would have stood up to Putin, It is all empty words. No one wants to go to war with Russia, except for McCain perhaps. I think it is all just a game that is being played out and hopefully both sides no the rules and their part in it. Putin gets Crimea and Obama can look like he is carrying a big stick and perhaps sell more natural gas to Europe and Europe can continue doing what it always does.


"I just don’t understand why we would take this huge risk for a little more wealth and power."

Greed makes you stupid.



The words 'tactical nuke' reminds me of Shyam's Saran op-ed in the Hindu about Pakistan's tactical nuke strategy.


whatever sophistry Pakistan may indulge in to justify its augmented arsenal and threatened recourse to tactical nuclear weapons, for India, the label on the weapon, tactical or strategic, is irrelevant since the use of either would constitute a nuclear attack against India. In terms of India’s stated nuclear doctrine, this would invite a massive retaliatory strike. For Pakistan to think that a counter-force nuclear strike against military targets would enable it to escape a counter-value strike against its cities and population centres, is a dangerous illusion.

That's for 2 regional countries in the SE Asia. For Russia, I don't think they're going to stop with a 100 after the first 'tactical' one against them.


"This must be the result of a combination of ignorance, greed, denial, and ideology "

I would add to that list revenge fantasies by people with Jewish/Central European roots, narcissism and feminism.


Why is Wolfiwitz and Rumsfield on my TV? Why would anybody care what these two buffoons have to say?
And Israel has voiced concerns about our support of actual NAZIs. Bed........its for lying in the one you made.


Russia's military occupation of Crimea is extremely provocative. Far more so than actions of the EU or NATO. It will be far too easy for the now-mounting military jostling to get out of hand. Putin might want to consider recalling his plainclothes hooligan tourists from eastern areas of the Ukraine.

None of the major political players here has clean hands, Not Russia, but also not the EU, NATO, or the US. The ousted Ukrainian PM was a kleptocrat of the first order. But the preceding government was also a corrupt shambles; just waiving a different colored flag. All are working in their own interests.

To fixate on a potential nuclear exchange at this point, is to seek a justification for inaction. There is a clear need for action to defuse the crisis and achieve resolution, and it need not be military.


A quote from "The Pathology Of Power" by Norman Cousins (via Zerohedge) this is what we are seeing:

"Connected to the tendency of power to corrupt are yet other tendencies that emerge from the pages of the historians:

1. The tendency of power to drive intelligence underground;

2. The tendency of power to become a theology, admitting no other gods before it;

3. The tendency of power to distort and damage the traditions and institutions it was designed to protect;

4. The tendency of power to create a language of its own, making other forms of communication incoherent and irrelevant;

5. The tendency of power to set the stage for its own use.

Medicine Man

I think that's pretty astute. I've thought for some time that Bush Jr came to understand the implications of this fact during his second term; rumors of his soured relationship with various neocon hatchet men and his vice president were the product of this understanding.

David Habakkuk


Back in 1986, I was a very conventional British Cold War liberal, when I came across an article published the year before entitled ‘Deterrence: The Problem – Not the Solution.’ The title in itself would I suspect normally have made me pass the article by, but the fact that the author, Michael MccGwire, was a former head of the Soviet naval section of our Defence Intelligence Staff made me read on.

It turned out that MccGwire was not, as I would have assumed from the title, questioning the need for military preparedness, or arguing that it was necessarily immoral to make threats it would be immoral to execute.

At the centre of his case was the need to keep two kinds of analysis separate. The familiar maxim ‘judge capabilities not intentions’ is largely appropriate, in relation to the problems of contingency planning for war, but positively dangerous, if the result is that questionable judgements about intentions shape policymaking.

When he developed his argument in his study of ‘Military Objectives in Soviet Foreign Policy’, published the following year, MccGwire referred to a discussion published by Raymond Garthoff – then a colleague of his at Brookings – back in 1958 of an article published by a Major-General Khlopov, published in June 1950 in the confidential Soviet journal Military Thought.

Despite American strategic air power and plans for its use against the Soviet Union, Khlopov had argued, there was a fatal flaw in the assumptions underlying such plans. The combination of greater air capabilities in Europe and 'powerful offensive operations on a large scale with a high tempo of advance', he suggested, would mean that 'the bridgehead on which the American militarists count to concentrate and deploy their forces for land engagements will be liquidated and their plans for [winning] the war will be buried with it.'

By different routes, the Ivy League textual scholar Garthoff, and MccGwire, who joined the Royal Navy as a 17-year-old midshipman in 1942, came to the same conclusion. Much of the truth about Soviet military planning lay on the surface. Contingency planning for a ‘blitzkrieg’ into Western Europe was not a reflection of offensive intentions.

Rather, it was a response to the obvious fact that if, in the event of war, the massively superior American military-industrial potential could be effectively deployed in Europe, the Soviets must inevitably lose.

The dangers involved in making unwarranted inferences about intentions from capabilities had, MccGwire argued, been illustrated by the history of ‘flexible response’. Its intended purpose had been to improve the ‘credibility’ of ‘deterrence’. Its actual effect had been to precipitate a change in Soviet planning assumptions.

Whereas the Soviets had earlier assumed that any general war with the United States must escalate to an intercontinental nuclear exchange, and thought pre-emption their least worst option, they came to conclude that escalation might be avoided.

Looked at in narrowly military terms, the implication was that as attacks on the continental United States had to be eschewed, the imperative of eliminating the bridgeheads on which the American military-industrial potential could be deployed acquired new salience. And this was all the more so, as it would be necessary to do this with sufficient rapidity to render the possibility of NATO implementing its threats of ‘first use’ moot.

There were many complex elements behind the changes in Soviet security policy introduced by Gorbachev. Among them, however, was an attack of common sense both among Soviet civilian defence intellectuals, and also some of the military professionals. What such people came to conclude was that in following a narrowly military logic, the Soviet Union had gone down a course which made a global nuclear holocaust more likely.

Very little of this was understood in the West. Instead, it came to be almost universally believed that it was the Reagan-era military build-up which had produced the retreat and collapse of Soviet power. Those of us who attempted to argue that this was a somewhat oversimplified view got effectively marginalised. Those who had assured everyone that the Gorbachev ‘new thinking’ was a strategy of deception assumed the reins of power in the United States.

Now these same people are telling you, and us, that Putin is a Soviet ‘revanchist’. Believe them if you will.

In relation to the immediate future, I am relatively sanguine, precisely because I know that Russian military thinkers, by contrast to some of the academics who dominated Western ‘security studies’, were very well aware of ‘Murphy’s Law’.

As regards the longer term, however, the reasons for fearing an eventual apocalyptic nuclear conflagration seem to me to be getting progressively stronger.


I think the big problem is that the oligarchs assumed that the Russians were, more or less, under control. Ensuing events have demonstrated that they have much less control over the Russians than they thought. This loss of control clearly must be punished.

The reaction is similar to the Russian reaction to loss of control over Urkaine. Which is why it can dangerously lead to a mutually reinforcing cycle of reaction and counter reaction.


Now I understand multi-level diplomacy. First, the adult version. See http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2014-03-27/german-industry-goes-see-uncle-putin
Then, the children's version. See http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-27/presenting-latest-us-strategy-counter-russian-aggression

Babak Makkinejad

But a nuclear-armed Pakistan clearly will not be swallowed by India or rendered impotent.


The IMF is going to bail out the 'new' Ukrainian government, which means Russia and Russian banks get paid in full. The US will get to foot allot of that bill. Meanwhile in Detroit city employees have already taken repeated cuts and pensioners are going to get cut too, because they did not deserve to be bailed out, they are Americans afterall.

Barrack - putting foreign banks first. Just like he did with US banks.


This is actually a fundamental problem in game theory. Ironically, it seems that only "pointy headed academics" seem to have taken this problem seriously, while those who claim to apply game theory to real life policymaking have been too busy yelling how much more they know because they know a little bit of game theory than people who spent time studying real life to actually realize how little game theory they really understand.

Only a very small proportion of the whole reality can be grasped at any moment and the amount of time and intellectual resources needed to process their significance, if at all it can be achieved, is far greater than what can be made available at any time. Consequently, there are many possible realities that are consistent with what little we can see. It is logically impossible, given only the tools of mathematics, to meaningfully tell them apart. The only path to make sense of how participants would be making decisions in such an environment is to go back to the "squishy" ideas that game theory types are averse to acknowledge, like history and culture. While game theory, rigorously applied, can help rule out some possibilities that make little logical sense, it can never rule out enough to make an understanding of "context" obsolete.

In the end, too many people who claim to use "game theory" for policy purposes are merely letting their existing prejudices as the arbiter to bridge the logical gap between the known and the unknown. This seems dangerous in multiple senses. To combat such narrow-minded arrogance, I always thought it'd be better for those who wish to dispute such nonsense to be more cognizant of game theory, but that is just me...

FB Ali

Like you, I am not too worried about the immediate future - mainly because, besides the idiots and kids in the room, there are some adults present, too: notably, Putin, Merkel, and Dempsey. (For Merkel, see the links in Matthew's comment below).

The longer term outlook is much more pessimistic.

William R. Cumming

David H! I cannot express enough my gratitude to you and others for your coherence and deep study reflected in your many comments on this blog. This one is of particular insight. My knowledge of many of the topics posted is limited but I do have some dated knowledge of war planning and nuclear weapon employment on the CENTRAL FRONT in NATO.

I recommend this comment to PL as a separate post but if so perhaps you might have further thoughts to incorporate. Oddly perhaps your comments conform to insights of Dr. Paul Bracken, PhD, an expert on command and control of nuclear weapons.

William R. Cumming

KHC! A great comment!

nick b


You make a very good point. Our priorities are bizarre at best. But look at how easily legislation to aid Ukraine sailed through Congress(House 399-19, Senate 98-2).

In Detroit's case, Congress was very clear that there would be no bailout. A few Senators even introduced budget amendments and other bills to make municipal bailouts illegal. No one in Congress was going to help Detroit, not even Sen. Carl Levin. The President was able to give about $320mm in grants and 'aid' from the budgets of DOJ, HUD and others, but he would never have been able to get a real bailout through Congress.



David Habakkuk has guest author status on SST and I would hope that he post his own front page articles or send them to me in e-mail to post. Comments I will moderate. pl

William R. Cumming

I distantly remember reading a book about a future WWIII resulting in a defeat of the Soviet Union in conventional war. Perhaps a Clancy or knock off called something like RED TIDE RISING. It was interesting to read but did not reflect any reality of how I believe such warfare would play out.

nick b


Totally Off topic here, but is there a name or an artist for the graphic at the top of the post? It's quite impressive.

Robert Kenneth Chatel

I think the ultimate beneficiaries of the bailout will be German and even more Austrian banks. I am an American who has lived and worked in Europe for over 36 years, 12 in Portugal (1986-1998) and 12+ in Greece (1978-1986 and 1998-the present). I have seen what the IMF, the ECB and the EU (the so-called Troika) have done to those countries economies in order to kick the can of debt down the road long enough so German and French banks can collect their interest payments and principal out before the these peripheral profligates, especially Greece, are forced to default on loans from the international lenders. The Germans take a hard line on more funding to Greece, which I can well understand, due to a number or factors.

Among them is crony capitalism, government corruption, and widespread tax evasion and bribery. One of the ironies is that the largest companies paying the largest bribes in Greece have been German, French, and Russian, and much of this has gone to secure contracts for weapons purchases and technology, mush of it rather inoperative, incompatible with previously purchased materiel or useless for one or another reason.

Greece has the 8th highest per capita military expenditures in the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures_per_capita I can understand why many Greeks, and many in government can make an argument for this due to worries about Turkey, especially after the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey; there are numerous reasons for that invasion and the current Greek fear with Turkish claims and Greek claims regarding mineral rights in "their" waters and what they consider part of "their" respective continental shelves as they wanted to map them. Just today, the Greek news carried the story of a Turkish corvette invading Greek waters and Turkish F-16s Greek airspace.

I apologize for my long digression, but I believe it might help in trying to enlarge the picture's context. I think there are many reasons for the IMF bailout of the Ukraine and our US interest in attempting to avoid a total economic collapse, from the potential for further insecurity in the future to the neo-con's latest version of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)to list only several.

In closing, I will add that I posted in the pasted under the handle Haralambos, the name Greeks told me corresponded to my nickname (Bob--Bobbis, ΜΠΑΜΠΗΣ). I will also add that I recall one of my history teachers in school told us that we needed to know the meaning and background of this new word, troika. I have found it interesting and rather ironic that this word has come to signify the three entities popularly demonized wherever they go in the eurozone. I have the sense that "bank" is headed for and probably in that direction: "'bank' is just a four-letter-word," to add to the legacy of the popular lyric.

Thank you for your thoughts; they set me on some of my own recollections.

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