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25 April 2014

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Matthew

Col: Very powerful.

dsrcwt

Colonel, I wonder if you have an opinion about when economic sanctions rise to the level of an act of war? It seems to me that the threats to lock Russia out of the global financial system, the "financial neutron bomb" could justifiably provoke a military response. The fact that Iran, Iraq and Syria have not treated sanctions as such (due to their inability to respond in a sufficiently potent manner) seems to have lulled our elites into a false sense of security about sanctions. I practically yell at the screen when I see a pundit talk about the Russian stock market decline as proof that Russia is paying a price. It seems that we have forgotten that there are national interests that transcend the stock market.

The Twisted Genius

I remember the furor over that movie. The Reagan Administration did not want it to be aired fearing it would lessen our resolve to wage nuclear war. They preferred that we unhinge our doors and grab our shovels and revel in the mushroom clouds. I still don't know whether they believed that crap or were just trying to "send a message" to the Soviets that we were crazier than they were.

The naiveté of that "60 Minutes" you described is shocking. Cluelessness is so in vogue. I wish ABC would have the stones to rebroadcast "The Day After" again. They should allow all networks to broadcast it simultaneously. Maybe that would slap some sense and outrage into the American public. The neocons and R2Pers will, of course, brand such a broadcast as un-American cowardice. Screw all those sons of bitches

samuelburke

"The Hillary enthralled press" does not care what "it" does to society in general. "It" just dogmatically serve their party/lobby of sympathy.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

Thanks for your great post. What is frightening about the Ukraine Crisis is that it will escalate out of control unless some adults intervene and Finlandize Western Ukraine. But, who are they?

The omission of the possibility of a nuclear war in the Russian NATO confrontation is proof that corporate media broadcasts propaganda and that a small cabal of rich ideologues have seized control of Washington DC. 1914 is repeating itself, all over again; except, a century later, when one side or the other realizes that the war could be lost they will ignite their hydrogen bombs in a desperate attempt to win.

Anyone who ducked and covered in grade school and lived through the Cold War and watched “The Day After” knows that your world can disappear in a flash and that those incinerated are the lucky ones. This is as true today as it was 30 years ago.

Babak Makkinejad

R2Pers, Neo-cons, and other such do-gooders are new manifestations of the "White Man Burden" and "Mission Civilizatrix" of former European Colonial Empires.

That the time for such a posture was gone by 1914 and died by 1948 does not seem to be bothering such people.

I expect nothing but disaster as the non-White people would put up resistance to this - yet again.

steve g

I also watched the CBS Morning News piece.
My first reaction was not the "take" of the
launch officer testing scandal. It was the
part where it was revealed older era computer
and technology was still being used. The reason
given is nothing is connected to the internet
therefore no cyber attack. Is this a CBS/US
government message to the Russians,if they were
not already aware, especially after the USS
Cooke was supposedly jammed? War games?

patrick lang

dsrcwt there certainly is such a point, but I do not know what it is in this case. The Japanese decision to go to war against us is such an example. pl

Basilisk

TTG, do you recall that the Chief of Air Force Intelligence came home from a perhaps bibulous evening to see the part where Soviet forces were beginning to roll across the inter-German border? He called the op center in a state of high dudgeon, "Why the hell didn't someone call me?"

We all laughed...but it wasn't really funny.

Imagine

"What can be done for you, can be done to you." The U.S. has proved that it is not responsible enough to maintain custody of the world's system of currency, turning the guns of financial lockout on the enemy du jour. We narcissistically assume that the rest of the world are stupid and powerless. But there is always something that can be done. "The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine."

Thus, however the latest grand adventure turns out, we are in the process of losing the petrodollar to a BRIC basket. Whether this in turn will cause the magical 0% interest rate of US borrowing to evaporate or not, triggering widespread devastation, is going to be interesting to watch.

(really, the US seems to be shooting itself in the foot with deploying financial weapons.)

seydlitz89

Col. Lang-

Thanks for this post sir. I remember that particular TV program back in 1983, and the controversy surrounding it, although being on active duty at the time there wasn't so much that was surprising for us.

Later, when I was in Berlin but still during the Cold War, my brother-in-law was with the 508th SMS as a launch officer . . . so we were on both "ends" so to speak.

What I find incomprehensible today is how oblivious our "leadership" is to the disaster that they court. Shouldn't there be something like "National Strategy 101" . . . or is that asking too much?

Robert Kenneth Chatel

I was among the generation that experienced air-raid drills in elementary schools and had the AM CONELRAD stations on our car radios: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CONELRAD, built fallout shelters or was encouraged to. My father was at the Japanese surrender and finished college under the GI Bill. He became a high-school chemistry teacher and attended several summers of courses to upgrade his skills in the 1950s at MIT and Tufts. He showed us youngsters (I was six or so) photos of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were distributed in his graduate courses. He also used the material in his chemistry classes.

I find the current ignorance or indifference to these stakes appalling, sand thank you, Colonel, for reminding readers that we are playing "Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette," to cite a song title from the early 1980s by Moving Hearts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT_RGgFSN3M

Sometimes music can make a difference. "Grandola" launched the Carnation Revolution in Portugal with only one dead due to a heart attack: http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/print.php?id=8773

I can only wonder what they are singing in Russia, Kiev, and Washington and what pied pipers they are listening to.

ISL

dsrcwt,

It has been noted in a few odd places that Russia maintains significant cyber capabilities, which I would imagine would be deployed (perhaps a test demo, taking down the easter seaboard power grid) that would be an appropriate response to the financial n-bomb. Could that then escalate - oh yeah, particularly since the only response would be to disconnect the internet, and then the entire global economy would melt down.

Col: Your soliquoy really strikes a nerve. Loren's point about resorting to tactical in case of a looming defeat makes me think that a very effective barrier for Russia against NATO would be a radioactive (west) Ukrainian wasteland.

Fred

"And because Ukraine is so close to the Russian heartland (about 250 miles from Moscow) "

Why is the President of the United States deploying forces 250 miles from Moscow? We really need our army 4,500 miles from our own capital? To defend the unelected government of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda?

crf

Russia has been acting as if it were extremely scared. Because it is.

This initial irrational reaction by the US in firstly advocating, and then not controlling the outcome of the coup (for example, by insisting that nothing hugely political be done by the interim government, like an EU-association agreement, which is good for the West Ukraine, but, as it is, bad for the East) resulted in the counter-reaction in Crimea, and massive unrest which has made reconciliation between east and western Ukraine next to impossible. And we still have further escalation by the US.

Russia doesn't want to annex Eastern Ukraine. It has areas of majority to sizeable minority Russian speakers, but it also has a large, or majority, populations of Ukrainians, who don't want annexation, which would result in an unlivable situation should that occur. So this has been made clear by Putin and Lavrov: that more autonomy in political and economic matters between East and West would be wise. But the Western press and the Ukrainians are all still shouting about "annexation" in the East. Eastern Ukraine isn't Crimea (which is sacred and symbolic for Russians, and populated by people who (mainly) considered themselves Russian). So the same dynamics are not in play. (It's also a simple fact that if they were the same dynamics, then Putin would already have invaded.)

Kerry needs to spell out what he expects Russia to do. Russia can't tell Eastern Ukrainians fearful of their political and economic future to just hide under their beds and let this current government "take care" of them. There's zero trust in the East that this won't involve massive violence and political repression by the current Ukrainian government. It isn't clear that Russia is directing all this unrest, and that it can just "order" it to go away. (What does Kerry expect: for Putin to invade in order to tell barricaded Russian-Ukrainians to stop?). There is no exit or end-game for Putin if he were to invade the East.

The stupidity of the West and NATO in managing this escalatable conflict is making be mentally ill. And I don't think my ill feelings about it are irrational.

jerseycityjoan

Why Not?

He's been assuring allies all over the place that they can continue to rely on us. I assume just McCain or Romney would have done the same. We continue to keep up obligations that we cannot afford and in some cases, should never had made at all.

As I have said here before, I find it very understandable that the former Soviet countries turned away from Russia.

But that doesn't mean we were obliged to let them into NATO or that Europe should have added them to the EU. Over time, a lopsided alliance with drain resources from the relatively few countries that are in better shape.

David Habakkuk

All,

The year 1983 also saw the ‘Able Archer’ war scare. I have just come across three invaluable briefing books on this which the National Security Archive posted last year.

A passage from the first of these appears of particular relevance to current dilemmas:

‘The late Mark Palmer, a top Kremlinologist in the State Department (and U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 1986 to 1990), retrospectively summarized the Reagan administration’s internal “argument” about “what the Soviet view of the West is,” in an unpublished interview with The Washington Post’s Don Oberdorfer.

“Paul [Nitze's and others] view is that they [the Soviets] never really felt threatened …And most Western analysts – or many, particularly the political-military type analysts feel that way, because they have a hard time, I think, psychologically seeing, as most people do, seeing themselves as possibly being a bad guy in anyone else’s eyes….

“I, on the other hand, think that what Gordievsky [whom he met] reported in '81 and etc. – that he’s reporting accurately the mood in Moscow. That the Soviets have felt surrounded, that they are paranoid, that they have seen us as being unpredictable and irresponsible from their point of view in doing all sorts of things – invading communist countries, etc, all sorts of stuff. Therefore, I find this entirely credible that they could have, during [what was] a very tense period anyway, [] saw the INF deployments as a threat to them. These were missiles that could hit the Soviet Union. Their [analogous] missiles – the SS 20s – could not hit the United States.”’

The reference to ‘Gordievsky’ is to Oleg Gordievsky, who became an MI6 ‘mole’ in the KGB and was ‘exfiltrated’ in 1985.

As was already apparent from the 1995 BDM Corporation study, on which the account in the ‘briefing books’ draws, KGB concerns with a ‘bolt from the blue’ attack were not shared by the General Staff. However, that point is of limited relevance to the validity of the concerns expressed by Andropov about a war arising through miscalculation.

Such concerns were actually widely shared among Soviet military thinkers, and were central to their scepticism about academic Western theorising about ‘deterrence.’ They were also shared by some of the best Western experts on Soviet military strategy, and on command and control systems – notably Raymond Garthoff, Michael MccGwire, and Bruce Blair, all then at Brookings.

Two observations seem worth making. One is that, as an old-style ‘perfidious Albionian’, I am inclined to think that if one really has ‘a hard time’ seeing oneself as ‘possibly being a bad guy in anyone else’s eyes’, one shouldn’t be in the intelligence business, or indeed have anything much to do with planning foreign policy.

A second point is that what was happening in the background at the time of ‘Able Archer’ was actually a realisation among key sections of the Soviet elite – including elements in the KGB – that in one fundamental sense the United States had been in the right: that the American political-economic model worked, and the Soviet didn’t.

A question this realisation raised was whether the threats which so preoccupied the Soviet leadership had been essentially self-created – or whether ideological animosity on the part of the West was underpinned by forms of animosity largely unrelated to the nature of the regime in power in Moscow.

At the end of the Eighties, a very widespread view among the Soviet elite was that their country’s security problems had indeed been largely self-created. It was this assumption that provided the basis of Russian foreign policy, not simply in the Yeltsin years, but in the early years of Putin’s period of power.

The significance of his reference to the ‘infamous policy of containment’ as a feature of the ‘18th, 19th and 20th centuries’ in the address he gave following the Crimean referendum may well be that he has concluded that animosity towards Russia as such, rather than communism, was the driving force behind Western policy in the Cold War.

It seems to me reasonably clear from Putin’s speech that he acted as he did in Crimea in part through emotion reasons, but essentially because he had concluded that unless a stand was made, Russia would face an ongoing process of coercion aimed essentially at its destruction as an independent polity.

It seems clear from Western responses that most policymakers in Washington, and also London, are still in the grips of the assumption of self-evident Western innocence that – as the NSC briefing books make clear – caused Paul Nitze completely to misunderstand the Cold War.

If Robert Gates is to be believed, the briefing books suggest, the same assumption almost caused Zbigniew Brzezinski to tell President Carter that the Soviets had launched an all-out missile attack, in response to a false alarm generating by someone having ‘mistakenly put military exercise tapes into the computer system.’

Whether Brzezinski would have recommended to Carter an all-out missile attack, had the error not been corrected at the last minute, seems unclear.

What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony. It is not a happy spectacle.

The three NSC briefing books are at

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB426/ ;http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB427/ ;http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB428/

The full text of the Putin speech, which bears close reading, is at http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/6889

William Herschel

crf, I believe there is an interpretation of the events you accurately describe that will relieve yours and my mental illness and, as a by-product, show that the threat of nuclear war is zero.

Remember that there are many mansions in my Father's house. Let us stipulate that the "neo-cons" and the CIA are effectively one and the same and that the "Ukrainian crisis" is a CIA operation from start to whatever finish comes to pass.

If we also stipulate that the "Ukrainian crisis" is entirely and completely for the consumption of the American people, then we can see that for the neo-con/CIA it is win-win.

A conventional war with Russia in Ukraine (under the NATO flag)? Wow, what a win that would be. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo, you name it, all rolled into one. It is very unlikely, and Putin is doing everything in his power to show how catastrophic it would be, but for the neo-cons it would be Christmas all year long.

Capitulation to Russian influence in Eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, i.e. the likely outcome? The Jimmy Carterization of Barack Obama. Why, Brooks is already saying that Obama has a "manhood problem". And as a bonus guess who is going to have to prop up Western Ukraine financially? Well, Victoria Nuland has an answer for that, "F*** the EU."

In the meantime, TV screens are filled with images of John Kerry. That's a win no matter what happens. Not only does it change the subject from issues that might actually concern the American people, but it does it in a way that has slightly less intellectual content than Miley Cyrus.

Win-win.

Fred

JCJ,

"Why Not"

To keep these from going 'boom' to keep foreign fascists in power in Ukraine, to whom were have zero treaty obligation to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B61_nuclear_bomb

This will be the strategic response:

Strategic nuclear forces of Russia include:[11]
Land based Strategic Rocket Forces: 489 missiles carrying up to 1,788 warheads; they employ immobile (silos), like SS-18 Satan, and mobile delivery systems, like SS-27 Topol M.
Sea based Strategic Fleet: 12 submarines carrying up to 609 warheads; they should be able to employ, in a near future, delivery systems like SS-N-30 Bulava.
Strategic Aviation: 79 bombers carrying up to 884 cruise missiles.
As of July 2009, Russia's strategic arsenal reportedly shrunk to 2,723 warheads, including: 367 ICBMs with 1,248 warheads, 13 SSBNs with 591 warheads and 76 bombers with 884 warheads.[14]

Madhu

If the Thompson article or Col Lang's posts on the subject were posted in comments under every Yahoo article on the Ukraine, or as a reddit link, or any other place one could think, I wonder how far the educating and conversationthe could go? Or would this be shouting into the void? Make things worse? I wonder.

jonst

Babak wrote: "R2Pers, Neo-cons, and other such do-gooders are new manifestations of the "White Man Burden" and "Mission Civilizatrix" of former European Colonial Empires".

I think what you write is true, to a very limited extent. However, I think career building, and making money in DC, as a 'political operative' is the primary driving force of the R2P/Neocon, think tank types. It was a fertile and safe playground after the Soviets fell. The conflicts never rose to, or near, the level of an existential crisis like the Berlin Block aid or the Missile Crisis or the 1973 ME October War. But this kind of confrontation (Ukraine) was long forgotten and so think tank types and Nuland's of the world walked deep into a deadly forest before they realized this time it is different. This is a nuclear armed foe you poking Victoria.

Its about money and careerism, not in the Marxist traditional perspective of doing it all for corporate powers/capital. It is about personal advancement. That dynamic is God for the elite in the US. These kinds of crisis (the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, Syria and such) all for optimal personal marketing efforts. Careers (and multi-generational fortunes) were and are made during this time.

zanzibar

David

"What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony."

This is an important point. The elites in the West have got to the point that they are now completely deluded by their own bullshit. They are convinced of their own "rightness" and their infallibility. As those that are on the other side of US led incoherence push back, we may reach a dangerous point when the ego of the Western elites gets bruised in the brawl. They may then lash out and act completely irrational out of petulance.

The miscalculations and ego of the personalities that led to the Great War are instructive.

turcopolier

jonst

Personal ambition and the desire to be accepted as part of the Borg-like consensus is certainly a factor in the unfolding disaster but there is also a shared view of the nature of humanity and human society that informs the consensus. IMO if the shared view was something different there would be a lemming-like search for acceptance in that. pl

Fred

jonst,

You make some very good points. How many careers at NED etc have spanned a couple decades where the risks were a 'hardship' posting for a couple of years to cities like Kiev, Riga, Warsaw, etc? - where the dollar went a long way. Followed by a promotion and raise in NYC or D.C. It's not like these folks had to live in the West Bank, Gaza, Bangui, Mogadishu or elsewhere while they made their careers promoting 'democracy'.

Charles I

I was going to mention that little episode of paranoia.

Wasn't it just last year or so that the world was on the brink of nuclear war over North Korea? Another faraway bit of someone else's existential problem?

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