Tag Archives: NATO

How Putin is priming Russia for nuclear stand-off with the West

Disturbing article from the National Post

Earlier this month, as fighting raged in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and forces loyal to the Western-backed government in Kyiv, Dmitry Kiselyov, the pugnacious, middle-aged journalist who heads Russia’s main state news agency, gazed defiantly into a TV studio camera. “What is Russia preparing for?” he asked. As if in reply, the director cut to an ominous backdrop image of an intercontinental ballistic missile emerging from an underground launch silo.

“During the era of political romanticism, the Soviet Union pledged never to use nuclear weapons first,” Kiselyov told the audience of Vesti Nedeli, his current affairs show, one of the country’s most widely watched programs. “But Russia’s current military doctrine does not.” He paused briefly for effect. “No more illusions.”

There was nothing out of the ordinary about this reminder that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a “threat” to its statehood. Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, which has massive geostrategic importance for Russia, state-controlled TV has engineered an upsurge in aggressive anti-Western sentiment, with Kiselyov as the Kremlin’s top attack dog.

Last spring, as Washington warned of sanctions over Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Kiselyov boasted about his country’s fearsome nuclear arsenal. “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the U.S. into radioactive ash,” he declared.

Why is this happening?

“I wouldn’t take these statements about nuclear war literally,” said Pomerantsev, whose book, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, dissects the Kremlin’s media manipulation tactics. Talk of impending nuclear conflict is “one of Putin’s mind-benders,” part of what he called an attempt to convince the West that the former KGB officer is this “crazy, unpredictable” leader whom it would be advisable not to push too far.

But the lines between fantasy and reality can all too often get blurred.

“There is always the danger that games somehow slip into reality – you start off playing with these narratives, and you end up stumbling into a real conflict,” said Pomerantsev.

The Kremlin’s masters of reality have uncorked the atomic genie. It is to be hoped they show the same aptitude when it comes to putting it back in the bottle.

Is Putin winning the confrontation with NATO?

The Guardian thinks he is

It’s different for dictators or authoritarian regimes. Flick a switch, pull a lever, and things happen, often instantly. Which is one reason why the Putin-versus-Europe contest in Ukraine is so one-sided; why one side acts and the other struggles to react; why one side is consistently ahead of the curve, the other behind it – in the short-term, at least.

Six months after the Kremlin stunned Europe with its land grab in Ukraine, a Nato summit in Wales unveiled its ideas for shoring up security in eastern Europe. For more than two decades, the alliance had been beset by self-doubt. Having won the cold war, what was the point any more?

Putin gave the military planners at Mons and the armies of bureaucrats in Brussels a new lease of life. Nato’s core purpose – facing down and containing Russia – was newly legitimised.

The summit decided to put a spearhead force at brigade strength, more than 5,000 men, into Poland and the Baltics at short notice: small units of special forces within hours, bigger reinforcements within days, at the first hint of trouble.

That was six months ago. But since the September summit, the plan has atrophied, bogged down in endless circular discussions of who does what, when and where. Who pays for it? Where is the kit coming from? Will the Americans step up to relieve the Europeans? Who will be in command?

First of all, NATO did not win the cold war, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did for the exact reasons mentioned.  It won’t win this conflict unless the United States has a stronger foreign policy and from what we have seen from Barack Obama, it will have to come from the next President.

Harper isolated on NATO defence spending

From Jeffrey Simpson

Mr. Harper’s isolation could be read indirectly into the reporting of last week’s phone call between him and U.S. President Barack Obama. Whereas the Canadian “readout,” or report, of the conversation made no mention of defence spending, the White House reported that “the President stressed the agreement on increased defence investment in all areas is a top priority at the NATO summit.”

A “top American priority” is always to cajole NATO allies into spending more on defence. That priority is certainly not Mr. Harper’s. He has developed an ambivalent and somewhat contradictory attitude toward the military, and it toward him. The Prime Minister and his advisers and the top military brass circle each warily, harbouring their respective reservations about each other.

To put matters aphoristically, Mr. Harper’s government likes the idea of the military more than it likes the military itself.

The idea of the military means history, monuments, medals, ceremonies, parades and repeated rhetorical praise. The military itself means buying equipment, deploying it, dealing with veterans and wrestling with a budget that always seems to go up unless the political masters get tough.

The military has produced some nice headlines to an image-obsessed government, notably from the Afghanistan mission, but it has also delivered headaches and bad headlines, especially over procurement. Delays and problems have beset such purchases as the new generation of fighter aircraft, maritime helicopters, search and rescue aircraft, ships and some smaller gear.

For this government (as for previous ones), the military seems always set on a permanent “ask,” but for the military, this government like previous ones, promises more than it delivers and takes on missions that stretch the military’s means of delivery.

NATO not coming to Kiev’s rescue, regardless of Putin’s actions

This is exactly the news that Putin wants to hear

n an agenda-setting speech ahead of the crucial summit that begins Thursday in Wales, NATO deputy secretary general Alexander Vershbow said Russia’s military moves in Ukraine had created a new solidarity and resolve to defend the alliance’s borders. That new sense of purpose, he said, was reflected in a “Readiness Action Plan” that NATO leaders would announce this week, including the creation of a small “spearhead” force of several thousand troops that will be stationed in Eastern Europe and able to deploy to a crisis within 48 hours.

But, he made clear, that solidarity didn’t extend to non-member Ukraine, where NATO says Russian troops and tanks are now directly aiding rebels in the east of the country. Asked if there was any “red line” Mr. Putin could cross that would prompt NATO involvement in the country, Mr. Vershbow left no doubt that Ukraine would have to fight alone.

“I don’t see any red line that, if crossed, would lead to military engagement” in Ukraine, he told a “NATO after the Wales Summit” seminar hosted by Cardiff University. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will attend this week’s NATO meeting as a non-member observer.

“Ukraine understands that they’re not a beneficiary of an Article 5 [NATO collective defence] guarantee,” Mr. Vershbow told The Globe and Mail afterwards. “But I think we will show solidarity with Ukraine, meeting with Poroshenko. We’ll roll out some of the assistance that we’ve been working on for Ukraine… it may not be everything that everybody wants, but again NATO is not the only responder. The broad international message from NATO, from the EU, from other actors, hopefully will make a difference.”

Mr. Poroshenko asked last week that Ukraine be considered for full membership in NATO, but the request has been met with stony silence from the alliance, which is still seeking to avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia.

The EU, Canada and the United States have collectively imposed escalating sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine. But while those measures are taking an economic toll – the Russian economy contracted in both June and July – they have not demonstrably affected the Kremlin’s behaviour.

So what is NATO to do?

Stephen Krasner, a former top U.S. State Department official, said the alliance should focus on providing the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, tiny former republics of the Soviet Union that joined NATO in 2004, with credible deterrent against any aggression. Mr. Putin has claimed the right to “defend” Russian-speakers abroad, and Estonia and Latvia have significant Russian-speaking populations.

“We can’t pretend we’re going to defend Ukraine, when we can’t do that,” said Prof. Krasner, who now teaches at Stanford University. But, he said, “there are real reasons for us to fight in the Baltic States.”

1983: The Brink of Apocalypse

An interesting full length documentary by Channel 4 about how close the west and the Soviet Union came to nuclear Armageddon in 1983.   Reagan’s rhetoric, $1 trillion in defense spending, Pershing II missiles, the new cruise missiles, a breakdown in Soviet detection technology (high altitude clouds set off Soviet early warning satellites), the American invasion of Grenada, a NATO communication war game, paranoia over the Nazi attack 1941 happening all over again, lack of understanding between both sides about each other (and a shortage of double agents) all brought both sides really close to nuclear war in 1983.

It mentions the SIOP which is the integrated plan for fighting a nuclear war.  In Reagan’s version, the expectation was that America would lost 150 million dead at a minimum.

The effects of Global Thermonuclear War

As written by Wm Robert Johnson

A mushroom cloud in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.

12:00 midnight CDT 5/6 August 1988: The nuclear exchange is generally over. In the U.S. 5,800 warheads detonated totaling 3,900 mt. Soviet and NATO weapons successfully used in Europe numbered 3,300 (1,200 mt) (excluding tactical weapons). About 6,100 warheads (most of them American, but some Chinese, British, and French) exploded in the U.S.S.R. with a total yield of 1,900 mt. Mainland China (P.R.C.) received 900 (detonating) warheads (1,300 mt) from its northern neighbor. Other areas receiving at least a dozen warheads include Canada, North and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Greenland, Puerto Rico, India, Israel, Australia, Guam, Cuba, Syria, and Egypt. Hundreds of other nuclear weapons have been used in naval combat, in troop combat in West Germany and along the U.S.S.R./P.R.C. border, and in defending the Soviet Union from nuclear attack. About 50% of the global strategic and theater nuclear arsenal has been used. About 10% was launched but did not reach a target and 30% was destroyed on the ground. Altogether, World War III has involved the detonation of 18,000 warheads with a total yield of 8,500 mt. Including tactical weapons, there were 67,000 nuclear weapons in the world a day ago; now, there are 10,000 left.

In Texas 6,400,000 have been killed (38% of its original population). Of the 10,400,000 survivors, 3,000,000 have severe injuries and 2,000,000 have lesser injuries. In the Rio Grande Valley 340,000 have been killed (49%) and 90,000 injured (13%); in Travis County over 400,000 are dead (75%). In the U.S. about 110,000,000 people have died altogether, with the 135,000,000 survivors including 30,000,000 injured. In the U.S.S.R. about 40,000,000 have been killed out of a pre-war population of 285,000,000. Mainland China has had 100,000,000 killed out of a population of 1,090,000,000. Examples of other countries: United Kingdom, 20,000,000 killed (out of 57,000,000); Denmark, 2,700,000 killed (out of 5,100,000); Australia, 3,000,000 killed (out of 16,000,000). In Mexico over 3,000,000 have been killed, mostly in cities on the border with the U.S. Throughout the world about 400,000,000 have died.

Despite reading a lot of cold war history (I am reading May Day: Eisenhower, Khrushchev and the U2 Affair now), I was stunned by the amount of nuclear warheads that existed in 1988.  67,000 nuclear weapons is mind boggling.

Today there is still over 23,000 nuclear warheads.

Status of World Nuclear Forces in 2009