by Caitlin Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone:
“The scenario where a US-backed, US-supplied jihadist group in Syria uses US weapons to shoot down a Russian plane and then murders the pilot on the ground should be seen as a near-nightmare escalation, drawing the US and Russia terrifyingly closer to direct conflict.”
McAdams is not fearmongering; he is stating a plainly obvious fact. The Trump administration has just announced that it is restructuring its nuclear weapons policy to take a more aggressive stance toward Russia than that which was held by the previous administration. This is coming after this administration’s decision to arm Ukraine against Russia, a move Obama refused to take for fear of escalating tensions with Moscow, as well as its decision to continue to occupy Syria in order to effect regime change, along with numerous other escalations. The Council on Foreign Relations, which is without exaggeration as close to the voice of the US establishment as you can possibly get, is now openly admitting that the “United States is currently in a second Cold War with Russia.”
In a recent interview with The Real News, leading US-Russian relations expert Stephen Cohen repeated his ongoing warning that “this new Cold War is much more dangerous, much more likely to end in Hot War, than was the 40-year of Cold War, which we barely survived.” In a previous interview with the same outlet, Cohen elaborated more extensively:
“We are in new cold war that is much more dangerous than the last cold war for various reasons. One is that the new cold war today, as we talk, includes three fronts. U.S.-Russian fronts, they’re fought with hot war. That’s Syria. That’s the reckless NATO military build-up on Russia’s western boarders, which has resulted in a situation today that ordinarily artillery, not missiles, ordinary artillery, can hit Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg. Just think about that and the instability. And the third front is Ukraine.”
Cohen explains how the political pressures placed on Trump by the ongoing fact-free allegation that he is a Kremlin puppet makes it far more difficult for him to negotiate on these multiple fronts agilely, thus making it much more likely that Trump will choose to advance when he should retreat, hold his ground when he should back down, and generally be locked into patterns of aggression and forward movement rather than the back-and-forth finesse required for safe cold war negotiations with a nuclear superpower.
We came within a hair’s breadth of nuclear annihilation on more than one occasion during the last cold war, and the further things escalate in this new one the more likely we are to tempt fate again. The only reason we survived the extremely tense stand-offs in the last cold war ultimately boiled down to pure dumb luck in some cases, and there’s no legitimate reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.
To be clear, I am not saying that the US or Russia actually want nuclear war. Two men with guns pointed at one another in a conventional standoff generally don’t want either weapon to discharge, either. What I am saying is that we learned in situations snatched from the brink of disaster by men like Stanislov Petrovand Vasili Arkhipov that there are too many small, unpredictable moving parts involved in a nuclear standoff for cold war escalations to unfold safely and predictably, and the more tense things get the more likely it becomes that a nuclear warhead gets discharged in the chaos and confusion. Once a single warhead goes off, Mutually Assured Destruction comes into play. Add into that the hot war dynamics and political pressures described by Stephen Cohen and we’re looking at some very uncomfortable odds as a species.
In my view most of the political disagreements I have with people ultimately boil down to this. I see us as facing an immediate existential crisis as a species that needs to be dealt with right now, and people say I should be more worried about this or that conservative figure saying rude things on Twitter. We are facing the very real possibility of near-term human extinction; I don’t know how to care about the petty sectarian squabbles in America’s various political factions. It really is time for us to all get over ourselves and grow up.
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