The Internet is abuzz with articles claiming that the USA is preparing to nuke Russia.  Apparently, this all began with an article in the World Socialist Website entitled “US officials consider nuclear strikes against Russia“.  This article was then picked up by Global Research which “upgraded” the title to “Military Madness: US Officials Consider Nuclear Strikes against Russia“.  After that everybody else picked up the panic-inducing canard and ran with it.

Nuclear Panic

This is all nonsense.

Here is what is really going on.

This all really began with the Associated Press posting a story about how the “US might deploy missiles in Europe to counter Russia“.  Notice that this original story speaks of “countering” not “striking”.  If you read the story, you will see that it is all really simple: some circles in the USA are accusing Russia of deploying intermediate range missiles in Europe in violation of the INF treaty.  When the Pentagon brass was asked about what the US could do about it they came up with a 100% predictable answer: we will deploy our own missiles.  That’s it.

The first question is whether Russia did anything to violate the INF treaty.  An excellent article in the National Interest entitled “Is Russia violating the INF treaty” explains it all: the entire case is based on nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  Here is what caused all this panic:

1) Russia did fire some ICBMs (long range intercontinental missiles) at a shorter range a couple of times which would put their trajectory under the maximum limit of the INF.  But since nobody disputes that these missiles are ICBMs, this really means absolutely nothing.

2) There are suspicions that Russia might develop intermediate-range ground based cruise missile either based on the Iskander missile or on the Granat.  But since there is zero proof of that having occurred, these suspicions also mean nothing.

What is really happening is very simple: since the USA is going ahead with its crazy plans to develop an anti-missile “shield” in Europe, Russia responded by *threatening* to deploy (according to some sources, already deploying) its Iskanders in Kaliningrad and along its western borders.  Iskanders are very capable missile which scare the hell out of NATO because they would be perfect to strike forward deployed NATO command centers and forces.  The obvious solution for NATO would be NOT to deploy its command centers of forces so far the the East.  Even better, scraping the idiotic missile-defense shield would completely solve this problem.  But since NATO has to terrify the Europeans by a non-existing Russian “threat”, NATO cannot do that: even though no such threat exists, the NATO boys need to show their immense courage and determination by doing all sorts of silly and useless things.  Like forward deploying.

As a result of the “brilliant” strategy, NATO now has a bullseye painted on its fancy anti-missile facilities and forward deployed assets.  And NATO don’t like that one bit.  So they came up with yet another silly but macho statement about “we will deploy our own intermediate range missiles to threaten the Russian intermediate range missiles”.  Minor detail: NATO command centers and forward deployed forces are either fixed or very easy to detect.  Russian Iskanders are road mobile and basically undetectable.  But nevermind that, as long as the general public get a sense of 1) fear and b) NATO’s macho courage – all is well, right?

So, let recap: NATO is *considering* deploying missile which would be deployed to *respond* to a *possible* (future) violation by Russia of the INF treats.  “Military madness”?  Hell no!  Just a garden variety political grandstanding, that’s all.  If the article in the World Socialist Website was misleading, then the “upgraded” title of Global Research is outright irresponsible.  Nobody in the USA is really considering using nuclear weapons against missiles on the Russian territory because everybody knows that this would guarantee a devastating response on the territory of the continental USA.  Of course, if by the verb “considering” we mean “develop the capability to” then both sides have considered nuking each other since the end of WWII.  But these articles make it sound like the USA has suddenly decided to prepare for a nuclear attack on Russia, and that is utter nonsense.

Please also note that this entire debate around the INF has nothing to do with the Ukraine.  This is just a remake of the “Pershing/GLCM vs SS-20″ crisis of the 1980s.  Been there, done that.  Nothing new here.

The USA has no desire to engage in a nuclear war with Russia.  The real US strategy is very different, if no less dangerous: what he USA are doing is creating a crisis out of nothing by creating tensions on all levels, from the financial sector, to sports, to the completely artificial INF issue.  From the US point of view, the current attempts at subverting the FIFA and at subverting the INF Treaty are on the same conceptual level: give them Russkies hell on all levels.  And *of course* that this is dangerous, bordering on the reckless, really.  It is also self-defeating (you can bet that with the latest US ‘victory’ against Blatter just after he was re-elected the anti-US hatred in the world surged by another X number of points).  Yes, the Empire is in a panic mode, acting stupidly and trying to “make the Russians blink” even though in the Russian culture threats and grandstanding are always interpreted as a sign of weakness.

One more thing: the Russians consider the areas of deployment of the Iskanders a state secret.  In other words, they will not reveal where these missiles are deployed or what they target (remember, Russians don’t believe in threats).  At the most, they will make sure that NATO knows about it, in general terms, if needed.  But don’t expect threats coming out of Moscow.

Finally, the really interesting question is whether the Russians will deploy a new generation of intermediate range missiles.  If yes, they will announce it and officially withdraw from the INF.  My sense is that they might.  The Russians are getting very, very fed up with the US/NATO/EU’s total lack of cooperation, general bad will and constant petty provocations.  There is a special disgust for central European prostitutes (Poland, Romania).  The Kremlin might figure a simply military reality: since Russia has no offensive plans to attack Europe, US intermediate range missiles would really serve no purpose in Europe while the local population might begin to freak out, seeing US nuclear missiles arrive in vast numbers.   In contrast, since Russia is in a purely defensive posture, having intermediate range missiles might be very useful to protect against a possible NATO attack.  Finally, there is the geographical factor: if Russian intermediate range missile strike in Europe, this would not be an attack on the US mainland. But if US intermediate range missiles strike in Russia, that would be an attack on the Russian mainland.  So who do you think will have stronger reservation before pressing the button?

Of course, I hope that intermediate range missiles do not get deployed.  The very last thing the world needs right now is yet another source of tensions and fear.  And, as I have written many times here, while the USA wants as high tensions as possible (short of actual war), Russia desperately needs the lowest tensions possible.  So I think that the Russians will secretly work on being ready to deploy intermediate range missiles at very short notice, but that they will try very hard to avoid a situation were this might be needed.

Anyway, the next time you come across a panic-inducing headline à la “US about to nuke Russia” take a deep breath, don’t jump to conclusions and give yourself time to find out if such hyperbole is warranted or not.

Cheers,

The Saker

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world