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Countdown to War: The Coming U.S.-Russia Conflict | The National Interest

“Putin and Obama think they’ve got this crisis contained. Two prominent experts say they may be wrong.”

The United States and Russia may be unwittingly stumbling down a path to deeper confrontation and even war, cautioned two prominent American national-security experts at a panel in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. Graham Allison, director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of this magazine, suggested that while leaders in both countries may not intend to escalate their disagreements on matters like the Ukraine crisis, poorly structured decision processes, opposing goals and divergent narratives can still produce conflict. “Even as they state that they don’t want a confrontation—with full conviction,” said Simes, “they are seeking a victory without war…Both sides show little inclination to compromise on what they consider to be fundamental and what they believe they are entitled to.”

Worse, warned Allison, Russia may believe that the use of threats and military force will produce the best outcomes in a serious confrontation with the West. “Russia has escalation dominance,” said Allison, and “from a Russian point of view,” shaping the confrontation in such a way “sends a very powerful message, especially to the Europeans.” Allison and Simes suggested that a diplomatic resolution is still very possible—“we are not predicting World War Three,” in Simes’ words—but that “this is not [a] time in the U.S.-Russian relationship when you want to be too polite about stating what the danger is.”

… “President Obama and President Putin may genuinely believe that we are not on a dangerous track.” They may be wrong.

Countdown to War: The Coming U.S.-Russia Conflict | The National Interest

China and America: Sleepwalking to War? | The National Interest

“THE INTENSIFYING Sino-American rivalry looks an awful lot like the pre-1914 Anglo-German antagonism.”

“As with the Anglo-German antagonism, economic rivalry and ideological antipathy are causing the perception of the “China threat” to congeal within the U.S. foreign-policy elite.”

“AS WAS true for Britain and Germany before World War I, powerful forces are pushing the United States and China toward confrontation.”

History suggests that great-power transitions often lead to war.

Accordingly, much contemporary commentary points to direct parallels between today’s events in East Asia and those that led to the outbreak of World War I in Europe one hundred years ago. Just as the ascent of Wilhelmine Germany unsettled pre-1914 Europe, so, we are told, a rising China is roiling East Asia. The Economist thus noted “the parallel between China’s rise and that of imperial Germany over a century ago.” And “even if history never repeats itself,” it wrote on another occasion, “the past likes to have a try.”

If the past is “having a try” in East Asia, it is because there are several important—and unsettling—parallels between the Anglo-German relationship during the run-up to 1914 and the unfolding Sino-American relationship. First, both relationships involve power transitions, two aspects of which have not received the attention they deserve. Although Britain and Germany were competing for power and security, they were also—just as importantly—competing for status and prestige, which made the competition between them pretty much intractable. Germany’s rise also posed a challenge to the existing international order, the Pax Britannica. Second, in Britain, liberal ideology contributed to what might be called a “perception spiral,” which fostered in policy makers and citizens an image of Germany as an implacably hostile and dangerous rival. Viewed through the lens of the perception spiral, the potential threat posed by a rising Germany to the geopolitical position of a declining Britain was magnified and, possibly, distorted. Perception-spiral dynamics go a long way toward explaining why Britain was not able to accommodate a rising Germany before 1914—and why the United States is unlikely to accede to China’s claim to equal status.

China and America: Sleepwalking to War? | The National Interest

More and more we are seeing the foreign establishment recognize that war between China and America is a real possibility. So too with Russia. We appear to be nearing a point of collapse in the international order with war as the primary driver. In the next article I take a look at the cold hard probabilities of war, and they are not encouraging.

Probability of World War III: 75% or more | 1913 Intel

In history the probability of war is high when a powerful rival approaches or passes a hegemonic leader. Depending on how you count one gets the following probabilities: 10/13 (77%), 11/15 (73%) or 6/7 (86%). With China approaching the US today, the real probability of war is higher. That’s because historical results are heavily weighted by the US passing Britain without a war. Two democracies with similar cultures passing without a war. That doesn’t exactly describe the US-China situation. Also, one could argue that the rivalry between the US and Soviet Union (Russia) continues today. That means we don’t know the true outcome.

So adjusting the historical results gives us answers ranging from 73% to 100%.

Probability of World War III: 75% or more | 1913 Intel

Based on the historical data, the actual probability of war today appears to be a lot closer to 100% then 73%.

“AS WAS true for Britain and Germany before World War I, powerful forces are pushing the United States and China toward confrontation.”

Think of these powerful forces as tidal forces. It’s going to be very difficult to overcome the tide. It’s almost like you don’t sleepwalk into war, or stumble into war, but rather one falls into war.

 

Russia and America: Stumbling to War | The National Interest

“While many Americans have persuaded themselves that nuclear weapons are no longer relevant in international politics, officials and generals in Moscow feel differently.”

Could a U.S. response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine provoke a confrontation that leads to a U.S.-Russian war?

Americans would do well to recall the sequence of events that led to Japan’s attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the Second World War. In 1941, the United States imposed a near-total embargo on oil shipments to Japan to punish its aggression on the Asian mainland. Unfortunately, Washington drastically underestimated how Japan would respond. As one of the post–World War II “wise men,” Secretary of State Dean Acheson, observed afterward, the American government’s …

COULD A U.S. response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine provoke a confrontation that leads to a U.S.-Russian war? Such a possibility seems almost inconceivable. But when judging something to be “inconceivable,” we should always remind ourselves that this is a statement not about what is possible in the world, but about what we can imagine. As Iraq, Libya and Syria demonstrate, political leaders often have difficulties envisioning events they find uncomfortable, disturbing or inconvenient.

Prevailing views of the current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine fit this pattern. …

… While many Americans have persuaded themselves that nuclear weapons are no longer relevant in international politics, officials and generals in Moscow feel differently. …

There are three key factors in considering how today’s conflict might escalate to war: Russia’s decision making, Russia’s politics and U.S.-Russian dynamics.

… The Russian public largely supports the hard-line camp, whom one Putin adviser called the “hotheads.” …

While none of the “hotheads” criticize Putin, even in private conversations, a growing number of military and national-security officials favor a considerably tougher approach to the United States and Europe in the Ukraine crisis. …

… In these debates, many ask whether President Obama would risk losing Chicago, New York and Washington to protect Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. …

… Many in Beijing fear that if the United States and its allies were successful in defeating Russia, and particularly in changing the regime in Russia, China could well be the next target. …

Russia and America: Stumbling to War | The National Interest

Let us remember that the Russians get a vote too. And if they feel differently about the use of nuclear weapons then you had better pay attention and come out of your fantasy land.

The Edge: Is the Military Dominance of the West Coming to an End? | The Guardian

Mark Urban is the BBC’s respected diplomatic and defence journalist and a military historian, and his book asks “Is the Military Dominance of the West Coming to an End?”. The answer is: “Yes, of course.” That is, in the way the west’s conventional weapons have in the past been vastly superior to those of Russia, India, China and other Asian powers.

Now, warns Urban, projected cuts “will make it impossible for America to have the kind of military reach it used to”. Many Americans, he adds, “do not realise that the age of a single global hyperpower is over. And, actually, it’s worse than that. For it is only by combining metrics of that decline with the growth in military capabilities elsewhere that you can gain a sense of how quickly the scales are tipping”.

Now, says Urban, Russia, China and India have such strong conventional forces, and America has cut its forces so much, that in the event of a conflict “the US would be left with the choice of nuclear escalation or backing down”. He adds: “Against a full-scale invasion of South Korea, the US would have little choice but to go nuclear.” Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea and some other countries could “mount a credible conventional defence that would leave the United States having to think the unthinkable, with profound implications for the world”.

The Edge: Is the Military Dominance of the West Coming to an End? by Mark Urban – review | Books | The Guardian

Countdown to War: A U.S.-Russia War Over Ukraine?

“Could a U.S. response to Russia’s action in Ukraine provoke a confrontation that leads to a U.S.-Russia War?”

This jolting question is raised by Graham Allison and Dimitri Simes in the cover article of The National Interest. [Apparently, this article is not out yet.]

The answer the authors give, in “Countdown to War: The Coming U.S. Russia Conflict,” is that the odds are shortening on a military collision between the world’s largest nuclear powers.

The cockpit of the conflict, should it come, will be Ukraine.

What makes the article timely is the report that Canada will be sending 200 soldiers to western Ukraine to join 800 Americans and 75 Brits on a yearlong assignment to train the Ukrainian army.

And train that army to fight whom? Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine whom Vladimir Putin has said will not be crushed, even if it requires Russian intervention. Says Putin, “We won’t let it happen.”

What are the forces that have us “stumbling to war”?

A U.S.-Russia War Over Ukraine? | RealClearPolitics

We aren’t going to stumble into anything. We are going to fall into war. Since both sides must move forward and can’t accept defeat, then the option that is left is war. The key questions are when and precisely how. A better scenario for Russia is to acknowledge that war is likely, and launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US. It only needs a good excuse to pin the attack on the US.

A U.S.-China war is unthinkable. It also may be inevitable.

“That’s why China’s militarism in the South China Sea is actually a bigger problem than it should be. … Rather than just a modest problem, it’s a signal of a huge problem to come.”

We see China the way we do — as a threat to be managed — because we’re viewing China in too shallow a way. Even though our perspective is complex and well-informed, we probably spend too much time looking at China’s maneuvers and quantifying its socioeconomic situation. Dig deeper. It’s a real possibility that China is actually unmanageable.

That’s why China’s militarism in the South China Sea is actually a bigger problem than it should be. Alone, a few unwelcome installations should not trigger a shooting war, as Henry Kissinger has explained. Alone, Chinese regional economic leadership is not a huge threat to the U.S. But the two together are another story. China’s economic edge can work very well to soften up resistance to a subsequent wave of military expansionism. In this view, China’s expanding presence in the South China Sea is just a prelude of what will happen after its neighbors become reliant on good economic relations. Rather than just a modest problem, it’s a signal of a huge problem to come.

A U.S.-China war is unthinkable. It also may be inevitable.

As Tensions With West Rise, Russia Increasingly Rattles Nuclear Saber – WSJ

“It’s not just a difference in rhetoric,” said Bruce G. Blair, a research scholar at Princeton University and nuclear weapons expert. “It’s a whole different world.”

Bellicose rhetoric has soared since start of Ukraine conflict to rival Cold War levels

Amid the wave of bellicose rhetoric that has swelled in Moscow since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, officials from President Vladimir Putin on down have been making open nuclear threats, a kind of public saber-rattling with weapons of mass destruction largely unseen even in the days of the Cold War.

In a recent documentary on Russian state television, Mr. Putin said he prepared to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert as the Kremlin moved ahead with retaking Crimea from Ukraine last year.

“The fact that this nuclear option was on the table for consideration is a very clear indication that there’s a low nuclear threshold now that didn’t exist during the Cold War,” said Mr. Blair, who described Mr. Putin’s actions as the riskiest among Kremlin leaders since Cuban missile crisis.

[The Soviets never said anything like, "We dare you" - with an implied nuclear response. Now things have changed. Now Russian leaders are daring us.]

That has changed. In a Danish newspaper in March, the Russian ambassador to Denmark threatened to target Danish ships with nuclear weapons if Copenhagen were to support construction of a U.S.-backed missile defense shield in Europe.

“It is best not to mess with us when it comes to a possible armed conflict,” Mr. Putin warned at a pro-Kremlin youth camp last August. “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

… In February, state television hosted a nationalist politician known for his extreme statements who called on air for Moscow to nuke Washington, prompting a robust round of applause.

As Tensions With West Rise, Russia Increasingly Rattles Nuclear Saber – WSJ

Things have definitely changed. Before few paid attention to the nuclear threats coming out of Moscow. A few people were paying attention but much more than that. Now they notice. Maybe we’re closer than we think to an actual nuclear war.

Putin Mobilizes Forces Preparing to Fight With NATO and US | The Jamestown Foundation

‘In pursuit of a dream of the reunification of all the presumed Russian peoples, nuclear blackmail or “brinkmanship” may be used and sudden military exercises will be enacted that are, in essence, direct preparations for possible large-scale war in Europe.

The massive “sudden exercises” of the Russian military this week carry a clear message: Moscow is not ready to stand down and is threatening the use of force, including nuclear weapons. A ceasefire is holding in Ukraine at present, but it is wobbly, and the status quo on the ground does not satisfy Russian long-term aspirations. At a mass state-organized rally to commemorate Crimea’s annexation on March 18, in Moscow close to the Kremlin, Putin declared: “Russians and Ukrainians are one people” (odin narod) (Kremlin.ru, March 18).

In September 2013, the present Ukrainian crisis was still in the making, triggered by Kyiv’s desire to sign an association agreement with the European Union, which Putin utterly opposed. Speaking to reporters in the Kremlin, Putin announced: “No matter what happens, or where Ukraine goes, anyway someday we will be together [as one nation], because we are one people” (Kremlin.ru, September 4, 2013). Putin’s continued assertion of Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” sounds much alike one of the Nazis’ most-repeated political slogans: “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”—“One People, One Empire, One Leader.” In pursuit of a dream of the reunification of all the presumed Russian peoples, nuclear blackmail or “brinkmanship” may be used and sudden military exercises will be enacted that are, in essence, direct preparations for possible large-scale war in Europe.

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

Putin Mobilizes Forces Preparing to Fight With NATO and US | The Jamestown Foundation

It appears that Russia is nearing a point where it will take a chunk out of the Baltic countries. That would mean war with Nato. Most likely it would quickly escalate into a nuclear war with the US. But this type of scenario doesn’t make a lot of sense because Russia would lose the element of surprise and lose its army too. I’m guessing that a more likely scenario is using the Russian military to provoke Nato. Once Nato reacts in a defensive manner, then Russia will have its excuse to nuke the US. Maybe Russia has to take a bloody nose, withdraw, then come back with nuclear weapons.

The great unwinding has created a world that is dangerously unpredictable

Sitting in the other day at a conference organised by two leading think-tanks — Aspen Italia and Chatham House — it occurred to me that when historians cast around for a title for the present chapter in global affairs, they might do worse than opt for “the great unwinding”. The backdrop for the gathering of business leaders and policy-makers was the glorious tranquillity of Venice. The talk was about the ruptures that have brought down the post-Cold War order.

The optimism in the West that greeted the collapse of Communism was rooted in a clutch of organising assumptions. The world has become a more dangerous and unpredictable place during the intervening 25 years because most of these suppositions have now unwound.

As they operate up their multi-nation supply chains and just-in-time production processes, businesses should understand that the world has changed. The cold war era was dangerous but stable. The great unwinding has created a world that is dangerously unpredictable. If there is money to be made in calculating geopolitical risk, there is money to be saved in understanding it.

Why the business of risk is booming | GulfNews.com

U.S. admiral raises alarm over Russian military threat – CNN.com

The ability of the U.S. and Canadian military to defend North America could be jeopardized by stepped up Russian military activity, according to the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Adm. William Gortney told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Russia is continuing to work on its program to deploy “long-range conventionally armed cruise missiles,” that can be launched from its bomber aircraft, submarines and warships. This is giving the Kremlin “deterrent” options “short of the nuclear threshold,” Gortney said.

“Should these trends continue over time, NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian air, maritime and cruise missile threats,” he said.

U.S. admiral raises alarm over Russian military threat – CNN.com

Monitoring emerging risks.