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A Prelude to War? | commentary

Then as now, a great power conflict was virtually unthinkable. By 1914, it had been over 40 years since the last major European war. Then as now, the sun long ago set on La Belle Époque, but its lingering effects were pleasant enough to mollify the public. Then as now, few would predict that an Earth-shattering calamity that would forever change millions of lives was just around the corner.

To understand the dire state of affairs in Syria, one need only observe the behavior of American policymakers.  Administration officials were caught off guard by the brazenness of Russia’s intervention into the five-year-old Syrian civil war, the commencement of which was announced by a Russian three-star general who boldly marched into the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and gave the United States one hour to clear the airspace around the city of Homs. Russian bombers were soon targeting not the Islamic State but CIA-armed and trained rebel forces. The effects of Russia’s bold maneuver will be swift. The risk of NATO and Russian air assets with limited military-to-military contacts all shooting at different targets in the same theater increases the risks of accidental confrontation exponentially. If there was a conflict, there are few mechanisms in place to prevent it from escalating. The United States may soon find itself forced out of theater merely because to continue to operate in Syria is too dangerous.

The risks are such that it seems hard to envision this administration engaging in that kind of brinkmanship, but this will not be the last time that Vladimir Putin tests Barack Obama before his second term is out. No one in Moscow or Washington wants to spark a broader conflict, but conflict is inevitable when two powers’ interests are so divergent. As is the case in Ukraine, Russia hopes to change the conditions on the ground in Syria to the point at which Washington is compelled to accept them as the new status quo. If we haven’t reached it already, there will come a point at which Russia’s aggressive actions present Washington with a crisis that it cannot back down from in a face-saving manner.

A Prelude to War? | commentary

Nuclear TSUNAMI: ISIS wants to wipe hundreds of millions from face of the earth

After embedding with ISIS for 10 days, senior journalist reveals they are planning ‘the largest religious cleansing in history.’

According to the journalist, the West is unprepared for ISIS. He writes that “the terrorists plan on killing several hundred million people. The west is drastically underestimating the power of ISIS.”

ISIS intends to get its hands on nuclear weapons, says Todenhofer, calling the group a “nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history.”

Those warnings are made all the more stark by the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East sparked by the Iran nuclear deal, with rival states such as Saudi Arabia eyeing their own nuclear arsenal leading to a higher proliferation – and a higher chance that nuclear weapons could fall into ISIS hands.
German Reporter: ISIS Plans ‘Nuclear Tsunami’ – Middle East – News – Arutz Sheva

Nuclear TSUNAMI: ISIS wants to wipe hundreds of millions from face of the earth

ISLAMIC State is a ‘nuclear tsunami’ that wants to wipe hundreds of millions from the face of the earth in the biggest religious holocaust the world has ever seen.

ISIS plan Islamic nuclear holocaust to wipe hundreds of millions from face of earth | World | News | Daily Express

Vladimir Putin could LASH OUT and attack West as Russia runs out of cash warns top general

Retired US General David Petraeus said that the megalomaniac leader will become more and more desperate and could resort to suicidal acts of violence as “crippling” western sanctions empty his country’s coffers.

The respected soldier predicted that the nuclear superpower will completely run out of cash within two years and will not be able to raise more funds to bankroll its aggressive foreign policy, potentially leading to deadly consequences for those nations on its doorstep.

He also insisted that the country’s meddling in Syria is “clearly not” about fighting the threat of ISIS and warned that the construction of a huge airbase to house Russian pilots is part of Putin’s ideological drive to reestablish the Soviet empire.

In a dire warning shot to NATO members including Britain, the military expert said: “I think Putin has a limited window of a couple of years to continue provocative actions…and we have to be very careful during this time when he could actually lash out and be even more dangerous than he has been.”

Vladimir Putin could LASH OUT and attack West as Russia runs out of cash warns top general | Daily Express

Syria and Ukraine are part of the same mission for Russia—the destruction of the post-WWII architecture of the West

“… Syria and Ukraine are part of the same mission for Russia—the destruction of the post-WWII architecture of the West.”

Despite what Vladimir Putin is saying, the United States still staunchly refuses to believe Russia is engaged in a new Cold War—and that the U.S. is losing. But Russia aggressively pushes its own narrative where U.S. leadership is absent. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seems to be everywhere in recent weeks, speaking several times with his US counterpart and others in the region, selling Russia as a partner for peace and stability when the West is faced with crisis.

Experts from the left and right alike warn that cooperation with Russia on Syria can have potentially disastrous consequences for the U.S., but too many Americans still don’t understand how closely linked these two headline conflicts are, and American policy has yet to confront the reality that Syria and Ukraine are part of the same mission for Russia—the destruction of the post-WWII architecture of the West. To achieve this goal, Russia has pursued a clear policy of disruption, chaos and destabilization—in Ukraine and in the Middle East—in order to force the West to have to partner with Russia to “resolve” the crises it has created.

Syria and Ukraine: The Putin Link – POLITICO Magazine

There are cracks in the international world order which have been created by Russia, China and Iran. Russia is the chief culprit here. And as its economy suffers Putin seems to be escalating at various problem areas.

Putin going into Syria is a huge blunder on Putin’s part. This will embolden Israel’s enemies and also prevent Israel from adequately responding should war break out with Hezbollah. Should Hezbollah and Syria go to war against Israel then Russia will be right in the middle of it. You do recognize that Iran is at a tipping point concerning war with Israel, right? With Russia in place and sanctions about to be removed, Iran is rearming Hezbollah and refocusing Hezbollah back toward Israel. Should Israel go to war with Hamas, then both Syria and Hezbollah may join in. With Russian Pansir-S1 air defenses compromising Israel’s offensive air capabilities, who is going to stop Syria and Hezbollah missile attacks?

Obviously, I do not know if Israel will get sucked into a war with Hezbollah and Syria but the risk clearly exists. And Russia will be right there.

Are we closer than ever to nuclear war? – Future Tense – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

With some nuclear arsenals getting bigger and non-proliferation talks foundering, complacency about the threat of nuclear war could be misplaced. Future Tense hears from three experts about which geopolitical hotspots run the risk of turning into nuclear trouble zones.

We are used to thinking about a bipolar world where there were only two nuclear powers that we worried about to any extent, but now we have more than half a dozen.

The issue is not that the Chinese in particular are raring to use nuclear weapons, but more that there are couple of factors pushing in that direction. One is as the military balance between the United States and its allies becomes more competitive with China. That makes what people sometimes call inadvertent escalation more plausible.

Yes, if there is a military style attack in India that India believes has come from Pakistan, the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons complicates the Indian response, but it doesn’t guarantee no military response, and it does add to the dangers of terrorists getting their hands on weapons, of someone deciding we are going to authorise the use of this or we are going to use it, whether or not the government gives us permission.

‘The worry there is that Russia is a state that’s declining in many ways, and declining states are often more dangerous than states that are on the upswing,’ Davies says.

‘We’ve seen a lot of Russian aggressiveness and assertiveness in the Ukraine, and there’s a worry that that could spread to the Baltic States. And coupled with that is the fact that Russian military doctrine has always involved a fairly rapid escalation to tactical level in nuclear weapons. That was certainly Russian doctrine throughout the Cold War when the two sides faced off against the border in Germany.’

Are we closer than ever to nuclear war? – Future Tense – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Rise of China and the Future of the West – New York Times

Power transitions are a recurring problem in international relations. As scholars such as Paul Kennedy and Robert Gilpin have described it, world politics has been marked by a succession of powerful states rising up to organize the international system. A powerful state can create and enforce the rules and institutions of a stable global order in which to pursue its interests and security. But nothing lasts forever: long-term changes in the distribution of power give rise to new challenger states, who set off a struggle over the terms of that international order. Rising states want to translate their newly acquired power into greater authority in the global system — to reshape the rules and institutions in accordance with their own interests. Declining states, in turn, fear their loss of control and worry about the security implications of their weakened position.

These moments are fraught with danger. When a state occupies a commanding position in the international system, neither it nor weaker states have an incentive to change the existing order. But when the power of a challenger state grows and the power of the leading state weakens, a strategic rivalry ensues, and conflict — perhaps leading to war — becomes likely. The danger of power transitions is captured most dramatically in the case of late-nineteenth-century Germany. In 1870, the United Kingdom had a three-to-one advantage in economic power over Germany and a significant military advantage as well; by 1903, Germany had pulled ahead in terms of both economic and military power. As Germany unified and grew, so, too, did its dissatisfactions and demands, and as it grew more powerful, it increasingly appeared as a threat to other great powers in Europe, and security competition began. In the strategic realignments that followed, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, formerly enemies, banded together to confront an emerging Germany. The result was a European war. Many observers see this dynamic emerging in U.S.-Chinese relations. “If China continues its impressive economic growth over the next few decades,” the realist scholar John Mearsheimer has written, “the United States and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war.”

The Rise of China and the Future of the West – New York Times

Power transition theory

The principal predictive power of the theory is in the likelihood of war and the stability of alliances.[1] War is most likely, of longest duration, and greatest magnitude, when a challenger to the dominant power enters into approximate parity with the dominant state and is dissatisfied with the existing system. Similarly, alliances are most stable when the parties to the alliance are satisfied with the system structure.[3] This leads to the view that when the balance of power is unstable (i.e. one or two nations have taken a dominant role in geopolitics), the likelihood of war is greater. According to Organski:

An even distribution of political, economic, and military capabilities between contending groups of states is likely to increase the probability of war; peace is preserved best when there is an imbalance of national capabilities between disadvantaged and advantaged nations; the aggressor will come from a small group of dissatisfied strong countries; and it is the weaker, rather than the stronger; power that is most likely to be the aggressor.[4]

There are further nuances to the theory: for instance, the sources of power transition vary in their volatility, population change being the least volatile and political capacity (defined as the ability of the government to control resources internal to the country) the most volatile.[3]

Employing the metaphor of a pyramid, Organski illustrates how there are many weak but few strong states. The very strongest of states is called the “dominant power”. This is the one with the largest proportion of power resources. This is commonly defined as the possession of resources. These resources include population, territory, natural resources, military forces, economic size, and political stability, among others. In addition to this dominant and “hegemonic” state, there are also some “great powers,” a collection of potential rivals to the dominant state and who share in the tasks of maintaining the system and controlling the allocation of power resources. Then there are some “middle powers” of regional significance similar to the dominant state, but unable to challenge the dominant state or the system structure, and “small powers,” the rest.

These dominant powers, or hegemons, commonly arise and use their power to create a set of political and economic structures and norms of behaviour that enhance the stability of the system at the same time that they advance their own security. In other words, this state is interested in maintaining the “status quo” of the international system. Organski and Jacek Kugler defined status quo states as those that have participated in designing “the rules of the game” and stand to benefit from these rules. Challengers, or “revisionist states”, want “a new place for themselves in the international society” commensurate with their power. Revisionist states express a “general dissatisfaction” with their “position in the system”, and they have a “desire to redraft the rules by which relations among nations work”.

Since the international status quo is defended by the dominant power, only the very strongest of great powers can plausibly threaten to change the status quo. The argument accompanying the power pyramid implies that only the dissatisfied state is roughly equal in power to the dominant state should it perceive that it has the willingness for war. Thus, power transition theory’s war hypothesis is that wars among great powers are most likely when a power transition occurs between the dominant state and the dissatisfied challenger.

Such a war can be termed a “hegemonic war”. The most important consequence of a hegemonic war is that it changes the system in accordance with the new international distribution of power; it brings about a reordering of the basic components of the system. Victory and defeat re-establish an unambiguous hierarchy of prestige congruent with the new distribution of power in the system. The war determines who will govern the international system, and whose interests will be primarily served by the new international order.

Contrary to the traditional “Balance of power theory”, with its power parity hypothesis, which claim that an equality in power is conductive to peace, “Power transition theory” reach the opposite conclusion claiming the probability of war between the rising challenger and the dominant state peaks near the point of power transition between them. Power transition theory also diverges from traditional “balance of power” theories in asserting that states can achieve growth in the amount of power held by the state based on internal economic, population, and political developments rather than through forging new alliances with other states in the system, making the power transition model more dynamic than pre-existing models.[5] Prior to attaining parity, the rising, dissatisfied great power has little incentive to attack a dominant power that is still viewed as too powerful. The challenger essentially lacks the capability to do something about its dissatisfaction. Long after surpassing the once-dominant power, the rising, dissatisfied great power no longer has much incentive to attack a now inferior, former rival. Thus, the greatest risk of warfare is when the two states have attained rough equality in power (parity), after one state that is dissatisfied with the international order has caught up with a formerly more powerful state (overtaking) that was most responsible for creating the status quo. According to Rapkin and Thompson (2003), this is the dangerous zone of power transition. The probability of conflict between the dissatisfied great power and the dominant power will be greatest when the relative capabilities of these two states are characterized by parity—the “zone of contention and probable war” wherein the ratio of the dissatisfied great power’s and the dominant state’s capabilities lies between 4:5 and 6:5, according to Tammen et al. (2000).

Power transition theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The West is paradoxically dominant on the global stage and eroding from within

But as in mid-fifth-century Athens and late-republican Rome, there are signs that the West is eroding — and fast. The common Western malady is age-old and cyclical. It was long ago described, over some thousand years of decline, by an array of Classical scolds, from Thucydides and Aristophanes to Tacitus, Petronius, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Procopius. In the case of modern America, Britain, and Europe, the sheer material bounty spawned by free-market capitalism and legally protected private property, combined with the freedom of the individual, creates a sort of ennui. Boredom is the logical result of that lethal mix of affluence and leisure.

It is not just that Westerners forget who gave them their bounty, but they tend to damn anonymous ancestors who worked so hard, but without a modern sense of taste and politically correct deference. Of course, so far, Western civilization presses on, despite the periodic sky-is-falling warnings that echo the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler, and H. G. Wells. But does it press on as it did before?

The West — Is the Decline Just Cyclical?| National Review Online

America’s eerie parallels to downfall of Rome
Bill Federer recounts factors contributing to massive empire’s demise

The fall of Rome was a culmination of several external and internal factors.

Open borders

Illegal immigrants poured across the Roman borders: Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Anglos, Saxons, Alemanni, Thuringians, Rugians, Jutes, Picts, Burgundians, Lombards, Alans, Vandals as well as African Berbers and Arab raiders.

Loss of common language

At first immigrants assimilated and learned the Latin language. They worked as servants, with many rising to leadership. But then they came so fast they did not learn Latin, but instead created a mix of Latin with their own Germanic, Frankish and Anglo tribal tongues. The unity of the Roman Empire began to dissolve.

The welfare state

“Bread and the Circus!” Starting in 123 B.C., the immensely powerful Roman politician Gaius Gracchus began appeasing citizens with welfare, a monthly handout of a free dole (handout) of grain.

Class warfare
Debt preceded fall

Emperor Diocletian imposed wage and price controls and forbade people from changing professions. Choking taxes and personal debt caused many to abandon their mortgaged property and flee as ex-pats to live amongst the barbarians, renouncing their Roman citizenship. Diocletian responded by making it illegal to abandon one’s mortgaged property, thus permanently tying people to the land in what became the “feudal system” in the Middle Ages.

Violent entertainment
Exposure of unwanted infants
Military cuts
Terrorist attacks

America’s eerie parallels to downfall of Rome

Could China’s Economic Troubles Spark a War? | The National Interest

The focus on the possible wider economic consequences of a severe Chinese economic slowdown is understandable, since the ramifications could be extremely unpleasant for the U.S. and global economies. But we should also be vigilant about how such economic stress might affect Beijing’s diplomatic and military behavior. It is not unprecedented for a government that feels besieged to attempt to distract a discontented public by fomenting a foreign policy crisis.  In Henry IV, Shakespeare pithily described that process as the temptation to “busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels.”

China’s leaders likely feel increasingly uncomfortable. The implicit bargain that has been in place since the onset of market-oriented reforms in the late 1970s has been that if the public does not challenge the Communist Party’s dominant political position, the Party will deliver an ever-rising standard of living for the people. … It is uncertain what happens if the Party can no longer maintain its part of the implicit bargain, but it is likely that a dangerous degree of public discontent will surface.

Could China’s Economic Troubles Spark a War? | The National Interest

To Prevent Global Catastrophe, Putin Must Go

The minority of Russians who have not been zombified by official propaganda and who still have any clue about what is really going on in the world—rather than just on television—already know Russia is hurtling toward full-blown catastrophe, though the details might be up for debate. Will the collapse come next month, or more like 2024? How will it happen? A coup d’état by radical fascists, or a provincial revolt whose instigators first see Russian President Vladimir Putin as their savior but later turn against him? Or perhaps year after year of economic stagnation, resulting in complete disintegration. History shows that authoritarian systems can change without bloodshed, but only if a regime’s key players help the forces seeking to replace that regime. This is a prerequisite for non-violent reform or the transfer of power to a reformer.

Furthermore, there is no exit from the dead end into which Putin has maneuvered himself and the Russian people. The Ukrainian debacle was supposed to end in a tangible triumph, something along the lines of the flag-raising over the Reichstag that came to symbolize the Soviet victory in World War II. Without a visible conquest, the Kremlin would not withstand disappointment. Nothing would distract attention from evidence of corruption and other transgressions, and top officials could find their liberty or even life at stake, not just their clout.

To Prevent Global Catastrophe, Putin Must Go

How Vladimir Putin’s paranoia could lead to nuclear war

Vladimir Putin is a bad strategist: He does not understand the relationship between military violence and political objectives. In the last two years, he has all but ruined his aspiration to return Russia to the ranks of the great powers. His ham-fisted annexation of Crimea, along with his transparent support for secessionists in the ongoing civil war in East Ukraine, has been disastrous for Russian interests. Putin’s adventurism led to stock market chaos, a major currency crisis, and staggering levels of capital flight — all of which have compounded the problem of collapsing oil prices. The loss of revenue is damaging Russia’s conventional military power because the government will struggle mightily to modernize its forces. Meanwhile, Putin has breathed new life into NATO, an alliance that had been searching for common purpose and sagging under the weight of the war in Afghanistan.

Putin seems unable to recognize the depth of his blunders. Instead of reconsidering the wisdom of his approach, he has doubled down on his Ukrainian misadventure. One of the marks of a competent strategist is the ability to understand failure and change course as needed. Putin has not demonstrated that he can measure success or failure, or that he is capable of change. Instead of fostering serious strategic debate in Moscow, he has created an ideological echo chamber based on the idea of his own steadfastness against a rapacious West seeking Russia’s destruction. Such old-fashioned agitprop has helped him consolidate power at home, but it has badly weakened Russia’s position abroad.

But Putin’s incompetence also creates new risks. His inability to learn from Ukraine, for instance, suggests that he might be willing to try the same gambit in the Baltics on the pretext of defending ethnic Russians. Putin may believe that he can attempt a similar sort of covert coup using special operators and supporting separatists while publicly denying any involvement. He might also begin overt conventional maneuvers near the Estonian or Latvian border to send a tacit threat of Russian intervention. Making good on that threat, however, would risk a conflict with the United States, which would be obligated to come to the defense of its NATO allies.

In the abstract, there are psychological, political, and military pathways to nuclear escalation. First, intense wartime psychological stress might cause leaders to misinterpret signals of restraint, exaggerate the costs and danger of fighting, and become risk-acceptant. Second, paranoid leaders might believe the price of losing is regime change. If they are convinced that staying in power requires decisive victory, even against a vastly superior conventional enemy, they might be willing to gamble for resurrection by crossing the nuclear threshold. Third, leaders may opt to use nuclear weapons through a process of inadvertent escalation. They may reasonably construe attacks on their command and control systems, for instance, as part of a campaign to disable their deterrent force. Under these circumstances they might act on a terrible “use it or lose it” impulse, even if their adversary had no intention of destroying their nuclear capabilities.

While all three of these scenarios could occur during a NATO–Russia conventional conflict, Putin’s strategic myopia is particularly troubling because it exacerbates the psychological and political pathways to escalation. The inability to recognize failure might give him false confidence about Russia’s prospect against NATO forces, especially because Russia would enjoy initially superior numbers in a hypothetical war. This lead might not last long. In the last 30 years the United States has demonstrated extraordinary abilities to overcome enemy defenses through a combination of rapid maneuver, electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses, and brute force. A successful counter-attack against Russian forces, especially including strikes on Russian air defense installations, would come as a terrifying shock to Russian leaders. In this case a host of familiar psychological pathologies could take hold, making it possible for Putin to lash out in anger and frustration rather than seeking some way of limiting the damage.

There is also reason to believe that Putin may view losing to NATO as tantamount to regime suicide. …

How Vladimir Putin’s paranoia could lead to nuclear war

If Vladimir Putin’s Russia crumbles, a nuclear nightmare looms. Here’s why. |

Under Vladimir Putin’s presidency, Russia is seen in the outside world as an expansionist power trying to revise post-Soviet borders and rebuild an empire. But what if Russia itself — a country of nearly 200 nationalities that stretches across 11 time zones — is in danger of crumbling?

It would not be the first time that Russia tried aggression and expansion as a defence against modernisation and by doing so undermined its own territorial integrity. In 1904, when Russia was on the verge of a revolution, Nicholas II tried to stave off change by looking for national traitors and starting a small war with Japan. The war ended a year later in Russia’s defeat and 12 years later the tsarist Russian empire faded away in a few days. In 1979, as Communist rule struggled under the weight of its own contradictions, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; 12 years later the Soviet Union collapsed just as suddenly.

In 2011 Moscow’s urban middle class took to the streets to demand modernisation. Mr Putin responded by picking out alleged national traitors, annexing Crimea and starting a war against Ukraine. The idea that Russia’s latest foreign-policy adventures might end in the same way as previous ones — with the collapse of the state and disintegration of the country— is not as far-fetched as it might seem.

In short, Russia under Mr Putin is much more fragile than it looks. Vyacheslav Volodin, his deputy chief of staff, recently equated Mr Putin with Russia: “No Putin, no Russia,” he said. It is hard to think of a worse indictment.

If Vladimir Putin’s Russia crumbles, a nuclear nightmare looms. Here’s why. |

If Russia does indeed start to crumble, then what happens to the Putin regime? Do the ex-leaders simply go into retirement, or is it more likely they will experience a long prison sentence and for some even death? I’m thinking that Putin will not simply go quietly into the night. He will escalate as he always does. And that means Russia is extremely dangerous right now.