Category Archives: U.S.

War in Europe is no longer seen as completely out of the question – Business Insider

EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE

NATO staff are drawing up more detailed contingency plans for various secret scenarios and war in Europe is no longer seen as completely out of the question.

Whereas NATO has in recent years been able to choose whether to get involved in conflicts such as in Afghanistan or Libya, in future it “could be forced to respond to an existential challenge,” a NATO diplomat said.

Under NATO’s founding treaty, member states are obliged to treat an attack on any partner as an attack on the entire bloc.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Juozas Olekas said NATO had to adapt to a new security environment and rewriting the 35-page strategy document was “one of the options”.

“Today Russia is a threat for us,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels last month, adding that the alliance had not closed the door to possible future cooperation but Russia must respect international law.

War in Europe is no longer seen as completely out of the question – Business Insider

China risk prompts wargames ramp-up

Australia, India, Japan and the US are all stepping up wargames in the Indo-Pacific in response to China’s sabre rattling over disputed islands in the South and East China Sea.

Australia will despatch warships and aircraft to the Bay of Bengal in October to take part in inaugural wargames with India.

The moves come with Japan joining Australia’s massive bilateral exercise with the US – Talisman Sabre – which is now under way in Australia’s north and involves up to 30,000 US and Australian troops.

“The US, India, Japan and Australia are all increasing their involvement in military exercises and a lot of that is being driven by concern about China,” Dr Davies said.

“And there are a lot more warships being bought by regional navies and more kit means more strategic competition,” he said.

China risk prompts wargames ramp-up

Russia’s nuclear doctrine takes an alarming step backwards

“To solve the problem of Russia’s conventional military weakness, he has dramatically lowered the threshold for when he would use nuclear weapons, hoping to terrify the West such that it will bend to avoid conflict.”

What’s really important about Fisher’s article is his call for attention on the growing danger of Russian nuclear doctrine. Sometimes strategic thinking is more dangerous than the capabilities themselves, and in this case, the destabilising nuclear strategic thinking that characterised the early Cold War have returned to Putin’s Russia (some strategists in Washington are also beginning to advocate for investment in more tactical nuclear weapons in the face of Russia’s policy in Crimea and Ukraine).First, Fisher argues that the mood in Moscow has substantially changed. He cites Russian strategic analyst Fyodor Lukyanov:

‘The perception is that somebody would try to undermine Russia as a country that opposes the United States, and then we will need to defend ourselves by military means,’ he explained. Such fears, vague but existential, are everywhere in Moscow. Even liberal opposition leaders I met with, pro-Western types who oppose Putin, expressed fears that the US posed an imminent threat to Russia’s security.

Essentially, to reinforce Russia’s growing strategic interests and to compensate for its substantial asymmetric disadvantage in conventional military means vis-a-vis the West, Putin has begun to reinvest in short- and medium-range nuclear-capable missiles, as well as lowering the threshold for potential nuclear use. A good example is the Russian ambassador to Denmark’s comments earlier this year that if Denmark were to integrate into NATO’s missile defence shield, Danish warships would then be targeted by Russian nuclear weapons. Here’s Fisher on Russia’s nuclear compensation:

To solve the problem of Russia’s conventional military weakness, he has dramatically lowered the threshold for when he would use nuclear weapons, hoping to terrify the West such that it will bend to avoid conflict. In public speeches, over and over, he references those weapons and his willingness to use them. He has enshrined, in Russia’s official nuclear doctrine, a dangerous idea no Soviet leader ever adopted: that a nuclear war could be winnable.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine takes an alarming step backwards

“To solve the problem of Russia’s conventional military weakness, he has dramatically lowered the threshold for when he would use nuclear weapons, hoping to terrify the West such that it will bend to avoid conflict.”

But what conflict are we talking about here?

We are talking about Russia reestablishing a sphere of influence in the countries of the old Soviet Union. And that means the Baltic nations too. Putin is going to use military means to take over the Baltic nations. And if NATO gets in the way then Russia might use tactical nuclear weapons.

But what if NATO looks like it is really serious about the Baltic nations?

Wouldn’t Putin have to think about plan C – strategic nuclear weapons? Given that Putin is Mr. Escalation, one has to think about escalation from tactical nuclear weapons. Where does Putin go if it looks like tactical nuclear weapons won’t cause NATO to back-down? Given that right now it looks like NATO and Russia are on a path to conflict and Russia is worried about the US undermining it, I would think that the Russians are examining plans for both the use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.

Putin is not exactly a big strategic thinker, but he seems to be pretty good at tactical thinking. I would think that Putin will seek to take advantage of any events that come his way. For example, what if something happened in the Baltics to some Russian residents – like one or more apartment explosions? 

The perils of Putin’s grim trigger – The Washington Post

“Putin’s response to a bad situation is usually to gamble for resurrection through some form of escalation. Fisher’s concern — and mine — is that Putin will respond to his current status quo with even more conflict escalation to test NATO’s mettle.”

The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts prides itself on paying keen attention to warnings about the apocalypse (and usually pooh-poohing them). So when Vox’s Max Fisher writes a 10,000 word essay on “How World War III became Possible,” we here at Spoiler Alerts sit up and take notice.

Fisher ain’t soft-pedaling his thesis:

There is a growing chorus of political analysts, arms control experts, and government officials who are sounding the alarm, trying to call the world’s attention to its drift toward disaster. The prospect of a major war, even a nuclear war, in Europe has become thinkable, they warn, even plausible.

What they describe is a threat that combines many of the hair-trigger dangers and world-ending stakes of the Cold War with the volatility and false calm that preceded World War I — a comparison I heard with disturbing frequency.

They described a number of ways that an unwanted but nonetheless major war, like that of 1914, could break out in the Eastern European borderlands. The stakes, they say, could not be higher: the post–World War II peace in Europe, the lives of thousands or millions of Eastern Europeans, or even, in a worst-case scenario that is remote but real, the nuclear devastation of the planet.

You really have to read the whole thing because I’m not sure any summary will do it justice. Fisher does an excellent job of explaining why more nuclear tensions warrant more worry than, say, asteroid defense.

In essence, Putin thinks that his comparative advantage is his willingness to go to the brink and stare down the West in any confrontation.  …

So will it work? No, which is the problem. The hard truth remains that Putin’s strategic position now is weaker than it was five years ago. …

But, again, the failure of Putin’s strategy is the problem. As I noted last year, Putin’s response to a bad situation is usually to gamble for resurrection through some form of escalation. Fisher’s concern — and mine — is that Putin will respond to his current status quo with even more conflict escalation to test NATO’s mettle.

The truth, however, is that I’m not feeling all that calm, for two reasons. First, as I’ve said, I don’t think Putin’s strategy will work, which means that at some point he’s going to need to escalate again. Second, Fisher’s essay presents a Russia that believes the Obama administration is hell-bent on encirclement. Imagine what Russia will think when Obama’s more hawkish successor comes to power?

Developing…. in some very disturbing ways.

The perils of Putin’s grim trigger – The Washington Post

How World War III became possible: A nuclear conflict with Russia is likelier than you think – Vox

“There’s a low nuclear threshld now that didn’t exist during the Cold War.”

‘The warnings: “War is not something that’s impossible anymore”‘

“Though Western publics remain blissfully unaware, and Western leaders divided, many of the people tasked with securing Europe are treating conflict as more likely.”

“He [Putin] has enshrined, in Russia’s official nuclear doctrine, a dangerous idea no Soviet leader ever adopted: that a nuclear war could be winnable.”

It was in August 2014 that the real danger began, and that we heard the first warnings of war. That month, unmarked Russian troops covertly invaded eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict had grown out of its control. The Russian air force began harassing the neighboring Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which are members of NATO. The US pledged that it would uphold its commitment to defend those countries as if they were American soil, and later staged military exercises a few hundred yards from Russia’s border.

Both sides came to believe that the other had more drastic intentions. Moscow is convinced the West is bent on isolating, subjugating, or outright destroying Russia. One in three Russians now believe the US may invade. Western nations worry, with reason, that Russia could use the threat of war, or provoke an actual conflict, to fracture NATO and its commitment to defend Eastern Europe. This would break the status quo order that has peacefully unified Europe under Western leadership, and kept out Russian influence, for 25 years.

Fearing the worst of one another, the US and Russia have pledged to go to war, if necessary, to defend their interests in the Eastern European borderlands. They have positioned military forces and conducted chest-thumping exercises, hoping to scare one another down. Putin, warning repeatedly that he would use nuclear weapons in a conflict, began forward-deploying nuclear-capable missiles and bombers.

Europe today looks disturbingly similar to the Europe of just over 100 years ago, on the eve of World War I. It is a tangle of military commitments and defense pledges, some of them unclear and thus easier to trigger. Its leaders have given vague signals for what would and would not lead to war. Its political tensions have become military buildups. Its nations are teetering on an unstable balance of power, barely held together by a Cold War–era alliance that no longer quite applies.

“The perception is that somebody would try to undermine Russia as a country that opposes the United States, and then we will need to defend ourselves by military means,” he explained.

Such fears, vague but existential, are everywhere in Moscow. Even liberal opposition leaders I met with, pro-Western types who oppose Putin, expressed fears that the US posed an imminent threat to Russia’s security.

That the world does not see the risk of war hanging over it, in other words, makes that risk all the likelier. For most Americans, such predictions sound improbable, even silly. But the dangers are growing every week, as are the warnings.

How World War III became possible: A nuclear conflict with Russia is likelier than you think – Vox

Dempsey report: Russia, China posing military threat; war with major power probable | The Japan Times

“A somber report released Wednesday by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns of a “low but growing” probability of the United States fighting a war with a major power, with “immense” consequences.”

America’s new military strategy singles out states like China and Russia as aggressive and threatening to U.S. security interests, while warning of growing technological challenges and worsening global stability.

A somber report released Wednesday by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns of a “low but growing” probability of the United States fighting a war with a major power, with “immense” consequences.

Russia has “repeatedly demonstrated that it does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and it is willing to use force to achieve its goals,” the 2015 National Military Strategy says.

“Russia’s military actions are undermining regional security directly and through proxy forces.”

It points to Russian troop presence in the Ukraine conflict, though Moscow denies it has deployed its military in eastern Ukraine to bolster a separatist insurgency.

And the report expresses concern about states developing advanced technological capabilities that are causing the U.S. military to lose its edge in that field.

Dempsey report: Russia, China posing military threat; war with major power probable | The Japan Times

There seems to be a lot more chatter about war with Russia and/or China in the last six months: Likelihood, avoidance, how it might play out, and things like that.

When you have a country like Russia or China continually doing things that could lead to a nuclear war, then what should we think? They have certain goals they wish to attain, and if we get in the way there will be war – nuclear war. They have already decided that nuclear war as plan B is thinkable – is an option. The unthinkable is now the thinkable.

In my mind that is a change of state: Unthinkable going to thinkable. We have seen a change of state in Russia: MAD going to nuclear coercion. We have seen a change of state in China: The peaceful rise ends causing increased tension with many countries. The change of state in both Russia and China is moving us in a direction of less stability and an increasing probability of conflict.

Snow falling on a mountain gives the illusion of stability. After a long period of stability the unthinkable (massive avalanche) goes to the thinkable, then there is collapse.

We are clearly at the point where a great-power war is possible, but we still have not seen a trigger mechanism – a Sarajevo moment. Given Putin’s history, he will likely wait for an excuse (or generate an excuse) before launching any kind of preemptive nuclear strike on the US.

Puerto Rico says it cannot pay its debt, setting off potential crisis in the U.S. – The Washington Post

The governor of Puerto Rico has decided that the island cannot pay back more than $70 billion in debt, setting up an unprecedented financial crisis that could rock the municipal bond market and lead to higher borrowing costs for governments across the United States.

Puerto Rico’s move could roil financial markets already dealing with the turmoil of the renewed debt crisis in Greece. It also raises questions about the once-staid municipal bond market, which states and cities count on to pay upfront costs for public improvements such as roads, parks and hospitals.

For many years, those bonds were considered safe investments — but those assumptions have been shifting in recent years as a small but steady string of U.S. municipalities, including Detroit, as well as Stockton and Vallejo in California, have tumbled into bankruptcy.

Puerto Rico says it cannot pay its debt, setting off potential crisis in the U.S. – The Washington Post

World War III book scenarios could become a reality, says Peter Singer – WSJ

Peter Singer, one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists, is walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.

In meeting after meeting with anyone who will listen, this modern-day soothsayer wearing a skinny tie says America’s most advanced fighter jets might be blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service, and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.

The ideas might seem outlandish, but Pentagon officials are listening to the 40-year-old senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.

In hours of briefings, Mr. Singer has outlined his grim vision for intelligence officials, Air Force officers and Navy commanders. What makes his scenarios more remarkable is that they are based on a work of fiction: Mr. Singer’s soon-to-be-released, 400-page techno thriller, “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.”

Author Warns U.S. Military to Focus on China – WSJ

China’s rise in South China Sea unsettles region | UTSanDiego.com

The U.S. and China are jockeying for power in the South China Sea, deploying sharp words and an expanding fleet of warships, spy planes and fighter jets to protect their interests in a vital maritime domain.

Is this regional arms race and increasingly tense diplomatic showdown between the world’s two largest military forces a new Cold War?

Not exactly. But it is dangerous, according to military officials and analysts based in the Pacific Rim.

Run-ins between U.S. and Chinese military personnel in the South China Sea are happening on a routine basis, American commanders say, stressing their efforts to keep the encounters safe and professional. CNN broadcast one of them in late May, when the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a U.S. surveillance plane flying over man-made islands it occupies to clear out of the area.

China’s rise in South China Sea unsettles region | UTSanDiego.com

Are China and America Destined to Clash? | The National Interest

“Beijing has a broader array of options than the categories “status quo” or “revisionist” imply. What is striking, however, is that all but one of its options put Beijing and Washington on a collision course.”

In reality, the tenor of great-power relations in the coming decades will depend on the interaction of U.S. and Chinese foreign policies—which collide to a far greater degree than is frequently acknowledged. In fact, smooth relations between the United States and China will only be possible in the unlikely event that China adopts an extremely docile national-security strategy, or in the equally unlikely event that the United States cedes its dominant position in the Western Pacific.

At one extreme, China might continue its rise as an economic powerhouse without substantially enhancing its military might, and without seeking to alter the international order in East Asia or the world.

Alternatively, Beijing might choose a strategy that reflects its emergence as the major regional power in East Asia. …

In a more assertive version of this regional strategy, China would seek to become not just a major regional power, but also the dominant one. …

Are China and America Destined to Clash? | The National Interest

Report: U.S. Must Modernize, Update Nuclear Strategy for New Century | Washington Free Beacon

America must change its policies regarding its nuclear weapons arsenal if it wishes to remain safe in the coming century, according to a new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Clark Murdock, an expert in strategic planning and defense at CSIS, writes in the study, ‘Project Atom,’ that the effects of global nuclear proliferation will dominate American foreign policy between 2025-2050 if the United States does not revamp its policies today, including modernizing its nuclear weapons and seeking enhanced tactical nuclear capabilities.

“The value of nuclear weapons as a ‘trump card’ for negating U.S. conventional power was enhanced by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Murdock writes. “If the United States apparently believes that it can be deterred by an adversary’s nuclear weapons, why wouldn’t a nonnuclear ‘regional rogue’ want one?”

Report: U.S. Must Modernize, Update Nuclear Strategy for New Century | Washington Free Beacon

“America must change its policies regarding its nuclear weapons arsenal if it wishes to remain safe in the coming century”

Yes, it needs some kind of policy that is not centered around cutting and entirely eliminating its nuclear arsenal.