October 2016 – MOSCOW/WASHINGTON – In September, the German pro-government think tank “Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik” (SWP) published a study on the implications of US policy towards Russia and European security. The 28-page document is aimed at a professional audience and is written in political and military jargon that couches the annihilation of millions of human lives in matter-of-fact terms, as if dealing with the solution to a technical problem. But this prosaic language conceals a nightmare scenario. American policy towards Russia, as described by the SWP study, focuses primarily on preparation for a nuclear war, which would involve large parts of Europe. If the results of the study are to be taken seriously, then the risk for the present generation of dying in a violent atomic storm is alarmingly high.
The study’s author, Dr. Peter Rudolf, an SWP employee, not only provides his own assessment, but references every paragraph with other sources. The text contains 118 footnotes, each of which refers to multiple articles in foreign policy and military journals and statements by leading politicians. The study summarizes the debate that is currently taking place in leading circles of the military and political establishment. At its very beginning, the study stresses that the nuclear war danger is not an abstract, hypothetical risk. As “the first and most important structural feature” of US-Russian relations, the study names the “mutual nuclear annihilation capability.”
Even 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia, who together possess “approximately 90 percent of all nuclear weapons in the world,” maintain their strategic nuclear weapons “in constant combat readiness.” “They want to guarantee,” the study says, “if necessary under extreme time pressure, that they are able to make the decision to use nuclear arsenals… This is to prevent one’s own nuclear weapons being eliminated by a first strike.” The study points to the very short time frame for decisions as “anything but conducive” to “crisis stabilization.” The flight times of ballistic missiles between the two countries run to “11 minutes for sea-based and 30 minutes for land-based missiles.”
The risk that a political crisis could “accidentally” result in a nuclear exchange due to these short reaction times is thus extremely high. This risk is further elevated by the ruthlessness with which the US and its NATO allies are escalating the conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe and Syria, and by the advanced planning for a nuclear war. According to the SWP study, “a reinvigorated Russia, at least from the perspective of military planners in the Pentagon,” is regarded “as a potential enemy in a time of newly unfolding great power conflicts, as an enemy who—like China—needs to be deterred by the capacity for conflict dominance.” For this deterrent, according to the study, there are three strategic approaches in the US.
The study counts the Obama administration as part of this third, “cooperative-integrative,” school. This is remarkable, when one considers that Barack Obama is the first American president during whose entire eight years in office the country has continuously waged war. Obama’s political record includes: supporting the right-wing coup in Kiev directed against Russia; the massive deployment of NATO troops to Russia’s western border; the unconditional guarantee of military assistance to the aggressive Baltic States, and the escalation of the Syrian war, which could provoke a direct confrontation between the Russian and American military.
Among the texts to which the study refers on this issue is the essay, “Why a nuclear war would most likely begin in the Baltic states,” which appeared in the conservative US foreign policy journal the National Interest on July 20, 2016. The article accuses the US government of not taking the possibility of a nuclear war between America and Russia seriously enough following the end of the Cold War, and of having neglected atomic weapons capabilities. In reality, it says, such a possibility not only exists, but is becoming more likely. Then the article lists eight reasons why the greatest danger for such a war exists with regard to the three Baltic States.
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It refers to the statement of President Obama during a visit to Estonia two years ago that the defense of the capitals of the three countries was “just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London.” This is “an extraordinary assertion,” when one considers that “the population of metropolitan London (about 8 million) is greater than that of all three Baltic states combined (about 6 million), and that the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea is so close to the Russian heartland.”
It then argues that, due to the superiority of conventional Russian forces in the region, compliance with the guarantee of security for the Baltic States would almost automatically lead to a nuclear escalation. “The bottom line is that all the ingredients are present in the eastern Baltic area for an East-West conflict escalating to nuclear weapons use,” the article concludes. This is a “prescription for catastrophe.” –Counter Currents