I have been amazed by the degree of anti-Russian warmongering by the U.S. and other Western politicians who are willing to ignite an economic conflict because of events in Little Russia, a territory that they don't understand at all.
Despite the devastating global economic consequences, we cannot really exclude that a trade war against Russia will occur. But things are worse. War games are taking place near the NATO-Russia borders, Ukraine is asking for U.S. weapons, and the U.S. tends to suggest that they will help the "people of Ukraine" (a category that clearly explicitly removes the citizens who find the influence of Russia beneficial).
There's no major shooting or bombing yet but things are getting quickly ugly at the diplomatic level. The U.S. and some allies hypocritically declared themselves the "teachers" who have the credentials to "punish" a naughty schoolboy, Russia, for his bad behavior.
Now, don't get me wrong. I do think that Russia still has some things to learn from the West although this set is far more limited than the PC folks and Russophobes in the West like to imagine. But whether a Czech blogger – or a U.S. politician – thinks that Russia could sometimes learn something is not important for the events in the near future.
What is much more important is whether Russia will voluntarily adopt the role of a submissive schoolboy who shall be spanked because he didn't like when the Western interests were encouraging anti-Russian sentiments and anti-Russian political developments (and a violent coup) in the cradle of the Russian civilization which is still Russia's strategic march or borderland, or at least this is unquestionably how a majority of the Russian nation understands the territory.
And will Russia voluntarily accept this role? Be sure that it won't. Sometimes in the 1990s, a defeated Russia could but now it will not. It won't really give up an inch. It seems to me that those Western politicians who are escalating the threats every day don't seem to understand this elementary point. Russia is by far economically weaker than the Western countries but it is a military superpower, one that actually wouldn't lose the arm races today. The resources that may be (and are) directed to defense (and offense) are much greater than they were in the Soviet times. And the percentage of the GDP that may be sent to the military is arguably higher than what is politically acceptable in the U.S. – although both figures stand at 4.5 percent right now.
Equally importantly, the West is richer so it has much more to lose. This is an elementary rule that many folks, including top politicians in the West, all these Kerries and Obamas, don't seem to grasp, either. A poorer side of a conflict is naturally much more willing to accept the city-for-city reciprocal game of destruction because it destroys much more (on a wealth-based basis) than what is destroyed to it. The price of a human life in a richer country is higher, too.
Russia's territory is larger which is also an advantage. It is harder to bomb the whole country.
Three most important men in the world. ;-) A nuclear war seemed much further just 4 years ago when Medvedev and Obama would be signing a nuclear reduction treaty in Prague.
OK. Will Russia use nukes in the case of a strike? The answer is certainly Yes. This is not a "speculative accusation" directed against Russia. It is an official, publicly available and proudly proclaimed doctrine of the Russian military. In the case of a strike, Russia will use nukes.
Now, words and actions may differ and much of the life in the West is based on the people who "talk the talk but won't walk the walk". But if there is such a discrepancy in Russia, it goes in the opposite direction. Russia may be expected to use harsher tools that it a priori admits.
Some politicians in the West seem to assume that Russia wouldn't use the nukes – partly because they wouldn't. But they seem to forget that they are just liberal sissies (and John McCain is a liberal warmonger who won't hesitate to sacrifice his life and the life of millions of other Americans for a silly reason) while Putin is definitely not a liberal sissy. In 2013, both Russia and China publicly revealed their preparations for a global war and the will to defend its interests even if it meant the Third World War.
When I was a kid, I was officially educated to be hugely scared of a potential nuclear conflict. Sometimes the "evil imperialists" would be preemptively blamed as the culprits; sometimes the fearmongering was unusually "neutral". Most of this anti-war rhetoric was overblown, and the claims that the "nuclear weapons we have would divide the Earth into two" was just the tip of the iceberg. But I am still sort of afraid of a global nuclear conflict and I am bothered by the observation that various Obamas and Kerries are apparently not.
Theirs is a strategy that can only lead to two outcomes: a major global conflict against Russia that they are unlikely benefit from; or their "blinking" and surrendering which will, in combination with their current daily threats, make their political incompetence self-evident to most of the electorate, too. There is no conceivable positive outcome that may arise out of these threats. The West-supported coup that has threatened the status of Ukraine as Russia's buffer zone has undoubtedly crossed a Russian red line and even without yellow hammers and sickles, red lines are treated rather seriously in Russia, much more seriously than the declared "red lines" that Obama presented to Iran.
Obama's and Soros' (et al.) strategy could have worked if it were directed against some cowardly and spineless folks in the U.S., or the truly harassed, "politically incorrect", groups in the West, but it just didn't work and couldn't work when applied against Putin.
Russian politicians and Russian citizens don't think that the West has a defensible case here. They won't blink. They have prepared retaliatory actions for various scenarios of "sanctions". Those will hurt us, the innocent people in the West (and in Russia, too). After all, the original sanctions by the West will hurt us, too.
I just don't like these scenarios. I don't think that assorted Obamas and Kerries have the moral right to threaten our – and my – economic and security interests. I am not happy that they are threatening the fate and existence of Boston, the New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and so on. I've been to all these cities, created some emotional bonds (especially) to some of these cities and people in them, and I just don't want them to resemble the picture at the top.
There are millions of innocent civilians in the U.S. cities – and similarly in Russian, European, and other cities – who don't want to be sacrificed in this way. It seems clear to me that the only path that will more or less guarantee that we will avoid the scary scenario is that Obamas and Kerries realize and admit that they were just wrong to support geopolitically relevant anti-Russian movements without any considerations of the Russian red lines that could have been crossed and without any genuine plans how to solve the messy situation if they wake up and irritate the sleeping Russian bear (which they already have). They didn't understand that this pro-Maidan provocation was the kind of a gift that Russia was waiting for – it became an excuse to reorganize Ukraine in a way that suits Russia's interests better, that is safer, more controllable, and more sustainable from a Russian perspective. Such a reorganization isn't something that directly helps the U.S. or other countries' interests but it isn't "clearly" going against these interests, either. I am not endorsing the "waiting for excuses", if this is what Russia was doing; I am just saying that it is immensely important to understand that such things are going on if they are going on.
During the Cold War, we would think that the "mutually assured destruction" (MAD) would be the argument that protects everyone from a global nuclear war. Was it real? It has worked throughout the Cold War. Or something else did, with the same outcome. Since the fall of communism, we wouldn't think about nuclear wars much. The world looked relatively friendly, peaceful, and compatible with itself.
Now the tensions are running high again. Can we rely on MAD? Is it as symmetric as its basic ideology suggests? I doubt it.
Russia's official doctrine is to use nukes in the case of a strike. Given the controversial situation in Ukraine, the precise meaning of a "strike" is unknown and even if it were known, it would be fuzzy, flexible, and adjustable. It may very well mean an attack of U.S.-supported Ukrainian troops against some interests in Russia's Crimea that will be considered a justification of a warning, e.g. nuclear detonation of San Francisco (so that Russia earns some hardcore G.O.P. allies in the U.S. – sorry for this black humor, yes, it is beyond the pale).
Just imagine that. San Francisco is gone because of some stupid provocation. Note that a San Francisco erased from the map is megasad but it is far from being the end of the world. What will be the next step? Were the people in the West courageous enough to think about these questions at all? I am pretty sure that both Russian and Chinese strategists have been thinking many moves beyond such a step.
Will the U.S. bomb St Petersburg in retaliation? I have doubts about it because the U.S. decisionmakers would be able to figure out that Atlanta would go on the following day – because unlike their threats, the Russian threats actually mean something. They would come back to their senses. Maybe, their thinking would be slower. So St Petersburg and Atlanta would be sacrificed, too, but then the U.S. decisionmakers would finally blink while the Russian government convinces everyone that the sacrifice of St Petersburg was important and Yekaterinburg should get ready, too. The opposition to the war would be efficiently moderated in Russia. Millions of people in the U.S. would rally to convince the U.S. government to stop the war and surrender.
At the end, the expectation value of the number of destroyed U.S. cities is greater than the expectation value of the number of destroyed Russian cities exactly because of the more relaxed political atmosphere in the U.S. Everyone who has played Sid Meier's "Civilization" PC game and was annoyed by the Senate while switching to "democracy" knows what I am talking about. The U.S. will also lose if the fight reduces to the question who has more warheads. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia has 4,650 active nuclear warheads; the U.S. only possess 2,468. Russia wins. It is extremely dangerous for America to think in terms of their (superficially visible) economic and technological superiority while the "criteria of the contest" are changing to something else where Russia is relatively stronger.
(Ukrainian post-coup politicians' comments about their "need to go nuclear" are particularly amusing. These bold proclamations seem to be derived in the vacuum – they seem to assume that Russia will be OK with anything and won't react. I think that it is less likely that Ukraine will be allowed to reacquire nuclear weapons and direct them against Russia than that the whole Ukrainian territory will be nuclear carpet bombed.)
Now, Crimea and a big part of the Eastern Ukraine is de facto a Russia-style territory regardless of the passports that the citizens over there possess. Even a full-fledged annexation of a bulk (or whole) Ukraine by Russia wouldn't change their lives too much – and the rare changes would be comparably likely to be positive or negative. Are the Ukrainian passports of these relatively poor people whom the U.S. folks don't really understand so important that they would really like to sacrifice San Francisco and its inhabitants in order to restore the Ukrainian passports even in Crimea where virtually no one wants them? If I tell you that the sacrifice of San Francisco wouldn't really achieve the stated goal, anyway? Are you serious? Where is so much irrational fanaticism coming from? Incidentally, San Francisco's GDP is approximately equal to that of Ukraine.
The West should get rid of the hypocritical talk that "the West is a just teacher who may spank the naughty schoolboy Russia" because 1) Russia just won't accept that this is a legitimate attribution of roles to the nations, 2) Russia will be willing and able to present harsh retaliatory steps in any scenario, 3) the Western politicians are really just talking the talk, not walking the walk, and they will stop spanking the Russian schoolboy once the boy uses its electrically powered whip against the arrogant teacher. (And I haven't even mentioned that the schoolkid is 1,000 years old while the teacher is just 250.)
"Yats", the post-coup prime minister of Ukraine, shouldn't be openly supported by the U.S. because some American laws say that the U.S. politicians aren't allowed to back foreign leaders who gained power after violent coups. But OK, laws are only respected if someone likes them. So "Yats" was treated as a friend in the U.S. During the Obama-Yats press conference, some journalists were banned because they were Russian.
I view this as a striking example of a real discrimination based on nationality (if journalists are Russian, it doesn't even imply that they agree with the attitude of the Russian government, and some fraction surely doesn't) in a country that would almost like to prevent you from calling black people black because it is "discriminatory". I am not directly involved in this stuff because I am not Russian and I think that my nation is "elsewhere", ahead of Russia, if I say it openly, but I surely could understand the anger of a Russian person who finds this discrimination of the Russian journalists offensive.
There are other things that the U.S. government is deliberately doing to harm Russia and these things are just not viewed as a legitimate punishment by a bulk of the Russian nation. Do they understand this "detail"? So every act like that is a justification for a retaliation that, as we were told, doesn't necessarily have to be symmetric.
I am amazed and scared of the escalating attempts to harm Russia because of its so far moderating activities in the post-Soviet space – if I avoid the term "Greater Russia". They just can't lead to anything good – except for a temporary masturbation of the egos of liberal sissies among Western politicians who will finally blink and lose, anyway. Sadly, we will lose a big deal with them, too.