“The scenario where a US-backed, US-supplied jihadist group in Syria uses US weapons to shoot down a Russian plane and then murders the pilot on the ground should be seen as a near-nightmare escalation, drawing the US and Russia terrifyingly closer to direct conflict.”
McAdams is not fearmongering; he is stating a plainly obvious fact. The Trump administration has just announced that it is restructuring its nuclear weapons policy to take a more aggressive stance toward Russia than that which was held by the previous administration. This is coming after this administration’s decision to arm Ukraine against Russia, a move Obama refused to take for fear of escalating tensions with Moscow, as well as its decision to continue to occupy Syria in order to effect regime change, along with numerous other escalations. The Council on Foreign Relations, which is without exaggeration as close to the voice of the US establishment as you can possibly get, is now openly admitting that the “United States is currently in a second Cold War with Russia.”
In a recent interview with The Real News, leading US-Russian relations expert Stephen Cohen repeated his ongoing warning that “this new Cold War is much more dangerous, much more likely to end in Hot War, than was the 40-year of Cold War, which we barely survived.” In a previous interview with the same outlet, Cohen elaborated more extensively:
“We are in new cold war that is much more dangerous than the last cold war for various reasons. One is that the new cold war today, as we talk, includes three fronts. U.S.-Russian fronts, they’re fought with hot war. That’s Syria. That’s the reckless NATO military build-up on Russia’s western boarders, which has resulted in a situation today that ordinarily artillery, not missiles, ordinary artillery, can hit Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg. Just think about that and the instability. And the third front is Ukraine.”
Cohen explains how the political pressures placed on Trump by the ongoing fact-free allegation that he is a Kremlin puppet makes it far more difficult for him to negotiate on these multiple fronts agilely, thus making it much more likely that Trump will choose to advance when he should retreat, hold his ground when he should back down, and generally be locked into patterns of aggression and forward movement rather than the back-and-forth finesse required for safe cold war negotiations with a nuclear superpower.
We came within a hair’s breadth of nuclear annihilation on more than one occasion during the last cold war, and the further things escalate in this new one the more likely we are to tempt fate again. The only reason we survived the extremely tense stand-offs in the last cold war ultimately boiled down to pure dumb luck in some cases, and there’s no legitimate reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.
To be clear, I am not saying that the US or Russia actually want nuclear war. Two men with guns pointed at one another in a conventional standoff generally don’t want either weapon to discharge, either. What I am saying is that we learned in situations snatched from the brink of disaster by men like Stanislov Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov that there are too many small, unpredictable moving parts involved in a nuclear standoff for cold war escalations to unfold safely and predictably, and the more tense things get the more likely it becomes that a nuclear warhead gets discharged in the chaos and confusion. Once a single warhead goes off, Mutually Assured Destruction comes into play. Add into that the hot war dynamics and political pressures described by Stephen Cohen and we’re looking at some very uncomfortable odds as a species.
In my view most of the political disagreements I have with people ultimately boil down to this. I see us as facing an immediate existential crisis as a species that needs to be dealt with right now, and people say I should be more worried about this or that conservative figure saying rude things on Twitter. We are facing the very real possibility of near-term human extinction; I don’t know how to care about the petty sectarian squabbles in America’s various political factions. It really is time for us to all get over ourselves and grow up.
This unprecedented crisis should be drawing us together, yet we’re more politically divided than ever. It is evolve or die time, and we’re all still arguing over airplane peanuts while the plane is in a full nose dive.
Imagine if you wake up one morning and turn on the TV to an emergency broadcast alert that a nuclear weapon has been discharged by either the US or Russia in the chaos and confusion of this convoluted new cold war, and saying that you need to seek shelter immediately.
What thoughts will go through your head as the realization dawns that this is really happening? Do you imagine that you will be spending much time thinking about how Trump said “shit hole countries”? Will you spend your last moments on earth mentally shaking your fist at Antifa and “libtards”? Or will you instead perhaps wish that you and your brothers and sisters around the world had more aggressively opposed these new cold war games your leaders have been playing?
It is entirely possible that you will one day in the near future find yourself in this very situation and answering the questions I just asked you for yourself.
Let’s skip that part of our story together, please. The reason they need to work so hard to manufacture consent for these escalations is because they require that consent. If we all loudly raise our voices and say “No. Enough. This ends now,” they will necessarily have to obey. The Russiagate psyop exists because the western power establishment is trying to cripple the Russia-China tandem in order to ensure US hegemony, and if they tried to thrust us all into a new cold war without our permission they’d shatter the illusion of freedom and democracy they depend on to rule you. If we all rise as one voice and withdraw that permission, they will be forced to obey.
Can we do this, please? Can we make ensuring our survival into the future a priority right now and put bickering over identity politics and the president’s tweets on the back burner until then? We’ll have a whole future ahead of us to sort that stuff out if we survive the urgent crisis we are facing right now.