“The immediate one, of course, is that [Obama] is going to go out there as surrogate-in-chief and fill in a place while Hillary is convalescent somewhere, I guess, from whatever her health issues are that they continue to lie about,” he said. “
“The Russians, he noted, don’t go along with a lot of the things here like same sex marriage, transgenderism and all the other silliness we see in America and Europe today,” he noted.
“A lot of progressives really-really-really hate Russia. They look at it as at almost a failure that ruined this “great progressive experiment” called communism and they really resent it and hate it. So you actually find much more Russophobia in the US on the progressive side today,” the former diplomat said.
Hillary is the candidate of the “deep state”, of the oligarchy, he said. In effect. the way the script was supposed to run was that the corresponding co-candidate should have been Jeb Bush so that “we have “Tweedledee – Tweedledum” choices like we usually get.”
However there were “insurgencies” in both parties. Bernie (Sanders) on the democratic side and Trump on the Republican side.
Commenting on the health issues of the Democratic nominee and the prospects of her further participation in the presidential race, the former diplomat noted that “Hillary, unless she actually dies, will hang on with her fingernails to the very last minute and she will probably succeed in remaining the nominee.”
He also pointed out one reason why people are really concerned about Hillary’s political and physical viability and might not want to see her go is that they realize there will be “blood bath in the Democratic party while deciding who succeeds her.”
Former Secretary of Defense explains why we now have greatest threat of nuclear war ever
Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, how safe is America, or the world, from nuclear catastrophe? Not very.
That’s the gloomy message from former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who has spent the past quarter-century focused on reducing the risk of nuclear disaster.
Part of the risk, of course, is there are now many more groups intent on inflicting mass destruction that we saw in the Sept. 11 attacks. But the seemingly old-fashion risk, that of a nuclear confrontation between nuclear powers like the United States or Russia, has not gone away either.
Another reason for concern: America and its closest nuclear competitors — Russia, China, India and others — are locked in an arms race intent on developing better, faster, more destructive weapons. In the U.S. defense officials have already warned Congress that they will need enormous sums, up to $450 billion over 20 years, and more beyond that, to overhaul America’s aging and still-dominant nuclear arsenal. That means requests for new bombers, new subs and new missiles.
This all comes at the tail-end of a presidency that began, back in 2009, with an April speech in Prague in which President Barack Obama promised to work toward a nuclear-free world.
Why do you say that we’re now at greater risk of nuclear disaster than ever?
It’s been true for a good many years, we just haven’t understood that. … To understand why I say that, I have to break it down into categories of what a catastrophe might be.
The one we think of most is another nuclear holocaust. We think of the danger that we had during the Cold War of a nuclear holocaust. That danger is returning. It’s returning because of the continually worsening relations with Russia. But it’s not as bad as it was during the Cold War — yet. So I don’t mean to suggest the nuclear war is more likely than it was during the Cold War though it is more likely than it is thought to be.
In the meantime, we’ve got two new dangers that did not exist in the Cold War. One of them is the risk of a nuclear terrorist and the other is that of a regional nuclear war. For example, between India and Pakistan.
When you add those two into the equation, then the danger of some nuclear catastrophe becomes greater.
With regard to the risk of nuclear terrorism, is it simply because there are more people in the world who wish us harm? Or, has nuclear technology changed in a way that makes it easier to accomplish such an attack?
Both of those are true. The first is due to the rise over the last few decades of radical jihadism. We’ve faced terror groups for a good many decades. But typically, they would conduct terror instances to make a point and draw attention to themselves. They were not out for mass killings. When 9/11 occurred, we realized, we are now confronted with something different.
In the case of Al Qaeda, they were out to kill as many Americans as they could. The number on 9/11 happened to be a few thousand. We also know, they had a project trying to get a nuclear bomb, which happily they did not succeed in. The first and most important point is, there are now terror groups practicing radical jihadism who are out to kill vast numbers of Americans in the thousands or hundreds of tens of thousands instead of just a few dozen. That’s new. That’s just developed in the last several decades.
What also is new is that the access to fissile material has probably increased in the last few decades. More countries now have nuclear weapons. With the access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and North Korea for example, that opens up more avenues by which a terrorist could get the fissile material by which he could make a bomb. And maybe even get a bomb itself.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, a year ahead of Bill Clinton taking office. You were his defense secretary. You said then that your top priority was to track down thousands of nukes – the so-called loose nukes problem — in the former Soviet republics. Did you succeed?
Besides Russia, which had the capability of taking care of those weapons adequately, there were now nuclear weapons and a good many nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. In total, there were several thousand nuclear weapons. These were not under any adequate control. That was my top priority when I became secretary. That problem had arisen a year earlier than that.
We got rid of all of those. Every one of them. All of those nuclear weapons were dismantled … and in fact, that uranium is being used in American reactors through General Electric.
What has happened since then?
Since then India and Pakistan have built nuclear arsenals and North Korea has built a nuclear arsenal. Iran has had a nuclear program, which fortunately was short-stopped before it got to a nuclear arsenal.
But that presents many more opportunities for a terror group to get access, if not to a bomb itself, at least the fissile material from which they could perhaps make a bomb. It’s much more dangerous now, because of the proliferation to those countries, particularly to Pakistan and North Korea, the ones I worry most about.
Specifically, what threat do these new national arsenals pose?
The more (nukes) there are in the world, the harder it is to keep track of for sure. But I worry about some countries more than others. I worry about Pakistan because we know there are within the Pakistani military, you might say renegade groups, who owe an allegiance to radical jihad and not to the government.
To this point, the government has kept that under control, but that is a particular danger that doesn’t exist in other countries. In the case of North Korea, the danger is, this is a country that for a number of reasons, not the least the sanctions we imposed on them, is desperately poor. They might try to sell their fissile material or even bombs if somebody can pay them enough for it.
There are two very different dangers there, but they’re both very real.
In the early decades of the Cold War, we heard a lot about so-called tactical nuclear weapons. We are hearing more about that now, again. Can you talk about that?
I am very much concerned about that. The idea that you can use a little bit of nuclear weapons, as a small-yield nuclear weapon, and contain it at that point, is extremely dangerous. Nobody that I know of, no government that I know of, has a credible strategy for preventing the escalations for a full-scale nuclear war. Any use of nuclear weapons has a very high danger of escalating to full use of nuclear weapons…
Many of these tactical nuclear weapons have the yield of the Hiroshima bomb. It’s a confusing point to really refer to them as tactical when you consider the enormous damage they do. Even the lower-yield ones can do an enormous amount of damage.
This is a very dangerous idea. I’m very much opposed to the use of tactical weapons, most importantly to a policy by which we might purport to use tactical nuclear weapons, on the unproven theory that they would not escalate to a major war.
How did the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons — raised again during the George W. Bush administration — first gain traction?
I’m sorry to say the United States was the one who really introduced the idea of tactical nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, we were confronted in Europe from the Soviet Union that had about three times the size of the conventional military forces that we did.
As we thought, they had aggressive ambitions. Therefore, we believed our NATO forces would be swept right back to the Channel if the Russian forces moved in. We developed tactical nuclear weapons and we deployed them in Europe and we had a policy that if the Soviet Union attacked in Germany, we would use them…
We no longer have a policy of using tactical nuclear weapons to defend Europe…
When I was the Undersecretary of Defense in the late ’70s, my primary focus was developing a set of conventional weapons, stealth and precision munitions and precision reconnaissance systems so that our conventional forces, even though smaller than those of the Soviet Union would be able to adequately defend without nuclear weapons.
That program was successful and the demonstrations are successful of the program was made in Iraq, where those new highly effective conventional weapons in three or four days time defeated quite a large and well-equipped army, the Iraq Army.
So we have long since abandoned this policy ourselves. But the really bad news is that today Russia seems to have embraced a policy of using tactical nuclear weapons for that same purpose. If they feel their conventional forces are inferior or being overwhelmed by opposing forces, they would then use tactical nuclear forces to offset the other side’s damage.
President Obama has recently proposed a massive overhauling of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. What does he have in mind? Does it make sense to you?
As long as Russia is adopting belligerent and aggressive policies in Europe against our allies, in which they see nuclear weapons as a part of that policy, then we have to maintain a strong deterrence…
So we will have some modernization program. I’m questioning the nature of the program. I do not think we should simply reproduce what we did during the Cold War, because that was 30 or 40 years ago when you conceived, designed and built other weapons and a lot has changed since then.
What do you make of the nuclear threat with North Korea?
We had an opportunity, I believe, to stop the North Korean nuclear program before they built an arsenal. That was back in 1999 and 2000…. [But] During the time of [George W.] Bush’s presidency, they developed a nuclear weapon capability and actually tested a couple of nuclear weapons. In the last eight years under President Obama, they’ve tested more nuclear weapons and started building an arsenal.
I don’t think we’re going to be able to get an agreement now. It was one thing getting them to agree not to build an arsenal, but it’s a much, much harder task to get them to agree to give up an arsenal they all ready have.
This Q&A was conducted, edited and condensed by Dallas Morning News editorial board member Michael Lindenberger. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fingers on the Button: “First Use” and US Nuclear Weapons
Do you wait till the prospect of obliteration is upon you? Or initiate, blithely, a nuclear holocaust upon your enemy as a matter of what is termed “first use” by the nuclear weapon high priests? Neither prospect is particularly attractive, for each assumes the unthinkable made possible, madness made real.
In one way, even articulating a policy on first use or otherwise is a shoddy way of earning plaudits in the game of annihilation. The logic of obliteration remains. In any case, this was a debate that has transfixed the inner circles of Washington.
The latest fuss largely centres on revising the long held position in US strategic “thinking” that using nuclear weapons first should never be taken off the table. President Barack Obama, in the remaining months of his administration, is attempting to ruffle a few feathers in the strategic outlook in Washington on the use of nuclear weapons.
Keeping the first use option available became a critical feature of deterrent plans against a potential Soviet invasion of Western Europe, where its calamitous promise would hopefully chill the prospect of any such move. Such weapons would also come into play in potential actions in the Asian theatre, notably focused on North Korea and China.
Such murmurings from the Obama administration on a possible “No First Use” declaration caused shudders among some allies late last month – notably those taken with the shibboleth of Washington’s nuclear umbrella.
While scant on precise details, The Washington Post did suggest that Japan, South Korea, France and Britain had send urgent notes of concern to the administration feeling that such a move would be unwise and unnecessarily disruptive.
The message of concern from Japan came straight from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, conveyed directly to Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of US Pacific Command, while Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, reiterated his understanding that the diplomatic wires had been particularly hot on the subject. “The allies lobbying against [adopting no-first use] are nervous nellies.”
Such nervous nellies can also be found closer to home. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz can be counted amongst them. Their concerns became clear at a National Security Council meeting in July. Carter’s gripe was that having a no first use posture would risk fostering insecurity within US allied circles and dirtying the sacred notion of deterrence.
The central fallacy to such opposition lies in the self-deluding notion that nuclear deterrence has any genuine credibility. To keep that delusion alive entails staying firm on the issue of obliterating your enemy even as a matter of first course. The finger must be ever hovering above the button.
Such a stance does not convince the secretary-general of an A-bomb survivors group, Kazuo Okoshi, who has been particularly aggravated at Japanese opposition to the new slant in Washington. “North Korea repeatedly conducts nuclear tests. Deterrence is not working.” Clearly.
James E. Cartwright, formerly a vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Bruce G. Blair, founder of the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, writing in the New York Times (Aug 14), made their pitch that nuclear weapons, in the post-Cold War thaw, served no other purpose “beyond deterring the first use of such weapons by our adversaries.”
The United States, with its alliances, diplomatic and economic might, “our conventional and cyber weaponry our technological advantages, constitute a global military juggernaut unmatched in history.” If Washington’s adversaries refrain from using nuclear weapons, the US has no need to even consider the prospect.
While the authors do slip into the imperial-speak typical of such pronouncements (we have power far superior to others and all that), they make obvious points. Using such weapons against Russia and China would entail global death; employing such weapons against non-state actors would be “gratuitous”.
The more telling point here is that ditching first use would provide reassurances across the globe while saving oodles of money (less need for a strategic nuclear missile strike force, housed in expensive silos; a leaner force).
This giant, in short, will not act unless provoked, and if so, the results will be catastrophic to all concerned. This assumption is as much grounded in false assessment as it is in optimism, the ultimate point being that if you have such entities at hand, you will use them.
The normalisation such weapons of mass murder has exerted a numbing effect on the strategic establishment. Even Cartwright and Blair, both having been connected with the nuclear establishment in some way, never countenance a world free of nuclear weapons. They are in the business of risk reduction and norm creation, hoping that Obama’s embrace of a no-first use policy would cause other states to follow.
States in possession of them may well make superficial gestures: the odd promise to cull a certain type of delivery weapon; a scant reduction of warheads. Others will wheeze their way in response. None of this ultimately helps with the prospect of abolition – the mere existence of one such weapon is one too many.
“What Would She Do in Iraq?”: As Clinton Slams Trump for ISIS Speech, We Look at Her Own Positions
On Monday, while Trump was speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden held a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton is Biden’s hometown. During her speech, Hillary Clinton slammed Trump’s foreign policy positions on Syria and fighting ISIS. But what about her own positions? For more, we speak with Phyllis Bennis, author of “Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror.” We also speak with co-founder of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York Linda Sarsour.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to turn to Hillary Clinton, who spoke alongside Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, just as Donald Trump was giving his major foreign policy address in Youngstown.
HILLARY CLINTON: He talked about letting Syria become a free zone for ISIS, a major country in the Middle East that could launch attacks against us and others. He’s talked about sending ground troops, American ground troops. Well, that is off the table as far as I am concerned. So, we’ll wait and see what he says today. But, you know, sometimes he says he won’t tell anyone what he’ll do, because he wants to keep his plan, quote, “secret.” And then, it turns out, the secret is he has no plan.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Hillary Clinton. Phyllis Bennis, your response?
PHYLLIS BENNIS: You know, this is a serious challenge when we’re talking about the strategy for these wars. The notion that Hillary Clinton is saying, “That’s off the table,” I’d like to know if she’s opposed to the thousands of U.S. troops that are now officially, openly in Iraq, the hundreds that are officially, openly in Syria. She hasn’t said whether she would call them back, whether she would simply not escalate. So her own position here is very unclear.
One of the things that Trump had said about Iraq, which was quite extraordinary, was this notion that as he was against nation building, he said what we should have done in Iraq was keep control of the oil, because that would have, on the one hand, kept the money from the oil out of the hands of ISIS, and, on the other hand, it would mean that we would, of course, have soldiers on the ground to protect that oil. So he was calling for a permanent deployment of troops, a permanent occupation of Iraq.
Hillary Clinton’s position is very unclear. What would she do in Iraq? And the problem is, it’s—the critique that she’s making is fine, but she has no answer for it herself. She has called for an escalation in Syria, for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria. No one is asking her whether she believes that her former colleague on the—in the Obama Cabinet, the then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said he was against a no-fly zone in Syria—sorry, in Libya, because the first act of a no-fly zone is an act of war, to take out the antiaircraft system. Now, Libya hardly had an antiaircraft system. Syria has a very developed, first Soviet-installed and Russian-supplied, antiaircraft system. So, is Hillary Clinton saying it’s OK to go to war against Russia? Is she calling for that? No one is pressing her on that question. No one asked her that question after her own speech. So, her position of saying how outrageous the positions of Donald Trump is accurate, in its own right, but doesn’t take into account the uncertainty of her own position, whether she would support more ground troops, whether she would support a so-called no-fly zone that would immediately be extended to a regime change action, as it was in Libya. These are all uncertainties that we still have no answers to.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Donald Trump talking about Iran
DONALD TRUMP: Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion in cash released by the United States, plus, if you remember from two weeks ago, another $400 million in actual cash that was obviously used for ransom. Worst of all, the nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, your response?
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, first of all, I mean, where to start in that? The notion that Iran is the leading state sponsor of what he calls radical Islamic—Islamist terror, which—by which he means primarily ISIS and al-Qaeda, who are sworn enemies of Iran—they have both theological, sectarian, as well as national fights, and Iran is one of the greatest enemies of both ISIS and al-Qaeda. You could start there with what’s wrong with this.
The notion that the Iran deal has put Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon, not even the critics of the deal claim that. The critics of the deal said it didn’t go far enough, it didn’t impose enough sanctions, something like that. That was sort of the Hillary Clinton critique and the critique of others, but none of them said that this deal puts Iran on a path towards a nuclear weapon. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have consistently agreed—and they don’t agree on a lot—but they have consistently agreed that Iran not only has not made a nuclear weapon, is not trying to make a nuclear weapon, but that it had not even reached the decision that it wanted to make a nuclear weapon. So this is simply created whole cloth.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we end, I wanted to get to what happened here in New York. Hundreds gathered here in New York Monday for the funeral of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin, who were shot in the back of their heads while walking home from prayer in broad daylight Saturday. On Monday, a suspected shooter, Oscar Morel, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Authorities said it’s not clear whether the attacks were targeted as a result of their faith. This is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke at Monday’s funeral.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: And we know there are voices all over this country who are spewing hate, trying to create division, trying to turn one American against another. I look around at all my brothers and sisters here, I see proud Americans, I see proud New Yorkers. And I will never let us be torn apart, and we will not let each other be torn apart.
AMY GOODMAN: That was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Linda Sarsour, your final comment?
LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, just an outrageous and traumatic experience. And we may never know the motive. The two victims are dead and can’t speak for themselves about what happened. But it still validates why, in this climate, the Muslim community is on edge and very afraid. And we should be able to live freely and safely, and walk home from our mosque without being targets of murder in our streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, continue this discussion, of course. Linda Sarsour, thanks for being with us, head of MPower Change and co-founder of Muslim Democratic Club of New York. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, we will link to your pieces, the latest, “The Summer of the Shill.” And Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
WAR WITH RUSSIA LOOMS, SAYS FORMER NATO GENERAL IN NEW BOOK
BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN ON 8/1/16 AT 4:03 PM
The first female president of the United States faces her first major international conflict: Seeking to consolidate the Slavic nations of Eastern Europe, Russia has seized the three Baltic states—Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia—all members of NATO. That requires a response beyond just a caustic tweet or sharply worded press release. For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, there is serious talk of nuclear war.
This is the basis of 2017 War with Russia, the unsettling new book by General Sir Richard Shirreff, who retired in 2014 as NATO’s deputy supreme commander of Europe, as well as its highest-ranking British officer. Although 2017 is technically a novel, this “future history” is really just a war game on the printed page, its preoccupations much closer to those of von Clausewitz and Churchill than those of Woolf or Wordsworth. Shirreff’s book is subtitled “An urgent warning from senior military command,” and he makes plain in his introduction that the novel’s primary intention is to convey the urgency of containing Russian President Vladimir Putin. He likens today’s Mother Russia to Germany in the late 1930s, when it seized the Sudetenland in brazen contravention of established borders. War-weary Europe let the matter slide, hoping that talk of a Thousand Year Reich was just bluster.
“I’m worried, very worried, that we’re sleepwalking into something absolutely catastrophic,” Shirreff tells me, speaking on a Friday evening from his home in Hampshire, in the bucolic country outside of London. A graduate of Oxford who served in the British army, with deployments in the Middle East and the Balkans, he is not a natural writer, so the judgment of the Financial Times—that this is a “literary disaster”—is not as stinging as it might otherwise be, since that same review praised Shirreff’s grim geopolitical vision as one of “profound importance.” 2017 is an unabashedly didactic work, a real-life warning with the bold-faced names changed
The novel opens with the Russians staging an attack on a school in Donetsk, the breakaway region of the Ukraine controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014. Close to 100 children are killed, and Ukrainian forces are blamed, thus giving the Russians the perfect pretext for further aggression. Russia used a similar ploy—the bombing of several apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999—to begin the first Chechen War. But let’s not give Putin too much credit: He likely learned the tactic from Hitler, who was probably behind the Reichstag fire of 1933, which allowed the Nazis to eliminate political opponents before moving on to more grandiose aims.
The Ukrainian operation is only the start. Putin—his identity is very lightly disguised by Shirreff, as is that of Hillary Clinton, though he says she wasn’t necessarily his model for the American president—has his eyes on the Baltics, which Russia has long regarded as its birthright. The Kremlin is bolstered by a conviction that Western Europe and the United States will do anything to avoid the use of force. “The West may have great economic capability, but they think only of social welfare,” one Kremlin adviser says in 2017. “They have forgotten to stand up for themselves.”
When I spoke to Shirreff, he lamented the ease with which Russia invaded both Georgia (2008) and the Ukraine (2014). “That was a slick, very professionally executed operation,” he says of the conquest of Crimea, one that Putin may well try to replicate in the Baltics, given how little genuine resistance he encountered from the West two years ago. “Russia despises weakness and respects strength,” Shirreff tells me. It’s no accident that, every few months, the nation goes agog over images of Putin, stolid and shirtless, wrestling a bear or cuddling with a Siberian tiger.
Until a few weeks ago, most American readers of 2017 would not have thought twice about the preface by James Stavridis, the now-retired American admiral who served as the NATO Supreme Commander of Europe. But in July, media outlets reported that Stavridis was being seriously considered by Clinton as her vice presidential candidate. If he is to serve as an advisory role in her presidency, his view of Russia would be useful. And as presented here, that view is utterly unambiguous: “Of all the challenges America faces on the geopolitical scene in the second decade of the 21st century, the most dangerous is the resurgence of Russia under President Putin.” When Mitt Romney said as much during his 2012 presidential bid, he was mocked for stoking anachronistic Cold War fears. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” President Obama said glibly of Romney’s warning.
But the 1980s actually saw the rise of nuclear disarmament, as well as a broader thawing of Russo-American relations. This moment, the one we live in, feels closer to the 1960s, with American missile defense shields rising in the former Soviet bloc countries of Romania and Poland, as well as military exercises that seem like preparations for the real deal. Annoyed by such exercises in Eastern Europe conducted by NATO, a Kremlin senior official put the matter as bluntly as one of Shirreff’s characters: “If NATO initiates an encroachment—against a nuclear power like ourselves—it will be punished.” This kind of bluster could easily have come from the Kremlin of Khrushchev, as both sides prepared for mutual assured destruction.
I spoke to Shirreff just days after hackers universally believed to be associated with the Kremlin broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, a breach the director of national intelligence called “a version of war” (though he also tried to temper suggestions that Russia was at fault). Donald Trump openly encouraged further such incursions, as long they helped his quest for the White House.
When I first spoke with Shirreff, he declined to comment on Trump’s overtures to the Kremlin, but by the next morning, he’d changed his mind and sent me an email that said, in part: “What could suit Putin better than to embarrass the Democrats and so propel into the White House a candidate who has undermined NATO’s doctrine of collective defence by raising questions over America’s willingness to support an ally if attacked?” He was referring to Trump’s suggestion that the United States would not come to the aid of NATO allies who hadn’t made the requisite defense expenditures.
It is far more likely, according to most projections, that the next president will be Clinton, a longtime foe of Putin who has shown a willingness to use American force abroad. Shirreff believes that nuclear war with Russia is a possibility: Kaliningrad, a region of Russia that borders the Baltic States, now serves as a growing repository for both conventional and nuclear weapons, including Iskander missile systems that have nuclear capability and a range of 300 miles. These could be fired at the West—and will be, if Putin finds Russia’s borders with Europe threatened. Of course, if he invades the Baltics, such a counterattack would be required by the “collective defense” doctrine of the North Atlantic Treaty, known as Article 5. “If NATO goes to war with Russia,” Shirreff says, “that means nuclear war.”
His solution is paradoxical: a show of strength and unity by NATO that would discourage any offensive moves on Russia’s part, so that NATO’s strength would never be tested. In other words, frighten Russia into acceptable, rational-actor behavior. Shirreff adds that Trump is “absolutely right” about many European nations failing to meet their financial obligations to NATO, even if the failed casino magnate couched his criticism in undue threats about abandoning treaty commitments. “Europe needs to step up to the mark,” Shirreff says.
He also says the West needs to commit once more to a dialogue with Russia. That’s made harder by the fact that Russia is always sensitive to lectures from the West, resentful about perceived condescension from Europe and the U.S. Still, stony silence is unlikely to bring a resolution. “Communication” is what Shirreff hopes for, not war. “But it’s gotta be backed up by strength.”