Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Putin tells Washington MAD reestablished

President Putin's state of the nation address had two foci and two intended audiences. The first two thirds of the speech were devoted to domestic matters and were designed to outflank his rivals in the upcoming election. The last third, however, was directly aimed at Washington and its vassals. In this section of his speech, he unveiled his country's latest weapons.

These weapons have clearly been developed in response to the US 2002 unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty; the movement of Nato to Russia's borders, contrary to the promises given to Russia at the end of the Soviet Union; the siting of ABMs in Europe and South Korea, which threaten Russia; the US stated preparedness to use nuclear weapons as a first strike. According to Putin's descriptions, these new weapons render the US ABMs completely redundant, and thus restore the previous status quo: MAD, mutually assured destruction. In effect, Putin was telling Washington that any notions it has of unleashing nuclear war on Russia and surviving is nothing more than a fantasy.

This return to MAD, the position carefully and painstakingly negotiated between the Soviet Union and the US, which was undermined by the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM treaty, should have been met with a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the political media elite in the US apparently do not believe the Russian president. Rather, the Washington groupthink apparently interprets Putin's warning as mere bluff, and (paradoxically) proof of Russian "aggression". These contradictory interpretations are perhaps unsurprising, as Washington narratives on Russia are invariable upside down. Nato expansion to Russia's border is, for example, spun as Russian aggression: Russian military is in close proximity to Nato - one would think Putin had fiendishly picked up Russia and magically transported it to the borders of Nato countries in order to menace them.

The position of the Washington hawks and their media mouthpieces would be risible were it not for the fact that the constant stream of Russophobia, and the ever closer military manoeuvres (Ukraine and Syria are two possible flash points), make it increasingly likely that an incident will occur, which will, in an atmosphere of distrust, inevitably be misinterpreted and result in an unstoppable escalation, ending in a nuclear war that devastates the planet and renders our species extinct.

Russia and the US have sufficient nuclear weapons to achieve this result. Back in the days of the Cold War, both sides appreciated the danger, which is why they discussed their differences and reached agreements. This no longer appears to be the case - certainly not in Washington, as the recent Nuclear Posture Review makes perfectly clear.

In his address, Putin pointed out that Washington had not listened to Russia when it had warned of the dangers of such moves as the unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty, but he called on Washington to listen now and he made plain that Russia wants to talk. Is the US prepared to listen? Prepared to talk? Sadly, I doubt it.

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