Are You Ready For WWIII? The Russians Are

Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024 04:33 PM
The Armavir Incident - the destruction on 23 May of a key part of Russia’s nuclear defence - means the Doomsday clock is ticking closer to midnight. Most people don’t even know that a long-distance Ukrainian/NATO drone attack on the Armavir radar station north of Georgia knocked out a Voronezh-DM radar which is designed to detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles from as far as 6,000 kilometres away. It is one of three similar attacks in recent weeks.
The strike, trumpeted by Newsweek as a great success, may have robbed the Russians of a couple of minutes of warning time, in the event of a strike coming up from the south.
“Map Shows Ukraine's Record-Breaking Hits on Russian Nuclear Warning Sites” Newsweek reports. The article, triumphalist in tone, fails to address the central issue: how crazy do you have to be to compress Russia’s decision-making window before it must decide whether to launch nuclear weapons at you? And who thought this was a good idea at the very time that nuclear-capable F16s are about to arrive in Ukraine and the US, along with a clutch of client states, has announced their missiles will strike mainland Russia in the coming days or weeks? Never in history has a nuclear power been attacked in this way. Even at the height of the Cold War neither side was brainless enough to do what the Western countries are doing now: attack detection facilities and launch missile strikes on a nuclear power.
We actually need the Russians to have really good missile detection systems; it keeps us safe. The Americans have a superior system to the Russians: they have more geosynchronous satellites that hover over specific regions 24/7 and can pretty much instantly detect the heat signatures of missiles at launch. Ground systems, like the Voronezh-DM at Armavir have to wait for the missiles to gain altitude and enter the radar fan (think of the beep-beep-beep sweep of a submarine sonar). American nuclear scientists estimate that the time available to the Russian military and political decision makers may only be a third of that which the US enjoys. In the time it takes you to drink a cappuccino they have to decide if they need to empty their missile silos then go through all their launch procedures before they are incinerated.
This may explain President Putin’s recent statement that all necessary decisions and authorisations have been made in respect to Russia’s preparedness. It suggests a delegated decision structure that no longer requires political sign off. There just won’t be time.
He’s just bluffing right? Certainly America’s greatest military minds like Generals Hodges and Petraeus believe so; yet they have been wrong on pretty much everything to do with Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Another US general worth quoting is Mark Milley, recent Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He speaks of the “nuclear paradox,” that the closer the Russians come to losing in Ukraine, the higher the nuclear peril. Which begs the question: what do the Americans think they are doing? Is there any sound, discernible strategy guiding all this violence, all this escalation? Or are they doing what they did in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan - fighting on, knowing they can’t win, but unable to admit it before the next Presidential election?
Let’s be clear: even the conventional gear we are talking about is serious: German Taurus missiles, French Scalp missiles, British Storm Shadow missiles and an array of US missiles are hugely powerful. They will do immense damage and kill a lot of Russians in Russia. You might think that’s a good idea but imagine if any of these countries were hit in return by similar missiles.
This morning I listened to Russian military analysts discussing what they saw as the need to hit British bases if Britain pushes ahead with plans to unleash Storm Shadows on Russian territory. President Putin has also warned that missile strikes on Russia would result in counter-strikes. Is this posturing, empty threats and blackmail, as Western spokespeople claim, or are we about to witness something that could imperil us all?
In war, what happens when an enemy shoots at you? You shoot back, right? What would happen if Russia fired missiles into the US? They’d fire straight back, right? So why is the West about to fire missiles into a nuclear-armed state and think they won’t fire back?
The NATO decision to strike mainland Russia with missiles comes as Ukraine is losing on the battlefield and is at risk of a major frontline collapse. Western analysts acknowledge the country has almost run out of trained reserves, is funnelling conscripts to the front with minimal training, soldiers now have an average age of 43, they are suffering a 7:1 or perhaps even 10:1 shell deficit and are completely outmatched in airpower, missiles, tanks, drones and electronic warfare.
The US response to the looming failure of its Ukraine strategy is to escalate. The plan was to crush Russia with sanctions, pour in hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons, take back all territory, turn Sevastopol into a NATO port and trigger regime change in Moscow – all these have clearly failed.
So what has changed since President Biden said he would not trigger WWIII by authorising nuclear-capable F16s? What we are witnessing is classic escalation but with a frisson of nuclear fission thrown in.
The New York Times, normally a compliant outlet for Pentagon opinion said: “Until now, Mr. Biden has flatly refused to let Ukraine use American-made weapons outside of Ukrainian borders, no matter what the provocation, saying that any attack on Russian territory risked violating his mandate to “avoid World War III.”
Biden, the NYT said, had “ clearly crossed a red line that he himself drew.” Joe is the first US leader in history to authorise missile strikes against a nuclear power - supposedly within a limited geographic range north of Kharkiv; he is joined by the Germans, and the British and French who say “the Ukrainians” can strike anywhere on Russian territory.
Military experts dismiss the fiction that these missiles will be unleashed by Ukrainians. German Taurus missiles, French Scalp missiles, British Storm Shadow missiles and various US missiles use super-sophisticated dynamic guidance and navigation systems to enable command and control centres in Western Europe or the US to support things like terrain contour matching, evasion and target confirmation. These are all run by elite, highly trained personnel from each of those countries. Open war between NATO and Russia could erupt as a consequence.
How has the media responded to the risk that Western countries may trigger missile strikes against their own territories? Let’s look at the headlines:
“Last chance to impress for Olympic hopefuls”, “Three suburbs might get a metro”, “Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch’s new wife excited about Australian visit”, “What is the point of Super Rugby bonus points?”, “Starmer on ropes over £2000 tax rise”.
You get the point. Our media is keeping us in a deep, deep sleep. We need facts, analysis and an insistence on dialogue and diplomacy before it is too late. George Orwell knew all about this problem. Homage to Catalonia, written the year before the outbreak of WWII, finishes with this description of his train journey back to London:
“Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wild flowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen – all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.”
Eugene Doyle is a writer based in Wellington. He has written extensively on the Middle East, as well as peace and security issues in the Asia Pacific region. He hosts the public policy platform

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