The United States and Russia Stumbling Into A War That Is Unwinnable

A recent article in the South China Morning Post entitled "U.S. – Russia Chill Stirs Concerns About Stumbling Into War" looks at the current diplomatic strains between the two nations and how the lack of communication could lead to "a new Cold War, or worse".

Here is a quote from the opening paragraphs of the article:

"American and European analysts and current and former US military officers say the nuclear superpowers need to talk more. A foundational arms control agreement is being abandoned and the last major limitation on strategic nuclear weapons could go away in less than two years. Unlike during the cold war, when generations lived under threat of a nuclear Armageddon, the two militaries are barely on speaking terms.

“During the cold war, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” said the top NATO commander in Europe, US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is about to retire. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today….I personally think communication is a very important part of deterrence,” Scaparrotti said, referring to the idea that adversaries who know each other’s capabilities and intentions are less likely to fall into conflict. “So, I think we should have more communication with Russia. It would ensure that we understand each other and why we are doing what we’re doing.” He added: “It doesn’t have to be a lot.”".

As you can see on this graphic:

Booking.com

…and this graphic:

…between the United States and Russia, they control 13,400 nuclear warheads or 91.9 percent of the world's total inventory of 14,570 nuclear warheads.

While this may seem excessive, there has been a significant reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held by the 9 nuclear states over the past three decades as shown here:

…but there are still far more than enough nuclear warheads to decimate Planet Earth.

The lack of communication between the world's two most powerful nuclear states can, in large part, be attributed to this from the 2017 edition of the United States National Defense Authorization Act:

SEC. 1232. LIMITATION ON MILITARY COOPERATION BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.

(a) LIMITATION.—None of the funds authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2017 for the Department of Defense may be used for any bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the Governments of the United States and the Russian Federation until the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that—

(1) the Russian Federation has ceased its occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and

(2) the Russian Federation is abiding by the terms of and taking steps in support of the Minsk Protocols regarding a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

This was extended in the Fiscal 2018 edition of the National Defense Authorization Act under section 1231 which amended the limitation imposed by the 2017 NDAA by changing the year.

In the Fiscal 2019 edition of the NDAA, we find the following amendment in Section 1247 "Extension of Limitation of Military Cooperation Between the United States and the Russian Federation":

"Nothing in subsection (a) (the section which prohibits cooperation between the two militaries) shall be construed to limit bilateral military-to-military dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation for the purpose of reducing the risk of conflict.

While the addition of a condition that allows for cooperation between Russia and the United States in the 2019 NDAA is somewhat of a retreat from the precipice of war, the damage to communication and cooperation between the two nations was already done.  The lack of communication between the world's foremost nuclear powers is concerning since one mistake or one miscommunication could lead to a long series of unintended and deadly consequences.

As an aside and just to show you how serious Congress takes the Russian threat, here is an interesting excerpt from Section 1048 the 2018 edition of the NDAA:

"ANNUAL TRAINING REGARDING THE INFLUENCE CAMPAIGN OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.

In addition to any currently mandated training, the Secretary of Defense may furnish annual training to all members of the Armed Forces and all civilian employees of the Department of Defense, regarding attempts by the Russian Federation and its proxies and agents to influence and recruit members of the Armed Forces as part of its influence campaign."

Let's close this posting with one last quote from the South China Morning Post article:

"James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who was the top Nato commander in Europe from 2009 to 2013, says the West must confront Russia where necessary, including on its interventions in Ukraine and Syria. But he believes there is room for cooperation on multiple fronts, including the Arctic and arms control.

“We are in danger of stumbling backward into a cold war that is to no one’s advantage,” he said in an email exchange. “Without steady, political-level engagement between the defence establishments, the risk of a true new cold war rises steadily.”"

There is one thing that we do know about a war between Russia and the United States – it is unwinnable.

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