Trigger for WWIII?

Civil Defense Perspectives March 2014 Vol. 30 No. 3

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854

Even small, seemingly insignificant places, like Sarajevo, can spark global conflicts. Crimea is not strategically insignificant.  The [First] Crimean War fundamentally altered the balance of power in Europe, which had kept the peace for three decades after the Treaty of Vienna ended the Napoleonic Wars. And the outcome set the stage for World War I.

Tsar Nicholas I tried to carve up the European part of Turkey, exploiting the weakness of the Ottoman empire. He expected support from Austria and Britain, but they did not want to see Russia controlling the Dardanelles. While Austria, Britain, and France worked for a diplomatic settlement, the Turks declared war on Russia in 1853. France sought revenge for Napoleon’s defeat in 1812. Britain wanted to secure trade with Turkey and access to India. Austria wanted to protect the Danube.

Russia lost and was forbidden to maintain a navy on the Black Sea, but retained control of Crimea. The Ottoman empire was brought into the European political system. The foundation was laid for the powerful nation-states of Italy and Germany (BBC, http://tinyurl.com/kr64nwc).

Crimea was part of the USSR, and a very Russian place until Nikita Khrushchev “gave” the Crimean Oblast to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. When Ukraine held a referendum in 1991, 54% of Crimean voters favored independence from Russia (Wash Post 2/27/14, http://tinyurl.com/kr7eq4q).

Today, 60% of Crimea’s population is ethnic Russian, and Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based at Sevastopol.

“Crimean Spring”

Demonstrations began in Kiev in November, when Ukraine’s pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych backed out of signing an agreement with the European Union. From Vladimir Putin’s standpoint, Ukraine’s alignment with the EU would be an existential threat to Russia’s great power status (WSJ 2/21/14). Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, accused members of the EU of fomenting the demonstrations (CNN 3/1/14).

After 48 hours of violence in which many protesters were shot by snipers, Yanukovych fled. On Feb 27, RT.com reported on the regime that replaced him: “A ‘government of winners’ has been established which includes nationalist extremists.”

“Unrelated” Russian military exercises involving 150,000 troops suddenly began along Ukraine’s border. Soon after the Russian parliament rubber-stamped Putin’s request to send troops to Ukraine, tens of thousands poured in. Most removed the Russian insignia from their uniforms and refused to say where they were from (WSJ 3/4/14). Russians quickly established complete operational control in Crimea, with more than 6,000 airborne and naval forces. A once-marginal Russian nationalist group assumed power (WSJ 3/3/14).

Putin claims that the ouster of Ukraine’s duly elected president was a “coup.” Crimea has the right to “self determination” (to secede from Ukraine), and Russian intervention is needed to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots.” Hillary Rodham Clinton compared that with Hitler’s claim that he needed to protect ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist recently detained in Moscow, noted that the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 on the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally—and that the same rationale could be applied to the Baltic states (New Yorker 3/1/14).

Barack Obama has alluded to “strong historic ties” of Russia and Ukraine—without mentioning the Holodomor.

The West is offering “aid” to Ukraine in the form of loans tied to an International Monetary Fund austerity program that would cut Ukrainians’ pensions in half, writes Paul Craig Roberts (http://tinyurl.com/lopsqze). Obama is threatening economic sanctions such as asset freezes and visa restrictions on individuals still to be named. He deplores violations of international law and of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and seized South Ossetia and Abkhazia without consequence. It seems inconceivable that the U.S. or NATO would send troops to Ukraine. But if Western-backed Ukrainian forces resist, some predict all-out war: and “the war will be nuclear,” writes Roberts (op. cit.).

What’s in Ukraine?

Russian pipelines through Ukraine carry half of its oil and gas exports to the EU. Half of Russia’s revenues come from oil and gas; the EU is the second-largest market. About a third of all European oil and gas imports come through Russia’s pipelines.

Russian markets plunged at the threat of U.S. sanctions (WSJ 3/4/14). But American and European banks are also vulnerable. Putin advisor Sergei Glazyev threatened to dump $200 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds in response to sanctions, but a high-ranking Kremlin source said that represented only his personal position (RIA Novosti 3/4/14). Are there financial interests that could  provoke a war to prevent a banking collapse, as some speculate?

American Oil

Although the U.S. has enough hydrocarbons to replace imports from unstable regions, such as Russia or the Middle East, Secretary of State John Kerry proclaims that climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Climate hysteria could stop the U.S. from rescuing European oil hostages to Putin. Obama could issue an executive order permitting natural gas and crude oil exports to Europe, reversing a ban imposed in the 1970s. The Administration could also stop blocking facility construction approvals; the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, which applied for a license in 2010, won’t be online until 2015 (http://tinyurl.com/mk7pfs7).

U.S. disarmament includes crippling its economic power.

“Redrawing Borders”               

Obama objects to the Kremlin splitting up Ukraine, perhaps distinguishing the situation from the West’s carving out Kosovo by arguing that borders “shouldn’t be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders” (Bradley Klapper, Lara Jakes, AP 3/7/14).

During the era when Europeans were conquering the world (1096-1950), nations were artificially cobbled together from hundreds of clans and ethnic groups. The “uncobbling is in full roar,” writes Richard Maybury, especially in the Middle East, which he calls Chaostan. “Yemen alone contains at least 15 known militant groups. Iraq 31. Syria 57. It’s that way across virtually the entire Islamic world.” Now that Washington has neutralized the tyrants who suppressed conflicts, the lid is off the pressure cookers.

“I’m guessing that the probability of large swaths of Mideast territory being paved with radioactive crater glass within five years is 60%, and there is nothing whatsoever that anybody can do about it,” Maybury concludes (EWR, February 2014).

Nuclear wannabes are likely watching Ukraine, which held the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1994, Kiev agreed to transfer all its atomic arms to Russia for elimination (Global Security Newswire 3/3/14).

Monroe Doctrine Is Dead               

Just as Putin seems to be implementing a Russian version, Secretary Kerry announced the end of the Monroe Doctrine, the 200-year lodestone of U.S. diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere (WSJ 11/18/13, http://tinyurl.com/ngz89xq).

On Feb 28, the day after its defense minister announced  Russia’s plans to expand its military presence globally, the spy ship Viktor Leonov SSV-175 docked without fanfare in Havana. The warship carries electronic surveillance and missile defense systems (Guardian 2/28/14, http://tinyurl.com/lmou77t).

Bases are planned in Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Singapore, and Nicaragua, among other places, and include refueling facilities for strategic bombers (RIA Novosti 2/26/14, http://tinyurl.com/kvbj68d).

Russian Spring               

Some think that the fall of Yanukovych was planned as part of a Russian scheme to dominate Europe. Robert Zubrin provides a translation of “The Russian Spring,” one of the three scenarios proposed by Aleksandr Dugin for the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis. It results in a bloody civil war in Ukraine, the de-Americanization of Europe, and a great new confederation of Europe and Eurasia, stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostock. Or, Zubrin suggests, to Hanoi or Shanghai.

The other two scenarios, he writes, “in which the Kremlin blinks in the face of Western pressure, result in thermonuclear war or complete global chaos” (Free Republic 3/10/14, http://tinyurl.com/n2cxls6).

Zubrin describes Dugin as “a very influential geostrategic and ideological adviser of the Putin regime.” Other say that Dugin thinks Putin is too liberal and eventually wants to overthrow him and establish a totalitarian fascist dictatorship under the cover of “Eurasianism.” But the first step in forming the new empire is restoration of the old empire sought by Putin. The sovereignty of Ukraine is an enormous threat to this scheme, writes Anton Shekhovtsov (http://tinyurl.com/n7ukmrr).

The Russian “Reset”

In the 1980s, Kerry was a champion of the Nuclear Freeze, the subject of a 1983 piece in the Columbia school magazine by senior Barack Obama (http://tinyurl.com/n7bazf8), expressing views that seemed to have changed little in 31 years. Obama was too young to have the “indelible mark on their souls” acquired by older people during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He railed against “military-industrial interests” and their “billion-dollar erector sets.”  He still wants a “nuclear-free world” (NY Times 7/5/09, http://tinyurl.com/mwhoxp4).

Obama’s first budget stopped work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead. In 2009, he betrayed commitments to Poland and the Czech Republic on a missile defense shield (USA Today 3/3/14, http://tinyurl.com/pef8c6c). Later, he committed to dismantling American nuclear weapons and shelving fissile materials in exchange for Russia’s decommissioning of intercontinental and submarine launched ballistic missiles and bombers. The U.S. delivered. Russia didn’t (http://tinyurl.com/kk5evhh). He made an arms-control deal that failed to address Russia’s short-range tactical missiles even as Russia began to cheat on the medium-range missile deal from the Reagan years (WSJ 2/21/14).

Military News Briefs               

Israel intercepted a shipment of dozens of Syrian-made surface-to-surface rockets bound for Gaza from Iran, “our new negotiating partner” (WSJ 3/5/14).

North Korea test-fired five short-range ballistic missiles, then deployed a new multiple-rocket launcher that fired four missiles with         adequate range to reach American and South Korean bases near Seoul (ibid.).

Within 24 hours of Obama’s announcing a decline in U.S. defense spending, China announced a 12.2% increase (ibid.).

Minefields are being laid in the Kherson region north of Crimea (Townhall.com 3/10/14).

Meanwhile, in the Far East 

China and Japan are embroiled in a dispute over eight uninhabited islands (called Senkaku by Japan, Diaoyu by China). At stake are possible oil and gas deposits in the East China Sea. Maybury sees this as a potential cause for war. Tokyo for the first time is forming a marine corps, which is by nature an invading, not a defensive force. The U.S. is building a new marine base on Okinawa (Early Warning Report, March 2014).

China seems to be backing Russian in Ukraine (Katie Pavlik, Townhall.com 3/3/14), and Japan has endorsed the Western position (Lidia Kelly, Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters 3/7/14).

Happy Hour at the DNC 

Just after his remarks to the nation warning Russia against military intervention in Ukraine, Obama gave a talk at a Democratic National Committee meeting on Feb 28. A heckler shouted: “Tell us about your plans for nuclear war with Russia!” The President: “No, no, don’t worry about it….don’t know anything about that plan….(Laughter.)me return to what I was talking about. (Applause.), he thought happy hour started earlier.” (Laughter and applause.) (http://tinyurl.com/l4xpybu).

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