Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The inevitability of nuclear war, part 1

Nuclear war is inevitable, and we will see it occur in the next ten years.

Inevitable? How can that be?  Nuclear war can only occur if someone with the ability to engage in it decides to do so, and no one has.

That's a good point, and I agree -- nuclear war is not genuinely a certainty, no one with nuclear weapons has decided to use them, and hence it's not something to which I assign probability of one.  OTOH, I do assign conditional probability of one to it: given the current direction of the world, nuclear war is inevitable.  Unforeseen contingencies, things we cannot quantify in our probability calculus because we have no idea what they are, could always change this, and I am hoping they will. But let's consider current trends.  Here's one.

In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin pursues open warfare.  It's clear to any observer who is not intentionally ignorant that Russian regular forces have invaded, as "we" predicted in April.  As evidence, consider captured Russian soldiers, dead Russian soldiers, T-72BM tanks, AK-100s, Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries... yes, I know, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assures us these are all simply items purchased from army surplus stores by pro-Russian Ukrainians, to defend themselves from a CIA-NeoNazi coup in Kyiv... but "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies assure you, dear reader, that this is a lie.  For one thing, if such stores existed, you can count on it that "we" would have been stocking up ourselves.

No, it's all a lie -- the Russian army invaded Ukraine some time ago, and the invasion is now overt, even though the Kremlin continues to deny any involvement.  Putin needs to crush Ukraine's move towards western civilization -- he and his regime cannot survive if it turns out that Eastern Slavic countries are capable of flourishing as free, liberal, democratic societies.  Putin and his cronies comprise the worst in the KGB and Russian organized crime.  Putin is a thief who has stolen billions of dollars, a serial killer who has had many people killed. (See, for example, Masha Gessen's biography of Putin.)  If he and his siloviki ever face justice according to western values, it is their end.  Hence, they correctly understand themselves to be in a life-or-death struggle against the West.  Given this, they cannot be too ruthless in making certain that individual rights and the rule of law never take hold in Russia.  Hence, they must never take hold in any stepping stone, such as Ukraine or Georgia. This is, for Putin and co., a moral imperative.

On the other hand, genuine moral imperatives apparently do not exist for most western leaders.  Germany's hapless boob, Angela Merkel, repeatedly lectures Vladimir Vladimirovich, but to no avail.  She makes increasingly tough demands to him -- all of which are every bit as influential as my demand that Congress balance the budget (without raising taxes!) and Barack Obama and Joe Biden both resign.  (While we are it, Angela and I ought to get together and demand a new trial for Sacco and Vanzetti as well.)

Even worse, Barack Hussein appears to be so captivated by golf that he has no time for anything else. Perhaps that's a blessing in disguise, since the more golf he plays the less time he has to inflict damage on America.  Regardless, Obama has no more idea how to respond to Russian aggression than he does with respect to ISIS aggression.  After all, his go-to strategy, blaming Republicans and condemning the Tea Party and Israel, doesn't make much sense here.

OK, fine, but all my smart-alecky commentary aside, what's this about nuclear war?  Well, here's why it is inevitable, ceteris paribus.  Putin has already started looking beyond Ukraine to Estonia and Kazakhstan.  He has threatened Ukraine with nuclear attack, and Russian intelligentsia are calling for genocide against "inferior races" such as Poles and Ukrainians.  Nuclear war is thinkable for him.    Worse, it migt be a good strategy.  Andrei Piontkivsky maintains that Putin contemplates, and could win, a limited nuclear war.  Piontkivsky and others suggest that Russia might hit Estonia's capital,Tallinn, with a tactical nuclear weapon, confident that the West would fail to respond.  America is NATO, after all, and what percentage of Americans would even be able to recognize Tallinn as the name of a city, much less explain why we should risk anything at all over its destruction?  Nuking a NATO member with impunity would end NATO, humiliate the United States, and bring the old Soviet Empire back into Russia's fold.

Preposterous?  Well, yes it is. Tallinn is upwind of Kaliningrad.

But Warsaw isn't.

Back in 2009 Russia prepared for this contingency, running a wargame that included a simulated nuclear attack on the Polish capital.  They did it again in 2013.  Poland is a new NATO member, one that is a thorn in his side, and one the West would be unlikely to defend.  So given everything that is occurring, why wouldn't we expect a limited nuclear war?  Putin has practiced it and hence contemplated it. Putin must be entirely ruthless to survive, so a nuclear strike is not unthinkable.  And a limited nuclear strike will be darned useful, if he's pressured enough.  Well, can the West not pressure him?  I suppose so, but at this point, Putin will only take that as capitulation to his aggression (which perhaps he does not see as aggression, but that's irrelevant) which will induce him to be even more aggressive.  It's a simple matter of incentives.  And at some point, it will all go too far.  There's no natural stopping point for aggression.  So given the way things are going, either the West surrenders or a Russian nuclear attack is inevitable..or... the only real way to stop Putin is to hit Russia hard now -- I think, at this point, that the extreme sanctions I proposed earlier will still work.  Freeze all Russian financial assets in the West. Cancel all Russian visas to the West, except for those of anti-Putin dissidents.  Close all western ports to all Russian shipping and goods.  The Russian economy depends on trade with the civilized world.  Cut it off entirely, until Russia becomes civilized, with civilized leaders.

I see little probability that any leader in the West will have a resolute response to Putin.  Western leaders are mired in the the moral uncertainty of multiculturalism.  They cannot be resolute, because they are all so devoid of principle and full of self-doubt... and as Putin apparently thinks, they are also focused entirely on short run material gain.  There is no leader in the West today who would demand that Khruschev remove his missiles, or demand that Gorbachev tear down his wall.  And in a world of moral cowards, evil will expand. Given that, nuclear war is inevitable.

                                                                         To be continued...

Photo: 31 kiloton atom bomb explodes in Nevada, 1951.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Слава Україні!

Слава Україні! Героям слава!  Glory to Ukraine!  Glory to the heroes!

I do not have time for a serious post yet, but I wish everyone who loves liberty a Happy Ukrainian Independence Day!  May the Ukrainians crush the Russian threat and be free and independent.  May the Russian people learn that it's possible to live as a free person, that tsars, commissars, and the like are impediments to life, not necessities.  May we all learn this, and live by the Ukrainian peoples' example.

Here's an excellent bit by Olena Goncharova in today's Kyiv Post, "23 Things to Treasure on Ukraine's Independence Day."

Friday, August 08, 2014

Quick note to our friends in ISIS, Hamas, and their supporters

To Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, and all their associates, supporters, friends, and sympathizers (Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Sheldon Richman, Justin Raimondo, Barack Hussein, et al.)

"O Muslim devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil shits, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother.

"You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

"So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!"

This is one of my favorite political statements, after the Declaration of Independence and the Oath of the Montana Vigilantes.  Sound principles, courage, and eloquence, all in one neat statement.  (This one is also a bit crude, I admit.)  Thie text is the response of Ukraine's Zaporizhian Cossacks to the Sultan of Turkey when he demanded they put down their arms and swear allegiance to him.  The accompanying picture is one version of Ilya Repin's depiction of the writing of the letter.

There should be no doubt that at some point those who defend civilization will have to take the same stance and kill ISIS.  They will have to kill Hamas.  They -- OK, we -- cannot coexist with savages who believe they have a holy duty to destroy liberty and modernity and impose their savage values on us. ISIS beheads Christian children and displays their heads in public as decorations.  Hamas tunnels under kindergartens and prepares to murder thousands of children. These are homicidal maniacs riven by crazy theology.  Currently the leadership of the civilized world is paralyzed by leftwing political correctness and sees political Islam as a perfectly reasonable reaction to Western civilization.  But the left's ideology is idiotic and unsustainable; it won't last.  And neither with political Islam.  In the end, ISIS and Hamas will be destroyed, because no one  with even a vestige of sanity wants to live under the systems they'd impose.

So"kiss our arse" and "screw your own mother," stupid Islamist mohammedans and friends.  The future belongs to the rational.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quick note

Like Ukraine, Unforeseen Contingencies is not dead yet.  This summer has brought some personal unforeseen contingencies that have precluded blogging, and for that matter most productive work.  I am happy to report that resolutions are in sight, and so... well, "our" perpetual theme here is that what is in sight tends to be disturbed by those unknown unknowns ahead.  But regardless, we're not dead yet!  I hope to begin blogging maybe in early August.

As a quick note, UC fully supports the efforts of the Ukrainians to rid themselves of Putin and his assassins. "We" also support the efforts of the Israelis to smash Hamas.  Frankly, in both cases, the only real solution is to kill the enemy.  There are times when palaver and negotiations are warranted; these are always to be preferred when real discussion is possible.  But in these two cases, Ukraine and Israel, the civilized faces an existential threat.  One does not negotiate with those who propose to exterminate you -- meeting them halfway means suicide.

Incidentally, support for Ukraine and Israel in these wars is the real libertarian position.  In both cases, people who want more freedom are fighting desperately against thugs who would eliminate all freedom. Phony "libertarians" (e.g. Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and similar buffoons) who praise dictator Putin and sympathize the with totalitarian terrorists of Hamas are not libertarians, but statists willing to lick the boots of any tyrant, so long as America is denounced in the process.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ukraine and beyond

The news is dark.  

As Russia's war for territorial expansion continues, economist Anders Åslund explains why Putin must win at all costs, and what can be done about it.  I agree.  Incidentally,  Åslund was on the board of directors of EERC-Kyiv when I taught there and I met with him on occasion.  I think a great deal of him.

Those "green men?"  Economist Paul Gregory provides solid evidence that they are indeed Russian troops who have invaded Ukraine.  

And political scientist Alexander Motyl shows why Russia's actions easily qualify as state-sponsored terrorism under U.S. and E.U. law.

These are dark times.  May Putin's schemes come to ruin, and may Ukraine escape bondage to his criminal regime.  Unfortunately, Putin's targets include more than just Ukraine.

From the Baltic Times,

Estonia's Interior Minister tries to reassure people that "it can't happen here," but...

Some of Putin's shills are already calling for parts of Estonia become Russia.

And Latvia claims Russians are already doing advance work looking for Russia supporters.

Here's a thoughtful piece discussing the implications.  If the West does not treat the Budapest Treaty (under which Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees) as binding, will the NATO agreement be any more solid?  What conclusions will China, Japan, Israel, and others draw if the West allows Putin to invade Ukraine?

Dark times indeed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

More analysis

Alexander Motyl has an interesting analysis of likely troop requirements should Russia try to occupy some or all of Ukraine.  It is not promising for Russia.  If Putin cares about this, maybe I'm wrong in my predictions.  I still don't think so.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, has a fairly perceptive analysis of Russia's behavior.  It's a pity he has to conclude with a call for the primary culprit to voluntarily de-escalate.  But so far, the West appears to be interested only in marginal responses, so Rasmussen can do little else.  NATO also has a useful fact sheet dispelling the lies Putin and Lavrov tell about NATO and Ukraine.

One of my current students has just sent me this excellent State Department fact sheet that refutes ten Russian myths about the current situation in Ukraine.  Of course, it's worth reiterating that these aren't honest misunderstandings but intentional disinformation concocted in the Kremlin.  (Thanks, Ashley!)

Yuriy Gorodnichenko, economist at UC Berkeley (and one of my former students in Kyiv) compares George Kennan's analysis of the USSR with Russian behavior under Putin.  It's not very reassuring.

Also from VoxUkraine, Kateryna Dronova of UC Berkeley gives an excellent analysis of language in Ukraine and explodes the lie that the Russian language is under any sort of assault (one Putin's most absurd claims).

And a Belarussian opponent of Lukashenka says Putin is contemplating attacking Ukraine from Belarus as well, with Lukashenka's help.  If so, may Putin's forces get stuck -- permanently -- in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.

Photo: from Pussy Riot's protest of a couple of years ago.  Incidentally, a number of You Tube videos critical of Russia and Putinism seem to suddenly be unavailable.

Hot War Begins in Ukraine, and My Predictions

Now Russia's war on Ukraine has gone hot.  Russian special forces are attacking government offices in Donetsk and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.  This is not a surprise at all, there has been a growing number of operations using Russian and Ukrainian agents to lay the groundwork.  Now Putin has committed his special forces in numbers, and it's a certainty that this will be followed by a land invasion.  As in Crimea, the spetsnaz are in uniforms without insignia so that Putin and Lavrov can claim they are just local people defending themselves against fascists who are attacking Russian speakers.

Western leaders seem to be in denial.  Here's a Bloomberg piece describing the combat and related matters, note the U.K. Foreign Office statement: 

“Assumptions that Russia is complicit are inevitable as long as Moscow does not publicly distance itself from these latest lawless actions,”

It's an assumption that Russia is complicit?  As if AK-74's, body armor, matching uniforms, communications equipment, grenades, etc. are things one can legally purchase in Ukrainian sporting goods stores, as Putin and Lavrov have claimed.  As if coordinated military attacks are a manifestation of civilian political opposition, just demonstrations that get a bit out of hand.  No, these are the same Russian spetsnaz forces that invaded Crimea. Everyone knows it, or is an idiot.

Meanwhile, pro-Putin demonstrators have attacked pro-Ukraine demonstrators in Kharkiv.  Putin needs violence, now, to "justify" his land invasion.  Some Ukrainian observers argue that Putin is trying to trigger a civil war and chaos.  Perhaps, but I think this is wrong.  The longer his troops sit on the border, the more their readiness degrades and the more time for the West to figure out a response.  And should Kyiv have a successful presidential election, he's really in a mess.

Meanwhile, Russian media has mounted a full Soviet-style disinformation campaign to convince the citizens of Russia that the West and Ukrainian-speaking fascists have already mounted a genocidal war on ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers.

So here's what will happen: shortly, Putin will announce that Kyiv's "fascists" are slaughtering Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.  He has no choice but to intervene to stop this horrible violation of "human rights."  The Russian Army will mount a land invasion of Ukraine from the east (in the vicinity of Luhansk and Donetsk), north (to Kharkiv), and south (from Crimea).  I'm 100% sure this will happen.    In addition, I think it very likely that these forces will continue moving south and west, all the way to Moldova, where they'll link with Russian forces in Transdnistria. Its also likely that Russian forces will enter near Chernihiv and drive to Kyiv, where they'll meet forces from the east.  I think the chances of an invasion continuing in this fashion beyond eastern Ukraine are greater than 50%.  Maybe Crimean forces will mount a landing on Ukraine's southern coast as well.  (I'm unsure of their competence at this, but some weeks ago the Ukrainian Navy drove off an incursion into these waters by two Russian troop ships -- a test run?)  After that, all that's left of Ukraine will be west of a line drawn from Kyiv to the northern tip of Transdnistr.  The rest will become "the ukraine," just another bit of the Russian Empire.  This assumes, of course, that he's successful.

I don't think the Ukrainian military can mount a successful defense.  I do think the Russians will be entering a hostile country, were people loathe and fear Moscow and are willing to resist.

That's the analysis of Unforeseen Contingencies, in particular of me, chief blogger Charles N. Steele.  I didn't get this from someone else; I just don't see how other conclusions can be drawn from the evidence.  Perhaps I'm entirely wrong, but I'm sufficiently convinced of all this that I'm willing to state it publicly.  My strongest wish is that I will have to publicly admit how wrong I was.  I'm not alone, though, for example, economist Paul Gregory has a similar analysis.

And my prediction only goes so far.  I have no idea how all this will play out.  I can't guess what the West will do.  I tend to think "nothing serious" but could be wrong.  I can't predict how a Russian invasion will go; invading Crimea was one thing, but invading territory inhabited by a hostile and fearful population is another.  (That's why I don't think Putin will invade places like Lviv.  Any Russian soldier the citizens managed to get hold of would be butchered.)  I hope that this quickly proves a catastrophe for Putin and Russia, that it backfires horribly and brings his regime down...

...because if it doesn't, if it is successful, this is just the start.  Georgia, Armenia, parts of the Baltics... why not?  Anything else on Russia's borders that's undefended and of interest?  And other countries are watching.  Is this perhaps China's answer to the problem of Republic of China on Taiwan?  Or the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands?  And if Western security guarantees are not meaningful, what kind of world are we about to enter?  One of greatly increased incentive for nuclear proliferation and increasing dominance by illiberal regimes, that's what.  And that's the sort of thing that leads to world wars.

The West ought to act now to crush Putin's plans.  I've already said what I think could be done.  But I'm skeptical that any of our political or business leaders care enough to bear the immediate costs involved.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waking up to War

I'm unsure why so few in the West seem to understand that Putin plans to invade Ukraine.  The capture of the Ukrainian Navy ships Ternopil and Slavutych by the Russian Navy was an act of war.  It had nothing to do with the "referendum," otherwise the ships would have simply been sent away.  Putin plans war, and said so in his Crimea speech.

Now some are starting to sound the alarm:

Recall Unforeseen Contingencies' analysis of three weeks ago?  I hate to say "I told you so."  And I still have slim hope that I won't be able to... but that slim hope is dwindling fast.

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