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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tensions Between US/NATO & Russia Are Flaring Dangerously

As if there weren’t enough crises to worry about in the world already, from shooting rampages to accelerating species loss, the US and NATO continue to ‘poke the bear’ and risk an outbreak of war with Russia.
I wish this were idle speculation. But if you haven’t been paying close attention, you'll probably be shocked at just how much direct military and diplomatic provocation has been going on between NATO/US and Russia over the past several years -- and in recent weeks, in particular.
Even more shocking is that no one in power can provide us with a compelling reason for exactly why these tensions are flaring. It seems that Russia’s main sin is in not entirely, completely and immediately giving the US/NATO anything and everything they request.
In other words, it’s imperial hubris and petulance that seems to be driving the ship of state. That’s a dangerous thing.
I’ve written extensively on the dangers of war with Russia as my concerns have mounted ever since the situation in Ukraine devolved in 2014.
There have been plenty of chances to dial down the rhetoric and mend fences, but they've all come and gone without healing. In fact, as we detail below, quite the opposite has happened. 
The bottom line is this: If you're not already mentally and physically prepared for the prospect of a NATO/US war with Russia, you really should be.
Perhaps the chances of outright war are still low on a relative scale, but the costs would be catastrophically high -- making this worthy of your attention. A low risk of a catastrophic outcome is the very reason we all buy insurance – life, auto, and home.  Not because we wish things to go wrong in our lives, but because they sometimes do nonetheless.

A Russian Warning

The list of aggressive provocations by NATO that have been received as belligerent acts by Russia is quite long. It stretches back several years and continues to grow rapidly, making the chance for an ‘accident’ or unplanned incident quite high.
I was impressed with a recent piece penned and signed by eight prominent writers and blogger with Russian heritage. Titled A Russian Warning, it ran on a wide variety of blogs knowledgeable about the Russian situation including Dmitry Orlov’s and The Saker’s. I encourage you to read the whole thing. Right now, if you've got the time. I can wait.
To cut to the chase, the harsh conclusion of the piece is this: If there is going to be a war with Russia, then the United States will most certainly be destroyed, and most of us will end up dead.”
Russia is, of course, a major nuclear power with a long history of surviving being attacked by outsiders. But for some reason, US/NATO military and diplomatic efforts have all been geared at further encroaching upon and/or isolating Russia.
They note:
The US leadership has done everything it could to push the situation to the brink of disaster. First, its anti-Russian policies have convinced the Russian leadership that making concessions or negotiating with the West is futile. It has become apparent that the West will always support any individual, movement or government that is anti-Russian, be it tax-cheating Russian oligarchs, convicted Ukrainian war criminals, Saudi-supported Wahhabi terrorists in Chechnya or cathedral-desecrating punks in Moscow.

Now that NATO, in violation of its previous promises, has expanded right up to the Russian border, with US forces deployed in the Baltic states, within artillery range of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, the Russians have nowhere left to retreat. They will not attack; nor will they back down or surrender.
Imagine for a moment that Russia had positioned its military less than 100 miles from New York City and installed armored battalions with artillery. How would we in the US respond to that provocation? Probably with outrage, anger and defiance -- and rightly so. So why are we expecting Russia to act any differently?
The conclusion:
The sole reason why the USA and Russia have found themselves on a collision course, instead of defusing tensions and cooperating on a wide range of international problems, is the stubborn refusal by the US leadership to accept Russia as an equal partner: Washington is dead set on being the “world leader” and the “indispensable nation,” even as its influence steadily dwindles in the wake of a string of foreign policy and military disasters such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and the Ukraine.

Continued American global leadership is something that neither Russia, nor China, nor most of the other countries are willing to accept. This gradual but apparent loss of power and influence has caused the US leadership to become hysterical; and it is but a small step from hysterical to suicidal. America’s political leaders need to be placed under suicide watch.
The summary here is that Russia feels surrounded by an increasingly belligerent NATO/US military presence. It can find little common ground with diplomats from NATO generally and the US specifically. If fully backed into a corner, once it perceives it is out of other options, Russia will defend herself. I’m not sure how anybody could deny or begrudge her that right.
If the West, meaning the US and Europe, decide to further goad Russia, war is likely inevitable. (I'm leaning heavily here on the historically-dependable formula: Time + Shit Happens = Conflict).  Sooner or later, Russia will have to switch from response mode to reaction mode. I’ve written about that precition herehere and here.

The Provocations – Neocon Central

Here’s a very short and incomplete list of the provocations that have been undertaken against Russia. Again, just try to imagine what the reaction would be by the West were the roles reversed:

2014

2015

In return, Russia has been busy fighting its ‘isolation’ by inkling major energy deals, openly testing its nuclear weapons platforms, and railing against the double standards of the West:
You get the idea: both sides are settling into a pattern of escalating responses. The trajectory is alarming.
What's alarming is the above selection of headlines is a miniscule sampling of the possible ones I could have picked. The evidence is everywhere.
Now let’s fast forward to 2016 where things are really heating up.

2016

The US and NATO have been putting increasing emphasis on placing more military hardware and training exercises in the Baltic and Black seas as well as the Mediterranean ocean.  In one incident, Russian jets flew within yards of a key US naval asset over and over again in a provocation that John Kerry said the US “would have been justified” in shooting those jets down.
U.S. issues formal protest to Russia over Baltic Sea incident
Apr 14, 2016

(CNN) White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has communicated formal concerns to the Russian government about the incident in the Baltic Sea this week in which fighter jets flew very close to the USS Donald Cook.
A U.S. official described the Russian maneuver as "strafing runs" without firing any weapons. The unarmed Russian aircraft swooped in over the deck in the same flight profile that would have been used if an attack was underway.
Here’s a video of that flyby:
And, no, the US would not have been justified in shooting down those Russian jets. Kerry is being clearly belligerent with that statement.
A more level response comes to us from a retired Navy commanding officer:
“Well, we’re not at war with Russia," Capt. Rick Hoffman said. "It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me — that’s not the case here.”

If you have visual identification of the jet, can see it isn't carrying weapons, and don't detect any electronic emissions suggesting there was a missile lock on the ship, there's nothing to be done.

And ultimately, the rules of engagement allow the CO to take defensive action if they feel they safety of their vessel is in danger, according to U.S. European Command spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez told Navy Times. In this case the CO did not feel threatened, he added.

"You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying," said Hoffman, who commanded frigate DeWert and cruiser Hue City.
Thankfully there are saner minds in the military, even if the State Department is itching for a fight.
Which brings us to the most insane head scratcher of them all.

State Department Loses Its Cool

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (6/16/2016) came the bizarre revelation that 51 internal State Department officials signed a document protesting Obama’s lack of direct military engagement with Assad’s government forces in Syria:
U.S. State Department Officials Call for Strikes Against Syria’s Assad
Jun 16, 2016

BEIRUT—Dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.

The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.
Now just reflect on that a moment. But as you do, be sure to recall that Russia is fighting alongside Assad’s forces. In other words, these State Department officials are asking for military action to be taken against Syria's allied forces fighting to preserve the current government’s hold on power.
In other words, there are 51 insane people (a least) in the US State Department that think attacking Russia directly would be a swell idea. All in the interest of promoting a foreign policy of regime change that has not worked out well in the Mideast countries where we've recently tried it. Iraq and Libya are unmitigated disasters, especially for the citizens left living with the aftermath.
I would certainly love to know the names of those 52 individuals. I'd bet good money that the list is heavily stocked with neocons.
Also be sure to recall that Russia moved the s400 antiaircraft missile system into Syria last year. This battery is widely respected and feared by pilots due to its enormous reach:

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