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Don't poke the Russian bear

By       Message Jean-Luc Basle       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   28 comments

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Vladimir Putin delivered a speech and answered questions on October 24, 2014. He made clear his concern over the disappearance of the balance of power between the United States and Russia. The United States is surrounding Russia with missiles, officially aimed at Iran, but really at Russia. The range of these missiles can be increased at an instant notice to target Russian launchers without Russia knowing anything about it. Once the American deployment program is completed in 2020, the balance of power will be gone and Russia will be vulnerable. Hence, Putin's concern. What will the United States do then? Will it blackmail Russia into subservience? What will happen if they do? Nobody knows. But, one thing is clear tension is rising between the two countries.

Having looked into the abyss during the 1962 Cuban crisis, Americans and Russians endeavored to lower tension between them through treaties, exchange of information, regular high level contacts, etc. George W. Bush shook up this growing trust by withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty unilaterally. NATO's enlargement, in violation of an American commitment, further knocked it down, greatly worrying the Russians. The building of missile bases in Eastern Europe is the last straw that breaks the camel's back. The trust is gone. Knowing the United States' strategy may lead to nuclear confrontation, Russians are at a loss to understand what the Americans are up to.

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Russia is no threat to the United States. The American strategy is irresponsible, tantamount to Russia installing missile bases in Mexico. Tension is on the rise and with it the risk of an unexpected nuclear war. In his book, "My journey at the Nuclear Brink", William Perry, former U.S. defense secretary, warns his compatriots (and the world) of the danger. In his opinion, only by chance did the world avoid a nuclear confrontation during the Cold War -- at the time both the United States and Russia were taking steps to reduce tension. In a tense environment, the risk is magnified.

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Even if one disregards the risk, the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation remains. The United States' policy aims at isolating Russia, economically, militarily and politically. To counter this policy, Russia has three traditional allies: Germany, India and China. Germany is an American vassal state. It cannot be counted on. India conducts naval exercises with the United States since 2012. It signed a Ten Year Defense Framework Agreement with the United States in 2015 and The US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region this year. It will not come to Russia's defense. China's economic future is irrevocably linked to the West. Coming to Russia's rescue would endanger this relationship. Russia is quarantined. As time goes on, the pain on the Russian population will grow. At one point, it will become intolerable.

Vladimir Putin will be confronted with a choice: submit or respond. If he gives in, Russia becomes a vassal state. If he does not, he will react with the only mean at his disposal: nuclear missiles. In his October conference, he gave reporters an inkling of his likely response: "the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction". Sensing he was not heard, he repeated the message in Saint Petersburg on June 17th, telling them: "You people" do not have a sense of the impending danger." Weary, he added: "I don't know how to get through to you anymore".

Putin will not submit. Why not listen to him?

 

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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