Russian War 3/24/22

Political Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Keep in mind that I’m writing about a week ahead of posting.  By the time this is published, the war in the Ukraine may be over (hopefully so and hopefully with an agreeable outcome).  Today in the bookstore, the clerk, a young man, struck up a conversation with me, asking about the third world war and how it will happen.  I explained that we may well be on the brink of it even now. 

Make no mistake about it; the US is, today, at war with Russia.  It’s not a ground war (although it has been triggered by the ground war in the Ukraine).  Currently, it is a political and economic war.  Opposed to the attack on the Ukraine, the US is sending materials (but not troops) to the Ukraine to help them defend themselves from the aggressors invading their country.  In addition, the US and allies are attempting to isolate Russia politically, and economically.  The desire is to hurt the Russian economy, and perhaps even cause its collapse.  There is more, no doubt, which is just beginning to come to light, as we’ve recently been hearing about an American cyber-brigade, but it’s not clear if the goal is to defend against cyber-attacks, or to actually go after Russia and/or Putin himself. 

This is a war.  As Americans, we, too, are feeling the repercussions in the form of a sinking stock market, high fuel prices and inflation (although there is a question of whether or not these are all legitimate or simply fueled by corporate greed taking advantage of the situation).  So far, here in the US, the casualties are in our wallets.  But a ground war is perilously close as well.

As the war in the Ukraine drags on much longer than Putin had anticipated and using far more military resources than anticipated, Putin has turn to using older and less precise weapons.  Whether or not this is a reflection of Russia significantly draining their military resources or simply that he is keeping the cutting-edge weapons on reserve in the event of a larger war we don’t know.  However, as his attacks escalate to now include bombing, and the equipment is aged, the risk of something crossing the Ukraine border has increased.  Just yesterday (since writing this) a bomb struck the Ukraine just miles from the Poland border.  Poland is a NATO nation, as is the US.  Originally, NATO was a defensive treaty where each member agreed to defend the other (an attack on one is an attack on all).  As the war gets perilously to the border, how long until a bomb falls on the wrong side, or a fighter accidentally wanders into Polish airspace? 

Should that happen, NATO, and by extension the US, is obligated by treaty to respond.  Suddenly the economic war becomes a shooting war between THE two nuclear superpowers.  We might be able to keep it conventional for a while, but testosterone is reaching critical pride induced levels on both sides.  Putin has already put out a false narrative of chemical weapon use by the Ukraine and the US, which is an indication that he might be “priming the pump” of propaganda to sue them himself.  Here in the US, a former president (Trump) has suggested that if he were in office, he’d threaten the use of nuclear weapons.  Should a shooting war begin, will pride escalate to the point of nuclear weapons when one side starts losing? 

People often don’t think things through.  I read an article about how it is time to give the Ukraine a squadron of A-10 aircraft, famous for ground support and especially effective against tanks.  We are giving them other weapons, so why not?  The simple answer is training.  The A-10 is a very difficult aircraft to fly and would take significant time to train, even with experienced pilots.  Apparently, it takes years to be proficient.  Would the Ukraine last so long?  Or do we send American pilots?

This is another problem.  Biden has pointed this out himself, but as Zelenskyy calls for a “No Fly Zone” over the Ukraine, and many Americans echo the sentiment, what is missing from the equation is how such a zone would be enforced.  The only way it could work is if NATO pilots flew sorties over the Ukraine to enforce it.  No doubt, Russia would resist resulting in NATO (and American) pilots fighting Russian.  The first time this happens, the economic war we are already engaged in with Russia becomes a fighting war. 

Make no mistake about it.  Criticize Biden if you must for going too slowly, but threatening nuclear strikes, or calling for American forces on the front is the quickest way to a war that nobody wants.  I remember drills in elementary school of hiding under desks in preparation for a nuclear strike.  Slow, careful and steady is exactly what we need.  Let’s avoid dancing on the precipice of oblivion.

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