“The nuclear gun is back on the table,” writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. “Both in private and in public, Russia is making explicit references to its nuclear arsenal”. Speaking of the new tensions with Russia, Angela Merkel said, “who would have thought that 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the end of the Cold War and the division of Europe, and the end of the division of the world into two blocs, that something like this could happen right in the heart of Europe.”
Anyone who thinks the East German population ended the Cold War is bound to be surprised that it’s started again. The Cold War ended largely because the Soviet Union was unable to continue fighting it. “By the time the comparatively youthful Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985, the Soviet economy was stagnant and faced a sharp fall in foreign currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in oil prices in the 1980s”. In the evocative phrase of Le Carre’s novel, Russia House: “the American strategists can sleep in peace. Their nightmares cannot be realized. The Soviet knight is dying inside his armor. He is a secondary power like you British. He can start a war but cannot continue one and cannot win one. Believe me.”
Yet the bomb is back. Conflict is back. Putin warned that he won’t let the Ukraine defeat him. The Daily Beast says that the Eastern Ukraine is bracing for full-scale war. Some news outlets claim a lot of Russians are already dying in the Ukraine, shipped back secretly in trucks marked “Gruz 200″.
Families receive a soldier’s body for burial with information about the date of death, but nothing more — and the Russian government responds to questions by threatening to cut off death benefits or send family members to prison for national security violations.
The dying Russian knight, feeling no better than he did in the 1980s, has crawled back into his armor and picked up his rusty sword. Just as in Gorbachev’s time, Russia’s ruble is crashing, demolished by a rising dollar and falling oil prices — ironically caused by the domestic energy revolution in the United States which the Obama administration had no use for.
Jack Caravelli, formerly of the CIA, morosely concludes that “an era of unprecedented nuclear cooperation between the Cold War rivals is drawing to a close. Early this month Sergey Kirienko, who runs Russia’s state nuclear company, announced that in 2015 no new nuclear projects involving U.S. participation are ‘envisioned.’”
The Western Europeans are baffled. MSN reports that “Europe, facing multiple threats, still isn’t spending on defense.” They can’t get their heads around the problem.
Donetsk is smack in the middle of Eastern Europe. Kobani is just beyond Europe’s southeastern edge, and thousands of radical fighters there come from Europe. The two hot spots span what military experts call the full spectrum of modern warfare, from the traditional Russian force to the far-too-common asymmetric threat of the terrorist Islamic State. Both represent very real and serious threats to European security.
Yet European militaries aren’t prepared to deal with either one, much less both. European security remains dependent on the might of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and NATO increasingly is dependent on the might of the United States. The European nations NATO was set up to defend contribute less and less to the organization.
Nor can the president. A poll among government workers found that “the Obama administration has no strategy for ISIS, the Pentagon is not leaving enough troops to protect Afghanistan and Congress isn’t qualified to keep watch over the military and intelligence services, according to survey of federal workers and troops at the Pentagon, and other national security agencies.”
In fact, political dysfunction ranks ahead of “international terrorism,” “a nuclear armed Iran,” and Russia, China and North Korea, in the minds of these respondents.
The list of mistrust in government leadership is long. Seventy-three percent think Obama does not have “a clear national security strategy.” Not just an ISIS strategy – but a strategy for all national security. Only 26 percent approve of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. And 20 percent of federal workers and troops surveyed think members of Congress are qualified to perform their oversight duties for national security.