Fourteen days

The American campaign against Russia's use of nerve gas on British soil opened in the UN Security Council.  Ambassador Nikki Haley held Russia responsible for the attack. "If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used ... This is a defining moment."

Part of Haley's message was an American threat to counter Russia where its forces and foreign policy were most over-extended: in Syria. “Sixteen days ago, we came to an agreement. Russia cast its vote in favor of the agreement. And with that vote, Russia promised its support for a 30-day ceasefire, as did the rest of the members of the Security Council…During the negotiations, the United States put all parties on notice that we needed to act if the ceasefire was not honored, and members of the Security Council agreed. And now that day has come. The ceasefire has failed. The situation of the civilians in eastern Ghouta is dire. And the United States is acting. We have drafted a new ceasefire resolution that provides no room for evasion. It is simple, straightforward, and binding. It will take effect immediately upon adoption by this Council.”

It's a deadline with about fourteen days -- thirty minus sixteen -- to run.

The Russians saw it coming. Only a few days ago they said the US was planning to push on Syria and warned Washington against it.  Newsweek reported that "top Russian officials have threatened to retaliate with force if President Donald Trump orders an attack that could endanger the lives of its soldiers stationed there in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s campaign against rebels and jihadis near Damascus."

Army General Valery Gerasimov warned on Tuesday that the U.S. was preparing to launch raids against Moscow’s ally, the Syrian government, as it attempted to clear the pockets of insurgents—some of which were once backed by the West—in the suburbs of the capital city of Damascus. Gerasimov, who acted as chief of Russia’s general staff and deputy defense minister, claimed that the U.S. would strike under the false pretense of a chemical weapon attack—a tactic that Russia has denied the Syrian military utilizes—and vowed to fight back.

The Red Line shoe is now on the other foot.  By issuing a warning against infringing his freedom of action Putin has drawn a Red Line and Haley just threatened to cross it in the most public possible way.  Radio Free Europe writes "the United States has said it is ready to act in Syria to end chemical attacks and "inhuman suffering" if Russia, Iran, and Syria continue to allegedly ignore a 30-day cease-fire approved by the United Nations, prompting a warning from Moscow that it will strike back if the lives of its servicemen are threatened".

What Russia will do when the clock counts down remains to be seen. The US threat is both asymmetric and strategically calculating.   The US has power dominance over Russia in Syria.  In almost any scenario except the use of nuclear weapons or nerve gas, Russia is likely to be badly worsted in Syria. Striking at Assad and Iran will be supported by Saudi Arabia and Israel.

It is dangerous but also profoundly psychological.  Vladimir Putin has now been threatened twice by women, Theresa May and Nikki Haley, even as stands for election as the Macho Man.  The Kremlin strongman can hardly back down now without immense loss of face, which is perhaps the point.  Putin is in a tight spot.  He can either eat crow or roll the dice.  His first reaction in past situations has been not to yield but double down.  This will make the next two weeks extraordinarily dangerous. It's a big data point.  The administration has taken the risk.

Follow Wretchard on Twitter

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. This book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty but also experience wrenching change. Professions of all kinds - from lawyers to truck drivers - will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, MIT's Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity.

Open Curtains: What if Privacy were Property not only a Right, by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. This book is a proposal for bringing privacy to the internet by assigning monetary value to data. The image of "open curtains" is meant to suggest a system that allows different degrees of privacy, controlled by the owner. The "curtains" may be open, shut, or open to various degrees depending on which piece of data is being dealt with. Ultimately, what is at stake is governance. We are en route to control of society by and for the few rather than by and for the many, because currently the handful of mega tech companies are siphoning up everyone's data, for nothing, and selling it. Under the open curtains proposal, government would also pay for its surveillance in the form of tax rebates, providing at least some incentive for government to minimize its intrusions ... (from a review by E. Greenwood).

Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In his new work, Taleb uses the phrase "skin in the game" to introduce a complex worldview that applies to literally all aspects of our lives. "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will profit and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them," he says. In his inimitable style, he pulls on everything from Antaeus the Giant to Hammurabi to Donald Trump to Seneca to the ethics of disagreement to create a jaw-dropping tapestry for understanding our world in a brand new way.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club