Any Last Words

31 May 2024

Nuclear brinkmanship, except that some of the participants think/feel it’s all a game. Many are literally conditioned by digital games, in which death is just a prompt to move on the next round. Others are enthralled by scriptural fantasies of the end times – also, in a way, discounting current reality in favour of moving on to the next stage. Still others tell themselves, “we’ll come out of it better than they will” – on the flimsy grounds that “we always have, up to now.”

Mutual Assured Destruction has lost its pride of place in the minds of the masses.

One reason people in “the West” are so blasé about war is that they have grown used to it being remote and victorious. Never mind if lots of foreigners died. But the complacence is more than psychological; it has pervaded even the economies of the “West.” The New York Times bashfully admits that Russia produces many times the artillery shell output of NATO, at a fraction of the unit cost. The USAF’s legendary $400 screwdrivers come to mind.

The other thing about near-peer conflicts is that lots of soldiers die. Before the current Ukraine conflict, the last major war in which combat casualties outnumbered civilian ones must have been the Iran-Iraq war of the 80s. Since then it’s been shock-and-awe, and/or droning on-screen natives from the comfort of air-conditioned bunkers. But now, we again see combat casualties many times those of civilians.

Maidanist Ukrainians are proxies for the most hawkish elements of NATO, while Russia went from using Russian-Ukrainians as proxies, to being a direct participant. The OSCE, hardly a pro-Moscow outfit, had observers on the ground from 2014 right up to Russia’s 2022 invasion (whereas Maidanists, even some who adopt a left pose, insist that Russia’s invasion started in 2014; it seems serious leftists were either in jail or in exile by 2022).

We’re at the stage where Putin’s regime will soon feel it has no choice but to inflict a stinging blow within a NATO territory, similar to the stinging blow Iran inflicted within Israel the other day. But whereas Iran for the first time acted openly instead of enabling allies/proxies, Russia will probably act indirectly – and who better to assist, than Iran (probably with help from its formidable ally/proxy, Hizbollah).

Assuming that the Maidanists send one or more British StormShadow missiles into the Russian heartland (as they almost certainly will), Russia could blur the lines between the Ukraine and Palestine theatres by targeting Britain’s bases in Cyprus (heavily used by US forces in their recent fiasco landing in Gaza). This would be asking a big favour of Hizbollah, but not an impossible one. The logistics of getting one or more state-of-the-art Iranian ballistic missiles to Lebanon would be the main challenge; but Russia has its base at Tartus in Syria, not far away, and lots of military cargo flights all the time.

If successful (i.e. only striking military targets) this would divide NATO against itself. The hawks would want to take it as a cue for further escalation, but since Cyprus is only technically Europe, the doves might not be easy to whip into line. Hizbollah would point to the use of Cyprus for delivering dozens of British military cargoes to Israel since Oct 7. The world would then be on the brink of a wider conflict, but NATO as a whole could well come to its senses and realise that it had more to lose than gain – as Israel did, after Iranian ballistic missiles struck its bases.

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