Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Putin’s Roulette

By Perry Diaz

Vladimir Putin (Credit: Maddoxfanx)
Vladimir Putin (Credit: Maddoxfanx)
Events this past week are changing the world in a way it never did since the end of World War II. It even made the Cold War look like a drill in preparation for what to come: a war to end all wars. Indeed, the next war – World War III – would end in the annihilation of life on Earth. Yet, there are those who believe that if they struck first at the United States, the U.S. wouldn’t have the capability to launch a second-strike against the attacker, which in this case would most likely be the Russian Federation.
If there is anything that could spark World War III today, it’s the civil war in Ukraine, which is perceived to be a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. On February 12, 2015, after a marathon 17-hour summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk, Belarus, they agreed on a ceasefire and a slew of measures to achieve peace in Ukraine.
But peace was as remote as it was before the summit. No sooner had the four leaders signed the ceasefire agreement than 50 Russian tanks, 40 missile systems, and 40 armored vehicles crossed the border into Ukraine, which begs the question: Can Putin be trusted?
Ceasefire line
Ceasefire line
With a shaky ceasefire holding tenuously in Ukraine, Putin set his sights on Ukraine’s neighbors – the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were once parts of the Soviet Union. With Crimea tucked safely in Putin’s trophy collection, the small Baltic States could – or would – be Putin’s next targets. But small as they are, they belong to the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which, by treaty, would defend them in the event of a Russian invasion. The question is: Is Putin crazy enough to attack them knowing that there are 25 other NATO members — including the U.S. — who would come to their defense?
In my opinion, Putin is sane – and smart — and he wouldn’t dare start a war he couldn’t win. And there is no way he could bring NATO to her knees unless he could launch a first-strike nuclear attack and destroy all of the NATO countries’ nuclear arsenal. But if Russia’s first-strike failed to wipe out NATO, then a NATO second-strike nuclear attack could wipe out Russia.
Russian roulette
Russian Roulette
Russian Roulette
But Putin is playing his own version of Russian roulette. The traditional version of Russian Roulette is: the player puts one bullet in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and pulls the trigger. The player has five out of six chances to survive since there are five empty chambers of the six-chamber revolver.
Putin's Roulette
Putin’s Roulette
“Putin’s Roulette” works differently. Putin puts five bullets in five of the six chambers, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his opponent’s head, and tells his opponent: “You only have one chance out of six to live. Give me what I want and I’ll spare your life; otherwise, I’ll pull the trigger.” And that’s what happened when Putin grabbed Crimea in 2014, which caught NATO napping in the barn.
Putin must have thought, “If it worked once, then it could work again.” Recently, he played “Putin’s Roulette” against the U.S. when Russian intelligence chiefs went to Germany to take part in a “secret meeting” with American intelligence officials. The secret meeting’s agenda must have been classified since it wasn’t leaked to the media. But what was reported in the media was that the Russian delegation told their American counterparts that Putin would consider any attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine as an invasion and a “declaration of war.” They said that Putin had threatened to take all necessary steps to retain Crimea, including the use of nuclear weapons. He also demanded that NATO breaks up her “rapid response force” in the Baltic States and stops arming the pro-NATO Ukrainians fighting the pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine.
Nuclear war
Nuclear-War.9Putin probably believes that NATO, particularly the U.S., wouldn’t risk a nuclear war with Russia over Eastern Europe. He is probably convinced that U.S. President Barack Obama doesn’t have what it takes to go to war against Russia. Indeed, Obama had indicated more than a few times in the past that war with Russia was not winnable. Suffice it to say, if the U.S. wouldn’t go to war against Russia, then her NATO allies wouldn’t go, too.
Putin must have sensed that the “secret meeting” was held to reach a compromise to end the Ukraine civil war, settle the status of Crimea, and stop any attempt by Russia to invade the Baltic States. He must have presumed that the U.S. was looking for an easy way out of the Ukraine crisis and was willing to agree to a compromise that would give territorial concessions to Russia in exchange for peace in Europe. But he must have seen it as a sign of weakness and decided to go for the jugular – all or nothing. The Russians told the Americans that any of these flashpoints could lead to nuclear war between Russia and the West.
The question is: Does Putin really expect the U.S. and her NATO allies to capitulate and abandon the Baltic states and throw the pro-NATO Ukrainian government under the bus?
If this happens, then it would be the end of NATO. It would also be the end of America’s influence over Europe… nay, the world. It would be the end of Pax Americana. Russia would then become the new superpower. It would be the dawn of a new world order, Pax Russica under Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
Nuclear blackmail
Operation Atlantic Resolve
Operation Atlantic Resolve
Operation-Atlantic-Resolve-2015.2In early March, Obama postponed sending 300 paratroopers to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers in battlefield tactics. The deployment was delayed due to fears that it would undermine the ceasefire that was agreed upon last February 12 in Minsk.
But last March 30, after talks between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the U.S. decided to send 290 paratroopers to Ukraine to train her troops.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops, warplanes, and ships continue to position themselves in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO training exercise to counter Russian hostility in Europe. Recently, the U.S. decided to expand the operation to include Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Georgia. The mission statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense bluntly said that the deployment was “aimed at demonstrating U.S. commitment to Europe and NATO in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.”
It is expected that it would infuriate Putin. Indeed, Operation Atlantic Resolve is a clear signal to Putin that “Putin’s Roulette” is not going to force the U.S. and her NATO allies into submission. Simply put, nuclear blackmail doesn’t work when it is directed at countries that collectively possess more than 8,000 nuclear warheads, about half of which are directed at Russia. This time, NATO is pointing a revolver at Putin with all six chambers loaded.

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