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The mechanics of threat escalation from many types of arms have been explored a long time ago. In particular, the establishment of new NATO weaponry stockpiles and military vehicle storage sites in Eastern Europe poses the greatest threat to Eastern Europe itself. Above all, it raises the likelihood of it being struck, with those strikes being forced by the presence of these weapons.
The officially stated goal of this build-up of weapons in Eastern Europe is to speed up a NATO response in case of attack by the Russian Federation. The bulk of the combat-ready forces of the West are located in the United States of America, while the European countries aren’t simply unwilling to go to war, they’re seemingly unable to (Germany has been undergoing a long and thorough process of unlearning this skill ; France has had its fill of wars back in the First World War, instantly failing in the Second World War and going on to protractedly and agonizingly lose its colonial wars ; the former Warsaw Pact members, upon joining NATO, happily threw all they had learned in the former out the window). Thus, the main scare tactic constantly applied by the NATO PR to its member countries, is very simple : “The Soviet Union (now Russian Federation) is going to attack you, and what will you do if all the combat-ready troops are on the other side of the world ? Are you going to wait until they make their way to you across the ocean ? There are lots of troops and the ocean is huge, so they’ll take a while to arrive. Isn’t it better to just transport as much American hardware and as many troops as possible into Europe in advance ?”
Nowadays they also sing another tune : “If you don’t want American troops to stay on your territory permanently, then take the weapons, at least. If you do, in a moment of crisis, when something happens, we’d only have to transport the troops. Modern military hardware is big and bulky, it takes ages to move –so let’s bring it in advance, so that it’ll be on the scene and ready for use when a crisis starts”.
That seems logical. However…
First of all, it’s painfully obvious that the likelihood of an attack by the Russian Federation on any NATO country is not even zero (as it was with USSR), it’s negative. Look at how they’re straining to get us to attack the Ukraine, at least, a country which is not bound by any treaties with NATO and isn’t under any sort of NATO protection –and we keep on turning them down. Whether this is the right thing to do or not is a different matter, a hotly debated one, but the very existence of these debates and lack of actual decisions of this sort being taken are already telling. No-one in Russia is expecting to attack any NATO country, not even in their wildest nightmares. This means that it’s principally pointless to consider the scenario of the Russian Federation conducting a surprise attack against a NATO member –the authorities of the Russian Federation have eliminated these scenarios from the list of possible actions in advance. Again, I won’t judge whether this is a good or a bad thing, but this fact is enough for considering NATO as a defensive organization.
Moreover, even in the context of the words of Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1815.04.01-1898.07.30) : “In politics, intentions don’t matter, capabilities do”, it is obvious that the Russian Federation lacks both intentions and capabilities to attack NATO. I’m not going to examine the countless possible scenarios for the European war theater (in most of them, the Russian Federation is theoretically possible to wipe the battlefield with all of Europe’s armed forces, but is subsequently unable to prevent the US’ troops landing in neutral states and exerting pressure from the South and the East, with the actual combat being far from predictable). It’s enough to know that not only the Russian Federation, but also Britain and France possess means of inflicting unacceptable retaliatory damage on an aggressor : Britain and France have few nuclear missiles, but probably enough for several cities.
As a result, creating a stockpile of arms in Eastern European NATO countries a priori makes no sense from the standpoint of defense. Thus, it must be seen as a means of facilitating a surprise attack by NATO against the Russian Federation, an additional threat to it. The Russian Federation armed forces have to take preemptive measures to prevent this threat. They have to –that’s their job and their duty.
How does one prevent a surprise strike ? Obviously, it’s necessary to aim our missiles at the weaponry storage facilities and warehouses. The military science has long since proven any other measure of warding off a surprise attack to be substantially less effective.
And if the enemy’s (and the term is used consciously, because someone who’s preparing to initiate a surprise attack is an enemy even before they initiate the attack itself) means of offense are in our crosshairs and are technically impossible to use if our missiles are aimed beforehand, then they don’t have many ways of using this new threat they are creating. They either have to make the attack truly lightning-fast and unanticipated, so that we wouldn’t even be able to launch the already primed weapons, or strike in some other way, from another direction, but just as unexpectedly, so that we wouldn’t be able to initiate the already prepared disarming strike against the arms stockpiles, but rather forced to react to the new threat in panic mode.
In total, the build-up of weaponry on the eastern fringe of NATO, no matter the official excuse for it, must be considered as preparations for a surprise strike. It is akin to the Chekhov rule : “if there’s a gun hanging on a wall in the play’s first act, it must fire in the third”.
Of course, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860.01.29-1904.07.15) said this in regard to Stanislavsky’s “realistic theatre”. Konstantin Sergeyevich Alexeyev (Stanislavsky) (1863.01.17-1938.08.07), in an attempt to achieve the highest realism in plays staged in the Moscow Art Theatre, filled them with many colourful details that made the theatre fans ecstatic but had no bearing on the plot. The abundance of fine detail, however, distracted people from the play itself, and it is about these plays that Chekhov spoke when he voiced his disapproval of distracting the viewer with details that are not related to the story.
Sadly, in a war theater, people die for real. The guns hanged all over the theater’s walls in the first act already start firing in the second.
Back when NATO and the Warsaw Pact possessed comparable forces, any war scenario spelled unacceptable damage for the attacker, even without the defender using nuclear weapons. Today, the balance of power has shifted so much that the Russian Federation could only adapt to the current situation of the European theater for a heavy price (for all involved) : it was forced to admit the necessity of a retaliatory nuclear strike even in case of a conventional attack in its military doctrine.
With this measure being forced upon us, it is clear that any strengthening of the enemy necessarily provokes an increase in the likelihood of a Russian retaliatory nuclear strike. Anyone who tries to somehow avoid it only ends up launching processes that, in the end, further increase the probability of a nuclear response.
All these insane political pirouettes are merely elaborate, painful and expensive ways of suicide. To anyone who’s trying to find a way to circumvent our capabilities and try to (like Mikhail Vladimirovich Leontyev puts it) “launch a strike with no response against an unarmed opponent from a safe distance”, I can only repeat the age-old rule of “don’t run from a sniper –you’ll just die tired”.
In any case, the delivery of additional weapons to Europe increases the possibility of active combat. It can even begin in the so-called “automatic mode”, when one of the sides interprets forced responses as unprovoked aggressive measures and reacts accordingly. For this reason, deploying these weapons in Europe is a most serious threat to Europe itself. And, of course, to the Russian Federation, seeing as we are also largely –but, thankfully, not fully– Europe.
Anatoly WASSERMAN Translated by Timofey