The most important question in the world

28 Feb

A good few people for whom I have great respect – and one or two for whom I harbour no such sentiment – are denouncing Russia’s move on Ukraine. I will not, which puts me at odds even with those Kremlin denouncers who see Washington and its lesser satellites as more culpable. My question to this group is simple:

You acknowledge the role of a dying and on that count deadly empire in pushing Russia into a corner. So what would you have her do? How, after decades of reasoning with Washington to step back from imposing a situation it would never tolerate on its own borders – and having seen eight years of atrocity on ethnic Russians in the Donbass and Luhansk, should she have acted?

I’m getting no answers. Nor to the question, isn’t there a case for saying that Russia’s move may avert rather than cause WW3?  There are those, whose voices I also respect – Andrew Korbyko for one, Paul Craig Roberts for another – who say precisely this.

But that isn’t my concern here. With those Kremlin critics – Media Lens, Jonathan Cook and the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) come to mind – whose work I value, and who in any case have no doubt as to who the greater criminals are, I can set aside this difference. I do not insist on my take on this as a condition of comradeship in other arenas, including other aspects of the current and perilous crisis.

Cue for Caitlin’s post today. Is we or isn’t we all human?


NB – you can read her in full below, or go to her site for a version with illustrations (including smoking gun tweets) plus the option of listening rather than reading.

The Single Most Important Question In The World Right Now

There is one question today that is more important than any other question that could possibly be asked, and it’s this:

“Is what the US and its allies are trying to accomplish in Ukraine worth continually risking nuclear armageddon for?”

Russian state media have confirmed that Vladimir Putin’s orders to move the nation’s nuclear deterrent forces into “special combat duty mode” have been carried out, citing “aggressive statements from NATO related to the Russian military operation in Ukraine.”

“Russia’s ground, air and submarine-based nuclear deterrent forces have begun standby alert duty with reinforced personnel, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Putin,” Sputnik reports.

This comes days after Putin issued a thinly veiled threat of an immediate nuclear strike should western powers interfere in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying, “Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so, to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate. And it will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”

This also comes as the US and EU countries commit to sending fighter jets and stinger missiles to assist Ukraine in fighting an unwinnable war against a long time target of the US empire, perhaps with the hope of dragging Moscow into a costly military quagmire like it deliberately worked to do in Afghanistan and in Syria.

This also comes as the ruble crashes following crushing sanctions and the banning of Russian banks from the international money transfer system SWIFT by the US and its allies. The economic hardship that follows will hurt ordinary people and may foment unrest, and it is here worth noting that in 2019 then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that the goal of brutal sanctions on Iran was to push people to rise up and overthrow their government. 1

We’re also seeing the all-too-familiar phrase “regime change” used in reference to Putin by prominent western narrative managers like Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas, European Council on Foreign Relations Co-Chair Carl BildtBenjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute and Hoover Institution, as well as USA Today.

All of this has made nuclear war in the near term a whole lot more likely than it was just a few days ago… which is a really strange thing to type.

As I’m always saying, the primary risk of nuclear war is not that anyone will choose to start one, it’s that one could be triggered by any combination of miscommunication, miscalculation, misunderstanding or technical malfunction amid the chaos and confusion of escalating cold war tensions. This nearly happened, repeatedly, in the last cold war. The more tense things get, the greater the likelihood of an unthinkable chain of events from which there is no coming back.

Cold war brinkmanship has far too many small, unpredictable moving parts for anyone to feel confident that they can ramp up aggressions without triggering a nuclear exchange. Anyone who feels safe with these games of nuclear chicken simply does not understand them.

To get some insight into how easily an unpredictable scenario can lead to nuclear war I recommend watching this hour-long documentary or reading this article about Vasili Arkhipov, the Soviet submariner who single-handedly saved the world from obliteration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was one of three senior officers aboard a nuclear-armed sub that was cornered near Cuba by US war ships who did not know the sub had a nuclear weapon on board.

The US navy was dropping explosives onto the sub to get it to surface, and the Soviets didn’t know what they were doing as they had cut off all communications. It took all three senior officers to launch the nuke their ship was armed with, and two of them, thinking this was the beginning of World War 3, saw it as their duty to use it. Only Arkhipov, who had witnessed the horrific effects that radiation can have on the human body during a nuclear-powered submarine meltdown years earlier, refused.

You, and everyone you know, exist because Arkhipov made that decision. Had his personal history and conditioning been a little bit different, or had another officer been on board that particular ship on that particular day, nothing around you right now would be there. We got lucky. So lucky it’s uncomfortable to even think about it. But it’s important to.

This again is just one of the many nuclear close calls we’ve experienced since our species began its insane practice of stockpiling armageddon weapons around the world. We survived the last cold war by sheer, dumb luck. We were never in control. Not once. And there’s no reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.

So I repeat again the world’s most important question: is what the US and its allies are trying to accomplish in Ukraine worth continually risking nuclear armageddon for?

Well? Is it?

It’s not really a question you can just compartmentalize away from if you have integrity. It demands to be answered.

Is it worth it to continue along this trajectory? Is it? Is it really? Perhaps there might be some things that would be worth risking the life of every creature on earth to obtain, but is refusing to concede to Moscow’s demands in Ukraine one of them?

Whatever your values are, whatever your analysis is, whatever beliefs you’ve been holding to justify your support for the west’s side of this conflict, will you still proudly stand by them if you look outside and see a mushroom cloud growing in the distance?

Well? Will you?

Here’s a hint: if your answer to this question is premised on the assumption that nuclear war can’t or will never happen, then you don’t have a position that’s grounded in reality, because you’re not accounting for real possibilities. You’re justifying your position with fantasy.

I understand the argument that if we let tyrants do whatever they want just because they have nukes they’ll just do whatever they want. I understand the argument that if we don’t stop Putin now he’s going to take over all of Europe because he’s literally Hitler and blah blah blah. I understand why people ask “Well if we don’t stand up to him now, then when? Where is your line??” I really do.

But the US has been making risk-to-benefit calculations based on the fact that Russia has nuclear weapons every single day since Stalin got the bomb. There are things Russia has been permitted to do that weaker nations would have been forcefully stopped from doing, like annexing Crimea and intervening in Syria, exactly because they have nukes. If those weren’t the line, why specifically does Ukraine have to be? Surely there’s a line somewhere, but it would have to exist at a point where it would be worth risking the life of every living creature for.

So is it? Is keeping the possibility of NATO membership open and retaining control of the Donbas really so important that we should roll the dice on the existence of the entire human species on it? Is maintaining a hostile client state on Russia’s border truly worth gambling the life of every terrestrial organism for? Are the desperate unipolarist grand chessboard maneuverings of a few powerful people in Washington, Langley and Arlington really worth risking the life of everyone you know and love?

If the answer is no, then building some opposition to what we’re seeing here becomes a very urgent matter. Very urgent indeed.

Meanwhile armageddon outa here – but only for a couple of days, car camping in the lakes.

Inshallah …

* * *

  1. On the pain of barring Russia from SWIFT, Caitlin misses a major aspect. Washington is happy to see Western Europeans suffer, perhaps more than Russians.

11 Replies to “The most important question in the world

  1. Europe and most of the world have been living under the domination of the US ruling class for almost eighty years, in the course of which our cultures have been largely eradicated.

    That is the threat that people should be worried about the degradation and homogenisation of our ideas of freedom, our standards of social justice, our toleration of dissent, our encouragement of original and heretical thinking- a process exemplified in the current Orwellian hatred of the Russian President, the Milosevic of the North, the Ghadaffi de jour, the Saddam of the Steppes.

    The dictators we need to concern ourselves with are the faceless, probably AI, conductors of the strategy of Tension which has brought about the dangerous war in Ukraine, the totalitarian nightmare of a European culture aimed at the eradication of thought and the insistence (entirely consonant with American puritanism) to conform and obey.

    We should all go camping, before Priti Patel bans it, unless things have changed Grosvenor Square would be a grand place to meet.

    • Camping?

      They will simply freeze your bank account like Tredeau did and ensure you cannot pay bills or buy anything. Dissent is turning into an existential issue in which any deviation from the Official Narratives turns you into an outlaw in every practical sense. Whether it’s truckers, biological women, or anyone seeking to maintain membership of the reality based community.

  2. Hi Phil
    Very important commentary and analysis from Caitlin. An additional dimension is the tendency in many of those in the anti-war movement to focus on the venality and corruption of Putin and the Russian elite as a cause of the conflict, as if there were no national interests at stake for Russia which any Russian government would have to address. Imagine that instead of the Putin ‘establishment’ in power we had a socialist or left of centre government in Russia along the lines of a Lula or Corbyn. In such a case, as I think we know, US policy – backed by the UK and EU – would have been much more aggressively targeted at economic ruin, military encirclement and regime change in Russia with Ukraine as one of the main instruments of such a policy.

    • An additional dimension is the tendency in many of those in the anti-war movement to focus on the venality and corruption of Putin and the Russian elite as a cause of the conflict, as if there were no national interests at stake for Russia which any Russian government would have to address

      Agreed. This tendency is at best superficial; reflecting the success of this propaganda blitz in doing what most propaganda blitzes seek to do: reduce the decision making of an entire nation to one man, inevitably likened to Hitler. At worst it is craven.

      FWIW I’m agnostic on Putin as corrupt. But (a) the lack of evidence in support of these charges seems very much like smear, and is dutifully echoed by an intelligentsia which deems itself immune to propaganda; (b) our politicians and systemically corrupt media have every interest in so smearing; and (c) I note that the Pandora Papers found nothing on him.

  3. Caitlin’s concerns are well founded, but the point she seems to have missed out is the fact that countries bordering Russia have allowed the US to station military bases along with NATO bases, deliberately to ratchet up the tension that has now eventually exploded.
    I certainly believe that Putin was right to end the suffering of the Donbass because no-one in the western democracies actually gives a shit about Russian speaking peoples. I know that Russia, since before the Chechnyan Islamic State efforts to cause trouble, has had problems with IS venturing into Russia and terrorizing people(never reported in western MSM) and the far right nazi elements like Svoboda, Azov Battalions and Poroshenko are still trying to bait Russia into a war.
    The US cannot abide the thought of another country, especially one that has so far, defied the worst effects of continued illegal(they had no legal basis, only a false interpretation and lying propaganda)sanctions.
    The US is flailing and failing and it knows it. It cannot keep apace with the rise of Russia and China and therefore seeks to destroy them by any means. The US risks very little since it intends to use the NATO countries and Ukraine to put their countries at risk of Russian retaliation to make sure that it does not have to suffer war on it’s soil.
    If the shit hits the fan, my advice to Putin, since the US cannot be reasoned with in any meaningful way, is to take the war to the US! As long as other countries are dying the US will not care too much, it never did. History has taught us this much.
    If the NATO countries, especially the insignificant little island to the west of Europe called Britain, do not realise this then we may all be doomed. The only cool heads will be those of Russia and China.
    Sorry if my comments piss people off, but I really don’t want to be a pile of ash or dying a slow and agonising death from nuclear fall out, just because some arrogant and irresponsible NWO didn’t want to lose face in front of the rest of the world, who will also see an end to life as we know it.

  4. I have to disagree with Caitlin on this. The most important question in the world is:

    How can the US be stopped from spending more on arms than the next ten countries in the world (and persuaded to close its foreign bases, get along with the same level of arms as anyone else, etc. etc.), and instead devote this money to its crumbling infrastructure (sewage systems failing, bridges falling down, poor welfare and health services, etc. etc.?

    Possibly Presidents Putin and Xi can provide the answer.

    • Pepe Escobar has a decent stab here:

      De dollarisation will put a brake on a scam which charges several hundred dollars for a bog seat or screwdriver. Point being that spending shed loads of printed money based on thin air paid for by everyone else because the dollar is the reserve currency and we have to recycle it to get stuff, is no guarantee of quality armaments or military training.

      Particularly intrigued with the notion of “liberating American intellectual property,”

      • Yes. I like the idea of abrogating copyright – hadn’t thought of that. SWIFT and the dollar have been on the slide for a while – slope will get much steeper now. Another possibility is if things get too bad, if eventually the dollar collapses and there are no funds to repair the infrastructure, the US might find itself breaking up, which would be ironic given that that’s what they would like to see Russia do.

        US armed forces carbon emissions are currently not counted in US figures – they must be enormous. The US becoming a normal country is a necessity for stopping global warming, in my opinion – can’t come soon enough.

  5. Here is some context b ased not on Narrative stories but real world practical realities:

    “Many Ukrainian airfields are located near our borders. NATO tactical aviation stationed here, including carriers of high-precision weapons, will be able to hit our territory to a depth of up to the Volgograd-Kazan-Samara-Astrakhan border. The deployment of radar reconnaissance equipment on the territory of Ukraine will allow NATO to tightly control the airspace of Russia up to the Urals.

    Finally, after the United States broke the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, the Pentagon is already openly developing a number of ground-based strike weapons, including ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets at a distance of up to 5.5 thousand kilometers. If such systems are deployed in Ukraine, they will be able to hit objects throughout the European territory of Russia, as well as beyond the Urals.

    The flight time to Moscow of Tomahawk cruise missiles will be less than 35 minutes, ballistic missiles from the Kharkov area – 7-8 minutes, and hypersonic strike aircraft – 4-5 minutes. It’s called, right, “knife to the throat.” And I have no doubt that they expect to implement these plans in the same way as they have repeatedly done in past years, expanding NATO to the east, promoting military infrastructure and equipment to the Russian borders, completely ignoring our concerns, protests and warnings. Sorry, they just spit on them and did whatever they wanted, whatever they saw fit.”

    So I’ll ask again. After exhausting all rational diplomatic channels and discourse what other options were/are available to these threats?

    In case after case economic warfare to undermine an economy is followed by threats which, if those threatened do not cry ‘Uncle’, are followed up by blasting that society and country out of existence in order to do the same as Rome did to Carthage.

    This is not the corner table of a pub snug where people can self indulge in an abstract debate and score obscure purity points. Its a practical existential struggle. You are dealing with the minds of children armed with tools capable of extinguishing both life and civilisation across the planet who have no problem in using them if they cannot get their way.

    Because its their way or no way – as Sikhs, indigenous people, people of colour and white caucasions in Canada labelled as “Far right” who have been outlawed by having their bank accounts permanently frozen will attest. As will thousands of LP members witch hunted for not going along with the Official AS Narrative.

    We are now banning Russian Cats; sacking Russian composers; and Cancelling Russian paralympians for existing in contravention of the Official Narrative and not enthusiastically parroting that Narrative.

    We’ll be hanging Russian Monkeys next.

    Does anyone grounded in the Reality Based Community seriously think this shite is going to stop here? That THEY are safe or have a hiding place? Welcome to this world suckers:

  6. Wonderful article and follow-ups… all going against the current narrative “Putin bad, Ukraine good”. Unfortunately for them, Covid has utterly destroyed what was left of the credibility of the mainstream media. Now, let’s hope the empire backs off… until their to be expected next criminal move.

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