Will Russia use Tactical Nuclear Weapons?

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War in Syria is getting worse

The war in Syria is now in remission. Or so the players would like us to think. But the reality is that Syria is much more complex than it at first seems. Because of this there will be tremendous pressure to continue the war no matter what is said.

None of the players are partaking in this war out of charity. They all have very good strategic reasons for being there. In the case of the main actors, the U.S. and the Russians and their varied allies, it can be viewed as a mortal battle. Unless of course these are willing or able to change their fundamental strategic and national objectives, something very unlikely at present, the war will go on.

There are added pressures from many other regions in the world as well. Everyone from Asia, to Latin America, to Europe, to Africa gets to contribute to the momentum of these wars. No matter what is said,  peace in Syria and the Middle East is unlikely for quite awhile.

As we have said many times before the nature and structure of the Global Economic expansion has much to do with what we are seeing.
The relationship is complicated however. With the degeneration of the Global Economic Strategic Initiative undertaken by the United
States after the fall of the Soviet Union, the momentum for Global War has increased exponentially. We cannot go into that in detail here but rather we should ask what the immediate possible military consequences might be.

If the war continues, and the present ceasefire fails-and it probably will- what might we expect to happen next?

What’s Next?

There is talk now of Turkey of sending troops into Syria to aid the rebels. But there is also a real threat of Turkey sending in ground troops to stabilize the Kurdish insurgency-which is a vital strategic interest for the Turks.   The Russians claim that the Turks are firing onto Syrian land even now. And Turkey has been involved in this war since the start of the Obama administration. The question is only if Turkey will escalate its involvement with a direct invasion.

Now it is quite possible that the United States might in fact object to a direct invasion by Turkey. We cannot really know what the master strategists at the Pentagon, and state department have decided and how the administration of Barack Obama et al might conclude concerning Turkey and Saudi direct interventions. However, we can say that both  nations may have some very strong motives to intervene. Turkey concerned about the Kurds, Saudis concerned about the Hoothies. It is very unlikely that the major Sunni Muslim powers would be appeased easily by the United States after the onslaught of the past decades, and besides there are other allies of the US who might actually want such an intervention to begin anyway.  However, we can only wait
and see. We cannot know if or when such a direct intervention might take place. The threats are everywhere present however.

But one thing is clear, no one has direct control of either the Sunnis, or the Kurds, or the Shia at this point. And the primary motives of the United States, and its allies- as well as the Russians and their allies -are still quite active, and quite virulent, and are not going away any time soon.

What we mean by this is that the primary motives for the Russians and the Americans being in Syria are cardinal and will not go away simply because things do not go well on the ground, and so neither nation is going to simply pull out no matter how their own allies behave. Neither the Americans, nor the Russians can simply walk away no matter what happens here. Whether events take place by volition, or accident, whether as an act of faith, or deceit on the part of their main allies, the main combatants will remain. They have no choice.

So the question remains what would happen next?

If we have a Short Term Peace

If the allies of both Russia and the U.S. remain well behaved, and in order, then some temporary stability might be achieved. There would still be the Sunni ISIS to contend with, and resentment there would be great to be sure: realizing that the Sunnis could not be happy with their treatment over the past twenty years, especially now that the Iran compromise has been enacted. But there is a possibility for temporary peace to develop if these resentments are frozen for the time being by the actual national entities that represent the Sunni community. ISIS may continue, but without arms from the major Sunni nations like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Pakistan they would have very little direct military impact, though  Isis sponsored terrorism might still flare up here and there, as in Libya.

However, any temporary peace would have to include the aspirations of both the Kurds, and Iraq(now largely under Shia control) to
remain contained. This is a tall order to say the least, especially since the global economy is degenerating. It would also require that
Israel accept the status quo at present. This too is a tall order since the Israelis trust neither the Sunnis nor the Shia  nor the Russians -and
there would always be added pressure to arm Hezbollah from a now stable Syria and newly empowered Iran. This pressure from Syria and Iran would also have to restrain itself. But is that likely?  Add to this the Palestinian issue and the probability of stability evaporates quickly.

Therefore a tall order becomes mountainous. But again the general state of the global economy will add pressure to all the players beyond their strategic political objectives and this is a complication that may l be insurmountable.

The odds of a temporary peace are quite low for these reasons. Even if the Obama Administration might want to defer further strategic action till a new president is elected, the turbulence already present in the region will make it difficult to abstain from further military actions, covert or overt.

What if there is Instability?

If however, we see that stability is not possible, even temporarily, then we must prepare for what could be a rapid and dangerous degeneration. This degeneration would almost certainly start with somekind of involvement of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Should there be a ground assault of any kind by Turkey the nature of this war would be changed. Suddenly there would be a NATO ally
in the mix opposing Russian forces directly.  Any direct confrontation and the Russians might feel quite threatened. They would not be able to give up the battle, nor would they really want to  continue to escalate it.  But a direct war, even between Syria together with Iran, against Turkey and Saudi Arabia would almost certainly be untenable for the Russians, especially given present economic conditions. The proximity to Mid East oil reserves would make this a mortal war between Russia and the United States.

But this war would not remain conventional for long.

Use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons

The Russians are simply not numerous enough, nor productive enough to fight a tete a tete war with the Western allies. The Russians number no more than 150 million, the West numbers near a billion. The West is the most productive, most technologically advanced  community in the world and no one can at this point compete directly with it militarily. This is likely well understood by the Russians. Conventional weapons could easily be manufactured for long periods by the West, even if they are actually economically defaulted. But the same is not true of Russia. Russia’s conventional powers are severely limited, especially since she is isolated economically.

Even if some other power, like China were to join the Russians, which is unlikely in this case, though not impossible, there would simply not be enough conventional production and strategic objective to justify continuation. Rather, the tactical nuclear option would be the cheapest most efficiently direct action against the West.

Again we are not discussing Ukraine, or other irritants that would further exacerbate the situation. But all these would do, in any
case is only to increase the motivation for the Russians to use a cheap quick effective nuclear weapons to gain an immediate upper hand. Tactical nuclear weapons, would in this case, be the great equalizer.

Thus all these verbal threats by the Russians should not probably be taken with a grain of salt. They are real. The Russians cannot afford a protracted war with the West, even if the Chinese were to join them. Though Medvediv, one of the two or three most powerful men in Russia, warned in no uncertain terms that world war quite possibly is at our door, the truth is it would not be a conventional world war. It
would be a limited Nuclear War!

Can Russia use Tactical Nuclear Weapons?

There are three nations which could probably use tactical nuclear weapons and “get away with it” as we say. Russia is one, China another, and possibly Israel a third. The threat of this use of nuclear weapons is how the Yom Kippur war against Israel was ended.

The reason being that if any of these nations used a tactical nuclear weapon against a none nuclear armed nation there would be little threat of total retaliation from a fully capable nuclear tipped nation. For example who would stand to benefit from risking an attack on China when retaliation from such an attack could be devastating to their own infrastructure and society?

The same and moreso is true of Russia. But whereas China might have little incentive to use a nuclear weapon, being that she has a very large powerful and well equipped army to fight her battles, the Russians are limited in some ways. They simply do not have the production or economy to wage a conventional war profitably. And if profitability is removed from consideration, then what would really be the point of waging war in the first place? Unless they absolutely had to.

The Russians knew well that Americans were bombing Syria when they themselves entered the fray. They knew there would be direct confrontation with the United States. Yet they did it anyway. This would tell us their motives are vital to their survival, otherwise they would not have risked this kind of catastrophic confrontation. So they must feel they have a vital interest  in Syria, otherwise they would not have been willing to risk an ultimate confrontation with the United States.

More to the point, the use of a tactical weapon by the Russians would have enormous economic and social consequences on the West. Any such use would come close to destabilizing the West. Markets would crash, commodities would be in short supply, and consternation would be rampant. The populations of the West would wonder if there was any reason at all to trust their leadership if so much danger is unleashed upon them. As we said, retaliation would only insure the destruction of most of the human species and would be of little value as an option.
There would in reality be very little profit in continuing a war under those circumstances, or continuing to escalate.

To be sure, instability would reign over all the world, and the Russians themselves would suffer greatly for it as would most of the rest of the world. But in the end, it would probably be less tormenting than the alternatives. Remember this all has to do with self determination.  And Russia is not likely to give that right up for any price. As we have said before, their history and relations with the West would not be conducive to much trust.

To put it simply, if push came to shove, and Russia were faced with an onslaught by a powerful western ally, like Turkey, she would probably consider the use of a tactical nuclear weapon. The profitability of using such a weapon would be greater than an outright military defeat, and possible surrender of self-determination. So these verbal threats are not to be taken lightly. There is good reason why this might happen. Again, we are not even considering here the more pressing problems of the Ukraine, and the Eastern EU stance against Russia. Russia in reality is just a regional power due to her limited alliance and productivity relative to the West; but
she has the ace of spades, and can go global with destruction at any time. This makes her globally dangerous and not to be trifled with.

It should be said that future strategic concerns of the United States and her allies are at the heart of these confrontations. There is no particular right or wrong here. But there is strategy and whether these strategies are likely to be fruitful or not must be considered. Sure the U.S. fears what may happen if Russia continues to grow in power, but is confronting her in this way today of any real value? Or does such a confrontation make things worse? Is the United States in full command of its foreign policy in the first place? These questions must be asked.

Can we avoid any of this?

So what can be done to prevent any of this?
To be honest its difficult to see how all of this could be reversed. The strategic blunders of 2000 have infiltrated just about ever facet of life in the West. Under Obama these were only exacerbated, and significantly at that. We are here only considering Russia but the problems the West is facing are global. There is a collapse of both military and moral authority and this is going to cause instability. We can see that dissatisfaction and instability just about everywhere in the “empire”, even in our own land. So what can we do?

A return to first principles would help. A slow but insistent affirmation of self determination of nations, and individual people,  without coercion, or manipulation might be worth a pronouncement or two by whoever is in power. Some actions to that effect would also help enormously. A more conservative internal order would help even more. Almost always it is greed that leads to the collapse of great civilizations. We need as a nation, and as a species to conserve our resources, and enacting a global policy in that direction would probably do more good than harm. All out consumption is only going to lead to bitter confrontation eventually.

It is clear that powers like China, Russia and India will not return to the past and they are weary of the West and its intentions. They are not likely to become more genial until some reasonable self control is exercised in West. If you want
to tell your neighbor to mow the lawn, you must mo your own lawn first. If you are to lead in a world whose ultimate ideal is liberty, lead by example, not by coercion. Coercion will only beget the reverse of liberty as has been shown throughout all of human history. In essence we are driving both Russia and China into a more firmly dictatorial stance both internally and externally. Moreover this effect is evident even in our own lands.

When we sum it all up, our time is limited. We can either return to principles now, or when a nuclear holocaust is staring us in the face. At that time our own constitution may be infirm and the road back to prosperity, and healthy human sanity may be much more difficult. What is certain is that the situation is degenerating in all ways. Of this there can be no doubt and under these circumstances the use of extreme violence becomes ever more likely in all theaters.