If humanity ever suffers a Third World War, chances are good it will start in some locale distant from the United States like the Baltic or South China Seas, the Persian Gulf, or Syria, where Washington and its rivals play daily games of “chicken” with lethal air and naval forces.
Far from enhancing U.S. security, the aggressive deployment of our armed forces in these and other hot spots around the world may be putting our very survival at risk by continuously testing and prodding other military powers. What our military gains from forward deployment, training exercises, and better intelligence may be more than offset by the unnecessary provocation of hostile responses that could escalate into uncontrollable conflicts.
[…] During the final months of World War II, Latvia was the site of especially bloody battles between German and Soviet forces. Approximately 350,000 Nazis were cut off here from the rest of the German line in the autumn of 1944, in what became known as the Courland Pocket. In the months that followed, about 100,000 of them were killed.
After Latvia came under Soviet control in 1945, authorities had little interest in exhuming dead soldiers, and today, 26 years after independence, numberless bodies are still buried in the country’s forests and fields. That has left well-meaning volunteers like Esmits’s group to exhume, identify, and rebury dead soldiers.
But in recent years, the often illicit market in Nazi memorabilia has intensified, creating a new class of diggers across eastern Europe that is at odds with Esmits’s work. Of particular interest are relics—items dug up from the ground. “When we first started, the market for relics was a local one—you couldn’t even call it a market,” Esmits said. “Then the internet appeared, and Europe and the world opened up, and many things changed.”
The documentary film “World War Three: Inside the War Room” was described in advance by the BBC as a “war game” detailing the minute-by-minute deliberations of the country’s highest former defense and security officials facing an evolving crisis involving Russia.
What gave unusual realism and relevance to their participation is that they were speaking their own thoughts, producing their own argumentation, not reading out lines handed to them by television script writers.
The mock crisis to which they were reacting occurs in Latvia as the Kremlin’s intervention on behalf of Russian speakers in the south of this Baltic country develops along lines of events in the Donbas as from summer 2014. When the provincial capital of Daugavpils and more than 20 towns in the surrounding region bordering Russia are taken by pro-Russian separatists, the United States calls upon its NATO allies to deliver an ultimatum to the Russians to pull back their troops within 72 hours or be pushed out by force.
This coalition of the willing only attracts the British. After the deadline passes, the Russians “accidentally” launch a tactical nuclear strike against British and American vessels in the Baltic Sea, destroying two ships with the loss of 1,200 Marines and crew on the British side. Washington then calls for like-for-like nuclear attack on a military installation in Russia, which, as we understand, leads to full nuclear war.
The show was aired on Feb. 3 by BBC Two, meaning it was directed at a domestic audience, not the wider world. However, in the days since its broadcast, it has attracted a great deal of attention outside the United Kingdom, more in fact than within Britain. The Russians, in particular, adopted a posture of indignation, calling the film a provocation.
In a move sparked by the latest Pentagon plans for a major increase in US military spending, NATO defense ministers are preparing to meet later this week to work out the details of a massive new deployment along the Russian border, with plans to up to 40,000 NATO personnel to head to the area
The Baltic states and some other NATO members have been playing up the idea of a Russian invasion of Europe for over a year now, and while nothing ever came of it, they keep adding troops to the area, with the latest deployment to be the largest NATO deployment since the Cold War.
The Pentagon’s spending hike itself came on the pretext of “Russian aggression,” though the US of course outspends Russia on its military by roughly a factor of 10. Several other NATO members have spending only a bit lower than Russia’s.
- Armed with new U.S. money, NATO to strengthen Russia deterrence
- NATO plans biggest build-up against Russia since the Cold War
- NATO’s Nightmare: Russian Sub Activity Rises to Cold War Levels
- US and NATO Double Down on the Cold War Versus Russia
- Cold War II? Not Yet, But the Temperature Is Falling
- Cold War II – Wikipedia
‘[…] The four-week drill is part of a string of non-stop exercises by U.S. land, sea and air forces in Europe — from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south — scaled up since last year to reassure nervous NATO allies after Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. U.S. and Russian forces are now essentially back in a Cold War-style standoff, flexing their muscles along NATO’s eastern flank.
The saber-rattling raises the specter that either side could misinterpret a move by the other, triggering a conflict between two powers with major nuclear arsenals despite a sharp reduction from the Cold War era.
“A dangerous game of military brinkmanship is now being played in Europe,” said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think-tank. “If one commander or one pilot makes a mistake or a bad decision in this situation, we may have casualties and a high-stakes cycle of escalation that is difficult to stop.”‘
- UK kicks off Europe’s biggest war game along with 14 other countries
- NATO rearmament increases risk of war in Europe
- Poland to build watchtowers along border with Russia
- Moscow Must Continue Work to ‘Contain’ NATO, Says Russian Senator
- Russian Paratroopers Land On Drifting Ice Block In Arctic, Set Up Base
- NATO Launches War Games Near Russian Border
- Lithuania to increase military spending to counter Russian threat
- Putin meets with military leaders, says war games will continue
- Russia rules out handing back Crimea, expands war games
- Russia launches massive Arctic military drills
The Most Dangerous Time in Russian-US Relations Since the Cuban Missile Crisis: Interview w/ Prof. Stephen F. Cohen
Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.