The Coming War with Russia

It certainly sounds alarmist to predict a war with Russia.  However, members of this administration are following policies that can lead to only that result.  They are following belligerent policies on two fronts: cyberspace and Syria.  These policies are based on a farrago of mendacity and incompetence.  

The cyberspace conflict arose as a result of suspicion that the Russians are interfering in the U.S. election through WikiLeaks.  The Russians firmly deny that they have any involvement in the hacking.  The Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement: "These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.  We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities." 

It should be noted that this assertion is based upon a "belief."  The administration has provided no proof.  Any foreign intelligence service with a budget over $129 could have access to the secretary of state's email.  In the face of this grave threat, the administration has enlisted the awe-inspiring intellect of Vice President Joe Biden.  In an interview with Chuck Todd on 13 October, Biden asserted, "We're sending a message.  We have the capacity to do it, and it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."  After publicly announcing the proposed covert cyber-attack, Todd asked Biden if the public would know about it.  Biden responded, "Hope not."

Biden's remarks were immediately denounced by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said, "The threats directed against Moscow and our state's leadership are unprecedented because they are voiced at the level of the U.S. vice president."  Vladimir Putin responded, "The only novelty is that for the first time, on the highest level, the United States has admitted involvement in these activities, and to some extent threatened [us] – which of course does not meet the standards of international communication."

There are many reasons for objecting to cyber-attacks.  Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell pointed out, "Physical attacks on networks is not something the US wants to do because we don't want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us."  Should the Russians be subjected to a cyber-attack, the U.S. will be the first suspect.  This is a perfect opportunity for a party interested in fomenting conflict between the U.S. and Russia.  Most importantly, an attack of this nature would increase tensions in an already tense relationship.

The other area of conflict involves U.S. policy in Syria.  Reuters reported on a 14 October meeting of President Obama's foreign policy team.  Reuters reports that some advisers are advocating "direct U.S. military action such as air strikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots or radar and anti-aircraft bases."  This includes over 50 State Department diplomats.  What these officials are advocating is an act of war.  The Russians have deployed S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to Syria, and they have warned that any strike against Syrian forces "would put Russian personnel in danger."

Hillary Clinton has advocated the creation of a no-fly zone.  The problem with this policy was pointed out by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress: "right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia."  The need for more forceful action arose with the impending fall of Aleppo.  Reuters claims that the rebels feel betrayed because "Obama encouraged their uprising by calling for Assad to go but then abandoned them."  Hillary Clinton also "played a key role in starting the civil war in Syria when she was Secretary of State in 2011."

Tension between the U.S. and Russia is at the highest point since the end of the Cold War.  It might be time to step back and reassess our situation.  Instead, we have the chief of staff, General Mark Milley, declaring, "I want to be clear to those who wish to do us harm … the United States military – despite all of our challenges, despite our [operational] tempo, despite everything we have been doing – we will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before.  Make no mistake about that."  Milley certainly would not have made these remarks without administration approval.  His confidence in the military's ability to "beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before" seems overly optimistic, considering the difficulties we are having in defeating ISIS.

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013.

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