Gorbachev: Is the world preparing for war?

Former Soviet premier and Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev sees a worrying trend in world affairs and is warning that it appears to him that nations are preparing for war.

Gorbachev penned a self-serving op-ed in Time Magazine that appears to blame the U.S. and the West for the heightened tensions:

In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.

I recall a Politburo meeting in 1986 at which the defense doctrine was discussed. The proposed draft contained the following language: "Respond to attack with all available means." Members of the politburo objected to this formula. All agreed that nuclear weapons must serve only one purpose: preventing war. And the ultimate goal should be a world without nuclear weapons.

It is important to recall the balance of forces at that time.  Russian and Warsaw Pact tanks outnumbered NATO by 4 to 1, Russian planes by 3 to 1.  The old Soviet Union had a massive material advantage in conventional weapons, forcing NATO to rely on nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet attack.

Today, the U.S. has a technogical lead on Russia, but President Putin is modernizing and building up his forces as fast as he can.  Where is this headed?

Today, however, the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands.

We must break out of this situation. We need to resume political dialogue aiming at joint decisions and joint action.

There is a view that the dialogue should focus on fighting terrorism. This is indeed an important, urgent task. But, as a core of a normal relationship and eventually partnership, it is not enough.

The focus should once again be on preventing war, phasing out the arms race, and reducing weapons arsenals. The goal should be to agree, not just on nuclear weapons levels and ceilings, but also on missile defense and strategic stability.

In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.

I urge the members of the U.N. Security Council — the body that bears primary responsibility for international peace and security — to take the first step. Specifically, I propose that a Security Council meeting at the level of heads of state adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought.

I think the initiative to adopt such a resolution should come from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — the Presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals and therefore bear a special responsibility.

What Gorbachev dismantled, Putin is actively working to restore.  Any rapprochement with Moscow must take into account Putin's planned measures to reconstitute the old Soviet Union – perhaps not by directly controlling the nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltics, but rather, by intimidation and threats, moving those countries into Moscow's orbit.

In this, America stands athwart Russian designs.  Putin will not stop until he hits a brick wall and yes, that could lead to a serious confrontation.  But confronted with superior NATO forces, Putin will have little choice except to back down.

At least, that's the rational outcome to any confronation. 

Is Putin a rational actor?  Is Trump?  We are likely to find out the answer to these questions in the next few years.