The Blind Man’s Bluff Posing as the Brinkmanship – OpEd – Eurasia Review

By Alex Holstein*

War is imminent. Despite a White House flip-flop to the contrary, that appears to be the prevailing consensus on the battle post among many peripheral politicians, television pundits and world leaders, as they insist on an aggressive response from United States to the worsening of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. frontier. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has denied any “alarmism” at play, but the outcry recalls the much more divisive build-up to the disastrous war in Iraq, which destabilized the very region it sought to “democratize”. As the United States became embroiled in conflicts in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, Russian President Vladimir Putin spent much of that same period quietly transforming Russia into Russia’s first secret police state. the story actually run by the secret police. He did this by leveraging his own experience in the security services to consolidate his power, stacking the Kremlin bridge with all his KGB aces. It is this cadre, known as siloviki, “people of strength”, all veterans of the Russian security establishment, that has kept Putin comfortably locked up in the Kremlin for the past two decades. That cadre who helped him rebuild the Russian military into the formidable fighting force that threatens Ukraine today as the former Soviet republic pursues NATO membership, turning it into a nuclear powder keg whose the wick is already lit.

The annexation of Crimea in 2014 demonstrated Russia’s determination to reassert its traditional sphere of influence in the face of NATO enlargement. NATO’s so-called “line of defense” is a geopolitical point of attack for Moscow. President Biden just deployed 3,000 troops, including the elite 82nd Airborne, to Eastern Europe, reaffirming what the President called America’s “sacred obligation” to Article 5 of the NATO – that an attack on one member is an attack on all. But Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So why should the United States risk a nuclear war with Russia to protect it?

In the classic thriller The Hunt for Red October, actor Scott Glenn, playing the role of a hard-nosed American sub-skipper, notes: “The hardest part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.” So when should Washington back off its current collision course with the Kremlin? It’s a very tricky tightrope game, in which the stakes couldn’t be higher between the two most atomized nations in the world, but where US policymakers seem to be playing by the rules of blind man’s bluff. The United States never came close to risking a war against Hungary in 1956 or Prague in 1968. For good reason: it was not in our national interest to do so. It was not until the Soviets deployed missiles in Cuba, ninety miles from our shores, that Washington rightly launched a potential DEFCON-1.

Despite the hysteria over the 125,000 troops Russia has amassed along the Ukrainian border, that number is nowhere near enough to take over the whole country, let alone Eastern Europe. Biden’s recent “blunder” that any Russian military operation could take the form of a “minor incursion” is probably his smartest statement on the matter. Most likely, if Putin invades, he will move to pacify Donbass, where his troops would be mostly welcome with open arms, as they were in Crimea in 2014. This could work in Washington’s favor, pushing the rest of Ukraine further into the western fold, as happened following the annexation of Crimea. If an invisible iron curtain were to descend across Ukraine, dividing the country along pro-Western and pro-Russian lines, it could provide the perfect starting point for aggressive covert operations against Moscow, something like Operation Cyclone, the CIA-directed the mujahideen’s weapons program during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, allowing NATO to push the project forward on the sly while working on the surface to ease diplomatic tensions.

Jingoists beating their war drums in Washington would be appalled at such a suggestion; but their moral histrionics and simplistic view of Russia, and Putin in particular, act as what poker players call a “saying” – like someone twisting their ring every time they bluff – revealing that he was overwhelmed. As they were in Iraq. And Libya. And Afghanistan. Except here the stakes are much higher; and again, it will not be their children who will wage this war. They will be the children of the same working-class Americans they make fun of – those who inhabit “air country.” It will be the youngest and poorest Americans who will suit up in NBC suits to fight through radioactive darkness. Unless cooler heads outweigh the device’s bluster. Even Ukrainian leaders are begging. At a news conference following a recent call with Biden, Ukrainian President Zelensky said he disagreed with US intelligence estimates that war is imminent. Zelensky is said to have advised Biden to tone down the rhetoric. “We don’t need this panic,” he said.

No, Mr. President, certainly not.

*Alex Holstein is the co-author of Warfighter: The Story of an American Fighting Man, which will be released May 15, 2022 by Lyons Press. He holds an MA in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies from the London School of Economics, where he wrote his thesis on the Soviet KGB.

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