Will Russia Go Nuclear?
"The Russians have taken the European nineteenth century at its word, understood its core ideas and drawn the ultimate conclusions from its cultural premises. We always live in the eye of the more radical brother, who compels us to draw the practical conclusion and pursue it to the end. Altogether … one thing is certain: that the anti-religion of technicity has been put into practice on Russian soil, that there a state arose which is more intensely statist than any ruled by the absolute princes…" CARL SCHMITT
A few years ago, there was a slogan going the rounds in Kiev: “We were searching for Europe and we found Ukraine.” Many Ukrainians were sick of Soviet-style kleptocrats governing them with Moscow’s blessing. Better to go with Europe, whatever its flaws. Life as a Kremlin plaything is no life at all. On his side, Putin denied that Ukraine was even a country. “There is no such country,” he said. They cannot be independent of Moscow. Russian propagandists have said that Ukraine is actually two countries: (1) the Ukrainian-speaking west and (2) the Russian-speaking east. Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian, has called this a heuristic simplification and gross misinterpretation. According to Mychailo Wynnyckyj, “This dichotomous Ukraine never really existed.”[i]
Most nations have ethnic divisions. Yet they remain nations. Wynnyckyj explained Ukraine’s situation as follows: “Contrary to historiographic myths propagated by Russian nationalist ideologues … by the end of 2014 it had become patently obvious that Ukrainians were one people, and proud of it.”[ii] Like America in the American Revolution, Ukraine is being born out of a struggle for freedom – out of a war for independence. This war for independence has been going on for eight long years. Only now it has entered an intensely violent phase.
Moscow seeks to prevent Ukrainian independence while consolidating its military position in Eastern Europe. Moscow’s objectives have nothing to do with de-nazifying Ukraine. The rulers in Moscow want to reassemble the Soviet Union; and Ukraine was a key republic in that Union. Ukraine is also a stepping stone to something more. Imagine, if you will, the nuclear missile power of Russia joined with the military manpower and industrial power of China. To fully activate this combination, Russia must conquer Ukraine. Russia must place its land forces directly on NATO’s border.
As of this writing, the war in Ukraine is eight weeks old. Ukrainian cities remain under bombardment from missiles and artillery. New offensive operations have begun. Moscow accepts further losses through frontal assaults on fixed positions. The Russian media blames NATO and America for the Ukrainian resistance. We are told to cut off the Ukrainians in their hour of need. If we don’t, says Moscow, there will be “unpredictable consequences.” On the streets of Moscow Russian citizens snarl about America’s war against their country. Why not bomb Washington, D.C.?
Russian authorities do not credit the Ukrainian people with fierce resistance. They would rather not admit that Ukraine sank Russia’s guided missile cruiser, Moscva. The regime in Kiev, after all, is an American “puppet regime.” One scans the pages of history to find puppets who fight so hard. No, indeed, Moscow says Russia has failed to win the war because of NATO and America. Russians are not allowed to see the issue of freedom in all this. They are not allowed to say there is an ongoing attempt to put the Soviet Union back in place. In 2014 the Ukrainian people pulled down hundreds of statues of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. Today the Russian invaders are putting up new statues of Lenin. As they do this, the Russians follow the methods of Stalin, arresting tens of thousands of people, deporting Ukrainians to parts unknown. Under Stalin, disobedience led to death or imprisonment. Today, under Putin, disobedience once again leads to death or imprisonment.
On Russian state television, Vladimir Solovyov recently suggested that the Ukraine conflict will soon lead to a war “against Europe and the world.” He explained that “the special military operation is entering a new stage…. We’ll see not only NATO weapons being drawn into this, but also their operators.” Solovyov said that Russia was “starting to wage war against NATO countries. We’ll be grinding up NATO’s war machine as well as the citizens of NATO countries.” Solovyov added, “When this operation concludes, NATO will have to ask itself: ‘Do we have what we need to defend ourselves? Do we have the people to defend ourselves?’ And there will be no mercy. There will be no mercy.”[iii]
Russia has three times the population of Ukraine. The outcome of the war should not be in doubt. Yet the outcome is in doubt; that is, unless Russia uses nuclear weapons. Some observers think that nuclear war is now inevitable. If Russia wants to win the war, Russia must use its nuclear weapons. In terms of casualties, the Ukrainian Army has inflicted a five-to-one loss ratio on the Russians. This figure would be incredible except that it is a familiar statistic. It is the same loss ratio that Moscow suffered in many battles of the Russian Civil War, of the Winter War against Finland in 1939-40, and in the Great Patriot War.[iv]
Russia cannot win a conventional war against NATO. The best Russian generals understood this long ago. The Russian military system remains Soviet. Its administrative system is not modern in the Western sense. It is inefficient, wasteful of men and materiel. Since 2014 the Ukrainian military has adopted Western administrative methods. And so, the casualty ratio is not hard to account for. While Russia remains a corrupt kleptocracy, Ukraine has been evolving toward official accountability. In the Ukrainian military, information flows in two directions: up the chain of command and down the chain of command. Meanwhile, in Russia, the leaders still do not listen, or do not care to listen, when told what they do not want to hear. Subordinates, knowing the messenger will be shot, withhold the truth from their superiors. The superiors, in their turn, give the troops unrealistic tasks which no army could have carried out successfully under the circumstances. What we see in Russia today is the failure of the administrative system. It is a moral failure, an intellectual failure, and a political failure. Asiatic feudalism, dressed in the garb of a modern state, backed by hidden communist structures, cannot compete with a rule-based order in which people actually follow the rules.
WHO WANTS NUCLEAR WAR?
As modern war has become more complex, moving closer to the real-time battle concept, the old Soviet methods of fighting (which are still used by Russia) have fallen further and further behind. In World War II the Soviet Army predicated itself on a peculiar Leninist reading of Carl von Clausewitz. This produced high losses and frequent battlefield defeats. Today we find the situation of Russia has not changed.
Problems in the Russian land forces doubtless reflect similar problems in the Chinese land forces; and only one military solution presents itself. It is the solution that Soviet Marshal V.D. Sokolovskii outlined in the early 1960s. Nuclear rocket weapons, noted Sokolovskii, will be the decisive weapons of the next world war. In his classic volume, Soviet Military Strategy, we find the following analysis: “In modern warfare, nuclear weapons can be employed for various missions: strategic, operational, and tactical. From a purely military point of view, a nuclear weapon is incomparably more effective than a conventional weapon. It permits the execution of military missions in a considerably shorter time than was possible in past wars. For this reason, experts believe that the nuclear weapon is the most powerful and effective instrument by which to destroy an opponent in any type of operation, or in war as a whole.”[v]
According to Sokolovkii’s text, Strategic missile weapons “can, if necessary, be used to carry out the main missions of war: the destruction of the aggressor’s means of nuclear attack – the basis of his military power – and the defeat of the main formations of his armed forces, as well as the destruction of the basic, vitally important enemy targets.”[vi] If a war began between the socialist camp and NATO, Sokolovskii’s text says, “A nuclear war would, in an instant, spread over the entire globe.”[vii]
Sokolovskii’s nuclear warfighting legacy was passed along to Marshals Andrei Grechko and Nikolai Ogarkov. In September 1984, after the Soviet Union had come close to initiating a global nuclear war during the West’s Able Archer 83 exercises,[viii] Marshal Ogarkov was removed as Chief of the General Staff. Many Soviet generals were purged in the years that followed. We can now see, in retrospect, that a shift in Soviet policy was taking place. The following year, Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee. Nuclear world war was taken off the table. Global subversion through Soviet liberalization became the focus of Moscow’s strategy; or, as Soviet strategist Georgi Arbatov explained, Moscow would use the “secret weapon” of taking away America’s “image of the enemy” – by taking away the Communist Party Soviet Union.[ix]
The liberalization of the Soviet bloc under Gorbachev was calculated to undermine Western anti-communism. By eliminating the so-called “Soviet threat,” the Marxist left – under new slogans and guises – could advance to power in Washington and throughout Europe. But the strategy partly backfired, especially in the Soviet Union itself. Especially in Ukraine. While communism stealthily advanced inside Western institutions, it was gradually peeled back in the Baltic States, Georgia, and Ukraine. Inevitably, if they hoped to bring the old Soviet Union back, Russian authorities would have to find a pretext for retaking Ukraine. Even so, Moscow’s agent networks in Washington and Brussels would not be in a position to help Moscow without giving themselves away. In fact, the Marxist left in America was compelled to camouflage itself by accusing Donald Trump and his followers of being Russian agents. (See my commentary on this during a recent episode of the Glazov Gang.)
Because Gorbachev’s strategy of “controlled” liberalization went awry, leading to genuine liberalizations in former communist countries, the ghost of Marshal Sokolovskii would rear its head. The CPSU strategists had fooled themselves, the ghost would say. What had Moscow’s communist “friends” in the West managed to do? Talk, talk, talk. They had not broken up NATO. They had not disarmed America. Of course, America’s nuclear arsenal was approaching the end of its shelf live. Even so, you must wage a nuclear war to finish them off. You cannot do this without a nuclear war!
There is no reason for Russia to despair over its losses in Ukraine. After all, Moscow’s mistakes are nothing compared with Washington’s blunders. America has built up Red China for the last thirty years. The communist bloc is not without war-winning advantages. And look who we have put into the White House! Look who the German chancellor is! The Soviet Union will be put back together. Vladimir Lenin’s statues will go back into place throughout Ukraine.
Were this but a fantasy! Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was undertaken to restore the Soviet Union. Zelensky even suggested that Putin wanted to be remembered as a second Lenin by aiming for his own “mausoleum.” In explaining why Putin invaded Ukraine, Zelensky told Russian journalists during a Zoom call, “There are a lot of reasons he acts this way. He has ambitions to bring the Soviet Union back….” But, of course, added Zelensky, “I don’t think it is his mistake – it’s the mistake of those around him. He’s in that circle, you know.”[x]
Yes. We know what circle Zelensky is referring to. It is that circle of strategists that has shifted away from Andropov and Gorbachev’s strategy of perestroika back towards Sokolovskii’s strategy of war. The pendulum of false democratization and false liberalization now swings back toward open confrontation. Moscow’s charm offensives achieved all they could achieve in the thirty years allotted. The U.S. Federal Government is now full of leftist radicals. America’s nuclear arsenal is old and shabby. No more charm is needed. Now the time has come for destructive war. To kill and destroy is Moscow’s recourse. The only question is, “On what scale?”
THE ORIGINS OF GORBACHEV’S STRATEGY
David Pryce-Jones once asked why the Soviet Union gave up its position in Central and Eastern Europe without recompense in 1989-91. Valentin Falin, the last head of the Central Committee CPSU International Department, gave Jones the following reply: “We are still waiting for an answer from Gorbachev…. He confided in no one. He spoke on the phone directly to [German Chancellor] Kohl.”[xi]
The mystery deepens further when we look at other testimony. Gorbachev and his mentor, KGB Chairman Andropov, had spent a great deal of effort weakening the leadership of the Soviet armed forces. Talented generals were removed from top positions in the 1980s. Mediocrities from the Asian military districts were brought in. Why? Gorbachev and Andropov decided to oppose the Soviet military’s plans for nuclear war because they had a very different plan to follow – a KGB-centered plan. They were going to liberalize the Eastern Bloc so that their agent networks in the West could advance into power. They were pursuing a strategy of active subversion. One of the architects of this subversion strategy was Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, godfather of the USSR’s “collective leadership.”
In retrospect, it appears that the collapse of communism and the “miracle” of German reunification in 1990 owed much to Suslov. It appears that Gorbachev was chosen by Suslov to play a very special role. Consider a strange little meeting that was arranged by Suslov in September 1978 at an obscure railway station in southern Russia. According to Arkady Vaksberg, at Mineralnye Vody “there took place the now famous meeting of the four party general secretaries who succeeded one another: Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev….”[xii] It is incredible, indeed, that Suslov put these four men together, in 1978. Think of it! Andropov would succeed Brezhnev, Chernenko would succeed Andropov, and Gorbachev would succeed Chernenko. What were the odds this was pure chance? “Today,” wrote Vaksberg, “only Gorbachev could say how the meeting went, but there can be no doubt it was decisive.”[xiii]
Suslov had long been the eminence grise of the Kremlin. Some might say he had been the best strategist and ablest Soviet politician of his day. At least one Russian commentator suggested that Stalin had singled out the young Suslov as his successor. Given Suslov’s intellectual horsepower and influence, it is no wonder that he was chosen in 1956 as Brezhnev’s deputy when Brezhnev brought the USSR’s top strategists together under the auspices of a “special committee” tasked to remake Soviet strategy for the nuclear age.[xiv] The idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war was then proposed by Marshal V.D. Sokolovskii even as the “feign weakness” strategy of the KGB was championed by Gen. Nikolai Mironov, later to be head of the Party Administrative Organs. Everything that happened later can be traced back to Brezhnev and Suslov’s work in 1956-57. For those watching Gorbachev’s bizarre concessions and retreats from 1989-91, nothing can be understood without reference to Lenin’s 1922 retreat into capitalism and Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Operation Trust, a secret police operation to set up a fake anti-communist resistance organization. These and other strategies were updated, adopted and ratified in 1957 by the Soviet Union on Brezhnev and Suslov’s recommendations.
Only by referring to such strategies will we ever understand why Gorbachev willfully collapsed East Germany, the Warsaw Pact Alliance and the Soviet Union; or why he purged his own generals and weakened his own military. Properly understood, this maneuver is what brought the Clinton’s, Obama and Biden to power in Washington. It is what has led to the obsolescence of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It is the foundation of what we now call the Deep State and the transfer of Communist Party billions to the West for the most massive and coordinated subversion operation of all.
Beware of communists bearing gifts. In 1990, however, all wariness was set aside. The West wanted to take its instant winnings and declare victory. Thus, in July 1990 Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl met at a hunting lodge in the Caucasus. During this summit meeting Gorbachev unequivocally accepted that the United Germany would be a NATO country. Now ask yourself: Why would the leader of the International Communist Movement do such a thing?
Gorbachev could have easily disallowed German unification on the condition that Germany would drop out of NATO. Yet no conditions were placed on German sovereignty by Gorbachev. Thus, the Soviet leader paved the way for NATO’s eastward advance. Moscow was under no pressure to make any of the concessions Gorbachev made. Yet Gorbachev gladly adhered to the principle that sovereign nations had the right to make to whatever alliances they wanted to. And Gorbachev did this because the West was primed for subversion.
NATO had agreed, in advance of the Gorbachev-Kohl meeting, to abandon its strategy of a “forward defense” in Europe. The West was glad to see tensions reduced. The West was overjoyed at the prospect of a “peace dividend.” As Wisla Suraska wrote in 1998, “It was as if the United States won the cold war by accident, in the course of helping the Germans to unite.”[xv]
Technically, the Cold War ended on 30 May 1990, when Gorbachev visited Washington. At that meeting President George H.W. Bush “argued that under the Helsinki principles all nations had the right to choose their own alliances. Gorbachev agreed.”[xvi] Of course, the Americans were surprised by this agreement. Why did the Soviet leader agree to this? At the time Gorbachev’s deputies shuffled about nervously, offering cautionary gestures. Gorbachev asked them why Germany could not belong to NATO?
The only shrewd observer of this scene was French President Francois Mitterrand, who remarked that Gorbachev was undoubtedly thinking of neutralizing the united Germany through the left-wing agitation of the peace movement. As Mitterrand was a socialist, he knew what Gorbachev was really thinking. The left in Europe would be energized. Gorbachev intentionally shoved the Soviet military into Siberian cold storage. By this maneuver he was opening a hidden door – the hidden door of communist subversion across five continents.
The West’s weakness is now evident. Russia and China have penetrated all the West’s major institutions. Whatever missteps Russia has made in Ukraine, the military school of Sokolovskii can deliver victory through nuclear strikes. Perestroika has done its work. The West was charmed not only by Gorbachev, but by Deng Xiaoping. The moment has come for the great harvest.
So here we are, in April 2022. Marshal Sokolovskii’s ghost is standing behind Vladimir Putin, whispering in his ear. The ghost is quoting Nikita Khrushchev’s words: “Now we need press only one button and … whole cities will be blown up, and whole countries can be destroyed. Such is the enormous destructive power of modern weapons….”[xvii]
NOTES AND LINKS
The opening quotation is from Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Political, p. 81, of the University of Chicago’s expanded edition.
[i] Mychailo Wynnyckyj, Ukraine’s Maidan, Russia’s War: A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity (Stuttgart: Ibidem Press, 2019), p. 243.
[iii] Russian State TV Talks of ‘War Against Europe and the World’ After Ukraine (msn.com).
[iv] John Mosier, Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin (Kindle Edition).
[v] V.D. Sokolovskii, Rand trans., Soviet Miltiary Strategy, p. 297.
[vi] Ibid, p. 298.
[vii] Ibid, p .299.
[viii] Able Archer 83: The Secret History | Wilson Center. I was told by a former KGB official that the military used the Able Archer 83 exercise as an excuse to launch a nuclear preemptive strike on the West. Andropov became suspicious of the military’s intentions toward the KGB and Communist Party, and canceled military preparations for a strike. A CIA official from the American side told me that we would have been caught completely by surprise had the attack been launched.
[ix] Jean Davidson, “UCI Scientists Told Moscow’s Aim Is to Deprive U.S. of Foe.” Los Angeles Times, 12 December, 1988.
[xi] David Pryce-Jones, The War That Never Was: The Fall of the Soviet Empire, 1985-1991 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, p. 292.
[xii] Arkady Vaksberg, trans. John and Elizabeth Roberts, The Soviet Mafia: An Expose of Organized Crime in the USSR (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), p. 39.
[xiv] Joseph D. Douglass, Jr., Red Cocaine: The Drugging of America (Atlanta: Clarion House, 1990), p. 48.
[xv] Wisla Suraska, How the Soviet Union Disappeared (Duke University Press, 1998), p. 87.
[xvii] Sokolovskii, p. 301.