Professor Sergey Karaganov dropped quite a startling bomb in his recent essay, recommending Russia nuke one or more European countries. Let us examine his reasoning and conclusions.
He states that hatred of Russia and Russians by the West is ingrained which will forever prevent the development of any normal and friendly relations.
This is not something new but has existed for centuries and despite it, Russia has managed to survive throughout the Czarist, USSR, and Russian Federation eras. No doubt, there were times when this hatred produced great human and economic suffering for Russia, and times when it was taken in stride and overcome.
This positive outlook as evidenced by Russia’s (past and present) economic, political, and military support to Asia and the Global South, which has been well regarded, appreciated, and abundantly reciprocated over the past 16 months. Additionally, the international organizations (BRICS, SCO, ASEAN, etc.), championed by Russia and China, are not only promising but are attracting the rest of the world in droves – Russia is already moving briskly towards a global winning formula.
The Russophobia that Prof Karaganov is worried about is concentrated in a specific geographic location, namely Europe, the US, and a few countries in Oceania and the Far East. And even then, it is not universal among all the countries there nor among all their peoples. No doubt, the diehard Russophobes will remain a problem for the present Ukrainian SMO (Special Military Operation) as well as for any future relations with Russia, but they remain limited and are unlikely to stop Russia’s critical and necessary actions. Russia still has the bigger world as its oyster and can, if need be, permanently divorce itself from the West and absorb any alimony costs, as has been evident from the endless deluge of Western sanctions, without the need to consider a nuclear Armageddon.
At the end of the day, it is not Russophobia as much as the West’s drooling over Russia, the heartland, and its resources, which has been in the books for over a century and will continue to be so. Russophobia is simply a way to justify planned aggression.
Add to that wise diplomatic, political, and economic policies, and peace should prevail.
The Ukrainian SMO:
Karaganov worries that the clash between Russia and the West will continue in one form or another, regardless of how the Russian SMO in Ukraine ends.
This simply confirms the state of relations that have existed for centuries. Nothing has changed in the interim and the SMO is but a phase of that eternal bellicose state of affairs.
The reasons for the SMO have been repeatedly explained by Russia and its objectives clearly outlined. The exit strategy has also been set and, so far, hasn’t changed. Of course, there are always various potential outcomes in wars, and the opposing parties may never cease and desist, but that is the nature of wars. Also, it is inconceivable to imagine that the Russian military embarked on a military engagement without planning the many different scenarios. Finally, neither party has indicated any intentions to escalate to nuclear weapons, nor does there seem to be a need for them on the Russian side to date. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) still holds as an effective deterrent to irrational rash decisions, as it has done for the past 70+ years, at least amongst the presumably knowledgeable military decision-makers on both sides.
Regardless of the outcome of the Ukrainian conflict, not all of the West is in the best economic, political, or military health which is necessary to continue comfortably countering Russia. How much can its citizens suffer before they speak up to end this expensive and dangerous battle of titans? Sooner rather than later, people pressure is bound to override the need to continue this dangerous line of action, which is prone to slipping into a devasting nuclear escalation.
The Western Elites:
Karaganov believes that the West is in irreversible decline and its elites are trying to save their hegemonic hold on the World. As such, they are and have for decades been, instigating troubles and wars everywhere. Those elites do not care for their citizens’ welfare or safety but only seek control and profits. Nor do they care for their European allies, whom they are weakening and destroying by pushing toward a military confrontation with Russia.
Additionally, Karaganov posits that the past 70+ years of prosperity and peace have lulled the people of the West into a false sense of security, which has weakened their survival instincts. A harsh and startling awakening is now needed, and the plebs must be alerted to the grim destination that their elites are leading them to.
Despite all the above, we must remember that the only real control any elites have over their citizens is through the economy and their welfare. The standards of living in the West are clearly in decline with no visible light at the end of the present tunnel, and the longer this dire economic situation persists, the more likely it is for the people to act to change their elites. It is due to poor economic conditions that changes occur, not through scaremongering.
Scaremongering may have been effective in the 1950s and 60s when things were abnormally rosy in the West; the standard of living was rising and jobs were aplenty, which made it easy to frighten the populace that their good times would disappear if the Russian communists took over.
Today, the situation is the opposite, and the Western economies are not doing well. Stagflation is rearing its ugly head portending a potential change in the Western elites. Assuming of course, that no nuclear bombs are used, which would be counterproductive and galvanize the people of the West around their elites and against Russia.
Russia’s Preemptive Actions:
Karaganov feels that Russia has been lax in responding to the negative Western actions and has not acted preemptively to curtail repeated political, economic, and military belligerences, hence allowing the “salami slicing” of Russia’s critical red lines to continue. The longer it delays its reaction, the more likely is for a devastating nuclear war to occur.
Wisdom dictates that you react when you can do so effectively and are concomitantly assured of your safety. This seems exactly what Russia did when the circumstances became right and it accordingly acted preemptively in Ukraine in 2022, Syria in 2015, as well as elsewhere. But until then, it restricted itself to diplomatic channels and the podiums of international forums and organizations to verbally correct what it regarded as wrong or unsuitable. Each stage of any conflict has a specific method of address. It is wise to design each action to match its level of seriousness, rather than jump the cue directly to nuclear bombs, especially when the outcome of such an action is unknown.
Lowering the Threshold for Nuclear Arms Use:
Karaganov is promoting that Russia immediately signals its seriousness by lowering its self-imposed high threshold for using nuclear weapons. And if this does not deliver the required results and trigger conciliatory actions from the West, Russia should go ahead and nuke one European center as a warning, to be followed by another or more centers until full capitulation is achieved. Here, Professor Karaganov assumes that such targeting of European cities will not trigger a nuclear response from the US on the belief that the US will not deem the destroyed European city/cities as sufficient justification for risking a nuclear war with Russia. Hence, a rapid “move down the ladder of containment-escalation” would likely quickly follow.
However, the sudden lowering of the threshold for nuclear arms use could also be interpreted as a sign of weakness; that Russia is losing in its Ukrainian SMO, has become confused, and is lashing out. This may be regarded as a ‘Hail Mary’ move and could generate the opposite reaction to the one expected, leading to a rapid climb up the escalation ladder.
The triggers for nuclear weapons use were established many decades ago and all the parties concerned are fully aware that they must carefully tiptoe around them lest they are inadvertently pulled. At the same time, a declared nuclear threshold is in reality pure gobbledygook, unclear statements that will never be adhered to when opportunities arise, or circumstances force one’s hand.
Accordingly, nuking a European city could easily be construed as an opportunity or circumstance to reciprocate, thus delivering the very result that was being avoided. The idea of pushing a powerful foe into a corner and not expecting a reaction is akin to betting the farm (the world) on the spin of a roulette wheel, while the odds are stacked against you at 37 to 1.
The Reaction of the Rest of the World:
Karaganov admits that such an action is not likely to be supported by Russia’s friends and allies, but with time, they will understand and even thank Russia for setting them free from the Western yoke.
He also feels that Russia’s greatness supersedes the need to ingratiate itself with the West because it is a civilization unto itself and should look inwards to enhance its positive attributes and, if necessary, look eastwards and southwards for future friends and partners.
Finally, he drops a startling statement indicating his belief that the ‘Almighty’ has delivered nuclear weapons into Russia’s hands as a tool to right the egregious wrongs spreading in the world!
It takes great confidence to believe that the rest of the world will eventually come to appreciate nuking a country without being first attacked and then, be grateful for being nuked and set free while the environment is contaminated for a thousand years.
In fact, the rest of the world would be terrified of such actions and is likely to conclude that this may be the beginning of: “The Hegemon is dead, long live the Hegemon!”, which could lead to a mass exodus towards the West.
As for injecting the ‘Almighty’ into the argument, the rest of the world is used to the Almighty’s punishment modus operandi in the form of floods, pestilence, earthquakes, and the occasional volcano, which punishes sinners but keeps the environment safe for the later generations who repent. But to add a new tool for Godly punishment in the form of nuclear weapons that permanently destroy the environment, and then subcontract them to specific humans, that would need a wizard to convince the rest of the world.
Overall, this proposal reminds the reader of Sparta. Not the frugal economic Sparta, but the military one, whose power may have occasionally paid off for Sparta, but in the long run failed.