More than four years ago I wrote my first piece for Unz Review and in it I advanced the thesis that extremely tense situation around Russia could be viewed as an approach to a preventive war of sorts.
for Washington, whose political discourse is based on American exceptionalism and foreign policy now is defined completely in terms of military power, emergence of a “peer” military power is absolutely unacceptable. While China is an economic giant and is now arguably the largest economy in the world, she still has a long way to go until she becomes a true “peer” to the United States militarily. This is not the case with Russia. It becomes also true when one begins to look at doctrinal and technological developments both in the US and Russia. The contrast is startling, even if one considers a very dubious US intelligence on Russia.
Many things have changed since then but the thesis of a preventive war against Russia by the combined West, led by the United States, not only didn’t lose much of its relevance but, in fact, increasingly accentuates the only framework the United States, as a formal leader of a combined West, uses when dealing with Russia and, increasingly, China. Preventive war, in all of its known manifestations ranging from sabotage and propaganda to various levels of military violence, is the only method of conducting foreign relations the United States knows precisely because the United States doesn’t know what real war is, nor is it abreast of a profound technological and operational change which is taking place in the warfare of the 21st century.
The obverse side of this de facto loss of the arms race by the United States is astonishing in its volume, in the last thirty years, stream of military and geopolitical concepts, doctrines, theories and ideas most of which never panned out and, in fact, played a baneful role in preventing the United States from facing a global reality described not in US establishment and academe platitudes but in tangibles. But, of course, you already know all that because that is what I do—I try to describe the world in tangibles. But here is the thing—the indicator of any loss or, otherwise, victory is always a gap. This is how we describe the state of play, in gaps—how large they are and what are the dynamics of these gaps. Recall how gaps factor in all that:
The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new NATO by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists. Calling for root-and-branch reform of NATO and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world". The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days.
Or, let's recall immediate post-WWII plans for nuking USSR which were prevented not by non-existent then Soviet nuclear deterrent but by dubious effectiveness of American nuclear weapons in case of a large scale war in Europe with the Soviet Union. But the United States was always a nuclear-biased nation and even 2018 (Trump's) Nuclear Posture Review included some bizarre things:
Really? We’re Gonna Nuke Russia for a Cyberattack? The Trump administration’s new nuclear strategy includes a provision that is truly bonkers.
In general, Russians were always aware of the US nuclear views and knew that any situation in which USSR/Russia would fall below a certain second (response) strike in nuclear capabilities had a serious probability of initiation of a decapitating American nuclear strike which would, in theory, settle the issue of the American economic and military hegemony once and for all, by means of destroying USSR/Russia. This is not an insane scenario, these things are constantly on the mind of a large portion of the American military-political elite and this is how it views the world. Russians know this and Russia was developing a second strike capability (response-headon, or otvetno-vstrechnyi udar) like there was no tomorrow. Well, Russians succeeded immensely in this field and, in fact, doing so redefined not only the rules for nuclear deterrent but for any type of the war as a whole.
Let me explain. Just a few days ago the news about S-500 passing combat missile launches and of A-235 Nudol, evidently, being developed also in mobile variant, went largely in a matter-of-factly mode but there are some things which need to be understood in their ramifications. S-500 has a range of around 600 kilometers for aerial targets. That, as I already stated before, means that any NATO combat aircraft flying around Berlin, or more generally, over East Germany will be shot down. Same goes for any aerial target over Romania once S-500 are deployed in Crimea. Once one considers the fact that Russians are talking now about "one missile--one target", it becomes clear that targeting for S-500 could be obtained from any source which allows higher uncertainties in targeting of aircraft and that means targeting from such radar complexes as Container, which can see the commercial and combat planes on runway in Netherlands.
This capability alone has strategic ramifications because the only viable instrument in NATO's war plans against Russia was its air-power which was considered "sophisticated" and numerous enough to fight Russia including delivering nuclear weapons. If S-400 wasn't bad enough, S-500 effectively denies NATO air forces any crucial command and control function because any aircraft carrying this mission out will be shot down even before it will be able to detect anything and vector fighter aircraft towards any threat. Obviously, the fact that S-500 is designed to shoot down any hypersonic and ballistic targets with the speed of up to 7 kilometers per second, and low orbit satellites and is integrated with the rest of Russia's AD is a strategic factor in itself which dramatically reduces probabilities of delivering a nuclear, not to speak of conventional, strike against Russia. With S-500 and A-235 Nudol coming on-line and both performing well in tests, Russia continues to develop not only always impressive air defense but the air defense of an immense power, including full blown anti-missile capability, including ICBMs.
This is a gap and the dynamic of this gap is very simple--it is not static, it is widening. In fact, the speed of this widening only increases. At this stage, Russia has an overwhelming edge over the United States both in quality, quantity and combat experience with her air-defense systems and this has become a strategic problem for the United States. American conventional logic of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) operations of throwing a bunch of TLAMs and turning on ECM against some outdated and not realistically integrated third world AD doesn't apply here. In fact, Russia can do her own ECM suppressing and, as RAND's big air operations honcho David Ochmanek admitted in 2019:
“We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary. In our games, when we fight Russia and China, blue gets its ass handed to it.”