How To Win The New Cold War In Ukraine
The Present Nuclear Crisis
President Biden is on the verge of single-handedly losing the New Cold War and escalating the Ukraine conflict into a nuclear World War III.
On February 27, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin declared a “special combat alert” for nuclear forces and disappeared with his general staff into one of the hundreds of deep underground command posts that are impervious to nuclear attack.
Reportedly, midnight flights are flying Russian elites and their families to the Urals. There are located some of Russia’s best protected deep underground facilities, some of the enormous scale, literally small cities shielded beneath hundreds of meters of solid granite.
For example, the new General Staff Command Post beneath Kosvinsky Mountain can accommodate an estimated 30,000 people. The recently completed underground city beneath Yamantau Mountain is much larger and of unknown purpose.
Russian Nuclear Superiority
Russia is much better prepared than the U.S. for nuclear war:
–Russia has thousands of nuclear command posts, bunkers, and shelters for political-military elites and civilians, including nuclear blast doors on subways to protect urban populations.
–Russia has a very serious nuclear civil defense program that just a few years ago exercised sheltering 20 million people.
–Russia has some 10,000 ABM/SAMs dual-capable for nuclear or conventional use for intercepting incoming ballistic missile warheads, cruise missiles, or bombers.
–Russia has by far the world’s biggest and most modern offensive nuclear arsenal, with a 10-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons, and perhaps a 2-to-1 advantage in strategic nuclear warheads (if Moscow is cheating on New START, which is likely).
In contrast, the United States has:
–No deep underground command posts for political-military leaders that would survive a nuclear strike. (Even NORAD’s famous command post inside Cheyenne Mountain, designed to survive the A-bomb, would probably not survive a thermonuclear strike by H-bomb.)
–No significant nuclear civil defense program or system of shelters to protect the civilian population.
–No anti-missile defenses capable of stopping Russian (or Chinese) warheads, only 64 National Missile Defense Ground-Based Interceptors planned for less sophisticated missile threats from North Korea or Iran.
–No modern ICBMs, SLBMs, ballistic missile submarines, or strategic bombers, all of which are at least 30 years old and many nearing obsolescences.
–No modern nuclear warheads, all of which have been patched up and repaired over the decades, none tested for 30 years.
–Almost no tactical nuclear weapons (about 100 gravity bombs bunkered in NATO Europe).
Russian Surprise Attack Possible
Now Russia is postured to make a surprise nuclear attack that could destroy all or most U.S. retaliatory capabilities. Unlike U.S. nuclear deterrent forces, Russian long-range nuclear weapons are mostly on intercontinental ballistic missiles, armed with multiple warheads, capable of launching most of Russia’s nuclear warheads within a few minutes, with little or no strategic warning. (For more details see my report The Nuclear 9/11 In Our Future published in the Washington Examiner on 15 March 2022).
Right now, America’s 400 Minuteman III ICBMs, ever-ready to launch 24/7, are the chief deterrent to a Russian surprise nuclear attack. (Ironically, President Biden’s “kitchen cabinet” of anti-nuclear activists is still agitating to use the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review to unilaterally ban or phase-out U.S. ICBMs.)
Not wanting to admit that President Biden’s Ukraine policies have blundered into a possible nuclear war with Russia, the Biden Administration pretends there is no increased nuclear threat to justify mobilizing U.S. nuclear forces to a more survivable posture. They remain at DEFCON 5, the lowest readiness level—making especially bombers and submarines more vulnerable to surprise attack.
Yet, while there supposedly is no increased nuclear threat, the Biden Administration is warning Russia not to use nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. Even Biden’s media allies are deeply concerned that the Ukraine War could become a nuclear Apocalypse.
Significantly, DOD has deployed to the UK’s Mildenhall Royal AFB a WC-135 intelligence aircraft specialized for collecting data on nuclear explosions.
Fog of War: Nuclear Escalation by Miscalculation
Western leaders and media are blinded by war fever, thinking they can turn Ukraine into Russia’s graveyard.
But if Russia really is bogged down or losing in Ukraine, if consequently, Putin’s regime could fall—then Ukraine could become the world’s nuclear graveyard. Moscow believes nuclear war can be won, is postured to do so, and will roll the nuclear dice in extremis.
President Biden’s recent gaffes threatening U.S. military intervention in Ukraine and regime change in Russia upticks possible nuclear war through design or miscalculation.
A western belief that Russia is “on the ropes” in Ukraine, informed by Ukrainian propaganda and wishful thinking, may prove as false as Washington’s hope that Afghanistan would become a feminist-secular democracy.
Russia unleashed but a small fraction of its conventional forces on Ukraine, and General Mud helped Ukraine immensely, impeding Russia’s armored operations. Summer is here and the ground will dry.
Putin and Russia’s General Staff are ignoring phone calls from Washington—not the behavior of a loser desperately seeking exit from the Ukraine War? Or behavior of a regime so desperate it contemplates nuclear aggression?
What Is To Be Done?
Paramount U.S. interests are to avoid nuclear war with Russia, end the Ukraine War and its escalatory possibilities, and negotiate a peace with Russia that secures their neutrality, or even strategic partnership, in the New Cold War with China.
The now existing Sino-Russian alliance is the most formidable combination of military and economic power that has ever confronted the Free World—and foreshadows a Third World War.
President Biden should mobilize U.S. nuclear deterrent forces to a more survivable posture, at least DEFCON 3. Failure to do so looks like fear and weakness and may tempt Moscow to play their nuclear cards.
President Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis mobilized the U.S. nuclear deterrent to DEFCON 2, just short of nuclear war, which show of strength helped resolve the confrontation peacefully. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush mobilized to DEFCON 3, a show of strength to warn off other potential aggressors.
Washington should demarche Moscow, immediately informing the Kremlin by all channels that the U.S. wants to avoid nuclear war, is mobilizing to DEFCON 3 only of necessity, because of Russia’s “special combat alert” for nuclear forces.
Washington should propose an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, propose returning nuclear forces to normal posture, and negotiate peace on the basis of the treaty proposed by Moscow before their invasion. Some provisions of Moscow’s offered treaty—like promising not to expand NATO further eastward—are even more in the U.S. interest than they are in Russia’s.
Moderation toward and negotiation with Russia will be condemned as “appeasement” by those who would recklessly stoke the Ukraine War, heedless of its escalatory possibilities. A draconian peace is not possible to achieve, short of victory in World War III, and would be as unwise as the Versailles Treaty that set the stage for World War II.
Statesmanship in this perilous hour requires the West to understand that China is a greater long-term threat than Russia. Russian neutrality, or even strategic partnership, would isolate China and deprive Beijing of Moscow’s formidable nuclear strength, which has tempted both nations to bellicosity and aggression.
Statesmanship should be mindful that the U.S. and NATO are not clearly “winning” on the heavily fogged battlefields of the Ukraine War. However, U.S. national security interests clearly are suffering major reversals elsewhere, while the West is fixated on Ukraine:
–North Korea has successfully tested the world’s largest mobile ICBM, probably designed to carry multiple warheads, a far greater threat to the U.S. homeland than an invasion of South Korea. The timing of this test is probably no coincidence since North Korea is a client of Russia and China.
–Iran is 8 weeks from atomic weapons, if it does not have them already, and is being offered billions by the Biden Administration, delisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, and abandoning of Israel and moderate Arab allies, a genuine act of appeasement. Iran too is a client of Russia and China.
–China continues illegal militarization of the South China Sea, closing its stranglehold on this vital international artery, and positioning itself to project power everywhere in the Pacific. Xi patiently watches the West fight to the death of the last brave Ukrainian and contemplates his next move on the global chessboard.
And what if Moscow refuses Washington’s call to negotiate peace on the terms of their own treaty?
Then we will know Putin and Xi are Stalin and Hitler in 1939, and Ukraine is Poland, all over again.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books Will America Be Protected? (2022), Blackout Warfare (2021), and The Power And The Light (2020).