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Authored by James Rickards via,

The steady path toward World War III continues. U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine in the war with Russia has been one long failure, but that hasn’t stopped them from escalating the war with new weapons and tactics.

Russia has met the escalation with its own escalation every step of the way. At what point do rational leaders in the West (if there are any left) pause, consider that the war is lost in Ukraine, deescalate and seek a treaty to end the war?

There’s no sign of that yet. In fact, all of the signs point to further escalation, which is a sure path to nuclear war. What good has escalation accomplished?

The West supplied Ukraine with HIMARS precision-guided artillery, but that largely failed because the Russians quickly learned how to jam the GPS guidance systems, so the missiles went off course.

That doesn’t mean the Russians shoot down or jam every HIMARS rocket Ukraine launches. Some will always get through. But overall, their effectiveness has been limited compared with expectations.

The U.S. and NATO also supplied Ukraine with Abrams, Leopard and Challenger tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles that have been left burning on the battlefield. They also require intensive maintenance Ukraine can’t necessarily provide, and are often unsuited for the battlefield conditions in Ukraine. Many Ukrainian soldiers have actually expressed a preference for Russian-made equipment over NATO’s.

Not Wonder Weapons

Meanwhile, the Patriot anti-missiles systems cannot shoot down Russian hypersonic missiles and have been destroyed one-by-one at a cost of $1 billion each. F-16s are the next wonder weapon promised. But Russia fields the most sophisticated air defense system in the world. Many planes will be shot down by Russian S-400 anti-aircraft batteries and other systems.

These planes are also old, obsolete models from NATO inventories at the end of their service lives. And they can’t even be flown by Ukrainian pilots since they barely read English (the training manuals and maintenance manuals are all in English) and have not had enough time to train.

It takes about two years to become a competent F-16 fighter pilot; the Ukrainians have barely had six months to learn. F-16s are also unsuited for the often rugged airfield conditions in Ukraine (they require pristine runways so debris doesn’t get sucked into their engines on takeoff).

They can be operated from NATO bases but that opens another can of worms.

NATO’s Latest Harebrained Scheme

What’s the next harebrained scheme from NATO? Here’s the latest example. The U.S. and its allies have green-lighted missile attacks deep inside Russia using U.S.-made ATACMS ballistic missiles with a range of up to 190 miles.

These attacks have hit civilian targets such as the Russian city of Belgorod and critical military targets such as the Russian nuclear missile radar warning arrays. Both types of attacks are prompting a severe Russian response, including the final destruction of the entire Ukrainian power grid.

The attack on Russia’s early warning system is particularly provocative. Ukraine used U.K.-supplied drones to strike this radar system used by Russia to detect incoming nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The U.S. and Russia already adhere to what’s called the “launch on warning” doctrine. This means that if you detect incoming nuclear missiles, you don’t wait for them to hit their targets.

Instead, you launch your counterattack as soon as you detect the missiles. When it comes to nuclear war, it’s use it or lose it.

That puts the world on a hair trigger. Hitting a radar facility that’s part of a nuclear defense creates a blind spot in that defense and makes the hair trigger even more sensitive and launch prone.

And while Ukraine may have technically launched the missiles into Russia, it could not have done so without precise targeting data provided by the U.S. and its NATO allies. How do you think the U.S. would react if Mexico attacked U.S. targets using targeting data provided by Russia? It would directly implicate Russia and hold it responsible.

Here’s another question: Why would Ukraine attack this radar system at all? Ukraine doesn’t have nuclear missiles so it has no reason to compromise Russia’s nuclear defenses. The radar has no impact on the ground war in Ukraine. It wasn’t an airfield or ammo depot or any other militarily relevant target.

This plan is just another example of dangerous escalation by the U.S. and NATO and moves the world one step closer to nuclear war. Ukraine is all too happy to comply.

“Don’t Worry!”

Proponents of escalation dismiss these concerns, saying we’ve already crossed multiple “red lines” and Russia hasn’t directly retaliated against us. Maybe against Ukraine, but not us. We can therefore go ahead and cross another red line, the Russians won’t do anything.

First off, that just provides more evidence that Vladimir Putin isn’t some bloodthirsty maniac who can’t be deterred. He obviously can be, and clearly recognizes the dangers of escalation. He doesn’t want war with the U.S. and NATO. Why would he?

Secondly, and more importantly, NATO’s arming and equipping of Ukraine was never a red line for Russia. Western observers simply assumed that providing HIMARS, ATACMSs and tanks would be red lines for Russia. But Russia never specifically said they were. They warned about the overall threat of escalation, but these weren’t specific red lines.

But direct attacks on Russian soil are a different matter. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Putin himself have issued specific warnings about NATO facilitation of attacks within Russia itself. That’s the difference. Here’s what Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, had to say:

Russia regards all long-range weapons used by Ukraine as already being directly controlled by servicemen from NATO countries. This is no military assistance, this is participation in a war against us. And such actions could well become a casus belliNobody today can rule out the conflict’s transition to its final stage.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand what he means by the conflict’s “final stage.” Now, Medvedev often issues provocative statements. But listen to the comments of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. It’s about as strongly worded as a diplomatic statement can get:

I would like to warn American leaders against miscalculations that could have fatal consequences. For unknown reasons, they underestimate the seriousness of the rebuff they may receive.

Except the reasons aren’t unknown. It’s because the West is led by incompetent and reckless people who don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand that they’re playing with fire.

How Nuclear War Starts

I began studying nuclear war fighting in 1969 and have continued my studies for decades, which includes all the leading thinkers about nuclear war. While the experts disagree in certain respects, they all agree on one thing:

The most likely path to nuclear war is escalation. No one wakes up and says, “Nice day for a nuclear war. Let’s start one.”

Instead, war will be the result of a process of one side raising the stakes, the other side responding in kind and escalating further and so on in successive rounds until one party is backed into a corner and has no choice but to use nuclear weapons in an existential response.

Ironically, in that situation, the party that is less threatened may actually start the nuclear war in order to get the first-strike advantage. The result is annihilation: not just World War III, but possibly the end of most human life on Earth. Those that survive would probably wish they hadn’t.

This is incomprehensible. Ukraine is trying to drag the U.S. directly into the war with U.S. boots on the ground. Events may not get that far.

We may be destroyed in a nuclear World War III if this reckless escalation continues. Will anyone stop it?


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