Moscow has issued an ultimatum to USA/NATO. It is this: seriously negotiate on the issues laid out here and here. Some of them are non-negotiable.
We are making it clear that we are ready to talk about changing from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process that really will strengthen the military security… of all the countries in the OCSE, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space. We’ve told them that if that doesn’t work out, we will create counter-threats; then it will be too late to ask us why we made such decisions and positioned such weapons systems.
Мы как раз даем понять, что мы готовы разговаривать о том, чтобы военный сценарий или военно-технический сценарий перевести в некий политический процесс, который реально укрепит военную безопасность <…> всех государств на пространстве ОБСЕ, Евроатлантики, Евразии. А если этого не получится, то мы уже обозначили им (НАТО – прим. ТАСС), тогда мы тоже перейдем в вот этот режим создания контругроз, но тогда будет поздно нас спрашивать, почему мы приняли такие решения, почему мы разместили такие системы.
— Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko quoted by TASS
Ultimatums always have an “Or Else” clause. What is the “or else” in this case? I don’t know but I’ve been thinking and reading other peoples’ thoughts and some ideas/guesses/suppositions follow. They are the order that they occurred to me. Whether Moscow has such a list in front of it or not, it certainly has many “counter-threats” it can use.
Why now? Two possible answers, each of which may be true. US/NATO have been using “salami tactics” against Russia for years; Moscow has decided that a second Ukraine crisis in one year is one thin slice too many. Second: Moscow may judge that, in the USA’s precipitous decline, this will be the last chance that there will be sufficient central authority to form a genuine agreement; an agreement that will avoid a catastrophic war. (The so-called Thucydides Trap).
Of course I don’t know what Putin & Co will do and we do have to factor in the existence of a new international player: Putin, Xi and Partners. Xi has just made it clear that Beijing supports Moscow’s “core interests”. It is likely that any “counter-threats” will be coordinated. The Tabaquis have responded as expected but maybe (let’s hope so) Washington is taking it more seriously.
Other commentaries I think are worth reading: Martyanov, Bernhard, Saker, Doctorow. The Western media is worthless as a source of independent thinking (typical clichéfest from the BBC – bolstered by The Misquotation) but maybe the WaPo shows that the wind is starting to blow from a different quarter: “The Cold War is over. Why do we still treat Russia like the Evil Empire?“
To my CSIS readers: the world is at a grave inflection point and the West had better concentrate its attention. Moscow and Beijing don’t depend on me for advice and I’m not talking to them: regard this as one of the briefing notes that I used to write. Moscow is serious and it does have real “counter-threats”.
- Moscow could publish a list of targets in NATO countries that can and will be hit by nuclear or non-nuclear standoff weapons in the event of hostilities. These would likely include headquarters, airbases, port facilities, logistics facilities, ammunition dumps, military bases, munitions factories and so on.
- Moscow could station medium and short-range nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad and Belarus. The latter requires agreement from Minsk but Belarus President Lukashenka has hinted that it will be granted. Moscow could then make it clear that they are aimed at NATO targets.
- Moscow could station Iskanders and have lots of aircraft in the air with Kinzhals and let it be known that they are aimed at NATO targets.
- Moscow could make a sudden strike by stand-off weapons and special forces that destroys the Azov Battalion in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow would see two advantages: 1) it would remove the principal threat to the LDNR and 2) it would change the correlation of forces in Kiev. It would also be a live demonstration of Russia’s tremendous military power.
- Moscow could remind the West of the meaning of Soviet Marshal Ogarkov’s observation that precision weapons have, to a degree, made nuclear weapons obsolete. A prescient remark, somewhat ahead of its time 35 years ago, but realised now by Russia’s arsenal of hypersonic precision missiles.
- The Russian Navy operates the quietest submarines in the world; Moscow could could make and publish a movie of the movements of some NATO ship as seen through the periscope.
- I believe (suspect/guess) that the Russian Armed Forces have the capability to blind Aegis-equipped ships. Moscow could do so in public in a way that cannot be denied. Without Aegis, the US surface navy is just targets. Objection: this is a war-winning secret and should not be lightly used. Unless, of course, the Russian Armed Forces have something even more effective.
- Moscow could form more shock forces like the First Guards Tank Army.
- Russia has large and very powerful airborne forces – much stronger than the light infantry of other countries, they are capable of seizing and holding territory against all but heavy armoured attacks. And they’re being increased. Moscow could demonstrate their capability in an exercise showing a sudden seizing of key enemy facilities like a port or major airfield, inviting NATO representatives to watch from the target area.
- The Russian Armed Forces could do some obvious targetting of the next NATO element to come close to Russia’s borders; they could aggressively ping ships and aircraft that get too close and publicise it.
- Moscow could make a public demonstration of what Poseidons can do and show in a convincing way that they are at sea off the US coast. Ditto with Burevestnik. In short Moscow could directly threaten the US mainland with non-nuclear weapons. Something that no one has been able to do since 1814.
- Moscow could reveal some new wonder weapons (several have been revealed this week: super torpedo, Okhotnik dropping PGM, RPV shooting down helicopter target.)
- Does the Club-K Container Missile System actually exist? (If so, Moscow could give a public demonstration, if not pretend that it does). Either way, Moscow could publicly state that they will be all over the place and sell them to countries threatened by USA/NATO.
- Moscow could publicly transfer some key military technologies to China with licence to build them there.
- Moscow could make a formal military treaty with China with an “Article 5” provision.
- Moscow could make a formal military treaty with Belarus including significant stationed strike forces.
- Moscow could station forces in Central Asian neighbours.
- Russia and Chinese warships accompanied by long-range strike aircraft could do a “freedom of navigation” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Moscow could recall ambassadors, reduce foreign missions, restrict movement of diplomats in Russia.
- Moscow could ban all foreign NGOs immediately without going through the present process.
- Moscow could recognise LDNR and sign defence treaties.
- Moscow could work on Turkey, Hungary and other dissident EU/NATO members.
- Moscow could give military aid to or station weapons in Western Hemisphere countries.
- Beijing could do something in its part of the world to show its agreement and coordination with Moscow raising the threat of a two front conflict.
- Moscow could close airspace to civil airlines of the countries that sanction Russia.
- Moscow could declare that Russian exports must now be paid for in Rubles, gold, Renminbi or Euros (Euros? It depends).
- Moscow could announce that Nord Stream 2 will be abandoned if certification if delayed past a certain date. (Personally, I am amused by how many people think that shutting it down would cause more harm to Russia than to Germany: for the first it’s only money and Russia has plenty of that; for the second….)
- Moscow could stop all sales of anything to USA (rocket motors and oil especially).
- Moscow could announce that no more gas contracts to countries that sanction it will be made after the current ones end. This is a first step. See below.
- As a second and more severe step, Moscow could break all contracts with countries that sanction Russia on the grounds that a state of hostility exists. That is, all oil and gas deliveries stop immediately.
- Moscow could announce that no more gas will be shipped to or through Ukraine on the grounds that a state of hostility exists.
- Russia and China could roll out their counter-SWIFT ASAP.
- Moscow could stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine (Novorossiya) supporting secession movements.
- Moscow could order special forces to attack key nazi organisations throughout Ukraine.
- Moscow could order special forces to attack military facilities throughout Ukraine.
But I’m sure that whatever “counter-threats” Moscow comes up with will be powerful and surprise the West. My recommendation is that USA/NATO take the ultimatums seriously.
After all, the Russian proposals really are mutually beneficial – their theme is that nobody should threaten anybody and if anybody should feel threatened, there should be serious talks to resolve the issue.
Security is mutual:
if all feel secure, then all are secure;
if one feels insecure, then none is secure.
As we now see: when Russia feels threatened by what USA/NATO do, it can threaten back. Better to live in a world in which nobody is threatening anybody and everybody feels secure.
George Kennan foresaw this a quarter of a century ago:
I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.