A thoughtful and useful article: “There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state….”
By Cem Gürdeniz
Published on UWI, Mar 3, 2021
Threatening by nuclear warfare
“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state…. In the absence of change, we are on the path, once again, to prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face… We must actively compete to hold their aggression in check; ceding to their initiatives risks reinforcing their perceptions that the United States is unwilling or unable to respond, which could further embolden them.” I have taken these words by Admiral Charles A. Richard, Commander of the US Strategic Command, from his article called “Forging 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence” on February 2021 issue of Proceedings Magazine, a magazine published by the USNI (US Naval Institute).”
General Tod Wolters, Commander of US European Command and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said in his testimony on his command over NATO Nuclear Forces in Europe in the US Senate on February 25th, 2020: “I am a fan of flexible first use policy“. That is what the two members of the US top brass think only one year apart. The United States did not bring up the first use discussions of nuclear weapons, until the recent years. It had been a global power that does not defend the idea of using first, for many years. Now we see that they have resorted to methods that are used by weaker powers. This is because they know they cannot win a conventional war, and they still wish to continue their hegemony over the global geopolitical arena despite their current declining and weakened situation.
Conventional provocations against China
In recent months, the United States has taken a series of provocative military actions in regions very close to China and Russia. The United States has conducted naval exercises in the South China Sea at the end of July 2020, with warships and naval aircraft, only 40 nautical miles away from Shanghai. They have sortied B1 bombers carrying nuclear weapons over the South China Sea, near Hainan, Paracel, and Spratly Islands, at the end of December 2020. On February 9th, 2021 USS Nimitz and USS Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups conducted exercises in the South China Sea. China have responded to these provocations with the law that permits Chinese Coast Guard to use force against foreign vessels violating the Chinese Maritime Jurisdiction areas, which came into force on February 1st 2021.
Efforts of Russian containment
The provocations against Russia are even more intense. The European Defender 2020 exercise of the US European Forces Command, which was planned to challenge Russia, was held with a small number of participants last year due to the pandemic. It was announced on February 3rd, 2021 by the US European Command/SACEUR General Tod Wolters, that it would be held again in this spring, with much larger participation this time, with the main focuses being the regions of Black Sea and the Balkans. On February 4th 2021 the US Air Force decided to deploy B1 strategic bombers in Norway. The sorties of B1 bombers from Germany and Crete over the Black Sea on the same day, and the continuation of this activity by French aircraft on February 17th, 2021 was the last of these provocations within the plan of Containment of Russia. On February 8th 2021 it was announced that Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia to establish a tripartite military alliance in the Black Sea region, under the leadership of US Secretary of State Blinken and with the initiative of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister.
Provocations in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean Seas
On the other hand, the United States has been establishing an operational forward joint base at Greece/Alexandroupolis and Crete along the line of Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and Turkish Straits, which are the artery of Russian foreign trade and maritime logistics, under the cover of strategic support for Greece over its unfair and unlawful claims against Turkey. Then, in the mid-February 2021, the Foreign Ministers of Southern Cyprus, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq, the UAE, and France have met in Athens under the Phillia (Friendship) Platform. Needless to say, the reason behind this platform is the common enemy, Turkey. Around the same time, it was publicly announced that the United States had begun to establish a new base in Ayn-Diwar, in the Northeast of Syria, east of the Euphrates River, under the pretext of fighting against ISIS. We can clearly say that this base is a existential threat for Turkish border security and national interests. NATO followed the suit and decided to expand its military training and assistance program in Iraq at the Defense Ministers’ Meeting on February 18th 2021, from 500 to 4000 soldiers. When considering the decision of establishing an American base on the East of the Euphrates River with this decision, this could mean an implicit NATO support for the PKK/YPG/PYD, which is completely against Turkish national interests. It is also very concerning that Turkey did not veto this decision at the NATO meeting.
Russia’s counter-actions against the EU and NATO
Let us also note that Russia has responded to these Atlantic provocations, diplomatically over the EU, and militarily with diverse actions. The United States continues to drive the EU over Russia and use it as its proxy. The deportation of three EU officials, during the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell’s visit to Moscow on February 5th 2021, was a major humiliation for the EU. Russia has announced that they were ready to cut their diplomatic ties with the EU, in the face of sanction threats. It was reported in the press that Russian warplanes have exercised mock attacks on American warships exercising in the Black Sea, around the same week. Russian bombers have also conducted exercises near the Norwegian airspace, while reporting a live firing exercise in the Barents Sea, later in the week. So, we can say that Russia has crossed the psychological line against these provocations. In this context, we can say that the level of Norway being used as a proxy by the United States is increasing every single day.
The declining Atlantic destabilizes
In short, the declining Atlantic system is putting the global peace and stability in danger, irresponsibly. The United States cannot make clear and a rational decision anymore to keep the stable global peace. They refrain from understanding that their empire is now just on paper, they take great risks and continue geopolitical impositions via NATO and the EU. The arguments they mostly use are democracy, order of law, norms of the international law, resisting to the authoritarian regimes. We can ask the following question, after mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and riot waves of George Floyd protests, the Congress raid on January 6th 2021 the events that took what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria: “Is this a joke?“. Although the United States’ reliability has been greatly scarred between NATO and the EU countries, it continues to hold onto these countries via oppression and blackmailing. The repelling of the decision to withdraw troops from Germany is an important move as well. On the other hand, Germany was used in a scandalous way, in the scenario of the Russian dissident Navalny. The United States treated Germany as it was one of its colony with its NorthStream-2 project – including the sanctions against Sassnitz Port officials who gave support for the project. At the Munich Security Conference, where I have watched the opening speeches on February 19th 2021 the audience have witnessed the beggary of German Atlanticists to the US not to leave them alone, in the most humiliating way. The opening, in which the leaders of Russia and China were not invited, was a total opera buffa. The NATO plan of expansion to east, in order to contain China and Russia, is now going to a physical phase than a theoretical phase. However, the overwhelming majority of NATO members have strong and deep ties with China through the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).
World cannot be ruled by the Wild West mentality
We can say that the declining and collapsing hegemony of the United States is now one step closer to using weapons in a panic, as a part of their strategy of containment of Russia by NATO and the EU in Europe, while a containment strategy against China on the Pacific front, by taking Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and apparently India to its side, while even not able to ensure its own stability, unity, and integrity on the domestic front. This new strategy of the Biden administration in a mindset similar to of the Wild West, is a dangerous big game for the United States. This is because the potentiality of the United States and its allies to suffer heavy losses in the areas closer to the Russian and Chinese main lands are high when the triggers are pulled -even when the conflict does not reach a nuclear stage-, by the advantage of geography. The US do not take its lessons. They come over from 5,000 miles away, creating a sudden turmoil in these geographies, but the losers are always these states that offer strategic opportunities to the United States, in a post-modern colonial way.
The inevitable end
The United States, which emerged from the World War II with a great power as a global hegemon, used the kinetic energy created by this victory and power, to continue the liberal capitalist system it has established for the past 75 years. But its energy has now being depleted. The failures of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the Russian intervention in South Ossetia in 2008, and to Crimea in 2014, and the 2008-2012 financial crises has formed the beginning of this decline and collapse of the American system, which had been established after 1945. Even today, the United States is a state of unbelievable contradictions. Last week while the news of NASA’s successful spacecraft landing to Mars has occupied the public agenda in the United States, while around 3,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded per day nationwide and the deaths from cold could not be prevented due to prolonged power outages in the State of Texas while 14 million people were unable to access clean water.
There are some who have seen this stretch and collapse
The cover of the March/April 2021 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, which has been in publishing since the end of the First World War, had a realistic headline: “Decline and Fall: Can America Ever Lead Again?”. The reports published by American think tanks after Biden was elected, show how widespread and dramatic this panic caused by the reality, really was. On the other hand, there are some strategists and political scientists who look like they have buried their heads in the sand. For example, in the same magazine, Neo Darwinist Author Robert Kagan, in his article called ” A Superpower, like it or Not: Why Americans Must Accept Their Global Role?”, says that “America’s global power capacity is beyond the inside perception of its role and its place in the world.” Nominated for the best books of 2020 by Bloomberg, “The Wake Up Call-Why Pandemic has Exposed the Weakness of the West, and How to Fix It (Short Books, London, 2020), written by John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge in the past year, deserves some attention of its own. In the book, it is stated that a major state crisis, which has not been seen in history, has emerged with COVID-19, during the final phase of the US declining process, which began after 1964. And this collapse is not only due to an unstable President like Trump, but to the American governmental system as a whole, which has been degenerated for decades.
Those who cannot see the beginning of a new era from Anatolia
The Powers of Asia are now in a stage enough to balance the Atlantic aggression, and this is very crucial for Turkey. Lives of the 12 martyrs we lost on February 14th, 2021 were taken by the hands of the PKK, the puppet of the Atlantic system, which has its ultimate goal set on destroying Turkey’s geopolitical interests in the 21st century. The same system also implies on us to give up on the Blue Homeland, and TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus); to stop preventing the puppet Kurdish state and do as I say, through the PKK, FETO, and the pro-Atlantic mandate supporters inside Turkey. Unfortunately, there are those in Turkey who submit to these impositions. There are those who made their first priority to give up S-400s and try to amend the very basis of our constitution, along the recent debates on the new constitution, which there is no need for.
Our honor damaged in Black Sea
Unfortunately, on February 14th, 2021 while the entire nation was in grief, the newspapers reported that Turkish warships and aircraft have conducted (PASSEX) passage exercises with the American warships and aircraft in the Black Sea on February 9th, 2021. However, on the evening of January 28th, 2021 one of the warships of the passage exercise, the USS Porter, posted an instagram message reading as “US Navy Does Not Stop at Red Light” via the official US Navy account, which was a message to the red lights of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge as it sailed toward the Black Sea. Why was this exercise allowed despite this scandal, which has been a major topic in the domestic media? How can we not take precautions to protect our national pride and see these as a whole, despite all these direct insults and humiliating actions? Is this called a balance of power policy or a multilateral diplomacy? Standing up straight and not bowing down, should not remain only in slogans. The only indicator of the governments is the work they do. (Let us also remind you that there is still no reaction to the illegal, bandit-like boarding on Turkish containership MV Roseline A, by the German warship Hamburg in the Mediterranean on November 22nd, 2020.)
On the other hand, we should be aware of incidents that could cause provocations in the Black Sea, where we have the most crucial national interests lie. The declining hegemony can be irresponsible. The important thing is to keep away from such irresponsible moves. The important thing is to see the greater geopolitical game being played here, to be able to calculate the most appropriate course of action and to continue cruising to the destination, which we will eventually reach. Any wind would not help the ship, which changes its course all the time and does not even know which destination it will reach. The only thing they do is to drift aimlessly in the ocean and to get stranded eventually.
Admiral Cem Gürdeniz graduated from Turkish Naval Academy in 1979. As a deck officer, he served in different in destroyers and frigates. He assumed the Command of guided missile frigate TCG Gaziantep and the Third Destroyer Division. He completed his education in Turkish Naval War College and Armed Forces College. He holds two masters degrees from US Naval Postgraduate School and Université Libre Brussels (ULB) in personnel management and international politics respectively.