From the April 2007 Idaho Observer:

Part 2: Putin and the geopolitics of the "New Cold War"

(Or—What happens when cowboys don’t shoot straight like they used to)

In part 1 of this article last month, we were clearly able to see that the Bush administration had secretly resumed the Cold War—and that Russian President Vladimir Putin stated upon the world stage for all to hear that he is not impressed with how the U.S. has been projecting its political, economic and military might. Russia under Putin, now the world’s second largest producer of oil and natural gas, is forging global alliances and challenging U.S. "nuclear primacy." Where the U.S. could have promoted "world peace" after "winning" the Cold War, it chose to project its sole-superpower status on the world in a megalomaniacal way. Rather than make the world safe for democracy and freedom for all men, the U.S. has chosen to resume the Cold War and place the entire planet under the threat of a global thermonuclear "first strike."

In the 1983 movie "War Games" the computer geek played by Matthew Broderick hacked into the NORAD system and was given a choice of "games" to "play." If you were a high school student or a megalomaniac and were given the "game" choices above, which would you choose? It appears that the U.S. has been preparing to "play" global thermonuclear war for the last several years.

By F. William Engdahl

U.S. nuclear primacy

During the early 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, the Yeltsin government had asked Washington for a series of mutual reductions in the size of each superpower’s nuclear missile and weapons arsenal. Russian nuclear stockpiles were aging and Moscow saw little further need to remain armed to its nuclear teeth once the Cold War had ended.

Washington clearly saw in this a golden opportunity to go for nuclear primacy, for the first time since the 1950s, when Russia first developed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile delivery capability for its growing nuclear weapons arsenal.

"Nuclear primacy" is an aggressive offensive policy. It means that one superpower, U.S.A, would have the possibility to launch a full nuclear first strike at Russia’s nuclear sites and destroy enough targets in the first blow that Russia would be crippled from making any effective retaliation.

With no credible threat of retaliation, Russia had no credible nuclear deterrent. It was at the mercy of the supreme U.S. power. Never before in history had the prospect of such ultimate power in the hands of one single nation seemed so near at hand.

This stealthy move by the Pentagon for nuclear primacy has, up until now, been carried out in utmost secrecy, disguised amid rhetoric of a U.S.A-Russia "partnership for peace."

Rather than take advantage of the opportunity to climb down from the brink of nuclear annihilation following the end of the Cold War, Washington has turned instead to upgrading its nuclear arsenal, at the same time it was reducing its numbers.

While the rest of the world was still in shock over the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration unilaterally moved to rip up its earlier treaty obligations with Russia to not build anti-missile defense systems.


Bush abandons U.S./Russian nuke non-proliferation agreement

On December 13, 2001, President Bush announced that the United States was unilaterally abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia, and committing $8 billion for the 2002 Budget to build a "national missile defense" system. It was pushed through Congress, promoted as a move to protect U.S. territory from rogue terror attacks, from states including North Korea or Iraq.

The rogue argument was a fraud, a plausible cover story designed to sneak the policy reversal through without debate in the wake of the September 11 shock.

The repeal of the ABM treaty was little understood outside qualified military circles. In fact, it represented the most dangerous step by the United States towards nuclear war since the 1950s. Washington is going at a fast pace to the goal of total nuclear superiority; global nuclear primacy.

Washington had dismantled its highly lethal MX missiles by 2005. But that’s misleading. At the same time, it significantly improved its remaining ICBM’s by installing the MX’s high-yield nuclear warheads and advanced re-entry vehicles on its Minuteman ICBMs. The guidance system of the Minuteman has been upgraded to match that of the dismantled MX.

The Pentagon began replacing aging ballistic missiles on its submarines with far more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles with new, larger-yield, nuclear warheads.

The navy shifted more of its nuclear ballistic missile-launching SSBN submarines to the Pacific to patrol the blind spot of Russia’s early warning radar net as well as patrolling near China’s coast. The U.S. Air Force completed refitting its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles believed invisible to Russian air defense radar. New enhanced avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers gave them the ability to fly at extremely low altitudes avoiding radar detection as well.


Nukes for the New American Century

A vast number of stockpiled weapons is not necessary to the new global power projection. Little-publicized new technology has enabled the U.S. to deploy a "leaner and meaner" nuclear strike force. A case in point is the navy’s successful program to upgrade the fuse on the W-76 nuclear warheads sitting atop most U.S. submarine-launched missiles, which makes them able to hit very hard targets such as ICBM silos.

No one has ever presented credible evidence that Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah or any other organization on the U.S. State Department’s Terrorist Organization Black List possessed nuclear missiles in hardened underground silos. Aside from the U.S. and perhaps Israel, only Russia and to a far smaller degree, China, have nuclear missiles in any number.



In 1991, at the presumed end of the Cold War, in a gesture to lower the danger of strategic nuclear miscalculation, the U.S. Air Force was ordered to remove its fleet of nuclear bombers from "Ready Alert" status. After 2004 that, too, changed.

Conplan 8022 again put U.S. Air Force long-range B-52 and other bombers on "Alert" status. The Commander of the 8th Air Force stated at the time that his nuclear bombers were "essentially on alert to plan and execute global strikes" on behalf of the U.S. Strategic Command or STRATCOM, based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Conplan 8022 included not only long-range nuclear and conventional weapons launched from the U.S., but also nuclear and other bombs deployed throughout Europe, Japan and other regions. It gave the U.S. what the Pentagon termed "Global Strike" capability, the ability to hit any point on the earth or sky with devastating force, nuclear as well as conventional. Since the Rumsfeld June, 2004, readiness order, the U.S. Strategic Command has boasted it was ready to execute an attack anywhere on earth "in half a day or less," from the moment the president gave the order.

In the January 24, 2006 edition of the London Financial Times, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Victoria Nuland, former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and wife of a leading Washington neo-conservative warhawk, declared that the U.S. wanted a "globally deployable military force" that would operate everywhere – from Africa to the Middle East and beyond.

The deployment would include Japan and Australia as well as the NATO nations. Nuland added, "It’s a totally different animal (sic) whose ultimate role will be subject to U.S. desires and adventures."

Subject to U.S. desires and adventures? Those were hardly calming words given the record of Nuland’s former boss in faking intelligence to justify wars in Iraq and elsewhere.

Now, with the deployment of even a crude missile defense, under Conplan 8022, the U.S. would have what Pentagon planners called "escalation dominance"—the ability to win a war at any level of violence, including nuclear war.

As some more sober minds argued, were Russia and China to respond to these U.S. moves with even minimal self-protection measures, the risks of a global nuclear conflagration by miscalculation would climb to levels far beyond any seen even during the Cuba Missile Crisis or the danger days of the Cold War.


Mackinder’s nightmare

In a few brief years Washington has managed to create the nightmare of Britain’s father of geopolitics, Sir Halford Mackinder, the horror scenario feared by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and other Cold War veterans of U.S. foreign policy who have studied and understood the power calculus of Mackinder (See The IO, Nov., 2006).

The vast resources-rich and population-rich Eurasian Heartland and landmass is building economic and military ties with one another for the first time in history. The main reason these alliances are forming is for mutual protection against the increasingly aggressive and belligerent attitude the U.S. is projecting on the world.

The driver of the emerging Eurasian geopolitical cooperation is obvious. China, with the world’s largest population and an economy expanding at double digits, urgently needs stable alliance partners who could provide her with energy security. Russia, an energy Goliath, needs secure trade outlets independent of Washington control to develop and rebuild its tattered economy. These complimentary needs form the seed bed of what Washington and U.S. strategists define as a new Cold War, this one over energy—oil and natural gas above all. Military might is the currency this time around, as in the earlier Cold War.

By 2006 Moscow and Beijing had clearly decided to upgrade their cooperation with their Eurasian neighbors. They both agreed to turn to a moribund loose organization that they had co-founded in 2001, in the wake of the 1998 Asia crisis, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or SCO. The SCO had highly significant members, geopolitically. SCO included oil-rich Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as China and Russia. By 2006 Beijing and Moscow began to view the SCO as a nascent counterweight to increasingly arbitrary American power politics. The organization was discussing projects of energy cooperation and even military mutual defense.

The pressures of an increasingly desperate U.S. foreign policy are forcing an unlikely "coalition of the unwilling" across Eurasia. The potentials of such Eurasian cooperation between China, Kazakhstan and Iran are real enough and obvious. The missing link, however, is the military security that could make it invulnerable or nearly, to the sabre-rattling from Washington and NATO. Only one power on the face of the earth has the nuclear and military base and know-how to provide that—Vladimir Putin’s Russia.


The Russian bear sharpens its nuclear teeth…

With NATO troops creeping up to Russia’s borders on all sides, U.S. nuclear B-52s and SSBN submarines being deployed to strategic sites on Russia’s perimeter, Washington extending its new missile shield from Greenland to the UK, to Australia, Japan and now even Poland and the Czech Republic, it should be no surprise that the Russian government is responding.

Washington planners may have incorrectly, or arrogantly assumed that the once-mighty Red Army was a shell of its former glory. But, while Russia may have slipped into post-Soviet reconstruction depression and chaos, she never let go of her one trump card—the former Soviet Union’s strategic nuclear arsenal.

During the entire economic chaos of the Yeltsin years, Russia never stopped producing state-of-the art military technology.

In May 2003, some months after George Bush unilaterally ripped up the bilateral Anti-Missile Defense Treaty with Moscow, invaded Afghanistan and bombed Baghdad into subjugation, Russia’s President delivered a new message in his annual State of the Union Address to the Russian nation.

Putin spoke for the first time publicly of the need to modernize Russia’s nuclear deterrent by creating new types of weapons, "which will ensure the defense capability of Russia and its allies in the long term."

In response to the abrogation of the ABM treaty by the Bush administration and, with it, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II, Russia predictably stopped withdrawing and destroying its SS-18 MIRVed missiles. START II had called for a full phase-out of multiple warhead or MIRVed missiles, by both sides by 2007.

At that point Russia began to reconfigure its SS-18 MIRV missiles to extend their service life to 2016. Fully loaded SS-18 missiles had a range of 11,000 kilometers. In addition, it redeployed mobile rail-based SS-24 M1 nuclear missiles.

In its 2003 budget, the Russian government made funding of its SS-27 or Topol-M single-warhead missiles a "priority." And the Defense Ministry resumed test launches of both SS-27 and Topol-M.

During a personal inspection of the first regiment of Russian mobile Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles in December 2006, Putin told reporters the deployment of mobile Topol-M ICBMs were crucial for Russia’s national security, stating, "This is a significant step forward in improving our defense capabilities."

Without naming the obvious U.S. threat, he declared, "Maintaining a strategic balance will mean that our strategic deterrent forces should be able to guarantee the neutralization of any potential aggressor, no matter what modern weapons systems he possesses."

It was unmistakable who he had in mind, and it wasn’t the al Qaeda cave-dwellers of Tora Bora.

Putin also clearly did not have France in mind when he referred to the unnamed "he." President Putin had personally given French President Chirac a tour of one of Russia’s missile facilities that January, where Putin explained the latest Russian missile advances. "He knows what I am talking about," Putin told reporters afterwards, referring to Chirac’s grasp of the weapon’s significance.

Similarly, Putin did not have North Korea, China, Pakistan or India in mind, nor Great Britain with its aging nuclear capacity, nor even Israel. The only power surrounding Russia with weapons of mass destruction was its old Cold War foe—the United States.


Mutually assured destruction back on track

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced at the same time that the military would deploy another 69 silo-based and mobile Topol-M missile systems over the following decade. Just after his Munich speech (Feb. 10, 2007) Putin announced he had named his old KGB/FSB friend, Ivanov to be his First Deputy Prime Minister overseeing Russia’s entire military industry.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported that, as of January 2006, Russia possessed 927 nuclear delivery vehicles and 4,279 nuclear warheads against 1,255 and 5,966 respectively for the United States. No two other powers on the face of the earth even came close to these massive overkill capacities. This was the ultimate reason all U.S. foreign policy, military and economic, since the end of the Cold War covertly had, as an endgame priority, the complete deconstruction of Russia as a functioning state.

In April, 2006, the Russian military tested the K65M-R missile, a new missile designed to penetrate U.S. missile defense systems. It was part of testing and deploying a uniform warhead for both land and sea-based ballistic missiles. The new missile was hypersonic and capable of changing its flight path.

Four months earlier, Russia successfully tested its Bulava ICBM, a naval version of the Topol-M. It was launched from one of its Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarines in the White Sea, travelling a thousand miles before hitting a dummy target successfully on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Bulava missiles are scheduled to be installed on Russian Borey-class nuclear submarines beginning 2008.

The Commander of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, General Nikolai Solovtsov, was more explicit. Commenting on the successful test of the K65M-R at Russia’s Kapustin Yar missile test site last April, he declared that U.S. plans for a missile defense system, "could upset strategic stability. The planned scale of the United States’ deployment of a…missile defense system is so considerable that the fear that it could have a negative effect on the parameters of Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential is quite justified."

Put simply, he referred to the now open U.S. quest for Full Spectrum Dominance—Nuclear Primacy.


Endgame ironies

The unilateral military agenda of Washington has predictably provoked a major effort by Russia to defend herself. The prospects of a global nuclear conflagration, by miscalculation, increase by the day. At what point might an American President, God forbid, decide to order a pre-emptive full-scale nuclear attack on Russia to prevent Russia from rebuilding a state of mutual deterrence?

The new Armageddon is not exactly the Armageddon which George Bush’s Christian fanatics pray for as they dream of their Rapture. It is an Armageddon in which Russia and the United States would irradiate the planet and, perhaps, end human civilization in the process.

Ironically, oil, in the context of Washington’s bungled Iraq war and soaring world oil prices after 2003, has enabled Russia to begin the arduous job of rebuilding its collapsed economy and its military capacities. Putin’s Russia is no longer a begger-thy-neighbor former Superpower. It’s using its oil weapon and rebuilding its nuclear ones.

Bush’s America is a hollowed-out, debt-ridden economy and he is trying to prop up the dollar and its role as world sole Superpower by playing its last card: Military power.

Putin has obviously realized that his new-found "partner-in-prayer," George W., has a large black spot hiding the secrets of his heart. It reminds me of a popular country and western ballad from the late Tammy Wynette, "Cowboys don’t shoot straight like they used to. They look you in the eye and lie with their white hats on."

That’s certainly the case with the famous cowboy of Crawford, Texas in his dealings with Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

F. William Engdahl, Global Research Associate Editor, is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, and the soon-to-be published Seeds of Destruction: The Dark Side of Gene Manipulation.

This article was drawn from his new book, in preparation, on the history of the American Century. He may be reached through his website:

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