By Caitlin Johnstone / Substack
Things are escalating more and more rapidly between the US-centralized power structure and the few remaining nations with the will and the means to stand against its demands for total obedience, namely China, Russia, and Iran. The world is becoming increasingly split between two groups of governments who are becoming increasingly hostile toward each other, and you don’t have to be a historian to know it’s probably a bad sign when that happens. Especially in the age of nuclear weapons.
The US State Department’s Victoria Nuland is now saying that the US is supporting Ukrainian strikes on Crimea, drawing sharp rebukes from Moscow with a stern reminder that the peninsula is a “red line” for the Kremlin which will result in escalations in the conflict if crossed. On Friday, Ukraine’s President Zelensky told the press that Kyiv is preparing a large offensive for the “de-occupation” of Crimea, which Moscow has considered a part of the Russian Federation since its annexation in 2014.
As Anatol Lieven explained for Jacobin earlier this month, this exact scenario is currently the one most likely to lead to a sequence of escalations ending in nuclear war. In light of the aforementioned recent revelations, the opening paragraph of Lieven’s article is even more chilling to read now than it was when it came out a couple of weeks ago:
The greatest threat of nuclear catastrophe that humanity has ever faced is now centered on the Crimean peninsula. In recent months, the Ukrainian government and army have repeatedly vowed to reconquer this territory, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014. The Russian establishment, and most ordinary Russians, for their part believe that holding Crimea is vital to Russian identity and Russia’s position as a great power. As a Russian liberal acquaintance (and no admirer of Putin) told me, “In the last resort, America would use nuclear weapons to save Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, and if we have to, we should use them to save Crimea.”
And that’s just Russia. The war in Ukraine is being used to escalate against all powers not aligned with the US-centralized alliance, with recent developments including drone attacks on an Iranian weapons factory which reportedly arms Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and Chinese companies being sanctioned for “backfill activities in support of Russia’s defence sector” following US accusations that the Chinese government is preparing to arm Russia in the war.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been holding multiple meetings with top military officials regarding potential future attacks on Iran to neutralize the alleged threat of Iran developing a nuclear arsenal, a “threat” that Netanyahu has personally been lying about for years.
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If you’ve been reading Antiwar.com (and if you care about this stuff you probably should be), you’ve been seeing new articles about the latest imperial escalations against China on a near-daily basis now. Sometimes they come out multiple times per day; this past Thursday Dave DeCamp put out two completely separate news stories titled “US Plans to Expand Military Presence in Taiwan, a Move That Risks Provoking China” and “Philippines in Talks With US, Australia on Joint South China Sea Patrols“. Taiwan and the South China Sea are two powderkeg flashpoints where war could quickly erupt at any time in a number of different ways.
If you know where to look for good updates on the behavior of the US-centralized empire and you follow them from day to day, it’s clear that things are accelerating toward a global conflict of unimaginable horror. As bad as things look right now, the future our current trajectory has us pointed toward is much, much, much worse.
Empire apologists will frame this trajectory toward global disaster as an entirely one-sided affair, with bloody-fanged tyrants trying to take over the world because they are evil and hate freedom, and the US-centralized alliance either cast in the role of poor widdle victim or heroic defender of the weak and helpless depending on which generates more sympathy on that day.
These people are lying. Any intellectually honest research into the west’s aggressions and provocations against both Russia and China will show you that Russia and China are reacting defensively to the empire’s campaign to secure US unipolar planetary hegemony; you might not agree with those reactions, but you cannot deny that they are reactions to a clear and deliberate aggressor.
This is important to understand, because whenever you say that something must be done to try and avert an Atomic Age world war, you’ll get empire apologists saying “Well go protest in Moscow and Beijing then,” as though the US power alliance is some kind of passive witness to all this. Which is of course complete bullshit; if World War III does indeed befall us, it will be because of choices that were made by the drivers of the western empire while ignoring off-ramp after off-ramp.
This tendency to flip reality and frame the western imperial power structure as the reactive force for peace against malevolent warmongers serves to help quash the emergence of a robust anti-war movement in the west, because if your own government is virtuous and innocent in a conflict then there’s no good reason to go protesting it. But that’s exactly what urgently needs to happen, because these people are driving us to our doom.
In fact, it is fair to say that there has never in history been a time when the need to forcefully oppose the warmongering of our own western governments was more urgent. The attacks on Vietnam and Iraq were horrific atrocities which unleashed unfathomable suffering upon our world, but they did not pose any major existential threat to the world as a whole. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq killed millions; we’re talking about a conflict that can kill billions.
Each of the World Wars was in turn the worst single thing that happened to our species as a whole up until that point in history. World War I was the worst thing that ever happened until World War II happened, and if World War III happens it will almost certainly make World War II look like a schoolyard tussle. This is because all of the major players in that conflict would be armed with nuclear weapons, and at some point some of them are going to be faced with strong incentives to use them. Once that happens, Mutually Assured Destruction ceases to protect us from armageddon, and the “Mutual” and “Destruction” components come in to play.
None of this needs to happen. There is nothing written in adamantine which says the US must rule the world with an iron fist no matter the cost and no matter the risk. There is nothing inscribed upon the fabric of reality which says nations can’t simply coexist peacefully and collaborate toward the common good of all beings, can’t turn away from our primitive impulses of domination and control, can’t do anything but drift passively toward nuclear annihilation all because a few imperialists in Washington convinced everyone to buy into the doctrine of unipolarism.
But we’re not going to turn away from this trajectory unless the masses start using the power of our numbers to force a change from warmongering, militarism and continual escalation toward diplomacy, de-escalation and detente. We need to start organizing against those who would steer our species into extinction, and working to pry their hands away from the steering wheel if they refuse to turn away. We need to resist all efforts to cast inertia on this most sacred of all priorities, and we need to start moving now. We’re all on a southbound bus to oblivion, and it’s showing no signs of stopping.