Putin Has Given the United States an Ultimatum
Putin demands not just apologies, but a change in America’s entire policy
The author is political observer at International News Agency Rossiya Segodnya
After the President of the Russian Federation decreed that Russia was suspending implementation of the agreement with the US on disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, and after submission of a draft law to parliament, the media started to argue about whether this was related to the breakdown of cooperation on Syria. The second question was why Russia, knowing that the United States was not fulfilling its side of the deal, responded only after several years.
Some nuclear experts say that the deal benefited Russia. That’s possible; I’m not an expert so I can’t say whether they’re being objective. Besides, what’s profitable for the nuclear industry can be non-beneficial for security.
Although I think Russia has no special security problems, it has enough nuclear power to strike a deathblow to the USA, and Washington has admitted that. There is also enough material to make new warheads. In case of a major nuclear exchange, it would be no use to produce another batch of warheads, aside from that being impossible. The problem would be to preserve what remained of civilization at the level of the Stone Age.
As for the Syrian issue, this is not the first time the US signs agreements and then breaks them. Russia’s response could clearly not be compared to the US’s official refusal to continue cooperation.
Although Putin has withdrawn Russia from the reprocessing agreement, he announced that it could be restarted, under certain conditions, including canceling all sanctions against Russia, compensating Moscow for losses resulting not only from those sanctions but from Russian’s counter-sanctions, canceling the Magnitsky Act, reducing the American military presence in NATO countries near Russia’s border, and ending the policy of confrontation with Moscow.
Putin’s demands can only be defined as an ultimatum.
This happened once before, in 1861, when Great Britain delivered an ultimatum to Washington in relation to the Trent Affair, during the American Civil War. Back then, though in severe straits, America only partially satisfied British demands, although there was nothing humiliating about them. The US had violated International law, arresting people on neutral (British) ships, infringing the sovereignty of Great Britain, nearly provoking a war. After disavowing the captain and releasing the arrested people, America refused to apologize.
Now Putin demands not just apologies and the release of a couple of prisoners, but a change of America’s entire policy, besides compensation. This is an impractical and insulting demand for unconditional surrender, in a hybrid war which Washington does not consider irreparably lost.
Only Great Britain claimed something similar from the US, before the end of the American Revolution, when it was still a rebellious subject. During the last hundred years, no one could imagine talking to Washington like that. Putin clearly and intentionally humiliated the US, showing that it could be talked to the way it speaks to the rest of the world - only more so.
What was Putin responding to? Did he really think the US would carry out the agreement between Kerry and Lavrov on Syria? Was he really disappointed? Russia was aware that Washington had not been adhering to the Plutonium Pact for years, but this benefited its nuclear industry, which practically became a global monopoly and didn’t care about the technical limitations that prevented the US from disposing of its weapons-grade plutonium as stipulated in the agreement.
Russia’s tough and almost immediate response followed an announcement by the US State Department that Russia would be sending body bags home from Syria, losing its planes, and that terrorists could attack Russian cities.
Immediately following that statement, the Pentagon announced its readiness to strike a preventive nuclear blow on Russia, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Moscow was aware of the US intention to start an air war against Syrian troops and Russia’s legal presence there.
What other reasons are there for Putin’s ultimatum?
Missile defense, air defense and Strategic Missile Forces training to repel a nuclear attack on Russia, including a launch under attack, took place six months ago. Exercises of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (involving up to 40 million civilians), are announced for the coming days to check the readiness of the civil defense apparatus for nuclear war and to inform the population of emergency measures.
If we put all this together, we see that the US has long unofficially intimidated Russia with the threat of nuclear conflict, while Moscow let it be known that it was ready and was not going to retreat.
Now, the Washington hawks have decided to raise the ante during the last months of Obama’s presidency, uncertain of Clinton’s victory. They have come to an extremely dangerous point, when conflict has begun to develop independently. At this stage, nuclear Armageddon could occur at any moment, due to the inadequacy of Pentagon and White House personnel.
Moscow seized the initiative and raised the stakes, transforming the confrontation in another way. Unlike the United States, it did not threaten war, but gave a tough political and economic response, which, rather than making Obama’s dream come true, threatens to ruin the US economy should it misbehave.
Russia’s action has seriously undermined US international prestige of the United States, showing that America can be beaten with its own weapon. As you give, so you receive. With this sequence of events, we could see hundreds of American elites in the dock in the Hague, not just in our lifetime, but before the end of the first term of the next American president.
The US must choose either to implement its threats and launch a nuclear war, or put up with the fact that this is no longer a unipolar world, and begin to behave accordingly.
We do not know what Washington will choose. There are enough ideologically-driven, stupid people in the American political establishment ready to immolate themselves in a nuclear fire together with the rest of humanity, rather than accept the end of US hegemony. They will have to choose, because the longer Washington pretends that nothing happened, the more its vassals (who are called allies but are actually dependents) will ignore American ambitions and defect to the new multipolar power.
The US can wait till it is no longer even one center of a multipolar world. Not only Africans, Asians and Latin-Americans but also Europeans will take revenge on the former hegemon for past humiliations. And they are not so considerate as Russia.
Finally, Putin’s ultimatum was a response to all those who asked indignantly why Russian tanks had not captured Kiev, Lvov, — and Warsaw and Paris — back in 2014, wondering what Putin’s plan was.
I wrote then that if you are going to have a confrontation with the world hegemon, you need to make sure that you will be able to respond to anything it does. The economy, the military, the government and society all need to be ready. If you’re not ready, you need to play for time.
Now everything is ready and the cards are on the table. We’ll see how the US responds. But the geopolitical picture will never be the same again. The world has already changed. The glove has been thrown down at the United States, and it has not had the courage to immediately pick it up.
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