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Months of disquieting and needless escalation between the United States and Russia over Syria and the Asia-Pacific theater quickened feverishly to near outright hostility over the past 48 hours, and — considering semantics from both ends suggestive of antebellum blame-casting — it’s past time to pay attention.
Indeed, though a few analysts still dismissively liken the tensions to so much blustery rhetoric, a growing number obstinate U.S. posturing about Russian aggression hasn’t been taken so lightly by President Vladimir Putin and his rapidly amassing allies.
Additionally, it now seems the U.S. has backed its incessant finger-pointing with the subtle language necessary to undertake what could best, if ironically, be termed a ‘defensive first strike.’
While full-scale nuclear war might indeed be an outside possibility at this early date, the specter of full military engagement is quickly materializing on several fronts. To understand how we arrived so near this precipice, a series of events and statements over the previous month should be considered contextually with those of the last two days.
After officially accusing the Russian government on Friday of attempting to influence the presidential election by hacking into and leaking documents from the Democratic National Committee servers — which, despite fast efforts to save face, undoubtedly tarnished the reputations of party members and nominee Hillary Clinton — President Obama offered an alarming statement Tuesday giving that accusation sharp teeth.
Speculation on an unnamed option largely centered around some form of cyber response, given the original accusation of hacking — however, it must be noted, two years ago the Obama administration hacking an act of cyberterrorism and an utmost security priority — ‘terrorism’ being of critical relevance given the ongoing war against it.
Notably, U.S. officials have previously asserted cyber attacks, in some cases, could a military response.
Without unassailable proof the Russian government hacked the DNC, any putative ‘response’ by the U.S. — proportional or not, cyber-oriented or not — would inherently be an aggressive first strike. Given the dispute over definitive evidence tracing the hack to Russia, any follow-through could conceivably be considered an act of war and/or terrorism.
As such, an actual response of any nature has been posited unlikely — however, in consideration of last week’s belligerent by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, downplaying the potential for a response could be foolhardy.
Milley told attendees of an annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army.
Milley went on to note Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have and
Quoting an unnamed senior Russian official, Milley advised
Whether or not Russian military would wind up fighting in Europe could be an entirely moot issue, as NATO has been amassing thousands of troops in Eastern Europe under the premise of protecting nervous nations from possible invasion. That assemblage of troops has been cited by Russia as posing an aggressive — which officials from the U.S. and its allies have laughed off as absurd.
Russian Foreign Ministry officials responded by reiterating the perception of American aggression, as the ,
On Tuesday, a startlingly broad ‘recommendation’ published in , Russian state officials and government workers were advised to immediately pull family members from study abroad programs — or any other endeavors — in Europe to return to the motherland. Translated by and cited by , political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky — albeit noting the controversy of the recommendation — said, in part,
Russia also issued two altogether unambiguous admonitions last Thursday, stating continued U.S. endeavors in Syria could lead to all-out war.
Observers rightly focused on the latter portion of the previous statement as a warning to the United States that Russia would not hesitate to strike first, ask no questions later — since it would be justified in defending ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in a sovereign nation by request.
However, the second warning — after the U.S. bombing of Assad’s troops in mid-September flared contention — constitutes, in actuality, the greater portent.
Dropping all pretenses, he added,
China, which had originally intimated support for Russia over the U.S. quest to oust Assad, has fomented its alliance in recent days. According to one , there
Russia has similarly indicated it would back China over the intricate territorial dispute in the South and East China Seas, particularly in defense against meddling by the United States and its ally South Korea — who will shortly deploy the U.S.’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) amid contention from both rival nations, as well as its citizenry.
Although THAAD ostensibly could only be deployed in a defensive capacity, China and Russia criticize its proximity to the Chinese border as an act of direct aggression. On Tuesday the two nations plans to hold their second joint anti-missiles drill in 2017. According to a nationalist outlet , Chinese Major Gen. Cai Jun stated,
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One article could not do justice to the multi-fronted, labyrinthine conflict as it now stands, but with the current situation described by some as more than even the Cuban Missile Crisis — which nearly drew the U.S. into the first nuclear war — it would perhaps be advisable to focus on swiftly-unfolding international news rather than exhaustively debating .