Vox has a long think-piece about the potential for a war with Russia, which could include a nuclear conflict. I think the article is a bit alarmist but it’s worth a read. The essential point is that Russia trying to re-establish itself as a premier power and is consumed with the idea that the United States wants to weaken and topple its leadership. To that end, they are engaging in more and more provocative action and have lowered the bar for the use of nuclear weapons. There is a real fear that they might attack the Baltics to try to break NATO, with the threat of nuclear attack backing it up. And the lowering of nuclear thresholds has made an accidental nuclear war more likely.
A few scattered thoughts:
First, I’m old enough to remember when Mitt Romney was openly mocked and derided for declaring that Russia was one of the chief dangers we faced. There’s a part of me that wonders if Romney didn’t actually win the 2012 election and is keeping Obama in as a figurehead. We certainly seem to be, in the inept Obama way, pursuing every foreign policy initiative Romney advocated.
Second, the idea that the US would invade Russia and topple the regime is insane. But, as Robert Heinlein noted during the Cold War, the defining element of Russian foreign policy has always been paranoia. It still is. And we need to be careful in how we deal with them.
Third, I think this means that missile has moved from critical to even more critical, especially given the danger of an accidental war.
Fourth, we need to seriously think about what we’re going to do if Putin attacks the Baltic states. Do we let him take them and risk having NATO fall apart? Do we defend them and risk a large-scale war? This is the kind of issue that needs to be front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign.