Experts and Activists Offer a Sober Evaluation of the Risks of a Major War Between Russia and the West

The European-Russian Forum, Brussels, 26 November 2018

Most of what we find in the Western mass media, and even in specialized daily digests and periodicals devoted to Russian affairs tends to fall into the extremes of Russia-bashing by the vast majority or pro-Russia cheerleading by tiny fringe groups who otherwise are unhappy with US global hegemony.

By way of example, I point to how Vladimir Putin’s roll-out of Russia’s latest and unrivaled strategic weapons systems in his 1 March 2018 speech to a session of the joint houses of the Russian Parliament were received in the West.

Many commentators insisted soon afterwards that the Mach 20 Avangard and other nuclear armed systems presented in Putin’s video clips were a bluff directed at his home audience for the sake of the forthcoming presidential election, not directed at Washington; that Russia is incapable of such breakthroughs on an industrial scale and poses no consequential military threat. Meanwhile, dissenters from Washington’s unipolar world concept expressed joy at the Russians’ claim to having restored nuclear parity with the United States, validating the Mutually Assured Destruction balance that kept the peace for much of the last half century. On this basis some began clamoring for Putin to adopt a tougher stance in confrontation with the West up to and including clash of arms.

The 12th European-Russia Forum which was just held in the European Parliament, Brussels brought sobering realism to bear on the questions of whether we are headed into war with Russia, whether it can be limited in destructiveness and regional in scope or will quickly escalate to the global level with nuclear exchanges, and appraising what kind of outcomes we may anticipate. Speeches and discussion steered right down the neutral middle on all of these questions, and were unusually illuminating.

Before going into some detail on who said what, I am obliged to direct attention to the sponsors of this event in the European Parliament and to the participants in it.

The European Parliament building is an enormous complex comprising the offices of the 751 MEPs, a vast auditorium for their plenary sessions and a number of lesser auditoriums and conference rooms for functions held jointly with the public under the auspices of one or another political bloc of Members, such as the Forum which just took place. In the given instance, our hosts were a compound bloc called The Greens/European Free Alliance that has existed in Parliament for two decades and accounts for about 8% of the membership of the house.

“The Greens” take in Green parties from several European countries, but not the German Greens, who are a law unto themselves and are notorious cold warriors. “Our” Greens have a calm, reflective view of international relations and do not automatically take sides in any of the conflicts between Russia and the West. Their main focus is, as we may expect, on ecologically friendly policies,…

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