Staunton, January 27 — Many people are operating under the misapprehension that nuclear weapons make war impossible: they don’t. Rather they simply change the way in which war is conducted, with each side employing as weapons many things that no one would have called weapons before, according to Dmitry Yuryev.
Indeed, the Moscow analyst says, today, World War III has already started, and it is critically important that Russians recognize that the constraints imposed by the existence of nuclear weapons “do not mean that aggression is impossible” but only that the forms it will take will be very different.
And that in turn means that the meaning of war has changed fundamentally, something that Yuryev himself highlights when he suggests that the West is not only at war with Russia but it is carrying it out “in the depths of Russia, with the participation of Russian collaborationists [in Ukraine] who act against the Russian people and the Russian state.”
Such an expansionist even apocalyptic vision of war is important not because it is true but because it helps to explain some of the notions underlying the vision of the world Vladimir Putin is offering Russians and the world and just how much at odds they are with the way in which the West views not only the current situation but the world as a whole.
According to Yuryev, “we now are living in war times,” and “the lack of understanding of such an evident and incontrovertible fact” is something that Russians must overcome and recognize that the times are such that there is no possibility for reaching agreements but that there will be only “a push for destruction and mutual dehumanization” of the sides.
“Showing this,” he continues, “isn’t interesting. But getting to the bottom of what kind of war [the current one is] is necessary.”
Because the use of nuclear weapons is “suicide,” the Moscow analyst says, many think that a third world war is “impossible.” But not only is it “possible,” but it “is already going on – the first world war in human history taking place in the presence of nuclear constraints.”
Before the 20th century, wars were relatively limited, each to start although sometimes difficult to stop, but they represented “a normal continuation of politics by other means.” The two world wars were far more destruction and not surprisingly prompted leaders to seek ways of avoiding them, first with the League of Nations and then with the United Nations.
Such impulses became even stronger with the appearance of nuclear weapons, but those weapons, however much anyone wanted to believe, do not mean war is impossible but “only that nuclear arms will be applied only in the most extreme and that is in the last instance.” And that means that “politics is becoming a form of war by other means.”
The Cold War, Yuryev says, was in effect a figure of speech, a period of local wars but in which wars directly between nuclear powers were avoided by “generally recognized system of agreements,” such as those of Yalta, Potsdam, Helsiniki and the like. But that system did not last when Russia lost that conflict but did not disappear as a country.
To be sure, “it lost enormous territories and millions of compatriots. Its economy was destroyed, its army was almost disarmed, and its foreign policy was reoriented toward the one desired by ‘our Western partners.’” But despite all this, “nuclear weapons remained” – as did the principles of the world order their existence caused to be formed.
“Today,” he continues, “only nuclear weapons remain. Everything else has been destroyed. First by the joint efforts of the West and the USSR,” and then by the West alone “which ceased to take into account the interests of Russia or other countries.” As a result, the UN has been converted into a parody of the League of Nations” and final decisions are made by the US and its “satellites.”
The speed with which this has happened, the analyst argues, is comparable to a blitzkrieg, and that is one of the reasons that many do not yet understand what has happened. Moreover, for the time being, “no one is shooting at Russia because of the constraints nuclear weapons impose.”
“But war consists not only of shootings and murders. It begins with them, and its ends with them.” Nuclear war is different because it begins and ends almost at the same time. “But the main thing in war is something else: it involves the shattering of borders, the end of zones of influence, and the subordination and breaking up of an enemy.”
In short, it involves the deprivation of the subject nature of the enemy and ultimately the human nature of its political leadership, Yuryev says. Negotiations in turn are replaced by “just two forms of diplomatic communication: ultimatums and exchanges of prisoners or the bodies of those who have died.”
“That is what is happening now,” and consequently one is justified of talking about World War III. No one is using nuclear weapons or even conventional weapons against Russia yet – and “not only because they are afraid to do so.” Rather, the West has concluded that other political means can successfully solve its “military tasks.”
But in an important sense, Yuryev argues, the West has indeed carried the war into Russia’s territory and thus made what is occurring in Ukraine a civil war as well as a patriotic one. That is because, in his view, the people in Ukraine are properly part of the Russian world and thus fighting there is among Russians.
Consequently, he continues, it is not simply time to forget “the borders, the Budapest memorandum, and everything of the like” established after World War II but to recognize that they have been “denounced by the collective decision of the Western world” which has been violating all of them.
And such a recognition requires, the Moscow commentator insists, an understanding that the war being waged against Russian in Ukraine is “taking place on immemorial Russian territories, in the depth of Russia, and with the participation of Russian collaborationists who are acting against the Russian people and the Russian state on the side of Western aggressors.”