Turkey Shoots Downs Russian Jet: What Happens Next?

Today’s news that Turkish fighters shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border, is unlikely to lead to a nuclear crisis …  but there is a chance that it could. If Russia had shot down one of the Turkish planes – or were to do so in a future such encounter to prevent more of its pilots being killed – we would be bound by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty to treat it the same as an attack on one of our own aircraft. Yet the word nuclear appeared nowhere in any of the coverage I saw: Reuters, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Telegraph, and the Guardian, and Yahoo News. If we keep ignoring that risk, eventually one of these provocative incidents will blow up in our faces.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the US Still Encouraging Islamic Militants to Attack Russia?

Back in the 1980s, the US armed and trained Islamic militants in their battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan, with President Reagan’s mistakenly seeing the mujahideen as “courageous Afghan freedom fighters,” instead of the violent, anti-Western extremists we now know them to be. I don’t know if our nation is still encouraging Islamic militants to attack Russia, but that certainly is the impression a Russian reader would get from a front page article in today’s New York Times that interviewed Chechens now fighting Russian separatists and “volunteers” in Ukraine (emphasis added): Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Alleged INF Violation

I’ve been looking for an objective and authoritative explanation of the US allegation that Russia is in violation of the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) arms control treaty … and I just found it. My colleague, Dr. Pavel Podvig, has precisely that kind of analysis in his article in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Here are some key excerpts (emphasis added): Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Columbia University Students Interview Me

Last summer three students from Columbia University interviewed me at my home on the Stanford campus as part of a project at Columbia’s K1 Center for Nuclear Studies. It just went live online and captures some of the key ideas that I’ve been trying to communicate in this blog. It runs a bit over 5 minutes, so they did a good job of editing it down. I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis

Much has been said in our media about Putin’s propaganda war, and an information war is certainly in progress over the Ukrainian crisis. But it is not one-sided. We, too, have blind spots, with the following two misconceptions being the source of many of our errors:

1. The war in Ukraine is all Putin’s fault.

2. The current Ukrainian government are the good guys, while the pro-Russian separatists (and their Russian puppet masters) are the bad guys. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Avoiding a Repeat of the 1962 Cuban Crisis

I highly recommend Prof. Rajan Menon’s article in The National Interest, Avoiding a New ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ in Ukraine. I’ve attached a few key paragraphs below my signature line, and encourage you to read the full article. This fits well with the risk analysis approach I’ve been recommending for analyzing nuclear deterrence and reducing the danger that it might fail.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solving “a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma”

Most people have heard Winston Churchill’s description of Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” I also suspect that most took it as I did: Who can figure out that crazy nation?

So it was a real surprise when I read the entire quote: “[Russia] is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Now that makes sense! Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments