Gongol.com Archives: June 2024

Brian Gongol

June 9, 2024

Threats and Hazards Intimidation by association

When the president of a nuclear power goes about smugly saying of Europe, "They are more or less defenseless" against such weapons (as Vladimir Putin has just done), then it is high time to be sure of two things. ■ The first is to be entirely clear in mind -- and in resolve -- to put to use every prudent tool of deterrence or detection available against such weapons. From the moment that a second country in the world had developed nuclear weapons, the deployment of those weapons has been a gamble. And in the context of any gamble, the actions of counterparties affects the overall calculation of risk. For the now-mostly allied nations of Europe, there is no real substitute for unapologetically finding ways to decrease the offensive value of a potential adversary's nuclear weapons. ■ The second is to be sure that it becomes uncomfortable to be voluntarily in the aggressor's orbit -- and welcoming in ours. Putin's thinly-veiled threats were made at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an event at which a BBC reporter "saw delegations from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America". ■ Russia is actively engaged in a plainly unprovoked war of aggression and invasion against Ukraine, and now its president is pleased to threaten the remainder of Europe. No country should find itself comfortable sending a delegation to an economic conference there. It should be clear that until it withdraws from Ukraine and ceases to menace its neighbors, it is a pariah state, and its poor standing should be considered contagious. ■ That requires, though, a carrot to balance out the stick: Just as the US and the USSR raced each other to align other countries with themselves during the Cold War, we should be eager to use trade, engagement, and diplomacy to make it much more comfortable to be in our orbit than to be showing up to make deals in St. Petersburg. Until they can throw a conference and have nobody show up, there's a lot of strategic work to be done.