Is a Wider War in Europe Likely?

A tank in the field
A tank in the field

As weapons pour into Eastern Europe and the Baltic states from armories across Western Europe, we must question whether a wider war is Europe, between Russia and NATO, is likely.

My guess is that it is possible, but not likely. This is, of course, a guess. It may be right, or it may be wishful thinking. I don’t have access to any top secret reports or data. All I can say for sure is that NATO is in a far better state to fight Russia today than it was six weeks ago, and Vladimir Putin has no one to blame but himself.

While you may read reports that a few hundred American soldiers are moving here or there, and a Patriot missile system is being deployed to Poland, the mainstream media ignores the long convoys of military vehicles heading across Europe, the repeated flights of U.S. military cargo planes going from Germany to Poland, and the commercial cargo planes bringing unknown loads of armaments from the U.S. closer to what in the future may become the front line between NATO and Russia.

Propaganda and Misdirection

Just as Putin is controlling the news released to the Russian population, we have to assume that Americans and Europeans are not being given the whole story by our governments. We may get more details that Russian citizens about what is happening on the ground in the Ukraine, but there are plenty of things the U.S. and its European allies are hiding from us. This includes what we are doing to combat the sudden Russian threat, what we are deploying, and where we are deploying it.

For example, there are reports that the UK is moving its nuclear warheads about, but none of the official sources are addressing our nuclear status. Whether this movement is routine or the transfer of warheads from storage facilities to deployment is unknown. The UK no longer publishes data on how many of its warheads are deployed.

I expect anyone in charge of nuclear readiness would want any ballistic submarines that were in port loaded with nuclear warheads and sent out to sea the moment after Putin put his nuclear forces on alert. We may normally limit number of warheads on certain missiles to comply with treaty obligations. It would not surprise me to see those limits unofficially lifted for the duration of this “emergency.” Why limit yourself to five or six warheads when the missile can carry 10 or 12? When the enemy is issuing threats, a written agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

I would hope that the U.S., the UK, and France have put increased the readiness of their nuclear forces. For example, warheads that were stored in bunkers a month ago are probably loaded onto planes in their hangers so they can get in the air and clear the area as soon as a Russian launch is detected.

Keeping us in the Dark

I’ve also heard that five or six cargo planes will take off in a row, but only one will have their transponder on. To someone monitoring flights with a computer based on transponder data, it looks like one planeload of troops or munitions, but in reality, it is six flying in a tight formation. Is this being done to fool the enemy, or to keep us in the dark?

I have heard they shut traffic cameras along European highways down so that military convoys can pass. This helps keeps Russia from monitoring the troop movements and number of tanks and equipment heading towards Eastern Europe. It also limits what European citizens can find out about the deployment of their military forces. These days, if it doesn’t happen on video, it may as well have not happened.

I can’t argue with tactics taken to keep Russia guessing. The way in Ukraine is teaching us a great deal about their military, their weapons, their readiness and their capabilities. This is an advantage we should not squander by broadcasting our every move.

What to Expect

At this point, I don’t expect a wider war in Europe. After their performance in Ukraine, even Putin must realize Russia would get its ass kicked in a conventional war against NATO. However, we must be aware that it could happen by accident, or after a cascade of events, such as a wayward missile striking Poland or Romania.

The limited use of nuclear weapons would surprise me, but it would not shock me. I think we need to be conscious that Russian doctrine calls for the use of small, tactical nukes as part of their plan to “escalate to de-escalate.” If Russia fired one in Ukraine or towards Poland, I expect we would respond with a small nuke of our own, possibly air bursting it over the Russian’s Black Sea fleet, destroying it. That would send a firm message, hurt Russia without attacking their soil, put the ball back in their court, and let the wind out of their hopes for de-escalation. Russia would also look even worse than they do today because they used a nuke first, and the U.S. might look like they showed restraint.

We also have to admit that a large-scale use of SLBM, ICBMs, and other strategic nuclear weapons is possible. The question is, would Putin rather destroy Russia and the world than look bad on the world stage and lose his position of power? Frighteningly, the answer may be “yes.” This is where we have to hope someone in his inner circle can take steps to stop him.

If nuclear weapons are used, even on a small scale, expect the stock market to plunge and people to panic. Get out of the way of both and implement your plan. Either you will be fine, or it won’t matter.