It’s pretty easy to understand why once again the “doomsday clock” setting has been moved back closer to midnight. As I predicted in Surprise Attack, Mr. Putin continues to practice the classic Cold War posturing which he has successfully used to regain his internal popularity and preserve his “base” within Russia’s military-industrial complex. It seemed clear to me at the time I was writing that the likely outcomes of Putin’s strategy were two-fold. First his actions would ultimately undercut the attempts to freeze or reduce American and European defense spending. It has now done that. Second, while his strategy was at grave risk due to the exposure to oil pricing, his personality is such that if pressed he would push even harder – which we see in the Russian military campaign in Syria and most obviously in the tactically useless (and expensive) practice of launching long range bombing and cruise missile strikes from within Russia against Syrian targets.
Militarily it’s extremely questionable, but it makes for dramatic Russian TV and complements the increasing internal coverage given to the Russian military.
Beyond Syria, while there is no reality that would justify Putin’s reigniting the nuclear warfare card, he has clearly done so, with an emphasis on nuclear ICBM’s and nuclear submarine deployment. The Russian nuclear sub force in the Pacific has doubled and the surge has now increased to the point that the Russian nuclear submarine force deployment into the Atlantic is back to some of the the highest levels seen during the Cold War. You won’t find much of that being discussed in the current political debates (which is probably a good thing) but you see it if you lurk in the military blogs I tend to frequent.
Of course all this is just the opposite of Cold War covert warfare and deniable operations, its posturing and it will drive budgets and military spending and may well lead to actual live fire situations which could trigger regional warfare – the Turkey/Russian confrontation is obvious but it’s not the only potential flash point.
What worries me more though, is that a new type of covert/deniable warfare has emerged and it carries the risk of igniting something even worse – full scale cyber warfare. Several years ago counter terrorism specialist Richard Clarke wrote about North Korean cyber warfare teams actually operating from within China, very capable teams whose full capabilities and activities might or might not have been known to the Chinese. The real danger is that national or rogue cyber-attack teams could operate from virtually anywhere, intentionally implicating nations or groups with their attacks. Tracing the actual source and proving guilt in cyber-attacks is extremely difficult. Attacks in recent years have included either American or Israeli attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and Israeli attacks on the Syrian air defense system. Most recently Russian appears to have sponsored a massive attack on the Ukraine’s power system infrastructure.
Over time, such attacks can generally be traced, but not with the certainty that allows absolute proof. What we are seeing is the emergence of a new type of deniable warfare. America has suffered a number of attacks to date, one of the most potentially being an attack on the New York Stock exchange and through it the international financial community. In retrospect that attack was perhaps only a test – or a message – but it allowed the Obama administration to actually get legislation through Congress which elevated the level of response to such attacks – actually allowing the sort of preemptive response previous sly authorized only to a massive nuclear attack on the nation. I discuss that in Surprise Attack, it has received little attention overall but it demonstrates the real risk of this new deniability. If a major attack takes were to take out major sections of the U.S. power grid (such as the recent attack on the Ukraine did), the FAA traffic control network, or the banking system I can promise there would be a response. The problem would be who to target.
In 1946 an alarming science fiction novel was published, the title “The Murder of the U.S.A.” Its premise was that by placing undetected nuclear missiles in orbit, and then only launching them at a later point in time, a deniable nuclear attack could be conducted. It would be impossible to identify the actual source and retaliation would be precluded or intentionally directed the wrong adversary. Fortunately the timing of rocket and atomic weapons development precluded that scenario. The question now is, decades later in 2016, are we more literally exposed to the same sort of risk, given the possibility of deniable cyber-attack?
I’m afraid that clock setting is far too accurate for comfort…


About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

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