The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Is It Dangerous to Hit Targets Inside Russia?

Now, to be clear, a few targets have been hit in fairly minor ways, but let’s assume a real strike with Western-provided weapons.

The opinion below has been stated often.

So, thought exercise: During the Iraq war, another country gives Iraq missiles capable of striking within the continental US, and Iraq launches them and does significant damage to a city, say New York or Washington DC.

What is the US response?

Now, what is the Russian response in a similar scenario? It’s unlikely to be the same, but…

Put your answers in comments.



US House Passes Bill Forcing Railway Workers Not to Strike


Open Thread


  1. Stephen T Johnson

    Well, it’s all proportional to the actual damage, I’d suspect, along with Moscow’s desire. Let’s say (Arguendo)
    1) it’s a bunch of [imaginary nifty new weapon] supplied by the UK and it’s used for a barrage on Kursk causing a ton of civilian casualties. I think the UK gets some government buildings destroyed, and/or bases hit in return. No escalation path to WWIII for the UK
    2) It’s [imaginary nifty new weapon] supplied by the US, used for the same thing. The response is, I think likely to be more measured – maybe US logistics facilities in Poland, maybe US HQ in Europe, maybe US bases in Syria. I find it hard to believe the continental US itself would be the target, as that might go to WWIII pretty fast.

    My 2 cents worth

  2. GrimJim

    Did not know that the Latvian FM was part of a Doomsday Cult, but there you go…

    Mother Russia rain down down down…

  3. ibaien

    arguing that UKR should not be able to bloody its aggressor out of fear that RUS “might do something” is yet more tankie water carrying from this formerly lovely blog. UKR should use every possible weapon to end this war, which they did not start, on their terms. i would have said the same for afghanistan or iraq or grenada. in self-defense all bets are off.

  4. Willy

    Not to give too much credit to the obviously aged, but Biden’s information sources have seemed pretty accurate so far. He did proclaim that Putin would attack, when so many opined otherwise. He did proclaim that things wouldn’t go well for Russia, when so many opined otherwise. Yet he also proclaimed this: “I think it matters what side of the bed he gets up on in the morning as to what he’s going to do.” So, I really don’t think very much ordinance will be straying into Russia.

    Now personally, I’d stay the hell out of Crimea and Donbass and definitely Russia. For the “holier than thou” martyrdom optics.

    And then I would’ve rounded up all my suspected Nazis, dressed them up in the various legacy Nazi outfits, then marched them over the border into Russia then said: “There ya go. All the Nazis we could find. Time to negotiate.”

  5. Hickory

    Last winter Biden repeatedly talked about getting Russia into a quagmire. They want to take Russia out but not at the risk of directly confronting them.

    Russia seems aware of this and very aware of false flag possibilities. And also seems willing to respond in unconventional ways, for example blaming the UK for the pipeline blasts (have they released evidence yet?).

    I could imagine the Russians hitting the ostensible attacker hard and finding a subtle way to return the blow to the US with a clear back channel message. The US seems like a cowardly bully and utterly unprepared. I doubt that putin&co will carelessly allow an escalation to nuclear.

    I welcome other thoughts.

  6. VietnamVet

    Proportional response in the nuclear age goes back to “Fail Safe” the1964 movie by Sidney Lumet, where nuking New York City is traded for the destruction of Moscow by an errant B-52 armed with nuclear weapons, to stop further escalation. This is the core problem. Only realists acknowledge the truth. Everyone else, today, seems like they are radical ideologue profiteers or ethnics who care less if “others” die. Elder death by coronavirus is of no concern except in China.

    With global resource depletion, the less efficient Russians still have cheap energy which China and India have access. Unless there is a regime change in the Kremlin and western corporations gain access to the energy to keep running, the ever-increasing debt will no longer be serviced as North America downgrades into the 3rd world undeveloped status. The NATO – Ukraine – Russia proxy World War III is an existential war that will keep escalating. The only alternative is an armistice and DMZ similar to what was signed by the UN, North Korea and China July 27, 1953.

    “China Has Over 400 Nuclear Warheads, likely 1500 by 2035”. It is just plain luck that humans haven’t exterminate themselves yet. The Greatest and Silent Generations who lived through the first Cold War and watched “On the Beach” and “The Day After”, and didn’t have their heads buried in the sand, this is old news.

  7. bruce wilder

    Analysis of “games” from a god’s eye pov is always made fraught by uncertainty about the material nature of the “rationality” of the players. In any realistic series of games outside the artificially conservative designs of sports and casinos, the players are always trying to not just “work the refs” but to change the game, change the rules, change what it means to “win” (or lose).

    Putin has made it clear I think that he is aiming squarely at toppling American hegemony and the “rules-based international order”. He very deliberately crossed a line that only the U.S. has been allowed to cross with impunity in the post-WWII, post-fall of the Soviet Union era. If he gets a negotiated settlement with concessions to Russian interests, the “rules-based order” is done and a new era of negotiated relations among Powers has been initiated. Perhaps retaining UN frameworks, perhaps not.

    The thing is, if the U.S. gives effective permission to Ukraine, Poland or the UK to strike inside Russia in a sustained way, that also ends “the rules-based Order” in a different but less controlled way. Putin is a lawyer and his regime is scrupulously legalistic. He is not seeking anarchy, only the negotiation of Russian interests.

    So far the Russians have tolerated relative pinpricks — the terrorist bombing of the bridge across the Kursk strait, the assassination of Dugin’s daughter, the seizure of Russian state assets including central bank reserves held abroad, the sabotage of the NordStream pipelines, the drone boat attacks on what remains of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and the Sevastopol base.

    All my concern for escalation driven by madness rests on Ukraine’s regime and its support among the Russophobic factions in the U. S. foreign policy establishment as well as Poland and the Baltic states. Zelensky continuing to lie for a time about the Ukrainian missile that strayed into Poland, killing a couple of people, was scary to me. I do not know much about the radical right in Ukraine and whether they are a credible threat to Zelensky’s family. But quite apart from such considerations, it is hard to see how Ukraine gets to a ruling coalition that can capitulate short of an overthrow by Russia and hard to see how the West can tolerate a Russian overthrow of a Ukrainian government, even one clinging to a shrinking, dark rump.

    But, if madness “sees” a way to defeat or exhaust Russia and drives ahead with its vision of victory, the rest of us are along for the ride.

  8. different clue

    @bruce wilder,

    A day or three ago NaCap ran an article by John the Helmer who Dances With Bears.
    The gist of the article is that the RussiaGov would probably like to conquer and absorb the Eastern part of Ukraine, turn the middle part into a depopulated No Man’s Land, and leave a West Ukraine to its own devices in West Ukraine. According to Helmer’s thinking, the RussiaGov would probably want to make the No Man’s Land in middle Ukraine wide enough that even the very longest range missiles Ukraine is likely to get from the West will not be able to fly all the way across it to reach East Ukraine ( NovoRussia).

    So the RussiaGov will keep de-activating middle Ukrainian electricity, water, heating systems until several million middle Ukrainians will face a choice between mass death in place from starvation/hypothermia/dehydration . . . or move West. Then Russia will retake every middle Ukrainian town and city worth having, destroy it, surround it with mine fields and fill it with booby traps. They will then let Ukrainian forces try, just try, to fight their way back into these towns and cities.

    If Helmer is right, and if the RussiaGov plan succeeds, then Ethnic Cleansing and the mass movement of populations will also become a part of the next world order.

    Helmer’s analysis might be wrong. And even if right, the RussiaGov might not succeed. But if he is right and if the RussiaGov succeeds, middle Ukraine will become a zero-human-population Exclusion Zone on the way back to natural reforestation and re-wilding.

    And if that happens, thousands or hundreds of thousands of Ukranazis will join the general exodus of Ukrainians into further-west Europe, where they will settle in for a while and then spend many happy years planting bombs all over Europe to get revenge for Europe not supporting Ukraine quite enough.

  9. rkka

    ibaien probably thinks a ‘tankie’ wrote this:

    “Since war is not a senseless act of passion, but is controlled by the politicalobject, the value of the object determines the sacrifice to be made for it, both in magnitude and also in duration. Whenever the sacrifice exceeds the value of the political object, the political object must be renounced and peace must follow.”

    Now what is the value of the political object for the US or UK to accept the risks & costs involved in giving UKR weapons capable of mass destruction in RU?

    And what is the political object for UKR of accepting the risks & costs of using weapons capable of mass destruction in RU, especially since RU has many, many rungs yet to climb on the ladder of conventional escalation?

  10. mago

    Lots of opinion masquerading as fact around this matter so I’ll chime in and comment that the plan from the beginning was to flood Europe with refugees and thus destabilize an already crumbling social order. Seems to be working so far.

  11. rkka

    I would now like to address the word “tankie”

    The period 1945-1991 was the least warlike, least bloody 46 years of European history in the last thousand or so. How was that peace maintained.

    My hypothesis is that the Soviet leadership parked the most powerful army the world had ever seen in the middle of Europe and said, under their breath, “Anyone here wants to fight can fight this.”

    There were no takers.

    However, within a month of the Warsaw Pact voting itself out of existence, war returned to Europe. As tends to be the case with war, those wars in Europe have escalated.

    I think those derided as ‘tankie” then, and now, had an insight into what the foundation of Europe’s peace at the time actually was, that their detractors, then and now, lack.

  12. Mark Pontin

    different clue: “Ethnic Cleansing and the mass movement of populations will also become a part of the next world order.”

    They never left; they’ve been a part of the US-dominated order now ending. It’s only that they’re happening in Europe and the “white West” now. They didn’t have to. It was the US’s strategic policies that instigated this, as it’s been US policies that have driven the onrush of mass movement of populations from Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East into Europe.

    different clue: “if the RussiaGov succeeds, middle Ukraine will become a zero-human-population Exclusion Zone on the way back to natural reforestation and re-wilding.”

    In 2022, this scenario is technically feasible, via overflight by networks of heat-sensing drones and automated mines seeded at long distance by Russia’s ‘Agriculture’ system (and presumably such mines can be networked, too). It’s very doable, in a way it wasn’t even ten years ago.

    different clue: “…thousands or hundreds of thousands of Ukranazis will join the general exodus of Ukrainians into further-west Europe, where they will … then spend many happy years planting bombs all over Europe to get revenge for Europe not supporting Ukraine quite enough.”

    Utterly predictable. In the recent past when people in the West have talked about Russian mafias operating here, they’ve actually been talking about Ukrainian mafias, in my experience.

    Bruce Wilder: ‘Zelensky continuing to lie for a time about the Ukrainian missile that strayed into Poland, killing a couple of people, was scary to me.’

    Yup. Doubtless elements in US-NATO also had their minds focused by the fact that Zelensky and the Kiev regime aren’t fully on the leash. But did they really expect that Zelensky and Kiev would just placidly play the role of being proxies and be destroyed? Fools who think they’re clever, if so.

    However, the Kiev regime and the Ukrainian oligarchs are the same for thinking that fronting for US-NATO in a proxy war against Russia would end in any way other than their being another example to support the truth of Kissinger’s observation that it’s dangerous to be an US enemy, but absolutely fatal to be its friend.*

    And please, nobody @ me about the specific context of Kissinger’s remark, which was, yes, made mid-1960s as a warning to US policymakers about why they should continue to support the then-extant S. Vietnamese regime. The US lost that war.

    Indeed, the US has lost every war it’s waged since WWII with the exceptions of Grenada and, arguably, Iraq in Gulf 1 (where it sensibly limited its goals). Given its record, American self-delusions about its power might be amusing — like the belligerent drunk bully in the bar who keeps on picking fights and getting his ass kicked — if, even by proxy, it believes it will go up against the culture that saw off Napoleon’s Imperial Guard/levee en masse and Hitler’s Wehrmacht, were it not that the collateral damage it wreaks globally is so great.

  13. StewartM

    RKKA is correct on all counts.

    This is why Eastern Europe should never have allowed to become part of NATO. Some of them are so virulently anti-Russian it’s pathetic. And for no good cause, as their beloved Westerners (particularly the Germans) treated them worse.

    I will say a Bulgarian I read on Quora had a more realistic attitude. He pointed out that when Bulgaria was in the Soviet zone, it and the other Warsaw pact countries were net economic drains on the Soviet Union (the Soviets put more resources into them than they got from them). Since the incorporation into the Western bloc, that has been reversed, and now the West (particularly the Germans pull more resources away from Bulgaria than they put in). My, my.

  14. Haydar Khan

    The Russian military has barely used hypersonic missiles. Perhaps Russia would demonstrate how impotent Western anti-missile systems are? NATO headquarters would likely be turned into a crater. After that, either apocalypse or capitulation by the West?

  15. bruce wilder

    It is tangential I suppose to the possibility of bombs or sabotage in Russian territory, but I have to wonder about the disinformation that pours out of the West without a critical thought. Here’s something I ran across on the interwebs today:

    Claims from a so-called Kremlin insider said that the Russian tyrant – who is said to be suffering from cancer – was helped to a sofa by bodyguards as his personal doctors rushed to assist him.

    Putin is also alleged to have soiled himself during the fall.

    Rumours have been rife that the Russian leader is seriously ill and leaked documents recently confirmed that he has early-stage Parkinson’s disease and pancreatic cancer.

    The latest allegation about Putin’s health comes from the Russian Telegram channel General SVR which claims to have been given information by a Kremlin insider.

    According to the channel, the Russian president was walking downstairs when he “stumbled and fell to his back, after which he fell on his side and slid down a couple of steps”.

    The fall led to bruising of Putin’s coccyx and highlighted problems with the despot’s “cancer of the gastrointestinal tract”.

    The tyrant’s stumble caused an “involuntary” reaction and doctors escorted Putin to the bathroom and cleaned him up before examining him.

    Meanwhile, Putin appeared to wheeze and gasp through a meeting of grieving mothers whose children have been killed in the Ukraine war and his feet appeared to twitch during talks with Kazakhstan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev – a possible indicator of Parkinson’s disease.

    This was followed by an instant poll assessing whether the reader believed any of this or related propaganda.

    The above circulates among the lower ranks of news sites, but more reputable brand-names circulate bland reports of facts spiced with editorial scorn and derision.

    What exactly is the point of this propaganda war?

    I assume it originates in the U.S. — none of it seems to favor Russia in any way that I can see — and to the extent that it is aimed at U.S. audiences, it is an assault on even the processes of democracy.

    Public or private assault ?? I don’t know — the reporting itself deliberately misdirects as to the ultimate source of this information. On the basis of nothing except the precedent of the Intelligence agencies participating in Russiagate and similar gambits, I presume a high probability that this propaganda originates with public agencies.

    It damages both the U.S. and Russia and, of course, Russia’s means to counter-program via RT and Sputnik — very limited to begin with — have been handicapped across the West. Al Jazeera has gotten similar treatment.

    BBC, D-W and others do their thing with no more evident integrity than the New York Times or National Public Radio and PBS.

  16. Astrid

    Zelensky and hiss Banderite backers are just one of many mad dogs breed and unleashed by the USA. The USA can still euthenize them without too much trouble, but they may just be handled badly enough to hurt their deep state masters.

    Gilbert Doctorow noted that a substantial number of Russian politicians and officials are actually fighting on the front line. I’m sure the UAF can make room for a Russia hating Lativan man in evident good health. They’re even conscripting old men and pregnant women, after all.

    So much projection here, as usual. You don’t even know yourselves. How can you know your “adversary”?

  17. rkka


    Thank you.

    What I think helps me see through the word “tankie” is that I’m not a Marxist, though in the American context I’m a truly radical “leftist” being an old fashioned “New Dealer” who has read his Keynes & Galbraith. Also, I’m an old-fashioned Clausewitzean, “defensive realist” realpolitician who has deeply studied and deeply admires how the Soviet government first tried to build the Churchillian “Grand Alliance” in the late ’30s, bled the Wehrmacht white in 1941 when that failed because Chamberlain, and then enforced Europe’s unprecedented peace 1945-1991.

    Good times, the likes of which I don’t expect to see in what remains of my life.

  18. Carborundum

    The analogy doesn’t really work terribly well given the differences in scenarios. As an example, there’s not a lot of weapons out there with inter-continental range that aren’t nuclear tipped, which automatically takes response to a different level. Similarly, being hit in the homeland has a vastly different psychological effect on a power with a generational meta-strategy founded in the mediating effect of large bodies of water between it and everyone else that matters; as well, America isn’t an isolated power in terms of alliance structures whereas Russia very much is.

    Were America to take hits in more directly analogous situations (e.g., something related to military intervention to clean out narco-gangs in Mexico) I think one would probably see something other than the flat out kinetics many assume. We’ve just finished a couple of decades where regional powers immediately adjacent to conflicts helped kill more Americans than anyone since the Vietnamese and the cross-border action was limited to a few incursions aimed at strategic targets that weren’t even related to the cross-border support networks (i.e., they were on a different track entirely).

    Hits on civilian targets would be viewed quite differently and would get higher levels of reprisal, but I don’t think one goes immediately to 11. Among the reasons Russia isn’t itself going to 11 isn’t because they are morally qualitatively different. Restraint is simply good strategy – the only thing worse than not having escalation dominance is thinking you do and finding out you don’t while enmeshed in a confrontation.

  19. marku52

    I believe Russia has already clearly warned about this. Any direct attack on Russia will result in an escalation (probably a hypersonic strike) on a NATO facility. like for example the headquarters in Belgium. This is why, at least for now, the US has not given the longest range HIMARS missiles to the crazies in Kiev.

    Having no army left to speak of (they are sending old men to Baqmut), and the radio chatter there is all Romanian and Polish, Kiev’s only hope is direct NATO involvement. Which will result in the destruction of the NATO forces. NATO’s already a dead man walking, because this war has revealed that it is incapable of performing the only function that justifies its existence. Aside from blowing up brown people in Africa and the ME, I suppose.

  20. Willy

    Here’s a little something for the more religious amongst us. Russian TV analysts recently debated over whether Zelensky is The Official Antichrist, or just a small demon. Political scientist Alexander Kamkin said that Zelensky could only possibly be a small demon, being small statured, and most likely to have only made a deal with Satan in his work with demonic henchmen from the west. But Ariak Stepanyan of The Academy of The Geopolitical Problems went much further, proclaiming the Ukrainian president to be the real deal, the actual Lord of All Dark Lords, the Antichrist himself.

    Now, I think that if Zelensky is only a small demon then targeting inside of Russia would likely be catastrophic for him. But what if he really is the Official Antichrist? I sure hope not, for this thing would get a whole lot bigger than we ever imagined.

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