SCOTT RITTER: The Minds of Desperate Men

France’s Emmanuel Macron last week suggested the suicidal idea of sending NATO troops to Ukraine to confront Russia militarily.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, in 2022. (NATO, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“O mischief, thou art swift, to enter in the thoughts of desperate men!”

Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 1

By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

With these words, William Shakespeare, the immortal bard, captures the psychology of men who, believing they are confronted with a situation for which there is no hope of resolving, undertake actions that will inevitably lead to their death.

Although set in 14th century Mantua, Italy, Shakespeare’s tragedy could easily have been transported in time to present day France, where French President Emmanuel Macron, in the role of a modern Romeo, after learning of the demise of his true love, Ukraine, decides to commit suicide by encouraging the dispatch of NATO troops to Ukraine to confront Russia militarily.

Macron was hosting a crisis meeting last week, convened to discuss the deteriorating conditions on the battlefield in Ukraine following the Russian capture of the fortress city of Adviivka. The meeting was attended by senior representatives from NATO member states, including the U.S. and Canada.

“We should not exclude that there might be a need for security that then justifies some elements of deployment,” Macron said during a press conference convened after the meeting. “But I’ve told you very clearly what France maintains as its position, which is a strategic ambiguity that I stand by.”

The other participants of the meeting immediately rushed forward to announce that, from their perspective, there was no “strategic ambiguity” — the dispatch of NATO forces to Ukraine was not on the table.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who attended the Paris talks, rejected Macron’s proposal out of hand. “What was agreed from the beginning among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future,” Scholtz declared, “namely that there will be no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or NATO states.” 

Scholz’s statement was echoed by other NATO leaders, leaving France standing alone to bear the consequences of Macron’s “strategic ambiguity.”

Even as NATO rushed forward to bring clarity to Macron’s stance, Russia made it quite clear what the consequences of any precipitous deployment of NATO forces to Ukraine would be. Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, declared that, in the event of any NATO deployment into Ukraine,

“we should not talk about the probability but about the inevitability [of a direct war with NATO]. That’s how we assess it.” 

Peskov noted that most NATO nations participating in the Paris conference “maintain a fairly sober assessment of the potential dangers of such an action and the potential danger of being directly involved in a hot conflict, involving them on the battlefield.”

He also noted Macron’s stance regarding “the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia,” an objective shared by the U.S. and the NATO secretary general.

Putin Responds

In his annual address to the Russian Parliament, delivered a few days after Macron gave his press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin removed any ambiguity as to what the consequences of any NATO intervention in Ukraine would be.

“We remember the fate of those who once sent their contingents to the territory of our country,” Putin said, referring to the past invasions of Russia by Hitler and Napoleon. “But now the consequences for potential interventionists will be much more tragic.”

And, just to drive the point home, Putin went on to describe Russia’s most recent advances in the field of strategic nuclear weapons — a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Burevestnik, which is in the final stages of development, and the deployment of Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles and Avangard hypersonic warheads that are immune to Western anti-missile defenses.

Putin pointed out that two of these new Russian weapons — the Zircon and Kinzhal —have seen combat duty in the Ukrainian conflict.

The NATO leaders “must grasp that we also have weapons capable of striking targets on their territory,” Putin said. “Everything they are inventing now, spooking the world with the threat of a conflict involving nuclear weapons, which potentially means the end of civilization — don’t they realize this?”

The clearest evidence available that NATO leaders do not realize the consequences of their actions comes in the form of a transcript of a conversation, released by the editor-in-chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, on her page on the VK social network, which has four senior German military officers discussing how they planned to implement instructions given to them by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius regarding the delivery of the Taurus cruise missile to Ukraine. 

Putin presenting RT’s Simonyan with an award in May 2019. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

As the transcript shows, the assurances given by German Chancellor Scholz that Germany would not become directly involved in the Ukraine conflict were little more than a lie.

In addition to discussing the logistical issues involving the transfer of these weapons, the German officers discussed their possible employment, including how they could be used to attack the Crimea Bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula with southern Russia.

“The [Crimean] bridge in the east is hard to hit, as that’s quite a narrow target, but the Taurus can do that, and it can also hit ammo depots,” one of the German officers noted, prompting a reply by another, who declared that “there is an opinion that the Taurus will handle that (hit the Crimean Bridge) if the French Dassault Rafale fighter jet is used.”

The Crimean or Kerch Strait Bridge connecting the Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai in Russia with the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Scholz has been reticent about joining Britain and France, which have transferred Storm Shadow and Scalp long-range missiles, respectively, to Ukraine.

“What is being done in the way of target control and accompanying target control on the part of the British and the French can’t be done in Germany,” Scholz said after the Paris gathering, referring to the indirect role played by Britain and France in enabling Ukrainian pilots to launch the Storm Shadow and Scalp missiles from modified SU-24 aircraft.

“Everyone who has dealt with this system knows that,” Scholz noted, implying the need for a direct role by German military personnel in the targeting and operation of the Taurus missile. 

“German soldiers must at no point and in no place be linked to targets this (Taurus) system reaches,” Scholz said, adding “not in Germany either.”

Scholz, it appears, understands the potential consequences of German involvement in the targeting and operation of any Taurus missiles used by Ukraine against Russia.

“This clarity is necessary,” Scholz said. “I am surprised that this doesn’t move some people, that they don’t even think about whether, as it were, a participation in the war could emerge from what we do.”

Clearly there is a disconnect between the German chancellor and his defense minister. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Pistorius in June 2023. (NATO, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In case the German officers and their minister failed to “realize” the potential consequences of their actions, the Russian military, a day after Putin’s address to the Russian Parliament, carried out what it called “a combat training launch of a mobile-based solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile PGRK Yars, equipped with multiple warheads.”

The Yars missile, launched from the Plesetsk test facility located south of Saint Petersburg, can carry between three and six independently targetable nuclear warheads.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “The training warheads arrived at the designated area at the Kura training ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula” after flying a range of nearly 4,200 miles.

When I was a weapons inspector, back in 1988-1990, working at the Votkinsk missile production facility, we inspected the SS-25 “Topol” intercontinental ballistic missile, the predecessor of the “Yars” missile recently tested by Russia.

When the first three missiles inspected exited the factory, the U.S. inspectors took to naming them after American cities that could ostensibly be their targets — Pittsburgh, Des Moines and Chicago. The powers that be, back in Washington, D.C., quickly discouraged this practice, given the sensitivity that accrues to the issue of thermonuclear war.

One must wonder if the Russian soldiers responsible for launching the Yars missile took the time to name their warheads, and if they did, which cities would have been chosen to christen them. 

There is no doubt that had the Russian soldiers turned to former President Dmitri Medvedev for advice after he received news about the intercepted conversation, the warheads would likely have been named after German cities — Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Nuremburg, Dusseldorf.

“The eternal enemies, the Germans, have become our archenemies again,” Medvedev fumed in a post on his Telegram channel.

The Germans would be well advised to reflect long and hard on their actions, actions which could precipitate a conflict that, as Putin has noted, “potentially means the end of civilization — don’t they realize this?”

Don’t they?

“O mischief, thou art swift, to enter in the thoughts of desperate men!”

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. His most recent book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika, published by Clarity Press.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

33 comments for “SCOTT RITTER: The Minds of Desperate Men

  1. jamie
    March 6, 2024 at 11:01

    The danger is very real, real because western leaders have been poisoned by the idea, if no longer racial, of cultural superiority; the idea of superiority allows one entity to no longer consider what others think, want, or wish; it only matter what that “superior entity” believes; it allows that entity to think it has divine right to take everything they desire, to suppress anyone they consider dangerous, to kill even civilians and innocents because everything they do, they do it for the good of humanity.
    Such idea is extremely dangerous because there is the tendency to overestimate one’s capability and grossly estimate the others’ strengths, values and capabilities. I hear sometime western military leaders saying that Russian fire power and tech is mostly fake news, while they believe they have the greatest military power in the world. Probably, even if intel shows that Russian claims are very real, they easily dismiss them; intel is not always accurate; the same thing has happened in 9/11, when for years US intel showed that AQ was planning an attack in US soil, and yet it was dismissed as those leaders grossly underestimated AQ potential. Today we are talking about a nation with nuclear capabilities and advanced weaponry for asymmetrical warfare. US can’t make the same mistake, that means Russia must be dealt through negotiations only.
    When Europeans came to America they believed that Natives were foolish and dirty when they saw them washing almost daily in the river, and burying their excrement deep into the ground, while in Europe bathing occurred once or twice a year and cities like Paris named their street after the excrement floating in canals by the street.

    • Susan Siens
      March 6, 2024 at 16:06

      And never forgot Chomsky calling the Russian military a “paper tiger.” I think all people with such foolish notions, even old geezers, need to go to the front lines in Ukraine.

      And I LOVE your comparisons of indigenous people on Turtle Island with the filthy midgets who invaded from Europe. Ever watch the PBS program about Jamestown? They literally shat right on the ground in their fort. Disgusting!

  2. mikjall
    March 6, 2024 at 10:43

    Any country that has “troops . . . stationed in Ukraine to operate advanced weapons systems for strikes on Russian forces” has de facto attacked the Russian Federation. These are direct acts of war, and should render those NATO troops subject to attack and the “weapons system” storage depots, transport facilities, and manufacturing facilities, IN THE BELLIGERENT COUNTRIES—France, The UK, and Germany according to Scholtz himself and the leaked information, who are are “operating inside Ukraine to help operate long-range missiles”—likewise subject to legal attack. Putin just doesn’t want direct conflict with NATO, but it’s time he acknowledged that he has already got it. NATO’s Article 5 should be irrelevant, as these countries have attacked Russia, not been attacked by Russia, and Russia has the legal right to respond in self defense. There is no longer “plausible deniability”. Scholtz, Macron and Sunak should fess up to their lies, slink off, and withdraw from this conflict. These people are not “standing with Ukraine”, as the main effect of their actions are the deaths of Ukrainians and the destruction of what’s left of the Ukraine.

  3. Drew Hunkins
    March 6, 2024 at 10:17

    These Euro autocrats are playing a very dangerous game. Their obsequiousness to the Washington-Zionist empire could possibly get us all killed someday.

  4. susan
    March 6, 2024 at 07:56

    Ironic that the only world leader with any sense is Putin!

  5. BillS
    March 6, 2024 at 05:37

    Dear Mr. Ritter, In the face of our clown-show apocalypse, let’s keep our facts straight! Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, not Mantova.

    • Carl Zaisser
      March 7, 2024 at 13:00

      It was in Mantua where Romeo was in exile that he decided, upon hearing a mistaken report from a servant, that he would return to her grave in Verona and kill himself, not being aware that she was not dead but merely in a death-like, drug induced state. That’s what Ritter was referring to. Mantua is only a half hour drive from Verona, been to both. Care to dispute his “clown show” facts about the nuclear weapons?

  6. John Manning
    March 6, 2024 at 02:06

    I think Putin’s warning should be interpreted differently.

    “It could mean the end of EUROPEAN civilisation, Don’t they know this.”

    The greatest danger facing our world is the growing number of NATO personnel who think that a nuclear war can have a winner.

    • Susan Siens
      March 6, 2024 at 16:09

      The hubris of Europeans is off the charts. For years I’ve been saying that if there is a nuclear war, Europe will be literal toast. But these swollen EMPTY heads are incapable of coming to grips with reality.

  7. VasiliArkhipov
    March 5, 2024 at 23:36

    The goal is a limited tactical nuclear war in Ukraine. The reson is that if Russia supplies Germany with cheap gas and China completes the OBOR project uniting Eurasia, then the USA will be the third largest manufacturer and cargo will not need to pass through water controlled by the USA. Then American oligarchy will be cut off from exciting the rest of the planet and the only victims these blood suckers will have left will be the 99% in the USA, and they’ll lose. So instead of that the USA will destroy the German economy, destroy the middle east and destroy anywhere else. Winning Tonya Harding style. Winning what? King in hell

  8. Kato Rivera
    March 5, 2024 at 22:58

    I read Scott’s article until I got to Macron’s suggested strategy, and guffawed explosively. He is really that stupid? The rest of the article provided the best comedy I have read in years. Pure Gilbert and Sullivan. Gotta hand it to Ritter, he is not only the most incisive geopolitical analyst around today, he retains his sense of humour.

    But reading the comments below, anticipating gems of humour and alacrity, my smile froze. None of these dudes are living in the 21st century. Let me present the western economic power ascendancy, from the top” City of London, Geneva/Basle, Wall Street.

    Israel is financed by the US taxpayer. It is owned by the first two entities listed. The US Government is bankrupt to the tune of $34 trillion and cannot make the next interest payment. It’s military is 25 years obsolete. Its cost of weapons and munitions is inflated 900%. It is out of ammunition. Enlistment has crashed and it has allowed more than 28 million illegal immigrants in with which to make up the difference.

    Who are the top military powers in the world? From the top: Russia, China, Iran, Turkey.

    UK needs to sell one aircraft carrier to finance keeping the other afloat. Germany as a nation is finished, destroyed in only two years by its complicity with the US. Ironically, had it stuck with Russia, in ten years the pair would have been the most powerful alliance on the planet. US and UK knew this and feared loss of supremacy, hence the betrayal.

    Another update. It is 2024; ten years since the commencement of WWIII.

    • mog
      March 6, 2024 at 12:32

      Good comment, but I have to quibble about one point: Israel is not “owned” by the states it depends upon for it’s very existence, any more than a tic or any other parasite is “owned” by it’s host. This is a deadly delusion. Quite the reverse is true, especially in the USA, where every institution: the President’s administration, the Congress, the corporate community, the “Christian Zionist” clergy, the news media, educational institutions, state&local government from the Governors and legislators to the local mayors, city councils & school boards is totally controlled by the Israel Lobby and it’s subsidiary Israel-America friendship/cooperation NGOs & “round tables”.

      • Susan Siens
        March 6, 2024 at 16:12

        YES, YES, and YES. I’m glad I read One Nation Under Blackmail before the latest Israeli genocide began. I was under no illusion that the U.S. owned Israel, but rather vice versa.

  9. robert e williamson jr
    March 5, 2024 at 20:47

    I just read a piece from the Guardian originally reporting the Russians captured a phone conversation that revealed a German officials conversation, during which it was alleged the UK had troops on the ground in Ukraine.

    If Biden expects to get re-elected he might want to talk to his UK counter parts about cutting the bullshit!

    • Susan Siens
      March 6, 2024 at 16:13

      Did you see the passcode the Germans used? 1-2-3-4. So much for German intelligence!

  10. Jeff Harrison
    March 5, 2024 at 20:06

    You don’t need to convince the French, the Brits, the Germans. You just need to convince their master, the US. These vassals have agency of their own.

    • joey_n
      March 7, 2024 at 16:40

      Did you mean to say that they “have no agency of their own”? Or is it not a typo and they do have it?

  11. anon
    March 5, 2024 at 19:42

    WHOOPS Apocalypse 2.0.

  12. Rob
    March 5, 2024 at 18:29

    All this sabre-rattling involving nuclear weapons is absolutely hideous and must stop.

    • Paulus
      March 7, 2024 at 10:34

      It isn’t sabre rattling. It is the cold hard exposition of the inevitable result of the West’s constant escalation of the conflict.

  13. robert e williamson jr
    March 5, 2024 at 16:48

    Rubicon, speaking of money!

    From the looks of things in Gaza one could not be blamed for wondering if the U.S. Government must have sold off a rather large portion of U.S. sovereignty to the Israeli government.

    Either that or the Israelis have knowledge of something so terrible they can blackmail U.S. leadership and name their price and adjust it for inflation.

    I know I have to wonder what the hell is going on with this very strange relationship!

    Unfortunately, for everyone involved in this Ukraine debacle, I will repeat what I have said all along from the very beginning to present about the war there. This entire shit storm should have been and could have been handled very differently.

    • michael888
      March 6, 2024 at 10:04

      As the US keeps saying with a straight face “Israel is the ONLY Democracy in the MidEast”. Biden says “I am a Zionist!”

      Slaughtering children seems to be what “American Democracy!” is about (Madeleine Albright comes to mind.)

    • mikjall
      March 6, 2024 at 10:52

      “This entire shit storm should have been and could have been handled very differently.” Right you are, but the US, the UK, and Germany did not want to handle it differntly. It got handled in just the way they wanted to handle it.

    • Susan Siens
      March 6, 2024 at 16:15

      Whitney Webb’s One Nation Under Blackmail details how the Israelis control various countries. And now we have all these people in the legislative and executive branches with dual citizenships, and some of them — Schumer, for example — have been quite forthright about their allegiance to Israel and NOT the U.S. Dual citizenships for public officials needs to be outlawed.

      • Richard Coleman
        March 8, 2024 at 13:26

        And who do you suggest will do the outlawing?

  14. bardamu
    March 5, 2024 at 15:09

    It seems removing lunatics from power has become an emergency. Let’s hope there remains enough democratic process in the West to do this at least somewhere.

  15. JonnyJames
    March 5, 2024 at 14:47

    The tragic humor just keeps coming nonstop. Since Macron fancies himself such a brilliant military strategist, let’s have him lead La Grande Armee into Russia himself – all the way to Moscow. At least Bonaparte would have done, but Macron would probably just soil himself if confronted with any danger. Better to fight until the last drop of Ukrainian and NATO troops blood while the “leaders” sip cognac in their suits and ties. Maybe they could crack open a few history books in the meantime.

  16. Rubicon
    March 5, 2024 at 14:25

    The central problem with Mr. Ritter is that he does not understand the immense capabilities of the US Financial Empire. It’s this “power” that has turned EU and UK politicians into little muppets who have ALL been bought off by US $$$. The result- whimpering little fools that have lost both their sovereignty and their citizenry’s sovereignty, too.

    • joey_n
      March 5, 2024 at 17:25

      My thoughts exactly. To write as if Germany were a sovereign nation that can manage its own affairs, and not the US-controlled puppet state that it has become in 1945, is a distraction from, and as much of a problem as the misdeeds of, said US Financial Empire.

      Where do I begin? There’s US military bases on German soil, German gold reserves in US custody, and NSA wiretapping of the Chancellor’s phone. What more can I say? Does that not prove Germany to be a vassal?

      I remember it was a few years ago when Ritter believed that the Anglo Allies purposefully kept Germany divided after WWII to prevent it from causing any more trouble, when in fact the same Allied powers supported the Nazis against Russia early on and continued their fight against Russia into the Cold War. I don’t know if he still thinks this today, but I thought I’d let this out just in case.

      • Bor
        March 6, 2024 at 05:27

        As Marshal Zhukov said :
        “We liberated Europe from fascism, but they will never forgive us for it”

        • joey_n
          March 6, 2024 at 16:54

          I’m not sure how that factors in to what I said. Care to elaborate? Did Zhukov predict or take into account, when he said that, that the US and UK would take over Western Europe and rewrite history to omit the Soviets’ role in defeating fascism?

          • mikjall
            March 7, 2024 at 04:41

            Taking your point that Bor might have done better in connecting the dots in relation to your comment, I think that the answer to your reponsive query is certainly “yes”: Zhukov, when he said that, was surely quite certain that the US and UK would take over Western Europe and rewrite history to omit the Soviets’ role in defeating fascism—and would disguise their own fascist sympathies (and actions), as they continue to do up to this very day. As for Occupied Germany—as we might as well call it—after a period of about 30 years following WWII, when it appeared that the German people, and some of their leaders, were about the only ones who had learned anything from the war, the German elites began to sink into their ever-deepening period of re-Nazification in the service of US and UK racist Russophobia, which has no trouble whatsoever working with, and supporting, Nazis—German or otherwise—so long as they are willing to sacrifice themselves and anyone else in the effort to destroy Russia. Perhaps Zhukov was not well positioned to foresee all that, but he would have recognized instantly what was happening as it began to happen—as Putin did (although born after WWII) and eventually most of the Russian people, albeit they are mostly younger than Putin. Occupied Germany is much more than a mere vassal of the US; its “leadership” and its elites are enthusiastically on board with the whole Anglo-American (and now EU) Nazified Russophobic program.

          • Bor
            March 7, 2024 at 08:53

            I am referenced this Zhukov quote to your sentence :
            “when in fact the same Allied powers supported the Nazis against Russia early on and continued their fight against Russia into the Cold War.”

            What Zhukov exactly took in account for his quote I do not know but I would say (as I understand) that he know
            that nobility and wealthy people from the west were strongly against communism (normally, they were afraid of their “privileges”) and support fascism (from which they benefited).

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