Caitlin Johnstone: Escalating Brinkmanship

The U.S. and NATO are playing chicken with Russia over Ukraine and nobody’s got a foot anywhere near the brake pedal. They’re not even looking at it.

U.S. President Joe Biden arriving at the Kyiv train station on Feb. 20, 2023, for a surprise meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky. (White House, Adam Schultz)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

It’s damn near impossible to keep up with all the warmongering of the Western empire these days.

In response to the frightening steps that NATO has been taking to allow Western-supplied weapons to be used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory, Vladimir Putin warned last week that these escalations can lead to “serious consequences.” 

“This constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” the Russian president said. “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the U.S. behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons? Hard to say. Do they want global conflict?”

[A senior Ukrainian official hinted that Kyiv may have begun using Western weapons to hit targets inside Russia, various news outlets reported Tuesday, after President Joe Biden  secretly gave Ukraine permission to use U.S. weapons in Kharkiv, which Politico reported on May 30. ]

We can get a more concrete idea of what Putin was talking about from the blatant threat Moscow formally made to the U.K. last month, saying that Ukraine using any British weapons to attack Russian territory could result in direct Russian attacks on British military targets in Ukraine “and beyond,” which would place Russia in a profoundly dangerous state of hot warfare with NATO forces.

On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Putin’s warnings, saying, 

“This is nothing new. It has … been the case for a long time that every time NATO allies are providing support to Ukraine, President Putin is trying to threaten us to not do that.”

The cavalier attitude toward nuclear brinkmanship that empire managers have been demonstrating lately was addressed on Monday by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who said the U.S. is close to making a “fatal” miscalculation.

“I would like to caution American officials against miscalculations which may have fatal consequences. For some unknown reason, they underestimate the seriousness of the rebuff they may receive,” Ryabkov reportedly said.

“I am urging these officials who seemingly are not bothered by anything, to take some time away from playing computer games, which is apparently what they are doing, given their light-hearted approach to serious issues, and take a closer look at what Putin said,” Ryabkov added.

American officials appear to be doing the exact opposite of what the deputy foreign minister recommends, with White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby telling the press on Monday that the Biden administration is open to discussions about expanding the use of U.S.-made weapons further into Russian territory.

Kirby at press briefing in October 2023. (White House, Oliver Contreras)

Asked about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s complaint that U.S. permissions to conduct limited strikes on Russian territory weren’t enough and comments from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggesting a greater range of Russian territory may soon be authorized, Kirby said it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Zelensky wants more, and that the U.S. will keep talking to Ukraine about the possibility of U.S.-backed strikes deeper into the Russian mainland.

“And so we’ll have those talks, we’ll have those conversations with the Ukrainians,” Kirby said.

“Absolutely, we will. And whether it leads to any additional policy changes, I can’t say at this point, but we’re not going to turn our back on what Ukraine needs. And we’re going to continue to try to, again, evolve our support to them as the battlefield evolves as well.”

I wrote just the other day that Biden’s authorization for limited strikes on Russian territory with U.S. weapons would immediately be followed by a push for even more escalations with strikes deeper into Russia, and here we are. Every time the warmongers get one escalation, they immediately start pushing for another. 

There is a limit to how many escalations Russia will tolerate before taking drastic action against NATO to re-establish deterrence credibility, and nobody really knows exactly where that limit is. NATO seems bound and determined to find it however, and when they do we may already be on an irreversible free fall toward nuclear Armageddon.

This all comes as the Dutch foreign minister publicly gives the green light for Ukraine to use F-16s to attack Russian territory. As Antiwar’s Kyle Anzalone notes of this news, F-16s are nuclear-capable warplanes.

Dutch Foreign Minster Hanke Bruins Slot with with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in November 2023. (NATO, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s important to push back against brinkmanship with Russia well before we go over the brink into nuclear war, because obviously by then it’s too late for anyone to do anything — and indeed a full-scale nuclear war between NATO and the Russian Federation could mean that nobody will ever do anything ever again. 

Nuclear Armageddon is the one foreign policy mistake that you can’t course-correct after you make it, so it’s extremely urgent to course-correct long before we get there. 

The biggest risk for nuclear war isn’t that either side will knowingly choose to enter into one, but that one will be set off by miscalculation, miscommunication or technical malfunction in the chaos and confusion of soaring tensions, as nearly happened numerous times during the last Cold War. The higher tensions get, the more likely such an incident becomes, and the more hair-trigger everyone’s nuclear systems will be. 

[See: US Presidents Who Gamble With Nuclear Armageddon]

It’s a lot like a standoff where people are pointing guns at each other, like the end scene of Reservoir Dogs. The more guns there are and the more tense the situation becomes, the more likely it is that someone will make a move that sets the whole thing off and gets everyone killed.

And that’s why it’s very disturbing that these tensions are being ramped up so casually by the empire with no resistance from anybody — not from Western governments, not from the media, and not even from ordinary people in any meaningful numbers. 

These freaks are playing chicken with Armageddon weapons, and nobody seems to have a foot anywhere near the brake pedal. They’re not even looking at it. They don’t even seem to be thinking about it. 

At the very least we’ve got to find some way to get people thinking about this. This would be such a damn stupid way for humanity to annihilate itself.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

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

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17 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Escalating Brinkmanship

  1. Cliff
    June 7, 2024 at 20:45

    To paraphrase TS Eliot, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with drool coming out of joe biden’s mouth

  2. Afdal
    June 6, 2024 at 07:59

    There’s a lot of bad things about the manner in which our oligarchy forms a government. But the narcissistic psychopaths attracted to it, encouraged by the system to gamble with the fate of civilization to save failing careers… Could there be any greater argument for a change, once and for all?

    • RomfordRob
      June 6, 2024 at 15:01

      No. Clear rules need to be laid down. Anyone who WANTS to be a politician should be immediately disqualified from doing so. That would be a decent kickoff.

  3. george carver
    June 6, 2024 at 04:46

    I resent the damoclesian sword being dangled above our heads by this retarded mummy and his elder-abusing, genocide-promoting staff/wife. I haven’t slept well in over two years, and it’s not Putin’s fault.

  4. susan
    June 5, 2024 at 22:44

    Listen please: hxxps://

  5. anon
    June 5, 2024 at 20:29

    Genocide Joe or Zion Don.
    What a choice.
    With Haley or Cotton as VP.
    How long before Trumpo brings back Bolton and Pompeo to make a full house of Ziocon jokers.
    Bought and paid for shabbos goys one and all.

  6. Rob
    June 5, 2024 at 17:38

    Reckless, risk-taking and stupid—those are the words that best describe the leaders of the western alliance. On the bright side, the vast majority of F-16s and ATACM missiles will either be shot out of the sky by Russia’s air defenses or functionally disabled by electronic warfare technology.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    June 5, 2024 at 17:24

    These lunatics are too far removed from suffering any real pushback against their aggression towards any country that refuses to bend the knee. They have managed to completely insulate themselves from reality. That’s what makes them so dangerous. Somehow, we have to force their convictions for endangering life on earth. We need a global strike. Shut them down until they are forced to resign in shame. From there we will have to build a system built on mutual respect rather then greed and lust for power.

  8. Ray Peterson
    June 5, 2024 at 16:04

    Truth be told, “warmongering” US/NATO would look
    favorably on a nuclear bombing of a European
    nation-state; as what a perfect excuse to use
    the US arsenal of atomic death and destruction
    on that troublesome menace to American hegemony

    • Mikael Andresson
      June 5, 2024 at 19:36

      One Russian sub in the Atlantic somewhere off New York. Goodbye the east coast. Another Russian sub in the Pacific somewhere off LA. Goodbye west coast. There won’t be any “American hegemony”. There probably won’t be any America. Maybe they know that. I hope so.

  9. Michael McNulty
    June 5, 2024 at 15:48

    The politics of the bunker will be unbearable as new social structures or class systems are bound to appear. Alpha-males and -females expecting to be in charge, all squabbling over who decides the menu, who must do the cooking and who must do the washing-up. They can’t have too many servants because they’d risk overthrow so it’s possible within weeks there’ll be court intrigues and even murder.

    These people don’t even bring up their own kids so they’re not going to want to do the work necessary just to survive.

  10. Michael McNulty
    June 5, 2024 at 15:32

    These elitists know the best way to guarantee they’re in a bunker when the war starts is to get in the bunker first then start the war. It’s a pity they don’t realise that dying last isn’t the same as surviving, because I feel once the missiles stop flying the Russians will send army engineers over to dig them out for arrest and trial. Failing that they should breach the tunnels and guide a huge body of water into them like a river or lake. Maybe breach a tunnel near the coast so they can guide the sea into it and flood it out right up to sea level. They’ll have to surface or drown down there like rats.

  11. Jacinto Molina
    June 5, 2024 at 15:03

    “These freaks are playing chicken with Armageddon weapons, and nobody seems to have a foot anywhere near the brake pedal. They’re not even looking at it. They don’t even seem to be thinking about it.”

    “These freaks” in addition to being a gang of drooling idiots are also sociopaths who are dangerously insane, and they don’t seem to realize what they’re risking. A big part of the problem, is that these lunatics seem to think that a nuclear war is winnable and that the west will surely prevail. The fact that they believe such a war is winnable, betrays their total ignorance as to what will happen to all life on earth if a large number of nuclear weapons are detonated in a full-scale nuclear war, the likes of which has never been seen before and, if it happens, will never be seen again! And this is what these combative miscreants seem to be angling for. These morons have yet to realize that in a full-blown nuclear war there are NO WINNERS!!!

    Apparently, these mental defectives won’t be happy until they see the mushroom clouds rising!!!

    • Susan Siens
      June 5, 2024 at 15:30

      Absolutely accurate analysis. I listened to Scott Ritter on Judge Napolitano talking about how every president starting with JFK, when presented with Pentagon plans suggesting use of nuclear weapons, said, “That’s insane!” And then along came the perfect drooling idiot George W Bush who did not have that response.

  12. Guest
    June 5, 2024 at 14:47

    Caitlin’s right. These people are freaks. And I don’t mean that in a good sense.* They are completely devoid of humanity, a perversion of the evolutionary impulse.

    *Back in the day some of us used to refer to ourselves as freaks, meaning we were entirely removed from the mainstream.

    I wish. Way too many of us became complacent Democrats and thus the problem

    • mgr
      June 5, 2024 at 16:36

      Guest: “Complacent Democrats.” Spot on with that.

  13. susan
    June 5, 2024 at 13:26

    Frightening to say the least – I’d say that the Dooms Day Clock may strike midnight way sooner than we think with these western lame-brains in the drivers seat!

Comments are closed.