RS: Testing Russian redlines means threatening US national security
The US has opted to test Russia's redlines in Ukraine, a decision that a new Responsible Statecraft report claims could lead to an unpredictable escalation that the US will not know of until it happens.
In a new report published on June 12, Responsible Statecraft (RS) highlights that the US might be pushing its chances in Ukraine, an endeavor that could result in a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington that could devolve into nuclear war.
RS explained that US President Joe Biden and his administration have insisted on testing Russia's red lines through experimentation, a decision that could lead directly to "Armageddon" without prior mutual escalation.
According to the report, the US, through its continued escalation in the type of weaponry assistance it sent to Ukraine, "has grown increasingly confident that the Kremlin’s 'red lines' in Ukraine are not as sharply drawn as once feared."
After having established the US approach to experimentation regarding Russia's redlines, the report identified and discussed a fatal flaw: "A nation’s redlines – those that it will go to war to defend – are not always static."
The decision to go to war is typically grounded in the current odds and fortunes on domestic and international levels. This meant, the report highlighted, what could be accepted by Russia today, could become "intolerable" given a different set of circumstances.
RS warned that the US will likely discover it had gone too far "only after we find ourselves in a direct confrontation with Russia, not before."
Another factor described by the report, that has and will continue to play a role in changing Russian odds to become more likely to launch a direct attack against the West, is Ukrainian military discipline.
Recently, Ukraine has launched direct attacks against Moscow, be it through drone attacks or other means. While the US has been careful to avoid getting dragged into a direct war with Russia, Ukraine might, the report underscored, "believe that drawing Moscow into a clash with the US military is their best hope for victory."
As such, RS concluded that it is "unwise" for the US to bet on Ukrainian discipline as a premise for preventing direct escalation with Russia.
Russian escalation scenario
According to the piece, in the event that Russia makes the decision to escalate, its primary go-to will not be tactical nuclear weapons.
The report defended that claim by arguing that Moscow's "geopolitical strategy depends heavily on courting China, India, Brazil and other non-Western actors" and any nuclear attack against another state will result in global condemnation and threaten the country's bilateral ties, even with what has been dubbed friendly nations.
However, RS also argued that Russia's option would also cause NATO and the US significant harm. In 2021, Russia proved capable of destroying orbiting satellites with a ground-based interceptor missile. In Ukraine, much of the war against Russia has been possible thanks to US "communications, reconnaissance, and guidance systems that are vulnerable to Russian attacks."
In that case, even if the US reciprocated Moscow’s attack with a similar one, it remained that Russian military capabilities are much less dependent on satellite communication.
The report also highlighted that the Kremlin's strategy in Ukraine has been "slowly grinding down Ukraine’s capacity for war has been designed to achieve victory without fighting NATO directly." The report reminded that these strategies could change based on domestic and international factors. If the Russian people grow impatient with Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory, the Kremlin might need to escalate.
A decision that neither the US nor Russia could claim they know how it will unfold, said the report.
Crossing Russia's redlines means threatening US security
The most significant point the report attempted to make was: "Rather than probing to discover how much we can get away with in Ukraine, we should be focusing on what is vital for America’s national security."
In that regard, RS argued that the greatest US interest would be to ensure no escalation with Russia will occur rather than to test Moscow's redlines.
Similar to an argument made in April, also by RS, this report reaffirmed that a 'complete victory', which meant the "enabling Ukraine’s recapture of Crimea, prosecuting Russian leaders for war crimes, and enfeebling Russia’s military" could be considered theoretically appealing. However, attempting such a "victory" will "will inevitably increase the risks of escalation."
The report, lastly, urged the American people to "insist" the US to find an alternative to end the war in Ukraine before it escalated "beyond our [US] control."