The clash between Russia and the US over Ukraine has resurrected Cold War levels of suspicion, antagonism and gamesmanship. The US military’s decision to release video footage of a Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumping fuel on and hitting its MQ-9 Reaper drone in international airspace appears to have punctured Moscow’s narrative that it was merely conducting a routine intelligence-gathering mission. The incident also highlights the importance of military-to-military contacts. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has scheduled more such contacts.
The escalation over Ukraine is also revealing how far apart the US and Russia remain on their strategic calculations. The US military spends 10 times more than Russia does on national defence, operates a fleet of aircraft carriers and has a massive advantage when it comes to the ability to project power around the world. Experts agree that the US military’s globe-spanning force would clobber Russia in any toe-to-toe conventional fight. However, Russia retains a formidable nuclear arsenal and has built up a large navy and long-range missiles.
A four-minute audio-visual graphic from the journal Science & Global Security illustrates the calamitous mayhem that would ensue in a plausible escalating war between the two nations. It uses realistic data sets on current nuclear force postures, targets and fatality estimates. The graphic estimates that over 90 million people would die immediately from a war between the US and Russia, with countless more dying from fallout and radiation poisoning.