The distance between Russia and the United States is sparking concern in some corners of Washington that the two nations may, inevitably, stumble into an armed conflict.
American and European analysts, as well as U.S. Military Officials, claim that the two nations need to talk more, to prevent stumbling into an armed conflict that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.
A foundational arms control agreement is being abandoned, and the last major limitation on strategic nuclear weapons could go away in less than two years. Unlike during the Cold War, when generations lived under threat of a nuclear Armageddon, the two militaries are barely on speaking terms.
“During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” says the top NATO commander in Europe, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who is about to retire. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.”
“I personally think communication is a very important part of deterrence,” Scaparrotti said, referring to the idea that adversaries who know each other’s capabilities and intentions are less likely to fall into conflict. “So, I think we should have more communication with Russia. It would ensure that we understand each other and why we are doing what we’re doing.”
He added: “It doesn’t have to be a lot.”
In August of 2019, the two countries will leave a pact that banned an entire class of nuclear weapons, and as of April 2019, both nuclear-powered nations are not working to re-negotiate. Also, the two are also not looking to restart the 2010 New Start treaty, which limits each other’s strategic nuclear weapons.
Further, the relations between the two nations took a nosedive after Russian intelligence interfered in the 2016 elections. However, some military officials believe that there is enough communication to prevent a miscalculation.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview Friday that Russian behavior is to blame for the strained relationship.
“It’s very difficult for us to have normal relationships with a country that has not behaved normally over the last few years,” Dunford said. “There are major issues that affect our bilateral relationship that have to be addressed, to include where Russia has violated international laws, norms and standards.”
Dunford said he regularly speaks with Gerasimov, his Russian counterpart, and the two sides talk on other levels.
“I’m satisfied right now with our military-to-military communication to maintain a degree of transparency that mitigates the risk of miscalculation,” he said. “I think we have a framework within to manage a crisis, should one occur, at the senior military-to-military level.”
Regardless, the deterioration in communication is evident politically, and with Russia attempting to influence the Maduro Regime further and relocate assets to Venezuela, the possibility for a miscalculated conflict is growing.