Friday, April 10, 2015

Ode to the Hunching Goblin

Smart Phone Fear by Matthew English
Recently it has struck me just how amazingly dependent many of the people I know and meet, and in the places where I work, shop, or do business, are on technology, especially the now-ubiquitous smart phone.

Sorry if I come across as a tiresome curmudgeon, but I ask you next time you are out and about to look around and see just how many people are sitting or standing, hunched like a goblin over this tiny box, pouring their time and attention into this glass screen.

The image nagged has nagged at me for several weeks now - I've read a novel or short story about what we seem to be turning into, but couldn't place it until today.

If you have the chance, please take a few minutes to read E.M. Forster's novella, The Machine Stops. If you are driving or otherwise unable to read the story, check out the audio version below.

No rant here. Just something to contemplate.

Have a safe weekend. Don't let the SOBs get you down.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nuclear Strike of the Month (April 2015): Target Ukraine

100 kT Air Burst over the Home Base of the Ukrainian 1st Guards Armored Brigade

Note on the Nuclear Strike of the Month Series: In this series I want to illustrate various ways attacks using nuclear weapons can play out.  I will be using Dr. Alex Wellerstein's online NUKEMAP tool to generate the estimates of the blast and follow-on effects.

My rationale is to show a wide range of nuclear attack scenarios short of all-out thermonuclear war. The idea is to give readers a feel for the destructive power of nuclear weapons, provide scenarios as thought experiments for your own planning, and to discuss what nuclear weapons can and (sometimes more importantly) what nuclear weapons can't do.

For a variety of reasons, it is my opinion we will see nuclear weapons used in warfare sometime between now and 2030. We might as well brush up on the basics.

Nuclear Strike of the Month: Tactical Exchange over Ukraine

This month's scenario has been particularly difficult to implement. My initial goal was to attempt to show what an exchange of tactical nuclear warheads across Eastern Europe might look like, simulating an eruption of war spinning out from the current hostilities in Ukraine. Properly showing what that would look like and the research required to pin down likely attack sites would make a fine Masters thesis. I therefore scaled back my ambitions and instead show what an exchange of tactical nuclear weapons might look like over the Russian-dominated parts of Ukraine that are at the center of the current conflict.

The Scenario
A new U.S. President is sworn into office, after basing her campaign on being tough and experienced in Foreign Policy matters.This proves helpful as she attempts to pivot the national conversation in the U.S. to foreign policy matters as a distraction from an ongoing slide in the financial markets, scandals erupting around the Federal Reserve Bank's various assistance programs for the banking sector, as well as ongoing and pernicious gridlock in Congress which led at one point to a fistfight between a Congressman from South Carolina and a Senator from Massachusetts, leaving the Senator hospitalized for several days.
In this environment, a major clash erupts around Mariupol, Ukraine. In a matter of two days, assisted by a substantial 5th column in Urkainian ranks, Russian-speaking separatists occupy the city. A multi-pronged counterattack led by Ukrainian armored brigades is crushed and waves of separatist militia units, armed with a wide variety of modern weapons systems from Russia, begin a drive towards the Dnieper River.

The President sends large numbers of advisors into Ukraine, funds training efforts via Private Military Corporations, and begins putting advanced weaponry in the hands of Ukrainian troops.

Tensions rapidly escalate and long negotiations commence between the US and Russia in the UN Security Council. When a strike team of military contractors is captured near Luhansk in the aftermath of an assault on the headquarters of one of the militias, the Russian response goes into overdrive. The dossiers of each contractor are splashed across the RT website and are lead on their news programs. The operatives all have deep ties to U.S. Special Forces and various U.S. intelligence agencies.

Two days later, a Russian surveillance aircraft is shot down. Russia claims it was attacked while in Russian airspace. The U.S. and NATO claim the plane was flying illegally over Eastern Ukraine. Three weeks later, Russia conducts an underground nuclear test for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The next week a hardline member of the Russian Duma is killed in Luhansk where he had been giving a speech in support of the separatists efforts. The tide on the battlefield turned as even larger numbers of NATO advisors were pouring into Ukraine. Media reports show U.S. and U.K. officers leading Ukrainian battalions, accompanied with advanced weapon systems and supported by drone strikes from what are reported in the Western media as Ukrainian drones.

Donetsk fell and Luhansk came under serious pressure. Russian media reports on massive atrocities against Russian-speaking civilians and Ukrainian artillery shells reportedly fall on Russian soil.

Two nights later, a nuclear warhead detonates east of Lviv, in Western Ukraine. It exploded roughly 75,000 feet above the city, blasting out windows in many of the homes and dropping power lines throughout the district. The attack is immediately followed by a television announcement from President Putin, indicating this attack was in response to NATO attacks upon Russia under the guise of assisting Ukrainian troops. He stated bluntly this attack was meant to get the attention of the Western Powers.  Russia would not allow NATO troops to conduct armed action on and over the Russian border. The U.S. and its allies could come to the negotiating table in good faith or the world could cross over into the horrors of nuclear war.

The U.S. President responded that evening, stating in no uncertain terms that the U.S. would never bow to nuclear blackmail. U.S. troops had been ordered into Ukraine at the request of the Kiev government in order to secure the country's borders and prevent the use of force to redraw political boundaries in Europe. It was hinted they might cross over into Crimea as part of this action as well.

In the next three days, Russia scattered her ground forces along a wide swath of the border with Ukraine, never having more than a company massed in any one location. All Russian forces were put on high alert.

Four nuclear weapons, each estimated to yield 100 kT were detonated by Russia over ostensibly military and logistics targets across Ukraine. The blasts mostly avoid heavily populated areas and the detonations occur at higher than optimal altitudes. Analysts later assume this is to minimize any fallout which might blow back over Russia.

A day later, Luhansk was leveled by a 300 kT W-87 warhead delivered by a U.S. Minuteman missile, also as an air burst.

Finally the U.S. and Russia agreed to meet in emergency session at the UN after strong-arming from the Chinese government...  

Looking this over, I will admit to struggling as to the actual usefulness of nuclear weapons in this context.  Tactical nukes might be applicable for attacking hardened positions or massed troop formations, but in the context of a dispersed hybrid war involving separatists and multiple outside players, I had a hard time finding the lever point for making such attacks useful in a regional proxy war context such as Ukraine. There might be a different answer if one were to analyze realistic Pakistan-India conflict scenarios. I am not sure.

One rather unfashionable thing I want to point out is just what this would mean in the larger context. Assuming airbursts, take a look at the five attack sites as we pull the map to broader views:


While I grant you I wouldn't want to be at ground zero, the strategic effect of airburst type attacks would probably be limited, as would the fallout. Yes, groundbursts would be a different story (and one which I am planning for another Nuclear Strike of the Month post), but even then, this is five attacks, totaling roughly 750 kT of explosive power (roughly 20x the force used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and in the context of the world at large - life would go on. 

Against dispersed forces, aside from disruption of supply lines, I don't see how a limited tactical exchange has a major effect, aside from the initial shock factor - which should not be underestimated.

There are going to be many, many dead. No question. Especially if you hit a major city. But barring unexpected EMP effects from high altitude bursts, fifty miles away, life is going on. That's what worries me.

The breaking of the taboo is the biggest fear in my mind. Nukes don't end the world. Sorry to break the cardinal law laid down by generations of non-proliferation experts and pundits. Yes, there will be radioactive contamination and horrible death. There is already horrible death in the way we conduct war without nukes (see Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, et al). What concerns me is that we'll use several of these weapons, get a sense that we can get away with it, and then do something colossally stupid like start a major war using strategic nukes and lots of groundbursts. More to come on that in the future.

Clown Show Disclaimer

Due to the subject matter of this post, it will be necessary to provide the following disclaimer.

I am not promoting nuclear war, nor am I attempting to paint any potential Russia nuclear strikes in retaliation for war in Ukraine as justified, nor a counterstrike on Luhansk as justified.  I am attempting to provide a plausible scenario which might lead to the exchange of nuclear weapons and use that scenario to help you in whatever plans you may be putting into place to deal with this new era we find ourselves in.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Iran Framework

The Devil's Dice, Carlydraws

Let's take a brief moment to look over "framework" which is being wrestled to the ground between Iran and the key Western Powers over its nuclear program.

In the words of President Obama:
...Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.  And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended.  Iran has met all of its obligations.  It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material.  Inspections of Iran’s program increased.  And we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal.  And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.  This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.  So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification...
On the other hand, Republicans and various groups adept at getting U.S. Congressfolk to see things their way are denouncing the deal in heated terms.

Leaving the political machinations and evaluation of the deal to the experts, let's take a quick look at the details of the framework and see if the socionomic model can help us see how likely it is to be implemented.

The Framework
CNN has a list of the key parameters of the framework deal here and is well worth reading if you enjoy the technical issues behind these kinds of agreements.

Of the items listed I'd like to point out that backing off from 20,000 centrifuges to roughly 6,000 centrifuges (all of the old model IR-1's, which are not very efficient) and the reconfiguration of the Arak core are quite substantial in terms of reducing the ability to quickly produce the raw material for a nuclear weapon. Combined with the strong inspection regime, it looks like as solid of a deal as you could expect.

The key thing in my mind is that, should Iran decide to stop the inspections and trash the deal, it would take many months to get ramped back up just to acquire the raw materials of a bomb - and that is not counting any other activities that are necessary to prove a bomb works. And during those months, one might expect a number of bombs and missiles to land all over the place and the War Party will finally get its wish to march on Tehran.

The Context
For those who follow socionomics, seeing this framework come out at a time when U.S. stock markets are at or near record highs comes as no surprise. To see this framework turn into an enforceable agreement will take several more months. Hopefully mood can stay elevated long enough to produce a deal all sides can agree to.

I've long been skeptical a deal worth having could be reached with Iran. Assuming what we are being told about the deal is accurate, and assuming Iran actually agrees to it, I will be proven wrong. The technical basis on this framework is a solid way to keep Iran from surprising the world with a nuclear weapon. The ability to hide a parallel program in some evil lair will be limited as well as all aspects of the nuclear supply chain are open to robust inspections.

Interesting and amazing to say the least.

It also makes one wonder just how this might change things in the entire region if Iran can become less of a pariah state - especially since our Iraq War made Iran the pre-eminent Power in Iraq. A certain monarchy in the region who provided most of the terrorists for the 9/11 attacks is probably deep in thought today, and if they, along with their Israeli partners, can't scuttle the deal, it opens up a brave new world of shifting alliances and provides the Shi'a bloc with more formal power than it has seen in ages.

If these shifts can be put in place before the bottom falls out on this rickety corrupt market structure the West has banked its future on, we may have a very different set of allegiances lined up in the Middle East when the next Great War erupts...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spain, Jews, and a Glimpse of the Future?

Return Home, Varmagari
We've discussed the expulsion of Jews from Spain on a couple of occasions. Once in the context of the Marranos and building up resilient communities within the nation-state, and more recently when briefly pondering the potential for mass transfers of ethnic and religious groups in the coming years, should we continue down this path of polarization and negative mood.

With that context I found the following headline very intriguing:
This Country is About to Offer Citizenship to 2.2 Million Jews
(TIME Alistair Dawber/Madrid)

Spain wants to make amends for expelling Jews from the country in 1492

Exactly 523 years ago on Tuesday, the Edict of Expulsion, which forced Spain’s Jewish community to convert to Catholicism or leave the country, was issued by monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. It may have taken more than half a millennia, but Madrid is finally about to make amends for kicking out the Jews by offering citizenship to the estimated 2.2 million descendants of those expelled...
 The spin on the story is an attempt by Spain to "make amends" for "wrongs" committed over five centuries ago.

What if there is more to the story? Or what if a significant number of people of Jewish descent take Spain up on this offer and Spain decides they like this sort of targeted citizenship program?

What do I mean?  Well Spain, like many European countries has a problem with a stagnant economy, high debt load, and shrinking demographic base. Let's say at a minimum they pull in 90,000 new citizens from this effort. What is the marginal cost of adding a new citizen in Spain? People taking advantage of this program would already hold a passport in another country, such as Israel. If they are forward-thinking enough to get this second passport and citizenship, this new influx of citizens might also be skewed towards high incomes. They probably would consider an apartment in Spain, doing some banking there, etc. In other words, what's not to like?

And to answer the question that probably jumped out at you upon reading the story, where a "number of Muslim groups and academics have pointed out, both the Jews and Muslims were victims of Isabella and Ferdinand’s Spanish Inquisition, and so why are only the descendants of the Jewish victims now being offered reparation?"

Easy. The extremists in the Jewish population are focused on Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Creating a haven for Jewish communities in Spain would, at least for the foreseeable future, not pose the challenges faced by other European countries and their Muslim minorities. To hell with fair, this is geopolitics.

I find this fascinating. In the coming years I wonder if we'll see more of these kinds of programs where countries attempt to poach "good" citizens from other other countries the way football teams try and improve their team via free agency? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nuclear FUD

Panic by Vin Zzep
I drop off the grid for a few days for some quality time and come back to find the crazy piling high and fast in the areas we here at FutureJacked like to comment upon.


I am cooking up a larger post regarding Ukraine, but for now I'll just provide you with the link to the U.S. House Resolution on arming Ukraine against Russian-backed militias and let you ponder for yourself the assumptions buried in each of those "Whereas" clauses - especially that first one.  I just can't get past my mental block on this one - imagine if the Chinese helped orchestrate the overthrow of what they regarded as a corrupt regime in Ottawa and replaced it with a fervently anti-U.S. governing junta. Then follow that with the Chinese Politburo publicly debating supplying advanced arms to that government after some Canadians out in the Western Provinces rebelled against what they saw as an unlawful government. It really just seems like a tremendous amount of downside for the West for very little gain. But then again, I am not exactly a member of the Deep State nor one of their political minions and those types have motivating factors far different from us little people out in Flyover Country.


There is plenty else out there, from the Shi'a vs. Sunni tussling in Yemen, to the ongoing Zimbabwe-ization of Japan, to the still-there-and-still fighting Islamic State (wasn't Tikrit supposed to have fallen to the Iranians Iraqis by now?). But don't worry - stock prices are still high!

Political theater and the continuing unraveling of the Middle East aside, I want to take a page from Nuclear Emergencies and analyze a couple of stories which came my way via Zero Hedge, using the tools described in the chapters on how to evaluate media stories on nuclear events.

Zero Hedge Does Nuke, Consume Carefully

The first step is to know your source. I like Zero Hedge as a platform for stories that won't make the cut in more mainstream media outlets, but I also never forget they have their own set of blinders and biases. They loves playing the fear merchant. This is especially true in terms of nuclear power, nuclear accidents, and radiation effects. They know nuclear stories draw eyeballs and that when the facts are used selectively and without context, you can scare the living daylights out of readers and keep them hooked on coming back.

Normally I wouldn't pay them much mind - if you take stories found on ZH as the final word on nuclear topics, you deserve what you get (primarily FUD - fear, uncertainty, and doubt) - but they reach a wide audience and have a sizable influence on opinions, so let's take two recent nuke stories found there and step through them, using some of the principles found in Nuclear Emergencies.

Why take the time? I want FutureJacked readers to be able to better evaluate threats. Nuclear meltdowns and weapons have many deep and negative emotions tied to them. But just because something sounds scary, doesn't mean it necessarily is scary. Walking through a couple of write-ups will hopefully help you navigate future stories with more confidence.

Fukushima's Nuclear Reactor Fuel is "Missing"

This is a typical "Tyler Durden" post on nuclear topics. First the headline is excellent. Even for those weary of reading about Fukushima, missing fuel could mean various things. Was it stolen? Disappeared totally? Not where it is supposed to be? Other?

Then we get into the story itself:
In the same week as Japan unveils its Pacific-Rim-esque anti-tsunami wall public works project, and Japanese government auditors say the operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has wasted more than a third of the 190 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in taxpayer money allocated for cleaning up the plant after it was destroyed by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami; Science Journal reports, Fukushima won't be truly safe until engineers can remove the reactors' nuclear fuel. But first, they have to find it... And so, in February of this year two muon detectors were installed outside the Fukushima Daiichi unit-1 ruins at reactor vessel height for the purpose of finding that ‘missing’ reactor fuel.
Okay, so what about this missing fuel? Oh, wait, first let's talk about a Japanese infrastructure boon-doggle, then let's talk about "wasting" 190 billion yen, then bounce over to how things won't be "truly safe" until the reactor fuel can be moved, but "...first they have to find it..." But it is in the "ruins" of Unit-1. Whew.

In NLP they might just call this a "confusion pattern," which is used to set you up to "reframe" how you see things (hypnotize you in the sense that advertisements use changes in consciousness to sell you something, that is) but we aren't supposed to talk about such things out loud, so moving, on:
First, as AP reports, Japanese government auditors say the operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has wasted more than a third of the 190 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in taxpayer money allocated for cleaning up the plant after it was destroyed by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

A Board of Audit report describes various expensive machines and untested measures that ended in failure. It also says the cleanup work has been dominated by one group of Japanese utility, construction and electronics giants despite repeated calls for more transparency and greater access for international bidders.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Teruaki Kobayashi said all of the equipment contributed to stabilizing the plant, even though some operated only briefly.
A reasonably straight-forward reporting of a recent audit, and it is followed by a list of items . The engineer in me cringes at the term "wasted" when I recall the chaos surrounding the situation in the days after the meltdown. They had a bad situation, they tried multiple techniques to address it. Many of those techniques failed. The engineers did their jobs. The auditors did their jobs.

And, as can often be the case in Japan, you'll notice no mention was made of the massive influence of the Yakuza (the 4th branch of the Japanese government) involvement in controlling jobs at Fukushima and siphoning off lot's of money and providing shoddy equipment in return.

No issues with the data, but what does it have to do with "missing" fuel? Oh wait, creating a negative setting, implying TEPCO is unreliable, tying negative traits to the story as a whole. Got it.

Then finally we get to the meat of the story:
So it is even more distressing that, as Science Journal reports, Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, destroyed 4 years ago in explosions and meltdowns triggered by an earthquake and tsunami, won't be truly safe until engineers can remove the reactors' nuclear fuel. But first, they have to find it...
 Okay. Cool. I love Science Journal. At least it is a credible source. Word choice is again loaded, but hey, it's Zero Hedge. This is followed by a quote describing how TEPCO is using a special detector to determine the location of the melted fuel (called "corium" in the trade). Is it all at the bottom of the pressure vessel? TEPCO and other analysts have been saying for some time that the fuel ate through the pressure vessel to some degree. How much melted through? If so, where is it?

These questions do begin to be answered. You can read it yourself, but the text isn't really inflammatory. Props to ZH for once.

Then of course, we get the patented ZH Zinger at the end:
But apart from that, it's totally safe for the looming Olympics... which will include the individual three-and-a-half-legged sprint...
 Sigh. Good old fashioned radiation humor. Never gets old.

Overall grade in terms of fear, uncertainty, and doubt - probably a B-. If "Tyler" hadn't tried the cute NLP trick at the beginning, I would have been impressed by the article as a whole (considering the source).

Then we have a guest post to look over:

The Best Place to Live in the United States? Here are Nine Maps to Consider.

This is a post from the End of the American Dream blog and leads off with:
If you could live anywhere in America during the tumultuous years ahead, where would it be?  This is a topic that is hotly debated, and the truth is that there is not a single right answer.  If you have a very strong family support system where you are, it might not be right to try to move 2000 miles away and start a new life from scratch.  And for many Americans, moving is out of the question in the short-term because they are completely and totally dependent on employment in their local areas.  But in recent years we have seen an increasing number of Americans strategically relocate to another region of the country.  They can see our society breaking down and they can see the storm clouds on the horizon and they want to do what they can to prepare themselves and their families for what is ahead.  So is there a “best place to live” in the United States?  Are there some areas that are preferable to others?  The following are 9 maps to consider…
 Hey. Cool. I like this kind of article as it can often contain useful nuggets of actionable information. I like maps. It even has a refreshing honesty about it with the "...there is not a single right answer..." Fast forward down to #7 on the list:
We have all seen what a single nuclear power plant disaster can do in Japan.  Well, in a future disaster scenario, we could potentially be facing multiple “Fukushimas” all at once here in the United States.  The map below shows where nuclear reactors are located throughout America.  You might want to think twice before moving in right next door to one.
It is short, sweet, and indicative of so much of the urban legends which pass for knowledge in the vast majority of the citizenry.

In what "future disaster scenario" would we be facing multiple Fukushimas?  Let's see, at Fukushima, all off-site power was lost due to the earthquake and the entire diesel generator back up system was wiped out by the tsunami due to a really, really bad decision to put the generators in the basement of a plant that sits next to the ocean.

That said, let's pretend we do have multiple Fukushimas. What has actually happened in terms of the release of radioactivity? How many people are projected to die from the radiation vs. the number dead from the earthquake?  I know we talked about it in the book but remember this - radiation isn't a magical killing spell from Voldemort or Sauron. Radiation is everywhere. Hell, if Grand Central Station at New York was a nuclear power plant, it would have to shut down due to the natural radiation release from the stones which were used to build it.

There is nothing specific here to criticize and that is the point. It is all vague and predicated on deep assumptions that radiation is always dangerous and that we should fear multiple Fukushima style accidents. This is where knowing the causes of the Fukushima meltdowns (along with the various other major nuclear accident's we've seen over the years) and understanding what gets released and what is dangerous threshold is so important.

If you do nothing else, in the future when you read articles on nuclear topics and radiation effects, always be asking questions. Think about the assumptions implicit in how the questions are written. Wonder about the sources used.

Don't let them blind you with FUD. You need to be one of the few with a clear head should the shit hit the fan in a nuclear way.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fast Cars and Market Highs

Classic and Faster by CrazySnck
How about a short and more upbeat aspect of the current plateau of mood we find ourselves in:

The Dodge Hellcats are so hot, they got suspended

(Fox News, March 16, 2015) Apparently Hell has frozen over, because a car company has stopped selling its hottest cars.
Dodge is hitting the brakes on the “Hellcat” versions of the Challenger and Charger, suspending orders of the 707 hp muscle machines due to overwhelming demand. The two share the title of “most powerful American production car in history,” and boast top speeds of 199 mph and 204 mph, respectively.
The automaker was caught off guard by interest in the pair since they were released late last year, and has already received orders for twice as many as it planned to build for 2015. The shortage has led to 50 percent markups on the $60,000-plus by some dealers, while others have reportedly taken dozens of deposits on cars they could take years to deliver, leading Dodge to warn customers of what it called “unscrupulous” behavior.
Several years back, an analyst at the Socionomics Insitute, Mark Galasiewski, wrote a series of articles showing the tie-in between elevated social mood and fast cars.

Here at the summit of financial optimism, we have cars so fast and so popular the manufacturer is having to pull them from the market to get their manufacturing house in order. Hopefully for Chrysler, mood can hang on long enough to get another solid round of sales out of them before the inevitable occurs...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Banging on the War Drums All Day

War by Zulema Revilla, hosted at

Not that we need yet another media or blogging outlet hell-bent on keeping your amygdalae locked into the "fear" setting day and night, but I do want to draw your attention to the ongoing school-yard shoving match in Ukraine between the U.S./NATO/EU coalition and Russia and the ethnic Russian militias in the Donbas. This is not meant to play into the Clown Show rhetoric being sprayed across every media platform each side's propaganda teams can access, but to ask you to parse through actions and words and see how close we might be to an actual clash between NATO forces and Russian troops, or whether this will remain a proxy war.

The Sounds of the Drums

Aside from the constant chatter about "Putin's Army" or "Putin's forces" and other simplistic narratives, let's see what we can find in the open media about what is happening on the ground over the last few weeks with both the forces aligned with the West (meaning here U.S./NATO/EU) and the forces aligned with Russia.

First, we have Sweden, which has a history of being "non-aligned" and doing a dance to keep both the Russians and NATO at bay, drawing closer to NATO, especially after recent incursions and near-incursions by Russian bombers and subs:

Swedish government says plans to boost defence spending
(Reuters) - The Swedish government will propose a 6.2 billion crown ($720 million) boost to defence spending over the next five years, its Defence Minister said on Thursday, citing increased instability in the region.

Peter Hultqvist said a worsening security situation, particularly Russian activity in and around the Baltic Sea, is forcing Sweden's armed forces to concentrate on the defence of its borders instead of international operations.

"We are making it very clear that we are shifting towards a focus of the national operations," he told a news conference.

The additional funds will be spent mainly on submarine operations and a permanent armed force on Gotland, a strategically important island in the Baltic, Hultqvist said.
Some take-aways: increase in war spending, re-establishing a military presence on a key Baltic Sea island, and in general, shifting more towards the NATO alliance.

As part of a trend by Russia to rattle the saber right under the noses of Western States, a month back we saw an incursion by Russian bombers near the UK.

RAF scrambles jets after Russian bombers spotted near Cornwall coast

(Guardian, Haroon Siddique, 19 February 2015) Anglo-Russian relations have taken another battering after the RAF escorted two Russian Bear bombers off the coast of Cornwall, as Moscow reacted angrily over a warning by Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, about the threat it may pose to Nato’s Baltic states.

RAF Typhoons were scrambled from their base in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, on Wednesday in response to the latest in a series of incursions by Russian warplanes. On Thursday David Cameron accused Moscow of trying to make a point, while the Kremlin furiously denounced Fallon’s warning that Vladimir Putin could repeat the tactics used to destabilise Ukraine in Baltic members of the Nato alliance.

During an event at Felixstowe, Suffolk, Cameron said: “I think what this demonstrates is that we do have the fast jets, the pilots, the systems in place to protect the United Kingdom. I suspect what’s happening here is that the Russians are trying to make some sort of a point and I don’t think we should dignify it with too much of a response."
Here is a more measured response by the Brits, past masters at Great Power saber-rattling, but another example of Russia not exactly going out of the way to de-escalate. As in the Cold War days, the big worry here is that one of these incursion missions will go too far and someone gets shot down, or a malfunction of some sort occurs, leading to a dogfight. What is more worrisome is that unlike the Cold War, there are no agreed-upon rules of behavior. A miscommunication could easily happen.

And then there has been yet another reference to the use of nuclear weapons by the Russians:

Putin says Russia was ready for nuclear confrontation over Crimea
(Reuters) - Moscow was ready to put its nuclear forces on alert to ensure Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year, President Vladimir Putin said in a pre-recorded documentary aired on Sunday...

" wasn't immediately understandable (what the reaction would be to Crimea's annexation). Therefore, in the first stages, I had to orient our armed forces. Not just orient, but give direct orders," he said.

When asked if he had been ready to put Russia's nuclear forces on alert, he said: "We were ready to do it."
That last comment is telling, in my opinion (emphasis mine). One oddity about the article is the headline about the potential for Russia to put its nukes on alert, while the bulk of the story was about Russia helping get its guy out of Ukraine after the recent coup. It's like the editor knows nuclear war draws eyeballs and brings clicks to the story links, but thinks the important stuff is the Clown Show drama over the former Ukrainian president. Or maybe the author doesn't know, or isn't allowed to speculate about, what a nuclear forces alert means.

Back in January we looked at not just nuclear weapons and social mood, but also at how Russia has revised its stance on the use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent and the concept of "tailored damage" - basically the use of nuclear weapons on a small scale to (hopefully) prevent a wider war.

I think part of this continuing reference to nuclear weapons and its nuclear arsenal is a reflection, in part, of Russia's limited ability to handle a major ground war right now. It is interesting how much of how Russia is sending messages on the use of nuclear force here is like the U.S. and then NATO back in the late 1940's and through the 1950's. Western forces were absolutely outmanned and outgunned by the Red Army in Europe. This was part of the reason for NATO to push for the development of tactical nukes and to never make a "No First Use" promise for nuclear weapons. They felt too weak to ever make such a statement.

Russia is probably feeling similar today. She has substantial forces, but her options to project that force into Ukraine, and certainly into Europe are limited.

What Kind of War Would We See?

No one can know for sure just how out of hand a war might get, should we actually NATO-on-Russian fighting in Ukraine. Knowing we can't have perfect knowledge, let's turn to the Socionomic Model and see what it tells us about past conflicts.

War and Socionomic Patterns, the Socionomist, February 2012
This graph from 2012 gives you the basic model on war and mood. This model would tell us that if you assume a top in mood in 2000, the leg down through 2008-2009 as the (a) wave, and call the run-up since then as the rally, a major collapse in mood and markets could mean we are facing the potential for a major conflict.

If instead we regard the recent highs as the top, any decline that might follow would hopefully lead us to either a negotiated armistice or at least a regional conflict. That doesn't mean we might not see a nuclear weapon detonated - but hopefully it would be more of a "signal" or detonated to create "tailored damage" (blow up a remote base or maybe detonate very high in the atmosphere over a target - blasting out windows and scaring a lot of people, but creating a low death toll and relatively low damage).

I don't bring you answers here, but I do want you to think about this model. One way or the other, we are likely facing a major conflict, whether in the immediate future or within a decade or so. All I can say is, don't dwell on the fear, but do plan accordingly...