There are some fairly good reasons in favor of Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria, which is why I have always been modestly if unenthusiastically supportive of it:
- It is basically a giant and continuous live training exercise for Russian pilots and generals, making it almost “free” in financial terms.
- The value of the Khmeimim base is modest, but not entirely negligible.
- It supported Russian weapons sales.
- Fighting Islamic State made for good PR.
- Could potentially be used as a bargaining chip for concessions elsewhere (e.g. the Ukraine).
- One commonly cited but fake reason: Supporting an ally. As I have long been pointing out, it was Vladimir Putin himself who pointed out that prior to the war, Assad had visited Paris more frequently than Moscow.
However, there were always a couple of major downsides:
- Supporting Assad placed Russia at odds with all of the powerful players in the region – the US, its European allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs, and Turkey. The only exception was Iran, and even its interests are far from synonymous with Russia’s.
- The modest Russian expeditionary force in Syria there is completely overawed by, and surrounded by, military assets belonging to states that don’t really want them there. This makes it highly vulnerable.
With the defeat of Islamic State, Russia’s continued presence in Syria has become much more dangerous, since neoliberalism.txt could now revert to its old mantras about Assad “killing his own people” without the superlative evil of Islamic State spoiling the optics.
Indeed, as I speculated at the start of this year, the drone attacks on Khmeimim could have been a message to Russia that it was time to pack up its bags.
Recent developments over the Douma false flag gas attacks have basically proved that my gloomy presentiments were correct, e.g. see this from February:
And the Russian air presence in Khmeimim remains absolutely overawed by the resources at CENTCOM’s disposal.
Hopefully Syria doesn’t launch any more large-scale chemical weapons attacks, false flag or otherwise (admittedly, controlling for false flags is hard). Because while the kremlins might be forced to swallow the deaths of a few dozens “They’re Not There” mercenaries, explaining away RuAF hunkering down in Khmeimim as Turkish/Israeli/US-backed jihadists overrun Syria – or worse, getting themselves wiped off the face of the earth in a futile attempt to fight back – will be orders of magnitude harder.
Indeed, this is a theme that I have been noting since the very start of Russia’s intervention in Syria, in both my posts and many comments on the Unz Review, in the face of persistent and often vicious naysaying – no matter that this is a rather obvious geopolitical reality.
I do know know the immediate outcome of the immediate crisis. Most likely, it will be a much larger-scale repetition of the mostly symbolic strike on Shayrat AFB in April 2017. Maybe a miracle will happen and it is called off entirely.
But maybe things will go in a much more disastrous direction, in a scenario that will be the subject of this post.
However, even if the outcome for now is relatively “good”, the underlying issues that got us where we are will not go away. As I noted in the aftermath of the 2017 strikes – indeed, as Putin himself pointed out – the Syrian rebels, and/or their sponsors, now have a perverse incentive to stage further false flag attacks, in the sure knowledge that Trump will no longer have any option but to respond with ever greater force. As this cycle of escalation increases, the chances of Russian soldiers getting hit by US/coalition strikes rises to unity.
I do not know if the present crisis will culminate in conciliation or catastrophe.
I do think that the probability of catastrophic outcomes will continue increasing so long as the Assad government remains in power. Contra the trolls who will bloviate about hasbara troll Karlin’s defeatism in the comments, this is not an argument for Russia bailing out of Syria. Nor, for that matter, is it an argument that Russia should stay. To the contrary, it is just a reality that needs to be confronted, in the eventuality that the Americans start going beyond the limited, one-off strike that they committed in 2017.
1. The Khmeimim Crisis
I hope it goes without saying that Russia has absolutely no way to win in Syria should its forces enter into a full scale regional conflict with CENTCOM.
It is not going to be a trivial fight by any stretch of the imagination:
- There are two S-400 complexes guarding Khmeimim, and several Pantsir systems.
- Though composition varies from month to month, there are usually around a dozen air superiority fighters (Su-35, Su-35) and a dozen other fighters, as well as a few military helicopters.
- Around 4o Pantsir systems total in Syria
- Two Kilo submarines are currently in the region, though not the formidable Moskva cruiser, with its S-300 system
- Two Bastion anti-ship coastal defense systems
- Stand-off cruise missiles (Kh-32, Kh-50, Kalibrs) can be fired from deep within Russia, or from Caspian/Iranian airspace
But here are the forces ranged against them:
- A single carrier such as the USS Harry S. Truman has around four to five dozen F-18s
- Hundreds of F-15s and F-16s in US bases in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, and the UAE
- Hundreds of Tomahawks can be fired from US Navy ships
- The air forces of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and Britain, and possibly that of Israel and Turkey
- B-52 bombers from half a world away
This is a totally lopsided match, which even the optimistic Russian military analyst Andrey Martyanov acknowledges:
Of course, US can unleash whatever it has at its conventional disposal at Khmeimim and it will eventually overwhelm whatever the Russians have there, from several SU-35s to S-300s and S-400s and, possibly, make Peters’ wet dream of keeping the whole ordeal confined to Syria very real. This would work, say against anyone’s military contingent except Russia.
The true extent of Russia’s defeat will depend on the precise composition of its forces and enemy forces come the day, as well as on the specific circumstances in which the showdown happens.
(a) If Russia is able to strike first, for instance, during a US attack on Syrian units when they are not expecting Russian interference, it’s plausible that it could down a few dozen fighters and two to half a dozen frigates and destroyers.
(b) If on the other hand it is the US that attacks without warning – for instance, including Khmeimim in its upcoming Tomahawk barrage – then Russia would be lucky to get even just a dozen kills. The Kilos and Bastions might still be able to sink a few a ships.
(c) A third scenario, and I suspect the likeliest one, is a mistake or “mistake” in which Russian air assets or air defenses gets targeted by a sweep of Syria by coalition air forces after the initial Tomahawk barrage – perhaps by an incompetent Saudi airman, or Israelis seeking to provoke a major escalation that would lay the groundwork to finish off Assad once and for all.
In this scenario, Russia’s air defense systems will be partially depleted from knocking down the initial Tomahawk barrage, and its responses will be confused rather than planned. However, a majority of the attacking force will not be expecting the Russians to turn hostile either. Consequently, the damage inflicted on the US in this scenario is somewhere between that of (a) and (b).
I doubt that Russia will manage to sink or even disable an aircraft carrier in either of the latter two scenarios. Contra the War Nerd’s fantasies about suicide motorboats taking them out, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is a 100,000 ton metallic honeycomb with hundreds of watertight compartments, protected by a screen of smaller ships, submarines, and fighters. Sinking these leviathans is really, really hard.
Of course it would be trivial to do so by launching a couple of ICBMs that disperse nuclear warheads in a grid pattern around the carrier’s general location. However, the US will treat this as a full-fledged nuclear attack. In any case it’s not even clear what such a cardinal violation of ethical and military norms would change in the big picture. The US would still have 10 aircraft carriers left.
In any case, the ultimate outcome is clear and near certain: The Russian military presence in Syria will be eradicated within a week (mostly within the first two days).
Furthermore, US and EU sanctions will be drastically stepped up in the following weeks. In particular, I expect the latest US sanctions against the companies of Deripaska, which bar US nationals from any dealings with them, compel US nationals to sell any shares they have in them, and freeze their US based assets, to be extended to all the major Russian corporations – with their consequent expulsion from the wider Western financial system. And I also expect this to be the point at which Russia gets cut off from SWIFT.
2. Retreat or Escalation?
Putin will now have to make some hard choices between dishonor, war, or some combination of the two. These constitute a number of non-exclusive options.
2.b. Hunkering Down
Militarily, this is the least risky option. However, Putin will face rising domestic discontent as Western attempts to strangle the Russian economy transition to a new and far more intensive phase, and living standards collapse.
How long will the “buffer” of 80% approval ratings hold up? People don’t like losers, as the Argentine junta discovered.
And it’s not only internal affairs that people will Russia will have to worry about. Not only does nobody like losers, but this period will see secular trends in the post-Soviet space coming to their logical conclusions. The ageing post-sovok rulers of Central Asia are getting replaced by nationalists and Islamists. The overthrow of Lukashenko by the Belorussian nationalists (zmagars) his regime has been quietly cultivating. The Ukraine will continue to recover economically and consolidate politically. By the early 2020s, oil prices may start to collapse due to the exponential rise in adoptions of electric vehicles.
If the Americans supported Chechen rebels even under “Boris and Bill” in the 1990s, it goes without saying that Western efforts to stir up separatism and color revolution will be doubled and redoubled.
Russia may partially mitigate this by intensifying its reorientation to the East, especially China. But this will not be a silver bullet that solves all its problems.
In my assessment, in this scenario there is a significant chance that Russia will eventually be forced or manipulated into acceding to Western terms, if not capitulating entirely.
1. The most obvious option, and the one pushed most energetically by The Saker, would be to continue the struggle in the Middle East, especially Syria.
Obvious objection: Using what, to do what? At this point, shorn of Russian air support, incredibly demoralized, and getting swept up by continuing air strikes – Israel in particular will use the opportunity to wipe the Iranian presence from the Syrian map – the Syrian Arab Army, which has never been a very functional fighting force, will collapse once again as jihadis take the initiative.
Within months, they will overrun much of the country, with perhaps only Latakia and Tartus continuing to hold out (and even that’s not certain, considering the extent to which those regions of core Assad support have been bled out since 2011).
There will also probably be a genocide of Alawites and the remaining Christians in Syria, which the Western media will most certainly not televise.
As for Turkey, here is what I wrote about it at the start of the year:
Erdogan would prefer an Islamist Syria to Assad, but would prefer a unitary Syria even under Assad to a powerful Rojava occupying half the country’s territory. This largely explains his heel turn in Syria. Even so, there is nothing stopping him from doubling back should circumstances on the ground change yet again.
It will be largely immaterial whether or not Turkey closes the Bosphorus to Russian shipping (which would be a formal act of war). By this point, the Mediterranean will be a completely American lake anyway.
This in turn makes the logistics of supplying any further expeditions to Syria untenable.
On the off chance that the infamously deceptive Erdogan actually refrains from placing yet another “knife in Putin’s back”, the best that could be hoped for from him is providing cover for Russia to evacuate what remains of its shattered forces in Syria.
2.c. The Persian Gulf
The American victory in Syria will be an even greater defeat for Iran in terms of both geopolitics (unlike Russia, Iran really does have a vital interest in breaking out into the Mediterranean) and legitimacy (its pretensions to leadership of the global Shiite community).
Just like Russia, Iran too will have a choice between hunkering down/capitulating or carrying on the fight.
If it chooses the latter, its best bet would be to close the Strait of Hormuz and hold it in place long enough for the ensuing oil price spike and ensuing recession to force the US to the negotiating table.
The best ways of doing that at Iran’s disposal are:
- Anti-ship missiles
Anti-ship missiles: The bulk of the Iranian arsenal is based on Chinese C-802 missiles, which are similar to Harpoons and Exocets. Unless fired in salvoes, the USN can probably deal with them, though they would pose a credible threat to passing oil tankers – enough of a risk, possibly, to get insurers to stop covering the Strait of Hormuz route (which is ultimately what really matters). Ironically, at this point, many of them might start using the Northern Sea Route.
Mines: Iran’s naval mine stockpile is opaque, though its possible that it would be even more of a threat to shipping. It would be helpful to begin mine-laying operations before open outbreak of hostilities if at all possible, since doing so would become far harder afterwards. (However, since the US will be very much on the watch out for this in the wake of its destruction of Syria, a covert mine-laying operation will not stay secret for long).
One solid option would be to keep most of the anti-ship missiles in reserve, and use them primarily to attack US mine-clearing ships (which are less well defended than its capital ships, and far more fragile than double-hulled, multi-compartment oil supertankers). This might even force the US into launching ground operations on the Iranian coast, which will add body-bags to economic pain and possibly plunge it into political crisis.
Iran might also consider launching IRBMs at Saudi oil installations, which are very densely clustered on its east coast, or sabotaging them with special forces. However, oil and gas pipelines can be easily repaired, and Iranian missiles aren’t all that accurate, so I don’t see this having much of an impact.
Without Russian intervention – for instance, if Russia goes down the Capitulation route – Iran’s attempts to strike back are likely doomed to failure. But its prospects improve cardinally with Russian help.
Bastions can proliferate on the mountainous coasts of southern Iran, and Russia can launch long-range cruise missiles from Tu-22M3 bombers to shut down sea traffic through the Persian Gulf (at least so long as China acquiesces). The success prospects of any US landing operations also decrease drastically.
2.d. The Ukraine
Options here range from formal recognition of the LDNR to a resurrection of the Novorossiya project.
1. Recognizing the LDNR, or even incorporating them into Russia, will temporarily assuage dissatisfied nationalists and send a signal that Russia is not backing down before the West.
However, this will come at the cost of even more sanctions from the West and what is sure to be even greater support of the Ukraine in the wake of the Syria imbroglio. In particular, it seems likely that NATO will start pushing through expedited membership for the Ukraine. It is also unlikely to add all that much to Putin’s approval ratings.
2. A full-scale invasion and occupation of Eastern Ukraine and/or Novorossiya is still plausible, but it will be an order of magnitude more difficult than in 2014. The Ukrainian Army is more experienced, better funded, has been purged of its pro-Russian elements, and its disposition is no longer concentrated in the west of the country.
Here is what I wrote about Ukrainian military developments a few months ago:
If there was a time and a place for a Russian invasion of the Ukraine – in reality, not in Western/Ukrainian propagandist fantasy – it was either in April 2014, or August 2014 at the very latest.
Since then, the Ukrainian Army has gotten much stronger. Since 2014, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have grown from no more than 100,000 troops (almost none of them combat-worthy) to around 250,000. It can now carry out complex tactical operations: In an August 2017 report at Colonel Cassad, Vladimir Orlov noted how night vision equipped Ukrainian spec ops used highly technical means to kidnap a Russian citizen serving with the NAF.
It has been purged of its “Russophile” elements, and even though it has lost a substantial percentage of its remnant Soviet-era military capital in the war of attrition with the LDNR, it has more than made up for it with wartime XP gain and the banal fact of a quintupling in military spending as a percentage of GDP from 1% to 2.5%-5%.
This translates to an effective doubling to quadrupling in absolute military spending, even when accounting for Ukraine’s post-Maidan depression. Russia can still crush Ukraine in a full-scale conventional conflict, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future, but it will no longer be the happy cruise to the Dnepr that it would have been two years earlier.
Of even greater import is that the Ukrainian military now completely overshadows the Novorossiya Armed Forces.
The latter have no more than 40,000 troops, and with the exit of the more “idealistic” warriors in 2014-15, it has succumbed to low morale. Alexander Zhuchkovsky, a Russian directly involved in the NAF, estimated that they would be unable to hold out for longer than a week against a full-fledged Ukrainian assault without help from Russia. The Maidanists dream of a repetition of Operation Storm and – absent serious Russian intervention – they are probably already capable of it.
In reality, fighting the Ukraine in the wake of a debacle in Syria will be even more difficult.
In 2014, the US geopolitical analysis website Stratfor war gamed three scenarios of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
The maximal one involved an advance to the Dnieper, which they estimated would require 91,000-135,000 troops and could have been accomplished in 11-14 days. They also estimated that Russia would need counter-insurgency forces of 28,000-260,000 to secure the area, depending on the intensity of partisan resistance. Since considerable percentages of people throughout putative Novorossiya supported joining Russia in 2013-14, I would have leaned towards the lower end of those estimates at that time – especially considering that “Russophile sentiment” went up by about a standard deviation in Crimea after its annexation, with support for joining Russia going up from ~40% to ~90%. However, in the rest of the Ukraine, “Russophile sentiment” collapsed by a standard deviation in the course of 2014; support for joining Russia in Novorossiya collapsed from ~25% to ~5%. Consequently, assuming this collapse was “deep” as opposed to temporary, the garrisoning forces required now might be much larger than four years ago.
Nonetheless, it could probably still be accomplished – the Ukrainians still have no counter to Russian air power and advanced EW capabilities – although there would now be thousands of Russian military deaths, as opposed to hundreds in 2o14. Even if NATO were to have decided to mount a major air intervention, Stratfor estimated that the deployment of 22 fighter squadrons to forward areas in Eastern Europe would take 11 days – that’s around the time at which Russian spearheads would be reaching the natural defense line that is the Dnieper, along with their mobile air defenses.
A huge NATO ground mobilization would still be able to overwhelm and push Russia out of the Ukraine in the long-term. However, it is very unlikely that even the Americans – let alone Germans – would want to do that for the sake of a non-NATO member, especially since Russia would likely still not be formally at war with them.
Meanwhile, even the maximal estimate of the needed numbers of occupation troops – 260,000 for Eastern Ukraine – could be matched by the 340,000 troops at the disposal of Russia’s National Guard.
This “regathering of the Russian lands” would restore the legitimacy of the Putin government.
Nor would the financial cost be unduly high.
For instance, out of Novorossiya’s eight oblasts, Donetsk (mining) and Kharkov (science, heavy industry) would be net contributors to the budget immediately or almost immediately. Donetsk has coal, and generated something like 25% of the Ukraine’s foreign currency earnings and as well as a disproportionate share of gov’t revenue. Kharkov is the Ukraine’s second hi-tech/science city after Kiev, as well as a major industrial center. Odessa (main Ukrainian port), Zaporozhye (Motor Sich), Nikolaev (shipbuilding), and Dnepropetrovsk (industrial) would have started off as recipients but could have been expected to transition to net donors after a few years of convergence. Only Lugansk and Kherson would likely remain net recipients indefinitely.
Still, 6/8 is a great deal. Much better, say, than the North Caucasus ethnic minority republics (0/7). If anything, it would be Kharkov subsidizing, say, Pskov, as opposed to “Russia” subsidizing Kharkov.
This demonstration of force would also rescue Russia’s much diminished authority amongst countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, which in the wake of its humiliation in Syria would otherwise be rushing to disassociate themselves from Putin’s Russia.
Nonetheless, it’s pointless to pretend that this strategy will be without its risks.
First, Russia will be injected with a certain demographic highly hostile to it, especially if this project was to extend beyond Novorossiya. Second, Moldova might join up with Romania, making Transnistria officially part of a NATO country with all its attendant consequences. Third, sanctions will be ramped up to a near total level, and the prospects of reconciliation with the West, including the EU, will go from minimal to effectively zero.
2.e. The Baltics
By far the riskiest but highest potential pay-off strategy would be to invade the Baltics immediately after the Syria debacle, perhaps after giving them a 24 hour ultimatum to denounce NATO (which will certainly be declined).
In the first days of the war, the residents of Saint-Petersburg will see their Internet speeds slow down to a crawl, as NATO trawlers cut the submarine fiber-optic cable linking Western Russia to the global Internet. The Unz Review and other alt media sites that host Russian propaganda will also be shut down right about this time. In general, communications and trade links between the two blocs will be rapidly severed, while traditional wartime mechanisms of authoritarian control reappear.
The main advantage of this strategy is that a fast and relatively bloodless victory is all but assured, as Russian armored spearheads sever the Suwalki gap to connect Kaliningrad to the mainland, while others race towards Tallinn and Riga.
This is not just my opinion, but that of the RAND Corporation in its 2016 report Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics:
In a series of wargames conducted between summer 2014 and spring 2015, the RAND Corporation examined the shape and probable outcome of a near-term Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad: a bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics; to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War; or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the Alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.
The obvious downside is that Russia will now likely be formally at war with much of NATO, assuming that most of its members choose to honor Article V, at least in words.
The upside is that retaking the Baltics would be prohibitively expensive – Kaliningrad represents one of the greatest concentrations of military power on the planet, while the Baltic Sea itself would become a death zone under Russia’s A2/AD bubble. Western nuclear escalation is unlikely to be credible, since it’s hard to imagine the US trading New York for Riga. Meanwhile, a failure to mount a credible intervention risks demoralizing and cracking NATO itself.
My guess is that the likeliest outcome is (1) a consolidation, rather than cracking, of NATO; (2) a long and possibly permanent “phoney war”, such as the one that prevailed between France and Germany for the first eight months of World War II.
Still, the risks are extremely high.
If NATO fully consolidates and fully mobilizes, then Russia’s conventional defeat becomes inevitable – the military-industrial divergence between the two blocs is simply too great. But here’s the crux of the matter – such a conflict will go nuclear, at least if Russia follows its own military doctrine, which relies on the concept of limited “de-escalatory” nuclear strikes (a strategy that bears a resemblance to NATO’s during the Cold War when the Warsaw Pact had military superiority in Central Europe). If NATO checks or raises instead of folding, Russia will continue reraising, up to and including a full scale nuclear apocalypse. It’s a reckless strategy, sure, but as a weak player with no other chips left, it has no other choice.
Conversely, if it is NATO that fails to consolidate and enters an existential crisis after Russia conquers the Baltics, it is the US that might escalate to the use of nuclear weapons in a bid to preserve its global hegemony.
Consequently, it is highly unlikely that the highly cautious men in the Kremlin would embark upon such an adventure.
There’s a small possibility that China will use the opportunity to seize Taiwan and solidify its hegemony over the South China Sea, though it’s not really militarily ready for that yet (many of its weapons system are close to qualitative convergence with the US, but it has yet to mount a credible buildup, which will take another decade or two).
Still, the US being so preoccupied elsewhere might be too juicy of an opportunity to miss out on.
Although it is uncertain to what extent China will help out Russia, it is not in its interests to allow it to collapse and drift over to the Western camp. Russia is China’s strategic rear, and a secure source of hydrocarbons and minerals should tensions with the US increase to the point that they shut down its sea routes to the Middle East.
Still, on the off chance that China decides to join the West in pressuring Russia, then the latter’s situation becomes hopeless, and it might as well capitulate sooner rather than later.
3. Nuclear War
It is unlikely but not impossible that World War III will escalate to a major nuclear exchanges between the US and Russia.
Since the tone of this article has so far been pessimistic, now is as good a time as any to inject a “positive” note.
Even a full-scale thermonuclear exchange between Russia and the US is patently survivable. The theory of “nuclear winters”, at least in its wilder variants (drops of many tens of degrees), has been long discredited. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was approximately equal in megatonnage to that of all the world’s current nuclear arsenals, and yet it merely led to a single “year without a summer” that did not even produce any major famines in a pre-industrial world. Fallout radiation levels decay rapidly, and it will be safe to emerge from shelters almost everywhere after just two weeks. Most rural areas and many small towns would be almost unaffected, at least directly. Sadly, there will be no monster mutants roaming the post-apocalyptic plains – even in the Fallout video games, that was the result of a biological weapon, not of nuclear weapons.
Now to be sure, some modest percentage of the world population will die, and a majority of the capital stock in the warring nations will be destroyed.
However, this destruction would have been far from total even during the 1950s, when missile accuracy was lower, urban population density in the US was higher, and total megatonnage was much larger. Here is a table of the percentage of capital stock that nuclear war theorist Herman Kahn (On Thermonuclear War) expected to survive in the US following a nuclear war with the USSR:
As Herman Kahn might have said, this is a tragic but nonetheless distinguishable outcome compared to a true “existential risk” to the human species.
Now to be sure, they will be some pretty cardinal changes.
There will be a modest global cooling, and a collapse of the global economy. Many Third World countries may indeed slip into famine due to the breakdown of global trade.
The US, Russia, and chunks of Western Europe will be economically and demographically shattered, having lost 10%-25% of their population and perhaps 80% of their GDP.
Although the majority – probably the vast majority (90%+) – of the world’s population will survive, that is extremely unlikely to include myself. Although Moscow has the A-135 anti-missile system, which uniquely uses 10 kiloton nuclear missiles to knock down incoming nuclear missiles – in the process flattening much of the surrounding Moscow oblast – it cannot stop a barrage of hundreds of missiles. The most it can do is buy a bit of extra time for the Kremlin elites to descend into the D6 secret subway system and spirit themselves off to remote control bunkers such as the one at Mount Yamantau.
Meanwhile, the world’s new hegemon – assuming it managed to mostly stay out of the line of nuclear fire – will be China.
Although some Europeans, especially our best representatives, might rue this development, it would on some level be quite well deserved and even appropriate.
That is because getting manipulated into rage quitting on your own civilization by some Middle Eastern tribes is really, really retarded, and stupidity needs to be punished.