In the wake of Sunday’s US shoot-down of a Syrian fighter plane and the following day’s warning from Russia that it will treat all American warplanes flying west of the Euphrates River as targets for its surface-to-air missiles, the threat of an armed confrontation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is now greater than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly 55 years ago.
– Bill Van Auken
This threat, which carries with it the grim prospect of the annihilation of humanity, is the product of a calculated escalation on the part of US imperialism.
The downing of the Syrian fighter marked the first time in this century that a US warplane has shot down the plane of another country. The last instance of such aerial combat took place in 1999 during the US-NATO war against Serbia, when an American fighter plane shot down a Serbian MiG.
The gravity of the event was underscored Tuesday with Australia’s announcement that it is grounding its planes that have been flying over Syria. Australia was one of the few members of the US-led “anti-ISIS coalition” that made any significant contribution to the increasingly murderous US air campaign against both Iraq and Syria. While the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, responded to the Russian threat with bravado, extolling the ability of US pilots to “take care of themselves,” the Australian military clearly believes that one of its planes could be brought down.
The escalation of the conflict continued Tuesday with a US warplane shooting down an Iranian drone in southeastern Syria.
What will be the consequences if a Russian surface-to-air missile battery fires on a US plane seen as posing an imminent threat to Moscow’s forces on the ground in Syria, or, for that matter, if a US warplane “painted” with the radar of a Russian SAM site takes preemptive action?
No one knows. Complacent US foreign policy “experts” insist that the last thing either Washington or Moscow wants is a nuclear conflagration, and, therefore, it will not happen. This fallacious argument is then employed to justify unbridled US aggression.
The supposed rationality of capitalist ruling classes has again and again proven no deterrent to the outbreak of catastrophic wars. As former defense secretary Robert McNamara recalled in the documentary “Fog of War,” during the Cuban missile crisis, “Rational individuals”—Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro—“came that close to total destruction of their societies.” …