Dr. Strangelove in the Ukraine – US strategy in the Cold War against Russia

Aug 5, 2022
USA Russia Ukraine Europe
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The RAND Corporation is a US think-tank that describes itself as a research organisation ‘that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.’

RAND’s benign mission statement deodorises their role as war planners and coup makers. Managers of war and masters of doublespeak, RAND is a leading US National Security think-tank, financed by the US government and US corporations, which has played a major role in planning all US wars since 1947, including the present war in Ukraine. In the film Dr Strangelove, the RAND corporation were satirised as the BLAND corporation and the character of Dr Strangelove was based in part on RAND’s chief strategist, Herman Kahn.

Who better to seek your military advice from?

Overextending and Unbalancing Russia

As an example of RAND’s “help” in making the world safer and more secure, consider RAND’s 2019 report entitled Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, which explores US strategies for handling its relationship with Russia.

The report examined and assessed Russia’s vulnerabilities and developed economic, geopolitical, and military options ─ which the report referred to as innocuous-sounding ‘nonviolent, cost-imposing options’ ─ to intensify the cold war against Russia, urging that the US and its allies pursue an aggressive strategy to unbalance and overextend Russia’s economy and armed forces. It argued:

The most-promising options to “extend Russia” are those that directly address its vulnerabilities, anxieties, and strengths, exploiting areas of weakness while undermining Russia’s current advantages.

According to the report, Russia’s vulnerabilities were ‘coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack’. This was US gaslighting! The Russia policy the RAND analysts endorsed was precisely that, a return to the strategy adopted during the Cold War against the USSSR, a carefully plotted program of disruption to achieve regime change and the diminution of Russia as a great power.

All the policy options assessed in Overextending and Unbalancing Russia were aimed at reducing Russia, either by escalating conflicts on its borders, or by imposing sanctions, or by interfering in elections and promoting civil unrest, measures that could likely prompt Russian counter-escalation. Although intensified competition between two nuclear-armed adversaries posed the considerable risk of a nuclear holocaust, a la Dr. Strangelove, the RAND authors, the successors of Herman Kahn, confidently asserted that meticulous US management would avoid catastrophe by “carefully calibrating” Russia’s levels of stress.

‘Besides the specific risks associated with each option, there is additional risk attached to a generally intensified competition with a nuclear-armed adversary to consider. This means that every option must be deliberately planned and carefully calibrated to achieve the desired effect.’

The managers of war delude themselves that they can administer war with scientific precision, but it is always a gamble: they enter an opaque landscape of known unknowns and unknown unknowns, the fog of war!

There is a history of the first world war called The Sleepwalkers. Reading the RAND brand of brash American war-mongering evokes a feeling of history repeating, of arrogant planners sleepwalking into a major war. Some of the ‘nonviolent, cost-imposing options’ to overextend Russia that the RAND researchers assessed involved the US assisting armed conflicts in territories around Russia.

Of these, providing lethal aid to Ukraine was regarded as exploiting Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability and was the highest rated military option, but the report again warned any increase in U.S. military weapons and training to Ukraine would need to be ‘carefully calibrated’ to avoid provoking a much wider conflict in which Russia, by reason of proximity, would have significant advantages.

Unfortunately, it does appear that the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine was insufficiently ‘calibrated’ and provoked the wider conflict, the proxy war that started in February this year, and which seems unlikely to end under the current US administration, whose leader and his family are deeply involved in Ukraine.

Other options canvassed by the RAND team included increasing support to the Syrian rebels, but this was judged of low benefit because it could risk further destabilising the entire region and might not even be feasible, given the radicalisation, fragmentation, and decline of the Syrian opposition.

Similarly, promoting liberalisation in Belarus, expanding ties in the South Caucasus, reducing Russian influence in Central Asia and ‘flipping’ Transnistria to expel the Russian troops from the region ─ mischief-making all around Russia’s perimeter ─ were all considered as possible cards to play in the geostrategic cold war against Russia, but were rated of lower “benefit” than providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

However, as the US loves to say: all options remain on the table, and the current war is bound to spill over to these neighbouring regions in the coming years as it intensifies to become, even more, a truly global war.


The RAND report recommended economic sanctions as another lever the US could pull to degrade Russia by degrading its economy, especially if sanctions were comprehensive and multilateral. The report had little doubt that US allies would uniformly follow Washington’s lead, which they dutifully did as the US propaganda machine cranked-up into overdrive, blaming Russia for the war. Shortly after sanctions were imposed by the US and their allies, Biden boasted the ruble was worth less than a penny.

Back in 2019, the RAND analysts had identified that the Russian economy was heavily reliant on oil and gas, and the price for both were then well below peak, which had caused a drop in living standards in Russia. To increase the economic stress on Russians, the report recommended increasing US oil production to drop the price even further.

But in the fog of war, the best laid plans often go astray, and the price of Russian oil and gas soared because of the Ukraine conflict. The ruble was judged the strongest currency in the world in June 2022! The Russian economy will no doubt be harmed by the war, but so has the economy of the US and its allies, and the entire world.

In the anglosphere, US propaganda dominates and Putin, not Biden, is being blamed for the war. There is almost no talk of peace, and the war has proved amazingly popular. The RAND war planners can be well pleased that Russia will be kept stressed and extended for years in Ukraine. Russia recognises a US-armed Ukraine as an existential threat and will never abandon the war, while NATO trains and arms the Ukranians for an unending proxy war. In the meantime, the US is selling massive quantities of arms, and in the proxy war, it is Ukrainians who do all the messy dying business. As John Mearsheimer predicts, the US will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian!

Around the world, arms dealers are singing, ‘Oh! What a lovely war!’

Like that apocryphal village in the Vietnam war, the US war makers and their allies will be happy to destroy Ukraine so they can save it.

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