Military escalation in the pandemic

Image: Elyeser Szturm


Due attention has not been given to a series of events in the military area that have developed, including as a probable consequence of the “bioeconomic crisis” itself.

“I would like to emphasize that any attack by an American ballistic missile submarine, regardless of its characteristics, will be perceived as an attack with nuclear weapons. And according to our military doctrine, such an action would be considered grounds for retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia” (Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation).

When China identified the existence of the coronavirus epidemic, in December 2019, the world was already under pressure from two major long-term and highly corrosive international forces or trends: that of “systemic saturation” [1] and that of “ ethical fragmentation” [2] on a global scale. Since its birth in Europe, during the “long sixteenth century” (1450-1650), the “interstate system” expanded continuously, and in an increasingly accelerated manner, until it reached its full globalization at the end of the twentieth century, in a story that was not linear.

This involved an almost permanent competition and bellicosity between States that increased their power, individually and collectively, in the form of great “expansive explosions” like the one we are experiencing at the beginning of the 60st century. These “expansive explosions” began in the last century with the full incorporation of large territorial units, as was the case of India, and later China and Russia, in a system composed of 200 States at the end of World War II and which today has about XNUMX members.

In the past, when similar outbursts caused by increased competitive pressure have occurred, they have invariably been accompanied by an increase in internal disorder within the system, an expansive movement of the system outside its former boundaries, and finally by some kind of “hegemonic war”. ” which helped to remake the order and hierarchy of the system after its expansion in and out of Europe. And everything indicates, at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, that the very trend towards the “ethical fragmentation” of the world system – in full swing – makes the current process of explosion and entropy the most extensive in history.

This movement became faster after the Donald Trump administration began to attack and destroy its old alliances and all the ethical, cultural and institutional consensuses that ordered the world during the XNUMXth century. He gave up ethical world leadership that the United States conquered after World War II, leaving the world system without a power of arbitration in the last resort, which should continue after this crisis, designing a world without any kind of "person” be it American, Chinese, Russian, or even European. In this sense, it can be said that there is a high probability that the world is marching towards a “hegemonic war”, inevitable in the long term, even if it is not possible to say when and where it will occur.

It was against this “backdrop” that the coronavirus pandemic took hold, along with the “oil crisis”, causing immediate devastation in the world economy, with consequences that are expected to last for years to come. Today there is already complete consensus on the seriousness of this crisis, and it is already possible to anticipate some of its economic consequences. However, due attention has still not been given to a series of other events in the military area, which have even developed as a probable consequence of the “bioeconomic crisis” itself, particularly in the three great powers capable of changing the course of the world system through its decisions of exclusively national responsibility.

China, where the epidemic was identified, was the first country to experience its economic impact, with the interruption of production, rising unemployment and the disruption of all its circuits and economic flows of production and credit. And it was also the first country to suffer the political and military impact of the epidemic, with the initial weakening of Xi Jiping's government, which later took back the reins of the situation with the success of its health policy and immediately began a movement to assert military power. China in the South China Sea, with the emergence within the country of nationalist sectors that once again propose the immediate military occupation of Taiwan. It is known that in recent years China has built a significant fleet of warships, submarines, amphibious boats and today it already has the capacity to destroy, with DF-21 missiles, any vessel that sails less than 1.500 km from its coasts, the that would make possible an immediate offensive on Taiwan, although this has been rejected by the government of Xi Jiping.

In the case of Russia, the immediate impact of the crisis was even more violent than in China, due to Russia's fiscal dependence on the international price of oil. And everything indicates that the crisis triggered or accelerated an internal power struggle, inside and outside the Kremlin, involving ultraliberal sectors that still control the Central Bank and large private companies, and nationalist and militarist sectors that are also advocating a kind of “flight”. forward” military, in the direction of the Baltic, Belarus and Ukraine itself. Nobody doubts that Russia has already recovered its position of military leadership in the technological frontier of the development of new strategic weapons, with missiles and hypersonic submarine weapons that give it an overwhelming capacity of response, in case it feels threatened.

The same has been happening, in an even more extensive and visible way, in the United States, at a time when they feel attacked and weakened by the gigantic advance of the epidemic and the economic crisis in their territory, and because – to a large extent – ​​of the government itself. by Donald Trump. This disqualified the epidemic threat and now he will have to face a presidential re-election attempt that seemed assured, but which is no longer so easy in a society that is even more divided and polarized with the advance of the epidemic and the economic crisis.

This is exactly what seems to explain the great movement of reaffirmation of the North American military power in progress all over the world and in an absolutely explicit way. Whether in the Persian Gulf, where the United States has recently increased its firepower, with a more modern and lethal drone system (such as the MQ-9 Reaper), along with an army of 80 men, now distributed around from Iran. And the same is happening in the region of the Arctic Ocean, in the Barents Sea, where the US naval fleet has entered in recent weeks for the first time since 1980. At the same time that the US and NATO were conducting military exercises in the Baltic Sea , using supersonic and nuclear-capable B-1B bombers, along with the announcement of the installation of a new rocket system in Central Europe, close to Russia's western border. The same has been repeating itself in the Sea of ​​Japan, in the South China Sea, and more recently, in the Caribbean itself, with the displacement of warships, destroyers, submarines and surveillance aircraft, which joined the IV Fleet, and the constant pressure of the United States against the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

All this might seem like mere American “bragging” done with the ostensible aim of escaping domestic troubles by reasserting the undisputed global military superiority of the United States. Mainly because the United States, China and Russia, in particular, would have great economic difficulty in facing a frontal war at this moment and probably for some years to come. But it is exactly at this point that, in recent weeks, a military change has taken place capable of radically altering all perspectives and future forecasts.

That's exactly where things got complicated, with the recent announcement of an “operational change” promoted simultaneously by the US and Russian Armed Forces. First, the US government announced that it had already made operational the use of a “low intensity” nuclear bomb, with a power equivalent to one third of the Hiroshima bomb (5 kilotons). In addition, the new weapon, W76-2, would be installed in the Trident missiles used by the 14 submarines USS Tennesse of the American fleet, and could be used by the American Armed Forces in the case of conflicts or “limited” or “regional” wars.

Then the US announced a military exercise simulating a limited nuclear war against Russia. And it was in response to that announcement, and to that American military exercise in particular, that the spokeswoman for the Russian Department of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, declared that Russia would respond with a massive nuclear strike against the United States if any submarine American would launch any type of missile launch, regardless of whether it carried atomic warheads or not. From that moment on, the practice ofbullying military” against countries considered adversaries or strategic, by the United States, became an extremely dangerous game.

It is not difficult to calculate the consequences of this simple “operational change” in a world in full transformation caused by its “systemic saturation” and “ethical fragmentation” without having any type of institution, authority or power capable of arbitrating divergences, and without any type of of leadership with universal legitimacy. In a world like this, when diplomacy is exhausted, only weapons remain and from now on any involuntary failure or miscalculation can turn a regional conflict into a catastrophe of major proportions. This is true for the Persian Gulf, as well as for the South China Sea, and also for the Caribbean, given the dispute between the United States and Venezuela that still involves China's economic interests and Russia's military protection.

Normally, the United States would be very unlikely to accept or initiate an atomic escalation within its own “Western Hemisphere” and along its borders. In fact, it is very unlikely, but it is not impossible because once the decision of mutual response with limited nuclear weapons between the USA and Russia has been announced, the possibility, however remote, of an atomic conflict, even if accidental, cannot be excluded. in the Caribbean and the South American Amazon.

The mere existence of this possibility forces a radical change in Brazilian society in relation to its own Armed Forces, which have neither representation nor the right to impose military vassalage on Brazilians in relation to the United States, as this may induce Brazil and Brazilians to committing an abominable crime against his own people, against his Latin American brothers and against all of humanity.

* Jose Luis Fiori is professor of international political economy at UFRJ. Author, among other books by about the war (Voices, 2018).

**William Nozaki He is a professor at the São Paulo School of Sociology and Politics Foundation (FESPSP) and technical director of the Institute for Strategic Studies on Oil, Gas and Biofuels (INEEP).


[1] José Luís Fiori. Global Power and the New Geopolitics of Nations. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2007, p. 40.

[2] José Luís Fiori. “Cultural ethics and infinite war”. In: about the war. Petrópolis: Voices, 2018, p. 398.

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