Image by spDuchamp 

Ninety-nine red balloons

Floating in the summer sky

Panic bells, it's red alert!

There's something here from somewhere else!

The war machine springs to life

Opens up one eager eye

Focusing it on the sky

When ninety-nine red balloons go by

                                                    German Band: Nena, “99 Luftballoons”

By now most people in America know that China launched a “red” balloon and successfully navigated it across America and over some of our most sensitive installations. I am a Montanan living just south of Great Falls and the ballistic missile fields that are overseen from that location. To say the least, I was concerned, and many fellow Montanans watched the news or the skies waiting for an explosion. Either our Department of Defense would defend our airspace and shoot it down in a blaze of glory, or maybe there was something explosive on the balloon that would also be triggered. Neither happened, but I was reminded of growing up in Belgrade, Montana in the 70s and 80s, ducking under my desk in school wondering even then how thin walls and a classroom desk would save us from something like a nuclear blast.

The American people are rightfully upset that this single balloon crossed our country unhindered. We knew where it was from, China even admitted to it and called it a weather balloon. They were right that it was taking the temperature of a nation. We looked to the sky and knew there was something here from somewhere else, it was spying on us, and our administration simply watched. Thank you to Larry Mayer of Billings, Montana for taking a picture of the balloon, if he had not we may never have known. 

Angered and alarmed, Americans turned out in large numbers on television, radio, and podcasts to call out the administration for its lack of action against a threat to our nation. I was one of those Americans. It is time to admit though that the balloons that have us looking to the sky are worth noting, but spy balloons come across our shores every day and we are not upset enough. We better get there, or we will find ourselves homeless on the land our forefathers built. These “balloons” look different but are equally and maybe more dangerous. 

1. Exchange Students – Chinese students attended colleges and universities across the country. Keeping an eye on them and spreading propaganda are an estimated 80 collegiate-level and 500 high school-level Confucius Institutes. Controlled by the Chinese Education Administration they are there to influence Americans and report on Chinese student activities. 

2. Congressional Girlfriends – Eric Swalwell is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chinese influence at all levels of government.   

3. Land and Business Ownership – throw a rock and you are likely to find land or a business owned by the Chinese. From several businesses in West Yellowstone, Montana to land purchases in multiple states like Arkansas and Mississippi, the Chinese either publicly own a lot of America or own it through proxies. 

4. Social Media/TikTok and Tech – our technology is infected with the cancers of spyware, malware, and many other means of collecting personal data. TikTok is banned in a number of state governments across the nation now, but America’s desire for followers, clicks, and likes is an addiction the Chinese are happy to feed. 

5. Trade Manipulation – it is no mystery that the Chinese have used our desire for things against us. We buy what they make, they take our money and buy up as much of the world as they can. Free Trade should be free, instead, it has come at the price of selling our independence overseas. 

6. Intellectual Property Theft – anything we can make the Chinese can copy and make cheaper. From movies to microchips, airplanes to asthma medication, it is copied and sold. In my younger days, I bought a lightweight jacket in South Korea and was asked which logo I wanted embroidered on it. This is what China does on a global scale. They steal our intellectual property. 

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7. University Grants – money comes with strings attached. When China is the source of money going to American colleges and universities we should expect there to be many strings. Professors and teachers who dare teach the U.S. Constitution accurately do not last long. 

8. Immigration/Invasion – China considers itself at war with America and has for a long time. The open Southern land border, the open and seemingly unguarded skies to the north, and barely controlled waters around America are the invasion routes. No Trojan Horse required China, just walk, float, or sail on in. 

9. Globalist Organizational Control – the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and many other global organizations have Chinese Communist Party members in key positions. They do not do this for philanthropic reasons. 

The lyrics of the 99 Red Balloons song fit America over the last two weeks, we focused on the sky, except the war machine did not spring to life. It stayed in the basement instead. If we as a nation keep allowing all the other “trial balloons” to cross our shores we may live out another part of the song:

Ninety-nine dreams I have had

In every one, a red balloon

It's all over and I'm standin' pretty

In this dust that was a city

If I could find a souvenir

Just to prove the world was here

If we do not start thinking like the Chinese and ask ourselves why they are doing the things they are, we will be looking for souvenirs of America in the “ashes” of what we once called home. 

Image by Presidential Press and Information Office

Democrats and NeoCons are rushing toward nuclear war with Russia, and even President Biden seems resigned to that possibility. Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis has the nuclear clock ticked closer to midnight.  The federal government is so concerned they have purchased $290 million in drugs to combat radiation sickness.  New York city has run public service ads for what to do in the event of a nuclear war.  And former and current military leaders talk openly about winning such a war.  They seem to believe that a nuclear exchange would be limited to the Ukraine, therefore acceptable.  What they do not know is the mind of Putin and his generals.

From the first days of the war, it was clear that on paper, Russia should easily have beaten the Ukrainian army, but Western intervention has evened the odds.  Russians have lost territory over the past few months due to their own military weaknesses in combination with NATO weapons deliveries.  The US has supplied Ukraine with tens of billions in aid, irrespective of the disposition of those arms and money.  Reports have been that much of the equipment is not reaching frontline units, rather sold.

During Russia-Ukraine negotiations for a ceasefire in March 2022, where Russian’s main demand was permanent Ukrainian neutrality, failed when Western nations pushed for a military victory for Ukraine, along with regime change in Russia.  As a result, the war continued, and thousands more were killed, wounded or made homeless.

Now, more than seven months later, Western intervention has convinced the Ukrainians and NATO nations that the war is winnable.  Media and the political class continue to fan the flames of war.  Worse, they provide an endless parade of former generals to explain how Putin’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons, while possible, would only lead to a NATO response that would destroy the Russian army.  Foreign affairs experts explain to us how Putin is a desperate, isolated madman who needs to be removed.  How can they not see that cornering the proverbial wounded animal is not a good idea.  This is the same madman whose army we threaten to destroy should he use tactical nuclear weapons, without mentioning that might possibly result in his use of thermonuclear weapons on the US and Western Europe. They forget that Saddam Hussein expected the Gulf War to be limited to Kuwait, only to find the US strategy was to eliminate “centers of gravity”.  It is a core principle of US military strategy.

Gen. Sergey Surovikin has now been named the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.  Surovikin is a veteran of brutal wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and most recently Syria, where he earned the nickname “General Armageddon”, for his indiscriminate destruction of Aleppo.  In Syria, Surovikin bombed civilian targets, using everything from conventional to chemical weapons.  It is clear with his appointment that Putin is willing to do anything to avoid defeat, including tactical nuclear weapons.  In his first week as commander, Suroviken authorized the launching of missile and drone attacks on Kiev. It seems Western leaders did not contemplate his actions based on months of reporting an imminent Ukrainian victory.

Western leaders have forgotten the shocking information we gathered in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  For five decades, NATO operated under the assumption that neither side in a European war would resort to first use of nuclear weapons.  The treasure trove of documents we obtained after the collapse indicated that not only were the use of nuclear weapons possible, but they were integral to Soviet war plans to defeat the airpower advantage NATO had over the Warsaw Pact.  Their day one plans were to strike our airfields with chemical and nuclear weapons to disable our air forces, and deny the use of those bases by reinforcements.  

If the generation now leading the Russian Federation, both politically and militarily, were trained in a system that used nuclear and chemical weapons as just one tool in their arsenal, it is also reasonable to assume the war in Ukraine could result in a tactical nuclear war, then escalate to nuclear Armageddon.  Western leaders possess two of the most dangerous attributes -- naïveté and overconfidence.  The American political leadership was 'selected' not for their experience, but their gender pronoun and ethnicity.  Our military leadership has been promoted despite military failures in Afghanistan and Iraq for similar qualities as their civilian counterparts.  We stand on the precipice of a nuclear war, with ideologs at the helm.  Only time will tell, but our best hope may lie with the man they have declared a madman, and his willingness to exercise restraint.

A USAFA grad, Brent flew F-15 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm. After completing his service, Brent immigrated to Israel, where he was drafted into IAF active service.

Image by Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

Guest post by Nikola Mikovic

Seven months after Russia launched the so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, the Kremlin has decided to raise the stakes. It seems to be a matter of time before Moscow incorporates the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as southern Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation – a move that will undoubtedly lead to further escalation of the conflict.

On September 20 leaders of the Donbass republics set out plans for referenda on joining Russia. In an apparently coordinated move, Russia-controlled military-civilian administrations of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions also announced their plans to hold a plebiscite on becoming part of the Russian Federation. Referenda are scheduled for September 23-27, and the results will be published on September 28. After that, the four regions will send the official request to Moscow, and the Kremlin is expected to act promptly, which means that by the end of October Russia might de facto and de jure get new territories. 

The problem for Moscow, however, is the vast majority of the United Nations members will not recognize the results of the referendums, and will continue to see the Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as part of Ukraine. The Kremlin, for its part, will treat the territories as an integral part of the Russian Federation, meaning that – from the Russian perspective – any Ukrainian attack on Donetsk, Kherson or Melitopol will represent an attack on Russia. That is why Moscow seems to be preparing to fight an “all-out war”. 

On September 20 Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with bosses of the country’s military-industrial complex, urging them to boost production of weapons and ammunition. He emphasized the Russian Armed forces must receive the necessary equipment “as soon as possible”, and that Russia must ensure “a one hundred percent import substitution” in the field of military industry. More importantly, Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, has passed a bill introducing the concepts of “mobilization” and “martial law” into the Criminal Code, which suggests that the Kremlin intends to soon change the form of its special military operation in Ukraine. 

It remains to be seen how he Russian sanctions-hit economy will manage to adapt to a new reality, and increase production of military hardware. Unlike the Soviet Union, that was a relatively self-sufficient country, Russia’s military-industrial complex is dependent on the import of various components. Thus, in order to ensure “a one hundred percent import substitution”, Russia would have to completely transform its current neo-liberal economic model. It is not impossible for Moscow do make such a move, although it is a long-term process, and it is rather questionable if time is on the Russian side.

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The West will undoubtedly continue supplying all sorts of weapons to Ukraine. Moreover, Kyiv will likely attempt to restore control over significant parts of the Donbas and southern Ukrainian regions before they officially become part of the Russian Federation. But even afterwards, Kyiv will unlikely stop fighting. The only difference is that Russia will fight the war on de facto its own territory, which means that Moscow can implement its military doctrine and eventually use nuclear weapons. 

“Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks either the threshold of our imminent victory or the threshold of a nuclear war. I can’t see any third option”, said Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the Russian state-owned broadcaster RT. 

As the United States President Joe Biden recently stressed, using nuclear weapons would “change the face of war unlike anything since World War II”. Although such a scenario is not improbable, at this point it is more realistic that Russia will attempt to change the situation on the ground by deploying more troops to Ukraine. That is one of the reasons why Putin declared a partial mobilization on September 21. For the foreseeable future, Moscow will likely continue implementing short-term solutions, but eventually it might be forced to take some radical steps. 

Russian political leadership is quite aware that a military defeat in Ukraine could have dramatic consequences for the very existence of the Russian Federation. Still, it remains unclear if Moscow is determined to fight “until victory”, or if it will continue seeking to reach a deal with Kyiv. Thus, even a potential use of tactical nuclear weapons could represent a method of pressure on Ukraine to sign a peace deal under the Russian conditions. 

Even though Russia has decided to mobilize 300,000 reservists, there is no guarantee that such a move will help the Russian military to seize more territory. Mobilization itself is not a magic wand. It takes time to prepare troops for fighting. But does Russia have time? 

Finally, it remains to be seen if the Russian political leadership still aims to establish full control over all of Ukraine and achieve the original goals of its “special military operation”, or if it now sees the Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as a “consolation prize” in a “new cold War” between Russia and the West.

Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist from Serbia. He covers mostly Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Nikola writes for several publications such us Geopolitical Monitor, Global Security Review, Global Comment and International Policy Digest, among others. He is also a regular contributor to KJ Vids YouTube geopolitical channel where he writes video scripts on geopolitical issues.

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