Could a Hillary Clinton Presidency Lead to War With Russia?

In 2011, the United States led a NATO military intervention in Libya, overthrowing the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“We came, we saw, he died,”Hillary Clinton boasted in an interview with “60 Minutes.” The decision for the United States to overthrow another government while currently tangled in costly wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan was a marginal decision within the Obama administration. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon opposed it, while Hillary Clinton tipped the balance in favor of going forward with the intervention. In an April 2016 interview with Fox News, President Obama cited the aftermath of Libya as the greatest mistake of his presidency. A political vacuum was created in the wake of Gaddafi’s overthrow, where Libya is now a safe haven for various terrorist organizations.

Recently, the United States and NATO have begun plans and movements to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, consisting of former Soviet Union states allied with the West, yet weary of Russian military assaults. At the NATO summit in Poland on July 8 and 9, President Obama agreed to send 1,000 more troops to Poland to aide in this reinforcement. “Although not deemed sufficient to stop a determined Russian assault, the four battalions would act as a ‘tripwire,’ thrusting soldiers from numerous NATO countries into the line of fire and so ensuring a full-scale, alliance-wide response,” wrote Michael T. Klare in an article for The Nation. “This, it is claimed, will deterRussiafrom undertaking such a move in the first place or ensure its defeat should it be foolhardy enough to start a war.”

As with Libya, the United States plays the largest influence in these initiatives. Russian officials in Moscow demanded explanation for the NATO reinforcement decisions. The move is another calculated play in the increasing war games between the United States and Russia that have resulted from deteriorating relations between the two countries. Both US and Russian warships have been flirting with dangerously close approaches to one another in the Mediterranean Sea the past few weeks, and the conflict in Syria both countries are involved with has become more about asserting political dominance than achieving stability and peace.

Hillary Clinton is likely to continue this trend in abrasive relations between the United States and Russia if she is elected president. In 2014, Clinton compared Putin to Adolf Hitler. Regarding Russia’s involvement with conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Clinton has called for “a concerted effort to really up the costs on Russia and in particular on Putin,” during a speech she gave at the Brookings Institute in September of 2015. In the context of fighting ISIS (also known as Daesh) in Syria, Hillary Clinton supports a no-fly zone, despite Daesh having no planes to fly. Both President Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders oppose the idea, because its intangible without causing further strains to relations with Russia. According to a 2013 New York Times interview with General Martin E. Dempsey, imposing a no-fly zone would require 70,000 US servicemen to dismantle Syria’s anti-aircraft system and then enforce it with a 24-hour watch on the country. That estimate would likely be higher due toRussianot getting directly involved until 2015. “A no-fly zone over Syria, as all parties understand, is a tacit declaration of war not only against Syria, but also against their longtime ally Russia, whose air force is currently flying over Syria to defend the government of Bashar al-Assad against both ISIL and various rebel groups, some overtly or covertly backed by the United States,” wrote Adam Johnson in a December 2015 article for Al-Jazeera. “There’s little reason to believeRussiawould sell out their only ally in the Middle East, and they’re certainly not going to assist the US in bombing this ally’s air defense and warplanes.” Johnson added a no-fly zone increases the potential for US forces shooting down Russian jets, which could likely serve as a catalyst for a war with Russia.

In terms of a US-led NATO build-up to prepare for potential future conflicts withRussia, the Pentagon increased spending on their “European Reassurance Initiative” from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion in 2017. NATO also recently concluded Anakonda 2016, the largest military exercise in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War, involving more than 30,000 troops, many of which were from the US. As more signs of aggression are conducted by each side, acts of counter-aggression will be justified due to the increasing risk posed by the other side, untilRussianand US aggression returns to a Cold War situation.

Based on Hillary Clinton’s record of foreign policy as overwhelmingly favoring intervention and aggression over diplomacy and pragmatic restraint, tensions with Russia are only likely to worsen under her presidency. Hillary Clinton’s presidency will continue the unending war Bill Clinton’s presidency set the stage for in the 1990s. During the Kosovo Conflict, Bill Clinton circumvented the House of Representatives’ vote against him taking military action, and ordered bombing missions anyway. In 1998, he signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making it official US policy to support regime change in Iraq, laying the foundations for the Iraq War in 2003, which Hillary Clinton voted for in the Senate. During Clinton’s service as secretary of state, she promoted regime change in Syria, Libya and Honduras with disastrous results, and presided over the resurgence of the Cold War with Russia. A return to Bill Clinton’s warmongering foreign policies through a Hillary Clinton presidency will likely result in at the very least, increased tensions with Russia, and at the worst, the next World War.