We're south of Omaha this morning on our way back from Colorado. As it turns out, we're just off of the Strategic Air Command Highway, something of a southern beltway for Omaha that goes past Offutt AFB, where SAC and its successor US Strategic Command are based.
When I saw that as I played with Google Maps this morning, I though "that's where WW3 would have been fought from." I then thought, "That's in the past tense. Is WW3 something that's in the past tense?"
The present is a bit tense as well, as I mentioned to a Friend of this Blog in a conversation over the latest developments in Ukraine. Russia wants the "near abroad" back but would rather not start WW3 over it, hence the "plausible" deniability of everything flowing from autonomous ethnically-Russian rebels. That pretense is getting flimsier by the day, thus the scare quotes around plausible.
Would the nukes fly over Ukraine? Most likely not, since Putin wants a country left to rule when the dust has settled. If his bluff is called, they would possibly wrap that flimsy fig-leaf around their short-and-curlies and scurry back to their current borders rather than slug it out with NATO.
However, calling that bluff would likely come with a price, economic autarky between the Russian and EU camps, which is a price too high for the EU to easily stomach. The US might be quicker to do something if Russia weren't set to hit the European side of NATO in the economic gut with a cut-off of their gas pipeline.
A colder-than-normal winter is in the offing, and visions of folks forced into internal refugee status for a lack of heating fuel thanks to the Bear pulling the plug on the gas pipeline gives Germany and other continental European countries pause in standing up for their EU-friendly Ukrainian allies.
It's more a literal cold war of economic blockade that seems to worry Europe than the threat of WW3. Russia can live without European money easier than Europe can live without Russian gas. Thus, while the folks at Offutt have to keep their strategic bombing plans for Russia at the ready, it seems that any Russo-Ukrainian War would be conventional and economic rather than nuclear, since neither side would seem to be interested in WW3 in order to win.