Former Russian President and current member of their Security Council Dmitry Medvedev is sounding a lot more hawkish these days than when he held the top position. He was once considered to be a more progressive, capitalistic Russian official, less interested in military confrontation than building his country into more of an economic superpower. But the current global situation following the invasion of Ukraine has Medvedev singing a different and decidedly darker tune. Yesterday, he posted a rant on his messaging app (for some reason) in which he accused the United States and NATO of plotting to “break up” the Russian Federation. But he warned that even if the alleged plot succeeded, the result would be “doomsday,” and any country attempting it would be engaged in a “chess game with Death.” And I think we all know what that means.

We don’t need to look at this as official Russian policy, or at least not yet. Most analysts agree that Medvedev has been growing nervous about his position and wants to be seen as falling in line with Putin now. That’s understandable considering the recent shakeups in the Kremlin’s hierarchy, including some people who have been forced to resign and others who “accidentally” fall out of hospital windows to their deaths.

Dmitry also isn’t really breaking any new ground with these threats. When he talks about “doomsday” and a “chess game with Death,” he’s obviously implying that if the Russian state began to fail, they could launch all of their nuclear weapons. But both Putin and Lavrov have regularly been rattling their nuclear sabers at the world since the first few weeks of the invasion. If you keep repeating this too often, people just begin tuning it out at some point.

The ironic part of all of this is that Medvedev is claiming that we are secretly engineering something that no sane person in the west would want. A nuclear war with Russia would obviously be bad, and you can nominate me for “understatement of the year” at your leisure. But a collapsed Russian state would arguably be almost as chaotic and disastrous. If the central government of the Russian Federation was to collapse, what would take its place? Instead of a war in eastern Ukraine, we could see a sprawling civil war across Russia’s populated areas that might spill over into bordering countries. And what would happen to all of Russia’s nuclear weapons? At the end of the cold war, we were already growing concerned that some of their warheads would be sold off to terrorists. Those concerns are no less real today than they were then.

The west isn’t looking to collapse the Russian state. We’re trying to force them into withdrawing from Ukraine and restoring what used to pass for normal in that part of the world. Unfortunately, this “economic warfare” plan we cooked up doesn’t seem to have been very effective thus far.

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