Revisiting John Pilger’s 2016 Warnings about US Warmongering against Russia and China

IN FOCUS, 11 Sep 2023

Caitlin Johnstone - TRANSCEND Media Service

“It’s like listening to a time traveler warning people from the past about a grave mistake they were about to make.”

6 Sep 2023 – In March of 2016 the renowned Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger published an article titled “A world war has begun. Break the silence.” which urgently warned of the US empire’s aggressive escalations against Russia and China. Re-reading parts of it in 2023 is like watching someone placing flags next to recently planted seeds that would eventually grow into the towering problems our world now faces.

It’s like listening to a time traveler warning people from the past about a grave mistake they were about to make. Pilger points to US provocations in Ukraine, NATO militarism, and the encirclement of China and warns of the surging risk of nuclear war, noting that nuclear warhead spending “rose higher under Obama than under any American president.”

“In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier,” Pilger wrote. “Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.”

“Ukraine — once part of the Soviet Union — has become a CIA theme park,” wrote Pilger. “Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian speaking minority.”

“In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — next door to Russia — the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy weapons,” Pilger said. “This extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power is met with silence in the West.”

“What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China,” Pilger continued. “The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers. This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.”

Pilger highlighted the way his home country Australia was being roped into Washington’s war preparations against China, a trend which has since grown much worse as the drums of war grow louder.

“In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre,” he wrote. “Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.”

Pilger wrote all this while preparing to release his excellent film “The Coming War on China”, which would come out later that year. In it, he shows how the US has been surrounding China with war machinery in a way that would be considered an act of war if it was happening near American shorelines, and drives home the seriousness of the prospect of nuclear conflict.

Everything Pilger warned about turned out to be everything he said it was. A war in Ukraine has erupted from the spark of the US-backed coup in 2014 and Russia’s fear of an increasingly expansionist and militaristic NATO, while the US military encirclement of China has been rapidly increasing as hostilities between the two superpowers accelerate toward a breaking point, facilitated in no small part by the continent-sized military base known as Australia. What were only background stories in 2016 now dominate the headlines of today.

I bring this up because I think it’s useful to show that we’ve been on this track toward global conflict between major powers for years, and it’s been unfolding in ways that some saw coming from miles away. Much of Pilger’s work could be called prophetic, but Pilger is no prophet — he’s just a journalist with an ear to the ground who’s been critically scrutinizing the behavior of the empire for decades. He was able to accurately mark the trajectory our world has been on earlier than most, and it has continued along that same trajectory with frightening speed ever since.

If you can see the trajectory that an object is on, you can determine where you need to stand in order to obstruct its path. The fact that we’ve been on a linear trajectory toward global conflict between nuclear-armed states all these years shows that opposing that trajectory is of existential importance for every living organism on this planet. And yet the media still want us focused on celebrity gossip and party politics and Donald Trump.

World war is still closing in on us. We still need to break the silence and oppose it. Our rulers have been steering us in this direction for a long time now, and they’re not going to turn away until we make them.


John Pilger has won an Emmy and a BAFTA for his documentaries, which have also won numerous US and European awards. His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Il Manifesto (Italy). He writes a regular column for the New Statesman, London. In 2003, he was awarded the prestigious Sophie Prize for ’30 years of exposing injustice and promoting human rights.’ In 2009 he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. His earlier film is The War You Don’t See (2010). His new film, The Coming War on China, is available in the U.S. from He can be reached through his website

  Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Contact:


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