Awww…. Poor little Vlad’s shiny new tank wouldn’t go.

May 7, 2015

“Comrades! A little help here?”

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, when after the fall of Berlin the Germans finally surrendered. Soviet Thug in Chief President Vladimir Putin wanted to celebrate in a big  way, befitting his new neo-Stalinist regime: a giant military parade honoring the Soviet effort (1) and coincidentally showing off Vlad’s neat new toys.

Oops:

A state-of-the-art Russian tank, which was shown to the public for the first time earlier this month, on Thursday ground to a halt during the final Victory Day rehearsal.

The tank, T-14 Armata, is said to surpass all Western versions because of its remotely controlled cannon and the protection it offers to its crew. The T-14, which replaces the T-72 and T-90, is set to undergo trials next year.

Weaponry was rolling across central Moscow Thursday morning in the dress rehearsal of the military parade on Red Square on May 9 as Russia commemorates the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

One of the eight T-14s suddenly stopped while others drove on. The engine was still rumbling but it wouldn’t move. After an attempt to tow it failed, the T-14 rolled away under its own steam about 15 minutes later.

Not a good image to project when you’re trying to intimidate NATO. Someone got yelled at. Loudly.

*snicker*

UPDATE: The original AP article quoted above seems to be a non-working link, now. Here’s a link to a similar story from International Business Times. Thanks to Jack Tinker for the heads-up.

Footnote:
(1) Seriously, while I despise the USSR and everything Bolshevik, their contribution to destroying Nazi Germany should never be slighted. If not for the Soviets being willing to feed endless number of troops into jaws of the German war machine, killing millions of Nazi soldiers while losing millions of their own, we would likely have had to face Germany’s best troops in France, and the result might well have been far different. One cannot deny the Russians the right to remember it with pride. (2)
(2) What they did to the peoples they supposedly “liberated,” on the other hand…


Putin’s Balkan Offensive

April 27, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

Bismarck once said that “Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans” would set off the next general war, and now we see Vladimir “Let me vivisect your country” Putin taking an interest in a part of the Balkans the West left in sorry shape 20 years ago. Worth reading.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

On the weekend, the leader of Bosnia’s Serb Republic threatened secession if he did not get reforms, proposing to hold a referendum on leaving the country if his demands are not met by the end of 2017. Milorad Dodik, who has ruled over the Bosnian Serbs, on and off, for most of the twenty years since the United States forced a peace settlement to end Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, has toyed with secession before, but his weekend announcement represents the most direct threat ever to the country’s postwar political system.

In fairness to Dodik and the Bosnian Serbs, almost nobody in Bosnia is happy with the current system, which when it was hashed out in Dayton, Ohio in the autumn of 1995, under Clinton administration pressure, was never intended to be more than a temporary political solution to Bosnia’s political conflicts, yet here we are two decades later, and that short-term…

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Counterpoint: Russia cannot beat NATO. Breathe easy.

April 19, 2015
"I won"

He’s bluffing?

A few weeks ago, I presented a scenario developed by a writer in Ukraine about how Vladimir Putin could break the NATO alliance in a short war: Opening with a surprise attack and seizure of Sweden’s lightly-defended strategic isle of Gotland, Russia would then invade the Baltic states and exploit political indecision in the Western alliance and weak American leadership to consolidate its gains. The end would come when a tactical nuclear strike on Poland revealed the major powers to be unwilling to risk regional or global nuclear war for NATO’s easternmost members. At that point Russia wins and NATO is no more.

Scary, right? And all too plausible, given Russia’s aggressive behavior since the 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Not so fast, writes strategic analyst Tom Nichols. NATO is still stronger than post-Soviet Russia and has more political will than perhaps we assume. In a war, he insists, Russia would lose, though that may not stop Putin from trying:

But this misses some important realities, including the condition and age of that equipment, the frayed infrastructure of Russia’s military commands, and the poor quality of Russian conscripts. The Russian military is a large regional force, and it can kill a lot of people. That doesn’t mean it can sustain a war with a vastly more populous and wealthier coalition of some three dozen nations (or more, if others join the fight).

Moreover, NATO enjoys a qualitative edge that would spell disaster for Russian forces in short order, especially in the air. The Vermont Air National Guard (which for years has intercepted Soviet and Russian aircraft on the U.S. East Coast) is more ready to go to war than the Russian Air Force. Without control of the skies, Russian ground forces stand no chance after whatever initial blitzkrieg might get them into NATO territory, and their commanders know it. World War III will not be like doing stunts at an air show, and taking out NATO’s aircraft will surely not be like blowing up unsuspecting commercial airliners.

Finally, NATO has something the Russians sorely lack: experience. Wisely or not, the U.S. and its allies have been at war in the Middle East and Central Asia for nearly 15 years, and NATO’s armies are salted throughout with men and women who know how to fight, supply, communicate, and remain cohesive in the face of actual combat. Russia’s military, once sharpened by World War II survivors and later by the veterans of the brutal attempt to subdue Afghanistan, now boasts men whose combat experience mostly consists of blowing up apartment blocks in Chechnya and shooting at outgunned conscripts in Ukraine.

But, for all that, Vlad the invader might still try:

The West’s more pressing concern should be whether Putin, for his own reasons, will force Russia’s military into a clash with NATO regardless of the consequences. The Russian president is a neo-Soviet nostalgist who not only craves revenge for the collapse of the USSR, but who still harbors old-school Kremlin fantasies about the weakness of the decadent West.

(…and…)

Putin suffers from the same kind of thinking, but Russia’s generals, who are neither fools nor madmen, almost certainly understand that a sustained war with NATO is an unwinnable proposition. Both Putin and his generals, however, are counting on a political, not military, victory. Putin’s bluster and the Russian military’s continued probes and feints into NATO territory are all predicated on the Soviet-era belief that NATO is essentially a charade, a phony alliance made of spun glass: pretty to look at, but so delicate it will shatter at even the smallest blow. Should Putin attack, it will not be to defend the “rights of Russian-speakers” or some other fantasy, but rather from the delusion that one sharp military strike will smash NATO as a political entity once and for all.

It’s that scenario in the bold text that worries me. Qualitatively, yes, Western militaries are superior to what Russia can field, though Moscow has excellent special forces and excels at “special war.”

But it’s the will to fight of much of the Alliance’s modern political leadership that worries me, especially our own Administration. Obama has been utterly  diffident about the use of force, even in situations that clearly call for it. (Hello? ISIS?) And what will Merkel do, given her nation’s crack-addiction to Russian natural gas? How many leaders would be willing to go to the edge of nuclear war if Putin decides to “de-escalate?” (1)

Still, Nichols knows far more about these things than I, so I’ll take his message about NATO’s resilience and superiority as a comfort. He covers much more in his article, so do read the whole thing.

Footnote:
(1) Apparently Russia has a doctrine called “nuclear deescalation,” in which Moscow uses a limited nuclear strike to convince the other guy to stop fighting — particularly if Russia is losing on the ground. These people are weird.


To the surprise of no one, Crimea is not happy under Russian rule

April 13, 2015
x

“And then I told them they could have free elections!”

I know, I know. You’re as shocked as I. Imagine the ingratitude for all the efforts Vladimir Putin made to rejoin Crimea with Mother Russia. Writing in National Review, Leona Amosah recounts all the benefits Russian governance has brought: a crashing tourism industry, inflation second only to Venezuela’s,  and food prices through the roof. Whiners.

I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate ethnic oppression and political arrests?

In particular, Crimea’s Tatar Muslim minority is suffering levels of persecution not seen since the Soviet era. This pressure includes “disappearances, sadistic murders . . . attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges,” according to one informed observer. So pervasive has this discrimination been that, back in February, the United Nations took the unprecedented step of publicly condemning Russia’s treatment of the Crimean Tatars.

Political opponents of the Kremlin, too, have found themselves in the official crosshairs. To date, several Crimean lawmakers have been arrested and even exiled because of their opposition to and condemnation of Russia’s takeover of Crimea. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has equated Russia’s conduct in its newest holding to a “reign of terror” designed to both subjugate and pacify the region’s population.

A wrecked economy and political persecution: what’s not to like? Look, if Crimeans have trouble appreciating the benefits of life under Moscow, they could always ask Boris Nemtsov.

Oh, wait.


How Putin could break NATO, or, ready for “Great Northern War II?”

March 26, 2015
Target: Gotland?

Target: Gotland?

The Great Northern War was a conflict in the early 18th century launched by a coalition headed by Russia that broke the power of the Swedish empire in the Baltic Sea region. The war also saw the establishment of Russia as a Continental power and its annexation of the region we know today as the “Baltic states.”

Today, 300 years later, Russia’s ruler might again use an attack on Sweden (1) to reestablish his nation as a world power and cover his re-annexation of the Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania:

Over the past 12 months Russia’s air force flew a series of aggressive combat patrols over the Baltic Sea, including mock nuclear strikes against Sweden’s capital Stockholm, to assess the reaction time and preparedness of Sweden’s air force. Since October 2014 Russia’s Navy has sent submarines into Swedish territorial waters to assess the capabilities and preparedness of Sweden’s Navy. The results: Sweden is defenseless.

Last week Russia’s air force progressed from testing military preparedness to dry runs for a major air assault. A combination of transport planes and fighter jets flew from Russia over the entire Baltic Sea to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. While Sweden didn’t even manage to get a plane in the air, Italian air force jets flying out from Šiauliai air base in Lithuania intercepted and identified the Russian jets. The Italian fighters were outnumbered 4 to 1.

The obvious targets of Russian aggression along the Baltic Sea, namely Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all share a land border with Russia, so there is no need to mount a large scale air assault to overrun these tiny states. But to keep these three nations occupied and oppressed, Putin must keep the US air force and the US Navy out of the Baltic Sea. This is why Russia is preparing to assault, occupy and fortify Sweden’s Gotland Island.

And why is Gotland (highlighted in red in the map above) needed to keep us from resisting a Russian assault on the Baltics?

If Russia controls Gotland and bases S-300 or S-400 long range air-defense missile systems and K-300P Bastion-P long range anti-ship missile systems on the island, then US air force planes cannot reach the Baltic States and US Navy ships cannot pass the Danish Straits to enter the Baltic Sea. Russia has already S-300 and K-300P stationed in Kaliningrad along with tactical nuclear 9K720 Iskander missiles, but as Poland’s military could overrun Kaliningrad and destroy Russia’s anti-ship and air-defense systems there, Russia will occupy Gotland a few hours before the attack on Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania begins.

The author is a writer living in the Ukraine . You can read the rest of the article, which presents an extended scenario in which Russia presents the NATO with a fait accompli and dares it to do something about it. Some of NATO –the US, Poland, Great Britain, and others NATO states as well as non-NATO Sweden– try to mount a counterattack, but are hobbled by Germany’s refusal join or to even allow their territory to be used or crossed by NATO forces, as well as Russian threats to use nuclear weapons against the smaller nations’ cities, which leads Sweden to concede. In Thomas Theiner’s scenario, a Polish refusal to concede leads to a Russian nuclear strike against a Polish city, which in turn brings about the  the end of the war when NATO’s nuclear powers (the US, Great Britain, and France) decline to retaliate. Poland surrenders, NATO breaks up in defeat, and Russia regains its “lost provinces.”

While Theiner’s scenario goes deeper into speculative territory the further he develops his scenario, the initial situation –a surprise Russian attack on Gotland to block relief of the Baltics– is frighteningly plausible:

  • Russia carved off provinces from Georgia in 2008, claiming it was protecting Russian minorities.
  • We have the ongoing dismemberment of Ukraine, another former Russian possession, which began with Russian complaints about mistreatment of Russian speaking minorities there.
  • Russia has also complained about the supposed mistreatment of Russian minorities in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Setting the stage? Russia is already acting aggressively in the Baltic region.

And Sweden has indeed become a target:

Putin is, in my estimation, a predatory aggressive bully who perceives conciliation in others as a sign of weakness, something to be exploited

What a coincidence: Sweden is weak. Its military spending has declined severely on a per capita (2) basis over the last 25 years, and its military is correspondingly small and lacking key capabilities to defend against Russia. While moving to station troops on Gotland and announcing plans to spend more on defense, it is currently vulnerable to rapid exploitation in the event of a Russian attack.

American leadership (meaning President Obama), which would be crucial to any effort to resist Russia and rally NATO, is feckless, appeasement-oriented, and incompetent. And while Theiner assumes the US will try to defend Sweden and the Baltics, I have to wonder just how strenuous an effort President Lead-From-Behind would make, considering he refuses even to meet with the head of NATO. Putin sees this and may well think that now is his best chance to take a huge gamble.

Is a second Great Northern War at all likely to happen? Who knows, but, as I said, I find it all too plausible given the recent past. It’s a possibility that cannot be responsibly ignored.

We have a little less than two years until (we hope) an American president takes office who is interested in foreign affairs and recognizes what needs to be done to protect our interests and the free world’s from predators such as Vladimir Putin.

Until then, sleep well!

Footnotes:
(1) Link courtesy of Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt newsletter of March 24th. And I want to thank Jim for the nightmares that gave me.
(2) Data from the SIPRI milex database.


How Ukraine Can Win

March 8, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

As Mr. Schindler points out, time is not on Putin’s side, and he offers some advice on how Kyiv can run out the clock on the new Tsar.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As we are now in a lull in Russia’s war against Ukraine that Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin began one year ago, it’s time to assess how Kyiv can do better at war-fighting. Not for want of courage, Ukraine’s efforts to defend its territory and sovereignty from Russian aggression have been failures, as I’ve explained many times. I’ve repeatedly counseled Ukraine to emulate how Croatia in 1991 lost one-third of its territory to Serbian rebels, only to regain almost all that territory through quick, decisive military operations in 1995. As a template for strategic success against a more powerful enemy at a reasonable cost in lives and treasure, Zagreb’s model from the early 1990’s cannot be improved upon.

This has been met with whining from supporters of failing President Petro Poroshenko that 1. War is hard, and 2. Russia isn’t Serbia. The latter is true, but it’s also worth…

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Never embarrass Vladimir Putin

March 6, 2015
"I won"

“Leave no witnesses”

Because you won’t get a second chance:

Russian secret services may have executed the troops suspected of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, say sources involved in the investigation of the crash over eastern Ukraine.

The Dutch-led probe is leaning towards a conclusion that a BUK missile fired from rebel-held territory downed the Boeing 777, killing all 298 on board.

And it is highly likely the aircraft was shot out of the sky by Russian military personnel, according to a report by the Netherlands’ state broadcaster NOS, citing anonymous sources in the police and the group of investigators working on the probe into the plane’s loss.

‘My sources believe that these people might have changed their identities or even been executed by Russian secret service in order to hide everything,’ said Dutch journalist Robert Bas.

(…)

And they’re taking “active measures” to make sure they know what the investigators know:

Sources close to the investigation also complain they are under siege from persistent attempts by Russian secret services to hack their computer system and plant spyware software on their smartphones, reported NOS.

Phones and laptops used by investigators in Ukraine had to be ‘destroyed’ subsequently because they were infected with spyware, it was claimed.

Even home communications devices of police officers on the investigation were removed because they were ‘contaminated’, it was alleged.

Well, what else would you expect from a country run by an ex-KGB colonel who thinks the fall of the USSR is the great geopolitical catastrophe of the age?

This report shows again that, to use a baseball analogy, we’re dealing with a foe who plays hardball, while our leaders aren’t even playing softball. They’re playing Tee-ball.

Only this game has no “mercy rule.”

 


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