Putin’s Balkan Offensive

April 27, 2015

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.

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.


The Russo-Ukrainian War

August 31, 2014

Our “We don’t have a strategy yet” leadership in DC has left the initiative to Vladimir Putin, who has exploited it to the hilt and is now settled on a revanchist war in Ukraine. Mr. Schindler is right: if NATO means anything anymore, it must respond to this with something more than sanctions.

The XX Committee

This week Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine became overt for all the world to see. Since February, Moscow waged a semi-covert campaign that I term Special War, with the initial aim of taking Crimea. This succeeded almost bloodlessly thanks to confusion in Kyiv. Over the past six months, inspired by Crimean success, Russian strategy has focused on creating and preserving Kremlin-controlled pseudo-states, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics,” which are in fact subsidiaries of Russian intelligence.

This, however, is a far more ambitious goal than the Crimean operation, and resistance has mounted. In recent weeks, Ukrainian efforts to retake territory around Donetsk and Luhansk in what Kyiv calls the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) have gained momentum, and this week Moscow sent troops across the border more or less openly since the alternative is the defeat and collapse of its proxies in southeast Ukraine. That Putin will not allow, and…

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Why Germany Refuses to Play a Bigger Role in NATO

June 22, 2014

Hint: It’s not just that Russia has Germany by the gas pipe. After two World Wars and a conscious decision to rebuild Germany to be less threatening, we got what we asked for.

The XX Committee

One of the stranger aspects of the slow-motion crisis over Ukraine caused by Russian provocations and aggression is the uneven response from NATO members. While Alliance states located closer to Russia, which experienced Moscow’s occupation during the Cold War, generally have taken the threat of aggressive Kremlin moves seriously – Poland and Estonia especially – the reaction of some NATO members has been lackluster. In particular, responses in Germany to the Ukraine crisis have been tepid, to use charitable language, and excessive sympathy for Moscow’s actions and attitudes is so commonplace that Germans have a word – Russlandversteher – for it.

Why Germany displays such misplaced sympathy for Russia, despite Kremlin misconduct in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, is a complex issue that is rooted deeply in German history, and cannot be divorced from the broader tendency to anti-Americanism that has become vocal in recent years. That said, Germany’s unwillingness to do…

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Getting out of Dodge… er… Kabul

June 23, 2011

It was as inevitable as the sun rising in the east: on the heals of President Obama announcing our acquiescence to defeat a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Brave Sir Robins of the NATO governments are rushing for the doors:

This morning NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has told reporters today that one-third of NATO forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by next year.  In Paris President Nicholas Sarkozy said France would begin a “progressive withdrawal” from Afghanistan.

Everyone is rushing for the exits.  The President was warned this could happen if it looked like America was about to cut and run.

In fact over the last few weeks during his worldwide farewell tour, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the worse thing to happen is for NATO to “rush to the exits” in Afghanistan. This, he said, would jeopardize military progress.

Gates is right. Obama committed only a portion of the “surge” forces his commanders recommended, and so they were only able to secure the south of Afghanistan, instead of simultaneous operations to secure the south and northeast. The plan had been for follow-up operations to secure the northeast along the Pakistan border this next year, but, well, that was sacrificed to the gods of reelection. With last night’s news, there will likely be no offensive in the northeast and, as withdrawals progress, holding on to the gains made will be harder and harder. And it will be all the more difficult with our allies vanishing over the horizon, encouraged to do so by Obama’s speech.

“Just words,” eh?

All al Qaeda and the Taliban have to do now is wait us out, and Afghanistan will likely fall into their hands in just a few years. I never thought I’d see another  “helicopter on the embassy roof in Saigon” moment, now I have a hard time imagining it not happening.

I only hope there will be visas for all the women who want to escape the coming nightmare.

PS: I’ll have further thoughts on Afghanistan later this weekend, after I’ve had some time to read and get past my disgust.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Great Moments in D’oh! History: Libya edition

April 18, 2011

Starting a war when you don’t have the ammunition to sustain it because you starved your defense budgets to feed the gaping maw that is the welfare state.

D’oh! 

via Big Peace


NATO to award medals for “courageous restraint?”

May 6, 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an award given to a soldier for not firing his weapon.

What’s next? The French Croix du PouletChicken

(via Gateway Pundit)

ADDENDUM: No, I’m not advocating that soldiers should fire their weapons at every killer rabbit or suspicious Afghan, but the overly-restrained rules of engagement we operate under are already dangerous, and this new idea just seems plain silly.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.