When I last wrote about Ukraine on the 5th of December, my point was that we were moving too slowly to deter Russia. As in the military assets that needed to be moved, as s demonstration of seriousness and resolve to back up our diplomatic efforts, needed to have started moving in November 2021. In the past week we’ve learned that US Special Forces (Green Berets) have been deployed to Ukraine to conduct training. This is the Green Berets raison d’être – Unconventional Warfare and Foreign Internal Defense – as summed up in their motto: De Oppressor Liber. I expect that small teams of Special Forces – Operational Detachments Alpha – are both conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FIDs) training with the Ukrainian military and guerrilla warfare training with both the Ukrainian military and select civilian militia and irregular forces. Unconventional Warfare is defined as:
Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.
And Foreign Internal Defense is defined as:
Participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to its security.
So that’s good news!
We’ve also learned in the past week that President Biden has placed 8,500 troops on standby to deploy in support of US and NATO efforts in Europe if necessary. That is also good, but I think it is insufficient. I’ll explain why as I tie everything up.
Yesterday President Biden had a call with President Zelensky. Despite issuing a lengthy readout the usual suspects solely because they’re more professional trolls than members of Congress are screaming for the transcript to be released. Regardless, the White House did have to issue a clarification as parts of the call were being misreported. It is unclear who provided the news media with the inaccurate information.
Secretary Blinken also confirmed that the US is doing nothing in regard to Ukraine in its dealings with Russia without being in constant consultation with Ukraine.
Where this leaves us is in a strategic pause point. The US and NATO are not going to initiate a preemptive strike on Russian forces to try to deter them, especially as we’ve got extensive reporting that Russia is trying to create a casus belli to provide themselves with a justification to reinvade/further invade Ukraine. All of the tension, all of the uncertainty is right now being created by Putin. From announcing a naval war game off the coast of Ireland in the vicinity of some of the most important undersea communication cables to having his proxies issue threats and demands.
For a good explanation of what Putin wants out of all this, I recommend this interview transcript of a podcast published by Politico. The person being interviewed, Kadri Liik, is a Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Here’s what I think is the real important stuff:
What does Putin really want here? “He really wants to gain control of Ukraine’s future policymaking to make sure that Kiev remains in lockstep with Moscow for years and decades to come. I think that’s his very sincere and heartfelt goal; not necessarily very widely shared by people in the Russian elite or society. But even so, for Putin, it is deadly serious. And then the second layer is the European security order: making sure Ukraine will never join Western organizations. Putin probably saw that Ukraine was slipping away from him. Zelenskyy was not delivering. Ukraine is increasingly cooperating with the West, militarily and with NATO countries.”
Does Putin see Biden as weak — after Afghanistan? “I don’t think so. I think people in Moscow, at least people who matter and who are influential in foreign policy debates, their thinking was rather that Biden is smart. He’s trying to limit his frontlines. He’s not fighting each and every battle. Plus, Biden is someone who can speak on behalf of the West. During the whole Trump period, there was no one like that.”
How deep are Russia’s security fears? “Russia, being a sparsely populated and badly governed country, does feel insecure to outside attack, and they have experienced a fair amount of it. Soviet nostalgia: There is some. Putin is not an ethnic nationalist, as he is sometimes portrayed. He’s a great power imperialist. … Recently, Russia has been giving up that desire to dominate neighboring countries regardless of what it takes. You can see it is now a case-by-case approach. They have given up on the Baltic states, they view the Baltics as handed over to America. They don’t think that the Baltic states have much agency themselves, but they’re clearly in the U.S. sphere of influence. They let an ally, Armenia, experience defeat in the hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey.“
There’s also a good discussion of why sanctions are unlikely to be effective. So click across and check out the rest.
As to sanctions, here’s a very good article explaining why sanctions may be as painful for us as they would be for Putin and the Russians. The bottom line is that because of Russia’s market share as a producer of petroleum and liquid natural gas, sanctioning those industries would cause a lot of pain for us and our allies.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that Germany’s current policy posture on Russian aggression is incredibly passive. I don’t think this is because the German’s don’t understand the threat, rather this is the result of Germans’ and Germany’s long, not always complete, and painful reckoning with the history and legacy of World War II and the Holocaust. This significantly weakens the EU’s and NATO’s ability to present a united front to deter Russian aggression towards Ukraine, the Baltics, etc. These two twitter threads, by Ulrike Frankel, also a Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, are an excellent explainer:
I've tried to explain this mindset and where it comes from here – the focus is on my generation but a lot of these ideas are shared more widely (on this also read Thomas Bagger's piece linked in the article).https://t.co/kWzmuaPvAq
— Ulrike Franke (@RikeFranke) January 21, 2022
Massively insightful listening to German radio right now where listeners call in to talk about Russia, Ukraine, arms exports.
"We shouldn't pour oil into the fire", descalation needed, "we shouldn't threaten Russia" etc.
— Ulrike Franke (@RikeFranke) January 25, 2022
Dmitri Alperovitch has a very long and very detailed thread delineating Putin’s goals in regard to Alperovitch’s assessment that Putin is going to reinvade/further invade. And Richard Engel has reported indicators that signal a reinvasion/further invasion of Ukraine is more likely:
A Western intelligence official says Russia has brought in many of the enablers it was lacking, including medical and logistics, to carry out a potential military operation against Ukraine.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) January 26, 2022
This was the outstanding question many of us watching this unfold had: is Russia moving the actual sustainment and support personnel and material necessary to actually undertake a reinvasion/further invasion of Ukraine? Engel’s reporting indicates that yes, this is now occurring.
We are fast approaching the point, if we are not actually past it, where events will begin to overtake the decision makers and become the decision makers themselves. Where it won’t matter what Putin is actually willing to risk or what President Biden and our NATO allies are willing to do to counter him, because events will unfold faster than the decision makers can react. All it is going to take is an errant round from the life fire exercise in Belarus or one of the Russian naval vessels coming into contact with the Irish fishing boats that plan to protest the exercise and things will get very sporty very fast.
And this is why I think we are still moving far too slowly and are far too late in placing the necessary assets in place to back up our diplomacy and our use of economic power to try to deter Putin. Right now Putin is getting what he wants: bilateral recognition and negotiation with the US. Putin believes Russia is still a great power the way the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. Being able to negotiate with the US, publicly demand written answers – as if formal diplomatic communication would be done some other way – and then receive them because that’s simply how diplomacy is done allows Putin to claim that victory. In order to deter him, he has to be shown that we have the will and the capability to respond. Deploying some Operational Detachments Alpha and putting the equivalent of a brigade combat team and a half on standby is not going to cut it.
In order to actually demonstrate that we have the will and the capability to respond we would need to mobilize and deploy V Corps and all of 1st Armored Division (all combat brigades and the division artillery), plussed up with one brigade combat team each from 4th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division/Air Assault, the 82 Airborne Division, and the 1st Stryker Regiment. This should be accompanied by a country team from the 853rd Civil Affairs Brigade with a full complement of Civil Affairs Teams Alpha (CAT-As) and a country team from the 4th Psychological Operations Group’s 6th Psychological Operations Battalion to place Tactical PSYOP Teams (TPTs) into theater. I’d put the Corps headquarters in Poland, the Division headquarters in either Finland or Estonia, and distribute the conventional forces throughout Poland, Eastonia, Latvia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The Special Operations assets – Civil Affairs and PSYOP – go into Kyiv. Then I’d put the Wasp and Kearsarge Amphibious Warfare Groups (AWG) into theater. Wasp and her float off of Finland and Kearsarge and her float in the Black Sea. I’d keep the carrier group farther out for now. In fact I’d put it in the Irish Sea and even more specifically in the “Irish Box” between Ireland and England. I’d also want Air Force Special Operations – Air Commandos and Para-Rescue, as well as forward observer controllers who paint targets – moved into theater. I’d also want our NATO allies to keep doing what they’re doing, put moving three or four Dutch F-16s to Poland isn’t sufficient either.
We are behind, we are not moving fast enough, we are late! And, as a result, things are going to get out of control!
Finally, unlike past national security crises since the end of World War II, we cannot expect the American people to rally round the flag. Tucker Carlson, the Kremlin’s favorite cable news talking head, has been working hard to ensure that just like in the run up to World War II, a significant portion of Americans and American elected officials from one political party are pro-fascist, virulently isolationist, and rooting for our enemies.
Behind the scenes: Carlson has had a profound effect on how Republican candidates talk about the Russia-Ukraine issue, according to GOP operatives working on primary races.
- GOP offices have been fielding numerous calls from voters echoing arguments they heard on Carlson’s 8 p.m. ET show. Carlson has been telling his viewers there is no reason why the U.S. should help Ukraine fight Russia.
- Even Democratic offices have been fielding these calls from Carlson’s viewers. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) tweeted that he got “calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we’re not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia’s ‘reasonable’ positions.”
Carlson has noticed the changes in how Republicans talk about Russia specifically and foreign intervention in general, but he thinks the party isn’t changing fast enough.
- “I just want to go on the record and say I could care less if they call me a pawn of Putin,” Carlson told Axios. “It’s too stupid. I don’t speak Russian. I’ve never been to Russia. I’m not that interested in Russia. All I care about is the fortunes of the United States because I have four children who live here.”
- “I really hope that Republican primary voters are ruthless about this,” Carlson told Axios, and vote out any Republican “who believes Ukraine’s borders are more important than our borders.”
Now we wait for whatever happens to happen.
And thanks again to Gin & Tonic for his excellent run down earlier in the week to tie you all over until I was able to get this done today.
Is your end goal for American forces to engage Russian forces? Is that basically expected with your laundry list of demands for a show of force? I guess I’m confused here as to what the end result of all this showing of force is, if it’s not an actual show of force and it’s a use of force instead.
Fucking troll question direct from the Republican party.
Thanks, Adam. A very sobering read, to be sure. One question.
Aren’t these related? The Germans buy some large fraction of their imported gas from Russia, and that has to be feeding into their government’s decision-making.
Gin & Tonic
@dmsilev: Many other Western European countries reply on Russian gas. No other Western European countries are being as supine as Germany.
Tucker Carlson is evil.
Maybe if he spoke some Russian he wouldn’t be so stupid and evil.
Someone on NPR just commented that Putin probably wouldn’t invade until after the Olympics. So there’s some time bought. I hope.
@Gin & Tonic: Fair point.
Five bucks he sees Biden as weak, but at least he doesn’t see him as a useful puppet.
Indeed, that is what I’ve been reading.
I’ve also been reading that if Russia gets into a war (probably on this site) that it won’t be a quick thing – they’ll be embroiled in that invasion for quite awhile and if you combine that with sanctions – it might get worse for them much quickly than for us.
But yes, I do agree that with how divided Americans have become – that there won’t be any rallying around the flag or the President. Instead, they’ll be using it to cut him down and GOP politicians will seek to use it as a way to kick him out of office.
I find it crazy that we are in this situation where we cannot depend on the patriotism of our fellow Americans.
We won’t be at war. The most we’ll be doing is supplying weapons.
@Gin & Tonic:
Hell, if we weaken Russia enough, they might be amiable to terms on gas that would be good for the rest of Western Europe. I would say this as an opportunity.
I mean goddam, we seem to not be worried so much when it’s a middle east country.
@cain: Just for fun, try to think of a reason why. Let your imagination go wild!
@Baud: Yeah, that’s what I thought it would be – a proxy war, as noted about they are already working on training and providing weapons. If they invade, Ukraine can keep them occupied.
I also suggested that this might be a lovely time for Chechnya rebels to suddenly start causing trouble.
Adam L Silverman
@Toadrick Elfheart: Show of force. A demonstration of what will be brought to bear on Putin. It is important to remember that senior Russian military and government leaders have repeatedly threatened that they won’t stop with reinvading/further invading Ukraine. That this would just be phase 1 and the objective is to retake Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Finland, and Norway. All either NATO members or states with bilateral defense agreements with the US. Diplomacy works when there is something backing it up. Right now we need to demonstrate exactly what we can use to back up American diplomacy.
Adam L Silverman
@dmsilev: I’m sure they are to some extent.
Why not just tell me why I’m wrong instead of this exercise? Honestly, you don’t want me to let my imagination run wild. Luckily I took my ADHD medication, otherwise I’m quite good at coming up with all kinds of fun stuff :D
Mike in NC
Putin’s upcoming moves were probably something Trump approved at the infamous Helsinki meeting where no notes were kept.
Unrelated, yesterday it was reported that an F-35 crashed on the USS Carl Vinson and went into the drink. A mere $100M loss, and the Chinese would like to recover it.
I doubt there is much appetite to risk American lives and the possibility of WW3 for Ukraine. I haven’t seen polling. I can’t imagine conditions if TFG were President – probably be organizing parties for the Russian troops in Kiev.
Grumpy Old Railroader
I freaking hate it when we are putting ourselves in danger of war but I also hate it that Russia threatens. Think I’ll just go stick my head in the sand. Ain’t nuffin I can do about it either way except one more thing to worry about.
Hmm, Wikipedia sez Ireland is not a NATO member. So what happens if there is an incident between an Irish fishing trawler and a Russian warship.
@debbie: How long can he keep his forces primed on the edge ready to invade? That’s like another three weeks of Ukraine further getting it’s defenses in order as well.
I think I read that Putin has to invade next month to avoid mud season.
Adam L Silverman
@Baud: Fortunately for Ukraine, and unfortunately for Putin’s potential plans, Ukraine hasn’t had a hard freeze, let alone a sustained one yet this year. So mud season is going to be extended a bit.
[pedant-mode] Please check your blockquotes at the start. The first double-blockquote seems like it should be a single blockquote. The blockquote after “So that is good news!” seems to be your voice (and if so shouldn’t be blockquoted at all). Similarly, please check the remaining blockquotes.
Not trying to be annoying. I assume that FYWP and/or Word annoyances struck again and I’m Just trying to understand what’s your voice and what isn’t. [/pedant-mode]
@Adam L Silverman:
Yay global warming!
Adam L Silverman
@Another Scott: I thought I’d fixed all the formatting artifacts. So that was actually not pedantry but useful. And it should be fixed now.
NPR’s Here and Now interviewed a Ukrainian American attorney, and her fear for what her country will be losing was palpable.
C’mon man, they have a name! TACPs! All joking aside, excellent summary. I hope that all the BALTOP training exercises we’ve conducted won’t be needed, but I’m immensely grateful that we’ve done those. Everything helps.
@Grumpy Old Railroader: I’m going with what G&T wrote about whether or not Russia will invade: who the fuck knows? Until something happens, not going to worry about it.
Kind of like thinking about BBB…
One thing I’ve been curious about but haven’t seen anybody comment on, is how is Covid interacting with all those Russian troops?
We know the Russian vaxcine is not very effective. So what’s up with that?
I took flak the last time I said this ( which is fine ), but I stand by my assertion that that this crisis is being orchestrated primarily to affect US politics. Specifically it is meant to diminish the current administration’s approval numbers and weaken Biden reelection prospects.
I’m not claiming that there aren’t other motives, but Russia could have done this anytime during TFG’s presidency and Chump would have yawned. And without US leadership Europe would have been a deer in the headlights ( much like they are now ).
Putin’s interference put him within a hair’s breadth of destroying American democracy and turning the US into a vassal state and a global laughingstock. These are his true goals. Hell, he’s already got Fox News puking up his talking points every night. By putting himself at odds with Biden, Putin becomes not only sympathetic to the right but an outright hero. You can already see this happening in other right-wing media. The next Republican president will be more expressly aligned with Putin and Russia than they are with Europe and NATO. And with that scenario Putin runs the table. The American political system will be under the thumb of the Russian mob. Game over.
And if anybody thinks that’s crazy then they haven’t been paying attention for the last five or six years.
As I understand it, it’s not just that Germany buys a lot of gas from Russia, but also that a lot of German politicians are involved with Nordstream2. I don’t think they’re as thoroughly bought as the Republican Party is, but it sounds like it provides one more reason for letting Russia do as it pleases.
@Ken B: good point. So there is some non-lethal aid Biden can give Ukraine – supplies of good vaccine.
Adam L Silverman
@Leto: And a technical sergeant is a real rank. Sure it is…//
Relatedly (?), DW.com – Konstantin Eggert opinion piece:
I’m no expert, but Putin (it seems to me) loves doing things with “plausible deniability”, so it would be out of character for him to send the
RedRussian Army over the border. The above seems plausible, and Biden, Blinken, and NATO see the vital importance of unity.
But we’ll see.
Re: sanctions, I linked this earlier today:
Links to article in The Times in the UK. Excerpt:
Adam L Silverman
@Yarrow: This is a major problem.
@Yarrow: If they really want to start messing with the oligarchs’ money and assets, the Premier League should dock Chelsea about 100 points, which would ensure relegation to the much less lucrative League Championship next year. Do the same every year until they’re down in one of the regional leagues at level 7 or 8.
@Adam L Silverman: Yep. No way the Tories risk crashing the London property market either.
Gin & Tonic
@Another Scott: Some people in Ukraine and outside are basically saying let him have the already-occupied territory in the Donbas. Reintegration into Ukraine would take years under the best of circumstances, and it’s an economic sink. Stick Putin with the bill and move on. That’s not a ludicrous idea. Large swaths of that territory are post-industrial wasteland – think Gary or Youngstown.
There is so much Russian money and influence over the Republican party it’s kind of dizzying. For decades Russia was the enemy and now…best buddies. Take their money, go visit Putin on July 4th, wear t-shirts saying they’d rather be Russians than Democrats. And that’s just the visible stuff.
@Adam L Silverman: why you little… //
@Yarrow: considering some of the convictions a few of the major Republican fundraisers received for improperly funneling/laundering Russian money into Republican campaigns, you’d think this would be a larger issue that more of the media would investigate.
@Leto: They’d probably be investigating themselves and that doesn’t usually work well.
Frankly, I’m a bit confused – who gives a flying %$#& that Russia has a navel exercise off the Irish coast over some communication cables. First, Ireland is not part of NATO and never has been a military member of the US in any sense (see WW II.) As for cables – really? Wow, that really threatens us – lol.
NATO has zero reason to mobilize unless it wants to prove that ass-clown putin is correct – NATO is a serious threat to Russia via the Ukraine. NATO is vastly superior to Russian military forces and needs not to take actions because Russia in no realistic manner threatens Western Europe.
The best way to protect Ukraine is let Ukraine protect its self – we have no essential much less strategic interest in the Ukraine except if we want to threaten Russia. Wanting the option for the Ukraine to join NATO simply proves to Russia that NATO, drive by US interest (see Baltics), does want to threat Russia via Ukraine. Besides the Baltics, Russia has an increasingly powerful and military growing China on its Siberian border – the last thing putin needs is the Ukraine to join NATO. Russia is a third rate economy, militarily fallen far behind NATO/US and except for nukes, can’t ever catch up. Now China is growing in a real way and if I was putin, I’d be very worried for the long term with an empty Siberia and growing/hungry China.
@Gin & Tonic: You know the situation there much better than I do, but that reminds me of the old adage, “Give him an inch and he will take a mile.”
Nope. He’d be just as stupid and evil. Even more so if it was possible.
Gin & Tonic
@Cermet: Ukraine wants to decide for itself which economic and/or military alliances to join. Why should Russia get a veto?
Tell me you don’t understand modern communications/financial institutions without saying you don’t understand modern communications/financial institutions. As for the rest of your pro-Kremlin screed, which you’ve done in both threads today, we’re just going to leave that for posterity. Also what G&T said at 49.
@VOR: I hadn’t heard their vaccine wasn’t effective. They just won’t take it.
I’m pretty sure, if Trump had succeeded in his little coup, Putin would have just offered Trump a dollar-figure to divide up Europe between them.
No snark font needed. Considering his nonsense with Greenland and his sellout of the Kurds, I think it’s literally what he would have agreed to.
That’s what I’ve heard as well. The Russian vaccine is effective, but Russians don’t trust the government and will pay good money to avoid getting it. It probably doesn’t help that Russia is ground-zero for Covid misinformation. They’ve managed to fool their own people.
Makes them a pretty good match for Tucker and the Fox news gang, actually.
Undersea cables are something that seems like new fangled tech, but they’ve been around since forever. They’re pretty cool.
@Toadrick Elfheart: as a matter of war policy in the US- we are always a bit late. Except in stupid middle eastern conflicts
There are a lot of moving pieces on this board and given the world we now live in and not the one vlad would like to be living in, I’d say he’s playing a very dangerous game. But then he’s lost his US puppet (even if SFB wasn’t all that reliable, he was far, far more available than Joe Biden) and not being able to sell all that gas would be a rather large loss to him, so he’s escalating. With SFB on board his train he could pull the strings and get his puppet to dance, and no one is really doing that for him now. It seems a lot of his own people don’t trust him any farther than they can throw him, he can’t seem to convince his own people to take a vaccine, that doesn’t seem to work all that well anyway, and now he wants to invade another country and his citizens are less than enthusiastic. We can’t minimize the possibilities that he is desperate enough to do anything but he has a huge death rate from Covid, very low vaccination rate and I’d bet something that this is not a positive for him as the power that he thinks he is. And notice I’m not saying he isn’t very dangerous, he is. He may also be smart enough to recognize reality.
blackfly and greenhead seasons should kick in several months later, if Ukraine is like rural New England.
My question is whether we should take it for granted that Ukraine will fight? Will they even use the weapons that the Western world is supplying, or will they just let the Russian army in? Or maybe some will even welcome the Russians? If not, will there be a violent insurgency that will wear down the Russian occupiers?
I’ve been looking for a definitive answer from someone in the know. But haven’t found one
@Gin & Tonic: Of course, but does it makes sense for the US to want to extend NATO so far east that it’s difficult to envision a realistic way to meet NATO promises to defend Ukraine? It seems like this maneuvers us into making promises we can’t keep.
You can get there from here.
Gin & Tonic
@devore: Ukraine will fight, and if there is any substantial occupation, there will be deadly resistance.
Gin & Tonic
@Hoodie: The US =/= NATO.
@devore: I’ve mentioned before that my grad school adviser was Ukrainian. Born in Germany after the war, emigrated to Australia as a child, came to the US after grad school. Married another Ukrainian-Australian. They all – including their children – spoke Ukrainian at home – even in Ohio.
They’re an extremely proud and determined people. Of course they’re not all the same, but they will fight for their country.
I recall hearing a while back that it isn’t AS effective. As say the mRNA vaccines. IOW it’s far better than nothing but also a lot of his subjects do not seem to trust him any more than a ticking time bomb or a man in a trench coat and sunglasses at midnight, so they aren’t willing to take the vaccine. Consequently they are dying in large numbers. Sort of like the people here that won’t take the vaccine.
I only know what I’ve heard from “man on the street” interviews with Ukrainian citizens. They’re pretty fucking determined people.
@zhena gogolia: it’s both. They haven’t done the kind of tests we have publicly, but they sold a lot to other countries. We don’t have perfect data, but what we do have suggests the vaccines are pathetic. Then there is the public cynicism about government medicines. They can’t overcome it. Vaccines with poor uptake are not useful.
I seriously don’t want any armies right now with Covid. Not that it’s up to me.
Adam, either I’m extremely confused, or you’ve lost an argument to yourself.
First, everybody from you and me to Vladimir Putin knows that the U.S. isn’t going to put boots on the ground in Ukraine this winter or spring. So all those moves to get more U.S. military assets in a more forward position don’t mean shit in terms of discouraging Putin from invading Ukraine.
Second, you say:
So your plan is to put more assets out there, multiplying the opportunities you’re so concerned about for someone’s mistake to light the fuse.
What you seem to say is driving the need to put those assets out there anyway is this, in comments:
They can have those objectives, sure, but it sure looks to me like, even if they succeed in taking Ukraine, it’s going to tie up a lot of their assets to hold onto and control it. If they want the Baltics or Scandinavia, taking Ukraine makes those goals less rather than more possible.
And another big problem for Putin there is, as you say:
So he’s not going to attack them as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House. The agreements will be honored; if there’s a Russian buildup on their borders, our guys will be waiting for them, whether we get all puffed up now or not. So the only real effect of doing that is to drive up the risk of a stupid mistake being the driver of events.
I’m confused as to how they would retake Norway. Did they ever have Norway even as a client state?
@Ruckus: Nominally the Sputnik vaccine is fine; it uses technology similar to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The one problem that was identified with it was quality control in manufacture; there were a bunch of batches that Russia sent to other countries that ended up getting rejected when the locals did their own assays and found problematic variations in what they were getting.
QC is …not modern Russia’s strong suit.
@Gvg: I’m sorry to hear that as I have people I care about there
Why would Biden or any American president fight a war in Europe that could possibly result in an exchange of nukes? Even apart from that, is defending Ukraine essential to the US?
Why would any nation want to attack Russia? Is France or Germany hot to expand? Putin and maybe UK Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg may be living in the 19th century, but otherwise what other country has any desire for military adventures in Europe?
Here’s an old STATNews interview about Sputnik V (from April 2021):
I don’t recall hearing much about the actual vaccine beyond that. There were stories last year about Russia trying to quash bad / questioning press questions from other countries, but I don’t recall the details.
HTH a little.
In my opinion, your perspective here is too strictly founded on your technical-military experience. You are seeing capability, and it is distorting your understanding of intention.
Without question, the US national security establishment has made clear to their Russian counterparts at every level that an invasion will be treated as an opportunity to create a new Afghanistan — a place where the once-Soviet, now-Russian armed forces can be bled to death, at the cost to the West of some cheap weapons and intelligence. This time about 1000 miles closer to Moscow and Petersburg, and uncensorable on TV. I presume that this is the meaning of those Special Forces trainers (thanks for that tidbid, incidentally, it helps clarify the picture a bit imo).
This is not a nightmare the Russian army — or Putin for that matter — have forgotten. He’s an asshole, but he’s not an idiot. He’s not about to reverse the logic of asymmetric warfare by handing the West the means of exacting enormous costs from Russia at no costs to us. This is a third-rate dictatorship with the GDP of Australia, that can only pretend to play in the big leagues so long as it remembers what is theater and what is real. I don’t think Putin is confused on that. Dollars to donuts, there will be no invasion.
@Ken B: A month ago, Russia was at 49% vaccinated. And that’s with the craptacular Sputnik. How is omicron not going to rip through 100,000 troops all bunking near each other?
@Baud: Could be wrong, but I think some people here are pooh-poohing them because they are such old tech (in concept and original implementation).
@Adam L Silverman: If the purpose of your proposed deployment is a demonstration of strength, I assume you are not suggesting that these forces enter Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion to engage the Russian Army? In that case, wouldn’t a failure to actively intervene after such a high profile deployment be more problematic, & give Putin a propaganda victory? Or is your deployment plan aimed at deterring further adventurism into actual NATO territory, while economic sanctions deliver the punishment, & the Ukrainian insurgency bleed the Russian invading force (every commentary I’ve read suggest the Ukrainians will lose the conventional battle, & relatively quickly)?
Wouldn’t it make sense for the European NATO countries to standard up their conventional forces 1st, as deterrent to further Russian adventurism? Also, Sweden & Finland are not formal NATO allies. Are they up for (especially Finland) hosting a major US Army deployment? I guess I am not sure there is consensus in Europe that Putin is interested in further adventurism, even in the Baltics, let alone Scandinavia. Right now, 2/3rds of Russian Army’s Battalion Tactical Groups are deployed near the border with Ukraine. Even after a successful invasion of the country, the Russian Army needs time to regroup before reorienting to other fronts. I would think the US has time to deploy forces after Russian has a invaded Ukraine. Wouldn’t it make more sense to deploy such forces to the Baltics & Poland only, rather than all along Russia’s western perimeter, & thus risk further escalation of tensions & self-fulfilling prophecies?
In my mind it matters not what causes the vaccine to be not up to par, right up until the time it goes in the arm. I, and I bet most of the mature adults (and mature children) in this country, trust the government to keep a check on drugs, food, what we buy and consume. So for me how great it is in a lab is irrelevant, it’s how great it actually does in the bigger picture. As I understand Russia, most regular people rightfully do not trust the government. And your last line is a good reason why. My point is, whatever is making, say a vaccine, less effective may be important to what makes it dangerous but makes it vastly important to the citizens reasonable trust in taking it. And as we see, even in this country, with millions taking it, some still don’t seem to trust it. They will take almost anything else in lieu of the actual vaccine because they trust lying sacks of shit more than the truth. Their political party is the BOP, bullshitters on parade.
Speaking of Covid, …
“Prediction is hard – especially about the future.” Beware unwarranted certainty.
I would say it’s the same old as the hills story that we’ve heard for ever, some people want to win, no matter the prize, no matter the cost, no matter the risk. vlad has a lot of personal risk, because he makes his money from the sale of all that gas and oil. And if he didn’t have that gas and oil he’d actually have to either play the loser he is or he’d have to attack everyone to make himself more important. He is an old timey Russian dictator, and like all of them before him, he is in charge, and therefore people have to listen. But his rein will have an end, natural or political, it will end some day. vlad is 69 yrs old so may have a (fair) number of years left but even he is staring into the eyes of cold reality (and maybe denial) that he won’t live forever and some day, he will no longer be the demigod he thinks he is, and he might be feeling that he needs to make his mark soon. Not that he hasn’t made a rather shitty mark on the world already, but I’d bet actual money he doesn’t think it’s big enough.
Except that they work with far less interruption than many of the more modern possibilities. And the current designs seem to be more than fast enough and reasonably secure. Which means that those saying they are not the newest, latest, bestest technology may be somewhat technically correct but are still wrong because the overall implementation is still better.
I am on the record that a lot of plans were made without involving General COVID.
@Carlo Graziani: Interesting.
I’ve been saying this for weeks.
Is it just me, or is the US heavily incentivized in this situation to shut down Nordstream? It’s a Russia owned asset and it would remove Russias leverage over the EU.
Very likely. On the other hand, Putin might not be as smart as we think.
I keep reading that various European health agencies won’t approve the Sputnik vaccine. I figure if it was as good as the non-mRNA vaccines that have gotten approved by various agencies, it would be getting approved too.
@Doug R: That’s my thimking, too.
I don’t know if the Russian military mandates the vaccine or not, my guess is that they do. But it doesn’t seem to be a very good one, as has been pointed out. My general impression is in the same ball park as single-dose J&J; but with big QC problems.
I’ve wondered sometimes if part of the plan is to let the virus burn through the troops in the area now, so that the troops will have recovered from their infection (or been discharged or buried) by the time Putin decides to pull the trigger, should he do so.
@Martin: which of the two pipelines are operational?
RE: Why would any nation want to attack Russia? Is France or Germany hot to expand? Putin and maybe UK Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg may be living in the 19th century, but otherwise what other country has any desire for military adventures in Europe?
I understand Putin’s vain fantasies. But there is no upside in Germany or France to want to attack Russia. Putin is inventing enemies.
But that’s just it. Putin has got oil and gas and minerals. And stolen wealth. This makes him damned important.
If they pull out the nukes, radioactive gas ain’t worth a damn thing.
Times change. There is more at risk, more for everyone to lose.
And in the end, if Putin wants Ukraine so bad, I don’t see the up side in opposing him.
Good, good. But it’s still a “novel” virus, so we should continue to be as careful as we can and work to crush community spread.
I have grave concerns about the enemy within. The Republican Party and a large section of the media.
J R in WV
Interesting review of the current situation, and an interesting look at what may happen in the near future. I doubt Putin will launch a war, but I’m just a hillbilly watching from up in the deep woods.
You guys acting as Russian stooges, Fuck you guys!
Do you draw a line somewhere?
@Chief Oshkosh: @Ruckus: just going to say that the current transatlantic comm cables are fiber optic, which is basically latest/greatest. There are improvements that are continuing to be made with them, as always, but these will last a long time. For a while I was involved in a project to rehome two of those cables from their present position to RAF Croughton, when Croughton was still projected to receive a new multi-agency intelligence center. But then Devin Nunes… oh well.
Quick overview: Transatlantic communications cable
Mandates are as unpopular there as here (among some segments of society, anyway).
MoscowTimes (from November):
It doesn’t mention the military – things may indeed be different there (nothing useful comes up for me in my quick searches).
I’m sure this will solve the problem.
Fight for 15!
a key article of the Atlantic Charter and NATO membership is that a nation cannot become a member if it has unresolved border conflicts with other Nations.
Ukraine has a bunch left over from WWII let alone the Soviet break up, the Crimean Invasion and the DPR and LPR.
Even in alt history, ( no Russian invasion) it would have taken decades for Ukraine to resolve these conflicts.
Russian “fears” of Ukraine “joining” NATO have always been bs fearmongering and rabid agitprop aimed towards the ignorant.
Ukraine forming closer economic ties with the EU and reforming It’s economic and legal structures however would quickly gut the empires of many of the Russian and Ukrainian ogliarches.
Russia also seems to want Alaska back. Any point in opposing him there?
That’s one way to make Manchin and Sinema irrelevant that I had not considered.
Adam is not suggesting that US or NATO forces enter Ukraine.
What Adam is pointing out, is that right now, US and NATO forces in Eastern Europe, do not form a credible “Reaction Force”, as many key elements are “missing”.
Eg, right now, there are far more NATO and US combat aircraft deployed in Eastern Europe, than their are FDAC’s to guide/mark targets for them.
For years now, CAP’s go up, intercept Russian aircraft “intruders”, turn them back,
they are not fully organized to for example, strike a Russian ground spearhead, or intrude and destroy key transit points.
Villago Delenda Est
Tuckyo Rose is fit to be tied.
Villago Delenda Est
Where to draw the line? The Vistula? The Oder? The Rhein?
I figure if Russia actually invades Ukraine the issue of Western Europe’s dependence on the Russian gas pipelines becomes moot. I suspect (no matter what Germany wants) those pipelines will be ‘mysteriously’ disabled for an extended period. Maybe hacked, maybe bombed. How doesn’t much matter. Everyone will know it was us. We might deny doing it. Maybe we’ll own up to it. What ever. When that happens, Russia will be out of a lot of it’s foreign funding while trying to hold Ukraine as an underground ‘develops’ and does what they’ve been doing since the start of wars. Hope it doesn’t come to Pan-European War. Might. We’ll soon see. If it does go down large, I fear the nut jobs here in the US will join in. Damn. Not fun.
Opposing Putin in Ukraine consists of sanctions, training support inside or outside of Ukraine, lawful weapons deliveries, economic sanctions, and staging sufficient forces in NATO border nations to deter a Russian “spoiler attack” against a NATO member.
The upsides are:
– Putin doesn’t get Ukraine,
– Russia bleeds out taking and trying to hold Ukraine,
– or the Russian Military does the math, passes it up the food chain and Putin sticks to his various forms of “ratf€cking” rather than making a Low Intensity Conflict into a “Hot War”.
The Pale Scot
As long as Palin is included, I’d think about it
Counterpoint – KyivIndependent:
I assume the US and NATO have intelligence that Reznikov does not, but who knows. VVP has lots of reasons to try to get as much as he can by puffing out his chest and not actually invading. If he were to do so, he has much, much less control of the situation, and he knows that. But he also knows there are big risks to him if he gets nothing (or very little compared to his demands) as a result of his blustering.
Ukraine has a vested interest to keep the public/economy/society from panicking,
so on the Civil/PR side, downplay it,
while on the Military side, they have gone to heightened alert levels and are accepting all the military aid, ( training, weapons) they can get.
It usually takes 6 months minimum to plan and arrange a Joint Training Mission. Both Canada, the US and Ukraine set them up in 3 weeks.
@Gvg: I guess I wasn’t clear – send vaccine to Ukraine. Let Russian soldiers rely on their own vaccine and give the good stuff to Ukraine’s troops. Combat effectiveness will be higher for fully vaccinated Ukraine soldiers vs. un-vaccinated or weakly vaccinated Russian military. And it’s non-lethal aid.
To speak – again – to intentions, rather than to the appearances created by the capabilities on the ground, it is helpful to ask ourselves whether the Russians feel as militarily powerful as we believe them to be.
This is, admittedly a bit of a head game, but it’s not pointless. I believe that many in the West see the Russian military buildup and can’t help using the thought framework of the Soviet military threat. But that 30-year old model is completely misleading. The only commonality between the Soviet Union and modern Russia is that both have screwed-up economies. The important difference, however, is that the Soviet economy was capable of generating tremendous military power, because it operated essentially on the basis of constant war mobilization throughout it’s entire 74-year history. The Russian economy, by contrast, is a failed-state natural-resource extraction-based oligarchy-support mafia scheme. The important thing to understand is that the Russian armed forces are a pale shadow of their Soviet forerunners in terms of the combat power that they are capable of generating as a nation.
This is not to say that Russia is not capable, in principle, of overrunning Ukraine. Rather it is to point out that the Russians themselves necessarily know themselves to be weak, especially compared to their former military accomplishments, and must be living in fear of triggering powerful encircling coalitions by their actions. They may hope to profit by bully theater, but in the end I am convinced that they will take the counsel of their fears, and back off. There is no gain in an invasion worth the risks that they believe they are taking.
An interesting report – well worth a click.
Mike in DC
Adam, thanks for this. It sounds like you’re advocating that, rather than 8500 troops, that the US deploy 85000 troops to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. I’m pretty sure that would work to deter Russian “adventurism”, though it’s pricey and we might have to keep them there through the summer.
@Ken B: I have wondered myself. Russian maker of Sputnik sez it is effective against Omicron, do not know about other independent tests. Russia has lower vax rates than US. Do not know about military, but guess they are vaxed.
This is much like my take.
One question would be, have the Russians been spending as much on their military as their leaders bank accounts/holdings? IOW, as you state, are they as strong as they used to be for a land war.
Second, Vlad is getting up there in years, although he is younger than some. Is he trying to have the whole thing before it becomes far more difficult for him, of course remembering that he likely thinks he’s better than, stronger than, anyone else around. He does have just a bit of an ego. But then most men in his position would have to be a touch of an egomaniac, and he seems to me to be slightly more than a touch of one.
With what troop buildup?
If they need to mass 130,000 troops on the Ukraine border to have a credible threat to invade Ukraine, then they’d need at least that for an attack against a NATO member. So where are the massed troops on the border of one of our NATO allies?
I suppose it’s possible that Putin can successfully invade Ukraine with, say, 40,000 troops, and the rest are just there for theater, but I haven’t heard anyone even hinting that.
@Brachiator: Russia’s fear of invasion isn’t logical but it is deep seated and extremely long standing, with roots deep in its history, starting with the Mongol invasion and moving forward from there
As for COVID-19, which others have mentioned, I think it’s a red herring. Russian troops will be predominantly young and healthy and therefore likely to have mild symptoms or even none at all, so why should their military planner take any notice of a disease that doesn’t affect their military effectiveness in any significant way?
@Martin: Hoping so!
I would assume there was mandatory vaccination in the military. AFAIK being immunized lessens the impact of Omicron.
But it’s not like Putin care about the health and well-bing of the troops.
late to this discussion,but there seems to be alot of sabre rattling on the other side
of the globe as well.
could be ukraine is either a diversion from taiwan,or ,possibly a concerted effort to
give the u.s.two wildly distant fronts to contend with?
Ella in New Mexico
@Adam L Silverman:
But seeing the above clearly, understanding that we’re on the same precipice as we were with Hitler in 1938–that would mean learning from our very bad decisions in history, and not allowing ourselve to repeat them.
It will not stop with Putin unless he’s pushed into a corner and forced to stop.
Too bad we can’t find a way for someone to go all Osama Bin Laden on the son of a bitch.