Remember the girl who wanted lacy undies rather than the shapeless grey scratchy polyester bloomers that the puritanical Putin orders all his female subjects to wear? Although, come to think of it, given gas prices, gas shortages and gas thefts, something warm, no matter how unattractive, might be more practical for a Ukrainian girl today than frilly bits of silk. Well, anyway, apparently she, Olga Znachkova, is trying to get work in Russia. Things didn’t work out for her – or for millions of other Ukrainian girls – quite the way they were advertised, did they? (Of course, she’s an actress and it is more than possible that she was hired for the job as was I’m a Ukrainian. But we can still feel for her letdown, can’t we?)
But spare a thought for another Maidan Girl – the Baker herself. What must she be thinking? She did the cookie thing in December 2013 and helped manufacture the new Ukrainian government over the next couple of months. What was she hoping for?
A smooth overthrow of Yanukovych followed by a smooth transition to her hand picked government; the smooth acquiescence of the whole country; an economy that you could pretend was smoothly improving; smooth reductions of corruption perceptions (remember Saakashvili and the traffic police? Something like that); a smoothly quiescent Moscow; smooth US Navy port visits in Sevastopol; smooth track into NATO; Joe Biden’s son smoothly getting rich on fracking. A victory for the US, good return on the $5 billion investment and a BIG loss for Russia. Smooooooth. All done and dusted long before today.
Instead, she manufactured another neocon disaster with nothing smooth about it at all. The US Navy won’t be visiting Sevastopol. When even Saakashvili says it will be years to get back to the pre-Maidan numbers, you know there is no pretending away the economic catastrophe. Russia is not cowed; it is cutting itself loose from the West. The Russia-China alliance, the worst possible outcome for US power, tightens day by day (speaking of port visits, I don’t think she had Chinese warships visiting Novorossiysk in mind). Ukraine will not be fast tracked into NATO. It is torn apart in war. The present government’s popularity ratings are rock bottom. The useful actors of the Maidan riots threaten to overthrow the government. The allies hold to the task but it takes ever more effort on Washington’s part. The sanctions against Russia probably cost Europe more than Russia: Russia can find new importers or make its own but the EU can’t find new markets. The US military is nervous about the prospects of a real war with Russia. The people who live in NATO states – as opposed to their suborned rulers and media outlets – have little enthusiasm for the endless cataclysm (and even less as the outcome of the neocon catastrophes in Libya and Syria arrive for extended visits in their countries). And it can only get worse. Well, on the bright side, Pussy Riot did humiliate a fictional Russian President. And Joe Biden’s son would be getting rich in the fracking business in Ukraine, if there were any fracking business left. Not much, is it?
Nuland still dreams, and never more than in her testimony six months ago: “even as Ukraine began building a peaceful, democratic, independent nation across 93% of its territory, Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine suffered a reign of terror.” Peaceful, democratic, independent (you, Dear Reader, are invited to Google the contemporary reality of these concepts). But the reality is different. While the Western media usually obediently types out the script it is given, every now and again something leaks through the barrier. Three recent examples: Demoralised Ukraine troops start to lose faith in Kiev, Kiev forced to fight its own fascist militia and Ukraine Is Too Corrupt for Debt Deal to Work.
Personally, I don’t think there was a Plan B. (By the way, has any one of the neocon foreign policy catastrophes of recent years had a follow-up plan or any – even fleeting – consideration of the consequences? I believe that ISIS is another outcome of neocon insouciance and I am gratified to see that the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency agrees.) One has to comprehend how profoundly ignorant Obama and his circle are about Russia: just a year ago we heard “But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.” No big deal, nothing to worry about unless “nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy”. (Which, a year later, as it happens, they are). The Obama team has many other misconceptions. No wonder Nuland expected this feeble, failing semi state – this “gas station masquerading as a country” – to roll over.
So I don’t think there was a follow-up plan – the lacy undies and the naval base were a done deal, so to speak; all that was lacking was the completion of Plan A. (Here’s an interesting post from someone who did think about the consequences. Eighteen months ago. A lot more perceptive than anything out of Washington, don’t you think?)
I would go so far to suggest that the utter collapse of the dreams of Znachkova and Nuland and the lack of an alternative plan drives the increasing shrill statements and themes in the Western MSM. This was not supposed to happen: Nuland & Co, thinking it was weak, fragile and powerless, expected Russia to back down; it was all supposed to be completely over by August 2015. All they can do is to repeat themselves over and over again.
Hope louder! Russia, of course, has always been doomed (here’s Time in 1927) and it was altogether finished in 2001, but it seems that the intensity of the doom saying has been stepped up as if wishing so made it so. Has an ‘open society’ doomed Russia to fail? (September 2012); Russia Is Doomed (March 2014); Why Putin’s Adventure in Ukraine Is Doomed (April 2014); Putin’s Nationalism and Expansion Strategy Is Doomed to Fail (September 2014); Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed (December 2014); Remember Russia? It’s still doomed (January 2015); Morgan Stanley thinks Russia’s doomed (February 2015). Shout louder! they can’t hear you in Moscow.
More threats and futile gestures! “Dragoon ride”; “A message to Russia” in Bulgaria – 4 tanks, 3 guns and 6 recce vehicles (!); “unacceptable to the international community“. It’s no wonder that some US military leaders are starting to get nervous.
More sanctions! A half century of sanctions didn’t bend Cuba but they will bend Russia – just one more round and Putin will come crashing down.
More hysterical assertions! Umpteen thousand Russian troops in or near Ukraine! MH17 tribunal! Another invasion of Ukraine strangely unobserved by the gigantic American intelligence apparatus! More submarines in Sweden! Dangerous air activities near NATO warships peacefully sailing in the Black Sea or Baltic Sea! Santa Claus! Giant hogweed! Corbyn! Brutal goat deaths! Nasty thoughts! Manufacturing slowdowns! Putin’s crazy!
Back in 2013 Olga and Vicky could taste it, wear it, phone it, see it. Where are the lacy undies? Why isn’t the US Navy in Sevastopol?
…..In a War With Russia NATO Doesn’t Stand a Chance
As long as we’re talking about a war close to Russia’s borders – conversely defense-minded Russia military is no threat to the US or western Europe
This article originally appeared at The Unz Review
In a recent column for the Unz Review I wrote that “under any conceivable scenario Russia does have the means to basically completely destroy the USA as a country in about 30min (the USA, of course, can do the same to Russia). Any US war planner would have to consider the escalatory potential of any military action against Russia.”
This still begs the question of whether Russia could challenge the USA militarily if we assume, for demonstration’s sake, that neither side would be prepared to use nuclear weapons, including tactical ones. If, by some mysterious magic, all nuclear weapons were to disappear, what would the balance of power between Russian and the US look like?
Why Bean Counting Makes Absolutely No Sense
The typical reply to this kind of question resorts to what US force planners call “bean counting”. Typically, journalists use the yearly IISS Military Balance or a source like Global Firepower and tallies of the number of men, main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry combat vehicles, combat aircraft, artillery pieces, bombers, missiles, surface ships, submarines, etc. presented by each side in a chart.
The reality is that such bean counting means absolutely and strictly nothing. Let’s take a simple example: if a war happens between, say, China and Russia then the fact that China has, say, 1000 tanks in its Yunnan province, will make no difference to the war at all, simply because they are too distant. When we apply this caveat to the Russian-US conventional military balance we immediately ought to ask ourselves the following two basic questions:
a) What part of the US military worldwide would be immediately available to the US commanders in case of a war with Russia?
b) On how many reinforcements could this force count and how soon could they get there?
Keep in mind that tanks, bombers, soldiers and artillery do not fight separately – they fight together in what is logically called “combined arms” battles. So even if the USA could get X number of soldiers to location A, if they don’t have all the other combined arms components to support them in combat they are just an easy target.
Furthermore, any fighting force will require a major logistics/supply effort. It is all very well to get aircraft X to location A, but if its missiles, maintenance equipment and specialists are not there to help, they are useless. Armored forces are notorious for expending a huge amount of petroleum, oil and lubricants. According to one estimate, in 1991 a US armored division could sustain itself for only 5 days – after that it would need a major resupply effort.
Finally, any force that the US would move from point A to point B would become unavailable to execute its normally assigned role at point A. Now consider that “point A” could mean the Middle-East, or Far East Asia and you will see that this might be a difficult decision for US commanders.
We have one very good example of how the US operates: Operation Desert Shield. During this huge operation it took the US six months and an unprecedented logistical effort to gather the forces needed to attack Iraq.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia had been prepared for decades to receive such a massive force (in compliance with the so-called Carter Doctrine) and the US efforts was completely unopposed by Saddam Hussein. Now ask yourself the following questions:
a) In case of war with Russia, which country neighboring Russia would have an infrastructure similar to the one of the KSA, prepositioned equipment, huge bases, runways, deep ports, etc. ? (Answer: none)
b) How likely is it that the Russians would give the USA six months to prepare for war without taking any action? (Answer: impossible)
One might object that not all wars run according to the “heavy” scenario of Desert Storm. What if the US was preparing a very ‘light’ military intervention using only US and NATO immediate or rapid reaction forces?
Light (or rapid reaction) warfare
I will repeat here something I wrote in December of last year:
The Russians have no fear of the military threat posed by NATO. Their reaction to the latest NATO moves (new bases and personnel in Central Europe, more spending, etc.) is to denounce it as provocative, but Russian officials all insist that Russia can handle the military threat.
As one Russian deputy said “5 rapid reaction diversionary groups is a problem we can solve with one missile”. A simplistic but basically correct formula.
As I mentioned before, the decision to double the size of the Russian Airborne Forces and to upgrade the elite 45th Special Designation Airborne Regiment to full brigade-size has already been taken anyway. You could say that Russia preempted the creation of the 10,000 strong NATO force by bringing her own mobile (airborne) forces from 36,000 to 72,000.
This is typical Putin. While NATO announces with fanfare and fireworks that NATO will create a special rapid reaction “spearhead” force of 10,000, Putin quietly doubles the size of the Russian Airborne Forces to 72,000.
And, believe me, the battle hardened Russian Airborne Forces are a vastly more capable fighting force then the hedonistic and demotivated multi-national (28 countries) Euroforce of 5,000 NATO is struggling hard to put together. The US commanders fully understand that.
In other words, “light” or “rapid reaction” warfare is where the Russians excel and not the kind of conflict the US or NATO could ever hope to prevail in. Besides, if the “light warfare” was to last longer than planned and had to be escalated to the “heavy” kind, would the USA or Russia have its heavy forces nearer?
Shock and Awe
There is, of course, another model available to the US commanders: the “shock and awe” model: massive cruise missile attacks backed by bomber strikes. Here I could easily object that bombing Russia is not comparable to bombing Iraq and that the Russian air defenses are the most formidable on the planet.
Or I could say that while the USA has an excellent record of success when bombing civilians, its record against a military force like the Serbian Army Corps in Kosovo was an abject failure.
[Sidebar: 78 days of non-stop US/NATO airstrikes, 1000+ aircraft and 38,000+ air sorties and all that to achieve what? Ten or so Serbian aircraft destroyed (most on the ground), 20+ APC and tanks destroyed and 1000+ Serbian soldiers dead or wounded. That is out of a force of 130,000+ Serbian soliders, 80+ aircraft, 1,400 artillery pieces, 1,270 tanks and 825 APCs (all figures according to Wikipedia). The 3rd Serbian Army Corps basically came out unharmed from this massive bombing campaign which will go down in history as arguably the worst defeat of airpower in history!]
But even if we assume that somehow the US succeeded in its favorite “remote” warfare, does anybody believe that this would seriously affect the Russian military or breaking the will of the Russian people? The people of Leningrad survived not 78, but 900 (nine hundred!) days of a infinitely worse siege and bombing and never even considered surrendering!
The reality is that being on the defense gives Russia a huge advantage against the USA even if we only consider conventional weapons. Even if the conflict happened in the Ukraine or the Baltic states, geographic proximity would give Russia a decisive advantage over any conceivable US/NATO attack. American commanders all understand that very well even if they pretend otherwise.
Conversely, a Russian attack on the USA or NATO is just as unlikely, and for the same reasons. Russia cannot project her power very far from her borders.
In fact, if you look at the way the Russian military is organized, structured and trained, you will immediately see that it is a force designed primarily to defeat an enemy on the Russian border or within less than 1000km from it.
Yes, sure, you will see Russian bombers, surface ships and submarines reaching much further, but these are also typical “showing the flag” missions, not combat training for actual military scenarios.
The sole real purpose of the US military is to regularly beat up on some small, more or less defenseless country, either in order to rob it of its resources, overthrow a government daring to defy the World Hegemon, or just to make an example of it.
The US military was never designed to fight a major war against a sophisticated enemy. Only the US strategic nuclear forces are tasked to defend the USA against another nuclear power (Russia or China) or actually fight in a major war.
As for the Russian military, it was designed to be purely defensive and it has no capability to threaten anybody in Europe, much less so the United States.
Of course, the western corporate media will continue to “bean count” US and Russian forces, but that is pure propaganda designed to create a sense of urgency and fear in the general public. The reality for the foreseeable future will remain that neither the USA nor Russia have the means to successfully attack each other, even with only conventional forces.
The only real danger left is an unprepared and unforeseen sudden escalation which will lead to a confrontation neither side wants nor is prepared for. The Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 or the Georgian attack on Russian peacekeepers in 2008 are two scary reminders that sometimes dumb politicians take fantastically dumb decisions.
I am confident that Putin and his team would never make such a dumb decision, but when I look at the current pool of US Presidential candidates I will tell you that I get very, very frightened.