May 20, 2014 § 13 Comments
Few, if any, military or political observers saw Russia’s swift occupation and annexation of Crimea coming. Reeling from the shock of slaughter on Institutskaya Street and struggling to interpret the political vacuum in the aftermath of Maidan, all the while searching for a fugitive ex-president and fretting over large Russian troop movements toward the Ukrainian border, members of the press and official onlookers were diverted from disquieting events in Crimea. Once set in motion, opposed only by a demonstrably non-violent Ukrainian resistance to ”self-defence militias” and ”polite green men”, there was little to stop Russia’s slow-motion conquest.
The annexation of Crimea was a lot of things, but first and foremost it was testament to Vladimir Putin’s ability for drastic and game-changing action.
In holding Crimea, Vladimir Putin puts the validity of the May 25 election in question since Ukraine and the international community rightly regard the peninsula as part of sovereign Ukraine – and, under Russian rule, no election can be held there. On the other hand, for Putin to question the validity, he must concede that Crimea is part of Ukraine – something that he is unlikely to do after formally annexing it into Russia and forcibly assimilating its inhabitants as Russian subjects. Even so, an unsolved territorial dispute makes it virtually impossible for Ukraine to join either EU or NATO.
A dead end
Seen purely from a strategic and geopolitical perspective, Crimea is a cul-de-sac. While the peninsula has some value as a bargaining chip in the struggle over Ukrainian hegemony and rather a lot of value as source of petroleum products, its value as military strongpoint is debatable. On the other hand, holding Crimea means that a westward-leaning Ukraine cannot use it, on her own or by way of NATO installations, as a base for airpower and missile canopies aimed like a dagger straight at the Russian heartland. In holding Crimea, and keeping Ukraine off-balance, Russia ensures her own national security.
The drawbacks of holding Crimea are manifold: it is isolated and difficult to supply without access to road and rail traffic across the Kherson and Chongar isthmuses; ownership and maintenance constitutes a great drain on the already ailing Russian economy; it invites international sanction against Russia until such time as she withdraws; and, it requires Russia to maintain a significant portion of her armed forces (and state police) at readiness against multiple threats.
Further costs and trajectories
Crimea, however, is merely an intermediate stop on a long journey that, depending on your outlook, has either barely begun or has been ongoing since 1917. To consummate the annexation of Crimea, Russia must perforce establish an overland link by conquest of southern Ukraine or by the construction of a 100-billion ruble road and rail bridge over the Kerch strait. The latter option has been advertised and tenders are already flowing in, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass. The project, if realized, will stand ready by 2018. Until then, and unless other developments precede it, Crimea will remain forcibly isolated. Further conquest of southern Ukraine, tentatively begun by destabilization of the Donbass region, will almost certainly come at a high premium of international condemnation, sanction and perhaps even full-scale war.
However, let us leave Crimea, south Ukraine and Transnistria for a moment and speculate on what Putin may do next, elsewhere. Given Putin’s preponderance for strategic surprise, he may well switch his interest further north while the international community is busy trying to salvage Ukraine.
The pendulum swings again
The Baltic States is a given target for further expansion of Putin’s Eurasian ambition. However, since Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are all NATO members, it would be suicidal for Russia to engage in a head-on approach here. NATO is already busy strengthening its presence in the Baltics and it is convenient to assume that non-military measures are also initiated in strengthening the countries’ resilience against Russia’s ”new” assymetric strategy of conquest. Whereas the latter – by way of infiltration, subversion, ethnic pressure, propaganda and outright sabotage – is likely, Putin could well take a more roundabout route in his bid to isolate the Baltic States. Enter Gotland.
An unsinkable aircraft carrier, gift-wrapped
The Swedish island of Gotland is an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the Baltic Sea, situated right across the shipping and air routes required for a speedy reinforcement of the Baltic States. The island is virtually undefended by the Swedish armed forces: its sole defence consists of less than 200 homeguardsmen, a smattering of police constables, four hastily deployed JAS Gripen fighters, fourteen tanks and other armored combat vehicles conveniently stored in a shed. The crews, however, must first assemble and journey to Gotland before the hardware can be taken out of storage, fueled, readied for combat, deployed and, eventually, used. There are no SAM defences, no artillery, no pre-stored munitions, no marine forces, no helicopters, indeed, there’s virtually nothing available to impede, much less stop, an invader from walking all over the place.
Gotland makes a perfect ”new Crimea” inasmuch Sweden, like Ukraine, is not a NATO member state. Given a few busloads of “polite tourists” and a handful of Spetsnaz troopers, Russia can quickly and easily establish a military presence on Gotland without fear of NATO retaliation. Sweden is of course aware of this considerable strategic weakness but does precious little to ameliorate the situation. Instead of turning Gotland, its most valuable asset par excellence, into a bastion of military and political security, Sweden wilfully allows it to drift alone and gift-wrapped in a sea of hostility. It must surely rank as the greatest military and political blunder of our generation.
Incompetence is at least as dangerous as ill-intent.
– Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, et al
Russian S-300 and S-400 batteries deployed to Kaliningrad, Belorussia and on Russian territory near the Baltic borders effectively prohibit NATO air assets from operating over its member states. In case of war these batteries are primary first-strike targets for NATO, lest the alliance cedes air superiority in the Baltics without a fight – which would make any fight on the ground a thoroughly losing proposition.
A few S-300 and/or S-400 batteries operating from Swedish territory, augmented by ship-borne SAM systems and the whole gamut of short-to-mid range air defence assets on the ground and in the air, would, on the other hand, completely block NATO air and ship assets from operating in the region – because NATO cannot attack a non-combatant nation. The only instance where NATO might consider an attack against Russian missiles on Swedish territory would be if Article 5 had been invoked by enemy action in any of the Baltic States, and even so it would be a marginal, non-prioritized proposition.
This leaves Sweden, floundering politically and scrambling militarily, to react, alone, to the very situation its armed forces have been practicing for twenty years. Sweden must now mobilize and counter-invade Gotland from a position of extreme disadvantage.
The practicalities and associated difficulties of mobilizing, transporting and deploying a variety of military assets for a counterstroke against Gotland are as numerous as embarrassing. For an extended background, have a look at this blog (in Swedish). That aside, and considering that the enemy is already well emplanted on Gotland, AND considering that a counter-invasion of Gotland can only hope to be successful in an environment of friendly air superiority, AND considering that this requires neutralization of Russian long-to-medium range air-defence capability, what would a Swedish airforce response entail?
Let’s get hypothetical
In a hypothetical scenario where Russia has deployed 2-3 long-range missile batteries to Gotland and secure them with an array of naval, aerial and ground-based systems, Sweden would have to employ the bulk of its airforce to render these batteries inoperable – with a minimal chance of success, bought at the cost of losing the majority of its platforms together with their unlucky operators. Here is a short breakdown:
As of January 2014, Sweden operates with an establishment of 88 JAS-39-C/D Gripen. The stated aim for the next few years is to operate 70 aircraft upgraded to the latest E/F standard. Given that a certain percentage is always unavailable due to upgrades, repair and overhaul, it is fair to reckon with a grand total of 60 mission-capable aircraft.
Of these 60, any sane commander will keep half, or at the least 24 aircraft, in reserve. Some of these are utilized for training and baseline interception/reconnaissance missions. That leaves 36 aircraft distributed between three wings, two of them based in the south of Sweden. The northernmost, F21 in Luleå, safeguards the desolate northern hemisphere and is effectively out of the reckoning. Thus, the two wings of F7 and F17 will bear the brunt of any combat mission to Gotland, in this scenario deploying all of its non-reserve strength to attack three Russian missile sites near the invasion port of Slite: 32 aircraft in total. This assumes that the full establishment is fully operational, which, of course, it is not. An operational ratio of 80-86 % is considered normal, but in this case we will assume that the shortfall is made good by raiding the reserve.
Next, battle plans and deployment for combat: this is a separate chapter in itself in which we must reckon with considerable difficulties and delays in assembling a strike package with its multiple supporting missions, difficulties comprising enemy disruption, enemy air-defence capability and enemy interception enroute, just to pick a few. If we plan from a best-case perspective, such as the Swedish airforce does, the difficulties of timing and sequencing of missions are considerable enough even for a daytime, blue-sky scenario. I will leave the more intricate details out of this narrative and concentrate on the numbers; for a single strike against three dimensionally separate target areas, each comprising multiple targets, we will need the following:
Reconnaissance and surveillance
Realtime surveillance, monitoring and intelligence is provided by two SAAB Erieye AEW&C covered by two pairs of JAS 39s each, loaned from F21 or from the ready reserve. An additional 4 Gripens accompany the strike force in recon mode with the double mission of serving as decoy to divert enemy attention and capability while the main force attacks.
CAP and TARCAP
Paving the way for the strike force, one division of eight aircraft operating in four pairs perform Combat Air Patrol and Target Combat Air Patrol against enemy airborne assets. They will have their hands full as the Russian airforce based in Kaliningrad, Belorussia and Russia proper outnumber them by a wide margin. Nevertheless, they forge ahead, for better or for worse.
SEAD – Suppression of Enemy Air Defences
Arriving on the heels of the CAP force, two pairs of Gripens scoot in at wavetop altitude to deliver their GBU-12 or GBU-49 laser-guided 250 kg Paveway bombs against the most critical targets: Russian short-medium range SAM systems covering the grand prize. There are several SA-20 and SA-21 installations already in place, two batteries of short-range SA-22 Pantsirs and too many handheld ”Igla” MANPADs to count. The four Gripens, packing two bombs each, make a short zoom and lob their ”gifts” before ducking down and out. The bombs are guided down to their targets by special forces operatives on the ground, pointing laser designators at individual targets. This operation alone requires a week’s worth of preparation, infiltration and target selection. Without JTAC operatives on the ground, this mission is suicidal.
Strike and Escort
The main strike package comprising one full division of eight Gripens motor in from high to medium altitude (15,000–20,000 ft) at full speed to minimize their stay in the enemy SAM envelope, lightly covered by an additional eight Gripens in the A2A configuration, operating in pairs. These eight Gripens and their sixteen laser-guided bombs must close to within 8 nautical miles (14 km) of their intended targets, which, given a dispersed deployment on the ground, requires the strike division to separate in pairs.
Thus the main strike force can go after no more than four ground targets in total, and, assuming that each pair is assigned one target each with the wingman operating as back-up, the whole enterprise relies on accurate laser-designation (provided by the wingman) and the delivery of eight bombs. Remember also that this attack is delivered against the full gamut of SAM and AAA defences, i.e. every conceivable type of missile and barrel at the enemy disposal – because Sweden does not possess a stand-off air-to-ground missile that allows delivery from a survivable range.
That is the sum total of what the mighty Swedish airforce can deliver in the face of normal-to-stiff enemy defences, on a bright and sunny day with 10/10ths visibility. Yet, to deliver these bombs accurately, the wingman designating the target – and he must paint a perfect picture lest the bomb is off by thirty yards or more – must fly a straight and level track during target identification and target designation up to the point of impact, while hostile SAMs are being launched against him. A challenging 30 to 60 seconds indeed, requiring a charmed life or an enemy defence fast asleep. Even in the best case the strike would stand to lose 12-14 aircraft, or nearly half of its complement. Needless to say, no airforce can operate for more than a day or two at such a forbidding rate of attrition.
Again, this little scenario assumes that the Swedish airforce operates at peak capacity and that the enemy response is weak to middling. This is actually the crux of the matter: judging by open sources such as the [arguably dated] Defence Research Institute (FOI) investigative report on ground attack and airforce PR, I strongly suspect that Swedish airforce planners, and pilots, habitually practice and make their plans from a very optimistic best-friendly/worst-enemy perspective. Only those in the know can tell to what extent friction, interference, faulty or lack of intelligence, combat loss and suboptimal weather conditions factor in during airforce planning and exercises.
As if that was not enough, the Swedish airforce does not practice low altitude ingress and weapons delivery anywhere close to requisite levels of building or maintaining pilot experience. This particular item on the curricullum has taken a back seat, for years, mainly due to budget cuts but also to divergent priorities.
To conclude this rambling account of what may or, hopefully, may not come to pass, Sweden has, today, virtually NO defence of Gotland and, arguably, ONE shot at plinking the windshield of a medium-to-sizeable Russian missile installation on the island. After this one shot, I submit that the Swedish airforce is more or less spent. Pray that it will never have to come to this. And arm up for the eventuality!
This treatise was inspired by the following posts:
[Edit] Correction: SAF will take delivery of its first few Gripen-E/F in 2018, and deploy 6 airframes by 2121. In the above scenario, the strike would likely employ a mix of Paveways and RB 15 (AGM-65 Maverick). RB 15 cannot be carried by Gripen-E, only by the current Gripen-C, and is anyway an aging weapon in process of being phased out. Delivery parameters are somewhat more forbidding for the Maverick compared to the Paveway: the pilot must slew and zoom the missile camera and lock on to the target (looking intently down at a miniscule monitor in the cockpit) prior to launch, all the while engaged in evasive maneuvers against multiple SAM and AAM threats. Initial delivery range is about the same ≈ 20-25 km on the proviso of daylight and a clearly identifiable target. Under normal conditions and against a small, camouflaged target, the pilot must likely close to within 10 km and below 20,000 ft for accuracy. The small payload of the Maverick requires a direct hit. It is unsuitable for hardened targets.
May 14, 2014 § 2 Comments
In the wake of Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea and the ongoing criminal destabilization of Ukraine, the art of war takes a new twist. Hailed by some as a ”new war” and by others, including myself, as ”war on the cheap”, Russia’s employment of mercenaries, proxies, rent-a-mobs, PsyOps and profound economic pressure herald the return of Total War.
National defence, transmogrified
The transformation of war as we know it challenges and shakes the western society to the core. War, and the defence against war, used to be the realm of the military. A strong military: tanks, aircraft, missiles, ships and manpower; used to serve as guardian of society – the deterrence offered by military capability, as an extension of pacts, economic prowess and political finesse, acted as a guarantee against opportune assault. That simplistic belief can now be regarded as derelict.
Trust and focus on purely military means as bulwark against aggression makes the western society yet more vulnerable. In contrast to Russia, the west devotes precious little interest to the game-changing aspects of ”civilian” factors – because they lie outside of the orderly and delineated realm of national defence. This, the difference between an innocent, purportedly peaceful society and a profoundly aggressive one, is a fundamental imbalance that Russia is now exploiting to the full.
A Russian Spring
The change is essentially motivated by Russia’s interpretation of the Arab Spring, wherein unarmed popular revolt sparked the overthrow of military dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt – and threatened Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed rule of Syria. The lessons were not lost on the Russian general staff, who immediately set forth to strengthen its counter-measures and ultimately embarked on emulating the practice of multi-dimensional warfare for its own use. The result is clearly evidenced by events in Crimea and Ukraine. In a fit of supreme irony they even adopted the name, calling it ”Russian Spring”.
The implications and opportunities of an ”Arab Spring”-type conflict drawn by Valery Gerasimov, chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces in january 2013 – and the evidence afforded by Russian conquest in Ukraine as analyzed by the Latvian National Defence College in a report by Jānis Bērziņš – proves beyond a doubt that western society, including its military establishment, is well behind the curve in understanding how society in its entirety must be leveraged to defend against, and prosecute, war.
The pervasive war
War – or conflict if you will – as seen from the popular horizon, has long been thought of as a purely military event. The hoary Clausewitzean adage that ”war is the continuation of politics by other means” still holds true in the 21st century, with the exception that war is no longer a particular state separate from peace by dint of a declaration: it is a permanent and pervasive condition that incorporates the entire society whether we acknowledge it or not.
Classic military strategy calls for employment of military assets in a distinct sequence: build-up of overkill capacity at the weakest point (Schwerpunkt) of enemy defences; execution, employing surprise and swift manoeuvre to encircle and neutralize the enemy in the field; occupation of the enemy interior.
The ”new” military strategy, while ultimately aiming toward achieving the classic result, thinks ”outside the box” and avoids the classic use of military assets, except as a tool of intimidation and persuasion. The modern aggressor chooses to operate in a grey zone where the victim state is held in suspension between war and peace, in an environment where traditional pacts, rules and conventions are rendered void or impotent.
Innocence, brutally shattered
This is of course nothing new, except to starry-eyed idealists and daydreaming heads of state. The west has been at war with Russia since, well, forever. Interspersed by short outbreaks of actual shooting wars and superficial alliances, east and west have engaged in battles of economy, ideology and territorial domination since the days of the Mongol hordes. We have been engaged in total war for so long, through overt and covert diplomacy, through intelligence and counterintelligence services, that we have forgotten what peace is like. The peace we think we have had is but an illusion.
A strategy of the intangible
But I digress – let us return to the present. Latvian defence analyst Jānis Bērziņš describes Russia’s military strategy as divided into three interrelated levels. The first, doctrinal unilateralism, or the idea that the successful use of force results in legitimacy, is proven by the weak reaction of the United States and the European Union.
On the second level, strategy adhers strongly to legalism, at least at face value. The use of ”referendums”, ”decrees” and the establishment of sham legal bodies such as the self-styled ”Donetsk People’s Republic” are integral to this strategic level.
On the third, it operates on the core concept of plausible deniability. By employing proxies and non-recognized parties, such as Chechen ”volunteers” and ”local self-defence militias”, through intimidation by ”pre-planned exercises” and ”normal rotation of forces”, Russia can act decisively without bearing responsibility or standing accountable for destabilizing events. When these three layers interact, the ”normal” conduct of diplomacy and armed defence is circumvented, and a new status quo established.
Seen as a whole this strategy acts entirely in a grey zone where legality and, consequently, illegality, is both defined and undefined at the same time, and thus up for interpretation according to desire. The framework of western society, as indeed the clauses and definitions governing intrastate and suprastate agreements and statutes, is fundamentally reliant on legality. The west cannot disregard legality and procedure as it would obviate their own legitimacy and make the west as brazenly lawless as Russia in the process. By pretending to honor legality, and demanding that its victim follow international law, while itself undermining and shunning every aspect of that same legality, Russia steals a march on its law-bound opponents.
The apparent downside of this strategy is that it is excruciatingly obvious and traceable to Russia despite any denial or statement to the contrary. Once Russia is convincingly and factually denounced as lying through her teeth, the strategy becomes a liability. On the other hand, by then the strategy has already produced results on the ground that Russia, coming out of her cloaked state, can assume responsibility for, ipso facto.
Misinformation comes of age
Widening the scope of war to encompass every walk of life is a natural progression not only for Russia but for every nation. This is a function of several factors, chief among them the import of information technology: it is no longer possible to hide aggressive machinations from the public thanks to – or because of – broadcast and social media, satellite and other monitoring technology, cellular technology and ubiquitous information sharing devices. In olden times the population knew only what priests, demagogues and state-controlled newspapers told them. Today, everyone has the potential to know everything at once – yet the same factor also works in the reverse: everyone has the potential to be misinformed or oblivious about everything, all the time.
Against that background, and according to COS Gerasimov, the main guidelines for developing Russian military capabilities by 2020 are:
i. From direct destruction to direct influence;
ii. from direct annihilation of the opponent to its inner decay;
iii. from a war with weapons and technology to a culture war;
iv. from a war with conventional forces to specially prepared forces and commercial irregular groupings;
v. from the traditional (3D) battleground to information/psychological warfare and war of perceptions;
vi. from direct clash to contactless war;
vii. from a superficial and compartmented war to a total war, including the enemy’s internal side and base;
viii. from war in the physical environment to a war in the human consciousness and in cyberspace;
ix. from symmetric to asymmetric warfare by a combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns;
x. From war in a defined period of time to a state of permanent war as the natural condition in national life.
Jānis Bērziņš summarizes it brilliantly: ”Thus, the Russian view of modern warfare is based on the idea that the main battlespace is the mind and, as a result, new-generation wars are to be dominated by information and psychological warfare, in order to achieve superiority in troops and weapons control, morally and psychologically depressing the enemy’s armed forces personnel and civil population.The main objective is to reduce the necessity for deploying hard military power to the minimum necessary, making the opponent’s military and civil population support the attacker to the detriment of their own government and country.”[my italics]
Events in Ukraine provide ample if not abundant proof of concept. From the very start, Russian state-controlled media and numerous western proxies acting either per instruction or as parrots of propaganda, have been busy projecting words, images and concepts that serve to undermine Ukraine’s and the west’s will to resist. RT, Ruptly, Rossiya1 and a veritable army of paid internet trolls and sympathetic ”useful idiots” have drummed home the message that Kyiv is run by a fascist junta, that Ukraine is a failed state, that Ukraine cannot hope to exist outside a Russian sphere of influence, and so on ad nauseaum. This effort has successfully, at least in part, swayed the Ukrainian public and caused significant numbers to question and turn away from effective resistance. On the other hand it has also galvanized formerly indifferent spectators against Russia and has helped fill the ranks of loyal Ukrainian volunteer units. Time will tell if the strategy is productive, or actually counterproductive.
An inherently chaotic strategy
The strategy has one other feature that also constitutes its major flaw: it is inherently chaotic. Its distribution and execution is largely beyond control and may well spin decisively off target, leaving Russia exposed and unable to prosecute its aims by any other factor than outright classical military intervention. This too is evidenced in Ukraine by the formation of non-sanctioned, unsupported militias and self-styled ”councils” that work at cross-purposes to the planned effort; by opportunistic gangsters taking advantage of power vacuums and, tangentially, by the comedy of domestic Russian regions calling for annexation by Russia to rectify glaring injustices and economic plight.
The strategy of total war exposed
The report written by Jānis Bērziņš offers many key points of how intelligence, counterintelligence, subversion and manipulation act in unison to produce strategic results. The individual factors are neither new nor decisive in isolation – they have been part of the diplomatic and destabilization playbook since Sun Tzu – what is new is the singular concentration with which they are brought to bear. In his report Bērziņš relates how the phases of a new-generation war play out, thus:
First Phase: non-military asymmetric warfare (encompassing information, moral, psychological, ideological, diplomatic, and economic measures as part of a plan to establish a favorable political, economic, and military setup).
Second Phase: special operations to mislead political and military leaders by coordinated measures carried out by diplomatic channels, media, and top government and military agencies by leaking false data, orders, directives, and instructions.
Third Phase: intimidation, deceiving, and bribing government and military officers, with the objective of making them abandon their service duties.
Fourth Phase: destabilizing propaganda to increase discontent among the population, boosted by the arrival of Russian bands of militants, escalating subversion.
Fifth Phase: establishment of no-fly zones over the country to be attacked, imposition of blockades, and extensive use of private military companies in close cooperation with armed opposition units.
Sixth Phase: commencement of military action, immediately preceded by large-scale reconnaissance and subversive missions. Employment of all types, forms, methods, and forces, including special operations forces, space, radio, radio engineering, electronic, diplomatic, and secret service intelligence, and industrial espionage.
Seventh Phase: combination of targeted information operation, electronic warfare operation, aerospace operation, continuous airforce harassment, combined with the use of highprecision weapons launched from various platforms (long-range artillery, and weapons based on new physical principles, including microwaves, radiation, non-lethal biological weapons).
Eighth Phase: roll over the remaining points of resistance and destroy surviving enemy units by special operations conducted by reconnaissance units to spot which enemy units have survived and transmit their coordinates to the attacker’s missile and artillery units; fire barrages to annihilate the defender’s resisting army units by effective advanced weapons; airdrop operations to surround points of resistance; and territory mopping-up operations by ground troops.
It is interesting to note that events in Ukraine has yet to progress beyond the Fourth Phase, although elements included in the Fifth and Sixth phases – extensive use of private military companies, subversive missions and special operations forces – are also in evidence. Subsequent phases bring the conflict fully into outright war in the classical sense.
Implications and consequences
Defence against this ”new” Total War is materially different than what is required against ”normal” territorial aggression. Strong, pervasive and ever-vigilant state security services; permanently strict border control; watchful and active intelligence and counterintelligence; internet and telecom surveillance; financial overwatch, especially of foreign as well as domestic NGO’s and GONGO’s (government-operated NGO’s) operating in the interior; strong anti-corruption measures; weapons control; infrastructure security and investments in systems redundancy – all of this and more is critical to the readiness, preparedness and survival of the state. Not surprisingly, these measures are often wanting for funds and competence in western society, and, many of them tend to push the state toward militarization, clear or borderline infringement of civic rights and overt control normally attributed to totalitarian states.
To successfully defend its sovereignity the nation must therefore increase its awareness and perforce become more closed, contrary to the general drift of increased openness and free movement of people, goods and information across borders – i.e. diametrically opposed to the principles of the European Union.
Can Russia’s “new war” circumvent NATO’s Article 5?
As seen in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Russia has managed to throw the state into considerable disarray, judging by open source information. While opposition to Russia among the population continues to be strong, and increasing, subversion, sabotage and destabilization has wrought extensive damage and is close to achieving its primary aim: to dismember the country and render Ukraine without effective governance.
What if Russia were to project similar force against a NATO member country, up to but not including transgressions that would invoke the all-important Article 5? Firstly, the country under attack could certainly receive combat and non-lethal support of a kind that Ukraine clearly could not. Secondly, NATO would most likely be more diligent and swift in identifying and declaring hostile events as Russian acts of war, thereby triggering Article 5. Thirdly, should an acute threat materialize, NATO would be pulling out all stops, militarily and diplomatically, in a manner it cannot do for Ukraine. All of this makes it very much harder for a Russian aggression to succeed in e.g. the Baltic States as it has in Ukraine. The alternative for Russia would be an all-out war against the most powerful alliance in the world.
That leaves Russia with one final option for continued geopolitical destabilization in Europe: to go after the remaining non-NATO members in the region – Sweden, Finland and Moldavia. That, however, is an altogether different kettle of fish, for another day.
May 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) does a bang-up job in revealing the machinations of Russian agent provocateurs fighting against time to organize illegitimate “referendum” in self-proclaimed bandit state “People’s Republic of Donetsk”.
May 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
The development in Ukraine is like watching a horror-movie. You see one of the expendable actors casually moving about the house while a masked murderer is lurking in the cellar, waiting for a moment to strike. You want to reach out and yell ”Don’t go down there! Can’t you see the door is ajar, FFS!” The actor picks up the phone and finds it mysteriously disconnected. Hmm, strange! You yell ”Get the bleep out! Or pick up that cleaver at least!” Nope. And down she goes. Slash. Gore. Shrieks. You sigh and hope that the lead actor will be smarter in the next sequence. End of story.
The events in Ukraine are similarly painful to watch. Russia’s machinations are plain to see. Its agents and proxies are everywhere, breaking every conceivable rule in the book to further Russia’s agenda, yet it is extraordinarily difficult to produce incontrovertible proof of actual state aggression. On the other hand, Russia has openly violated or otherwise ignored every international agreement, treaty and convention from the UN Charter down to the toothless Geneva statement.
An end to plausible deniability
This is part and parcel of Russia’s ”new” assymetrical warfare, wherein plausibly deniable actors wage an undeclared war to deflate Ukrainian (and Western) will to defend its sovereign territory, to destabilize the country and force it to accept a Russian fait accompli. How can Ukraine and the West stop this slow-motion slide down the slippery slope to piecemeal destruction?
Russia has more or less openly shown its scorn and disregard of a tidy international order, it flouts the very idea of accountability. There is no reason to believe that Russia will honor standards of decency and international behaviour that the rest of the world (with some notable exceptions) take for granted. Urging or waiting Russia for to abide by rules, regulations and conventions is utterly vain.
Russia has thrown the book away, and confidently so, knowing that the West will not stoop to her base level – because the West is civilized and governed by actual law while Russia most definitely is not. This is a core imbalance that can only by rectified in a single manner.
The charade stops here
I submit that, in order to safeguard civilization, peace and prosperity for generations to come, Russia must be stopped, and stopped right now, in Ukraine.
The million-dollar question is HOW?
To begin with, the West must become fully awake to the fact that we are now engaged in a global war. The conflict is not limited to Ukraine. Ukraine is the current battleground, however, the stakes are much higher and not confined to that single area.
In this war, as in previous global wars, western civilization must mobilize and come together as one alliance against evil. There is no other way around it. We are indubitably at war. National leaders must rally their populations to this fact. More importantly, global corporations based in the west must be made to understand that commerce with Russia and its outspoken allies is now out of the question – profits and market shares be damned.
Secondly, as Russia has declared rules and conventions null and void through her actions and non-actions, the Western alliance must reciprocate in full. Since Russia does not see fit to comply with international order, the international order must cease to comply with Russia. Accountability is a two-way street – as is non-accountability.
In practical terms this boils down to the following:
- Declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
- Override Russia’s veto in the UNSC and/or reduce her status to non-permanent member.
- Sever all but the most basic diplomatic ties with Russia: communicate only via neutral countries such as Switzerland or San Marino.
- Immediately dispatch UN peace-keeping force to Ukraine with unlimited mandate for combat, disregarding probable veto from China and Russia (until the latter has been stripped of veto).
- Place an embargo on all trade both physical and financial, including civilian goods and services, with Russia.
If this does not halt Russia’s aggression, then proceed to:
- Cut off Russia from the Internet.
- Disrupt Russian telecommunications through jamming, deflection or destruction of satellites.
Alea iacta est.
May 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
“But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the CAUSE of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into what is the cause of GOODNESS, so why of the other shop?”
– Anthony Burgess, “A Clockwork Orange”
The fundamental difference between Putin’s Russia and the West in Ukraine – or Syria, or anywhere in the world – is the tolerance for extreme violence.
Putin has shown that he will not refrain from using ANY measure of violence to attain his goal. We have seen kidnapping of journalists, abductions, torture, murder, snipers galore, beatings, arson, hostage taking, the use of human shields and outright military intimidation. This, however, is just the beginning.
In recent news, we’ve heard about poisoned food being distributed by locals to Ukrainian troops (an old WWI Western Front tale revived) and attempts to smuggle in radioactive material, possibly to be used in a ”dirty bomb” or as planted support for any particular lie that Putin wishes to promote. Another report tells of a water reservoir being bombed. This too is just the beginning.
Getting used to violence. Or not.
We are becoming inured to horror stories from Ukraine. This is part of the game plan. Putin wants people to become bored with violence and tales of Ukraine under siege. Western indifference to Syria’s three-year long plight is proof positive that the strategy works.
The civilized western mind abhors violence. The Russian mind pays it no attention. Violence is just a means to an end. It is natural.
In Sloviansk today, ”volunteer” Chechen fighters, most likely provided by Putin’s close ally Ramzan Kadyrov, have been seen in strength. A few of them have been present since the beginning. Now hundreds more are filtering in through the sieve-like border, maybe thousands. These fellows are rotten to the core and capable of nightmarish violence. If in doubt, spend a few minutes on YouTube with Dagestan and Chechnya as your search words. You will soon avert your eyes and pray you will never have to witness such horror again. Syria is much the same thing. Ukraine may well be too.
Putin is ready to ratchet up to ultra-violence.
More violence: civilian dead, military dead, executions, poisoning, shot, shell or fire – the cause matters little, only the bodies do. He will not attempt to hide the deaths, to the contrary. They will be extensively displayed. The killers will be plausibly deniable as “locals” or “volunteers” or “private contractors” – although it will be hard to identify them we will know that they are Russians, or sponsored by Russia, but that too will matter little. Only the dead and the horror and the ultra-violence will matter.
The ultra-violence serves several purposes: as pretext for a peace-keeping insertion of Russian forces; to force the civilized mind away from Ukraine; to build popular aversion in the west against NATO, UN or EU support for Ukraine. The oft-repeated sentence that Russia cannot be an arsonist acting as fireman will hold little water: they are ready and waiting to go in, and the west will waver for weeks while the corpses keep piling up. Russia, already covertly in Ukraine, will go in overtly “to save lives” with full if reluctant consent.
“Don’t send our boys in to THAT!”
If Ukraine appears to be a sinkhole of ultra-violence to the western democracies – weakling parliamentarians the lot of them, in Putin’s eyes – western governments will have a hard time sending troops there against the voice of popular abhorrence, regardless if it is advertised as a peace-keeping mission or as a response to Russian aggression. If the West appears ready to go in, Putin will only ratchet up the atrocities a notch further – until western voters and western investors cry uncle. Ukraine will be seen as a lost cause, just like Syria.
Thus far Putin’s moves have been exceptionally predictable. He has advertised his every action well in advance. Despite this knowledge, Ukraine and the western powers have expressed profound surprise that he did what he actually said he would do. How extraordinary, no? The increase in violence here prophesized should come as no surprise either – it’s a no-brainer, it has precedent, everything is working up to it. Yet the world will be surprised when it occurs, and will be racking its brains for someone to blame, and for a solution.
So, how can the west combat this strategy? More on that topic, tomorrow.