Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ukraine SITREP March 11, 13:50 EST (and some debunking)

  • There are 160 billion dollars invested by Russia in the West. There are 248 billion dollars invested by the West in Russia. Sanctions anybody?
  • Russia still has the option of shutting down the NATO route to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan. This is an option with Russia did not exercise over the war in Syria, but which it will almost certainly exercise in case of a NATO intervention in the Ukraine. Sanctions anybody?
  • The US is offering to sell its shale gas to Europe, which would be extremely costly as the infrastructure to do that would need to be built and it would take anywhere between 2 to 4 years to be ready for a first shipment. Sanctions anybody?
  • Mikhail Dobkin, the ex-governor of Kharkov who had resigned to run for President has been kidnapped by the insurgent and is held incommunicado in Kiev. This is the second Russian leader in the eastern Ukraine to be kidnapped by the insurgents and this raises some painful questions about the degree of organization and planning of the Russian-speaking resistant in the eastern Ukraine.
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of Chechnia, has announced that he was ready to send Chechen forces to Crimea to fight any "shaitans" (devils) in Crimea.
  • Official insurgent government websites have dropped the Russian language and replaced it with English. Now all the main branches of government in Banderastan are online only in Ukrainian and English.
  • While half of the regions under Banderite control are not paying pensions at all, the new regime has announced that pensions will be cut by 50%. 

US/NATO military options in the Ukraine:

In the recent days  there has been a lot of news about what appears to be all sorts of US/NATO saber-rattling which, I think, have to be debunked.  Specifically, we have been told that a few USN ships have entered the Black Sea, that NATO AWACs are patrolling in the skies of Poland and that some kind of drones have been shot down by Crimean/Russian unites over Crimea.  So let me begin by the latest one and say that as far as I know, the drones in question were controlled by Ukrainian pro-nationalist forces.  So what? This is not NATO or the US.  Besides, the NATO/US don't need such drones to see what is going on in Crimea.  As for the AWACs, this is normal and rational policy - they want to keep an eye on the events in the Ukraine.  These AWACs are no more a sign of impending US/NATO aggression as Russian AWACs doing exactly the same stuff on the other sides.  Which leaves the USN ships.  As I have already written elsewhere, these guys are simply doing what the Navy calls "showing the flag".  If they intention had been hostile, their deployment right within the range of Russian tactical aviation would be suicidal because the biggest threat to any navy is not the other guy's navy, but the other guy's airpower.  And since the USN cannot count on air superiority over the Black Sea, these ships would be sitting ducks.  The USN is many things, but stupid it is not.  Having dealt with these rumors, let's now low at the bigger picture.

Does the US/NATO have a military option in the Ukraine?

The answer is a clear 'no'!  First, to intervene, the JCS will demand a clear, limited and achievable objective, a limited timeframe and a realistic exit strategy.  Yes, I know, the US had none of that in Iraq or Afghanistan, but these were not nuclear superpowers.  The second thing which US strategists are acutely aware of is called "escalatory potential" potential: what happens if the other guy is neither shocked nor awed - then what?  Finally, I don't see any US general agreeing to see whether the US can succeed there where Napoleon and Hitler failed.  So there will be a huge bias against any form of direct intervention on the side of the US military.  The problems is, as always, civilians who don't understand warfare and who will want to show to Russia and the world that "the US is boss".  What kind of silly notions might they be contemplating right now?  Sending US/NATO forces into western Ukraine?  Maybe, but for what purpose?  Nobody seriously thinks that Russian tanks are going to over-run Lvov.  Send them to Kiev?  For how long?  And that is dangerous as sooner or later (probably sooner) the central Ukraine is going to look like Africa with massive economic shortages triggering civil disorders.  What will the US do then?  Send US/NATO as far east as Donetsk or Kharkov just to find itself face to face with the Russian military?  Crazy!  How about a pure air operation a la Kosovo?  Let me remind everybody here that the bombing of Kosovo was an absolute disaster for NATO: 78 days of non-stop 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+ Serbs, 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! Had it not been for the betrayal of the Serbian people in Kosovo (and elsewhere) by Milosevic, the Serbian military would still probably be in control of most of Kosovo.  And that was against an old - but very smart - Serbian military who did not have modern air-defense means (but still shot down a F-117 "stealth" aircraft).  You really want to try that against the modern Russian military protected by 4++ generation aircraft and the best air defense capability on the planet?  I don't think so.

Of course, there could be other, smaller options - send in some special forces to help the insurgency, but where would the airpower come from?  Attack some key Russian units or facilities, but consider the risk of a retaliatory response?  Limited options are, by definition, limited in what they can achieve but they all have a nasty escalatory potential.

Finally, let me tell you this: in the late 1990s I studied with quite a few of the very top force planners in Washington DC.  They would give us lessons during the day, and they go to the Pentagon to prepare strike lists against Iraq for the next day.  Solid experts who knew their business very very well.  And they all said the same thing: if push really came to shove, the US was not willing to be obliterated in a nuclear war against the Soviet Union, even if the Soviet Union would be burned at the same time.  All of them said the same thing - Europe and the NATO are not worth losing the USA.  I think that they were right, by the way.  So if American force planners and strategists were not willing to die in a nuclear war to save all of Europe in the last days of the Cold War, does anybody really believe that the US military is going to be willing to risk triggering WWIII over the Ukraine?!  Of course not.

American politicians are arrogant, ignorant and stupid.  But that is not the case of the top US military commanders who are mostly very intelligent, well-educated and, by the way, very patriotic folks who do not think like Dr Strangelove maniac.  Let me add here that what I said about US military commanders also fully applies to their Russian counterparts - neither side wants war.

Which leaves Putin and Obama.  Putin is not bluffing and the US military commanders know that.  In fact, I am sure that their Russian colleagues have already conveyed that message to them as they have done in 2008.  As for Obama - he is 100% bluff, hot air, empty grandstanding and vapid dull promises and threats.  Yes, that does make him dangerous, but I have faith in the US JCS and generals who, when needed, will simply have to tell him "We are very sorry Mr President, but this is not an option".

Yes, in theory, it is possible that the US/NATO would do something crazy.  But I very sincerely believe that they won't.

What is taking place today is a war of nerves, a psychologicalal war, but everybody has to keep his head cool and remember that words cannot change reality.

The Saker