Sunday, April 6, 2014

A couple of short pointers about recent rumors

I have decided to take some time off two articles which I am working on today to reassure many of you about some rumors which are being spread by the western corporate media.  I will go this bullet-style.  Here we go:

1) "Russia has massed forces on the Ukrainian border and is about to invade"

NATO and western media corporations are in a panic mode due to what they claim in a threat of Russian invasion for the eastern Ukraine.  According to these sources roughly 50'000 soldiers are poised right across the Ukrainian border ready to strike, and they could reach Kiev in 3 hours.  This is nonsense, at least these conclusions.  From what I know there are indeed a number (dunno how many) Russian units "at readiness" in western Russia, but that really means nothing.  First, this is a normal measure when there is instability right across your border.  The Poles did the same.  Second, having been myself professionally involved in monitoring Soviet military movements during the Cold war I can promise you that if these forces were up to no good, they would not be that easy to detect, assuming they are there in the first place: as far as I know, the Russians gave the Ukrainians unrestricted overflight rights and military observers sent to the border region saw nothing.  Finally, considering th actual state of the Ukrainian military, Kiev is not 3 hours away (on land) for the Russian military, but minutes away should the Russians decide to repeat what they did in Prague in 1968: seize the airport and bring in paratroopers.  When the western media publishes articles comparing the size of the hypothetical Russian invasion force and the hypothetical Ukrainian force they do what military analysts call "bean counting".  These numbers really mean absolutely nothing.  The truth is much simpler: Russian can invade the Ukraine anytime it decides to and there is nothing the Ukrainians or NATO could do about it.  Not a thing.  And this is not due to the fact that Russian soldiers are some "invincible terminators", but to the fact that the Ukrainian state and military have basically imploded and to the facts of geography.  The real reason behind these rumors it to justify NATO as "needed" to "protect" the EU from an "increasingly assertive and aggressive Russia: total and complete bovine excreta.

2) "The Russian military is heavily dependent on the Ukrainian MIC"

This one has some truth to it.  There are specific weapons systems and parts which the Russian military uses nowadays which come from the Ukraine.  The best known example of that is the formidable SS-18 ICBM which was designed in mid-1960s (!) in the Ukraine and is still built there.  And yes, there has been an extremely controversial decision made by the Ministry of Defense to produce more such missiles.  The main reason why this decision was controversial is that the SS-18 uses liquid propellant and that use of a liquid fuel was vehemently opposed by many.  Considering the events in the Ukraine I am pretty confident that this entire project will be scrapped and replaced by something admittedly more expensive, but far more modern: an advanced solid-fuel heavy MIRVed silo-based missile.  As for the rest, yes, there will be sectors which will force the Russians to stop purchasing comparatively cheap Ukrainian systems and replace them by more expensive but also more advanced Russian ones.  So what is bad news for the Russian budget is really great news for the Russian military.  Finally, I predict a totally new trend which will soon make its appearance: Russia will begin purchasing Chinese systems for its military.  The Chinese industry has a formidable potential and while a country like Russia probably could built everything indigenously, this is simply not cost effective.  Even the USA purchases a lot of its military electronics from Japan and even from China.  No, the Ukraine was an ideal partner for Russia because they had the system commonality due to a common Soviet past and because of extremely cheap prices Russians could get from the Ukrainians, but technology bonanza for Russia is coming to and end and this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Anybody who knows the Russian procurement system will tell you that Russia already has enough supplies in everything it needs to last it for a long while, plenty enough to make a transition to indigenous or other foreign supplies (I am thinking of Brazil and India here).

3) "The Ukrainians are going to sell God knows what to God knows whom"

Again, there is some truth to that.  The Ukrainian MIC is in its death throes and everybody in the Ukraine knows that, so now is the time to sell of as much as possible as fast as possible.  This will definitely be a concern for some nations, especially for those who like India face a Pakistan already armed with some Ukrainian built systems, but this is not a game changer because most of what the Ukrainians can sell today is not designed to foreign specifications and because all weapons system contracts are linked to huge "external" political and financial factors (kickbacks, non-military economic measures tied in, licensing, etc.) besides the actual delivery of systems.  From the point of view of major military contracts the Ukraine is really an extremely unattractive partner.  So the most damage which can come from the collapse of the Ukrainian MIC would be the proliferation of some sensitive technologies, a concern yes, but definitely not a major cataclysm: most of the Ukrainian know-how is already getting old, and what is not has probably already been acquired by both the Russians and the Americans.

The bottom line of all that is this: the collapse of the Ukraine has a state definitely creates a long list of potential problems and risks, including a few military ones, but they are most definitely not the most problematic ones.  Furthermore, it is precisely because the Ukraine is imploding that Russia has no incentive at all to invade or even get militarily involved.  The Russians can basically sit tight, hold a steady unwavering course, just like they did in Syria, and wait for reality to kick in with enough power to bring everybody back to their senses, be it the Americans, the Europeans or the Ukrainians themselves.

I hope that these few pointers are useful to reassure you all.

Kind regards,

The Saker