Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Old War

Russian belligerence is clear:

World headlines announce Le Carré-esque tales of irradiated expatriates, gunned-down journalists, and poisoned politicians, all of whom were guilty of the unforgivable crime of opposing Moscow. The bald-faced euphemism of Eastern dictatorship has returned in the form of Russia's post-millennial "managed democracy." Gas and oil pipelines have been made hostage to the pro-Russian sentiments of Caucasian peoples who rely on them stay warm in winter. A Baltic state and NATO ally has been subjected to a costly cyberwar, with at least a few soldiers of the invading army residing, according to their virtual signatures, in the fortified offices of the Kremlin. And Vladimir Putin, the KGB Tsar who has presided over all these episodes of intimidation and repression--and likely plans, as prime minister, to preside over many more--happily finances a Middle Eastern theocracy's "peaceful" wish to explore the varied uses of the atom. Yet it's soft brinkmanship when the U.S. announces plans to construct a defensive missile shield on European soil.

The question is whether this hostility means Russia is returning to the Cold War days to take up the fight that Soviet Russia abruptly dropped in 1991.

The September 2007 Naval Institute Proceedings included a disturbing article by Norman Friedman who asked it Putin was resurrecting the stab-in-the-back theory of post-World War I Germany to explain away their Cold War defeat and (not by design, but by effect) pave the way for round two to restore their glory.

Of course, today's Russia is an economic lightweight held up by high oil prices.

And Russia has a lot farther to march just to reach central Europe with NATO pushing east and even promising to incorporate Ukraine into the alliance.

Right now, the rherotic of Putin seems more designed to bolster domestic power. And Russian military power is virtually meaningless below the level of nuclear war and above the level of nuclear poisoning.

But that could change if the people of Russia are fed a diet of paranoia long enough.

Should there be an anschluss with Belorus on day, putting Russian forces on the border of Poland (and excepting their Kalingrad enclave), I think we would be well advised to update our European war plans.

Warnings not to prepare for the last war notwithstanding.