Friday, March 28, 2014

Point of Vulnerability

If we do have some sort of Cold War Lite with the Russians in Europe, remember that unlike the actual Cold War when Russia held Western troops and West German citizens as effective hostages in West Berlin, in a new period of adversarial relations, we hold Kaliningrad hostage.

So as we defend the territorial integrity of NATO states that are invaded by Russia, we can isolate Russia's Baltic Sea enclave, Kaliningrad, and prepare to seize that ground as a bargaining chip with reinforcements heading east from the western-most NATO countries should we have problems ejecting the Russians from NATO territory.

I retain hope that younger generations of Russians will replace the older generations that seem to pine for the glory days of the Soviet Union, which made the world--and its own citizens, too, don't forget--take notice of their power.

One day, Russia may eventually join the West, freed from delusions that Nazis or Bonapartists (or expansionist Swedes?) still plot to conquer Russia.

Until that day, Putin needs to worry about what we can do to his remaining empire should the West finally accept that wake-up call without hitting their reset snooze button--again.

Putin has gotten away with blatant aggression at little cost. So far the West Europeans seem oblivious to this demonstration:

President Obama on Wednesday sought to coax his European allies to wake up to the renewed threat of Russia, and reinvest in militaries that have long gone fallow. But for the moment, there appears to be little appetite among European leaders to bust their recession-scarred budgets or buck their war-weary populations in order to shore up thinly stretched armed forces.

Military spending across Europe fell dramatically after the Cold War, then ramped up for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the five years since the global financial crisis, it has been cut sharply again -- even as Russia’s defense spending has surged by more than 30 percent.

More European cuts are on the way, even as leaders hurl a daily dose of tough rhetoric toward Moscow.

America, too, is suffering from defense cuts. But at some level a reduction is normal after wars wind down. And we started with much more capability.

In any case, Putin risks reversing this trend of defense cuts in NATO's traditional European powers if he pushes too quickly to gain more territory.