Friday, October 31, 2014

Ponder Russia's Paranoid Stupidity

Russia has Crimea and wants the bits of Ukraine's east that it has managed to grab via their unacknowledged invasion and support for local allies. Instead of trying to localize the conflict in Ukraine, so Western countries might fool themselves into thinking this is a one-off act of aggression with no impact on them, Russia pokes everyone near them. That's pretty stupid. Yet Western stupidity might cancel that out.

Behold the strategery!

While Russian aggression in Ukraine gets most of the headlines, there’s plenty of Russian misbehavior against other neighbors as well. Finland reports growing Russian military activity on the border and against Finnish ships in the Baltic. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (the “Baltic States” that were long part of Russia) are receiving similar harassment, as well as Russian offers of a large discount on what they pay for Russian natural gas if they will leave NATO. ...

Russian neighbors, particularly Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are increasing defense spending and getting their military forces ready for Russian aggression. ...

The aggressive Russian response to the sanctions is being expressed in the east as well as the west. Thus in the last six months Chinese aircraft fell from first to second place as the most common threat Japanese air defense forces have to deal with. Now, again, it’s Russian aircraft that are most frequently triggering a response.

And don't forget Sweden's recent search for a presumed Russian sub in their territorial waters.

Poland is reacting to Russia's spasm of aggressive intent around their periphery:

Poland said on Tuesday it is drawing up a long-term plan to shift some of its military strength towards its eastern border, closer to Ukraine and Russia, in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Ponder all this.

Russia could have deployed their Ukraine argument of "we're just trying to help" and insist that they have no more territorial ambitions (obviously, they'd need to wordsmith that language). That could have allowed much of the world to continue to plod along, unworried about Russian military revival, convinced that Russia had no interest in them.

But no, Russia commits aggression and instead of being nice to everyone else, throws their still-limited weight around against European neighbors and even as far away as Japan!

Seriously? Is Russia so convinced that everybody is out to get them that they might as well act is if every potential threat is active?

And to think I despaired of our diplomacy.

Really, is Russia incapable of having friends or allies? Is Russia only capable of dealing with foreigners as conquered people or client states, targets for conquest or dominance, potential enemies that have to be resisted before it comes to armed conflict, or potential enemies who must be appeased while Russia prepares to resist them?

We have serious problems if Russia is that paranoid and stupid.

An yet, who can say that we don't have more:

Through all this Europe wants to be reassured that at some point somewhere Russia will be satiated enough to just stop on its own. Dream on.

Russia has proven incapable of providing that reassurance. But it just might not matter if the will to delude itself means Russia doesn't have to do the job itself by pretending that this is all just about Ukraine.

So ponder the West's blind stupidity, too.

UPDATE: Japanese note the counter-productive nature of Putin's military maneuvers:

It is not clear what Russia hopes to accomplish. Putin could be trying to intimidate his neighbors, but that does not seem to be working. The Baltic states are NATO’s newest members and an aggressive Russia has only reinforced their inclination to seek shelter under the trans-Atlantic alliance. The United States and other NATO members have given no indication that their commitment to the defense of these new allies is slackening. The Ukraine fiasco has led NATO to focus on the prospect of an immediate threat in their neighborhood after years of drift — characterized by shrinking defense budgets and attention on more distant problems, such as Afghanistan — and revitalize that organization. At the same time, those European governments are increasingly wary of their dependence on Russian energy supplies and actively exploring alternative strategies to reduce their vulnerability.

Japan is intercepting Russian planes, too. They don't seem intimidated.

Putin pines for the glory days of the Soviet Union. I remember the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union could scare the crud out of people.

Today's Russia is not the Soviet Union.

Russia can win when they can pick off one of the weaker members of the herd while the rest aren't paying attention. Why Russia goes to the absurd level of denying that they are invading Ukraine while also taking steps to remind everyone else of Russia's aggressive intent is just amazingly stupid.