Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Prelude to Narva?

Putin thinks the Baltic fleet is doing fine but fired a bunch of their highest leadership? Does Putin want a fleet loyal to him personally as well as an army?

This move is puzzling people:

In a sweeping military shake-up, Russia has replaced the top commanders of its Baltic Fleet, which patrols a region that has become the main fault line between Russia and the West.

The exact reasons for the mass dismissal, involving dozens of officers, remain unclear. But the public nature of the abrupt change, announced on Wednesday by Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, was unprecedented.

The fleet commander, Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk; his chief of staff, Vice Admiral Sergei Popov; and the other officers were fired for “dereliction of duty” and “distortion of the real state of things,” according to a statement by the Defense Ministry summarizing what the minister had said behind closed doors to senior military commanders.

The statement went on to say that the commanders had been responsible for “serious drawbacks in the organization of military training and everyday activities” and “lack of proper care for the personnel.” ...

The dismissals are all the more surprising because President Vladimir V. Putin, who would have approved them, visited the fleet’s main base at Baltiysk last July and was unsparing in his praise.

“The Baltic Fleet is performing its missions well — not just here in the Baltic, where it is based, but is also carrying our flag with honor in other parts of the world’s oceans, too,” Mr. Putin said a year ago.

Are the replacements considered loyal to Putin rather than to Russia?

If so, that would complement the creation of Putin's private army (which includes aircraft).

Which might be useful to Putin as he seeks to rebuild the Russian empire:

Sure, one might think that fear of a coup is the logical reason for such a private army. But perhaps not.

Perhaps the stress of picking out small bits of Russia's ground forces from across Russia to send into Ukraine (or elsewhere) to avoid the fingerprints of an open Russian intervention is straining his military too much.

Now Putin has his own "little green men." Let's hope they don't appear at Narva, Estonia.

That is a quote from my earlier post on the news.

If Putin uses his personally loyal army to seize and hold Narva, Estonia with "little green men" who are not officially recognized as Russian soldiers (as Putin has done in Crimea and the Donbas in Ukraine) and has his personally loyal Baltic fleet isolate the Baltic states from NATO sea reinforcements (to "settle the internal unrest without 'outside' interference"), what will NATO do?*

It is monumentally wrong (and convenient to Russian propaganda) to say this of NATO's reaction to Russian moves:

The Kremlin has been building up its military along its border with the former Soviet satellites. Western allies of the Baltics, worried that the region is vulnerable, have responded by pouring tanks, warplanes and soldiers into an area slightly larger than Florida. They will commit thousands more troops to the three countries and Poland at a summit starting Friday. [emphasis added]

Poured? Really? Trickled, perhaps. Even with the thousands more planned, the NATO presence will still be no more than a tripwire. NATO "poured" more than this into the tiny enclave of West Berlin during the Cold War, and that force had no chance of surviving a serious Russian offensive.

It is doubly odd that the author would write that when you keep reading:

A recent Rand Corp. study that simulated a Russian invasion found that Baltic capitals would be overrun within 60 hours.

That despite the troops "poured" into the area even once the planned battalions are added.

Still, the article does mention that Narva flash point:

Narva, an Estonian border city that is more than 80 percent ­Russian-speaking, is often depicted as Russia’s first target if it were to move on the Baltics. But residents there say they have no interest in switching allegiances.

Silly Narva residents. Putin doesn't care if they have no interest in becoming Russian. With the new laws Russia has passed, they'll make Narva residents switch--and the Russian-supervised voting will "confirm" the fervent desire to join the Motherland.

And I think this news is more significant for providing a legal basis for dealing with newly acquired "Russians" in newly annexed territory than in suppressing dissent within the boundaries of Russia as they exist right now:

The Russian parliament will end its legislative season with a bang. While the entire world is talking about the effects of Britain's EU referendum (Brexit), members of the Russian Duma could pass a controversial set of laws on Friday - their last day of business before the summer break.

A second and possibly a third and final reading of the bill is planned for the session. Officially, the laws are designed to fight terrorism, however, warnings about the fact that they will massively limit civil rights and freedoms have been growing. Some see the Kremlin's battle with opposition parties as the main motivation for the package. "Effectively, it is about destroying all those that are not in agreement with the government," independent parliamentarian and Kremlin critic Dmitry Gudkow posted on Facebook.

And Internet controls and pushing the age for punishment down to 14 for "terrorism" support might be highly relevant to suppressing resistance in E-stonia, no?

Let's hope that the NATO summit sends a message to Russia that attacking a NATO state--openly or covertly--will result in a NATO military response to defeat that aggression.

Enough is enough should be the message.

Why yes, my pucker factor is going way up, now that you ask.
*As an aside to what NATO might do, one thing we should try to do is focus military efforts on the Putin loyalist forces inside and around Estonia while trying to reassure the bulk of Russia's forces to stay out of the fight because NATO has no intention of making this a war on Russia as a whole.

It might not work, but since I'm sure Putin in that scenario hopes to leverage the participation of all the Russian military by making the war a war in defense of Holy Mother Russia rather than a Putin territorial grab. By focusing just on Putin's personally loyal forces, NATO would at least perhaps stall the Russian military from joining the war started by Putin's loyal forces.

If we buy enough time, we might secure or retake Narva in that NATO-Putin war before it becomes a NATO-Russia war.