Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Most Difficult Period for Russia or the West?

Is Putin determined to continue the pointless confrontation with NATO and the West?

Is this true?

No one knows if the next six years of Vladimir Putin’s reign will be his last, but signs suggest they will be the most difficult for Washington to navigate in what is now widely acknowledged on both sides as a long-term confrontation between Russia and the West.

If this is true, it makes sense that Russia is sucking up to China to secure their rear while they continue to pressure NATO in the west.

But sucking up to China now also makes sense if the purpose is to buy time to shift Russian forces east while trying to disengage from the pointless confrontation with NATO.

Lord knows what Putin thinks makes more sense.

I'll note that the author relies on the strategic concept of raids to describe Russian strategy, which I relied on for my recent article on potential Army operations in the Asia-Pacific region when opening the possibility for Army operations on the Chinese mainland, as opposed to operations with allies around the periphery of China. I figured we could achieve limited objectives along the coast of China (following on the Marines) but couldn't hope to occupy China. I expanded on that in the end note:

Archer Jones, The Art of War in the Western World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 54–57. Archer Jones contrasts a raiding strategy with a persisting strategy. His definitions work for both offensive and defensive warfare. A persisting strategy of taking or holding terrain requires a high troop-to-area ratio to exert a strong physical presence to own the land. With a low troop-to-area ratio, attempting to occupy the entire area is futile. A raiding strategy is the alternative. On the defensive, a raiding strategy does not attempt to hold a front to stop an enemy but conducts a mobile defense to defeat the invader by waiting for opportunities for military victories or just seeks to avoid battle in the hope of tiring the invaders out. On the offensive, a raiding strategy involves maneuver to inflict military defeats or seize critical terrain to inflict pain and does not seek to take and hold terrain except for short periods to gain local successes. Despite advances in weaponry and surveillance, neither virtual occupation with aircraft flying overhead nor Third Offset-enhanced troops spread thinly are a substitute for troop density.

Interestingly, the author thinks that Russia didn't intend to conquer Crimea or Donbas. In both Putin just wanted to pressure Ukraine to federalize their government structure to allow Russia to exert more influence in the more decentralized periphery of Ukraine, with Russia withdrawing from their "raids" after that. And withdrawing in Crimea meant withdrawing back to the bases that Russia already had.

In the former (me opining) Putin could put pressure on whatever government emerged in Ukraine to keep their bases in Crimea (which perhaps explains my confusion over why he'd take Crimea when he had the bases). Perhaps the complete inability to resist in the chaotic first days of the revolution encouraged Russia to just take the place.

But I do think that Russia could afford to take and occupy the low-population Baltic NATO states. Russia would link up with their Kaliningrad exclave and Russia's border with NATO would actually shrink.

(In theory, mind you, on the assumption that NATO doesn't fight for them--and I think NATO would fight to liberate them if Russia overruns them.)

And the author doesn't seek to think much of the Western worship of so-called Russian "hybrid warfare." You know my opinion.

So do read it all.

Anyway, the next six years will be the most difficult for someone. But it might be for Russia rather than for the West.