Monday, October 28, 2013

The Wild East

Russia is trying to build a brigade-based army to have a shot at stopping the Chinese short of using nuclear weapons.

Russia is abandoning the division as the basic army unit, as the West has done:

Russian recently announced that it would accelerate its plan to create 40 more combat brigades by the end of the decade. This conversion was first announced in 2009 and since then 70 brigades have been created. Not all are fully manned or equipped. Only 35 are maneuver (tank or infantry) brigades and only about half of them are at full strength. The other 35 brigades are artillery, engineer and the like.

The brigades are to be kept at full strength unlike old practices of filling out divisions with reservists to reach war strength. And training is to be better.

They hope this will give them a better chance at stopping the Chinese at the conventional level:

Officially, Russia has ceased to consider Chinese ground forces a threat as Russian nuclear weapons are supposed to be what would stop a Chinese ground assault. Traditionalists in the Defense Ministry are pointing out that nuclear war would destroy both nations and that the current situation allows China to quickly grab the Russian Far East (which China has long claimed) and then call for a peace conference. This is the sort of tactic China has used in the past and the Chinese are big fans of their imperial past. The pro-brigade leaders won this debate and it is apparently agreed that a brigade-centric army would be more successful in fighting the Chinese threat.

China, too, is going to the brigade organization.

This is good for the Russians. As I've said, Russia can blitz Georgia or nuke China. But there isn't much capacity in between. And that is no way to defend Russia itself since nukes could only be credibly threatened if Russia itself was in danger of being destroyed. Would Russia really risk nuclear war with China (who can shoot back) over the Far East?

Unfortunately for Russia, they will find that nuclear weapons aren't useful for defending their country. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is only credible in the face of national destruction. Certainly, a Chinese army marching on Moscow would lead Russia to unleash nuclear weapons to prevent that. And Russian nukes would deter China from using their own nukes on Russia.

But China isn't going to march on Moscow. Will Russia really provoke a general nuclear war with China if the Chinese take a chunk of territory in the Far East but go no further?

Now if only the Russians would come to appreciate that they face no threat from the West which really couldn't work up an interest in invading Russia.