Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let's Ponder How We Hurt Them

Is Russia's Kaliningrad enclave a trump card or a point of vulnerability that NATO can exploit?

This article notes that Russia is beefing up their forces in their isolated Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea:

Russia is pouring troops and weapons -- including missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads -- into its western exclave of Kaliningrad at such a rate that the region is now one of Europe's most militarized places.

A NATO official, writing to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said that Moscow is stationing "thousands of troops, including mechanized and naval infantry brigades, military aircraft, modern long-range air defense units and hundreds of armored vehicles in the territory."

Okay, I guess the term of art is "exclave," but you get the drift.

Yes, this is a potential threat to NATO. But it is also potentially the largest self-sustaining POW prison for Russian troops if it should come to war.

Thousands of troops and hundreds of armored vehicles aren't a lot to hold the place let alone launch an assault out of the enclave.

If Russia invades the Baltic states, I figure NATO should fight a delaying action back into Lithuania while our first offensive is to pinch out the Kaliningrad enclave.

Then, at worse, we have bargaining chips to get the Russians out of Estonia and Latvia.

Although I suspect Russia would rather have Estonia as a buffer for St. Petersburg than have the exposed Kaliningrad back.

The real problem is the presence of Russian theater nuclear weapons. Would Russia just lose them or would they be tempted to use them rather than accept that?

Russia has plenty of theater nukes (thanks New START!). But still, that is a worrisome complication.

It is good that we will deploy heavy armor forward (just the equipment but not the troops). It's just a brigade's worth scattered from the Baltic to the Black Sea, but it is a start to a more robust presence (REFORPOL, anyone?).

Now we just need actual war plans. It's time we focused on how we hurt them rather than wondering how we cope with Putin's inclinations to hurt us.

If Putin faces something worse than Donbas and not as easy as Crimea, we could deter further aggression.