Author Topic: Russia/US-- Europe  (Read 126235 times)

DougMacG

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #600 on: June 30, 2022, 06:26:51 AM »
"Putin said that Russia would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance."


   Isn't NATO expansion proof of Putin's strategic error invading Ukraine.  The rationale with Ukraine was that NATO was getting too close to Russia and now Finland will be in NATO? 

Founding NATO member Norway also shares a border with Russia.  Russian Kaliningrad is landlocked by NATO via Lithuania and Poland.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/22/russia-and-nato-member-lithuania-are-clashing-over-kaliningrad.html

https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/us-military-base-poland-troops-europe-nato

http://www.vidiani.com/maps/maps_of_europe/maps_of_sweden/detailed_political_map_of_scandinavia_with_roads_and_major_cities.jpg

Getting the world to unite against you is hardly succss.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #601 on: June 30, 2022, 08:04:06 AM »
Exactly so.

G M

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #602 on: July 01, 2022, 07:18:50 AM »
The world? Hardly. The crumbling west.


"Putin said that Russia would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance."


   Isn't NATO expansion proof of Putin's strategic error invading Ukraine.  The rationale with Ukraine was that NATO was getting too close to Russia and now Finland will be in NATO? 

Founding NATO member Norway also shares a border with Russia.  Russian Kaliningrad is landlocked by NATO via Lithuania and Poland.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/22/russia-and-nato-member-lithuania-are-clashing-over-kaliningrad.html

https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/us-military-base-poland-troops-europe-nato

http://www.vidiani.com/maps/maps_of_europe/maps_of_sweden/detailed_political_map_of_scandinavia_with_roads_and_major_cities.jpg

Getting the world to unite against you is hardly succss.


Crafty_Dog

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DougMacG

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Re: 2014: Uke crisis is West's fault
« Reply #605 on: July 03, 2022, 08:29:25 PM »
Sorry, I don't buy that.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #606 on: July 03, 2022, 09:53:07 PM »
I should have clarified that I am putting it up there as a representation of a particular school of thought in 2014.

By all means, what are your disagreements?

Crafty_Dog

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NRO: Russia (and China) vs. Germany
« Reply #607 on: July 09, 2022, 10:37:39 PM »
An Eagle Trapped by a Bear: Germany’s Energy Nightmare

It seems strange to recall it now, but there was a time around the late 1990s when Germany (partly because of the immense burden of reunification) was seen as the sick man of Europe. As in the past, it reinvented itself. The combination of labor-market reforms, wage restraint (the two correlate less than conventional wisdom has it) and, above all, the concealed devaluation represented by the switch into the euro (which boosted German competitiveness within the euro zone and outside it) were all essential steps in creating the successful export-led growth that has come to define the German economy.

But there are increasing signs of trouble.

Walter Russell Mead, in the Wall Street Journal (June 27):

In recent years, the German economic miracle depended on a combination of industrial prowess, cheap energy from Russia, and access to global markets, particularly in China. Today every one of those pillars is under threat. German mastery of automobile technology through a century of engineering is challenged by the shift to electric vehicles. The chemicals industry, in which German technology has led the world since the 19th century, is coming under environmental challenges as global competition intensifies.

Those challenges are exacerbated by the loss of cheap and secure Russian natural gas. Green energy, despite massive German investment, will be unable to supply German industry with reliable and cheap power for a long time. In the meantime, the alternatives to Russian pipeline gas are expensive and controversial. Nuclear power gives Greens the willies; coal is unbearable; liquefied natural gas requires long-term commitments and massive capital expenditures.

Beyond that, Germany’s economic relationship with China is changing for the worse. China was long the ideal customer for German products. Its newly affluent middle class fell in love with German luxury cars. Its rapidly growing manufacturing sector voraciously consumed German machine tools and other capital goods. But China’s growth is decelerating. Its maturing industrial economy seeks to compete with high-end German producers, often based on tools reverse-engineered from German imports.

Germany has done well out of that relationship with China — so well that it is now unhealthily dependent upon it.

Reuters (June 30):

Inflation would spiral even further in Germany if it weren’t for business with China, Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess said in a media interview published on Thursday.

“Germany would look completely different” if it turned away from China, Diess told the Spiegel weekly, adding that such a move would harm growth, wealth and employment.

For Merkel’s Germany to have built up a dangerous reliance on not one, but two, authoritarian (and not necessarily friendly) states looks, as The Importance of Earnest’s Lady Bracknell might have said, a lot like carelessness. Worse, there are clear signs that Germany has used its export-driven prosperity as an excuse to coast in other areas of its economy, notably in digitalization, but elsewhere too. A few years back I wrote an article comparing, in some respects, Merkel’s Germany with the era of stagnation in Brezhnev’s USSR. Nothing I have learned since has changed my mind.

Stock markets are not everything (and Germany is famous for the performance of its privately held businesses). Nevertheless, it says something that, as Ralph Schoellhammer reports for Unherd:

Measured by market capitalisation, only one German company makes it into the top 100 worldwide, and German market capitalisation as a share of global market capitalisation has shrunk to 1.97%, an all-time low.

Complacency has been compounded by the Energiewende, a wasteful and reckless binge on renewables made nuttier still by the rejection of nuclear power for reasons that amounted to little more than superstitious dread.

And indeed, the immediate crisis that Germany is now facing is on the energy side, something, if anything, that Mead understates, but then he was writing a couple of weeks ago, and matters have deteriorated sharply, if predictably, since then.

Wolfgang Münchau, in the Spectator (July 2):

Gazprom, the monopoly supplier of piped Russian gas, has been giving Germany a taste of what life might be like, should Moscow play nasty. It recently halved the amount of gas sent through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, using bogus technical excuses. Germany, which still relies on Russia for more than a third of its gas, is now realising it may have to cope with a total gas embargo – and a cold winter. Last week its gas risk level was raised to stage two, a state of ‘alarm’.

Putin may keep the gas flowing at a reduced volume. But what if he cuts Germany off altogether? To say that Germany has made itself reliant on Russian gas doesn’t quite capture the enormity of what is going on. Germans need Russian gas to heat their homes. The country’s heavy industry depends on Russian hydrocarbons. According to Robert Habeck, the German economy minister, any sudden stop in Russian gas flows would trigger a domino effect: an economic crisis which he compares to the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Habeck is also [German chancellor] Olaf Scholz’s deputy chancellor and the Green party’s most senior representative in the German government. He has been quite emphatic about how vulnerable his country is to Putin turning off the taps. ‘Companies would have to stop production, lay off their workers, supply chains would collapse, people would go into debt to pay their heating bills and people would become poorer,’ . . .

Germany aims to have its gas reserve containers 90 per cent full by the winter – up from 60 per cent now.

Habeck has warned that if Russia continues supplying gas at the current rate, (unspecified) “additional measures” will have to be taken to reach the 90 percent target. He has described Russia’s move as “economic warfare” and stressed that there is nothing irrational about it: “After a 60% reduction, the next one logically follows.”

Münchau:

Germany’s gas regulator recently published seven scenarios for winter and spring. Six involve critical shortages. Only one envisages capacity at a moderately safe 25 per cent in the winter (and 40 per cent in the summer). But that is the scenario in which the Russians honour all the gas storage requirements under German law. In other words, there is zero room for any deviations. So if Putin keeps the gas flowing at a diminished rate, Germany could experience massive shortages this winter. This may well be Putin’s sweet-spot option. He could inflict damage, and still get most of the money as Russian gas sells at massively inflated prices.

Putin has previously resisted using gas and oil as diplomatic weapons even during earlier wars. When he annexed Crimea, the gas kept flowing through Ukraine. What is different this time is that the EU, US and UK have all placed sanctions on Russian fossil fuels. Habeck has set himself the target of reducing Germany’s Russian gas consumption to zero within two years – though he stands little chance of achieving that given the absence of alternative suppliers.

Under the circumstances, it is easy to imagine that Putin will either switch off the flow, or (there are technical reasons why switching it off entirely can cause difficulties) reduce it even more. Russia is, as Münchau points out, “awash with cash.” Thanks to higher energy prices, its current-account surplus could, he argues, double to some $250–300 billion this year. If the war in Ukraine is still dragging on into the winter months — as seems reasonably likely — it would make sense for Putin to use a brutal energy squeeze to spur the EU to force Ukraine to cut some grubby deal with Moscow. The EU’s determination to wean itself off Russian gas as soon as it can (which, incidentally, is not tomorrow) means that Moscow is running no risk of alienating a client that would otherwise be good for decades. Moreover, bullying the EU to bully Ukraine into some sort of “peace” would generate a political and, given the direct and indirect cost of the war to Moscow, economic return.

There is no getting away from how damaging the consequences of such a squeeze on Germany could be, ranging from restrictions on heating and hot water in homes to shutdowns in industry after industry, neither a recipe for social calm nor continued support for Ukraine.

As Germany tries to free up gas for transfer to its reserves by reducing consumption, it is getting an early taste of what may lie ahead.

The Financial Times (July 8):

Germany is rationing hot water, dimming its street lights and shutting down swimming pools as the impact of its energy crunch begins to spread from industry to offices, leisure centres and homes. . . .

The GdW [the Federation of German Housing Enterprises] said the Ukraine war will push up energy prices for consumers by between 71 per cent and 200 per cent, amounting to additional annual costs of between €1,000 and €2,700 for a one-person household and up to €3,800 for four people, compared with 2021 levels.

As it is, Schoellhammer notes:

Electricity prices have been surging to an all-time high, with current 1-year forward electricity contracts clocking in at EUR 340 per MWh. Just to put this number into perspective, for the last three decades this value never surpassed €100 per MWh. In other words, the year 2023 will see electricity turning from a utility into a luxury good for many Germans.

The Wall Street Journal (July 5):

The fertilizer industry is particularly exposed to the current volatility because it uses gas as a raw material, said Christopher Profitlich, a spokesman for SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz GmbH, one of Germany’s leading fertilizer manufacturers.

“A shortage of gas would mean we would not be able to produce fertilizer, meaning that farmers would not be able to produce enough food, and this would push global prices up and create a shortage of foodstuffs,” Mr. Profitlich said.

SKW also produces the fuel additive AdBlue which is used by over 90% of trucks that make up Germany’s complex road-based logistical chains, as well by vehicles critical for emergency services and construction.

“Without AdBlue, engines would stand still,” Mr. Profitlich said.

At Bavaria-based porcelain maker Rosenthal GmbH, a stop in supplies would bring production to a complete standstill. White porcelain is typically made by heating materials in gas-fired chambers known as kilns temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Gas is currently the only energy source that can ensure that process, said Mads Ryder, Rosenthal’s chief executive.

“A cutback or even a halt to gas deliveries would mean that we would have to stop our entire production immediately and that would have considerable economic consequences for the company,” he said.

While the industry is exploring alternative sources like hydrogen, it would take at least 10 years before these offer a viable alternative, he said.

“There is very little creative freedom here in ceramics,” said René Holler, general manager of the German Association of the Ceramic Industry.

At brewer Brauerei C. & A. Veltins GmbH & Co. KG, gas is also an essential part of the whole beer production process.

The kettles for the brewing process are heated with the help of gas, which is also needed to achieve the necessary kettle pressure. The company then needs glass bottles, and natural gas is also indispensable in glass manufacturing. In total, Veltins says it would need 50 million bottles this year, whose costs are already up some 80% since April.

“To put it plainly: no beer without gas,” said Veltins spokesman Ulrich Biene. . . .

At chemicals giant BASF SE, a significant fall in gas supplies could lead to the closure of the world’s largest integrated chemical complex spanning some 200 plants. Such a shutdown would reverberate beyond the company, which sits at the beginning of most industrial supply chains, from cars to toothpaste. A throttling of BASF’s ammonia output, a key ingredient in fertilizers.

Henkel AG, the maker of consumer products including Persil laundry detergents, said it was looking at ways to switch to alternative energy sources and is considering increasing working from home options for employees to save on energy and heating costs.

German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG is heavily reliant on gas for its blast furnaces. “A switch from natural gas to oil or coal is not possible in our production processes, or only to a negligible extent,” the company said in a statement.

Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions has recently warned that problems with the gas supply could lead to the “permanent collapse” of certain industries, specifically citing aluminum, glass, and chemicals. “Permanent” may be an overstatement, but Fahimi’s comment will have caught Chancellor Scholz’s attention. The trade unions are close to his SPD, and Fahimi herself was an SPD member of the Bundestag.

Faced with the prospect of an economic (and, undoubtedly, political) crisis in Germany (and what that could mean to the U.S., as economic contagion spreads out from the EU’s most important economy), it’s unclear what the Biden administration could do to keep Berlin in line if, indeed, it was even willing to do so.

Thinking back to Habeck’s warning of another Lehman moment, at least one domino is beginning to topple. Uniper, Europe’s largest importer of Russian gas, has asked the German government for help. Its problems (which are unlikely to be unique) stem from the fact that the slowdown in gas flows from Russia is reportedly costing the company as much as €30 million or, take your pick, €40 million a day (the company’s problem is that it cannot pass on the higher cost of the gas it has to buy to fill the gap left by Russia to clients with whom it has long-term supply contracts). Some estimates are that a bailout could amount to as much as €9 billion, probably in the form of debt finance and an equity infusion, plus a mechanism enabling Uniper to pass on (one way or another) some of the higher prices it is paying for its gas to its clients, whatever the long-term contracts may say. Failure to agree on some sort of rescue deal will mean that Uniper will have to draw down some of its gas reserves, a move that goes directly against Germany’s current effort to fill those reserves up.

In another sign of the times, Germany has (unexpectedly) reported its first monthly trade deficit since 1991. The amount (which relates to May) was not large (around €1 billion), and similar news would attract little attention if it concerned other EU countries, but coming from the EU’s export powerhouse, well . . .

Oh yes, the Nord Stream 1 pipelines have for some time been scheduled to undergo their annual maintenance between July 11–21. No gas will flow through the pipelines during this period. The question now is how much will flow afterwards.


Crafty_Dog

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GPF: NATO
« Reply #609 on: July 11, 2022, 04:16:39 AM »
July 11, 2022
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Back to the Future With NATO
Its new Strategic Concept emphasizes the alliance’s military chops.
By: Antonia Colibasanu

Much has been said about how the Russian war in Ukraine has changed NATO. Its membership certainly is set to grow as Sweden and Finland begin the accession process. But as important is its new Strategic Concept, published last week at a summit in Madrid, that shows what’s in store for the alliance in the coming decade. In a word, the concept is: realignment.

From Partner to Threat

The text of the Strategic Concept is public – even if the accompanying Military Strategy text, which details how member states can support the alliance’s goals, is classified. Still, what’s available suggests the next decade will focus on deterrence and defense, emphasizing NATO’s original purpose as a military organization. (That may sound self-evident, but recall NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept, which highlighted the political role the alliance could play in European affairs.) Whereas the previous concept referred to Russia as a strategic partner for Euro-Atlantic stability, the new one explicitly describes Russia as a strategic threat.

This isn’t especially surprising given the text was published at a time of war. Other documents released during the Kosovo War in 1999 and the Korean War spoke in similar terms. In fact, the latter is considered to be a turning point in NATO history because it led to increased U.S. assistance to combat the Soviet Union and the reorganization of a rapidly expanding alliance under centralized command, all of which would be mainstays for the rest of the Cold War.

Likewise, the 2022 Strategic Concept proposes a broader framework for the alliance that reestablishes its military role, while keeping its political role and taking a more global approach, integrating China and discussing security matters pertinent to the economic domain. More important, it proposes a new force model that will likely lead to the military reorganization of the alliance, just as what was proposed in 1952 did. The document discusses the establishment of the NATO Command Structure for the information age and for the ways in which NATO plans to expand its military capabilities and cooperation. The wording points to a further military enhancement while also hinting at the formation of a platform that can support global operations in military, political and economic domains.

Indeed, the new force model is at the heart of the Strategic Concept, which means to “significantly strengthen deterrence and defense for all Allies … [and] enhance our resilience against Russian coercion.” To that end, publicly available information, including the content of a speech made by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last week, suggest NATO plans to increase its presence in its east, which may involve expanding and rebranding the 40,000-strong NATO Response Force. At the same time, the new force model for NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks, which will host the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, envisions a future in which thousands more troops based in their home countries are ready to deploy if needed.

Stoltenberg also said that the NATO Response Force of some 40,000 troops will be transformed into a future force of some 300,000 troops maintained at high alert, with 44,000 kept at high readiness. Though it’s unclear how alliance members plan to reach that number, it would mean that, for the first time, all rapid reaction forces under NATO command will be committed to a deterrence and defense role, and that all these forces will be consolidated under one command framework. Based on the explanations offered publicly, the new force model wants this new force to be held at 24 hours “notice to act,” while the bulk of the NATO Force Structure will hold at 15 days “notice to move.” This is an extraordinary improvement to the current structure, where some forces have 180 days’ notice to move, essentially making the alliance more flexible and more dynamic. The new strategy will also see heavy equipment pre-positioned near NATO borders. All of this points to member states being more committed to make NATO a stronger military force again.

To achieve the size and scope of such a force will be expensive for NATO allies. Hence why Stoltenberg said the NATO defense investment pledge of 2 percent of gross domestic product per ally is now “more of a floor than a ceiling.” Several European NATO members, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have already committed to increasing their respective defense budgets accordingly. But, importantly, nearly all of Europe is dealing with high inflation and post-COVID economies, so the success of these pledges depends on economic constraints going forward.

American Leadership

To some degree, they depend on American leadership too, and it’s not clear if the U.S. shares Europe’s concerns entirely. A classified version of the U.S. National Defense Strategy was made available to Congress in late March, and it seems to give China and the Indo-Pacific region a higher priority than Russia and Europe. (This is probably why NATO’s Strategic Concept focuses on links between Russia and China, and says those links threaten European security.) The NDS offers insight into how the U.S. will regard NATO’s new force model and its future force. According to publicly available details available on the strategy, the American future force will be built on three principles: “integrated deterrence” and credible combat powers, effective campaigning in the grey zone, and “building enduring advantage” by exploiting new, emerging and disruptive technologies. And for the first time, the NDS implies a greater role for allies to help the U.S. meet its strategic goals and challenges, particularly in and around the European theatre. All of this points to the challenge of maintaining interoperability between the U.S. future force and allies' forces.

The message from Washington is clear: Europe will have to start to share the responsibility of guaranteeing European security. That means a stouter and more robust NATO. While the U.S. has called on Europe to do this on several different occasions in the past, the current wartime scenario works in the U.S.' favor as NATO allies are highly incentivized by Russian military operations to keep NATO intact and improve national defense capabilities.

Washington aside, the basis for NATO’s future is having enough forces to deter and engage in crises and to respond quickly to any crisis in and around the Euro-Atlantic area. The new Strategic Concept reaffirms NATO’s commitment to collective defense, with a 360-degree approach built on three core tasks of deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security. All of this points to the complexity of the environment that NATO is currently working in.

The Strategic Concept is a tacit recognition of the global economic war the world is engaged in, which is why it also calls on NATO to further work on developing its political role, and why it mentions the preservation of NATO’s technical edge, a digital transformation that enhances cyber and emerging and disruptive technologies, and the upholding of the rules-based order, all of which go beyond the scope of a purely military alignment. Put simply, the world is more complicated now than it was in the 1950s, so if the alliance is going to maintain its edge, it will need to do so in a variety of domains. This is precisely what the new concept calls for.

G M

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Re: GPF: NATO
« Reply #610 on: July 11, 2022, 07:40:30 AM »
Is freezing to death part of the concept?


July 11, 2022
View On Website
Open as PDF

    
Back to the Future With NATO
Its new Strategic Concept emphasizes the alliance’s military chops.
By: Antonia Colibasanu

Much has been said about how the Russian war in Ukraine has changed NATO. Its membership certainly is set to grow as Sweden and Finland begin the accession process. But as important is its new Strategic Concept, published last week at a summit in Madrid, that shows what’s in store for the alliance in the coming decade. In a word, the concept is: realignment.

From Partner to Threat

The text of the Strategic Concept is public – even if the accompanying Military Strategy text, which details how member states can support the alliance’s goals, is classified. Still, what’s available suggests the next decade will focus on deterrence and defense, emphasizing NATO’s original purpose as a military organization. (That may sound self-evident, but recall NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept, which highlighted the political role the alliance could play in European affairs.) Whereas the previous concept referred to Russia as a strategic partner for Euro-Atlantic stability, the new one explicitly describes Russia as a strategic threat.

This isn’t especially surprising given the text was published at a time of war. Other documents released during the Kosovo War in 1999 and the Korean War spoke in similar terms. In fact, the latter is considered to be a turning point in NATO history because it led to increased U.S. assistance to combat the Soviet Union and the reorganization of a rapidly expanding alliance under centralized command, all of which would be mainstays for the rest of the Cold War.

Likewise, the 2022 Strategic Concept proposes a broader framework for the alliance that reestablishes its military role, while keeping its political role and taking a more global approach, integrating China and discussing security matters pertinent to the economic domain. More important, it proposes a new force model that will likely lead to the military reorganization of the alliance, just as what was proposed in 1952 did. The document discusses the establishment of the NATO Command Structure for the information age and for the ways in which NATO plans to expand its military capabilities and cooperation. The wording points to a further military enhancement while also hinting at the formation of a platform that can support global operations in military, political and economic domains.

Indeed, the new force model is at the heart of the Strategic Concept, which means to “significantly strengthen deterrence and defense for all Allies … [and] enhance our resilience against Russian coercion.” To that end, publicly available information, including the content of a speech made by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last week, suggest NATO plans to increase its presence in its east, which may involve expanding and rebranding the 40,000-strong NATO Response Force. At the same time, the new force model for NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks, which will host the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, envisions a future in which thousands more troops based in their home countries are ready to deploy if needed.

Stoltenberg also said that the NATO Response Force of some 40,000 troops will be transformed into a future force of some 300,000 troops maintained at high alert, with 44,000 kept at high readiness. Though it’s unclear how alliance members plan to reach that number, it would mean that, for the first time, all rapid reaction forces under NATO command will be committed to a deterrence and defense role, and that all these forces will be consolidated under one command framework. Based on the explanations offered publicly, the new force model wants this new force to be held at 24 hours “notice to act,” while the bulk of the NATO Force Structure will hold at 15 days “notice to move.” This is an extraordinary improvement to the current structure, where some forces have 180 days’ notice to move, essentially making the alliance more flexible and more dynamic. The new strategy will also see heavy equipment pre-positioned near NATO borders. All of this points to member states being more committed to make NATO a stronger military force again.

To achieve the size and scope of such a force will be expensive for NATO allies. Hence why Stoltenberg said the NATO defense investment pledge of 2 percent of gross domestic product per ally is now “more of a floor than a ceiling.” Several European NATO members, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have already committed to increasing their respective defense budgets accordingly. But, importantly, nearly all of Europe is dealing with high inflation and post-COVID economies, so the success of these pledges depends on economic constraints going forward.

American Leadership

To some degree, they depend on American leadership too, and it’s not clear if the U.S. shares Europe’s concerns entirely. A classified version of the U.S. National Defense Strategy was made available to Congress in late March, and it seems to give China and the Indo-Pacific region a higher priority than Russia and Europe. (This is probably why NATO’s Strategic Concept focuses on links between Russia and China, and says those links threaten European security.) The NDS offers insight into how the U.S. will regard NATO’s new force model and its future force. According to publicly available details available on the strategy, the American future force will be built on three principles: “integrated deterrence” and credible combat powers, effective campaigning in the grey zone, and “building enduring advantage” by exploiting new, emerging and disruptive technologies. And for the first time, the NDS implies a greater role for allies to help the U.S. meet its strategic goals and challenges, particularly in and around the European theatre. All of this points to the challenge of maintaining interoperability between the U.S. future force and allies' forces.

The message from Washington is clear: Europe will have to start to share the responsibility of guaranteeing European security. That means a stouter and more robust NATO. While the U.S. has called on Europe to do this on several different occasions in the past, the current wartime scenario works in the U.S.' favor as NATO allies are highly incentivized by Russian military operations to keep NATO intact and improve national defense capabilities.

Washington aside, the basis for NATO’s future is having enough forces to deter and engage in crises and to respond quickly to any crisis in and around the Euro-Atlantic area. The new Strategic Concept reaffirms NATO’s commitment to collective defense, with a 360-degree approach built on three core tasks of deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security. All of this points to the complexity of the environment that NATO is currently working in.

The Strategic Concept is a tacit recognition of the global economic war the world is engaged in, which is why it also calls on NATO to further work on developing its political role, and why it mentions the preservation of NATO’s technical edge, a digital transformation that enhances cyber and emerging and disruptive technologies, and the upholding of the rules-based order, all of which go beyond the scope of a purely military alignment. Put simply, the world is more complicated now than it was in the 1950s, so if the alliance is going to maintain its edge, it will need to do so in a variety of domains. This is precisely what the new concept calls for.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #611 on: July 11, 2022, 07:58:16 AM »
GPF is not opining or advocating.  It is describing.

G M

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #612 on: July 11, 2022, 08:01:24 AM »
GPF is not opining or advocating.  It is describing.

Ignoring that western europe is utterly fcuked without Russian energy is a pretty serious oversight when discussing anything NATO might conceive of.

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #613 on: July 11, 2022, 08:03:22 AM »
Yes, a serious oversight by NATO.

G M

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NATO fantasy
« Reply #615 on: July 11, 2022, 08:25:54 AM »

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« Last Edit: July 11, 2022, 09:33:55 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #617 on: July 11, 2022, 07:44:39 PM »
My Russian born friend born to Ukrainian Jews who is now American comments:
===================

all of these comments are predicated on the idea that Putin's plan is to invade Europe or restore the Soviet Union. What the American/Western media fails to understand is his long standing philosophy that Russia's future is not in the West, but in the East. While we have been trying to destroy Russia's economy with sanctions and suffering from inflation and astronomical gas prices, Russia made over 50 billion selling to China and India since the war began. I really wish the whole picture was available to more people.

Arming Ukraine will not end well for anyone. In addition to the brave Ukranians who are genuinely fighting for their country, there is a significant number of radicals from all over the world who flocked there for a chance to fight. Just two yeats ago, Time magazine did a documentary on the training camps of the Azov batallion and interviewed Neo-Nazis from several countries who came to fight there . One from Sweden was interviewed saying that he finally found a place with like minded people (not Ukraine itself but the training groups). He was disillusioned with his own country for promoting racial mixing. These are the people we are arming along with the Ukranians.

It is a terrible situation for the Ukranians especially, because they are simply a pawn in the war between US and Russia. But in the end, that country will be left in shambles, while Russia focuses its energy on the rest the world that does not include the United States and Western countries. He has been saying it for years. That it is a very big world and the US and Nato are a tiny portion of it. He often talks about the hubris of the westerners in thinking that the world.revolves around them. But between China and India alone, he has almost half of the world's population to trade with. He plans on working with countries that do not feel that they have a higher moral ground and who will not cut economic ties based on his decisions and actions. He says it openly. Russia does not need the West..he says it all the time. And his actions back up his words. In Russia regardless of what is said in the media here, life is going on as before. All of my friends still have jobs, they go out to restaurants and go on vacations. Aside from the economy, Putin truly believes that the western countries are on a fast track to social, political and economic decline. Having exported all of their labor force to other countries, reliant on the rest of the world for oil and energy and caught up in political disputes with one another. He also has some strong opinions on declining family values and believes that at least in Eurppe, the immigrant population will outnumber the European within 50 years due to most Europeans having only one child and later in life. The demographics will change and that will naturally change the political landscape which he beliebs will lead to civil war between the future Muslim majority in Europe and the white nationalists. As far as the US, most Russians believe that while it was once a great country, the disunity between the parties and the various other issues that plague us will also bring us down.

I think it people actually listened to his speeches in Russian and understood the nuances of the language, their opinion of his plans would be very different. I am always horrified at quotes attributed to him in American media which often distort or flat out mistraslate what he says.
This is not to say Putin is not a tyrant and a despot. He 100% is. He is cold and ruthless and calculating. And everyone in Russia knows it (and many accept it for various reasons). But the irony of it all is that while we think we are defending ourselves against him, we are actually destroying ourselves in the process. As Putin laughs in the background.

This whole situation reminds of the a scene from Hannibal, where Lector in his younger days, convinces one of his patients to cut off his own face while Lector watched.
=======================

Something like this?

https://www.businessinsider.com/germany-faces-entire-industries-collapse-russia-natural-gas-supply-cuts-2022-7?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=sf-bi-main&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR2KieeKc4a_XEGKPRGujcN1XfjOEbx3jxlnamLOVNcXWcOc1Arro89JVbU

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D1: Russian Filtration
« Reply #619 on: July 13, 2022, 02:33:16 PM »
second

July 13, 2022   
         
America's top diplomat says Russia's "forced deportations" of nearly a million Ukrainians is a war crime. Kremlin officials refer to the relocations as "filtration camps," but U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken calls it the "unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons," according to a statement on Wednesday, July 14—which is day 140 of the invasion Vladimir Putin is believed to have thought would take only two days.

Staggering scope: "Russian authorities have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russia," Blinken said, and added these Ukrainians are often sent "to isolated regions in [Russia's] Far East." (And the wider refugee outflow from Ukraine has now eclipsed 9 million people, the UN's refugee agency said Wednesday in its latest update.)

Russia's apparent purpose: conquest, as "Moscow's actions appear pre-meditated and draw immediate historical comparisons to Russian 'filtration' operations in Chechnya and other areas," Blinken said. "Putin's 'filtration' operations are separating families, confiscating Ukrainian passports, and issuing Russian passports in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine," the secretary said. 

"Accountability is imperative," Blinken insists. "This is why we are supporting Ukrainian and international authorities' efforts to collect, document, and preserve evidence of atrocities." Along with Ukraine and its allies and partners around the world, "Together, we are dedicated to holding perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities accountable," Blinken said.

, , ,

Poland's message to the world: Putin wants more than just Ukraine. "Russia will continue the war against Ukraine, and will remain a country that is aggressive towards states that it treats as its zone of influence," Polish intelligence officials announced in a statement Wednesday. After the present operational pause, "the Kremlin will presumably begin another phase of war," the spokesman for Poland's Minister-Special Services Coordinator said, and emphasized, "There's no indication that Russia's war against Ukraine is about to end. There's no sign that Russia wants to resign its objective, which is to destroy Ukraine in its present form."

"A strategic objective of the Kremlin is to destroy or completely humiliate the [NATO] alliance," Warsaw says—echoing one of several points recently articulated by historian Anne Applebaum. "The aim of Russia's operations is still to blur the Kremlin's responsibility for the attack against Ukraine, to distort the perception of war, to cover up Russian crimes and losses, as well as to destabilize western countries that are engaged in helping Ukraine." That includes lifting sanctions on Moscow, and stopping military assistance to Kyiv.

The way forward, according to the nation both Hitler and the Soviets invaded in 1939, is to stay united as an alliance, and to continue arming and helping Ukraine at every available opportunity. "Only with maintaining unity and common assessment of threats coming from the east, will we be able to stop Russian aggression," the spokesman said, calling Russia's Ukraine invasion "only a transit stop" for Putin and officials in the Kremlin. More to that message, here.

The British military largely concurs, and says in its latest Ukraine update that, "Russia continues to seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and consolidate its own governance and administrative control over occupied parts of Ukraine. Recently this has included an initiative to twin Russian and Ukrainian cities and regions to develop post-conflict administrations and a decree to make it easier for Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship," which we flagged in Monday's newsletter.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 04:51:53 PM by Crafty_Dog »


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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #625 on: July 26, 2022, 04:17:36 AM »
Dont worry about the US military going woke, check out this supposed NATO meeting.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1551824119842357248

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GPF: George Friedman: Flanking
« Reply #626 on: July 29, 2022, 02:21:23 PM »
The Flank of War
Thoughts in and around geopolitics.
By: George Friedman
The arena for the Russian-Ukrainian war is obviously Ukraine. But as in most wars, the main arena does not define the war as a whole. This war did not start with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has been underway for years as low-level pressure. It started intensifying in 2020.

As we have argued, Russia’s main goal is to create geographic buffers protecting its core from attack, particularly along historical lines of invasion. It is not always necessary to achieve political ends – and all wars have political ends through the direct use of force. Political ends can also be achieved economically, through covert action or threats. There is a basic principle of war: to attack an enemy on the flanks. Main force is usually concentrated on the center of the lines. The rear is difficult to reach. But the enemy’s flanks are likely vulnerable points where an attack, if successful, can break the opposing force.

The flanks are not only tactically significant. They can be strategically critical, protecting the nation itself by eliminating a line of attack; for the attacker, they create a line of attack, forcing the dispersal of defending forces and creating openings. For Russia, the first flanking attack occurred following a disputed election and protests in mid-2020 in Belarus, along the northern border of Ukraine, with its westward border blocking the North European Plain. It therefore meant that any attack from Poland, for example, would be blocked from Russia by force in Belarus, diverting the attack across Ukraine. It should be emphasized that a prudent strategist deploys forces based not on an appreciation of enemy intentions at the moment but rather based on possible actions. And for Russia, an attack by or from Poland was seen as possible, and closing that line of attack imperative. The solution was a soft intervention to help quell anti-government protests. The Russians cemented President Alexander Lukashenko in place and gained the opportunity to attack Ukraine’s northern flank.

The second area where the Russians sought to protect their flanks was in the South Caucasus. The South Caucasus was a line of attack used by Turkey through the centuries. Russia locked the area down by securing a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in Russian peacekeepers deployed to the region, securing it from immediate threats.

The United States is now countering Russia’s southern flank defense. The Russian move was based on ending the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict and becoming the arbiter between them. With Russia preoccupied with Ukraine, this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited both Armenia and Azerbaijan, offering to mediate existing problems between them and obviously discussing energy in Azerbaijan. Georgia is already hostile toward Russia and relatively close to the United States. The U.S. is clearly seeking to create a solid, pro-American bloc in the South Caucasus and to force the Russians to be concerned about the North Caucasus and possibly divert forces there. Since this was a pathway of invasion at one time, and since the United States has the potential to act on it, Russia cannot ignore its southern flank.

At the same time, Russia is trying to build a flank to Ukraine’s southwest in Moldova. Moldova is an independent, Romanian-speaking country. Its politics are complex and unpredictable. Russia has sought to create a pro-Russian Moldova for quite a while, but in general it has failed to shift Moldova’s alignment. Now, the Russians are pressing harder, seeing a possible flanking maneuver in which they could threaten Ukraine from the south, in an area where conquest would mean the cutting of Ukrainian supply lines. The trick is to elect a pro-Russian government, perhaps offering Moldova a piece of Ukraine that would reduce Moldova’s vulnerability and dependence on Romania as an incentive. This would create a threat to Ukraine that would be difficult to tolerate. Romania, a U.S. ally, has tried to manage Moldova since the fall of the Soviet Union in an environment in which there was no significant war underway. Now, Russia has an overriding reason to try to prevail, and the U.S. has an overwhelming reason to block it. This flanking maneuver is sufficiently significant for a major Russian effort, while diverting Ukraine and the United States from more immediate demands on resources, simply in order to maintain the status quo.

The Ukraine war began with an attempt by Russia to ally with China and divert American attention from Europe. The attempt to force the U.S. into an Asian flank failed. One of the interesting things about flanking maneuvers in international affairs is that large-scale ententes tend to fail because the scale of powers is so large that it is filled with complexity. Flanking is a maneuver that requires agility. A major power can try to maneuver; a lesser power can at best ally with a major power, but it can rarely maneuver it into a desired position.

There are, of course, many other attempts being made to recruit nations by both sides of the war. But the flanking maneuver is different. First, it is a geographical position that is sought, so that countries in this discussion are all on or near the Ukrainian border. They pose a threat of military action that might affect the military reality inside Ukraine. The very threat posed by the flanking maneuver – the possibility of an attack – may force one of the combatants to redeploy forces needed for combat into a static position, weakening the force as a whole. Normal alliances can strengthen one side or another materially, but unless they’re contiguous they cannot directly threaten the other side. Getting Iran or New Zealand to declare their support might be satisfying and perhaps mean acquiring some equipment, but it would not shift anything.

The war appears to be static right now, although that can change at any moment. And when wars become static, changing the shape of the playing field becomes important. Right now both the Americans and the Russians are engaged in flanking maneuvers that could change the shape of the battlefield and put one side at a disadvantage. The longer the war lasts, the more the battle for the flanks will matter.

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VDH: Verdun
« Reply #627 on: July 29, 2022, 09:33:44 PM »
The Ukrainian Verdun
Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson
 July 28, 2022 Updated: July 28, 2022biggersmaller Print


Five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the war is now reduced to one of attrition. The current dirty, grinding slog is fought mostly with artillery and rockets. Everything from Ukraine’s shopping centers to apartment buildings—and the civilians in them—are Russian targets.

Most outsiders have already forgotten the heroic Ukrainian winter repulse of the botched Russian shock-and-awe effort to sweep into Kyiv, decapitate the government, and declare the eastern half of the country a Russian protectorate within mere days.

Months later, the long war devolves further into a contest of mass and weight—tons of explosives blowing up pathways for massed troops grabbing a few more charred miles of ruined landscape.

Russian President Vladimir Putin bets he can throw in more men and more shells than Ukraine and its Western suppliers can match. He is quite willing to “win” by laying waste to eastern Ukraine even if it means losing three Russian soldiers for every Ukrainian.

When war becomes such gridlocked carnage, each side looks to new game-changing diplomacy, strategies, allies, or weapons to break the deadlock.

For Putin, such escalation means more flesh, steel, and explosives. His country is 28 times bigger than Ukraine, and over three times more populous, with an economy 15 times larger.

As for Putin’s financial reserves, the Western oil boycott means increasingly little to him when 40 percent of the planet’s population in India and China are eager to secure near-limitless Russian energy.

Another 750 million people in Europe once talked tough. But as a second winter nears, their gas and oil imports from Russia will further wither. Then their Churchillian rhetoric may chill.

So, the Ukrainian war increasingly will depend on endless U.S. aid and escalation.

To stop the Russian steamroller, Ukraine demands sophisticated American missiles to sink Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Kyiv requests shipments of U.S. jet fighters to knock down Putin’s missiles and planes.

It asks for more rockets and artillery to ensure tit-for-tat retaliation for every incoming Russian shell and bomb. Kyiv negotiates for more Western intelligence to take out more Russian generals and more lift capacity to stage airborne raids into Mother Russia itself.

We in the West abhor Putin’s war as senseless carnage, the last mad act of a vainglorious and delusional dictator.

Yet Putin trusts that future Russian generations will come to appreciate his grinding effort as the brutal restoration work of Vladimir the Great. When the wreckage is forgotten, Putin is convinced he will be viewed as the world’s most successful irredentist—one who had already battered Georgia, Ossetia, Chechnya, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine back into the reborn Russian empire.

If Putin can smash Ukraine into submission, the former jewel in the Russian imperial crown, then he thinks he can eventually swallow all the remaining former Soviet republics that are far less formidable than Ukraine.

The United States is nearing a gut-check decision. There are plenty of dangerous firsts in radically upping our role with Ukraine. No one quite knows the post-Cold War rules of engagement when one nuclear power openly fights the surrogate of another.

In the old days of the Soviet Union and a backward Maoist China, conventional American triangulation ensured that neither nuclear power grew closer to each other than to us.

After Ukraine, both nuclear powers are de facto allies, ganging up on a common American enemy. As global inflation spikes, recession looms, and oil prices soar, some of our sworn and de facto allies, including India and Turkey, prefer Russian oil to Western sermons.

The heroic Ukrainian resistance may have brought European NATO states and the United States closer. But oddly, Ukraine’s supporters seemed to have soured the rest of the world on Western economic boycotts and sanctions—and the torpid leadership of President Joe Biden and his European counterparts.

In the West, there are dissident rumblings of a possible plebiscite to adjudicate the Russian-speaking Ukrainian borderlands—with possible guarantees of an Austria-like, non-NATO neutrality for Ukraine.

But such compromise talk earns charges of appeasement from Western zealots. Apparently, American moralists intend to fight for the principle of the sanctity of national borders to the last Ukrainian.

Vastly upping aid to Ukraine has become the cause célèbre of the West. But few have fully explained the ensuing costs and dangers of escalation to the American people. The United States appears to be heading into a stagflationary recession following the loss of deterrence from the Afghanistan catastrophe and with restive renegades like Iran and North Korea joining the Beijing-Moscow nuclear axis.

For now, no one knows whether greater American escalation would tip the balance for an allied democratic victory, and a repeat of our savior role in the two World Wars. Or will the proxy war suck the United States into a Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan-like quagmire?

Worse: Will our intervention trump even the brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis—with the nuclear standoff nightmarishly unpredictable?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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Note who the author is!
« Reply #632 on: August 12, 2022, 04:24:34 AM »
Certainly not a fan of Vindman, but this piece gives interesting insight into the mindset, and continues details of background history of which I was unaware/had forgotten.
============================

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/stop-tiptoeing-around-russia?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=twofa&utm_campaign=China%E2%80%99s%20New%20Vassal&utm_content=20220812&utm_term=FA%20This%20Week%20-%20112017

Stop Tiptoeing Around Russia
It Is Time to End Washington’s Decades of Deference to Moscow
By Alexander Vindman
August 8, 2022

For the last three decades, the United States has bent over backward to acknowledge Russia’s security concerns and allay its anxieties. The United States has done so at the expense of relations with more willing partners in Eastern Europe—Ukraine in particular. Instead of supporting the early stirrings of Ukrainian independence in 1991, for example, Washington sought to preserve the failing Soviet Union out of misplaced fear that it might collapse into civil war. And instead of imposing heavy costs on Russia for its authoritarianism at home and antidemocratic activities abroad, including in Ukraine, Washington has mostly looked the other way in a fruitless effort to deal cooperatively with Moscow.

The justification for this Russia-centric approach to Eastern Europe has fluctuated between hopes for a good relationship with the Kremlin and fears that the bilateral relationship could devolve into another cold war—or worse, a hot one. But the result has been U.S. national security priorities based on unrealistic aspirations instead of actual outcomes, particularly during moments of crisis. Even as evidence mounted that Russia’s belligerent behavior would not allow for a stable or predictable relationship, U.S. policy stayed the course, to the detriment of both U.S. national security interests and the security of Russia’s neighbors.

One would think that Russia’s war in Ukraine would have demanded a shift in U.S. strategic thinking. Instead, whether out of habit, reflex, or even prejudice (thinking of Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” or of Ukrainians as “little Russians”), the primary decision makers in charge of U.S. foreign policy still privilege Russia over Ukraine.

The war has now reached an inflection point. The United States must decide whether it will help Ukraine approach the negotiating table with as much leverage as it can or watch Russia reorganize and resupply its troops, adapt its tactics, and commit to a long-term war of attrition. If Ukrainian democracy is going to prevail, U.S. foreign policymakers must finally prioritize dealing with Ukraine as it is rather than Russia as they would like it to be.

“THE UNGROUP” AND ITS LEGACY

Prioritizing Ukraine will require breaking the long-standing tradition of Russocentrism in trilateral U.S.-Ukrainian-Russian relations. In its contemporary form, that tradition dates back to 1989, when senior members of U.S. President George H. W. Bush’s administration set up a secret group of interagency staff members to plan for the possible dissolution of the Soviet Union. On July 18 of that year, Robert Gates, who was then deputy U.S. national security adviser, sent a memo to Bush titled “Thinking About the Unthinkable: Instability and Political Turbulence in the USSR.” As Gates recalled in his 2007 memoir, From the Shadows, he argued that the United States “should very quietly begin some contingency planning as to possible U.S. responses, actions and policies in the event of leadership or internal policy changes or widespread ethnic violence and repression—and consider the implications for us of such developments.”

Soon thereafter, Gates tasked Condoleezza Rice, then the senior director for Soviet and East European affairs on the National Security Council, with assembling an “ungroup” that would take on this “unthinkable” task. (At the time, official U.S. policy still focused on preserving the Soviet Union and supporting reform efforts, so the ungroup’s name reflected both its seemingly impossible mandate and its Top Secret status.) The team Rice pulled together included trusted officials from the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Among them were Dennis Ross, then the director of policy planning at the State Department; Fritz Ermarth, the chair of the National Intelligence Council; Robert Blackwill, the national intelligence officer for the Soviet Union; Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense for policy; and Eric Edelman, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for Soviet and East European affairs.

Working in secrecy, these officials considered possible scenarios for Soviet collapse and potential U.S. responses. Written evidence of the group’s deliberations—or even its existence—is sparse. (I have mainly relied here on memoirs by people who served as high-level officials in the George H. W. Bush administration, some of which contain details of the ungroup without explicitly naming it, and on interviews with five former officials who were either participants in the group or had direct knowledge of its work.) But the conclusions the ungroup reached are clearly imprinted not just on U.S. foreign policy in the last years of the Soviet Union but also on U.S. priorities in the newly independent Soviet republics. The three greatest threats the United States would face in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the ungroup predicted, would be the proliferation of new nuclear weapons states; “loose nukes,” or the loss, theft, or sale of weapons-grade fissile material, especially to nonstate actors or countries with clandestine nuclear weapons programs; and conflicting loyalties in the Soviet military that might lead to civil war in the newly independent republics or in Russia itself.


U.S. policymakers must deal with Ukraine as it is rather than Russia as they would like it to be.

When the unthinkable became inevitable and the Soviet Union began to crumble, mitigating these threats became the overarching goal of U.S. policy toward the former Soviet bloc. The United States pursued denuclearization in the former Soviet republics and partnership with an ideally strong, centralized Russian government in Moscow. If both goals could be accomplished, so the thinking went, then widespread ethnonationalist conflicts could be averted and command and control of the former Soviet arsenal could be maintained in a stable, whole Russia, thereby reducing the risks of a nuclear catastrophe.

The ungroup didn’t oppose the independence of the Soviet republics, but its fear of worst-case scenarios contributed to missteps and missed opportunities. For instance, it is hard not to hear echoes of the ungroup’s warnings in Bush’s infamous “Chicken Kyiv” speech in the Ukrainian capital on August 1, 1991. Mere weeks before Ukraine’s parliament adopted an act declaring the country’s independence, Bush declined to support the country’s right to self-determination, warning instead of “suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.” In line with the ungroup’s thinking, he privileged a carefully managed Soviet decline over the wishes of Ukrainians, who would go on to overwhelming vote for independence in a referendum at the end of the year.

Bush’s words provoked a visceral response from Ukrainians. For the Ukrainians who still remember the speech, or at least know of it, Bush’s explicit preference for the Soviet Union’s survival and his willingness to openly reject Ukrainian aspirations for statehood and independence were symbolic failures and practical indicators of where Ukraine fell in the hierarchy of U.S. relationships. One might argue that it was reasonable for the Bush administration to prioritize its relationship with the Soviet Union, which was, by any measure, a greater power than any of its potential successor states. It had enormous energy resources, a colossal military-industrial complex, and the ability to create massive headaches for Washington. But managing Soviet and later Russian threats did not have to come at the expense of engagement with the republics. Washington could have pursued both objectives at the same time, adapting to the Soviet Union’s decline while also hedging against future Russian irredentism by supporting self-determination in the emerging post-Soviet states.


Bush’s speech in Kyiv was an ignominious start to the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship.

Instead, Bush’s speech in Kyiv was an ignominious start to the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship that could have easily been avoided. Bush could have stuck to platitudes about the promotion of peace, democracy, and self-determination and omitted the patronizing warning about civil conflict. After all, the United States had little influence over Ukraine’s decision to seek independence or the Soviet Union’s longevity. In the end, neither outcome conformed to U.S. policy preferences.

The Bush administration wasn’t fully united behind this overly cautious approach toward the collapsing Soviet Union; there were dissenters, both inside and outside the ungroup. For instance, as Michael McFaul and James Goldgeier note in Power and Purpose, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney advocated policies that would prevent the reemergence of a Soviet or post-Soviet threat in Eurasia. He thought the United States should seize the opportunity to undermine a great power rival and extend democracy and Western security institutions farther east.

Cheney’s arguments stopped short of predicting a Russian resurgence—something that was difficult to conceive of against the backdrop of immense economic, social, and political problems in Russia—but they foreshadowed key developments in U.S. foreign policy during the post-Soviet years. One episode from Gates’s memoir stands out: On September 5, 1991, a month after Bush’s Chicken Kyiv blunder, Cheney clashed with Secretary of State James Baker over the effects of the Soviet Union’s impending collapse. According to Gates, Cheney argued that the breakup was “in our interest,” adding that “if it is voluntary, some sort of association of the republics will happen. If democracy fails, we’re better off if the remaining pieces of the USSR are small.” Baker’s response was indicative of the more dominant strain of thinking within the ungroup: “Peaceful breakup is in our interest, not another Yugoslavia.”

According to the former officials I interviewed, those more in line with Cheney’s thinking, including Wolfowitz and Edelman, came to view post-Soviet European security as a zero-sum game with an enfeebled but still dangerous geopolitical rival in Moscow. They also saw a newly independent, vulnerable Ukraine in need of assistance and recognized that, if strengthened, it could serve as a bulwark against Russian revanchism. But these were minority views. Most influential players in the national security establishment agreed with Baker that U.S.-Russian relations had to form the bedrock of any post–Cold War security structure. They believed that if they could get Russia right, the country would become a bastion of stability in the region and even contribute to positive outcomes in Ukraine and elsewhere.

BLINDED BY THE MIGHT

This fixation on dealing with Moscow has proved remarkably durable. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all built their regional policies around their hopes and fears for Russia—hopes for a cooperative relationship and fears of another cold war. Now, President Joe Biden’s administration has come full circle with a risk assessment of Russia’s war in Ukraine that could have been drawn up by the ungroup, one that is more focused on the internal Russian consequences of the conflict than on the consequences for Ukraine itself. The Soviet Union is long gone, but concerns about instability, Russia’s nuclear arsenal, regional conflict, and bilateral confrontation remain. To avoid provoking Moscow, the United States has implicitly acknowledged Russia’s influence in an imagined post-Soviet geopolitical space in Ukraine. It has also often filtered its decisions about Ukraine policy through the prism of Russia, balancing its objectives in Ukraine against its need for Russia’s cooperation on arms control, North Korean and Iranian nuclear proliferation, climate change, the Arctic, and space programs, among other things.

By comparison, the United States has been largely ambivalent toward Ukraine. It has engaged with the country when the two countries’ interests and values aligned. For instance, during the Clinton era, the United States made a clear push for democratization and denuclearization. But once denuclearization was attained and democratization had stagnated under Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the impetus for bilateral engagement declined. During Clinton’s second term and during the Bush and Obama administrations, the United States shifted away from Kyiv and toward collaboration with Moscow.


Misguided hope for a strategic partnership with a reformed Russia—or at the very least, a stable and predictable relationship with Moscow—seemed to outweigh much more achievable U.S. interests and investments in Ukraine in these years. The United States bought into the myth of Russian exceptionalism and deluded itself with distorted visions of the bilateral relationship, largely ignoring the signs of authoritarian consolidation within Russia and failing to heed the warnings from partners in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. Even worse, because of its desire to accommodate Russia, the United States dismissed democratic progress in Ukraine—for instance, in the aftermath of pro-democratic movements in 2004–5 and 2013–14—and undermined prospects for a more fruitful long-term relationship with Kyiv. U.S. policymakers justified this approach on the grounds that drawing Russia in as a responsible member of the international community would enable democratization in the region. Later, when Russia’s lurch toward authoritarianism became undeniable, they justified it on the basis of stability, succumbing to fears of a return to Cold War–era tensions.

The United States was not necessarily wrong to pursue a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia. Where it erred was in continuing to pursue this objective long after there was no realistic chance of success, which should have been obvious by 2004, when Russia interfered in Ukraine’s elections on behalf of its preferred candidate, or at the very latest by 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia. Instead of looking for more cooperative partners, however, U.S. policymakers continued their futile courtship of Kremlin leadership. As a result, they passed up opportunities to invest in the U.S. relationship with Ukraine, which was always a more promising engine of democratization in the region.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

For most of the last 30 years, Kyiv has been a more willing U.S. partner than Moscow. But Washington chose not to see this. Had it been more receptive to Ukrainian overtures and sensitive to Ukrainian concerns, the United States might have offered something more than vague “security assurances” in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which accompanied Ukraine’s fateful decision to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Instead, the agreement—signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States—required only consultations and a commitment to seek UN Security Council action in the event of violations (an obvious flaw, considering Russia’s veto power in that institution).

Other early attempts at bilateral cooperation came only at Ukraine’s insistence. In 1996, for instance, Kuchma requested the establishment of a special binational commission, named for him and U.S. Vice President Al Gore, to increase cooperation on trade, economic development, and security issues, among other things, as part of a closer strategic partnership. Although the Gore-Kuchma Commission was modeled after a similar U.S.-Russian commission, the dialogue it spawned never produced a real strategic partnership. Engagement with Russia was a major U.S. priority; engagement with Kyiv was an afterthought. After all, outcomes in Ukraine were still viewed as dependent upon outcomes in Russia.

The 2004–5 Orange Revolution offered another opportunity for cooperation. After thousands of Ukrainian demonstrators took to the streets to protest a fraudulent presidential runoff election, paving the way for a free and fair vote two months later, the United States could have provided greater financial and technical assistance to Ukrainian reform efforts and nurtured Ukrainian ambitions for European and transatlantic integration. A stronger partnership might have prevented the political infighting and failed reforms that eventually fueled popular disappointment with the pro-European government of President Viktor Yushchenko.


For most of the last 30 years, Kyiv has been a more willing U.S. partner than Moscow.
Instead, the United States opted for a policy no man’s land. At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration pushed for the alliance to welcome Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO. But the United States and other NATO members declined to spell out what Ukraine would need to do to accede, and they refused to draw up a membership action plan. The resulting declaration produced the worst possible balance of provocation and assurance, giving Russia a new grievance to exploit but making Ukraine no more secure.

These failures had painful consequences for Ukraine. If Yushchenko’s reforms had generally succeeded, Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian candidate who was defeated after the Orange Revolution, might not have won the 2010 presidential election. Without a Yanukovych presidency, the Ukrainian government and armed forces might not have atrophied, and a rapacious kleptocracy might not have taken hold. The 2013–14 Revolution of Dignity, also known as the Euromaidan Revolution, might not have become necessary and Ukraine might not have become vulnerable to Russian aggression and Western ambivalence. The costs of Russia’s 2014 incursion into eastern Ukraine would have been significantly higher if the Ukrainian government and military had been intact and developing. Moreover, Russia would have had to contend with a stronger Western reaction and international opprobrium had the United States and the other signatories of the Budapest Memorandum demonstrated a stronger long-term commitment to Ukrainian democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

Even if none of this had happened, the West could have responded more forcefully to Russia’s 2014 invasion. A tougher reaction might have deterred further Russian aggression or at least better prepared Ukraine for a larger conflict. The United States and its allies helped modernize Ukraine’s military, but because they did not want to provoke Moscow, they declined to impose stiff-enough sanctions on Russia or provide heavy equipment or extensive training to Ukrainian troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated anyway. Now, the West is scrambling to make up for lost time.

The United States doesn’t deserve all the blame for these missed opportunities. Rampant corruption, political infighting, and abysmal leadership hamstrung Ukraine’s efforts at reform and development for years before the Orange Revolution. And it wasn’t until the 2013–14 revolution that Ukraine truly pivoted toward reform, transparency, democracy, and European integration. But even in the moments when Ukraine was a willing and able partner, the United States was reluctant to cooperate or upgrade U.S.-Ukrainian relations. Apprehension about the political response from Moscow always precluded a closer relationship with Kyiv.


The United States opted for a policy no man’s land toward Ukraine.

This historical failure has become more evident as former U.S. government officials have been forced to defend their records on U.S. policy toward Ukraine. There are very few who can honestly say they did all they could in the eight years since Russia’s first invasion to aid Ukraine’s reform efforts, hasten the country’s integration with Europe, harden its defenses, and bolster deterrence. Whether that is because of willful ignorance or an institutional predilection for coddling Russia, there is no excuse for neglecting Ukraine.

Part of the problem may be a decades-long hangover from the Cold War during which the expertise, education, and training of Eurasia specialists in the national security establishment have atrophied. Moreover, virtually all the experts who have worked for the U.S. government over the last 30 years were trained Sovietologists, not Ukrainianists. As a result, they were ill prepared to recognize and understand Ukraine as a fully distinct cultural, ethnolinguistic, historical, and political entity. Rather, these Sovietologists, and the Russianists and Kremlinologists who filled their shoes, saw Russia’s “near abroad” as always having been in Moscow’s orbit. The physical borders of a newly independent Ukraine might have been clearly demarcated, but the mental boundaries of Ukraine’s geopolitics were still fettered to the imperial center in Moscow.

To make matters worse, area studies also declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to a dearth of funding for the languages and specialized knowledge needed to develop regional expertise. Those Soviet studies programs that survived were rebranded as Russian and Eastern European studies, Russian and Eurasian studies, or some other variant of this formulation, suggesting an equally privileged position for Russia relative to the rest of Eurasia.

With a few exceptions (most notably, Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute), most U.S. universities train their students in the Russian language, with a focus on Russian history, culture, and literature. Although the Slavic academic community has begun to reevaluate Russocentric approaches to the study of Eurasia, this shift has not yet been felt within the U.S. government. Russian and Eastern European expertise—or what little of it exists in government—has been treated as a proxy for knowledge of Ukraine. In the time I spent on the National Security Council, from 2018 to 2020, the results of this cumulative bias in national security education became obvious. Very few officials had specialized knowledge of the region, let alone of Ukraine, and among those, even fewer had Ukrainian language skills.

UNGROUP THINK ENDURES

The bias against Ukraine and toward Russia continues to this day. The Biden administration seems unable to accept that as long as Putin is in power, the best the United States can hope for is a cold war with Russia. In the meantime, Washington should be making every effort to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from turning into a long war of attrition that will only increase the risks of regional spillover as time passes. That means supporting Ukraine in full and giving it the equipment it needs to force Russia to sue for peace, not quivering in fear every time Putin or one of his mouthpieces says something about Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. The United States is a superpower. Russia is not. The Biden administration should act as if it knows the difference and deploy its vast resources so that Ukrainians can dictate the outcome in Ukraine.

But old habits die hard. According to two former senior U.S. officials who worked on Ukraine policy, including one who served in the Biden administration, the senior leadership of the National Security Council has acted as a spiritual successor to the ungroup. NSC officials have sought to limit military support for Ukraine based on a familiar logic—that it might escalate tensions with Moscow and upset remaining hopes of normalizing relations with the Kremlin. Even as Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have pledged to give Ukraine all the support it needs to win the war, NSC officials blocked the transfer of Soviet-era jets to Ukraine, declined to provide Ukraine with sufficient long-range air defenses to clear the skies of Russian planes, withheld the quantities of long-range rocket systems and munitions needed to destroy Russian targets within the theater of war, and halted discussion on the transfer of manned and unmanned aircraft required to neutralize Russian long-range attacks on Ukraine’s cities.

According to former officials, the NSC leadership believes that the war will pose significantly greater risks to the United States and global stability if Ukraine “wins too much.” They wish to avoid the collapse of Putin’s regime for fear of the same threats the ungroup identified three decades ago: nuclear proliferation, loose nukes, and civil war. And they have sought to reduce the likelihood of a bilateral confrontation between the United States and Russia, even at the risk of greatly overstating the probability of conventional and nuclear war. “While a key goal of the United States is to do the needful to support and defend Ukraine, another key goal is to ensure that we do not end up in a circumstance where we’re heading down the road towards a third world war,” said Jake Sullivan, who heads the NSC as Biden’s national security adviser, at the Aspen Security Forum last month. In this excessive concern over how Russia might react to U.S. policies, one can see the shadow of the ungroup.


The senior leadership of the NSC has acted as a spiritual successor to the ungroup.

Planning for every contingency is a responsible way to manage national security threats, but lowest-probability worst-case scenarios should not dictate U.S. actions. By looking for off-ramps and face-saving measures, the ungroup’s successors are perpetuating indecision at the highest levels of the Biden administration. Time that is wasted worrying about unlikely Russian responses to U.S. actions would be better spent backfilling allies’ weaponry, training Ukrainians on Western capabilities, and expediting more arms transfers to Ukraine.

The United States is slowly coming around to providing some of the right capabilities, but not in the necessary quantities and not before U.S. torpor degraded Ukraine’s ability to hold and reclaim territory in southern Ukraine and the Donbas. After months of deliberation, the Biden administration finally agreed to transfer high-mobility artillery rocket systems known as HIMARS, but it has refused to provide the longest range munitions needed to hit Russia’s long-range strike capabilities and military stockpiles. It remains unclear whether the administration will eventually send the munitions that can travel 190 miles, a significant improvement over the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions it is currently providing, which can travel only about 45 miles. The United States has also shied away from providing Ukraine with medium- and long-range surface-to-air missiles that could target Russian aircraft, missiles, and in the worst-case scenario, delivery systems for any possible tactical nuclear weapons. Ukraine could force Russia to the negotiating table faster if it had such capabilities. And providing sufficient weapons wouldn’t significantly undermine resourcing worst-case-scenario war plans against Russia. The U.S. government can do both.

The Biden administration has rightfully, if belatedly, begun to speak about a policy of Ukrainian victory on the battlefield, but it still has yet to match this rhetoric with the requisite military support. Thus far, the Biden administration has transferred a modest $8 billion in weapons to Ukraine. Additional security assistance has been blocked or delayed by the NSC or bogged down in the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense. Congress has passed a Lend-Lease Act for Ukraine, reviving a World War II–era program that gives the president enhanced authority to lend or lease large quantities of defense hardware to Ukraine. The Biden administration should be making greater use of this authority. It should also be leading the effort to establish logistical and sustainment centers within Ukraine, not hundreds of kilometers away in Poland and Romania but as close as possible to the eastern and southern battlefields. If Ukraine wins this war, it will be thanks not just to weapons and will but to staying power.


The United States should also do more to resolve the issue of grain exports. Russia’s blockade of Ukraine has disrupted global food-supply chains and prompted a growing list of countries to impose grain export bans. This problem will only intensify as Russian forces continue targeting grain storage facilities and transport networks and loot Ukrainian harvests in occupied territories. Providing escorts for Ukrainian merchant vessels and opening a humanitarian shipping corridor is one potential solution, albeit a risky one. More likely, grain shipments will continue to be transported slowly and inefficiently by rail, barge, and truck to countries such as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria. Ukraine uses a wider rail gauge than its EU neighbors, and while rail capacity is up, the current speed and volume of rail transports is insufficient to remove the existing export backlog.

Transportation costs as well as the availability of trucks, barges, and suitable rail cars is another problem. The European Union has rolled out a plan for “solidarity lanes”—alternative logistics routes for Ukrainian agricultural exports through the EU to third countries—but this ad hoc emergency response is emblematic of the West’s failure to plan for long-term contingencies. In the two months since these lanes have been established, they have failed to clear shipping bottlenecks and left agricultural produce stranded short of its destination. On July 22, Russia agreed to allow grain exports to proceed. But just one day later, Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s largest seaport and cast the deal into doubt. Depending on when one starts counting—the 2014 seizure of Crimea or the February invasion—the United States and the EU have had either five months or eight years to plan for major export disruptions of this sort, so it is disappointing that they have had to scramble to piece together a patchwork solution to a predictable problem.

Again, however, this lack of preparation is more understandable when viewed through the West’s Russocentric lens. Planning for major disruptions in agricultural exports made little sense as long as a wider war was inconceivable. And even in the event of a war, the overriding Western assumption was that Russia could conquer Ukraine or force Kyiv to capitulate in short order; business would find a way to continue with only minimal disruption. The same faulty logic explains how Europe allowed itself to become dependent on Russian oil and gas—and how it has struggled to wean itself off these resources even after the danger they pose has been revealed. The United States and the EU must learn from these failures and interrogate the assumptions that blind them to potential threats, no matter how far-fetched those threats may seem in peacetime.

A FOOTHOLD FOR DEMOCRACY

The Biden administration has made democratic renewal a cornerstone of its domestic and foreign policy agendas. There is no better way to demonstrate democratic resolve than by defending U.S. values and interests in Ukraine. A Ukrainian victory would not only limit Russia’s capacity for future military aggression but also cement democracy’s foothold in Eastern Europe, offering a powerful lesson to would-be authoritarian aggressors and democratic nations alike. A Ukrainian loss, by contrast, would signal an acceleration of the wave of authoritarianism and democratic decline that has washed over the globe in the last decade.

To ensure the triumph of democracy in Ukraine, the United States must first change its thinking patterns and learn from decades of mistakes. Recognizing the poisonous Russocentrism of U.S. foreign policy is the first step toward a better approach to U.S.-Ukrainian relations. As Russia’s war effort falters and the prospect of a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia begins to look unthinkable once again, it will be tempting to revert to old ways of thinking and plan for normalized relations with a post-Putin Russia. But such an outcome would once again risk privileging Russia over Ukraine. Even if Putin is deposed or replaced through some other means, the United States should not assume Russia can change for the better; rapprochement must be earned, not given. By freeing itself from its Russocentrism, Washington will also be better able to engage with and listen to its partners in Eastern and northern Europe, which have greater proximity to and more clarity on national security threats from Russia. Their knowledge and expertise will be critical to Ukraine’s victory over Russia, future Ukrainian reconstruction, the prosecution of war crimes, prosperity in Eastern Europe, and eventually, the establishment of thriving democracies across Eurasia.

Beneath the United States’ misplaced aspirations for a positive relationship with Russia lies immense hubris. Americans tend to believe they can accomplish anything, but perpetually discount the agency of their interlocutors. In truth, the United States never had the influence to unilaterally change Russia’s internal politics. But it did have the ability to nurture a more promising outcome with a more willing partner in Ukraine. Unless the United States fundamentally reorients its foreign policy, away from aspirations and toward outcomes, it will miss an even bigger opportunity to bring about a peaceful, democratic Eastern Europe.

« Last Edit: August 12, 2022, 04:38:52 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Energy from Norway looking less reliable
« Reply #633 on: August 12, 2022, 02:18:40 PM »
August 12, 2022
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Norway Adds to Europe's Energy Crunch
Europe's backup power providers are looking less reliable than it hoped.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Norway's Depleted Reservoirs Add to the European Energy Crunch
(click to enlarge)

Norway is one of Europe’s most important alternatives to Russian energy supplies. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU countries sharply increased electricity and natural gas imports from the Nordic country. But despite its sizable reserves and electricity generation, Norway is proving not to be as stable as hoped. Facing low water levels for hydropower plants and fearing domestic power shortages, Oslo is considering reducing electricity supplies to Europe, which could lead to electricity rationing and higher prices in Europe this winter.

This would push up costs in Europe at a time when inflation is already elevated. However, if Norway can increase its electricity production by building gas-fired power plants, then the question will be whether Norwegian gas can substantially replace Russian gas in the European market. One way or another, a difficult winter lies ahead for Europe

ya

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Russia-China axis is competitive
« Reply #634 on: August 14, 2022, 08:12:23 PM »
« Last Edit: August 15, 2022, 03:38:16 AM by Crafty_Dog »


ccp

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Kissinger: Ukraine de facto Nato member
« Reply #636 on: August 16, 2022, 05:37:21 AM »
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/kissinger-says-u-s-is-aimlessly-heading-toward-edge-of-war-against-russia-and-china-11660552482

I find it remarkable that Henry is still so lucid and logical (agree with him or not) at 99!


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Another Balkan War-2
« Reply #637 on: August 16, 2022, 12:41:25 PM »
The Risk of Another Balkans War, Part 2: Russian and Chinese Influence
undefined and Director of Analysis at RANE
Sam Lichtenstein
Director of Analysis at RANE, Stratfor
9 MIN READAug 16, 2022 | 16:50 GMT





Demonstrators in Belgrade, Serbia, hold up Serbian flags and a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 24, 2022, during a rally in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Demonstrators in Belgrade, Serbia, hold up a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin and wave Serbian and Russian flags on March 24, 2022, during a rally in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

(VLADIMIR ZIVOJINOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This column is the second of a two-part series that assesses the risk of another war breaking out in the Balkans amid renewed concerns over ethnic tensions, political unrest and competing external influence in the region.

In the first part of this series, we examined the local drivers and constraints on the potential for renewed conflict in the Balkans. However, the actions of external actors — namely Russia and China — are also key to evaluating regional stability.

Russia's Historical Influence
Russia has historically seen the Balkans as falling within its sphere of influence. This has contributed to some of the corruption, political paralysis, increased militarization and other challenges that bedevil Balkan countries. Moscow's influence is most pronounced in Serbia, with which it shares a variety of practical and symbolic ties. Particularly in Serbia, but throughout the region, Russian propaganda (including disinformation that a ''war'' had broken out between Kosovo and Serbia two weeks ago) has sought to exploit ethnic tensions and other divisions in an attempt to keep regional states from aligning westward.

Indeed, just two weeks ago, Russia spread disinformation that a ''war'' had broken out between Kosovo and Serbia after the former's decision (now delayed until the start of September) to no longer recognize Serbian license plates led to a brief outburst of unrest along the Kosovo-Serbia border. The Kremlin has also been a destabilizing force in other disputes; in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia has implicitly endorsed the threats made by the country's top Bosnian Serb politician, Milorad Dodik, to dismantle the governance structure established in the power-sharing agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995.

Moscow has even been accused of trying to foment a (failed) coup in Montenegro in 2016 as part of a larger destabilization campaign to try to prevent the country from joining NATO (which it did the following year). And of course, in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, fears have risen that President Vladimir Putin's high tolerance for risk could lead him to take aggressive moves in the Balkans to further destabilize political and security dynamics in Europe.

But even in Serbia, there are constraints on Russia's influence. Unlike other Western governments, Belgrade hasn't directly sanctioned Moscow in response to its aggression against Kyiv. But Serbia has backed other sanctions against Russian proxies and voted in favor of multiple U.N. resolutions condemning the Ukraine invasion. And while some have called Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ''little Putin'' in reference to his perceived close ties with the Kremlin, Vucic's leadership has ultimately been defined much more by a desire to hold power. In May, for example, Vucic made headlines when he criticized remarks made by Putin comparing Kosovo's right to independence with that of the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. More recently, Vucic also condemned a legislator from his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) for appearing to call for war with Kosovo in response to the license plate dispute; in a July 31 tweet, the SNS lawmaker raised the idea that Serbia would ''be forced to begin the denazification of the Balkans'' — using the same controversial term Putin used before sending troops into Ukraine — which Vucic publicly denounced as ''stupid'' and ''irresponsible.''

To this end, Vucic is more than happy to play Russia and Europe off each other to achieve his goals. Indeed, Serbia is the largest regional recipient of EU pre-accession funds, but at the same time recently inked a gas deal with Moscow. Vucic also knows he must at times cater to the pro-Russian sympathies harbored by Serbians, some of whom have protested in support of Russia's actions in Ukraine.

On a more strategic level, the Ukraine war is also a double-edged sword for Russia. While it offers Moscow another wedge issue to try to split the Balkans away from the West, it has also forced the European Union and NATO to refocus on their near-peripheries to counter Russian influence. Both alliances are reexamining their relationships with the Balkans and are newly cognizant that any serious instability, let alone real conflict, would give Russia an opening. This suggests there are even greater motivations in the West to help manage Balkans disputes and move forward with their deeper integration with the European Union and NATO, even if that means in some cases toning down criticism (such as over corruption) in order to keep regional countries facing westward.

The war in Ukraine has even helped check some regional provocations, most notably in June when Milorad Dodik announced a six-month delay in pulling his Republika Srpska region out of Bosnia and Herzegovina's national institutions. Dodik did not formally scrap the plan, but he did specifically cite geopolitical uncertainty as the reason for the postponement, opening an avenue for mediation.

China's Growing Impact
China, too, represents a challenge, primarily economically though increasingly also politically and militarily. A large part of the European Union's leverage in the Balkans is the vast economic benefits that membership would bring. But the longer the accession process takes, the more likely regional states will start looking elsewhere for economic ties, a gap Beijing has eagerly sought to fill.

In recent years, China has poured investment into the region, particularly Serbia, to the tune of billions of dollars annually. And unlike EU and U.S. aid, which is often conditioned on fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law, most of China's aid comes with few strings attached, making it especially attractive to regional recipients. Though still far behind Russia, China has also started to become more engaged in the region's political disputes and military affairs; this was most notable in April when Chinese military planes delivered an air defense system to Serbia — a visually evocative representation of growing Chinese influence.

But there are also major caveats to this narrative. While Chinese investment in the region has increased, it's still nowhere near the level of EU investment. Serbia, for example, is by far the largest Balkan recipient of Chinese funds, though Chinese investment is estimated to represent approximately just 1% of total foreign direct investment in Serbia (compared with the European Union's 70%). Moreover, while Chinese loans may come with fewer conditions, their terms are also opaque and hard to repay, which ends up trapping borrowers. In Montenegro, a Chinese-financed $1 billion road project (dubbed the ''highway to nowhere'') has attracted global media attention for the havoc it has wreaked on the country's finances — a cautionary tale many regional states have taken note of.

And if anything, Serbia's acquisition of the Chinese air defense system is further evidence that Vucic's administration is hardly in hock to Russia, but instead seeking to play great powers against each other — likely looking to the West to counter. After all, Serbia (like Bosnia-Herzegovina) has an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO, the closest form of cooperation a non-member state can have with the bloc.

Turkey's Role
Finally, there is a third external actor, Turkey, which also plays a role in the region, though ultimately its influence has been less impactful and drawn less concern in Western capitals. Geographic proximity and historic ties underlie Ankara's interest in the region, particularly in Muslim majority countries like Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Generally, Turkey has played the role of foreign investor, but has also competed for influence on religious terms by spreading its brand of Islam.

While these factors have at times spurred complaints in Europe, ultimately Turkey's membership in NATO and deep trade ties with the European Union (even if not as a member) mean that its activities have not raised fears akin to those by Russia and China. In fact, whereas Moscow and Beijing have been cast as ideologically-driven destabilizers, Ankara has largely pursued a highly practical foreign policy in the Balkans and favored the Europe-oriented status quo, keen to be seen as a mediator that resolves disputes rather than a disrupter that fans them.

Beijing, Brussels or Moscow?
In this assessment, therefore, concerns over regional ethnic tensions are real but also manageable. Balkan leaders may offer a lot of proverbial bark, but comparatively little bite. This is not to say that sporadic flare-ups, like that seen two weeks ago, will not be ongoing risks. They could even grow in severity and length, especially if regional leaders fan ethnic flames. After all, the danger of playing identity politics is that such passions are deeply personal and harder to temper. But fundamentally, the constraints — politically, economically and militarily — on wider conflict appear to surpass the drivers for it.

An implicit assumption, however, is that the Balkans states feel that deeper integration with the West is still a realistic possibility, despite many years of waiting. Indeed, much of the underlying rationale for peace comes from the belief that conflict would do far more harm to the Balkan states' aspirations than would achieve any major benefits. But should the European Union and NATO fail to offer concrete accession paths, and individual Western states lose interest in the Balkans, regional leaders' calculations could change. This could open the door for greater Russian and Chinese influence or even set the stage for a regional leader to gamble that a major provocation would jolt the West into making concessions rather than see the country swing toward Moscow or Beijing. To be sure, key European leaders have made recent statements supportive of deeper integration with the Balkans and taken trips to the region, but ultimately they will need to show action, not offer mere words.

In this sense, general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina set for Oct. 2 will provide a key litmus test, not only based on how they play out domestically but also for how engaged the European Union, NATO and other key Western players are in the run-up and following the vote. After all, in many respects, the Balkans is the West's to lose. While the Ukraine war has certainly refocused the region's relevance to the West, Russia's invasion is also a tragic reminder of how quickly things can escalate — even when there does not appear to be a clear strategic rationale.

Crafty_Dog

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Foreign Affairs: Playing with Fire in Ukraine
« Reply #638 on: August 17, 2022, 07:18:20 AM »
The unself aware FA opines-- that said there are points worth considering here:
==================================

Playing With Fire in Ukraine
The Underappreciated Risks of Catastrophic Escalation
By John J. Mearsheimer
August 17, 2022
Smoke from a Russian airstrike in Lviv, Ukraine, March 2022
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/playing-fire-ukraine


Western policymakers appear to have reached a consensus about the war in Ukraine: the conflict will settle into a prolonged stalemate, and eventually a weakened Russia will accept a peace agreement that favors the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Ukraine. Although officials recognize that both Washington and Moscow may escalate to gain an advantage or to prevent defeat, they assume that catastrophic escalation can be avoided. Few imagine that U.S. forces will become directly involved in the fighting or that Russia will dare use nuclear weapons.

Washington and its allies are being much too cavalier. Although disastrous escalation may be avoided, the warring parties’ ability to manage that danger is far from certain. The risk of it is substantially greater than the conventional wisdom holds. And given that the consequences of escalation could include a major war in Europe and possibly even nuclear annihilation, there is good reason for extra concern.

To understand the dynamics of escalation in Ukraine, start with each side’s goals. Since the war began, both Moscow and Washington have raised their ambitions significantly, and both are now deeply committed to winning the war and achieving formidable political aims. As a result, each side has powerful incentives to find ways to prevail and, more important, to avoid losing. In practice, this means that the United States might join the fighting either if it is desperate to win or to prevent Ukraine from losing, while Russia might use nuclear weapons if it is desperate to win or faces imminent defeat, which would be likely if U.S. forces were drawn into the fighting.

Furthermore, given each side’s determination to achieve its goals, there is little chance of a meaningful compromise. The maximalist thinking that now prevails in both Washington and Moscow gives each side even more reason to win on the battlefield so that it can dictate the terms of the eventual peace. In effect, the absence of a possible diplomatic solution provides an added incentive for both sides to climb up the escalation ladder. What lies further up the rungs could be something truly catastrophic: a level of death and destruction exceeding that of World War II.

AIMING HIGH
The United States and its allies initially backed Ukraine to prevent a Russian victory and help negotiate a favorable end to the fighting. But once the Ukrainian military began hammering Russian forces, especially around Kyiv, the Biden administration shifted course and committed itself to helping Ukraine win the war against Russia. It also sought to severely damage Russia’s economy by imposing unprecedented sanctions. As Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin explained U.S. goals in April, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” In effect, the United States announced its intention to knock Russia out of the ranks of great powers.

What’s more, the United States has tied its own reputation to the outcome of the conflict. U.S. President Joe Biden has labelled Russia’s war in Ukraine a “genocide” and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal” who should face a “war crimes trial.” Presidential proclamations such as these make it hard to imagine Washington backing down; if Russia prevailed in Ukraine, the United States’ position in the world would suffer a serious blow.

Russian ambitions have also expanded. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in the West, Moscow did not invade Ukraine to conquer it and make it part of a Greater Russia. It was principally concerned with preventing Ukraine from becoming a Western bulwark on the Russian border. Putin and his advisers were especially concerned about Ukraine eventually joining NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the point succinctly in mid-January, saying at a press conference, “the key to everything is the guarantee that NATO will not expand eastward.” For Russian leaders, the prospect of Ukrainian membership in NATO is, as Putin himself put it before the invasion, “a direct threat to Russian security”—one that could be eliminated only by going to war and turning Ukraine into a neutral or failed state.


Moscow did not invade Ukraine to conquer it.
Toward that end, it appears that Russia’s territorial goals have expanded markedly since the war started. Until the eve of the invasion, Russia was committed to implementing the Minsk II agreement, which would have kept the Donbas as part of Ukraine. Over the course of the war, however, Russia has captured large swaths of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, and there is growing evidence that Putin now intends to annex all or most of that land, which would effectively turn what is left of Ukraine into a dysfunctional rump state.

The threat to Russia today is even greater than it was before the war, mainly because the Biden administration is now determined to roll back Russia’s territorial gains and permanently cripple Russian power. Making matters even worse for Moscow, Finland and Sweden are joining NATO, and Ukraine is better armed and more closely allied with the West. Moscow cannot afford to lose in Ukraine, and it will use every means available to avoid defeat. Putin appears confident that Russia will ultimately prevail against Ukraine and its Western backers. “Today, we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield,” he said in early July. “What can you say? Let them try. The goals of the special military operation will be achieved. There are no doubts about that.”

Ukraine, for its part, has the same goals as the Biden administration. The Ukrainians are bent on recapturing territory lost to Russia—including Crimea—and a weaker Russia is certainly less threatening to Ukraine. Furthermore, they are confident that they can win, as Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov made clear in mid-July, when he said, “Russia can definitely be defeated, and Ukraine has already shown how.” His U.S. counterpart apparently agrees. “Our assistance is making a real difference on the ground,” Austin said in a late July speech. “Russia thinks that it can outlast Ukraine—and outlast us. But that’s just the latest in Russia’s string of miscalculations.”


The threat to Russia from NATO is even greater now than it was before the war.
In essence, Kyiv, Washington, and Moscow are all deeply committed to winning at the expense of their adversary, which leaves little room for compromise. Neither Ukraine nor the United States, for example, is likely to accept a neutral Ukraine; in fact, Ukraine is becoming more closely tied with the West by the day. Nor is Russia likely to return all or even most of the territory it has taken from Ukraine, especially since the animosities that have fueled the conflict in the Donbas between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government for the past eight years are more intense than ever.

These conflicting interests explain why so many observers believe that a negotiated settlement will not happen any time soon and thus foresee a bloody stalemate. They are right about that. But observers are underestimating the potential for catastrophic escalation that is built into a protracted war in Ukraine.

There are three basic routes to escalation inherent in the conduct of war: one or both sides deliberately escalate to win, one or both sides deliberately escalate to prevent defeat, or the fighting escalates not by deliberate choice but inadvertently. Each pathway holds the potential to bring the United States into the fighting or lead Russia to use nuclear weapons, and possibly both.

ENTER AMERICA
Once the Biden administration concluded that Russia could be beaten in Ukraine, it sent more (and more powerful) arms to Kyiv. The West began increasing Ukraine’s offensive capability by sending weapons such as the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system, in addition to “defensive” ones such as the Javelin antitank missile. Over time, both the lethality and quantity of the weaponry has increased. Consider that in March, Washington vetoed a plan to transfer Poland’s MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine on the grounds that doing so might escalate the fight, but in July it raised no objections when Slovakia announced that it was considering sending the same planes to Kyiv. The United States is also contemplating giving its own F-15s and F-16s to Ukraine.

The United States and its allies are also training the Ukrainian military and providing it with vital intelligence that it is using to destroy key Russian targets. Moreover, as The New York Times has reported, the West has “a stealthy network of commandos and spies” on the ground inside Ukraine. Washington may not be directly engaged in the fighting, but it is deeply involved in the war. And it is now just a short step away from having its own soldiers pulling triggers and its own pilots pressing buttons.

The U.S. military could get involved in the fighting in a variety of ways. Consider a situation where the war drags on for a year or more, and there is neither a diplomatic solution in sight nor a feasible path to a Ukrainian victory. At the same time, Washington is desperate to end the war—perhaps because it needs to focus on containing China or because the economic costs of backing Ukraine are causing political problems at home and in Europe. In those circumstances, U.S. policymakers would have every reason to consider taking riskier steps—such as imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine or inserting small contingents of U.S. ground forces—to help Ukraine defeat Russia.


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, April 2022
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, April 2022
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / Reuters
A more likely scenario for U.S. intervention would come about if the Ukrainian army began to collapse and Russia seemed likely to win a major victory. In that case, given the Biden administration’s deep commitment to preventing that outcome, the United States could try to turn the tide by getting directly involved in the fighting. One can easily imagine U.S. officials believing that their country’s credibility was at stake and convincing themselves that a limited use of force would save Ukraine without prompting Putin to use nuclear weapons. Alternatively, a desperate Ukraine might launch large-scale attacks against Russian towns and cities, hoping that such escalation would provoke a massive Russian response that would finally force the United States to join the fighting.

The final scenario for American involvement entails inadvertent escalation: without wanting to, Washington gets drawn into the war by an unforeseen event that spirals upward. Perhaps U.S. and Russian fighter jets, which have come into close contact over the Baltic Sea, accidentally collide. Such an incident could easily escalate, given the high levels of fear on both sides, the lack of communication, and the mutual demonization.

Or maybe Lithuania blocks the passage of sanctioned goods traveling through its territory as they make their way from Russia to Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave that is separated from the rest of the country. Lithuania did just that in mid-June, but it backed off in mid-July, after Moscow made it clear it was contemplating “harsh measures” to end what it considered an illegal blockade. The Lithuanian foreign ministry, however, has resisted lifting the blockade completely. Since Lithuania is a NATO member, the United States would almost certainly come to its defense if Russia attacked the country.


Russia, desperate to stop Western military to Ukraine, could strike NATO states.
Or perhaps Russia destroys a building in Kyiv or a training site somewhere in Ukraine and unintentionally kills a substantial number of Americans, such as aid workers, intelligence operatives, or military advisers. The Biden administration, facing a public uproar at home, decides it must retaliate and strikes Russian targets, which then leads to a tit-for-tat exchange between the two sides.

Lastly, there is a chance that the fighting in southern Ukraine will damage the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, to the point where it spews radiation around the region, leading Russia to respond in kind. Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and prime minister, delivered an ominous response to that possibility, saying in August, “Don’t forget that there are nuclear sites in the European Union, too. And incidents are possible there as well.” Should Russia strike a European nuclear reactor, the United States would almost certainly enter the fighting.

Of course, Moscow, too, could instigate the escalation. One cannot discount the possibility that Russia, desperate to stop the flow of Western military aid into Ukraine, would strike the countries through which the bulk of it passes: Poland or Romania, both of which are NATO members. There is also a chance that Russia might launch a massive cyberattack against one or more European countries aiding Ukraine, causing great damage to its critical infrastructure. Such an attack could prompt the United States to launch a retaliatory cyberattack against Russia. If it succeeded, Moscow might respond militarily; if it failed, Washington might decide that the only way to punish Russia would be to hit it directly. Such scenarios sound far-fetched, but they are not impossible. And they are merely a few of the many pathways by which what is now a local war might morph into something much larger and more dangerous.

GOING NUCLEAR
Although Russia’s military has done enormous damage to Ukraine, Moscow has, so far, been reluctant to escalate to win the war. Putin has not expanded the size of his force through large-scale conscription. Nor has he targeted Ukraine’s electrical grid, which would be relatively easy to do and would inflict massive damage on that country. Indeed, many Russians have taken him to task for not waging the war more vigorously. Putin has acknowledged this criticism but has let it be known that he would escalate if necessary. “We haven’t even yet started anything in earnest,” he said in July, suggesting that Russia could and would do more if the military situation deteriorated.

What about the ultimate form of escalation? There are three circumstances in which Putin might use nuclear weapons. The first would be if the United States and its NATO allies entered the fight. Not only would that development markedly shift the military balance against Russia, greatly increasing the likelihood of its defeat, but it would also mean that Russia would be fighting a great-power war on its doorstep that could easily spill into its territory. Russian leaders would surely think their survival was at risk, giving them a powerful incentive to use nuclear weapons to rescue the situation. At a minimum, they would consider demonstration strikes intended to convince the West to back off. Whether such a step would end the war or lead it to escalate out of control is impossible to know in advance.

In his February 24 speech announcing the invasion, Putin strongly hinted that he would turn to nuclear weapons if the United States and its allies entered the war. Addressing “those who may be tempted to interfere,” he said, “they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.” His warning was not lost on Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, who predicted in May that Putin might use nuclear weapons if NATO “is either intervening or about to intervene,” in good part because that “would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine.”


There are three circumstances in which Putin might use nuclear weapons.
In the second nuclear scenario, Ukraine turns the tide on the battlefield by itself, without direct U.S. involvement. If Ukrainian forces were poised to defeat the Russian army and take back their country’s lost territory, there is little doubt that Moscow could easily view this outcome as an existential threat that required a nuclear response. After all, Putin and his advisers were sufficiently alarmed by Kyiv’s growing alignment with the West that they deliberately chose to attack Ukraine, despite clear warnings from the United States and its allies about the grave consequences that Russia would face. Unlike in the first scenario, Moscow would be employing nuclear weapons not in the context of a war with the United States but against Ukraine. It would do so with little fear of nuclear retaliation, since Kyiv has no nuclear weapons and since Washington would have no interest in starting a nuclear war. The absence of a clear retaliatory threat would make it easier for Putin to contemplate nuclear use.

In the third scenario, the war settles into a protracted stalemate that has no diplomatic solution and becomes exceedingly costly for Moscow. Desperate to end the conflict on favorable terms, Putin might pursue nuclear escalation to win. As with the previous scenario, where he escalates to avoid defeat, U.S. nuclear retaliation would be highly unlikely. In both scenarios, Russia is likely to use tactical nuclear weapons against a small set of military targets, at least initially. It could strike towns and cities in later attacks if necessary. Gaining a military advantage would be one aim of the strategy, but the more important one would be to deal a game-changing blow—to create such fear in the West that the United States and its allies move quickly to end the conflict on terms favorable to Moscow. No wonder William Burns, the director of the CIA, remarked in April, “None of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.”

COURTING CATASTROPHE
One might concede that although one of these catastrophic scenarios could theoretically happen, the chances are small and thus should be of little concern. After all, leaders on both sides have powerful incentives to keep the Americans out of the fighting and avoid even limited nuclear use, not to mention an actual nuclear war.

If only one could be so sanguine. In fact, the conventional view vastly understates the dangers of escalation in Ukraine. For starters, wars tend to have a logic of their own, which makes it difficult to predict their course. Anyone who says that they know with confidence what path the war in Ukraine will take is mistaken. The dynamics of escalation in wartime are similarly hard to predict or control, which should serve as a warning to those who are confident that events in Ukraine can be managed. Furthermore, as the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz recognized, nationalism encourages modern wars to escalate to their most extreme form, especially when the stakes are high for both sides. That is not to say that wars cannot be kept limited, but doing so is not easy. Finally, given the staggering costs of a great-power nuclear war, even a small chance of it occurring should make everyone think long and hard about where this conflict might be headed.

This perilous situation creates a powerful incentive to find a diplomatic solution to the war. Regrettably, however, there is no political settlement in sight, as both sides are firmly committed to war aims that make compromise almost impossible. The Biden administration should have worked with Russia to settle the Ukraine crisis before war broke out in February. It is too late now to strike a deal. Russia, Ukraine, and the West are stuck in a terrible situation with no obvious way out. One can only hope that leaders on both sides will manage the war in ways that avoid catastrophic escalation. For the tens of millions of people whose lives are at stake, however, that is cold comfort.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #639 on: August 17, 2022, 11:46:13 AM »
Placed here for its relevance to the Ukraine War

By: Geopolitical Futures
Buying Russian oil. Japan has reportedly resumed importing oil from Russia. Import volumes are still down year-on-year, as Japan brought in just 65 percent of what it imported in July of last year. Still, despite the lull in Russian hydrocarbons, Japan’s trade deficit with Russia by value increased by 155 percent. Elsewhere, Bangladesh is considering buying fuel supplies from Russia amid growing economic instability.

Russian denial. The Russian Embassy in Armenia sent a note to the Armenian Foreign Ministry in which it defended itself against accusations that it was involved in an explosion in Yerevan on Aug. 14. Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks Wednesday with his Armenian counterpart to discuss military-technical and military cooperation, as well as issues related to Russian peacekeeping operations.

Russia receives India. India's national security adviser made an unannounced visit to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian authorities, including his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev. They are expected to discuss Afghanistan, counterterrorism, defense, and food and energy security

G M

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #640 on: August 17, 2022, 12:01:21 PM »
Waiting for the next thing, as Ukraine has faded.


Placed here for its relevance to the Ukraine War

By: Geopolitical Futures
Buying Russian oil. Japan has reportedly resumed importing oil from Russia. Import volumes are still down year-on-year, as Japan brought in just 65 percent of what it imported in July of last year. Still, despite the lull in Russian hydrocarbons, Japan’s trade deficit with Russia by value increased by 155 percent. Elsewhere, Bangladesh is considering buying fuel supplies from Russia amid growing economic instability.

Russian denial. The Russian Embassy in Armenia sent a note to the Armenian Foreign Ministry in which it defended itself against accusations that it was involved in an explosion in Yerevan on Aug. 14. Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks Wednesday with his Armenian counterpart to discuss military-technical and military cooperation, as well as issues related to Russian peacekeeping operations.

Russia receives India. India's national security adviser made an unannounced visit to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian authorities, including his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev. They are expected to discuss Afghanistan, counterterrorism, defense, and food and energy security


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Crafty_Dog

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MY: Putin squeezing Germany's balls
« Reply #643 on: August 20, 2022, 03:14:22 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia's buffer zone may have to wait
« Reply #644 on: August 24, 2022, 10:27:22 AM »
August 24, 2022
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Russia’s Buffer Zone May Have to Wait
Mounting challenges are forcing Moscow to moderate its war aims in Ukraine.
By: Ridvan Bari Urcosta

As the military adage goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy. No one is more cognizant of this fact right now than Russia, which has faced multiple setbacks in its offensive against Ukraine. Six months in, the situation on the ground is constantly changing, often in ways that the Kremlin didn’t expect or intend. Russia invaded Ukraine with the goal of reestablishing much-needed strategic depth on its western borders. However, as the fighting wears on, new challenges are forcing Moscow to limit its focus to securing sufficient defensive depth around core regions and chokepoints rather than seizing all of Ukraine.

Russia’s objectives in Ukraine are intertwined with its security and military concerns, which are themselves part of a broader grand strategy. Russia’s grand strategy entails achieving strategic depth along vulnerable borders. In this case, Ukraine helps fulfill the Russian need to create a larger buffer zone between itself and the West, particularly NATO states. In 2014, Moscow made a first attempt at gaining Ukrainian territory and succeeded in holding Crimea as well as establishing a strong presence in Donbas. This time around, Moscow believed that those Ukrainians who for decades voted for pro-Russian political parties would lend their support to the Russian initiative. This did not happen.

Since late February, the battleground and its realities have been forcing Russia to rethink its immediate strategic goals. The fighting has gone on longer than anticipated, and Ukraine has demonstrated it plans to continue fighting and is not yet interested in a peace agreement. With time, Ukraine will complete its training on Western-donated weapons and equipment. Russia’s most significant concern in this regard is the versatile short- and medium-range rockets that Ukraine possesses or will possess in the near future. Over the past few weeks, Ukraine has demonstrated the capability to use these rockets to strike deep into the rear of Russian forces on the offensive, including hitting weapons depots and air defense systems. This, then, compels the Russians to drive deeper into Ukrainian territory to build even more strategic depth and provide the distance for its air defense systems to react.

Additionally, Russia's challenges will only multiply and intensify with time. First, there's the West's economic and military support for Ukraine, which helps Kyiv to prolong the fighting and do so with increasingly advanced weaponry. Ukraine's asymmetric attacks with weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, better known as HIMARS, have proved particularly problematic for Russia. On the economic front, Western sanctions against Russia led Moscow to start restricting trade and economic relationships. They also overburdened the Russian economy and resulted in the political decision to repress domestic unrest. Lastly, Russia does not appear to have overcome its logistical challenges and continues to struggle to deliver military supplies and defend its rear. All of these factors together make taking the whole of Ukraine a less feasible, more costly move.

Russia's Buffer Zones
(click to enlarge)

Russia, therefore, recalculated its military strategy toward Ukraine. First, the new strategy needed to account for Ukraine’s Western allies. Russia knew the West would side with Ukraine but miscalculated the degree to which the West would provide military and financial support and its ability to collectively engage in economic warfare. In particular, Moscow remains vigilant of U.S. and British contributions to the Ukraine war effort, particularly with the delivery of cutting-edge military hardware. At the same time, the West’s collective response made Moscow more cautious about bringing its forces right up to NATO lines. Russia does not want to engage directly with NATO, and efforts to occupy all of Ukraine would bring it dangerously close to NATO’s border, leaving little room for error. Lastly, Moscow seeks to use lessons from the war in Donbas between 2014 and 2015 to account for Ukraine’s military capability (particularly with regard to missiles) to target Russian military assets by establishing greater depth around chokepoints of strategic importance.

Russia’s new strategy entails a new list of military objectives in Ukraine. First, Russia must secure the separatist Donbas republics from the reach of Ukrainian artillery and rockets, up to 150 to 200 kilometers (roughly 90 to 125 miles). This requires establishing total control of the area from Donetsk to the city of Pavlograd near the Dnieper River. Farther south, Russia must secure the northern Crimean water canal system in the Kherson region from Ukrainian artillery and prevent the reclamation of these areas by the Ukrainian army. Russia's distance calculations here are premised on the missile range of Ukrainian and Western-provided weapons, and will thus adjust with Ukrainian capabilities.

To achieve these goals, Russia again must conduct an offensive operation and reach the line of Kryvyi Rih and Nova Odesa, and take Mykolayiv city. It is an almost impossible task for Russia currently. Relatedly, Russian forces need to control the Crimean Bridge given its essential role as an economic and military supply route to the peninsula and the Russian forces in southern Ukraine. This also means guaranteeing security over all of Crimea and keeping it free from military incidents. Currently, the closest Russian bases in Crimea are no less than 200 kilometers from areas under Ukrainian control. And finally, Russia will set its sights on the longer-term goal of securing a greater buffer zone along Ukraine’s northern regions of Sumy and Chernihiv, which are just 450 kilometers from Moscow. These regions are close to many cities that are part of the Russian ethnic heartland – like Kursk, Belgorod, Oryol and Voronezh – where Moscow does not want to lose any influence. The problem with this particular objective is that, in order to gain more than a 100-kilometer buffer zone, Moscow has to go almost to the outskirts of Kyiv, on the left bank of the Dnieper, which as the early phase of the war proved would come at a high cost.

Russia is trapped in a classic geopolitical dilemma, where mounting constraints prevent it from effectively pursuing its ultimate goal of gaining strategic depth along its western border. Moscow’s current solution is to go marginally deeper into Ukrainian territory to secure depth against missiles in strategic occupied territory, without making a play for all of Ukraine. Such an approach will leave the question of its buffer zone open-ended. But it may also provide Russia with the opportunity to consolidate the progress it has made during this round, free up resources to focus on mounting economic problems and live to fight another day. It’s only a matter of time before Russia steps up overtures for a negotiated settlement in the conflict.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Russia's Gas Threat is a Bluff
« Reply #645 on: August 25, 2022, 02:12:16 AM »
Russia’s Gas Threat Is a Bluff
Its reputation and economy both depend on keeping the Nord Stream pipeline operational.
By Paul Roderick Gregory and Ramanan Krishnamoorti
Aug. 24, 2022 1:33 pm ET


Vladimir Putin relishes blackmailing an apprehensive and intimidated Europe with access to natural gas. His game: threatening that Russia will deliver only 40%, 20%, maybe even zero if you don’t do what he wants. Governments hang on his words without asking whether his threats are credible. The International Energy Association warns that Mr. Putin might cut off gas to the European Union entirely. But that would require a complete shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and every petroleum engineer knows the consequences for Mr. Putin would be dire.

In gas markets, a gathering system transports gas from fields. This system connects to a pipeline, which transports gas to customers. Transactions between buyers and sellers are usually governed by long-term contracts that promise sufficient revenue for construction, operating costs and profits to satisfy demand at the other end of the pipeline.

That Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas company, isn’t an investor-owned for-profit enterprise complicates conventional economic analysis. Gazprom serves as an instrument of Russian foreign policy. Its Nord Stream pipeline transports gas to the EU through its northern route. The pipeline draws its gas from fields in Russia’s remote Arctic areas, including Yamalo-Nenets. This gas enters the pipeline at Vyborg, close to the Finnish border. It then flows under the North Sea to Greifswald, Germany, and enters the EU distribution system. A parallel undersea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, has yet to enter into service.

Nord Stream’s capacity is 62 billion cubic meters a year. From 2019-21, Gazprom shipped annually some 55 billion cubic meters of gas through Nord Stream, and it operated at this rate—near capacity—up to the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

We don’t yet know how much pipeline capacity will be used in 2022, but, in late July Nord Stream operated around 40% capacity. After a return to service, following so-called routine maintenance in July, flow fell to 20% of capacity. Gazprom’s threat of further stoppages materialized as it again shut down deliveries for three days at the end of August for maintenance.

If the pipeline operates at 20% of capacity for the rest of the year, Gazprom would transmit about 19 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU via Nord Stream in 2022. This gas will be drawn from fields that in the preceding three years produced about 55 billion cubic meters a year.

Unlike crude oil, which could be diverted to other markets by tankers, Gazprom can’t send its excess northern gas elsewhere. That would require massive new pipeline systems, taking years to build. Gazprom could divert some gas to storage, but its tanks already are nearly full in preparation for winter.

Producers can’t increase or reduce output according to pipeline demand, so Gazprom would seem to have no choice but to shut in a substantial number of Northern gas wells. It can do so without losing lucrative oil production, because these fields are “dry,” primarily gas wells, not a mix of oil and gas. Gas production for the whole of Russia declined more than 10% in the first half of 2022 compared with the previous six months as wells began to be shut in.


Shut-in wells are always challenging when dealing with hundreds of wells across different geological formations. As time passes, shut-in wells can experience fluid buildups that threaten the underlying reservoir structure, keeping some from returning to full production. That can be avoided with good field management. But Gazprom must now do without Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger, international service companies with expertise in well management that are winding down their business in Russia. As a last resort, Gazprom could flare the excess gas, causing environmental damage and effectively burning money.

The excess-gas problem is only one potential cost of dramatic cutbacks in deliveries to the EU. The cutbacks likely won’t damage the pipeline itself, although steel can corrode and leaks could form. Rather, the accessories that regulate the gas flowing into the pipeline could be damaged by operating at a low capacity. Most of the compressors that pressurize the gas, as well as valves and meters, tend to operate best at high capacity. Lower pressure and diminished throughput can compromise ancillary equipment.

But we have yet to examine Mr. Putin’s most extreme option: stopping all gas deliveries to the EU, shutting in entire fields and idling Nord Stream not for days or weeks but months. Such a shutdown during the winter would require a complete overhaul of Nord Stream’s ancillary equipment, and no one could know what damage the pipeline and related infrastructure would incur.

Mr. Putin can threaten to cut off gas, but he can’t act unless he is willing to risk one of his crown jewels. So who has whom over the barrel? As he becomes more belligerent, the EU is booking substitutes for Russian gas from Qatar, Algeria, Azerbaijan and others, returning to coal and nuclear power, and expanding its liquefied-natural-gas infrastructure.

The threat to Russia’s gas infrastructure from Mr. Putin is trivial compared with his sacrifice of Russia’s reputation as a reliable supplier, which the Soviets began cultivating decades ago. As he jerks his EU customers around with threats, small concessions and more threats, he risks losing his best EU customers for good. Who will benefit? Mr. Putin’s enemy No. 1—the U.S. and its burgeoning LNG behemoth.

Mr. Gregory is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Mr. Krishnamoorti is a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Houston.

G M

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Re: WSJ: Russia's Gas Threat is a Bluff
« Reply #646 on: August 25, 2022, 08:08:10 AM »
Putin doesn't need to cut off all gas, just restrict it. Which he is already doing.


Russia’s Gas Threat Is a Bluff
Its reputation and economy both depend on keeping the Nord Stream pipeline operational.
By Paul Roderick Gregory and Ramanan Krishnamoorti
Aug. 24, 2022 1:33 pm ET


Vladimir Putin relishes blackmailing an apprehensive and intimidated Europe with access to natural gas. His game: threatening that Russia will deliver only 40%, 20%, maybe even zero if you don’t do what he wants. Governments hang on his words without asking whether his threats are credible. The International Energy Association warns that Mr. Putin might cut off gas to the European Union entirely. But that would require a complete shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and every petroleum engineer knows the consequences for Mr. Putin would be dire.

In gas markets, a gathering system transports gas from fields. This system connects to a pipeline, which transports gas to customers. Transactions between buyers and sellers are usually governed by long-term contracts that promise sufficient revenue for construction, operating costs and profits to satisfy demand at the other end of the pipeline.

That Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas company, isn’t an investor-owned for-profit enterprise complicates conventional economic analysis. Gazprom serves as an instrument of Russian foreign policy. Its Nord Stream pipeline transports gas to the EU through its northern route. The pipeline draws its gas from fields in Russia’s remote Arctic areas, including Yamalo-Nenets. This gas enters the pipeline at Vyborg, close to the Finnish border. It then flows under the North Sea to Greifswald, Germany, and enters the EU distribution system. A parallel undersea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, has yet to enter into service.

Nord Stream’s capacity is 62 billion cubic meters a year. From 2019-21, Gazprom shipped annually some 55 billion cubic meters of gas through Nord Stream, and it operated at this rate—near capacity—up to the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

We don’t yet know how much pipeline capacity will be used in 2022, but, in late July Nord Stream operated around 40% capacity. After a return to service, following so-called routine maintenance in July, flow fell to 20% of capacity. Gazprom’s threat of further stoppages materialized as it again shut down deliveries for three days at the end of August for maintenance.

If the pipeline operates at 20% of capacity for the rest of the year, Gazprom would transmit about 19 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU via Nord Stream in 2022. This gas will be drawn from fields that in the preceding three years produced about 55 billion cubic meters a year.

Unlike crude oil, which could be diverted to other markets by tankers, Gazprom can’t send its excess northern gas elsewhere. That would require massive new pipeline systems, taking years to build. Gazprom could divert some gas to storage, but its tanks already are nearly full in preparation for winter.

Producers can’t increase or reduce output according to pipeline demand, so Gazprom would seem to have no choice but to shut in a substantial number of Northern gas wells. It can do so without losing lucrative oil production, because these fields are “dry,” primarily gas wells, not a mix of oil and gas. Gas production for the whole of Russia declined more than 10% in the first half of 2022 compared with the previous six months as wells began to be shut in.


Shut-in wells are always challenging when dealing with hundreds of wells across different geological formations. As time passes, shut-in wells can experience fluid buildups that threaten the underlying reservoir structure, keeping some from returning to full production. That can be avoided with good field management. But Gazprom must now do without Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger, international service companies with expertise in well management that are winding down their business in Russia. As a last resort, Gazprom could flare the excess gas, causing environmental damage and effectively burning money.

The excess-gas problem is only one potential cost of dramatic cutbacks in deliveries to the EU. The cutbacks likely won’t damage the pipeline itself, although steel can corrode and leaks could form. Rather, the accessories that regulate the gas flowing into the pipeline could be damaged by operating at a low capacity. Most of the compressors that pressurize the gas, as well as valves and meters, tend to operate best at high capacity. Lower pressure and diminished throughput can compromise ancillary equipment.

But we have yet to examine Mr. Putin’s most extreme option: stopping all gas deliveries to the EU, shutting in entire fields and idling Nord Stream not for days or weeks but months. Such a shutdown during the winter would require a complete overhaul of Nord Stream’s ancillary equipment, and no one could know what damage the pipeline and related infrastructure would incur.

Mr. Putin can threaten to cut off gas, but he can’t act unless he is willing to risk one of his crown jewels. So who has whom over the barrel? As he becomes more belligerent, the EU is booking substitutes for Russian gas from Qatar, Algeria, Azerbaijan and others, returning to coal and nuclear power, and expanding its liquefied-natural-gas infrastructure.

The threat to Russia’s gas infrastructure from Mr. Putin is trivial compared with his sacrifice of Russia’s reputation as a reliable supplier, which the Soviets began cultivating decades ago. As he jerks his EU customers around with threats, small concessions and more threats, he risks losing his best EU customers for good. Who will benefit? Mr. Putin’s enemy No. 1—the U.S. and its burgeoning LNG behemoth.

Mr. Gregory is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Mr. Krishnamoorti is a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Houston.

DougMacG

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Re: WSJ: Russia's Gas Threat is a Bluff
« Reply #647 on: August 25, 2022, 09:13:25 AM »
quote author=G M
Putin doesn't need to cut off all gas, just restrict it. Which he is already doing.
---------------------

Yes.  Biden's policies (and Europe's) are paying for Putin's war. 

All he has to do is maximize his revenues.  For those relying on the pipeline, he is the OPEC of the 1970s.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: German weapon shortage
« Reply #648 on: August 25, 2022, 07:05:54 PM »
Weapons shortage. Germany’s foreign minister said in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF that her country was experiencing a shortage of weapons, which explains some of the difficulties it has had in delivering arms to Ukraine.