Really Stupid Things Said About Russia

Moscow is being forced to play these aggressive and risky games out of desperation. The country is in bad shape and it is getting worse. [Not according to Bloomberg which says it’s out of the recession.] The once great superpower now has an economy smaller than Canada’s and it continues to shrink. [This is just stupid and a byproduct of exchange rates. Russia is one of the very few “full service” economies in the world. Canada is not one of those]. Even though they spend 5 per cent of their GDP on defence, Russia’s military forces have grown so rusted out they can barely get their last aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean and back without breaking down. [Even so, it got where it was going, did what it had to do, and got home again]. Even the ragtag Ukrainians have fought them to a standstill. [They wish – they’ve been beaten by a civilian militia]. Diplomatically, Moscow has never been so isolated and powerless. You can count its friends on one hand, and it’s not an impressive list: Syria, Iran, Belarus. [Oh, and China too.]

Russia’s coming attack on Canada by Scott Gilmore, MacLean’s, 8 March 2017.

[My comments]

US Senators Notice Soros

The letter from six Republican senators to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a rather interesting development. To many in the general public, Soros retains a reputation as a benign do-gooder but the Senators charge that the US Mission in Macedonia has “intervened in party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society” through USAID funds given to Soros’ foundation as one of the “implementing agencies”; they make mention of other interferences in other countries. They ask Tillerson to investigate and review these activities.

Whether this will lead anywhere remains to be seen – Soros’ organisations and American GONGOs are inextricably linked in regime change operations around the world – indeed the co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy (“Funded largely by the U.S. Congress“) boasted in 1991 “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Soros’ organisations are only one of the so-called independent vehicles that deliver these “spyless coups”.

But, despite their rather quaint objection to the supposed “left-leaning” bias of Soros’ activities – “left” and “right” is hardly the real issue here – their letter is a start at openly questioning Washington’s obsession with undermining and overthrowing governments it doesn’t like via the agency of so-called independent foundations.

The new Administration’s foreign policy mantra is supposed to be:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

The Administration’s reaction to this letter will be a test. And, if another motive is needed, Soros has many connections to the anti-Trump movement and was a significant donor to the Clinton campaign.

So, the reaction will be interesting to watch.

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

The world now faces a choice between the cooperative exploitation by the East and West of natural resources or a wasteful struggle that could cost a fortune in blood and treasure. Regional conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia threaten to deny Western access to the vital oil and gas reserves the world will need in the 21st century. The wars in Chechnya, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Georgia were started or exacerbated by the Russian military, and the outcome of these wars may determine who controls future pipeline routes. Moscow hopes that Russia will. Powerful interests in Moscow are attempting to ensure that the only route for exporting the energy resources of Eurasia will pass through Russia.

Ariel Cohen, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation “The New ‘Great Game’: Oil Politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia”; 25 January 1996.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 9 MARCH 2017

RUSSOMANIA. The US is going though a period of insanity over Moscow’s influence to a degree not, I think, exceeded even during the McCarthy period. The immediate motives for this hysteria are projection, distraction and avoidance. It is actually Washington that overthrows governments, insinuates its GONGOS everywhere, spies on everybody, dominates world propaganda, has military bases everywhere and is at war all the time. Accusing Moscow is psychological projection. As to distraction, we only heard that “Russia had hacked the election” when it was proved that the Clinton machine had hacked the DNC. Blaming Russia avoids the pain of understanding why the Democratic Party lost so badly. But I think there’s a deeper terror that accounts for the intensity of the frenzy. And that is, simply, that the New American Century is not going very well. Brzezinski proudly announced the unprecedented supremacy of American power two decades ago; he has since had to admit that that era (and what a short “era” it was!) is already over. The “New American Century” has become “Our Miserable 21st Century: unemployment, food stamps, opioids, incarcerations, crime, murders, departed manufacturing. And, outside the borders, wars that have no end. First proclaimed by neocons, consummated with liberalism’s humanitarian bombers, we see – today – the unavoidable consequence of hubris: believing you are the “most powerful, good and noble country in the history of mankind“, believing in “American global leadership”, believing in “American exceptionalism” is the route to Nemesis. The hierarchs of the “Church of America the Redeemer” can sense that it’s slipping away, but they don’t know what to do: how can they blame themselves? how can they admit their soteriology is hollow? Blame somebody else; blame Russia. But Russia didn’t start these wars, it didn’t jail millions of Americans, it doesn’t prescribe opioids, it didn’t steal American jobs: all it did was resist. The acolytes of the Church of America the Redeemer see the rise of something even more frightening: people are starting to see Russia as a standard bearer of the alternative, an example of a government that puts its own population first: trot out the usual smears of racism or some other bad word, but it’s happening. The European satraps see it too: vide Marine le Pen’s slogan of Oui, La France! The same slogans, mutatis mutandis, are rising all over Europe. The Imperium destroys itself with its globalism and its unending wars; it needs no assistance. As the USA sinks, Russia rises. All that Russia (and many other countries) have done is resist as best they can. The hierarchs curse their imagined opponent louder.

ESTONIA. Must be made of solid gold or unobtainium or something: according to this writer, Putin’s doing all this just so he can invade it in 2022. Trump, Assange, Wagenknecht. Le Pen; all is proceeding as planned. Nothing to do with globalism and unending wars: it’s all Evil Putin all the time.

ST ISAAC’S. A famous church in St Petersburg, sometimes called the “cathedral of stone”, turned into a museum by the Bolsheviks. What to do with it today? The ROC wants it back, people object. Fred Weir discusses the pros and cons. (A model, if I may say, of how to report on Russia. Just report: leave out the editorialising and sneery little adjectives.)

WADA WE SAY? “It was admitted by WADA that in many cases the evidence provided may not be sufficient to bring successful cases.” So, in the end, just another anti-Russia fake news story. But we did learn about Therapeutic Use Exemptions. If you’d thought athletes were healthy, I guess you were wrong.

RUSSIA’S HACKING FINGERPRINTS. Wikileaks tells us the CIA can fake hacking attribution. These two former US int operatives believe the DNC leak was an inside job; no Russian connection at all.

RUSSIA INC. “Russia has exited recession” says Bloomberg: positive growth for a year. And its PMI has been over 50 for a year now. So… sanctions didn’t work… oil price cuts didn’t work… Obviously there’s more to the Russian economy than Western policy people think they know.

HMMMM. A UK Commons Committee says “it is shortsighted not to engage with Russia“. Russia-bashing may be fun but Russia isn’t going away. Time to face reality.

UKRAINE. Extremists block coal moving from the Donbass into Ukraine (yes, all this time Kiev has been buying and Donbass rebels have been selling, coal). Energy emergency declared in Remnant Ukraine. Kiev cannot/will not/dare not control the extremists. The blockade continues. Donbass rebels cut the remaining ties to Kiev. In this video you can watch one set of Maidanites accuse the other of being Putin’s puppets. Remnant Ukraine continues to delaminate, but, as Adam Smith observed, there is much ruin in a nation and, miserable as it is, Ukraine hasn’t hit bottom yet.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Is American Warfighting Doctrine Hardwired for Failure?

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked.

NOTE 2017: I originally wrote this in February 2015; I haven’t seen anything in the last two years to make me change my mind. The, as Obama called it, “greatest military in the history of the world” is still no closer to “victory” – however you want to define that – in Afghanistan, Iraq or the innumerable other theatres of the GWOT. As to Russia’s warfighting doctrine, we can now add Syria to the Ossetian example mentioned below.

In my career, I never had much to do with the US Armed Forces in the field. Except once, in the early 1980s, when I saw the US Army on a big exercise in Germany and was pretty appalled. Lack of basic training, disorganisation, criminal behaviour (theft and the like), rogue units and an overall lack of military professionalism and competence. That was relatively soon after the Vietnam debacle and the US forces were at a nadir of their existence. Serious efforts were made (I saw a US unit commander summarily fired right then and there for incompetence) and the US forces are much, much better today.

My 35 year old observations serve only to illustrate that even armed forces with a good record can have bad periods after defeats. But armies improve – defeat is a good teacher – and the Americans have improved greatly since their defeat in Vietnam. Their operations in Iraq in 2003 were a masterpiece of logistical and operational perfection. No better illustration can be given than the fact that the Americans captured every single bridge. At every step of the operation, they were inside the Iraqi decision loop. Iraqi tanks were just targets.

But the Iraqi army was hardly a first class opponent and we cannot say that American forces have been up against first class opponents lately. And, if it takes 11 weeks to force little Serbia to give up, or over seven (seven!) months to overthrow Qaddafi, there must be some problem. To say nothing of Iraq or Afghanistan.

I can’t get two questions out of my mind:

When was the last time the USA won a war?

When was the last time US trained troops fought effectively?

Spectacularly successful at raining death and destruction in the first few weeks, something goes wrong later. Obviously there is something wrong in the way the USA fights wars. The expansion of political ends bears much responsibility for eventual failure. Consider, for a contrasting example, the 2008 Ossetia War. Russia had one clear aim and that was to roll back the Georgian attack. Postwar, its aim was to make another attack highly unlikely. It did the first quickly and assured the second by recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia and, under agreement, stationing troops there. Then Moscow stopped. There was no attempt to institute regime change in Tbilisi, to introduce Moscow’s notions of “democracy” or good government, to conquer Georgia, to turn it into a willing or unwilling ally or to attempt to satisfy any other grandiose desires. Moscow confined itself to the things that can be accomplished by violence and stopped when it had done them.

But what was the US/NATO war aim in Afghanistan? Knocking Taliban out of power – that was brilliantly accomplished, but then year after year of killing, dying and blowing things up to what purpose? Building schools? Giving women the vote? Afghanistan will never be a “Western democracy”. Whatever that is. (Neither would it have become a Soviet style “socialist state”, whatever that was). Knock over Saddam Hussein and destroy his forces? Brilliantly accomplished in short order. But then what? Again, Iraq will never be a “Western democracy”. And so the military achievement is squandered in pursuit of an ever receding chimera.

The fuzzy, but enormous, political aims tacked on after the first week or two destroy the soldiers’ victory. As Bismarck said, you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. But Washington is always trying to sit, indeed trying to sleep comfortably, on them.

But it’s not just the ever expanding war aims that lead to defeat; I believe there is a problem at the heart of American warfighting doctrine. The early successes are based on assumptions that do not, over the long term, endure. It is precisely the initial success that encourages politicians to add the fuzzy political ambitions that lead, in their turn, to failure. The eventual failure is determined in the initial success.

I believe that this problem also answers the second question about the failure of US trained troops. We have just seen the Iraqi army that the US expended so much time and treasure training fold in front of ISIS warriors. The latest in a long string of failures. I believe that the answer to both questions is the same.

Air power and weapons.

Air power first. The US Armed Forces are used to operating in conditions in which almost every aircraft in the sky is friendly. Indeed, since the very first days of WWII, when have they ever had to fear air attack? And for decades now they have assumed, correctly, that every aircraft they see is friendly. They can go where they like confident that no one is tracking them from above, no one is sighting in on them from above and that, in trouble, they can call in tremendous destruction from the air. They kill their enemies – You Tube is full of videos – from the air without the enemy even knowing he’s taken his last breath. They operate confident that the enemy’s command and control system was destroyed in the first few days by air attack. And that, I believe, is the basic assumption of their warfighting doctrine – you never have to worry about what’s above you. And that’s what they – consciously or unconsciously – pass on to the armies they train. “If you get into trouble wait for the air to save you”. But you can only be certain of total air superiority against second or third class opponents. And only for a while: really determined opponents will figure out way to operate anyway.

Secondly, weapons. Americans believe that weapons win wars. And more sophisticated weapons win them faster and easier. But that’s not true. Obviously you need weapons to fight wars. Equally obviously Mongol cavalry with compound bows are at a severe disadvantage against Abrams tanks. But what really wins wars is fighting spirit, leadership, determination, organisation, adaptability. The moral factors. Mongol cavalry would soon learn to avoid the tanks and shoot the crews when they got out of them. And, indeed, we have seen this and the Pentagon ought to know it by now. Vietnam. Somalia. Iraq. Afghanistan. That’s enough, isn’t it, to prove my point? The determined little guy often beats the sophisticated big guy. Weapons are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. Senator John McCain believes that weapons are decisive and that’s why he wants the USA to send weapons to Ukraine. But first estimates say the rebels have captured 80 tanks, 100 other AFVs, 65 artillery systems and 500 tons of ammunition in Debaltsevo [in February 2015]. So, to arm Kiev is really, at the end of the day, to arm the rebels. Why? Simply because weapons are useless in feeble hands.

I leave aside the question of what would happen should the Americans come up against first class opponents and American aircraft start falling in dozens and American troops are subject to mass air attack. All with weapons which, while not perhaps quite as fancy as US ones, are rugged, adaptable and get the job done.

I won’t talk about careerism and ticket punching and what you need to do to be promoted in today’s American forces and the resulting quality of leadership. I don’t know anything about it and leave the reader to consider better informed pieces such as this one.

In short, I don’t think the Americans are nearly as good as they think they are – they’ve been spoiled by success (initial success that is) against second and third rate enemies which are swiftly overwhelmed by their air power and fancy weapons. Overwhelmed in the first few weeks; after that it’s different.

Maybe the US Armed Forces are a lot closer to what I saw in the early 1980s in Germany than is believed by the rah rah people in Washington.

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

NATO has proved itself to be peaceful and the West’s CFE commitments add to that assurance. But as Russia recovers and rearms, as history suggests it will, Moscow’s imperialist urge might well rise again. Then it will be too late and ‘provocative’ to redraw the defence line.

William Safire, “U.S. can’t let Russian paranoia determine defense of Europe“, 3 October 1995