Category Archives: Ukraine

U.S. repeatedly loses in Pentagon war games against Russia

On Sept. 29, 2015, an op/ed by reporter Benny Avni in the New York Post proclaimed Vladimir Putin’s Russia as “the world’s new sole superpower.” Avni wrote:

The baton was officially transferred Monday to the world’s new sole superpower — and Vladimir Putin willingly picked it up.

Putin’s deployment of forces in Syria and arming of Assad create facts on the ground. They have also propelled him to the top by taking initiative on today’s most consequential world fight….That’s how Putin seized leadership from America….

And it’s bad for America. Because sooner or later, after more bloodshed and under even worse conditions than now, our next president will be called upon to retake the leadership baton from Putin. And that could prove tricky.

Avni’s proclamation isn’t that far-fetched given the fact that the Pentagon’s own war games show that the U.S. would lose in a Baltic war against Russia.

Julia Ioffe writes for Foreign Policy, Sept. 18, 2015, that the Pentagon continuously generates contingency plans for every possible scenario — anything from armed confrontation with North Korea to zombie attacks.

For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, the U.S. Department of Defense is reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia, to reflect a new, post-Crimea-annexation geopolitical reality in which Russia is no longer a potential partner, but a potential threat.

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, explains that “Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine made the U.S. dust off its contingency plans. They were pretty out of date.” Flournoy says the new plans have two tracks:

  • One focuses on what the United States can do as part of NATO if Russia attacks one of NATO’s member states.
  • The other track considers American action outside the NATO umbrella.

Both versions of the updated contingency plans focus on Russian incursions into the Baltics, a scenario seen as the most likely front for new Russian aggression. They are also increasingly focusing not on traditional warfare, but on the hybrid tactics Russia used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: “little green men,” manufactured protests, and cyberwarfare. Julie Smith, who until recently served as Vice President Joe Biden’s deputy national security advisor, says: “They are trying to figure out in what circumstances [the U.S. Defense Department] would respond to a cyberattack. There’s a lively debate on that going on right now.”

It was in February 2014 that Putin caught the Obama administration off guard by sending little green men into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. David Ochmanek, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, said, “We didn’t plan for it because we didn’t think Russia would change the borders in Europe.” Crimea was a “surprise.”

In June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked Ochmanek for advice on Russia. At the same time, the Army had approached one of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings.

“Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?,” Ochmanek recalls.

The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and U.S. pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the NATO team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery.

After eight hours of gaming out various scenarios, “the conclusion,” Ochmanek says, “was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.

Ochmanek decided to run the game on a second day. The teams played the game again, this time working on the assumption that the United States and NATO had already started making positive changes to their force posture in Europe. Would anything be different? The conclusion was slightly more upbeat, but not by much. “We can defend the capitals, we can present Russia with problems, and we can take away the prospect of a coup de main,” Ochmanek says. “But the dynamic remains the same.” Even without taking into account the recent U.S. defense cuts, due to sequestration, and the Pentagon’s plan to downsize the Army by 40,000 troops, the logistics of distance were still daunting. U.S. battalions would still take anywhere from one to two months to mobilize and make it across the Atlantic, and the Russians, Ochmanek notes, “can do a lot of damage in that time.

Ochmanek has run the two-day table-top exercise eight times now, including at the Pentagon and at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, with active-duty military officers. “We played it 16 different times with eight different teams,” Ochmanek says, “always with the same conclusion.

When asked about Ochmanek’s conclusions, a Defense Department official expressed confidence that, eventually, NATO would claw the territory back. “In the end, I have no doubt that NATO will prevail and that we will restore the territorial integrity of any NATO member,” the official said. “I cannot guarantee that it will be easy or without great risk. My job is to ensure that we can reduce that risk.”

That is, the Pentagon does not envision a scenario in which Russia doesn’t manage to grab some Baltic territory first. The goal is to deter — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced this summer that the United States would be sending dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, and howitzers to the Baltics and Eastern Europe — and, if that fails, to painstakingly regain NATO territory.

The Pentagon is also chewing on various hybrid warfare scenarios, and even a nuclear one. The senior defense official says, “As you look at published Russian doctrine, I do believe people are thinking about use of tactical nuclear weapons in a way that hadn’t been thought about for many years . . . . The doctrine clearly talks about it, so it would be irresponsible . . . to at least not be thinking through those issues. Any time there is nuclear saber rattling, it is always a concern, no matter where it comes from.”

B61-12-nuclear-bombNote: German public television ZDF reports on Sept. 22, 2015, that the U.S. will station 20 new atomic weapons, B61-12, in Germany. Each B61-12 has four times the destructive power of the one that was used on Hiroshima in 1945. “With the new bombs the boundaries blur between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons,” Hans Kristensen, the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told ZDF.

There is a strong element of disappointment among senior foreign-policy and security officials in these discussions, of disbelief that we ended up here after all those good years in America’s relations with Russia.

The State Department official says: “A lot of people at the Pentagon are unhappy about the confrontation. They were very happy with the military-to-military cooperation with Russia.” Some think that Russia is a distraction from the real threat — China. Others think that working with Russia on arms control is more important than protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. Not only would they rather not have to think about Moscow as an enemy, but many are also miffed that even making these plans plays right into Putin’s paranoid fantasies about a showdown between Russia and NATO or between Russia and the United States — which makes those fantasies, de facto, a reality. In the U.S. planning for confrontation with Russia, says the Senate staffer, Putin “is getting the thing he always wanted.”

In his July confirmation hearing to ascend to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford said that Russia posed an “existential threat” to the United States and that America must do more to prepare itself for hybrid warfare of the type Russia deployed in Ukraine. Dunford’s statement angered the Obama White House, which saw it as potentially provocative to Moscow.

The fact that U.S. repeatedly lost in the Pentagon’s own war games against Russia could explain why, according to a Sept. 25, 2015 article on the Russian news site, SvetKolemnas.Info, a “summary report of the Russian Ministry of Defense for the internal needs of the Kremlin” states that within three weeks after President Putin orders a “first strike” against America and its NATO allies, the military forces of the Russian Federation will achieve “a total defeat” of U.S. military forces, including:

  • The destruction of all 18 US aircraft carriers and ships capable of carrying aircraft, and of all US and NATO military satellites.
  • The strategic takeover of heavy weapons.
  • The “erasing” of all US bases in the UK.
  • The total loss of US and NATO troops of over 35,000 (dead, wounded, captured and missing), and material losses of at least 15 trillion dollars (ships, aircraft, weapons, etc.)

The report envisions that after Russia achieved tactical superiority over US and NATO forces during the first 24 hours of the war, Moscow would issue a demand for the removal of all US forces, nuclear weapons and equipment from Europe, in exchange for a cessation of hostilities.

If the demand is met, Russian forces would then withdraw from the conquered territories. If the request is rejected, the forces of the Russian Federation would deploy tactical nuclear weapons against US military bases and NATO in Europe, as well as EMP/electronic weapons against the United States and Canada. Russia would also be prepared to use intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Fearing total global nuclear war, the US and the EU would immediately lose the political will to fight.

The Russian Ministry of Defense report also states that tens of millions of American Christians could very well act as a “fifth column” in support of the Russian Federation, given that those Christians have had “to defend against their own ‘demonic’ leaders destroying America.” American Christians would side with the Christian forces of the Russian Federation who only seek to liberate the United States, Europe and the rest of the world from those demonic leaders’ “satanic design.”

In this manner, with the “fifth column” of Christian Americans supporting Christian Russia, a global nuclear disaster would be averted, and the United States under a new Christian leadership could then return to a peaceful way of life and “cease terrorizing the world.”

This image is in the SvetKolemnas.Info article

The report notes that, according to CNN, the readiness of the US military is now at a historic low, with half of U.S. Marine Corps units at below the level of military preparedness. The report further sites a U.S. blog, Fellowship of the Minds, on the mass exodus of Christians from the US military. All of which has rendered a once-fearsome military increasingly dysfunctional because of the Obama regime’s sex/gender experimentation, including American cadets being forced to march in high heels as part of their education, and Obama’s appointment of “Erica [sic] K. Fanning, an open homosexual, as Commander of the US Army.”

Note: Last month, Obama nominated Eric Fanning, an admitted homosexual, to be Army Secretary. (See “Obama names open homosexual to be Secretary of U.S. Army“)

The report estimates that if the de-Christianized and demoralized U.S. military were to face the Christian forces of the Russian Federation, it would take only 3 weeks for the U.S. military to be drained of all their “will to fight”.

Referring to Salon.com, “one of the most popular U.S. magazines,” now “openly supporting” sex between an adult and a child, pedophilia being just another sexual lifestyle, the SvetKolemnas.Info article cryptically concluded that “After all, things of hell belong to hell … maybe it’s time to make this monster go back where they belong.”

See also:

-StMA

U.S. Army commander says Russia is “real threat” as Patriot missiles are deployed to Poland

Lt. Gen. Ben HodgesJustin Huggler reports for The Telegraph, April 18, 2015, that Lt. Gen. Frederick “Ben” Hodges, Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, warns that NATO must remain united in the face of a “real threat” from Russia:

It’s not an assumption. There is a Russian threat. You’ve got the Russian ambassador threatening that Denmark will be a nuclear target if it participates in any missile defense program. And when you look at the unsafe way Russian aircraft are flying without transponders in proximity to civilian aircraft, that’s not professional conduct.”

Gen. Hodges spoke to the Telegraph on the sidelines of a military debriefing after an exercise to move live Patriot missiles 750 miles across Europe by road and deploy them on the outskirts of Warsaw. The sight of a US military convoy crossing the German-Polish border more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War made international headlines and brought traffic to a standstill as people posed for selfies beside the troops.

map of Baltic StatesPointing to recent Russian decisions to move Iskandar ballistic missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave, between Lithuania and Poland, and long-range nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea, Gen. Hodges said the intention of the highly visible deployment of Patriot missiles to Poland was to send a signal:

“That’s exactly what it was about, reassuring our allies. I don’t think a military confrontation is inevitable. But you have to be militarily ready in order to enable effective diplomacy. The best insurance we have against a showdown is that NATO stands together.”

Danish F-16sSince taking over command of the US army in Europe last year, Gen. Hodges has found himself on the front line of an increasingly nervous stand-off with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Eastern European countries are looking to NATO, and the US in particular, for reassurance that they will not be left to face Russian aggression alone.

A year after the Obama administration pulled its last battle tank out of Europe, the US is sending hundreds of tanks and heavy fighting vehicles back to the continent, and Gen. Hodges is in the middle of talks over where to position them. He has also assumed command at a time when many Western European countries are cutting their military budgets, and relying ever more on the US for their defense. “I think the question for each country to ask is: are they security consumers or security providers?” Gen Hodges said. “Do they bring capabilities the alliance needs?”

In recent years, while Western countries have been cutting their defense budgets, Russia has been spending heavily on modernizing its military.
Gen. Hodges said the recent involvement of Russian forces in fighting in eastern Ukraine has shown that they have made huge advances, particularly in electronic warfare: “We’re not interested in a fair fight with anyone. We want to have overmatch in all systems. I don’t think that we’ve fallen behind but Russia has closed the gap in certain capabilities. We don’t want them to close that gap.”

But he doesn’t think this is the start of a new Cold War:

“That was a different situation, with gigantic forces and large numbers of nuclear weapons. The only thing that is similar now is that Russia and NATO have different views about what the security environment in Europe should be. I don’t think it’s the same as the Cold War. We did very specific things then that are no longer relevant. We don’t need 300,000 soldiers in Europe. Nobody can afford that any more. We want to see Russia back in the international community and cooperating against Islamic terrorism and on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That’s different from the Cold War. I’m sure they’re not going to line up Russian tanks and go rolling into another country. They don’t want a military confrontation with NATO. Our alliance is the most successful alliance in history and it has a lot of capability.”

Gen Hodges has an easy manner with the men under his command, making jokes and asking the opinions of the most junior privates, as well as senior officers. He has combat experience as a brigade commander in Iraq, but in his current role he has to deal with different challenges.

Hodges believes Russia will not risk an open attack on a NATO member for fear the alliance will invoke Article V of its treaty, under which an attack on one member is an attack on all. Instead, the danger is that Russia will seek to put pressure on NATO members on its borders through other means, such as information, economic pressure, and border violations. He points to the large Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic countries, and the economic power Russia has as a major consumer of eastern European agricultural produce, as possible avenues Russian president Vladimir Putin may try to exploit.

But Hodges is confident that NATO will remain united in the face of Russian aggression:

“If President Putin’s objective is to fracture the alliance, then he’s going about it the wrong way. At the Wales summit there was a unity of the alliance I have not seen before, and it came about because of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its use of force to change the borders of a sovereign country, Ukraine. It was a direct response to Russia’s behaviour in Crimea.”

Is Gen. Hodges not aware that last December, Hungary, which joined NATO in 1997, accused the United States of instigating a new Cold War against Russia and declared Hungary will not participate?

Pointing to recent moves by traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland to cooperate more closely on defense with NATO members Norway, Denmark and Iceland, Hodges observes:

“Nobody’s trying to join Russia. There’s no country scurrying to get under Russia’s protective umbrella. Why do so many countries want to join the EU or NATO? It’s about values. They want security and prosperity. Russia wants to make it difficult for countries that were affiliated with the USSR or the Warsaw Pact to join the West. The way they see it they’re entitled to a role, to a sphere of influence. I think the position of the West is that this idea of a sphere of influence is not applicable in the 21st century. In the 21st century countries have the right to decide for themselves what is right for them and what kind of country they want to be. They’ve made the European choice. That’s what this is all about.”

Since taking up his command, Gen Hodges has been outspoken over the Russian threat in a way that is rare for a serving general. Admitting that “I understand my role” as carrying out, not making, policy for the U.S. or the NATO alliance, Hodges nevertheless has chosen to speak out because he fears Russia is going unchallenged in the information war:

“We talk about DIME: diplomacy, information, military and economy. An important aspect of how Russia operates is how they use information. They use information the way they use infantry and missiles. They’re not burdened by the truth. Most of the independent media has left Russia and a large percentage is government-owned or -dominated. They don’t have to worry about congressional or parliamentary oversight. There’s a constant bombardment of information.”

In his last interview before his death on Monday, Günter Grass, the Nobel-winning German author, said he feared that humanity was “sleepwalking” towards another World War. But Gen. Hodges disagrees:

“I think we were sleepwalking a few years ago when we thought Russia wanted to be a part of the international community. They were with us in Bosnia. We actually have a mechanism for them to cooperate with NATO. But I think we’re wide-awake now.”

See also:

~StMA

U.S. deploys 290 paratroopers to Ukraine flashpoint

The Ukraine flashpoint between the U.S. and Russia is heating up.

More than 10 days after the AFP first reported that the Obama administration will be deploying 290 paratroopers to Ukraine to train its national guard soldiers, the story finally is getting traction, carried by other news media like NewsMax, MoneyMorning, and China Post.

Beginning April 20 in three waves of training, each lasting eight weeks, 290 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Italy, will train 900 Ukrainian national guard troops in the town of Yavoriv in the government-controlled western region of Lviv, near the Polish border.

Yavoriv, Ukraine

At the end of the training, the U.S. and Ukraine will conduct joint war games.

U.S. Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said the paratroopers will train six Ukrainian national guard companies “with a focus on internal security and territorial defense, and that “While we continue to believe that there is no military resolution to this crisis, Ukraine has the right to defend itself.” The training assistance “is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations. The program is also designed to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capability and capacity and assist in its defense reform.”

The National Guard of Ukraine is made up of reservists, and was reformed in 2014 to bring volunteers and militia under government control following the Maidan protests that brought down the pro-Russian government of Victor Yanukovych.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had already accused the U.S. of fuelling the Maidan protests. Given that, U.S. paratroopers’ training of Ukrainian national guards is sure to provoke anger in Moscow. A shaky ceasefire is currently in place in Ukraine, but skirmishes continue on a daily basis.

The U.S. counters that Russia has supplied Ukrainian separatists with weapons and troops during a near year-long conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives, but Putin has always denied the claims.

The United States provides some military aid to Ukraine, though it stops short of delivering the lethal weapons asked for by Kiev. The latest aid consists of more than $75 million worth of armored and unarmored Humvees, unarmed Raven drones, counter-mortar radars, night vision devices and other “non-lethal defensive” equipment. Congress recently voted to urge President Barack Obama to provide “lethal” aid to Kiev.

Sporadic fighting is ongoing in pro-Russian, separatist-held eastern Ukraine, despite a ceasefire agreement signed last month.

See also “U.S. arms Latvia against Russia with 120 armored units.”

~StMA

U.S. arms Latvia against Russia with 120 armored units

map of Baltic StatesRT reports, March 9, 2015, that the Latvian Ministry of Defense confirmed that more than 120 armored units, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley armored vehicles, have been delivered by the US to Latvia via Riga Freeport after being offloaded from the carrier ship Liberty Promise.

Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis said in a statement on Twitter,”The presence of our allies (US and NATO) in Latvia is a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region.”

US Army General John O’Conner who witnessed the tanks arriving on Latvian soil said, “Freedom must be fought for, freedom must be defended,” and that the tanks “demonstrate resolve to President Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together” and would stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression.”

Meanwhile, ZeroHedge reports that a day after the delivery of U.S. lethal aid to Latvia, on March 10, 2o15 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a Senate committee that the U.S. can “confirm” new Russian weapons delivery to Ukraine and “can tell” when Russia sends in new weapons, but Nuland offered no explanation of how the U.S. knows all this.

Victoria NulandNote: This is the same Victoria Nuland whose conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was bugged and leaked on YouTube in February 2014. As pointed out by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, the conversation shows that, contrary to the Obama administration’s insistence that the U.S. is working with all sides in the Ukraine crisis to reach a peaceful solution and that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future,” Nuland’s conversation suggests that the US favors the Ukraine “opposition” and has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. (To read the transcript of the Nuland-Pyatt phone conversation, go to BBC.)

At the same Senate committee hearing, U.S. Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense Brian McKeon said the US is “actively considering more weapons for Ukraine,” which implies the U.S. had already sent weapons.

~StMA

U.S. to close 15 military bases in Europe, as Russia’s presence grows

U.S. European CommandClick map to enlarge

Adam Kredo reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 9, 2015, that the U.S. military is set to shutter 15 sites across Europe and reduce the number of active personnel stationed in these areas as the result of a wide-ranging restructuring that aims to consolidate some operations on the continent, according to Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

The European restructuring is the culmination of a two-year consolidation plan known as the European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) that is reminiscent of a previous decade-long realignment following the Cold War.

The following changes will take effect in the coming years:

  • 15 sites in all will be returned by the United States to their host nations.
  • “Approximately 1,200 U.S. military and civilian support positions will be eliminated, and about 6,000 more U.S. personnel will be relocated within Europe,” said John Conger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment who manages the EIC plan.
  • The largest force withdrawal will take place across three UK-based bases, resulting in the removal of 2,000 military personnel from the UK. The most major divestment will be made at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall base, which is being shut down. In turn, two squadrons of F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter jets will move to the RAF Lakenheath facility in 2020. About 3,200 U.S. personnel will relocate from RAF Mildenhall, and that will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people who will be permanently assigned to the two F-35 squadrons slated to open at RAF Lakenheath.
  • Germany, Italy, and Portugal also will be most impacted by the restructure. “Several hundred” U.S. military personnel will be moved to Germany in the coming years, while another 200 will go to Italy. Around 500 military personnel will be removed from the Azores Islands, a move that has sparked protest in Portugal.
  • Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years, as many of their positions are relocated to other areas that the U.S. needs to maintain for the long term.

This latest realignment follows a series of significant reductions in Europe that have greatly reduced the U.S. military presence there. The Pentagon hopes to save around $500 million annually as a result of the wide-ranging restructure, which comes as the U.S. military battles against widespread budgetary cuts and growing international challenges across Europe and the Middle East.

Defense Department officials insist that the withdrawal and consolidation will not impact U.S. readiness or its ability to bolster allies in the region. Chollet said, “We are consolidating and reducing some existing support infrastructure in order to be more efficient, but we are not affecting our operational capabilities. The EIC adjustments do not diminish our ability to meet our commitments to allies and partners.”

While Pentagon officials have defended the realignment as necessary to cut costs, some critics say that the restructure may send a message of weakness at a time when nations such as Russia are increasing their rogue behaviors. Insiders on Capitol Hill familiar with the shifts warned that the move is likely to embolden rogue leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is counting on the U.S. military to continue its retreat from the region.

A congressional staffer apprised of the changes said the restructure “sends a terrible message to NATO and Putin at a critical time. Further, in a time when readiness is in the absolute pits—they are talking about spending $1.5 billion to close bases. Insane. What if we need to ramp up? What if Putin pushes further west? Or into the Baltics? What if we have to return forces to Europe?”

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel argued that the reductions and movements would make the United States more nimble in the region, saying “In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Pentagon official and defense expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said that the savings being touted by the Pentagon may not actually be reinvested in other theaters: “On paper, the transfer of non-essential property back to host nations in order to free up funds for combat power and missions is usually smart. However, combatant commanders don’t own those funds and therefore the money will not automatically be returned to them for reinvestment elsewhere in theater. Any savings [European Command] reaps will go back to the black hole [Operations and Maintenance] account and be reassigned to another priority altogether and the European commanders will have no say in that regard.”

Furthermore, there is also the risk that continued cuts will begin to impact readiness as potentially key logistics positions are eliminated. Eaglen said, “Those on the front lines still left in Europe—like pilots—still need maintainers, engineers, and myriad other logistics support staff to keep them and their aircraft flying every day. While it’s possible these positions are truly non-essential, Congress and the Pentagon have cut U.S. force structure much too deeply in Europe in their zeal to pivot elsewhere, save money, and stall a needed domestic base closure round.”

With a retreating U.S. military, no wonder Hungary wants no part of NATO’s new Cold War against Russia.

See also:

~StMA

Russia’s revised military doctrine cites NATO military buildup as major threat

Sputnik News reports on Dec. 26, 2014:

President Vladimir Putin has signed an updated version of Russia’s military doctrine, which highlights expansion of NATO’s military capabilities among main threats to national security, the Kremlin said in a statement on Friday.

“Despite a decreased likelihood of a large-scale war against Russia, some security threats continue to grow,” the revised doctrine says.

According to the text of the revised doctrine, “NATO’s military buildup” and the bloc’s expansion toward the Russian borders are among the main external threats to Russia’s security.

Other external threats include the development and deployment of strategic missile defense systems, the implementation of the ‘global strike’ doctrine, plans to place weapons in space as well as the deployment of high-precision conventional weapons systems.

The doctrine also identifies the main internal threats as being activities aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country, terrorist activities to harm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia, as well as actions involving anti-Russian and anti-patriotic propaganda.

Russia’s military doctrine remains purely defensive in nature, the document emphasizes.

Russia’s revised military doctrine for the first time ever named the protection of national interests in the Arctic among the main priorities for its armed forces in times of peace.

The updated section about main objectives for the armed forces and other defense bodies in peaceful time now includes “the protection of national interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic.”

Discussions on protecting national interests in the Arctic have arisen in Russia as the region, which is believed to have vast untapped reserves of oil and gas, has been the focus of much attention in four other countries bordering the area: the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark.

Earlier in December, President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia was not planning to militarize the Arctic, but was taking the necessary measures to ensure its defense capability in the region.

In April, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would build a unified network of military facilities in its Arctic territories to host troops, advanced warships and aircraft, as part of a plan to boost the defense of national interests and borders in the region.

The revised military doctrine replaces the previous 2010 version. Overall, the 2014 military doctrine is the fourth version, following doctrines released in 1993, 2000 and 2010 doctrines.

The recent actions taken by NATO following Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March, namely boosting its military presence in Poland and in the former Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, have aroused dissatisfaction in Russia.

In April, the alliance ceased all practical cooperation with Russia, limiting contact to ambassadorial and higher levels. And the country’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly described NATO expansion as a mistake that undermines European stability.

H/t Global Security

See also:

~StMA

Russia forms Eurasian Economic Union with 4 ex-Soviet states

Eurasian Economic Union mapEurasian Economic Union: Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Vladimir Isachenkov reports for the AP that on Dec. 23, 2014, Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations — Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan —  completed the creation of a new economic alliance, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Emblem and flag of the Eurasian Economic Union

Emblem and flag of the Eurasian Economic Union

The EEU will begin on January 1, 2015. In addition to free trade, the new union will coordinate the members’ financial systems and regulate their industrial and agricultural policies along with labor markets and transportation networks.

Russia had tried to encourage Ukraine to join, but its former pro-Moscow president was ousted in February following months of protests. Russia then annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimean Peninsula, and a pro-Russia mutiny has engulfed eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the new union will have a combined economic output of $4.5 trillion and bring together 170 million people: “The Eurasian integration is based on mutual benefit and taking into account mutual interests.”

The EEU will create a single economic market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars (PPP). The union will operate through supranational institutions — the Eurasian Commission (the executive body), the Court of the EEU (the judicial body). the Eurasian Development Bank — and intergovernmental institutions. National governments are usually represented by the Eurasian Commission’s Council. The union’s member states account for about 15% of the world’s land mass, covering over 20 million square kilometers. (Wikipedia)

But the new economic alliance immediately showed signs of fracture as Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko launched a harsh attack on Moscow for damaging Belarus’ economic interests with moves to restrict its exports to Russia.

Belarus, sandwiched between Russia and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, has profited handsomely from Moscow’s ban on imports of EU food in retaliation against Western sanctions against Russia by boosting imports of food from the EU nations and reselling it to Russia.

The Russian authorities have retaliated by halting imports of Belarus’ own milk and meat, citing alleged sanitary reasons, and banning transit of Belarusian food bound for Kazakhstan through its territory on suspicion that much of it ended up in Russia.

“In violation of all international norms, we have faced a ban on transit,” Lukashenko said. “It was done in a unilateral way and without any consultations.”

See also Radio Free Europe’s assessment of the EEU. Click here.

~StMA

Obama chucks Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: Why we should be concerned

Chuck HagelIn the midst of the United States’ failed policy against the Islamic State (aka ISIS/ISIL) and an abrupt escalation of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, President Obama saw fit to fire Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, under the pretense that the latter resigned, and without a replacement ready to take over. (See “Obama’s ISIL strategy reexamined: air strikes ineffective; weak coalition“)

Note: The New York Times reports, Nov. 21, 2014, that Obama quietly expanded the authorization to use U.S. troops in Afghanistan to include offensive ops next year, despite his announcement last May that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year.  According to a Rasmussen Report poll, Obama’s expansion of the military’s role in the Afghan war has the approval of only 28% of likely voters.

Helene Cooper reports for The New York Times that on Nov. 24, 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet, “handed in his resignation” although “Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary.”

In so doing, Hagel became the first cabinet-level casualty of the post-midterm elections collapse of Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises. Hagel would remain in the job until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Why did Hagel resign Obama sack Hagel? Below are some explanations:

1. Hagel’s poor job performance

Delays in transferring detainees from the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, according to unnamed Obama administration “aides.” (New York Times)

2. Personnel and policy conflict

Specifically Hagel’s dispute with national security adviser Susan Rice over Syria policy, according to the same unnamed “aides” who maintained that the threat from the “militant” (not Islamic or jihadist!) group Islamic State requires different skills from those that Hagel, “who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary,” was brought in to employ. “The next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. (New York Times)

3. Hagel as scapegoat

“The Beltway clerks and pundits tell us Hagel is a political scapegoat, a sacrifice to Obama’s electoral drubbing…. After six years, the public is painfully aware that made-for-media drama, especially personalizing drama, is the sine qua non of Obama administration political operations.” Remember video-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was used as a scapegoat by the Obama administration for the Benghazi attack? (Washington Examiner)

“He was brought in to oversee America’s drawdown of global involvement in the post-Iraq War era — the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the cutting of the defense budget…. Hagel cannot be blamed for the lack of diligence Obama showed when withdrawing from Iraq, which created the current Islamic State problem. Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, has credibly blamed Obama himself for that. Hagel did not squander the costly gains made by a decade of U.S. military involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Hagel did not get to make the final call on releasing Guantanamo detainees, including two United Nations war crime suspects, without following the law and giving Congress advance notice. Hagel did not draw a red line in the Syrian sand that he had no intention of enforcing. Nor can Hagel be blamed for other foreign policy problems that Obama has created for himself, including the evident loss of respect for America by both enemies such as Russia and erstwhile allies such as Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Poland.” (Washington Examiner)

Although Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) was a vocal opponent of Hagel’s nomination in 2013, in an interview with KFYI radio in Phoenix, the senator defended Hagel from being characterized as not being able to handle the job.

“Already White House people are leaking ‘well he wasn’t up to the job,’ well believe me he was up to the job it was the job he was given where he really was never really brought into that real tight circle inside the White House that makes all the decisions which has put us into the incredible debacle that we’re in today throughout the world,” McCain said.

McCain also praised Hagel for characterizing ISIS as the greatest threat in the Middle East, while Obama was calling them members of a JV team. “We’ve had our disagreements but Chuck Hagel is an honorable man,” McCain added. (Breitbart)

Hagel’s parting shot

In an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, conducted at the Pentagon days before his “resignation,” Hagel made two key points that serve as accusations that Obama is mismanaging the U.S. military and the ISIS threat.

1. In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. About the U.S. military’s declining capability, Hagel said, “I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” pointedly leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are concerned. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.

Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.” The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president.

2. Hagel charged that Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat is now indirectly assisting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced. “We’ve never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well-organized, so well-trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless. We have never seen anything quite like that in one institution. And then they blend in ideology — which will eventually lose, we get that — and social media. The sophistication of their social media program is something that we’ve never seen before. You blend all of that together, that is an incredibly powerful new threat.” (PJMedia)

Mark Landler of the New York Times has these words of caution about the removal of Chuck Hagel:

Mr. Hagel never penetrated the inner circle of aides around the president, according to current and former officials. He spoke little in important policy meetings….

By forcing out Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, President Obama … does not address deeper doubts about the team’s capacity to deal with problems from the Islamic State to the Ebola outbreak…. If anything, Mr. Hagel’s exit may represent the final triumph of a White House-centric approach to national security. With the president’s core team intact, and none of the candidates to succeed Mr. Hagel showing the independent streak of Mr. Obama’s first-term Pentagon chief, Robert M. Gates, the White House seems likely to keep a tight leash on foreign policy for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s presidency….

Not only does the Hagel ouster not address the internal problems in the White House, but it’s also essentially a denial that the problem goes deeper,” said David Rothkopf, an expert on the National Security Council who just published a book, “National Insecurity.”

It is in light of Rothkopf’s grim observation that a recent article for Stratfor by its founder and chairman George Friedman takes on significance. Calling Obama’s a failed presidency, Friedman writes:

We have now entered the final phase of Barack Obama’s presidency, and like those of several other presidents since World War II, it is ending in what we call a state of failure…. When the president’s support has fragmented to the point that he is fighting to recover his base, I considered that a failed presidency — particularly when Congress is in the hands of the opposition…. Historically, when the president’s popularity rating has dipped to about 37 percent, his position has been unrecoverable.

So what about the future — Obama’s remaining two years as a lameduck president? Friedman has these sobering words:

This does not mean that the president can’t act. It simply means that it is enormously more difficult to act than before….

The president has few domestic options. Whatever Obama does with his power domestically, Congress can vote to cut funding, and if the act is vetoed, the president puts Congressional Democrats in mortal danger. The place where he can act — and this is likely the place Obama is least comfortable acting — is in foreign policy. There, the limited deployment of troops and diplomatic initiatives are possible….

The failed president frequently tries to entice negotiation by increasing the military pressure on the enemy. Truman, Johnson and George W. Bush all took this path while seeking to end their wars. In no case did it work, but they had little to lose politically by trying.

Therefore, if we follow historical patterns, Obama will now proceed slowly and ineffectively to increase military operations in Syria and Iraq, while raising non-military pressure on Russia, or potentially initiating some low-level military activities in Ukraine. The actions will be designed to achieve a rapid negotiating process that will not happen. The presidency will shift to the other party, as it did with Truman, Johnson and George W. Bush. Thus, if patterns hold true, the Republicans will retake the presidency. This is not a pattern unknown to Congress, which means that the Democrats in the legislature will focus on running their own campaigns as far away from Obama and the next Democratic presidential candidate as possible.

The period of a failed presidency is therefore not a quiet time. The president is actively trying to save his legacy in the face of enormous domestic weakness. Other countries, particularly adversaries, see little reason to make concessions to failed presidents, preferring to deal with the next president instead. These adversaries then use military and political oppositions abroad to help shape the next U.S. presidential campaign in directions that are in their interests….

The last two years of a failed presidency are mostly about foreign policy and are not very pleasant to watch.

See also:

~StMA

Russian bombers to patrol Gulf of Mexico

In yet another sign of Russia rebuilding its military back to world-power caliber, its long-range bombers will patrol the globe, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Russia's strategic bomber Tu-160 or White Swan, the largest supersonic bomber in the worldRussia’s strategic bomber Tu-160 or White Swan, the largest supersonic bomber in the world

Vladimir Isachenkov reports for the Associated Press and the Canadian Press that on Nov. 12, 2014, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia will send long-range strategic bombers on regular patrol missions across the globe, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sergei Shoigu (l) and Vladimir Putin (r)

Sergei Shoigu (l) and Vladimir Putin (r)

The announcement came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of sending fresh troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine: “Over the last few days, we have seen multiple reports of large convoys moving into Eastern Ukraine. We assess that this significant military buildup includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defence systems and troops.”

Jens StoltenbergJens Stoltenberg (Source: A New World Order)

Moscow denied the allegation as unfounded, but Shoigu said the dispute with the West over Ukraine would require Russia to beef up its forces in the Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula that Russia annexed in March.

Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. Shoigu said, “In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.” The Russian air force’s long-range planes also will conduct “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications.”

Shoigu would not say how frequent the patrol missions would be or offer any other specifics, but he noted that the increasing pace and duration of flights would require stronger maintenance efforts and that relevant directives have been issued to industries. Russia plans to expand its worldwide military presence by seeking permission for navy ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for replenishing supplies and doing maintenance. Shoigu said the military was conducting talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore. Russia also is talking to some of those countries about allowing long-range bombers to use their air bases for refuelling.

A senior U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the flights publicly, said Russia has not previously flown actual bomber patrols over the Gulf of Mexico, including during the Cold War. Long-range bombers have been in the area before, but only to participate in various visits to the region when the aircraft stopped over night at locations in South or Central America. During the Cold War, other types of Russian aircraft flew patrols there, including surveillance flights and anti-submarine aircraft.

The official also said the pace of Russian flights around North America, including the Arctic, have largely remained steady, with about five incidents per year.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to call this a Russian provocation, noting that the Russians have a right, like any other nation, to operate in international airspace and in international waters. The important thing is for such exercises to be carried out safely and in accordance with international standards.

Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers were making regular patrols across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans during Cold War times, reaching areas from which nuclear-tipped cruise missiles could be launched at the United States. But that stopped in the post-Soviet economic meltdown.

Under President Vladimir Putin, the bomber patrol flights have resumed, becoming even more frequent in recent weeks, with NATO reporting a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think-tank , said the bomber patrols are part of Kremlin’s efforts to make the Russian military “more visible and more assertive in its actions.” He does not see Russia’s new bomber flights as “presaging a threat,” but as “just part of a general ramping-up of activities.” However, Kearns recognizes that “The more instances you have of NATO and Russian forces coming close together, the more chance there is of having something bad happening, even if it’s not intentional.”

On Monday, the European Leadership Network issued a report that found a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, including violations of national airspace, narrowly avoided midair collisions, close encounters at sea, harassment of reconnaissance planes, close overflights over warships, and Russian mock bombing raid missions. Three of the nearly 40 incidents carried a “high probability” of causing casualties or triggering a direct military confrontation: a narrowly avoided collision between a civilian airliner and a Russian surveillance plane, the abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer, and a large-scale Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine that yielded no result.

In September, the report said, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea off Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the U.S. Earlier this year, in May, Russian military aircraft approached within 50 miles (80 kilometres) of the California coast, the closest such Russian military flight reported since the end of the Cold War.

Russia-West ties have dipped to their lowest point since Cold War times over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia insurgents in Ukraine. The West and Ukraine have continuously accused Moscow of fueling the rebellion in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons — claims Russia has rejected. Fighting has continued in the east, despite a cease-fire agreement signed between Ukraine and the rebels signed in Minsk, Belarus, in September.

Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, urged Russia to “pull back its forces and equipment from Ukraine, and to fully respect the Minsk agreements.”

Gen. Philip Breedlove

Gen. Philip Breedlove

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said Wednesday that the Russia-Ukraine border is “completely wide open.” In the last two days “we have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine.” But Breedlove wouldn’t say how many new troops and weapons have moved into Ukraine or specify how the alliance obtained the information.

The Russian Defence Ministry quickly rejected Breedlove’s statement as groundless.

~StMA

What happened to globalization? – Global anarchy and militarization

globalizationFrom Raoul Pal*, “Globalization Is Turning In On Itself And It Is Each Man For Himself,” Zero Hedge, Nov. 2, 2014:

*Raoul Pal is the author of the Global Macro Investor and creator Of RealVision(financial)TV.

[…] at the margin, the world’s geopolitics is changing. Gone are the fluffy days of Putin shaking hands with George Bush agreeing to keep the world supplied with oil, gone are the days of China helping US firms make profits using their cheap labour, gone are open-for-business days of Europe, gone is the Japanese military neutrality, gone are the Saudis as an unshakeable ally, gone is Israel also a steadfast ally, etc.

What is happening is something deeply concerning. Globalisation is turning in on itself and it is each man for himself.

This was always going to be the outcome of an imbalanced, debt-drowning world. Everyone wants a cheap currency and since that doesn’t work then everyone wants to find some way to get the upper hand on their own terms.

I have had recent conversations with a long-term strategy group within the Pentagon about economic threats to the US and the risk of global collapse, and the potential for it to turn into a military outcome. It seems that the Department of Defence’s deep thinkers are mulling over the kinds of issues we all are – is the inevitable outcome a military one?

They don’t know either but they give it a probability and thus need to understand it and plan for it.

My issue has been for a long time that the true threat to the world is not the Muslim nations we so like to beat as a scapegoat (gotta have an enemy, right?) but China.

The Pentagon’s think-tank also agrees.

If China has an economic collapse, which again is a high probability event, then what are the odds of massive civil unrest? And would a military conflict put the people back on the side of the government (i.e. how the Nazis came to power)?

I agree. I think this is the risk somewhere down the road.

I also, along with this defence strategy group, think that there is a risk that the Western powers meddling in the time of bad economic crisis will form strong alliances between let’s say Russia and China.

In direct opposition to the [Obama] government, many people inside the Pentagon are saying, “Please don’t fuck with Russia, they are not threatening us militarily but securing their own borders, we cannot control the outcomes, and most of them are bad, probably not militarily but economically, and economic instability causes outcomes we can’t forecast – even seizing the assets of powerful Russians has unintended consequences”.

[…] Everyone is also looking carefully at the risk of Catalonia [Spain] now having a referendum that is deemed to be unconstitutional, and then trying to enforce it in the streets.

Europe is trying to hold itself together yet the member states themselves are in danger of splitting up. How does that manifest itself? What are the risks? We just don’t know.

I think the trend of each nation for itself, a move away from globalisation either in terms of global trade, or in terms of global finance and a move towards military build-ups, is well under way. I don’t know how far it will go but I do know that I am uncomfortable with it, and that it poses some considerable risk to the stable economic system that so many have enjoyed since the late 1980s.