UK defence issues and the odd container or two

Is Putin off his meds?

Achievements for Mr Putin so far…

  • Capital flight, shares nosediving and restricted access to bond markets
  • All Russia’s neighbours tooling up
  • International condemnation and sanctions
  • An expensive Crimea to support
  • A shot in the arm for a post Afghanistan NATO
  • Renewed interest in alternatives to Russian gas, including supplies from the US

So he has restored some measure of battered Russian pride, showed the West to be a bit weak and ineffectual and by sticking two fingers up at the west shored up his power base but the problem with feeding the nationalism bear is it has to keep being fed, that costs money and is highly risky.

If international norms of respect for national boundaries are to be maintained the problem for the West is to demonstrate to Russia that it cares more about Ukraine than Russia does, I don’t think there is any resolve whatsoever to make Ukraine a test of willpower or wallets but there is a crucial difference between Ukraine and the Baltic states, NATO.

He has shown the West up, no doubt about that, we have all witnessed the empty rhetoric and loud talking with small sticks but that has no doubt changed the mood, defence budgets are under focus, more may well be the result, not less.

Whilst Putin has shown a willingness to bully the neighbours, use gas as a lever and generally play the card of the great leader all he has actually done is strengthened the hand of the West and weakened the long term economic prospects of Russia at a time when it was hardly a beacon of growth.

Anyone have any predictions for the next week, month and year?

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

124 Comments

  1. wf

    He’s a Checkist who’s always hated us, has been watching the correlation of forces change and seen his chance. Remember, this has been going on for a long time, back to 1992 and General Lebedev in Transdniestr: you would have thought that 2008 was the wakeup call, but everyone went straight back to sleep.

    Most of the nasty consequences for him are years off, and our pathetic response so far is hardly going to worry him now. If I were him, I’d make a play for the Baltics right after grabbing south and eastern Ukraine. Obama and the rest of them are so utterly invested in “end of history” tropes about how international law makes reality nothing will really change.

  2. Red Trousers

    Russia has liked pliable vassal states on its’ borders since at least 1917 (possibly further back than that, GNB as a historian might have a view).

    I think that Putin formed a view that Ukraine was becoming too westernised for comfort. Hiving off Eastern Ukraine regains the buffer zone. I suspect that he wants a new Russia-supporting country of East Ukraine rather than to expand Russia itself, because that really would cause problems.

    I think the Kremlin, not being troubled by democracy, thinks much longer term than western Governments. TD’s bull point summary is accurate only for the short term. In 5 years, everything will be back to normal.

  3. Nick

    Hi all

    Serious sanctions have more potential to hurt in the short term that you think. A few facts (or mis remembered facts for you to consider).

    a) Russia produces just over 10 million bbls of oil per day, of which 70 % is exported as Oil or refined oil. Of the export, I recall around 65 % is to western Europe via pipelines or tankers

    b) Russian domestic oil prices are about 60 % of the global price. Export revenue generates much more cash
    An oil producer in Russia (without any special state discounts, which are mostly given to he big state owned producers like Rosneft) receives around 30 % of the net sales revenue. The rest goes to the Russian government in the form of Oil production and export taxes (and there’s profit tax on top)

    c) The Russian government requires high oil prices (above $110) to raise enough tax to fund its current budget (let alone any planned increased spending on defence or social provision). Any lower price or reduced exports would damage the Russian government budget and require debt funding quite quickly.

    d) The west (US especially) has strategic oil and refined product reserves equivalent to about 1 years usage.

    e) Gas sanctions would certainly hurt us much more than Oil, but as we head into summer the potential damage is declining. Gas storage levels in Europe are increasing at the moment

    As TD states, the Crimea crisis has already damaged the Russian economy (the Rouble devaluation is one cost not mentioned by TD). There is no doubt that Oil sanctions would hurt Europe significantly (but hardly touch the US other than by price spikes), but the impact on Russia is likely to be higher. The question is really what price are we prepared to pay and for how long ? We do have real levers to pull and we don’t need to go all in to have a financial impact.

    Nick

  4. DomS

    Agree with Red Trousers – in 5 years it’ll all be back to normal. A few elections and diplomatic ‘reset’. I’ll buy Russian stocks during the dip! But joking aside, what remains of Ukraine, and other peripheral states must seek more security assurances from the West after this.
    One thing that I’ve noticed is the effectiveness of the demonstrators in all of this. The Ukrainian army is incapable of facing down crowds intermixed with gunmen. Understandably unwilling to fire on their own countrymen (at least unarmed civilians) there are reports of columns of soldiers being forced to hand over magazines, firing pins or even vehicles before being released. Perhaps some kind of gendarmerie force would be more effective here.

  5. Tubby

    As far as I can tell Russia has created the perception that NATO is weak, as far to many commentators (including those who should know better) have down played NATO’s capabilities and over played Russia’s capabilities. This is doing far more damage to our power base than sanctions are doing to Russia’s. While it never would happen it would be nice if several of the NATO big hitters, including us, announced in light of recent Russian actions that they are placing large contracts for new weapons and equipment, while agreeing to base forces in Poland and the Baltic states. It would make a clear statement of where our red line is.

    Of course we are not going to react in terms of our defence planing until we loose the Baltic states and Moldova and we find ourselves in danger of a proper shooting war with Russian forces liberating the poor downtrodden Russian speakers from the evil fascists – I suspect we are still harbouring the idea if Russia does make moves against the Baltic states it will do so by sending a large mass of armour and mechanised infantry in backed up by a few fast jets, and that the Russian’s will back down once a few carrier groups turn up to threaten them, and we seem to have no strategy for dealing with Russia inciting a civil war using light infantry without insignia.

    There is part of me that says we should respond by bombing the Syrian government (and to be ensure our geo-political interests the Islamic rebels) as in essence we would be attacking another aspect of the Russian regional interests and reversing a decision by the US and it allies that they where going to respect Russian interests in the Middle East.

  6. Nick

    Brian

    I agree with much of what the article says, but it is a bit old and not up to date with the current situation. For example, the IMF, UAS and EU have already promised to provide much of the $15 billion he sys Ukraine needs right now.

    He’s also wrong about the current level of Oil sector investment in Russia. Its much reduced from the 1990/2000 level. Most of the super-majors have got out or scaled back (apart from BP) and the recent deals relating to Artic shelf exploration are pretty new and not needed billion $ scale investments to date.

    The current sanctions (whilst costly for Russia) haven’t had too much personal impact as the list is much too small and can be avoided (for example, take a look at what the part owner of Gunvor – a Russian oil trading business – did to avoid any US impact on Gunvor from him being sanctioned by the US). To get traction you need several hundred individuals to be on the list and action against their business vehicles and accounts. I think they are symbolic and were meant as a warning.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t do anything effective at all. Russia is a petro-economy dependent on export oil revenue.

    Nick

  7. Obsvr

    What NATO should be doing is coordinating a continuous series of land exercises in the Baltic states. This would greatly complicate any Russian shenanigans in that region.

    Russia has always fancied itself as a European power. It’s useful to remember that after the Treaty of Vienna they took a large chunk of Poland (Prussia and Austro-Hungary took small chunks). Russia held onto this chunk of Poland until 1917 (when a lot of other parts of the unwilling empire broke loose). The Bolsheviks tried to recapture Poland but were defeated – ‘The Miracle on the Vistula’ as the Poles call it – there’s a wonderful heroic painting of this in the Warsaw military museum of a Polish infantrywoman, skirted and bayonet fixed. Of course Stalin had his revenge by splitting Poland with Hitler. Putin is just reverting to Russian form, but history shows a firm line is needed from the West.

  8. Simon

    If there was Russian influence in the east which created a divide that is understandable.

    What I don’t understand is why Russia have played the occupation card. I’d have thought it was always better to use Ukraine as a trade pivot state between East and West. In fact there was no reason why Ukraine were not to become the single biggest trading hub in the world – benefiting both East and West and becoming invaluable to both in the process.

    Dividing the country simply moves a border between East and West, nothing more. It meerly represents a closed door in a different location rather than allowing Russia to dabble into Western politics and commerce.

    Therefore I believe Crimea was taken solely for military gain. Sevastapol being the obvious part. The real question is why are Europe and America happy with Russia having control of large borders of Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia?

    They only need to insert “power” into southern Moldova and they can take Ukraine up to Odessa. They only need to take and control Istanbul and that stops the West supporting any movement into Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. If a slow western movement of influence within Ukraine occurs, Ukraine will fall and Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will follow.

    At what point do we say “no”?

    At what point will America wish they hadn’t destroyed British Imperialism and associated global stability ;-)

    This could make a good book or film.

  9. Brian Black

    “They only need to take and control Istanbul”

    Only.

    Don’t the Turks have something like half a million men in their army? Aside from the rest of NATO standing with them.

  10. Chris Werb

    “They only need to take and control Istanbul”

    We only needed to take the Gallipoli peninsula and control the Dardenelles…

  11. Nick

    Simon

    from what I’ve read, it seems the short term goal is to disrupt the presidential election and create a semi-illegitimate national government and create a case for semi-autonomous regional governments to keep Ukraine fragmented and under Russian influence. I’m not sure there is any desire to reincorporate Ukraine (or Belarus) into Russia as a buffer zone of weak almost failed states under Russian influence has much the same effect.

    There is also a soft power gain for Russia, by showing the west to be weak, indecisive and divided, along its other borders (Baltic and Caspian) as well as a bigger international prize in Asia. There have been several articles (I have read) suggesting this is playing well politically (so far) with both China and India.

    Nick

  12. Brian Black

    Putin’s managed to promote the idea of NATO membership in Sweden and Finland; he’s got the Americans reconsidering the extent of their pivot away from Europe; he’s got the eastern-European NATO states asking for permanent NATO and/or American presence; he’s pushed a large part of Ukraine closer to the West than they were already leaning; and he’s got himself sanctions for his trouble.

    Seems to have shot himself in the foot.

    With a little intelligence and patience, the Russians could probably have reabsorbed Crimea without the rushed military solution to the non-problem. They weren’t about to be kicked out of Crimea, there was no pressing need for dramatic action.

    I don’t know why people are saying that it shows up the West or NATO. NATO hardly wants to go to war with Russia over Ukraine, and the first round of fairly minor sanctions has the Russians hesitating about repeating the Crimea plan in full in other parts of the country. Putin has said he’ll try to use his influence to get Russian supporting militias in eastern Ukraine to back off, which sounds very much like puting the brakes on his own men, and not yet trying to follow through on what Moscow has started.

  13. Dangerous Dave

    Well, any view that the Russian Federation could be drawn into a symbiotic relationship with the West must be dead now! I’ve long felt that alliances and close diplomatic ties with Russia are unproductive purely because, to put it simply, they’ve always wanted to be the Boss of their own “gang” and not play second – fiddle to the USA or EU. The best we could hope for is a wary respect for each other, but that requires a degree of “hard – nosedness” and cold-bloodedness that our leaders (most of then lawyers) Just don’t have.

    I think a return to realpolitik by the West is needed.

    At least the proposed exercises and reinforcement that NATO are planning is in Poland and not Germany, a realisation where our actual front line is now, at least.

  14. Ian Skinner

    If Obama had any sense, he would announce that he had changed his mind about basing land based missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic: This would represent a defeat for Putin- but it is not going to happen.

  15. Simon

    Sorry gents, shouldn’t have really said take and control Istanbul. They only need to take and control the Bosphorus – as far as I can see this would involve only collapsing a couple of bridges and grounding a few 120m long concrete filled landing barges.

  16. Monty

    Putin is very clever, politically astute, power hungry and a man with a grudge. This makes him extremely dangerous.

    Cameron and Obama are weak and ineffectual. Neither has a mandate for a robust response to anything Putin might do. Therefore, Putin believes he can do whatever he likes and to hell with NATO. We can be sure that Russia’s master plan is for the Ukraine to be absorbed back into the Motherland.

    In any event, Putin will simply continue to pursue his own agenda and it is very unlikely that we will do anything militarily to stop him. Sanctions will be be irritating more than debilitating.

    If the Ukraine gets its act together and tries to kick out Putin’s forces from the Crimea, then a full-scale civil war could ensue and on a scale that dwarfs Syria. That would be very tricky situation indeed – would we stand back and watch, arm the rebels from the sidelines, or provide direct support? A military response by the West could easily trigger WW3.

    In other words, our options are limited.

  17. Daniele Mandelli

    My view. Keep out of it.

    But reinforce existing Eastern European NATO nations and for Gods sake Government, wake up!

    No more cuts in SDSR2015.

  18. Topman

    Not sure we can do both of those at the same time. By reinforcing Eastern Europe we would be getting involved, albeit to a lesser extant than engaging Russia directly.

  19. a

    as far as I can see this would involve only collapsing a couple of bridges and grounding a few 120m long concrete filled landing barges.

    You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    At its narrowest the Bosphorus is 700m wide. At this point, hydrodynamics dictates, it’s also at its deepest – 120m. You can ground as many barges as you like there and the entire Sixth Fleet will be happy to sail straight over the top of them, unless you manage to stack the barges three deep or something. Also, collapsing those bridges would kill a lot of civilians. Also also, act of war. At which point you have to ask: how well would the Black Sea Fleet do against the (much larger and more modern) Turkish navy and air force?

  20. Tedgo

    I think we need to create a John F Kennedy moment. NATO by now should have moved perhaps 50 to 100 fighter aircraft in to Poland and Romania, with the message that if Russia moves its troops and armor in to the Ukraine, then NATO will bomb them. I doubt Putin would have the guts to move his troops over the border.

    It should not be overlooked that the USA, UK and France have a defense agreement with Ukraine when the latter gave up their nuclear weapons.

  21. Martin

    The western response to Crimea has been limited and slow because it has not needed to be anything else thus far. The very limited sanctions are already having a devastating effect on Russia’s ability to issue new bonds and they have not issued a single new Eurobond in 6 weeks. They can’t go on for much longer at this rate. It took two years to build up the financial sanctions against Iran but once they were in full force it did not take long to bring Iran to the table.

    If Russia stopped at Crimea then I think the entire thing would eventually blow over not least because I don’t think Kiev wants it and would much rather get a good deal from Russia for handing it over. That being said I don’t think Putin is smart enough to stop and he will escalate the situation to try and get the west to cave in. fact is that if the USA wants to it can impose devastating sanctions on its own with no EU support and at present the EU is providing Russia with a stay of execution but the EU won’t hold the USA back for long.

    As TD points out the nationalist bear can win support for a dictator quite rapidly but it must be constantly fed and people won’t forget their economic woes for long. In many ways I think this could be a move not unlike the Argentine junta in 1982. I think its the beginning of the end for Putin. it might take him several more years to realise this but I think he h’s really screwed himself. Reduction in EU energy imports and a China only prepared to take gas at an uneconomic price will be the final nails in the Russian economies coffin.

  22. Gewyne

    The west have been prodding the bear for years with it’s missile defense shields and pushing NATO onto Russias borders. In Ukraine Victoria Nuland admitted the US have pumped over $5 billion into the Ukraine financing pro Western groups.

    When the government was overthrown in the Ukraine and the current “junta” put in place instead of securing and reassuring the Russian speaking people in Ukraine they tried to punish them.

    Ukraine had a population of over 50 million at the fall of the Soviet union, now it’s around 44 million and still falling. Most oft he big cities and people live in the East, it’s only Kiev and the West of the country that is beating the Western ties drum – they seem to have forgotten that a large proportion of the country don’t want them.

    In Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan the West has really muddied the waters – if the people of Crimea want independence and voted for it then that’s democracy working – I see no issue, we say Russia annexed the region, but the other option is that they are forced to be part of a country they do not wish to be associated with. We support autonomy in places all over the world, it seems it’s only the Russians that attacked for holding the same beliefs.

  23. wf

    @Gewyne: you must be off the meds. Exactly where did your 5 billion for “pro Western groups” come from? We don’t spend a fraction of that on economic aid to Ukraine, and military support has been restricted to MRE’s!

  24. Phil

    Thank god the Soviets didn’t flip the fuck out when the US invaded Grenada. Or Panama. Or a Middle Eastern country. Or when we dumped a division in the Balkans in 1999.

    Some people almost seem to want a war over a place which has sod all to do with us and hasn’t since the 1850s. It is firmly without doubt within the Russian backyard and I for one couldn’t give a toss if they invaded the whole place as long as I could still enjoy my red wine of a Friday evening.

    If they mess with the baltics it’s a different story. But I couldn’t care less about the Ukraine. The tired old Domino theory that it will embolden Russia is bollocks. Didn’t see driving for the Rhine in 1956 or 1967 or 1981 did we?

    Make the appropriate noises, take a few low lying opportunities to screw them over and let the military get excited about it all but otherwise let’s all gets some perspective.

  25. All Politicians are the Same

    @Phil

    Of course the Russians did not have embedded liaison officers from these countries like NATO has from the Ukraine. Or were courting them to join an EU like organisation? They had probably also not signed a defence pact either.
    The other issue is that if we ignore Russian activity in the Ukraine we actually encourage them in the Baltic states.

    Good old MAD and the fact we actually had backbone and forces pretty much took care of 1956, 1967 and 1981. The countries involved were also Warsaw pact countries behind the iron curtain rather than a country about to look at joining NATO and the EU.

  26. Observer

    TD, you’re assuming that Russia’s primary priority is economic. In this case, I think their primary concern is military and security. Which means that they will pay however much it will cost.

    I disagree on Gewyn’s demographics, but I do agree on his/her (it? :P) stand that Russia is being attacked for holding beliefs in democracy. Their “puppet” may be pro-Russian, but he WAS elected, and that the next elections were only a few months away. If you cut the rhetoric away, at the most basic, this was a revolt to push a legally elected official out of power. Made all the more redundant if they had waited a few more months and VOTED him out of power. That is the political front.

    The military front, Gewyn is also right in that Russia has also been provoked by the US’s “missile shields”. The reality was that Russia was in no shape or form to be lobbing missiles into anybody’s territory (at least officially), yet got a weapon pointed at it, which was also a key indicator of how the West saw them. As enemies. Can they trust that with Ukraine so chummy with the West, NATO won’t be invited in and encroach further and further eastward in a creeping invasion? Remember, “missile shields” do not only cover the area of the country they are based in, but also encroaches partially into the neighbouring territories (something our neighbours have made a lot of noise about, especially since our AWACs coverage stretches over half their country…) Remember how part of the 1982 Lebanon War started? When Syria pushed SAM batteries to the border of Israel.

    Economic wise, it has already been mentioned that Russia has been economically neglected by the West for decades, a serious mistake which fed their impression that they were being isolated from the global world in general and still seen as an enemy, which in turn fed their paranoia of the West and made the West more suspicious of them in a cycle that feeds itself.

    During the Cold War, it was the West and China vs Russia. Now, is it going to be the West vs China and Russia?

  27. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Observer

    “The reality was that Russia was in no shape or form to be lobbing missiles into anybody’s territory (at least officially)” The new Borei class SSBNs they are building equipped with new 6000 NM ranged Bulava missiles must be imaginary then?

    The missile defence shield has been scaled back as well. yes they should have waited and voted the President out but Putin should have waited and we would probably had a peaceful partition of the country. Now nobody can really be seen to back down and just tonight he has reserved the right to send troops into eastern Ukraine.

  28. Observer

    APATS, they have missiles. Woo bloody hoo. Now tell me why would they be lobbing rounds for no reason into someone else’s territory when their armed forced are undermanned, their navy still currently has a fair percentage of aging ships, their airforce are more used to ground support than air defence and they depend on gas sales for their economy and they don’t give a hoot about the West? Until they saw the West creeping in of course.

    Unless they’re as wacked out as North Korea, they were probably not happy but at least grudgingly contented to let things be until now.

  29. Phil

    Russia has and always has had defensive interests first and foremost. She is surrounded completely by potential and actual enemies. In the Cold War we sat behind our fort, they behind theirs and we squabbled over various places well away from those forts. Our fort never went anywhere near Ukraine. We’ve been poking the bear on his home turf for over a decade. We shouldn’t lose our heads when it starts shuffling about in its own neck of the woods.

  30. Observer

    If we were still on the moca/soy milk system, Phil would be up all night tonight. :)

    Anyway, the bear is well and truly out of the bag now. APATS, You’re right on the out of control escalation. It’s a mess. We got unofficial military, unofficial civilians and everyone’s cat and dog in the ring now. The unofficial military is the least of the problem actually. At least they can be made to obey orders. The civilians don’t obey anyone or anything but themselves. Chances of an unintentional escalation just went sky high.

    x, not sure about Kerry, but Barry and Merky have been off their meds for years according to the media. Since about 2008 in fact.

  31. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Observer/Phil

    The simple fact that so many of the ex Warsaw pact countries scrambled “west” as soon as possible should telll us a lot about how the “bear” has changed, not. I had a Bulgarian guy working for me in a previous job who used to joke about red and blue forces and how the bad guys colour had changed but that he was so glad that they had.

    It is a fallacy to think the west crept East, what happened is that the East when it became free of Soviet oppression and probably realising that a “bear” does not change its stripes rushed West.

  32. John Hartley

    Various. There are Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine, but London is now the fifth biggest French city. Does that allow Hollonde to demand London becomes French? There is a big British ex-pat community in Benidorm, so should we demand it from Spain? Russia may have a historical claim to Crimea, but not the rest of Ukraine. Putin is risking a hot conflict at worst, or a new cold war at the least.
    I still think Western Europe should be gifting some of its surplus military kit to the Baltic states & other Eastern members of NATO.
    Another UK military capability gap, is the lack of an advanced SAM since the Bloodhound went out of service. One battery of THAAD, SAMP-T, Arrow or similar, would be handy.

  33. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Observer
    “APATS, they have missiles. Woo bloody hoo”

    No they have brand new missiles and brand new submarines to carry them in, they spent a fortune doing this.

  34. x

    @ APATS

    Nothing to do with security and everything to do with money.

    Do you think the (Western) Ukrainian political elites and middle classes really care about an artificial country? No the former see EU funds and the latter sees an easy route to the West’s job markets.

  35. All Politicians are the Same

    @X

    It is a combination of both as you cannot have one without the other. As for your slight on Ukranian patriotism, well it is undoubtedly a divided country/construct but the ones i know do care about it.

  36. Observer

    APATS, then according to your construct in logic, the UK has new submarines. And is now sending them into Russia.

    My point was never about ownership of equipment, but the ability, will, reasoning, enduring power and financing to start a war for limited or even nonexistent gain. They can’t sustain if they started anything official but a defensive war, which is why there is a proxy war in place right now.

    The economic imbalance is a factor though, related to the point that the West neglected Russia economically, hence the exodus west. OTOH, if the EU did not dangle the carrot, it would not have had this problem at all, but it is a bit too much to do a trade embargo with a neighbour for no reason. Or at least did the trading but drew a firm line at membership.

  37. All Politicians are the Same

    @Observer

    We have new SSBNs? Where have we hidden them then?

    Your point relies totally upon Putin and the Russians being as logical as you and I seriously doubt that.

    Russia was more corrupt than a corrupt thing in a corrupt place, of course we did not want to get our finger burnt. You know her in the West we generally accept people and nations that want to join us and demonstrate a willingness to attempt to live by the same sorts of standards and values we do.
    Many of the former Warsaw pact countries did, the Russians seem to have gone fro Communism through corruption to neo fascism pretty quickly. Just look at the way they treat anyone they consider “different”.

  38. Observer

    Your Astutes are new. So therefore you are going to use them to attack Russia. You see the fallacy in that kind of logic? Same thing applies to Russia.

    And I believe the Russians are logical. The question is what premise are they working their logic on. Hell, even Islamic extremists are logical, it’s just that most people don’t follow the premise and values the logic works on, not that there is no logic. And corrupt people are even more logical than most. In short term thinking that is. Which is why they react more to instant provocations instead of taking a wait and see attitude. Refer back to your point that Putin should have waited. It all loops together.

  39. Gewyne

    @WF

    google is so simple to use – but here is a link http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37599.htm witht he video of her attached – by the way, the lady i mentioned who said it – Victoria Nulan – is US Assistant Secretary of State – so unless you hold some sort of office over and above her, or prove she is lieing – then I will take her word over yours…. and no – I am not on meds .. are you ?

    “Take Victoria Nuland – the US Assistant Secretary of State – who was caught using obscene language in a phone call about the European Union and the political affairs of Ukraine. In her previous posting as a spokeswoman for the US State Department, Nuland had the demeanor of a robotic matron with a swivel eye.

    Now in her new role of covertly rallying anti-government protesters in Ukraine, Nuland has emerged to sound like a bubblegum-chewing Mafia doll. In her leaked private conversation with the US ambassador to Kiev, the American female diplomat is heard laying down in imperious tones how a new government in Ukraine should be constituted. Nuland talks about “gluing together” a sovereign country as if it is a mere plaything, and she stipulates which members of the US-backed street rabble in Kiev should or should not be included in any Washington-approved new government in the former Soviet republic.

    We don’t know who actually tapped and leaked Nuland’s private call to the US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt. It could have been the Ukrainian or Russian secret services, but, regardless, it was an inspired move to reveal it. For the disclosure, which has been posted on the internet, lays bare the subversive meddling agenda of Washington in Ukrainian internal affairs. Up to now, the Americans have been piously pretending that their involvement is one of a bystander supporting democracy from afar.”

  40. All Politicians are the Same

    @Observer

    “Your Astutes are new. So therefore you are going to use them to attack Russia. You see the fallacy in that kind of logic? Same thing applies to Russia.”

    How about no, try the difference between an SSN and an SSBN, one has 6000Nm range ICBMs onboard the other does not. One is an extremely flexible multi role platform used for ASW, ASuW, SF insertion, intel gathering, clearing the water ahead of a TF, electronic intel etc etc, the other exists solely to launch nuclear devastation at extreme range. see the difference now? They are both submarines, there the similarity in their mission ends.

    It may all loop together but he did not wait and he may have to keep going.

    @ Gewyne

    So what she actually said was that since the fall of the Soviet Union the US has invested $5 billion helping the Ukraine transition to a Democracy? Is that bad?

  41. Observer

    APATs if you think the first thing Russia is going to do once they get an SSBN/SSGN is to start lobbing ballistic missiles into Poland, you are 1) off your rocker and 2) obviously at war now because they had those in 2007, which meant that they fired their first missile into Poland 5 years ago.

    That is the logical fallacy I was trying to point out. Not the capabilities between a sub hunter and a strategic missile platform. The fallacy that if you have it, you MUST use it. The decision to use either is not simply possession, but if your entire country can sustain a war and what profit can it get out of the war. Russia was and still is in no shape to randomly lob missiles into someone else’s territory.

    And as someone who’s country the Americans once “helped transition into democracy”, I won’t take it as 100% a good thing. It can mean they pumped money into a coup.

  42. All Politicians are the Same

    @Observer

    i did not say they were immediately going to start firing missiles but by modernising their capability they have it now for the next 3 or 4 decades which when looked at in tandem with their other Political and Military manouvres and re equipment programme is not a move that is designed to reassure us as to their intentions. I never said they must use it but you have to look at it as part of the much bigger picture and as you say yourself ” Russia was and still is in no shape to randomly lob missiles into someone else’s territory.” 2025/2030? When their new SSBN fleet is fully operational and proven.

    Watch the speech and see what she actually says.

  43. Observer

    APATS, even if they were fully proven, combat proven or even best in the world, it does not matter. What does? The ability of Russia the country itself to sustain an invasion and resist a possible counterattack. If the country itself cannot win a war or resist conquest, then going all out and using the SSBNs for no reason is an act of suicide. The dog wags the tail, not the tail wags the dog. SSBNs are a tool for state policy, not state policy is a tool for SSBNs. Which was why the missile shield was an unnecessary provocation.

  44. All Politicians are the Same

    @Observer

    A brand new SSBN and ICBM is not just for christmas it is for 30 or 40 years. The rest of the abilities you list may and if Putin has his way will change. The missile shield which has already been scaled back was a defensive measure, you generally do not attack somebody with a shield.

  45. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Observer

    The Israelis are a special case, I spent some time there in 1996 just opposite Tiberias and on a daily basis they used to send jets above Mach 1 into Syrian airspace so the orbiting EW bird could “finger print” the IAD system as it came online.
    Most countries are pretty comfortable with defensive systems, especially when not targeted at them. Or are we going to ban any US Ships that may be carrying an SM3 Block IIA missile from closing within 500 miles of the coast?

  46. Observer

    Well, 1) The Russians seem to want to join that special case club. and 2) Aww… the Russians won’t mind, after all, we’re all so chummy with them.

    Wasn’t that the problem? That we are not on the best of terms with them and are pushing a system close to their borders that can seriously curtail their ability to operate in their airspace and support their army with CAS?

    Anyway. it really doesn’t matter now. The die is cast, we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. Rumour has it that they worked out a deal to deescalate the situation. My guess is Russia keeps Crimea, Ukraine keeps the rest but keeps away from the Russian border.

  47. All Politicians are the Same

    @Observer

    good luck to the Russians. I did not mean the Israelis were in some sort of i simply meant that they acted regardless of what anyone else thinks and they care very litttle.

    “Wasn’t that the problem? That we are not on the best of terms with them and are pushing a system close to their borders that can seriously curtail their ability to operate in their airspace and support their army with CAS?”
    So they spend a lot of time worryi g about CAS for the Russian army in Russia? n If they want to deploy it outside of Russia damn right they should worry.

    If Malaysia decided you were a nuisance and reclaimed Singapore tomorrow should we intervene? Outside of a good night life and geographic position what do you actually offer? I would say yes because I respect your system and your Democratic right but actually what is the difference?

  48. Simon

    a,

    as far as I can see this would involve only collapsing a couple of bridges and grounding a few 120m long concrete filled landing barges

    Nose down into the silt.

    Obviously I am a little bit mad – it helps :-)

    Also an intriguing use of the word “few” don’t you think?

  49. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Blimey – It’s been a busy day, and every possible view has already been expressed several times…but if anybody wants to reflect further, here are a few thoughts:

    > Russia’s founding legend relates to their throwing off the Mongol yoke…and then gradually and over hundreds of years getting their own back by conquering every inch of territory where the Mongols might have come from…finally arriving at Vladivostok and along the Silk Road in the Nineteenth Century; they are indeed defensive in nature, but if you live on the endless steppe, your idea of what constitutes an acceptable distance between you and anybody who might want to piss on your chips is a very long way…two or three whole countries in the course of most of our lifetimes.

    > Those conquests were mostly initiated not by the Russian State, but by the Cossacks…a kind of free-booting and ultra-patriotic Militia with a level of state sanction…and I bet a lot of those chaps arsing about in Eastern Ukraine are…or call themselves…Cossacks…in the Russian tradition the Good Czar follows after, dishes out rewards and ammunition and sorts out the details of raising taxes.

    > In this context, the application of post-enlightenment reason is not all that helpful…up to 1917 practically all Russians put their main faith in a Good Czar and Holy Mother Russia…after 1917 the First Secretary became the Czar, and the Party rather than the Patriarch the custodian of HMR; and a Good Czar was one who kept order, defeated foreign enemies and put a greater distance between HMR and it’s enemies…Joseph Stalin was an excellent Czar…Putin seems to be re-arranging the furniture a little (more Patriarch and less Party) but the general principles seem to be the same…we are dealing with a pre-Modern state that does not understand the world as we do.

    > Economics doesn’t help much either…Russia never really worked as a developed capitalist economy anyhow, so why would they worry now? Didn’t stop them from winning the Great Patriotic War, competing with some success in the space race and scaring the bejesus out of us for about fifty years did it? Furthermore, there are plenty of other places on their immediate borders who are no more a part of our Twenty-first Century than they are, so they can all hang out together in the bad boys club can’t they?

    So what’s going on? well, for my money Putin…like generations of Good Czars before him…is using the plausible deniability of the Cossacks to push the margin of safety back a little, test our resolve, alarm his next door enemies and re-assure his next-door friends…and it looks to me as though it’s working at least enough for him to distribute some bags of gold, along with fresh horses and more ammunition…and I’d expect fun and games in Moldova and Trans-Dniestr next…but the prize must eventually be Golden Kiev, which of course invented Russia (from the Rus Vikings along the Dniepr and in the Black Sea). Moskva came much later.

    Off his meds? No, just working from the Good Czar Bible, not the rational, internationalist and social democratic EU play-book…which seems to be oddly popular with the POTUS of the moment.

    What to do? Read Russian History from the House of Rurik to the fall of the Romanov, get your head round Lenin and Stalin as Good Czars not blood-stained Communist Dictators…and think quite hard about the contents of SDSR 2015…

    Won’t do any of that in Whitehall of course…

    …and thus I remain horribly Gloomy.

  50. Obsvr

    Some areas of East Ukraine do have a Russian speaking majority. The further west you go the lower it gets and in the western part, most of which was central European until 1945 (has nobody studied the Galician front in WW1?) there are virtually no Russian speakers, a lot fewer than there are Polish. Not forgetting that it took until well into the 1950s before the NKVD had totally defeated the Ukrainian insurgency there. The really interesting question is Bylorussia, run by an even nastier piece of work than Putin. Of course historically its capital, Minsk, was a Polish city.

  51. martin

    @ John Hartley

    “Another UK military capability gap, is the lack of an advanced SAM since the Bloodhound went out of service. One battery of THAAD, SAMP-T, Arrow or similar, would be handy.”

    I would agree with you John however looking at the cost of a single battery of SAMP-T which is around EUR 400 million I think the money could be better used else where. For the cost of even a handful of SAMP-T we could close our MPA or CSAR gaps which I think are much more critical.

    The FLADS (L) system will give us quite a capability in its own right. It will lack a BMD capability but then that could be an easy upgrade for T45. I would put SAMP-T or a similar system on the nice to have list but there are plenty of things on the much cheaper must have list.

  52. martin

    @ Observer

    “The economic imbalance is a factor though, related to the point that the West neglected Russia economically, hence the exodus west.”

    We poured a hell of a lot of aid into Russia and British companies like BP and Shell poured in billions only to get screwed over by Putin and his cronies when they came into power. I am not sure how much more we could have done.

  53. Observer

    martin, economic development is more than about oil. Oil (or rather gas in this case) is a minor single step industry compared to what Russia could have been offered or developed. Extraction, fractionation, shipping. End of story.

    There are many, many other fields Russia excel in. For example, aeronautics and aerospace (hell, Russians were the ones who developed the theory of “stealth”), electronics, heavy machinery. And things they need help in. Like infrastructure and development (a lot of Russia is still under developed), finance, shipbuilding (especially considering that their only large yard went with Ukraine), education, and ironically even government (yes, you LEARN government, it does not “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”).

    Russia was a superpower. And this was when it was half screwed from internal politics, underdeveloped and had an ideology more suited to a fairy tale than reality. Consider a hundred years to two hundred years from now when it finally gets developed properly what it can really do. Most people worry about China. They forget Russia is almost as large though less populated. Once they get a proper population boom and development going, they’ll be back in the game. And we lost a big chance to influence them.

  54. Observer

    On further consideration to what I wrote, maybe it was something that couldn’t be helped. Remembering that time, there was a “China craze” going on, and most of the investments went that way instead through a combination of factors, like better Chinese PR, impression of a more welcoming China vs a dour Russia, less chaos in China as they went economic development then a more open political system vs Russia’s more open political system first then economic development, which caused a mess, more Chinese manpower for factories etc.

    Oh well, such is life.

  55. ArmChairCivvy

    A lot of these antics have to do with keeping the securocratic “party” in power, despite the economic mismanagement and high level leptocracy.
    - the main opposition is of course the social liberals cum economic reformers who have been marginalised, but you have folks like the ex Deputy Prime Minister at the barricades, opposing the Ukraine actions.

  56. jedibeeftrix

    @ RT – “I think that Putin formed a view that Ukraine was becoming too westernised for comfort. Hiving off Eastern Ukraine regains the buffer zone. In 5 years, everything will be back to normal.”

    Agreed totally (a first?). :D

    Russia is handling this beautifully!

    Hilariously, the west is falling for Putin’s ‘threat’ to eastern Ukraine.

    So we predicate all the sanctions on further action rather than actions past.

    In the end he will back down from eastern Ukraine, which he doesn’t want anyway, and we’ll all clap our hands for strong western diplomacy.

    All while Crimea remains defacto in Russian control. The pro Russian agitators in eastern Ukraine ought to know they are nothing but pawns for Putin.

    On top which, he federalises Ukraine which creates the buffer between east and west that he seeks, even if it is intra-national boundary rather than supra-national one.

    Applause.

  57. ArmChairCivvy

    The federalisation comment is a good one. Russian and Ukrainian mafia are highly integrated. Agriculture in the western parts; industries in Donetsk et al
    … Don’t know a good mafioso way to make money from growing crops.

  58. martin

    @ Observer

    Again I am not sure how much more we could have done. Russia had an aerospace industry but it was no where near being able to compete on international markets. Just look what it took for the EU to get airbus of the ground. How could we get Russian aircraft competing against the likes of Boeing. Russian labour costs are very high compared to China and the countries infrastructure has been neglected for decades. The west tried to open its arms to Russia in the 90′s and they spat it back in our face.

    I don’t see Russia as some super power. I work there a lot and I just can’t see any magic population boom ever happening. I can see much of the East of the country breaking off at some point and probably returning to China.

    @ Jedi

    “All while Crimea remains defacto in Russian control. The pro Russian agitators in eastern Ukraine ought to know they are nothing but pawns for Putin.”

    Before the crisis Crimea was already under defacto Russian control and the rest of Ukraine was not far behind. Putin has dealt himself a mortal blow and its a continuation of the blow he dealt himself in 2008. Fact is for a long time Europe has been decreasing its gas consumption from Russia and this process will now accelerate. Their is basically no one else for him to sell his gas to and his economy is a joke. He has no other way other than gas exports to the EU to pay for his government and when the economy hits the skids he will be in political trouble again.

    Fact is to win from such a weak position Putin needs to bring his A game first thing in the morning. The USA and EU can get out of bed at 2 pm with a raging hangover and still beat Russia militarily, economically and politically any day of the week.

    Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia will cut off limbs to join the EU and NATO while Putin has to bribe leaders from a handful of failed states to join his customs Union. As soon as the likes of Kazakhstan and Belarus have a proper democracy they will dump Russia like a bad smell.

    I think our weak media gives Putin credit he is not due as being some master strategist. Just like over Syria where a half hearted threat from Obama to launch a few cruise missiles when it suited him was enough to get the regime to dump all its chemical weapons and give the west the result it wanted without firing a shot. Yet some how it was reported as a Putin master stroke.

  59. Topman

    @ Martin

    I’d agree with that, I still don’t know where the angle came from that he is some sort of master strategist either. The media seemed to follow each other on that one. Neither did I see him as a supreme winner over Syria, as made out in the media here.

  60. All Politicians are the Same

    @Marin/Topman
    As TD lists he has seized control over somewhere he could have done peacefull, made himself look like a dictator and pissed the West off enough to take him m seriously. 3.5 out of 10 atbezst.

  61. jedibeeftrix

    i disagree:

    http://euobserver.com/foreign/123879

    not that he is some kind of master strategist, simply that russia faced the uncomfortable fact that the ukraine (and therefore crimea), was slipping out of its hands, and that pissing off the west was a price worth paying.

    he is getting what he wants; a warm water port and a federalised buffer zone on russia’s borders, and russian petro-exports will still flow (just in the other direction).

  62. All Politicians are the Same

    I should never ever again type on a tablet :)

    @Jed

    Nobody was taking away his “warm weather port”, remember that to exert influence anywhere outside the Black Sea a Ship ( not boat RT) has to transit the Bosphorous then either Suez or Malta/Messina and STROG.

  63. Topman

    I don’t see the link to the article, the port was planned before the invasion, and the knowledge china needs resources isn’t new. The port is pretty boxed in by Turkey a NATO member, not reall access to the open sea.
    Russia’s markets are expanding in response to Europes move away from Russian gas. He has to find a customer somewhere.

    ‘federalised buffer zone on russia’s borders’

    What do mean by that?

  64. x

    Martin said “The west tried to open its arms to Russia in the 90′s and they spat it back in our face.”

    http://happening-here.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/does-russia-still-matter.html

    and that’s just a sample. Some commentators do believe that the West rubbed Russia’s nose in the detritus of its own collapse, laughed, and called an end to history.

    You are speaking of states joining the EU and NATO without any thought of the wider consequences is actually typical and parallel to how the the West’s elites approach the matter. We are dealing with that stupidity now in the Ukraine.

    The more I hear idiots like Kerry speak the more I think Mrs Thatcher was right about reuniting Germany. We should have kept Central Europe as a block and let things move over 50 to 100 years and not with a decade or so.

  65. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler all wrote off Russia as a hollow man…and the only one who was half-right was the Kaiser…and just take a long hard look at where that ended up…furthermore, Good Czars (like Putin) don’t have strategic master-plans; they just let the Cossacks on the borders stir up trouble where they choose in the name of Holy Mother Russia and either take advantage of the consequences or disavow them as convenient at the time…and finally they ignored our economic rules for over seventy years and still managed to stay toe to toe with us for most of that period; why exactly is now different?

    And before anybody mentions the Oligarchs let me point out that in our system we won’t simply help ourselves to their money from our banks even if Putin does help himself to our investment in their extractive industries…and even if we tried, it would take primary legislation and years in court to do so. Property rights are all but sacred in the West…in Russia, everything and everybody belongs to the Czar, and that’s that.

    Same in China, as it goes…another lesson we are keen to forget.

    GNB

  66. x

    What annoys me is that here we are in the information age and the West’s leaders still think the minority of us who do look out over the parapet don’t know or believe that the West was playing silly games too and has an agenda in the area. (The majority don’t care what is happening in Ukraine.) It is all a bit murky. Are we supposed to ignore that an agreement was signed late in February and then all of a sudden the agreement was off? Whatever the reasoning behind it are we supposed to believe that ban on minority languages wasn’t the first thing the new government voted upon? I don’t know the ins and outs but if I take it on prima facie it does look inflammatory. Weigh that against how we are supposed to react to the supposed (I say supposed because I am not sure because there is contrary evidence) anti-gay laws in Russia. The US sends a ship to the Black Sea, it gets buzzed in international waters by a Russian jet, and we are supposed to be indignant. Isn’t that rather childish? Isn’t that a bit arrogant? Why is the ship there? To put pressure on Russia. And we are supposed to get upset because the Russian are upset by our provocation. It is like amateur hour.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html

  67. ArmChairCivvy

    The article. Y Kissinger x linked fo is good education for the uneducated However, I would predict it to be more than that.

    It is prebrokering a deal already struck, not just with the eloctorate, but also with the politicians left oiutside the “room”. I think I said something toi tgat effect in the opening of the March Open Thread?

    When Obama got elected, who did he send to Moscow, to see Putin ASAP? Not anyone holding office… But Kissinger.
    - then, actually, the item was to cool the Iran/Saudi confrontation from going to open war, by agreeing a balance oif interest for US and Russia in the region (that they are warring by proxy in Syria goes to roundation errors, compared to the worst scenario)
    - I just wonder what this (speculated) agreement will do, now in a different region ,about to boil over?

  68. x

    He sent Henry for that then his foreign policy has all sort of gone down hill from there……….

    Which turnip in the Barry O White House thought sending the CIA Director to Kiev was a good idea?

    And then Barry O bangs on about trusting Russia…………..what a radish.

  69. Observer

    IIRC, are not the figures quoted (58.2 Bil-68.7 Bil) close to what France and Saudi Arabia are spending, from a country much larger than either of the 2? And only slightly behind what the UK is spending (57 Bil)? Spread it out over the area they need to defend, it really isn’t much.

  70. jedibeeftrix

    @ APATS – “Nobody was taking away his “warm weather port”, remember that to exert influence anywhere outside the Black Sea a Ship ( not boat RT) has to transit the Bosphorous then either Suez or Malta/Messina and STROG.”

    They have a lease that stretches out ~2042, but the thing about sovereign nation states is that they are sovereign, and while a non-aligned ukraine wouldn’t dare piss off its infinitely larger neigbour this is not the problem Russia faced. No, Russia faced a Ukraine in 2020 that was a relatively small EU nation subject to pressure of an EU foreign policy, with the security guarantee of NATO to let them act ‘unilaterally’. Even the threat that they might do so in the late twenties would be enough to scupper Russia’s certainty on it’s ability to forward project potential responses to future problems.

    As to it being boxed in by NATO, not everything in Russian foreign policy ambitions boils down to to existential threats from its West (in fact very little), the Med is an important part of the world in its own right with unparalleled access to other important southern regions, which are otherwise difficult to reach (and thus influence), for a nation at the very top of the eurasian landmass.

    @ Topman – “I don’t see the link to the article, the port was planned before the invasion, and the knowledge china needs resources isn’t new. Russia’s markets are expanding in response to Europes move away from Russian gas. He has to find a customer somewhere.”

    My comment was in response to Observer, to wit:

    “Their is basically no one else for him to sell his gas to and his economy is a joke. He has no other way other than gas exports to the EU to pay for his government and when the economy hits the skids he will be in political trouble again.”

    Observer seemed to be arguing all at the same time; that Russia has long known that Europe was looking to reduce its dependence on their gas, and that without our demand they’re toast, to which you added; that he needs to look elsewhere for demand to soak up Russian supply.

    Well quite! That is exactly what he has done.

    Who do you think Russia perceives as the more important market for its products; a sclerotic europe that will shrink to less than 15% of the world economy by 2030, or the worlds rising No2 power that will represent the largest economic bloc (including the peripheral nations that will become heavily integrated into China’s supply chain)?
    Who do you think Russia perceives as the more important strategic partner/rival for its own future relevance; a post-RealistIR EU that continues to let its fascination with soft-power blind it to relevance of using hard-power, or the worlds rising No2 power with whom it share thousands of miles of border and an authoritarian government?

    @ Topman – “federalised buffer zone on russia’s borders’ What do mean by that?”

    In the cold war era when we had two hyper-dominant powers squaring off against each other the rest of us had to put up with the notion of spheres of influence, i.e, small peripheral nations that are subject to the will of their neighbouring hegemon. This helped give the hegemons:
    1. Strategic depth
    2. A casus belli to act beyond their own borders
    You have Finland for the old USSR as one very good example:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finlandization

    Even the end of the Cold War was supposed to leave Russia with a buffer zone of non-aligned states between it and the old enemy; NATO/europe. And we all know how chagrined it was to see NATO/europe jump into the baltic states.
    Russia still likes to see the world this way, and has worked hard to ensure that Ukraine and Belarus stay within its ‘fold’.

    This has obviously become untenable in Ukraine, but what it has achieved with its recent chaos in the east of the country is to informally partition the country by forcing a federal structure with significant autonomy for the eastern provinces and confirmation of the countries non-aligned status.

    Oh, look what’s happened:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10775600/Ukraine-surprise-agreement-could-carry-a-sting.html

    And what guarantees the continued non-aligned status of a country that must continue to respect interests of its twin ethnic identities?

    Crimea.

    It will remain de-facto Russian territory, but not de-jure, and as long as that continues as a frozen conflict it will be difficult/impossible for it to join NATO or the EU.

    Two people in this thread have said very astute things:
    1. RT in pointing out that in a few years time there will be a diplomatic reset, and all the rhetoric about “consequences” will vanish. He is correct.
    2. ACC in pointing out Kissinger’s articles promoting Ukraine as a bring between east and west, and how this is likely communicating what is a done deal. He too is correct.

    Democracy is a biggest con in Foreign Policy, for it allows you to justify 180 degree turns in policy with no loss of face. In five years time when Putin steps away from (the front-line of ) Russian politics, there will dawn a bright new day when Russia will patch up rocky relations with its western neighbours… And it swill still hold Crimea.

    “Hooray for western diplomacy!”

  71. jedibeeftrix

    On top of which, if Putin succeeds in creating a federalised Ukraine with regional autonomy for russo-ethinic eastern regions, what might that say to Belarus?

    http://www.russia-ukraine-travel.com/image-files/map-belarus-regions.gif

    With 13% ethnic russian population, one third of the total who believe they share russian history, and two thirds who speak Russian langauge…

    “Keep you head down!”

    As noted previously:

    Putin gets the buffer between east and west that he seeks, even if it is intra-national boundary rather than supra-national one.

  72. monkey

    The Russian military budget goes a lot further in Russia than an equivalent spend in the west, not only is their manufacturing costs much lower ,infrastructure ,overheads and labour but much of what they are rearming with was pretty much developed but not given the go ahead ,hence no ridiculous R&D budgets to factor in . The Armata armored fighting vehicle family for example , is ready to go (it has entered production and with so much commonality fixes to any service problems will be simplified though wide spread) ,this pattern will spread through out their armed services and this conflict gives it the impetus to ensure the funding needed just like GW1 & 2 & Afghan had pretty much driven the funding in the US with only the financial disaster of 2008 slowing it down.

  73. Observer

    “Observer seemed to be arguing all at the same time; that Russia has long known that Europe was looking to reduce its dependence on their gas, and that without our demand they’re toast,”

    Got to point out to me where I said this. My memory isn’t as good as what it once was…

  74. jedibeeftrix

    i definitely quoted somebody:

    “Their is basically no one else for him to sell his gas to and his economy is a joke. He has no other way other than gas exports to the EU to pay for his government and when the economy hits the skids he will be in political trouble again.”
    :)

    my reply was a response to a synthesis of topman’s post and your own.

  75. x

    Re gas supplies

    It shows how Europe centric some of the commentators (not here broadly, out there in the world, sorry Europe) are in their thinking that they think Europe is the only market for Russian gas and give no thought to China or rising need elsewhere. Forget “Little Englanders” what about “Little Europeans”? :)

  76. jedibeeftrix

    agreed.

    within the (extremely slow) time that europe can afford to wind down its gas dependence on russia the rising east will more than suffice to soak up any russian ‘surplus’.

  77. Observer

    x, worse. Even if China does not need the gas, they might just buy it to forge closer ties with Russia just before the big showdown with the US takes place. If both Europe and the Asia simultaneously felt rumbles of strife, even the US would think twice of getting involved in 2 regions at once, which might mean that one of the 2 might just get a free pass. Not to mention bankrolling something that would keep the West tied up in internal arguments is probably going to be seen as money well spent by the Chinese.

    US vs China, painful but endurable.
    US vs Russia, messy but can be done.
    US vs China AND Russia? Big trouble.

  78. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Observer – Actually rather worse than that, in that the current phase of US disarmament and disengagement explicitly assumes that they sacrifice the ability to fight two wars at once, and the “pivot to the Pacific” suggests that they are prioritising that possibility. Inevitable, because the economic and political weight of the US has moved to the West…and their Pacific Allies are re-arming and will fight…

    In consequence, of course, Russia and China are already making common cause, and I think it will be our unfriendly neighbours who benefit not yours…

    I can’t now see NATO making it to 2020…but fortunately for the UK SDSR 2015 is coming up, giving us an ample opportunity to start a systematic re-armament programme as the economy starts to recover…and indeed think through our relationship with Europe and the wider world…initially in the context of the 2017 Referendum…the one that won’t be necessary because by the time we get there there will be no coherent EU to leave. All it needs is for our political class to really get to grips with the big issues and throw up the right leadership team from the array of talent available… :-)

    Or possibly not, on past experience… :-(

    A very gloomy and rather dystopian Gloomy.

  79. x

    @ Obersever

    I can’t see China not wanting the gas. As you know better than I their hinterland is ripe for development. The only thing I can see stopping them wanting gas so much is their work on thorium reactors. Even then natural gas is a source of ammonia needed for fertilizers; at leas it would stop them using one of their more disgusting traditional sources!

    Militarily China really is boxed in, it can’t deploy far. Nobody to their south likes them. India provides a counterweight. I think if push did come shove over Taiwan I think they would be mauled beyond belief and it would hurt their (the Politburo’s) pocket too much. We have more to fear from isolationist America. Saying that if the Democrats carry on as they are doing they are better off staying at home. The thought of a President H Clinton is terrifying.

    @ GNB

    What I found interesting from BrianSJ’s second link was the line about Poland being the Russian’s biggest problem. I am never sure how to read how quickly Poland’s young upped and left as soon as they could. Me being me I put it down to immediate self interest than fear of resurgent Russia. But I don’t know.

  80. ArmChairCivvy

    X has got this bang-on… Not saying anything on the rest he wrote:
    “I can’t see China not wanting the gas. As you know better than I their hinterland is ripe for development. The only thing I can see stopping them wanting gas so much is their work on thorium reactors. Even then natural gas is a source of ammonia needed for fertilizers; at leas it would stop them using one of their more disgusting traditional sources!

    Militarily China really is boxed in, it can’t deploy far. Nobody to their south likes them. India provides a counterweight. I think if push did come shove over Taiwan I think they would be mauled beyond belief and it would hurt their (the Politburo’s) pocket too much. We have more to fear from isolationist America”

    It takes time to build gas pipe lines… But once they are in place, there is a heavy incentive to keep them busy. The interst is tijcking an xyz bn.

  81. monkey

    @Observer China will after over twenty years of negotiating probable decide to import some if its gas from just 1000 miles to the north from Siberia rather than shipping all of it from Qatar or Australia many 1000′s of miles away by expensive and vulnerable to sanctions LNG Tanker. Interesting point on the Thorium reactor development ,China as the world biggest supplier of rare earths of which mining process produces a large amount of hard to get rid of/store radioactive byproduct Thorium! Its a no brainer they will pursue this route as the fuel is technically free and they have a BIG Pollution problem even felt as far south as Singapore.

  82. Dangerous Dave

    Interesting article, which I mostly agree with. At the very least it is a worst case possibility that we must be planning against in the Strategic and political context. Of course a lot of us here would rather concern ourselves with “Force Shaping” and “shiny kit” instead of strategy. It’s easier.

    You might like to look at this http://moneyweek.com/endofbritain/ as well, if you haven’t already. The article has no Russian conspiracy theories, but comes to the conclusion that we’re heading for a serious and long term economic car crash. One which the Russians would be foolish not to make an opportunity out of . . .

  83. Observer

    jedi, so true.

    x, ACC, I did not mean “China does not want gas”, I said “Even IF China does not need the gas”, point being that the building of a partnership and relationships to counterbalance the West can be such a huge side benefit that it might even be worthwhile to pay for something they might not need just to secure that alliance.

    monkey, most of our pollution actually comes from Indonesia. Not much Chinese originated pollution detected. At least of the aerial kind. And they do track every smoke cloud. Evidence against polluting companies and Indonesian politicians in denial.

  84. ArmChairCivvy

    Good linking there, jedi! This man Lindley-French is sometimes too complex for me (to understand his own thoughts), but cutting to the bone as for others’ thinking is his strength:

    “tragic irony. Moscow understands that the EU is less than the sum of its parts. In the midst of the crisis the Obama Administration is driving Europe’s powers to abandon their individual foreign policies to create a new EU ‘power’. The American obsession with a ‘united’ Europe not only complicates the crisis
    * it undermines NATO and turns Europeans into a non-power*
    ; easy for Washington to control but incapable of exerting credible influence.

    Hmmm, what have I said all along (since the beginning of March)?

    - but it will be OK for the EU to pick up the bill, when the mess needs to be cleared up

  85. ArmChairCivvy

    @ Observer, yes, I know what you meant. This went stale for a while, but is now, again, in ascendancy:

    “BEIJING, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a six-member inter-governmental organization founded in the Chinese city of Shanghai on June 15, 2001.

    Grouping China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the SCO covers a total area of 30.2 million square km, with a combined population of 1.53 billion.”

    When it was last (before the upsurge coming soon?) going strong, the joint exercises of airborne & marine elements were larger that the ALLIGATOR[s] which also is/ are “joint” between nations… though in reality everyone else coming to it are there to be impressed.

    http://thediplomat.com/2013/09/the-shanghai-cooperation-organization-chinas-nato-2/

  86. The Other Chris

    India is the go-to country for Thorium, at least for us. Not only do they sit on two thirds of the worlds stock of Monazite, they’ve been stockpiling it for years.

    TerraPower are probably the most public about their alternate fuel reactor plans – Gates is trying to dispel the FUD surrounding nuclear power with transparency – and their Molten Salt Reactor lines are where their interest in Thorium lies. Their Travelling Wave Reactor has been their headline act for a while now. Worth taking a look at their materials for an overview of future designs.

    Worth noting that Technology Readiness Levels place Thorium reactors several decades behind current Uranium designs.

    Two other tangible projects that are worth mentioning are Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) at the National Ignition Facility, California. The other is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Cadarachi, France.

    I’ve always been an He3 fan boy though.

  87. x

    @ Observer

    China not wanting the gas and still buying it is nonsensical. So I pretended you said something sensible.

    ACC meant to say “but it will be OK for Germany to pick up the bill, when the mess needs to be cleared up”

  88. Chris

    TOC – I too see advantages in fusion in place of fission – fairly mundane fuel in on one side, helium & water as waste products. Its just a shame in between those two is a barely contained H-bomb.

  89. The Other Chris

    I can understand where your concerns come from.

    An H-Bomb is a misleading term, Britain used to refer to them as Nuclear Warheads with Hydrogen Boost which I think is a more accurate term.

    Neutrons from the hydrogen fusion are used to produce further fission in Uranium. Fusion itself isn’t a chain reaction process.

  90. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @ACC – Whilst a partnership embracing the Turkic Peoples along the Golden Road with their (erstwhile) antagonists in Russia and China adds to our difficulties, it is also more than a little unstable because of the ancient quarrels it seeks to contain…which might give us a chance to stage a counter-offensive when they start falling out with each other. Naturally, our best opportunity to avoid this outcome was the one offered by embracing secular westernising Turkey (who have ambitions of their own in respect their kith and kin to the East) by creating an “ever-wider Union”. Unfortunately our wise and statesmanlike partners elsewhere in the EU preferred the “ever-deeper” version (aka “Festung Europa”) and shut the door on our potential friends on the shores of the Bosphorus …with the predictable result that they are now inclined to favour their Islamic as opposed to their European heritage.

    For an organisation allegedly concerned with keeping the peace in Europe by promoting free trade, co-operation and common standards of conduct between free peoples the EU behemoth seems singularly unsuccessful in seeing out of the enormous moat of social-democratic welfarism that it has spent the last thirty odd years digging.

    GNB

  91. Chris

    Gloomy – I fear you have described human nature. It is our condition to believe the way we do things is the best and doing things differently is to be feared or corrected. Hence when (historically) white Christian Europe looks over the parapet to Eurasian Muslim Middle East it has only two options – to bolster defensiveness or to attempt conversion as in to make the likes of Turkey look & feel like a typical European state with open democracy, no patience for corruption, a European approach to propriety, courtesy, manners. If the neighbour doesn’t want to act European then the defensive attitude kicks in by default.

    I do agree however that Europe in particular has deified the process of welfare support to the point that hinting a social policy might be unaffordable is akin to blasphemy. The huggy-feely approach of wilful ignorance of costs (current and projected) of anything to do with the support of the less fortunate over time has dulled public perception of affordability. The regular calls of “something must be done!” are normally supported by an unspoken demand that “someone else must pay!” I have to report, there is no mythical “Someone Else” who has vast wealth to pay out for every conceivable social welfare scheme. If you want it you have to pay for it. If the state cannot cover the costs of the schemes (plus all the towering hierarchy employed to administer them) from taxation, the country will shrivel to obscurity. It might take decades to burn out all the carefully accrued reserves, but the decline is guaranteed. In the case of the Eurozone, it is surviving at the moment solely because the reset and restarted German industrial machine exports enough to carry the less efficient states. If the world at large fell out of love with German products the EU would implode.

    In the case of Turkey, I fear an excellent opportunity may have been missed. Setting aside the dubious record on human rights in its penal system, the Turkey of the post war period was a Muslim state happy to engage with Western values, it had a sound manufacturing sector that was keen to trade, and from personal experience its people were kind, generous and very friendly towards outsiders not of their faith. Had the EEC welcomed Turkey to join, I’m pretty confident Turkey would have made great efforts to be a valuable and honourable partner. I am saddened that the rebuff from Europe (mostly the result of the human rights lobby) has set the once comfortably familiar Western facing Turkey on a path that may result in a closed Islamic state, hostile to the West, and the change will probably not result in improved human rights standards for the Turkish people.

  92. DavidNiven

    @jedibeeftrix

    The deal with China is not 100% certain at the moment, Putin was a bit early with his announcement and China are not happy with the asking price. They know they are the only option for Putin and Russia needs the money, so there’s going to be some hard bargaining that might not be to Russia’s liking.

  93. jedibeeftrix

    no doubt. but europe does not wield the weapon of (economic) mass destruction it sometimes believes it does.

  94. DavidNiven

    Agreed, and China is probably going to get the net benefit from the Ukraine situation.

  95. x

    For the US the Ukraine has become another Syria. Obama is out of her depth; he is a lame duck. The two crisis that Washington need to face is the fast evaporating faith the world has in the dollar. And the growing drift between the liberals in Washington, California, southern New England, and New York and the rest of the country. The southern border needs a firm hand that I don’t think any of the current Democrat leadership can deliver. I would like to draw some comparisons with our situation within the EU and the differences between the US’s two neighbours but won’t……………

    As for Germany well if they are the power house of the EU and the EU is the vehicle through which we will gain influence I think we are probably better of without them. If we do have as much soft power those recent studies say we have and in light of the other study that showed our trade with Europe has not increased being inside while trade outside is climbing then the case is pretty thin. Germany needs the gas and can’t afford to keep the EU afloat and implement hasty sweeping changes in it’s energy infrastructure. (Let’s not forget the nuclear decision.) It says a lot that France is going head with the Mistral deal and even non-entity Spain felt safe enough to let the Russian use its port facilities. The French are canny operators and have already moved on.

    As for the Ukraine itself. The current government have shown themselves to be a truly ineffective self serving bunch with a subtle hint of extremism. The east of the country seems to be in an epic Kafkaesque drama with the ordinary people wanting to be left alone while bands of nutjibs with AKs go about putting their flags on buildings, removing the flags of others, and then repeating the process. I notice that reports of Blackwater being in country have disappeared. It will peter out until the West is diverted and the east will just Russia. Lastly it says a lot to me that these Continentals many of whose countries didn’t have the same borders as today 100 years ago (never mind political system) get upset about some tiny provinces shifting to another status, shout about self-determination without any sense of irony, and then want to join the EU or the Russian Federation. Madder than a bucket of frogs.

  96. jedibeeftrix

    “Lastly it says a lot to me that these Continentals many of whose countries didn’t have the same borders as today 100 years ago (never mind political system) get upset about some tiny provinces shifting to another status, shout about self-determination without any sense of irony, and then want to join the EU or the Russian Federation.”

    Lol, agreed.

  97. x

    No respect for history.

    Note in this video the literal and figurative island of stability off the European NW coast from about 950AD onwards.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l53bmKYXliA

    My big fear is that the US seems to be losing the plot. Our forebears treating the White Commonwealth with near contempt and our current elites’ fascination with Europe leaves us not exposed exactly but without the strong friendships we need to make our way in the wider world. My hope is when the wheels do come off the EU it will fracture Europe into three groups, the Scandis, a German Central Europe, and a French Southern Europe. Leaving us in our historic position as power broker on the Continent. Of course for that to happen we need decent politicians and diplomats……….

  98. Think Defence

    That might have been a fair comment if he needed to engineer the whole Ukraine thing in order to sell Russian gas to China

    But of course, he can sell it to whatever nation he pleases.

    China is willing to pay for Russian gas now but they won’t be stupid as to put themselves in a corner with it either, hence their massive investments in alternatives to gas. So he swapped a situation from one where he has leverage to one where he has none

  99. Observer

    China is willing to pay to get on Putin’s good side. Strategically, he guards their Western flank against Western interference. If Putin went the other way, NATO has a straight shot at China’s western border and with the US domination of the Pacific, they are literally clamped in between two jaws. (I know, more Northern than Western border, but you get the point)

    This isn’t totally about gas, though China’s energy appetite always means more = good, but also about relationship building and an economic alliance for now. First steps to a relationship which might deepen later on.

  100. x

    @ TD

    The Ukraine Crisis was all about the US gaining influence towards China’s backdoor and Germany laying the groundwork for a future EU expansion. The bonus was deepening their potential reach into Russia (in line with State Dept objectives post-USSR); Germany would benefit if Russia felt pressured say on gas prices. That the US and Germans cocked up spectacularly by backing a bunch of third rate wets who make our politicians look nearly competent and ultra-nationalists gave the Kremlin an excuse to do what they have done. To feel affronted because somebody you have threatened feels threatened and takes action in their own interest is a bit stupid. To feel the need to tackle a state because you feel threatened by their potential to harm you, dismiss that potential threat and talk up sanctions like they are effective (which economic sanctions never are), and then to stand down because of that potential power to hurt you is also, well, what’s the word? Stupid. Putin and the Chinese must be laughing their socks off.

    The Russia China deal is more significant because the deal isn’t being done in US Dollars. Apart from the coastal plain the majority of China is still an agrarian economy they need that gas. As for alternatives well the Chinese are more into stealing techs than innovating. Innovation needs an open society and profits for the companies owned by the politburo depend on complaint work forces. If the Chinese were close to getting say a thorium reactor up and running I would still put money on the US getting their first with a better solution. China isn’t Japan of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. China isnt Taiwan or Korea either.

    If I were the US I would look to getting the LNG exports up and running, thorium, and reshoring manufacturing jobs . They still have a very strong industrial base; I think I am right in saying even states like Kentucky have more global dealings than many EU states. The US shouldn’t be wasting more of their brightest and best on policing the world. All we are seeing now really with this small decline in Us power is a second round of the global shakedown we say immediately after the end of the Cold War.

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