Monday, January 23, 2017

Russia and the Imperial Mindset

As Russia seems to be top of mind (at last) with so many, let's stick with the topic.

Part of the problem outlined here and over at Midrats is that many think about Russia's actions with the same mindset they think about Germany, France, China, Turkey, or worse - domestic politics. A recipe for bad ideas, worse policy, and to be perpetually wrong.

Russia is not West, nor is it East; it is Russia. You have to reset your thinking to that fact from the start or you soon find yourself on a false path towards confusion.

Geographically, culturally and historically, Russia is in many ways unique. She is also a spot-welded cluster of contradictions.  

She often displays the best of our species in art, dance, music, literature, and science - but at the same time she demonstrates the worst of human nature via demographics, public health, sectarianism, ecology, economics, individual rights, and ethnic cleansing to genocide as policy.

Over at ASPI, the former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt has an article, Russia’s Imperial Instinct, that is helpful to both experienced Russia watchers and those new to the challenge.

To start to get a handle on where Russia is going, you need to look to where she has been;
Since coming to power following Russia’s tumultuous attempts at liberal and democratic reform in the 1990s, it has become increasingly clear that Putin aspires to make Russia great again, both economically and geopolitically. Despite some obvious differences between the founding of the Soviet Union and now, the historical parallel is too obvious to ignore.

Under Putin, Russia has invaded and occupied parts of Georgia, annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and militarily propped up two sham ‘republics’ in Eastern Ukraine. Russia has also tried—so far unsuccessfully—to establish a Novorossiya across Southern Ukraine.

Step by step, whenever opportunities present themselves, the Kremlin is ready to use all means at its disposal to regain what it considers its own. Putin may not have a firm or comprehensive plan for imperial restoration, but he undoubtedly has an abiding inclination to make imperial advances whenever the risk is bearable, as in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

So, what lessons can we take from the past? For starters, Russian imperialism has thrived when Europe and the West have been divided. This was the case when Hitler and Stalin entered into their non-aggression pact in 1939, and when Napoleon and Tsar Alexander entered into theirs in 1807. And we certainly should not forget the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Expanding both NATO and the European Union to include the Central European and Baltic countries has been essential to European security. In any other scenario, we would probably already be locked in a profoundly dangerous power struggle with a revanchist Russia reclaiming what it had lost.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Russian Revolution in 1917 reshaped regional and global politics. In the immediate aftermath of each event, Russia demonstrated its historic inability to build harmonious relations with the countries along its periphery; and in the intermediate periods, it acted on its imperial ambitions at these countries’ expense.

But Russia will come to terms with itself only if the West firmly supports these countries’ independence over a prolonged period of time. Eventually, Russia will realize that it is in its own long-term interest to break its historical pattern, concentrate on its domestic development, and build peaceful and respectful relations with its neighbors.

We are certainly not there yet, but that’s no reason to throw in the towel—or throw out the lessons of history. We need a stable, prosperous, and peaceful Russia. And that can be achieved only with determined support for the independence and sovereignty of all of its neighbors.
Read the whole thing. Bilt is a man of deep experience in European affairs combined with a national understanding of the Russian nature that is hard to get a firm grasp on this side of the Atlantic. More than worth your time to read twice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fullbore Friday

What is Fullbore?

An unbroken republic where one radically different political party turns power over peacefully to another.

Over to a great American, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Diversity Thursday

Yes friends, we are well through the looking glass. When you combine the ability to order people to do anything that isn't legal in the military, along with the autocratic control you have over the Midshipmen and Cadets in our service academies - you have in a way an interesting little human terrarium.

Just so you know exactly how the new policy is. Notice the little twist? Some people are more equal than others, natch.

"Good order and discipline." OK. 

Like I've said for a long time; make a clear personal evaluation of your desire for personal liberty in your college years, what you really want. Unless you desire a tightly bound military immersion and limited freedom in your one run at undergrad - consider NROTC.  

UPDATE: Well, count your blessings; you could be in the USAFA.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don't Plow the Back-40 With the BMW

While we are talking about Jerry's long-legged bit from '09 - the concept of "Influence Squadrons" is growing roots all over the place. Going beyond just naval units, I'm discussing it over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read - but read it with a British accent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Poland Needs Fords, not Ferraris

Jerry's classic from '09 came to mind when I read the following about plucky, brave Poland's drive to grow its defense budget and recapitalize their air arm;
The Polish Ministry of Defence is analysing a possible purchase of 50-100 aircraft to replace the Polish Air Force's aging Sukhoi Su-22 strike aircraft and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft.
Yes, NATO still has SU-22.
"We consider various possibilities that would be beneficial, [including purchase of] F-16 aircraft; used or new or another solution. The optimal solution would be a purchase of 50-100 aircraft," Bartosz Kownacki, deputy defence minister responsible for defence procurement, told the government-owned Polish Press Agency (PAP).

"I think that during a month and a half we will have a clear idea if is worth buying used F-16s from the United States or new F-35s," he added. According to Kownacki, the aircraft Poland has been offered are older variants than the F-16C/D Block 52+ models currently used by the Polish Air Force. The F-16 option being considered would see Poland purchase 96 used F-16s (six squadrons) for PLN100 million (USD24 million) each to replace Poland's aging 32 MiG-29s and 32 Su-22s.
Poland needs additional firepower now, and every platform counts. They are not going to march on Moscow, so they need something - in numbers - to fight and hold the line at home.

A well trained pilot in a Block 52+ F-16 can handle anything the Russians can throw at them. They do not need now, nor can afford the F-35 in the appropriate numbers.

Something else besides the trusty F-16, I would also offer that the Swedes are about to have a fire-sale of some slightly used Gripens;
Last year the Swedish defense company SAAB made its final delivery of 96 Gripen planes ordered by the Swedish government. Now, despite having thousands of flying hours and many years left, the fighter jets are destined for the scrapheap. The Swedish government is buying even newer Gripen planes.

Gripen C/D is an advanced fighter jet with attack and surveillance capabilities, which unlike its Gripen predecessors is also compatible with NATO standards and thus more easily exportable. SAAB has sold or leased the plane not only to the Swedish government but to South Africa, Hungary, Thailand, the Czech Republic and even to the United Kingdom, which uses the plane for pilot training.

But in 2012, the Swedish parliament voted to place another order, this time for sixty new Gripen E aircraft, to be manufactured with immediate effect. “The government’s order was connected to likely sales to Brazil and Switzerland,” Swedish defense analyst Robert Dalsjö told me. “Because other governments were likely to buy it as well, the idea was that the Swedish government would get the planes more cheaply than it otherwise would.”
That is a nice bit of kit that the Swedes might make a good deal on. As the Poles already fly the F-16, there is some economy on just getting more of them - but there is something to be said for having two sources for your fighter aircraft and making nice with a neighbor who also does not like the Bear all that much.

Either way, the smart move for Poland would be to buy "good" in bulk, and wait for the "perfect" to mature a bit and be a bit more affordable.

Hey ... well look at that;
...Kownacki suggested that now would be the wrong time to purchase the F-35, should that be the route the country opts for. In his view, had Poland enterer the programme five years ago, then Polish industry could have been involved. However, given the current price of the initial aircraft remains high it is worth Poland waiting a few years until "F-35 availability rises and the prices drop".

Anything we can do to help the Poles, we should. Last year, they crossed the 2% of GDP threshold and continues to grow in their investment in their defense. We should reward them as much as we can. 

You know the theory; reward behavior you approve of - punish that you don't. When you look at her former Warsaw Pact allies now in NATO to her south - an example of positive behavior is very much needed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fighting Seablindness is an All Hands Effort

Navalists have the wind at our backs. 

We have not had an opportunity like this in over 30 years to make our point to the American people why it is so critical that our republic own a powerful navy of global reach.

The need has been clear and well documented even before our republic was free of the British Crown, but to most outside the seapower fraternity it is not self-evident.

It is a sale that must be made to each generation. It is a story that must be told and retold; repackaged and redelivered by as many paths as possible. When a crisis brings its need in to focus, it is too late.

A strong navy cannot be built, trained and manned overnight and be effective. It must be ready on day one.

If we don't tell that story enough and in the right way - when her nation calls for her navy, she will not be ready. Even though she will not be ready, she will still answer the call. When an un-ready, under-capitalized, and poorly trained and manned navy gets underway against a challenger that is ready; the seas are filled with your own dead Sailors, it seabed littered with your ships, and your nation is opened to strategic risk to an enemy emboldened by victory.

One fellow retired Commander is more than carrying the load. As we discussed in his visit to Midrats late last year, Bryan McGrath is conducting a speaking tour on seapower in his corner of the republic. He recently put his video series on YouTube. Highly recommended.

As you get yourself ready for the next President and wonder what new directions we may take, during the course of the week, watch a video or so a day. Send a link along to a friend.

If we want our nation to understand why she needs a strong Navy and Marine Corps team, all must do a part. We can't all be Bryan, but we can introduce him to a few friends.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fullbore Friday

What more can you say: thanks.
He was 16 when he shipped off to France in 1917 to join the ambulance corps with the serial No. 15577 -- one of 4.7 million Americans to serve in "The War to End All Wars" against Germany.

"I always knew I'd be one of the last because I was one of the youngest when I joined," Buckles said in his interview with the Daily News, after he became the last surviving member of those 4.7 million.

"But I never thought I'd be the last one."

Even after the war, Buckles couldn't escape the battlefield. In 1941, Buckles was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines while working as a purser for a steamship company. He languished for more than three years in prison camps before he was rescued in a military raid.

"I was never actually looking for adventure," Buckles once told The Associated Press. "It just came to me."

He also wasn't looking for the fame that came his way in 2008, when the second-to-last American veteran of World War I, Harry Richard Landis of Florida, passed away. But once he achieved the status of last surviving veteran, Buckles helped lobby to rededicate the existing District of Columbia World War I memorial on the National Mall in Washington as a national memorial.

With Buckles' passing, there are only two documented surviving veterans of The Great War left - 109-year-old Claude Choules and 110-year-old Florence Green, both of whom are British.

"Somebody has to pass it down. If I'm the last one, then I have to be the one to do it," Buckles told The News.

  Hat tip URR.

This FbF first posted March 2011.