Too bad that you had to get caught;
That’s not like you to lose face
So sad that you’re not as smart
As you thought you were in the first place…
Doug and the Slugs, from “Too Bad”
“It would be well to realize that the talk of ‘humane methods of warfare’, of the ‘rules of civilized warfare’, and all such homage to the finer sentiments of the race are hypocritical and unreal, and only intended for the consumption of stay-at-homes. There are no humane methods of warfare, there is no such thing as civilized warfare; all warfare is inhuman, all warfare is barbaric; the first blast of the bugles of war ever sounds for the time being the funeral knell of human progress… What lover of humanity can view with anything but horror the prospect of this ruthless destruction of human life. Yet this is war: war for which all the jingoes are howling, war to which all the hopes of the world are being sacrificed, war to which a mad ruling class would plunge a mad world.”
The title is a riff on a common phrase from my youth; when asked by a friend, “Want to go down to the tavern for a beer?”, a casually humorous response might be, “Why not? I can’t dance, and I’m too fat to fly”. It suggests that you have nothing better to do and going to the tavern for a beer is as appealing an alternative as any other, considering one’s physical limitations and the options available.
However, the phrase as it appears in the title struck me as a particularly appropriate aphorism for the west’s confusion and flopping about since it was presented with a written list of Russia’s security concerns and the remedies it would accept to allay those concerns. Strongly implied, although not specified in the written summation, is this, paraphrased: you say we are your enemy, and that you wish to fight. You push us further and further, until our backs are against the wall. Very well, then – either agree to the terms as written, propose alternative arrangements for discussion that are not too far from the terms as written…or fight.
The west was plainly not ready for that. Its ‘diplomatic’ behavior since then suggests it has…well…no good options. Before, it was all pressure, and ‘Russia must do this’ and “the rules-based international order calls on Russia to do that’. Now, it’s ‘we need more time’. Although its more hawkish policymakers – not one of whom will have to fight, if it comes to that – have spluttered that all Russia’s demands are absurd and are complete non-starters, nobody seems ready to commit that response to print. And the Russians have insisted on answers in writing which will be legally enforceable.
You know why that is, don’t you? Sure you do. The verbal commitment that if Russia would just let the west have Germany without making a fuss, NATO would advance no further eastward. And you know how that turned out. The west can officially no longer remember anyone making such a promise, although people who were present on the occasion say the Russian description of the deal is accurate. Not Mikhail Gorbachev, naturally; his western pals would never lie. But he claims the subject did not even come up.
“The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. … Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context… Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled.”
Well, the ‘not one inch eastward’ commitment was definitely made; official records of the conversation so reflect.
“And the last point. NATO is the mechanism for securing the U.S. presence in Europe. If NATO is liquidated, there will be no such mechanism in Europe. We understand that not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.”
So the semantics of the argument have shifted – western negotiators for the reunification of Germany never promised that NATO would not expand eastward. No, they promised only that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO’s military jurisdiction. You Russians have to learn to pay attention to context. So now the official western storyline is that while the Russians understood that to mean no eastward expansion of NATO, that was not the promise at all; what you thought you heard was not what I said.
Has NATO expanded its military jurisdiction eastward? You tell me. Are new NATO countries with full membership the subjects of Article 5 – an attack against one is an attack against all, conveying the responsibility of NATO military forces to mount a defense in and around the country which is the object of the attack? They certainly are.
“Membership in the most powerful military alliance in the world has given Poland not only security guarantees in the form of Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty, but has also led to an increase in the position and prestige of our country on the international stage. The need to adapt to NATO standards, the participation of Polish soldiers in missions and exercises, and training with soldiers from other NATO countries, has led our Armed Forces in reaching a high level of interoperability (the ability to interact) with other Alliance Members. Our contribution to and involvement in NATO operations, has made Poland a reliable partner both for our Allies and third countries.”
The foregoing is a somewhat roundabout way of illustrating why Russia now wants its agreements with the west in writing, accepted only after a comprehensive review of the text to ensure there is no leeway for interpretation – if you promise, it must be written, “I promise”. Because no matter what NATO says, it will later say “That’s not what I said at all”. Regardless of what was presented to Gorbachev, I don’t think the casual observer would need to be much of a diplomat to guess the intent of the discussion – Baker was plainly seeking to downplay any threat Russia apprehended from an increase in NATO influence. Had he said “Oh, no: NATO plans to take in every eastern European country that makes the cut, full membership. But you should not view that as threatening.”, I’m pretty sure Russian cooperation would have taken an abrupt downturn. Would that be fair to say?
Anyway, be that as it may – present-day Russia intends to not make the same mistake again. And thanks to a constant buzz of western threats and abuse for going on a decade, the options have now boiled away to two. Agree, in writing, or fight.
What if option two is the way it goes? That’s what we’re here to talk about today.
It likely has escaped nobody’s notice that Russian military forces across the spectrum have been drilling hard for at least the last 5 years, many of them unannounced snap drills requiring short-notice deployment of significant forces, some of those over a considerable distance. A wide variety of scenarios have been rehearsed, and the pace has increased, if anything. In a defense-of-the-homeland scenario, not only is the likelihood of Russia being taken by surprise nearly non-existent, its capability to deliver a powerful counterpunch anywhere on its borders should not be in doubt. Its soldiers train as they mean to fight, with live tests of all weapons systems under realistic conditions and in all weather. It has the strongest air-defense system in the world. More important yet, Russia is a major nuclear power, with a ‘Dead Hand’ secondary-strike capability which can be initiated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) even if Russia’s military forces are completely wiped out. How does it work?
- If the system were activated, it would determine whether nuclear weapons were used in the vastness of the USSR;
- If this were so, the system would check the communication link with the General Staff;
- If there was a connection, the system automatically turned off. After some time – from 15 minutes to 1 hour, which passed without any hints of an attack, it would have assumed that the list of officials capable of giving the order to strike was still in place;
- If the General Staff does not respond, the system sends a request to Kazbek. If there is no response there either, the artificial intelligence gives any person in the command bunker the right to make the decision. And only then it starts to act.
Many indications are that the Dead Hand system is still active, and the source I cited suggests it may have been returned to combat duty as recently as 2003. See if you can remember 2003. Okay, maybe not everything, but would you say relations between Russia and NATO were better then, or now? Would Russia be more likely to have need of a secondary-strike capability then, or now? If the Russians were not fools, they would also have updated it to connect new long-range strike capacity to the system as it became available, such as the Sarmat, due to enter service this past year. The hypersonic Khinzal is air-launched and outside the control of Dead Hand, but fitting it in the TU-22M bomber would boost its operational range out to 3000 km, and it is ideally suited to destroy critical European infrastructure as the west has no defense against a Mach 8+ missile.
But lobbing nuclear warheads back and forth is a doomsday scenario, a how-did-we-get-here desperation play when everything else has failed and utter defeat imminent. A much more likely proving-ground for national mettle, especially in the case of a NATO ground-forces thrust against Russia, will be the performance in battle of the infantry and the mechanized forces; the artillery and armored formations. How do they stack up? Let’s look.
Ooooo….I see a problem right away. Owing to its divergent policies of swaggering and talking smack like a Saturday-night drunk, and paying itself a ‘peace dividend’ in its private confidence that its designated enemies will not fight, NATO has allowed its land forces to erode a little more every year. Those skeptical of my conclusions will point out that this article dates from 2014, but I ask them – has NATO’s land-forces capability improved since then? Especially Europe, where the United States is constantly harassing them to spend more on defense. It wants them to buy American weapons and military equipment, of course, but the point stands. NATO is not ready to repel a Russian attack, never mind mount one against Russia itself. What does this NATO Defense College researcher have to say?
“But many lessons learned over the past two decades of alliance operations lend support to the idea of maintaining credible land capabilities of an appropriate size and with a high level of technological sophistication. As Lieutenant General Frederick Hodges stated when NATO Allied Land Command Izmir (Turkey) became operational: “Our tradition after every war has been repeating the mistake of reducing land forces to save money, believing that we can avoid casualties in future wars by relying more on air and sea power . . . and each time, we are required to hastily rebuild land forces to meet the threats the nation consistently fails to accurately anticipate.”
I’ve already pointed out that the Russian air-defense network is several tiers above anything NATO air forces have ever gone up against; western doctrinal assumption of quickly achieving air superiority is going to have to be rethought before any NATO aircraft are even wheels-up. NATO has been slowly but surely going out of the tank business, and it is critically short of helicopters.
Think tanks like the Rand Institute regularly run computer simulations of NATO forces versus the Russians. Western scenarios for actual whites-of-the-eyes ground combat with Russian forces, for reasons I am unable to fathom, almost invariably center around a Russian lunge to seize the Baltics. Why they would want to subjugate and conquer these pipsqueak noisemakers is difficult to imagine, especially considering it would very likely flare into a larger conflict. Russia already has access to the Baltic through the Gulf of Finland – what would be the strategic payoff for Russia?
Whatever they might be thinking, the Rand study uneasily concluded that NATO forces as deployed at the time would not be able to prevent the Baltics from being overrun. And in not much more time than it takes to make a good batch of barbecue-pit pulled pork.
“After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed…The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fire and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.”
Obviously, smacking the shit out of Europe would be considerably more challenging than overrunning the tough-talking Baltic sourpusses. So let’s take a look at the numbers.
According to Global Firepower, which I have found to be generally reliable for a non-military site, Russia ranks 2 out of 140 in ability to apply military force. The EU is not ranked as a single entity, but as 25 countries by individual capability. Its index rates 0.0000 as perfect military superiority, and the larger your number, the less capable you are.
Russia’s power-index rating is 0.0501. That of the EU’s strongest military power – France – is 0.1283. Quite a gap. If you feel like a bit of unforced laughter would lighten a somewhat oppressive mood, check out the most hardass of the Baltic buttkickers: Lithuania, at 1.7083. The weakest of all is Estonia, at 2.6527, far past the cutoff where you are a military liability rather than a contributor to collective defense, and I am told in confidence that the recommended military action against Estonia is to just throw a very large wet tissue over it.
Give me a second to get the adding machine out – Darya!!! Where did you put the goddamned calculator?? (Yes, under the box of chocolates, I might have guessed). Okay, let’s see what kind of match-up we would be looking at.
It quickly becomes apparent that the European Union has far more military personnel and reserves than Russia. I hope that’s not a surprise to anyone; it should, the EU has nearly four times the population, although some states have proportionally small military forces and no reserves at all. I’m just going to look at Europe versus Russia here, because if history is any guide, the USA will want to simply send expeditionary forces to assist and keep itself out of the battle, real-estate wise. Also, being far away from the smoke and thunder doesn’t mean as much when your enemy is a major nuclear power, and you might find you want to keep the bulk of your forces closer to home. In case you get a Special Delivery yourself.
So, more soldiers for the EU, more than twice as many. But unless you are going to issue each of them a stick and tell them to look at the uniform first and swing second, equipment is going to be a serious force multiplier. The days of lining both armies up on opposite sides of a big field and yelling “Charge!!!” are gone, and a land war in Europe would be an armor and artillery battle. And it would be in Europe; I would rate the chances of European forces throwing Russia back and penetrating into Russia as none and noner.
Okay; equipment. Land Forces Russia – over 12,000 tanks. I’m not sure how Global Firepower tabulates those, and it’s likely some are older models held in reserve, although they are supposed to be maintained for reactivation. Over 30,000 additional armored vehicles for infantry transport, close combat, bridging and de-mining. Over 6,500 self-propelled artillery pieces. That will do to be getting on with for now, because I can’t find a cumulative number for EU forces and have to add up the individual contributions of each state.
EU Land Forces – Just over 5000 tanks, less than half of Russia’s strength. Armored vehicles, the EU is in good shape with more than double those of Russia, but that comes with a codicil that we will get to in a minute. With 2,731 self-propelled artillery pieces, the EU comes up at less than half Russia’s strength there, too. I’ve looked at only snapshots of overall ability to project power not so that I could cherry-pick areas of overwhelming Russian strength – the ability to project power is a big part of the global ranking, and Global Firepower has done that for us already, ranking Russia number 2 in the world and its closest single EU-state competitor at number 7. But a significant factor in capability assessment, also, is interoperability. I know NATO forces exercise together frequently, and they always strut afterward and tout their ‘interoperability’. But what does that mean, really? If you ran an exercise for the combined army, and ordered the Finns to use the Czechs’ assault rifles, how would that work out? Anybody can learn, of course, but who has time and patience to learn when you’re being shot at? The Finns use the RK-62, chambered in 7.62mm. The Czechs use the CZ-805 BREN. It can shoot either NATO 5.56mm or 7.62mm intermediate, so the two weapons could theoretically use the same ammunition, but to use 7.62mm with the Czech weapon requires changing the barrel, gas tubes, breech block, magazine bay and magazine. They say this can be done quickly, but again, being shot at. And they are essentially a completely different weapon that only the native users are completely familiar with.
I know what would improve interoperability – put Spanish officers in charge of the Romanian soldiers. See where I’m going with this? The NATO forces, in spite of efforts to standardize which meet with resistance wherever individual states want to manufacture their own weapons or contract out for their personal choices, rarely use the same equipment. Their weapons are different, they frequently cannot use each other’s ammunition if they are running low, the controls for their armored equipment are different and the labeling that might help is in a variety of foreign languages. They all speak English, don’t they? Well, yes and no; to varying degrees of fluency.
The Russians all speak the same language, although it is a second language for some, to be sure. They use Russian in their communications, which not all NATO listeners speak or understand. They all use the same equipment, and they train together frequently with soldiers from other districts, often in snap drills which are announced with little warning and might see them deployed to a far republic of a huge country. They all use the same ammunition. Their national tactics and battle plans are all the same.
Finally – and I don’t want to be insensitive – we need to take a look at warrior culture. And its cultural opposite, Wokeness.
The warrior culture is rooted in the unrelenting and brutal application of violence, steadily escalating until the objective is achieved and the enemy’s resistance is overcome. There is no room in it for negotiation, for no-fairsies. Negotiation was meant to preclude violence, and had negotiation worked, violence would not have ensued. There is no room in it for weakness, because in order to apply sustained and steadily-increasing pressure against armed resistance, you must be fit and strong and committed.
Wokeness, by way of contrast, is more or less the Bible of no-fairsies. If you didn’t get a chance to run a company because you’re not a man, no fair. The Man is keeping you down, and if you had exactly the same training, education and opportunities, you could succeed as well as anyone else. And that’s more or less true, for applications which rely more or less exclusively on brainpower, instinct and adaptability. These are important in the military, too, but in combat they come far behind the capacity to hit and keep on hitting until whatever you’re hitting goes down.
Let’s look for a moment at some other opinions; I’m not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but I like women and I like to think I am fair in my relationships with them. I’ve worked with women in the military for years, I’ve worked for women I thought were airheads who couldn’t be 2 I/C of a blank file, and I’ve worked for women I thought were inspirational leaders. The LGBTQ+++ crowd have been less prominent in my experience because they are generally more circumspect, let’s say, but I don’t really have a problem with them, either. However, I have an immediate and abiding dislike for activists. But I’d rather not get bogged down in self-justification – it doesn’t matter what I think, but what I can substantiate. So let’s see what some other people think.
Let’s look at what the author at The Palace Intrigue has to say. First, he or she (I’m guessing he) subheads the site “an alternative to propaganda”. If you’re going to take that position, better be ready to support your conclusions. You can judge for yourself.
Anyway, he quotes Macron – who always looked to me like a bit of a lightweight and always came across as preoccupied with silliness – as complaining that imported American ‘woke’ culture is “racializing France and creating division among minorities”. Not to keep on about it, but France is supposed to be the strongest military power in the EU.
“That’s all by design. You don’t just go from a historical norm of 2-3% of the population being gay to 17% in one generation. There’s a concerted effort by Hollywood and the Masters of Culture to make it “trendy” to be LGBT, and it’s aimed directly at the young generation, who are the most impressionable and receptive.”
That’s actually true enough; here’s an extract from “Norming and Reforming: Challenging Heteronormativity in Educational Policy Discourses”, by Catherine McGregor of the University of Victoria, just down the road from here.
“More recently in British Columbia, (BC) the Ministry of Education and provincial legislators have mandated a number of policy and programmatic changes, including the introduction of the Safe Schools Act, a new Social Justice 12 curriculum, and the Making Space, Giving Voice (2007) diversity guide for teachers k-12. Such actions are seen as positive progress towards genuine inclusion for all LGBTTIQQ children, youth and their families. On the other hand, evidence gathered around from around BC by the Safe Schools Task Force during 2003 made clear that homophobic language is pervasive in schools, and that much school based bullying is a product of homophobia (Facing our Fears, 2003). Gerald Walton, in his recently completed PhD dissertation No fags allowed, also reported that safe school and anti bullying initiatives typically fail to address homophobia, and that even where anti-homophobic policies are in place, there is a gap between policy and practice in schools (as cited by Kittelberg, 2006).”
That’s ‘diversity guide for teachers K-12’, meaning ‘Kindergarten through Grade 12’. Sexual diversity is part of the educational process, by mandate, starting in kindergarten. Nothing wrong with that, some will say. And maybe there isn’t. But it teaches children, from the dawning of understanding, that inclusion means allowances will be made for the ‘different’ in all fields of endeavor, including the military.
That will involve, of a necessity, the lowering of physical standards to accommodate women – historically lighter and with less upper-body strength than men. I didn’t make that up; it’s just woke reality.
“While it may be difficult for a 120-pound woman to lift or drag 250 pounds, the Army cannot artificially absolve women of that responsibility; it may still exist on the battlefield,” Griest wrote in an essay published Thursday by the Modern War Institute at West Point. “The entire purpose of creating a gender-neutral test was to acknowledge the reality that each job has objective physical standards to which all soldiers should be held, regardless of gender.”
When the modified FORCE (Fitness for Operational Requirements of Canadian Armed Forces Employment) test was introduced, the sandbag drag was demonstrated for my group by a woman who could not have weighed more than 120 pounds. Here is a video demonstration of each requirement. It can be done. But not by everyone. There’s a major disconnect between ‘not by everyone’ and ‘inclusive’ that wokeness will not tolerate.
Again, don’t take my word for it; listen to the US Army.
“Over the last decade or so, we have begun to accept substandard performance in order to make numbers for missions,” he said. “By retaining those soldiers, it basically leads to a consensus that physical training isn’t important, that being in shape isn’t important…In a report released as part of a nationwide effort, the generals found that 69 percent of Minnesota’s youth could not serve in the military. For example, one out of ten of the youth would be disqualified because they suffer from asthma. The report also pointed out that 40 percent of the state’s ninth graders received no physical education.”
It would be wrong to infer the problem is unique to North American military; the problems of indulgence and leverage through activism has spread to Europe. According to this just-last-summer story, nearly 6000 British soldiers received the lowest scores in military fitness tests, which were modified in 2019 from must-pass to can’t-fail. If you are rated ‘unconditioned’, you go on a remedial-training roster until you can pass. Ten times as many women as men were rated ‘unconditioned’, although there are fewer women than men in the military, which might skew the results. It’s still hard to get away from the conclusion that women are less physically able to maintain an unadjusted military standard, and that more soldiers overall in western military forces are unfit for the demands of active service in combat. Or the possibility that your unit might be called to serve in a combat theatre, and that you would go with them even though you are rated ‘unconditioned’.
Is this an accident? Hardly. Again, don’t take my word for it. Check out Walter McDougall’s “The Feminization of the American Military“. Here are his credentials, lest you imagine he is just some unlettered male-chauvinist oinker responsible for pickled-egg quality control down at Porky’s Pub.
Walter A. McDougall is the Ginsburg-Satell Chair of FPRI’s Center for the Study of America and the West. He is also the Co-Chair of FPRI’s Madeleine and W.W. Keen Butcher History Institute, Chairman of FPRI Board of Advisors, and sits on the Board of Editors for FPRI’s journal, Orbis. He is the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.
FPRI is the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Startlingly, McDougall reckoned the feminization of the American military was well-advanced already. Startling because he wrote that report 21 years ago.
“How ought Americans of both sexes to think about their co-educational military and the prospects for women in combat? No doubt many unreconstructed male chauvinists would agree with Nietzsche that “Man shall be framed for War, Woman for the entertainment of the Warrior, and all else is folly.” But one need not be a caveman to argue that objections may be made against women in combat on some basis other than bias, for instance: common sense; the empirical evidence of the past twenty years; and the universal experience of the human race. As former Secretary of the Navy James Webb attests, military institutions must be coercive, hierarchical, and self-sacrificial, and as such they depend on a rigid code of fairness with regard to conduct, performance, and deportment, promotion on merit, and egalitarian treatment that by its nature cannot be gender- neutral. For as soon as the sexes are mixed in close quarters, especially for prolonged and tense intervals, the jealousies, courtships, and favoritism that are bound to erupt must corrode fairness and discipline.”
Military service implies the possibility of being called to fight in a foreign land, perhaps for an extended period lasting months or even years. It is not like other fields of employment. Yet it is a juicy target for woke activists. Why? Because the military does as it is told. That’s its job – to obey orders. So the only ones you have to sell on wokeness are the top leadership. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the military thinks. Very senior military officers are often indistinguishable from politicians, while some owe their very positions to wokeness.
I would not be surprised if many analysts believe Russia has chosen its time very carefully to call a halt to western bullying and demagoguery. The west is divided on many issues, its military forces have been allowed to run down and degrade – especially in Europe – and its accumulated debt burden argues against it being able to mount a costly and sustained joint military effort. Some of its military personnel are on the low end of the readiness scale, and those who are not are demoralized and resentful owing to social-engineering tinkering by the woke folk. By contrast, you will not find too many fat Russian soldiers with purple hair and body piercings. The Russian ground forces are mostly made up of fit young men, the supply constantly replenished through conscription, some with considerable combat experience already and all of them honed by rigorous training with snap inspections and drills for verification of their readiness. Woke ‘values’ are mostly unknown in Russia, at least among the military, and liberalism is mostly restricted to the pampered children of the intelligentsia and a few angry ideologues. Even the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace grudgingly allows that the modernized Russian military is pretty good at its job, and although it tries to argue that it is less capable because it is much smaller than it was, its heart is just not in it.
Which brings us to the question of China and its position vis-a-vis Russia. Western analysts have resisted any discussion of a formal military alliance between the two, long after I would have said the reality stood out like a cockroach on a wedding cake. Now, apparently, assessment is reluctantly coming around to the possibility that they might be a little more than just friends. You probably saw why that’s important, right away, but I’ll point it out for any readers who might work part-time for western think-tanks: uh huh, an active-duty military numbering 2 million strong, ranked number 3 in the world, right behind Russia, with a global power-projection rating of 0.0511. Another 5,000 tanks, 35,000 armored vehicles and 4,000 self-propelled artillery pieces.
“While U.S. officials have long been skeptical of a unified threat from the two countries, some are now changing their tune. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that Beijing and Moscow are now more aligned than at any point in the past 60 years…Yet U.S. steps to contain the two countries have driven them into a marriage of convenience, giving the previously contentious rivals an incentive to marshal resources and intelligence against a common adversary, according to analysts and U.S. officials. China and Russia are eager to restrain U.S. influence as well as its military and financial potency, which they believe more likely if they work in tandem, according to analysts.”
There’s also the consideration that Russia is China’s primary source of energy imports, which it needs to maintain its development, support its trade ambitions and expand its influence. What might happen to those energy imports if Russia were conquered by the western powers? I think China can imagine just fine, extrapolating from American hostility and the eagerness with which its allies scramble to obey its directions.
The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…the relentless tread of marching boots, the overthrow of kings.
What’s it going to be, Washington? The pen…or the sword?