I am about half convinced a this point given the level of rhetoric that the first open Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine will happen by the end of the month. I would guess it will be an aerial incursion, probably a helicopter gunship that crosses the border and penetrates 15-20 km’s. At this point I would not b surprised if Russia orchestrated somebody firing on said incursion to give causus belli.
The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and brinkmanship.
Crimea referendum: Voters ‘back Russia union’: Yep, That had to be a fair election. It’s not like the Russians don’t have armed troops all over the place there. I stand by my prediction that the US and EU will meekly submit to whatever Russia wants and go no farther than sanctions despite the Western Guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty from the 90′s. Ukraine will probably continue to dominate the news this month as well.
NATO general warns of further Russian aggression: So, what led NATO’s commander to just now acknowledge the danger that the Crimea will not be enough for Putin? I would be very curious to see one of his daily intel updates.
Turkish PM defiant after Syrian plane shot down: We should not forget that the Syrian civil war has not ended. It is not in the news but the fighting continues and as far as i can tell the government forces are winning.
NATO’s Military Decline: This is an opinion piece but it brings up a very valid point about some of the main reasons behind the tepid Western response to Russian actions in the Crimea. The West is largely incapable of mounting an effective military response to Russian aggression if one were required. Shades of 1938 anyone?
Russian military holds exercises in breakaway Moldova region: Personally, I don’t think Russia will go after Trans-Dnistria next. I see Russia agitating for the amalgamation of the majority ethnic Russia eastern Ukraine and then seeking Anschluss with Belorussian before they look farther afield. I also assume the endgame is a reconstitution of Greater Russia along the lines of the pre-Bolshevik borders.
Armed pro-govt militias roil Venezuela protests: How long until the demonstrators in Venezuela resort to shooting back? Venezuela is just as volatile, if not more so, than Ukraine was in November when the demonstrations started. Civil war could start here too as the people begin to feel they have no other choice to better there lot.
Russian Buildup Stokes Worries & Fighting Words: Schäuble Says Putin’s Crimea Plans Reminiscent of Hitler: I think the Russian buildup along the border with Ukraine is ominous to say the least. I also find it ironic that the only political figure in the West willing to call a duck a duck and point out the historical parallels in recent events is the German Finance Minister. It is also amazing the speed with which other German politicians are running away from his remarks. I almost expect to see a Roadrunner like rooster tail of dust behind Merkel.
Korea’s Trade Fire; Island Residents in Shelters: Just when we needed more tension in the world, North Korea starts getting froggy again. I guess Kim Jong Un is feeling neglected because he has not been in the news lately.
Putin Defies Obama in Syria as Arms Fuel Assad Resurgence: I just wonder why the writer of this news story thinks Putin should listen to Obama in the first place. Does anybody on the world stage listen to Obama? Certainly not North Korea, Iran, Assad, or the Muslim Brotherhood. At best Obama is treated with fake respect and then ignored. Russia has interests in keeping Assad in power if for nothing else then to ensure they keep their naval base.
Russia cannot afford ‘collapsing state’ in its backyard: In a display of unparalleled cluelessness the German FM announces what is obviously untrue. Russia has no problem with a collapsing state in their backyard because Russia is busy encouraging the collapse. It is the states of the EU that cannot afford Ukraine to collapse and the loss of the strategic buffer that state represents. European statesmen seem to not realize that Russia is an enemy, or at least is choosing to act as one and really, what is the difference?
Japan to intercept any North Korea missile deemed a threat: Let us not forget that all is not calm in Asia either. The North Koreans are still pursuing their own agenda that is at odds with the interests of every nation in the region except China.
Pro-Russians seize eastern Ukraine government buildings: Stage two of the russian dismantling of Ukraine begins. I would guess that if Putin can keep his agitators busy he will let the unrest in eastern ukraine simmer until early June sometime after the snap elections. That is of course, unless he wants to use the agitation as a pretext for military action. I would guess that is not the case though and the next major Russian move will not come until autumn when he can use Russian control of western European energy supplies as a lever to discourage western intervention.
U.S. accuses Russian agents of stirring eastern Ukraine unrest: I wonder if Putin is losing control of the agitators in Ukraine. It would appear that now is a poor time to increase the agitation given that outside nuclear weapons Russia’s biggest strategic threat is cutting off the flow of natural gas to western europe and that is a card that has much less sting at this time of year. I would guess that Putin just wanted to keep the pot at a low boil until the early fall and the ethnic Russians in Ukraine are forcing his hand. It just gets more interesting all the time.
Kiev gives pro-Russian protesters 48 hours to end their occupation: The plot thickens. I am still convinced that events are moving out of Purin’s control as current events in Eastern Ukraine are sure to alarm the West when alarming the Western powers if the last thing Putin wants right now. I expect Putin to stand by as Kiev puts down te protest for now but to use the quelling of incipient rebellion later on as rhetorical ammunition to argue in favor of Russian annexation of Eastern Ukraine. A Sudeten Strategy if you will.
Kiev Government to Deploy Troops in Ukraine’s East & ‘Russia is waging war against Ukraine’: It would appear that Ukraine is stealing a march on the separatists and Russia and attempting to seize the initiative as they should have done a month ago. The question now is a two-parter; will the West support Ukraine to the hilt and will Russia escalate. If the West supports Ukraine’s efforts to quash the separatists and affirms the sovereignty of Ukraine with concrete measures Russia has no choice but to de-escalate. If however, the West does not support Ukraine then Russia has nothing to lose by tossing around threats and escalating the war of words and perhaps adding in undeniable military measures inside the territory of a sovereign neighboring state. I think we are entering a new phase of the Black Sea Crisis.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]
The Armored Fist: The 712th Tank Battalion in the Second World War is one of the best unit histories I have read from WWII. It is not a traditional unit history in that it is not simply a list of engagements fought, enemy killed, and casualties suffered. It is a compilation of the recollections of the unit’s members put into chronological order from their first combat to the end of the war. This is not traditional battle history, instead it is the story of one unit’s participation in the war from the worm’s eye view of the average soldier.
The book itself is 256 pages of text divided into 41 mini chapters each detailing a specific incident from the unit’s history. There is no index or bibliography. in the middle of the book is a small section of photos taken by unit members during the war.
The writing style is engaging and you get a sense of what it was really like to fight a tank in the ETO of WWII. while reading you get the impression that instead of reading the book you are actually sitting there listening to one of the veterans recount their experiences. there is an immediacy to the stories that is missing from most accounts of warfare. I thought that one of the best things about reading it is that the reader gets a very god impression of just how confusing combat is and how little each individual participant knows of what is going on in a firefight. Each person focuses on their job in combat and only the leaders have a good overview of the situation and often they do not have even that. that facet of combat comes out clearly in the stories of the tankers of the 712th.
This is an outstanding book and well worth reading. I highly recommend this book.
The latest month’s wackiness in the world of international relations, politics, and brinkmanship.
Ukraine crisis: Police storm main Kiev ‘Maidan’ protest camp: The question on everyone’s mind: Is this the start of the Ukrainian Civil War? I would guess no but still put the likelihood of Ukraine descending into civil war around 50%. It would appear that the president is hoping he can wait the protesters out. A hope that appears misplaced since the coldest part of the winter is about over and warmer weather is on the horizon. The return of warm weather will actually bring out more protesters and if eh fails to dislodge the protesters now he appears weak, which will just make more people willing to protest the pro-Russia policies. Ukraine bears watching. There has not been a truly violent civil war in Europe since 1796 and we might be watching the first clashes of the next. If civil war happens it will be interesting to see how the rest of the world aligns.
What Happens Next in Venezuela Will Depend on the Military (Opinion): This story is also worth watching and if anything the potential for civil war is higher in Venezuela than Ukraine because the people have had a longer time to get truly fed up with the incompetent regime and it’s blatant corruption.
Egyptian militants warn tourists to leave or face attack: Lest we forget, Egypt has not settled down so much as had a lid clamped on it by the Egyptian Army. I fully expect to see some spectacular attacks in Cairo this year by the Sinai insurgents.
Fears grow that Ukraine’s military could be called into the fray: I would guess that any attempt to use the troops for domestic policing would definitely provoke a civil war. The interesting question to me is what would be the EU response if the situation in Ukraine devolves into civil war? I have suspicions on what it would be but they could surprise me.
Ukraine sets European course after ouster of Yanukovich: It would appear that a peaceful settlement of the sectional differences in Ukraine is in the offing. I am not convinced that the issue is settled yet though. Russia has put a lot of prestige on the table and is quite capable of fomenting trouble with a Ukrainean turn towards Europe. The country is also split fairly evenly aver the relative advantages of EU integration. This is not over yet but the signs for an end to the bloodshed and an avoidance of full-fledged civil war are promising.
Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level: Who among us did not see the military being drastically cut as the Terror Wars wind down? Cutting the military fits the pattern and we will once again be aught flat-footed if the country goes to war. However, we should all take note that while there is plenty of talk about cutting the military budget there is absolutely ZERO discussion about reining in entitlement spending such as welfare and medicaid. That lets you know where the Admin’s priorities are. The mob clamors for bread and circuses and the Emperor cuts the Legions to pay for more bread from Egypt.
Government Buildings Seized in Ukraine’s Crimea: The political problems in the Ukraine are not over by a long shot. The talking heads started patting themselves on the back thinking this thing was over, it is not. The two sides in the country are split, the main sides are themselves unsure of where to go and the danger is that the radicals on both sides will lead everyone else along as the radicals escalate the violence. Russia is also a wild card, Russian prestige is at stake in the Ukraine as it has not been for 100 years.
Russian moves raise stakes in Ukraine conflict: It just keeps on getting better. Does Russia want a civil war? The West is going to threaten Moscow with the loss of their lunch money if Putin doesn’t back down and disengage. Now why would Russia back down? Western Europe needs Russian gas more than Russia needs Western money.
Crimea votes to join Russia, Obama orders sanctions: Heck at this rate, I might not even make it to the 15th before war breaks out in the Ukraine. The West is playing a continual game of catch-up and letting the pro-Russian faction in Ukraine and Putin himself set the agenda. That is a losing strategy. The West needs to force Putin to react to them for a change and I don’t think visa restrictions and asset freezing is going to do it. From where he is sitting right now, Putin can see no credible threat to stop him from annexing both the Crimea and the other ethnically Russian parts of Ukraine. I just wonder when he is going to start calling that section of the Ukraine the Sudetenland.
Cyber Snake plagues Ukraine networks: Is his the next stage in Russia’s attempts to separate the Crimea by hampering any military/civilian response on the part of the Ukraine?
Interpol probes more suspect passports from missing flight: Now this is interesting. I had no inkling that there would be something fishy other than run of the mill maintenance problems from a third world airline when i read about this plane going down. The apparent crowd of passengers with bogus or stolen passports is an interesting development and makes me wonder what did cause this plane to go down. I would expect that if it were terrorism some group would have claimed responsibility by now. The outcome of the investigation and search for this aircraft bears watching.
Putin mocks the West and threatens to turn off gas supplies: In another development, I wondered how long it would take Putin to get around to threatening to cut off the energy spigot in a bid to deter Western responses to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. that question is now answered. I bet he wished for better timing and a worse winter for Western Europe though. There is now a good 8 month period until next winter when that threat rings somewhat hollow and allows the West to seek alternate energy supplies. I would not be surprised to see the UK and Norway frantically trying to up production in the North Sea this summer.
Russian troops seize hospital, missile base in Ukraine’s Crimea: When is the West and Ukraine going to call the Russian acts in Crimea what they are, Acts of War? If Russian activities so far don;t amount to aggression what will it take?
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]
Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is one of the flood of new works coming out about World War I this year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the world’s first truly mechanized war. This book explores the ten month (or eleven, depending on how you count it) battle of Verdun between the Germans and French from February to November 1916.
It consists of eleven chapters arranged thematically that examine different aspects of the battle from the operational movements of the forces involved to the way the battle was described in the contemporary press to the role of the battle in modern memory. There is an extensive appendix on sources, a 29 page list of endnotes and a 20 page bibliography.
Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is not a battle history in the traditional sense of the word. here is no bow by blow account of the opening days of the battle and the fall of the french forts at Vaux and Duouamont and the subsequent French recapture of much of the contested ground over the course of the battle. The book is both more and less than battle history at the same time. it examines the battle and the role it played in the course of the war from many angles both military and civilian.
I found the chapters discussing the views of the battle by the French and German commands especially revealing. The standard account is that the Germans intended all along for Verdun to be a battle of attrition and that the French chose to fight so hard there as a matter of honor. That myth is exploded in these two chapters and the way in which the battle became a matter of prestige and developed a logic of it’s own is explored in detail. Given the level of casualties on both sides that the battle evolved into one of prestige makes sense.
Even more revealing is the discussion of the various ways in which the battle was portrayed by the media. A good picture of the way in which the media can sway public opinion and force policy decisions is described in the media portrayals of the Battle at Verdun. The last part of the book that examines the way the memory of the battle has been shaped and its amazing transformation from a symbol of french determination to a landmark of multiculturalism and a monument to the futility of war is revealing in the extreme.
Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is well-written and logically presented and while it is not traditional battle history it is rewarding to read nonetheless. Verdun was one of the greatest blood-lettings of World War I, though not the greatest as it has been said, that was the opening months of the war. It is time for an objective re-examination of this supposedly pivotal battle that in the end achieved nothing of strategic significance, unless you think killing off a large cohort of enemy troops is strategic results. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in World War I and even more to people who want to understand how the perceptions of wars and battles are shaped more by those who were not there than than by those who were.