I have no doubt that there is a lot of truth to this article - even coming from an anonymous writer from Zero Hedge (there is no Tyler Durden). I obviously fall solidly in the Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates camp with respect to Russian ambitions regardless of supposed provocations by the West.
The uncomfortable fact for both Russia and its apologists is that Ukraine has been an independent nation for 30 years. Whatever the historical context as a subject people, it is now a nation free of Russian domination (or Polish, or Hungarian, or German, or Mongol). I am convinced the idea of a democratic capitalist society on Russia's border is far more frightening to the stability of the Putin dictatorship than some fanciful military threat posed by NATO. I am certain, that had Russia been successful in its bid to seize the whole country in February, the writers at Zero Hedge and many of the handwringers in the State Department next would be pointing to Poland's sporadic history as a free an independent state.
Russia has no one to blame for this current catastrophe but itself, and its leader's ambition to turn back the clock of history. As I have noted here before, Russia is no longer either the Soviet Union or the Tsarest Empire of Catherine the Great. It is a remnant Eurasian empire with a population of 140 million and a GDP the size of Texas. Like the US promulgating a Monroe doctrine with no means to enforce it through most of the 19th century, Russia no longer has the means to enforce its strategic vision upon the rest of Europe.
Yes Russia has nuclear weapons. So does North Korea. Does anyone pay any serious attention to Kim Jong-un's disarmament demands with regard to South Korea or Japan? Of course not. Nor can we. Give into nuclear blackmail once, and we can be sure it will be used again and again.
The truly humorous thing about Putin's decision to attempt to take Ukraine by force of arms is that he has created a far greater NATO footprint on his borders than would have ever existed had he not acted. NATO forces in Finland will be in walking distance of Winter Palace thanks to his strategic leadership.
Most importantly, we should not forget that the Ukrainian people are voting daily with their lives for their right to self determination. Zelensky has emerged as a remarkable leader capable of marshaling the support of most of Europe and the US in his people's defiance of the Russian dictator. Except among some on either extreme of the West's political spectrum, strong multi-party support stands with the Ukrainian desire to remain independent.
Finally, with respect to China. What could have emboldened Chinese military ambitions more with respect to Taiwan than a militarily triumphant strategic partner? What analyst believes Russia's abject failure in its strategic ambitions somehow encourages China? A Chinese invasion would require an assault across 100 miles of open water into the teeth of the same sort of weapons that are so effective against Russia's armed forces. I am certain the Chinese correlation of forces analysis for a successful attack on Taiwan has changed dramatically over the last several months.
If it talks like a jackal in a bear's disguise, it walks like a jackal in a bear's disguise, then it shouldn't be surprised when its intended victim pokes back.
I think you and I are actually in pretty close agreement, particularly with respect to Russian and US strategic and operational miscalculations. One can only assume that Russia envisioned a Prague-like conquest where the majority of the population would have been at worst ambivalent to a Russian occupation.Russia already had several "free and capitalistic" states on its border. One of them, Finland, is one of the richest and freest (going by Freedom House rankings) countries in the world. Now I'm sure Putin was/is not a fan of the Finnish government, but I never saw any indications that he was preparing to launch a war against Finland. The same applies to the Baltic states who are both EU and NATO members.
It really seems that Russia's "red line" was Ukraine joining NATO, and probably the EU as well. However Ukraine joining NATO was a much greater reality than it joining the EU. For instance Albania has been a member of NATO since 2009. Yet it is a long ways away from being an EU member state. Albania like Ukraine is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Europe. For these poorer eastern European states it seems that joining NATO is a much easier and faster process than joining the EU. So Ukraine would have likely joined NATO long before it would have joined the EU.
In terms of the Russian influence on the strategic landscape in Europe I'd argue that from 2014-2022 Russia was actually doing quite an effective job at keeping Ukraine out of both NATO and the EU. The Russian annexation of Crimea and the low intensity conflict between the Ukrainian government and the Russian backed insurgents in the Donbas was a guarantee that neither NATO nor the EU would accept Ukraine as a member until this issue was resolved. Keeping this low intensity conflict simmering or even having it as a frozen conflict insured Russia's aims of keeping Ukraine out of western alliances.The political, economic and human costs to Russia of keeping this low intensity conflict simmering where quite low yet it allowed them to achieve their strategic goals regarding Ukraine. Neither the EU nor NATO want countries as members that have ongoing or unresolved conflicts within their borders.
I would argue that the full scale invasion of Ukraine was a gross miscalculation on Putin's part. To me it appears that Putin believed that the Russian army could quickly seize control of Ukraine and easily depose of Zelensky and install a government loyal to Putin and Russia. Part of his calculus seems to have hinged on the belief that the Ukrainians would have welcomed the Russians with open arms. This obviously did not happen. What I find interesting is that this case reminds me a bit of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The American government/CIA believed its Cuban American members/informants that most Cubans in Cuba were pro-American and anti -Castro. However when the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred it became obvious that the strongly anti-Castro and pro-American Cubans where in America and not in Cuba. Its interesting to me how this miscalculation of how a foreign country may respond to a foreign invasion or coupe d'etat can have significant consequences regarding the success or failure of an operation. Obviously the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a far bigger operation than the Bay of Pigs was but i think this point still applies to both imo.
Respecting the Russian and North Korean nuclear arsenals. I'd argue that would be a case of where differences in degree become differences in kind. North Korea doesn't even possess 1% of the world's total nuclear arsenal. Russia posses approximately 45% of the world's total nuclear arsenal. The only country in the world that has a nuclear arsenal comparable to Russia's is the US. This is what Russia is capable of unleashing onto the world (and itself) if it ever chose to make good on its nuclear saber rattling:
Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection - Nature FoodCalorie availability and extent of food shortages for each nation are estimated following regional or global nuclear war, including impacts on major crops, livestock and fishery production.www.nature.com
In a nuclear war, hundreds to thousands of detonations would occur within minutes of each other, resulting in tens to hundreds of millions of people dead or injured in a few days. But a few years after a nuclear war, global climatic changes caused by the many nuclear explosions could be...thebulletin.org
A nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia would be an existential threat to humanity.
I think you and I are actually in pretty close agreement, particularly with respect to Russian and US strategic and operational miscalculations. One can only assume that Russia envisioned a Prague-like conquest where the majority of the population would have been at worst ambivalent to a Russian occupation.
I can speak with some certainty with respect to the American, if not NATO, miscalculations. The US believed there would be significant resistance, but that the Russian armored formations essentially would be unstoppable from achieving objectives in Eastern Ukraine. A likely future border would be created along the Dnieper River basin. Both super powers clearly forgot that Ukraine had a vote in the eventual outcome.
If we ignore scale, I think your analogy with respect to Cuba is pretty accurate.
You are correct that Finland and USSR/Russia had charted a unique arrangement following the WWII. Perhaps something similar could have occurred with respect to Ukraine, but I do not think so. Unlike Finland, both the Russian leadership and the more educated European Russians, at least those of the older generations, clearly view Ukraine as a lost part of Russia. Whatever the truth of that supposition, the new reality is that Russia now has NATO on its doorstep at St. Petersburg.
With respect to a full unhindered nuclear exchange, you are exactly correct. However, the calculus gets complicated pretty quickly and not particularly in Russia's favor. I would be surprised if any of the Russian ballistic nuclear submarines would be able to successfully launch much of their complement of missiles before they were destroyed. I would be equally surprised if any of the Ohio class boats were successfully interdicted in their launch sequencing.
There is also considerable doubt with respect to the effectiveness of much of the Russian arsenal. The US spends approximately $25-35 billion a year on the maintenance and assurance of its nuclear weapons. Plutonium based weapons require constant maintenance, refurbishment, and testing due to their rather complicated ignition sequence. If not, they explode with far lower effect or impact as a dirty bomb. Russia spends about $5 billion a year and much of that on new development rather than their existing stockpile. I am confident every US warhead will go exactly where directed and explode with exactly the planned megatonnage. I am equally confident that Putin can not make that same assumption with respect to his strategic forces.
This is a remarkably informative open source discussion.
Clearly no one wins in such an exchange regardless of the state of either inventory, but it is unlikely completely lost on the Kremlin that Russia would lose much more. This then goes back to my point that these weapons reflect awesome power and limited utility. Putin, and now largely through Medvedev, has been brandishing the nuclear sabre ever since the initial attack failed. I actually think the article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists underscores that false sense of power they represent.
I have no idea under what terms this war will end. But if not in Armageddon, then it will end through negotiations. Putin likely does not realize it, but he is probably at his strongest negotiating position right now. I suspect he has been convinced that his newly mobilized forces will be capable of launching an offensive in the coming weeks that will change the operational situation in Russia's favor. At the same time Ukraine is husbanding its newly trained and equipped formations for either a decisive defensive or offensive effort over the same period of time. As I have noted earlier, the correlation of forces mathematics continue to shift dramatically in Ukraine's favor even with the indecisiveness of the German government.
I assume we will all find out a great deal in the coming weeks.
The Gerasimov appointment is somewhat puzzling to me. He is the ultimate military product of the Russian system and one of the champions of the current army organization model which is proving so brittle in Ukraine. Sergei Surovikin may have ruined his opportunity with the decision to withdraw from Kherson while there was still time. Obviously it had to have been approved by Putin, but the televised briefing put it all on Surovikin. Neither the decision, which likely saved as many as 20,000 troops and their combat platforms, nor the briefing was very popular with the pro-war factions on Telegraph.My apologies I probably did not express myself to well in regards to Ukraine and Finland. I totally agree with you in regards to Russian views of Ukraine. This is why I mentioned that Ukraine being a member of a Western alliance was a "red line" for Russia. While Russia is certainly not happy about NATO's eastward expansion- they really did not do much about the fact that all former Eastern Bloc countries are now NATO members and that even 3 former Soviet republics (the Baltic states) are as well. On the other hand the mere possibility of Ukraine joining any Western alliance was enough to trigger an armed conflict- first a Russian backed insurrection and then a full scale war. I guess what i was getting at was that Russia's main "no go zone" was Ukraine joining a western alliance. This is what they wanted to prevent at all cost. However, when it came to other Eastern Bloc or ex Soviet states joining western alliances they did not really seem to care nearly as much.
That video is a fascinating. I guess the strength of Russia's conventional and nuclear forces was assumed to be a given and was in some ways "common knowledge". Yet as the war in Ukraine revealed, Russia's conventional strength is nowhere near what it was assumed to be. It's certainly very plausible that Russia's nuclear forces are in a similar state.
What i found most interesting in the article from the Atomic Scientists website and also from the Nature article is that both predicted that most deaths would not occur directly from the nuclear explosions themselves. Rather most deaths would be due to the ensuing famines caused by a nuclear winter. It seems far more people would die from famine than nuclear explosions.
I would imagine that even intercepted nuclear weapons would still contribute to the emergence of a global nuclear winter. There is a very disturbing interactive map in the section titled nuclear famine. It looks at what percentage of each country's population would be starving, due to nuclear winter induced famine following both a regional and a global nuclear war.
I totally agree with you that Russia would be far more devastated by a nuclear exchange than the US would be. While this article does not deal with Russia, it does look at how a full scale war between the US and China would theoretically go:
In a full-scale war, China would be decimated by the nuclear and conventionally superior US military. China has not dealt with any external crisis, nor has fought full-scale wars in modern history. Awww.airuniversity.af.edu
The US military certainly has no peer competitor in the contemporary world. And given America's enormous defense spending this is hardly a surprise. The US military is the definition of OP...
I personally do not think that Putin's regime would use nuclear weapons. My bigger concern would be if Russia went through a Soviet-esque collapse. Rogue elements in Russia getting their hands on nuclear weapons in such a scenario is a very scary thought. Especially since there are some Russian ultra-nationalist who believe that the world needs to be "purified" through nuclear war and mass destruction.
I also agree with you that now would be the best time for Putin to try to get a negotiated settlement.
But it seems that Putin is dead set on taking Ukraine and he refuses to accept small "victories" or concessions. For instance look at the recent replacement of Surovikin with Gerasimov. Gerasimov is a yes man who seems to enable or support Putin's grandiose ideas. Surovikin it seems was more realistic in terms of Russia's military capabilities.
Brutal, is that seriously the same person?