Tuesday, August 26, 2008

(Why, and How to) Rollback Russian Expansionism

Rollback Russian Expansionism

J.R. Dunn in his post in the American Thinker, has outlined the historical basis of the Russian perspective, and his prescription for success in resolving the path of aggression that the current Russian dictator has embarked upon. The most amazing element of his piece is the reference to a February 1946 telegram sent by George Kennan - the Charge in the Soviet Union, to Dean Acheson, then Secretary of State, analyzing the Soviet Union's plans and expected behavior. Not only was it prescient then, George Kennan's analysis seems near perfect today. I suggest that you read through the 62 year old paper, and I guaranty that you will be astounded at his almost perfect insight. See the Long Telegram here.

Here's the prescription part of J.R. Dunn's post. To read the entire piece, navigate here.

The invasion of Georgia was simply the public formalization of all these efforts. As during the early years of the Cold War, hostilities have in fact been in progress for quite some

The Cold War and its aftermath present us with three methods of responding (overlooking Carter's policy of appeasement, which will find no supporters apart from the political fringes): containment, rollback, and drift. The policy of drift which marked the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations has been abandoned today under pressure of events, leaving us with a neat choice of two: containment and rollback.

The record reveals containment to be a clear failure. It was both expensive and complex. It locked the West into a rigid pattern of behavior easily manipulated by the USSR and its clients. It required a high degree of commitment over the long term, a commitment that not even its chief adherents were able to be maintain. Its sole advantage was that it relatively risk-free in the short term, although this benefit vanished after the Soviets learned to play the angles.

Rollback, on the other hand, was an astonishing success, so unexpected and unprecedented that many have still not come to terms with it. By the 1980s, it was accepted throughout the West, in political, academic, diplomatic, and business circles, that the USSR was a permanent fact of history, and would remain so into the foreseeable future. Only Reagan and a small circle of advisors believed otherwise. Reagan's immense success is a clear refutation of any thesis of impersonal "historical forces". Rollback appears to be the sole workable method of dealing with a belligerent autocracy of the type represented by Russia.

How can it be adapted to the present situation? By taking the Reagan effort as a blueprint. Reagan applied relentless pressure -- military, financial, and political -- on Soviet weak points. No attempt was made to challenge the Soviets directly. At the same time, accepted means of support for the Soviet regime -- agricultural credits, industrial exchanges, technological and scientific collaboration -- were curtailed. There was no easing of pressure in the short term, nor were any negotiations offered. At the same time the Soviets were allowed a clear path of retreat. Rollback was a rational strategy, punishing bad behavior and rewarding rational decisions -- but only after these had been demonstrated in concrete.

Consideration must be made of Russian fears, and each of those fears made a reality. If Russia fears encirclement, she should be encircled. If Russia fears military inferiority, that inferiority should be clearly established. If Russia fears American technology, that technology should be unleashed.

A serious defensive league of former Soviet states, including Central Europe, the Baltics, Ukraine, and the Caucasian and Central Asian states, should be formed under the quiet sponsorship of the U.S. The mutually defensive purpose of this pact should be emphasized, with the threat remaining unnamed. Low-key exercises and consultations between militaries should be carried out, with select officers sent to the U.S. for further training.

The fact that many of these countries are political and territorial rivals is scarcely relevant at this point. Such questions must be set aside in light of national survival. American diplomats should take the lead here.

Revocation of easements and allowances given the Russians -- such as the use of the Sebastopol navy base -- should be brought to the table. The Ukraine has already placed limitations on the use of the base (and been answered with Russian threats). This is a good start that needs to be taken further. Sebastopol is not a Guantanamo or Gibraltar situation, a base in a remote area easily isolated from contact with the host nation. Sebastopol is a major Ukrainian city. Methods of making life unpleasant for the Russians are myriad, and include strikes, shutting down utilities for "repair" or "maintenance", and other forms of harassment. Sebastopol is a Russian weak point, and they need to be made aware of this quickly and repeatedly. (A friendly visit by U.S. 6th Fleet units to our Ukrainian friends should also be put on the calendar, perhaps combined with Black Sea exercises with Ukrainian naval forces. Such a visit has already occurred in Georgia.)

Russian "peacekeepers" are illegal occupiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and life ought to be made hot for them. There is technically no difference between the invasion and occupation of portions of Georgia and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Particular attention should be paid to the Ossetian and Abkhazian "irregulars" who followed Russian troops into Georgia. It was they who carried out the majority of executions, rapes, and looting. Georgia was treated with almost the same level of brutality as Nazi Germany during the Soviet advance of 1945. The Russian "irregulars" are war criminals, and ought to be dealt with as such.

The final factor in Reagan's winning strategy, the Strategic Defense Initiative, has its equivalent in the National Missile Defense system now being extended to cover Europe. This system, which is a lineal descendant of SDI, drives the Russians to distraction for the simple reason that they can't duplicate it. The proposed placement of missiles in Poland is a evidently a major source of Russian belligerence. (The Poles, who had been dawdling over negotiations, signed an agreement immediately upon the invasion of Georgia. So much for Putin's strategic "brilliance".) Much can be done with this system. The Ukrainians have offered use of two radar sites. They should be taken up on it, and discussions concerning the potential support roles of other post-Soviet states should be opened.

The Russians truly believe that American technology is a magic box that when tapped, pours forth all sorts of miracles. Playing on this fear paid dividends during the 80s. There is no reason why it won't work again. (One element that should not be overlooked is the fact that the Navy's Aegis system has been upgraded to fill the anti-ballistic missile role. Perhaps those ships visiting Sebastopol could be Aegis destroyers?)

That's what rollback would look like in the 21st century. No aggression, no revanchism, simply unending and consistent pressure intended to modify Russian behavior to match international norms. The more Russia misbehaves, the more trouble she will see.

Russia is nowhere near as powerful as the Soviet Union. It's reported that Putin had to transfer an entire army from Central Russia to do the job in Georgia -- the forces in the Caucasus simply weren't up to it. Similarly, post-invasion bluster about the Russian navy acquiring a half-dozen aircraft carriers is completely empty. Such a naval program would challenge even the U.S., with all its resources. And it happens that the sole shipyard capable of such a project is located... in the Ukraine.

This is the reason -- and the only reason -- why the Russians are rattling nuclear weapons (and at Poland, no less). Their hand is weak, and they know it. The current Russian elite is comprised not of ideologues but hustlers, who very much want to live to enjoy power and riches. Actual use of nuclear weapons is the last thing on their minds.

Nor is Russia is anywhere near as economically robust as it seems. Recent reports indicate that the country's oil wealth is based on redrilling already exploited sites. Little in the way of new exploration has been carried out and is not likely to happen without outside investment. Russia's oil bubble may be ready to burst. (This brings up a related aspect of the rollback strategy: yet another reason for the U.S. to begin offshore drilling and building nuclear plants. Russia is flexing its muscles thanks in large part to funding gained from recent oil hikes. Cut the income, and we'll at the same time cut the impulse to shake up the international system.)

The long-term goal of any rollback strategy would be the same as that of the original Reagan effort: to bring about the establishment of a free and democratic Russia. The collapse of Russia into renewed autocracy would be a tragedy of historical dimensions, particularly when so much was possible. We were told to avoid triumphalism, not to encourage a legal cleansing of the former Soviet state, to allow party members and KGB officers to go about their business. So there was no lustration, no exposure of the regime's crimes as in the central European states. We -- and the people of Georgia -- are paying the price for that now. Like 18th-century Prussia, "an army with a state", Russia today has become a secret police with a state.

The KGB must be considered a criminal organization and targeted as such. We can start by identifying its officers and agents worldwide, along with their activities, contacts, and so on.
The KGB is as much a terror group as Al-Queda, and deserve no better treatment.

The rollback strategy worked in the 1980s. There is no reason why it can't work today. Ignorance of history may guarantee repetition, but how much worse when we overlook what we know?

And oh, no more looking into people's souls. That just causes trouble.

J.R. Dunn is conulting editor of American Thinker.

Update on Georgia - Details on Russian Tactics

Michael J. Totten has a great post from Georgia passing on his briefing with a Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms and another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz. Worms provides a rich background of Russia's strategy and tactics in attempting to re-create the Empire, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and details how the Russian surrogates in South Ossetia provoked the Georgians by repeated shelling of Georgian peacekeeper positions and Georgian villages

TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. "The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia," the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

"Just a little bit of back story again, in July of 2007 Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces Treaty in Europe. This is a Soviet era treaty that dictates where NATO and the Warsaw Pact can keep their conventional armor around their territories. Russia started moving a lot of materiel south. After Bucharest, provocations started. Russian provocations started, and they were mostly in Abkhazia.

"One provocation was to use the Russian media to launch shrill accusations that the Georgian army was in Kodori preparing for an invasion of Abkhazia. Now if you go up there – I took a bunch of journalists up there a few times – when you get to the actual checkpoint you have a wall of crumbling rock, a wooden bridge, another wall of crumbling rock, a raging torrent, and a steep mountainside filled with woods. It's not possible to invade out or invade in unless you've got air support. Which is why the Abkhaz were never able to kick these Georgians out. They just kept that bit of territory."

"Kodori provocations," Worms continued, "and other provocations. First the Russians had a peacekeeping base under a 1994 agreement that allowed them to keep the peace in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They added paratroopers, crack paratroopers, with modern weaponry there. That doesn't sound a lot like peacekeeping. A further provocation: they start shooting unmanned Georgian aircraft drones out the sky. One of them was caught on camera by the drone as it was about to be destroyed. The United Nations confirmed that it was a Russian plane that did this. It probably took off from an airbase that the Russians were supposed to have vacated a few years ago, but they never let the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] in to check.

"The next provocation: On April 16 Putin signs a presidential decree recognizing the documents of Abkhazians and South Ossetians in Russia and vice versa. This effectively integrates these two territories into Russia's legal space. The Georgians were furious. So you have all these provocations mounting and mounting and mounting. Meanwhile, as of July, various air corps start moving from the rest of Russia to get closer to the Caucasus. These are obscure details, but they are available.

"Starting in mid July the Russians launched the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they've held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war. They had all their elite troops there, all their armor there, all their stuff there. Everyone still foolishly thought the action was going to be in Abkhazia or in Chechnya, which is still not as peaceful as they'd like it to be.

"The Georgians had their crack troops in Iraq. So what was left at their central base in Gori? Not very much. Just Soviet era equipment and not their best troops. They didn't place troops on the border with Abkhazia because they didn't want to provoke the Abkhaz. They were expecting an attempt on Kodori, but the gorge is in such a way that unless they're going to use massive air support – which the Abkhaz don't have – it's impossible to take that place. Otherwise they would have done it already.

"So fast forward to early August. You have a town, Tskhinvali, which is Ossetian, and a bunch of Georgian villages surrounding it in a crescent shape. There are peacekeepers there. Both Russian peacekeepers and Georgian peacekeepers under a 1994 accord. The Ossetians were dug in in the town, and the Georgians were in the forests and the fields between the town and the villages. The Ossetians start provoking and provoking and provoking by shelling Georgian positions and Georgian villages around there. And it's a classic tit for tat thing. You shell, I shell back. The Georgians offered repeated ceasefires, which the Ossetians broke.

"On August 3, the head of the local administration says he's evacuating his civilians. You also need to know one thing: you may be wondering what these areas live off, especially in Ossetia, there's no industry there. Georgia is poor, but Ossetia is poorer. It's basically a smuggler's paradise. There was a sting operation that netted three kilograms of highly enriched uranium. There are fake hundred dollar bills to the tune of at least 50 million dollars that have been printed. [South Ossetian "President" Eduard] Kokoity himself is a former wrestler and a former bodyguard who was promoted to the presidency by powerful Ossetian families as their puppet. What does that mean in practice? It means that if you are a young man, you have no choice. You can either live in absolute misery, or you can take the government's dime and join the militia. It happened in both territories.

"On top of that, for the last four years the Russians have been dishing out passports to anyone who asks in those areas. All you have to do is present your Ossetian or Abkhaz papers and a photo and you get a Russian passport on the spot. If you live in Moscow and try to get a Russian passport, you have the normal procedure to follow, and it takes years. So suddenly you have a lot of Ossetian militiamen and Abkhaz militiamen with Russian passports in effect paid by Russian subsidies.

"So back to the 3rd of August. Kokoity announces women and children should leave. As it later turned out, he made all the civilians leave who were not fighting or did not have fighting capabilities. On the same day, irregulars – Ingush, Chechen, Ossetians, and Cossacks – start coming in and spreading out into the countryside but don't do anything. They just sit and wait. On the 6th of August the shelling intensifies from Ossetian positions. And for the first time since the war finished in 1992, they are using 120mm guns.

"Can I stop you for a second?" I said. I was still under the impression that the war began on August 7 and that Georgian President Saakashvili started it when he sent troops into South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali. What was all this about the Ossetian violence on August 6 and before?

He raised his hand as if to say stop.

"That was the formal start of the war," he said. "Because of the peace agreement they had, nobody was allowed to have guns bigger than 80mm. Okay, so that's the formal start of the war. It wasn't the attack on Tskhinvali. Now stop me."

"Okay," I said. "All the reports I've read say Saakashvili started the war."

"I'm not yet on the 7th," he said. "I'm on the 6th."

"Okay," I said. He had given this explanation to reporters before, and he knew exactly what I was thinking.

"Saakashvili is accused of starting this war on the 7th," he said.

"Right," I said. "But that sounds like complete bs to me if what you say is true."

Russian rules of engagement, so to speak, go down harder than communism. And the Soviet era habits of disinformation are alive and well.

"You also have to remember the propaganda campaign that came out," he said. "Human Rights Watch is accusing the Russian authorities of being indirectly responsible for the massive ethnic cleansing of Georgians that happened in South Ossetia. The Ossetians are claiming that the Georgians killed 2,000 people in Tskhinvali, but when Human Rights Watch got in there a few days ago and talked to the hospital director, he had received 44 bodies. There was nobody left in that town. Plus it's the oldest law of warfare: have your guns in populated areas, and when the enemy responds, show the world your dead women and children.

"Right," I said. "That goes on a lot where I usually work, in the Middle East."

"Yes," he said. "That's exactly what the Russians were doing."

Mixed Bag

Some random thoughts on the passing scene from Thomas Sowell:

  • If you took all the fraud out of politics, there might not be a lot left.

  • One of the problems with successfully dealing with threats is that people start believing that there is no threat. That is where we are, seven years after 9/11, so that reminding people of terrorist dangers can be dismissed as "the politics of fear" by Barack Obama, who has a rhetorical answer for everything.

  • There are countries in Europe that would love to have their unemployment rate fall to the 5.7 percent unemployment rate to which ours has risen. Yet those who seem to want us to imitate European economic and social policies never seem to want to consider the actual consequences of those policies. "Unacceptable" is one of the big weasel words of our time-- almost always said when the person who says it has no intention of doing anything, and so is accepting what is called "unacceptable."

  • The recent death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn should make us recall what he said when he was awarded the Nobel Prize: "The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles." What would a Barack Obama presidency mean, other than more concessions and broader smiles, while Iran goes nuclear? (Look what's happening with Georgia today! – Jim Lynch)

  • At one time, it was said "The truth will make you free." Today, there seem to be those who think that rhetoric and hype will make you free. It might even be called the audacity of hype.


On Shooting Taggers: Why Conservatives and Liberals Differ

Dennis Prager has a great (but a little edgy) comparison of view between Conservatives and Liberals; why it's in society's best interest to shoot (to wound) "taggers" or graffiti vandals. As in so many other areas, with regard to taggers, right and left see life through opposing moral prisms. On the left, the tagger is viewed as society's victim; on the right, society is viewed as the tagger's victim.

See where you wind up on the issue……MORE

Michelle Obama? Who really was that speaking last night?

Michelle Obama did a great job at presenting the speech that was prepared for her. I really wanted to just let myself go and believe that she was speaking from her heart.....she was really that good. In fact, I'd rather vote for the person that she presented to us last night, instead of her husband. She sounded like a Republican.

But, unfortunately, the cognitive dissonance was too severe, and I couldn't suspend my cynicism. The Michelle that I remember from the past 18 months is one who had never really been proud of her country, and one who found America so difficult to live in that it's hard to go on living

Too little, too late

President Dmitry Medvedev has declared that Russia formally recognises the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The move follows a vote in both houses of parliament on Monday, which called on Moscow to recognise the regions. Mr Medvedev defied a specific plea from US President George W Bush not to go ahead with the move. MORE

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