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Thread: Putin's "Invincible" Weapons

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    In the short term Russia has the advantage based on historical links, but that will erode. Paying off Russia works OK for now, but Beijing isn't going to be interested in that as a long term strategy. They will be looking to get their claws into whoever is running the various Central Asian countries. Buy enough influence that Russia is no longer in a position to do require pay offs.

    Admittedly, Beijing has a poor record at these sort of games, but it is learning. More importantly, it is well resourced. Putin can't compete with that for long, especially if he is spending money in Europe, the Caucuses and the Middle East trying to make Russia seem more important.
    I'm thinking that Russia may make a hard power play not a soft one. I agree with you that they'd certainly lose on soft power, but I don't think that's what's going to be in the offing.

    If the DW documentary is to be believed and from just common sense there's likely considerable simmering discontent with Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule after 30 years and with China's entry into the local economy. As the country is already Russian speaking conditions maybe ripe for Putin to swoop in as the "savior" in a bout of hybrid warfare. No one is really expecting it, which gives strategic surprise (a plus from the Kremlin's POV). China will have neither the stomach nor the ability to directly confront Russia in the Kazakhs. They will have to reach an accommodation. Unlike Ukrain, Kazakhstan is not on the doorsteps of Europe and is not in the midst of a democratic people's movement. There will be little stomach to further antagonize Russia over the Kazakhs.

    If I were Nursultan Nazarbayev I'd getting very nervous. He's not looking at getting bought off, he's looking at the possibility of little green men and big green tanks showing up at his palace door, or being compelled to invite them in.
    Last edited by citanon; 03 Mar 18, at 09:28.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    I'm thinking that Russia may make a hard power play not a soft one. I agree with you that they'd certainly lose on soft power, but I don't think that's what's going to be in the offing.

    If the DW documentary is to be believed and from just common sense there's likely considerable simmering discontent with Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule after 30 years and with China's entry into the local economy. As the country is already Russian speaking conditions maybe ripe for Putin to swoop in as the "savior" in a bout of hybrid warfare. No one is really expecting it, which gives strategic surprise (a plus from the Kremlin's POV). China will have neither the stomach nor the ability to directly confront Russia in the Kazakhs. They will have to reach an accommodation. Unlike Ukrain, Kazakhstan is not on the doorsteps of Europe and is not in the midst of a democratic people's movement. There will be little stomach to further antagonize Russia over the Kazakhs.

    If I were Nursultan Nazarbayev I'd getting very nervous. He's not looking at getting bought off, he's looking at the possibility of little green men and big green tanks showing up at his palace door, or being compelled to invite them in.
    To put it another way, I think Vladimir Putin has the chance to reintegrate Kazakhstan back into the Russian empire using Chinese money, and Putin being who he is, is going to take it.

  3. #18
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    I'm thinking that Russia may make a hard power play not a soft one. I agree with you that they'd certainly lose on soft power, but I don't think that's what's going to be in the offing.

    If the DW documentary is to be believed and from just common sense there's likely considerable simmering discontent with Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule after 30 years and with China's entry into the local economy. As the country is already Russian speaking conditions maybe ripe for Putin to swoop in as the "savior" in a bout of hybrid warfare. No one is really expecting it, which gives strategic surprise (a plus from the Kremlin's POV). China will have neither the stomach nor the ability to directly confront Russia in the Kazakhs. They will have to reach an accommodation. Unlike Ukrain, Kazakhstan is not on the doorsteps of Europe and is not in the midst of a democratic people's movement. There will be little stomach to further antagonize Russia over the Kazakhs.

    If I were Nursultan Nazarbayev I'd getting very nervous. He's not looking at getting bought off, he's looking at the possibility of little green men and big green tanks showing up at his palace door, or being compelled to invite them in.
    A hard power play is risky. I agree that China is unlikely to get involved at this point, but it locks Russia in to a potentially expensive & messy strategy. It is able to get away with the nightmare in Chechenya because no one cares. It might be harder to maintain something similar if China considers itself to have vital interests. Again, it can play the long game while Russia tries to control a potentially uncooperative neigbour.

    It might also prompt China to work harder & faster to entrench itself in the other Central Asian nations before Russia can completely re-create the empire. China is already moving into Afghanistan and has that relationship with Pakistan. Putin is stretched, while China isn't breaking sweat.

    Also keep in mind that Russia sells a lot of gas etc. to China. That suits China for now, but it also gives them leverage. When Putin signed those contracts at a particularly desperate point I was betting that within a generation Beijing would have Moscow by the short & curlies. I'm not seeing a reason to revise that. While the 'inscrutable oriental' thing gets horribly overplayed in discussions of China, I'd back Beijing to out think & out plan Moscow 9 times out of 10.


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  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    A hard power play is risky. I agree that China is unlikely to get involved at this point, but it locks Russia in to a potentially expensive & messy strategy. It is able to get away with the nightmare in Chechenya because no one cares. It might be harder to maintain something similar if China considers itself to have vital interests. Again, it can play the long game while Russia tries to control a potentially uncooperative neigbour.

    It might also prompt China to work harder & faster to entrench itself in the other Central Asian nations before Russia can completely re-create the empire. China is already moving into Afghanistan and has that relationship with Pakistan. Putin is stretched, while China isn't breaking sweat.

    Also keep in mind that Russia sells a lot of gas etc. to China. That suits China for now, but it also gives them leverage. When Putin signed those contracts at a particularly desperate point I was betting that within a generation Beijing would have Moscow by the short & curlies. I'm not seeing a reason to revise that. While the 'inscrutable oriental' thing gets horribly overplayed in discussions of China, I'd back Beijing to out think & out plan Moscow 9 times out of 10.
    But look at it from Beijing's perspective. Is a Russian takeover in central Asia really so bad?

    China would be spending the same money, except now instead of paying off tin pot dictators, it will be paying off Moscow and renewing a long term strategic partnership with a stronger foundation based on long term shared economic interests.

    The military power of Russia would secure returns on Chinas investments, relieving pressure on the Chinese state.

    With a convergence of Russian and Chinese intetests, the conflux of Pakistani and Russian influence can be brought into play to secure trade routes through Afghanistan into Pakistan, bypassing India, which will now be surrounded by Pakistani allies in the landward direction (which Pakistan will love), necessitating its greater accommodation of Russian interests.

    So in one felt swoop Belt and Road ties together a strategic arc of strongmen powers extending from the pacific to the Arabian golf, connecting china, Russia, Pakistan and Iran into a contiguous multicontinental economic and geopolitical power house.

    Both china and Russia can have a considerable degree of comfort in this arrangement. Russia will never be able to challenge China's economic preeminence or threaten its military supremacy in the Pacific and southeast Asia. China will never have Russia's reach into Europe and it will no longer contest Russian influence in the Russian speaking central Asian sphere. This could be a stable arrangement well into the future and a powerful counterweight to Ameica's alliances around the world.

    The more I think about it, the more this is sounding like the culmination of multiple moscovite and Xi-est wet dreams.

    What am I missing?
    Last edited by citanon; 03 Mar 18, at 10:53.

  5. #20
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Some factors I think are worth considering concerning Kazakhstan:

    • Russians are 21% of Kazakhstan's population, according to the 2016 census (no idea how accurate it actually is, though there has been Russian outmigration and much higher ethnic Kazakh birthrates). A lot lower than Soviet times, in which Russians actually formed the plurality of residents in Kazakhstan.
    • The Russian population is concentrated mainly in the north.
    • While there's historically been a degree of fluidity between the Russian and Ukrainian ethnic identities in the past, that's not the case in Kazakhstan, even though most ethnic Kazakhs speak Russian. Meaning, the Russians in Kazakhstan see themselves as strictly Russians who happen to live in Kazakhstan.
    • Nursultan Nazarbayev is 77 years old and it's unknown if there are any plans for a smooth succession. Lacking that, there would likely be political instability in the event of a succession crisis.
    • Islamist militant and terrorist groups have long operated in the countries south of Kazakhstan. If they were to try to take advantage of political instability in the event of a succession crisis, Russia could use that as an excuse to intervene militarily.
    • Baikonur Spaceport is deep in southern Kazakhstan, 100 miles north of Uzbekistan. Another excuse to intervene militarily in the event of instability, extending the reach of any possible military intervention to regions beyond simply the Russian-populated regions in the north.
    • 97% of the officer corps in the Kazakh army upon independence were Russians, which largely continued to be the case until the early 2000s.
    • Despite appointing ethnic Kazakhs to gradually replace most of them in the years since, with all Kazakh generals now being ethnic Kazakh, the Kazakh officer corps is not what one could say is professional.
    • The most professional officers in the Kazakh military are ethnic Russians, but they're completely shut out from reaching general ranks and generally resent the fact.
    • The Kazakh army principally consists of conscripts, only serve for a few years at most, and the Kazakh army cannot be what one could call a professional standing army.
    • Kazakh conscripts draw $6 a month in pay (similar to Soviet conscript pay), and residents of Kazakhstan who wish not to serve and can afford it can purchase a ticket to avoid conscription. Morale is probably very low among the conscripts.
    • I'll have to double check (if that's even possible), but I think it's likely that the air force and other air arms in the country are currently principally staffed by ethnic Russians. Including fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, etc.
    • 80% of Kazakh exports, mainly oil and gas, are either to ex-Soviet republics or travel through Russia to get to Europe. While Ukraine is looking at losing out on transit fees, in the event of a dispute Kazakhstan would lose pretty much all of its income, and there's currently insufficient infrastructure to make up that income anywhere else.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 03 Mar 18, at 11:23.

  6. #21
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Yeah, basically this.

    I wouldn't be surprised though if the Pentagon corps of deskbound generals try to use this to get increased funding for Star Wars stuff and whatnot. They'll probably be beating the drums for more funding, despite the fact the end result of a nuclear war would play out exactly the same. We don't need new nuclear weapons, "flexible" low yield warheads, or allow ourselves to get dragged into an expensive race over weapons shown in videos that look like they were made by high schoolers in a 3D graphics animation class.

    BTW, the Russian election is in 15 days. Not next month.
    US pulling out of the ABM treaty in 2002 seems to be the starting point



    Remain impressed with the consistent coverage from PBS, awesome.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Some factors I think are worth considering concerning Kazakhstan:

    • Russians are 21% of Kazakhstan's population, according to the 2016 census (no idea how accurate it actually is, though there has been Russian outmigration and much higher ethnic Kazakh birthrates). A lot lower than Soviet times, in which Russians actually formed the plurality of residents in Kazakhstan.
    • The Russian population is concentrated mainly in the north.
    • While there's historically been a degree of fluidity between the Russian and Ukrainian ethnic identities in the past, that's not the case in Kazakhstan, even though most ethnic Kazakhs speak Russian. Meaning, the Russians in Kazakhstan see themselves as strictly Russians who happen to live in Kazakhstan.
    • Nursultan Nazarbayev is 77 years old and it's unknown if there are any plans for a smooth succession. Lacking that, there would likely be political instability in the event of a succession crisis.
    • Islamist militant and terrorist groups have long operated in the countries south of Kazakhstan. If they were to try to take advantage of political instability in the event of a succession crisis, Russia could use that as an excuse to intervene militarily.
    • Baikonur Spaceport is deep in southern Kazakhstan, 100 miles north of Uzbekistan. Another excuse to intervene militarily in the event of instability, extending the reach of any possible military intervention to regions beyond simply the Russian-populated regions in the north.
    • 97% of the officer corps in the Kazakh army upon independence were Russians, which largely continued to be the case until the early 2000s.
    • Despite appointing ethnic Kazakhs to gradually replace most of them in the years since, with all Kazakh generals now being ethnic Kazakh, the Kazakh officer corps is not what one could say is professional.
    • The most professional officers in the Kazakh military are ethnic Russians, but they're completely shut out from reaching general ranks and generally resent the fact.
    • The Kazakh army principally consists of conscripts, only serve for a few years at most, and the Kazakh army cannot be what one could call a professional standing army.
    • Kazakh conscripts draw $6 a month in pay (similar to Soviet conscript pay), and residents of Kazakhstan who wish not to serve and can afford it can purchase a ticket to avoid conscription. Morale is probably very low among the conscripts.
    • I'll have to double check (if that's even possible), but I think it's likely that the air force and other air arms in the country are currently principally staffed by ethnic Russians. Including fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, etc.
    • 80% of Kazakh exports, mainly oil and gas, are either to ex-Soviet republics or travel through Russia to get to Europe. While Ukraine is looking at losing out on transit fees, in the event of a dispute Kazakhstan would lose pretty much all of its income, and there's currently insufficient infrastructure to make up that income anywhere else.
    That sounds positively ominous.

    But, critically, even with collusion of a portion of the Kazakh military, does Russia currently have the spare military capacity to pull it off?

  8. #23
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Seizing the territory of the whole of Kazakhstan? Or the ethnic Russian territories?

    I don't know, to be honest. Kazakhstan only has a 20,000 man army, and 12,000 man air force. But it's a million square miles, albeit with the population concentrated pretty heavily in a much smaller portion of that.

    Here's a map show the distribution of ethnic groups, white parts are basically empty.


  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Seizing the territory of the whole of Kazakhstan? Or the ethnic Russian territories?

    I don't know, to be honest. Kazakhstan only has a 20,000 man army, and 12,000 man air force. But it's a million square miles, albeit with the population concentrated pretty heavily in a much smaller portion of that.

    Here's a map show the distribution of ethnic groups, white parts are basically empty.

    I think the key is: will the Kazakh population welcome Moscow or will they want to fight ? Seems like it could be an orderly takeover followed by outsourcing of management to some local figurehead.

  10. #25
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    I'll believe it when I see it.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Do you have a higher res version of this map?

  12. #27
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    But look at it from Beijing's perspective. Is a Russian takeover in central Asia really so bad?

    China would be spending the same money, except now instead of paying off tin pot dictators, it will be paying off Moscow and renewing a long term strategic partnership with a stronger foundation based on long term shared economic interests.

    The military power of Russia would secure returns on Chinas investments, relieving pressure on the Chinese state.

    With a convergence of Russian and Chinese intetests, the conflux of Pakistani and Russian influence can be brought into play to secure trade routes through Afghanistan into Pakistan, bypassing India, which will now be surrounded by Pakistani allies in the landward direction (which Pakistan will love), necessitating its greater accommodation of Russian interests.

    So in one felt swoop Belt and Road ties together a strategic arc of strongmen powers extending from the pacific to the Arabian golf, connecting china, Russia, Pakistan and Iran into a contiguous multicontinental economic and geopolitical power house.

    Both china and Russia can have a considerable degree of comfort in this arrangement. Russia will never be able to challenge China's economic preeminence or threaten its military supremacy in the Pacific and southeast Asia. China will never have Russia's reach into Europe and it will no longer contest Russian influence in the Russian speaking central Asian sphere. This could be a stable arrangement well into the future and a powerful counterweight to Ameica's alliances around the world.

    The more I think about it, the more this is sounding like the culmination of multiple moscovite and Xi-est wet dreams.

    What am I missing?
    That China doesn't want a large, nuclear armed potential rival sitting over what it may come to see as vital energy routes. Russia has shown that it will take significant risks for nothing more than pride. That is not a nation to entrust anything important to, especially if there is an alternative.

    An opportunity is opening up here whereby China can secure energy supplies without fear of lasting interdiction by a rival power. Obviously there are limits to what China will do to attain that, but I suspect those limits will change over time. China may tolerate Russia while it has to, but ultimately Russia is a potentially greater threat than the US. America can & probably will retreat from the Eastern Pacific. Russia isn't going anywhere.


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  13. #28
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    Do you have a higher res version of this map?
    It's actually a 1992 CIA map, which is out-of-date:
    https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1...al-asia-py.jpg

    This one might be more up-to-date:
    https://i.redd.it/bdebdvbcg9iy.png

    And yes, the dark blue in Kazakhstan is Germans.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 04 Mar 18, at 06:08.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    It's actually a 1992 CIA map, which is out-of-date:
    https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1...al-asia-py.jpg

    This one might be more up-to-date:
    https://i.redd.it/bdebdvbcg9iy.png

    And yes, the dark blue in Kazakhstan is Germans.
    Nice! Thanks!

    How did the Germans get so far from home?

  15. #30
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Another factor to consider, China has made territorial demands under the guise of border demarcation on all of the ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia bordering it, and all nations that had territorial demands made upon them ceded territory.

    A non-comprehensive list of territorial adjustments since 1991:

    • Tajikistan ceded 1000 sq km in 2011 (original Chinese claim, 28000 sq km)
    • Kyrgyzstan ceded 1243 sq km in 1999
    • Kazakhstan ceded 186 sq km in 1998, with a previous cession in 1994 (original Chinese claim, 34000 sq km)

    China also asked to lease 10,000 sq km of prime land in Kazakhstan to be cultivated by Chinese farmers in 2009, which was rejected only after protests in Astana. So China is and has been seeking to edge into Central Asia territorially in ways that go beyond simple trade interests, and the Central Asian nations continue to be wary about future Chinese territorial demands and designs such as territorial leases.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 04 Mar 18, at 06:30.

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