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2022-2024 Russo-Ukrainian War

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  • #16
    Putin threatens military action if NATO rejects Russian ultimatum

    President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that if NATO does not provide binding guarantees to curtail military deployments in Eastern Europe and to bar Ukraine from membership in the alliance, he will be forced to consider a variety of options, including a military response.

    Putin's demands are contained in a pair of draft treaties Russia submitted to NATO earlier this month.

    POLITICO reported that Putin, whose remarks aired on Russian state TV Sunday, expressed concerns about the possibility of missiles being deployed in Ukraine if the former Soviet satellite joins NATO.

    "We have nowhere to retreat," Putin said. "They have pushed us to a line that we can't cross. They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them; 'Stop!'" When asked about the exact nature of the response he was proposing, Putin said it would "depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me."

    NATO is unlikely to agree to Putin's terms. "NATO member countries decide who is a member of NATO, not Russia," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, according to The Washington Post. President Biden has threatened increased sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine.

    The Russian military announced Saturday that more than 10,000 Russian troops had returned to their bases after a month of drilling on the Ukrainian border, Reuters reports. Despite this reduction, Russia still has tens of thousands of troops stationed on the Ukrainian border, and intelligence analysts continue to warn that an invasion could be imminent.

    Russian state media frequently refers to Ukraine as "a colony of the West" and smears Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, without evidence, as a drug addict, according to BBC. Over 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukraine's military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

    Sounds like pure bluff to me....but I've been known to make mistakes...from time to time.
    “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


    • #17
      It's a non-event. UKR is nowhere being closed to NATO membership material. Corruption and the nasty independence movements in the DNR and LNR render any NATO application DOA.


      • #18
        Tend to agree. It will be at least a decade, probably two before Ukraine has its game up to spec for NATO membership (or for that matter EU membership). There's a whole raft of reforms needed, not least of which is, as you just noted attention to the woeful levels of corruption in the country. Putin should be gone by then so we get to see what the next Tsar makes of it all.
        If you are emotionally invested in 'believing' something is true you have lost the ability to tell if it is true.


        • #19
          A Former Supreme Commander of NATO on What Putin's Up to in the Ukraine
          For the past several months, Ukraine and its western partners have been watching Russia methodically build up a powerful force of over 100,000 soldiers on their shared border. While he claims not to intend an invasion, President Vladimir Putin has several objectives. He wants to appear strong and decisive to his domestic base; divide the U.S. and NATO over the response to a potential strike; impress his allies, especially President Xi Jinping of China; prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and the E.U., tying them Russia’s sphere of influence; and make the Biden administration appear weak and indecisive in the run-up to the 2021 midterms—especially after the U.S. failed to support former ally Afghanistan.

          For the U.S., NATO, and the world’s democracies, this is a challenging moment. Above all, the Biden Administration wants to show that it can be relied upon to support a fellow democracy. Ukraine, while not a formal NATO member, has been a loyal partner to NATO and sent troops on NATO missions—and they desperately want to join the Alliance. Putin insists that Russia be afforded a veto of any further NATO expansion, and also wants military troops removed from former members of the Cold War Warsaw Pact—which includes many current allies like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and others. NATO cannot afford to give him such sway.

          This is a significant confrontation, and the stakes are high. How should we think about the challenges on the edge of Europe, and above all what will Putin do next?

          When I was Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, I spent a fair amount of time looking at Russian military options around the periphery of Europe. I had taken command of NATO military operations after Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, which resulted in the conquest of two provinces of that small, western aligned democracy. It was a straight forward offensive attack against the tiny nation of under four million—Russian tanks, troops, bombs, fighter jet, infantry, and artillery strikes provided the heavy punch.

          A few years later, Putin decided to invade a much-larger neighbor, Ukraine. In that case, he decided to use what has come to be known as “hybrid warfare,” a witches’ brew of non-uniformed soldiers (the so-called “little green men,”), high end special forces, sophisticated offensive cyber against command centers and the electric grid, social media disinformation, and amphibious operations. These relatively unconventional tactics were combined with more traditional elements—hence the sobriquet “hybrid”—with effect in 2014.

          Here we are eight years later wondering what approach Putin will embrace if he does decide to invade Ukraine in the new year, perhaps as soon as late January as the ground freezes hard to support heavy armor and transport.

          Putin and his generals are tactically innovative, and have a variety of options in front of them. They are a blooded army with commanders experienced in a wide variety of combat scenarios, most recently in the ongoing civil war in Syria and of course during their engagement in Ukraine itself. The combat in Ukraine continues both overtly (in occupied Crimea) and covertly (supporting a virulent separatist movement in the Donbass region in the southeast of the country, where 15,000 have been killed over the past decade).

          In 2022, the first option they will consider would be simple: a highly traditional blitzkrieg, much as was used against Georgia. This will require not only the 100,000 troops currently on the border, but an additional 75,000 who would “fall in” on prepositioned equipment that the U.S. showed the world in intelligence photos around Christmas.

          This approach would include heavy air strikes against Ukrainian command and control, artillery bombardment, strikes from naval vessels in the Black Sea, and surface-to-surface missiles. All of this would be accompanied by offensive military cyberattacks against Ukrainian defensive weapons systems, communication capabilities, and possibly against parts of the nation’s electric grid.

          Helicopters would move shock troops forward fast, probably behind Ukrainian front lines. They would confuse and destabilize Ukrainian logistics and higher command authorities. Heavy infantry units would then cross the weakened border, and thrust deep into Ukraine, probably as far as the Dnieper River. The ethnically Russian southeast of Ukraine (especially Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol) would be consolidated, creating a “land bridge” connecting Russia with Crimea, and grabbing another significant check of Black Sea waterfront.

          At that point, Putin would pause, assess the situation, and decide whether to push forward to Kiev in order to effect regime change before pulling his troops back. He would likely go on to actually annex the southeast of the country, support a puppet regime in Kiev, and wait for the response of the west. This is the riskiest but also the highest payoff for the Kremlin, and is probably a 20% probability—not likely, but uncomfortable to contemplate.

          A second option for the Kremlin would be to try and create a layer of deniability by using a strictly unconventional approach. This would be more akin to what he did in 2014 in Ukraine, and would include a massive cyberattack on the Ukrainian society, knocking out everything from gas stations to ATMs to rail and air systems. Using covert Russian forces already implanted in the Donbass region, he could unleash attacks across Ukraine—car bombs, mysterious criminal activities, assassination of military and civilian leaders. Social media would be central, discrediting the current government, documenting fictitious “massacres” of ethnic Russians in Ukrainian dominated sectors, and undermining confidence of the society as a whole.

          When western critics decried his actions, he would call it “fake news” and the Ukrainian version of the “big lie,” saying that Russian engagement is key to maintaining stability on the shared border. This is a hyped-up version of what he is already doing, and increasing these tactics would make it harder for NATO to consider Ukraine for membership, one of his key objectives. It would also generate public support within Russia for his actions (protecting “Russian patriots” living in Ukraine) without the costs of a full-scale invasion. This seems a more likely approach than an all-out invasion, and poses less risk to Moscow. This is roughly a 40% probability and the likely approach Putin will take if talks in mid-January do not accomplish his objectives.

          Finally, he is hoping he can achieve what he wants via the talks which will unfold this week—U.S.-Russia on 10 Jan., Russia-NATO on 12 Jan., and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on 13 Jan. Putin wants assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO; that NATO nations along the long Russian / NATO border will never be permitted to host significant NATO military forces; and that sanctions imposed on him over the 2014 invasion, the Skirpal nerve attacks in the U.K., and the attempted assassination of his political opponent Alexander Navalny will be lifted.

          While the chances of achieving those sweeping objectives at the negotiating table appear low-to-impossible, he might be willing to settle for something less than everything he is demanding. His minimum is probably a federalist structure in Ukraine that gives real autonomy to the Russian speaking southeast of the country; at least a tacit acceptance of the annexation of Crimea; an under-the-table recognition that Ukraine (and Georgia) will not join NATO; and some sanctions relief that would increase over time.

          If the west gives him some of what he seeks, Putin may be willing to put both the massive invasion and the amped up hybrid approach on hold, at least for the moment. He also has his eye on elections in the U.S., both this fall and more importantly in 2024. The idea of demonstrating weakness on the part of the Biden team is very appealing to him, and he may judge that he should hold back until that part of his strategy can have maximal effect—thus improving the changes he will accept some kind of negotiated outcome this round. Thus this option comes in around 40% as well, about equal to the chances of the hybrid approach.

          The U.S. and NATO should do all we can to use diplomacy to defuse the situation and avoid giving Putin an easy and obvious win. That means ensuring the west in general and NATO in particular speak with one voice on the level and lethality of economic sanctions that would be applied if Putin crosses another sovereign border in anger. We should also use the next month or two to rush defensive but lethal weapons to Ukraine, which would serve as a further deterrent. Nord Stream 2 represents real leverage at this point, and looking at some sanctions relief could be possible—but not while Russia effectively has a dagger at the throat of Ukraine.

          As talks unfold the Biden administration is signaling a willingness to provide some strategic flexibility. This could include reducing the capability of NATO anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and Romania; discussing balancing troop levels between Russia and the west in NATO nations on Russia’s border; and reducing military exercises on both sides. But there is a great deal of animosity between the sides.

          Putin and his generals like maintaining the west off-balance, something they have done to good effect over the past decade. One thing I learned studying their approach to warfare at the SACEUR is how much they like to preserve optionality. Count on the Russian President to threaten the massive attack, see what he can get at the table in January that can go in his pocket, but be back with the hybrid approach as the year goes along. Unfortunately, this is a long-simmering crisis that will come closer and closer to a full boil at different times as the year unfolds.
          “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


          • #20

            LTC(R) Alex Vindman last evening on NPR's All Things Considered on the likelihood of further Russian intervention in Ukraine.

            Love him her hate him but he is one of our country's foremost experts on Ukraine, Russia and other countries of the old Warsaw Pact


            Vindman discusses U.S. options on Russia-Ukraine tensions

            NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks to Alexander Vindman, former director for European affairs at the United States National Security Council, about how the U.S. might deter Russia from invading Ukraine.


            Is Russia about to invade Ukraine? No one knows for sure including, possibly, Vladimir Putin himself. The U.S. and Russia talked about it for nearly eight hours in Geneva today. And NATO members will meet with Russia on Wednesday. Our next guest has thoughts on how the U.S. might deter Putin and help encourage a prosperous democratic Ukraine to boot. Alexander Vindman is a former Ukraine expert on President Trump's National Security Council.

            Colonel Vindman, welcome. Good to speak with you again.

            ALEXANDER VINDMAN: Yes, good to speak to you again, too.

            KELLY: So, as you know, the U.S. is warning of maximum consequences for Russia if it attacks Ukraine - economic and otherwise. You aren't convinced that is enough to protect Ukraine. Why not?

            VINDMAN: Well, maximum consequences in this context is limited to options outside of really the defense and security realm.

            KELLY: You mean, if it's sanctions - if that's what they're talking about.

            VINDMAN: If it's sanctions. That's exactly right.

            KELLY: And you think sanctions won't work why? - because the U.S. has sanctioned Russia for years now, and it has not stopped Russian aggression and militarism toward its neighbor?

            VINDMAN: That's right. And also because Russia is actually hardened against sanctions. They've dealt with the world of sanctions - fairly severe sanctions - starting with 2014. And in addition to that, in addition to a hardening against the economic sanctions, in addition to indigenizing technologies and supply chains to Russia, they've also built a massive warchest - $620 billion - that gives them a significant cushion to ride through some of these sanctions. And the last part on the sanctions that should be noted is Russia and China continue to converge. It's far from an alliance, but still there's a high degree of cooperation and interoperability. And the Russians are counting on the Chinese to ease the shock of whatever sanctions the U.S. applies. So I think sanctions by themselves again are not going to be sufficient.

            KELLY: OK. So from your perspective, what would work? What's the broader set of policy options you want?

            VINDMAN: Frankly, I don't know if there is much that we can do that could work. But I think if things - meaningful things that could have an effect include forced posture changes in Europe. That's boots on the ground in NATO territory. I could definitely see a merit to some U.S. presence in Ukraine, but I think that's unpalatable to this administration. So what I think is - should be palatable is positioning troops in Europe - in Poland, in Romania, in Bulgaria, in the Baltic states - to reassure them that the U.S. will be there and live up to its obligations under NATO Article 5.

            KELLY: Although, as you just acknowledged, President Biden has made clear, if anything, he wants to bring American troops home, not send more overseas.

            VINDMAN: That's partially true. I think he wants to extract from direct commitments to contingencies to military operations. But that's not necessarily the same as consolidating U.S. military presence in the United States. But one of the cornerstones of U.S. security is our access in basing overseas. That's not the same thing as putting troops into harm's way. That's not the same thing as combat operations. It's a deterrent and a hedge against aggression from other powers.

            KELLY: As I said at the beginning, no one knows for sure whether Putin will invade. But based on what you can see now, based on your military expertise, where would you rate the chances - scale of 1 to 10?

            VINDMAN: I would say, I'm somewhere at an eight, which is pretty amazing. I - this weekend, as I was thinking about these meetings unfolding, I kind of had the pre-combat patrol, pre-battle jitters of recognizing something really serious was coming.

            KELLY: And why? What was it you were looking at that was giving you the jitters?

            VINDMAN: Because right now, as far apart as the sides are, Russians have laid out a maximalist position. The U.S. said it's not willing to negotiate on very principled positions - I agree with those positions - on sovereign states determining their own orientation and rolling back the clock on the NATO alliance back to 1997. I don't see - and Russia's main focus here, which is achieving a failed state in Ukraine - how we could overcome these things. There is - the most likely scenario in my mind is a major military offensive in Ukraine. I hope I'm wrong, but that's what I see. The less likely scenario is some sort of diplomatic negotiation with some off ramps, with some face-saving measures, where the Russians can say, well, we are in the midst of negotiations - we might be able to achieve what we want. I find that hard to believe that we'll head in that direction.

            KELLY: Did I just hear you say Putin's goal here might be achieving a failed state in Ukraine? Why...

            VINDMAN: That's exactly right.

            KELLY: why? Why would he want that?

            VINDMAN: Well, mainly because he needs a weaker state in Ukraine for two probably - primarily two reasons. The first one is Ukraine as a success makes Russia - the Russian exercise of managed democracy a failed experiment. If Ukraine can transition to a democracy, why can't Russia do the same thing? And two, really there is a deep fear of Ukraine slipping out of Russia's sphere of influence.

            KELLY: Alert listeners may recall, Colonel Vindman, that you served on Trump's National Security Council until he fired you after you testified in the impeachment inquiry. I bring it up because among the questions that emerged during impeachment was, what is U.S. policy on Ukraine? Who is running it? Understanding listening to you that you don't agree with every aspect of Biden administration policy on Ukraine, in your view, is it now more coherent? Is it clear what the U.S. policy is?

            VINDMAN: It's clear in the way it's been clear over the past 30 years, which is to say that it's still muddled. During the Trump administration, we had a coherent, consistent policy that would look similar to the policy of the Obama administration or the Bush administration in certain ways, except for the chief executive. The president was completely at odds with what we - what the national security community thought was in the best interests of the United States. Now we have kind of a more consistent policy that doesn't really express a broad vision on what Ukraine could mean for U.S. national security. It could mean easing the burden of facing a highly capable, highly adversarial Russia in the long term because where Ukraine goes, I could see Russia following. And that's the part that's really missing from this broader vision on what Ukraine means to U.S. national security. It's a linchpin. There's only probably about a handful of places around the globe that are as meaningful as Ukraine in terms of geopolitics.

            KELLY: So...

            VINDMAN: So that part is missing.

            KELLY: In simplest terms, if I'm hearing you right, your argument would be, yes, the U.S. has a coherent policy on Ukraine now, but it's just not as good a policy as the U.S. could have. Is that where you land?

            VINDMAN: That's exactly right. And it's not just from the U.S. side. I think the Ukrainians are only now, after 30 years of independence and trying to come out from underneath the thumb of the Russian Federation, are turning to our understanding the role that they could play in regional security and European security. And that's a healthy thing to see. It just has taken a long time to get here.

            KELLY: We've been speaking with retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

            Colonel Vindman, thank you.

            VINDMAN: Thank you, Mary Louise.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain


            • #21
              If Russia attacks Ukraine, here's how it might unfold

              With more than 100,000 Russian troops deployed on Ukraine's border, President Vladimir Putin is keeping the West guessing: Will he opt for a full-scale invasion or a more limited operation or simply keep Russian forces in place to maintain pressure on Kyiv and the West?

              Enjoying an overwhelming military advantage over Ukraine's smaller, less advanced forces, Russia has a variety of options if Putin decides to launch an attack, depending on what Moscow wants to achieve, the price it is willing to pay and how the West responds, experts say.

              With Russia's formidable air and naval power, any offensive would most likely feature bombing raids, missile strikes and cyberattacks that could devastate Ukraine's military infrastructure, disrupt communications and pin down ground troops.

              "There's an incredibly large force that's on the border," much larger than the one that invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014, said Philip Breedlove, a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general who was NATO's supreme commander from 2013 to 2016.

              "You have a Ukrainian land army that has gotten much better, much more capable," since 2014, said Breedlove, who is now at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "But the Russians would own the air and the sea."

              It's still possible Russia could pull back its troops, although Moscow's tough language suggests otherwise. After talks with U.S. diplomats Monday and with NATO members Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia's RTVI that there was no reason to schedule more talks with the Americans and NATO because of what he said was their refusal to meet Moscow's demands to return to a 1997 status quo in European security.

              Short of a full-blown invasion and occupation of all of eastern Ukraine, Russia could choose to take more limited actions that could increase its leverage over Kyiv and test Western resolve and trans-Atlantic unity, Breedlove and other experts say.

              Before Russia launches an offensive, it would most likely accuse Ukraine of a provocation, giving Putin an alleged rationale for action, experts say. Former U.S. diplomats, retired military officers and Russia experts disagree about what Putin might be willing to do, but they point to several potential scenarios:

              Cut off Ukraine's army
              Most of Ukraine's combat forces are deployed along a "contact line" in the eastern Donbass region, where they are facing off against separatists backed by Moscow. If the Kremlin rapidly moved armored units to the west of the front line, it could cut off and trap much of Ukraine's ground troops without having to occupy major cities, experts said.

              If Russian troops moved fast enough to outflank Ukraine's ground forces, they could capture prisoners and seize weapons and equipment, said Scott Boston, a defense analyst with the Rand Corp. think tank.

              "It would be a potentially enormous blow to Ukrainian military capability," Boston said. The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after pro-Russian separatists declared independence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the country's east two months after Russia seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014. NATO and Ukraine say Russia has launched cross-border artillery attacks, armed the separatists and moved weapons and personnel into the area. Moscow denies any involvement.

              Blockade Ukraine's ports
              While the world's attention has focused on Russia's troop buildup on its land border with Ukraine, Moscow also has expanded its naval power near Ukraine's coast, including amphibious forces and naval infantry, experts said.

              "The sea is Ukraine's weakest spot," said Taras Chmut, a Ukrainian military expert in Kyiv. The Russians "can do whatever they want in the Black Sea."

              Russian naval ships now dominate the Sea of Azov, a small body of water between Ukraine and Russia, where Ukraine's modest navy is badly outgunned.

              Moscow increasingly restricts the movement of Ukrainian-bound vessels in the area, and experts say Russia could blockade the southeastern port cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol, choking off an important shipping channel.

              In the Black Sea, west of occupied Crimea, Russian warships could cut off the Ukrainian port cities of Odessa, Mykolaiv and Kherso, which are crucial lifelines to global markets. Such a move is well within Russia's naval capabilities, and it could bring Ukraine's economy to its knees, the country's former defense minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk warned in June.

              A Russian naval operation would be likely to include the seizure of a tiny island in the Black Sea known as Snake Island, or Zmiyiniy Ostriv. Ukraine controls Snake Island, enabling Kyiv to claim territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles from the island and helping to safeguard shipping lanes to the country's Black Sea ports.

              Seize southern canal, land bridge
              In addition to strangling Ukraine's commercial ports, Russia could launch other operations in the south to consolidate its occupation of Crimea, experts say. Russian forces could move to secure a canal that Kyiv shut down in 2014. The closing of the canal has created a chronic water supply problem on the Russian-held peninsula. Moscow could also try to forge a land bridge between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, possibly linking up with territory held by pro-Russian separatists.

              "The idea of building that land bridge and seizing that water supply area, I think that's very much on the table," Breedlove said.

              Secure or expand separatist-held area
              Putin could order Russian troops to enter separatist-held areas in the east in a mostly symbolic show of force. Western governments and Ukrainian officials say Russian forces and Russian-armed proxies are already on the ground. By rolling into separatist-controlled areas in an explicit way, Russia could keep tensions with Kyiv high without having to fire a shot, Breedlove and some experts said.

              In addition, Russia could seek to extend the separatist-controlled area, possibly by seizing communication points or power plants that would make the region more viable as a separate quasi-state.

              "The most likely military scenario in my view is going to be a series of rolling operations that they can stop at any point along the way based on how the West reacts," said Ben Hodges, a retired lieutenant general who was commander of U.S. Army Europe from 2014 to 2017.

              Seizing a smaller area or strategic location, such as Snake Island in the Black Sea, the water canal to Crimea or areas near separatist-held territory, and then pausing would lower the risk of casualties and make it "more difficult for the West to respond," said Hodges, who is now at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

              Moscow could try to gamble that limited action would fracture NATO's unity, as some European governments might be reluctant to impose severe penalties in that case, Hodges said. Without a sharp response, Russia might then press ahead with more operations.

              Seize eastern half of Ukraine
              In the worst-case scenario, Russia would launch an air and ground campaign across Ukraine to seize the entire Donbass region east of the Dnieper River.

              A massive invasion and occupation — what Hodges, the retired Army general, calls "the big red arrow" across Ukraine — is less likely, and it's not clear that Russia has sufficient forces to hold that much territory, several experts said.

              But under Putin's rule, Russia has invaded Ukraine before, and it invaded Georgia in 2008. It also intervened in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad. In each case, Western governments were taken by surprise. And in each case, the threat of sanctions failed to dissuade Putin.

              "Sanctions are an incredibly weak deterrent and have consistently failed to deter Russia from the use of force in Ukraine and elsewhere," said Michael Kofman, the research program director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a Washington-area think tank.

              Given Putin's track record, there is no reason to rule out another invasion of Ukraine, Kofman said. Russia's invasion in Georgia 14 years ago offers a rough analogy for a similar operation in Ukraine, he said. In 2008, Russia launched a major military offensive to prevent the Georgian government from re-establishing control over the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the operation succeeded in imposing a political outcome in line with Moscow's interests.

              If Russia were to opt for a larger operation, it could decide to avoid a long-term occupation of cities and simply pull back after having inflicted a devastating strike to Ukraine's army, some experts said.

              Previous smaller-scale operations failed to resolve Russia's dispute with Ukraine or to meet Moscow's political objectives, Kofman said. "If they weren't able to compel Ukraine towards a desirable outcome by taking half of the Donbass, what would another limited incursion achieve exactly?" he said.

              Russia could seize much of the east and demand a new political arrangement from Kyiv or simply annex the area, as it did with Crimea, experts said.

              In the meantime, Russia's buildup continues. Military analysts say Russia is sending units from the country's far east on trains bound for the western region near Ukraine.

              "They're still gathering forces," Kofman said.

              This just sucks all around
              “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


              • #22
                Headed to disaster? US, Russia harden stances in talks

                WASHINGTON (AP) — The failure of last week’s high-stakes diplomatic meetings to resolve escalating tensions over Ukraine has put Russia, the United States and its European allies in uncharted post-Cold War territory, posing significant challenges for the main players to avoid an outright and potentially disastrous confrontation.

                Unlike previous disagreements that have arisen since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the current Ukraine crisis and seemingly insurmountable differences between Washington and Moscow carry real risks of debilitating economic warfare and military conflict that are exacerbated by the dangers of miscalculation and overreaction.

                For the U.S. and its NATO and other European allies, nothing less than a vast pullback of the roughly 100,000 Russian troops now deployed near the Ukrainian border will prove that Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of negotiating in good faith. For the Russians, the West’s absolute refusal to consider a ban on NATO expansion and the withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe is proof of its perfidy.

                Potential concessions are complicated by the fact neither Putin nor President Joe Biden wants to be seen as backing down before either domestic or foreign audiences.

                The refusal thus far by each side to climb down from what the other regards as unrealistic and maximalist demands has left the prospects for diplomacy in limbo, with the U.S. and its allies accusing Russia of stoking tensions for no legitimate reason and the Russians complaining again that the Americans are the aggressors.

                Some believe the situation will have to become even more dire before the impasse can be broken.

                “The gap in perceptions is so broad that a new and dangerous escalation could be necessary to make the parties open up their imagination and search for agreements,” Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Moscow-based Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, observed in a commentary.

                For Western analysts, it seems a situation in which Putin will have to compromise if conflict is to be avoided. Some think Putin's focus on NATO, which has struggled for years with questions about its relevance, may have given the alliance a new lease on life.

                “This is an extremely uncertain and tense period without an obvious way out unless Putin backs down,” said Jeff Rathke, a Europe expert and former U.S. diplomat who is currently president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

                “He’s talked himself into a frenzy that is hard to walk away from if he doesn’t get the fundamental redrawing of the European security architecture that he claims to want. He’s shown he’s ready to play chicken with the threat of massive military force to bring that about and he’s certainly gotten everyone’s attention, but he hasn’t changed anyone’s views,” Rathke said.

                U.S. officials from Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to chief negotiator Wendy Sherman have said it is Russia that faces a “stark choice.” De-escalate or face punishing sanctions and the opposite of what it wants: an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe and a more well-armed Ukraine.

                Yet in Russia, officials say the shoe is on the other foot. They have cast their demands as an “absolute imperative” and have argued that the Western failure to meet them makes talks on other issues irrelevant.

                Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Russia had vainly tried for years to persuade the U.S. and its allies to engage in talks on the non-deployment of intermediate-range missiles to Europe, limits on war games and rules to avoid dangerously close encounters between Russian and allied warships and aircraft until the U.S. and NATO expressed willingness to discuss those issues this week.

                He attributed the change in approach to a U.S. desire to shift attention away from Russia’s main demands, adding that Moscow will focus on NATO non-expansion. And he insisted that it’s the U.S. that’s formulating the position in talks while other allies just march on its orders.

                “To be frank, everyone understands that the prospect for reaching a deal depends on the U.S.,” Lavrov said. He said whatever the U.S. says about the need to consult allies in negotiations "are just excuses and attempts to drag the process out.”

                Thus, the stalemate.

                The West’s approach has been to have “as much diplomatic effort as possible to de-escalate,” said Andrew Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research in Washington and Moscow on Russia and Eurasia.

                “The problem we’ve got is that the Russians mean business, and they’ve shown us in a bunch of cases, in 2014, in 2008, that they’re prepared to go to war to get these things, and we’re not," he said. "And that’s the challenge."

                The tough and uncompromising Russian positions have led some to believe that Moscow will only up the ante after receiving what all sides expect will be formal, written refusals from the U.S. and NATO to accede to its demands.

                Indeed, the chief Russian negotiator in the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, suggested Thursday that Moscow might respond to rejections by escalating matters outside of Europe through the potential deployment of troops to Cuba and Venezuela. The U.S. has called such a suggestion “bluster” and said it would respond decisively if it happened.

                “The lack of a diplomatic solution logically leads to the further exacerbation of the crisis,” wrote Dmitri Trenin, the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, in an online analysis.

                Trenin predicted that a set of “military-technical measures” that Putin said Russia would take if the West rejects its demands could include “a broad array of moves ... from the deployment of new weapons systems in various regions to much stronger military ties with Belarus and a closer coordination with the Chinese partners.”

                Still, there's a risk that by focusing his ire on NATO, Putin may have inadvertently strengthened its hand, especially with its newer members like the Baltic states, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

                “For countries that have joined NATO since the Cold War, you can definitely say that NATO is more relevant to them now than it was a year ago or in 2014," Rathke said. “Anyone who thought that NATO was no longer relevant to European security has been taught a lesson in the last few months. And it’s only going to get worse.”

                “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                • #23
                  Will Russia make a military move against Ukraine? Follow these clues. -- Atlantic Council

                  For weeks, the eyes of the world have been on a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, as Western officials struggle to decipher Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent: beef up his attack on Ukrainian sovereignty, or bluff his way to key concessions?

                  Amid a flurry of diplomatic talks, fiery rhetoric, and movements of heavy materiel, we wanted to separate the signal from the noise. So we reached out to our military fellows at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, who are active-duty officers with the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, for a sense of what they’re tracking most closely—and what indicators we should all be monitoring to divine Putin’s intentions.

                  Pay attention to cyberattacks, military exercises, and evacuations of non-combatants

                  Through the beginning of January, the Russian military had deployed tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of pieces of armor to its border with Ukraine. That’s a threatening force to be sure, but not a combined armed force that would be able to fight the type of high-intensity, multi-domain conflict that we would anticipate between Russia and Ukraine. Russia had not deployed crucial combat platforms and enabling capabilities and units, including modern fighters and air-defense systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and electronic-warfare systems; and logistics and combat-sustainment capabilities and units.

                  Over the past week, however, Russia has addressed these shortcomings, setting the conditions to execute a multi-domain attack on Ukraine should that be Putin’s decision.

                  First, Belarus and Russia announced a large-scale joint military exercise, called Allied Resolve 2022, near the Ukrainian border. This type of exercise can serve two major purposes. First, it provides a cover for Russia to deploy high-end military capabilities to the region. To that end, Russia announced the deployment of advanced fighters (Su-35) and air-defense systems (S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and Pantsir-S1 short-range air-defense systems) to Belarus to take part in the exercise. Second, the exercise, which is scheduled from February 10-20, provides Russia an opportunity to conduct an operational rehearsal of combined arms missions or their subcomponents. This exercise is the type of cover action I would plan if I were looking to execute a large-scale military operation.

                  Additionally, Russia recently deployed other critical combat capabilities to the region, including thirty-six Iskander-K medium-range ballistic-missile systems, as well as critical combat enablers such as ISR-collection and electronic-warfare platforms, and combat sustainment units and capabilities, including munitions, medical support, and security services.

                  Late last week, we also saw cyberattacks on Ukrainian government websites that were tied to a hacker group linked to Belarusian intelligence. It’s unlikely that the purpose of this attack was simply to deface Ukrainian government websites. It is highly likely that these cyber actors were testing accesses and leaving backdoors into various networks and websites that will be exploited in the immediate pre-invasion timeframe.

                  Another major signal of imminent military activity is the New York Times reportthat Russia is slowly evacuating its embassy in Kyiv. Though Moscow has denied the report, it is likely that Russia has begun to reduce its footprint of non-combatants within Ukraine. As the Times authors indicate, this move could be propaganda, a feint, or preparation for conflict, but it is likely driven by each of these considerations. As we saw in the hasty non-combatant evacuation from Kabul, Afghanistan in August, removing civilians and family members is a huge task and one that should not be rushed. The evacuation of non-combatants is often one of the last pre-operation actions because it can be an unambiguous indicator of imminent military action.

                  The reported cyberattacks in Norway and drones spotted near Swedish nuclear plants are similarly troubling. Though there are no established links between these events and the ongoing Ukraine crisis, it is likely that these actions are a part of Russia’s larger hybrid-warfare campaign targeting the United States and its allies and partners in the region. Expect this to continue, and even ramp up, as the United States and its allies and partners identify more activities that Russia is likely already conducting.

                  The bottom line is that Russia has already deployed the combat forces and systems, enablers, and sustainment capabilities to fight a multi-domain conflict. It has begun hybrid warfare activities that will support possible military action. Finally, it has announced military exercises that can and likely will be used as a cover to deploy more high-end forces and capabilities to the region—and to conduct a mission rehearsal for possible combat operations. While we do not know if Putin has decided to conduct another large-scale military operation in Ukraine, he has certainly set the conditions for such military action.

                  Keep your eyes on Russia’s reserves

                  Russia has roughly a million active-duty soldiers and about 250,000 reserves. Its army has about 280,000 troops. Ukraine has about 250,000 active forces and another 250,000 reserves. Roughly 180,000 of its active forces are in the army. Given the relative size of the two militaries, Russia is going to need to call up reservists out of civilian life if it is serious about invading and occupying all or most of Ukraine. That’s going to have an economic impact and cause discontent among the public, so Moscow is unlikely to do it unless it’s serious. 

                  Moving active forces around is one thing; that’s par for the course. The United States moves its own active-duty units around the country constantly during exercises. Pulling people out of civilian life—moms, dads, teachers, first responders—and deploying them for an unknown amount of time is a very different level of commitment. There are unconfirmed reports in the news that this is happening, but that could be deliberate disinformation by the Russians to give the world the impression that an attack is imminent.

                  The move of Russian amphibious ships from the Baltic Sea toward the Black Sea is another overt action that does not make much sense militarily unless Russia is trying to convince NATO that Moscow plans to invade. It would be much easier and less detectable to move the forces onboard those ships internally by rail than to have them travel through the English Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, and Bosporus, all of which are controlled by NATO allies. Amphibious assaults are among the most complicated and costly of military operations, and the Russians have never mounted one in their history. With the large land border Russia shares with Ukraine, such a risk makes no sense.

                  Since Russia invaded Ukraine eight years ago and occupied close to 7 percent of its territory, Ukraine has benefited from billions of dollars in US defense aid and is much better prepared for a Russian offensive than it was in 2014. The Russians are sophisticated opponents, but the Ukrainians are competent and they do not have any other security concerns that will divide their attention and their forces from resisting a Russian invasion. The Ukrainians will also have a much easier time of mobilizing their reserves if they have not already. Their population is likely much more in favor of resisting a Russian invasion—even if it means reserve mobilization—than the Russian population is about attacking Ukraine. Logistically, the Ukrainians are also able to deploy more quickly based on the distances involved.

                  Russia knows all of this. Yet rather than try to quietly engage in a military buildup and regain some element of surprise, it is telegraphing to everyone that it plans to launch a challenging mid-winter offensive that risks its mechanized forces getting bogged down in a March thaw if it does not achieve rapid success. There’s a lot of discussion about the consequences that the West will impose on Russia if the Kremlin takes such action, but there’s a very good chance that Ukraine imposes even greater costs in blood and treasure if Moscow continues this course. It is not a foregone conclusion that Russia wins this battle if it chooses to fight it, and Russia could potentially not even hold on to the Ukrainian territory that it has already occupied.

                  I think Russia is testing Western resolve given how few ramifications it suffered after its military invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and in light of the recent Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan. This suggests to me that Putin will stop short of a full-scale invasion and use this most recent provocation to try to divide the United States and its allies.

                  Look out for sub-zero temperatures and medical prep

                  Russia will want favorable weather conditions for moving around heavy armor, which is why we should be looking for weather reports that the ground is fully frozen and a good stretch of sub-freezing temperatures. Weather conditions in Ukraine are not optimal for a Russian ground attack with heavy forces right now, and there is a short window before the normal March thaw. The ground is not fully frozen yet due to a mild winter; even if it does freeze in the next two to four weeks, that only gives the Russians a maximum of one to two months until March. When the ground thaws, heavy forces would slow significantly, extending the invasion timeline and making it a riskier campaign.

                  We also haven’t seen any evidence that Russia is making final medical preparations for a ground invasion. If it intends to attack Ukraine with a heavy force, the presence of large amounts of medical equipment and manned mobile field hospitals will be an indicator. Field ambulances are easy to identify because of the red crosses. There have been sporadic reports of Russian field hospitals, but we should be looking for reports that they are fully manned with medical personnel. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be a difficult decision to pull medical personnel from civilian or garrison hospitals for a feint or a training exercise.

                  Watch the waters around Odesa

                  Russia appears to have recently rerouted amphibious forces loaded with equipment and personnel from the Northern and Baltic fleets to the Black Sea. This mirrors its actions in March and April 2021, when the world was similarly concerned about an invasion of Ukraine and the naval deployment provided reinforcements and resupply. It’s worth noting that Russia has never conducted an opposed amphibious landing in its history. This effort would be foolhardy without significant investment in training and landing exercises. However, it is just as foolhardy to assume away a threat. What is more likely is that Russian amphibious forces are conducting a feint to draw Ukrainian ground forces away from the main effort, which would likely be in the north and central parts of the country with the objective to capture Kyiv.

                  The Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa is a strategic prize second only to Kyiv. Russia may attempt to blockade Odesa at the beginning of a conflict and hold that position until its ground forces can assert control there. Russian naval incursions into Ukrainian territorial waters around Odesa could be a sign of Russia’s intent to escalate. If Russia can take Odesa, this would cut Ukraine off from any sea lines of communication or maritime resupply with the rest of the world. Additionally, if Russia controlled Ukraine’s ports, amphibious forces could move personnel and equipment closer to the front lines faster while leapfrogging over some roadblocks that its ground forces will face in southern Ukraine.

                  The question remains: Has Russia lost the element of surprise, or do its current moves constitute an attempt to preserve it? Russia has conducted a large buildup of forces on the Ukrainian border twice in less than a year. Any military strategist knows how critical the element of surprise is to success. If you don’t have surprise, then the only substitute is overwhelming odds. And Russia has neither. If Russia were to attack this winter, it would have only a minimal level of surprise.

                  However, there is an alternate view to consider: that Putin is the boy who cried wolf. Each time Russia conducts a large exercise, it gives the Russian leader a platform to push his agenda with NATO while simultaneously sending a message to his people about the need for further action. If Russia doesn’t attack Ukraine this time, will the United States and European countries send aid to Ukraine during future Russian military buildups? Or will they soften their approach and fall into the trap of taking a wait-and-see attitude? If the latter occurs, then Russia may regain some of the element of surprise in a future buildup.

                  CDR. Daniel Vardiman is the 2021-2022 senior US Navy fellow at the Scowcroft Center.
                  Last edited by Red Team; 23 Jan 22,, 18:41.
                  "Draft beer, not people."


                  • #24
                    We all recall very recently with Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, Tokayev in Kazakhstan and Lukashenko in Belarus were either on the ropes or in serious domestic trouble, Russia deployed military assets to either help them back to their feet or as symbolic acts of support. Why not just do the same to call Putin's bluff and move more assets into Ukraine as symbolic acts of support to supplement the advisors and trainers that are already there? Nobody wants direct conflict and Putin only respects strength, or would this just stir the hornets nest? Or is this really just a nothing event? Just looking to discuss and speculate... a what if scenario if anything. Thanks.


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by statquo View Post
                      We all recall very recently with Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, Tokayev in Kazakhstan and Lukashenko in Belarus were either on the ropes or in serious domestic trouble, Russia deployed military assets to either help them back to their feet or as symbolic acts of support. Why not just do the same to call Putin's bluff and move more assets into Ukraine as symbolic acts of support to supplement the advisors and trainers that are already there? Nobody wants direct conflict and Putin only respects strength, or would this just stir the hornets nest? Or is this really just a nothing event? Just looking to discuss and speculate... a what if scenario if anything. Thanks.
                      IMO it would be one thing if a NATO battlegroup was forward deployed, say, three years ago in 2019. I know I was one of several on the board that advocated for that line of action. But presently, Putin has deployed such a significant force that the expense of such a deployment must have a payout in order for him to save face. Because of Russia's ongoing economic decline and its disastrous handling of COVID-19, Putin does not have the political will to absorb the hit he would take from backing down to NATO. I think at this point, deploying a NATO battlegroup into Ukraine would provoke Putin into invading the country, because backing down would be an existential threat to his current hold on power in the Kremlin.
                      "Draft beer, not people."


                      • #26
                        First of all, let's put things in perspective. A battlegroup is 600-1200 men. Placing a battle group in the UKR in 2019 is a suicide mission whose sole purpose would be a trip wire. A line in the sand would serve the same purpose without committing 600-1200 men to Russian mercy. Case in point, DUTCHBAT at Srebrenecia. We withdrew DUTCHBAT so that they coudl not be used as human shields or hostages by the Serbs. Then, we went to war.

                        Second of all, when you commit military forces, it AIN'T A BLUFF. The whole point of military force is the willingness to use them, otherwise, they're nothing more than parading clowns in a circus. So, the whole point is, is Kiev worth fighting WWIII over? If not, then don't commit NATO forces in harm's way. If you are going to put NATO battlegroups in harm's way, then you do it with the intention to win, not to bluff and guess what? My assumption would be that Russian regiments ain't bluffing either. Why? Because we wouldn't be bluffing.

                        We didn't start WWIII over Pristina and we ain't going to start WWIII over Kiev.


                        • #27
                          First of all, let's put things in perspective. A battlegroup is 600-1200 men.

                          For starters, a battle group is not a term used by the is a NATO/UK/Commonwealth term. So not sure what is being recommended. Colonel, by your numbers that is a battalion task force, we already have one in Rumania as well as an armored brigade combat team out of FT Riley, KS, in Poland. Within USRAEUR we have an airborne brigade and a Stryker brigade permanently stationed there.

                          Secondly, what is under consideration now is moving a brigade combat team from CONUS to Europe along with quite a lot of options. As there is no treaty agreements or commitment, I'm not too sure it would deploy to Ukraine. Poland or Rumania, sure. Also if it is a armored force it would have to go by sealift as the only armored force equipment set in USAREUR is already in use by the troops from FT Riley.

                          Of note is the US had moved and publicly announced we have a SSGN in the Mediterranean. That is 144 Tomahawks, all within easy range of Ukraine & Belarus.I expect we will hear something more this week.
                          “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                          Mark Twain


                          • #28

                            NATO sends ships, jets east, Ireland rejects Russia drills over Ukraine threat (

                            NATO stepping up support for Ukraine

                            NATO sends ships, jets east, Ireland rejects Russia drills over Ukraine threat

                            By Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
                            Jan 24, 06:05 AM
                            An instructor trains members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO said Monday that it’s putting extra forces on standby and sending more ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe, as Ireland warned that new Russian war games off its coast are not welcome given tensions over whether President Vladimir Putin intends to attack Ukraine.

                            The U.S.-led military organization said that it is beefing up its “deterrence” presence in the Baltic Sea area. Denmark is sending a frigate and deploying F-16 war planes to Lithuania; Spain will also send warships and could send fighter jets to Bulgaria; and France stands ready to send troops to Bulgaria.

                            Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO will “take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies.” He said: “We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defense.”

                            The announcement came as European Union foreign ministers sought to put on a fresh display of resolve in support of Ukraine, and paper over concerns about divisions on the best way to confront any Russian aggression.

                            “We are showing unprecedented unity about the situation in Ukraine, with the strong coordination with the U.S.,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing their meeting, told reporters in Brussels.

                            Asked whether the EU would follow a U.S. move and order the families of European embassy personnel in Ukraine to leave, Borrell said: “We are not going to do the same thing.” He said he is keen to hear from Secretary of State Antony Blinken about that decision.

                            Britain on Monday also announced it is withdrawing some diplomats and dependants from its embassy in Kyiv. The Foreign Office said the move was “in response to the growing threat from Russia.”

                            Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko, said the U.S. decision was “a premature step” and a sign of “excessive caution.” He said that Russia is sowing panic among Ukrainians and foreigners in order to destabilize Ukraine.

                            Germany is monitoring developments, but German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed that “we must not contribute to unsettling the situation further; we need to continue to support the Ukrainian government very clearly and above all maintain the stability of the country.”

                            Arriving at the EU meeting, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he would inform his counterparts that Russia plans to holds war games 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Ireland’s southwest coast — in international waters but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone.

                            “This isn’t a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine.” Coveney said. “The fact that they are choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that in our view is simply not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks.”

                            Russian attack could happen ‘any minute’ Ukraine official says

                            A new Russian invasion of Ukraine could take place “at any minute,” a Ukrainian military official told Military Times Wednesday morning.

                            By Howard Altman
                            During Monday’s meeting, which Blinken will attend virtually, the ministers will restate Europe’s condemnation of the Russian military build-up near Ukraine, involving an estimated 100,000 troops, tanks, artillery and heavy equipment, diplomats and officials said ahead of the meeting.

                            They’ll renew calls for dialogue, notably through the European-backed “Normandy format,” which helped to ease hostilities in 2015, a year after Putin ordered the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed around 14,000 people and still simmers today.

                            Should Putin move on Ukraine again, the ministers will warn, Russia would face “massive consequences and severe costs.” Those costs would be of a financial and political nature. The EU insists that it stands ready to slap hefty sanctions on Russia within days of any attack.

                            Over the weekend, some of the member countries closest to Russia — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — confirmed that they plan to send U.S.-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, a move endorsed by the United States.

                            But questions have been raised about just how unified the EU is. Diverse political, business and energy interests have long divided the 27-country bloc in its approach to Moscow. Around 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports come from Russia, much of it via pipelines across Ukraine.

                            Gas prices have skyrocketed, and the head of the International Energy Agency has said that Russian energy giant Gazprom was already reducing its exports to the EU in late 2021 despite high prices. Putin says Gazprom is respecting its contract obligations, not putting the squeeze on Europe.

                            The EU’s two major powers appear most cautious. Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which is complete but yet to pump gas, has become a bargaining chip. French President Emmanuel Macron has renewed previously rejected calls for an EU summit with Putin.

                            Late last year, France and Germany initially expressed doubts about U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow might be preparing to invade.

                            Late on Saturday, the head of the German navy, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach, resigned after coming under fire for saying that Ukraine would not regain the Crimean Peninsula, and for suggesting that Putin deserves “respect.”

                            Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban plans to meet with Putin next week to discuss a Russian-backed project to expand a Hungarian nuclear power plant.

                            Still, diplomats and officials said hard-hitting sanctions are being drawn up with the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission. But they were reluctant to say what the measures might be or what action by Russia might trigger them.

                            The aim, they said, is to try to match the doubts Putin has sowed about his intentions for Ukraine with uncertainty about what any retaliatory European action might look like, or when it would come.

                            Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.
                            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                            Mark Twain


                            • #29
                              Here's the variation from Germany from last month - signed by former Supreme Commander of the Bundeswehr (1991-1996) and head of the NATO Military Committee (1996-1999) four-star general Klaus Naumann as well as a bunch more generals and former german ambassadors (incl. to Russia and to NATO):


                              Get out of the escalation spiral! For a new beginning in the relation with Russia (December 5th, 2021)

                              It is with the greatest concern that we are observing the escalation in the relation with Russia, which is once again intensifying. We are threatened with a situation in which war is possible. Nobody can benefit from this situation, and it is neither in our nor in Russia’s interest. We must therefore do everything now to break the spiral of escalation. The aim must be to lead Russia and NATO out of a confrontational course again. What is needed is a credible policy on Russia by NATO and the EU that is not naive or placid in good faith, but rather interest-driven and consistent. What is needed now is a sober realpolitik. One thing is certain: Russia’s threatening gestures towards Ukraine and the gesture towards NATO states in exercises and in particular through activities of the nuclear forces are unacceptable. Nevertheless, indignation and formulaic condemnations do not get us any further. A policy based unilaterally on confrontation and deterrence is unsuccessful; Economic pressure and the tightening of sanctions have – as the experience of recent years shows – been unable to persuade Russia to turn back. Rather, Russia sees itself challenged by Western politics and seeks to be recognized as a great power on par with the USA through aggressive behavior and to preserve its sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space. This increases the dangers for the Russian economy (exclusion from the SWIFT system) and a destabilization of the security situation, especially in Europe.

                              All of this must not be understood on the part of the West as an excuse for inactive or for the acceptance of the escalation intensification. NATO should actively approach Russia and work towards de-escalating the situation. For this purpose, a meeting without preconditions at the highest level should not be ruled out. We basically need a four-fold political approach:

                              First: a high-level conference, on the basis of the continued validity of the Helsinki Final Act 1975, the Charter of Paris 1990 and the Budapest Accord of 1994, but without preconditions and in different formats and at different levels, on the objective of revitalizing the European security architecture advises.

                              Second: As long as this conference is in session – and a period of at least two years would realistically be set for this – there should be no military escalation on either side. It should be agreed that there should be no deployment of additional troops and the establishment of infrastructure on both sides of the border of the Russian Federation with its western neighbors, as well as full mutual transparency in military maneuvers. In addition, technical dialogues at the military level must be revitalized in order to minimize risks.

                              Third: the NATO-Russia dialogue should be revived politically and militarily without any conditions. This also includes a new approach to European arms control. After the elimination of essential agreements for the security of Europe (INF Treaty, CFE Treaty, Treaty on Open Skies), in view of the Russian troop concentrations on the border with Ukraine, it is urgent to take targeted measures to create more transparency and to promote trust by reinforcement of contacts at political and military levels as well as to stabilize regional conflict situations.

                              Fourth: Despite the current situation, there should be more far-reaching economic cooperation offers. The decline in the importance of fossil fuels, on the export of which the Russian economy is heavily dependent, harbors the danger of growing economic risks for Russia, which in turn could lead to political instability. Economic cooperation could make an important contribution to European stability and also be an incentive for Russia to return to a cooperative policy towards the West.

                              Win-win situations must therefore be created to overcome the current blockade. This includes recognizing the security interests of both sides. With this in mind, a freeze should be agreed for the duration of the conference on questions of future membership in NATO, EU and CSTO. This would not mean a waiver of the requirement of fundamental standards agreed in the OSCE.

                              That may not be easy for many and it may not correspond to pure teaching. But every alternative is significantly worse. Germany has a key role to play here. Germany should refrain from anything that could weaken its firm anchoring in the transatlantic alliance, should work towards de-escalation and press for agreements that exclude the use of military means in Europe beyond the alliance’s defense. This should not be misunderstood as an invitation to Russia to change the territorial status quo in Europe, but there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis that does not lead to an uncontrollable escalation.
                              Gen, Naumann was one of the guys in charge for the war against Yugoslavia, for some frame of reference. And yes, the above is mostly an implicit indictment of US policies with regard to Eastern Europe in the last 10-15 years.
                              Last edited by kato; 24 Jan 22,, 16:09.


                              • #30
                                Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but no matter what equipment that the West sends to Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces have no answer to Russian airpower, cyber & electronic warfare and artillery.

                                I mean, what good are ATGMs if Russian tube artillery is hurling a typhoon of 152mm shells into their trench lines?

                                Am I way off base here?
                                “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”