Russia and the
West are at war – over fruits, veggies, pork and bank loans. The cause is
Ukraine, a vast emptiness formerly unknown to the western world, but now deemed a vital national security interest worthy of a risking a very scary war.
Economic embargos such as those launched by the
Russia may seem relatively harmless. They are not. Trade sanctions are a form of strategic warfare that is sometimes followed by bullets and shells.
Think, for good example, of the 1940 US embargo against
Japan that led
Tokyo’s fateful decision to go to war rather than face slow, economic strangulation. How many
Americans know that
President Roosevelt closed the
Panama Canal to
Japanese shipping to enforce demands that
Tokyo get out of
Frighteningly, today, there are senior officials in
Moscow who are actually considering a head on clash in
Russian forces and
NATO – which is an extension of
US military power.
Intensifying attacks by
Ukrainian government forces (quietly armed and financed by the
US) against pro-Russian separatists and civilian targets in eastern
Ukraine are increasing the danger that
Moscow may intervene militarily to protect
A full-scale military clash could begin with a
Russian-declared ‘no fly’ zone over the eastern
Ukraine such as the
US imposed over
Iraq. Moscow’s aim would be to stop the bombing and shelling of
Ukrainian rebel cities by
Kiev’s air force.
President Vladimir Putin, is under growing popular pressure to stop the killing of pro-Russian
Ukrainians – who were
Russian citizens until 1991.
US just launched air strikes against northern
Iraq, ostensibly to protect
Yazidis, a small religious cult based on
Zoroastrianism which many
Iraqis call devil worshipers. Though these strikes were clearly aimed at bolstering
Kurds against the advancing
Islamic State forces,
Washington called them a humanitarian attack to protect
Iraqi Christians and
Yazidis – perfectly in keeping with the administration’s claim to be waging humanitarian warfare.
NATO could quickly deploy its potent air power against
Russian aircraft. US and
NATO aircraft flying from new bases in
Poland could seriously challenge the
Russian Air Force over the
Russia-Ukraine border region. More
US warplanes would be rushed into
Eastern Europe. Russian air defenses are strong and its air bases are close to the sphere of action. Still,
NATO air power has a technological superiority over the
Russian Air Force and better trained pilots.
On the ground,
Russia has a slight advantage. It has 16,000-18,000 troops on the
Ukraine border made up of mechanized infantry, armor, mobile air defense and artillery. A competent but small force, and hardly a menace to
Europe, as the pro-war media howl. Compare this small number of troops to the
Ukrainian Front alone in 1944, made up of six armies and thousands of tanks and heavy guns.
Russia could fight border skirmishes but certainly not retake
Ukraine with this paltry force. Russia’s once 200-division army which boasted some 50,000 tanks is today a shadow of its past: 205,000 active soldiers and 80,000 indifferent reservists spread over the world’s larges nation. Russia, as always, has excellent heavy artillery and good tanks, but nothing compared to
Soviet 152mm guns and rocket batteries were lined up wheel-to-wheel for kilometers.
Any attempt by
NATO to capture
Crimea would likely be defeated by
Russian air, naval and land force. The constricted, shallow
Black Sea could prove a death trap for
US warships. Sevastopol (with
Stalingrad) were named a
Hero City of the
Soviet Union for its heroic defense in
Ukraine’s cobbled together army, about 64,000 men, suffers from poor training, logistical problems, and weak leadership. During
Soviet days, it numbered over 700,000 with the cutting edge of
Russian weapons. Today, the army is stiffened by foreign mercenaries and far-rightists from
Kiev. Even so, it could not stand up to
Russia’s better-armed, better-equipped troops.
NATO? In 1970, the
US Army had about 710,000 soldiers in
Europe, mostly based in
US has only 27,500 German-based troops left, largely non-combat support units. At best, the
US could probably assemble two weak combat brigades – about 5,500 men total – to rush to
Ukraine. The rest of
US forces are based in
South Korea and
Japan, or at stateside. Moving them to
Europe would take about six months.
US still retains large airbases in
Germany that could support military intervention in
Ukraine. Lately, small
NATO contingents have been quietly inserted into
East Europe and the
Baltic region – large enough to spark a war, but too small to win one.
Since the end of the
Cold War, the
US armed forces,
Russia’s military have been sharply reduced by budget cuts. Until the
Ukraine crisis, there was almost no prospect of war in
Europe. Ardor for war among
Russians is very low.
Britain, now a toothless old lion, would support the
Ukraine with a few men and warplanes; so would
Holland, but to a limited or even token degree. Germany and
NATO’s two heavy hitters, want to avoid any conflict with
Russia and might well stand aside. They both do very large business with
Russia and are unhappy about the manufactured
So any military clash in
Ukraine would initially be limited in scope and intensity. But a confrontation could quickly escalate into a dangerous crisis. The
Cold War taught that nuclear –armed powers must never fight directly, only through proxies.
Nothing is worth the risk of nuclear war, even a limited one.
Ukrainians sort out their differences by referendum.
On the 100th anniversary of
World War I, we again see our leaders playing with matches.
EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)