Big Red Car here. Austin is already sunny and cool and wonderful. Only one big question, Old Sport, why are YOU not here?
So the Obama administration has done something correct as it pertains to the crisis in the Ukraine — it has sent the 173rd ABN Bde to train in Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania. Well played.
Action, the correct action
It is important to send a message to Putin and Russia — the NATO treaty Article 5 will or will not be acted upon should the time come. Article 5 is the essence of the alliance. “An attack on one is an attack on all.”
There is no room for equivocation. America does not want to fight another war but Article 5 says the enemy gets a vote. The enemy always gets a vote.
The Big Red Car is not in favor of going to war over the Crimea, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania. But that is the Big Red Car. Other views may prevail. Other views may be correct and, God forbid, the Big Red Car may simply be wrong. The Big Red Car was wrong once before in 1986.
There is no need to make big pronouncements — “How non-G8-ish.” or “Russia is a little country acting out.” or “We’re happy to assist Russia and Putin through their adolescent identity crisis.” The world does not understand these statements. Putin does not care about such blatherings.
Putin understands putting paratroopers into Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Putin understands the subtleties of ripping off your shirt and saying: “Hey, Vlad, you want a piece of this? There’s plenty more where this shit came from. Get your act together.”
Reviewing the bidding
Let’s review some basic facts and realities:
1. The Crimea is now part of Russia. Again. Catherine the Great snatched it first in the Golden Age of Russia. Vlad the Great has duplicated that feat almost without a shot. It is not going to change. Russia is not going to give it back. Burp.
Putin and Russia are emboldened.
2. Ukraine will be subsumed by the Russian Bear within the next couple of months. Oh, there may be some phony waystation visited for face saving purposes but Russia gets the Ukraine. Make no mistake about that.
3. Russia has eyes on Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Russia wants them and they do have legitimate Russian speaking and ethnic populations. Stalin moved out the natives and moved in the Russians. Hey, you knew that, right?
This is like calling your doctor if you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours. You’re kind of proud but you’re also a bit scared. Putin has an erection lusting after these countries and it’s going to last way more than 4 hours, ya’ll. Sorry.
NATO was a bit hasty in adding these countries to their country club rolls — ooops, meant defensive alliance. Sorry. It was ill advised and it was provocative and now the chickens have come home to roost.
The simple truth of it is the US has no strategic considerations (other than the invention of Skype in Estonia which is a Microsoft issue) in those countries.
Neither NATO nor the US wants to go to war over those countries. Putin knows that and does not care about Skype (Google Hangouts + guy himself).
Russia will eventually get those countries. Sorry.
3. The US does not have any real warfighting assets in Europe and while NATO was always willing to fight to the last drop of American blood and treasure, that is no longer a real possibility. A couple of weeks ago, we shipped home our last Abrams tank for goodness sake.
From a high of 400,000 troops, the Sixth Fleet and the 10th SF Group, the US now essentially has 50-65,000 troops (many are headquarters troops) including the 173rd ABN Bde in Italy. The 173rd is capable of punching several weight classes above its real weight but still it is only an Airborne Brigade not even a Division.
The US has huge air assets which can be deployed rapidly. The recent decision to mothball the A-10, a superb tank killer, may have to be revisited.
In any event, the US does not have the right stuff where it is needed. Awkward to the extreme.
The Obama administration is trying to gut the military targeting a 400,000 man Army from a recent current level of 600,000. This means you lose your combat experienced company grade officers — no Generals will be getting pink slips — who would come in very handy in a shooting war. Smallest Army since BEFORE World War II. We won that one n 3 1/2 years. Very nice outcome, all things considered.
4. The American people are tired of war. A European war would be a big interest item, like watching legacy “24” shows or “House of Cards”. Unfortunately, Jack Bauer and Francis Underwood are actors. Kind of like Barack H Obama (cheap shot, Big Red Car, cheap shot but true).
5. The US is broke. A very inconvenient truth.
Putin has a new set of paints and he is going to redraw and color in the map in Eastern Europe. His favorite color will continue to be red.
What should the US do?
Here are some suggestions:
1. The first thing we need to do is recognize who we are and what we are willing to fight for. The answer is “not much”.
Consider adding — yes ADDING — ten Army Divisions and five Marine Divisions. Can you imagine what THAT would do to unemployment?
2. The current administration is neither good at foreign affairs but more importantly not interested. It has managed to accomplish the following:
a. Undo all that was done in Iraq. Iraq is as bad as when we got there.
b. Telegraph our punches in Afghanistan. The Taliban are vacationing on the French Riviera until we complete our inglorious surrender and retreat.
c. The Middle East is on fire in, well, you now the countries, right? OK >>> Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran.
d. Our credibility is shot — lines, red lines, revised red lines, etc.
e. We ARE going to accept Iran into the Nuclear Club as we did North Korea. A very, very, very bad development.
f. We have managed to piss off the Israelis and the Saudis. This is like turning an Airedale against dog food.
g. RESET thingy with Russia? Not working out too well just now though the Sochi Olympics were grand.
Remember Russia is also making inroads in South America, rekindling the Cuba irritant, slipping nuclear boomers into the Gulf. They are on the move.
h. China is taking advantage of all of this to start trouble in the Pacific starting with snatching some islands from its playmates out there.
The administration has to face up to this and understand the magnitude of the problem.
3. The current administration does not have the right people in the right jobs.
a. The President, whose winning personality and smile was to have corrected all the ills of his predecessor, has not a strategic bone in his body. He is a domestic affairs President and arguably not too good at that.
b. The new Sec of State, John Kerry, while being an accomplished gigolo is a blow hard.
c. The new Sec of Defense, Mr Chuck Hagel, is MIA. He was a buck sergeant (three chevrons) and led a fire team (half a squad) in his last brush with defense. It shows.
d. The Presidents’s National Security Advisor is Susan Rice who is willing to say anything to anyone as long as you give her the talking points.
This is not Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, George Marshall. The current guys are lightweights, could not be horse handlers for the names noted.
The administration needs to call in the wise men — Kissinger, Jim Baker, Condi Rice, Bob Gates. Gets some brains on the ground.
4. The administration needs to lean forward in their saddles — exactly as they have done by sending the 173rd ABN Bde to train in NATO countries on the Russian border. Do it and don’t announce it. Let the Russians learn about it like everyone else — CNN or Fox.
5. The administration has to get firm commitments from whomever is willing to fight for their future.
a. Germany? Willing to fight their largest trading partner? Not bloody likely.
b. England? Willing to fight the country of the oligarchs who own all of London? Not bloody likely.
c. France? Hey, they’re France. We might like to trade them to the other side.
Bottom line is this. There is not going to be a shooting war in Europe unless we blunder into one which we are perfectly capable of doing. Russia is going to get exactly what it wants. Let’s cut the crap and stop day dreaming. The US is not going to war over Skype.
Having said all of that, sending an Airborne brigade to train will almost always trump cutting off access to Disney World.
Let’s build that ABM system in Poland. Let’s put that huge radar array in the Czech Republic. Let’s get real.