Sunday, October 1

Can a war between Russia and NATO be stopped? (UPDATED 6:15 PM EDT)

A Perverse Refrain to World War I

John Batchelor with the help of historian Sean McMeekin has been sorting through events in July 1914 that led up to a war declaration that morphed into World War I; this to delve into a question that has haunted the Western world for a century: Was World War I inevitable?

Given the desire among European powers to apply new technologies to warfighting I think that at least a limited  armed conflict was inevitable, eventually. But from McMeekin's discussion, the stupefying fact is that Kaiser Wilhelm, the one person who could have averted a precipitous declaration of war at the time, was outrun by events because he didn't trust the newer communications technologies. He relied on written instructions delivered by couriers in place of using telephone and telegraph.

But at the time no one could imagine how the Kaiser's preferred mode of communication would impact events, and how this would ultimately play out in World War I. It played out to the tune of 41 million human casualties.  

Could something quite this bizarre happen again? Something fully as bizarre is already happening.  

If only ethnic Russians in the Baltics would stop watching TV 

Television, explained Colonel Douglas V. Mastriano, lecturer at the U.S. Army War College; military historian; strategist with expertise in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia;  prolific writer on NATO, deterring Russia, and defending the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania); author of an award-winning biography of World War I hero Sgt. York; and Eagle Scout. Right under the noses of the NATO command, the Russian government has been using television to beam propaganda to ethnic Russians in the Baltic countries that portrays Russia as the victim of NATO provocations. 

And not mere propaganda. No, this is special propaganda, a form of hybrid warfare that Col. Mastriano prefers to term "ambiguity" and which can employ social media platforms as well as television and other means of mass communication. 

From the Colonel's Executive Summary (pdf) for Project 1721, "A U.S. Army War College Assessment on Russian Strategy in Eastern Europe and Recommendations on How to Leverage Landpower to Maintain the Peace," which came under discussion during his 9/21/17 appearance on the John Batchelor Show:
The second, and more likely, option for the Kremlin is to use ambiguity. This would take the form of fomenting a “local” (exported from Moscow) ethnic Russian separatist movement similar to what was witnessed in Ukraine. Such an eventuality would occur in an area with a high ethnic Russian population in either Estonia or Latvia (Lithuania’s ethnic Russian population is but 6%). These would not be the little green men of Crimea. 
The separatists, who would really be Russian Special Forces, would appear as civilians seeking independence for the “discrimination” that they suffer from Estonians or Latvians.
Moscow’s goal would be to destabilize the region in a way where no direct connection between the Kremlin was evident. The purpose of this ambiguity is not just to provide Putin plausible deniability but, more importantly, to cause the NATO Alliance to dither and delay on taking action. NATO, not known for quick action, would act slowly to determine if the crisis was foreign or domestic…
I'd hope those with a sense of self-preservation would reply, 'Three cheers for dithering!' But having learned the one towering lesson from Hitler's invasion of Poland, NATO does not intend to dither -- not so long as the USA leads the organization. Col. Mastriano's efforts are just one indication that the American command from within and without NATO is actively preparing to secure the Baltics from Russian conquest. 

Makes no matter that the Russians have as much interest in conquering the Baltics as they do in destabilizing Western Europe, which is to say none. For at least a decade Russia expert Dr Stephen F. Cohen has pointed out that given Russia's great dependence on trade with Europe it would be suicide for the Kremlin to attempt to destabilize the region -- and complete madness on top of suicide for the Russians to invade it.   

I think that through sheer dint of repetition Dr Cohen's common-sense observations did finally make an impression. But all this did was bump the discussion beyond the reach of  reason. Thus, Project 1721, which is to deal with the Russians not outright invading. To return to ambiguity; from the synopsis for Project 1721:
Since its occupation of Crimea, Russia has adopted an aggressive and often belligerent approach to the nations on its borders. The on-going war against Ukraine and its occupation of large portions of Georgian territory demonstrates this increasingly hostile foreign policy.
However, far more dangerous to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the Kremlin's use of a strategy of ambiguity. In this, Moscow keeps hostilities at a low boil, leveraging a Russian diaspora, a web of complex information-campaign-trolls, to stir ethnic unrest that has the potential to destroy NATO and end the unparalleled post-World War II peace experienced in Europe. Yet, there are actions that the United States and NATO can take to prevent Russian aggression from turning into a war and Project 1721 provides the answers to this complex and dangerous security dilemma.
In other words, Vladimir Putin and his military advisors, being omnipotent and omniscient, can at will set European pots to bubbling without boiling over, thus ensuring there will be no repeat of the miscalculations that led to World War I.

Moreover, so perfect in their planning and execution of strategies are these Russians, they know they can conduct very belligerent operations in some parts of Europe and sneak around in other parts, and without any of this calling the wrath of NATO and Washington down on them.

There is no way to discuss such assessments in rational terms. All that can be done is note that they would have validity only in a world where the margin for error never gets anywhere near zero.  

Such a world exists for humans and their inventions only on paper. So once the allowance for miscalculations gets very slim, planners either admit their limitations or ignore them. 

Which kind of planners control military decisions today in NATO countries? On that question the fate of the human race might well turn.  
*  *  * 
John Batchelor Show Podcasts

How long for NATO to secure the Baltics from Russian conquest? Michael Vlahos and Douglas Mastriano 

"July 1914: Countdown to War" Sean McMeekin 

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 will probably be aired on the Batchelor show Tuesday October 3 between 12 midnight and 1 AM EDT, with the podcast available later in the day. If not then, during the next show.

Why has the Liberal Democratic intelligentsia declared war on Russia? Stephen F. Cohen

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

See also Dr Cohen's September 27 summary of his discussion for The Nation, Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia?“Russiagate is abetting the possibility of direct military conflict with Moscow and liberals, once opponents of such politics, are promoting it." 

Dr Cohen is a 'lifelong' political Liberal. 



Col. B. Bunny said...

Weaponized ambiguity! Just when I thought the Russians could not sink any lower!

Pundita said...

They can probably levitate too when nobody is looking.