Subscribe via RSS Feed

Tag: "russia"

On Post-War Settlements

[ 12 ] October 9, 2010 |

Quiggin on the end of the Great War:

Despite the emergence of the ever-present nuclear menace, 1945 marked the low point of the 20th century in many ways. At least on the Western side, the peace settlement was far less draconian, and far more successful, than that of 1919. And, for several decades after the end of war, there was fairly steady progress towards a version (scaled-down in important respects, but more ambitious in some others) of those pre-1914 aspirations.

Really? Aren’t several of these propositions at least debatable? First, can we meaningfully use a term such as “on the Western side” when talking about the 1945 settlement? The division of Germany into two political units, and the distribution of significant portions of Germany to Poland and other Eastern European countries is the key element of the 1945 settlement. I don’t see how we can profitably make an analytical division between a “Western” and an “Eastern” response; the relatively light-handed approach of the occupying powers in the West was entirely dependent on the character of Soviet policy in the East.

More importantly, it seems to me that the real lesson that the Allied powers learned from 1919 was that the treatment of Germany was not nearly draconian enough. In 1945, in contrast to 1919, Germany was occupied by four armies, and its political institutions were formally restructured by the occupying powers. It was informally, then formally, divided into two parts. It lost more territory in 1945 than it had lost in 1919. While the German military was severely restricted post-Versailles, after 1945 Germany entirely lost its right to maintain military organizations, and would only partially regain that right in 1955. German political and military officials were put on trial, politically neutralized, and in many cases imprisoned or executed by the occupying powers. The military occupation of Germany by foreign powers continued until, well, now. Moreover, the actual process of winning the war wreaked far more draconian consequences on Germany than the process of Allied victory in World War I, with most German cities, industry, and infrastructure subjected to destructive air and land attack.

In short, I’d reiterate that Allied policy in 1945 was draconian, if appropriately so. I’m also not sure that the postwar settlement should be described as “successful”; while it certainly prevented the emergence of another German effort at European hegemony, this came at the cost of a Europe bitterly divided along military and social lines, an American and British military presence in many Western European states, and Russian political domination of the entirety of Eastern Europe. We can say, at best, that things sort of worked out in the end, but the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t the predictable outcome of a set of policies enacted by responsible leaders in 1945.

Russian Narco Subs

[ 17 ] October 3, 2010 |

This is genuinely fascinating:

When police found a russian-engineered submarine under construction on the outskirts of landlocked Bogota last week, one senior officer swore they had stumbled on “irrefutable proof of the presence of the Russian mafia” in Colombia.

Before the 100ft vessel could be bolted together in order to “run silent, run deep” with cargos of cocaine and heroin, the shipbuilders managed to run away, leaving behind incriminating blueprints labeled with Cyrillic letters.

No arrests have been made, although officials said they also found the names and telephone numbers of two American suspects at this dry-dock high in the Andes. Three former Soviet naval engineers are believed to have been involved. A closed-circuit video camera on top of a brick warehouse in rural Facatativa, 18 miles west of Bogota, tipped off workers to the raid by drug enforcement squads, and they made a hasty escape through cow pastures and fields of carnations….

The half-built submarine was about a fifth the scale of the doomed Kursk, and one-third smaller than the second-hand Soviet navy submarine with which a Russian immigrant in Miami tried to secure a $35m (£24.5m) deal between the Russian mafia and a Colombian cocaine baron back in 1995.

Fidel Azula, a former submarine captain, said: “It was unmistakably of superb naval construction, superior to anything in the Colombian navy.”

Obviously, it’s not surprising that there’s collaboration between the Russian mafia and Columbian drug cartels. Moreover, as the cartels have turned towards submersibles and semi-submersibles as a way of smuggling drugs into the United States, it’s not completely surprising that they’d take advantage of former Soviet know-how in this area. Nevertheless, it still has a scent of the Clancy about it; rogue naval submarine architects selling their services to the highest bidder could easily constitute the plot of a Jack Ryan novel.

On the policy level, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the security risk posed by unemployed, underpaid Soviet nuclear scientists. This article suggests that the nuclear issues is only one small facet of a much larger phenomenon; the detritus of the Soviet national security state finds its way into every nook and cranny. I’m not sure that there’s any productive policy that could counter this problem. Soviet scientists are few enough in number that they can be monitored and given gainful employment. The rest of one of the two largest national security states to ever exist, not so much.

You can sign up for MB7-842 training program to guarantee pass your 70-652 exam. We also offer best quality self study resources for 70-236 & MB5-856, have you ever heard about 70-448; they are stunning in IT world.

The Bear is Always Resurgent, Even When He’s Napping

[ 10 ] June 19, 2010 |

An alternative title to this article might have been “Russia’s arms industry a pathetic shambles.”

Russia is to embark on the biggest overseas arms shopping spree in its modern history with up to £8 billion earmarked for state-of-the art foreign military hardware, it has been claimed.

The forecast, made in a report from an influential military think tank close to the Russian Defence Ministry, came as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev launched what the Kremlin said was the world’s quietest attack submarine. “Most great powers heavily invest in the newest offensive and defensive systems,” he said at a shipyard ceremony in northern Russia on Tuesday. “We should do the same.”

The report, from the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said Russia was looking to spend up to £8 billion in the next five or six years on foreign military purchases. The unprecedented overseas shopping spree has been made possible after the Kremlin abandoned its traditional “buy Russian” policy with defence chiefs conceding that domestic arms manufacturers are not always able to compete with their Western rivals on quality…

The news is likely to alarm Georgia against whom Russia fought a short sharp war in 2008. It will also unnerve Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia who remain wary of their former imperial master despite being safely inside NATO.

Yasen, the “world’s quietest attack sub” was laid down in 1993. The second sub in the class is expected to be ready for delivery in 2016. To make the comparison with the US a touch more explicit, by the time Yasen enters service the United States will have built eight Virginia SSNs, a class which was largely designed after Yasen was laid down. Under the optimistic assumption that the second Yasen actually enters service in 2016, the United States will have thirteen Virginias to two Yasens.

None of this should surprise anyone who has followed the decline of the Russian defense industry. In response to the South Ossetia War and the new START Treaty, however, wingnuts have stepped up their dire rhetoric about the threat of a resurgent Russia, operating hundreds of PAK-FAs that will sweep our measly 187 F-22s from the sky, etc. The fact remains, however, that the Russian defense industry is a disaster, and that Russia has not demonstrated a capability since the end of the Cold War to build any kind of sophisticated defense equipment in any significant numbers. Russia is simply not a peer competitor to the United States, and given the fact that the Russian economy is 9% the size of the US, it won’t be anytime soon.

VE Day, Moscow Style

[ 22 ] May 8, 2010 |

Nice slideshow of the 65th anniversary celebration of the end of the Great Patriotic War. Love the T-34s:

But especially dig Medvedev’s handshake with Death:

You can pass 70-630 and 70-542 within days using latest 70-448 and other resources of 70-620 certifications; you can get a wonderful booklet for 1Y0-A16.

Prompt Global Strike: Still Not Actually Dead. Kind of Alive, in Fact

[ 15 ] April 23, 2010 |

Noah Shachtman notices what I noticed two weeks ago:

The Obama administration is poised to take up one of the more dangerous and hare-brained schemes of the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon. The New York Times is reporting that the Defense Department is once again looking to equip intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. The missiles could then, in theory, destroy fleeing targets a half a world away — a no-notice “bolt from the blue,” striking in a matter of hours. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem: the launches could very well start World War III.

Over and over again, the Bush administration tried to push the idea of these conventional ICBMs. Over and over again, Congress refused to provide the funds for it. The reason was pretty simple: those anti-terror missiles look and fly exactly like the nuclear missiles we’d launch at Russia or China, in the event of Armageddon. “For many minutes during their flight patterns, these missiles might appear to be headed towards targets in these nations,” a congressional study notes. That could have world-changing consequences. “The launch of such a missile,” then-Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a state of the nation address after the announcement of the Bush-era plan, “could provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces.”

The Pentagon mumbled all kinds of assurances that Beijing or Moscow would never, ever, never misinterpret one kind of ICBM for the other. But the core of their argument essentially came down to this: Trust us, Vlad Putin! That ballistic missile we just launched in your direction isn’t nuclear. We swear!

Yeah, I’m really not sure that changing to an atmospheric quasi-ballistic missile from SLBMs really helps. For one, the shift would somewhat reduce the promptness of the global strike (although probably not by much). More importantly, it doesn’t really solve the dilemma. If Putin/Medvedev/Hu/Whomever are inclined to worry that a detected launch was the prelude to an all-out nuclear attack, they’ll likely not be reassured by the news that it comes from some “special” location in the US. If the US decided to launch a preventive nuclear assault on Russia or China, wouldn’t we initiate the attack in the most deceptive way possible?

This isn’t to say that we should eschew research of any weapon that can decrease the time between order and KABOOM. Questions of strategic stability, however, need to be taken very seriously. How willing would we be to use these weapons in a war over the Taiwan Straits? In response to another Russia-Georgia War? Or, perhaps even more disconcerting, what if we decided we needed to kill Osama Bin Laden with 30 minutes notice during the midst of a Russia-Georgia War that we were otherwise uninterested in?

Pass your 70-162 on first try using 70-668 practices questions and 70-536 prepared by certified experts to provide you guaranteed success; they also prepare 70-667 dumps & 1Y0-A05 with full devotion.

More on the Mistrals

[ 10 ] April 15, 2010 |

Michael Cecire responds to my article about the sale of four Mistral class amphibious assault ships to Russia, but unfortunately misses most of the point:

Certainly, there is no question that the Russian navy has qualitatively declined since the demise of the Soviet Union. And to be sure, even the comparatively advanced Mistrals do little to address the imminent shortfall in Russian surface warfare assets, such as cruisers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. From this perspective, the Mistral does little to shift the balance of power.

But the question remains, Why would Russia seek to acquire amphibious vessels instead of filling the other glaring gaps in its naval forces? The answer is not just a function of rehabilitating the Russian shipbuilding industry or engaging in far-flung humanitarian operations, but rather lies in Russia’s great-power aspirations: Moscow cannot hope to reacquire its long-sought return to global power without first securing dominance throughout the Eurasian space, and particularly in its so-called “near abroad.”

Cecire gets two points wrong. First, he misinterprets the relevance of the Mistrals to Russia’s long term naval plan, and more generally of amphibs to the modern naval force construction. The Mistrals aren’t simply part of a Russian reconstruction of Soviet naval power; they are elements of a new configuration of naval power, a configuration that has become very common across the international system. Amphibs, as I have argued elsewhere, are the new dreadnought; they are the new currency by which naval power is measured. Russia, like New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, Malaysia, and Italy, wants the ability to project power and influence in multilateral operations, and amphibious warships buy that capacity.

The second and more important point is that Russia does not need amphibs in order to intimidate Georgia. Let’s be as clear about this as possible: The single factor that prevented a Russian conquest of Georgia and a consequent deposition of Saakashvili’s regime was Russian forbearance. Georgian military capability proved utterly incapable of resisting the Russian Army. There is no indication whatsoever that the Georgian military will be able to resist Russia more capably in the future. Indeed, Russian ownership of South Ossetia means that Georgia is geographically vulnerable to any concerted Russian land assault. Cecire argues that a Black Sea based Mistral would enable Russia to conquer Georgia in the winter months as well as the summer, but this is unconvincing; any scenario in which Russia could intervene in Georgia would require substantial land forces, and the Russian Army has significant, longstanding winter and mountain warfare capabilities. The only thing that could possibly change this equation is a NATO political commitment to Georgia’s defense, the wisdom of which I’ll decline to discuss at the moment. Four things that do not change the power equation between Russia and Georgia are the four Mistrals that Russia will be buying from France.

Militarily, the Mistrals are irrelevant to Russia’s relationship with Georgia or with any other part of its near abroad. The Mistrals might briefly hasten Russian conquest of Georgia or one of the Baltics, but the outcome of such a conflict would depend entirely upon factors other than the presence of the warships. Politically, the Mistrals are significant to Russia’s relationship with its near abroad insofar as they suggest that at least one major Western power is interested in pursuing good military and political relations with Russia. This isn’t irrelevant, but it does suggest that the focus on the ships themselves is misplaced. Moreover, the fact that the Mistrals aren’t important to the military relationship between Russia and Georgia doesn’t mean that the Russians are good people interested only in sunshine, flowers, and puppies. It means merely that these specific concerns about Russian behavior are overblown.

Who Do We Need to Torture to Get to the Bottom of This?

[ 3 ] April 12, 2010 |

Thiessen explains why the Smolensk crash sucks for Poland, but REALLY sucks for America:

This weekend, in that same forest, much of Poland’s 21st century intelligentsia was wiped out as well—particularly, its pro-American, conservative intelligentsia, those who stood up to Russia, reached out to Ukraine and Georgia, and looked to the United States and NATO before the European Union. The effect of their loss will be felt long after the tears dry—in Poland and in the United States as well.

Don’t worry, Marc; I guarantee that if you torture enough people, pretty soon you’ll “find out” that Obama and Putin planned the whole thing…

H/t Duss.

The Mistral Sale

[ 1 ] April 8, 2010 |

I have a short article up at World Politics Review about the sale of the French Mistrals to Russia:

France’s decision to negotiate the sale of four Mistral-class Amphibious Transport Docks to Russia has been met with harsh criticism in the United States and among some NATO allies. Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili was particularly brutal, declaring of the sale, “It’s not even appeasement of Russia. It’s a reward for Russia.” There is no question that the acquisition of the four amphibious warships will substantially enhance Russia’s power-projection capabilities. However, Russia is not the only state to have committed to the construction of large-deck amphibious warships. In fact, Moscow’s purchase of the Mistrals comes in the context of a global “amphib” splurge. Big “amphibs” are trendy, and the Russians have simply decided to join the club.

Tanker Competition Enters the Realm of the Absurd

[ 11 ] March 19, 2010 |

Thank you, Russia:

Russian state-owned aerospace group United Aircraft Corp. plans to bid for a U.S. Air Force tanker contract, teaming up with a U.S. partner, a lawyer representing UAC said March 19.

“They’re going to announce Monday [March 22] a joint venture with an American company to bid on the tanker program,” attorney John Kirkland said. Kirkland said the bid would be based on the Ilyushin Il-96, a four-engine airliner.

Asked about the UAC announcement, DoD spokewoman Cheryl Irwin said, “We welcome all qualified bidders.” Asked whether the Russian firm was qualified, she said, “I don’t know.”

Boeing is the only company that has announced it will bid for the $35 billion contract to supply the Air Force with 179 aerial refueling tankers.

There’s obviously zero chance that the Russian bid will win, but damn, I hope that it’s strong enough to further embarrass Boeing. I suggest, by the way, that everyone check out the comment thread on this WSJ story about the Russian bid; it reaffirms my faith in security of America’s strategic crazy reserves.

Thus Because We Make it Thus

[ 0 ] February 6, 2010 |

To be a bit more sympathetic than Yglesias, I think that Krugman’s argument on Poland might most profitably be put into this form:

A Poland with sensible institutions wouldn’t have suffered from the dilemma of being stuck between Russia and Prussia; rather, Russia and Germany might have been at the mercy of Poland.

It was by no means necessary that the dominant state of north central Europe would be Prussia, or later a Prussia-centric Germany. Similarly, there’s no reason that the continent-spanning Russian Empire had to stop at the borders of Prussia, rather than a few hundred miles farther east. A Poland with more sensible institutions could have played an active role in structuring its institutions, rather than falling victim to circumstance.

That said, I haven’t the faintest real grasp of Polish history, can’t explain why Poland settled on the institutions it had, and can’t confirm that they had the impact that they’re reputed to have. Thus, this observation concerns only the structure of the argument, rather than its historical substance. Finally, I have no idea why people never mention the role of the Habsburg Empire in dissolving Poland; it would be better to say “stuck between Germany, Russia, and Austria.”

Sunday Book Review: White Eagle, Red Star

[ 0 ] January 4, 2010 |

First published in 1972, Norman Davies’ White Eagle, Red Star covers the Soviet-Polish War of 1920. Davies went on to write extensively about Polish history in the 20th century, and White Eagle, Red Star was re-issued in 2003. Unfortunately, the new edition has not been updated to reflect the opening of Soviet and Polish archives following the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless, White Eagle, Red Star remains an exceptionally lucid and useful account of the Soviet-Polish War, probably unmatched in the English language.

Early on, Davies establishes the central problem of Soviet-Polish War historiography; the war has no clear start date. From August 1914 on, the entirety of what would become the Soviet-Polish frontier was fluid and militarized. In addition to the armies of Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, a variety of Polish, Ukrainian, and other nationalist groups sought to achieve independence. The collapse of the Imperial Russia in 1917 only enhanced the chaos, as did the retreat and collapse of the Russian Army in the face of the German advance. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk solved little, as German troops remained deployed deep within the disputed territory, and continued to carry out periodic offensive action. The October Revolution led to further ideological and national conflict. Finally, the defeat of Germany on the Western Front and the collapse of Austria-Hungary made Polish independence achievable, and conflict with whatever Russian state emerged from the chaos inevitable.

The reconstituted Polish state was carved out of territory from the German, Hapsburg, and Russian empires, with the latter boundary being the most fluid. Several different entities contested for authority along the notional border, including the Soviet state, various White warlords, several different Ukrainian statelets, the Baltics, and the German Army. With a relatively stable base, there was ample opportunity for the Poles to expand at Russian expense. The Polish Army was cobbled together from units in the German, Austrian, and Russian armies, with some British and French training and equipment. It wasn’t a terribly impressive force by the standards of World War I, but in mid-1919 it was probably the class of Eastern Europe.

The Red Army had problems. It was engaged on several fronts against many different opponents. The Russian industrial base had been gutted by the war and the revolution, leaving the army with meager and outdated equipment. The continuing hostility of the Western Allies and Japan made resupply from abroad difficult. The officer corps was a disaster, and included some veterans of World War I, some czarist officers, and a large number of relatively inexperienced recruits. Red Army doctrine, such that it was, developed in the battle against the Whites, and was not up to the challenge of static warfare with an even quasi-modern European army. On the upside, the Red Army had some good senior leadership, high morale and crack discipline in some units, and eventually a substantial numerical advantage.

Polish objectives weren’t entirely coherent, but were based on three essential premises. First, Poland should secure a favorable border with Russia, without overextending itself. Second, the Russian Empire posed a threat to Poland in either its Soviet or Imperial forms, and as such any weakening of the Empire would enhance Polish security. Finally, Poland had a critical diplomatic role to play in Eastern Europe as the leader of an emerging bloc of independent states; victory in war against Russia could help secure this place of prominence.

The Soviets suffered from strategic confusion. First, some believed that regime survival was at stake. The Poles, in collusion with various White forces and potentially with the support of the West, might attempt the military destruction of the Soviet regime, or at least the detachment of a geographic area large enough to substantially weaken the Soviet state. Related to this were general territorial concerns, which manifested in a desire to push the Soviet frontier as far west as possible. Finally, a significant portion of the Soviet elite saw the war with Poland as an opportunity to spread the Revolution. Poland was, in this conception, the first stop on the way to Germany. These goals stood in some tension with one another. The desire to spread the Revolution encouraged risk taking, and precluded the consolidation of sensible territorial positions. The concerns about regime survival encouraged paranoia, and led to misunderstandings both of Polish war aims and of the potential for a grand anti-Bolshevik coalition.

During the war, the Soviet elite ran into the unexpected problem of nationalism. Appeals to Russian nationalism, it turned out, proved far more productive in terms of morale and mobilization than class based propaganda. Russian workers displayed more interest in crushing their Polish comrades than in liberating them. Since most Bolsheviks were Russian, a turn towards nationalism was probably inevitable. The turn, however, helped alienate Polish Bolsheviks in both the USSR and Poland. The Poles themselves had little use for Bolshevik propaganda, preferring the domination of their own feudal class to alliance with Russian workers.

A pre-emptive Polish invasion of Ukraine began in late April 1920. The invasion was mildly successful; it captured Kiev, but no one in either the Polish military or political leadership believed that the city could be held. Indeed, the arrival of the Soviet First Cavalry Army threw the Poles back, and began a series of staged offensives across the entire front. The Poles managed to fall back in good order towards Warsaw, where they reorganized their defense for the expected Soviet onslaught. The senior Soviet commander was Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a former czarist officer who had served time in Ingolstadt Prison, where he met Charles De Gaulle. Ingolstadt, incidentally, served as the basis for the final prison in Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion. Tukhachevsky would later play a major role in the development of modern armored warfare, a project for which Stalin rewarded him with execution.

Tukhachevsky believed that the momentum of the Red Army offensive would unhinge the Poles and leave the Soviets in control of Warsaw. It turned, out, however, that the Soviet offensive developed too slowly and carried too little punch; the Polish Army successfully defended Warsaw, then threw the Soviets back. The larger Soviet offensive broke down, while the Poles remained in good order. By the end of August, it was clear that the Red Army would not be extending the Revolution to Warsaw, much less to Germany.

Davies argues that the Western Allies played a very minimal role in the war. None of Britain, France, or the United States had much stomach for war with the Soviet Union after the interventions of 1918. Moreover, few in the West believed the Poles capable of unseating the Bolshevik regime. The Germans had no interest in seeing a strong Poland on their eastern border, and indeed some Germans believed that a Russian victory would speed the end of the restrictions on German military power. Davies conclusion on this point contradicts most Soviet historiography, which sees the Polish-Soviet War as just another attempt by the West to strangle the Revolution. It also contradicts some Western accounts that emphasize the importance of British and French advisors in organizing the defense of Warsaw. However, I found Davies argument pretty compelling. The Allies were tired of war by 1919, and what little interest they had in Russian affairs was devoted to support of one White faction or another. More importantly, the Poles and Russians had their own very good reasons for fighting a war, few of which had anything to do with Western anti-communism.

The Soviet-Polish War wasn’t simply the result of Bolshevik aggression. There’s no question that much of the fault for the war lay with the Poles. While the Polish leadership wasn’t interested in being part of the Allied project to strangle the Bolshevik Revolution, or even in cooperating very closely with White Russian forces, it did want to seize as much territory as possible, and had an expansive vision of the role that Poland could play politically and diplomatically in Eastern Europe. The Poles believed that the chaos attendant to the Revolution could be profitably exploited. At the same time, however, conflict between the new Polish state and the Soviet Union was probably inevitable. For both nationalist and ideological reasons, the Soviets were likely to eventually pursue control over Poland. For the nationalists, Poland remained an integral part of the reconstituted Russian Empire. For the ideologues, Poland was the gateway to Europe, and to world revolution. Unfortunately for the Poles, there was simply no way out of the trap. The best hope for Poland might have been a full disintegration of Soviet Russia, along with a generally supportive Western Alliance. In other words, it’s difficult to imagine conditions under which Polish security might have been achieved short of what was accomplished in 1991.

India’s Carrier Fleet

[ 0 ] December 19, 2009 |

No, India will not be purchasing one of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, or at least not in the short term. The most important reason, I suspect, is that the British aren’t selling; despite a mish-mash of reports to the contrary, the Royal Navy seems as committed as ever to moving down the two carrier path, even if it guts the rest of the fleet. Reading Joshi’s article, however, I’m increasingly convinced that the purchase of the Russian Admiral Gorshkov was a serious mistake. She’s over budget, behind schedule, likely to be less capable than new Indian construction, 32 years old, and was built in Russia. I suppose that the deal may have made sense when the Russians promised that they could deliver the modified Gorshkov in 2008, thus helping to close the gap between the old Hermes and the new Indian carriers. Right now, however, Gorshkov seems the whitest of white elephants.

Kitty Hawk would have made more sense. I’m just sayin’.

Page 3 of 121234510...Last »
  • Switch to our mobile site