Could the U.S. Defend Ukraine?

Yves here. Note that it is so obvious that the US has few good cards to play with respect to Ukraine that Tom Neuburger needs to provide only a short form kneecapping to make the point. In case you had any doubts, a fresh Wall Street Journal story provides further confirmation: U.S. Orders 3,000 Troops to Bolster European Allies in Russia-Ukraine Crisis. Mind you, to be deployed in three countries.

On top of that, there is substantial evidence that the US is way into “WMDs in Iraq” territory with its, um, exaggerations, regarding the Russian military presence. For starters, despite US claims that Russia has increased manning levels using a very generously defined “near the border,” they are lower than in April 2021.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

A 2015 scenario in which Russia invades Ukraine

Could the U.S. defend Ukraine militarily? What could do in the face of a Russian invasion? The answer is, almost nothing.

What could it do to itself in the process? Quite a lot of damage.

Consider this examination from Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998:

The Pentagon is in the process of preparing options for President Joe Biden regarding the deployment of US forces into NATO’s eastern flank to seek to deter Russia from acting against Ukraine, or threatening NATO’s easternmost members of Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Some 8,500 US troops have been put on standby to be prepared to deploy to Europe on short notice. These are the US contingent of the NATO Response Force, a multinational, 40,000-troop unit tasked with responding to aggression against member countries.

If the US wanted to do more, it could deploy a few squadrons of US Air Force fighters, along with another heavy armored brigade, whose equipment is prepositioned in Poland, and some support troops. It could also send 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, which is tasked to “respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours.”

All these troops, however, even if assembled in aggregate, could not stand up to a potential Russian adversary, for the simple fact that none of these forces have trained to fight a modern combined arms conflict against a peer-level opponent. Putting troops and equipment on a battlefield is the easy part; having them perform to standard is harder, and having them execute doctrine that is no longer in vogue is impossible.

Joe Biden might think he’s flexing hard with this talk of military power projection. All he is doing, however, is further underscoring the absolute dismal state of combat readiness that the US military finds itself in after 20 years of low-intensity conflict in a losing cause.

The time to have deployed 50,000 troops to Europe was in 2008, after the Russian-Georgian War, or 2014, after the Crimea crisis. Having 50,000 well-armed US troops refocused on the difficult task of fighting a sustained ground conflict in Europe might have forced Russia to reconsider its options. By considering this option now, all Biden is doing is proving the point that the US is a failing superpower, and NATO is lacking both purpose and drive.

Calling the U.S. military force in Europe a “shadow of its former self,” Ritter notes that what was available to the U.S. in Europe in 1990 was “213,000 combat-ready forces” in US Army in Europe (USAREUR), with “a total combat capacity” — all forces available for deployment — “of over 550,000 troops.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the core U.S. force in Europe, USAREUR, was reduced to about 62,000 soldiers. The reduction in force of key NATO allies — Germany, the UK and others — followed a similar trajectory.

The Pretense of Power

Bottom line is this: The U.S. and its “allies” would lose a war with Russia over Ukraine:

Without projecting Russian intent, the reality is that the Russian military buildup in its western and southern military districts, when combined with the deployment of mobile forces in Belarus, represent a military power projection capability that is not only more than capable of defeating Ukraine, but also NATO forces currently deployed on its eastern flank. The chances of such an all-out conventional-style war may be extremely slim, but there is no doubting who holds the advantage here.

In other words, the U.S. has, in Scott Ritter’s words, “the pretense of power.”

What could the U.S. lose if Russia picks up the gauntlet Biden is throwing down? It could lose that pretense and be exposed for what it is, a bully fit only for beating selected victims.

If the U.S. keeps posturing, it’s up to Putin alone to decide whether to expose our weaknesses. If he doesn’t, it may be an act of mercy.

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  1. Randall Flagg

    Two words, Who cares?
    Honestly, enough of being the World’s policeman, (though we are more like the Keystone Cops at times). Europe, it’s all yours.

    1. Larry

      Joe Biden and the demented democrats care. The angle that the Russians are at the root of all our problems is still a stupid talking point brought up to account for the failure of western democracies to govern. The Canadian Trucker protest? Russians!

      So Joe and the dems can look tough by standing up to Putin. It let’s them say they’re the opposite of something obviously bad, so they must be good. It’s so, so stupid. But when you’ve failed to deliver anything you campaigned on, maybe a nice bit of saber rattling will stir up the base enough to keep them engaged.

    2. David Crosby

      I think you ask the right question in who cares? The American opinion machine has been working for the last 20 years to take the military off the public radar so that they could loot the treasury in privacy. No one cares because they are encouraged not to.

      1. Randall Flagg

        Don’t get me wrong, I and others care because we are tired of our misadventures around the globe which in the end do nothing but keep the pigs at the MIC trough beyond well fed and whatever global goodwill we used to have disintegrated.
        I would prefer those dollars be spent on taking care of our own back here.

    3. Tom Stone

      I thought the headline was a joke at first.
      The short answer is NO.
      The longer answer is “Have you been taking your Meds?”

    4. OnceWereVirologist

      Who cares ? From a post entitled “I think Putin’s day are numbered right now. I really think so ?” on DailyKos

      We still have maybe 80,000 soldiers in Europe too. NATO has a fast reaction force of about 40,000. And frankly — we have the US Air Force all available. If we do release them, which I think we better be ready to — Russia will have no Air Force in hours and any battle formation on the ground would be immediately destroyed. We can do that.

      AT least one Carrier Group is now in position too.

      Putin’s whole tactic of trying to scare us off from reinforcing to our eastern flank is in complete shambles — We are sure reinforcing just where Putin did not want us to in force. He f***ed up. Threatening the US is a real bad move unless you have a Trump in charge.

      We are playing a game of poker — he has a pair of deuces and we have a royal flush. Really. Time to call. I have absolutely no doubt Biden is the right leader for us in this.

      And by the way — Hungary needs to be cut out of NATO right now. Bastards.

      As to Ukraine — and I get it they are basically fighting with WWI tactics (trench warfare honest to god) do deserve to be a part of the alliance. They are brave as all hell.

      I think — if they only had horse cavalry they would attack with that too. God I admire them.

      This unhinged rant was posted 14 hrs ago and has 200 plus comments, the great majority supportive, so some people at least appear to care. And at the American Conservative (which has published a couple of genuinely pro-diplomacy with Russia articles recently) the comments section is not much better so the craziness is bipartisan.

      1. Screwball

        I just read something similar, but at a different website. It might be even more un-hinged. These PMC people are ready to go all in for war. They are citing something Vindman wrote recently (I can only imagine), slobbering over Fiona Hill, Natasha Bertrand, Max Boot and a tweet by a women named Julia Davis that said this;

        Angered by the U.S. response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, with the “mother of all sanctions” on the horizon, Russia’s state TV has a message for Trump:

        “Donald, we’re waiting for you and are ready to elect you again.”

        But it gets even better. They are saying we are so lucky to have Biden in charge and he is the right guy to deal with Putin, but it would be better if we would still have Hillary as SOS because she would have better cooperation from our allies.

        Holy $hit! These people are nuts, completely nuts. They were in love with the Lincoln Project, still believe in RussiaGate, think Ukraine should be in NATO, and now are ready to go to war with Russia.

        While complaining about mis/dis information and wanting to cancel or censor any/every thing that doesn’t fit their view.

        You really can’t make this $hit up. These people went from being “useful idiots” for the establishment Dems, to dangerous lunatics begging for war against a nuclear power. And this is from people who used to be AGAINST war.

        Propaganda works, and to be honest, I’m starting to worry where this all ends given the attitude of these people and their never ending hatred of Donald Trump. Put his name in a narrative and they will go along with, or believe, anything. Anyone who disagrees can just go to hell; you deserve it anyway because you are stupid for not seeing the danger of Putin and his puppets.

        Somebody, get these people’s attention and get them to wake the hell up.

      2. lance ringquist

        the days of nafta billy clintons wars for free trade are over. the days when nafta billy clinton says where are my aircraft carriers, is over.

        the aircraft carrier today is a nice fat target for zircon missiles.

        nafta billy clintons disastrous free trade policies has left american manufacturing hollowed out. the f-35 and littoral warships and aircraft carriers that cannot lift a fighter to the flight deck, are the inevitable results of nafta billy clintons disastrous policies.

        nafta billy broke the promise if no eatward expansion of nato, then waged a illegal and immoral war against a small country, then dismembered it, yugoslavia.

        the friction russia and china has against the u.s. can be traced right back to bill clinton, it was clinton that tore apart yugoslavia on trumped up charges, then broke our word, it was Clinton who sparked the current tensions in the south china sea region when he deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Taiwan Straits in 1995-96 during a tense standoff between Taipei and the mainland.
        yes yes yes, bill clinton bombed and committed war crimes against 4 nations at once, setting up regime change as official government policy. notice free traders always invoke freedom:)

        yugoslavia, now has been exposed as a hoax.

        sudan, bombed a pharmaceutical plant, i suspect it was done for america drug manufacturers that do not like competition

        afganistan, totally missed his target, that said just pull out of saudi arabia, bill would have none of it.

        iraq, it was worth killing 500,000 children to keep control of iraq oil.

        August 20, 2019
        America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
        by James Bovard
        dollar store liberals started the regime change wars for globalization based on flat out lies with yugoslavia, and with anything feverish, they must be stopped: In this statement released Wednesday, a group of international law experts warn that a U.S. military strike on Syria would be illegal if not in self-defense or with U.N. Security Council authorization

        don’t forget, it was bill clinton that started this, and made it official u.s. policy to attack any country the corporations wanted.

        ” Bill Clinton elaborated:
        “If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world Europe has got to be the key; that’s what this Kosovo thing is all about… It’s globalism versus tribalism.”
        “Tribalism” was the word used by 19th century free trade liberals to describe nationalism. And this war was all about threatening any nation which might have ideas of independence.”

        “Regime change polices were set up by bill clinton: This was a unit established by President Bill Clinton, then continued by Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz. Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, has confirmed that this unit exists. This has led to rumours in the press, followed up by President Trump, of a US military option.

      3. KT

        Can’t we move this entire conflict into the metaverse. Isn’t that where our technocratic and political elite want us all to spend our lives in any case. Then at least all the tank heads and empire builders can engage one another on Warcraft and Minecraft and leave the actual universe out of their machinations. It would save lives, time, stupidity and the money over which they obsess and covet.

      4. Kouros

        Actually, at the American Conservative, the commenters and the articles supporting an aggressive American stance towards Russia are constantly and thoroughly defenestrated.

      5. rankinfile

        Don’t tell me,you welcome the millions invading our southern border with open arms.Somebody needs to watch your kids and clean your house and cut your grass on the cheap right?

        Never mind seniors obligated to pay their property taxes educating the offspring of your cheap workforce.

    5. JTMcPhee

      US is not, and has not been, “the world’s policeman.” Unless that “policeman” meme is understood to be the kind of thuggery that marks city cops like in Chicago, where corruption is rampant,, and the cops operate a gulag of black sites and spy on everyone, , and have actively burgled businesses using cop squadrols to haul away the loot,, and have assassinated any kind of opponents to the power of the corrupt political machine that controls the city,

      The US runs a global protection racket, almost as blatant as the “organized crime” cartels which often are hand in glove with the Empire in doing dirty business and extorting wealth. And this has been the case since way before Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler pointed a spotlight at the real nature of the imperial practices in which he participated as an enforcer — “War Is A Racket,”

      Global policeman, just the friendly Irish beat cop keeping the citizens safe? Not even close.

    6. Soredemos

      Policeman is a way to reframe empire as some sort of noble burden. ‘If it weren’t for us the savages of the world would constantly be fighting each other.’

      In reality Russia is no threat to Europe.

      1. Sean


        Many different things can be true at once.

        Biden & the Dems suck.
        trump & the GOP are far worse.

        War with Russia would be an insane & disastrous blunder. NATO should not have been pushed eastward to antagonize the Russians. Unless an even bolder move had have been made, bringing Russia into NATO in the mid-90s after the fall of Communism and before the ascension of Putin. But Putin is a dangerous & unpredictable thug. We should be wary of him.

        The PMC clowns who lap up Establishment Corporate Dem gruel dished out by the likes of Hillary are nauseating in their naivete & smug comfortable arrogance. But the Russian Scandal Hoax was not a hoax. Russia did try to interfere in our election in 2016. It’s significance is just seriously overstated. Russian interference on trump’s behalf only mattered because the election was close & Hillary was such a terrible & uninspiring candidate. The Dem loss to trump was largely self inflicted a result of their arrogance & out of touch policies.

        Getting rid of trump will not magically fix our nation or return it to some blessed state.
        trump is the GOP. trump is louder & less refined, less calculating & more erratic than other GOP nasty jackasses that fill out GOP leadership positions. So trump derangement syndrome (TDS) is a completely rational response to his being in power or near it.
        But the entire GOP should elicit a similar concern. Both parties should be burned to the ground so we can start over from the ground up. But it is important that the GOP be destroyed 1st otherwise they will lock in the Plutocracy with a permanent hold on the political system with intense gerrymandering & voter restrictions & suppression.

      2. Sean


        Mostly true.

        Russia is a small threat to Europe.
        Russia is mostly a threat to their former possessions. Those of the Russian empire & the Soviet Union.

        But there is little we can sensibly do about it militarily.

  2. cocomaan’s-artillery-outmatched-russia’s-big-guns-107526

    It’s long been known that the Russians have some of the best artillery systems in the world and have put a lot of R&D into them. this goes hand in hand with how the US military is still fighting the last war, asymmetrical against guerrilla fighters, which doesn’t require a lot of artillery. US has been relying on planes to do the long range work.

    But the USA can’t project air power the way it would against insurgents because Russians have countermeasures. Hard to say if the F35 can do the heavy lifting. My guess is that military leaders will be SHOCKED when the F35 performs poorly. Anyone paying attention for say, the past decade, will not.

    Been playing in the Middle East sandbox for a long time and it shows.

    ETA: Also, I fully expect to hear China start banging war drums on Taiwan any minute now. They’ll be able to split US efforts.

    1. ambrit

      The Chinese would probably “bang the war drums against Taiwan” while having trade delegations negotiating the next “Five Year Economic Plan” with Taipei. Peking doesn’t have to ‘invade’ the island. Something much more like the old “One Country, Two Systems” wheeze would work out just fine.
      I can hear the ‘unofficial’ conversations now.
      “Look. We’re all Chinese here. Why sacrifice each other just to satisfy some “Foreign Devil’s” scheme?”

    2. Thomas P

      At least the Iranian front seems quiet. Earlier I worried that USA would decide to hit Iran, and that while bogged down there both China and Russia woul feel they had free hands.

  3. Louis Fyne

    The US military has enjoyed air superiority in every war since 1944. Ukraine would be different.

    So close to Russia, eastern Ukraine would be essentially a no-fly zone for Nato. Same with the Black Sea/Eastern Mediterranean. The US Navy hasn’t been existentially shot at since 1945, day 1 in any conflict with Russia would see every Nato ship in the Black Sea sunk by Russian coastal missiles.

    We are governed by either: liars who know that their mouths are proverbially writing checks that they can’t cash, or complete mental nutcases who insist on poking the bear and letting other people suffer the consequences. maybe a mix both

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Another issue is my impression is that Russian equipment is a lot better than our military strategists assumed until recently. Hopefully readers who followed the fine points more carefully than I did can fill in details, but I recall reading that the US armed services were taken aback when they saw Russia show some of its capabilities in Syria. Guess it never occurred to them that pork-filled US defense contracts might have an impact upon performance.

      I don’t know how germane this is in Ukraine, given its proximity to Russia, but another issue is that the Russians have a very different design philosophy than we do. They build their combat planes to be so robust they can land in a field. Ours are fussy and require air bases, or at least a damned long runway.

      1. The Rev Kev

        The Russians seem to be all in on firepower. So with their naval ships they typically carry much more firepower than their western counterparts and accept maintenance being more complicated. They have good artillery and lots of it and their artillery is heavier and out-ranges the standard US artillery pieces-

        In addition, they have been spending a lot of resources of high-tech weaponry which not only gave them hypersonic weapons, robots and EM equipment which is far advanced to what the west has. A lot of this new gear has been tested out in Syria so they had a chance to work the bugs out. Of course they are not ten feet tall and completely covered in hair but I see no reason to pick a fight with them unnecessarily.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Just yesterday they announced that 3rd Guards Motorized Rifle Division in Western Military District has received it’s brand new EW Battalion capable of suppressing satellite communications and cellular networks in the area of operations. Western District is expecting to deploy three other such battalions soon.

          And in Southern Military District they reported testing successfully new reconnaissance heavy Battalion Tactical Group, where the infantry elements supported by UAVs basically just identified targets for the artillery element without engaging the “enemy”.

          That is, of course, just back-cover blurb but still makes the point that Russian Armed Forces are not the “human wave” peasant army depicted by beaten German generals, but modern fighting force that studies tactics and learns from experience.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        There is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to real military capacity. Russian strategy since the 1990’s has been to pull away from matching the US peer to peer to just focus on specific areas where they feel they can dominate, such as the rapid and aggressive accumulation of force on a narrow front.

        The Russians are far behind on some very important tech (such as stealth, airborne radar and in vital items like tank sights or night fighting gear for infantry), but they can make up for it with their superiority in other areas. Or put another way, fight a war in a manner the Russians want, you are in trouble. But if you can pull the Russians out of their comfort zone (a naval battle, or one requiring amphibious warfare, for example), they will struggle to match any modern military. A straight up land battle on a central European plain is right in the Russian comfort zone.

        Everyone likes dissing on the F-35, but the reality is that stealth aircraft give an enormous advantage in a modern air combat, this is why everyone wants them. Put simply, its a near guarantee that the US will be in a position to shoot before the enemy knows where they are. The Israeli’s have demonstrated in Syria that the Russians struggle to track F-35s (unless of course the Russians are engaged in a double bluff). As of now, the US could probably neutralise Russian air defences. And the Russians have nothing yet in any numbers that can match the F-22. The Russians probably even struggle against Eurofighters, Gripens and Rafaels, especially ones armed with the new Meteor missile, which can knock Russian aircraft out of the sky before they can get anywhere near the Nato aircraft. The problem with the meteor is that they are so damned expensive nobody can afford enough of them. Its also worth noting that a typical US or UK/French pilot has maybe twice or more the training hours of their Russian equivalent – this can make a huge difference in combat.

        But in a grinding warfare on that front the Russians would almost certainly be able to overwhelm NATO forces through sheer force of firepower. The only real response by NATO would be to reinforce the Ukrainians into a force that could sap the Russians through attrition. Ukraine is nearly as big as Texas, it would take many hundreds of thousands of troops to pacify if the Ukrainians didn’t run and had a steady supply of the right weapons.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Put simply, its a near guarantee that the US will be in a position to shoot before the enemy knows where they are.

          Not really if the enemy has plenty of mobile radars operating in bands that see stealth easily. They can’t direct missiles, but they can inform own pilots where the stealth fighters are, within a few kilometers.

          Also, not really if the enemy has advanced ECM making it difficult for the stealth fighters to identify true targets or lock into them.

          I’m under the impression that Israel is not allowed to fly F-35s in to Syrian airspace not to loose one for any reason into enemy hands. For all practical purposes the Israeli strikes are made from Lebanese airspace or Mediterranean using civilian air traffic as cover.

          Before Meteor there were already AIM-54 Phoenix with 200 km range and still is R-33 with 300 km range. Both lethal way beyond the sensory range of any “normal” fighter. Meteor is just more lethal at the end game because of longer engine burn. There are rumors about ramjet version of R-77, too.

          And for tank optics, even modernized T-72s have Sosna-U sights licensed from Thales, which claims detection at 10 km, recognition +4 km. Plenty enough in Eastern Europe, where most open spaces are under 2 km.

          1. Soredemos

            Radar stealth is over fifty years old. Further, Russia has had the guts of an F-117 in a secure warehouse somewhere for over twenty years (and that shootdown was the result of some clever Serbian managing to achieve a lock with outdated hardware). Russia will have put a lot of effort into defeating stealth.

            Stealth works by evading high band radar; low band can see it, but the conventional wisdom is that low band isn’t good enough for finer work like missile locks. Yet it’s well known that Russia keeps investing in low band radar tech. Don’t be surprised if ‘stealth’ planes start dropping like flies at the start of a shooting war.

          2. PlutoniumKun

            Wide bandwidth radar (as the Russians use) can identify ‘blobs’ that may be stealth aircraft, but they can’t get a fix on the aircraft until they are a lot closer. And presumably there will be a very ‘busy’ environment in a war making it extremely difficult to know if your blob is an F-35 or anything else. The Europeans claim that will multiple interlinked Eurofighter radars can identify F-22’s, but again, nobody really knows if this will work in reality. The Russians are probably relying on interlinked radar networks allowing them to identify real stealth threats at far enough away that they can get some shots off. The Russians also seem to be investing big in long distance missiles with active radar, presumably on the basis that they may be able to get a fix from close in to a stealth aircraft with narrow bandwidth radar (previous designs were largely passive radar). But these missiles are very expensive and can’t just be thrown at every blip they see or they’ll run out in the first day of a war, probably just blowing up drones or unfortunate goose formations. In air to air combat, they will probably rely very heavily on passive IR to spot stealth aircraft.

            You are right of course about the Phoenix, but they were mostly designed for striking long range anti-ship missiles, although the Iranians used them with some success against the Iraqis. But they were never replaced, presumably for a reason, and I assume this reason is that it was too difficult to be sure what you are shooting at with such extreme ranges. The meteor seems to be a far more efficient killer, at least in terms of the claimed specs.

            The one reason why I think stealth still works is quite simple. Everyone is going for stealth. The Russians, the Chinese, the new Korean and Japanese aircraft, and the European replacements. Quite simply, it seems to work. As always with these things, I think the best way to see what the people who are paid to think about these things are thinking, is to look at where they are spending their money. And they are all spending their money on stealth, or stealth countermeasures. Whatever its limitations, stealth gives you a much better chance of getting the first accurate shot out in a battle. And history indicates that this gives a huge advantage.

            So far as I’m aware, the Israeli’s have used the F-35 in Syrian airspace – I believed they claimed at least one major strike was carried out by them. But as always with that area, you believe anything at your peril. There can be no doubt there was a lot of fishing expeditions by both the Israeli’s and Russians there. Even they may not know the truth, because they may not have wanted to give away their full range of capacity.

            As for the tanks, you are right of course that the Russians bought Thales (which shows just how little faith they have in their own suppliers). But its a fair bet that these are not the cutting edge sights available to Nato. In tank warfare, the first accurate shot is even more crucial than in air to air. So far as I’m aware, all evidence suggests that western sights and software is likely better than anything the Russians have.

            1. No it was not, apparently

              “In air to air combat, they will probably rely very heavily on passive IR to spot stealth aircraft”

              No, they’ll rely on ground based very long range radar via datalink and fire guided missiles at long-range (with active seeking in terminal phase) and IR in “short”-range (i.e. 20 km or so) engagements.

              It is doubtful their long-range missiles can connect effectively (but there could have been nasty improvements and no-one would know), but if they can get into 20-40km range anything outside F-15 and F-22 is dead and even those two have a real fight on their hands.

              “Phoenix […] were mostly designed for striking long range anti-ship missiles”

              No, it was designed to down Soviet long range bombers, before they could launch their anti-ship missiles, hence the long range; probably poorly able to hit smaller targets, ergo useless in any non-cold-war scenario (which is also why they never bothered to replace the F-14).

              “The one reason why I think stealth still works is quite simple. Everyone is going for stealth”

              No. Everyone is doing it because it reduces signature, which is always useful, all military systems are “stealthy” – they all use visibility reduction techniques, from camouflage uniform all the way up to radar absorption.

              Take note, Su-57 has long wave radar antennas integrated into the forward wing edge, exactly to spot the so-called “stealth” airplanes, and yes, you get a wonderfully inaccurate reading, but the real problem – as I said above – is the ability of a long range missile to connect to target (not to see it, as any IR sensor on the missile will do just fine, but to connect), the AA-10 Alamo (Nato codename, Russians call it R-27 I think) were shown to be unable to take down Su-27s in a 1999 (or was it 2000) conflict in Africa.

              The short range AA-11 Archer (R-73 and the improved R-74) are super deadly, old US tests apparently showed they were not avoidable after launch, as you couldn’t lose them, it was only a matter of time…

              As far as the AA-12 (R-77) goes, I don’t know and I’ve never seen actual performance discussed, its extended ranged variants are supposed to be competitive with the Meteor; but again, on the outer ranges AA missiles have poor performance, who knows if they can actually connect with the target – especially a viciously maneuvering one.

              “Whatever its limitations, stealth gives you a much better chance of getting the first accurate shot out in a battle.”

              No, advanced sensors give you the first-shot advantage – they are either longer range, passive (if everyone plays this game, then everyone is stealthy ;) ), or they are off-board on a separate sensor platform, enabling the shooter to be quiet – US has a massive advantage here, I think; but Russians can do (and have done) data integration, if successful, there is no stealth, there is just missile performance in BVR and certain death in close range combat.

        2. OnceWereVirologist

          The trouble with the stealth concept though is that as soon as you mount outboard munitions or fuel tanks you don’t have a stealth plane anymore and I think I’m right in saying that both the the F-22 and the F-35 can only carry a single internal 1000 pound bomb. Every combat-capable F-22 in the US Airforce would struggle to deliver as much explosive onto a target as a single B-52 stratofortress. I do agree that the F-22 with its all-aspect stealth, high speed and high high altitude ceiling probably remains untouchable but there’s so few of them I’m not sure that they would make any practical difference. I’m not sure I agree with your statement that the US could probably neutralize Russian air defenses. I seem to recall that the Serbians did pretty well with outdated Soviet equipment during the Kosovo War, not in the sense of being able to shoot down any but a handful of NATO planes, but in the sense that they maintained a credible enough threat to force the NATO planes to operate at an altitude too high for their bombing to be effective.

          The only real response by NATO would be to reinforce the Ukrainians into a force that could sap the Russians through attrition. Ukraine is nearly as big as Texas, it would take many hundreds of thousands of troops to pacify if the Ukrainians didn’t run and had a steady supply of the right weapons.

          That honestly seems an overgeneralization of recent American experience with occupations. I’m not saying that I’m sure the Ukrainians would be easily pacified but nor am I sure they wouldn’t. American hearts and minds campaigns where none of the soldiers learn a lick of the local language or show any respect for the local culture seem a particularly poor guide to Ukraine. At the very least Russian soldiers are going to be able to share conversation and vodka shots with the locals.

          1. Lambert Strether

            > I seem to recall that the Serbians did pretty well with outdated Soviet equipment during the Kosovo War

            The Serbians shot down an F-117, the first stealth fighter. See this interesting article. I have no doubt the Russians have equal or greater capabilities (and that we aren’t any smarter now than we were then).

            1. PlutoniumKun

              I think if Vlade was here he’d point out that it was mostly Czech software that was used to track the F117. It was mostly very clever analysis by the Serbs. The Russians have also been very clever over the years at developing smart software solutions to overcome the crudity of their hardware. The Iranians have also successfully taken down stealth drones by spoofing them.

              But of course we are a generation ahead in both stealth aircraft and in the countermeasures, so its really anyones guess. Just as everyone proclaims the death of the aircraft carrier, while meanwhile everyone is still building aircraft carriers (including those countries that don’t have them now), I suspect that those who think stealth does not work should ask why so many countries are spending so much money on making their next generation stealthy. Maybe they are stupid, or maybe they’ve done the detailed analysis, and reckon they have no choice.

              An example of why this is relevant I think is the A-10. There are lots of cheerleaders for the A-10 as a tank buster. But nobody seems to have asked the question as to why the Soviets and Russians never bothered designing an equivalent, or designing any specific counter measure. The likely answer is that they never took it seriously (analysis from the first gulf war indicates that they were right). So its not just a case of weapons makers making up threats. Only the US (and maybe China) has enough resources to throw cash at pointless weapons systems. Other countries have to choose much more carefully. Thats why I think its always worthwhile looking closely at what they are spending their money on. You know what it is they are anticipating, and what they really fear.

              1. No it was not, apparently

                “But nobody seems to have asked the question as to why the Soviets and Russians never bothered designing an [A-10 Warthog] equivalent… “

                They have of course, just that their system – the Su-25 “Frogfoot” – is not an equivalent of the A-10 but of its competitor which was rejected by the US armed forces and disappeared into history books; as to why the Soviets preferred the other approach I have no idea (the A-10 looks superior to me in every way…).

                “…or designing any specific counter measure.”

                All high-mobility air defense systems that follow frontline armor, from the BUK downwards to the 57mm auto cannons, are there to counter tactical aircraft precisely because of the threats like the A-10.

                “The likely answer is that they never took it seriously”

                Oh, they took it very seriously, since forever (see also: ZSU-23-4 “Shilka”).

                “I suspect that those who think stealth does not work should ask why so many countries are spending so much money on making their next generation stealthy.”

                And I’ll finish with this – a repetition – every step in signature reduction is a worthwhile endeavor in designing a combat system, everything made for the military is “stealthy” and this never means invisible, just shades of less detectable, as every kilometer and every second counts (in lives lost).

        3. Keith Newman

          To PKun @ 11:52
          “… if you can pull the Russians out of their comfort zone (a naval battle…”
          I have read that in a real peer to peer war destroyers, aircraft carriers, etc, are just juicy targets for high speed missiles and not useful military assets. Is there a reason to believe that is not true?

        4. Raymond Sim

          The Russians are far behind on some very important tech (such as stealth, airborne radar and in vital items like tank sights or night fighting gear for infantry), …

          My stepfather was a radar guy, one way or another, for much of his career, and was generally pretty skeptical that U.S. equipment was greatly superior in practical value. He also was skeptical that inferior capabilities of Soviet gear could be assumed to be a matter of incapacity rather than well thought-out choices. This was forty or fifty years ago, with the U.S. and Israeli experiences going up against Soviet air defense designs in mind.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Its not just a matter of capability, its a matter of resources. For example, the Russians have very few AWACS – they just can’t afford them. They also have a huge land area to cover with radar, so they inevitably have to patch things together.

            1. Raymond Sim

              I see your AWACS and raise you one massive integrated (largely mobile) air defense system.

              I.e. the reason you might need AWACS in the first place, assuming you have it in mind to annoy the Russkies.

              And I speak subject to correction, but didn’t the MiG 31 feature the first phased-array radar in a combat plane? And super-fancy datalinks allowing officers on board access to data from ground radars and other fighters, as well as command-and-control of the latter? And if I’m not mistaken that all got rolled out in around the same timeframe our guys were getting AWACS working.

      3. JoeC100

        Anyone interested in this question should read Andrei Martyanov’s books:

        “The Real Revolution in Military Affairs”

        “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning”, and

        “Disintegration: Indicators of the Coming American Collapse

        Martyanov is “the real deal” in this space and does not paint a pretty picture of US c capabilities today – including major factors beyond “weapons”

        I am also finally digging into Sakwa’s “Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands” – which painfully reviews the lengthy history leading to today’s situation – this only covers through the 2014 conflict, but provides deep insight into how and why things ended up in a mess.. This is probably must reading for anyone who tries to actually understand what is going on in this hysteria..

  4. Qufuness

    The goal is not to defend Ukraine, but to get Ukraine and Russia into a fight, one that would continue for years and limit what Russia could do on other fronts.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, re Adam Schiff’s “We (or our Banderastan proxies) must fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here.”

      1. Jeff

        Adam Schiff – there’s a guy who should be serving on the front line or guarding the dmz. Waste of skin.

    1. ambrit

      I’d ask the question; “Can the US defend itself?”
      So far, it has been the US playing around with ‘Power Projection.’ What will Washington do when Russian Expeditionary Forces show up in Venezuela, for “requested assistance to a beleaguered ally?”
      So far, Russia has been doing quite well in Syria with a limited investment in materiel and manpower. Plus, think of all the real world experience the Russian forces are getting. At the least, Russian weapons systems are being “tested to destruction.” That alone makes the effort worthwhile to Moscow.
      America? It still cannot get “the bugs” worked out of it’s flagship military airframe.

      1. Michael

        “…Russia has been doing quite well in Syria…”

        This is a key point. Russia managed a complex situation in which they arrived late very well. Even with the US having established a “base” in Syria,the Turks strutting around at their common border and Israel doing drivebys Russia didn’t over react.

        Why poke a bear with both eyes open when you are unprepared to follow thru?

        Why are the D’s choosing to die on this hill? All the Hunter escapades coming back to the daily news cycle. Next up, first American casualty is an equipment accident.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          They spent 4 years personalizing Putin as the end of all good things, especially Mother. Their strongest supporters are thoroughly brainwashed. Naturally, Republicans would flood the airwaves with what a coward Biden is. Hillary 2024 would be announced.

          You can do quite a bit to the choir, but at the end of the day, you have to pretend the stupid robes make sense. This is where Biden and Team Blue are. Realpolitik is at odds with the choir.

    2. ChrisPacific

      Or: from whom does the Ukraine need to be defended?

      We all know the answer to the title question, and it also seems clear that the US isn’t terribly bothered by the idea.

  5. Steve H.

    > What could the U.S. lose if Russia picks up the gauntlet Biden is throwing down?

    Aumerle: Some honest Christian trust me with a gage.
    [Aumerle receives a gage which he throws down.]

    – Shakespeare, “The life and death of King Richard the Second.”

    A gauntlet here is called a ‘gage’, and Aumerle has thrown down all his own and must borrow more.

    In this metaphor, the borrowed gauntlets are European troops. Will they be lent?

  6. JohnA

    The US analysts in the media seem to think, like most generals before them, that they will be fighting the previous war. I doubt very much a single tank, or toecap as Johnson threatened to retaliate against, will cross the border. Russia has the missiles and electronic warfare capabilities to destroy enemy bases and capabilities from within its own borders and defend against attacks.
    The 3000 troops the US says it is redeploying to Europe would be as useful as 3000 corpses, which they probably would become in the event of real hostilities.

  7. David E

    “IF” Russia should decide to invade Ukraine, they would go only as far as the areas that are heavily pro Russian. The rest of the Ukraine is a corrupt basket case and would be a headache for the Russians. Maybe a little further where it would be advantageous for defensive purposes. Not all the way to Kiev. The Russians learned some important lesson in Afghanistan. What did the US learn? Not much by listening to the war hawks.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t see why Russia would take the bait, but what you are suggesting is basically Crimea 2.0, since it’s festering resentment over that effective gambit that is the impetus for the US effort to provoke Russia. However, if they could pull that off, heads in the West would explode.

      1. Bart Hansen

        Right! And the ‘massing of troops’ is designed to get our attention. By the way, the Ukies are massing troops near the Donbas, but we NEVER hear about that.

        It looks like that leaked copy of our latest response contains an offer to allow Russian inspectors access to the missile sites in Romania and Poland. Whether that will satisfy the Kremlin remains to be seen.

      2. Raymond Sim

        I don’t see why Russia would take the bait, …

        It seems to me there are quite a few lines in the water. At some point somebody might end up taking their own bait.

        Thus far Russia’s been pretty scrupulous about sticking to actions with plausible legal justifications. Incorporation of the territories which have rejected Kiev’s governance post-Maidan could be done within those constraints, and would certainly tend to clarify the situation.

        I’m not so sure about the exploding heads. Any head that didn’t detonate when the neocons did all the heavy lifting to enable the Russians to take Crimea must surely be a dud?

  8. The Rev Kev

    I would hope that the eventual solution would be similar to that achieved after the Cuban Crisis back in the 60s. Back then the Russians pulled back their nuclear missiles from Cuba which made it look like the US had won but in reality it was a draw as the US had to pull their own nuclear missiles out of Turkey. Russia knows that Washington will still be dangerous after this is all over and so may let it look like the US had won. So hopefully Biden can boast how he stopped a Russian invasion of the Ukraine which he can take to the 2022 midterms. It doesn’t matter that the Russians have no intention of invading. But hopefully too Biden will can this whole idea of trying to get the nuclear drop on Russia with missile launchers in eastern Europe. Maybe back off the multi-harassment of their borders as well. Of course the poison pill will be Congress who will seek to have a total victory against Russia and oppose any new non-nuclear treaties with Russia.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Khruschev had a big win (obviously, not big enough), Cuba sovereignty for the street and removing the Turkey missiles for the Politiburo, and JFK had “older missiles” to sell to congressional hawks in addition to the usual JFK fluff.

      Since I assume the current crisis is Biden trying to get a foreign policy win, he was caught off guard by a lack of EU support and the Russians not complying with his goal which I assume was to announce a Kiev rump state move into NATO. There is no win for Biden. The Russia-phobes want conflict they expect to win. For others, they either never cared or knew this was a farce, revealing Biden as dangerous. Putin on the other hand has his own street to worry about, and US aggression is well known in Russia and China, Beijing can’t encourage him to offer Biden a symbolic win.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I saw it suggested months ago – I think it was by the Saker – that this was the real strategy. In other words, through backroom channels the shape of a deal was in place whereby the Russians would raise the temperature, Biden would hang tough, the Russians would pull back, giving Biden a big victory right before the mid terms. Biden would then, in return, quietly tell the Ukies to take whatever deal the Russians gave them. So Biden would get to look tough, and Putin would accept a minor humiliation in return for getting everything he wanted on the ground.

      It sounded quite neat, and its not impossible, but it seems less likely now. But if Biden’s team had any sense, this is what they’d be suggesting to Putin.

  9. Glossolalia

    This would be epic! Two declining empires with a track record of losing wars battling it out to see who is the Bigger Loser™

  10. Charles Yaker

    somebody needs to juice the anti war movement. while MMT proves we can have guns and butter reality says Bring them Home and stop the spending on the Military Industrial complex. I often wonder if a Russian Army World War I response is in USA future where they dropped their guns and came home to oust the Czar.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Unfortunately, while there are Leftists, there is no Left, and liberals have lost whatever anti-imperialist beliefs they might have developed during the Vietnam War era, in part because of Trump Derangement Syndrome. They have become completely mesmerized by the national security state, believing it will save them from the Bad People here at home, and will thus willingly eat whatever dog food is offered by the DoD/CIA/NSA “analysts” in the media…

    2. LarryMotuz

      I am very interested in your view that “MMT proves we can have guns and butter”. Could you elaborate? My own view is that the real limits to growth do not vanish because of MMT.

  11. Louis Fyne

    imo, the #1 worst place for the US to fight a war is Afghanistan.

    the #2 worst place is Ukraine/Belarus/Black Sea/the Russian border.

    the #3 worst place is the Taiwan Strait.

    Of course DC wants to learn the hard way….Never fight a land war in Asia (or Eastern Europe).

  12. ptb

    Saw the map, which is visual scaremongering more than anything else. Can’t really recommend promoting this kind of thing

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I initially trashed this comment, but decided instead to make an example of you.

      You have no business attempting to censor our content, particularly with a lame-assed remark that amounts to saying a map produced by a think tank with lots of influence in military and intel circles offends your tender sensibilities. I’d stomp on your some more for sport but you and your comment are not worth the effort.

      Flippant, petty statements like this are why you are in moderation. You detract value from the comments section. One more like this and you will be blacklisted.

  13. Alex Morfesis

    The US doesn’t need to defend Ukraine nor fight other than suggest targets for the yukes and their new friends in Byzantium… Turkey and Ukraine have a larger population than putinas moscva kingdom and if his egoness decided to turn the black sea into a black lake during the winter, those barely floating steel traps commonly known as the Russian navy…how exactly would they be airlifted out of the black lake…85 million Russians west of the Urals vs 86 million Turks…throw in a few yukes who might not do a Dunkirk and run past Austria before looking back…those movie prop tanks are cute and great for parades…but the world has a few more motorized vehicles than existed in WW2…tanks are useless in modern warfare in non third world settings and his egoness showed what weak tea the Russian military capacity is with his Estes kit drones in Azerbaijan

    1. ambrit

      The problem is that the Russians are moving forward, (pun intended,) with their Electronic Counter Measures doctrine. They now have electronics Command and control disruption units. One is being deployed to the “Ukraine Front” now.
      What good are swarms of drones if you cannot control them? what if the “enemy” figures out how to “scramble” the tender electronic “brains” at a distance?
      Nothing is ever the “End Point” of any technology.
      Military technology is the Classic Self Licking Ice Cream Cone. (I would have used a more “robust,” er, para-reproductive analogy, but this is supposed to be a refuge for Civilized Discourse.)
      Saty safe! Duck and Cover!

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      This needs to be fleshed out more. What reason would Turkey have to fight Russia for the benefit of Ukraine ? And what do Azerbaijani drones fighting against Armenians prove about fighting Russia ? Russian didn’t directly intervene there and from what I understand the Armenian Army itself didn’t have any modern drones or counter-drone systems.

    3. José

      European Russia has a population of close to 110 million:

      European Russia has about 75% or 3/4th of Russia’s total population. It covers an area of over 3,995,200 square kilometres (1,542,600 sq mi), with a population of nearly 110 million—making Russia the largest and most populous country in Europe.

  14. Tom Stone

    My sense is that most of the US populace has lost its taste for RUSSIA! flavored dog food.
    Biden promised concrete material benefits.
    Ending the pandemic “The vaccines will protect you”.
    Cancelling student loan debt.
    A $15 minimum wage.
    $2,000 checks which turned into $1,400 for no other reason than cruelty.
    And there’s MORE!
    Of less.
    A lot less.
    Trump had more empathy and more sense than Biden has displayed, a very low bar that Biden walked under on stilts and wearing a top hat.

  15. Camelotkidd

    Read Andrei Martyanov’s books–The Real Revolution in Military Affairs, and Losing Military Supremacy for a superb rundown of Russian military capabilities compared to the US’s. The takeaway is that the Russians, by necessity, take their “defense” extremely seriously while the in the US “defense” is viewed as a profit generating endeavor by the MIC.

  16. George Phillies

    Has Russia fought a war recently? There were two wars with Chechnya. Lost one, Bribed part of opposition to switch sides to claim a win. There was Afghanistan which they lost. There was the last invasion of Ukraine where they grabbed the Crimea and failed to reach Mariupol. They have since done a radical redesign of their army with minimal testing.

    1. Jose Freitas

      I think I can’t agree with you here. Russia in Afghanistan was 30 years ago, and Chechnya 20+, at a time of great crisis in Russia. Russia did not “invade” Crimea, their troops were already stationed there (they may have sent a few elite special forces to reinforce them over those weeks, but that’s about that), and the drive to Mariupol was the Donbass troops, and actually, it was the Russians (with other countries) who made them stop, as a prelude to the Normandy format cease-fire agreements. In the meantime they have had 6 years in Syria testing equipment.

    2. rkka

      “They have since done a radical redesign of their army with minimal testing.”

      Radical yes, but 40 years in the making.

      It all started in the mid-80s, with chief of the Soviet General Staff MSU Nikolai V. Ogarkov noting trends in increasing missile precision, and predicting that conventional weapons will become equivalent to nuclear weapons, due to their range, speed, and precision.

      First, a definition, circular error probable (CEP) – A circle of a radius such that half the shots fall outside of it and half fall inside. Its a measure of consistency, of how tight your shot group is.

      Consider the ’60s vintage SS-4 medium range ballistic missile with a CEP of 2 kilometers. With a CEP that large, it takes a Really Big Nuke to achieve the desired target destruction probability, roughly 2 megatons in this case. Unwanted collateral damage is horrifying.

      Consider the 80’s vintage SS-20, with a CEP of 200 meters. It needs a much smaller nuke (170 kilotons) to achieve the desired target destruction probability.
      Unwanted collateral damage merely appalling.

      Now consider the 2020s vintage Kalibr cruise missile, with a CEP of 3 meters. a 450kiloGRAM conventional blast-fragmentation warhead will do nicely, with minimal collateral damage.

      Ogarkov advocated getting rid of the mass-mobilization Soviet Army of millions so funds could be spent on developing & fielding a force of long-ranged precise conventional missiles. By the way, Ogarkov believed that the horrifying/appalling collateral damage inflicted by nukes exceeded the military value of the targets thus destroyed by such a margin that nukes as a practical military matter were utterly unusable.

      Russia now has the force Marshal Ogarkov envisioned for the Soviet Army back in the mid-80s. So there’s been 40 years of analysis and debate over this force. Ogarkov’s Deputy Chief, General Makhmut Gareev, founder and head of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences until his death in December 2019 was a very influential advocate for this concept.

  17. DJG, Reality Czar

    Today’s news that Little Boris Johnson and Li’l Biden are the leaders of the Free World does give one pause, doesn’t it?

    The observations above from Scott Ritter that throwing around a few battalions now amounts to nothing is important. Whether it will have any influence on the decrepit U.S. foreign-policy establishment remains to be seen.

    I am surprised at how low the numbers are that Ritter gives, especially in light of the militarization of U.S. society. Heck, there’s camo everywhere in the U S of A these days. Lots of rah-rah. So it’s all for show? To keep the U.S. populace worried and cowed? [Quelle surprise.] It’s hard to walk around “thanking people for their service” when it turns out that there’s nobody there.

    The map of Ukraine is enlightening because it reflects the mess that borders in Central Europe are, with their vague and not so vague signaling of displacements and genocides. That tail hanging off Odessa was for many years part of Moldavia and Romania. It’s a prize of war. So is that mountainous region in the west that used to belong to Czechoslovakia.

    It’s hard for Americans to complain about Crimea when they don’t have the history.

    All in all, though, this “war” looks like the Anglo-American echo chamber malfunctioning again. That doesn’t mean that people won’t be massacred. Think back to the mess these same elites made in disassembling Yugoslavia. Think about how gratuitous that historical event was. A minor power reduced to Kosova and Montenegro.

    1. Samuel Conner

      > It’s a prize of war.

      Patrick Armstrong recently pointed out that this is true of … Galicia too.

      (well, a prize of ‘diplomacy’, I suppose. Russia ‘inherited’ it, per their treaty with AH, after the Nazis collapsed the Polish State.)

      PA made the tart observation that Joseph Vissarionovich’s decision to assign Galicia to the Ukrainian SSR rather than returning it to Poland was a decision that would have profound consequences.

      2014 would have looked very different had Galicia been returned to its 1939 borders after the War.

      1. Samuel Conner

        The thought occurs that “Crimea should go back to Ukraine” could elicit the comeback — ‘on the same reasoning, Galicia should go back to Poland’.

        A Ukraine without Galicia would be much more pro-Russia than the current polity, and would be much less inclined to join NATO.

        I wonder if this is a conceivable resolution to the current crisis.

    2. Kouros

      Actually that “tail” was part of Moldova (Eastern part of Moldova; the western part is with Romania) and was given to Ukraine same as Crimea, in 1950s in an administrative move.

  18. Socal Rhino

    I think a more interesting question is whether Russia is drawing a firm line with their written demands to the US and draft treaties, and if yes, what actions might they take to convince the US to stand off. Impossible to know in the fog of info war, but I’ve read suggestions that an attack on Ukraine is probably the least likely option. Something that the US would find convincing while minimizing the risk of escalation to nuclear weapons?

    1. Boomheist

      There are rumors Russia can disable the Aegis communication system used by naval vessels. If that is so, one thing that would send a very very clear message to the neocons and MIC without necessarily ever becoming known publicly would be to simple blank out ever UJS naval vessel in the Black Sea for say, one hour, and then, a day later, three hours…..the US would get the point, I think….hope…

  19. TimmyB

    While the claims that (1) Russia is massing troops on the Ukraine border and (2) that Russia plans to invade Ukraine are fictions created by the US government and not to be believed, there is absolutely nothing the US or NATO could do to prevent such an invasion. We do not have the military capacity to win a land war in Europe against Russia.

    We are a paper tiger. We have lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We, like Israel, have become used to fighting lightly armed natives trying to stop a military occupation of their homelands. Russia has been practicing to fight actual wars. They are a much, much superior military force that Iraq ever was. It is incredibly stupid for us to keep poking the Russian bear to engage in a fight that we will lose.

  20. VietnamVet

    This is all about energy. Europe needs Russian natural gas. Russia has stopped supplying Europe’s spot market only fulfilling its long-term contracts. This has shot up the cost of energy. When Germany signs the long-term contracts to open NORD Stream 2, it pulls the EU into the Chinese – Russian orbit. Instead, the US/UK is trying to provoke the Kremlin into making mistakes. The Western Empire wants to destabilize Russia and manage its energy for its benefit — to be the Russian oligarchs’ bankers. Also, this is a “wag the dog” operation at home to hide the fact that the USA is a failed state unable to protect or serve its citizens. For God’s Sake, the neoliberal western oligarchs are so stupidly arrogant that they may provoke a revolt in Canada.

    As the Joint Chief said a war with Russia in Ukraine would be horrific. The mercenary US Army can only operate with air superiority. NATO trying to obtain it on Russia’s border or the sinking of US naval ships in the Black Sea is sure to ignite a nuclear exchange.

    1. Keith McClary

      Also, Russia has stopped export of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which is made from natural gas and air.

  21. Gulag

    Latest from Michael Kofman, authority on Russian military formations and operations.

    “Current military situation, notable increases in Russian force posture in Crimea, growing number of forces in Belarus (manned formations), personnel beginning to arrive at some pre-deployed units, airborne units increasingly deploying as well, more BTGs on way.”

    He seems to believe that most dangerous time will be in the next few weeks, where he believes Russian military will have everything in place to launch a large military operation, if they so choose. He also has a major caveat–“assuming that Russia will not launch what he labels as a rolling start.”

  22. Andrew

    Defend Ukraine? Heck no, my undisclosed sources say were going mount a big offensive drive to the big bend in the Don river, meet up with our Romanian allies and thence proceed to occupy Volgograd. After comfortably wintering over in that city we will then divide our forces, one group goes south to take Baku and the other half sweeps around the Caspian sea to take out Iran from the North side. They will never see it coming.

    1. Douglas


      That’s quite a cut-up, like declaring to the world: ‘Heads-up — we’ve noted all who’ve claimed incredible integration of what are essentially versions of “all politics is local” weapons systems and via ‘acts of phantasy’ have defeated EVERY scenario of “shit happens”, like the “ghost dances” of those S-400 techs the Turk drones took out in the infamous Syria video, only realizing at the VERY last moment the imperfect signals of bogies “somewhere” .. were above & behind them.

      The “imperfect signals” here being claims by “others” western nukes are ready to fly pre-western invasion ANY SECOND NOW … in Kaliningrad, or bared-flank .. eastern Siberia!

      Awesome humor, bring more! :)

      Oh, forgot, whom was prepared to invade .. whom?

  23. Glen

    Somehow I feel that all the DC elites can do is create an incident where US soldiers get killed.

    Remember the Maine!

  24. Charles Yaker

    for what it’s worth I have advised my grandchildren to learn Chinese. One an 82nd Airborne Afghanistan vet has taken me up on it.

  25. David

    As I pointed out yesterday, the obvious answer to this question is “no”, for all that it might cause surprise in Washington. There are certainly areas (as PK says) where Russian technology is behind that of the West, but this was always so, and the Russians have almost certainly inherited the Soviet approach, based on playing to their strengths. One of those has always been a very powerful air defence system, going well beyond manned interceptors. Moreover, even if Russian planes are fewer and less capable than those of the US, the latter need bases, hardened aircraft shelters (does Ukraine have any?), highly sophisticated maintenance and special equipment and a runway with no holes or bomb damage in it. (It’s not clear to me how the F35, for example, would react to such a messy combat environment.) And since it’s hardly likely that the US would try to attack targets within Russia itself, Russian forces would have effective sanctuary.

    But perhaps that’s not the really interesting question. That question seems to me how the US will react once it’s clear that the Russians have established a de facto sphere of interest in Eastern Europe, and the US is not welcome there. This will be an awfully hard pill to swallow, but there’s no alternative. And the amusing thing is that the Russians don’t actually need to do anything: they just need to show (as they have) that if they did decide to do something, the US would be unable to respond effectively.

    1. No it was not, apparently

      Well, they showed [U.S. inability to respond effectively] twice already – in Gruzia and again in eastern Ukraine and it got no one in the west to start listening.

      And it also seems we were at the brink of an all out nuclear war in the early summer of 2014 (regardless of how no-one will admit or even hint toward admitting this), with tensions de-escalating only after Russians publicly tested a SLBM launched from a “Delta IV” boomer to show the triad’s sea arm was still operational (including the old Soviet components).

      Given the broad publicity of the “new and advanced” strategic capabilities, it’s not clear to me as to why they choose to poke the bear in the eye again – maybe Olympic games in China really bother them this much, but then they are playing Nuclear Roulette with the planet just to drown out the positive sport media, which is borderline insane since the US holds massive soft power advantage.


      Also, on a lighter note, I’d like to point out that the US air forces regularly train in the use of highways as impromptu airstrips; in a real shooting war there would be no airports after a few hours (and the F-35, being a veritable beauty queen, is but one of many air systems, and not a very numerous one at this time, not yet anyway).

  26. Douglas

    ” … the gauntlet Biden is throwing down?”

    In hoping “Mr. GRU” chimes-in with talking point reminders like .. “This is not about socialism.”, i’ll begin by asking if objections to nuke missiles so close is hypocritical, as look what a simple search for “supplying Kaliningrad” yielded:

    In 2018 Russia DECLARED it had positioned Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Iskanders are nuke-capable.

    “Peculiar” would be a Vlad that asked Kaliningrad’s neighbors to “forget” the enclave had become “bristling with weapons”, as if the paranoid expected an imminent invasion …

    As if received in a ‘premonition’, .. “How would you in Ireland feel, if a Russian military base appeared in, say, Scotland?” says Alla Ivanova, the minister in charge of Kaliningrad’s agency for international and inter-regional affairs.” Said in 2004, and now we “find” Russian wargames in Ireland’s Economic Exclusionary Zobe, live-fire exercises?

    “Someone” is ‘pushing buttons’ as the lingo has it.

  27. Dave in Austin

    When I read today’s comments I was reminded of what I ask when people I know speculate on “What we must do in the Ukraine.” I just ask: “Well, if it happens, and we re-institute the draft, will vaccines be mandatory, will we jail people who refuse the vaccines, will we draft girls for combat, will there be college deferments and will we shut down international connections to our internet to prevent sabotage? That usually gets the subject changed.

    As my friend who writes professionally about the military says: “The folks cheering the Pearl Harbor bombing in Tokyo didn’t expect their daughters would be sleeping with American GIs in five years.”

    We’ve had 75 years of peace… meaning no serious confrontation between the great powers. Microchips have replaced tubes; the kamikazes go 1,500 MPH and the pilots are in Arizona office buildings using software made in Tallinn; computer science kids can play war by shutting down electrical systems and by changing all the stoplights to green in Manhattan or Moscow during rush hour- either on their own or under orders from… somebody.

    Recon has gone from two-day old photos to satellites that read license plates and thousand pound glide bombs that make a real mess of the license plate, the driver and anybody within 100 feet of the driver. And don’t be sure that the license plates will not say “Virginia is for Lovers” and be parked on the third level of a parking lot at the Pentagon City Mall where you’re shopping for lamb chops.

    Even the professionals I know are running in the dark and not very confident. Technology has moved on and so has war. Those nice arrows on the map of the Ukraine may prevail. Or they may be like the arrows in Iraq, Afghanistan and the first winter in Korea as we approached the Yalu River. Will my ECM pod kill your ECM pod or vice versa? All I know for sure is that the Ukraine is 150 miles from Moscow and 6,000 miles from Washington. And nobody that I know who lives between Galway and the Urals thinks war is a reasonable idea while everybody in the US seems filled with wishful speculation one-way-or-the-other and is much more sure of the outcome than I am.

  28. Michael K

    Ukraine is not of vital interest to the U.S. It is simply a pawn in the personal battle between Putin, who is a jerk, and Biden, who can’t let go of a grudge.

    I’m tired of Biden playing Putin’s game with no good outcome possible. Biden will certainly get the political outcome he deserves. Putin? In an unjust world, he may just get away with bad behavior.


  29. Susan the other

    That recent photo op (maybe 3 days ago) of Lavrov and Blinken was hilarious. Lavrov sits there like he’s carved in stone with an expression like a father whose patience has finally run out; Blinken looks like he’s suffering from appendicitis, a seriously anxious frown and wide-eyed with apprehension. Says it all. And after a very brief interval of diplomatic tastefulness the announcements started dripping in that Ukraine wasn’t so sure war was a good idea any more; and (from Biden even) that, No, war was not “imminent”. This whole incident begs the question why we pushed Russia to this stance? Who thought such a tactic could work? It’s embarrassing. Cringeworthy. Anybody else remember the still-good-natured Lavrov asking us diplomatically, What are you even doing in Syria? and with an additional jab, We (Russians) aren’t messing around in Venezuela. It was tantamount to Russia telling us that everybody knew what we were up to (imo a big fat energy grab) and that we were being not only absurd, but obvious. So we pushed Russia far beyond their good-natured limits – maybe thinking we could call their bluff. How we thought that I’ll never know – some bad advice from some total dilettantes, possibly desperate for their own bleak future. The bluff was all ours. Gulp, gulp, blink, blink… never mind.

  30. Darthbobber

    Underlying all the bellicose yipping. they’ve made it clear that there’s no intention of defending Ukraine. I believe every NATO government that matters, including ours, has made it pretty explicit

    And the movement of a few thousands of troops around in eastern Europe is nothing more than an aimless shuffling of rooks to no military purpose. (though to hear CBS go on about it you’d think we were building up for the Normandy landings.)

    Of course, since the Ukraine isn’t going to be invaded this matters less than it might.

  31. Boomheist

    Biden is threading a needle here. Part of his bluster is because the neocon anti-Russian position as articulated by Vindeman and Hill and others is bipartisan PMC MIC dogma and creed, held by all, but surely an even bigger part is that if Biden does not bluster the Republicans will howl he is being weak and a disaster just like they say he was in Afghaniostan. The challenge here is how to get Biden to climb back down without positioning himself as a weakling, because, while some Trumpies like Russia, the Serious Adult Republicans See the Threat. The truth is, in this one, Tucker Carlson is absolutely right, and whenever you see screeds about Carlson and others parroting Russian propaganda, what you are really seeing is the refusal to buy into the west’s propaganda.

    Imagine if Russia moved missiles into Canada or Mexico. What would our reaction be? Russia is exactly the same.

    This all seems a little like suddenly claiming Russia is massing troops to invade whereas those troops have been there for years in long established Russian bases. It’s a little like Canada panicking because the US has 50,000 troops only 80 miles south at Fort Lewis and a fleet of nuclear missile subs 40 miles away in Bangor!!!! Imminent invasion!!!

    This would be laughable if it weren’t so damn serious. We have exposed ourselves as stupid and proudly ignorant with all these culture wars and response to covid, and now we are exposing ourselves as a puffed up but brittle military juggernaught. This is close to terrifying, actually.

  32. Cesar Jeopardy

    After spending a lot of time at one blog trying to convince people that Ukraine should not be admitted to NATO and could be a peaceful buffer state, trading with both Russia and the West, and then reading NY Times comments regarding new possibly fabricated anti-Russian “evidence” by our intelligence agencies, I’m convinced that Americans do want war with Russia. They don’t want to get personally involved, but a nice war in Eastern Europe from which the U.S. will profit and about which they can mindlessly pontificate, would do nicely. All these commenters are “experts” on Russia/Ukraine and military matters. And if you disagree with them, you are met with a stream of expletives. I give up. American exceptionalism and infallibility at its worst!

    What if Russia, Putin, and even the Russian people sees this as an existential threat to their nation’s existence? Might they launch nuclear weapons to attack the U.S. and possibly Europe? What do they have to lose? This whole thing strikes me as very dangerous. All because the U.S., with Biden’s involvement, overthrew the Yanukovych government.

    1. orlbucfan

      Which Americans want war with Russia, or war, period? I sure don’t. And neither do a lot of fellow Americans who read and support this site! I am sick of the MICC and have been my whole life. Our poor country is an infrastructure disaster area for starters. We are fighting a virus family that has been heavily politicized so getting reliable information is a joke. War, good god, what is it good for? (c/o Edwin Starr).

  33. David in Santa Cruz

    Can’t believe that people here are discussing the unthinkable. War between NATO and Russia is beyond stupid. All of the comments pretending to analyze the merits of various weapons ignore the basic premise of Ritter as propounded by Neuberger: this is all an exercise in demonstrating the corruption, impotence, and irrelevance of U.S. diplomacy and the U.S. leadership. The Russian Federation has already “won” the war.

    “Ukraine” is hardly a nation-state. During and after World War 2 the region was subject to a series of pogroms, ethnic cleansings, and mass resettlements which would give nightmares if properly understood by Americans. For most of my adult life, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Sebastopol, and Chernobyl were considered “Russian.” However, most of the Russians living there today were apparently happy to leave the USSR and seemingly would like to join the rest of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in emigrating to Western Europe. They don’t need “saving” by Team America: World Police any more that the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Lybians, or the Syrians did.

    War-mongering is simply a profit center for the funders of the Clinton-controlled DNC, who seem hell-bent on making America a pariah-state on par with North Korea.

  34. Rob Whitman

    I was shocked at the number of posts on this. There are, in my mind, only two basic responses to this question.

    1. HaHaHaHaha!

    2. uh, no.

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