I’m pessimistic. I’m unable to imagine how the world can stop Vladimir Putin from annexing all or almost all of the states that used to compose the old Soviet Uni0n by using the ploy of protecting “Russian speakers” and people with Russian blood, who exist in all of those countries.
No Russian tanks will roll in. No bombers or fighters based in Russia will attack. No Russian troops will invade. Rather, it will be done in the style of asymmetrical warfare pioneered in modern times by Mao Tse Tung. Insurgency warfare.
The sad fact about countering insurgencies is that it can take anywhere from hundreds to millions of times the resources (in dollars) to counter them. Only a few countries, and perhaps only the United States in today’s world, have the economic resources to even attempt a counter-insurgency, and with very little prospect of success.
In an asymmetrical war, a handful of soldiers (frequently called “rebels” or “insurgents”) oppose a well-financed, well-equipped professional military. Unfortunately, professional militaries are most effective in battlefield situations where the sheer volume and quality of soldiers and hardware can play a huge role in the outcome.
Modern armies seem almost helpless to counter insurgencies. Sure, they can go house-to-house hunting down insurgents, assuming they can identify them. But since insurgents blend into the population, the soldiers will make many mistakes. Each mistake may recruit one, two, or three people to become—or at least to sympathize with—the insurgents. This makes the old school military lose the PR war for the hearts and minds of the uncommitted public in the insurgents’ area.
Often, the ways of countering high-tech military weapons are breathtakingly cheap by comparison. This goes back to medieval times when commoners found themselves in opposition to horse-mounted armored knights. A charge by a group of knights was, for a while, the end of the story. Until, that is, someone had the bright idea to sharpen a long pole. When the knights charged, the commoner would plant the blunt end of the pole in the ground, then when the mounted knight charged, the sharp end went into the horse, the knight fell off the horse, and was easily dispatched with a club of some sort.
In modern times, a torpedo or missile costing perhaps several hundred thousand or a million dollars can sink a destroyer costing almost a billion dollars. Antitank weapons cost far less than tanks, and while it may take several hits for such weapons to find a sweet spot that KO’s the tank, they will still cost far less than the tank.
When it’s insurgent against a professional soldier, it’s much the same. It costs a lot to train and arm a soldier. Here’s an exchange from a recent congressional hearing:
Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.
During a budget hearing today on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, asked Department of Defense leaders, “What is the cost per soldier, to maintain a soldier for a year in Afghanistan?” Under Secretary Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, responded “Right now about $850,000 per soldier.”
Conrad seemed shocked at the number.
“That kind of takes my breath away, when you tell me it’s $850,000,” Conrad said
A Pentagon spokesman later said a more accurate figure is $815,000 a year. (source)
What we’ve seen in the Crimea is the recipe for how the USSR will rise again, no longer Communist, and under the name Russia, not The Soviet Union.
If there’s a way to stop Putin, I don’t see it in so-called “sanctions,” especially since so much of Europe and Asia is dependent on Russian goods and natural resources.
Recently, the downing of a commercial airliner with almost 300 innocents aboard, about a third of them children, has some people thinking that things have finally gone too far and that Putin will have to pull in his horns. That may be true, but only for a while.
Because he has a recipe that works. Whether speaking of the old or the new Russia, it has always excelled at disinformation. It will weather the storm of the downed Malaysian airliner and in a year or two, that will be the vaguest of memories for most of us. And Putin isn’t really the problem. It’s likely that, once Putin is gone, the new leadership will also want to bring back the glory days when Russia had a virtual empire in Central and Eastern Europe.