Tag: Russian military

Before they disappear into the ether

I’ve been fairly prolific lately. This state of affairs stems, in part, from what I’ve been working on for the last couple days: copy editing page proofs, which amounts to one of the dullest things I’ve done in furtherance of my career. Ever.

Moreover, as I’m sure is the case for at least some of our readers, my mind has been colonized by two pressing developments: the final innings of the 2008 US Presidential campaign and the potential collapse of the neoliberal economic order. Both are doing their part to tap into my “outrage” receptors, and blogging seems to be the only effective way to prevent total overload.

But all of this has not been without cost.

As I ramp up production of short posts of varrying quality, I push some excellent work by the rest of the Duck crew towards the internet ether’s edge. I’ve also neglected to mention some important developments related to my more usual topics. So, without further to do, here are just a few posts at the Duck that, if you’ve missed, you should check out. I’ll even throw in an article or so that I was going to blog about but didn’t (or, at least, haven’t yet).

1. Peter’s “Barak Obama and the Renewal of American Hegemony.”

2. Charli’s mind altering Measuring Linguistic Norms” and her traffic generating “Robot Soldiers v. Autonomous Weapons: Why It Matters.”

3. Rodger’s “al Qaeda’s electioneering.” I should note that Rodger scooped the blogsplosive Five Thirty Eight. Take that, Nate Silver.

Now, onto articles external to the Duck…

1. NATO will now target opium production in Afghanistan. On the one hand, they need to do something. The Taleban extract large rents from the trade. On the other hand, this kind of interdiction has a lousy track record. It might make more sense to just buy up the crop at market price, and thereby cut the Taleban out.

2. Joshua Foust has a great post on the Shindand Bombing. Go read it.

3. Fred Weir of The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece on the fallout of Russia’s military showing in Georgia. Although the Russians crushed the Georgians, they’re not particularly happy about their performance.

“Russia has changed a lot lately, and the spirit in the country is different from what it used to be,” says Lt. Gen. (Ret) Gennady Yevstasyev, a senior adviser to the PIR Center, an independent security think tank in Moscow. “The public will now support major military reform, even if it entails financial hardship. Many things that were stalemated for years will now move forward.”

Already, Russian defense budgets are set to leap next year to a post-Soviet record of over $50 billion. Similar jumps are projected for coming years as well.

The fresh increases, announced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in late September, are in addition to a special $200-billion procurement program aimed at restoring the country’s degraded strategic forces.

Mr. Arbatov argues that Russia’s military problems run deeper than just two decades of neglect. “There is no political leadership over military organization. Nor is there any democratic control. The system needs to be changed,” he says.

Russian forces entering South Ossetia lacked even basic intelligence regarding Georgian artillery positions and troop deployments, which led several of their leading units into costly ambushes. In one surprise attack, the 58th Army’s senior commander, Gen. Anatoly Khrulyev, was badly wounded and had to be evacuated.

In a desperate effort to get information, the Russians sent an electronic reconnaissance version of the Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bomber over the battlefield and it got shot down. In all, Russia lost four planes, including three Sukhoi Su-25 attack fighters to unexpectedly effective Georgian air defenses. Some Russian commanders reported using cellphones to communicate with their units when their own radios failed.

Additionally, the tanks deployed by the Russian Army did not have night sights for their guns, and the reactive armor designed to protect them from Georgian antitank weapons proved unreliable.

But of particular interest to me were Andrei Klimov’s comments about NATO and NATO expansion.

Moscow does not feel any immediate threat from the West, say military analysts, despite increased tensions over US missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe and the projected expansion of NATO into the former Soviet Union.

“We regard NATO as a dangerous organization, but right now it’s not so strong,” says Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma’s international affairs committee. “The problem is that NATO will become more dangerous if it includes countries like Georgia and Ukraine. In the cold war, when only the US and Western countries were in NATO, it was stable and predictable. We have enough resources to defend ourselves at present, but in the future we will need to think about this.”

I suppose some of my colleagues would code Russian behavior as “not balancing.” But I think the case is getting more and more difficult to make that some of the world is not pushing back.


Threat inflation!

Rob Farley suggests that the Patterson school can deter Fletcher and the School of Foreign Service by acquiring some new Russian blow-up sex toys “S-300 SAMs, along with a couple of inflatable Su-27s and maybe a Hind or two.”

Unfortunately for Rob, Georgetown no longer has an active “Team B”, and so we are unlikely to respond by invading the University of Kentucky, dismantling its basketball team, and supporting its College of Agriculture‘s aspiration for independence.

But I will say that these new systems bring back fond of memories of undermanned divisions and other Soviet Russian whatever threats from the 1970s and 1980s.


The “lessons” of Kosovo?

Via email: according to Simon Saradzhyan of the Moscow Times, the Russia-Georgia War revealed the obsolescence of major aspects of the Russian military machine;

The technical sophistication of the Russian forces turned out to be inferior in comparison with the Georgian military. While Georgia’s armed forces operated Soviet-era T-72 tanks and Su-25 attack planes, both were upgraded with equipment such as night-vision systems to make them technologically superior to similar models operated by the Russian Ground Forces, said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

“The Russian forces had to operate in an environment of technical inferiority,” Makiyenko said.

Another area where the Russian military appeared to have lagged behind the Georgian armed forces was in electronic warfare, said Anatoly Tsyganok, a retired army commando and independent military expert.

The Georgian forces were also well-trained, with many of them drilled by U.S. and Israeli advisers.

These factors helped the Georgian military easily take the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, located in a basin, after more than 10 hours of intensive air strikes and artillery fire on Aug. 7. The shelling of the city was probably carried out with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for targeting — a capability that Russia’s armed forces have yet to acquire.

This dovetails with other scattered reports of Russian officers warning against undue criticism of the Georgian military (but keep in mind that they don’t want to diminish their victory).

So why did the Russians prevail? Tsyganok agrees with many a puzzled blogger that the Georgians dropped the ball in not doing something to seal off the Roksky Tunnel, hut also lists a number of other reaons:

The Georgian attack failed because President Mikheil Saakashvili and the rest of Georgia’s leadership miscalculated the speed of Russia’s intervention, defense analysts said. Tbilisi also underestimated the South Ossetian paramilitary’s determination to resist the conquest and overestimated the Georgian forces’ resolve to fight in the face of fierce resistance. The Georgian military also failed to take advantage of the fact that Russian reinforcements had to arrive via the Roksky Tunnel and mountain passes, which are easier to block than roads on flat terrain.

Another reason the Georgians lost was because the Russian military used knowledge gleaned from past conflicts, including the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and its own reconquest of Chechnya. “Russia has learned the lessons taught by NATO in Yugoslavia, immediately initiating a bombing campaign against Georgia’s air bases and other military facilities,” Tsyganok said

So now I’m paging Rob Farley for his expert opinion (I mostly do “soft” security rather than the “guns and bombs” stuff).


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