Imagine a huge red button, a big shiny thing that just sits there waiting to be pushed, every time you push it there is a chance that the third world war starts. Sensible people wouldn’t go near it, but to the children, it’s so big and red they can’t help themselves, writing do not push is like daring them to do just that.
Now imagine that it’s not a big red button, its Eastern Europe.
Silly. Nope. Day by day people are pushing that red button and sooner or later, probably sooner, it’s going to be pushed too far and them we get to watch as a war starts between Russia and NATO.
NATO forces have, for the last two weeks, been conducting a large scale training operation involving the military forces of seventeen countries and some 6000 men and women plus hundreds of observers and advisors.
This also includes fifty warships along with a host of support vessels, transports and landing craft of every type. This is called Baltop and has been carried out in north eastern Poland and culminated with a training operation to simulate invading someone by sea, marines storming ashore in landing craft under the guns and missiles of a large fleet.
BALTic OPeration, subtle. NOT.
A training operation, combining the forces of many NATO members to stage a sea borne assault, all held within spitting distance of Russian soil and barely a hundred miles from one of Russia’s most important naval bases. Again a massive lack of subtlety. You don’t stage assaults on other peoples countries by storming their beaches as a defensive response, that’s what they call attacking someone and invading them. You would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to miss the blatant threat of training troops to attack someone else’s coast on the border of that someone else and close enough to the likely target of such an attack to drive there in under two hours.
As far as provocation and threat goes this one is really pissing in the other guys cooking fire.
NATO fleet units supporting the invasion training are in international waters and well within missile range of Kaliningrad. A major port, one of the most important Russian military bases and NATO are sailing around right next door conducting a war game and missile drills. Imagine the response if the Russian fleet arrives off the coast of Scotland and started to conduct fleet training and missile drills in international waters next to Faslane. Britain and NATO would have kittens and Britain would send both war ships, three submarines and a dozen warplanes to buzz the Russians till they went away.
That is basically what NATO is doing here and then they are complaining about Russian over reaction.
This whole situation is utter madness.
Go back a few decades to the end of the Cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The west watched the big old bear fall apart and crawl into its cave and have been treating it with contempt ever since.
That contempt is visible week by week, NATO seem to think that Russia and Putin are incapable of responding or proving to be a serious threat so they keep provoking them both, they keep pushing that big red button, confident that they can handle anything that happens because the old bear is toothless.
NATO talks about stationing weapons caches in Eastern Europe, at first they were talking about Poland and the three Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia but then it became, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary as well. This was reported to be the weapons and equipment for an advanced unit of one hundred and fifty men in the three Baltic states and four hundred and fifty on Poland but now its main battle tanks, artillery, battalion level units, an increase in the garrisons in the Baltic states and probably a partridge in a pear tree.
NATO is a military alliance representing nations with a total population of getting towards a billion people when you count Turkey. Russia is what, well under two hundred million these days. Defence spending is equally unbalanced even allowing for the lower spend of most of the NATO members but with the US in the mix NATO represents a overwhelming size and power.
Go back to the fifties and sixties if you can remember back that far, when it was the west and NATO that was fearful of the numberless hordes of commies to the East. NATO tactics involved, do this, do that, launch a nuke. Tactical nuclear weapons were an integral part of NATO defence plans and it was expected that they were an Integral part of Russian attack plans.
Now look at today, Russia is faced by a vastly superior force in terms of numbers and spending, it’s response to this is to upgrade and enhance its nuclear arsenal. NATO is conducting large scale training operations and talking about stationing ever larger stockpiles of weapons on Russia’s borders and then complains that Russia is Sabre Rattling by reporting it’s nuclear upgrades to the world.
NATO and the WEST are technologically advanced nations with technically advanced armed forces and they are putting a lot of money into producing even more advanced military systems. But this breaks down into two parts, the first and by far the largest are the boondoggle projects, the blue sky stuff that is years behind target, hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and unlikely to be delivered for years, in short they are cash cows for the big defence corporations.
The other type is the many small things being designed and rushed into production for the kind of war that NATO is fighting and expects to be fighting for years to come. Offensive and defensive systems for use against insurgents, terrorists, irregulars, basically the Middle East and every third world country the US is currently bombing or active in.
The main western MBT’s were designed thirty years ago to face the Soviet Union in Germany, electronics and drives have been upgraded since then but they are basically the same sort of armoured vehicles their fathers and grandfathers sat in waiting for the Soviet tank divisions to roll across the borders.
These are supported by large numbers of tracked and lately wheeled infantry vehicles, the wheels coming to prominence because of reduced logistics when facing insurgent forces. NATO boasts a significant number of drones, missiles and other anti tank weapons but isn’t well defended again such weapons coming the other way. The heavy armour of the tanks isn’t so strong against belly or top deck attacks which are a common part of modern missile attacks..
The new Russia tanks and systems on the other hand were NOT designed fight a Middle Eastern army, they were designed to face a technologically advanced first world army. Not just face them but survive against them using systems that NATO and the west simply hasn’t begun to field in any numbers.
The Armata T-14 (Russia’s new one) has a completely automatic turret controlled by the crew who are in the main hull, this means a penetrating hit on the turret does not kill the crew and destroy the tank as is the case with the Abrams and Challenger, instead the damaged tank should be able to withdraw and repair. The Russian main gun is extremely capable, remaining a threat despite the upgraded armour on the western tanks.
The crew are inside an armour citadel, an armoured box within the lower hull so they are protected even from hits which penetrate the tank. In addition the Russian tank has a number of defensive systems both active and passive against missiles and drones, sensors to detect incoming attacks, infra red and laser systems to dazzle or blind incoming missiles or drones, even a system to fire at incoming missiles and damage or destroy them before they can hit.
These systems, if reports are accurate, basically reduce the massive NATO arsenal of anti tank weapons to expensive paper weights, sadly for NATO, the Russian anti tank missiles still work just fine.
As much as the western media had a laugh when one of the new Russian tanks broke down at the may day parade preparations it is not a joke, instead it is going to be something extremely difficult to destroy if NATO gets into a shooting war with the bear.
Which would be a problem given that people keep pushing that dammed red button confident that nothing will happen. Until something happens.
NATO appears desperate to justify its existence at a time of shrinking military budgets, but to prove it is needed as a defence against a major threat like Russia it seems to be creating the very threat it says it will protect against.
NATO and Russian military units are facing each other across a border again, the clock has gone back decades and we are living in a new cold war. But this time it is Russia that is looking over its border at the ever encroaching hordes of NATO.
Putin holds onto power through charisma, political strength and a well deserved reputation as a hard man. He can’t afford to blink first, it would be the end of him and probably the end of Russia as an independent nation rather than as a European satrap and oil field.
I asked a few posts ago where the west’s leaders stupid or acting out of malice, looking at this situation the same question comes up. Are the political and military leaders of NATO stupid, do they think Russia will back down and hide back in its cave when they push it far enough?
Russia under Putin is not a friendly nation but nothing Russia has done in the Crimea or Ukraine can possible justify starting the third world war with them, and yet, again and again I see the two sides standing close to each other growling and snarling and like a pair of big dogs seconds away from a fight. It doesn’t matter which dog is doing the provoking and which one thinks it is defending its kennel, the fight will start and it will be savage.
The diplomats and politicians keep repeating that they are sending a clear message to Russia with the weapons stockpiles and training for a seaborne invasion. They are, but I don't think the message the Russians are hearing is the one NATO thinks it is sending.
Putin is a bully but surely there are ways of dealing with him and Russia that don’t involve the third world war.