16 thoughts on “The Nightmare Of 1914”

  1. There is no excuse for Putin’s action, but there is an explanation that’s similar to one that applied to his forbears of 1914: Putin chose to attack before the West had the opportunity to arm Ukraine with sophisticated weapons that would raise the future cost of military action.

    And that’s where the Russian military and intelligence systems screwed up. Ukraine had already surpassed the ability of the Russia military to defeat it in a conventional and limited war, and the Russians didn’t realize that. So like Hitler invading Russia without realizing how many T-34s he would face, the Russian army is getting picked apart in a type of war it cannot possibly win, pursuing a goal that cannot be achieved (making Ukrainians obedient and loyal to Moscow).

    The good news is that, unlike 1914, the two sides aren’t almost evenly matched. It’s been two weeks and the Russian army, which has the bulk of its available forces fully committed to the invasion, has still failed to take major cities that are just 15 miles from the Russian border. If it is incapable of winning a conventional war against a non-NATO country on its own border, one that uses mostly Soviet equipment and doesn’t have significant air power, it cannot remotely hope to defeat NATO countries. When the big test came, Russia proved to be just a larger version of Saddam’s army.

    That said, we are witnessing another change in warfare. The ubiquity of anti-tank missiles and MANPADs is virtually eliminating the battlefield utility of armor and airborne or motorized transport for deep operations. I don’t know if infantry in trenches and dugouts could make a comeback, due to smart mortars and similar technology, but it certainly looks like future wars might look more like Korea than Vietnam, with tenuous supply lines feeding material to a relatively static front line, where both sides pound away at each other as best they can.

  2. OK. Maybe not a popular opinion but…If all that Putin wants is assurance that NATO will not be able to attack Moscow from a close border then, if he controls Ukraine in terms of not running the country but preventing its government from governing Ukraine and hence Ukraine being able to be sovereign then he is in a position to offer a deal that satisfies his security goals.

    Here’s the deal that he offers:
    – Guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO.
    – Here is a list of strategic weapons that Ukraine will never be allowed.
    – Allow our inspectors to ensure that the deal is being complied with.
    – And remove all of those sanctions.

    Give us that and we’ll leave immediately.

    Will the governments of the world refuse the offer and allow Russia to militarily control Ukraine indefinitely? And if they accept and Russia pulls back, Ukraine gets back into a much better state of things. Putin gets to declare victory of achieving his goals. And the security situation of Europe improves because the Ukraine question is taken off of the table.

    Putin isn’t guaranteed to lose. Most everyone agrees that Russia can eventually militarily control Ukraine. If he surrounds the cities and then offers the deal and it is refused, then whose fault is it when the cities are shelled and taken?

    1. At this point, Russia is proving one of the largest suppliers of weapons and scrap metal to Ukraine. Ukraine’s terms should be for the Russian forces to abandon their arms in place and start walking back home. I’d be generous and offer to provide the troops food and water along their journey.

      1. Seriously, could Ukraine offer terms of defection by Russian soldiers that they would be carried off to, say, Poland and then set free?

        I heard of such an offer, but the soldier defecting would have to spend time in a Ukranian prison “for the duration” until being set free with the monetary reward?

        Yeah, yeah, like a Russian soldier accepting that offer could return to Russia and in turn to the fight, like that would ever happen. The surrendering prisoner turned POW accepting this parole from the enemy would be regarded as a traitor and harsh punishment, even in modern Russia let alone Soviet Russia? That someone who escaped the Russian army would want to go back?

        I am saying there is a historical precedent. In the Korean War, a bounty was offered if a MiG pilot would defect, and there was one North Korean who acted on the offer, but it was believed that this policy cleansed the skies of Russian MiG pilots, WW-II fighter veterans who were the talented MiG pilots.

        US pilots experienced that their MiG-pilot adversaries were all over the map in skill level and maybe apart from intelligence officers, did not connect the dots to a portion of the MiGs having those Russian WW-II veteran pilots.

    2. I don’t think Russia has the troop numbers to do much more than get out. In Vietnam the US, ARVN, and others had about 1.3 million troops to defend against a country of 37 million (about the same population size as Afghanistan). Not to conquer and occupy, but just to stay stuck in a quagmire. That a 27:1 enemy population to allied soldier ratio.

      When the Russians were in Afghanistan, where they already held the major cities because they were invited in and Kabul is not like the rural areas, the ratio of population to soldiers (both Russian and Afghan gov’t) was 67:1. They lost.

      In WW-II, occupied population to German occupier ratios were 80:1 in Holland and France and 19:1 in Norway.

      Putin likely has about 170,000 soldiers, considering his high casualties, which would be an enemy population to occupier ratio of 230:1. That’s a third of what would be adequate even if the Ukrainians weren’t overtly hostile. It’s the same ratio you’d have for the North Korean army trying to invade and occupy the United States.

      He shouldn’t have gone in with less than a million men, but he apparently didn’t think it would be a real war. To take a heavily defended city like Kiev in street-to-street fighting, WW-II numbers from both the US and Soviet experience would say he needs about 2 million men for the assault. He doesn’t have a tenth of that in country, and the forces he does have a strung out all over the place.

    3. Didn’t Russia promise to never invade Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up nukes? On what basis would Ukrainians believe any Russian promises now?

      1. Russia pledged to ‘respect’ Ukrainian sovereignty, but obviously that treaty doesn’t apply to a hostile takeover by ‘Nazis’, thus de-facto making Ukraine a ‘hostile power’ in need of ‘liberation’.

        In realpolitik, it could be a banner year for US agricultural exports. Wheat is easy to plant, doesn’t need the kind of fertilization that corn and soybeans need and you get an early crop in the Midwest. Harvest is usually around the July time-frame. Keeping costs down during the hyper-inflated fuel bubble with some cash coming in early could be a major relief to our Ag economy. Sewing summer wheat could commence in just another week or two if not too wet in the fields.


  3. The Ukrainians, like the Poles live right next door to Putin’s state and it seems that the people from both would rather die than lose their future like they have seen happen to the Russian people. The Ukrainians believe in a better future like we in the US believed for a long time.

  4. Saying that Putin is afraid of NATO’s missiles in the same way that the US was afraid of Cuban missiles is absolutely false.

    NATO has never invaded anywhere were a war wasn’t already underway. The soviet Union had a history of gobbling up countries.

    I say immediately admit Ukraine to NATO. Immediately fill Ukrainian airspace with modern fighters. Don’t put nukes there – it is a dumb place to put nukes anyway, subs are far more effective for the possible usages NATO considers.

    1. I noticed in the story the following claim:

      Vladimir Putin acted wickedly, and illegally, by invading Ukraine, but also rationally: Russia has an existential interest in keeping NATO away from his border.

      What existential interest? I think this dovetails nicely with David’s points. There’s no reason for a rational Russian actor to be concerned about NATO expansion. Consider this alternate history: Russia becomes a nice neighbor in the 1990s and *encourages* NATO expansion with an eye to joining NATO when everyone feels comfortable with Russia’s presence in NATO. That happens by 2020.

      Since there is no Russian threat to NATO, by 2020 NATO has devolved into another military industrial complex club. Russia even gets military equipment through the alliance. More importantly, it gets integrated better into the European economy and even sees a bit of net immigration due to its improved economy.

      1. it gets integrated better into the European economy .

        Precisely the reason Putin uses to justify his invasion. Full integration of the Russian economy cannot happen without the collapse of the oligarchy. Russia is a mafia-state of oligarchs. Key the music from The Godfather. That cannot happen in the Rodina. Only the entrenched interests may rule. Putin will not be a party to its collapse. For him, there are no thinkable alternatives.

      2. “There’s no reason for a rational Russian actor to be concerned about NATO expansion. ”

        There is though.

        But I’m sure the reasoning for why Putin is there is far more complex than this one thing.

  5. Perhaps someone should issue a public commission: $1B dollars and blanket immunity for the confirmed kill of any world leader that authorizes and carries out the first use of nuclear weapons.

    Putin would probably understand that…

    1. If Putin was in extremely ill health, what’s to keep him from making a pact with one of his close confidants or otherwise next-in-line whereby Putin gets to fire nukes, his close friend gets to kill him, and his close friend collects on the bounty?

      Immediate ascension up the ranks in the vacuum of Putin’s exit from power plus another Billion to pad your already large bank account, and you’re the guy who killed Putin, with blanket immunity to boot.

  6. Interesting to see formerly centrist site Quillette is now headlining a paywalled article titled “Ukraine and the Pro-Putin Right.” It’s like the Democrats came up with a divide and conquer strategy or something…

Comments are closed.