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Monthly Archives: March 2022

Seizing the initiative in Ukraine and the world

Since the coming holocaust in Ukraine began about 10 days ago the Russians have had the initiative.  It was given to them by the Biden administration and NATO.  No sanctions, unless they invade.  Oil to flow. Gradual imposition of sanctions after the invasion. Military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine after large parts of the country have been destroyed.  Fear that a no-fly zone might cause World War III.

The Russians have exploited this NATO fear of WW III.  They agreed to a humanitarian corridor and then strafed refugees fleeing Ukraine in that corridor.  And the US and NATO did nothing.  The US and NATO continued negotiations with Iran on nuclear material enrichment with reportedly the excess uranium from the agreement going to Russia.  Are we serious?  I will refrain from critiquing whatever the arrangement is going to be, but believe right now we should cease and desist.  We should act as if Russia is upsetting the world order, which it is.

Throughout my education and service as an officer in the Army our national strategy was the containment of the Soviet Union.  I trained a cavalry platoon, a tank battalion, a cavalry squadron and an armored brigade to repel and defeat the Soviet hordes along the east-west German border.  The night the wall came down and the Soviet Union started to implode I was at the National Training Center preparing for the 2d BDE, 1st Infantry Division to attack a Soviet style defense.  I had studied and trained to fight the Soviets for over 25 years.  The strategy of containment had finally caused the desired effect.

At the start of the Cold War in 1947 the US and eventually a large part of the western world adopted what was called the containment strategy.  The essence of the containment strategy was that if the west would contain Soviet expansionism that eventually the USSR would fall from inside.  The containment strategy was initiated by a Foreign Service officer, George F. Kennan. In 1946, while he was Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow, Kennan sent an 8,000-word telegram to the State Department—the now-famous “long telegram”—on the aggressive nature of Stalin’s foreign policy. Kennan, writing as “Mr. X,” published an outline of his philosophy in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs in 1947. His conclusion was that “the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” To that end, he called for countering “Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world” through the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.” Such a policy, Kennan predicted, would “promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Containment provided a conceptual framework for a series of successful initiatives undertaken from 1947 to 1950 to blunt Soviet expansion. The framework of US and NATO strategy was in place for the next 40+ years.

It took a long time and a lot of resources and lives to contain the Soviet Union, but eventually it fell in 1990—43 years after the first containment thinking.  The result was a new world order with many Eastern and South European countries gaining their freedom.  Counter-initiatives to each  Soviet attempt at expansion were generally successful.

With the invasion of Ukraine what is the emerging new world order to look like?  Will it continue to have western nations who are afraid of their shadows or will there be leaders emerge who have sufficient vision to see that they must act now?  The Ukrainians will continue to resist the Russians and the Russians will seek to starve them while they are encapsulated in the destroyed cities of Ukraine.

Let me suggest two actions that might help stop this holocaust in Ukraine and send a strong message to Russia that its ambitious behavior will be met and contained.

  • First, NATO should create a humanitarian no fly zone in Western Ukraine.  In this zone refugees would be free to escape the ravages of the Russian war effort and humanitarian supplies could freely flow to Ukraine.  Military supplies could also move in this no-fly area.  NATO could easily enforce such an area by the positioning of air defense assets along the Polish and Romanian borders.  Air defense aircraft could meet and escort any Russian aircraft that entered the zone out of it.  If necessary, they could be shot down.  Many fear that this would be the beginning of WW III.  Just the opposite should be the case.  NATO would be showing resolve and its humanitarian side.  Russia would violate this at its own risk.  The initiative would have been seized by NATO.
  • Secondly, NATO should seriously consider all of its interactions with Russia.  Most importantly would be the importation of Russian energy and secondly such absurd aberrations as the talks with Iran.  The US could easily become the energy source for Europe.  US liquid natural gas would also be much cleaner than what Europe gets from Russia.  Having denied Russia, the income from energy along with the sanctions it would again be contained except for its relations with China.  Iran would continue to be contained, sorta.

The Sino-Russian axis may survive for a limited period of time, but given the Chinese pragmatism one should expect China to decide fairly quickly that Russia has little to offer it besides energy and is not a wealthy market for its exports.  China would not want to be part of the contained world and would distance itself from Russia.

A new containment strategy that seeks to limit Russian adventurism across the globe should allow NATO and the west to seize and retain the initiative in its dealings with Russia.  Russian historians will remember the containment of the cold war and will be encouraged to advise their leaders that they should not repeat history.

There will be a period of uncertainty and confusion while the new reality settles in.  It is during this period that the West must “hang tough” because if there any seams that the Russians can see they will seek to exploit them.  These tumultuous times will be opposed by the globalists who seek to create a world without boundaries.  They will not appreciate their world view collapsing, but it has. Inherent in the adoption of such a far-reaching strategy is the emergence of leaders who are not wedded to the post-cold war way of doing things.  To save Ukrainian lives in the short term the no-fly zone and total isolation of Russia can be accomplished quickly.  As the elements of this new containment strategy become apparent the Russian re-evaluation will have its beginning.

Taking the initiative in Ukraine and across the globe will save lives and eventually make lives better for populations outside of Russia.  This new containment should have the same result and this cold war should only last for a limited period of time.  The Russian people have experienced a better life and will want it back. 

War crimes in Ukraine

The media has been full of images of apartment houses being attacked, burning buildings and destroyed vehicles.  We have been spared images of all of the murdered civilians in the streets of Ukraine. The Russian generals and President Putin have been accused of war crimes because of their attacks on Ukrainian civilians. 

war crime is a violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility for actions by the combatants, such as intentionally killing civilians or intentionally killing prisoners of war, torture, taking hostages, unnecessarily destroying civilian property, deception by perfidy, wartime sexual violence, pillaging, the conscription of children in the military, committing genocide or ethnic cleansing, the granting of no quarter despite surrender, and flouting the legal distinctions of proportionality and military necessity.

The prospects of deadly urban warfare against motivated Ukrainian partisans no doubt is the reason for the Russians having adopted the urban leveling strategy that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Missiles, rockets, artillery and bombs are being used to demolish Ukrainian urban centers.  Clearly this is a set of war crimes.  We have not heard of the other types of war crimes, yet.  But before this conflict is over, we can expect there to be sexual violence, pillaging, and killing of prisoners.

There are reports that the war crimes tribunal has already sent investigators to Ukraine to begin their fact gathering.  There is no doubt that this will continue until the conflict is over.  Our experience with war crimes goes back to the end of World War II and the Nuremberg trials.  From the Nuremberg trials emerged the Nuremberg principles of law.  These were captured in the updated Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare. 

Alleging war crimes and trying the alleged villains are two much different things.  The search for the perpetrators of war crimes in Bosnia took years.  Adolph Eichmann escaped trial until the Israelis captured him in Argentina.  Trying Vladimir Putin or his generals would never happen until/unless Russia was to experience a coup of some kind and these individuals were to be turned over to the war crimes tribunal for incarceration until trial.  War crimes trials have only been possible when the perpetrators are from a defeated nation.  This means that the probability of Putin being tried for his war crimes are minuscule unless the coup mentioned above occurs.

The probability of reparations from Russia to rebuild Ukraine is also low.  The sale of the impounded Russian oligarch yachts and private aircraft may raise several billion dollars, but that will be far from sufficient to care for the surviving Ukrainians.  The wealth of Putin and his fellow war crimes perpetrators could assist in the rebuilding of Ukraine, but how do they appear in front of a tribunal without some form of coup?

Going back to how the destruction of Ukraine ends it would appear that absent a coup either Russia will capture at least Kyiv and that portion of the country east of the Dnieper River. 

Dnieper River runs from north to south through East-center Ukraine

Dividing the country along the Dnieper River would give the Russians control of the area where most of the damage has occurred.  Would this solve their hunger?  Probably not, but it appears that this is the best that the Russian military can achieve.  If this is how the current conflict ends it will only be a temporary cessation of hostilities.  There will be a continued insurgency in the east with a significant Russian casualty rate.  This casualty rate and the emasculated Russian economy my eventually lead to the coup that is necessary if the war criminals from the current conflict are ever to face the war crimes tribunal.  By the time that occurs there may be many more crimes and thus perpetrators in eastern Ukraine.