with this underlying message that if you thought we were in decay, we’re not,”
.. Because Russia used exercises as cover ahead of both its operations in Ukraine and its 2008 invasion of Georgia, its neighbors were cautious this time as the Kremlin fired up its military machine.
.. some of the basics of effective large-scale warfare — an ability to pick up and move large numbers of troops, and then command them effectively — were on clear display.
.. Military analysts also said the exercise was a chance for the Kremlin to shoot a message straight to the Pentagon and its allies that Russia has a formidable fighting force capable of mobilizing across its enormous territory — and it needs to be reckoned with.
.. scenario of the exercises — an enemy from the West tries to overthrow the government in Moscow’s ally, Belarus, and is beaten back
.. Moscow says it is convinced it is under threat of assault by a hostile force in the West that is determined to bring its military to Russia’s borders. This, as President Vladimir Putin sees it, has already been done in the Baltics. He believes the United States and NATO were the instigators of street protests that forced Ukraine’s president to flee to Russia in 2014.
.. Adding a nuclear edge to the war gaming, Russia carried out two tests of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24
.. He said his initial estimate was that between 65,000 and 72,000 troops took part.
.. The weapons were not only a fearsome show of Russian firepower, they were also a sparkling advertisement for the nation’s arms exporters.
.. “In 24 to 48 hours, some parts of the Russian armed forces could be ready to invade one Baltic state or all of them,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said in an interview. “It’s clear that it’s not only defense but it’s also about offense.”
.. Part of the exercise rehearsed cutting off the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the rest of NATO, Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis told Latvia’s LETA news agency. That is a nightmare scenario for the alliance because Russia has stationed powerful antiaircraft missile systems in its exclave of Kaliningrad, creating challenges for any Western attempt to retake the region.
.. they are rather far from being combat-capable
.. The “Russian Air Force is feeling the pressure of the protracted deployment in Syria,” Baev said. “Typically, maintenance is the weakest link, and accidents multiply,” he said.
The pathways that have been examined fall into four main categories:
- doing nothing,
- hitting Kim Jong Un’s regime with tougher sanctions,
- pushing for talks, and
- military confrontation.
- In a launch from North Korea, a nuclear-tipped missile could reach San Francisco in half an hour.
- A nuclear attack on Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 10 million people, could start and finish in three minutes.
.. Luring the North Koreans to the negotiating table is perhaps the most popular pathway among many experts, who advocate a “freeze-for-freeze” option, in which the United States might promise to restrict military exercises in the region or eschew new sanctions against Kim’s regime, in exchange for North Korea agreeing to halt expansion and testing of its nuclear capabilities.
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, for example, has suggested promising not to seek regime change in North Korea in exchange for Kim committing to a cap on his nuclear program.
the Trump administration rejects the idea of freeze-for-freeze, calling it a false moral equivalency.
.. A military confrontation could start with a U.S. effort to force regime change, either by taking out the Kim regime or by fomenting a rebellion among elites in the isolated dictatorship.
“But it’s hard to imagine that scenario ending with anything other than the North Koreans deciding to light up Seoul,”
.. In a conventional war, heavy casualties would likely result as North Korean troops poured into the South, using tunnels the North is reported to have built under the demilitarized zone between the countries. In addition, North Korea is believed to have a stockpile of several thousand tons of chemical weapons
.. In war games played out at Washington policy institutes, even minor confrontations have led to a nuclear exchange.
.. North Korea might attempt to spread fear through an act of terrorism, said Patrick Cronin, an Asia-Pacific security expert at the Center for a New American Security. “A few grenades in downtown Seoul will absolutely close down the city out of fear,” he said.
.. North Korea has “proven adept over the years at using force in pretty calibrated ways to achieve political objectives,” said Thomas Mahnken, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which does war-game planning. He said the North takes advantage of the relative unwillingness of the United States and South Korea to risk war.
Washington has rejected a Turkish role in the liberation of Raqqa, knowing that Ankara will not tolerate the ISIS capital falling into Kurdish hands either. It’s becoming increasingly likely that the winning formula will see the city and its environs ceded to an authority friendly to the Syrian government, under a Russian umbrella ..
.. Just last week, the UAE reportedly upped the ante by demanding the Saudis abandon their puppet president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi—ostensibly the “legitimate” Yemeni authority the western-backed Saudi coalition was fighting to reinstate.
.. What’s notable is that all of these developments, at face value, serve Iran’s interests in the region and undermine those of U.S. allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
.. Iran will also be a useful tool to provoke or cajole traditional U.S. allies like Israel, Turkey, and various Arab monarchies into taking positions favored by Trump.
.. There are whispers of a Saudi-led “Arab NATO” that could partner with Israel to target Iran.
.. Trump’s choices are actually fairly limited.
.. Subversive activities—such as color revolution plots, propaganda, or cyberwarfare—have proven futile given Iran’s historic vigilance on and within its borders. Conventional war would require a substantial Iranian provocation and isn’t likely to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
.. James Mattis, a committed Iran hawk, almost did so several weeks ago when he considered letting U.S. forces board an Iranian ship in Arabian Sea international waters, according to a passing mention of the incident in the New York Times.
.. It has endured an eight-year war with Iraq, which was encouraged, financed, and armed by great powers and regional states alike. The Islamic Republic performed a remarkable claw-back from the assault and went on to amass conventional and asymmetrical capabilities to deter future attacks.
.. When the U.S. is there, Iran’s focus and discipline is better. They’re useful that way. It brings us together, creates support for our security forces, our army, our borders.”
.. because of Wikileaks’ 2010 State Department cables cache, we now know that—in private at least—U.S. officials are also skeptical of their own public charges.
.. “the U.S. military rarely beats Iran in asymmetrical war games unless it cheats or rigs it.”
.. the “Millennium Challenge,” a 2002 U.S. armed forces war game in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. (blue team) and an unnamed Mideast adversary (red team), believed to be Iran.
.. Why are U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf anyway?
.. between 1976 and 2010, Washington has spent an eye-popping $8 trillion protecting the oil flow in the Persian Gulf. As of 2010, the U.S. only received 10 percent of those oil shipments. The largest recipients were Japan (20 percent), followed by China, India, and South Korea.
The truth is that if one just reads selected passages from Thucydides’ work, it is impossible to comprehend the events and complexities of the multi-decade Peloponnesian War. Moreover, as students rarely have the background or context in which to mentally file the readings, they quickly get lost in a plethora of Greek names, locations, and events. War college professors who believe their graduates know anything about Thucydides besides reciting the mantra “fear, honor, interest” are fooling themselves.
.. Remarkably, four of the five Athenian teams actually attacked Syracuse on Sicily’s east coast! As they were all aware that such a course had led to an Athenian disaster 2,500 years before, I queried them about their decision. Their replies were the same: Each had noted that the Persians were stirring, which meant there was a growing threat to Athens’ supply of wheat from the Black Sea.
.. It is one thing to discuss this war in a classroom, and quite another to have to plan it out for yourself, and then compare your results to what the Combined Chiefs presented to FDR and Churchill.
.. As the academic year draws to a close, I continue to employ wargames, including several geopolitical simulations created by National Defense University’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL). The results, so far, have exceeded all of my expectations. For six or more hours at a sitting, classes remain focused on the strategic choices before them, as they try to best an enemy as quick-thinking and adaptive as they are.
.. Every war college administrator can wax eloquently about their school’s mission to enhance their students’ critical thinking skills. But they then subject those same students to a year of mind-numbing classroom seminars that rarely, if ever, allow them to practice those skills that each college claims as its raison de`etre. Well, wargaming, in addition to helping students comprehend the subject material, also allows them an unparalleled opportunity to repeatedly practice decisive critical thinking. Moreover, it does so in a way where the effects of both good and bad decisions are almost immediately apparent.
.. Grant’s role was to pin down the Army of Northern Virginia, while the western armies ripped out the economic heart of the Confederacy.
.. I was astounded at the number of students who approached me after the Civil War exercise to mention that despite having studied the Civil War before, this was the first time they realized that the war was won in the west.