Biden and Putin to hold summit on June 16 in Switzerland | Joe Biden News |  Al Jazeera

One of the strategic initiatives that the Biden Administration may be getting right is the diplomatic dialogue with Russia. From the very outset of the new administration, the US has pursued some low-hanging fruit, like the early extension of the New START Treaty for the maximum five years. It set a tone from the first Biden-Putin interaction. Biden has made clear he is prepared to engage Putin in a Great Power Dialogue. The US dropped some silly objections, like trying to belatedly stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline after it was 95 percent completed. And in the recent meeting with Angela Merkel and Biden, she agreed to sanction Russia if they use the pipeline to halt gas flows through Ukraine, which is a source of $2 billion a year in transit fees for Kiev.

This is all notable, and the recent Geneva meeting set a further framework for a series of bilateral expert groups to explore further nuclear disarmament, cyberwarfare rules of conduct, cyber crime, and even Afghanistan.

I am more interested in the longer-wave potential. This goes to the question of the Russia-China strategic partnership, which rightly worries the Pentagon, as it now focuses on a new military strategy for preparing for big war after the post-911 focus on small wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia) which seem to go on forever.

How deep is the alliance? This is really not clear. How enthusiastic is Putin for being junior partner to Xi Jinping? Clearly China does not see Russia as an economic partner, beyond a supplier of cheap and reliable gas and oil. Otherwise China would have invested some of its Belt and Road Initiative money in a northern route through Russia. That didn’t happen. And Russia is not thrilled that China has cultivated a close economic and political link to Ukraine.

The main glue that has held together the Russia-China strategic partnership (not a formal treaty alliance) is the common enemy: The United States. If the Russian and Chinese views of the United States and the prospects of negotiating some common interest verifiable deals widen, over time this can develop as a fault line.

History is always informative and recent history is still active and sometimes even more informative.

In January 1979 when the US and China normalized relations there were two little-noticed events that are vivid memories for policy-makers in both Beijing and Moscow.
Within weeks of Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Washington to sign the formal normalization of relations with the US, China invaded Vietnam. It was a short conflict, in which Chinese forces faired poorly. But the purpose of the brief military incursion was to test what the Soviets would do to support their Vietnamese ally now that China was engaged with the US.
The second event was that China secretly gave the US permission to establish sophisticated listening posts along the China-Soviet long border to verify Soviet compliance with arms control agreements and track Soviet military deployments. The Chinese obliged the US request at the point that the Islamic Revolution in Iran deprived the US of the same listening posts they had maintained until the Shah was overthrown.

If there was any skepticism about the Sino-Soviet split, it ended with the de facto US-China military cooperation against the Soviets.

Putin has said that the end of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, so I doubt he is unaware of the China role in that demise. Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership have studied the fall of the Soviet Union and learned lessons. In a 2017 major article in a Communist Party journal, Xi spoke at length about avoiding the Soviet collapse.

The Putin-Xi love dance is hardly over, and it will require a more sustained smart diplomacy to gradually test the durability and depth of the China-Russia partnership, without any ham-fisted rhetoric or boasting, which would backfire badly.

Are there smart people still inside the USIC and the diplomatic corps to engineer this slow and careful effort? I think CIA Director and former top American diplomat William Burns is one such person. I hope there are others.

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  1. asx says:

    Indeed the admin has executed the pivot from psychotic levels of Russophobia to a new detente in such a short time frame. One can wonder if Russia was just a stalking horse, the last few years. Any decrease in US pressure will cause Russia to choose cooperation with non-Chinese partners. The only question is how comfortable the US is with that over the long term. A few other areas of friction to watch include the situation in Syria, and sanctions related to S-400 purchases by Turkey and India.

  2. dsrcwt says:

    The problem I foresee is that the US is quite upfront that it wishes to confront both Russia and China, but can only face one at a time. In this context China and Russia know that it is “hang together, or hang separately.” As such, I don’t see how the US can peel one away from the other. As for Russia, it is vilified for making Europe dependent on its gas, and vilified when it turns away from Europe to sell its gas to China instead. Clearly what is wanted is for Russia to show its soft belly and submit as a vassal state which is something that Russia won’t do, so it is silly to keep demanding it.

    • Pat Lang says:


      I think if we were nice to them we would do a lot better.

      • dsrcwt says:

        I agree colonel, I just don’t know if the US is capable of making a believable overture. I think it would require some unilateral concessions, some humble pie if you will and I don’t think the politico-media environment would permit it and the concessions would have to be something which couldn’t be changed easily.

      • Terence Reeves-Smyth says:

        I would entirely agree, but Russsiaphobia has got into the US political bloodstream and into the minds of the MSM; with CNN/MSNBC it verges on obsession. Another serious problem (in my view) is the illogical hated of all things Russia by the UK establishment, but whose relationship with the US is very close, perhaps too close, these days. When Britain left the EU, the Johnson Government promised Britain would regain its ‘freedom and independence’ and become ‘Great’ again and have subsequently developed serious delusions of power – the surely irresponsible behaviour of the RN in the Black Sea recently could have caused a war – The UK needs to be prevailed upon to confine themselves to their own part of the world and to improve their relations with Russia – for a number of years now the UK have spent large sums of money (through the Integrity Initiative, Bellingcat and other bodies) stoking up anti-Russia sentiment. None of this helps the US if it wants to ‘be nice’ to the Russian Federation; on the contrary it is a serious hinderance.

        • Pat Lang says:

          I am not Harper.

        • Mal says:

          The Brits play the long game, still haven’t recovered from the Russian fleet blocking access to US harbors……some people are spiteful for ever. And that does not included the spite they suffered when the Russians removed the Bolshevik cancer that England helped install in Russia. Perhaps, from the grave, the Czar will laugh last and loudest.

          Cheers, Mal

          • Leith says:

            @Mal – “The Brits play the long game, still haven’t recovered from the Russian fleet blocking access to US harbors…”

            Brits had already declared neutrality by September 1863 when small Russian squadrons visited New York and Frisco harbors. Alexander II knew his Navy would be icebound and stranded in Russian ports if the Brits and French declared war over Poland’s rebellion. So he wanted his ships in places where if war broke out that winter they would be ice-free and could commence commerce raiding against British trade. I suspect the Royal Navy was not overly concerned. The Russian ships left a short six months later and visited no other US ports other than a short state visit up the Potomac for a formal reception at Washington DC.

            Less than a decade earlier during the Crimean War, America had been the only nation in the world that boldly acknowledged friendship for Russia. And helped her in many ways including the US Navy protecting a Russian ship in Rio de Janeiro from being confiscated by the RN; rescuing another Russian ship in the Far East; traded openly with Russia despite British blockade; prevented Spain from joining the Brit/French/Ottoman military alliance; and put a stop to the practice of British Army recruitment efforts of American citizens.

            Long before that Catherine the Great quietly helped America diplomatically during our revolution against King George.

            In any case thanks to Linclon, and SecNav Gideon Welles, the offer to let the Russian ships harbor at NY and SF were welcomed by Alexander and by Grand Duke Constantine the head of the Russian Navy. Alexander and Lincoln had similar interests and much in common. Both were facing internal dissent, the US with her seceding States and Russia with her rebellious Poles and simultaneously with a revolt in the Kazan Governate. Plus Alexander had freed the serfs in 1861 (cheered wildly by Northern abolitionists), and Lincoln emancipated (some) after the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg just as the Russian ships arrived. Both Russia and the US were for protectionism via tariffs and against British insistence on Free Trade. Lincoln was assassinated on 15 April 1865. Just a year later an assassination attempt was made on Alexander. “His life was saved when a liberated serf, Ossip Komissarov, hit the arm of the would-be assassin and deflected the bullet just as he pulled the trigger.” Too bad there was no Ossip K available at Ford’s Theater to stop the hand of Lincoln’s assassin.

            We, Russia and America, IMHO are natural allies. We should stop acting differently.

  3. Lytenburgh says:

    American wishful thinking and attempts to drive a wedge between China and Russia on a cheap a simply adorable. They really are.

    “Junior partner” is a key word for the typical American projection here. Two answers to this, which I think will help us understand this question.

    1) Unlike in the 1950s (when China was really USSR’s junior partner), today’s relationship between China and Russia is not an alliance, and neither side is keen on making it such.

    This allows both sides significant flexibility and scope for policy divergence, which was not there in the 1950s, when there was a (misplaced) expectation in Moscow that Beijing would align its policy to whatever it was that the Kremlin preferred.

    2) China has not so far sought to exploit its advantage as the more powerful partner to bring Russia to heel, and has instead tried to address Russia’s concerns (e.g. in Central Asia). It certainly has not forced Russia to pick sides whenever it quarrels with India, for instance.

    P.S. >”And Russia is not thrilled that China has cultivated a close economic and political link to Ukraine”.

    Well, thank you, good Sir. I had a very sensible chuckle after reading here. Because I have a memory stronger than is typically accepted in some, ah, respectable parts, I still remember the “Motor Sich” debacle that happened… this very year.

  4. tedrichard says:

    china is an industrial capitalist country as we once were before the 1980’s when the FIRE economy came to dominate. one road the chinese road of capitalism raises all boats over time and greatly improves living standards. the FIRE based economy funnels all growth and profits upwards impoverishing the bulk of the population as we are now seeing in america.

    the 2 systems are incompatible and china will never relinquish control of its economy to oligarchs as we have here.

    both russia and china have deep reasons to distrust anything washington spouts and with good reason.

    the internal polarization within the united states gives this nation perhaps through the end of the decade to resolve things and unify or we fracture in the 2030’s and become more or less irrelevant.

  5. Babeltuap says:

    Reminds me of the classic Risk board game. Form a truce, weaken the powerhouse then get back to winning the game.

  6. Clueless Joe says:

    The key issue here is that, considering the hostility many in the US leadership have shown Russia over decades, the only scenario with Russia seriously considering to side with the West against China would be the one with the US actually getting downranked and not being the biggest superpower around anymore, because only then would Russia expect the US not to seek absolute global dominance and wiping out any rival. So until China becomes Nr. 1 and the US suffers a lot economically and possibly industrially and technologically, I don’t see it ever happening. The best that can be achieved so far is to avoid a downright alliance, and sowing some seeds of doubt and mistrust – which I’m sure US intelligence is busy doing right now, however effective that might be.

  7. Leith says:

    Harper –

    Can you tell us more about those listening posts? I seem to recall that during that timeframe China gave weapons and support to the Mujahdeen. Kinda like what we did. And it bit us both in the butt.

    In any case that Sino-Soviet split warmed up in the mid eighties, so it did not last long.

    • Harper says:

      There are some official documents recently declassified that have some details. I know from one of the participants in the US-China negotiations that the US asked China in 1979 to give the US permission to place radar and other monitoring devices in China at places along the border with the Soviet Union. At that time, the Soviets had large numbers of troops stationed along that border, running into the Central Asian Soviet Republics and into the Russian Far East. The Chinese sent two PLA officers to meet with the relevant US officials. Turned out they were both fluent in English, having graduated from Cal Tech and MIT. The Chinese agreed to allow the placement, also benefitting from eyeballing the US devices. From the outset, in this small, secret fashion, the US-China cooperation had a national security dimension. I don’t know how long that equipment was maintained inside China, and how the personnel aspects worked.

  8. Tom Hickey says:

    Prying Russia loose from China is wishful thinking at this point. It would take a reversal that is politically not feasible in the US.

    The best the US can hope for at this stage of play is that Russia doesn’t share military tech with Chinese (PLA) manufacturing capability. Things are headed in that direction.

  9. Harper, I wonder if you have any comment on this Patrick Buchanan column:
    For What Will We Go to War With China?

    Buchanan questions whether some of the issues with China are really of vital U.S. interest. E.g.

    “We also reaffirm,” said [U.S. SecState Antony] Blinken,
    “that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea
    would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

    Is this an American war guarantee to fight the People’s Republic of China,
    if the Philippines engage a Chinese warship over one of a disputed half-dozen rocks and reefs in the South China Sea? So it would appear.

    Is who controls Mischief Reef or Scarborough Shoal
    a matter of such vital U.S. interest
    as to justify war between us and China?

    • tedrichard says:

      the issue of war with china if it arrives will all about the range of chinese missiles.

      the chinese have supersonic missiles already which our navy will have a hard if not impossible time engaging and especially so if they arrive in swarms…leakage is impossible to prevent even with the best of systems which we do not have. the kinetic energy of supersonic missiles hitting a carrier even without explosives is enough to take it out of action.

      the crux of any war with china for them its local for us it must be promulgated by our navy. if their missiles exceed our carriers aircraft range of operations our battle groups become sitting targets long before we can use those planes effectively.

      this leaves guam and smaller airfields as staging areas for planes which means those runways become plum targets for those same missiles which have poor defense against and again distance from mainland china matters because it not on americas side as their missile range again exceeds our planes operational capability.

      i seriously doubt japan, south korea and the philippines want to become targets for chinese wrath by staging usa warplanes. talk about pi..ing where you eat!

      if you add in the fact that taiwan produces the bulk of the worlds computer chips and those factories damage can send the world into a depression starting a war with china is insane

      • dsrcwt says:

        I imagine the plan is siege not assault. Leave the carriers at home and use the hunter/killers to enforce an energy blockade of China’s SLOC. Eventually China would have to go on the offence like Japan 1941 and the advantage would shift to the US

        • ancientarcher says:


          I agree. The game will be played by choking oil supplies to China. The Strait of Malacca will be ideal – you need a few submarines and air support. Who will provide the bases for air support? That’s another question.
          But with a few subs and air support you can choke up the Strait for China. No oil from the Middle East goes to the Chinese in that scenario.

          China is fast building a navy, absolutely stupendous in its size and sophistication to prevent just such an outcome. But they won’t be able to prevent it, at least in the next 10-15 years.

          But the Chinese are doing something else too. They want a land corridor from the middle east to China, through Pakistan. The problem? India holds a sliver of land in a place called the Siachen Glacier that has fire control over the China Pakistan corridor. So, China started the effort to push the Indians out of their territory. That didn’t go far – they encountered far more resistance from the Indians than they expected. They have a very low opinion of the Indians btw. So, they will try again. Watch out for that flashpoint.

        • steelyman says:

          Russia can supply China with enough energy via pipelines that run overland and do not depend on any SLOC. Does Power of Siberia ring a bell?

          • ancientarcher says:

            stealy fellow,
            power of siberia is a gas pipeline. outside of the US, gas means gas, not gasoline. Pray tell me how you are going to replace crude oil and its derivatives, petrol, diesel etc with natural gas?

            supplying energy and supplying oil are very different things. see above. russia is supplying china with natural gas but that doesn’t run destroyers or aircraft carriers or tanks. got it?

  10. Sam says:

    A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. – Will Durant

    The majority of Americans have allowed fascism to gain deep roots over the past several decades. The fascists now have all levers of power and they’re exercising it now with the covid theater.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Which are the “fascists?”

      • Sam says:

        Col. Lang,

        The Party of Davos. The merging of Big Business & Big Government including both political parties. While Trump spoke of the forgotten American in his inaugural address, he only hired from the Swamp and he didn’t even attempt to lift a finger against the entrenched power of the Davos globalists. As its said actions speak louder than words.

  11. Carey says:

    Adding: Blinken and Sullivan are barely flyweights, to my mind. They are the best FP people the US has to offer?
    The photo of Lavrov and Putin looking on says much, I think.

  12. English Outsider says:

    I don’t know, Harper. America still has significant natural resources. It can feed itself. Operation Warp Speed, whether they approve of the results or not, showed that the old American get up and go still has some kick in it. And last I heard it’s got plenty enough of things that go bang not to worry about defending itself.

    And with all that, with an entire continent to play with, they’re fussing about a country with a half-derelict economy that Putin’s still trying to drag out of the ’90s and another country that’s so unstable it hurts to look at it.

    Bring industry back home. Also the troops. Ensure an adequate defence. Drain the Swamp. There was a man said that. What fools weren’t listening?

    • Pat Lang says:

      “and another country that’s so unstable it hurts to look at it.” ?

      • English Outsider says:

        I should have said I was referring to China, Colonel.

        I remember your original career option was China. I’d guess you’ve kept an eye on it since. So it’s with some diffidence I advance the view that it’s got a shaky economy. And that if the Mandate of Heaven shifts there it usually shifts with a great deal of disruption.

        Though our sending our brand new aircraft carrier over there should help them in that respect. Nothing keeps a country together better than some idiot prancing around on the doorstep waving his fists.

  13. ancientarcher says:

    The Russians will never trust the US until the Americans get rid of the jews with ex-soviet ancestry that are infesting its foreign policy establishment with the rabid russophobia in vogue now. To that, I might add the russophobia that the erstwhile colonial master, (formerly Great) Britain brings to the special relationship.

    I do not see either of the above happening. The russophobic neocon jews are firmly entrenched in the American establishment and they are not going to let go, come Democrats or Republicans. They are not going to let go of their (seemingly) genetic antipathy towards Russia either. Same for the English establishment.

    The Russians can see that they will be a junior partner of either the West or China – they simply don’t have the quantity of human resources to be a self standing pole in world affairs across all its facets (military, diplomatic and economic, especially the economic facet). In my mind, they will prefer being the junior partner of the West rather than China, but with significantly more seniority than any other vassal (Germany, Poland, etc). And of course, with no interference in its internal affairs – which the West will never agree to.

    The Chinese, at least, are not trying to break up Russia. They are not openly antagonistic yet, but they have no reason to, yet. Things might change in 30-40 years when the global strategic balance is different but I don’t see how Russia sidles up to the West which is currently trying to burn it down versus being the (slightly) junior partner to China.

    In all honesty, China’s economic might and Russia’s military strength do make a very complimentary combination, enough to more than match the West’s strengths. I don’t see any reason for the strategic combination to change. The West had its chance with Russia and blew it.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      > “The Russians can see that they will be a junior partner of either the West or China – they simply don’t have the quantity of human resources to be a self standing pole in world affairs across all its facets (military, diplomatic and economic, especially the economic facet).”

      And you would be wrong. Russia is de-facto a pole in a multi-polar world. Who’s saying that there could be only one “pole”? Historically, it was unfeasible in the long run.

      >”In my mind, they will prefer being the junior partner of the West rather than China, but with significantly more seniority than any other vassal (Germany, Poland, etc).”

      Again – you are wrong. Stop rehashing old myths from the 1990s, when Yeltsin the Drunkard would do everything his “Friend Bill” asked him to do. These times of Russia being a “partner” with the West (about which a lot of the Westerners still dream) are not coming back. Moreso – relations with China are nothing like that. OTOH we have right before our mortal eyes the example of the Ukraine – this much advertised “anti-Russia” and its “special relationship” with the West at large.

      Russia wants multi-polarity, which, first of all, necessitates the dismantling of the American unilateral hegemony. You don’t need to “mind” that – just read the official documents and statements, that postulate: A) Russia’s support of the legitimate international institutions. B) Condemnation of post 1989/91 American perversion of said institutions.

      America is Napoleonic France for Russia… for entire planet, to be frank. I.e. – you can’t trust such unhinged, unfettered hegemon with putting up any kind of stable system of the international relations and abiding by its rules. So you build up Coalitions, often with the unlikeliest powers.

      • Pat Lang says:


        “Russia wants multi-polarity, which, first of all, necessitates the dismantling of the American unilateral hegemony.” So do I. That is the path that leads to stability in the world.

    • Cofer says:

      “rabid russophobia in vogue now”
      Apparently so is anti-Semitism.
      “infesting”, right?

      • Per/Norway says:

        yes cofer, those eastern european khazarian pharisees occupying Palestine and terrorizing the Semitic Philistines is the most antisemitic folks on the planet.
        I am glad that a murcan noticed, or did you mistake eastern european khazars for Semites and get it the wrong way as you murcans are known for doing?

  14. Joe100 says:

    Perhaps a key point here is that Russia’s latest weapons are clearly decades ahead of the US. And our ability to “catch up” is pretty much non-existent due to the conditions of our defense industries and the politics of weapons development. One quite credible analyst suggests that Russia could use one of their. several hypersonic weapons to drop a conventional 250 lb in the big lawn in front of the White House – and if we actually detected this, we have nothing that would shoot it down..

    Not clear how much Russia is sharing defense technology info with China, but with the weapons China has already developed it looks like we are already “out of the game” where China cares – as can be seen in a recent US war game:

    The U.S. military conducted a major war game last fall and “it failed miserably,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten earlier this week.

    Hyten spoke at a conference sponsored by the Emerging Technologies Institute. It’s a think tank run by the National Defense Industrial Association, an industry group focused on military modernization. (You can watch it on YouTube here, about an hour and 18 minutes.)

    “An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us,” he said. “They knew exactly what we’re going to do before we did it.”

    According to a Pentagon spokesperson, one key scenario of this war game involved U.S. forces battling with China over Taiwan. From Hyten’s summary, U.S. forces became sitting ducks and were destroyed piecemeal and systematically.

    The overarching problem was, basically, everything.

    That is, the problem for the U.S. was far beyond the shortcomings of any particular piece of equipment, or ship or airplane, let alone the willingness of U.S. and allied troops to fight. No, the issue was the very essence of how the U.S. military forms strategic concepts and conducts operations.

    In other words, the problem was the entire belief system, architecture and construction of the Pentagon way of doing things — and certainly of waging war. By extension, it’s a political problem too, as we’ll address below.

    “We always aggregate to fight, and aggregate to survive,” said Hyten.

    That is, the U.S. military is built around massing people, equipment and munitions. Build up a huge complex of firepower. Then add massive levels of intelligence information, command and control, and targeting data to, as the saying goes, “take it downrange.”

    This has been the U.S. approach to war fighting since World War II, with many of the roots extending back to the Civil War.

    Per Hyten, in last fall’s war game, “We basically attempted an information-dominance structure, where information was ubiquitous to our forces. Just like it was in the first Gulf War, just like it has been for the last 20 years, just like everybody in the world, including China and Russia, have watched us do for the last 30 years.”

    But the so-called “blue team” (meaning U.S. and allied forces) lost access to communications and data networks almost immediately. Satellites went away. Seafloor cables were cut. Bandwidth died. In general, it was impossible to utilize the electromagnetic environment, and within moments nobody could talk with anybody.

    And “what happens if right from the beginning that information is not available?” asked Hyten, rhetorically. “That’s the big problem that we faced.”

    According to Hyten, “in today’s world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you’re aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you’re vulnerable.”

    And with an entire concept of operations poked in the proverbial eyes, red team easily defeated the blue side.

    Based on Hyten’s description, this wargame was not just another table-top exercise. No, this was a test of the all-up game plan for the “next” conflict, largely based on concepts of operations that have guided the American military process for three decades or more. And the outcome was a total disaster.

    U.S. doctrine focuses on creating what is called a “kill box” for the opponent. But in this particular expedition, from the outset U.S. and allied forces walked into their own zones of destruction. They laid down in their own coffins, so to speak.

    Opposing forces wrecked the entire complex of U.S. logistics. Rear bases came under fire, while aircraft and ships at sea were targeted by long-range missiles. There’s just no hiding anymore from people with sufficient technology to find you.

    Even worse, most U.S. weapons were outranged by new systems recently deployed by China, much of it based on advanced Russian designs. It’s a long-term U.S. failure in research, development and procurement.

    When the balloon went up, most U.S. forces near-immediately lost the ability to coordinate attacks and/or return fire. Much of the targeting data was worthless in any event, while systems used for aiming and guiding munitions also failed.

    To the extent that communications worked at all, much of the data were corrupted or hacked.

    It’s not overstating to say that, in this one war game, far from home the U.S. lost vast numbers of people and equipment. In real world terms, think of casualty numbers in the tens of thousands. Of entire bases obliterated. Of hundreds of airplanes lost. Of dozens of ships sunk. And that’s just in the first few days.

    The war game ended with American forces defeated and devastated. U.S. allies were similarly shredded. And U.S. interests in the Western Pacific and Asia were annihilated.

    To mix a couple of metaphors, the U.S. suffered defeats in a nature that mirror a modern version of Pearl Harbor, the fall of Singapore and a saltwater Stalingrad.

    And it gets worse. Because the devil is in the details, many of which have little or nothing to do with purely military matters. The downfall of American power begins at home, not far overseas.

    Return to Gen. Hyten’s comment that potential adversaries have spent 30 years watching and learning from U.S. operations. Well, yes. Obviously.

    Any reasonably intelligent counterparty — anyone, any country, anywhere on the face of this planet — would pay attention to what the U.S. has been doing and then figure out what to expect and how to deal with it.

    Over three decades, people everywhere watched, learned, and totally went to school on the U.S. military. And it’s all because the America made a foolish political and economic choice, namely, to engage in so-called “long wars.”

    And that has never been a good idea, going back to the days of Sun Tzu and before.

    “Wars cost much silver,” wrote Sun Tzu in his classic book, “On War.” And of course, he meant money. But the subtleties of Sun Tzu’s writing also delve into how war affects both people and culture. Wars drive a certain negative ethic within a political system, and the longer any war lasts, the more negative is the tendency.

    Meanwhile, it’s not as if America’s 30 years of war were battles of necessity. Certainly, it’s not as if the country was being invaded and overrun.

    No, the three decades of war (Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump-Biden) were an era of forward presence coupled with routine military belligerence, oft to the ring of political trumpets at home.

    The named wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) speak for themselves. Then there are other levels of warfare, like with Serbia, Libya and Syria, where the gunslinging showed up in a different manner, but still as destructive to entire societies.

    In this sense — that sense of reaching out to bomb people far from U.S. shores — America’s long wars are not just a military issue, easily dismissed by civilians as some sort of niche problem for the Pentagon.

    No, because closer to home, the long wars reveal seismic flaws in the very nature and character of U.S. governance. The long wars reveal a deep weakness in the American form of government itself.

    Indeed, we’re a long way from the sage advice of President John Quincy Adams, that “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons they do not understand in the name of spreading democracy.”

    And look at it this way. It’s not as if the U.S. ever had a series of national referenda on 30 years of continuous warfare. In fact, the past three decades of war overseas were based on the geopolitical ideas of a relatively small, self-perpetuating cabal of elite elected players and policy wonks, in Washington and various brain-tanks. Many familiar names, to be sure.

    Through it all, as well, Congress (and the courts too) showed abysmal strategic ignorance and lack of conscience. Because evidently, the country’s voters place many truly wrong people into important positions.

    Consider one key episode, the 9/11 attacks and attendant national outrage.

    No doubt, for America 9/11 was the source of a widespread, limbic-level sense of wanting to go somewhere and totally smash things up. That’s entirely understandable. And in that sense, America’s attacks on Afghanistan in late 2001 should have been, at most, a punitive expedition concerning Osama bin Laden.

    Instead, Afghanistan alone morphed and mission-crept into a foolish effort of so-called “nation building.” And not even the Chinese method of Belt-and-Road nation-building, with highways and power lines, etc.

    No, America in Afghanistan was more of a Vietnam-redux. The idea was somehow to pacify people who didn’t want us to be there, and if that didn’t work then destroy the place in order to rebuild it. Meanwhile, one can almost hear the echoes of at least one old bromide from the 1960s, that, “If we don’t fight ‘em over there, we’ll have to fight ‘em here.”

    Through it all, and again in a Vietnam-like manner, Afghanistan was not so much a 20-year war for America, as a one-year war fought 20 times by a corps of officers, senior non-commissioned officers and civilian government personnel and contractors who made careers out of it.

    At the end of the day, is anyone really surprised that smart, well-resourced adversaries paid attention and came up with an entire spectrum of methods to confront U.S. warfighting?

    Come the next real war, U.S. forces won’t own space or the skies. Won’t run the electromagnetic spectrum. Won’t have unfettered communications. Won’t control logistics. Won’t have good targeting data. Won’t have air supremacy, let alone sea supremacy or undersea dominance. And many of the expensive weapon systems simply won’t work in the degraded environment.

    Apparently though, it took an internal wargame in the Department of Defense to drive home the point. Or at least, to illustrate the problem such that no less than one of the most senior generals in the military came out of the closet to admit that America’s super-expensive military complex can’t win the next big war.

    On the bright side, perhaps it’s a true wakeup call that translates to progress.

    • Barbara Ann says:


      If you are going to lift 90% of a comment from elsewhere you ought to put it in quotes and provide a citation link. After your first 2 paragraphs the remainder is Byron King verbatim and to be found here:


      • Joe100 says:

        Thanks for then nudge

        I thought this material was all in quotes when I drafted it and also that we are supposed to avoid posting urls..

        • English Outsider says:

          “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons they do not understand in the name of spreading democracy.”

          A great quote. Nor any other country. A crushing rejoinder to R2P. Should be branded on the forehead of every mini-neocon itching to try his hand on the Grand Chessboard in Berlin, Westminster and Paris.

          I don’t think we call it “slaying dragons” though. I think we call it a “maintaining a rules based international order founded on common values that are dear to us all”. Comes to the same.

          • Barbara Ann says:

            John Quincy Adams, 200 years ago this July 4th, began that speech by reading the Declaration of Independence in full. Oddly enough, he actually quotes our old friend Burke from his 1775 speech in which Burke argues that fighting American independence would be corrosive to English values: “To prove that the Americans ought not to be free, we are obliged to depreciate the value of freedom itself”. Quincy Adams makes a similar point in defense of American values:

            “She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit”

            Once can argue about whether America’s foreign ventures have been “in search” of monsters or not. The fact is that America has let her values decay and this is a tragedy. Yet the Declaration of Independence still stands as a “beacon on the summit of the mountain”. The people most in need of its light right now are Americans themselves. Only once the beacon is re lit can America again be an inspiration to others via the “benignant sympathy of her example”. Time to grab a torch and march up that mountain.


      • Eol says:

        What is as important as the conclusions of this war gaming excersise is the proposed path forward:

        Contested logistics. Creating new ways to deliver fuel and supplies to front lines. U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force are working on using rockets and a space trajectory to get large cargo spaceships into and out of battlefields.

        This seems doubling down on a non-working approach

  15. Tom67 says:

    I am German and studied in China in the 80s. Later I lived in Russia and until 2011 in Mongolia. I very closely follow the Russian-Chinese relationship. To my mind the pivotal point was the crisis in Ukraine. In principal Ukraine will always be both an asset and a pain in the neck for Russia. An asset because it is a closely related country with great ressources that Russia can use in a close relationship. A pain in the neck because despite all similarities Ukraine will always be inclined to needle big brother. Maybe like Mexico and the US or Germany and the Netherlands.
    The real aim of Maidan and the ouster of Yanukovich was to completely sever the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. It provoked Russia into incorporating Crimea and drove Russia into the arms of the Chinese. Russia has had to pay a heavy price to China. It is a price that she well conceils from her own citizens. Namely it is Mongolia and (to a lesser extent) Siberia. In the last years Chinese influence has risen in Mongolia to such an extent, that people there will not talk openly on the phone anymore about things like the highly suspicious recent elections that resulted in a landslide for the former Communist party. Or the immigration of Chinese into Mongolia. Or the ever increasing influence of Chinese security services. If things continue as they are expect Mongolia “requesting” to become part of China before long. Strategically that would be a disaster for Russia. But in the mind of the Kremlin less a disaster than Ukraine entering Nato.
    Things are moving in the same direction in Sibiria. The inhabitants there deeply resent the fact that Chinese farmers – who supply the major cities there with locally grown vegetables – don´t leave anymore in autumn but start to settle down. I know that local journalists are under orders not to write about it. You can easily research it though on the Russian internet which is still more or less free of censorship.
    There´s one Russian asset the Chinese covet more than anything else: Russian military technology. Even here the Russians have been forced to relent to a certain extent.
    I don´t doubt one minute that Russia would dearly love to loosen her dependance on China. And she will do so if there´s a solution in Ukraine that she can live with. Same with Syria. Here the problem is the Caucasus. Bascially Russia is intervening there to keep her own Islamists at bay.
    Overall I agree that Biden is moving in the right direction and I also believe that his chances of prying Russia and China apart are not as bad as some here believe. It all depends on finding a compromise in the Middle East and Ukraine that Russia can live with. There are some tough choices for the US to make. That is accept that Russia has some legitimate security concerns as well and stop trying to get Ukraine into Nato. Find some face saving solution for Crimea and stop coddling Islamists in the Middle East. In turn Russia would have to promise to keep to certain limits. I believe she will be perfectly happy to do that. After all Russia is not so different from the West. Internally she suffers from a declining population of ethnic Russians, her own immigration problems with Muslim and the unsolved problems in the Caucasus. Externally she is under pressure from China that certainly hasn´t forgotten that the Russian far East (Vladivostok) and Mongolia were all part of China only 200 years ago.

    • Barbara Ann says:


      Interesting comment. I saw a travelogue documentary a few years ago which touched on the strains in Eastern Russia as regards the settlement of Chinese farmers.

      As far as Mongolia goes, should you have any recommendations for English language sources of news on the subject of Chinese (or Russian) influence there, I’d be interested. As I write Russia and Chinese forces are conducting joint maneuvers in northern China, not far from the Mongolian border.

    • ancientarcher says:

      Great comment Tom!

      I have read, seen a few documentaries where everyone shuts up when asked about Chinese migration to Siberia. Shutters come down. Zipped up.

      Sure, there are a lot of things to dislike in the current unipolar world run by the United States. But does anyone think that a unipolar world run by China will be any different? It will be much, much worse.

      Yes, China says that they want a multipolar world. now. when they are not the numero uno power in the world. But that’s not been their historical belief about their place in the world – it has been middle kingdom. There is only ever one kingdom in the middle. It wants to become the one and only pole in the world. When Russia gives away its military tech to China, that reality will be all the more nearer. Russia will like it even less in a unipolar world dominated by the Chinese. The world is going in that direction. wait and watch.

    • d74 says:

      Thank you. The tip given by the horse. Knowing and being on the spot do that.

      Two remarks.

      Nato regulations prohibit membership in a country where there is a civil war. This means that Russia is in control of the calendar. It can wait for an eternity, or no further than a collapse of Ukraine. In which case, given the enormity of the event, the issue will become European or global, allowing the cards to be reshuffled. Luhansk and Donetsk will wait a long time for their attachment to Russia.
      In the meantime the Ukrainian burden rests on the West. See the Biden-Merkel agreement. Ukraine has been sacrificed but remains a burden for Germany and Brussels

      Your sentence:
      “There are some tough choices for the US to make”. To agree with Andrei Martyanov (below), I doubt that the US diplomacy is able to do so. Hybris (hubris) is the word, and has been for a very long time.
      The U.S. is in a tough spot: any reasonable change will seem like a weakness, hard to sell to hardliners.

      • Carey says:

        > The U.S. is in a tough spot: any reasonable change will seem like a weakness, hard to sell to hardliners. <

        I think this is an important point- maybe a defining one in the medium term; then reality will eventually set in.

  16. The United States has literally nothing to offer Russia. China, meanwhile, is Russia’s closest neighbor with gigantic common border and, incidentally, also Russia’s biggest trade partner. It is a bit more complicated than mere “anti-US alliance”. In fact, it is only a part of it, the major part is a unified Eurasian economic space which dwarfs any economic union anywhere. Russia is in charge of protecting this space, China drives it economically. In related news, Russia’s economy is huge in its own right and is larger than, say, economy of Germany.

    • ancientarcher says:

      The US does have something to offer Russia and that is a higher standard of living. Don’t agree? Look at Iran and see what happens when a lot of western technology is turned off.

      I know that since Crimea Russia has been sanctioned. But still, it has been short of full scale economic war. Now, what will happen if the US bans all export of microprocessors to Russia. Will China be able to help? I don’t think so because they don’t manufacture any and the little they do are done with capital equipment from the West – all semiconductor equipment firms are in US, Europe, South Korea and Japan.

      China might be big – but it can’t do the really sophisticated stuff. Agree, it has stolen a lot of the tech and has become or is on the cusp of being independent in many areas. But not in semiconductors and that is the lifeblood of the information age economy.

      And Russia has amazing technology but only in the military space, not in the consumer domain. That’s where it needs the West and where China might help. But China needed a few more years of stealing technology, but now it is a bit too late – everyone is aware of their modus operandi.

      Overall though, I agree with you. The ship on Russia-West partnership has sailed. If the West didn’t want to burn Russia to the ground when it was at its weakest, they would have made a great team. But the West doesn’t want allies, it wants vassals and Russia as it currently is, can’t and won’t be a vassal – even in its most weakened state post Elstin.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        >The US does have something to offer Russia and that is a higher standard of living. Don’t agree?

        Nah. “US” cannot offer this – only “US affiliated corps”. And, as the history shows us, they would do anything for a profit sanctions or no.

        Trying to frighten Russia with some “nuclear option” sanctions, like what you suggest, or “cut them off SWIFT” nonsense – that’s cute. Really.

        Good that you are at stage “Bargaining” now.

        • ancientarcher says:

          I’m not talking about SWIFT. The Russians already have an alternative. I’m talking about semiconductors – you know CPUs, GPUs, solid state storage, DRAM, analog semiconductors etc. Do you know what I’m talking about? The stuff that runs your phones, computers, all kinds of automated systems. That stuff.

          The Chinese don’t make it. The Russians don’t make it either. None of their allies make it. They don’t have the raw materials or the capital equipment to make that stuff. Without this stuff, semiconductors, all economies go back to the pre information age.

          Do you understand? This is not SWIFT. Being cut off from semis is a lot worse.

          • JerseyJeffersonian says:


            The key is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, increasingly the world leader in semiconductor technology and fabrication.

            Taiwan, get it? You know, the place in the wargame that was basically indefensible by the US military if it comes to war between China and the US.

            Now, China must certainly be pursuing avenues of accessing this technological and manufacturing know how short of a war; industrial espionage comes to mind, and jawboning of the Taiwan government through threats of dire consequences for Taiwan should their “renegade” status which makes this accessibility unavailable to the Central Kingdom continue.

            Here is a blog link through which a further link to a Wall Street Journal article can be followed.


            Remember that the Trump Administration, with growing awareness of the danger that this situation presented, was very actively pursuing a plan to have TSMC launch a branch here in the US, but then some corrupt election, largely corrupted because of the Wuhan Flu, seems to have derailed that. What are the chances, eh?

            Go back further in time, and recall how Taiwan was dropped like a stone so that Henry Kissinger, ze smartest man in ze world, could pursue his ambition to, uh, split Red China and the Soviet Union? Another Stroke of Genius that, in retrospect, maybe wasn’t so smart after all, and a series of actions that were made operational at a time when China’s ambitions to crush the Kuomintang and Taiwanese independence was still possible to thwart. Well, in soccer (or association football if you like) that Stroke of Genius sounds very much like an “own goal” now.

            Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid then, and as the quality of the US’s so-called elite has still further decayed, now compounded by their strategic ineptitude, a yet more reprehensibly stupid near certainty. Let’s have a golf clap for Henry the K and his retarded successors.

          • Lytenburgh says:

            “Cut off Russia from the SWIFT” and what you are suggesting here are compatible “nuclear options”, that’s why I’m listing them together. Also because they won’t be used in real life.

            And do you understand that:

            A) “The US” can not really enforce such embargo

            B) Establishing it would mean a colossal escalation that would invite an asymmetric blowback so that *entire world* might find lack of their electronic toys innards the least of their worries?

            Do you understand that corpos are independent from what the USG says and hopes? You can’t either order them to “raise Russia’s standards of living” or “cease all trade with Russia”.

            Besides, why float hypotheticals that won’t be used anyway?

            That stuff.

          • ancientarcher says:


            TSMC is indeed key. But Taiwan is not all about TSMC. It has got many other semicon players – from DRAM manufacturers to NAND makers. With Taiwan in its pocket China will go a long way to loosening the semicon noose that US has on its neck. Hence, I think an attack on Taiwan is coming, before 2030 – before Emperor Xi leaves.

            The thing to remember is that Taiwan is still not the leader in semiconductor equipment manufacturing. They can operate the equipment and are now the best in the world at doing that, but they don’t manufacture that equipment. The Europeans and Americans do that. But still, with Taiwan with the Chinese, they will control a big chunk of semicon expertise in the world which means they won’t be choked off from equipment supplies.

            Taiwan is key!

      • The US does have something to offer Russia and that is a higher standard of living. Don’t agree?

        Of course I don’t, because I operate with facts. Plus, me being Russian and knowing Russia helps a lot. You, obviously, still reside in 1990s. Then, you proposition sounded so reasonable.

      • James says:

        With respect to US dominance in microprocessors … there is a spectre haunting Intel – the spectre of RISC-V.


    • Mark Logan says:


      An embellishment: China already gets most of it’s oil from Russia and is currently working on pipelines to increase access to Siberian NG. I would view that as a strong stabilizing factor in Russia/China relations. China is heavily dependent on oil imports, they may squabble about some things with Russia but both sides have strong incentives to work things out. “Welded at the hip”, so to speak.


      The Chinese would have to be fools to view the ME as a more stable source of a vital economic resource.

      • An embellishment: China already gets most of it’s oil from Russia and is currently working on pipelines to increase access to Siberian NG. I would view that as a strong stabilizing factor in Russia/China relations.

        This is just a start and this is merely an economic affair, however, having a gigantic geopolitical ripple effect. Russia helping China to build China’s own Missile Attack Early Warning System (SPRN)–that is a wowser. Only two countries currently have this system: US and Russia. Many people still cannot grasp what the start of serial production (several aircraft are already on an assembly line) of Russia’s MC-21 aircraft means. It has massive economic and geopolitical ramifications. It is a huge topic.

        • Mark Logan says:

          Yes, but it raises a quibble with that assertion the US has nothing Russia wants. Of course we could stop antagonizing Russia, but we also offer the same thing we offer Korea, Japan, and China: A market. IMO the only thing holding Russia back from becoming a manufacturing power is Russia is still trying to shake the societal legacy of the stupendous damage done by the total embracing of the worse form of communism, that literal interpretation of Marxism, which in my mind deserves a special term: Stalinism.
          Russia is hip-deep in natural resources and talent. Something is missing, something which the Korea, Japan, and China has. I am curious why it is taking so long.

          • Russia is still trying to shake the societal legacy of the stupendous damage done by the total embracing of the worse form of communism, that literal interpretation of Marxism, which in my mind deserves a special term: Stalinism.

            Wrong. Russia is trying to shake the societal legacy of the stupendous damage done by the embracing worse form of liberalism, which, accidentally, is a main reason for appalling number of people who died as a direct result of inhuman “reforms”. But you will not learn about that in the West. Russia is transitioning to state capitalism.

        • Mark Logan says:

          No doubt, but IMO the reason those reforms, which unquestionably were a disaster for the Russian people, failed because our carpetbagging capitalists took all the institutions which allow that system to function for granted. They forgot it took many, many decades for those institutions to form in the West. More than a century, actually. They did not exist in the USSR.

          IOW, these two reasons aren’t mutually exclusive, and they are both true.

        • Mark Logan says:

          No doubt, but IMO the reason those reforms, which unquestionably were a disaster for the Russian people, failed because our carpetbagging capitalists took all the institutions which allow that system to function for granted. They forgot it took many, many decades for those institutions to form in the West. More than a century, actually. They did not exist in the USSR.

          IOW, these two reasons aren’t mutually exclusive, and they are both true.

    • Sam says:

      “The United States has literally nothing to offer Russia.”

      Who knows how far Xi goes? Apparently the Chinese are already coming across the Russian border. Maybe Putin is smarter than the Japanese, Indians, Philippines, Vietnam and others in Xi’s near abroad.

      All the more reason for the US to focus on its domestic affairs and to re-shore the next generation of agile manufacturing based on the massive deep tech innovations from its startup ecosystem.

      But….the fascists who control all levers of power here have no interest in that and the majority of Americans would rather have circuses.

      • Who knows how far Xi goes? Apparently the Chinese are already coming across the Russian border.

        I can sit here and pick apart any myth by Western intelligence and media every day, without straining myself. While no Sinologist myself, Chinese “flooding Russian Far East” is the same myth as “Russian economy being smaller than Italy’s.” No, Chinese are not “coming across the Russian border”, nor is Russian Far East “occupied” by them or any other statement from US media, which perpetuate outright lies about Russia, are true. A lot of it comes also by means of Ukrainian propaganda.

  17. James says:

    I think that Russia is in the same position Great Britain was in after the end of WWII. They have no choice but to become a junior partner – so they just need to suck it up and accept their new place in the world.

    Among other things – until Russia can control the Operating Systems controlling the smartphones their people are using (and the associated app stores), they have no real sovereignty. Russia doesn’t have pockets deep enough to develop and maintain such an OS, but China does.

    • English Outsider says:

      “I think that Russia is in the same position Great Britain was in after the end of WWII. They have no choice but to become a junior partner – so they just need to suck it up and accept their new place in the world.”

      James – all that “lost an empire and not yet found a role” talk is just prattle. The UK achieved unparalleled industrial supremacy early on in the nineteenth century but that wasn’t ’empire’. That was a massive though transient head start in the industrial revolution.

      Compare America just after WWII, except in that case American industrial supremacy was in part because that was a continent on a roll and in part because the industries of most other countries were devastated. In our case in those earlier times the industries of most other countries simply weren’t there! See the edge that would give even a smallish island off the European mainland?

      Didn’t last all that long. Certainly there’s little enough of it left now. Should there be?

      True, we were in a unique position at the beginning of WWII. The US and the Soviet Union hadn’t yet been unleashed. Between us and one of the big combinations the European continent occasionally throws up was twenty miles of water. It was enough but don’t make too much of it.

      Read Churchill’s history of WWII. That twenty miles of water and a still handy industrial/technological base meant the UK started off as one of the “Big Three”. But as you read through the volumes you catch what Churchill was living through. He was aware that the UK was increasingly a minor player when it came to deciding what went down. He didn’t like it much but knew it was inevitable. That was what the “becoming a junior partner” meant and what it means now. Problems?

      None for me, nor for most outside the political/administrative classes. Our viability as a country, our prosperity, was never founded on “dominion over palm and pine”. Nor on a military that was in truth never equal to the manpower-heavy big continental armies. It was founded on us.

      As for “junior partner”, to whom? Biden’s America? Merkel’s Europe? Give over, James. Can’t answer for our crony politicians, of course, but the idea that all small countries are little puppies running around the world looking for a master is dumb.

      Nor are the Russians inclined to do that, by a long chalk. I think they too would be more than happy just to be themselves.

  18. ISL says:


    China BRI is investing in Russia.


    Can the committee called Biden change course on Russia across the US Foreign Policy board after decades of baked in hostility and unremitting MSM hostility, notto mention congress? Evidence suggests it would need a much stronger personality – than Trump – and that aint sleepy joe.

  19. Lytenburgh says:

    Re: “Chinese want to conquer Siberia OMFG!11!!1”


    Again – a trademark myth from the 1980s. Yet another typical “drive a wedge between Russia and China on a cheap” trick.

    How come it became especially popular in the 1990s as a tool to ensure Yeltsin’s Regime loyalty? 25-30 years of the same thing.

    Also, why no one knowledgeable and thinking here pointed out that all those territorial demands to China’s neighbours are maintained and propagated via press thanks to the US’ junior partner state in Taiwan? It’s them who only recognized Mongolia as a state in 2001. It is them who regularly publish in their history textbooks fat-ass maps of the Greater China.

    Meanwhile Russia and PRC resolved all of their territorial disputes by 2004.

    I also, really, really want to see these “numerous documentaries” and all other numerous evidences of “invading Chinese in Siberia”. In Russian, of course.

    Plus, can someone explain to me, why would the Chinese want to move *northward* when they had plenty of land both in China’s proper and/or around them in more temperate climates?

    Look as demographic map of China. It shows what kind of territory they prefer. Hint – no, it’s not taiga or tundra.

    • ancientarcher says:

      Why don’t you use your real name Lytenburgh? Maybe it’s something like Wang Fan, Xin Shu, Xiang Li.. one of the Chinese outsourced wolf warrior Internet trolls perhaps?

      The CCP has been spending a lot of money on you lot. I hope the rest are of better quality than you

      • Lytenburgh says:

        >“Why don’t you use your real name Lytenburgh?”


        Says userperson “ancientarcher”.

        The onus to prove me “wolf warrior Internet troll”(c) is entirely on you.

        I also understand that you have never before read my commenting elsewhere. A pity. Really.

        >“The CCP has been spending a lot of money on you lot.”

        That’s a serious accusation, userperson “ancientarcher”. I sincerely hope you can prove it.

        I mean, since…[checks the notes]… 2013 I have been accused of being Kremlin troll. Also, occasional Belorussian troll. The fine people who did that were no different from you, userperson “ancientarcher” – gentlemen and sch0lars, every single one of them. Full of… wit as well.

        I also can’t help but notice that you can’t refute anything that I wrote with solid facts. SAD.

  20. Realpolitk says:

    The American public has voted for those who promise a change in direction every biennium for the past two decades. The Trump years well illustrate that policy is in the hands of a small group whose agenda is not that of the American public. Elections are irrelevant to the pursuit of their agenda of world domination. I pray that Harper is correct. However, realpolitik is a lost art.
    If Martyanov is correct; if the report on the War Game is correct; if the Russian hypersonic missile is a “game changer” as has been reported by some; then the only “rational” course for that group is a first strike now.

    • If Martyanov is correct; if the report on the War Game is correct; if the Russian hypersonic missile is a “game changer” as has been reported by some; then the only “rational” course for that group is a first strike now.

      Without being unnecessarily humble, I was right for the last decade to the point of me getting tired of being right. I have a record to demonstrate that and hypersonic technologies are a “game changer” and I wrote a whole book on that. But the best proof of that is the fact that since 2018 the hottest catchphrases and buzzwords in US military-industrial-political-media complex are hypersonic missiles and hypersonic technologies, which the United States suddenly wants to develop and produce as there is no tomorrow. Same goes for Air Defense complexes because the United States proper is absolutely defenseless against the salvo of any cruise missiles, least of all supersonic or hypersonic ones. Feel free to acquaint yourself with report of Congressional Budget Office precisely on this issue:


      I will omit here elaborations on the matters of Sea Control and how the “game changed” even before Russia started to deploy fully operational hypersonic weapon systems, but in 1980s and 1990s. I wrote extensively on this matter and it was the collapse of the USSR and about 15 year-long period which bought the United States some time to reassess her own defense and geopolitical priorities. Obviously, the United States failed to do so.

  21. Charles Michael says:

    Very interesting article and good comments (mostly), thanks.

    I shall be blunt:
    About decoupling Russia from China
    – disbanding NATO would be the only credible sign for Russia
    – Chinese creeping inside Mongolia and Siberian Russia: Russia will look the other way and enjoy its economic development.
    – demography: similar decline in all developed countries.

    Bringing USA to reason (and ending the supremacist hubris) would do a lot of good for the people of USA.
    And of course for the USA as a global benevolent Big Power, as it was and should be.

    Wishing well for everybody.

  22. Tidewater says:


    There is an article by the Douglas MacGregor in The American Conservative on April 12, 2021, in which he discusses what might happen in a war with Russia in Ukraine: ‘Facing the facts of war with Russia.’

    It is my view that Russia could probably assassinate a good part of the leadership of an enemy government office by selected office–seventh floor routinely targeted– across that nation’s capital city, on the first day of the war. This could be done from twenty-seven hundred miles away.

    • realpolitik says:

      Agreed. That is why my concern that the “rational” course is a first strike.

      • Pat Lang says:


        You need not worry about a first strike against Russia. Neither the Borgists nor the heme grown Marxists have the gonads for that.

  23. KK says:

    I would not characterize Russia-China relationship and junior-senior. China is an economic superpower, and Russians know (and accept) that Russia is not. But Russia has great strengths – vast landmass, great natural resources, good science/engineering, lotsa (thermo)nuclear warheads. No country can militarily threaten Russia.

    China really, really needs Russia as an (informal) ally. Russia is the best ally for China. Both China/Russia know this. Have you seen China trying to lecture Russia, trying to contain Russia, trying to sanction Russia, etc.? In fact China is giving more deference to Russia than they normally would another country.

    This “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country” is a total BS. In terms of PPP (purchasing power parity) Russia is what, 4-5th largest economy in the world, officially. But given that grey, unofficial-economy of Russia is something like 45% of the economy, the Russian real PPP economy is actually the largest in Europe. Don’t start with this “Russian GDP is like Portugal” blah, blah – when was the last time Portugal built nuclear-powered submarines carrying ICBMs??? Or USA has GDP>$20 trillion; yeah major part of it is service sector, you know, doing hair-cuts, mowing lawns, etc. Tell me how you are going to negotiate with the Chinese ala “we are bigger than you, we can do 10 billion hair-cuts every year, and don’t ask how many lawns we can mow, …”

    In the 21st century, the competition for #1-2 spot is between USA and China, and Russia is a distant #3 in the competition. Russians (and Chinese) understand this, Washington DC does not (or will not accept this). The key point is that Russia is in effect the king-maker – whoever Russia sides with, will be the #1. China understands this, Washington DC does not. If China-Russia are allied, USA cannot beat China. If USA-Russia are allied, China will be #2.

    USA-Russia alliance is not going to happen. This would require throwing eastern European Russia-hating nationalists under the bus (e.g. cancel sanctions against Russia, accept Crimea as part of Russia, no NATO membership for Ukraine, etc.). Washington is too stupid to understand/accept that.

  24. fanto says:

    Tom 67,
    Your comment seems to be in line with the writings of Peter Scholl Latour. I am pretty sure you know his books, the one about Russia and China is “Rußland im Zangengriff” is especially worth reading in my opinion. Do you agree with PSL on his observations ?

  25. TTG says:

    Kudos to Harper for starting this excellent discussion. I learned a lot in the comments. There were several comments about our inability to deal with hypersonic missiles and well integrated air defense networks. A while back I pointed out the developing doctrine of multi-domain operations and how, in exercises, this new doctrine appears to have cracked the code of the new Russian and Chinese way of war. Unfortunately, it’ll take years for our new doctrine to be fully implemented and the force structure and weapons systems in place to take full advantage of that doctrine. But at least it’s a departure from our present rough state.


    The development of this new doctrine is being spearheaded by the Army, beginning with the deployment of a multi-domain task force to the Pacific theater and one to Europe. The Army expects to deploy mobile land-based versions of the Navy’s Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles in support of this doctrine with plans to be able to quickly move these missile units to various Pacific islands to counter the Chinese Navy and their missile forces. We played with a similar concept back in the “Hollow Army” days of the late 70s. My 81mm mortar section would NOE to a preselected firing point by UH-1H, perform a fire mission and hightail it back to our lines in the Hueys. The 25th DivArty would do the same with a battery of 105s and Chinooks. That was our approach to providing long range fires.

    • Leith says:

      Shoot and scoot tactics have been around forever. It will be even more critical in the future. We need to get better at it. And we need to be able to do it via Joint Ops. Seems like each service is heading its own way.

  26. David Habakkuk says:


    As I have tried to explain to you before, your ‘multi-domain doctrine’ is a combination of preparation for contingencies that there is absolutely no reason to think remotely likely and one which is eminently possible, but could lead you into a war which you might very well lose, and might escalate to intercontinental nuclear conflict.

    It is complete ‘BS’ to say that this ‘in exercises, this new doctrine appears to have cracked the code of the new Russian and Chinese way of war’, given that its authors, like you, appear to have given rather little serious thought to the circumstances in which the two powers concerned might get involved in conflict, and their implications for how they might fight it.

    (See https://turcopolier.com/multi-domain-operations-a-developing-doctrine-ttg/ .)

    The contingency of a Russian attempt to reincorporate your ‘ancestral homeland’ is one that exists purely in your traumatised fantasy. That of a Chinese decision that the only way they can prevent a – potentially irreversible – momentum towards the independence of Taiwan is to move beyond ‘coercive diplomacy’ to actual military action may not be that remote at all.

    On the dangers involved in the move of the ‘Obama Administration’ away from ‘strategic ambiguity’, I would recommend a recent piece by Gareth Porter.

    (See https://thegrayzone.com/2021/07/27/washingtons-taiwan-separatist-taiwan-crisis/ .)

    On the dangers involved in attempting to confront China in a theatre where the ‘tyranny of geography’ very much favours them against you, I would recommend, as I did in my earlier comment, that you take account of arguments made by Lyle J. Goldstein, founding director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College.

    (A quick ‘Google’ search will turn up a cornucopia of material, but you might start with https://thehill.com/opinion/international/542502-beijing-has-a-plethora-of-military-options-against-taiwan-after-2022 .)

    His arguments, like those of other reflective people, point to what seems to be a very real danger: that if, as Goldstein thinks eminently possible, your country gets involved in a ‘shooting war’ over Taiwan, it could face a ‘Tsushima’ moment – my phrase, not his.

    I then come back to the subject matter of the post by ‘Harper.’ As it happens, right back in the early days of ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’, I attempted to point out both the – clearly revolutionary – implications of developments in ‘conventional’ missile technology, and some potential ‘geostrategic’ implications.

    As I noted then, the people likely to be ‘working their socks’ off to exploit the potentialities of these technologies were the Russians, and the Chinese – and I suggested that it should be a central priority of Western policy to prevent a coming together of those two powers.

    It may be helpful to recall what I wrote on 2 March 2007 at the end of the – very interesting – exchanges of comments on Colonel Lang’s ‘Tabouleh Line Revisited’ post:

    ‘The Chinese also face the same problems as the Russians of squaring the circle of attempting to keep up with developments in military high technology while keeping military budgets down. In their case, I would imagine a particular priority would be working out how to sink American carrier battle groups, which may again cause them to develop technologies of use to other actual or potential enemies of the United States. They will also, I imagine, be very interested in acquiring the technology which the Russians developed for just this purpose, as this was a key priority for the Soviet navy for decades. One might have thought that keeping Russia and China apart would have been a strategic priority for the United States, among other things in order to avoid a coming together of Russian weapons design expertise and Chinese manufacturing capabilities. But it seems the Bush Administration’s motto is “come to the four corners of the world in arms”, and it is far from clear that the positions of the Democrats are really very different.’

    (See https://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2007/02/the_tabouleh_li.html )

    Obviously, I did not possess then, and do not possess now, the immense body of technical expertise which Andrei Martyanov, with his Soviet naval background, has brought to explaining recent technological developments and their ‘geostrategic’ implications. My point however is that one did not need such expertise to see, in ‘broad brush’ terms, the risk of the directions in which your country, and mine, were – rather blithely – heading.

    It is, to my mind eminently understandable that the ‘insulted and injured’ of the former Soviet, and Russian, empires, should find it difficult to escape from the traumas involved. But frankly, the results of this incapacity are turning out utterly disastrous for everybody. Your determination to ‘live in the past’ is not helping either the United States, or Lithuania.

  27. TTG says:

    David Habakkuk,

    I don’t think you appreciate the difference between military doctrine and national strategy. Nor do you seem to appreciate the military reality of developing contingency plans for myriad situations ranging from the quite possible to the highly unlikely. I’m sure there are several plans for defending Taiwan. I’m also pretty damned sure there are plans to defend and/or retake the Suwalki Gap, no matter how unlikely that scenario is to come to fruition. Russia surely has contingency plans concerning the Suwalki Gap, as well, even without a national strategy to ever implement those plans.

    The US development of the doctrine of multi-domain operations (MDO), along with the force structure and weapons systems to support that doctrine is a natural evolution and does not mean the US strategy is world conquest. In fact this doctrine specifically calls for moving from a state of competition, into conflict if required and back to a state of competition, not conquest.

    Russian doctrine and force development is very similar to our MDO. They are developing a frighteningly impressive offensive force based upon long range, hypersonic missiles protected by a robust anti-access/area denial system. Patrick Armstrong described the awesomeness of this military might in terms of almost breathless excitement. It almost sounded like Krushchev’s “We will bury you.” But he ended with the sage advice for the US to stay at home. This seemingly unstoppable Russian military is not meant to conquer, but to deter. Our MDO along with developing force and technology is meant to do the same thing. It is telling our adversaries to stay at home. That’s it.

    As for the Baltics, Poland and much of Eastern Europe, Moscow remains a threat no matter how irrational that fear is. Putin’s lamenting the fall of the Soviet Union and building a powerful military fully capable of offensive action does nothing to allay those fears. Moscow retains that same fear of the West or they wouldn’t have occupied the Baltics and Eastern Europe in the first place. The eastward spread of NATO does nothing to allay those fears. But do the Russians really think Western armies are going to march on Moscow? Not a chance. Both sides are just going to have to work around those ingrained fears. It will be generations before they subside.

  28. David Habakkuk says:


    You write: ‘Moscow retains that same fear of the West or they wouldn’t have occupied the Baltics and Eastern Europe in the first place.’

    How can you conceivably regard it as remotely logical to infer from what Stalin did in 1939-45 anything whatsoever about the ‘threat perceptions’ of the Russian government in 2021?

    And please don’t tell me that I do not ‘appreciate the difference between military doctrine and national strategy.’ I am eminently happy to be denounced, but really don’t like being condescended to.

  29. TTG says:

    David Habakkuk,

    The occupation of the Baltics and Eastern Europe started in 1945. It did not end then. It continued until the early 90s when the last bit fell apart. Putin and much of his government were active participants in that occupation, yet you think that should not have anything to do with the current Russian government’s threat perceptions. Both Harper and I reminded you that Putin considered the end of the Soviet Union to be the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. Granted those perceptions were only reinforced by the eastward expansion of NATO.

    • David Habakkuk says:


      The occupation of the Baltics actually began in June 1940. The territories had been assigned to the Soviet ‘sphere of influence’ under the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939, but the actual occupation was a product of the fall of France, with Stalin’s ultimatum to Lithuania coming on 15 June 1940, the day Paris fell.

      As to the pact, ample intelligence from German sources about its possibility had been available to the ‘network’ centred around MI5 and Sir Robert Vansittart at the Foreign Office. Rather understandably, Stalin was going to see an alliance with Britain and France as a better option if, and only if, substantive measures could be taken to address his not entirely incomprehensible concern that what his prospective allies had in mind was to turn Germany East, and if they had to fight it themselves, do so ‘to the last Russian.’

      Unfortunately, Chamberlain and his associates were inveterate ‘Russophobes’ like you, and also listened to the equally Russophobic Poles, while also believing that it was appropriate to base assessments on their ‘sense’, rather than hard empirical work. And indeed, even after Chamberlain was replaced by Churchill, the utter inability of most of the British foreign and security policy ‘apparatus’ to engage in ‘hard empathy’ with the Soviets almost lost us the war.

      Having failed to heed the ample evidence pointing to the possibility of an alliance between Hitler and Stalin, once it had happened ‘mainstream’ opinion here totally misunderstood it. As the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky puts it in his 1999 study ‘Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia’, written with the benefit of long study in the British archives as well as access to Russian ones, the agreement was seen as ‘a resurrection of the “community of fate”, following the tradition of Brest-Litovsk and the Rapallo Treaty.’

      On the basis of this quite erroneous judgement, as has become progressively clearer in recent years, we came very close to getting involved in a war with Germany and the Soviet Union at the same time. There is a useful brief discussion in a November 2015 piece in the ‘National Interest’ by Michael Peck, headlined ‘Operation Pike: How a Crazy Plan to Bomb Russia Almost Lost World War II’, at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/operation-pike-how-crazy-plan-bomb-russia-almost-lost-world-14402 .)

      As he notes, the exhaustive study of ‘Operation Pike’ published by Patrick Osborn in 2000 explained that Allied intelligence concluded that Russian oil only comprised a small part of Germany’s fuel supply, much of which actually came from Romania, but apparently British and French leaders alike were willing to overlook this.

      Actually, these idiocies did not go entirely uncontested. The estimates of oil supplies would have been produced in the ‘Ministry of Economic Warfare’, with the figure then in charge of Russian affairs, the Cambridge economic historian Michael Postan, playing a crucial role. His career is an interesting demonstration of the fact that it has been possible to be a very strongly anti-communist refugee from the Bolsheviks, and make entirely rational judgements about Soviet and Russian policy.

      Recently, I came across a piece on the internet entitled ‘Between Two World Wars: Jews Between The Citadel and the Bridge’, consisting of recollections of Postan’s birthplace, which is various known as Bender, Bendery, and Tighina. It was once in the Bessarabia Governate of the Russian Empire, was like the Baltics occupied by the Soviets in June-July 1940, under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and is now in the generally internationally unrecognised ‘breakaway’ province of Transnistria.

      (See https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/bender/ben053.html )

      In it I found a reference to one Haim Fustan, ‘a Lithuanian Jew, highly intelligent and steeped in tradition’, who owned a printing press. Of his eldest son, Moshe, a slightly garbled account of his wanderings through Russia and Central Europe in the years of revolution and civil war concludes with the accurate information that after studying at the London School of Economics, at the age of 38 he was appointed to a professorship of economic history at Cambridge. Actually, that was the work of his LSE professor, the very beautiful, and very English, Eileen Power, who married him in 1937, although she was ten years older, and died of a heart attack in August 1940.

      Days after her death, Postan would utterly demolish the assumptions behind British policy towards the Soviet Union, in a memorandum written rather specifically in the context of British policy in relation to the Soviet annexation of the Baltics, as well as the fall of France. A summary of his attack on a statement of the ‘conventional wisdom’ by the leading Foreign Official Sir Orme Sargent, provided by Gorodetsky in his 1984 study of the mission of Sir Stafford Cripps to Moscow in 1940-2, includes the following:

      ‘The concepts of “imperialist tradition” or “communist ideology”, used by Sargent to explain Soviet foreign policy, seemed to Postan to be “ill-defined”. Soviet policy was motivated by ‘a fear of Germany’s future designs, tempered by a conflicting fear of German policy at the present time.’

      What he was pointing out was that, at that time, fear was naturally leading Stalin to ‘appease’ Hitler, but that the situation could well change, and the British government would be wise to combine a realism about the limitations of what could be expected in the short-term with manoeuvring to keep the possibility of a ‘rapprochement’ open in the longer term.

      The following year, in the lead-up to ‘Operation Barbarossa’, the ‘mainstream’ was again clueless. The ‘conventional wisdom’ was that, as Gorodetsky puts it, ‘the remote possibility of Russia’s entering the war would materialize only if she failed voluntarily to deliver goods to Germany.’ So, our people made precisely the same mistake as did Stalin, concluding that the German military build-up in the East was essentially designed for ‘coercive diplomacy’, and that war, if it came, would be preceded by an ultimatum.

      In a memorandum of 28 May 1941, Postan pointed out that the economic assumptions of the Foreign Office were rubbish. Then, as Gorodetsky puts it:

      ‘He dealt a devastating blow to the Foreign Office’s economic premises by concluding that the concentration of forces might be “almost entirely for military reasons, i.e., because it was desired to settle with the Soviets, and from a military standpoint the present campaigning season was held to be a far more favourable occasion than in subsequent years.”’

      The point I am attempting to ‘drive home’ is bound up with the unpleasant fact that, very commonly, politics is indeed a matter of choosing ‘the lesser weevil’ – so that ‘know your weevils’ is a matter common prudence.

      In the late ‘Thirties and early ‘Forties, an inveterate ‘Russophobia’ actually caused us to fail to grasp the difficulties of the choices facing us, and do something that came very close to being suicidal – pushing Stalin into the arms of Hitler. From having to ‘pay the price’ for this, we were saved by Hitler’s folly. Actually, as Gorodetsky explains at length in the ‘Grand Delusion’ book, he attacked the Soviet Union in defiance of very good advice from the diplomats in the German military embassy, whose views of Soviet policy appear to have been very close to those of Postan – and also the account he himself puts forward.

      Here, the history is interesting, in another respect. People at the German Moscow Embassy held the very sensible belief that very commonly, the route to wisdom is to listen to people with whom one disagrees radically. So some key figures read, very carefully, the 1936 study ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ by Leon Trotsky. The view to which they came was that its analysis was essentially right, and the ‘gloss’ they put on this was that Stalin was turning into a kind of ‘national socialist.’

      Given their assessment of the military balance – that Stalin’s fear of Germany made him highly unlikely to attack, but that attacking the Soviet Union would court Napoleon’s fate – what they argued for was a strategy which might be called ‘appeasement from strength.’ The preferred ‘end game’ would be the incorporation of the Soviet Union in the Anti-Comintern Pact of Germany, Italy and Japan, which had been created in 1936 to ‘contain’ it, to create a ‘continental bloc’ which, among other things, would be invulnerable to ‘Anglo’ sea power.

      And you know something? Over the past few years, I have been watching, as the world moves more and more towards the creation of a new ‘continental bloc’, based upon a partnership between China and Russia. And, again as in the ‘Thirties, I see a coalition of traditional ‘Anglo’ kinds of ‘Russophobe’, with the ‘insulted and injured’ of the former Soviet and Russian empires, who are absolutely blind to the dangers involved and seem determined to hasten the process on.

      I should perhaps declare a personal interest in this. My late father ‘sat at the feet’ of Michael Postan as a Cambridge undergraduate back in 1935, later became a colleague, and delivered the eulogy at his memorial service in 1982. I recently came across a letter from his widow in response. In the war, MI6 and MI5 used what used to be called ‘debutantes’ as secretaries, for reasons of security. A girl from the latter organisation, who was the daughter of an aristocratic army officer who became Earl of Albermarle, was transferred to work for Postan, and although he was almost two decades older than her, they married in 1944.

      In her letter, Cynthia Postan wrote of her husband’s ‘horror of the authoritarian one-party state’, but also noted that ‘some of his favourite pupils and colleagues were Marxists; perhaps because they always struck the spark that set him off’. It was that openness – that willingness to ‘learn from the opposition’, that did much to make him both a great scholar, and a top-class intelligence analyst.

      This history may also help explain why, as I noted in an earlier exchange, I have come to regard you as one of my ‘hereditary enemies’: you seem to me to embody precisely the intellectual vices against which Postan was struggling, seventy years ago. It is good to feel I am following in the footsteps of a ‘great man.’

      • TTG says:

        David Habakkuk,

        So I am now one of your “hereditary enemies,” a nemesis. I haven’t been one of those since I retired. Perhaps after a few more of our inevitable conversations, I’ll receive a promotion to arch nemesis. That will make me feel young again.

        Earlier today, English Outsider wrote a comment about the difficulty of striking a balance between the slant of the Russophobes and that of the Russophiles. He’s absolutely right. I certainly don’t consider the Russians or even current Russian government to be a horde of demons. I love the people and the culture, although I ended up recruiting most Russians I’ve met. I even waved to my Spetznaz counterparts on the slope of an Austrian mountain. Nor do I consider them to be a prancing herd of glitter farting unicorns. I’m sure you agree that they’re humans with their own strengths, glories, foibles and frailties, just as the rest of us. Although I think you often catch a glimpse of those glitter farting unicorns now and then.

        I appreciate the detail of your last comment and the enlightening details of British policy vis-a-vis Moscow. It is an intriguing subject. Fear of a German invasion does explain a lot of Stalin’s pre-Barbarossa actions. Defending the Motherland is a continuous theme stretching from Imperial Russia through the Bolsheviks, the Communists and to today’s Russian Federation. A strong central authoritarian government in Moscow ties them all together. It’s harder to accept that fear as a justification of Russia’s actions as an occupier of the Baltics. The June 1940 to June 1941 occupation was but one of Russia’s occupations of Lithuania. The first began in 1792. I wrote a short research paper back in 1981 to fulfill a requirement for the SF Officer Course that you might find of interest. I published it on the old SST site back in 2011.


        Until our next encounter, stay well.

        • Lytenburgh says:

          From your intro, quote:

          >”Note: I retyped this without editing. It’s fairly obvious that I was a true believer in the cause of my forefathers. I still am.”

          Ah. So you one of the weaponized (e)migrants. Well, that explains it all.

          • Pat Lang says:


            His grandfather emigrated from Lithuania. He is Connecticut born and bred. My wife did his genealogy. This also explains his focus on immigrants. He lives down in the I-95 corridor in Virginia.

        • Leith says:

          Used to be a Lithuanian Club in South Boston, I wonder if it is still there. My cousin Jimmy and I used to go there after the bars closed to fill up on potato pancakes. That was in the late 1950s. There was a huge painting on the wall of a mounted knight with upraised sword and plumed helmet, which I didn’t understand then but after reading your 2011 post I’m thinking now that it was a portrayal of the Battle of Grunwald.

          Not much King’s English spoken there. I surmise it would have been a prime recruitment site for the IC. Or for your green berets maybe?

        • David Habakkuk says:


          I have tried to explain to ‘English Outsider’ how his views are delusional and a major danger to the security of our country in a response to his comments.

          In it, I link to analyses of Soviet strategic thinking by Commander Michael MccGwire, RN,to give him his service title – perhaps the last, and one of the greatest, members of a tradition of British naval intelligence which does back, through Admiral John Godfrey in the Second World War, to Admiral William Reginald ‘Blinker’ Hall in its predecessor.

          (For an ‘obit’, after his death, see https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/development/alumni/obituaries/obituary-profiles/michael-mccgwire/ .)

          His conclusions ‘mesh’ with those of Michael Postan, although their backgrounds were quite different, as the one went to sea as a midshipman aged 17, and first went to university after the left the service 25 years later, while the other was a scholar turned intelligence analyst.

          A convivial man, MccGwire liked to, as it were, make jokes against himself. So, if my recollection is right – and I do not have the book in front of me – he said that he really only at the outset opted for Russian language training because it was a nice shore posting for a year, with the chance to enjoy a bit of university life, indulge his passion for rugby, and drink beer. And, he was quite happy to admit that it took him until 1959 to reach the correct interpretation of the ‘decrypts’ which had originally been obtained in 1948.

          This however, is relevant to your piece. What he discovered was that Soviet ‘threat perceptions’ were very much related to the possibility that, in the event of war, there might, following an initial ‘pre-emptive’ or indeed ‘preventive’ all-out Western nuclear attack, be ‘amphibious operations’ in the Baltics to link with your relatives and friends in the ‘Forest Brothers.’

          Perhaps MccGwire’s analyses may help you understand why maintaining control of the Baltics was a key Soviet objective in 1940 and 1945, in terms of their then assessments of their security requirements, but an attempt to reconquer them would make absolutely no sense whatsoever in terms of today’s.

  30. I see this one is coming in the unpublished comments.
    No, Putin did not say the fall of the USSR was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the Twentieth Century”. Russian adjectives have a form English do not which covers a sort of comparative which is bigger than most; but it is not the superlative. A common — even wilful — mistranslation.
    So English is big, bigger, biggest; Russian big, bigger, bigger-than-most, biggest.
    I have debunked this one before

  31. TTG says:

    Thanks for clearing this up, Patrick, but it’s only a debunking of one degree. Seems Putin still thought the collapse of the Union was a catastrophe. My sense is that he misses the old days, warts and all, no matter how much better off Russia is now.

    • As that great geopolitical expert Sherlock Holmes says: “it is an error to form theories without data”.

      • TTG says:

        Patrick, that’s true. It has been used to insinuate that Putin would reestablish the Soviet Union and the WTO if he had half the chance. Putin is not delusional. He knows it can’t be done and what he has lead Russia to now is at least as good and, in most ways, far better than the Soviet Union of the 70s and 80s. It’s certainly better than the Russia of the 90s.

    • KK says:


      > But do the Russians really think Western armies are going to march on Moscow? Not a chance.

      Do the Balts really think Russians are going to march on Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius? (If the answer is yes, what exactly is preventing Moscow from doing it?)

      Did the Romans really thing the barbarians were going to march on Rome? It depends, when Rome was strong and its armies victorious, the barbarians were on best behavior, kissing ass, bringing gifs and swearing eternal submission. But when Rome was weak, in civil war, it armies defeated, “its the season of raping and pillaging and loot and plunder”. Cannot let a good opportunity to go waste! (For the record, the barbarians did invade the home province of Italy quite a few times; did sack Rome a couple of times).

      Given that US has a habit of on occasion of waging aggressive unprovoked war (Serbia and Iraq some to mind), don’t you think that if the 1990’s were to be repeated (Russia in disarray and weak), there would be quite a few people in Western capitals who would think that maybe marching on Moscow is not such a bad idea. Given the lucky alignment of stars. You know, to take care of the problem once and for all.

      > Seems Putin still thought the collapse of the Union was a catastrophe. My sense is that he misses the old days, warts and all, no matter how much better off Russia is now

      Your view is one view. There is another view. Is it unreasonable to think that the 1990’s calamity (that was Russia) was not a consequence of the collapse of the USSR?

      I have seen estimates/analysis that due to the 1990’s mess, Russia, as a combination of excess deaths and babies/children not born, “lost” something like 20 million people. The comparable number for the USA would be 40 million. If an event would cause the USA to “lose” 40 million people, would it be unreasonable for Americans to think that this event was bad, bad, bad? Remember, on 9/11 US lost 3,500 people, and all the crying after that.

  32. fanto says:

    It is very weak logical conclusion to say that because “Putin and much of his government were active participants in that occupation” – they are now aiming to achieve the same occupation…
    It is something like “because USA were occupying and fighting war in Vietnam” they are now trying to do the same.

    • TTG says:

      Yes, fanto, that is a weak logical conclusion. One that I never made. The WTO is gone and it’s never coming back. Russia’s long range hypersonic missiles protected by an effective anti-access/area denial networks replace the physical defensive space that the WTO provided in Eastern Europe. A better deal for all in my opinion.

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