Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Could a New Warsaw Pact Save Europe?

 

strangelove

Fast forward a year, maybe less. Those Russian troops who keep choosing Ukraine as their top vacation destination after Euro Disney have completed their mission, and Vladimir Putin is eyeing Baltic real-estate for his next dacha. Does anyone see NATO getting into a shooting war over this property transfer (and please don’t take this as a suggestion that NATO should)? My guess is the response would entail a couple of sternly worded speeches at the UN and maybe some shipments of MREs to ensure that the Estonian army surrenders on a full stomach.

Instead, how about Eastern Europe gets realistic and stops pretending that Russian troops coming over the Polish border would be treated by NATO the same as if they came over the Indiana border (actually, I’m not sure what the response would be to the Indiana border other than making sure the assault vehicles were outfitted with IPASS for the tolls; that’s a post for another day). Anyway, what if the former Warsaw Pact nations, minus Russia, were to form a new alliance against their former overlords? This could be an organization where Article 5 means more than the fifth article this week on global warming in the New York Times.

These are nations that — within living memory — know what being shackled to Russia entails. The sum of their forces would be smaller than Russia, but I’m going to assume that this is balanced out by the significant percentage of the Russian troops are incapacitated by their vodka rations at any given point.

Such an event would further beg the question, can the purpose of NATO be summed up in a more succinct fashion than a thesis paper?

 

There are 28 comments.

  1. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Estonia is in NATO, while Ukraine is not. A Russian invasion of Estonia would be an attack on NATO, but whether most NATO countries would honor their commitment to defend an ally is probably in question.

    • #1
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:07 AM PST
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  2. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    RW – appreciate the reply. I find foreign affairs posts are about as popular as Al Gore MCing at the OPEC conference. Would be an interesting thought experiment on what NATO would do should Vlad set his eyes on Estonia. Just enough to try and save face or give up?

    • #2
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:27 AM PST
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  3. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I should think that the average Russian citizen derives positively no benefit from Russia now controlling Crimea. But the average Russian is happy about it because it gives him a sense of national pride knowing that his leader is able to kick other countries and show his muscles. So if I were evil and in Putin’s shoes, I’d probably calculate that I get just as much support by stealing pieces of non-NATO countries as I would of antagonizing NATO. On the other hand, maybe Putin’s ego demands that he tries to recapture old Soviet territories whatever the cost. None of which answers your questions, I’m just wondering about the probabilities that Putin would try to take a bite out of Estonia.

    How would NATO react if he did? I think if most NATO countries figured that Putin would be happy to take a tiny bit of territory every 5 years, they would bark but wouldn’t bite. If they thought Putin was intent on taking whole countries, they would likely decide war is in order. But I have no expertise on this topic whatsoever, it’s all just uneducated guesses on my part.

    • #3
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:42 AM PST
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  4. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    RW – our amateur babbling is what we are all about here (my undergrad minor in political science hardly qualifies me to comment as well, on the other hand, elite opinion isn’t exactly working these days)

    Anyway, I think you make two important points……
    1. What the average Russian wants may not be the same as what the average American wants. Meaning, people keep saying that Crimea will hurt Russia economically, but do Russians care
    2. If Vlad pulls a Germany mid-1930s and only goes after Russian enclaves he is much more likely to get away with it without consequences

    • #4
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:51 AM PST
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  5. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    A non-credible alliance is the worst of all possible scenarios. If NATO is to remain a credible deterrent then the member nations will have to take actions to make it clear they will respond to an attack. The reason NATO effectively deterred the Soviet Union for 40 years was because non-frontline members put their forces on the front line. American, British, and Canadian ground and air forces were forward deployed in West Germany leaving no doubt as to the commitment of those nations to the other members.

    A US heavy division headquartered in Poland with a brigade combat team in each of the Baltic states, supplemented by a British or Canadian battalion would largely remove any doubt as to the credibility of the alliance.

    • #5
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:52 AM PST
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  6. Stephen Bishop Inactive

    Instead, how about Eastern Europe gets realistic and stops pretending that Russian troops coming over the Polish border would be treated by NATO the same as if they came over the Indiana border”

    I must admit I can’t imagine who or how an invading force would move into Indiana without first upsetting some other US state.

    But leaving that aside let’s think about the implications but first an assumption. That only Nuke enabled countries would bite if the Russians invaded.

    Russia could immediately move it’s forces to the the border of France. Also they could easily take back the Stans which were part of the USSR.

    On seeing this China could think that this is a good game and move it’s troops to the border with India and absorb all the nations south of them including Australia and New Zealand.

    Now look at a world map.

    Questions Are we willing to let Vlad start this snowball rolling? What are your children and grandchildren going to think about you?

    • #6
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:28 AM PST
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  7. Manny Member

    This rapid deployment concept that NATO has developed (probably by Obama) won’t work and might actually be a phony concept to excuse not doing anything. My two cents on deterring Russia is this. Place several divisions of maneuver vehicles (tanks, mostly) across eastern Europe like we did in the cold war. It doesn’t have to be as many as the cold war but it has to be enough to deter Russian offensive. The rapid deployment approach can’t work because once the Russians have moved in, they take a defensive position and it requires an offensive thrust to drive them back. If you emplace your armor there before the Russians invade, they have to overcome troops in a defensive position. I forget what the multiplier is for projected losses for offensive versus defensive casualties, but I know offensive troops suffer at several times over defensive. The key is to hold a defensive position and that will deter aggression.

    • #7
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:49 AM PST
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  8. Mendel Member
    Mendel Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Vladimir Putin will not be sending troops into Poland during his reign. Period.

    It is clear that he has great ambitions with regard to restoring Russia’s power on the world stage. But it is also clear that he is cunning and savvy, not brash and foolish. He picks and chooses his fights carefully.

    For all of our bluster about how weak-kneed Europe is, there is enough political will on the continent to react to a full-on invasion of multiple NATO countries.

    The real worry is not a Ukraine-style annexation of the Baltics or other Slavic countries. What is more likely is that Putin will take a slow, subtle approach: handing out Russian passports to anyone with Russian ancestry in Europe, then offering them benefits to make them loyal to the “homeland”; opening up Kaliningrad in the hopes of using it as a gateway for Russian citizens to populate Europe; and most of all, buying off individual countries with cheap gas in the hopes of creating discord among the larger European countries.

    • #8
    • December 3, 2014, at 9:02 AM PST
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  9. Mendel Member
    Mendel Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I also doubt an alliance of Eastern European countries would work.

    As Klaatu mentioned above, the worst option is an alliance with no credibility. The problem here is that most Eastern European countries are still comparatively poor, and even their combined wealth could not put together an armed force capable of holding back Russia.

    And just by the formation of the alliance, Russia would feel provoked enough that it would probably respond with some type of military incursion, just to demonstrate that it still had the upper hand.

    Finally, there is the problem of Belarus, which is still a Communist holdout, a sometimes friend of Russia, and smack dab in the middle of the proposed alliance.

    • #9
    • December 3, 2014, at 9:08 AM PST
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  10. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I continue to think that Putin’s window of opportunity is limited to this winter.

    Eastern and Central Europe are in no position to defend themselves, and the US has shown it will not escalate against Russia militarily.

    I predict he will combine saber rattling and small incursions with a Gazprom shutoff (before fracking ends his leverage) to force Europe into a formal tributary status, complete with substantial annual “protection money” kinds of payments.

    To my mind, this is the only course of events that explains Putin’s actions.

    • #10
    • December 3, 2014, at 9:35 AM PST
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  11. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    While these scenarios might be fun to think about, they have no chance in reality.

    Russia’s military is a joke. It’s equipment is abysmal. It’s training is abysmal. It’s command even more so. And Putin knows this.

    NATO isn’t just a credible deterrent to Russia. NATO completely overwhelms Russia. Remember when back in the day the Soviets had a 10-1 superiority in numbers of aircraft, tanks and men? Well, today NATO has a 5-1 superiority in numbers, and a large superiority in technology. Forget about training, command etc.

    And frankly, NATO has demonstrated quite forcefully that is willing to defend the Baltics. NATO aircraft patrol Baltic skies (including US aircraft), and intercept Russian aircraft frequently there. The US just deployed troops to the Baltic for exercise, as well as in Poland. So did the UK.

    Putin isn’t an idiot. He’s evil. But not an idiot. He sees the pressure Russia is in just for what he did in Ukraine. Is the recent decrease in oil prices a “coincidence”? I would guess not. He knows Russia would be send back to the stone age if he tried anything more ambitious than sending “tourists” into Donbas.

    Should NATO be more forceful? Absolutely. It is being more so, however. Message received.

    • #11
    • December 3, 2014, at 9:56 AM PST
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  12. donald todd Inactive

    One can build an iron curtain quickly, or one can build an iron curtain slowly. Putin, more a czar than a Stalin, has chosen the slowly method to build an iron curtain.

    NATO is subject to the availability of oil. Oil can be converted into heating oil for homes, into jet fuel, into diesel fuel (think tanks and semi trucks pulling trailers), and into gasoline for the smaller vehicles necessary for keeping an economy humming as well as for waging war these days.

    A lot of the oil arriving in Germany comes from Russia, through Russian pipelines. Waging war on a country which keeps one’s homes warm and one’s tank engines running is a problem.

    Limiting Putin’s economy is a good idea and the lowering of the price of fuel is a wonderful way to do that. Now if we could only sing with one voice, ah but then we are: I hear Barry’s voice leading the chorus as I write this.

    • #12
    • December 3, 2014, at 10:27 AM PST
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  13. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    AIG, we have sparred before. You have much more faith in an alliance (NATO) that has never been tested, and which now has Obama as its head.

    Equipment is not what wins wars. They help. But willingness to fight and risk and even die are what wins wars.

    If Russia has the courage of Putin’s convictions, and NATO has the courage of Obama’s convictions, then Putin will extract his tribute without an opposing shot being fired.

    • #13
    • December 3, 2014, at 10:35 AM PST
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  14. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    And frankly, NATO has demonstrated quite forcefully that is willing to defend the Baltics. NATO aircraft patrol Baltic skies (including US aircraft), and intercept Russian aircraft frequently there. The US just deployed troops to the Baltic for exercise, as well as in Poland. So did the UK.

    I have to disagree with you. A credible commitment requires a ground presence. The Russian military may be no match for NATO but the issue is a political one not a military one. A Russian incursion into Estonia or Latvia could conceivably present the US, UK, etc… with a fait accompli and I for one am not convinced our current administration or a like minded one would respond in a military manner necessary to restore the status quo ante.

    • #14
    • December 3, 2014, at 10:53 AM PST
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  15. Mendel Member
    Mendel Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    iWc:Equipment is not what wins wars. They help. But willingness to fight and risk and even die are what wins wars.

    If Russia has the courage of Putin’s convictions, and NATO has the courage of Obama’s convictions, then Putin will extract his tribute without an opposing shot being fired.

    I somewhat agree, but I think we are missing some facts on the ground.

    Obviously the global response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea was to studiously look at our feet and pretend nothing happened. But from our perspective in the US, it is easy to assume there are few differences between Crimea and, say, Lithuania – whereas in reality they are completely different worlds.

    Aside from belonging to the EU and NATO, countries like Lithuania are very economically integrated into Europe. In particular, many western European companies have factories or other facilities in Lithuania, many well-educated Lithuanians are found throughout western Europe, and ever increasing numbers of western European tourists are visiting destinations like Vilnius and Riga.

    I wouldn’t go so far as AIG in my confidence that Europe would go to the mats for a country like Lithuania. But on the other hand, for all his belligerence, Putin is not a loose cannon: all of his major incursions have been in situations where he had an extreme upper hand and was guaranteed success. A military invasion of a Baltic country (or Slovakia, or Poland) would be infinitely riskier, and Putin has not yet shown a willingness to take those types of risks.

    • #15
    • December 3, 2014, at 11:11 AM PST
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  16. David Knights Member

    Putin has already bitten off more than he can chew. The current dip in oil prices has as much to do with a coordinated attempt to crash the Russian economy as it does with fracking and new sources of oil. If oil stays below $90 a barrel, Putin will be hurting in less than 12 months. Hurting bad.

    Now one way to distract from internal troubles is to start an external war (i.e. Argentina) However, that usually doesn’t end well for the side with the troubled economy. I suspect that Mr. Putin is done with adventurism for the moment. In fact, eastern Ukraine may turn into a bleeding ulcer before too long, especially if the Ukrainians decide to retaliate in the form of a prolonged guerrilla action.

    • #16
    • December 3, 2014, at 11:32 AM PST
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  17. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Knights: Putin has already bitten off more than he can chew. The current dip in oil prices has as much to do with a coordinated attempt to crash the Russian economy as it does with fracking and new sources of oil. If oil stays below $90 a barrel, Putin will be hurting in less than 12 months. Hurting bad.

    I think this is why this winter is showtime. The situation will not get better – he needs results now.

    What does he really have to lose by trying incursions and a supply shutoff to cement Russia’s power vis a vis Europe?

    • #17
    • December 3, 2014, at 11:46 AM PST
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  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I agree with Mendel; there’s a gigantic difference between Crimea, loaded with Russians, home of the Russian fleet, and separated from Russia by an arbitrary 1954 decree, and Lithuania, which is totally integrated with the west.

    Don’t make the mistake of identifying America with Obama; the US and the EU would certainly be in a state of war with Russia if Putin invaded Poland or the Baltics. It’s much more likely that Putin would gradually wear down the alliance, exploit its dividing lines, and make his appeal to European economic interests–“Come on, you’re not going to let Uncle Sam stand in the way of sensible deals?” That could win; so far Putin has backed winners.

    • #18
    • December 3, 2014, at 2:58 PM PST
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  19. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    Klaatu:A non-credible alliance is the worst of all possible scenarios.If NATO is to remain a credible deterrent then the member nations will have to take actions to make it clear they will respond to an attack.The reason NATO effectively deterred the Soviet Union for 40 years was because non-frontline members put their forces on the front line.American, British, and Canadian ground and air forces were forward deployed in West Germany leaving no doubt as to the commitment of those nations to the other members.

    A US heavy division headquartered in Poland with a brigade combat team in each of the Baltic states, supplemented by a British or Canadian battalion would largely remove any doubt as to the credibility of the alliance.

    Agreed, or someone could dust off this quote “quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”

    • #19
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:56 PM PST
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  20. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    Stephen Bishop:

    Questions Are we willing to let Vlad start this snowball rolling? What are your children and grandchildren going to think about you?

    SP – agree with the sentiment but, given Western birthrates, don’t know if this question is on the radar screen.

    • #20
    • December 3, 2014, at 7:58 PM PST
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  21. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    Manny:This rapid deployment concept that NATO has developed (probably by Obama) won’t work and might actually be a phony concept to excuse not doing anything. My two cents on deterring Russia is this. Place several divisions of maneuver vehicles (tanks, mostly) across eastern Europe like we did in the cold war. It doesn’t have to be as many as the cold war but it has to be enough to deter Russian offensive. The rapid deployment approach can’t work because once the Russians have moved in, they take a defensive position and it requires an offensive thrust to drive them back. If you emplace your armor there before the Russians invade, they have to overcome troops in a defensive position. I forget what the multiplier is for projected losses for offensive versus defensive casualties, but I know offensive troops suffer at several times over defensive. The key is to hold a defensive position and that will deter aggression.

    Agree that it would be easiest to make it more painful for Vlad to act than to try and dislodge him but who has the stomach. My argument is the countries on the frontline would be more likely to commit, though they probably need to get military spending north of 2% of GDP

    • #21
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:01 PM PST
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  22. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    Mendel:I also doubt an alliance of Eastern European countries would work.

    As Klaatu mentioned above, the worst option is an alliance with no credibility. The problem here is that most Eastern European countries are still comparatively poor, and even their combined wealth could not put together an armed force capable of holding back Russia.

    And just by the formation of the alliance, Russia would feel provoked enough that it would probably respond with some type of military incursion, just to demonstrate that it still had the upper hand.

    Finally, there is the problem of Belarus, which is still a Communist holdout, a sometimes friend of Russia, and smack dab in the middle of the proposed alliance.

    M – valid points. My counter is Russia is also relatively poor and I’m not sure this would provoke Russia anymore than NATO expansion. Russia is going to do what is in its interest as much as it can get away with (which one must admire to a point) an Eastern European alliance would just need to make it painful enough that invasion is not worth it

    • #22
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:04 PM PST
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  23. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    David Knights:Now one way to distract from internal troubles is to start an external war (i.e. Argentina) However, that usually doesn’t end well for the side with the troubled economy.

    True, but that can go on for longer than anyone wants……WWII

    • #23
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:07 PM PST
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  24. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    AIG:While these scenarios might be fun to think about, they have no chance in reality.

    Russia’s military is a joke. It’s equipment is abysmal. It’s training is abysmal. It’s command even more so. And Putin knows this.

    I’m far from a military expert, but it seems Putin has learned. The typical Russian soldier may be in a bad state but he’s upgraded the elite forces and that can cause a lot of trouble.

    • #24
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:09 PM PST
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  25. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever

    iWc:

    David Knights: Putin has already bitten off more than he can chew. The current dip in oil prices has as much to do with a coordinated attempt to crash the Russian economy as it does with fracking and new sources of oil. If oil stays below $90 a barrel, Putin will be hurting in less than 12 months. Hurting bad.

    I think this is why this winter is showtime. The situation will not get better – he needs results now.

    What does he really have to lose by trying incursions and a supply shutoff to cement Russia’s power vis a vis Europe?

    If Putin has learned from Iran, he has very little to lose.

    • #25
    • December 3, 2014, at 8:11 PM PST
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  26. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Pleated Pants Forever: If Putin has learned from Iran, he has very little to lose.

    Right. America’s enemies are treated better than its allies. For all the saber rattling Putin is doing, the US and NATO have NOT responded to make it crystal clear that we WOULD go to war in response to any of the “small escalation” events Putin is masterful at.

    I am not saying Putin will invade Europe. I am saying that he will extract a political settlement from Europe that could save Russia from economic implosion.

    Call it a Grand Bargain: Putin turns off the gas, and keeps rattling sabers. He explains that he needs to do this, because the sanctions are very painful – so all he wants is a way forward. That path involves lifting sanctions and tribute. Otherwise he, sadly, is cornered.

    Do you REALLY see this administration willing to go to war against that argument? I do not.

    • #26
    • December 3, 2014, at 9:06 PM PST
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  27. Manny Member
    Pleated Pants Forever

    Manny:This rapid deployment concept that NATO has developed (probably by Obama) won’t work and might actually be a phony concept to excuse not doing anything. My two cents on deterring Russia is this. Place several divisions of maneuver vehicles (tanks, mostly) across eastern Europe like we did in the cold war. It doesn’t have to be as many as the cold war but it has to be enough to deter Russian offensive. The rapid deployment approach can’t work because once the Russians have moved in, they take a defensive position and it requires an offensive thrust to drive them back. If you emplace your armor there before the Russians invade, they have to overcome troops in a defensive position. I forget what the multiplier is for projected losses for offensive versus defensive casualties, but I know offensive troops suffer at several times over defensive. The key is to hold a defensive position and that will deter aggression.

    Agree that it would be easiest to make it more painful for Vlad to act than to try and dislodge him but who has the stomach. My argument is the countries on the frontline would be more likely to commit, though they probably need to get military spending north of 2% of GDP

    It’s going to take committment, especially from the Europeans. If the Europeans aren’t going to take Vlad seriously, then I don’t know why we should. Yes, they have to get their spending up.

    • #27
    • December 4, 2014, at 5:41 AM PST
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  28. Brad B. Inactive

    I’ve been in favor of the Dan Carlin proposal for giving away some of our nuclear weapons to the Baltic and Eastern European nations. It’s cheap and takes us off the hook for dying for them.

    • #28
    • December 4, 2014, at 8:39 AM PST
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