Would You Support Sending Americans to Fight for the Survival of Estonia or Latvia?

 

Graham Allison, an entirely reputable scholar of International Affairs at Harvard University, and Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, recently published a piece reminding us that Russia is a nuclear power “capable of literally erasing the United States from the map.”

And while most Americans dismiss the possibility of a US-Russian war, they do not:

we are more concerned about the drift of events than at any point since the end of the Cold War. We say this having followed Soviet and Russian affairs throughout the Cold War and in the years since the Soviet Union’s implosion in 1991. And we say it after one of us recently spent a week in Moscow talking candidly with individuals in and around the Putin government, including with many influential Russian officials, and the other in China listening to views from Beijing. We base our assessment on these conversations as well as other public and private sources.

The authors are particularly concerned that Putin “relies on a very narrow circle of advisers, none of whom is prepared to challenge his assumptions,” and that “Russia’s political environment, at both the elite and public levels, encourages Putin to escalate demands rather than make concessions.”

What’s more, they write, “ordinary Russians may have gone further in their truculent views than Putin himself.” Putin, they suggest, is in fact the moderate:

At the elite level, Russia’s establishment falls into two camps: a pragmatic camp, which is currently dominant thanks principally to Putin’s support, and a hard-line camp. The Russian public largely supports the hard-line camp, whom one Putin adviser called the “hotheads.” Given Russian politics today, Putin is personally responsible for the fact that Russia’s revanchist policies are not more aggressive. Put bluntly, Putin is not the hardest of the hard-liners in Russia.

Nor are the authors optimistic about the effect of sanctions:

Counterintuitive though it may seem, Russia’s weakening economy is also unlikely to create public pressure for concessions. On the contrary, the damage to an already-stagnant Russian economy suffering from low energy prices is actually reducing Putin’s foreign-policy flexibility. Russia’s president needs to show that his country’s suffering has been worth it. Retreat could severely damage Putin’s carefully cultivated image as a strong man—a style Russians have historically appreciated—and alienate his hypernationalist political base. They resent sanctions, which they see as hurting ordinary people much more than Putin’s entourage, and they want their leaders to resist, not capitulate. For many, Russia’s dignity is at stake.

The authors speculate that the hardliners’ goal is to suck the US deeper into the conflict in Ukraine:

Russia’s comparative advantage in relations with Europe and the United States is not economics. Instead, it is deploying military power. Europeans have essentially disarmed themselves and show little will to fight. Americans undoubtedly have the most powerful military on earth and are often prepared to fight. But even though they win all the battles, they seem incapable of winning a war, as in Vietnam or Iraq. In Ukraine, the “hotheads” hope, Russia can teach the Europeans and Americans some hard truths. The professionally executed operation that annexed Crimea virtually without a shot was the first step. But the deeper the United States can be sucked into Ukraine and the more visibly it is committed to achieving unachievable goals like the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the better from this hawkish Russian perspective.

The goal? To demoralize–and ultimately peel away–the rest of Europe. And to this end, the authors remark, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, are “the Achilles’ heel of the NATO alliance.”

They are protected by its Article 5 guarantee that an attack upon one will be regarded as an attack upon all. Thus, the United States has an unambiguous and undeniable responsibility to deter and defend attacks on the Baltic states. Given their size, proximity to Russia and substantial Russian-speaking minorities, this is a daunting requirement. It is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which either U.S. or Russian action could set in motion a chain of events at the end of which American and Russian troops would be killing each other.

The authors game out a number of scenarios in which these states could come under Russian stealth attack. (Edward Lucas sketches out similar scenarios in this article, titled “What if Putin gets what he wants?”) “If you want to either dumbfound or silence a table next to you in a restaurant in Washington or Boston,” they write,

ask your fellow diners what they think. If stealthy Russian military forces were to take control of Estonia or Latvia, what should the United States do? Would they support sending Americans to fight for the survival of Estonia or Latvia?

So, Ricochet, what do you think? Would you support sending Americans to fight for the survival of Estonia or Latvia?

 

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Arizona Patriot:

    Titus Techera:Germans don’t fight.

    Germans haven’t fought in a long time, which is one of the main points of NATO. But when they do fight, they’re among the best. Maybe the very best.

    I read about a study once that essentially was about the effectiveness of troops in WWII.  It compared how many shots were fired to how many casualties were caused.  The Germans beat everyone else hands down.

    • #61
  2. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Randy Webster:

    Arizona Patriot:

    Titus Techera:Germans don’t fight.

    Germans haven’t fought in a long time, which is one of the main points of NATO. But when they do fight, they’re among the best. Maybe the very best.

    I read about a study once that essentially was about the effectiveness of troops in WWII. It compared how many shots were fired to how many casualties were caused. The Germans beat everyone else hands down.

    Sure. But those were professional soldiers by dint of having trained & fought more. They also inherited a war machine & a warlike politics that went back to at least the 1860s. Germany had never thereafter been defeated in battle before about 1943… As fair lady says, between Napoleon & Stalingrad, it was victory upon victory… The war is in the blood, I’d say, but war requires many arts as well, dark arts which men reject most of the time even in their minds. These Germans may have something of their fireborn grandfathers, but it is all useless for the time being. So also with the Japanese.

    • #62
  3. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Arizona Patriot:We pull out of the UN and announce that we will not accept Security Council decisions as binding. Whatever the wisdom of including Russia and China in the late 1940s — which was dubious even then…

    Let me say it to your face: Including the Soviets & then the Chinese was the proof America gave the world that no American politician was moral. That the masters of slaves could now enjoy legitimacy even as they prepared the worst slaughter in history. That all of law & progress was at their beck & call. If you wish to know why no supposedly free born man, woman, & child will tell anyone this truth, it is because of what you have done with the world under pretense of moral authority outstripping necessity.

    When Americans learn again to use words like tyranny, then you will be able to teach the world the proper outlook of politics. You have blinded everyone who could not face the ugliness…

    My dark thoughts aside, how pull out, how persuade allies to join you?

    We create a new organization and invite everyone to join, with the new perm 5. Germany and Japan would want to join, because they’re promoted. The UK will back us. France will join because otherwise she’s left out.

    I’m not sure Germany would join–they’re friendly with Russia & ever closer with China, likewise the UK. What you are asking them to do is to openly reject both! You’re making everyone choose war!

    • #63
  4. Yutch Coolidge
    Yutch
    @Bigfoot

    Discussion of defending the Baltics should also include Lithuania. I fully support the use of any necessary force to defend the Baltics (including, or perhaps especially, Lithuania)

    Russian special forces are formidable, but small and outmanned compared to our special forces. Russian regular army is outclassed by all of our forces. Any conflict would of necessity be bloody, but we and our allies would prevail.

    Should we not come to the aid of our NATO allies, this would reveal us as unworthy of the position we now hold, or should hold in the world.

    • #64
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Titus:

    I think that you need to calm down.  You seem to simultaneously be accusing me (personally) of surrendering freedom to tyranny by including Russia and China out of the P5, and accusing me of making everyone choose war by kicking them off.

    First, in case you don’t know, I wasn’t around until 1967.  Even my parents hadn’t reached kindergarten when the UN and security council were created.  Don’t blame me, buddy!

    In fact, I would think that anyone with any real influence on the creation of the UN is well over 100, if any such is alive at all.

    Second, I think that you need to get some historic perspective.  The US and UK had just suffered through a horrific war, and wanted: (1) to get help in holding down Germany and Japan (thus the inclusion of China and France) and (2) to maintain some sort of relationship with the USSR (which had a huge army sitting in the middle of Europe).

    Third, I am the one suggesting that tyrannies like Russia and China don’t belong in the P5.  It seems to me that we’re on the same side.

    Fourth, if we really put them to the choice, there is no way that any of our major allies would side with Russia or China over us.

    • #65
  6. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    All this is academic anyway. Obama is not going to defend Estonia or Latvia. He might go through some motions but in the end their fate is entirely up to their own and Russia’s actions. Push come to shove the U.S. and NATO will not come defend them.

    • #66
  7. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    ^^^^^^ This.

    • #67
  8. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Arizona Patriot:The US and UK had just suffered through a horrific war, and wanted: (1) to get help in holding down Germany and Japan  and (2) to maintain some sort of relationship with the USSR.

    Oh, spare me–the USSR suffered in a way you do not seem able to imagine. There is absolutely no comparison. You mean, Americans could not face the Soviets.

    Third, I am the one suggesting that tyrannies like Russia and China don’t belong in the P5. It seems to me that we’re on the same side.

    Fourth, if we really put them to the choice, there is no way that any of our major allies would side with Russia or China over us.

    You’ll have to take my word for it–for the mean time–that I never say things like this except calmly. It is not your fault personally; as you point out, there was no you to have done anything when it mattered. What is at stake, however, is what is implied in the general ‘we’ that could take action. I find it remarkable how careless Americans are about their past doings. How free, let’s say…

    We are on the same side, perhaps, on all these issues. I just wish you to tell me what the difficulties are. You seem to be suggesting that bold speeches by an American president could prevent the coming war. Maybe I misunderstand… I, for one, believe war is coming, & NATO is unprepared.

    • #68
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