Cold War II: The Black Sea and the Mediterranean

 

Unsurprisingly, the terrorist attack in Orlando has pushed other news off the front page, but this seems to me important context for evaluating what the presidential candidates are saying.

Late yesterday afternoon, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — an aircraft carrier known as the Ike — entered the Mediterranean. It will relieve the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, which will be going back to the US this month after an eight-month deployment. According to The Wall Street Journal, 

The massive ship serves as a launching point for a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Since November, it has accounted for a little more than half of the total sorties flown over those two countries by the U.S. military.

Last week, the Truman took an unannounced detour from the Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean. An unnamed “military official in Washington” said the Truman’s detour “was a signal to Moscow.”

Murat Yetkin of Hürriyet Daily News, who is usually pretty reliable about these things, reports that on June 3, the Truman began hitting ISIS positions around Aleppo in Syria with jets and guided missiles from the sea. (Usually, American planes launch from İncirlik to hit ISIS.) The next day, he reports, a Tu-142 naval reconnaissance plane was for the first time seen in the Syrian and Mediterranean skies.

Meanwhile, on June 6, the USS Porter passed through the Turkish straits northbound into the Black Sea. The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that Russia will “respond” to the arrival of the USS Porter “with measures.” What this means is unclear.

Yetkin says,

The statement is the latest indication of the rising tension between Russia and NATO … And it is not particular to the Black Sea … The tension in the Black Sea is actually part of bigger problems in the Mediterranean Sea because of the Syrian civil war.

Both the US and Russia are — nominally — fighting ISIS in Syria. But Russia supports the Assad regime, whereas the US supports anti-Assad forces. These ground forces are now getting closer to each other near Aleppo and Raqqa. Raqqa, of course, is ISIS’s base.

On June 9, the Russian and Syrian defense ministers met with their Iranian counterpart for a “strategic meeting” in Tehran, after which they reiterated their united support for Assad against the United States, according to the Iranian state mouthpiece, PressTV. They “took priority measures in reinforcing the cooperation” among the defense ministries of the three countries.

Meanwhile, NATO has been conducting massive military exercises in Poland since June 6. Russia has in response deployed additional troops along the Polish border.

Last week, Alarik Fritz, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, and Vice Admiral James Foggo, Commander of the US 6th Fleet, published an unusually strong warning about Russia in the naval journal Proceedings:

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and commentary such as Francis Fukuyama’s landmark essay “The End of History?” led us to believe that our strategic rivalry with Russia and our need to stay one step ahead of Russian capabilities had faded. It has not. Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us. Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict. Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, Royal Navy, the head of NATO’s maritime forces, noted recently that his forces report “more activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War.” Some analysts believe that even our underwater infrastructure—such as oil rigs and telecommunications cables—may be under threat by these new and advanced forces. Russian focus, investment, and activity in the undersea domain are now so unmistakable that even the head of the Russian Navy, Viktor Chirkov, has admitted that Russian submarine patrols have grown 50 percent since 2013. …

Not only have Russia’s actions and capabilities increased in alarming and confrontational ways, its national-security policy is aimed at challenging the United States and its NATO allies and partners. For example, the new Russian national security-strategy depicts the United States and NATO as threats to Russian security and accuses us of applying “political, economic, military, and information-related pressure” on Russia. Thus, not only is Russia pursuing advanced military capabilities (especially in the underwater domain) that enable it to be a credible threat to us, it is now boldly saying that it intends to act as one. …

Russia now employs an “arc of steel” from the Arctic through the Baltic and down to the Black Sea. Combined with extensive and frequent submarine patrols throughout the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea, and forward-deployed forces in Syria, Russia has the capability to hold nearly all NATO maritime forces at risk. No longer is the maritime space uncontested. For the first time in almost 30 years, Russia is a significant and aggressive maritime power.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have put their armies on a war footing:

Leaders in the Baltic countries and Poland fear the force NATO plans to deploy on their territory is too small and symbolic to deter an attack by Russia, whose 2014 annexation of Crimea is fresh in the memories of the former Soviet-bloc states.

They will this week press other ministers of the western military alliance to help them build an air defense system against Russian aircraft and missiles. But that would be a highly sensitive step, likely to be condemned by Moscow as yet more evidence of a NATO strategy threatening its borders.

But NATO is not united in its sense of priorities:

… southern NATO nations, focused on uncontrolled migrant flows and the failing states on Europe’s borders, may also be unwilling to grant more resources to the eastern flank.

Ben Hodges, the commander of the U.S. army in Europe, visited Vilnius last week. He echoed Baltic concerns about the strength of NATO’s deterrence.

“It is a transition,” Hodges said. “I hope that includes serious war fighting capabilities. Just putting garrisons of troops sitting in the countries … will not deter.”

As understandable as it is that everyone’s focus is on the horror in Orlando, these are ominous developments on a much larger scale.

Donald Trump has in some ways turned this election into a referendum on NATO. The question Americans have been asked is whether they think Russia and Iran, together, pose a threat to America such that collective deterrence and the Atlantic alliance should be nurtured in an alliance led by the United States — or whether the US should “get along” with Russia, shut its borders, and turn inward.

These questions are not new. I found this 1949 essay by Arthur Schlesinger about Senator Robert A. Taft’s “new isolationism” fascinatingly topical. Read the whole essay and tell me if it doesn’t sound so up-to-date that it’s almost spooky:

Americans have always had a natural and splendid exultation in the uniqueness of a new continent and a new society. The New World had been called into existence to redress the moral as well as the diplomatic balance of the Old; we could not defile the sacredness of our national mission by too careless intercourse with the world whose failure made our own necessary. Two great oceans fostered the sense of distance, emphasized the tremendous act of faith involved in emigration, and, at the same time, spared the new land the necessity for foreign involvements.

The resulting isolationism — this passionate sense of a unique national destiny — was, in the beginning, a generous and affirmative faith. We were, as Lincoln said, dedicated to a proposition; we were engaged in a fateful experiment. America was conceived to be perfect, not in achievement, but in opportunity. Our responsibility was not to be complacent about what we had done, but to rise to the challenge of what there was for us to do. Our nation had been commissioned –whether by God or by history — to work out on this remote hemisphere the best hopes and dreams of men. Isolation was a means, not of confining, but of releasing democratic energy. This was the isolationism of the younger George Norris, of the early Hiram Johnson, of the Robert La Follettes.

But American isolationism did not consist only in an affirmation of the uniqueness of America; it also included — and increasingly so — a rejection of Europe. In a sense, of course, the very act of migration had represented an extraordinary act of rejection. “Repudiation of Europe,” Dos Passos once said, “is, after all, America’s main excuse for being.” Nor could such repudiation be without passion. America’s love-hate relationship with Europe has dominated our politics as well as our literature. As European struggles began to force themselves on the American attention, isolationism began to react with ever more explicit hostility and even hatred. An image of Europe began to haunt the isolationist consciousness–an image of a dark and corrupt continent, teeming with insoluble feuds, interminable antagonisms; senseless and malevolent wars. Europe was morally and politically diseased and scabrous; and contact with it would bring the risk of fatal infection. …

“The consolation is that this is probably a last convulsive outbreak of an old nostalgia,” Schlesinger concludes. “Once we have exorcised this latest version of isolationism, we may at last begin to live in the twentieth century.”

He was wrong. It wasn’t the last convulsive outbreak. We’re having one now, and we need to make this decision again, about the 21st century.

There are 45 comments.

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  1. Inactive

    This is one of the many reasons why the carrier gap is a serious threat to United States national security.

    I remember the nonsense on stilts that was the discussion of the “peace dividend” during the post-Cold War era. History is very clear that peace is not the natural order of man, but like many lessons of history each generation seems to have to relearn certain ones.

    This is also one of the reasons why I’m hoping for Brexit even though I know it’s not going to happen. Western Civilization is under serious attack and the core of it’s defense should come from the anglosphere.

    This is an area that where a Hillary Clinton presidency might actually be better than a Trump presidency. Trump doesn’t take alliance like NATO seriously and doesn’t support free trade. Clinton might actually be smart enough to quickly start on a free trade agreement with a newly freed Britain which could be the first step in either a better anglosphere-led NATO alliance or the start of something better as a replacement.

    • #1
    • June 14, 2016 at 4:59 am
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  2. Member

    Publius: Clinton might actually be smart enough to quickly start on a free trade agreement with a newly freed Britain which could be the first step in either a better anglosphere-led NATO alliance or the start of something better as a replacement.

    Didn’t her boss just tell the Brits that if they Brexit they go to the “end of the line” in a trade deal? When Herself is running as Obama’s third term?

    • #2
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:09 am
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  3. Inactive

    And then this happened.

    • #3
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:22 am
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  4. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Publius: anglosphere-led NATO alliance

    In what way is it not an Anglosphere-led alliance now? It’s led by the United States. I don’t think the pro-Brexit forces (on the British right or the left) are apt to be more supportive of collective security than the stay forces. Putin certainly thinks not, for what it’s worth.

    • #4
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:23 am
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  5. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Pseudodionysius:And then this happened.

    Yes, I saw that news. Yet another “Fiche S.”

    • #5
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:26 am
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  6. Inactive

    One small point:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: [From the WSJ quote in OP] The massive ship serves as a launching point for a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

    Our cruise missile and aircraft strikes at the start of our second invasion of Iraq almost began to approach the lower bound of what might be termed, if we’re generous, a near-constant barrage. The actual numbers of strikes work out to less than a dozen per day. Maybe that’s irresolution, maybe that’s from a lack of adequate target identification, but that’s not a barrage, near constant or any other sort.

    The US is playing patty-cake in this Cool-ish War, in the Med and the Black Sea (where in both places aircraft carriers are live fire exercise targets), in the Baltic Sea and Atlantic-related waters, in the South and East China Seas, and in too many land areas in eastern Europe and the ME–and in central and western Europe, as well, which are in range of redeployed Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Not to mention the Republic of China, which is at increased risk, too.

    It certainly is time to make the decision and either get serious or go home.

    Eric Hines

    • #6
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:35 am
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  7. Member

    Eric Hines: The actual numbers of strikes work out to less than a dozen per day.

    Many of which return to base with their ordinance.

    • #7
    • June 14, 2016 at 5:56 am
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  8. Contributor

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: (quoting the Fritz and Foggo article) ‘For example, the new Russian national security-strategy depicts the United States and NATO as threats to Russian security and accuses us of applying “political, economic, military, and information-related pressure” on Russia.’

    Isn’t this an objective statement of fact on the Russians’ part? That’s not to say that the U.S. and NATO shouldn’t be applying those kinds of pressure, but I can’t see denying that they are.

    • #8
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:07 am
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  9. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Publius: anglosphere-led NATO alliance

    In what way is it not an Anglosphere-led alliance now?

    Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, only one of the Secretaries General has been British, and none have been American. Of course, there is more to NATO leadership than the Secretary General but that is the most visible public-facing role. If NATO’s continued relevance/viability depends on US voters, it might be a good idea to have someone in that role who is or could become a household name to those voters.

    • #9
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:16 am
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  10. Inactive

    The USS Porter seems to be an interesting, and somewhat provocative, choice to send into the Black Sea – from what I can read about it, the ship appears to be specifically outfitted to oppose Russian fleet operations and regional threats by both being an Aegis ship and having a SeaRAM launcher to shoot down anti-ship missiles.

    The questions are whether Putin is able to mount sustained combat operations on Russia’s current financial reserves and if he’s correctly gauging the lack of will in the West to oppose his forces should they invade a NATO country?

    • #10
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:21 am
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  11. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Eric Hines:

    Our cruise missile and aircraft strikes at the start of our second invasion of Iraq almost began to approach the lower bound of what might be termed, if we’re generous, a near-constant barrage.

    The tempo of the strikes has been higher recently. I thought this was a useful DoD briefing. (I found the introduction painful, though — “many people eager to hear your briefing” and that empty room. How do you maintain morale when you see that?) But the big unanswered question is the strategic one: Can ISIS be defeated without taking on Assad? Does it make sense to in effect be in an alliance with Iran? And I don’t know the answer, but I suspect the answer is “no” and “no.”

    The actual numbers of strikes work out to less than a dozen per day. Maybe that’s irresolution, maybe that’s from a lack of adequate target identification, but that’s not a barrage, near constant or any other sort.

    It seems to me more likely to be the latter. But I don’t know.

    The US is playing patty-cake in this Cool-ish War, in the Med and the Black Sea (where in both places aircraft carriers are live fire exercise targets), in the Baltic Sea and Atlantic-related waters, in the South and East China Seas, and in too many land areas in eastern Europe and the ME–and in central and western Europe, as well, which are in range of redeployed Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Not to mention the Republic of China, which is at increased risk, too.

    I share the instinct — that we’re just engaged enough to enrage everyone, not engaged enough to assert dominance. But it’s an instinct, not an opinion informed by a very deep knowledge of what we think we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

    It certainly is time to make the decision and either get serious or go home.

    I’m so exhausted from the partisanship that makes it impossible to evaluate anything I read about any of this, aren’t you? So sick of the exaggeration and the conspiracy theories and the simplistic slogans.

    • #11
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:33 am
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  12. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    John Walker:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: (quoting the Fritz and Foggo article) ‘For example, the new Russian national security-strategy depicts the United States and NATO as threats to Russian security and accuses us of applying “political, economic, military, and information-related pressure” on Russia.’

    Isn’t this an objective statement of fact on the Russians’ part? That’s not to say that the U.S. and NATO shouldn’t be applying those kinds of pressure, but I can’t see denying that they are.

    Yes, that’s poorly written. I’m pretty sure I understand what they mean, though. The emphasis should be on “depicts the United States and NATO as threats to Russian security” and the highly paranoid language/thought process in their national security strategy, one in which the US is portrayed as the aggressor, the artificer of every misfortune to befall Russia, the instigator of color-revolutions, an existential threat to Russian existence, the cause of Russian failure. I haven’t read the strategy document (I can’t, it’s in Russian), but this way of thinking comes across loud and clear in their English-language propaganda, so I assume it’s the same tone.

    • #12
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:40 am
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  13. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Publius: anglosphere-led NATO alliance

    In what way is it not an Anglosphere-led alliance now? It’s led by the United States. I don’t think the pro-Brexit forces (on the British right or the left) are apt to be more supportive of collective security than the stay forces. Putin certainly thinks not, for what it’s worth.

    I’m apparently hoping in vain that if the British were to leave the EU that they would begin to become more – well – British which means rebuilding their military and taking a more active leadership role along with the United States. It’s a United States-led alliance now and I’ve had this unrealistic hope that the United States, the British, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada would come to their collective senses on the threat to Western civilization and act accordingly through a military and trade alliance (via NATO is just fine or some other vehicle) that would also include the willing non-anglo portions of the free world.

    I realize that Ireland is probably well and truly lost to the EU and I’m going to be shocked if Brexit succeeds, so you’ll have to forgive my detour down crazy fantasy geopolitical lane.

    So you’ve smoked me out, Claire, I’ll admit it. I miss the British Empire in many ways. I’d like to see them become a more powerful world power again.

    • #13
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:44 am
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  14. Member

    China and Russia are each likely to be further tempted into military overreach to distract from severe economic stresses.

    The world’s Muslims will react to a growing identity crisis by doing what Muslims have often done–reboot and try to install something purer and even less suited to the challenges of modernity.

    Growth and growth-inducing forms of innovation seem to have stalled. That stall saps the confidence of the West and confidence of others in the West.

    The Great Obama Vacuum has caused the entire world to re-arm and to despair of Anglo-American or UN imposition of order and border security.

    Brexit, Trump and Sanders marks the beginning of a global rebellion against the rule of the yuppie bureaucrat. It will end in new forms of nationalism, further isolationist tendencies, disruptions in trade and economic order, disruptions in currency valuation and small wars.

    Over the last two and a half decades, competent US leadership could have largely redrawn the world order. Clinton was visionless. Bush II failed to handle Iraq and Afghanistan in a timely fashion and Obama’s egoistic obsession with faculty-room anti-Americanism has pissed away whatever chance remained for a constructive new order.

    If the leaders of Iran, Russia and China were cunning enough, they would now jointly create enough global chaos to convince American voters that there was little point in being involved across either ocean. Pax Americana would be replaced with ugly shifting empires.

    • #14
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:51 am
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  15. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Austin Murrey: The questions are whether Putin is able to mount sustained combat operations on Russia’s current financial reserves and if he’s correctly gauging the lack of will in the West to oppose his forces should they invade a NATO country?

    Russia’s policy, as it repeatedly reminds us, is not “sustained combat operations,” at least in Europe. It’s “tactical nuclear weapons.” I don’t know if they can afford to maintain their position in Syria and Ukraine, and suspect they can’t for that long, which is precisely why Putin’s working so hard to undermine the sanctions. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a face-saving way to step down, and the alternative to winning, for him, isn’t “quiet retirement.”

    I think he probably is correctly gauging the lack of will in the West to oppose his forces should they invade a NATO country, yes. I don’t think he’d be obvious about it: He clearly does understand “giving the West a face-saving way to step down.”

    It seems to me less likely that he would outright wake up one day in the near future and invade Estonia than that he would work assiduously to create chaos in Europe with the goal of getting into power parties that will be more friendly toward Russian economic interests. But I don’t know: I don’t have any special insight into the Kremlin; the heuristic I use to assess their intentions is, basically, “Take Sputnik News at their word.” That may be too simplistic.

    • #15
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:53 am
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  16. Member

    I will read through all later as i have to go to work, but your initial statements, if you had to put pushpins in a world map, seem to indicate veiled set up to an arm wrestle forthcoming. If you have Iran and Russia siding with Assad, and US and NATO supporting removing Assad, that spells it out. It’ seems from your past stories that Russia has been strategically positioning itself to control the Middle East, the oil, the movement of it through ports, as well as stirring the pot of strife to make it look like they are “helping”.

    Just read in Daily Shot where Russian thugs who were trained caused trouble at the soccer match in France? They seem to serve no good purpose these days to their citizens, and peace – but just antagonistic moves to control. This makes for a dire near future if we are reading it correctly.

    • #16
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:56 am
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  17. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Old Bathos:China and Russia are each likely to be further tempted into military overreach to distract from severe economic stresses.

    The world’s Muslims will react to a growing identity crisis by doing what Muslims have often done–reboot and try to install something purer and even less suited to the challenges of modernity.

    Growth and growth-inducing forms of innovation seem to have stalled. That stall saps the confidence of the West and confidence of others in the West.

    The Great Obama Vacuum has caused the entire world to re-arm and to despair of Anglo-American or UN imposition of order and border security.

    Brexit, Trump and Sanders marks the beginning of a global rebellion against the rule of the yuppie bureaucrat. It will end in new forms of nationalism, further isolationist tendencies, disruptions in trade and economic order, disruptions in currency valuation and small wars.

    Over the last two and a half decades, competent US leadership could have largely redrawn the world order. Clinton was visionless. Bush II failed to handle Iraq and Afghanistan in a timely fashion and Obama’s egoistic obsession with faculty-room anti-Americanism has pissed away whatever chance remained for a constructive new order.

    If the leaders of Iran, Russia and China were cunning enough, they would now jointly create enough global chaos to convince American voters that there was little point in being involved across either ocean. Pax Americana would be replaced with ugly shifting empires.

    I unfortunately agree with your assessment. I suspect it’s even too optimistic. I fear we won’t just see “small wars.” Great power rivalries tend to end in “great big wars.”

    But nothing is cast in stone. It’s possible that Brexit, Trump, Sanders and the associated phenomena represent a moment of creative ferment from which some more optimistic vision could emerge. We just don’t know.

    • #17
    • June 14, 2016 at 6:59 am
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  18. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Publius: I’m apparently hoping in vain that if the British were to leave the EU that they would begin to become more – well – British

    Hard to say what would happen with any confidence, but I suspect a “Leave” vote will mean the end of the Tory party as it consumes itself in an ugly internecine power struggle and civil war. Cameron would obviously resign, forcing leadership elections. Some of its most talented MPs will quit politics. I don’t know if the party could reconstitute itself. Right now Labour has made itself unelectable with Jeremy Corbyn, but I don’t know what would happen if the right fractured. UKIP couldn’t govern.

    The instability would certainly bring short-term economic chaos for Britain. As for trade alliances, the best hope of what you’re describing is TTIP, but the anti-trade mood in the West is now so powerful that I don’t know whether that can be concluded. I hope so.

    Having a more charismatic, Anglophone-oriented Secretary General could be useful, I agree. Peter MacKay might have been a good choice; I don’t know what the politics of that were. But SACEUR is always an American, and should be playing the role you envision. (I don’t know much about General Scaparrotti — I had to look him up because I couldn’t even remember his name. That’s not a good sign.)

    • #18
    • June 14, 2016 at 7:15 am
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  19. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Russia’s policy, as it repeatedly reminds us, is not “sustained combat operations,” at least in Europe. It’s “tactical nuclear weapons.” I don’t know if they can afford to maintain their position in Syria and Ukraine, and suspect they can’t for that long, which is precisely why Putin’s working so hard to undermine the sanctions. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a face-saving way to step down, and the alternative to winning, for him, isn’t “quiet retirement.”

    I’m concerned with an invasion of the Baltics: if Russia invades Estonia, with a population of around 25% of ethnic Russians as their usual excuse, do we stop them to maintain NATO as a realistic force and if so how?

    It might be that despite their stated preference of tactical nuclear weapons they don’t have the delivery systems they need to evade anti-missile defense or they may be unwilling to use them in case they get into a nuclear war with the U.S.

    China is another worrisome aspect too – what if China declares their support for an invaded NATO country and invades Siberia? PLA troops would probably get a good ways into Russian territory and might roll up through Mongolia to boot. Since they’re ostensibly doing it to support a US ally we’re treaty bound to defend can or would we stop them?

    Regardless, the US deference to Putin and refusal to maintain dominance puts us perilously close to World War III.

    • #19
    • June 14, 2016 at 7:31 am
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  20. Member

    Kozak:

    Publius: Clinton might actually be smart enough to quickly start on a free trade agreement with a newly freed Britain which could be the first step in either a better anglosphere-led NATO alliance or the start of something better as a replacement.

    Didn’t her boss just tell the Brits that if they Brexit they go to the “end of the line” in a trade deal? When Herself is running as Obama’s third term?

    A report for the Heritage Foundation concluded the only things stopping a US-UK trade deal were the Obama Presidency and Britain’s membership of the EU.

    • #20
    • June 14, 2016 at 7:32 am
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  21. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Austin Murrey:

    Regardless, the US deference to Putin and refusal to maintain dominance puts us perilously close to World War III.

    World War IV. (I don’t mean to be pedantic about it, but I think it’s important to remember that the Cold War was a very real global war. Calling things what they were is important.)

    I think China is very unlikely to become involved in a European war, at least right now. In the long term, Russia’s east is indefensible, for demographic reasons. I think they’ve got the patience to wait. But again — I don’t know. That we could be speaking seriously of another European war is astonishing. It suggests we’ve entered a very destabilized new phase of history where predictions are hard to make.

    • #21
    • June 14, 2016 at 7:53 am
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  22. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I think China is very unlikely to become involved in a European war, at least right now.

    I agree it’s unlikely but I think (or maybe cynically believe) it depends on the actual situation of China’s economy: not the published figures we get, but the real ones possibly known only to the high-up Party members.

    From all I’ve read they’ve spent an enormous amount of capital investing in Africa to gain access to minerals and other resources that are available much closer to home in Siberia. It certainly worries me.

    • #22
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:00 am
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  23. Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Publius: anglosphere-led NATO alliance

    In what way is it not an Anglosphere-led alliance now? It’s led by the United States. I don’t think the pro-Brexit forces (on the British right or the left) are apt to be more supportive of collective security than the stay forces. Putin certainly thinks not, for what it’s worth.

    Color me skeptical. It’s possible, but I question whether Putin would face a more united opposition with the EU intact vs it being broken up. The EU has so far been toothless in protecting its eastern constituents. And it didn’t very much want a Ukraine to defend.

    • #23
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:05 am
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  24. Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Donald Trump has in some ways turned this election into a referendum on NATO. The question Americans have been asked is whether they think Russia and Iran, together, pose a threat to America such that collective deterrence and the Atlantic alliance should be nurtured in an alliance led by the United States — or whether the US should “get along” with Russia, shut its borders, and turn inward

    It doesn’t seem a very clearly defined referendum. Trump says lots of things about lots of things. About NATO he has said the non-US members need to pull more of their weight — which is official NATO policy. Last night he said:

    For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.

    I’ve said NATO needs to change its focus to stopping terrorism. Since I’ve raised that criticism, NATO has since announced a new initiative focused on just that.

    Earlier, he has said NATO is obsolete.

    On the other hand, he thinks the Iran nuclear deal is a disaster.

    Make of that what you will — and you have. I’m not sure I see what the other side of the referendum is offering.

    • #24
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:13 am
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  25. Thatcher

    Claire,

    I find nothing surprising about NATO’s behavior in Eastern Europe or the American Navy’s behavior in the Westen Mediterranean. Just as exactly you say, we are coming out of an isolationist illusion and behaving in a completely proper and responsible way. Smart diplomacy is a little too smart. The reset button was connected to nothing. The Spring turned into a tsunami of violence.

    Sorry for my sometimes over the top sense of humor. As in RailGunBoat Diplomacy. Yet, in humor there is truth.

    A very good post.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:29 am
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  26. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: The tempo of the strikes has been higher recently. I thought this was a useful DoD briefing.

    84 strikes in a week is about a dozen per day. That may be an increase in tempo, but it’s an increase from an extremely low baseline, and it’s nowhere near a barrage.

    [Aside: the opening paragraphs of the briefing would have been painful even with a full room–it’s scripted boilerplate, and most of us who had to give such briefings were pained to have to make those remarks. They’re like dressing for dinner, though….]

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Can ISIS be defeated without taking on Assad? Does it make sense to in effect be in an alliance with Iran?

    At the risk of being pedantic, the first question proceeds from a wrong premise. Evil cannot be defeated, it must be destroyed. Utterly. To your point, yes, the Daesh (the PA 0-6 was using the correct label) can be defeated without burning Assad, but it would be several orders of magnitude more difficult.

    Regarding your second question, the enemy of my enemy is likely not my friend, but he can be an ally of sorts for the moment. I have no problem with taking advantage of Iranian actions in order to facilitate the Daesh’s destruction or of using Iranian actions to facilitate Assad’s removal. We just have to be more careful than has been our wont.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I’m so exhausted from the partisanship that makes it impossible to evaluate anything I read about any of this…

    Yes, that’s irritating, to say the least. But what most irritates me is the numbers that wrap themselves in the comfort of their Cynicism Snugglies, insisting that nothing will work and so why bother. Not all the cynics are of this ilk, but a dismaying fraction of them are.

    Eric Hines

    • #26
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:29 am
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  27. Member

    The Reticulator:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Publius: anglosphere-led NATO alliance

    In what way is it not an Anglosphere-led alliance now? It’s led by the United States. I don’t think the pro-Brexit forces (on the British right or the left) are apt to be more supportive of collective security than the stay forces. Putin certainly thinks not, for what it’s worth.

    Color me skeptical. It’s possible, but I question whether Putin would face a more united opposition with the EU intact vs it being broken up. The EU has so far been toothless in protecting its eastern constituents. And it didn’t very much want a Ukraine to defend.

    Still thinking about this… Putin would obviously like to divide and conquer. Every aggressor does. But he is already doing that. And it’s not clear what he could offer to draw any of the EU constituent parts closer to him. It seems to me that the EU unity at this time consists of a homogenizing force that will mute any elements of determined opposition to Putin’s expansion plans. I could see France making sacrifices in the name of France to resist Putin, and Poland resisting for the sake of Poland, but it’s hard to imagine anyone offering any kind of fight, metaphorical or otherwise, under the banner of the EU.

    • #27
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:34 am
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  28. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    The Reticulator: Color me skeptical. It’s possible, but I question whether Putin would face a more united opposition with the EU intact vs it being broken up. The EU has so far been toothless in protecting its eastern constituents. And it didn’t very much want a Ukraine to defend.

    Almost all of the anti-EU parties are supported by Russia and promise to abandon the sanctions. We might wish it were otherwise, but it is so.

    • #28
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:35 am
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  29. Inactive

    Austin Murrey: The USS Porter seems to be an interesting, and somewhat provocative, choice to send into the Black Sea – from what I can read about it, the ship appears to be specifically outfitted to oppose Russian fleet operations and regional threats by both being an Aegis ship and having a SeaRAM launcher to shoot down anti-ship missiles.

    And it went in functionally alone. It’s a face-saving symbol, not a provocation. Putin’s “appropriate response” will be to buzz it, like he’s doing in the Baltic Sea, to emphasize Obama’s impotence.

    The Porter’s air support is as much as an hour away, with a commensurately short loiter time in the area.

    Eric Hines

    • #29
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:36 am
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  30. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Russia’s policy, as it repeatedly reminds us, is not “sustained combat operations,” at least in Europe. It’s “tactical nuclear weapons.”

    Which is why Putin is so hysterical about even our tepid moves to install the rudiments of a missile defense system in eastern and southeastern Europe–even one that’s not a threat to his strategic missile force, but instead is optimized against IRBMs and SRBMs. Oh, and cruise missiles.

    Eric Hines

    • #30
    • June 14, 2016 at 8:39 am
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