[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]
I lived most of my life in Europe and even though by the time I moved to the USA (2002) Europe was already in a very bad shape, what I see happening there now never ceases to amaze me. In fact, it makes me wonder if the Europeans or, more accurately, the European leaders have gone completely insane. Either that, or maybe they have some kind of death wish?
The first thing which absolutely amazes me is the fact that the EU leaders are acting as if this was still the 1980s when Europe still mattered and when the European continent was relatively prosperous. And even when EU leaders acknowledge the problems facing Europe today (crime, immigration, lockdowns, civil unrest, tensions with Russia, self-defeating sanctions under US pressure, etc.), they systematically deal with them (so to speak) by minimizing their actual and potential impact and consequences. And if nothing else matters, they use the riot police forces to “solve” the issue.
Then there is NATO which now seems to believe that mantric incantations and some really dumb military “for show” activities along the borders of Russia will terrify the Kremlin and turn Russians into Poles. Apparently, the entire analytical apparatus of NATO has never opened a history book. Either that, or they have decided to ignore the lessons of history, because “this time around” the Russians will definitely surrender.
To be fair, all the military operations along the Russian border bother the Russians only because they show that the “collective West” still hates and fears Russia. But in purely military terms, they are a joke.
Not so long ago the endless western provocations eventually got a reaction out of Russia: the Russians re-created of the First Guards Tank Army (FGTA). For most people, the concept of “Tank Army” means little. A “Guards Tank Army” even less. So rather than use any Russian sources (Putin’s never sleeping “hackers” and “agents”), let’s take a source which nobody can suspect of being pro-Russian: Wikipedia. Please check this Wikipedia entry for the history of the First Guard Tank Army”. At the bottom of the article, there is a partial list of units and subunits composing this Army. Check it out:
- Army Headquarters (Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast)
- 60th Command Brigade (Selyatino village near Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast)
- 2nd Guards Motor Rifle ‘Tamanskaya’ Division (Kalininets, Moscow Oblast)
- 4th Guards Tank ‘Kantemirovskaya’ Division (Naro-Fominsk, Moscow Oblast)
- 6th Separate Tank ‘Częstochowa’ Brigade (Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
- 27th Separate Guards Motor Rifle ‘Sevastopol’ Brigade (Mosrentgen, Moscow City)
- 112th Guards Missile ‘Novorossiysk’ Brigade (Shuya, Ivanovo Oblast) (9K720 Iskander)
- 288th Artillery ‘Warsaw’ Brigade (Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
- 49th Missile Air Defence Brigade (Krasnyi Bor, Smolensk Oblast) (Buk-M2)
- 96th Separate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) Brigade (Sormovo, Nizhny Novgorod City)
- unknown Combat Engineer Regiment (in formation until the end of 2018) (unknown location in Moscow Oblast)
- 20th Separate NBC Defence Regiment (Tsentralny, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
- 69th Separate Logistics Brigade (Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
No need to go into all the details, but let’s just say two things about this Tank Army: first, it has a lot more capabilities than “just” tanks and, second, this was the Army which really broke the back of the Nazi forces in WWII: it destroyed or captured 5,500 tanks, 491 self-propelled guns, 1,161 aircraft, 1,251 armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 4,794 guns of various calibers, 1,545 mortars, 5,797 machine guns, 31064 vehicles and other military equipment. The 1st guards tank army fought its way from Kursk to Berlin, which stretched for three thousand kilometers (source).
By the way, the FGTA will also get the very newest and best Russian tanks (there is no point in deploying the Armata family of armored vehicles elsewhere but towards the western borders of Russia), and the two most famous tank divisions of modern Russia.
Furthermore, we need to understand that this Tank Army will not operate in isolation, but will be directly supported by the Western and Southern Military Districts , the Black and Baltic Sea Fleets (equipped with the newest Russian hypersonic missiles) and the Aerospace Forces. Even the powerful Northern Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla (!) could, if needed, provide support for central European operations thanks to the long reach of Russian missiles.
So what is the purpose of the FGTA? Think of it as a powerful armored “fist” whose main goal is to stop any enemy attack and then punch through its defenses. Russia also announced that she will double the size of her Airborne Forces (currently at 4 Airborne/Air Assault Divisions, 4 Air Assault Brigades, 1 Special Operations Brigade, with roughly 45’000+ soldiers). Besides these Airborne/Air Assault units, the Russian military can also make use of her Spetsnaz Forces (8 Spetsnaz Brigades and 1 Spetsnaz Regiment according to the IISS’s Military Balance 2020). True, only part of these units will go to the Western and Southern Military Districts, but that is already much more than what NATO could realistically hope to be able to cope with (for details, see here).
Here is a short video to give you a sense of how Russian Airborne Forces (all fully mechanized, unlike their western “equivalents”) are preparing for next generation wars:
Oh, and did I mention that the entire Russian nuclear triad has been modernized (or is currently in the process of modernization)?
Now comes the interesting question:
What kind of forces does NATO have which could deal with this kind of power?
On paper, a lot. In terms of raw numbers (what military analysts call “bean counts”), the West has much larger forces than the Russian ones.
But, in reality, very, very little, at least of military value.
What is NATO today? First, a coalition of small countries trying to find the courage to bark at the Russian bear the way dozens of chihuahuas would bark at a big brown bear. These small countries are what I call “prostitute states” – they don’t want sovereignty, freedom or dignity. All they want is for Uncle Shmuel to protect them when they bark and for the EU to give them tons of money as a reward for their prostitution to the collective West. They are apparently unaware that Uncle Shmuel is a world champion in destroying countries, but in terms of actually winning wars, Uncle Shmuel is one of the worst war losers in history (in that sense, the US and Russian militaries are polar opposites). They are also apparently unaware that the EU is broke and in a deep crisis. Besides, even the normally compliant the Germans are now getting fed up spending billions of Euros on their clueless and hopeless eastern neighbors (and I don’t blame them!).
There are also more civilized countries in NATO, countries which used to have some very real military power and a history of winning and losing wars: Germany, the UK, France, etc – what Rumsfeld called “Old Europe”. They are all former imperial powers of their own, and they are much more aware of what it takes to win (or lose) a war.
Their problem, however, is that they are now true US protectorates/colonies, with no real foreign policy of their own. Their top leaders, political and military, are also prostitutes, just like “New Europe”, so while they have a wealth of historical experience to draw from, they cannot act on it because of the iron grip Uncle Shmuel has on their political throats. Even France, which used to have some real independence, under such leaders as de Gaulle and Mitterrand, now is just another voiceless and clueless protectorate.
Which leaves the USA. I won’t repeat it all here, but to sum it all up: there are only two segments of the US military forces which are still meaningfully combat capable: the nuclear triad and the US submarine forces (strategic and attack). Both use mostly old, even outdated, equipment, both waste absolutely fantastic sums of money, but both are still for real. The problem with such a lop-sided force is that while it can devastate any enemy, it can only do so at the cost of being devastated by the Russian counter-strikes. In other words, by the time the US SSN and SSBN are engaged against Russia, we will be dealing with a large-scale war (even more so if nukes are used, which they probably will, at least on the tactical level). Oh, and this too: no amount of subs and nukes can “protect” any part of Europe from a (entirely hypothetical) Russian attack (conventional or not). For that, you still need the one thing the US has the least of: combat capable “boots on the ground”.
Did you know that in the 1990s Russia almost had no defenses in the western direction? Nothing bigger than division/brigade sized forces. And they were all in very bad shape. And the Kremlin, under Eltsin, only wanted to further “reform” (i.e. “destroy”) the Russian military.
So what brought about such dramatic changes in the Russian force posture?
The EU/US/NATO war against the Serbian nation.
And the endless western threats, of course.
One could be excused for thinking that the collective West would have realized this mistake and that now they would try something smarter?
They did exactly the same thing again, this time with the Kaliningrad enclave.
And they are now openly talking about “dealing with Russia from a position of force”!
Last time Germany tried that, it didn’t go too well, did it?
Let me summarize what recently happened: the Russians mostly deployed defensive systems in Kaliningrad: air defenses, early warning radars, signals intelligence, fighters, interceptors, electronic warfare units, etc. According to Russian sources, these systems had the ability to spy on much of northern Europe and were capable of simultaneously engaging 475 aerial targets (missiles, aircraft, etc.). Furthermore, these capabilities provided much needed support for the operations of the Baltic Sea Fleet.
Western analysts, always in search for some kind of buzzword or fancy sounding acronym, described that as “anti-access and area denial” aka A2/AD, and proceeded to use it as a justification for more money spending on completely unrealistic plans (see here for a good example). But that was not all, NATO commanders openly stated that they would “send” all sorts of “signals” to “deter” Russia. Again. And, so they did. They sent comparatively tiny forces to their 3B+PU (that is 3 Balts plus Poland and the Ukraine) protectorates where they played at all sorts of seriously sounding wargames.
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, but NATO analysts apparently don’t know that. But what had to happen did happen: Russia has now announced that she will create a full Motor-Rife Division inside the Kaliningrad enclave. And this division won’t be “sending” any “messages” to 3B+PU, NATO or anybody else. But they will train for real war, the kind of war which Russia always waged on her enemies when attacked. Bravo NATO! Now you are going to have to deal with a much more dangerous force than before, well done!
As for the Poles, they are now claiming that the entire “Fort Trump” plan, of which they were so proud of, was just a concept. Why? Because these losers are now terrified that the Biden team will remember how they backed Trump during the past four years (as did the rest of the 3B+PUs). This really is worth repeating: unlike those countries which heroically resisted the AngloZionist Empire (Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc), or those who at least did not volunteer to be occupied (Japan, Korea, Germany), the 3B+PU are the only countries actually willing to pay (while being mostly broke!) for the US military to occupy them. Just from that perspective any Russian will immediately conclude that irrespective of their numbers on paper, these country’s actual combat potential is close to zero (the Russians remember very well that all the many units composed of volunteers from many European countries occupied by Germany and who were fighting on the side of Germany during WWII were only good at massacring and terrorizing civilians, but when faced with the regular Red Army they *always* ran like hell).
Finally, if you think of NATO as a structure, then the US military is both its foundation and its cornerstone. With the US entering the worst crisis of its (admittedly short) history, it is completely unable to perform even its normal tasks, nevermind fighting the most powerful military force on the planet.
If the EU leaders had any kind of awareness of these realities, they could immediately embark on a series of steps to stop this insanity. Amongst these could be such “unthinkable” steps as:
- Declaring that Russia and/or Putin are not always responsible for all the evil and problems in the universe.
- Immediately being to take small, but steady, confidence building measures, including resuming normal contacts between western and Russian militaries.
- Resuming economic collaboration with Russia, not because anybody has to like or approve of Putin, but simply to give the best possible conditions to the European industries.
- Stop parroting the idiocies à la Skripal/Navalnyi cooked up about Russia by the Anglos and tell them that they can fight their own (useless) propaganda wars if they like them so much.
- Getting together with the Russians and any mentally sane central European leaders to discuss what to do together to save the Ukraine from its current implosion (which will very negatively affect the EU, much more so than Russia).
- Define a list of policy issues in which Russia and the EU could work together, stuff like immigration, crime, terrorism, Takifirism, space, health crises, etc.
These are just a few, basic, suggestions. A real list could be several pages long and be much wider than the few options I listed. None of them require anything painful or crucial from Europe, just good old common sense.
But no, not only are EU leaders not making even small steps to return to sanity, they still think they can bully and threaten Russia into some kind of compliance. I wish somebody told them something as simple as “Russia ain’t Poland”, really.
At the core of it all, there is a cultural difference: Europeans (and nevermind their US bosses!) are not really afraid of war. That is why they are not really prepared for it at all. The Russians are very, very afraid of war, because they know and remember it. This is why the West is all threats and no action, while Russia is all actions and no threats. From the Russian point of view, the best way to avoid war is to really, really prepare for it. One could argue that 1000 years of Russian history were a never ending lesson in preparation for war, especially since most wars fought by Russia were existential.
As my friend Andrei Martyanov recently mentioned in his blog, “Russians also have a saying: once every century Europeans gather their forces and go to Russia to get the shit beaten out of them”. He is right. But last time around Russia lost 30+ millions of people in truly horrible battles. She also lost most of her economy. Then, in the 1990s, Russia almost completely disappeared as a country. As a result, there is this notion of “never again – enough is enough!” underlying most Russian actions today.
The US and Europe can only ignore this at the greatest possible risk for their own survival. Take it from Putin himself, who recently declared “as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”