Monday, February 7, 2022

More Evidence That Putin Is Likely Trying to Wag the Dog

 2/7/22 Daily Mail:

A top retired Russian general has warned Vladimir Putin not to go to war with Ukraine, accusing the leader of whipping up an 'artificial' conflict to distract from his domestic problems.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, 78, penned an open letter titled 'The Eve of War' in which he blasted Putin's 'criminal policy of provoking a war' despite Russia not facing any 'critical threats'....

Commenting on the letter, Stanford Russia expert Michael McFaul, who previously served as the US ambassador to Russia, said: 'This is a big deal. At one time, General Ivashov was one of the most respected (and hawkish) leaders in the Russian MOD. 

'Russian generals don't usually get involved in public policy debates, especially ones like Ivashov.'

An interesting point also:

'The use of military force against Ukraine, firstly, will call into question the existence of Russia itself as a state; secondly, it will forever make Russians and Ukrainians mortal enemies. 

'Thirdly, there will be tens of thousands of dead young, healthy men on one side and on the other, which will certainly affect the future demographic situation in our dying countries.  

Dying countries?   World War II's enormous losses meant that a whole generation of young men had no children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Russia's population is falling fast.

This video (just data, no commentary) shows a similar problem for Ukraine, both from World War II and the Stalin-era intentional famine.

Tens of thousands dead on both sides would accelerate a rapidly growing population crisis for both nations, somewhat as the ready availability of abortion after Roe v. Wade (1973) has impacted U.S. population; admittedly not as severely as World War II did for Russia and Ukraine.

The Afghanistan War's casualties were a minor contributing factor in the Soviet Union's collapse.  Putin would be a fool to invade the Ukraine.  Even ignoring battlefield losses, new sanctions by the West would likely cripple Russia's economy more than it is already.  In light of his supposed fear of encroaching NATO, the irony is that such a war would certainly drive Sweden and Finland into NATO.  If Ukraine survived, ditto.

I am aware of the argument that the West had some role in creating this crisis.

Mearsheimer points out that part of the problem is that the West's goal is democracy.  Not surprisingly, this terrifies the rulers of Russia and China as much as it does our rulers.

More interesting evidence that Putin may not be as capable as he thinks.  1/14/22 Forbes:

The Russian army doesn’t have enough trucks to keep a fast-moving army fed, fueled and armed. But that’s not the only logistical problem the Russians must contend with if they hope to widen their war in Ukraine and swiftly expand the territory they and their separatist allies control.

Traditionally weak when it comes to supply, the Russian army might have exacerbated its weakness through ill-considered attempts at logistical reform. Namely, the Kremlin handed over to a commercial firm much of the responsibility for supporting front-line battalions....

Capacity isn’t the only problem. A decade ago, the Kremlin overhauled the military’s logistical system to hand over more responsibility to a state-run commercial firm, Oboronservis. The rationale was that the military, depending as it does on short-term conscript manpower, couldn’t reliably cultivate the expertise combat logistics requires.

Today Oboronservis’s contractors are sprinkled throughout the MTO brigades and their subordinate units. There could be friction.

“The critical point for the MTO during its support for combat operations is precisely this: the extent to which the military structures and civilian agencies can be integrated in order to meet deadlines and avoid unnecessary delays,” Roger McDermott wrote in a 2013 study for the Swedish defense department.

“The civilian institutions are also now private, profit-making entities and not institutions driven by state planning considerations. As such, they expect to have a contractual relationship with the [defense ministry] and to make a profit, and the efficiency needed by business will collide with the demand for effectiveness required by the military.”...

It’s not clear that Russia’s smaller-scale intervention in Syria and eastern Ukraine qualify as rigorous tests of this new quasi-civilian logistical system for a bigger war. And it’s worth noting that, within a couple years of taking over army logistics, Oboronservis employees had embezzled so much money that it became a national scandal.

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