Revenge for Eurovision: Will Russia invade the Baltics?
May 18, 2016 10:02 AM   Subscribe

As Putin continues to probe, and another commentator predicts Russia will invade Estonia, Latvia and/or Lithuania within a year (also, Independent), it's useful to revisit Article 5 of Nato. Recently, the BBC simulation ended in a result of nuclear weapon use, which did not go down well, while another study also indicated results of either a Russian victory or nuclear war. Earlier in the year, Newsweek analysed this scenario; the Chicago Tribune blames NATO, as does The Nation, while The Master Plan considers ongoing Russian shenanigans.
posted by Wordshore (107 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
We had better invade now, just to be safe.
posted by Cosine at 10:14 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


They're just jealous of Lithuania's genuinely catchy number, in comparison to their expertly staged bore.
posted by maryr at 10:17 AM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Or rather set up a permanent defence force in the area sufficient to hold off the Russians until NATO reinforcements arrive, or at least prevent them from taking control and annexing the territory, which would transform the arrival of reinforcements into an invasion of Russian territory, for which nuclear retaliation is permissible in Russian military doctrine.

It'd cost about €2.5bn a year, but that's the price one pays for having taken the Baltic states into NATO/the EU. The other option is to start secret talks with Russia about a withdrawal and handover.
posted by acb at 10:17 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Baltics are worlds apart from the Ukraine, aren't they? They've been NATO members for nearly two decades, EU members for over one. Sabers gonna rattle, but who thinks Putin is truly aggressive enough to get into a war with NATO? This had better not be war hype to cloud the upcoming American elections.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:20 AM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


At least one retired British general, according to the second link.
posted by Harald74 at 10:24 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Surely Doctor Doom will step in before Russia can... Oh, Latvia, not Latveria. Never mind.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:24 AM on May 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Okay, it looks like retired British dude wants more military spending and a reconfiguration of the British military. As sincere as he may be, and as nasty as Putin is, it would not exactly be novel if someone with high-level military connections saw the world in such a way as to justify an increase in military power and prestige.
posted by Frowner at 10:26 AM on May 18, 2016 [35 favorites]


Russia will not invade the Baltic.

Putin is crafty but he's not insane. An open-ended Russia-NATO war is not something that either side can win, and both sides know it.

This is all just nationalistic dick-waving.
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon at 10:29 AM on May 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Retired generals are almost always shills for the arms industry. In this particular case former British general Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff now works as a mercenary (security consultant).
posted by srboisvert at 10:29 AM on May 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


Also, isn't Russian 'probing' something they've done since time immemorial as a way of sabre-rattling?

Is this anything new?
posted by leotrotsky at 10:31 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Military figures overestimate threats all of the time. We live in a universe where General Wesley Clark nearly caused a world war with Russia over a Kosovar airport, only to be stopped by the level-headed actions of James Blunt.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:33 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is how James Blunt achieved karmic neutrality.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:36 AM on May 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


On the other hand, Russia is actually quite into in adding places on dubious pretexts at the moment and has received little pushback on this.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Surely Russia can put a few days into forming a fake "Coalition of the Willing", or at least drum up some scary-sounding security reasoning to bomb wherever it likes, just like our government does. Come on, Russia, play along! :P
posted by anarch at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2016


Putin will do what Putin believes he can get away with doing, which depends on us. Invading the Baltics only remains insane for him so long as we keep it that way, which necessarily involves a NATO maintained much more diligently than it is now.

Brexit, which at worst will be a brutal ass slapping followed by a grovelling return before anything too consequential happens, plausibly isn't even one of the two biggest events for the future of the EU in the next year. Much more important will be the American elections as Trump would catastrophically upend the foundation the EU and European peace is quietly built on by "renegotiating" our NATO obligations, and possibly the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw this June.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Russia will only not invade the Baltic of it thinks it could not get away with it. The Baltic states are, thanks to Stalin and his penchant for forced population transfers, home to a large Russian population, whose rights to conduct their business in their own language are being denied by the countries' post-Soviet governments. Russia has, in the past, declared the welfare of all Russian speaking populations to be its concern, giving a pretext. (Look for pro-Russia political movements to "spontaneously" form, and then for Russia to issue Baltic Russian-speakers with Russian passports en masse; that's when you know the shit's about to go down.) Also, the lack of a land corridor to Kaliningrad would be an insufferable insult to a state that sees itself as the preeminent Eurasian power.)

As for Russia not being willing to suffer the consequences of such an action: that would be underestimating the Russian capacity for suffering. Also, I imagine Putin would probably very that those effete liberals would have qualms about nuking civilian population centres, as well as an inclination to deescalate the situation by suggesting everyone steps back, takes a deep breath and talks about it (see also: Crimea.)
posted by acb at 10:46 AM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Their economy is in the shitter and their government is brutally incompetent, a series of wars to distract from that is more likely, not less.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


This had better not be war hype to cloud the upcoming American elections.

It's worth noting that, "war hype to cloud the upcoming American elections" is just as likely to originate in the Kremlin. Putin is no stranger to "active measures" and has become very adept at motivating far-right and nationalistic/populist parties and voters in the West. I think its very much in his interest to see a Trump presidency.
posted by Kabanos at 10:53 AM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Their economy is in the shitter and their government is brutally incompetent, a series of wars to distract from that is more likely, not less.

This has not historically been true in situations where there are nuclear powers on both sides.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:55 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Their economy is indeed in the shitter, and will remain there for the foreseeable future, plus they're already spending anywhere from 20 to 100 billion dollars a year on maintaining the fruits of their annexation of Crimea. At some point the money runs out.

It's understandable why people in the Baltics would be worried about Putin, and the man does love his saber rattling, but I think the math stays on the side of saber rattling and not outright invasion. I'd also say that opening up a third war in addition to the two they're already fighting significantly increases the possibility that one or more ends up being humiliating failures.

Or, at least that's what several campaigns in Crusader Kings that were too depressing for me to keep playing have taught me.
posted by Copronymus at 10:57 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Putin's going to be fine, he just needs to start taxing DOTA item sales.
posted by selfnoise at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I think its very much in his interest to see a Trump presidency."
If you look at the contents of "Russia Today" (RT), the new Russian organ for state propaganda for the internet age, any one of us can see for ourselves just how much of a hard on Putin has for the prospect of a Trump presidency.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Estonian president just visited with the Finnish one. While they have agreed to disagree on their attitudes towards Russia, for various reasons, not a peep about this scaremongering was in the local news. Or on the Estonian president's twitter.
posted by infini at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2016


The US military has mostly been fighting guerrilla wars for the last 30 years. Going up against Russia would likely lead to a bunch of nasty surprises.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:09 AM on May 18, 2016


Retired war dude is war dude.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:10 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Over in the conspiracy universe, the nutters are a bit upset by the fact that NATO published a profile of the Eurovision winner last year, and linked to it after the finals. What are the odds, etc.
posted by effbot at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Putin will do what Putin believes he can get away with doing

Which is, basically, 'anything he wants.' NATO is smart enough to not want an actual shooting war with Russia, so he knows there's a line beyond which they won't go.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Russia under suspicion of sabotaging Swedish telecommunications masts. Insert your own joke about retaliation for Eurovision.
posted by acb at 11:26 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just a nudge to Telefonplan as a wee reminder how to vote the next time
posted by infini at 11:58 AM on May 18, 2016


That RAND "study" is really something to behold. They've got this whole thing planned out, from the first tank tread crossing the Volga. They forgot to factor in one thing, though: the main battle tanks defending Kaliningrad get an extra combat action, since their ISF is bolstered by a Skill Accuracy Level buff that they get from defending elevated territory. By the time the light infantry support reaches a point where they can reinforce, the defending force will have had... uh... oh, crap, I'm gonna have to go dig out my old FATAL tables to see what the modifier is.

(Editorial note: pretty sure the previous sentence is at least 125% as operationally correct as the RAND Corporation's models)
posted by Mayor West at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm starting to get worried that the sharp uptick in reactionary nationalism that we seem to have been seeing over the last ten-ish years, combined with economic inequality, the ongoing carnage in the Middle East and associated flood of refugees, looming resource shortages, and ever-increasing pressure from climate change, is going to throw the world into some seriously dark times in the next decade or two. I'm talking about the kind of global catastrophe that will seriously upend the lives of even comfortably middle-class people in developed countries, the sort of thing we haven't seen since World War II.

I see some really troubling clouds on the horizon, and not much being done to dispel them—instead, we seem to be starting down the same dark path that has led to so much human misery, so many wasted generations, all down the years of human history. Has it already been so long that we've forgotten the lessons we should have learned the last time we did this, or is humanity just doomed to repeat the same old mistakes over and over again? When will we learn that fear, hatred, and violence bring only misery and destruction? When will we learn to be better?

Things are getting scary.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [29 favorites]


Gosh, I just saw on the news the other day that the US/NATO activated a ballistic missile defense site in Romania and broke ground on another one in Poland. I wonder if trying to make a nuclear first strike against Russia feasible for the United States has any bearing on Russia's belligerent attitude. I can't imagine why, they were totes cool with us putting MRBMs in Turkey in the '60s.
posted by indubitable at 12:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Retired generals are almost always shills for the arms industry.

Worth remembering anytime one reads a discussion about the A-10 or F-35.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:47 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So for those saying Russia won't try invading the Baltics, what were your opinions a year or so before the Ukrainian war? If it was something along the line of "Oh it's just saber rattling", you mIght want to rethink your current opinion.
posted by happyroach at 12:59 PM on May 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


It's all a gambit to ease the sanctions we have in place against Russia. As the oil market continues to suck, even these modest sanctions are hurting. It's their only bargaining chip.
posted by Max Power at 1:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Russia derived very clear benefits from annexing Crimea and destabilizing Ukraine (which, don't forget, had been part of the Russian Empire and then the USSR for centuries); I can't see that it would derive any benefit from annexing the Baltics even if Putin could get away with it (and they had only been part of the USSR since WWII). And Putin doesn't give a shit about the poor oppressed Russian-speakers in the Baltics, get serious.
posted by languagehat at 1:15 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


You will find very few Russians who really feel in their bones that Ukraine is a separate country; even Joseph Brodsky wrote a nasty poem attacking the Ukrainians for wanting independence. You will not find a single Russian who feels Estonia is somehow inherently part of Russia, even if they would like to restore the glorious borders of the USSR.
posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Worth remembering anytime one reads a discussion about the A-10 or F-35

While the arms industry and the ex-Generals in its pocket are pushing for the F-35, it's everybody else that's pleading for the A-10 (the antithesis of the F-35) to be kept in service. Or maybe that's what you meant.
posted by Flashman at 1:32 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


And Putin doesn't give a shit about the poor oppressed Russian-speakers in the Baltics, get serious.

So did he feel deeply for the poor opressed Russian-speakers in the Crimea? The actual population in the Baltics is hardly the issue.
posted by Harald74 at 1:38 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Russia derived very clear benefits from annexing Crimea and destabilizing Ukraine

The main benefit is not losing its extensive Black Sea naval base. The costs of sustaining the occupation, and the economic costs of sanctions, have been considerable, though bearable (by Russian historical standards, certainly)

(which, don't forget, had been part of the Russian Empire and then the USSR for centuries)

The Baltic States had been fully integrated parts of both Czarist Russia (in the case of Lithuania since the Partition of Poland in the 18th century) and of the USSR in Putin's time. Also, geopolitically, they directly adjoin the heart of Russia and stand between it and the strategically important Baltic. Them being part of a hostile/rival bloc (NATO and the EU) constrains Russia close to home.

I can't see that it would derive any benefit from annexing the Baltics

1) Geopolitical coherency (the neutralisation of a potentially hostile staging post on the doorstep of St. Petersburg/Moscow) 2) A cementing of greater control over the Baltic region (currently they can project force from Kaliningrad, which they must resupply by air over potentially hostile territory; with the Baltics, they'd have effectively encircled Finland, and the Poles and Swedes probably can't sleep too easily either); 3) Prestige 4) a distraction from domestic problems, and or another Great Patriotic War, which go down well with otherwise restive populations, 5) payback for historical humiliations; NATO would effectively crumble like a paper tiger, leaving its eastern flank within reach of Russia's sphere of influence.
posted by acb at 1:38 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm curious whether overt Russian warmongering would in fact help Donald Trump's campaign. Militarism generally favors Republicans, but Trump is so clearly a Putin admirer (and Putin so clearly wants Trump in office) that I'm not sure he could make that work for him despite the party dynamics.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


OTOH, Clinton is notably hawkish on foreign affairs, whereas Trump, for what coherency may be gleaned from his bloviations, appears to be an isolationist. Presumably the American voters who pay attention to things happening across the Atlantic are sufficiently well read that this could not be guaranteed to play out along party lines.
posted by acb at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2016


Trump is also wildly unpredictable, however. I think anyone (Americans, Putin, whoever) who thinks they know what Trumps behavior will be internationally is fooling themselves.

Clinton, on the other hand, is a much more known quantity (and also literally more well known by many foreign leaders, for obvious reasons). This doesn't mean _better_, but at least more predictable.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:49 PM on May 18, 2016


(Russian warmongering? I must have been in a coma for the past what 25 years and dreamt up all those major military operations started by major-superpower-other-than-Russia but that’s obviously not relevant. Not at all. I kind of miss the proper cold war, at least all the propaganda and counterpropaganda from both sides was a lot more open and straightforward.)
posted by bitteschoen at 1:54 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Putin is probably banking on Trump being guaranteed to take poorly thought-out actions (or actions that are "rational" based on his own interests rather than the country's) rather than any single poorly thought-out action in particular.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:55 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, I wouldn't get rid of any A-10s right now.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"(Russian warmongering? I must have been in a coma for the past what 25 years and dreamt up all those major military operations started by major-superpower-other-than-Russia but that’s obviously not relevant. Not at all. I kind of miss the proper cold war, at least all the propaganda and counterpropaganda from both sides was a lot more open and straightforward.)"
It might not seem relevant to you as sit safe on your couch, able to get up and walk away from war like it was any other show on tv, but the threat of Russian invasion is neither a joke nor fodder for moralizing for millions of people.

War in Abkhazia (1991-1993)
War of Transnistria (1992)
East Prigorodny Conflict (1992)
Civil War in Tajikistan (1992–1997)
Georgian Civil War (1991–1993)
First Chechen War (1994–1996)
War of Dagestan (1999)
Second Chechen War (1999–2009)
Russo-Georgian War (2008)
North Caucasus Insurgency (2009–)
Annexation of Crimea (2014)
War in Donbass (2014–)
Intervention in Syria (2015–)

Putin has demonstrated a willingness to inflict violence and oppression on as many of Russia's neighbors as he can get away with, and what he can get away with is defined by the military capacity at his command stood up against the military capacity of those who would stop him. He has been investing Russia's oil wealth in more and fancier toys and has been working hard to convince Russian's that the whole world is impure and out to get them while both the US and Europe crawls up our own asses in our own different ways - encouraged by his generous investments in the European far right and shit like Infowars.

We're better than this, we're smarter than these kinds of bullshit false equivalencies. Sure we may not in aggregate be smarter than the Iraq war, but the world Putin dreams of is something far worse than that.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [34 favorites]


Putin is probably banking on Trump being guaranteed to take poorly thought-out actions (or actions that are "rational" based on his own interests rather than the country's) rather than any single poorly thought-out action in particular.

It's a bit like Russia's approach to dissent; it's seen as a corrosive that destroys the orderly workings of power, and something to be weaponised and deployed behind enemy lines. Which is why RT and Sputnik News will amplify the voices of any extremists, separatists or conspiracy theorists in the west, whereas in Russia, the media is increasingly tightly controlled, any hints of anything even approaching separatism (like talk of a distinct Siberian identity, as opposed to a Russian one) are suppressed with extreme prejudice, and troublesome journalists tend to fall victims to random acts of violent crime. In this case, having a bozo in power in America would be seen by Putin (who is definitely not a bozo, at least when it comes to geopolitical strategy) as beneficial.
posted by acb at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I honestly did have this weird "July 1914" feeling watching all the strategic and bloc voting going on in Eurovision this year. (Also: Bulgaria was robbed.)
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2016


- The US and the EU military powers have relativistic weapons and the energy systems to power them. Lasers and railguns both. MAD may no longer be possible.

- The US has an automated ground-attack air ability that is insanely cheap and won't cost a single US life to operate with impunity over Russian soil. They will run out of AA before we run out of Predators, and we can ramp up manufacturing to crank them out by the tens of thousands near instantly.

- Russia is without allies, with the possible exception North Korea. Iran is not in the mood to screw their deal with the US.

- Russia cannot affect transoceanic shipping. Their subs are all old and noisy and tailed by NATO boats at all times. The US will trade freely with Asia and Europe, and this means they will replace war materiel lost at a rate the Russians can't match.

- It will be a global war. China and Japan will want in to (re)claim territory in the Russian Far East. Khazakstan and Uzbekistan will see it as a war of survival, as Russia has already been rattling sabers in that direction. We're talking a three-front war. At least. Russia is barely holding its own in the three they got going on at the moment.

- If they pick a fight with the EU and lose, the Russian Federation will be broken up into its constituents, and lose what territory they have in the Baltic with the exception of St. Petersberg.

- If they win, they will gain a few tiny countries that will never be pacified, be frozen out of the international market by the EU, US and the rest of the world that can be strong-armed (almost all of it), and will be stuck with the bill for rebuilding its trashed-to-hell military capacity after going toe-to-toe to the smaller but better equipped NATO-lead alliance.

This seems like lose/lose all around.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2016


That's assuming that it escalates into a global war. The prospect of losing, say, Bratislava or somewhere to a nuclear strike, or even of the optics of C130s full of flag-draped caskets coming back from the Baltic front, could be enough to get NATO to confine their reaction to sharply worded speeches in the Security Council and really tough sanctions.

And Russia could probably endure such sanctions. The little people will suffer, but their leaders will reinforce that it's the wicked Amers and Eurosodomites who have it in for Holy Russia. And the Russian capacitiy for suffering is high. Meanwhile, Russia has a lot of natural resources.
posted by acb at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


To follow up acb:

6) The complete collapse of NATO as a protective force. If NATO decides not to defend the Baltics, then it's effectively dead. No member of the alliance will be able to trust to defend them- it will be individual small nations against a much more powerful Soviet Union.

7) Destabilize the EU: knock on effect from destroying NATO: with no military alliance, and heavy political recriminations, the EU will be weakened, and possibly fracture in favour of individual nations cutting deals with Russia.

8. Russia Ascendant: Russian influence is dominant as far west as Poland, and the former EU is crippled. Under this situation, sanctions from Europe at least will be withdrawn.

It's a speculative plan, but the question ought to be, why isn't Putin doing this?
posted by happyroach at 3:21 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Oh, I wouldn't get rid of any A-10s right now."

Right. We just upgraded Selfridge for re-fueling our beloved A-10s (democrats words, not mine) because nothing scares ground troops like an A-10. Ask ISIS. This is why russian medium range bombers were so "successful" in Syria.

I can't see Lithuania standing any of Putins' poly-sci probes. NATO is there to support, not conduct strategic policy.
posted by clavdivs at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2016


"It's a speculative plan, but the question ought to be, why isn't Putin doing this?"

Because for him it's a game, albeit one with very serious real life consequences if played incorrectly. Russia is a kleptocracy, not a nation ruled by ideology like the Soviet Union. He's playing geopolitics with a "What's best for me now?" attitude, instead of a desire to change the world. Discrediting NATO would be a huge win, but if he lost the consequences would be far greater. I don't think Putin wants to directly challenge NATO right now, not when appearing to stand up to the west (mainly the US) is much more beneficial for him.

In the future circumstances could change. If any of the Baltic nations become embroiled in civil war, or if a hypothetical President Trump withdrew American forces from Europe, or if the Russian economy collapsed completely like Venezuela, then the stakes might be high enough for Putin to justify more aggressive play. But we're not there yet.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:20 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


The US military has mostly been fighting guerrilla wars for the last 30 years. Going up against Russia would likely lead to a bunch of nasty surprises.

otoh, the constituent NATO nations who have had experience fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq could share a lot of their hard-bled wisdom to the armed forces of the Baltic nations, should the unthinkable operation happen and insurgency be needed against an occupying force.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:07 PM on May 18, 2016


It's a speculative plan, but the question ought to be, why isn't Putin doing this?

Because Russia needs Europe as a trading partner, don't shit in your own bed.
posted by Max Power at 5:20 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


> 1) Geopolitical coherency ... 2) A cementing of greater control over the Baltic region ... 3) Prestige 4) a distraction from domestic problems, and or another Great Patriotic War, which go down well with otherwise restive populations, 5) payback for historical humiliations; NATO would effectively crumble like a paper tiger, leaving its eastern flank within reach of Russia's sphere of influence.

Yeah, I can make those arguments too, nothing is simple in these matters, but I've been following this stuff for a long time and I doubt he thinks those possible gains are worth the serious risk. I could easily be wrong. We'll watch and wait, and the onward march of history will tell us who is right, comrade.
posted by languagehat at 5:54 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The US military has mostly been fighting guerrilla wars for the last 30 years. Going up against Russia would likely lead to a bunch of nasty surprises.

Why? The US's problem throughout the Bush-era wars is that it has been trying to fight a counter-insurgency with an army designed to battle the Warsaw Pact in Europe. The entire US military is still designed around fighting the Warsaw Pact in Europe. It's the war all the military brass and defense contractors secretly hope for: a set piece battle between identifiable armies on terrain that they've been gaming out for generations.

Which is not to say this would be a good development. It would be a worldwide disaster. But the US military would probably do as well as you could expect it to anywhere.
posted by indubitable at 5:59 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So for those saying Russia won't try invading the Baltics, what were your opinions a year or so before the Ukrainian war? If it was something along the line of "Oh it's just saber rattling", you mIght want to rethink your current opinion.

It depends. I wasn't shocked by Russian involvement in the Ukraine and Crimea, it seemed like the next step in the Putin scheme of things. Russia would like to move to the next step past Crypto-War in the Baltics, but they won't this year. They might consider it if NATO wobbles in the future.
posted by ovvl at 6:53 PM on May 18, 2016


any one of us can see for ourselves just how much of a hard on Putin has for the prospect of a Trump presidency.

As the saying goes, there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two.

(But you know you're through the looking glass when the Russians really want to elect the GOP candidate. Henry Wallace, thou shouldst be living at this hour!)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:26 PM on May 18, 2016


The Russians can't seem to prop up Assad in Syria. Their adventure in the Ukraine is a huge money pit and shows no sign of resolution. Meanwhile the price of oil is in the basement and looks to be staying there for a while. Risking war with NATO in the next 12 months seems really unlikely.
posted by humanfont at 7:38 PM on May 18, 2016


8. Russia Ascendant: Russian influence is dominant as far west as Poland, and the former EU is crippled. Under this situation, sanctions from Europe at least will be withdrawn.

It's a speculative plan, but the question ought to be, why isn't Putin doing this?


Because this is basically the same as rubbing the magic lamp and asking the genie for a vastly expanded and probably nuclearized Bundeswehr? And for the armed forces of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania to be near the limits of what their economies can tolerate?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 PM on May 18, 2016


When three Yank carrier groups steam into the Baltic Sea like it weren't no thing, as German subs in this day and age are as ever no joke and know at all times where the Red Boats are, and anti-missile destroyers are ships that exist in the American fleet, and the Russians realize the American carriers with modern planes could reduce every city east of the Urals to a nice, level plain despite AA systems...

Sure, the Russians could go nuclear as pretty much their only response. The Americans would not be the first to retaliate - which Brit or French city or battalion you toasted invited an out-of-the-Americans-hands reply? And we're pretending that only the French and British have nukes in the EU. Or NATO. Or American-aligned allies.

Dude, the Dutch sent their own to die in Afghanistan because the Americans asked them to. Can you imagine the hellstorm sent the Russian's way if the war comes home to Europe? They're not even the giant population anymore, Japan has almost as much manpower to match them by themselves. France + Germany = Larger Population than Russia, and also anti-missile laser-weapons.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:11 PM on May 18, 2016




Putin has demonstrated a willingness to inflict violence and oppression on as many of Russia's neighbors as he can get away with, and what he can get away with is defined by the military capacity at his command stood up against the military capacity of those who would stop him.

And Russia is unique in doing this calculation how exactly?

We're better than this, we're smarter than these kinds of bullshit false equivalencies. Sure we may not in aggregate be smarter than the Iraq war, but the world Putin dreams of is something far worse than that.

We're better than facile ideas of American exceptionalism. I suggest examining the plank in our own eyes, before calling out the speck in Russia's. American aggression over the last three decades far surpasses any Russian expansion in scope and brutality.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:48 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


...and shit like Infowars.

I'm no fan of Infowars, but are they backed by Russian money?
posted by RakDaddy at 9:05 PM on May 18, 2016


Crimea and Ukraine, from the Russian point of view, were reactive actions, not proactive. As things stand so far, everything Russia has done was avoiding a rollback from the state of balance reached immediately after the end of Soviet Union. Georgia attacks Abkhazia, Russia reacts and rolls them back. Russia could in theory take Tbilisi but stays away; goes a bit into Georgia then leaves quickly.

Ukraine stages a popular uprising against Yanukovich, Russia takes Crimea, securing Sebastopol. It supports pro-Russian Donbass but stops short of attaching Donbass territory to itself.

Crimea is an interesting case. Historically, it was invaded by the Britain and France in mid-19th century, Russia loses 140k killed, loses siege of Sebastopol, loses the war, but keeps Crimea. Take note how Crimea and especially Sebastopol are the stage of, in Russian historical memory, an epic showdown between Russia and the West -- from their point of view, initiated unfairly, for unclear reasons, by the West.

In 1954 Khrushchev transfers Crimea from the Russian republic to Ukrainian republic for administrative reasons. However Crimea is still in effect administrated by Russia because Ukraine is administrated by Russia, so in effect nothing changes either in perception of Crimea or in actual state of Crimea - it's still the same Soviet territory, governed by the same people, with different middle-management.

In short, Crimea was Ukrainian for around 20 years, under mostly Russian-aligned Ukraine, which ensured security of the Sebastopol base.

It's a very far stretch to equate Crimea takeover and Donbass mostly-by-proxy war with Baltic states. After the Soviet Union break-up, Baltic states left and never looked back, never had anything to do with Russia and immediately aligned with and joined EU.

It's hard to say what Putin is really thinking but it would be a pretty reasonable guess that it's something along the lines of "Baltic states are long gone, tough luck, such is life; Ukraine was our backyard, Crimea is even more of our backyard, and Sebastopol base was always supposed to be our secure holding".

Is Putin going to try to make something happen in the Baltic states? It's hard to completely rule it out but it would be 1. far crazier than anything he's ever done and 2. far outside of the general line of trying to hold the status quo after the break-up, clearly an offensive step rather than defensive one. If Putin takes Baltic states he's basically aiming, at the very least, for the former border of the Soviet Union; that's ALOT of unwilling states to go to war with: all of Western Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Kazahstan, all the other *stans -- that's a far cry from rolling into Crimea where the majority is pro-russian.

At this point, why not invade the whole of Eastern Block, Venezuela, Angola, Nicaragua, South Korea, and maybe something random like Brazil and Malaysia?
posted by rainy at 10:03 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


By the way, EU military budget = $215B; US - ~$600B; Russia - ~70B. So, about 8% of combined EU/US budgets. That's not counting non-EU members who are aligned with US or EU: sweden, switzerland, japan, australia. Putin probably keeps these numbers on post-it notes taped to his desk.
posted by rainy at 10:19 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"We're better than facile ideas of American exceptionalism. I suggest examining the plank in our own eyes, before calling out the speck in Russia's. American aggression over the last three decades far surpasses any Russian expansion in scope and brutality."
I bet Putin would love to subscribe to your newsletter, you sound just like the stooges writing for RT, he might even be willing to pay you.

What American hegemony did with Western Europe was in fact very different from what Russian hegemony did with Eastern Europe, just like how North and South Korea look very different from each other. When I protested the Iraq war more than a decade ago now, no one shot at me, none of the journalists whose work I was following met with untimely violent ends, Bush didn't somehow end up as one of if not the richest man in the world and he quietly left office to paint when his term was up. The American people seem to have learned from the experience of the Iraq war and probably won't support another for at least another 30 years while Russia seems dead set on a rapidly escalating 2 to 4 year cycle, and American "security interests" are generally found in the peace and security of our neighbors rather than the opposite.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:46 AM on May 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Two things would make that comparison mure useful, rainy: One is to adjust it for purchasing power parity, and another is to keep in mind that what Russia gets for that money is a single unified force, and the EU/US gets around 30 different militaries of wildly different sizes and every single one of them has their own baggage (accountants, building management and the like) that don't benefit the sharp end directly.

Russia now has the ability to deploy around 60.000 boots on the ground, quickly. NATO/EU would really struggle to scrape together a similarly sized force in Europe, and would probably need months to pull it together.
posted by Harald74 at 1:49 AM on May 19, 2016


Crimea and Ukraine, from the Russian point of view, were reactive actions, not proactive

The Baltics could be dressed up as reactive as well; (“the governments illegally denied Russian grandparents who endured the Great Patriotic War the right to live their lives in their home country using their own language”, followed by some (either provoked or arranged) “fascist” violence against Russian-speaking minorities, after which a sombre Putin sends in “peacekeepers”.
posted by acb at 2:19 AM on May 19, 2016


- The US and the EU military powers have relativistic weapons and the energy systems to power them. Lasers and railguns both. MAD may no longer be possible.

Citation needed.

Lasers and (non-relativictic) railguns are still in the developmental phase.

I believe you meant hypersonic, rather than relativistic.

I'm not aware of any great successes where lasers/railguns/old-fashioned-missiles reliably shoot down MIRVs, cruise missiles, giant nuclear torpedoes, suitcase nukes, and so on.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:24 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's hard to say what Putin is really thinking but it would be a pretty reasonable guess that it's something along the lines of "Baltic states are long gone, tough luck, such is life

That's a pretty sanguine view of things based on what I've read about Putin's keen historical interest in the Baltics. His personal experience as a KBG officer was in Estonia, and its said that he has a strong view about the region.

What's in it for Putin? Plenty. By destabilising the region and pursing an ambiguous intervention just short of actual military invasion, using proxy forces with secret financial and technical support, using Russian funds to support insurgency, Putin can pursue his strategic interest in splitting Europe and Nato, exposing their internal divides about posible responses and thereby weakening both institutions. He could easily view Russian-created chaos in the Balkans as a tool to achieve this diminishing of the EU and NATO, leaving something just short of full war. This has been much written about and discussed.
posted by C.A.S. at 4:29 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't see that it would derive any benefit from annexing the Baltics even if Putin could get away with it

I certainly defer to your knowledge of Russian history and culture, languagehat, but I'm curious what you think about the last link in the post, a look at The Master Plan, a new documentary about Russia's ongoing propaganda war and political manipulation in the Baltic states - the dispersal of textbooks questioning Baltic independence, helping elect pro-Putin politicians, that sort of thing. This at the end seemed particularly interesting:

"It's pretty clear if you invade a country, Article 5 applies," said Jemberga. "But what if you attack the communications? What if you do some kind of flare-up on the border but you actually don't come in? What if you steer the local population, send in some militants who are not dressed in Russian army clothing to flare up this thing? Does NATO intervene?"
posted by mediareport at 4:46 AM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the endgame would be there. A rigged referendum à la Crimea on becoming part of Russia? A Hong Kong-style managed democracy, where Moscow vets eligible candidates? Or perhaps some form of Finlandization, where the Baltic states are nominally independent, but reminded in no uncertain terms that they're Russia's bitch?
posted by acb at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay I have a discovered a solution to all this. I learned it last night while playing CIV 5. We just need to revive/reincarnate Boudica leader of the Celts. Russia started getting all invady and Boudica kicked their ass all over the place, then I and Germany stepped in and razed Moscow.

Problem solved.
posted by Jalliah at 6:43 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Have you seen Britain these days?
posted by Artw at 6:54 AM on May 19, 2016


"Russian shenanigans" ??

Yeah, look how close they put their country to our military bases.

If anyone's probing, escalating and threatening, it's NATO, an organization that after a couple decades finally discovered that they have outlived their usefulness and are now trying to restart the cold war in a futile attempt to find a reason for existing.
posted by Djinh at 7:15 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's right. The Ukraine, Baltic States, Finland, Poland, &c., are naturally in Russia's sphere of influence, and who are we Yankee imperialists to interfere.

Sorry, Balts; I know you were getting used to the rule of law, democracy, gay rights, a free press and such, but them's the breaks. Hey, I hear you can always apply for refugee status in Sweden or somewhere.
posted by acb at 7:24 AM on May 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Responding to a few comments: yes, Baltic states invasion could be dressed up in a similar way to Crimea and Abkhazia. But, using the same logic, anything can be dressed up in that way. Send a Russian-speaking dude to Bhutan, let him acquire citizenship, complain that local schools speak Bhutanese; send in the paratroopers.

The fact still remains that Crimea and Donbass were leaning in Russian direction for cultural reasons and had the economy much further down the tube than Russia, and they were still left alone until Ukraine at large swung into anti-russian mood which directly threatened the Sebastopol base. Donbass is being played as a bargaining chip instead of allowing it to join in.

Literally none of this applies to the Baltic states. They've been moderately anti-russian since forever, they have a russian-speaking minorities just like tons of other countries, their economy is in a much better state than Russian. If you asked Russian speakers in the Baltics, 90% would probably be strongly against rejoining Russia.

I'm not sure about RT, but I've been reading lenta.ru which has been taken over by Putin about a year ago, and it had run plenty of stories about Ukraine and various stories critical of the US, but nothing that I can remember about the Baltics. In fact, there's been a lot more stories about Poland than Baltics, so if you want to base your predictions on Putin-mandated editorials, I would expect invasion of Poland to be that much more likely.
posted by rainy at 7:25 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I vote the aggressive and unstable shithole that's actively invading the countries that border it as the problem here.
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on May 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Harald74: all fair points but on the other hand most of EU military is concentrated in the few large countries so it's not really split into 30 little pieces; both EU and US can seriously ramp up their military spending even further while Russia is already overspent.

Compare this to the invasion of Afghanistan which strongly contributed to the Soviet break-up; there was no NATO in Afghanistan, short of shoulder-fired AA and small arms; Afghanistan had a socialist government asking to be propped up; Afghanistan wasn't a part of EU.

--
As I mentioned, I don't know what RT coverage of the Baltics, but my guess is there may be two reasons: 1. it helps internally - if Russians are being mistreated in the Baltics, Putin should be given a pass on local economic troubles in Russia; 2. Preparation in case of some kind of a seismic change in the EU: e.g. breakup of the EU, Baltic state economies are in the shitter, Russian economy improves like it did in mid-2000s, population of one of the Baltic states open to create closer ties to improve economy. None of this is even remotely likely, but RT has to fill up 24 hours every day, that's still a lot cheaper than invading a country.
posted by rainy at 7:45 AM on May 19, 2016


"Yeah, look how close they put their country to our military bases.

If anyone's probing, escalating and threatening, it's NATO, an organization that after a couple decades finally discovered that they have outlived their usefulness and are now trying to restart the cold war in a futile attempt to find a reason for existing.
"
What a ridiculous thing to say, wow. There is exactly no threat of offensive action from NATO on Russian soil, NATO countries have nothing to gain from destabilizing a region it has a lot of interest in flourishing. NATO even has a strong security interest in a stable healthy Russia that is capable of managing its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, keeping Chechnya/Dagestan from getting any worse than its already made it, holding its large population of xenophobic dictator-happy bigots in place and outside of Europe, keeping the gas flowing in winter, and not descending further into being an unstable and aggressive shithole.

The point of those NATO bases is to prevent what happened to Crimea from happening to more countries, by making any attempt at invasion into a shooting war that would have to escalate rather than a cakewalk for Russian special forces in civilian clothes. Russia doesn't 'own' its neighbors anymore than the US or EU 'owns' countries, and if Russia's neighbors are scared enough of it that they desperately clamor to join NATO thats their business and not Putin's. Fuck these imperial games, the moment Putin stops playing is the moment they become an anachronism in Europe.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:46 AM on May 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Neither side expects direct invasion, but it's always better to have a base somewhere rather than not to have it, and it's always better not to have the adversary's base nearby.

NATO invasion of Russia is not out of the question: what if there's a pro-western government for a few years and then it loses an election, says votes were stolen and requests peace-keeping presence? This isn't any more unlikely than Russian invasion of a NATO country, which is perhaps even less likely given that NATO + allies military budget is 20 times Russian budget and their economies could easily support scaling it to be 40 times Russian budget.
posted by rainy at 8:14 AM on May 19, 2016


So for those saying Russia won't try invading the Baltics, what were your opinions a year or so before the Ukrainian war?

I can't imagine looking at what has happened and is happening in the Ukraine and thinking that a military conflict in any of the former eastern block would benefit anyone in Europe except, arguably, Russia.

the reason why the US and UK are so hot to create these military provocations is that without Russia as a threat, NATO has zero reason to exist. And, without NATO, the US rapidly loses influence on the continent and without the US, Britain is not so great.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:35 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


"NATO invasion of Russia is not out of the question: what if there's a pro-western government for a few years and then it loses an election, says votes were stolen and requests peace-keeping presence? This isn't any more unlikely than Russian invasion of a NATO country, which is perhaps even less likely given that NATO + allies military budget is 20 times Russian budget and their economies could easily support scaling it to be 40 times Russian budget."
Do you mean some kind of mad dash for the nukes? The idea of even the most pro-western Russian government requesting "peacekeeping assistance" from the West is just as inconceivable now as it was during the fall of the Soviet Union. Even if such a request weren't a lot more than just political suicide, what makes you think NATO would even consider intervening rather than just allow the return of a dictatorship that would be much much safer than anything an invasion force could conceivably impose?
posted by Blasdelb at 8:40 AM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, if Russia reaches the point where a pro-Western government is anything less than totally inconceivable then the situation on the ground has changed so much that none of what anybody is saying in 2016 applies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:41 AM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


"the reason why the US and UK are so hot to create these military provocations is that without Russia as a threat, NATO has zero reason to exist. And, without NATO, the US rapidly loses influence on the continent and without the US, Britain is not so great."
The UK needs absolutely no help from the US to squander its influence over the European continent.

This is the National Military Strategy of the United States for 2015, its honestly a fascinating document. If NATO really did have zero reason to exist, and American military commitments to the protection of Europe from Russian aggression really were an anachronism of a previous era, it could look very different and put the United States in a position of wielding a hell of a lot more influence relevant to both American interests and 'American interests'. The US can't even get European nations to fulfill the commitments they agreed to when they signed up to NATO, and needs to expend political capital just to get Europeans to even pretend to defend themselves, everything that NATO is drains American influence - unless you consider the Russian alternative.

For better or worse, a Europe that doesn't need to bow to Russian aggression is still the central purpose of the US military and it is still tooled in large part to deter it rather than harass developing countries towards freedom/'freedom' or use that wealth for better purposes.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:01 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The US can't even get European nations to fulfill the commitments they agreed to when they signed up to NATO, and needs to expend political capital just to get Europeans to even pretend to defend themselves, everything that NATO is drains American influence - unless you consider the Russian alternative.

so, why would the "Europeans" be reluctant to fulfill their commitments to NATO? it's an odd presumption that somehow Europe is to immature to look out for its own security interests... or maybe they just forgot about how important NATO is?

either way, you'd have to be completely gullible, like the Ukrainians and Georgians, to think the US would actually risk military conflict with Russia on Russia's periphery.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:36 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


the reason why the US and UK are so hot to create these military provocations is that without Russia as a threat, NATO has zero reason to exist. And, without NATO, the US rapidly loses influence on the continent and without the US, Britain is not so great

This is nonsense.

First of all this presumes the US is "creating" a military provocation in the Baltics, which as seen in the Mother Jones doc in the original post is unlikely.

The US has no need to artificially create a reason for NATO to exist, and US national interest is in a stable Europe, exactly the opposite of an intentionally destabilised Europe.

In fact Obama was attempting to pivot away from European commitments in order to devote more resources to the Pacific and Asia, assuming a reduced need for a European presence. Part of this effort involved also trying to get Western European countries to raise their defence budgets above 2 percent of GDP and shoulder their proportional share of national defence rather than rely on the US umbrella.

No comment on the (Non) Great Britain (where I live), but as noted in the US/Obama commentary on Brexit and trade deals, the US is not prepared to view bolstering British self-esteem as part of its national interest.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:01 AM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


either way, you'd have to be completely gullible, like the Ukrainians and Georgians, to think the US would actually risk military conflict with Russia on Russia's periphery.

To be fair to the US, expecting them to back you up after your crazy ass unilaterally invades Russia is pretty unreasonable.
posted by indubitable at 10:09 AM on May 19, 2016


The American people seem to have learned from the experience of the Iraq war and probably won't support another for at least another 30 years

What America are you talking about? This one?
posted by srboisvert at 11:06 AM on May 19, 2016


The idea of even the most pro-western Russian government requesting "peacekeeping assistance" from the West is just as inconceivable now as it was during the fall of the Soviet Union. Even if such a request weren't a lot more than just political suicide, what makes you think NATO would even consider intervening rather than just allow the return of a dictatorship that would be much much safer than anything an invasion force could conceivably impose?

Why is it inconcievable? Even Putin himself, back in the early 2000s, has said that Russia could potentially join NATO. If a pro-western party takes over, they'll make overtures to join NATO much more vigorously than Putin did. And if they had support of a good chunk of population, it would be no suicide for them to ask for UN peacekeepers.

Also, if Russia reaches the point where a pro-Western government is anything less than totally inconceivable then the situation on the ground has changed so much that none of what anybody is saying in 2016 applies.

Uhm, during the financial crisis Putin's ratings were steadily diving towards 50%. After Ukraine events and before the oil prices fell, they were in the low 90% range; now they're going down at a good pace again, and the full reprecussions of the current crisis haven't even hit yet, and the Russian rainy-day fund isn't exhausted yet. Putin's ratings are very volatile. Give it 10 years and nobody can say where they will be. It may well be much worse than 2009, and back then at least it was pretty obvious that the crisis started in the US, and yet Putin's ratings took a nosedive.

Also -- you are responding to my comment about Russian reasons for opposing a ring of bases surrounding their western borders. Whether we here on Metafilter can make predictions into the future or not, does not affect *Russian* military planning, which I'll go out on a limb to presume, is not based on Mefi discussions!
posted by rainy at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2016


The US can't even get European nations to fulfill the commitments they agreed to when they signed up to NATO, and needs to expend political capital just to get Europeans to even pretend to defend themselves, everything that NATO is drains American influence - unless you consider the Russian alternative.

Holy cow, that's a nice way to twist it. It appears to me that it's just exactly the other way around - - Europe signed up for NATO to oppose the Soviets and they don't believe for a second that Russia is a similar threat, and EU on the whole doesn't want to spend billions on the fantasy that Russia might invade Baltic states or Poland, and they are smart enough to know that Ukraine events weakened Russian position (and economy).

The problem is that whenever Europe is being smarter than the US, the US perception is that Europe is being cowardly. Same thing happened in the ramp-up to the Iraq.
posted by rainy at 1:45 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


what makes you think NATO would even consider intervening rather than just allow the return of a dictatorship that would be much much safer than anything an invasion force could conceivably impose?

Forgot to comment on this: that's actually a fair point -- however, when it comes to defending from potential invasion from the West, especially given Russian history, the argument that "eh, they probably wouldn't do it even if they could" perhaps doesn't serve as a deciding factor in internal Russian military policy discussions.
posted by rainy at 1:59 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why is it inconcievable?

Because the west has spent seventy years trying to avoid a war with the Soviet Union, and now Russia. It's the nightmare scenario that no one wants. When Yeltsin shelled his own Parliament in '93, there was no one in NATO that wanted to intervene.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:01 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and Soviets and then Russia spent 70 years trying to avoid a war with NATO. That was my whole point. Russia invading a NATO country is even much more unlikely than NATO invading Russia. For example the Soviets, who had a much stronger position, were very reluctant to commit in Korea and Vietnam, embarrassed themselves by publically fleeing Cuba, and so on.
posted by rainy at 2:06 PM on May 19, 2016


And why would they want to intervene when Yeltsin was shelling Parliament? Wasn't Yeltsin doing a good job already, do you think he needed NATO shells in case he ran out? Yeltsin was more pro-west than the Parliament.
posted by rainy at 2:08 PM on May 19, 2016


I mean intervene if he lost. Everyone was scared of what could happen if the hardliners took over and brought back communism, but no one wanted to say or do anything that might influence the outcome of that struggle.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:12 PM on May 19, 2016


He wasn't really in a position to lose. He wasn't being attacked, he just wanted the Parliament to follow his orders. It's as if Republicans were blocking nominations, refusing to pass the budget, and Obama would just shell the Capitol with public support.

IF there was a coup against Yeltsin at the peak of popularity, I think it's possible that he could ask for UN support (Yeltsin was a bit wild and unpredictable), if there was enough time (there probably wouldn't be).
posted by rainy at 2:21 PM on May 19, 2016


> I'm curious what you think about the last link in the post, a look at The Master Plan, a new documentary about Russia's ongoing propaganda war and political manipulation in the Baltic states - the dispersal of textbooks questioning Baltic independence, helping elect pro-Putin politicians, that sort of thing.

Oh, sure, that sort of thing is right up Putin's alley. I just don't think he'll send in the tanks.
posted by languagehat at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2016


Europe signed up for NATO to oppose the Soviets and they don't believe for a second that Russia is a similar threat,

Depends who you ask. A flood of Soviet armour up the Fulda Gap is no longer a serious threat. But Finns, Swedes, Poles, and the Baltics do feel threatened right now by Russia as is, and have considered various options in response. The Swedes had a Russian military sub sink practically in the harbour in Stockholm last year.

Oh, sure, that sort of thing is right up Putin's alley. I just don't think he'll send in the tanks.

That is the point. He doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in advisors, money, cyberwar, disinformation, agents prov., weapons, weakening the existing state and destabilising just enough to force the West to deliberate about a response and widen natural rifts in NATO about an appropriate response. His track record in other areas is to create these post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zones with ethnic Russian populations like Transnistria etc. Its conceivable (who knows how likely) that the same could happen somewhere in the Baltics.
posted by C.A.S. at 3:55 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Swedes had a Russian military sub sink practically in the harbour in Stockholm last year.

Unless I missed something big, there was a "hunt" or two, and a bunch of potential sightings, most of which was obvious bullshit and the rest unconfirmed. These things tend to coincide with budget discussions and/or NATO-fans campaigning for Sweden to join NATO yesterday.

(one of the membership proponents, newspaper Dagens Nyheter, saw submarines exactly everywhere last year, and they're also really excited at the moment, after a 332-meter high radio mast fell over Sunday, 911 emergency services got knocked out yesterday, and Arlanda's radar system broke down earlier today, grounding air traffic for a couple of hours. Two out of their three top headlines right now contains the word "Sabotage" and elsewhere pundits talk about hybrid warfare and draw parallels to the "green men" in Crimea...)
posted by effbot at 4:25 PM on May 19, 2016


Submarine and fighter plane intrusions into Swedish waters and airspace have been ongoing, even if there are a spate of false alarms as well.

In 2013, the Russians embarrassed the Swedes in a military exercise where they penetrated and "destroyed" Stockholm with 6 planes without a response from Swedish airplanes.

One cannot say that all sense of threat in Sweden is partisan on behalf of either Swedes wanting to join NAT0 or outsiders. Most Swedes still want to avoid in general any alliances (60%) but the percentage who favour joining NATO has grown larger (37%) than that those who say its a bad idea (31%) for the first time ever. That is a reflection of the Baltic unease.

Russia has also weighed in on the issue.

Russian missile test day after warning Sweden not to consider NATO
posted by C.A.S. at 4:47 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wasn't it Swedish military policy throughout the Cold War to act effectively as a member of NATO, whilst professing neutrality? Has this been rescinded?
posted by acb at 4:58 PM on May 19, 2016


> He doesn't send in the tanks.

Tell that to the Ukrainians.
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Speaking of why this is a Bad Idea - autonomous sub hunters.

One of these will be parked over every rooskie-fish in international waters, full time, all the time. Why, yes the prototype is unarmed, kind of you to ask. Oh, did I say one? These things are cheap.

If you also ask "how can it go for years at a time at sea like the Russian subs they hunt?" ... well. Congress has been demanding the Navy give all kinds of answers about all kinds of power options lately, mostly so they can invest early. A few car-makers have made very visible investments in hydrogen fuel cells. Rhinemetal and Boeing are strutting about with their lasers blowing up interesting things. This week, the Air Force announced they're looking to lasers for fighters, too.

The new Russian Armata tanks look nice, tho, especially on paper, I wonder how many of them they can make?
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


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