Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

April 21, 2016

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When asked two weeks ago in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the Army was “outranged” by any adversary, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, but yes, technically [we are] outranged, outgunned on the ground.”

Given Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, this is sobering testimony. But is it accurate? Unfortunately, yes: Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.

Outnumbered? While the Russian army is a fraction of the size of its Soviet predecessor and is maintained at a level of imperfect readiness, we found that it could — in 10 days or so — generate a force of as many as 27 fully ready battalions (30–50,000 soliders in their maneuver formations, depending on precisely how they were organized) for an attack on the Baltics while maintaining its ongoing coercive campaign against Ukraine.

All these Russian units would be equipped with armored vehicles — tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), and so forth. NATO, meanwhile, would be able to respond largely with only light, unarmored, or lightly armored forces. These would consist of the forces of the Baltic republics themselves and those that the United States and its partners could rush to the scene in the few days of warning that would likely be available.

Counting the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force” (VJTF), NATO could optimistically deploy elements from three airborne infantry brigades, one Stryker brigade, and one U.S. armor brigade. Russia would achieve initial advantages in tanks (7:1), infantry fighting vehicles (5:1), attack helicopters (5:1), cannon artillery (4:1), long-range rocket artillery (16:1), short-range air defense (24:1), and long-range air defense (17:1).

Outranged? But the problem is not just numbers. The Russians field cannon and rocket artillery with significantly longer ranges than their U.S. counterparts. Existing Army tube artillery can generally fire at targets 14 to 24 kilometers (9 to 15 miles) away. Unfortunately, the most common Russian self-propelled howitzer NATO forces would encounter in the Baltics has a range of 29 kilometers (or 19 miles). On the battlefield, these differences matter.

Moreover, at the moment, the United States has no Multiple-Launch Rocket System units deployed in Europe, but even if it were, and the range of its primary rocket is only 40–70 kilometers (25–44 miles) depending on payload. Meanwhile, Russian forces are richly equipped with two rocket artillery systems with ranges up to 90 kilometers (56 miles).

Outgunned? Here the evidence is somewhat less clear, but the situation is certainly far less favorable to the United States than it is accustomed to. While Russia’s tanks and IFVs in some cases share the same designations as those that U.S. forces encountered in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, those weapons have little in common besides the name. They have much more advanced armor, weapons, and sensors, and in some areas — such as active protection systems to defend against anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) — are superior to their Western counterparts.

If a fight broke out today in the Baltics, Russian attack helicopters, IFVs, and even some tanks could employ ATGMs with an effective range that could penetrate the armor of most if not all NATO combat vehicles, including the U.S. M1 tank. The M1s might maintain a slight advantage in the close-in fight, if they survived to get there. But given the current U.S. posture, there would at best be only a few dozen on the field, compared to about 450 Russian. The Baltic states themselves have no heavy armor, and our analysis indicates that no other European heavy forces could make it to the frontlines in time to influence the outcome of a short-warning Russian assault.

Beyond the disadvantages of being outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned, a slew of other issues compounds the problem. First, NATO allies and the U.S. military would be of limited immediate help offsetting these disadvantages. European allies followed the American lead by cutting armor and optimizing their remaining forces for “out-of-area” missions like Afghanistan. Thus, Great Britain is continuing with plans to withdraw its last troops from Germany, while Germany has reduced its army from a Cold War level of 10 heavy divisions to the equivalent of two.

But it’s not just the numbers here that matter. The United States and its partners have also steadily reduced the infrastructure necessary to support any kind of substantial deterrent or defensive effort in Europe. Today, there are no U.S. division or corps headquarters forward-based on the continent, nor any Army aviation, engineer, and associated logistics brigades. Our analysis — which assumed brigades could be received, moved to the front, and then commanded, controlled, and supported once there — may have ignored significant shortfalls in all these dimensions. Deploying brigades is not enough. Without a plan, without adequate logistics, without robust command and control, a better-prepared adversary would still overwhelm NATO.

Second, airpower has long been the U.S. trump card, and the Army relies on it to deliver fire support and protect its units from enemy air attack. This reliance has reduced the amount of artillery it deploys with its maneuver forces and, for all intents and purposes, has stripped them of organic air defenses.

While these choices were entirely sound in facing the Taliban and Iraq’s air force and integrated air defenses, Russia is an entirely different story. Russia fields perhaps the most formidable array of surface-to-air missile (SAM) defenses in the world. Operating from locations within Russian territory, these SAMs far outrange existing defense-suppression weapons and present a credible threat to U.S. and allied airpower that would be costly and time-consuming to counter. Unlike recent American wars, getting air support will not be as easy as making a call and waiting. Especially in the crucial early days of any conflict, allied ground forces may find air support available only in narrow windows of time and space.

And third, the Russians possess a credible air force of their own. Our analysis shows that Moscow could commit hundreds of fighter, attack, and bomber aircraft to an assault on the Baltic states. While such forces are ultimately qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to the alliance’s airpower, when teamed with Russia’s surface-to-air defenses, such forces could present a threat to U.S. and allied ground forces moving to reinforce or counterattack. Without ground-based air defenses of their own, and with limited overhead cover from NATO air forces, U.S. Army formations could suffer serious attrition from enemy air attack for the first time since World War II.

On top of all these issues, geography is a harsh mistress in this scenario. It’s about 130 miles from the Russian border to Riga, a distance that modern armored forces can traverse in a matter of hours. Even against fierce opposition from airpower, our analysis shows that there is simply not enough time to inflict sufficient damage to halt a Russian attack, absent sufficient NATO ground forces to slow their movement and force invaders to operate in ways that make them more vulnerable to air attack. This is intrinsically a joint fight, not one that can be won on the ground or from the skies alone.

Add in the fact that the Bush administration decided — and the Obama administration affirmed — that, beginning in 2019, U.S. forces will no longer use cluster weapons that leave more than one percent of their ordnance unexploded on the ground. While admirable on humanitarian grounds, this decision — for which there is no parallel on the Russian side — will significantly reduce the effectiveness of U.S. artillery and air fire against Russian artillery, air defense, and mechanized targets. Given the weakness of NATO’s overall posture, this is no trivial concession.

Today NATO is indeed outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned by Russia in Europe and beset by a number of compounding factors that make the situation worse. Having said that, it is possible to begin restoring a more robust deterrent posture and to do so at a price tag that appears affordable in the context of an alliance with an aggregate GDP of $35 trillion. The enlarged European Reassurance Initiative announced by the administration is a step in the right direction, though not a complete solution. Also, NATO’s European members must begin making the necessary investments to fulfill their commitments to the alliance’s collective defense; this is not just America’s problem.

It seems unlikely that Vladimir Putin intends to turn his guns on NATO any time soon. However, the consequences should he decide to do so are severe. Probably the best outcome — if the phrase has any meaning in this context — would be something like a new Cold War, with all the implications that bears. A war with Russia would be fraught with escalatory potential from the moment the first shot was fired; and generations born outside the shadow of nuclear Armageddon would suddenly be reintroduced to fears thought long dead and buried.

A situation 20 years in the making will not be solved overnight, nor will solving it be politically simple or non-controversial for an alliance consisting of 29 members with different priorities and perceptions. Nonetheless, the potential consequences of failing to do so are so dire that prudent investments — in improved posture and thoughtful, targeted modernization of the joint force — to stave them off are warranted to assure allies living next to a belligerent Russia and to provide an insurance policy against the risks of a potential catastrophe.


David A. Shlapak is a senior international research analyst and Michael W. Johnson is a senior defense research analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.


Photo credit: Aleksey Kitaev

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40 thoughts on “Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

  1. If NATO intends or give the impression they will fight a limited war with imaginary lines of the Baltics they will lose lose badly and very likely temp Russia into going for it.

    Unlike the ole Soviet the current Russia is at a force numbers disadvantage. Maybe not locally but on a grand scale multi front campaign they would be very hard pressed both early and later stages. NATO should make it crystal clear that if Russia hits a NATO member it WILL NOT be limited, it will be a conventional war across all Russian territory and assets. That will deter Russia.

    You want un-defenseable look to Kaliningrad wedged between Poland/Lithuania, you want stretch of forces imagine Japan in the Kurils, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, on the offensive under US air with real mil support of weapons advisers SOF. Pressure Armenia to evict Russian troops or face Azerbejahn with full US air support, Belarus evict Russian forces, deny passage, be neutral, or face being the main front. Want to see over stretched air defense open US air to all conventional Russian targets from end to end. You want to see Putin on a stick approve US air strikes against the Russian electric grid infrastructure of the population centers i.e. gen pop and hit the oil/gas production transit infrastructure i.e. oligarchs.

    NATO holds the advantage, what is causing this surge in Russian aggression and bluster is a ole school Soviet Putin being in charge with a very weak pitiful US leadership as opposition. Europe is always divided.

    1. You forget one thing, if Russia is on the offensive, then it cannot justify the use of nuclear arms. If Russia is on the defensive and what you describe would be an existential threat, then Russia would be justified in using nuclear arms.
      You also have to consider countries that might not see eye to eye with US and NATO. If EU/NATO is willing to do that to Russia, what would stop them from doing the same to China, India, Iran, North Korea… They may not be “allied’ with Russia, but I believe they would see themselves as the next. The best time to counter US/NATO would be when it is engaged with Russia.

      1. Russia doesn’t want to go nuclear no more than we do. And NO if Russia made an aggressor attack against the Baltics then saw loses across Russian territory interest as a result nuclear retaliation would not be justified. Regardless justified or not no one wants to go nuclear everyone loses its called MAD.

        China, India, Iran, NKorea. Jumping in
        -India you got to be kidding they are quasi pacifist neutral and there is NO scenario were the US has or would pose any threat of attacking India.
        -Iran Maybe I guess but what exactly would they do? The GCC balances them pretty well and while they could lay down some pretty nasty terrorism their conventional forces ability is not a real threat. Bottom line it would be to risky because they would not be able to sway the result while they would take a huge cost for intervening all for what gain Russian expansion?
        -Nkorea. SKorea has had the ability to defeat and even invade occupy NKorea since at least the 90’s. Having Japanese & US support would just magnify that fact.
        -China. Yes they could but WHY? What would their benefit or interest be in supporting Russian aggression to reconstitute their lost empire? They would stay neutral and enjoy watching two potential competitors beating each other up. Maybe some support without direct action weapons supplies etc.. to the losing side just to keep things going and make a buck.

        I would be shocked if the stans backed Russia in such a war and would even question if Belarus would once things got real. I would guess they would all want to stay neutral. The problem with being an aggressor nation trying to lop off pieces of all your neighbors or just generally bullying them means everyone fears you so you don’t make many real friends interested in you staying powerful/fearsome.

        1. Look, this article is stupid. Because it assumes that Russia will attack the Baltic states. Russia has almost zero interest in attacking them. They are insignificant…
          The Current Russian Army is not designed to invade, but to defend. The only way I see a conflict in the Baltic States is if Russia is seeing large movements of NATO troops to its border as a prelude to an attack.
          If Russia is attacked as you say in your first comment then Russia will have no choice but to fire off its nuclear arsenal. US/NATO would be seen by the majority of the world as removing the only obstacle to total world domination.
          As far as other countries I mentioned.
          India is perfectly willing to go to war, as it did in 1947, 1965 and 1971 when it crushed Pakistans Army and Navy.
          North Korea has no real hope of defeating South Korea, however they have so much artillery on the border pointed at Seoul that they can cause heavy civilian casualties before South Korea can stop them. US and Japan as you said would have to be engaging Russia…
          China: Only an idiot would stay out if NATO decided to invade Russia. It would be clear that if NATO is willing to risk the destruction of the world to get rid of Russia than China is obviously next. Why would they wait?

          It is far better to ask the question “why the buildup?”… Why not instead work with Russia. Why provoke revolutions on Russian borders?

        2. i like how you assume russian friends would want to stay neutral, yet at the same time assume the likes of japan and especially the likes of georgia and moldova would want to join the war with no questions asked

          as for the other countries, “why” you say?

          well they dont necessarily have to be directly helping out russia, but for example, think about this, with say, japan at war with a power as major as russia, what better time would there be for china to “solve” its disputes? their objective would be limited to disputed areas so would japan or the US really want war with russia AND china at the same time over some uninhabited rocks the american public can’t place on the globe? yet on the other side would japan really just let the islands/rocks be taken(probably not)? how would the us respond? even if the US is willing to fight for japan over the islands, what about vietnam? japan is a long time treaty ally, vietnam is not.

          in addition just indirect support can mean the difference between success and defeat. for example, during the vietnam war, the communists had safe haven inside china and bases with soviet advisors that were off limits to attacks, north korean units fled into china during the korean war only to regroup after the chinese intervention to fight again. so if some russian units(in the far east) got supplied from routes that went through china(especially if they were fighting the japanese), what do you do? start a war?

          1. People like C Low have no concept of the Russia-China alliance, they think it’s all just for show. Well boys China just tested a Mach 7 hypersonic glide vehicle and splashed their new DF-41 ICBM into the S. China Sea a few days before Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter sailed past one of their islands on one of our big flat tops. The message was plain: we can sink your carriers. Of course the US Navy knows this, but what they can’t admit is that the actual protection for the fleet isn’t AEGIS — the Russians and Chinese both have systems that can either blow by it or simply if close enough in range shut it down or overwhelm it. No the actual deterrence for our fleets, just as for what prevents a Baltic ‘trip wire’ force from being overrun in 72 hours, is nukes. So spare us guys the lectures about how those Rooskies are so weak and overreliant on their nuclear deterrent they have this ‘de-escalation doctrine’ thing going. We have exactly the same thing, we just don’t say so like the Russians do…

            And no, thank God Russia is not going to invade the Baltics. But they are building the 1st Guards Tank Army to annihilate a combined Ukrainian-NATO force in the Donbass and will have 5 VDV divisions soon to kick the crap out of the Romanians if they occupy Moldova and threaten Transnistria.

            Finally if an Estonian general says the answer to Russian hybrid warfare is ‘shoot the first little green man you see’, the Russian GRU general’s answer is ‘triangulate and incinerate the first Ukrainian Army position outside Donetsk that speaks English or Polish or Croat — then NATO will get the message not to play those games’. Dead Poles in Ukrainian uniform look just like Ukrainians. But eventually we’re going to find out not only how many Russian vacationers died in Donbass, but how from NATO countries particular Poland and the Baltics (my guess is the number is in the scores) didn’t come back either.

        3. “China. Yes they could but WHY? What would their benefit or interest be in supporting Russian aggression to reconstitute their lost empire? They would stay neutral and enjoy watching two potential competitors beating each other up. Maybe some support without direct action weapons supplies etc.. to the losing side just to keep things going and make a buck.” China will side with Russia in the run up to the crisis in hopes of backing any aggressive act by NATO i.e. seizing Moldova or risking all out war by blockading Transnistria or Kaliningrad down. They will make it clear that if we concentrate all of our assets in Europe they have the ability to cause severe problems for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. Any rational defense planner can draw the appropriate conclusion: not only would the convoys to Europe have to run a gauntlet of air launched Tsirkons to kill our carriers and terminally supersonic Kalibr ERs launched from aircraft, subs or even Russian icebreakers/barges in the Barents Sea to kill the slower ships or destroyers, but our Pacific Fleet will also be acutely vulnerable to China’s carrier killer missiles. To deter THAT, or in fact both cases because our tin cans can no longer defend themselves with AEGIS (even setting aside the questionable Donald Cook proposition that the Russians now have an ‘OFF’ switch to our EWO systems), the only deterrence left is the nuclear one. I don’t think we want to go there which is precisely why I see war against Russia or China unless they absolutely positively start it as futile. Any neocon who pushes for U.S./Polish/NATO forces to join directly in the Ukrainian Army’s fighting on the ground or attack ‘occupied’ Transnistria or Crimea needs their head examined or to be laughed out of the room and hopefully kicked out of the Pentagon for good.

    2. “If NATO intends or give the impression they will fight a limited war with imaginary lines of the Baltics they will lose lose badly and very likely temp Russia into going for it.”

      These WoTR authors did appear to assume limited war, in the sense that while they mentioned NATO jets trying to deal with Russia’s integrated air defense network with S400/500 batteries, they made no mention of the fact that Russia in a few years will have 100s of hypersonic Iskander rockets and probably between 1,000-2,000 modern, low-flying and stealthy cruise missiles like the Kalibr or the new hypersonic air launched Tsirkon supplementing the Brahmos to take out NATO targets. Meaning that any surge of U.S. fighter aircraft across the Atlantic will be stuck in the UK or maybe Iceland after Ramstein and other major bases are on fire with their underground fuel tanks and munition dumps burning. To quote my friend The Saker a Florida-based former Swiss military civilian analyst, the Russians say a NATO brigade on their border in the Baltics is a problem they can solve with one missile. Surely an exagerration but one not far from the truth in terms of how all that pre-positioned equipment west of the Rhine we’re sending to ‘reassure our allies’ is just smoldering wreckage in a real shooting war with Russia from hundreds of incoming Kalibrs and perhaps even up-ranged non-IMF compliant Iskanders. In fact this is precisely why we expect a Hillary Rotten neocon Clinton Admin once briefed on these stark realities and the inferiority of the U.S. in firepower IN THEATER to immediately start tearing up the IMF Treaty, arguing Russia isn’t complying with it anyway. The U.S. is not going to start putting more tactical nukes on cruise missiles in Europe again because it has an overwhelming conventional advantage in a fight on Russia’s doorstep, but in fact due to the opposite.

      1. Sic meant prepositioned equipment east of the Rhine is vulnerable to a mass barrage of Russian cruise missiles. i.e. when Russia vows to meet the threat of NATO forces on their borders cheaply and asymmetrically they mean Hezbollah vs. Israel style or China vs. Taiwan — with massive missile concentrations threatening significant destruction of military if not civilian assets (the difference being the Kalibrs and Tsirkons are more accurate, faster, and harder to detect and defend against than the missiles Hezbollah employs against northern and now even central/southern Israel).

  2. An article focused on war… But it fails to ask why would Russia want to take the Baltic States?
    The only reason I see is the constant mistreatment of Russian minorities. Why not instead of sending armored divisions, encourage Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania to stop treating the Russian population as second class citizens. Something that in any other EU state and in US would be considered a grave violation of basic rights.
    Take away the reason for Russian interference and it will be far more effective at preventing a possible conflict than moving the whole US Army into the Baltic States.

    1. My previous comment got deleted. Obviously a strong but true word is not accepted here. Ok, I will just leave a question to nikoliy – what kind of basic rights are denied to russian minorities in Baltic states? Property, movement, personal freedoms, own language, healthcare, education, freedom of speech, owning a gun? Do they get tortured or their religion is prohibited? What is it?

    2. Yes yes the little green men I suppose? Plausible deniability invasion option. That is what the A-10’s are for and I suspect the mistakes made by Ukraine of being non confrontational with such forces early on (assuming the green men actual citizens of Ukraine with fair intentions) will not be repeated by the Baltic nations.

      And like eNVee what exactly is the human rights being denied to the ethnic russian segments? Unlike Russia were the press has been nationalized into a propaganda arm of the state the Baltics are free nations with free press who like all liberal western journalist love a good oppression story.

      1. Actually, no, they deny the right to free speech, to vote and to free and open press.

        Also, I find the Ukranian argument that Russian troops are fighting in east Ukraine lacks logic. Seriously, just think back to the events. When Russian troops were actually in Crimea in the spring of 2014 there was no fighting in the east of the country. So why did the Ukranian Army move to the east when you have the Russian Army in the Crimea? Shouldn’t they go fight where the invasion is?

      2. “I suspect the mistakes made by Ukraine of being non confrontational with such forces early on”

        The ‘mistake the Ukrainians made’ was overthrowing their corrupt but legitimately elected government in a so-called constitutional change of power and killing and wounding scores of young men from the Donbass or Crimea and expecting there to be no retaliation against Ukro-nationalism in those places by the pro-Russian Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. In other words, they forgot how fragile Ukraine is and how it would start to fall apart if one side in the Orange vs. Regions struggle began to impose its will on the other through violence rather than peaceful elections and protests. As soon as the Maidan killings happened and the snipers all conveniently and mysteriously got away from buildings controlled by Andre Parubiy’s ‘Maidan Self-Defense’ aka the anti-Yanukovych forces and the audio was leaked by the Yanukovych loyalists/FSB in which the EU envoy admitted to the fact that many Ukrainians believed the incoming new regime was behind the sniper slayings, I knew there was going to be war. When Crimea demonstrations began on Defenders of the Motherland day in late February, I already knew any Right Sector or ‘Maidan Self-Defense’ thugs who tried to ‘sort the vatniks out’ would be met with Maidan-style violence. Why is this so hard for military officers to understand? Ukraine is and will remain a deeply divided nation and many of the polls our State Dept. cites professing great support for national unity and opposition to autonomy for places like Kharkov or Transcarpathia are rigged or have people afraid to answer what they really think lest the SBU or Right Sector thugs show up at their door in the middle of the night (yes naive folks here, a domestic intelligence service backed by the CIA does disappear, detain and hold in perpetuity suspected ‘terrorists’ and ‘separatists’ opposed to the government).


        It seems CLow forgot that when the Ukrainian Army was first sent into Slavyansk to put down the ‘little green men’ there the tankers and APC crews found no ‘Russian terrorists’ as expected, only peaceful civilians, to whom some surrendered their weapons because they clearly didn’t want to kill civilians peacefully demonstrating against the new junta in Kiev (and it was indeed, an interim junta, death threats against Party of Regions deputies and their families after a violent putsch in the streets is NOT a peaceful revolution or a non-coup d’etat, sorry). In other words, violent insurrection for me Western Ukrainian nationalist but not for thee ‘pro-Russian vatnik scum’ is no stable basis for a system of government or legitimacy in Ukraine, no matter how many cookies our Undersecretary of State or the would be proconsul of the American Empire Senator from Arizona John McCain handed out on the Maidan.

        The real reason there was a sudden influx of ‘Ukrainian’ National Guard and soldiers who spoke perfect Italian, piss poor (Polish accented) Russian, and groups of ‘Ukrainian’ special forces who refused to speak either Ukrainian or Russian to angry crowds in Donetsk in March/April/May 2014 is because the new junta Washington was backing barely had 8,000 active duty men under arms, didn’t trust much of its army that had surrendered to the pro-Russian locals and ‘polite people’ in Crimea without a fight, and feared being overthrown in a countercoup themselves. It’s that simple.

        1. Yeah you and Nikoli just keep believing all media news is false fake neocon blah blah except of course your Russian media which has been re-nationalized and returned to the good ole days of Pravda in the Soviet time.

          “Actually, no, they deny the right to free speech, to vote and to free and open press”

          I hate to burst your bubble but the Baltics don’t arrest, assassinate, censor journalist that don’t tow the line that is Putin’s Russia.

  3. Russia is not the aggressor in Ukraine – WE are. We broke the Budapest Memorandum/treaty with our (neocons’) Kiev coup, and the Russians are reacting – justifiably – just like we did when a pro-Soviet coup on Grenada happened in October 1983 within *our* inner security perimeter. Everything that has happened since the Kiev coup – including the airliner – is *our* responsibility/guilt, not the Russians’. The Russians are only threatening BACK to the extent we started threatening them. It is all they can do … or know to do.

    As to the Baltics, as soon as the coup happened on various forums including Washington Post’s I was urging we send in U.S. Berlin Brigade like trip-wire Army detachments, to make sure the Russians understood that any attack on them would trigger unconditional nuclear retaliation.

    1. And indeed I am proud to say that I am a Facebook fan of B Troop (Co.), 2nd Squadron (Bn.), 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, which was almost immediately stationed in Estonia to be so. :-)

    2. right neocon blah blah. I guess that is why Ukraine had a election as soon as possible because it wasn’t a popular movement inside the Ukraine but a outside neocon plot. I guess that is also why most of the ethnic russians consider themselves Ukrainian and are supporting Ukraine. I guess that is why the Crimea had to be taken directly by Russia overtly and the two portions of oblast that is these popular victims of the foreign coup are full of slavic nationalist volunteers from outside Ukraine, Russian regular troops on “vacation”, and a few local gangs oligarchs thrown in.

      The US and Europe have at best given token non military support with some very limited many would say negligible sanctions against Russia. If they were neocons driving the coup they would have flooded Ukraine with ATGM, counter battery radar/weapons, and maybe some anti radiation missiles to fight the Russians.

      1. ” I guess that is also why most of the ethnic russians consider themselves Ukrainian and are supporting Ukraine. I guess that is why the Crimea had to be taken directly by Russia overtly and the two portions of oblast that is these popular victims of the foreign coup are full of slavic nationalist volunteers from outside Ukraine, Russian regular troops on “vacation”, and a few local gangs oligarchs thrown in.” Don’t forget the Swedish neo-Nazi, excuse me ‘ex’ white power warrior in Azov Battalion, which proudly flies the SS Wolfsangel runes of Hitler’s 2nd Das Reich division and gets MY tax dollars, and YOURs. Plus ‘out of my face please’ guy in Mariupol. Putin had to admit after two of his GRU guys were captured (by CIA’s Georgian foreign legion aka Saakashvili’s USMC trained special forces incidentally, not the regular Ukrainian military) that some Russian servicemen were ‘performing certain tasks’ in Ukraine. Which if that counts as an invasion than Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s security services have invaded Syria thousands of times since 2011. However, what always gets left out of the story is that NATO assembled a Foreign Legion of its own to back the weak, poorly armed and incompetent Kiev junta shortly after it assumed power and Crimea broke away. Unless you want to tell me all those ‘Ukrainians’ who can’t speak a lick of Russian or Ukrainian or only speak it badly had nothing to do with NATO or that the dead ass broke new regime came up with the money to hire son of Blackwater PMCs like Greystone on its own (Bild am Sonntag and other German papers, as well as the UK Daily Mail, have never retracted their story about Blackwater types in Donbass from March/April 2014 ). Thus in Putin’s mind it was ‘well NATO is sending its mercenaries and proxies to my border, why shouldn’t I find my own Russian Blackwater aka Wagner and some paid volunteers willing to fight for the LDNR?’

        1. Well – enjoy your war and Russian aggression. It is important that you think its justified because Russia will be paying for decades.

          Keep telling yourself stories about nazis and genocide and mass graves and language bans and baby crucifixions.

      2. “If they were neocons driving the coup they would have flooded Ukraine with ATGM, counter battery radar/weapons, and maybe some anti radiation missiles to fight the Russians.” The problem with this assumption is that it assumes neocons are as good at getting people to bleed and die for their ambitions as they are at wargaming them. Draft evasion in the Ukrainian Army is rampant and plenty of military age Ukrainian men are working menial jobs in Russia, Romania and Hungary to avoid being sent to the Donbass meatgrinder. Actual Ukrainian casualties both regular army and volunteer battalions incidentally are over 12,000 KIA times two seriously WIA out of about 200,000 mobilized who actually went in a country of 40 million (minus Crimea and UAF occupied and DNR held Donbass populations).
        The Ukrainians may have studied their own civil war of 1919-20, but they certainly didn’t study ours where the Union had to bleed and die at almost twice the rate of the Confederacy before turning the tide. You may not like Ivan Vatnik, you may think he fights for greater Russian Empire or a reborn USSR, but dammit HE LIVES THERE in Donetsk and Lugansk. The Ukrainian boys you want to send Javelins to who will end up getting fried by the LDNR’s Kornets or first tactical missile systems are from Kiev, region Chernigov, Lvov, Vinnitysa, and maybe a few from Kharkov, Dnepro and Kherson. This is not an accident as Ukrainian nationalism except for its Kharkov variant is overwhelmingly a belief in all of Ukraine as a kind of greater Galicia worshipping the UPA and Stepan Bandera faction who sided with Hitler and the Shoah and later massacred Poles over the vast majority of that Ukrainian generation who fought with or alongside the Red Army.

        1. Sorry, last comment for this thread, not trying to hog it and I won’t respond if people say I’m full of it, but…

          the counterbattery radars CLow mentions WERE sent to the Ukrainian Army, maybe not in large numbers, but enough to get captured along with some Humvees by the Novorossiya Armed Forces (aka Russian Foreign Legion plus a lot more Donbass natives than Kiev will ever admit) at Debaltsevo in February 2015. They are not jamming proof nor some sort of game changer. In fact DefenseOne reported citing Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges that Russian electronic warfare in the Donbass from systems deployed on the border was ‘eye watering’. The Ukrainians stopped using some of the encrypted radios the U.S. Army supplied because the Russian GRU ELINT warriors assumed if it was a U.S. encrypted comm there were American ‘vacationers’ or advisers there and they hammered many of those positions with arty and GRAD fire. So to those like CLow who think NATO can just quietly start slipping in more Poles, Croats or even Americans into the Ukrainian ranks on the front lines — and tell them to keep their mouths shut when they’re in Mariupol — I say you’re basically sending guys into a death trap. The corollary to the Estonian general’s anti-hybrid war solution of ‘shoot the first little green man invader you see’ is the Russian GRU general’s admonition, ‘triangulate and hammer the first Polish or English speaking Ukrainian Army position you detect near Donetsk’.


          “Not giving a second thought your partners in conversation told about ‘hundreds of killed Poles’ who were fighting for Kyiv and whose bodies were transported to Warsaw by plane but there is no proof of it.”

          “Neither you nor me know exactly whether some citizens of Poland are fighting on either side. But what they talk about in public, about planes carrying bodies of Polish mercenaries and landing every day in Warsaw is nonsense that is broadcast and then repeated.”

          You think he doesn’t know at least a handful of Poland’s ‘vacationers’ including snipers from the GROM? Has anybody looked at the number of ‘training accident’ deaths for our frontline NATO allies including Poland, Croatia and Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania since April 2014? I’d like to know. But Belsat and Warsaw Gazeta aren’t interested. Yes Russian TV exagerrates for propaganda purposes just how many foreigners are fighting with Kiev’s forces and what they get paid as ‘mercenaries’. But you think Robert P too many vowels didn’t leave himself some wiggle room there on unofficial official Polish combatants in Donbass there? I think he did. And a dead Pole in a UAF uniform looks just like a dead Ukrainian.

    3. There was no coup – let alone a ‘US’ coup. A corrupt leader fled after violent crackdown on what was initially broad based peaceful political protests for months centralized on a few blocks of the capital. He fled after losing support from all power structures, the local mayor, and even being denounced by his own political party. He was a crook and he personally fled. Call it a ‘coup’ if you want, but that is already an exaggeration. Calling it a US or EU or neocon coup is just plain obtuse.

      After he fled, the elected parliament appointed a temp government pending elections. Its an ugly political situation for sure, but still pretty tame compared to Russian aggression: invasion/annexation of Crimea, and Russian led/sponsored proxy war in Donbass.

      As for blaming the US for violating the Budapest Memo, now you are just ridiculous.

    1. Precisely, because Russia knows the U.S. cannot defend the Baltics without using tactical nuclear weapons, and who the hell wants to see an escalation from the first U.S. tactical nuke going off and Russia retaliating in kind to Tridents and Sarmat ICBMs flying back and forth over the Pole? Certainly no sane person. Is Narva worth New York? It certainly isn’t worth Moscow in the Russian leadership’s mind. Hence in my opinion the only way we escalate to direct conflict with Russia is if the next Administration (Hillary, cough cough) decides to do something cute, like have the Turks attack the Russian air base at Latakia, or have the Romanians roll tanks into Moldova as part of a snap ‘hoisted by your own Crimea petard Putin’ referendum followed by having a NATO member’s tanks on the border with Russian peacekeeper held Transnistria. An all out Ukrainian Army attack on Donetsk and Lugansk that is competently executed for a change in which the GRU discovers the UAF has started speaking Polish, Croat and English is another possibility, but that’s why the Russians are building the 1st Guards Tank Army. and getting their frontal aviation and MANPAD jamming new generation attack chopper pilots (average age: 28) ready for war via live fire against jihadis in Syria.

      If they need to, the Russians by 2018 will have FIVE VDV airborne divisions capable of rapidly reinforcing Transnistria against Romanian/Ukrainian pincer attack, an entire tank army spearheaded by T-90s with active protection systems that shoot down our incoming TOWs and soon a handful of Armatas, and hundreds of cruise missiles including several score hypersonic tactical rockets like the Iskander. If they choose to drop the hammer on us creating a combined NATO/Ukrainian force, there won’t be time to lie and pretend all the coffins coming back from Borispol airport in Kiev actually were from a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul. Nor would the Poles or Balts be able to pull out their contigents from a huge pocket in Donbass at Mariupol or Kharkov before they wind up on LifeNews/Rossiya TV.

      So think carefully gentlemen about whether your increasingly diverse, nationally-looking inward fellow Americans are ready to bleed and die for Donetsk or Tiraspol, long before we discuss any damn fool business in the Baltics or Balkans (should Serbia come under a sudden Albanian attack Uncle Sam didn’t do nuthun’ to do with).

      1. Russia got shredded in Chechnya it would be X1000 if they overtly invaded any country in Europe with wide open borders to friendly countries in west.

        Successful armored spearheads would just mean more territory to occupy and bleed over – not to mention complete collapse of currency and markets after embargo.

        So keep puffing out your chest over grand Russian armatas bla bla bla. Overt Russian aggression would lead to massive and strategic Russian defeat and humiliation. Putin knows this. All of his bluster is just for play with his local audience.

  4. The American military is made up of illiterate african americans who signed up to get a high school diploma, some hispanics and orientals doing one tour of duty so they can apply for a green card and pig ignorant hillbilly white bread trailer trash who live in the rust belt with Walmart minimum wage slavery or the military as their only hope of providing for their families.

    Compare this with Russian soldiers who are borne from the very earth of their nation and are connected to it by two thousand years of history.

    any war between these nations will not be decided by anything so crude as weapons or technology.

    It will come down to whose soldiers are prepared to die for what they believe in.

    1. That’s just offensive on soo many levels and also happens to devolve Russian soldiers into mindless drones.

      Between the various internal struggles (between Russian republics) and the machinations of the Russian political elite forming their chekist kleptocratic regime – who is to say there was any gusto for further Russian entanglements.

    2. While Anthony’s comment is “canned meat”, he has a point. The population and armies in the west are ill prepared to except death and destruction over the fight of the 3 B (3 Baltic states, that is). The Russian InfoOps are using exactly these sentiments to fire up their people, while polls in Germany suggest that we are not eager to fight for the freedom of the 3B. The huge advantage that Putin has, is that with his somewhat aggressive posture, he forces NATO to get back to serious business and us “peace-niks” to re-invest money in the military, something that causes heated discussions in our societies and shows the fracture lines of NATO. Add the refugee crisis, and the EU and NATO together show their inability on multiple levels. Russia looks in comparison pretty strong and unified (at least on the outside) and can re-enter the world stage and be recognized as a super-power. If he drags this game on for another 10 years, he might have an extremely damaging7destructive effect on both NATO and the EU….or as the Klingons say: “bortaS bIr jablu’DI’, reH QaQqu’ nay’ “.. Revenge is a dish best served cold!!!

      1. Clonetrooper — an intelligent comment. If NATO really can’t stop the actual invasion of military age Muslim males into the EU it claims to be defending and joined at the hip with, what good is it? A lot of UKIPers, French Front National, and quite a few Hungarian and Italian and Greek (not just Golden Dawn) nationalists are asking that very question, and coming away angry that NATO is much better at fighting hypothetical Russian invasions than it is at defending European civilization and borders.

    3. I love these rants on Russian mythology. Yes of course low salaried Americans vs Russians who were born in the earth bla bla bla. What war are we even fighting again?

      Look if Russia invades any country in Europe it will face total embargo and its occupying troops will be shredded. Any US troops helping allies coordinate defensive response will likely be small minority. Rather than direct confrontation, west will most likely just use defense in depth to draw in and string out Russian forces, then bleed the occupiers white.

      Please please by all means go send out the brave Russians born in the earth to die. Europeans have their earth born people to, and they had thriving cultures when Russians were still making soup from pine cones.

      By the way, the Russian economy is about the size of Canada’s or a large US state.

  5. This situation represents an astounding failure of leadership at the highest levels in both Washington and Brussels.

    And how does Barack Obama, the “Leader of the Free World”, respond to this? By announcing the deployment of a single US combat brigade to NATO’s eastern periphery.

    Pathetic. Utterrly laughable.

    A real leader would be thinking in terms of divisions, not brigades.

    January 17th, 2017 can’t get here fast enough!

  6. Guys and gals – its fun to hyperventilate over this stuff, but please…

    Within days of any overt Russian aggression against Europe, its currency and markets would begin collapsing from complete embargo from all major trading partners. Even China might be forced to choose and considering China’s mutual interdependence with western economies, the Kremlin would probably not like the outcome.

    And let’s imagine that glorious Russian armored spearheads drive to Tallinn and Riga and maybe Kiev. Then what? Look at the troubles had with tiny Chechnya. Russia would be faced with having to occupy massive territories with hundreds of thousands of troops who would be shredded.

    Why would Russia do any of this? What could it possibly gain?

    The likely threat is hybrid war like in Ukraine. Intense propaganda about victimization of Russian minority, followed by Russian paramilitary units staging provocations, followed by simmering conflict to destabilize its neighbors. The appropriate response to this threat is not hyperventilating over whose tanks have bigger barrels.

  7. I can’t think of a single reason why Russia would invade the Baltic states but for arguments sake I’ll play along.

    Reading the comments there’s lots of the usual flag waving and bashing of one side or the other. Weapons systems and strategies have been compared and contrasted and the spectre of nuclear war has been considered.

    Warfare is ultimately a human affair and as they say where I come from “It’s not the man in the fight but the fight in the man” meaning it isn’t how big, how strong or well equipped you are but your will to fight and win at all costs that determines the winner of a conflict.

    Unlike the other wars the USA has fought in the last 60 years Russia has a military that can fight back against modern weapons. Shock and awe ain’t going to work on the Russians. To put it in perspective Barbarrossa, the Germans opening operation of their ill fated Russian campaign in WW2 saw the Axis lose 1/4 of their 3.8 million man army in the first 6 months of the war and that was with surprise and massive tactical superiority on the German side. Even though the Russians were losing the war and had incredible numbers of soldiers killed and captured they still managed to kill a quarter of the German soldiers fighting against them.

    Russia has a long history of paying dearly to defend their country. As a people they have a track record of enduring hardship and fighting on going back 1000 years.

    The question is are Americans, Germans, British and French willing to lose a quarter of their forces to defend Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic States? And that’s if the win….if the Russians come out on top casualties can be far far greater than that. I think Americans are happy to fight in Iraq where they had a good chance of returning home or even Vietnam where the casualties were higher but not excessive. Wars in Europe against the Russians have historically been very bloody affairs for both the winners and losers and I don’t think that 21st century Americans and Europeans are willing to pay that price.