I’d have probably gotten more attention if I had put “Ukraine” in the title but then every other piece on the internet is using that this weekend. Anyone following the story may have noted that even in that venue, the military operation has been all about mobility and special operations forces. The early photos of swarms of Russian Hind transport and gunship helicopters plus the quickness of aerial insertion illustrated that. Not the classic “tanks formations across the border and into the streets” Soviet era blunt force of the past – although certainly some Russian light armor had made its way in the the Crimea.
Of course that’s all easy given Russian bases just across the border; it demonstrates how readily Russia has and will continue to treat its borders as simply staging areas in forward defense. After centuries of invasion and the losses of the Nazi offensive, it seems its been genetically infused into their leadership, of whatever political flavor. I imagine this much be a surprise for those who have not been following the aggressive Putin era rearmament and return to cold war intimidation practices against their neighbors – including such things as repeated and obvious bomber exercise up to and on times a bit across their Scandinavian neighbors.
For those who would like to get one of the better strategic takes on the current confrontation and Putin’s tactics (its hard to say if they are really Russia’s but they are most definitely Putin’s personal style, you can tell by the harsh flavor of elevated testosterone levels) I would recommend the following:
Now, for a few comments on the actual topic of the post. I was doing another interview with Jeff Bushman last week, on Shadow Warfare, and we began a discussion of the dramatic evolution of the American military since the attacks of 9/11, focusing on special operations, JSOC and the global anti-terror task forces. That began to lead us into the recently proposed new military budget cuts and the changes in contemporary challenges beyond the war on terror.
One of the real financial challenges of budgeting for the U.S., which although its been decreasing military spending vs Russian and China, is still relatively at the very top of the heap in military spending, is that we have – unlike say China – been forced to deal with a much broader set of demands. Those demands range from maintaining superpower nuclear parity with the Soviets (who are developing a whole suite of new long range missiles and at least to some extent cheating in minor areas of the START treaties) to dealing with potential access denial in the South and East China Seas as well as the Arabian Gulf. China is focusing all its spending into long range ballistic “carrier killer” missiles, localized stealth air and hypersonic missile capabilities defense and a medium range naval force – and we are forced to match it if we are to maintain our strategic position with our other Asian allies who want access to the same Ocean routes – and resources.
Three years ago the military buzz was special operations, for the last year or two its all about Access Denial in the Pacific and starting a few days ago, its back to classic Soviet era territorial incursion and possibly occupation. Talk about budget challenges…