2021/08/28

A high-end conventional land warfare doctrine (III)

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Now let's imagine the *evil* Russians launch the Great Patriotic War 2nd Edition for Re-unification of the motherland and invade the Baltics. There's little or no other justification for Western European land forces spending at high levels, so it's my go-to scenario
 
 
The invaders would have an initial advantage of surprise and quickly overrun the Baltics and the Polish garrisons close to Kaliningrad Oblast, but the militias would activate largely unscathed. The Polish would panic and mass remaining regular army troops close to their capital Warsaw plus a delaying force between Warsaw and Belarus. 
 
The German army could respond in force the quickest (if prepared!) due to geography. Pontoon bridging would bridge the Oder and Vistula, bypassing busted bridges. Six German brigades would deploy near full strength within few days together with one raider regiment, one Fernspäher regiment, a few brigades from the Czech Republic, Hungary, the U.S. and some all-wheeled French formations. The German corps would at first set up its forward support group part North of Warsaw and its rear one inside or Southwest of it. The battalion battlegroups would establish something of a line to check the invader advance, and the heavy skirmishing would commence where infiltrations could be executed at reasonable risks. The raiders would dash forward through further gaps they had to find themselves while Fernspäher teams peel off from their convoys east of the Baltic allies' territories to go into observation posts. Kaliningrad Oblast would be cut off for capture by later reinforcements. Raiders would set afire airbases, petrochemical and chemical industries and airports as far away as Moscow, and raid many high value targets including long-range jammers that target NATO electronic support aircraft and satellites. They would also become an integral part of the air war effort of dismantling Russian fighter and area air defence capabilities enough for the arriving NATO air power to intervene with almost full power aqnd without a lengthy DEAD (destruction of enemy air defences) campaign. 
 
Russian formations in the Baltics have to face destruction in very lopsided clashes or withdraw once disadvantaged by their moving pocket status, encircled by light and heavy skirmishers. Their air defences and reconnaissance assets wither away under the skirmishers' harassment and progressing constriction. 

Yes, Russia could threaten with tactical nukes in an attempt to deter a liberation of the Baltics, but there would be hardly any targets as even the corps-level support group clusters are dispersed in a 20x20 km area. It would take multiple 100+ kt TNTeq thermonuclear warheads to explode close to or over Warsaw to destroy it. That wouldn't be a tactical strike any more, it would risk escalation to major thermonuclear war. Even such a strike would not necessarily matter much, as the German corps support groups would soon be dwarfed anyway by what other allied forces arrive to take over.

The militias and the actions of the heavy skirmishers show that the invaders never really accomplished a total occupation of the Baltics . The spectacular actions of the raiders signalled to the Russian public that the conflict isn't under control of the Russian high command at all, and reinforcements from the Southern Military district necessarily get diverted to combat the raiders together with Russian Air Force's ground attack assets.
The German brigades can progressively switch all their manoeuvre elements to the heavy skirmishing role as more and more allied conventional brigades arrive to take over the more traditional non-skirmishing tasks.
 
There's no need to extend heavy skirmishing beyond the Baltic and Polish allies' territories, as the objective is to expel the invaders. The brigades would occasionally go a few kilometres past those territories, but their support groups would stay within, limiting the incursions into actual Russian territory to 40 km save for Fernspäher and the (quickly waning) Raider activities that constitute no gain of ground at all.

Finally, the German heavy skirmisher and raider units as well as the exhausted Fernspäher can be recalled and recover in theatre reserve as the area becomes so flooded with allied brigades that very different and rather brute force-ish operational art with emphasis on superior firepower including air support takes over till the expulsion of almost all invaders. The German brigades' support groups would switch to support allied ground combat units of less well-funded NATO/EU armies. Finally, there's a cease-fire that NATO can live with (Baltics 90+% liberated, including the Eastern borders). The occupied Kaliningrad Oblast gets traded back in exchange for still-occupied Iceland and Svalbard as by political decision.

 
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35 comments:

  1. What if Iceland and Svalbard get liberated independently and the Kaliningrad oblast is kept occupied? Is it going to be a German or a Polish or third party occupation?

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    1. Germany and Poland have a treaty that fixates the common border. Germany has given up all claims on East Prussia and there's a rumour that Kaliningrad Oblast was offered for sale by Yeltsin and the then German chancellor refused.
      I'd even expect the German army to intentionally avoid the area during a hot conflict.

      An occupied Kaliningrad Oblast would mean that Iceland would have to be taken back by force, which is not in Iceland's best interests. Occupied Kaliningrad could be a safe exclave for Russian political opposition, so it's a double valuable bargaining chip for the West.

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    2. You evaded the question. Look, Iceberg and Svalbard stay unoccupied for whatever reason and the Kaliningrad Oblast is occupied. Who will do the occupation in this case?

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    3. The scenario (it's really a modification of my previously published Baltic invasion scenario to show off the doctrine) mentions Kaliningrad being traded back, so the occupation would only be for weeks or months, while that part of Europe is flooded with NATO troops.

      Nobody has an interest in taking or having Kaliningrad Oblast. There's a million Russians, nobody wants this territory. The invader could still be threatened that not trading it back means it'll become a sore open wound for a long time, and run by exile Russians who oppose the regime in Moscow.

      So the whole thing is really just a bargaining chip that you necessarily get if you succeed at defending the Baltics. This is also a reason why the Russians would need bargaining chips (mostly Iceland) themselves in case the invasion fails.

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    4. So the Kaliningrad oblast is a hot potato that Germany would rather not have NATO occupied. Is this opinion shared in Poland or would they like to remove Russia from their borders?

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    5. I don't think Germans would be bothered by NATO troops in Kaliningrad Oblast. The Poles would be bothered by German troops in Kaliningrad Oblast and the German governemnt would like to not provoke B.S. from the German right wing (not just far right) about the topic.

      Then again, the current Polish government is 'weird' in general.

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    6. Thank you.
      I think Poland is trying to recreate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with various projects, be it Intermarium or the Visegrad Group and become the second big player in Central Europe. From this perspective, having the Kaliningrad oblast under a friendly entity such as a US-led occupation is to be expected, if not an outright Polish occupation of the area.
      This might be a general shortcoming in Germany, that we understand too little the interests of our Polish neighbors and what problems this can create.

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  2. @SO:

    The German army could respond in force the quickest (if prepared!) due to geography. ......Six German brigades would deploy near full strength within few days together with one raider regiment, one Fernspäher regiment, ......The German corps

    If prepared is the key word here. Acutally it would take ONE WEEK to get only ONE Bataillon of mechanised infantry into combat and a german corps would need around THREE MONTHS to get mobilised enough to start fighting.

    Although the two german divisions have actually 6 Brigades, in reality it would not even be possible to mobilise only one brigade fast enought. Germany is so far away in its abilities from your scenario that i wonder about the practical value of such a writing.

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    1. https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2015/03/nrf.html

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    2. Actually the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (which had the target to be faster then the NRF troops) needs 7 days to mobilise and this is one heavily mixed brigade with a maximum of 5000 soldiers and in reality perhapts 4000 (and which is very difficult to lead and to develope).

      So after one week the nato would have actually one brigade. Which is very insufficient so say at least. Moreover the one week rule is only afther the decision to send the brigade. I have doubts here, that the political decision to send this brigade would happen immediatly after an russian agression. IMO it would need several days at least before an marching order would be given. As the brigade is mainly from german troops it would again need several days to march into the theater.

      But even if this brigade reaches the baltics earlier one can easily sum it up like Hans-Peter Bartels: Mit 5000 Mann verteidigt die Nato kein einziges Land. (with 5000 men the nato cannot defend a single country)

      I agree with you that it is more necessary to be fast than to be bigger in size and fighting power and smaller units are faster per se, so they are the right choice, but, one need at least a minimum of mass and the actual high readiness units of the nato and especially the bundeswehr are way to small even for the baltics.

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  3. Why would svalbard be occupied? There was an agreement made that while Svalbard is norwegian territory. All signatories of the Svalbard Treaty are allowed to utilise the resources of Svalbard, including Russia.

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    1. Russia guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Ukraine - including the Crimea.

      The motivation would be gaining a bargaining chip, same as with Iceland.

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    2. One advantage of the russians in this scenario is imo, that they are one country and one military. This makes things much easier. In the NATO exercise Anakonda some years ago troops from 22 states tried to act together. Despite the exercise was heavily scripted, it was an desaster. 22 countries with 22 militaries is an gread disadvantage in comparison. The chance for friction is higher and the command and control problems are great in such a mosaic army.

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  4. Your scenario: How to invade the Baltic countries and get away with it was imo better written and more realistic. Despite this, i do not think that an open conventional war in the baltics will happen - but imo the russian minority could fight an irregular war there very easiyl supported by russian sf and agents. Such an guerilla war (a modern war in the sense of Trinquier) could not be handled by the forces you describe here. It would also bleed the nato forces there as long as russia whishes as the support and logistics and possibilites to escape for the guerialls would be endless. The actual nato forces could not defeat such an incurgency at the moment and this would create the political bargain chips for russia (for example russia gets estonia which officially stays an indipendent state but in reality becomes an russian puppet with russian "peace troops". I doubt heavily that the western european states could handle such an scenario.

    You have written in the past about making lithunia an kind of subsided israel 2.0. This is imo the best solution and would enable the baltics to fight down such an insurgency for them own. But the baltics need the right kind of army and the right equipment for that. Therefore their armies should be organised different from the current western europeans. Such an military organisation would not be new in military history, there were several such military border regions for example in the balkans and elsewere.

    Instead of arming the bundeswehr in an further highly inefficient and useless way germany could and should imo subside the baltics to become military states with armies far above their economical possibilities. The same idea you have mentioned earlier several times in your blog and i always found it more convincing than other ideas about defending the baltics.

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  5. I must ask about the ukraine in this scenario. IMO a war against the baltics could serve the purpose the get the whole ukraine. So together with attacking the baltics russian troops would overrun the ukraine. Then the can bargain the baltics against the ukraine. I think this makes more sense and brings more to russia than only attacking the baltics. Why take such a high risk only for estonia for example? But if one takes the ukraine into the bill, it looks different for russia. This would also cause several military problems for the eu / nato forces, as they also had to deploy to romania and turkey.

    I think in the case of a war with russia the russians will attack the baltics and the ukraine at the same time as this would be more advantagous. Then after one week of heavy fighting they would offer a retreat from the baltics and keep the ukraine. Bigger gain for russia?

    How could the nato react to that as the ukraine is no nato member? Especially if the russians would stay in the defensive in the south and do not attack romania?!

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    1. There aren't enough Russian troops in the Western and Southern Military Districts for going for both at once.
      To add that capability to the Russian military would provoke NATO forward-deploying a lot more troops as a counter.

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    2. I beg to differ. In 2014-15 it took < 10 BTG equivalents to destroy the offensive power of the Ukrainian army, 80 BTG then being ready at any one time. Current RF claims are 200+ ready BTGs. Ofc invasion isn't the same as conflict termination / forceful peacekeeping, but...

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    3. That's the classic mistake of looking at one side and then concluding it's strong enough without looking at the other side.

      Not only is today's Ukraine unlike 2014's (they badly lacked anti-tank capabilities then), but there is also NATO/EU.
      https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2015/10/military-im-balance-in-europe.html
      The miitary imbalance is MAD + Russia hopelessly inferior in conventional terms. This imbalance didn't change much since 2015.

      As of today the Russian army could struggle for weeks trying to defeat the Polish army alone.

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  6. This article is a very strange one to find on your blog. The number of strange assumptions it makes is quite mind-boggling.

    You claim that the only scenario which could justify high defence spending is one in which the RF behaves like Iraq and half-heartedly launches a high-risk limited war, then surrenders the initiative and meekly waits for the other side to react. The costs of such a move are of course incommensurate with the outcome: occupation of the demographic and economic millstones of the Baltics with no foreign recognition, possibly the creation of a very serious crisis with its ally China, which expects rather more mature behaviour from its key security protector. The whole thing is dubious from the outset and just gets worse. Not only is the Russian government in this scenario stupid/illogical enough to seek forceful conquest of the Baltic (a 180° reversal of their current policy of long-term economic strangulation through indifference) but they have a fundamentally unserious! approach to war - again as far could possibly be from reality. As it is the Russian government even refused to openly militarily intervene in the Ukraine - start a war on Ukraine - despite the serious reputational and moral costs of half-heartedly intervening to bring about the bare minimum result of a formal ceasefire and the relatively small difference in cost between destroying non-NATO allied Ukrainian offensive military capacity and overthrowing the coup-regime. If the RF government isn't going to take Kiev over the widely perceived war crimes of the authorities against the civilian population on the border why would it risk a war against NATO for the privilege of occupying hostile depopulated territories with no worthwhile resources currently not engaged in war crimes against their populations?

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    1. Great military expenditures require great justifications. The least improbable justification is the Baltic invasion scenario. Russia's non-nuclear military abilities are so very limited that they'd reach the culminating point very soon, so the least unlikely aggression (and most troublesome in a non-thermonuclear way) scenario is about them exploiting initial advantages, but then trying fait accompli with threat of nukes against counteroffensives.

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  7. Furthermore, the scenario goes against the structural reforms in the Russian Army, which is for more than a decade being reorganised from a low-readiness deterrence force with some high-readiness elements earmarked for forceful peacekeeping to a high-readiness force designed for large scale combined arms operations vs peer forces. That which the ideological blindness of the EU and US prevents them from seeing can be summarised thus: the Russians are quite serious about war. If war should break out, the RF will endeavour to rapidly end the war in its favour - however the very nature of the costs of modern war (damage to strategic industry & population life-support infrastructure whether by conventional or nuclear means) strongly suggest that the large scale participation of Russian troops in combat will have as a pre-requisite that of setting as a goal nothing less than complete instead of partial victory - i.e. total victory in WW3 conditions. Ofc, the Russians just like the their NATO counterparts have a theoretical ladder of escalation and a theory of escalation control - conflict is not inherently binary - but it is quite likely that an open large scale conflict involving thousands of troops cannot have any other ending than a clash as envisaged during the Cold War. What other evidence do we have of the Russians taking things seriously? 1) Slow-paced but deep rearmament 2) Re-activation of reserve bureaucracy and system 3) Refurbishment of ammo dumps 4) Secret civil defense spending with increasingly better performance indicators 5) Key priority being construction of multi-band long-range early-warning sensor networks - whether rebuilding Soviet satellite constellations or new OTH radars vs ballistic and cruise missiles 6) constant large training activities, lots of ammo and fuel expended 7) Recreation of large combined arms formations for operational manoeuvre 8) Large volume of serious military theory output within context of peer-conflict. (Ironically enough the Russians are quite aware of the low-density paradigm, its advantages and disadvantages and openly discuss z.B. how to alter C2 structures to better take advantage of it). 9) Reequipment and expansion of logistics and support troops.

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    1. Most of the Russian army is still far outside of the Western Military District. Mobilised reserves won't be combat effective for weeks, and it would take weeks till the standing armies of European NATO arrive, months till the American army arrives in force. There is no more quick ending of a war by 'winning by force' (Clausewitzian disarmament by battle) than during OP Barbarossa. The strategic depth is too great.

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    2. "Most of the Russian army is still far outside of the Western Military District." Correct. Hence also outside of NATO air and missile range.

      "months till the American army arrives in force". How is the American Army supposed to cross the Atlantic without being sunk?

      No one is envisioning a quick victory. Either the war is stopped early on at a lower stage of escalation, before large numbers of troops are involved, or it would be a grind - though by historical standards a relatively quick one. Order of magnitude weeks probably.

      "strategic depth is too great" - aye but PGMs (even without nukes) are enough to scramble logistics and production enough that long-term fighting is very hard to sustain. If the object is not conquest but military defeat of a standing armed force, it ought not take too long, nor the depth and distances present that much of a problem.

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    3. The Russian Navy has little capability in the high Atlantic. Its long-range bombers and their missiles are Cold War vintage. Their submarines are too loud, too easily sunk. The few necessary cargo ships can easily be hidden among hundreds of other cargo ships. Torpedoes have a poor effective range against 27 kts cruising large container ships.


      "If war should break out, the RF will endeavour to rapidly end the war in its favour"
      then
      "No one is envisioning a quick victory."

      Dude, seriously. Do you want to discuss something or just throw stuff?

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    4. Who is speaking about needing to go into the High Atlantic? Conventional or nuclear strike against a handful of critical ports is enough induce widespread disruption. In the case of Britain, probably cannibalism within 3 weeks.
      The cargo ships are few to transport the equipment and men, which makes losses disproportionate.

      As regards loud subs - that's info from the 70's.

      Finally what seems like a contradiction above isn't since the one case - fast conflict termination - is the expected behaviour at low levels of conflict. Should the escalation degenerate into large scale conflict you can expect a change in the logic to - seeking victory, accepting time and costs required.

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    5. Europe has so many ports (and those outside of Russian practical air strike range save for a strategic surprise strike) that blockading or striking a few critical ports would not matter.

      The Russians have only 12 somewhat silent SSNs, and some of them are not operational. These subs can launch missiles, but torpedo attacks are very unlikely against ASW convoys with LFASS and even difficult against today's very high cruise speeds of large cargo ships.

      Operating against shipping close to our airbases is even more challenging than doing so on the high Atlantic.

      In the end, the Russian Navy is not a major factor for European conventional defence. NATO is overhwelmingly superior to Russia in conventional forces, and even so if Russia opened with a devastating missile salvo against high value targets. They can only "win" if they grab what they want (and a bit more), then deter a retaking with the nuclear threat.

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  8. To postulate an "unserious" Russian invasion of the Baltics would also imply their willingness to trade in all the work in the diplomatic, military and military industrial as well as economic spheres of the last 20-30 years for no discernible reason. At least Saddam was aiming for actual valuable Kuwaiti oilwells, and obtained or thought he obtained the US "greenlight" before his misadventure. To postulate a "serious" Russian military presence in the Baltics is to postulate also a series of events culminating in WW3 - radically altering your scenario. For instance, it is well known that the Russians put a big emphasis on disruption of enemy rear areas and the protection of their own. How to move heavy NATO forces to the theater when they will be subject to 1) barracks strikes 2) marshalling yards strikes 3) C&2 strikes 4) key bridge strikes by means of CMs and SRBMs? Secondly, the notion of NATO "deep strike" and "raiding groups" conducting sabotage operations in Russia as deep as Moscow is ridiculous. The Russian border with the Baltic is scarcely populated, Moscow is very far, Belarus ought to provide reasonably good security, and in any case the centre of gravity of Russian industry is further East than Moscow. Finally, the Russians have enough artillery, EW and tanks to properly support highly mobile low-density operations - which in combination with tactical nukes give them the escalation edge in pretty much any serious encounter.

    As regards the suitability of skirmishing within the flawed premises of the above scenario - the success of skirmishing in a UAV-saturated environment is heavily dependent on the availability and quality of the support forces on each sides. You can't hide so must rely on EW, counter-battery, manoeuvre and deception to prevent easy destruction - that is the support elements and the coordinating HQ become the centre of gravity of the skirmishing formation. It is doubtful NATO would come out ahead of this.

    In the case of pre-planned NATO aggression vs RF it is quite unlikely that NATO would choose to advance by means of skirmishing.

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    1. The biggest problem for the skirmishers getting to Moscow is the Russian terrain close to the Baltic countries (woodland with few easily secured roads), but behind that there would be undefended areas where even 50 km/h advance speed would be feasible.

      There is no UAV saturation on such large areas feasible, and Russia has very few GMTI EW aircraft.

      I disapprove of your blatantly wrong use of the term "centre of gravity".
      https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2013/07/schwerpunkt-for-dummies.html

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    2. "The biggest problem for the skirmishers getting to Moscow is the Russian terrain close to the Baltic countries (woodland with few easily secured roads)" - yes to a depth of 500km. Sparsely inhabited woodland almost anywhere West of M11 highway Moscow - St Petersburg. Not to mention a quick reaction paratrooper division in Pskov.

      "There is no UAV saturation on such large areas feasible, and Russia has very few GMTI EW aircraft." UAV saturation is necessary in combat areas to destroy the combat potential of enemy heavy formations whether dispersed or concentrated - so strips several hundred km long up to a a depth of several tens of kilometers, something which can in fact be achieved.

      Small light forces will simply be defeated in detail - what logistics can sustain them several hundred km of small roads into enemy territory under enemy air cover? I expect interior ministry troops to be responsible for territorial defence against enemy infiltrators.

      My use was in fact consistent with the recommendation in your blog post - use CoG in the "American sense" to reflect something of critical importance - as a (limited) analogy to the physical CoG of a system (vector position of a (directional) weighted sum)

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    3. You don't seem to get the point. The destruction of a diversion force doesn't mean it's failing its mission. To the contrary, the mustering of forces to catch elusive small units hundreds of km away from the decisive area would be a huge operational success.

      The "American" interpretation of CoG is bollocks.

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    4. "The "American" interpretation of CoG is bollocks." With reference to the broader American interpretation of CoG, certainly. Using it as a short hand for a sphere of vital importance seems perfectly reasonably to me, provided one makes it reasonably clear what one is *not* talking about.

      Where do you expect to find NATO kamikazes? Why do you expect the idea to work when the Russians take border security seriously and have decades of experience fighting highly-motivated fundamentalist terrorists trying to conduct such raids?

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  9. As regards conflict termination I see the outcomes as follows:
    NATO military power shattered, capitals unoccupied (even Warsaw) but no escalation to nuclear level - "best" option but still fraught with long-term problems & uncertainties even for victorious side.
    NATO military power shattered, capitals occupied or destroyed, USA subject to strategic strikes - PRC + RF victory & new world order - worst, most costly option.
    Anything in the middle - sub-optimal ratio of RF+PRC damage to permanent political gains.

    Result: Conflict not worth it, deterrence to be emphasized by deliberate strengthening of nuclear and conventional deterrence vis-a-vis NATO.

    The relevance of the so-called "Baltic scenario" is largely that of an ill-thought out provocation by US-NATO élites as they go through a civilisation phase of "murder-suicide". Not to mention that by far the easiest way to handle the whole circus should it become obvious that NATO is preparing a provocation of this kind would be to induce NATO to deploy a large battlegroup in Baltics then cut off their logistics and shell them into surrender - Courland Pocket 2.0. and force NATO to sign a treaty demilitarising the Baltics.

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  10. "NATO military power shattered" is simply beyond the scope of Russian non-nuclear forces, even if we pretend it's only about armies and 4 months of action. The Russian army simply doesn't have that kind of capablity.

    And again; I look at an improbale scenario becuase it's the least trashy justification for spending gazillions on the military when we could deal with climate change, income inequality, multiresistant bacteria and viruses instead.

    We should crash our military budgets in Europe if we were certain that Russia is no threat to our sovereignty.

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    1. "The Russian army simply doesn't have that kind of capablity" Well, you are sort of correct in that the Russian army is not optimised to invade Europe. It is however, being rebuilt as a credible tool to fight war at any scale of intensity up to and including nuclear WW3 - much like during the Cold War. Currently the reserve system is still in shambles but the outline of action is quite clear: create a core medium-size force of medium-high readiness with all necessary enablers to drastically expand upon mobilisation. Scaled down, cheap & modern concept of much more extensive and expensive Soviet mobilisation. NATO military power is very brittle - it relies on overwhelming airpower, is very sensitive to casualties, information dominance, and has very little in the way of either ammunition stocks (European NATO at least), artillery or tanks - this holds true even for USA (active formations).

      NATO could hypothetically return to its Cold War mission of large scale deterrence - however 1) it lacks the industrial and financial vitality to do so 2) it would be a waste of resources just like the first time round since it would be insufficient to defeat the enemy, much less prevent his victory 3) I don't believe that deterrence is credible as a theory - USSR didn't want to invade Europe hence it didn't. The tragicomedy of 1945-1989 years was largely avoidable. US OTH launched Cold War with the aim of subjugating USSR after deliberately misinterpreting anti-colonial nationalism in Asia as communist subversion and was hoist on its own petard after USSR quickly developed own nukes and destroyed myth of USAF superiority in Korea, after which conflict developed largely on autopilot.

      "We should crash our military budgets in Europe if we were certain that Russia is no threat to our sovereignty." Yes and no, because NATO is not about sovereignty, but keeping US in and Russia out. Note moreover that in the case of NATO spending does not correlate well with capability.

      As you know quite well path-dependence, conflict of interest, ideological decadence etc. are structural problems. Accepting this threadbare justification instead of examining how to actually deal with real problems may be the only course of action available, but doesn't necessarily make it the right one.

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    2. There's too much nonsense to warrant a response.

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