in the Air
By Eric Margolis
March 29, 2014 "Information
Clearing House -
War fever is in the air. Fifty thousand Russian
troops and armor are massed on Ukraine’s eastern
border. Europe and Washington worry that the reborn
Red Army may sweep west across Ukraine, Moldova, the
Baltics – even into Poland.
The West is
suffering from a bad case of Cold War chills.
are the Western powers worried, they are discovering
that they likely lack the means to stop possible
Russian incursions into what was the former Soviet
not be at all surprised that Russia is again showing
signs of life.
the Great, the renowned Prussian warrior-king,
warned: “he who tried to defend everything, defends
officers should have Great Fredrick’s words tattooed
on his right hand. Soon after the Soviet Union
collapsed in 1991, a small number of strategists,
this analyst included, warned NATO, “do not move
east. It’s a bridge too far.”
chairman Mikhail Gorbachev had agreed to let
rebellious East Germany escape Soviet control – but
in exchange for NATO’s vow not to push east in
previously Soviet dominated areas of Eastern Europe
and the Caucasus. The US and NATO agreed, then
quickly broke their pledge.
advance into Eastern Europe, the Baltic and the
Caucasus – not to mention former Soviet Central Asia
– that brought the US-led alliance right up to
Russia’s borders. US anti- missile systems were
scheduled to go into Poland, close to Russian
territory. New US bases were set up in Bulgaria,
Rumania and Central Asia.
efforts to bring ex-Russian Ukraine and the vital
Sevastopol naval base in Crimea under NATO control –
no doubt to punish Russia for supporting Syria and
Iran – proved the last straw for the Kremlin.
tough is easy. Defending Eastern Europe from a
possible Russian invasion will not be. The main
problem is that while US/NATO guarantees have been
advanced to Russia’s sensitive borders, their
military capabilities have not. In short, commitment
military could take over the Baltic states of
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in an afternoon.
Sizeable portions of their populations are ethnic
NATO is not
deployed or equipped to go to war over Ukraine: its
troops are far to the west, without supply systems
or air cover. Besides, European powers, aside from
the little Nazis in Denmark and Ukraine’s
nationalists, want no part of war with Russia –
that’s left to the war hawks safely at home in
of trade sanctions Washington is imposed on Russia
is an act of pre-war. We should remember that US
sanctions imposed on Japan in 1941 that led Tokyo to
attack the Western powers.
Cold War, the US had some 400,000 troops in Europe,
800 warplanes and potent naval forces. Today, the US
has only 43,000 troops left in Europe: two combat
brigades and the rest air force and logistics
personnel. The old days when the Soviet Union had
50,000 tanks pointed at Western Europe are long
gone, but Russia’s modernized armed forces still
the US has scattered forces all over the globe in
what Frederick the Great would call an effort to
defend everything. Most notably, US troops have gone
to Afghanistan, Iraq, then Kuwait, and many home.
America’s strongest divisions are now guarding
Kansas and Texas instead of German’s Fulda Gap and
military power has been dissipated in little
colonial wars, just as Britain’s were in the 19th
century. When British imperial troops had to face
real German soldiers, they were slaughtered.
Similarly, the US military, reconfigured after
Vietnam to wage guerilla wars, is in no shape today
to face the grandsons of the once mighty Red Army.
patient Vlad Putin is not about to invade Poland.
The real danger is what would happen if the ethnic
Russian inhabitants of the Baltic states, Ukraine
and Moldova rise up and demand reunification with
Russia go to their aid? Would Europe and the US be
ready to risk nuclear war for obscure places like
Luhansk, Kharkov, Chisinau or Kaunus?
and Crimea we are now seeing the results of overly
aggressive Western geopolitics. Russia was woefully
underestimated. A crisis between nuclear-armed
powers should never have been allowed to occur. It’s
sheer madness. Like nuclear-armed children fighting
over a toy.
Margolis is an award-winning, internationally
syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in
the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune
the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf
Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan,
Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other
news sites in Asia.
Eric S. Margolis 2014