11 August 2008

In the Face of Russian Aggression . . .

If Russia wants to play imperialist again, it should come at a high cost, one that even with their current oil wealth they can't afford. What Russia doesn't have right now is a very large and capable army. They simply don't have the number of healthy young patriotic young men they once did.

They aren't capable of fighting wars on multiple fronts, so if they want to be aggressive, push back in places they weren't expecting to defend is the only way to support our allies in Georgia.

Kaliningrad and Sakhalin Island are logical targets. Russia's claim on those places are weak, based on illegal actions taken by Stalin in the aftermath of WWII, even though both those places populations are overwhelmingly Russian now, that's after a concerted program of Russification, and there's no reason why those populations can't be repatriated to Russia proper (just as the Soviet Union did to the largely German population of East Prussia after they stole it).

Russia can wipe out Georgia with impunity, and they seem determined to do so, but they wouldn't be able to wipe out Georgia, defend Kaliningrad, and defend Sakhalin all at the same time. Plus, while the Russian government can portray defending ethnic Russians in a hostile Georgia as a noble and glorious task to the people at home, seeing large number of Russians themselves getting displaced due to imperial overreach would be a much harder for Russians to take.

Lithuania, Germany or Poland would be better administrators for Kaliningrad and all three have longer histories in the area than Russia, also Japan has as much legitimacy to rule Karafuto as Russia does (plus, they could use the oil more). The Japanese navy is more than up to the task to take that island, Russia's Pacific 'fleet' is a joke, other than their submarines, but the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force have anti-sub capabilities second only to the United States. If Lithuania, Germany and Poland jointly invaded Kaliningrad, they'd cause Russia more problems than the Russians would want to deal with, plus it would bring NATO into this conflict, which would greatly complicate things for Putin and Medvedev. Tens of thousands would die if this happened, but millions may die later if Russia gets bit by the imperialist bug again.

Not going to happen, of course, folks are content to let Georgia fall, so long as Russia doesn't come after them (you don't have to be faster than the crocodile, just a bit faster than the guy about to be eaten). Plus, that sort of naked aggression is no longer in the character of Japan, Lithuania, Germany or Poland, can't say the same for Russia at the moment, though.

A Russian land counter-attack on Lithuania or Poland would not go smoothly for them, not that an attack on Kaliningrad would be a piece of cake, either, but it seems like Russia is nostalgic for their days of empire, and some Russians in power aren't happy that NATO nations are on their border. They may honestly see effective missile defense as ending their prospect to project their power through the threat of nuclear annihilation, so they may be taking this closing window of opportunity to be aggressive without too great of consequence before it closes completely.

How far, and how aggressively they expand, is up to Russia, as it doesn't seem any country is particularly interested in doing anything but protest diplomatically. Maybe they've gotten what they wanted out of Georgia, and that will be the end of it. Maybe others will be able to ignore this aggression without consequence. Maybe staying out of Russia's way on this and abandoning Georgia is the only prudent course for the United States to take. Maybe Europeans are right in going the appeasement route again (though it's never worked in the past). Been awhile since Europe has been faced with an aggressive neighbor, eagerly gobbling up territory. If history is a guide, one shouldn't expect any serious response until it's far too late.

UPDATE: fixed many spelling errors, any errors in thinking remain, though.

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