Afghanistan-Pakistan: Towards likely disastrous defeat – the just prize for opportunities lost and half hearted effort

He (Obama) must prepare the US and the world for the fact that the present level of US, allied, Afghan, and Pakistani casualties will almost certainly double and probably more than tripled before something approaching victory is won. He must be honest about the long-term financial cost of both the fight and the aftermath. The US and its allies will need to provide aid and advisors years after the peak periods of combat are over – if we win.” (Anthony Cordesman, 1/11/2009: http://csis.org/publication/afghan-decision).

The Western Afghanistan state rebuilding project is fast approaching a ’culmination phase’ similar to that experienced by Hitler in the East in 1942-43. In both cases the key problem has been a failing and unrealistic strategic guidance. However, where the Axis failure was inevitable from 1943 onwards due to insufficient resources to win, the double roots of the threatening collapse in Central and South Asia are American folly and a European effort that has oscillated erratically between half hearted and symbolic. The most likely result seems now to be that we shall soon experience the combined effects of Islamic post-victory euphoria abroad and at home and a dusty collapse of the terminally weakened, corruption poisoned state power of nuclear armed Pakistan.

In Pakistan it seems unlikely to last long before the current offensive in Waziristan proves fruitless and counterproductive. Its Army’s best fighting units (the Frontier Force and Baloch-regiments) have been recruited in the rebellious North West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces. Many of the officers now commanding battalions and brigades come from the same areas. When they were young the then Army Chiefs deliberately exposed them to Islamist radicalization to prepare them for war against India. They are only maintained in questionable loyalty by the privileges they enjoy at the expense of the people. The Pakistani Army group of captains – the officers carrying out the orders of the colonels – must be considered labile and angry.

One of the best current writers on war and strategy, Colin S. Gray, has suggested that strategy is resting on a number of different ‘dimensions’ (‘strategy’ to be understood as the bridge between the political intent and the armed forces). These dimensions have different weight and relevance in different conflicts, however, the dimension ‘time’ is always of central importance. It is hard or impossible to compensate for time lost.

It is precisely the poisoned result of lost time that has been our inheritance from the strategic amateur Troika of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld. After the easy victory in Afghanistan in the winter 2001-2002 they left that war-torn country to eliminate Saddam Hussein. That otherwise laudable project was “managed” towards another empty bombardment and maneuver “victory” which left Iraq so disorganized that it could hardly be saved from imploding into a destructive civil war. In Afghanistan, the remaining U.S. military presence and the totally inadequate other Western military and economic efforts were far from enough to develop a stable popular support base for the tame Pasthun that the war- and Taliban-weary people of Afghanistan elected president in 2004. Hamid Khazai was forced to build his power on the local traditions of economic laissez-faire and hand-outs (in reality corruption, here based on control and illicit taxation of imports and on opium exports) as well as co-operation with the warlords that had helped to destroy the country during the previous decade.

Denmark’s contribution came early with its Special Forces, the government choosing to ignore the international legal obligations associated with the possibility that prisoners may be taken in military operations. This choice was repeated later when a force was sent to Iraq. When domestic political opportunism met the reality of the Basra region, it led to the attempted symbolic sacrifice of a lowly military intelligence officer and a couple of military policemen to the press and punishment rather than a decision to face responsibility. Soon Denmark moved to participate in the international force deployed to protect Khazai’s capital, a mission that the Americans considered beneath their dignity.

When the U.S. fashion for the half-hearted reconstruction efforts changed after 2003 to a model of combined military-civilian Provincial Reconstruction Teams, Denmark helped in as many places as possible. The country followed a symbolic contribution friendship policy towards old and new co-operation partners, contributing to the Swedish, German and Lithuanian teams.

Even after a couple of years of improvised reactions to deepening requirements, no independent analysis of the developing situation in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan seems to have been conducted in Denmark – beyond the Defence Intelligence Agency’s constant updating of its analyses of the risk level in actual and potential mission areas. The country continued to offer and deliver the units available on the “shelves” of military peace-time routine production to ensure international visibility.

This behavior had not substantially changed when the West realized in 2006 that it had to help Khazai regain control over the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand from the Taliban. Denmark then found that it had a veteran tanned-skin light reconnaissance squadron “on the shelf”. It was sent it with an anachronistic mandate built on Balkans routines. This happened despite the fact that its British framework formation had acknowledged that mission task would be traditional, dangerous, intensive counterinsurgency.

At that time the Danish armed forces had not yet any understanding of the requirements of “COIN – Counter-Insurgency” operations as this would have required continuous professional studies in depth, something which had not been expected of Danish officers during the previous 15 years. Disaster was only avoided by the combination of the robust, high-routine professional fighting skills of the Bornholm troopers, the availability of night combat equipment and a good supply of fools’ luck.

Even after the losses and hard fighting of 2006 and 2007, the Western governments and armed forces failed to adapt to reality. Their forces conducted “Search-and-Destroy’ operations” some relevant, some not, employing so much fire-power to limit own casualties that they were certain to create more future opposition than peace and stability.

Peacetime Routine Management of personnel and units continued in European countries, despite the lemming-like unprofessional idiocy that this represented. Key personnel for the military staffs in Afghanistan were only sent on tours of 6 months. Even officers open and gifted enough to learn and understand what it was all about were rotated home. The arriving commanders and staff officers were amateurs at war, even more so in counter-insurgency, and had only been given a superficial preparation for the extremely complex Afghan situation. While the deployed units became ever better equipped and trained, the rapid rotation of key personnel prevented the command and management of the operation from becoming professional and stalled the development of local understanding and network of contacts that is crucial when countering an insurgency.

It should also be, but was not, understood and accepted that efforts in war can only be advanced beyond the amateur stage if the organisation uses the situation to remove officers and non-commissioned officers who proved less suitable, and at the same time only, and quickly, to promote to command those few who had shown in practice that they understood their profession and could lead under the extreme pressure of combat.

This, of course, does not happen in Continental European armed forces. While our soldiers fight and some die in Central Asia, the home press and defence management considers itself at peace. Those returning from the war will nod in recognition to the observation in David H. Ucko’s newly published, critical analysis of the American development: The New Counterinsurgency Era. Transforming the U.S. Military for Modern Wars. He notes (on p. 87), that “frequent complaints (made) off the record, by officers home from Iraq, that visiting the Pentagon can be like visiting a distant planet where the war is just a speck in the sky“.

The national problems created by the failure to depart from peacetime behavior and management procedures are reinforced by the fact that the relationship between NATO countries remain completely dominated by standard diplomatic courtesy, consideration and avoidance of necessary confrontations, even when this seriously undermine the ability to act and develop the operations in an appropriate way. Commanders and staff officers who proved themselves stupid, unprofessional or without the ability to co-operate are allowed to continue in their jobs. It seems as if the mission (for those on the staffs) is just an interesting experience. In a couple of months either he or the useless idiot has departed. Mistakes will, after all, only hurt own soldiers and Afghan civilians and make eventual mission failure more likely.

The mutual consideration and courtesy that undermine military effectiveness also rules the crucial civilian reconstruction effort. An example: One of the biggest problems has been and remains the combination of low status, corruption and incompetence of the Afghan police force. The Germans were allowed to start and continue activities that may only have been appropriate for the long-term development of democratic police management in a major East German town. The inappropriate and useless effort was allowed to continue unchallenged far too long.

How difficult and crucial to mission success the development of a stable and motivated police force is, was tragically highlighted by the recent killing of the five British soldiers by a frustrated police constable. However, there is still no sign that the international forces acts to bind the local police to themselves by direct subsidising and a policy of financial rewarding demonstrated efficiency, thus freeing the force from its present dependence on local power relations and corruption.

Even in relation to the combination of military stability operations and reconstruction aid the countries seem fundamentally unwilling to ensure unity of all effort. It would require the creation of a national, joint civilian-military co-ordination staff in the mission area led by one authorised representative of the involved state that could co-operate with similarly authorised persons from allies and the different central and local Afghan authorities. Probably to avoid the uncomfortable experience of taking orders from an official from a different state agency the Danish bureaucracy has invented the concept of interthinking (‘samtænkning‘=’thinking together’), a euphemism for half-hearted and irresponsible interaction.

The immediate strokes in a last attempt to paddle away from the Niagara Falls around the river bend should be:
1) The designation and empowerment of a plenipotentiary in Kabul with responsibility for all national state rebuilding and stabilisation efforts in the mission. The appointed person could refer directly to home Prime, Foreign and Defence Ministries.
2) Implementation of a minimum of two years service for all military and key civilian personnel (commanders and staff members) in the mission – with 4 to 6 months overlapping service with the successor.
3) The formal encouragement of allies to criticise the performance of own personnel at the same time declaring the obligation to criticise the personnel of the Afghans and other allies. The necessary framework for an effective critique is probably an international monitoring inspector group composed of persons with recent recognised excellent service in the mission (the group leader must be authorised to suggest and reject members). However, the situation is too urgent to wait for the establishment of such a group.
4) The direct and extensive involvement in local police development and support, a basic requirement for the necessary dramatic improvement in the human intelligence field.

It is now proposed so that we concentrate our forces and efforts in the larger cities to gain time to build the Afghan security forces. If such redeployment is not only to become a painful and slightly longer road a certain defeat, some problems must be confronted. Let me discuss the option:
1) These cities must be able to absorb and protect people moving in to escape the rebels’ revenge for co-operation with government and allies forces and agencies. If the majority of the population in the evacuated areas choose to stay see the schools be blown up and the girls returned to the Middle Ages this is a sign terminal strategy failure. If they do choose to become (hopefully) temporary internal refugees, this will lead to a worsening of the other problems listed.
2) The cities must be effectively protected against rebel infiltration and properly supplied. The constant and recent experience of terrorist attacks in Kabul and Peshawar south of the border indicate that the former is impossible. The latter will not be easier. How can we ensure the supply to cities when roads are too insecure for military operations? With airlift? Both the cities and reconstruction projects depend on electricity from hydropower plants far from densely populated areas. How will that problem be solved?
3) How can it be avoided that the evacuation is (correctly) perceived by the Afghan people as a defeat for the Western power and prestige thus finally undermining the faith in the government’s stabilisation chances necessary for mission success?
4) How can it be avoided that the strategy undermines the possibilities for the necessary further recruitment for the army and police and the morale and already weak cohesion of the existing units?
5) How can it be avoided that the strategy change also undermines the already extremely limited possibility of effective counter-insurgency south of the border in Pakistan? It will release significant land areas north of the border that can thereafter be used as bases for the ‘Pakistani Taliban‘ in its insurgency and terrorism against the weak Pakistani government.

It seems clear that the West is close to giving up trying to do what is clearly necessary to concentrate on doing the totally inadequate that can be done in agreement – thereafter to sit in a circle with heads in the sand and fingers crossed in hopeful ‘interthinking’.

The Baltic States towards the end of the second two decades of independence

This small essay does not try to be pleasant, even if it is marking a success. I earned my right to be constructively critical by working for Baltic States’ independence even before 1991 and by toiling stubbornly thereafter for more than a decade – in region – assisting its integration into the Euro-Atlantic framework that has now been the situation for five years.

In parallel with the continued observations of the developments and situation during my stay, I studied the interwar as well as German and Soviet periods of the three states’ history. The combination should prepare a better understanding of the rather difficult and poisoned fields of domestic politics in the three and co-operation of Baltic State’s. Some results of my observations were published in a comparatively diplomatic form in the ‘Baltic Defence Review’.

1920-1940 in retrospect
The three Baltic States achieved their independence as a result of a deliberate British decision in November 1918. France preferred to work for the return of a more normal Russia that could balance German power from the east in some future. If this was not possible, Poland should be as large and powerful a counterweight as possible.

British basic strategic interests were, however, different from those of its continental ally. In the draft of the Foreign office telegram sent to the new British envoy to Copenhagen – chosen as the staging and support base of the coming Royal Navy intervention in the Baltic – it was made clear that the navy’s mission was to support the newly created states. It was not the main mission to support the ‘Whites’ against the ‘Reds’. After having loaded 300 Madsen light machine guns for the Estonian Army in Copenhagen, rear-admiral Sinclair proceeded to do just that. His successor in Baltic command, another light cruiser admiral, Walter Cowan, completed what Sinclair had started, using Finnish territory to scare the Russian Navy into its cave by a daring raid into Kronstadt base. Only Lithuania needed more sponsors than the British to counter Polish ambitions and gain independence.

With the German Navy self destroyed, the British could ensure naval freedom of action by putting most of the Baltic Sea littoral into the hands of small friendly states and by having the Aaland Islands given to Finland against the wish of the majority of the islanders. As a result the Royal Navy ruled the Baltic Sea during the first decade of the interwar period.

It was the direct sponsor and military guarantor of Baltic States independence.
However, the ‘Senior Service’, was soon weakened by the ‘payment of the peace dividend’ and by the administrative continuous extension of the assumption of a temporary end to European history, with no major war the next 10 years. From 1931 the Royal Navy became increasingly pressed attempting to deter first the Japanese and then the Italians with the surviving forces. At the same time its development was handicapped by the Royal Air Force’s ideological based resistance to the special naval aviation that had been used so effectively in 1919-20 in the Finnish Gulf. In 1935 the service was forced to give up the Baltic Sea to Germany in a vain attempt to limit its naval growth through arms control.

By then the domestic politic development of all three Baltic States had shifted away from parliamentarian democracy to right wing, nationalist authoritarian rule, first in Lithuania by Smetonas, then, under the pressure of the local effects of the Great Depression, by Päts in Estonia and finally by Ulmanis in Latvia.
At the same time the leadership of the Baltic armed forces either stayed far longer in their job than was good for their service or – worse – became deeply politicized. No professional adjustment of doctrine and structure to the local defence conditions of the type that took place in Finland catalyzed by general Kirke’s mission in the mid-20’s happened in the Baltic States. Even Estonia and Latvia, where the armies had fought closely together during the Wars of Independence, and where the acknowledged, common main military threat was the Soviet Union, left their operational defence plans uncoordinated.

In spite of the fact that the Riga was the then ‘Spy Capital’ for information about the Soviet Union, the Berlin of that era, the reactions of the peoples of the Baltic States in 1939-1940 seemed to indicate that the brutal character of Stalin’s empire had not been realized in advance. Until too late, the Soviet Unions was apparently seen as something similar to the benevolent an ineffective Russia of Nicolai II that had allowed growth of the Estonian and Latvian national movements for autonomy.

In 1941 the Germans came, preparing to further develop and realise their 1918 ambitions for the region, and then the Russians returned in 1944.

The next two decades of independence
Fifty years after the end of the first double decade, independence was regained due to a clear and effective U.S. sponsorship. Thereafter it was successful American support that ensured that the three States were accepted into NATO (and by logical implication into the EU).

I am personally happy that my country, Denmark, driven by the visionary effort of a handful of key leaders, was among those endeavouring to act as a catalyst in the process. However, without the U.S. leadership, the three states would have been left in the grey zone no man’s land of Russian ‘Near Abroad’ by West Europeans always incapable of concerted action when facing states and leaders thinking different than themselves.

Loss of empire is tough on self esteem, and other former imperial nations, especially the French and Italians, felt empathy for the poor ex-imperial newcomers. The Germans were guided by their well earned bad conscience. They all failed to see that what emerged in Russia after the zigzag of drunken, well-meaning confusion under Boris Jeltsin was a state leadership with the mindset of the period 1900-1930. The resulting Russian world view crystallised into being driven by the geo-strategic paradigm of that time, where neighbours should be destabilised and weakened by political and economic infiltration, including ‘economic encouragement’ to their political and business leaders. The retiring German chancellor Schröder offered himself as a role-model of selfish amorality.

If necessary and without clear risks, military threats and even limited military operations could be employed. The Russians copied the autocratic national-conservative leaders in Weimar Germany in significant ways – beyond the general worldview. The history of the past was deliberately rewritten to hide past state misdeeds and pass blame to the domestic opposition and the outside world. Thereafter the manipulated stories were used as a tool in the manipulation of the young in schools and the ‘Nashi’, to reinforce the misconceptions of the old and act as a weapon of historical misinformation against ‘enemies’ encircling the country. The falsified history would be used in a directed way to destabilise the neighbours with a significant Russian speaking diaspora, using its dependence on homeland information and reinforcing its separation from the nation it lived with. Especially the young and otherwise insecure expatriates in the neighbouring states could be mobilised for the ‘home country’, creating local branches of SA – or in the case the Nashi.

As demonstrated by the Germans in the interwar period, any historical interpretation, even the most manipulated and twisted, would receive support from some western academics as part of their critical attitudes to main line interpretations in their field.

The only two good pieces of news in the present situation are firstly that Putin and his political supporters are more like the autocratic national-conservatives of the German Fatherland movements than like Hitler and his minions, and secondly that the Russian way and level of peace-time self-organisation, rational strategic behaviour and effectiveness is dramatically different from what we saw in interwar Germany.

On the other side there remains a serious handicap on the Baltic side. Many leaders are to a rather high degree still twisted and damaged mirrors of their upbringing in the Soviet Union. They are therefore very different from the cadres of 1919 that copied Baltic German, Russian and Polish bourgeois norms.
In the late Soviet Union interpersonal relations outside the family were too often built on power-dependent client relations rather than on a foundation real trust based on a developed ability to ‘read’ your fellow human being. Especially the men now above 35 too often perceived public office as a large or small milking cow or privilege bank rather than a chance and inspiration to serve the public common good. Façade was more important than substance. Honest analysis and reporting of problems was often still being replaced by a code of necessary embellishment by lying about reality. Actions of public organisations too often remained at the planning stage to avoid risk and because actual implementation required (missing) decisiveness at the top and (equally missing) trustful co-operation in and among involved persons and supporting agencies.

The resulting political structures in the three very different states were influenced in different ways. In Estonia the worst ‘fat cat’-politicians were weeded-out fairly early, but both before and after this happy development, the implementation of broadly agreed sound policies have been hampered by a rather immature level of interpersonal relationships and by a populist and shifty opportunistic opposition. In Latvia central control over appointment of candidates for parliament and other key public positions have made it very difficult to avoid a public sector that continues to be stuck in a system financed by the purchase of office, public contracts and services. It is a system wide open to hostile Russian influence, infiltration and action. In Lithuania progress in the development of an honest and qualified leadership has been slow, dominated by the phases of running ‘civil war’ and political zigzag between the loose coalition of nationalists on one side and even more loose and opportunistic groupings around central and local political and management nomenclatura on the other with the security service in the middle spying against all.

In the 1930’s, the main military sponsor, the Royal Navy, departed to counter security problems in Asia at the same time where the Baltic States were hard hit by the economic depression. As mentioned, the still weak democratic political structures in Estonia and Latvia gave up under pressure. Lithuania by then already mirrored autocratic model of Poland.

Now, the sponsor and allies of the Baltic States in NATO are increasingly focused on the security threat centered in Asia, in Afghanistan and the likely terminally weakening nuclear armed state of Pakistan. The Alliance cannot even agree on meeting this challenge in a timely and sufficient way. In the attempt to do better, it has apparently been more or less tacitly decided by members to assume that no other issue will arise that can derail the effort.
Russian behaviour in Georgia implied a requirement for reinforcing Alliance Article 5 credibility in member states with a recent history in the inner or outer Russian Empire. Especially those with problems like the Soviet diaspora in Estonia and Latvia or the Lithuanian Kaliningrad Oblast transit issue. However, this fact seems to be beyond comprehension and agreement by members. Western Europe, the Old NATO Europe, has still no direct security problems. Many in Western Europe argue in the same way as their grandfathers did when defending German actions in the 1930’s: Russian claims and actions are just and reasonable. It is implicitly seen as justified and normal for a ‘great’ state to seek geo-strategic control over and respect from its small neighbours, the word ‘respect’ used as understood by a mafia don.

The Americans are now trying to enhance the credibility of the Western security support to the Baltic States by a framework of exercises. However, the deterrence effect of such activities depend on a clear character of the security challenge, on Baltic States territorial defence capabilities and on a timely and adequate response capability of other member states.

In theory the West European countries could assist effectively due to the shorter deployment distance. In reality most find it difficult to maintain even their rather small contributions to the missions in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa. Only France and Great Britain do a little better. The Western European militaries are increasingly becoming top-heavy, bureaucratic, de-professionalized monuments to the ‘New Public Management’ GOSPLAN-like fashion.

The Baltic defence and security forces are presently far from capable of mobilising the necessary initial dense presence in their land- and sea border territories and stabilising security presence in threatened areas, even if such a capability is a precondition for being reinforced by friends. The Anglo-Saxon late 1990’s advice to create small standing forces was welcome. The alternative was to start by creating an effective, broad conscription based territorial structure with a strong reserve cadre. That this could be done on the cheap was demonstrated by Finland. The comprehensive advice given by the Nordic States to follow that line was received politely, but considered irrelevant in the domestic political context. The Anglo-Saxon advice was welcome, because none of the Baltic States elites really accepted that their sons (and possibly even daughters) should be committed to contribute to the national defence in a serious way. Even in the militarised Soviet Union they could get away with some pseudo-reserve officer training when in university. The Brits ridiculed the Nordic advice, having completely forgotten how they organised themselves, when the enemy was just across the Channel.

In theory it is still possible to adjust effectively to the new situation by learning from the Finns and using the experience gained in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, my experience does not make me an optimist, and the new pressure by the state finances by the fast near collapse of international trading has already led to serious cuts in the already very small defence budgets.
The three states could, to be more effective, co-ordinate their actions and planning and be willing to co-operate effectively, even by practicing reinforcement of each other, exercising putting their forces under operational control of the challenged state. In my time in the Baltic States, I never experienced any mature acceptance of such a possibility.

However, as the Baltic States, Russia is now hit very hard by the international depression, due to the country’s dependence on an increasingly rundown oil industry. In the short term this may be good for Baltic security. However, if the current depression worsens, and lasts several years, which is now most likely, it could destabilise Russia politically far further than in the early 1990’s. Russia is far too large and screwed to be helped by an IMF-loan. The final result of such a destabilisation is very hard to foresee.

11/6/07: Putin’s Russia: The Regressed Cuckoo in the European Nest

“We have been taken up with the Americans on the war on terror while rather glibly assuming that postcold war settlement in eastern Europe remained in place. We have rather forgotten that Russia has never accepted that settlement.” Jonathan Eyal, director of studies at the British Royal United Services Institute to TIMESONLINE 10/6/07

Putin’s Russia is creating maximum mischief and damage to the surrounding liberal-democratic world. Our world that arrogantly believed that history had ended and that we only had to deal with the remaining problems and issues like islamic terrorism, global warming and African misgovernment and poverty on the way to general human race happiness. It is done to feel good and prop-up the wounded national ego by rolling-back history, and get the ‘respect‘ demanded by a mafia boss. In order to reinvent an identity, Russia has chosen to regress to the good time-spirit and international style of the autocratic Aleksandr III, the last really successful Russian leader. The later most successful leader of Russian expansion – the Georgian Stalin – is treated again with proper respect.

We should remember that the Russians have tried to use any window of internal Western trouble to advance their positions or do dirty work in own backyard. World-views that aren’t based on geo-strategic ‘reality’ are naïve and dangerous nonsense to the Russian leadership. As the Russians know from repeated experience that their instruments are crude as well as the likely detrimental effects of failure, their opportunism is normally deliberate, limiting risks. If met by similarly actions that ‘speak their language’, they reconsider their actions.

From summer 1939 to summer 1940 they used the inter-European war and French defeat to move the geo-strategic borders in the West to those of the Russian Empire. Only Finland spoke their language by a determined defence – that had to be repeated in 1944.

In 1956 Western trouble in the Middle-East covered the disciplining of Hungary. Later general generational confrontation in the West and the domestic results of the Tet-offensive in the U.S. sheltered similar actions in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

American doubts and soul-searching after the Vietnam defeat and immature Western European fascination with a ‘third way’ utopia created a rather un-Russian optimistic strategic grab for world power to feed the inherent national inferiority complex. When the Americans reacted with a revitalised challenge, the Soviet system had to reform to meet that challenge. The attempts removed the supports of the rotten system, and it collapsed. The Russian Empire in Europe, lost during the defeat to Germany in 1918 and the ‘Revolution’, but partly regained during the Civil War and fully in 1940-45, disappeared again. In a final attempt to keep the Empire, the Russians used the cover of the Gulf War in 1991 in a half-hearted and clumsy attempt to discipline the Lithuanians and Latvians.

The cover of the ‘War on Terror’ after September 2001 has been used to remove Western criticism of a barbaric 19th Century type colonial campaign to keep control of North Caucasus, a part of the empire that had resisted the Russian presence from its start.

Thereafter the situation has created an ever widening gap of opportunity for deliberate Russian geo-strategic engineering. We are only beginning to see the political and military effects of the American unnecessary defeat in Iraq. It is doubtful if a soul-searching U.S. will use the future military freedom of action to follow the British example and ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, thereby enhancing NATO’s diminishing chances of success in its half-hearted ‘too little – too late’ state building and counter-insurgency campaign.

At the same time the Putin Clique has advanced quickly in a campaign to get control over Russia by means that totally reject all elements of the liberal democratic project – that is presented as alien to the simple Russian Soul.

In parallel campaigns the media have been disciplined and the decisive energy sector harnessed to state control. Assassination of independent journalists has been allowed – to reach quick results. Critical Western journalists are denied visa.

The Institute for Military History of the Ministry of Defence has been given two missions. Firstly to create the material used in the nationalistic education and brainwashing of Russian school children. Secondly to write historical misinformation to be used to smear critical neighbour states (the information is from a recent briefing by the leader of the institute during a visit to Denmark).

Nearly 60% of Putin’s present leadership cadre has its background in the claustrophobic and tunnel vision world view of the Soviet military. From reforming to meet terrorist threats, the Russian military is now again focusing on fighting or confronting states, NATO-states.

Critical voices among the Russian community abroad are silenced by pressure, if necessary by allowing assassination, legitimate under new Russian legislation.

The confusion and naivety of the West is used to the maximum. The ‘informed‘ West European public opinion is always without any historical perspective, always ‘understanding’ the other side – it must be tough to loose an empire – of course you have to find your national identity in your own way. In Western Europe you always trust the other side to be basically a well-meaning liberal wishing ‘peace in our time’.

All means of influence are used by the Russian leadership to bully and influence the former parts of the empire: By ‘sponsoring’ corrupt members of the elite, by mobilising the Russian speaking ethnic groups using the fact that they only watch Russian state controlled TV, by Russian state controlled investment in strategic economic areas of the neighbours like energy, by vilifying the neighbours and confusing the historically illiterate West European public opinion, by applying the energy and trade weapons, by using military threats in attempted coercion.

Ukraine is probably lost and Georgia is under siege. The Baltic State’s future full independence and security is presently depending on a self-serving divided EU and a NATO mired in Afghanistan. Thank God for Angela Merkel’s understanding of the issues.

Arms Control instruments that are basically anachronistic in their substance are used to tease and split a Western strategic community only capable of analysing with its vintage memory. The Russian use of the venerable CFE-treaty deliberately ignores the most important development: NATO has forced all new members to drastically reduce their self-defence forces to a level where they cannot defend themselves against even the weakest intimidation or attack. The members bordering Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had to concentrate on small expeditionary forces to become members, and most West European states have followed or are on the same path.

It might be a good idea for NATO to conduct all the future combined training for Afghanistan in Eastern Europe, thus discretely marking the continued relevance of Article V of the Washington Treaty. It would be seen as comforting by the East Europeans, it might awaken some West Europeans to the continuation of history, and it will be registered by the closely observing Russians. The Russian military knows that ready, deployable forces created for overseas operations are also capable of crisis management deterrent deployment to a front-line sector, especially if that deployment is exercised regularly.

The problem will not disappear next year. The Russians agree that the next president should be Putin’s controlled puppet, probably Ivanov, and that the master puppeteer should return to the center stage in 2012 for another two terms.

29/4/07: The real roots of the Tallinn mayhem

The Monument next to the Tallinn ‘Freedom Square’ and the City Hall would equal having a memorial close to the entrance to Tivoli in Copenhagen with a mourning Wehrmacht soldier to highlight the German sacrifices for ‘Neuropa‘ during the occupation of Denmark.

To move the bronze monument to the armed forces’ cemetary now instead of having it blown up in 1991 immediately after the end of the Soviet occupation was and is a sign of political maturity and real consideration for those who fought bravely for Stalin against Hitler, those who sacrificed themselves to replace one evil empire with a different, more robust, evil empire.

In most of Continental Europe, the Second World War became a civil war, where small and large nations were drafted, enticed or forced by lack of other options to fight for both totalitarian systems. No matter how courageously they fought for their comrades, their effort must be remembered as deeply tragic, as the Estonian have wisely chosen to do at the bloody ‘Blue Hills’ 1944 battlefield West of Narva.

Fighting for a totalitarian system must not be celebrated, but mourned.

Unfortunately the Russian leadership is far from realising or accepting this.

We in Western Europe could be grateful for the sacrifices made by the Russians fighting on the Eastern Front. They made it possible for the U.S. and Great Britain to invade the continent and liberate a space where we would get time to further develop liberal democracy. The Estonians and other East Europeans had nothing to be grateful for. They had to wait until the surviving rotting carcass of Stalin’s evil empire collapsed under the weight of its self-serving corrupt bureaucracy. They had their societies and individuals polluted for 50 years.

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Europe is facing several problems, all of these related to the tendency to ignore those problems and thereafter reacting with a combination of civilized optimistic patience and appeasement.

The development in Russia the last 10 years is one such problem, a serious one for our common European future.

Instead of using the decade to move and develop into the 21st Century, picking up the Western political civilization of the post Second World War period, the Russian political leadership has chosen to regress 100 years to the ways of the pre First World War period.

The attitude of Russia to the World and especially to its neighbours is presently close to that of the general great power attitudes of that earlier period. It is built on a demand for ‘respect‘ for the country because of its size. Is it rooted in the geo-strategic and geopolitical attitudes tainted with Social-Darwinism that dominated the conservative elites of all other major European states of the period.

During the period 1905-14 the Russian elite separated itself from the European main stream by being more concerned with domestic reform than external matters and prestige. However, today’s Russia seems to try to compensate for the ‘failing‘ of that otherwise distant period.

The concern for its position in Kosovo is a pure regression into romantic Pan-Slavism. The Finnish role in that process ensures that any logical and legitimate Russian concerns are addressed.

The respect demanded from the small – and thus contemptible and ridiculous – states on the borders is similar in type to that demanded by a mafia ‘capo‘. Presently the focus is Georgia and Estonia.

As then everywhere, the writing of history in Russia today does not seek to present a balanced truth. Russian official history under Putin and Ivanov is written to reinforce the ‘Potemkin‘ image of greatness, to enhance the ego and self-confidence of Russians.

If necessary that is done by deliberate rejection or distortion of known truth and used as a tool of disinformation and propaganda domestically, among Russians in the near and far abroad and to confuse or misguide the increasingly historically illiterate European leaders and populations.

A necessary element in this is a total rejection of the fact that Communism and especially Stalinism was a criminal political and cultural disease similar in most ways to Nazism. Stalin must now be seen and respected as one of the Great Russian leaders. The massive crimes against his own people as well as the – in Russian eyes – second rate nations like Poles and the ridiculously small Baltic nations are seen and presented as justified and necessary.

The facts in relation to Estonia, partly or fully distorted by Russian as previously Soviet historians are fairly straightforward.

The Soviets:
* got freedom of action through the Molotov-Ribbentrop deal
* used the framework of the deal to force the Estonians to accept massive Soviet controlled bases in the North and West of the country in the autumn of 1939
* used the newly established air bases (in formally neutral Estonia) in their air campaign – including the terror bombardment of Helsinki – during the unprovoked invasion of Finland in the Winter War, the act worsened by the Finns being the brother nation of Estonians
* used the strategic clarity created by the German victories in the West to invade and fully occupy Estonia in the late spring of 1940
* organised a fully Soviet controlled and rigged election to create a ‘popular wish’ to be able to justify annexation
* removed the leadership of the Estonian nation by deportation and physical destruction of the political, official and cultural elites – a process that drastically culminated in the massive, well-planned deportations just prior to the surprise German invasion of the Soviet Union
* carried out of a massive forced draft of young Estonian men in Northern Estonia for the Soviet Army and thereafter forced the mostly reluctant conscripts to fight, when they had no chance to desert from their hostage takers
* employed these Estonians at the end of the campaign in Estonia in 1944 to fight against, get killed by and kill other Estonians that had joined the German forces (the Waffen SS was the only organisation open to foreigners) during the previous year to defend against a renewed Soviet invasion – visit the soldiers’ cemetaries from the final fighting on the Sõrve peninsular on the island of Saaremaa (Ösel)
* carried out an extended campaign of terror and massive deportations to destroy the remaining resistance of the ‘Forrest Brothers’ and destroy the Estonian rural society by collectivisation
* colonised Estonia from other parts of the Union thus changing the ethnic balance of the country and especially the urban areas of the North

It took a few decades for Germany to move into the future by facing the ugly past. Japan and Turkey are finally in the process of moving. In Russia, the leadership has deliberately chosen a full return to ‘the big lie‘ and to a totally anachronistic view of the world.

Russia is no longer like an Upper Volta with nuclear weapons – and surplus natural resources. She has now regressed to become an early 20th Century spotwise economically developing authoritarian state with nuclear weapons and the surplus natural resources.

The states bordering Russia realise all too well what they see and are justly concerned. In Western Europe we are just worried about the energy supply and ready to appease and ignore to have a loaded promise and a share of the growing Russian marked.

Depressing and challenging.

Nationalistic self-brainwashing based on historical disinformation was the source of tragedies in Ireland, former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus.

When does this irresponsible nonsense stop?