Saturday, May 04, 2024

Rampant Militarism

The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said recently,

Defending against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe. If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border.
Many western politicians are saying something similar. This is part of a shocking militaristic shift is taking place across the Western world. It is the most serious in Europe. Most of the fear is unjustified, but it could make politicians do stupid things.

New Zealand is isolated, so there is not much to fear here. However, the government is talking about the need to buy big ticket military equipment from the United States to protect us. They would get far better bang for the buck if they bought a few dozen Iranian drones of the type that the Houthis are using in the Red Sea. They would protect us from invading ships with minimal cost. Modern technology makes defence much cheaper than it was, but the big weapons companies prefer to push expensive boondoggles.

Military fever is stronger in Australia, where people seem to be looking for a war with China. This is odd because Australia is working flat out to dig minerals out and ship them to China, so I can't see why they would want to invade Australia. The Chinese are already getting everything that they need from Australia cheaply without the need to rule unruly Australians. I don’t think that they are stupid enough to take that on.

Australia has formed an AUKUS partnership with the US and the UK. I am not sure why Australians would trust the United Kingdom to protect them. The Brits cannot even get its aircraft carriers out of port without them breaking down, so I don’t see how they can have much influence in the soutehern Pacific.

In the United States, the militiarismic fears are far worse. Many Americans seem to believe that war with China is inevitable. Given that they could not win in Vietnam, Korea, Syria, Afghanistan or Ukraine, I am not sure why they think that they could beat China.

I believe that most political leaders don’t believe their narrative about the Russian threat. However, they are all under serious political pressure, so touting an external bogeyman is a good way to increase their political support. For example, Rishi Sunak is predicted to massively lose in the upcoming UK parliamentary election, but he understands that a war in the Falklands helped Margaret Thatcher get re-elected, so he is trying the next best thing.

I believe that western political leaders are being cynical. They know the Russian threat is not real, but they talk it up anyway to maintain political power. That is a dangerous game.

The truth is that Russia has no interest in invading Europe. James Richard summed this up well in an article that I read today.

First off, the theory that Putin will invade other countries if he wins in Ukraine is nonsense. The Russian army lacks the men and materiel to occupy Ukraine while simultaneously invading other countries.

This isn’t the Soviet Union with its massive tank armies poised to roll over Western Europe. And Soviet communism is long dead, so there’s no ideological basis for Russia to invade Europe. These days, Russia is a conservative, Orthodox Christian nation.

But more importantly, Putin has absolutely no incentive to invade any of these nations, which are NATO members. What do they have that he wants?

All it would do is trigger Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all, inviting a massive NATO response. At that point, you’re on the fast track to nuclear war.
Putin is fully aware of that.

Fearmongers like to point to what Putin once said in a speech:
“Whoever doesn’t miss the Soviet Union doesn’t have a heart.”
They take that as proof that he wants to recreate the Soviet Union.

But they conveniently omit what he said next:
“Whoever wants it back doesn’t have a brain.”
Whatever you think of Putin, he definitely has a brain. He has no intention to restore the Soviet Union.

To reach Germany, Russia would have to cross Poland. That involves crossing at least two large rivers (Oder and Bug). It took the Soviet Union two years of violent war with the loss of millions of soldiers (that sapped Hitler’s military power) before it could get to the place where it could invade Germany during World War 2. The Soviet Union had far greater population and economic resources than Russia. So an invasion of Germany is probably an impossibility, especially with modern satellite surveillance, missiles and drones, which makes it impossible to concentrate a large force for an attack.

If Russia gets control of the four Eastern oblasts that have voted to join it, it will need to station large numbers of troops there for a long time to protect against terrorist attacks. It will need a de-militarised zone between it and the Dnieper to protect those oblasts from artillery and missile attacks. This would make any invasion further west almost impossible.

As Putin has said (I have read his speeches, and he is clear about his objectives), Europe has nothing that Russia needs. It already has the biggest territory of any country in the world. It has all the minerals, oil and grain-growing land that it needs. There is no benefit to it in trying to control hostile nations. Putin learnt that when he was posted to Germany.

On the other side of the equation, the West is incapable of fighting a war against Russia. They have run out of artillery tubes and shells for the support of Ukraine. They don’t have the industrial capacity to produce sufficient for Ukraine, let alone a peer-to-peer war.

Western nations just don’t have the military capacity to fight a serious war. The UK military is the smallest it has been since 1720. Many of its soldiers are only suitable for guarding Buckingham Palace. I gather Germany’s forces are equally weak. I understand that French forces are only fit for beating up rebels in its old colonies in Africa.

The United States is having difficulty recruiting into its military, and polls say many people do not want to fight in a war in Europe. Many of its troops are on foreign bases where they tend to get soft because Mcdonald's and Coke are available on the base, along with other junk food. The United States probably has the military equipment needed for a war, but the task of getting it to Europe in sufficient quantities would be almost impossible.

European leaders say that they want to build up their military, but they do not have the financial resources to achieve that goal. Without increasing taxation, which would not be accepted, they don’t have the ability to seriously re-arm. They are struggling to find money to support Ukraine, given all the other pressing problems that they have to deal with. I understand that Germany is borrowing money to get to two percent of its GDP on defence spending. That is not sustainable.

Although political leaders are talking a big game and calling for preparation for war, I believe the leaders of their military will tell them that it cannot be done. So, we are in a situation where there is much talk about war for political gain, but either side is capable of doing it.

I presume that these militarily weak nations, if they want to go to war, will pick a fight with weak African nations that they know they can beat. I suspect the United States is more likely to invade Mexico than pick a fight with China that it probably cannot win.

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