July 26, 2014


I don't think that word means what some Russians think it does.

 "de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike. 

It's probably just a translation glitch. Do read the whole thing.

The gist of the article is that Russian policy is such that in the event of a major military confrontation in their immediate sphere of influence (Chechnya is specifically mentioned) , a very limited nuclear strike will cause the other side to pause and reflect., thereby defusing the situation. There is another, albeit rather dated, article on this policy here

Russia is not the only country that does not have a no first use policy. The same is true of the US and France for instance and US policy has been that if attacked with non-nuclear WMDs (especially a severe biological attack) nukes might be used. However, the Russian policy is odd in assuming that this will lead to a racheting DOWN of tensions. Once nukes start popping off, the potential for things to go completely pear shaped becomes very great indeed. 


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 01:28 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 192 words, total size 3 kb.

1 USSR had no-first-use promises made, but after its collapse there was some rethinking done in Russia.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Sat Jul 26 20:56:19 2014 (RqRa5)

2 Indeed. There was also the Kosovo operation which really annoyed the Russians and brought US and Russian troops to the point of very nearly shooting at each other. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sat Jul 26 22:40:54 2014 (DnAJl)

3 The USSR had no-first-use promises made, but frankly, nobody believed them. Nor should have!

That said, frankly we are probably better off staying the hell out of the Russian near-abroad. Certainly we don't have the ability to project power into the Ukraine or Georgia, there's nothing we have at stake there except abstract principle, and Russia would probably feel better with a little bit of a buffer; it's easy to say "why worry about invasion?" when your neighbors are Canada and Mexico. (Not that Germany is going to get up to anything...)

I've got to say, the Israelis probably owe Putin a letter of thanks. Can't really hammer them for going into Gaza when Russia's also being fast and loose with fighters over the border...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Sun Jul 27 03:28:50 2014 (ZeBdf)

4 Kosovo is interesting in that it was exacly the same thing that's happening in Donetsk right now: the government wanting to expel an ethnic minority that served as a base for its opponents. That's why, for example, you can see an Ukrainian tank driving down the street and shooting at every house. It's not like there was a rebel with RPG sitting in each of them. The point is to make everyone in town to run for their lives, or die. Same goes for insciriminate bombardment.
When Serbs expelled Kosovars, we went and bombed Belgrad. When Ukrainians are eliminating Russians, we do not bomb Kiev. Instead, we're discussing helping them.
The difference is that Russians supported the guys who were doing the depopulation back then, and they are supporting those who are being depopulated right now. It shows very starkly that U.S. gives no consideration to "humanitarian" concerns whatsoever.
This is possible in part because of absolutely astonishing levels of lies, propaganda, and denial. I saw a number of Internet comments by Americans, which flatly deny that Kiev government was committing all the atrocities that are well documented. It's like the Moon Landing Hoax for them, and anyone who brings it up is Putin's stoodge. 

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Sun Jul 27 09:27:53 2014 (RqRa5)

5 Yes, of course, how can we not have perceived that Kiev's taken the opportunity to engage in a bit of ethnic cleansing? Obviously the conflict was a matter of choice for them and not, you know, Russia snatching territory from a neighbor. Russia doesn't have any designs in the area and is completely content with the Crimea, any further Anschluss is mere rumor-mongering by a hostile foreign press!

I just re-read Shirer a month ago, and it's worrisome when someone uses that as an instruction manual.

It's completely fair to say that the US didn't really have any business mucking about in Kosovo; Pournelle has mentioned a few times that "there certainly hadn't been any legal immigration of Albanian Muslims into that region." It drove a wedge between the US and Russia that has colored everything since, and it took a hell of a lot of cheek for Hilary to claim a need to "reset" relations since the US participation in the conflict was largely prompted by her husband needing to displace his sex scandals in the news.

All that said, most Americans don't even realize that Ukranian is a separate ethnicity from Russian, so it's little wonder that they don't see it as an ethnic conflict.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Sun Jul 27 11:51:05 2014 (ZeBdf)

"The USSR had no-first-use promises made, but frankly, nobody believed them. Nor should have!"

Well, yes. It was along the lines of their commitment to world peace, with world peace defined as an absence of opposition to global communism. 
I put the same confidence in the USSR's commitment to that as I do China's, which is bragging about the fact that by the end of this year they'll be able to wipe out a third of our population in an hour. 
The point I made about Kosovo was that when we went into Kosovo the way we did and when we did, it caused a major reassessment  on their part and they decided to openly proclaim that they were willing to use nukes to compensate for their conventional shortcomings, just like we did in the '70s.

Posted by: Brickmuppet at Sun Jul 27 12:05:22 2014 (DnAJl)

7 I'd say that a lot of the actual reassessment came in the aftermath of the First Gulf War.

The Soviets had a quantity-over-quality strategy that called for a small number of top-of-the-line units backed by formidable numbers of outdated but pretty cheap units. This stuff was also the bulk of Soviet military aid to various ally nations/puppets/satellites. They weren't counting on it to hold off the best the US had to offer, but they WERE counting on it to be a serious threat in the kind of numbers that they could field.

Iraq had what had been regarded, at the time, as a decently-trained army. They got hammered, plowed under (literally, in some cases), humiliated. US forces attacked at a significant manpower disadvantage, not normally a recipe for great success, and... well, suffice it to say that it did not go well for the Iraqis.

This was extremely bad for the greater Soviet strategy. If second-line forces couldn't even inflict casualties or slow down attacking US forces, then the numerical superiority on paper was an illusion. Unable to afford first-line equipment in the kind of numbers it would take to match the Western democracies, unable to rely on the masses of second-line equipment for anything but mobile coffins, the Soviet armies just weren't a match for the West anymore, and effectively had no way out of that jam.

I've always felt that this was at least one factor in why the Soviet Union collapsed when it did. The army could have upheld the state for quite a lot longer, but with its self-confidence having taken that kind of beating...

(And, naturally, a Russia after the breakup has a completely different strategic situation from the USSR pre-breakup - very little international advantage to be gained from a no-first-use claim, false or otherwise, and at least some self-protection to be gained...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Sun Jul 27 15:06:44 2014 (ZeBdf)

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