Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

Putin learning what U.S. didn’t

By Nicholas Wapshott
April 23, 2014

After America’s ignominious defeat and hurried departure from Vietnam in 1973 — when the world’s richest and mightiest nation was humbled by the stolid determination of ill-equipped, ideologically inspired peasants — it was generally assumed the United States would not wage war again until the lessons of the Viet Cong victory were taken to heart.

When Soviet forces hastily retreated with a bloody nose from their nine-year occupation of Afghanistan in 1989, similar lessons were suggested about the impossibility of militarily holding a country with a universally hostile population.

In his stealth occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia appears to have learned the lessons of both Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Successive U.S. presidents, however, seem to have failed to understand how military strategy was forever changed by what happened in those two chastening conflicts. Rather, they have gone on to repeat their predecessors’ mistakes.

That’s not all. The fleet of U.S. stealth bombers ($810 million each) and the fleet of nuclear submarines ($8.2 billion each) armed with Trident nuclear missiles ($31 million each) are of little use against Russian intelligence agents provocateurs disguised as Ukrainian protesters arriving by civilian airliner.

Neither the United States nor the European Union nor the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a military solution for the creeping warfare that Putin is putting into chilling effect.

A question should be asked: Has the Pentagon’s decades-long high-tech spending spree — the delight of the domestic war-materials industries — left the West’s defense fit for a purpose? The obvious answer — no! — plays into the hands of American libertarians who are now joining with liberals to demand substantial defense cuts.

But back to Vietnam, a place that still haunts the U.S. military. Thinking they were better than the colonial French generals, who hastily evacuated the country after their humiliating defeat by the Viet Minh at Điên Biên Phu, U.S. commanders believed they could halt the communist insurgency from the north by sheer weight of force. They applied carpet bombing and an overwhelmingly better-equipped and better-trained conscript army.

Our defeat in Vietnam, after four presidents had taken turns trying to win the war by escalating the violence, shocked the nation. David had beaten Goliath, and small arms had trounced big battalions.

For 16 years, the United States took stock. If its military strength counted for so little in small-scale conflicts it was now being asked to fix, what was the way forward?

There was no obvious answer before the next time Washington felt itself obliged to intervene in a major conflict. President George H.W. Bush, with the bellicose British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher snapping at his heels, decided a Western coalition must recapture Kuwait from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1991.

The United States returned to the battlefield — a barren stretch of sand highly suitable for mounting what could be the last of the old-school massed tank battles — and annihilated Hussein’s wretchedly ill-equipped forces. Bush declined to push on to Baghdad and topple Hussein,  a wise decision informed not only by the horrors of Vietnam but by the humiliation of the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The fact that some of the greatest military forces the world has ever seen — from Alexander the Great’s army to the soldiers of the mighty British Empire at its height — had failed to subdue the Afghans might have given the old men in the Kremlin pause for thought. Like the Pentagon, however, they pressed on in the belief that a few ill-armed mujahedeen would soon succumb to the overwhelming superiority of sophisticated tanks and planes.

It didn’t turn out that way. As in Vietnam, “asymmetrical warfare” — the unequal weight of forces on either side — meant the Afghan nationalists confronted the 100,000-strong invading Soviet army with guerrilla tactics. By the time the Russians made their speedy exit, in February 1989, 15,000 of the invading army had been killed.

The prospect of U.S. forces being similarly slaughtered while trying to occupy an anarchic post-Hussein Iraq gave Bush pause. Instead he opted for crippling the country with an economic sanctions regime, including an oil embargo, and pinning down Hussein’s forces with a no-fly zone — a containment policy followed by his successor, President Bill Clinton.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed everything. Not least, they encouraged an absurd sense of hubris in the White House under President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Al Qaeda had extended the guerrilla logic of the Viet Cong and the mujahedeen by using terrorism against soft U.S. targets, of which the hijacking of airliners proved the most devastatingly effective.

For the rest of the world, which since the arrival of terrorism as a means of warfare had become accustomed to searches before boarding a plane, the lack of security at U.S. airports had seemed careless if not downright neglectful.

Just as careless was the indignant response of the Bush administration to the September 11 attacks: the invasion of, of all places, Afghanistan, that had proved the graveyard of the Soviet Union, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, under the pretext, unbacked by any convincing intelligence subsequently produced, that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was about to use against the West.

President Barack Obama defeated his principal Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton — and held off the Republican hawk Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the general election – in part because he had vocally opposed the war in Iraq and had expressed profound reservations about the conflict in Afghanistan.

Obama campaigned on a promise to bring both wars to an end. His approach to conflicts on his watch has been principally to dodge them. In Libya, he allowed his European allies to take the lead. When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces used chemical weapons against rebels, Obama hid behind Congress. These chemical attacks continue.

Now the United States and its wavering ally the European Union are faced with what to do about Russia’s surreptitious expansionism westward. Understanding the lessons of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin has invaded Ukraine in disguise — first annexing Crimea and now, through not-so-covert forces, destabilizing largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine to provide himself with an open invitation to invade with tanks if and when he thinks fit.

The West’s response? Passport bans, economic sanctions against a small number of Russian friends of Putin and the suspension, not even expulsion, of Russia from the Group of 8.

There is no military option. U.S. taxpayers hand over $682 billion to the Pentagon each year, and yet there is no military option. Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry complains that Putin isn’t playing fair by adopting a 19th century approach to a 21st century problem.

It may be that Ukraine is already lost to Putin. It may be Putin will annex other former Soviet republics, including Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Belarus. (Putin is unlikely to grab the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since they are all members of NATO.)

How will the West respond if he keeps invading? That is anyone’s guess. Most likely, though, each invasion will be met with anguished  concern but no Western military response.

So it is all down to sanctions. Will they work? Ask Cuba. Or North Korea. Or Zimbabwe. Or Iran.  

 

PHOTO (TOP): Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

PHOTO (INSERT 1): Russian President Vladimir Putin (front R) meets with newly appointed high-ranking military officers during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

 PHOTO (INSERT 2): 173rd Airborne Brigade under fire on Hill 823 in Vietnam, November 1967. REUTERS/U.S. Army

PHOTO (INSERT 3): A wounded soldier is carried to a helicopter in the Ia Drang Valley, in Vietnam, November 1965. REUTERS/U.S. Army

PHOTO (INSERT 4): Afghan guerrillas known as Mujahideen, have lunch near a Soviet helicolpter shot down during a rebel attack in Nuristan, Afghanistan, date unknown. REUTERS/John O’Brien

PHOTO (INSERT 5): Soviet officers and soldiers leave their base outside Afghan capital Kabul as they return to the Soviet Union, March 1988. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

PHOTO (INSERT 6): Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Comments
36 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Oh boy… Yet another Reuters… ‘America is all F’d up” article. Awesome! Just gotta keep feeding those chronically grumpy, Reuters readers I guess.

Of course… The liberals are right. The liberals are always right about everything. They can predict the outcome of every war. They can see into the future… They’re all knowing, omnipotent beings, that have the entire universe figured out. Nobody is smarter than a liberal. They’re always humble too… Never saying ‘I told you so’, or patting themselves on the back every chance they get.

Maybe one of the genius liberals can come up with a solution for having the ability to defend entire nations and also fight guys with suicide vests… and then be able to do it all, without ever spending any money… Keeping in mind that it takes decades to design and produce weapons, that are tailor-made to the application. I’m sure they can come up with something. Because everybody knows that liberals are basically just smarter than everybody, ever, in the history of the world. Especially when it comes to proclaiming what should have been done, after the fact. They’re REALLY good at that part.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive
 

If Russia is sending “protesters” into eastern Ukraine to stir up anti-Ukrainian sentiment, why doesn’t the Ukrainian government just do the same?

Posted by delta5297 | Report as abusive
 

Russia spends the largest proportion of its budget on the military of all nations in the world. That is what Putin unfortunately did NOT learn from the Soviet Union which armed itself to death.

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive
 

Good article, accurate and timely. Take a few of those Pentagon billions and arm the Ukrainians, and allow the Ukrainian government to pay the Ukrainian soldiers. This is vital now, because Russia IS going to invade Ukraine and the only people to stop them will be Ukrainian Guerrillas.
I hope Obama is doubling down on helping the Ukrainians plan for a guerrilla war now instead of later when it will be too late. rasPutin is the most dangerous man on the planet at this time and they better be acting like it in the oval office.

Posted by UScitizentoo | Report as abusive
 

Obama is doubling down – on his own mistake. Our State Department sent Victoria Nuland over there with $5bn to provoke the sitting government, fund and orchestrate the protests and eventually riots, oversee the overthrow of the elected government, and appoint the new puppet one.

What our Government has failed to learn is that this ignites civil wars, and draws in regional powers looking after their own interests.

The most dangerous man on the planet at this time is the idiot sitting in the oval office.

Posted by RynoM | Report as abusive
 

Kinda curious why the constitution gave so many rights to people, with the sole exception of holding traitors responsible. What can we do beyond worshiping the power of DNA?

Posted by Whatsgoingon | Report as abusive
 

wow
another guy who got his history education from comedy central;
I suppose he knows he was hired for his highly malleable brain.
what rubbish

Posted by cp61 | Report as abusive
 

The article ends with a nonsense, so the whole effort to create a logical text ends with a big disappointment. Russia i.e. Putin invades whoever he wants, and US and their allies can’t stop him. So what they should do? To attack Russia and save millions of Ukranians from Russian oppresion who are either of Russian ethnic background plus those Ukrainians who are much closer to Russians, than to their West-Ukraininan brothers who hate Russia and Russians? Then they should prevent other ex-Soviet states from an imminent invasion by Putin? The reality is much different. All these troubles are in part the result of the efforts of US and their allies to isolate Russia further grabbing former Soviet countries one by one from its sphere of influence, and the counter efforts of Russia to keep them in her orbit. The situation with Ukraine is much complicated though. They are making an alliance with nationalist-minded Ukrainians from Western Ukraine, and through them to exert control over all of this country, including major industrial cities in the East and South. That plan simply will not work. It’s vereyt liekly that western Ukrainians will exit from the Russian sphere with the active aid from the US and Eu at least for now, but in exchange should have to accept that they will not be able to drag with them the Russian leaning East and South. As to the other potential “victims” of Russia, I don’t think that they are threatened by any kind of invasion, but if Russia can keep its connections and offers more favorable economic realtions to these states, then the efforts of the US will not produce any significant benefit for themselves.

Posted by Levko | Report as abusive
 

The article ends with a nonsense, so the whole effort to create a logical text ends with a big disappointment. Russia i.e. Putin invades whoever he wants, and US and their allies can’t stop him. So what they should do? To attack Russia and save millions of Ukranians from Russian oppresion who are either of Russian ethnic background plus those Ukrainians who are much closer to Russians, than to their West-Ukraininan brothers who hate Russia and Russians? Then they should prevent other ex-Soviet states from an imminent invasion by Putin? The reality is much different. All these troubles are in part the result of the efforts of US and their allies to isolate Russia further grabbing former Soviet countries one by one from its sphere of influence, and the counter efforts of Russia to keep them in her orbit. The situation with Ukraine is much complicated though. They are making an alliance with nationalist-minded Ukrainians from Western Ukraine, and through them to exert control over all of this country, including major industrial cities in the East and South. That plan simply will not work. It’s vereyt liekly that western Ukrainians will exit from the Russian sphere with the active aid from the US and Eu at least for now, but in exchange should have to accept that they will not be able to drag with them the Russian leaning East and South. As to the other potential “victims” of Russia, I don’t think that they are threatened by any kind of invasion, but if Russia can keep its connections and offers more favorable economic realtions to these states, then the efforts of the US will not produce any significant benefit for themselves.

Posted by Levko | Report as abusive
 

The article ends with a nonsense, so the whole effort to create a logical text ends with a big disappointment. Russia i.e. Putin invades whoever he wants, and US and their allies can’t stop him. So what they should do? To attack Russia and save millions of Ukranians from Russian oppresion who are either of Russian ethnic background plus those Ukrainians who are much closer to Russians, than to their West-Ukraininan brothers who hate Russia and Russians? Then they should prevent other ex-Soviet states from an imminent invasion by Putin? The reality is much different. All these troubles are in part the result of the efforts of US and their allies to isolate Russia further grabbing former Soviet countries one by one from its sphere of influence, and the counter efforts of Russia to keep them in her orbit. The situation with Ukraine is much complicated though. They are making an alliance with nationalist-minded Ukrainians from Western Ukraine, and through them to exert control over all of this country, including major industrial cities in the East and South. That plan simply will not work. It’s vereyt liekly that western Ukrainians will exit from the Russian sphere with the active aid from the US and Eu at least for now, but in exchange should have to accept that they will not be able to drag with them the Russian leaning East and South. As to the other potential “victims” of Russia, I don’t think that they are threatened by any kind of invasion, but if Russia can keep its connections and offers more favorable economic realtions to these states, then the efforts of the US will not produce any significant benefit for themselves.

Posted by Levko | Report as abusive
 

@Levko: Sounds right to me.

The US/West blew their cool with their over-the-top anti-Putin propaganda on Sochi Winter Olympics. If the US could get the Western world to dance around that scandalous treatment of a world event set up for peaceful athletic competition among nations, then they can orchestrate almost any BS point of view. Our Western media has been exposed as a complete fraud. Mostly, the media and our leaders are just frothing at the mouth.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive
 

It is time for Putin to use Obamas experience,
send drones to Ukraine and eliminate enemies of Russia.

Posted by nvgg | Report as abusive
 

During the pre and post colonial period there’s no single country in the world which went against their majority populations cultural wishes, unless that country’s population was ethnically cleansed by the invading force, like the USA or Australia, etc. Europe and the USA are wasting their time against mighty Russia.

Posted by Regular | Report as abusive
 

During the pre and post colonial period there’s no single country in the world which went against their majority populations cultural wishes, unless that country’s population was ethnically cleansed by the invading force, like the USA or Australia, etc. Europe and the USA are wasting their time against mighty Russia.

Posted by Regular | Report as abusive
 

During the pre and post colonial period there’s no single country in the world which went against their majority populations cultural wishes, unless that country’s population was ethnically cleansed by the invading force, like the USA or Australia, etc. Europe and the USA are wasting their time against mighty Russia.

Posted by Regular | Report as abusive
 

dd606 YOU ARE CORRECT. THE REPUBLICANS GOT IT WRONG IN IRAQ AND LOOK WHAT THEIR STUPIDITY COST US.AND YES THE PEOPLE THAT CALLED IT CORRECTLY ARE SMARTER THAN THE MORONS WHO GOT IT WRONG. SEE HOW SIMPLE IT IS, SO WHY DO YOU KEEP DEFENDING LOSERS?

Posted by lysergic | Report as abusive
 

well…this article might be true. But has Russia learned the lesson of the “Crimean War”? Or “World War I”? Or “World War II”?

“Ukraine” (so defined) is not a threat to anyone…and this article can’t even bring itself to talk about the subject of “changing borders in Europe.”

Well…that’s only about 50 million dead people. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

Posted by lkofenglish | Report as abusive
 

what the Readers and the Writer seem blissfully unawrae is that 75% or more of the Ukraine Officers lean towards Russia and almost all of the Intelligence corps – a fact yhat Vicki Nuland at the State Department and the Russian section at the CIA know all too well… so who does one trust? Besides, the Ukrainians grunts have only been trained on Russian weapos so giving them US weapons would be useless. The Germans/ the core of both NATO and the EU/ are painfully aware that their own man – Adolf Hitler – cut a deal with Joseph Stalin to create Ukraine out of the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. Ukraine is at the will of Russia- Putin. He wants it as a buffer to stop Nato expansion eastwards and he has expressed a willingness to engage in a shooting war to achieve this objective. Question remains – How many of us are willing to die for Ukraine? I can bet you one million to one it wont be McCain or Palin…www.houseofshah.com

Posted by Bludde | Report as abusive
 

Interesting op-ed piece. It’s interesting because it continues the myth that the US military was defeated in its primary goal. Note that the US military did not lose a major battle, as the French did at Dien Bien Phu. Why the US lost is still much up for debate. Many believe that the military is not best suited to act as policemen, as they were asked to do in RVN, and again in Iraq and Afghanistan. This role is not suited for a military unit, whose main mission is to destroy the enemy. Being a policeman is a much more difficult task, and one that requires the backing of those being policed. Which clearly was not the case in the wars mentioned.
The ability to destroy and defeat an armed and organized army is not nearly the same as finding and eliminating gangs of terrorists who where born, grow up and live among the people. Particularly when politicians are fooled into the concept that they can decide what those people really want, and what they are willing to support.

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive
 

what the Readers and the Writer seem blissfully unaware is that 75% or more of the Ukraine Officers lean towards Russia and almost all of the Intelligence corps – a fact that Vicki Nuland at the State Department and the Russian section at the CIA know all too well… so who does one trust? Besides, the Ukrainian grunts have only been trained on Russian weapons so giving them US weapons would be useless. The Germans/ the core of both NATO and the EU/ are painfully aware that their own man – Adolf Hitler – cut a deal with Joseph Stalin to create Ukraine out of the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. Ukraine is at the will of Russia- Putin. He wants it as a buffer to stop Nato expansion eastwards and he has expressed a willingness to engage in a shooting war to achieve this objective. Question remains – How many of us are willing to die for Ukraine? I can bet you one million to one it wont be McCain or Palin…www.houseofshah.com

Posted by Bludde | Report as abusive
 

No worries, Obama has sent several hundred thousand MREs to the Ukrainians. All is well. Nothing to see here.

Posted by MitchS | Report as abusive
 

I think you missed the most important lesson Putin learned from the USA. Do like what USA did to the Hawaiians.

Many Hawaiians did not want to join the USA. Flood enough USA citizens and goodwill in and force the vote to join.

Putin did the same in Crimea. Bad old Lenin wiped out a good part of the Ukranians from Crimea by pushing them to farm workcamps where they starved – leaving Russians as the majority in Crimea.

Corrupt current Ukrainian mafia government destroyed their country and Putin is simply saving the day. Nothing different that USA taking over Hawaii – For the good of the majority of the people.

You are making Putin to be more devious and nefarious at covert operations than he is due.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive
 

So if a hostile country wants to take over another country, then they should send their citizens to become the majority of the population?
Seriously though, the EU and NATO needs to send some troops to support the Crimean government, seeing as how they promised to help them become more Westernised.
A few planeloads of SAS with balaclavas and guns should help.
The only way to beat a bully is to give him a bloody nose.
meanwhile they have the European summer to attack Putin’s oligarchist economic system.

Posted by kiwisaver | Report as abusive
 

Why did Putin annex Crimea? Because it borders the Black Sea – under which lie massive amounts of oil and natural gas.

Why do the majority of the residents of Crimea favor a connection with Russia rather than with the European Union? Because the base at Sevastopol and now the enlarged army protecting the border from invasion by US and EU backed Ukrainian armies represent a large economic advantage to them. Yes, jobs with decent wages.

Does Putin really want the responsibility of dealing with the economic problems of all the former members of the Soviet Union? Of course not. But he does want unchallenged dominion over the Black Sea and all its natural resources – on which the Russian economy presently depends.

Russia supplies 30% of all the natural gas used in Europe. If severe economic sanctions are imposed on Russia, is it likely that the cost of natural gas exported from Russia will go up substantially? Of course. Does anybody want to see that happen? Of course not.

And will Obama – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – encourage Ukraine to declare war on Russia? Of course not.

So why are we spending so much money on weapons systems that are not likely ever to be used? Because so much of our economy depends on DOD expenditures.

Is the DOD budget socialism? Of course but the Tea Party and most conservatives support it anyway because there is at present no real alternative.

So Putin is doing what comes naturally and there’s not much we can do about it but complain.

Posted by loyalsys | Report as abusive
 

Why did Putin annex Crimea? Because it borders the Black Sea – under which lie massive amounts of oil and natural gas.

Why do the majority of the residents of Crimea favor a connection with Russia rather than with the European Union? Because the base at Sevastopol and now the enlarged army protecting the border from invasion by US and EU backed Ukrainian armies represent a large economic advantage to them. Yes, jobs with decent wages.

Does Putin really want the responsibility of dealing with the economic problems of all the former members of the Soviet Union? Of course not. But he does want unchallenged dominion over the Black Sea and all its natural resources – on which the Russian economy presently depends.

Russia supplies 30% of all the natural gas used in Europe. If severe economic sanctions are imposed on Russia, is it likely that the cost of natural gas exported from Russia will go up substantially? Of course. Does anybody want to see that happen? Of course not.

And will Obama – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – encourage Ukraine to declare war on Russia? Of course not.

So why are we spending so much money on weapons systems that are not likely ever to be used? Because so much of our economy depends on DOD expenditures.

Is the DOD budget socialism? Of course but the Tea Party and most conservatives support it anyway because there is at present no real alternative.

So Putin is doing what comes naturally and there’s not much we can do about it but complain.

Posted by loyalsys | Report as abusive
 

Why did Putin annex Crimea? Because it borders the Black Sea – under which lie massive amounts of oil and natural gas.

Why do the majority of the residents of Crimea favor a connection with Russia rather than with the European Union? Because the base at Sevastopol and now the enlarged army protecting the border from invasion by US and EU backed Ukrainian armies represent a large economic advantage to them. Yes, jobs with decent wages.

Does Putin really want the responsibility of dealing with the economic problems of all the former members of the Soviet Union? Of course not. But he does want unchallenged dominion over the Black Sea and all its natural resources – on which the Russian economy presently depends.

Russia supplies 30% of all the natural gas used in Europe. If severe economic sanctions are imposed on Russia, is it likely that the cost of natural gas exported from Russia will go up substantially? Of course. Does anybody want to see that happen? Of course not.

And will Obama – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – encourage Ukraine to declare war on Russia? Of course not.

So why are we spending so much money on weapons systems that are not likely ever to be used? Because so much of our economy depends on DOD expenditures.

Is the DOD budget socialism? Of course but the Tea Party and most conservatives support it anyway because there is at present no real alternative.

So Putin is doing what comes naturally and there’s not much we can do about it but complain.

Posted by loyalsys | Report as abusive
 

“Understanding the lessons of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin has invaded Ukraine in disguise”
So, if the US had invaded Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq (and Laos, Cambodja, Panama, Yugoslavia, etc) “in disguise”, then everything would have been just fine?
This opinion piece makes little sense.

Posted by nossnevs | Report as abusive
 

Russia has done the right thing to annex Crimea . Historically Crimea has been part of Russia for over 200 years, demographically the majority of the population is of russian origin, militarily Crimea since 1784 has been the naval base of the russian black sea fleet and economically Crimea depends largely from the trade with Russia. For these reasons Russia always deemed Crimea belonging to its sphere of influence. Once the Maiden movement in Kiev, thanks to a coup d’etat organized and financed by the CIA, succeeded in overthrowing the democratic elected government of Mr Yanukovych, Russia felt that its sphere of influence in Ukraine was threaten and consequently decided to intervene in Crimea.
NATO since the end of the USSR has been encircling Russia and it has stretched its area of operation up to the Baltic countries in direct contact with the russian borders. It tried to do the same in Georgia but it was contained by the South Ossetia war in 2008.
The NATO alliance and in particular the USA should be the last ones to talk when it comes of infringing the sovereignty of independent states and respecting the rules of international law.
The 1998 NATO military intervention in Kosovo was engineered to remove Serbia from the Russia sphere of influence and in defiance of every international law it contributed to the split of Kosovo from Serbia.
In 1983 and in 1989 the USA did not hesitate to invade the tiny island of Grenada and Panama only because it felt that the governments of those countries might have posed a remote threat to its dominance over the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. Furthermore in 2003 the USA invaded Irak with the excuse of eliminating the weapons of mass destruction which allegedly were in that country. The weapons of mass destruction were never found and during that wicked military campaign half million of iraqis and five thousand US servicemen lost their life. Let alone two trillions of dollars spent by the US for the Irak war thanks to which today Irak is firmly placed under the sphere of influence of the mullahs of Tehran. At the end what has the Irak military campaign achieved apart the destruction of hundreds thousands human life and the loss of trillions of dollars ?
Treating Russia not as a regional power but instead as a political , financial and military global player will not only help to stabilize the entire East Europe but it will make the world a much safer place to live.

Posted by CiucciNeri | Report as abusive
 

Nicholas Whatshitt seems to cherry-pick bits of information to support his comments. Russia cannot afford a military engagement, and Russia well knows that NATO does have a large contingent of battle hardened troops that participated in AFG and are very familiar with the guerilla warfare mentioned.

Posted by smokeymtnblues | Report as abusive
 

The big difference between the Vietnamese and Afghanis is that they are not blood relatives or next door neighbors (or at recent times in history full subjects/citizens) to the so-called Russian invaders. There is ample reporting that completely contradicts the allegation of Russian military intervention and firmly establishes the fact that very large groups of unarmed civilians are facing off against armed soldiers sent from Kiev.
Reuters is publishing complete garbage on the subject. Shame on anyone who believes it. The fascists who seized the Ukrainian parliament, with the help and funding of the US and NATO, are the ones who should be in the spot-light, not the citizens seeking to escape their murderous intentions.

Posted by Tiu | Report as abusive
 

The current situation of Eukraine is very different where interests of EU and US can not match.Oil is the life line of EU and to provide that by US is difficult.Even to spend more for US is not possible.
For Russia,Russian speaking people are well trained to fight.ukraine is a nearby location and very familiar to R.millitary.One can not compare with the past Also that time was different when military might was important.Today weapons technololy has spreaded everywhere and IT is important and that’s what US is using instead of weapons.
Obama is doing right with his limitations.

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive
 

The situation in Ukraine is entirely the Wests fault. They overthrew a democratically elected government only one day after Yanocovich signed a deal giving concessions to the protesters. But I guess it was not enough for Nuland and the West, so they decided to orchestrate his overthrow.

Now Russia is doing what any logical nation would do, defending its interests and its people.

Posted by KyleDexter | Report as abusive
 

The contrarian, pausing only to point out that the recently failure of Russia’s GLONASS system may have been, as claimed, really unfortunately timed finger trouble or it may have been cyberwarfare, would observe that, technically at least, the current situation is in fact ideally suited to drone attacks – groups of men helpfully congregating in roadblocks or large government buildings. The highest of high tech, in other words.

The obstacles to launching such attacks, for the moment, are all obvious, but they are also all political. In the meantime, in the same way as they have been in every war since the Boer, one assumes that special forces from various countries are already on the ground and reconnoitring targets. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Posted by Ian_Kemmish | Report as abusive
 

The US can’t learn from history..probably because they don’t have one of their own…its an anathema to them..

Posted by umkomazi | Report as abusive
 

Since when are Russian speaking people inside another country “its people”?!?

By that logic, if Russian naturalized citizens in the U.S. get ticked off at the BLM or the IRS, they can secede and call on Putin to protect them?!?

Who are all these trolls and Russian stooges on this site who keep saying the U.S. is behind the Maidan movement?

Posted by Andvari | Report as abusive
 

I spent twenty years in the Army, and most of it was in Special Forces as a Russian Linguist. I am also proud to say that I got to fight in Afghanistan a couple times.

Putin is smart, and he holds all the cards. President Obama, who is usually cool and competent, really blew it when he called Putin a sulky kid in the back of the classroom. Unfortunate mistake bordering on ineptitude. Obama needs someone to advise him well on Russia. Russia needs to be respected and not threatened or made fun of. Not going to work.

Don’t forget Snowden. He is making a lot of Russia’s aggression possible because the Russians now know how to keep things a lot more secure. Snowden is important. His stabbing the US in the back is going to have long and deep consequences.

The US makes a lot of mistakes, but like Churchill said, we can be counted upon to do the right thing after we have tried everything else.

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive
 

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