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03 April 2016


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Kaliningrad is packed with tactical nukes and to imply that the Baltic states offer any threat to it is comedy.


I was looking at the geography of the tank deployments planned and it looks to me like they are designed to intimidate Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.



I think it is all BS that there are regular Russian Army troop units in eastern Ukraine. pl


What is the point of senior generals; what do they do all day if they have no formations of troops to boss?


I'm confused by the numbers. If 30 men make a platoon, 90 make a company, 270 or say 300 make a battalion, 900 or say 1,000 make a brigade, and 3,000 a division. I had thought that battalions were 5-600 and divisions 12-15,000. Those are huge differences, leaving a lot of scope for tanks, guns, engineers, postmen, medics etc. It almost seems as if a level of organization is missing. What am I getting wrong?



you missed the point. In garrison in the US they supervise training and do administration. When their divisional or corps headquarters is deployed to combat they command whatever troops they are given. Salisbury was evidently a great favorite of his half brother John. pl


Might be useful to keep an eye on events in Belarus this year. https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/belarus-political-transformation-takes-shape

Bill Herschel

I would be interested in knowing the opinions of the commenters on the proposal that Russia could have won WWII without the "Allies"?


There have been Russian 'volunteers' on leave and in combat in eastern Ukraine in the last 24 months with Russian equipment. But that isn't what I meant. The Russian tank units Armstrong referenced are supposed to be going into Voronezh, Chelyabinsk and Boguchar as I read the news, which are in Russia but close enough to borders let the keep the neighbors up at night when the engines rev. The tanks aren't deployed against NATO but against Russia's former USSR republics.


PL and PA, thank you both for this terrific, high quality blog post. I am looking forward to re-reading it and to returning to the comments as they fill up (one of the great effects of truly quality posts is that they inspire rich and information packed comments i.e. Vince's). Also, Patrick, although you suggest that the well informed should skip part one, I have never read quite such a clear and concise explanation of command structure any where else thus far. Thanks again. Best.

Bill Herschel

His article is absolute must read. Facts. No spin. And very useful background for anyone observing the events in Syria since September 2015.


IZ, for field testing the new weapons systems, not the Kurds, not in Iraq, not in Syria, but most likely in Nogorno/Karabag in Azerbaijan/Armenia, as we see currently. I looked up the armed forces of both nations today, they are supplied mostly by Russians, but everyone else around the world. Big arms, small arms, M16s and AK74s, Land Rovers and all kinds of M series from all nations. It is an arms manufacturer's dream testing grounds.

different clue

Babak Makkinejad,

I have heard/read the accusation that the 3 Baltics are "our" pawns. I think we were "their" suckers. And Poland's sucker too.


"If the situation spirals out of control w/ the TSK crushing these Russian-aligned Kurds in Iraq (as TSK well can; we are a real army-very much as described above), can anyone guarantee that there will not be escalation?"

Sorry to disagree with you here IZ, or if I may call you Ismail Bey, or Komutanim, TSK never had the international alignment of the stars, or internal unity and determination to crush the PKK aligned Kurds in Northern Iraq. As for ability of the TSK, I do not doubt it, but I doubt what it would accomplish. Kurds of Northern Iraq are currently aligned with the Russians, but in the recent past it was the USA, before it was Saddam, and before it God knows who. Surely PKK resides in Northern Iraq within the Kurdish part of Iraq, in caves and enclaves, and Barzani is best buddies with RTE, but PKK exists within their area of control, fully functional and seemingly immune to all F16 attacks from the air. And PKK has vital links to the fish pond within Turkey and beyond, that's how they survive. In short, unless the Kurdish problem within Turkey is resolved politically, a successful extermination of PKK in Northern Iraq will simply diminish it into an IRA like operation within Turkey, still claiming many innocent lives through random bombings, mass murders and like.

On a personal note, I got to know quite a few radical Kurds over the years, they sound quite reasonable to me as they revealed their grievances as Turkey citizens of a different, but not entirely distinct culture and tradition. Their inclusion as they like it within Turkish Republic as fully equal participants will be a gain. Past killings and displacements on both sides can/may be forgiven, but still mourned just as intensely on both sides, if the future can guarantee no more.


Don't forget Poland. In fact including any former Soviet bloc countries in NATO was lunacy of the first order.


I'm still missing something. Salisbury and other nobles were important and powerful figures in their own right, basically owning and administering most of the country. As his Wiki entry records, he was not only a high level military commander but also a senior administrator on behalf of the King in various offices, and exerted political influence. That's a lot more than being a uniformed bureaucrat who has no political, economic or even military strength of his own which would make his loyalty important.

If there's a cunning plan for post-apocalyptic recovery, a sort of revived Cromwellian 'Rule of the Major Generals', featuring America's general officers as the new nobility, I think a lot of people might get a severe shock when they meet the new boss - a lot tougher than the old boss!(I hope they won't ban Christmas.)

I could understand that practicing the skillful handling and use of large formations of troops would be useful training for senior generals, even sometimes with actual troops to learn what could go wrong and how to recover; and perhaps responses to natural disasters and riots,'assistance to the civil power'.Internal administration is a surprising use of the highest level of talent available, and I had thought that actually training troops was the job of NCO's and junior officers. Maybe things have changed since the days when a Peninsular veteran wrote that 'the sergeants taught us how to fight, and the officers showed us how to die.'



Hmm, I was trying to posit a way to get a Nato Airforce member to engage with the new Syrian Tanks, and not have Nato in Ukraine.

1. Russian oversight would be critical
2. Not sure which Kurds, but Turkey often bombs Kurds in Northern Iraq, main problem would be the Central govt of Iraq which could see this as a threat to them
3. Overseers would be Russian SOF
4. Hmmm, aircover, perhaps Iranian? Alternatively, Russian trainers in Iraq to support Iraq airforce training.
5. Plausible deniability is obviously needed.

Perhaps if the EU wants to get more involved in Libya an opportunity may arise.

I suppose they could be given to donBass, but given the state of the Ukrainian airforce and army, probably not a good test.


You could have provided some links no?

August Storm 1 & 2:



The Soviet airborne experience:


Soviet Defensive Tactics at Kursk:



Another very educational post, thanks to the author and his host!

Is it posable that this is Putin's "star wars" moment?

The Bear has more or less matched now what we've done with IT following Reagan's "star wars" programs. Maybe Putin sees the Borg committed to special forces and outsourced mercenary warfare, recognizes what John Robb sees here http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2016/03/the-american-imperium-in-zombie-mode.html and understands the one thing NATO can't do is man a real Army Group.

The West has spent the last fifteen years doing to itself in slow motion what it did to post Soviet Russia with "shock therapy" with similar enough results to have resulted in the Trump/Sanders middle fingers to the establishment. And foreign news only makes sense on Samizdat web sites...here in the Muffled Zone.



The Combat Studies Institute is a stunningly useful resource but there's so much material that it's easy to get befuddled. They produced this list of "Books for the Military Professional" as a PDF back in 1995


It provides a useful jumping off point for those who want to inform themselves a bit better on various topics.


I recall skimming the new field manual circa 2006 when COIN was all the rage.

I look at it much like I look at common core math which was also all the rage. Mostly it's (math common core) now just rage.

The problem with common core math, which seeks to teach a strong understanding of math rather than rote memorization, is that it is an absolute failure when taught by teachers that don't have but a cursory understanding of math and that's, unfortunately, a rather high percentage.

Chris Chuba

IMO our misunderstanding of the Eastern front during WW2 was a perfect storm.

1. Soviets became our enemies and we had no access to their archives.
2. German generals writing memoirs and again IMO, while saying some useful things also covering their rear ends and playing on our ego. They basically said, oh, the Russians just overwhelmed us with numbers, you Americans, like Gen. Patton were just so much more skillful. This was music to our ears.

Glantz accessed the Russian archives and being fluent in Russian was able to read them directly. I highly recommend his book 'When Titan's Clashed' because being only 290 pages and covering the entire war on the Eastern Front, it is a great overview. He also describes the Manchurian campaign against the Japanese.

I had the misfortune of seeing an Oliver North 'War Stories Episode' about the Russian Front that had an interview of Glantz and with the magic of editing, showed Glantz saying something that I know is not representative of this views. I expected it to be a terrible episode, for some reason I just had to watch the train wreck.


Nice one, Colonel! A link via the wrong side of several blankets, back to England's most deplored king, and back to William the Bastard. Impressive. Your claim will be far down the line of succession, but if something were to happen to a lot of people, and you were to work on that Catholic thing... we could get used to calling you, 'Your Majesty'!


What I remember about Rumsfeld - or, more precisely, his organization - was its contempt for the professional military. Regardless the occasional hand-over-the-breast-pocket stirring speech in tribute to the veterans on Remembrance Day or such martial holidays, Rumsfeld & Co. thought the Army's upper echelon was a bunch of old nannies who did not understand modern warfare. Famously, when General Eric Shinseki - who served two combat tours in Vietnam and ended the war with only half a foot on one leg after stepping on a mine - told the assembled exceptional world-shapers that knocking over Iraq would require "several hundreds of thousands of soldiers", Paul Wolfowitz (self-styled egghead whose worldview "was forged by family history and in the halls of academia rather than in the jungles of Vietnam or the corridors of Congress" said that estimate was "wildly off the mark".


Ten years later, Wolfowitz admitted the USA bungled Iraq, although nobody in that administration ever apologized to Shinseki. The descriptive phrase which sticks with me of that administration is "impenetrably ignorant".



This is a very interesting and informative post. I have two additional points. An invasion of Western Europe by the Russian Tank Army would inevitably result in the use of nuclear weapons and destruction of the Northern Hemisphere. Someone somewhere being overrun would ignite their tactical nuclear weapons. Also, it is also a huge cost in a time of declining oil revenue. That Russia would take this step shows their desperation. They are trying to pound sense into the Western Elite. Up to now this has been futile.

Mankind’s only chance to survive is for the people to regain control of the western democracies and once again make corporations subservient to the will of the people. The Russian government might do well to to reassert the sovereignty of nations and work to ratify treaties to assure a secure and peaceful world. Counter Western Agitprop with the truth.

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