U.S. Defense Secretary: Russia’s actions are harmful

Good news from Robert Gates, who is proving himself one of the best people in George Bush’s cabinet.  While Secretary of State Rice is in Georgia for European diplomatic consumption, Gates implicitly describes Georgia as part of his portfolio as minister of war:

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Thursday that if Russia doesn’t pull back from its fighting in Georgia it could hurt Moscow-Washington relations “for years to come.”

Speaking at his first Pentagon news conference since the fighting started, Gates said he does not foresee the need for use of U.S. military force there, however. At his side, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright said the military assesses that Russia is “generally complying” with the truce that called for its withdrawal from the hostilities.

Gates warns Russia to pull back in Georgia fight – Yahoo! News.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia is dangerous, both because it violates the peace and it encourages Russia to act in bad ways.

We should be preparing to destroy Russian forces that remain in Georgia.  However, even these current steps to protect Georgia are a good start.

13 thoughts on “U.S. Defense Secretary: Russia’s actions are harmful”

  1. “We should be preparing to destroy Russian forces that remain in Georgia”

    One war at a time Dan. 🙂

    I’d kind of like to wrap up what we already have on our plate before risking a shooting war with Russia over territory in which the U.S. has no strategic interests on behalf of allies who do, but who take no risks to defend them, for a client that has proven both incompetent and unwillng to stand and fight when attacked.

  2. Zen is right, we don’t have the money or morale to duke it out with Russia. Lets keep it real and not let our arrogance get in the way. 🙂

  3. zenpundit,

    Thanks for the comment!

    One war at a time Dan

    There’s a smiley-face at the end of the sentence, so I assume you do not mean your sentence to be taken seriously.

    Obviously, prioritization [1] is an ongoing process that neither implies running only one process at a time, nor not shifting priorities as things change.

    ’d kind of like to wrap up what we already have on our plate before risking a shooting war with Russia over territory in which the U.S. has no strategic interests

    Not only do we have a strategic influence in limiting Russian expansion [2], we have a grand-strategic interest in not allowing the reappearance of interstate war. [3]

    on behalf of allies who do, but who take no risks to defend them,

    The European project, from the American perspective, has been to remove the European states’ extracontinental interests in exchange for their focus on rolling back Russian influence. They fulfill this task while.

    Accusing them of responding to American monopolization of the security function by not challenging the American monopolization of the security function is bizarre.

    for a client that has proven both incompetent and unwillng to stand and fight when attacked.

    Irrelevant. We should do the same for Belarus, in case it is attacked. Teaching Russia the right lessons [4] is more important than the particular nature of the regime being saved from Russia.

    Steve,

    Any reason for your agreement?

    AmericaTheBeautiful.

    Zen is right, we don’t have the money or morale to duke it out with Russia.

    Now this I assume cannot be serious, because it’s simply absurd.

    Lets keep it real and not let our arrogance get in the way

    Whatever “keeping in real” means here, the arrogant approach would be to free-ride and not secure the peace [3].

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/09/how-serious-is-the-russian-invasion-of-georgia.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/russia-is-bad.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/war-is-bad.html
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/learning-theories.html

  4. Hi Dan,

    The smiley icon is meant to denote – well – my amusement at your delight in crafting bombthrowing posts. But since you want an extended explanation, beyond what I wrote the other day at ZP, here it is:

    The idea of putting American soldiers in Georgia for the purpose of *attacking* Russian Army regulars over the issue of South Ossetia, population 100,000 mostly ethnic non-Georgians is little short of insane. The prioritization is so far out of wack that it makes invading Iran or China appear to be the height of reason in comparison. You’re a bright guy Dan, I know you know this.

    “Accusing them of responding to American monopolization of the security function by not challenging the American monopolization of the security function is bizarre.”

    The United States has been trying, without much success, to get the rest of NATO and our other allies to spend more of their GDP on defense since the Kennedy administration. Spending only 1.5 % of GDP on defense is a deliberate policy choice. However, when European economic interests are at stake, it suddenly becomes time to send in the Marines. It’s 2008, not 1938 or 1968 – the Bundeswehr and the Foreign Legion can step up and carry some of the load. The Marines are busy these days.

    “Irrelevant. We should do the same for Belarus, in case it is attacked. Teaching Russia the right lessons [4] is more important than the particular nature of the regime being saved from Russia.”

    It’s not irrelevant. It means that the Georgian Army won’t fight for Saakashvili, even if Georgia proper is invaded by the Russian Army. That says something about “Misha’s” actual legitimacy. We poured no small amount of money and time into Georgia’s military – by most accounts they were pretty well-trained – when well-trained troops run away rather than fight that points to serious problems with the client government.

    The lesson tha we are currently teaching Russia is that the United States government can be made to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off and be manuvered, like a small child, into a fool’s game by others.

  5. zenpundit,

    Thanks for the great response! This is why I love blogging!

    The idea of putting American soldiers in Georgia for the purpose of *attacking* Russian Army regulars over the issue of South Ossetia, population 100,000 mostly ethnic non-Georgians is little short of insane. The prioritization is so far out of wack that it makes invading Iran or China appear to be the height of reason in comparison. You’re a bright guy Dan, I know you know this.

    Thanks for the compliment ;-).

    South Ossetia is accidental to topic, not substantial, so is not worth worrying about in-itself.

    Russia’s [1] violation of the peace [2], and the lessons that may be learned from this [3], are of concern, however.

    The impelmentation of how to undo this is open for debate, of course. I doubt the use of US ground troops, when we already have Georgian ground troops who know the terrain and language, and Naval and Air assets which will provide us control of communications.

    The United States has been trying, without much success, to get the rest of NATO and our other allies to spend more of their GDP on defense since the Kennedy administration. Spending only 1.5 % of GDP on defense is a deliberate policy choice. However, when European economic interests are at stake, it suddenly becomes time to send in the Marines. It’s 2008, not 1938 or 1968 – the Bundeswehr and the Foreign Legion can step up and carry some of the load. The Marines are busy these days.

    We both agree than a German or French tripwire [4] would be useful, but insisting on this confuses operational utility with strategic utility.

    Europe’s continuing process of regime transformation — adding new states to their Union and modifying their internal rules along with it — have been painful. Our loss of blood and treasure have been painful. Both the US and the Europeans have taken on poin in order to secure the peace (grand-strategic) and roll back Russia (strategic).

    The specifics allied contributions to an effort should be subject to friendly bargaiing, but not as the expense of the peace or to the profit of Russia.

    It’s not irrelevant. It means that the Georgian Army won’t fight for Saakashvili, even if Georgia proper is invaded by the Russian Army. That says something about “Misha’s” actual legitimacy. We poured no small amount of money and time into Georgia’s military – by most accounts they were pretty well-trained – when well-trained troops run away rather than fight that points to serious problems with the client government.

    Why should Georgia fight the battle that Russia prefers?

    It is obvious to Russia’s advanntage to have a conventional battle when Russian forces outnumber Georgian ones, and Russians control the air and the sea.

    This isn’t even a Boydian insight — it is obvious.

    The lesson tha we are currently teaching Russia is that the United States government can be made to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off and be manuvered, like a small child, into a fool’s game by others.

    How so?

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/russia-is-bad.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/war-is-bad.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/14/learning-theories.html
    [4] http://zenpundit.com/?p=2828

  6. Actually I think the Lesson here is Russia is teaching it’s ex-satellite states that allegiance with America (and Europe) is beneficial but when push comes to shove (like when a major power invades and drops bombs on your neighborhoods) that alliance isn’t worth much. Sure, the President will shake his finger and condemn the act before he heads off to his ranch, and a leisurely time after the incursion the Sec State will show up with a treaty that effing well benefits the invader as much as it does the supposed ally. But, in the long haul, the Russians hold the sword while the mighty Americans push some papers.

    Russia is enforcing it’s sphere of influence, letting the rest of the world know that Unilateralism isn’t just an American demonstration of might (think Kosovo more than Iraq) but a course of action the Russians are quite ready to employ as well. China chose a fanciful and artful approach to announcing their comeuppance to the world. Russia cut right to the chase and sought to demonstrate their own return to global power in a most, shall we say, kinetic fashion.

    That aside, while I agree with Zen that America hardly needs another theater of war I would also opine that the American response to Russia’s aggression has been painfully anemic. A more muscular stance is required, perhaps a sallying of US naval forces to the region as a show of force, some physical presence of President Bush’s lame “we are with the Georgian people.”

  7. zenpundit

    I share your bemusement at Dan’s enthusiasm for a shooting war with Russia but I think that you are misinterpreting the actions of the Georgian army.

    Having failed to stop the Russian army from crossing the border and being on the wrong side of air superiority, they have retreated from the rural areas into the urban area around the capital city. Tblisi is not only more important to defend than open farm land, it also offers an environment where the Georgians can take a much higher toll on Russians if they decide to go in.

    The Georgians are not Mujahadin but neither are they doing a remake of France 1940. They have retreated to where they can sell their lives more dearly than if they stay and get wiped out in the open.

  8. Jay,

    Actually I think the Lesson here is Russia is teaching it’s ex-satellite states that allegiance with America (and Europe) is beneficial but when push comes to shove (like when a major power invades and drops bombs on your neighborhoods) that alliance isn’t worth much.

    That is certainly the intent. The question is whether it will be allowed to stand.

    That aside, while I agree with Zen that America hardly needs another theater of war

    This is a tired mantra, a strange way of saying that there are priorities [1] or a statement of aesthetics at worst.

    would also opine that the American response to Russia’s aggression has been painfully anemic. A more muscular stance is required, perhaps a sallying of US naval forces to the region as a show of force, some physical presence of President Bush’s lame “we are with the Georgian people.”

    Agreed. [2,3]

    Mark in Texas,

    I share your bemusement at Dan’s enthusiasm for a shooting war with Russia

    It would be helpful if anyway outlined a case against such a proposal, rather than reporting their emotional reactions to it.

    The Georgians are not Mujahadin but neither are they doing a remake of France 1940. They have retreated to where they can sell their lives more dearly than if they stay and get wiped out in the open.

    Well said.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/09/how-serious-is-the-russian-invasion-of-georgia.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/13/us-forces-to-georgia.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/16/countermeasures.html

  9. “It would be helpful if anyway outlined a case against such a proposal, rather than reporting their emotional reactions to it.”

    The Russians have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to any part of the earth. If a shooting war between American soldiers and Russian soldiers got out of control because of mistakes or bad decisions on the part of individuals on either side, the consequences could be very bad indeed. We could ramp things up and play “nuclear chicken” with the Russians assuming that they will behave wisely and responsibly, but the misjudgment of their reaction to Kosovo independence followed by Georgian actions against Russian surrogates in Ossetia indicates to me that there are a lot of people out there with a bad track record for predicting Russian reactions.

  10. The Russians have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to any part of the earth.

    That’s one. Presumably it’s overcomeable, if NATO membership means anything. The question is not if we would begin destroying Russian conventional forces with our conventional forces, but where geographically such behavior would occur

    However, what intrigued me was zenpundit’s “One war at a time,” jab, immediately seconded by others with seemingly no support.

    Mark in Texas presents a warning against engaging a nuclear power. Certainly this is worthwhile. But it does not support zenpundit’s statement (as z’s sentence implied a war with Russia in Georgia in itself would be fine, but that it would seriously conflict with other wars).

  11. Russia is not just “a” nuclear power, they are “the other” nuclear power. At a moderate cost we could build a missile defense system that could render useless the nuclear arsenal of any other nuclear power but it would not stop enough Russian missiles to prevent them from destroying the US as a functioning nation.

    The way Ronald Reagan won the Cold War was by threatening to build a missile defense system that was comprehensive enough to defeat the Soviet nuclear arsenal. When confronted with the objection that he was advocating an arms race, Reagan replied, “Yes, and they won’t be able to keep up.”

    Well, now the situation has changed to the point where the Russians could keep up. In fact they might be able to keep up better than we can. Building a missile defense system capable of defeating a nuclear missile assault from a super power would be enormously expensive. When the Soviet Union had to depend on their own economy to pay for such a system, it was beyond their capability. Today when they can finance their defense expenditures with our economy, thanks to >$100 oil, they can keep up and even do better since the trillion dollars a year transferred from our economy to Russia and OPEC makes us weaker while it makes them stronger.

  12. Mark in Texas,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Russia is not just “a” nuclear power, they are “the other” nuclear power. At a moderate cost we could build a missile defense system that could render useless the nuclear arsenal of any other nuclear power but it would not stop enough Russian missiles to prevent them from destroying the US as a functioning nation.

    Yes. And this is why the ABM system we are deploying in the Czech Republic, Poland, and possibl Ukraine is an offensive, not a defensive, weapon against Russia. [1]

    Now, all this said, unless you are willing to state that NATO is defunct because conflict with another large nuclear power is dicey, your objections along that line seem to be empty.

    Today when they can finance their defense expenditures with our economy, thanks to >$100 oil, they can keep up and even do better since the trillion dollars a year transferred from our economy to Russia and OPEC makes us weaker while it makes them stronger.

    Recall that their economic windfall brings them up to, roughly, the level of Portugal. Now clearly it would be easier to deal with a warmongering version of GAM de Lisboa than a warmonger version of great Portugal [2], and there are steps that can make this possible [3], we should not overestimate the Russians.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/17/ukraine-offers-another-clip.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/11/a-warmongering-version-of-portugal.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/17/france-and-freedom-from-energy-exporters.html

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