• Benkei
    7.1k
    Yet not more than 18 months ago, US talking heads would regularly refer to sanctions as "the nuclear option" ... anyone calling them that now?boethius

    It's the nuclear option for neoliberal capitalists as it limits their capability to make profits.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    If the US's geopolitical position is significantly eroded by this war then both costs and risks of participating in US intervention increase while benefits decrease.boethius
    I don't think the war in Ukraine really erodes the position of the US. The fact is that the World cannot just go out with Russian oil and raw materials, and that's the main reason many countries aren't so keen to jump in the US bandwagon: the US won't guarantee them the resources.

    What has eroded and will erode the US is position is the absolutely disastrous failure in Afghanistan and the equally catastrophic "War on Terror". Yeah, Americans might have forgotten the WoT, but the countries in the Middle East (and North Africa) have not.

    That is the true failure, which has shown clearly to every non-Western ally of the US how untrustworthy and basically treacherous actually the US can be.

    The US is in the Middle East in a similar situation UK found itself in the Middle East after WW2, entangled in a quagmire and trying to get out with having only marginal influence on the actors anymore and just hoping to get some weapon contracts. And the regional actors understanding that it isn't similar anymore than before.

    It's totally possible for the biggest US Arab ally, Saudi-Arabia, to find itself being a part of the "Axis of evil" or something similar. And here Pakistan shows what kind of passive-aggressive "ally" the US can be ...and how the US can be thwarted and openly challenged. Pakistan aided the Taleban and assisted in the final push to overthrow the formerly US-backed regime. And what did the US do? Nothing, it only wants to desperately to forget it's longest war.

    The fact that Israel has kept close ties to Russia during the Syrian civil war and that China arranged the warming of the relations between Saudi-Arabia and Iran simply shows how out of touch the US is now in the Middle East. Very different from the time of the Gulf War when older Bush could form a massive coalition with all the important regional players together (Saudi-Arabia, GCC, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Morocco etc.) when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

    And then there's China and the problem of Taiwan. What the US lacks here is obvious: there isn't anything like NATO in the area, only bilateral agreements with countries that again have not much in common. If China would let's say launch a "special naval operation" towards Taiwan and start inspecting ingoing shipping to Taiwan for weapons, what countries would follow the US? The AUKUS?

    In fact, the creation of AUKUS and that doesn't involve Japan, South Korea, the Phillippines and France tells actually a lot.

    The US might find itself in a Cuban crisis where it takes the role of Soviet Union to run the blockade without not much help from other countries that want to de-escalate the issue.

    Now compared to the above, the Ukraine war, with a motivated Ukraine willing to fight the war and having NATO to work with is quite easy and simple. Hungary and Turkey are simply a result of having so many countries in the pact.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    It's the nuclear option for neoliberal capitalists as it limits their capability to make profits.Benkei
    Or for this round of globalization that started in the 1990's...
  • neomac
    1.2k
    Or for this round of globalization that started in the 1990's...ssu

    Indeed as far as I know the expression was introduced by the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire to express more the fear for the consequences of financial extreme measures like "cutting Russia from SWIFT" to the Western economy itself than to the Russian one.
  • jorndoe
    3.2k
    Reports from the streets...

    ‘Get out’: Influx of Russians to Georgia stokes old enmities
    — Christian Edwards, Niamh Kennedy, Eve Brennan, Rhea Mogul, Sophie Tanno, Hannah Ritchie, Katya Krebs · CNN · May 26, 2023
    885oad5uljnfhd3i.jpg
    If I was Georgian, I would also want to be a part of the European Union. The old generation is all about how things used to be. The young generation are about how things could be. They’re like, ‘we want to be part of the European Union – Russians, don’t f*** this up for us.’ [...] I fear that Georgia is a little bit too similar to Russia. I’m afraid it could go either way: It could get better and move forward to the European Union. Or it could get worse and become like Belarus. I really hope that won’t happen. — Daria Polkina (27, Muscovite)

    A couple of weeks earlier...

    Pro-war nationalists say they are entering Russian politics to counter turmoil
    — Guy Faulconbridge, Andrew Osborn · Reuters · May 12, 2023
    Girkin told reporters that it was clear that the battle for the "post-Putin" era had already begun inside the Russian elite.
    There will be no compromise: war will end with the Russian flag over Kyiv or the defeat of Russia with the aim of its partial occupation, its disarming and its desovereignisation.Igor Girkin

    Mitrokhin opines...

    Where Are Russia’s Nationalists in the War Against Ukraine?
    — Nikolay Mitrokhin · Carnegie · Mar 7, 2023


    those of us who think it was the West's fault for Russian aggressionManuel

    The NATO-phobia? It's just bullshit, an excuse. Russia, the largest country in the world, with, say, 140 million people, needs to be enlarged with a fourth or fifth of Ukraine or it's doomed for destruction? :grin: If they manage to assimilate a fifth of Ukraine, then their supposed NATO-phobia remains an excuse, it's open-ended like that. The Nazi thing? Kyiv isn't a Nazi regime. If anything, Putin's Russia has regressed markedly. And the Ukrainians said "No", "Go away", "Get bent", like the UN, repeatedly. Putin's team knows already, so now and then they whine about, well, more or less whole continents. And the US of course (but not China). Anyway, nothing new here, it's been set out already. But, maybe they'll get away with the land grab. If they do, a pertinent question remains: then what?

    , well, you have discussion-worthy things to air on all of those, yes? I suppose, to the extent they're related, you could keep it in one fresh post? Hit it! :smile:
  • Paine
    1.9k

    The Mitrokhin article is effective in drawing out the differences between the Putin agenda and the focus of right-wing parties elsewhere.
    It puts the post-soviet states into a certain light in how they deal with integrating Russian speakers into their systems. The invasion of Ukraine has accelerated the process of change. This activity is different than ethno-centric parties in other places who see themselves pitted against 'liberal' erasure of their special identity.
  • Tzeentch
    3.3k
    Because of pacification of the held areas, Russia isn't advancing?ssu

    That's my view, yes. Taking too much territory would greatly increase the risk of an insurgency materializing, which is almost certainly what actors like the United States are trying accomplish in the background.

    How about the simple fact that neither side has the capability for large-scale maneuver warfare [...]ssu

    That's compatible with my view. The Russians may not be in a hurry to rebuild their offensive capability if they're not planning on lauching a new offensive in the near future.

    It should be noted though, that the Russians have mobilized several hundred thousand men and have an elaborate arms industry, so I think the question of whether Russia is currently capable of lauching a new offensive is somewhat ambiguous.

    How did that Russian winter offensive go? Ah, they got Bakhmut!ssu

    Bakhmut wasn't an offensive, and there haven't been any real offensives since the initial invasion.

    Bakhmut was more like a siege. A slow strangulation. Mainly attrition warfare. More than anything it looked opportunistic, taking advantage of weaknesses in the Ukrainian line the Russians took the area around Soledar and Krasna Hora, after which they partially encircled Bakhmut and sent Wagner in to do the dirty work.

    It will take time for Russia to transform into a wartime economy, [...]ssu

    I'm no expert on the Russian economy, but according to Mearsheimer Russia isn't mobilizing to a war economy.

    And as those Ukrainian air defence systems have been mainly from Cold War stocks and the factories for additional missiles lie in Russia, Ukraine is urging for fighters and seems that the US obviously has noticed this problem and will start to give those fighters.ssu

    F-16s can't fill the role of ground-based anti-air systems, so I would probably look for a different explanation. Especially since Russia sports one of the most sophisticated AA networks in the world, and the F-16s would have to contend with that.

    Mearsheimer speculates that the F-16s are brought in to compensate for the lack of Ukrainian artillery, since (according to Mearsheimer) the Americans have ran out of artillery they can spare.
  • boethius
    2.2k


    I was unaware the "nuclear option" was coined by people trying to make it sound negative and something best to avoid. First time I heard it was listening to neo-cons gleefully recommending the "nuclear option" if Russia invaded Ukraine. Definitely adds some additional irony to it.

    I don't think the war in Ukraine really erodes the position of the US. The fact is that the World cannot just go out with Russian oil and raw materials, and that's the main reason many countries aren't so keen to jump in the US bandwagon: the US won't guarantee them the resources.ssu

    I'm not sure you're agreeing or disagreeing.

    It's precisely because of the Russian resources that sanctions haven't worked to isolate Russia. Now, if you want to argue US wasn't omnipotent before and aren't omnipotent now, that's obviously true, no argument. What changes, however, is leverage and negotiating positions.

    Prior to the sanctions there was no alternative world financial system and even if countries could survive sanctions (Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria) it wasn't like they were doing "great" economically. Sanctions on small countries were an incredibly high cost to disagree with US foreign policy.

    So, the US could leverage that in negotiations with other countries. Simply because something is survivable does not mean it isn't something to fear. Maybe not everyone wants to be like North Korea or Iran.

    And this included negotiations with Russia. First, it was not a foregone conclusion that Russia was indeed big enough to simply build an alternative "low friction" trading regime with its various partners, in particular China and India (certainly if it was a foregone conclusion the West would have hesitated more). At minimum the prospect represents significant risks. Second, it was obviously not a Russian foreign policy objective to completely cut economic ties with the West ... or they wouldn't have kept building pipelines to said West.

    And it is not a case that "oh well, Russia survived sanctions, you win some you lose some" because in cutting off Russia from the Western financial system they have zero incentive to maintain any trade frictions with the other bad boys at the back of the class, and so Russia surviving sanctions basically means everyone can now survive sanctions.

    As noted in the analysis I cited, US sanctions (at the time) were far more effective than EU sanctions (a similar sized economy offering broadly comparable technologies) because the US runs the global financial system as a monopoly (at the time). You can only punish trade partners, whether buyers or suppliers, if they have no where else to go. If they do have somewhere else to go ... then they just say "fuck you, I'll go deal with these other people".

    This is a profound geopolitical change.

    Yes, the US was never and is not now omnipotent, but breaking with the "rules based system" (i.e. US global financial hegemony) was always hypothetically possible, but represented (since WWII) an immense "first mover" cost that prevented enough countries getting together to form an alternative financial block.

    The US empire is not one of military conquest but primarily financial. Where both military force and sanctions plays a role in maintaining US empire is in punishing countries that get out of line, but notice that those countries are simply ruined, they are not conquered and re-integrated into the US economic system (a. la. every previous Empire).

    Faced with these immense harms, the US can offer many (certainly in the short term, for the ruling elite, as well as long term in some cases) as benefits to not get out of line and do what you're told.

    It's a carrot and stick approach.

    What has eroded and will erode the US is position is the absolutely disastrous failure in Afghanistan and the equally catastrophic "War on Terror". Yeah, Americans might have forgotten the WoT, but the countries in the Middle East (and North Africa) have notssu

    This is also true, and certainly the term eroded is better applied to the Afghanistan mission and in this new war a better term would be "abruptly change".

    However, why 20 years in Afghanistan didn't really change anything is that an Empire fighting an insurgency somewhere is pretty normal. The US did not invest significant amounts of complex weapons systems and massive amounts of ammunition in Afghanistan as has been required in Ukraine. All throughout Afghanistan no one doubted the US would and could bomb others, which they did in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere for example.

    And of course Afghanistan had zero impact on the global financial system.

    Now, if you're thinking only that the US "close friends" won't go anywhere else, that the "NATO won't fall apart" etc. I agree with those positions. What is at stake in this world is the international relations outside "the West".

    Relations that, on one level, don't really impact anyone in the West, mostly what's at stake in these countries is if some corporation is going to make slightly more money than they otherwise would. So, from this perspective one could have a "so what" attitude of what happens to US influence in far away places.

    However, where things do affect things for actual Westerners is the fate of the USD. No one really knows what will happen to the USD if there emerges a global financial competitor.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    I'm no expert on the Russian economy, but according to Mearsheimer Russia isn't mobilizing to a war economy.Tzeentch

    Although I think technically true, the arms industry is the second largest in Russia and a significant amount of the Soviet supplies and war production infrastructure significantly limits the need for a full wartime mobilisation in order to fight a much smaller country.

    The West has been predicted the Russians will run out of nearly every piece of equipment or munition since essentially the start of the war. Maybe they will run out tomorrow but it seems unlikely.

    It is reported Russia is firing much less artillery shells, certainly due to sustainment concerns, but they can compensate that with glide bombs as well as building heavy fortification and mine fields. In other words, the immense artillery expenditure to suppress Ukrainian troop movements, covered building more sustainable defensive and offensive alternatives.

    F-16s can't fill the role of ground-based anti-air systems, so I would probably look for a different explanation. Especially since Russia sports one of the most sophisticated AA networks in the world, and the F-16s would have to contend with that.Tzeentch

    The talk of F16's is likely simply to not-talk about the Western tanks failing to save Bakhmut or suddenly launch some grand counter offensive.

    Mearsheimer speculates that the F-16s are brought in to compensate for the lack of Ukrainian artillery, since (according to Mearsheimer) the Americans have ran out of artillery they can spare.Tzeentch

    Planes can only replace artillery with air superiority, otherwise in terms of resources it makes zero sense to risk a 100 000 000 USD plane because artillery shells can't be sourced. Although I agree with a lot of Mearsheimer's points, I don't think this is good speculation.

    Indeed, the West talks up F16's for weeks and then come out and manage expectations.

    Commenting on the F-16 fighters, Milley cautioned that they were not going to be “the magic weapon”.

    “There are no magic weapons” – not the F-16s or other weapons, he said, noting that 10 F-16s could cost $2bn, including maintenance.

    “The Russians have a thousand fourth and fifth-generation fighters, so if you’re going to contest Russia in the air, you’re going to need a substantial amount of fourth and fifth-generation fighters,” he said.
    Aljazeera

    Not that some F16s would be useless, they can fire various standoff munitions from a safe distance, but that would simply be replacing some lost capacity and not really changing anything.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    Ukrainian Counteroffensive is Coming Soon
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCrZ-FqMyDg&ab_channel=TheInfographicsShow

    Prediction: Ukraine is going to make substantial gains.
  • unenlightened
    8.7k

    As pro Ukrainian propaganda goes, that video was pretty depressing. Ukraine has some 2000 new armoured vehicles, hurrah. But Western enthusiasm and supplies are running out, Russia has 400,000 new troops, arms from abroad, hardened defences, and now help from China. Oh, and they're busy in the occupied territories annihilating any trace of a resistant Ukrainian population, and Ukraine have just given away all their troop dispositions in an intelligence loss.

    That's going to have to be a completely stunningly impressive counteroffensive.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    Why Ukraine Will Win: Interview with Gen. Ben Hodges
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsXNJlH-4iM&ab_channel=FranklyFukuyama
    RogueAI

    I listened to the entirely of this interview, and it's mostly them criticising the Biden administration for not committing hard enough to Ukraine, not making "winning an objective" (I believe their exact words), and that Ukraine needs far more advanced weaponry than they have now to "win" such as a large fleet of F16s.

    They also repeat a lot useless tropes like Ukrainian soldiers are just smarter than Russian soldiers and even quicker witted than American soldiers in learning new equipment, but fail to realise that even if that were true the Russians don't have to learn new equipment.

    But unless I missed something, the interviewer and interviewee do not explain why Ukraine will win but explain the massive escalation in arms supplies necessary to even have a chance, accept fear of Russian nuclear weapons is the reason for the "extra caution" (in their words) but that they feel this caution is baseless and recommend not being cautious.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    What's your prediction about the coming offensive?
  • unenlightened
    8.7k
    I predict a triumphant and decisive victory for Ukraine, that does not extend to severing the land bridge, retaking Mariupol, re-taking Crimea, or re-establishing the old borders at any point. Russia utterly humiliated, and yet undefeated, and undeterred.

    I hope I am wrong.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    I hope I am wrong.unenlightened

    Why?
  • ssu
    7.9k
    F-16s can't fill the role of ground-based anti-air systems, so I would probably look for a different explanation.Tzeentch
    ?

    Just think what you are saying, @Tzeentch.

    Since WW1, it has been obvious that ground based air defence GBAD has a more effective alternative, namely fighter defence, other aircraft. And this is why GBAD has usually played the second fiddle in wars. The machine guns fitted to biplanes then were as potent or actually statistically more potent to shoot down enemy aircraft than artillery pieces on the ground. Nothing has changed since then as this is a matter of simple physics. A missile shot from an aircraft has already speed, doesn't need to climb as high and obviously the pilot with his speedy weapons platform can change places far more quicker than a land based one to get the optimum firing solution.

    Then there are the obvious reasons just why the F-16 would be preferable to Ukraine. It's widely used. It has no problem against the Soviet fighters. It isn't as costly and complex as the F-35 and nobody will give their F-35s for Ukraine. And then there is the fact that IF Ukraine wants to be on the offensive, it has to do something to the Russian ground based air defence (GBAD), as you point out below:

    Especially since Russia sports one of the most sophisticated AA networks in the world, and the F-16s would have to contend with that.Tzeentch
    It already has contended with that: actually both sides don't venture with their aircraft far to the others side.

    The F-16 is actually the answer to that. :smile:

    One of the F-16's most important mission is SEAD. There are specific Wild Weasel Squadrons with F-16s, hence the F.16 is the best option for Ukraine as it's searching for a stop-gap fighter, not a weapon system that will have it's service delivery to Ukraine in the 2030's or something.

    The Wild Weasel mission is now assigned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, using the Block 50 and Block 52, with production beginning in 1991. The single-seat Block 50/52 F-16C is specifically tasked with this mission and aircraft modified for this mission are designated F-16CJ/DJ.

    Screen+Shot+2020-03-20+at+7.02.02+PM.png?format=1500w

    Hence if Ukraine wants cut off the land bridge to Crimea or some other do outstanding stuff, it is extemely difficult and perhaps impossible without denting the Russian GBAD. The are only few MiG-29s now capable of firing HARM missiles with the Ukraine Air Force.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    It's precisely because of the Russian resources that sanctions haven't worked to isolate Russia.boethius
    Because the World needs Russian resources. And Russia is now China's gas station. Crucial for Russia, rather important for China.

    And it is not a case that "oh well, Russia survived sanctions, you win some you lose some" because in cutting off Russia from the Western financial system they have zero incentive to maintain any trade frictions with the other bad boys at the back of the class, and so Russia surviving sanctions basically means everyone can now survive sanctions.boethius
    Nope.

    The vast majority of countries don't have such natural resources that Russia has. Many countries are quite vulnerable to sanctions. Starting with those countries that cannot feed their populations with their own domestic agricultural production.

    You can only punish trade partners, whether buyers or suppliers, if they have no where else to go. If they do have somewhere else to go ... then they just say "fuck you, I'll go deal with these other people".

    This is a profound geopolitical change.
    boethius
    But notice the "if they do have somewhere else to go". And actually that has been Putin's Russia's biggest problem: It's economy is little and has stagnated. It hasn't been a real alternative as opting to be with Russia and excluding the West is a disastrous choice to make. Hence CIS didn't fly, also because of economic reasons.

    In this graph try finding Russia, you will find, but it isn't easy:

    Visualizing_100Trillion_World_Economy_1200px.jpg

    Someone could counter with the argument that there's China. Obviously the Chinese hub is the answer? Well, how much of that Chinese GDP comes from trade with the West? A lot. The fact is, even if Brazil, China, India and South Africa among others would favor a multipolar economy system, they do not want to exclude themselves from trading with the West.

    The US did not invest significant amounts of complex weapons systems and massive amounts of ammunition in Afghanistan as has been required in Ukraine.boethius
    Except that it did and will cost a huge amount, over two trillion dollars, just in Afghanistan. Fighting a war with your own forces is far more expensive than to give aid and weapons to a country that takes care of the fighting part.

    OCO-infographic-afghanistan-twitter.png?itok=a7JBdpbs

    And then there was the Iraq war too and the fight against ISIS in Syria too.

    Revised-COWChart_Option1.png?itok=VCycv1CR

    The assistance to Ukraine has been now a perhaps a puny 100 billion when we are talking:
    _128703452_ukraine_aid_stacked_21_feb_23-nc.png

    Just to understand how much the US troops fighting a war costs, is that 1 reinforced company, yes company, fighting in Afghanistan for a year was the equivalent of the annual defense budget of Estonia. So even if the above graphs take into account future costs, still nothing is as expensive as the US deploying forces to fight a war on another continent.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    It's actually important to understand that when we talk about defence spending, procurement and maintainance make only a smaller part of the spending in any armed forces.

    main-qimg-b19ac748f3eaa8f5166b0cdec82a278d-lq

    In many Western military the salaries take even a larger amount of the defense budget. For example Germany has a similar size of defense budget as France, but it doesn't have a nuclear deterrent or an aircraft carrier and similar capability for operations in other continents. Hence when you deploy a large force of your troops to an operation on the other side of the planet, the costs are simply huge.
  • Tzeentch
    3.3k
    Since WW1, it has been obvious that ground based air defence GBAD has a more effective alternative, namely fighter defence, other aircraft. And this is why GBAD has usually played the second fiddle in wars. The machine guns fitted to biplanes then were as potent or actually statistically more potent to shoot down enemy aircraft than artillery pieces on the ground. Nothing has changed since then as this is a matter of simple physics. A missile shot from an aircraft has already speed, doesn't need to climb as high and obviously the pilot with his speedy weapons platform can change places far more quicker than a land based one to get the optimum firing solution.ssu

    This is an inaccurate idea of how air defense works.

    Fighters are not efficient at air defense at all.

    Consider the amount of resources it would take to keep fighters in the air 24/7 in sufficient numbers to cover all important areas in Ukraine. Multiply that number by three to account for the fact that for every plane in the sky there are two on the ground (repairs/maintenance, refitting/refueling). Couple that with the fact that fighters are able to carry only a handful of anti-air missiles to stop salvos of dozens of Russian missiles/drones.

    For the Ukrainians this would be completely unfeasible, even without taking the threat of Russian anti-air into consideration.

    Hence if Ukraine wants cut off the land bridge to Crimea or some other do outstanding stuff, it is extemely difficult and perhaps impossible without denting the Russian GBAD. The are only few MiG-29s now capable of firing HARM missiles with the Ukraine Air Force.ssu

    Also suggesting a somewhat inaccurate idea of how SEAD works.

    AGM-88s are no magic bullets. In fact, they're pretty old.

    Modern anti-air systems like S-300, S-400, Pantsir, etc. can shoot these missiles down, and it would take absolutely massive volleys to get through a layered defense like what the Russians use. (Not to mention anti-radiation missiles only destroy radar transmitters. To actually destroy an AA installation it would take a lot more).

    Again, considering the resources the Ukrainians have, it is rather unlikely their aim is to degrade the Russian air defenses in any serious way.


    What SEAD might be able to accomplish for the Ukrainians is to provide temporary defensive cover to accomodate air strikes.

    And in line with what Mearsheimer argued, I think this is likely what the Ukrainians plan to do with the F-16s.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    Nope.

    The vast majority of countries don't have such natural resources that Russia has. Many countries are quite vulnerable to sanctions. Starting with those countries that cannot feed their populations with their own domestic agricultural production.
    ssu

    You miss the point here.

    The point is not that other countries can repeat what Russia has done from scratch, the point is that by completely removing Russia from the Western financial system Russia has both a need to create an alternative system as well as zero incentive (whether from fear or enticement) to cooperate in Western sanction regimes against US foes.

    Russia did not opt out of the Western financial system by itself, whether because there was no desire to or perhaps there was desire but it would have been political unfeasible to just nope out of the Western economic system. Why didn't Russia do it before? Because of carrots and sticks the US can brandy about the issue: in other words Russia stayed in the Western financial system because it wanted to for the benefits as well as not wanting to risk what happens if you leave, providing the West, in particular the US, leverage in maintaining their "rules based order".

    If we take the usual suspects of the sanctions world -- Iran, North Korean, Cuba, Venezuela -- they are simply not large enough countries to create some alternative economic system, and most countries and most companies would not see a cost-benefit to running foul of the US by violating US sanctions. Of course, random companies and smugglers will pop up to benefit from a little sanctions-arbitrage but such supply lines are unreliable and at a higher cost. Simply because you can get around sanctions doesn't mean it's convenient.

    Someone could counter with the argument that there's China. Obviously the Chinese hub is the answer? Well, how much of that Chinese GDP comes from trade with the West? A lot. The fact is, even if Brazil, China, India and South Africa among others would favor a multipolar economy system, they do not want to exclude themselves from trading with the West.ssu

    Yes, it's exactly that the Chinese hub is the answer.

    How the situation has changed with Russia essentially joining this group is that Russia is not only significantly larger (a larger population than all these countries combined) but has the resources, has the leverage, to make an equal if not greater cost-benefit proposal to their trading partners. Russia can effectively say to many countries that: you continue to trade or you're not going to eat. As you note, that's a powerful argument to displease the US in favour of Russian foreign policy.

    Does China need to sell us stuff? Or do we need to by Chinese stuff?

    Sanctions are presented always as some moral fact-of-the-matter "right thing to do".

    But what do sanctions represent? They represent firms making less money because they can't sell their goods and services to certain markets or source the same from said markets.

    It's simply not a logic that scales well in the capitalist system. It takes considerable effort to maintain sanctions on small countries, it's simply not possible to go around ordering people to stop trading with a big enough country such as Russia. At some point it's just too costly and countries tell even the "mighty US" to take a hike.

    But notice the "if they do have somewhere else to go". And actually that has been Putin's Russia's biggest problem: It's economy is little and has stagnated. It hasn't been a real alternative as opting to be with Russia and excluding the West is a disastrous choice to make. Hence CIS didn't fly, also because of economic reasons.ssu

    It's not a question of countries wanting to "opt out" as some sort of ideological choice.

    It's a question of leverage. If you can potentially opt out of something you can drive a harder bargain, even if you don't plan to, compared to having no alternative.

    Moreover, sanctions aren't relevant concerning the countries that play nice already with US foreign policy but rather countries that don't, we're talking about countries with some sort of ideological conflict with the US.

    Now, even a decade ago a pretty common response would be that history is over, all those "ideological" countries stuck in the past will go away, everything will become liberal democracy serving a platform for a homogenous global capitalist system.

    Those days seem long gone and rather things are going in the opposite direction.

    As for Russia's economy. As you note yourself at the start of your comment, it's about the resources.

    International leverage relations follow the hierarchy of needs: people need food and primary industries (upon which everything else is based) need resources.

    If major producing countries simply continue to trade with Russia (especially China and India) and the Russian government and Russian companies have no concern for Western sanctions (why would they), then all currently sanctioned countries can simply "plug into" this Russian based alternative world trading system.

    Of course, there's significant overlap with the normal world trading system, but that's exactly why it destroys sanctions generally speaking.

    For, whatever you may say of the Russian governance system, dealing with an established Russian firm is going to be a lot more reliable and good for business than dealing with smugglers or fly-by-night companies.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    What SEAD might be able to accomplish for the Ukrainians is to provide temporary defensive cover to accomodate air strikes.

    And in line with what Mearsheimer argued, I think this is likely what the Ukrainians plan to do with the F-16s.
    Tzeentch

    Though everything up to hear you say in your comment is true, I do not think it leads to this conclusion.

    Fighters are not good at permanent air defence of a large area for the reasons you cite.

    However, a small number of expensive planes can't be risked to conduct air strikes.

    We'll see, but my guess is the main reason to be talking about F16 is to try to keep Ukrainian morale and have something else to talk about.

    The second reason is to lob missiles as @ssu describes, just it's not so effective at shooting anything down but the idea is to stay at a safe distance and deny Russian air supremacy.

    For, the Russians can't risk much their expensive planes either, so as long as Ukraine has planes with missiles that can get into the air and shoot missiles then this is a big risk to Russian fighters.

    The F16s don't need to be on permanent patrol, but can scramble in the event there is Russian planes coming over the front lines to bomb stuff, which doesn't happen because Ukraine can shoot missiles at them.

    Currently Russia keeps its planes behind the front line because Ukraine still has some AA systems and missiles, the F16s would, at best, keep this status quo (which isn't "good" as Russia can launch plenty of missiles and glide bombs from a safe distance, but it would be a lot worse if they could simply fly anywhere in Ukraine at will).

    There is no decisive manoeuvre or single intense battle on the table that could resolve the conflict in Ukraine's favour, in which risking the planes may make sense, so at no point does it make sense to send out F16s to conduct air strikes (other than for propaganda purposes in safe locations or then because the propaganda win is worth the risk for essentially a one off).

    As you note, Russia has multi layered advanced AA, SEAD, in addition to their fighters (that have look down radars, which would be where they bring unique AA capability).

    The F16's are better than having no planes at all, but everything you explain just emphasises they cannot get near Russian forces and their use is severely limited.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    Fighters are not efficient at air defense at all.Tzeentch
    Fighters are an integral and important part of air defense. Naturally you need GBAD starting from securing the airfields of the fighters, but the fact remains that you can fight against enemy aircraft with your own aircraft.

    Consider the amount of resources it would take to keep fighters in the air 24/7 in sufficient numbers to cover all important areas in Ukraine.Tzeentch
    You think fighters are (or would be) kept 24/7 in air? How about having them up when you have enemy aircraft up in the air. It's quite rare to have fighter aircraft on CAP 24/7. And in this war, anything with that intensity simply hasn't been seen.

    Again there's an obvious limitation to how many sorties aircraft can fly. IAF has had sortie rates of 3 to 4 per day during some of it's wars, yet that's the exception. Modern aircraft need maintenance, the missions have to be planned, etc.

    AGM-88s are no magic bullets. In fact, they're pretty old.Tzeentch
    Are they now? AGM-88E came into service in the 2010s. AGM-88G is coming to service only now.

    Again, considering the resources the Ukrainians have, it is rather unlikely their aim is to degrade the Russian air defenses in any serious way.Tzeentch
    Which they actually did at the start of the war. :snicker:

    Again, considering the resources the Ukrainians have, it is rather unlikely their aim is to degrade the Russian air defenses in any serious way.Tzeentch
    They have to dent it just where they want to attack. But seems like you have a lot of confidence on Russian armed forces.

    What SEAD might be able to accomplish for the Ukrainians is to provide temporary defensive cover to accomodate air strikes.Tzeentch
    Yes, that's more like it. Ukraine cannot win air superiority. But it doesn't have to. It only has to get it temporarily for a brief time: when it's forces are on the move and it's own GBAD isn't in place yet.
  • Tzeentch
    3.3k
    However, a small number of expensive planes can't be risked to conduct air strikes.boethius

    I don't see why not.

    Every use of these F-16s will incur some risk.

    One advantage the Ukrainians will have is the intel they are getting from the US and other nations will probably allow them to craft a fairly accurate picture of the Russian AA network and use it to their advantage.


    The other proposed roles for the F-16s I don't find so convincing. The Russians barely use their air force over Ukraine, and taking down missiles with fighters is not ideal for the reasons I mentioned.

    Are they going to put a 40 million dollar plane into the air to swat a handful of 20,000 dollar Iranian drones, with missiles that each cost a million also?

    Maybe they're anticipating a heavier use of air power by the Russians, however again I think planes would not be the logical choice if their intention was defensive use.


    Unless they're planning to keep them grounded, which I doubt, I think air strikes and bombing raids is what they plan to use them for. They might take a page out of the Israeli book. They are pretty crafty with their air force as well.

    For, the Russians can't risk much their expensive planes either, so as long as Ukraine has planes with missiles that can get into the air and shoot missiles then this is a big risk to Russian fighters.boethius

    I don't remember who it was, but don't the Russians have ~1,000 4th and 5th generation fighters lying around? Why wouldn't they be able to risk those?


    The F16's are better than having no planes at all, but everything you explain just emphasises they cannot get near Russian forces and their use is severely limited.boethius

    Depending how they operate, they can.

    AA systems may have hundreds of kilometers of range, but the radar horizon is a severely limiting factor when it comes to low-flying targets.
  • Tzeentch
    3.3k
    Fighters are an integral and important part of air defense. Naturally you need GBAD starting from securing the airfields of the fighters, but the fact remains that you can fight against enemy aircraft with your own aircraft.ssu

    Note that you stated fighters are "a more effective alternative" - something which is simply untrue for the reasons I gave.

    Of course fighters can play a role in air defense, in the context of a modern army which also features various forms of ground-based / mobile air defense.

    On their own fighters would be terribly inefficient.

    You think fighters are (or would be) kept 24/7 in air? How about having them up when you have enemy aircraft up in the air.ssu

    Without the capacity to keep fighters in the air 'round the clock, the enemy would simply wait for all to be grounded before launching their attack.

    Considering these planes would have to be stationed quite far from the frontline, scrambling them only when there are threats in the air also seems unfeasible due to time, fuel and weight constraints.

    It's quite rare to have fighter aircraft on CAP 24/7.ssu

    Yes. Because, as I said, it's extremely inefficient. And modern militaries have ground-based systems to ensure such a task doesn't fall squarely on aviation most of the time.


    It seems you don't really understand the practical problems of using air planes in a defensive role in the conditions the Ukrainians would be flying under.

    Flying at low altitudes is essentially a given due to the threat of Russian anti-air systems. This means flying at decreased speeds (due to higher drag) and thus increased reaction times. It also means lower fuel efficiency.

    All of this translates into increased reaction times, low time on station. lighter weapon loadouts, etc.

    Are they now? AGM-88E came into service in the 2010s. AGM-88G is coming to service only now.ssu

    This is not an argument.

    First, find out which version the Ukrainians have received. Then, look up what specifications these upgrades altered. Finally, figure out how that relates to my argument, namely that Russian AA can shoot down AGM-88s.

    For reference, S-400 has a maximum target velocity of between Mach 8 and Mach 14.
  • ssu
    7.9k
    Note that you stated fighters are "a more effective alternative" - something which is simply untrue for the reasons I gave.Tzeentch
    No, it is true. Just look at history: if you have a capable air force that can gain air superiority, then most of the kills will be done in air-to-air combat. Air superiority is the single most important factor in
    deciding the outcome of a modern conventional war. And when either side cannot gain air superiority, well, you have a war that likely will go on for a long time. Hence for the Ukrainian air force as it is smaller than the Russian air force, it's first objective is simply just to exist.

    Of course fighters can play a role in air defense, in the context of a modern army which also features various forms of ground-based / mobile air defense.Tzeentch
    Exactly. And not having any combat aircraft is a huge disadvantage: even having a small contingent of aircraft that are sheltered and not used are basically a fleet-in-being. As long as they exist, it limits the actions of the other side.

    First of all, GBAD cannot gain air superiority above enemy territory. Hence aircraft are crucial in winning an air war. An effective GBAD will result in what basically has happened in Ukraine: the other side simply won't fly in the area where there is the effective GBAD. That's what GBAD can do. But it won't destroy the enemy air force if the enemy doesn't fly. In this war both sides have opted just to use artillery, fire missiles at each other from their own airspace protected by their own GBAD.

    Because, as I said, it's extremely inefficient. And modern militaries have ground-based systems to ensure such a task doesn't fall squarely on aviation most of the time.Tzeentch
    But you simply can have early warning system and get the jets into the air to intercept them. Even if your air force cannot intercept all enemy air strikes, it's objective is usually to inflict enough losses to the enemy and to sustain itself as an effective force. Air war quickly becomes a war of attrition. With a loss rate of 5% you will quickly run out of serviceable aircraft.

    It seems you don't really understand the practical problems of using air planes in a defensive role in the conditions the Ukrainians would be flying under.Tzeentch
    Lol. My country's own air force has dealt with this from it's birth and has never assumed to gain air superiority. For some reason, you never saw them flying high during the Cold War, but dashing on treetop level when flying from one place to another.

    Flying at low altitudes is essentially a given due to the threat of Russian anti-air systems. This means flying at decreased speeds (due to higher drag) and thus increased reaction times. It also means lower fuel efficiency.Tzeentch
    And? Even if the S-400 has a great range, again basic physics comes to play as you remarked to Boethius. The Earth is round and also Ukraine a big country. Hence you can do the math just how this effects target acquisition of radars and their ability to track low flying aircraft.

    AeroBT-8Things_4

    And about the increased reaction times: GBAD is basically stationary when fighting while an aircraft as an weapons platform is far more quicker, even if it's flying at lower speeds.

    All of this translates into increased reaction times, low time on station. lighter weapon loadouts, etc.Tzeentch
    Well, an air force that isn't enjoying air superiority obviously doesn't fly as it would have it. The aircraft then "loitering on station" would be an extremely rare event. Usually the tactic is quick hit-and-run tactics and trying to survive to the next day. Good historical example is the North Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam war. It used far different tactics than the US and ventured only in the end of the war into South Vietnamese airspace. Then the USAF and USN weren't around anymore.

    First, find out which version the Ukrainians have received. Then, look up what specifications these upgrades altered. Finally, figure out how that relates to my argument, namely that Russian AA can shoot down AGM-88s.Tzeentch
    Your argument was that the weapon system was old. Well, the Patriot missile was/is a weapon system that started it's life during the 1950's. So something being old, or that older versions are given from the stocks isn't a credible refutation that the system doesn't work or isn't important.

    Yes, missiles can be shot down, but that's simply not a counterargument. When my country had the BUK-M1 system, they shot during training in Russia a SCUD missile down. The system is capable of that (and Russia has claimed shooting down missiles with the system), but in order to do that, it obviously has to have the information of an incoming missile and be prepared with it's radar on to get the quick firing solution needed. Hence even if both sides do have the capability to destroy incoming missiles, it doesn't mean that they can do it 100%.

    I have made no argument that any weapon system or missile is undefeatable or a war winning tool.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    I don't see why not.

    Every use of these F-16s will incur some risk.

    One advantage the Ukrainians will have is the intel they are getting from the US and other nations will probably allow them to craft a fairly accurate picture of the Russian AA network and use it to their advantage.
    Tzeentch

    By risk, I mean significantly more risk. Flying anywhere near Russia / the front is going to be significantly more risky than flying along the border of Poland or Romania / inside those countries.

    My contention is the F16s will stay far closer to Polish and Romanian air space than Russian.

    The other proposed roles for the F-16s I don't find so convincing. The Russians barely use their air force over Ukraine, and taking down missiles with fighters is not ideal for the reasons I mentioned.

    Are they going to put a 40 million dollar plane into the air to swat a handful of 20,000 dollar Iranian drones, with missiles that each cost a million also?
    Tzeentch

    Well 1 million is an exaggeration ... but not by much.

    Pentagon Spent At Least $1.5 Million on Missiles to Down Three High-Altitude ObjectsWallstreet Journal

    Maybe there are cheaper "low altitude" missiles, but I don't see why that would be. Each side winder costs about a third of a million USD.

    That being said, probably just flying near them with a jet would cause them to fall out of the sky and certainly cheaper methods either exist or are being developed.

    Actually doing so would not, in my opinion, be for the purposes of winning the war but simply testing systems in real world conditions, which is certainly a big factor, generally speaking, to get F16s into the war theatre.

    Maybe they're anticipating a heavier use of air power by the Russians, however again I think planes would not be the logical choice if their intention was defensive use.Tzeentch

    This is my core argument about the F16s, that if air defence Ukraine were to completely fail then Russia would gain air supremacy and bomb and strafe freely over all of Ukraine.

    The only reason far superior Russian air power hasn't been so decisive is because the Russians have the exact same problem I am describing of not being able to risk expensive planes in attritional warfare.

    Compare to the first manoeuvre phase of the war where Russia took large amounts of territory and then Ukraine retook large amounts of territory, you at least "get something" for downed air craft and helicopters. Whether it was needed or then cost effective is another question, but it at least makes sense to risk planes when decisive battles are being fought to take strategic ground.

    Obviously Russia didn't like losing aircraft and helicopters, but had they not taken and held the land bridge to Crimea that would have been far more embarrassing.

    In an attritional phase of war, risking planes is just not justifiable. The amount of successful sorties you need over the front to justify the loss of an aircraft and pilot is incredibly high and there are far cheaper alternatives such as artillery.

    Of course, ideally you can drop bombs from a safe distance from the front, which is now what's happening with the glide bombs.

    F16s could, for example, be used to push these planes further back or, at least, keep them from coming closer.

    The situation as I see it is that the West simply lacks the appropriate ground based air defence systems because NATO doctrine is air power based and the current situation is something the US never envisioned so doesn't have the systems. As far as I know, the only Western SAM system that has any numbers is the Patriot and it does not manoeuvre and is too expensive to make sense and doesn't have enough numbers anyways.

    NATO is a "we're going to come to you and destroy you" kind of force, not a "we're going to sit here on steppe and try to see how long we can be attacked" kind of force.

    With depletion of ground based AA missiles, depletion of Migs, the F16s may simply be the only option to prevent Russia from gaining complete air supremacy over Ukraine.

    Preventing this is the only thing that makes Ukraines position maintainable and at least slow to erode.

    Also, keep in mind that AA doesn't need to be depleted entirely, just enough that risking planes to support large manoeuvres is justifiable.

    I don't remember who it was, but don't the Russians have ~1,000 4th and 5th generation fighters lying around? Why wouldn't they be able to risk those?Tzeentch

    It was the US chief of the joint chiefs of staff that explained F16s aren't a magic solution and there is no way to defeat Russia in the air considering their 1000 comparable planes.

    Obviously 10 < 1000; 10 being the billion dollar example in the General's comparison, but whatever Ukraine is going to get will be far from 1000.

    As for risking Russias 1000 fighters, Russia obviously can and did and does. The question is one of cost effectiveness.

    For example, the value of the land bridge to Crimea can be measured in 10s of billions to hundreds of dollars, long term one could argue trillions of dollars. 10s of billions would be the cost to substitute the canal that supplied Crimea with fresh water, and hundreds of billions would represent all the land, assets and people, and if there's really immense gas reservers, then maybe all this can be tallied up to a trillion or more. Of course, you'd then need to do a levelized net-present value calculation including the cost of the war, sanctions and so on, to get an idea of what it's really worth "right now", but clearly a lot.

    Of course it could be argued that it is a net loss, but that doesn't really matter once the war starts and for the purposes of risking planes.

    Even Russia's most expensive planes are worth far less than the territory gained, so it makes sense to risk them in that pursuit. Even if the war is an overall negative, you'd still need to mitigate that with conquering as much territory as feasible (taking into consideration the need for pacification and defence and so on).

    However, fast forward to the current attritional phase of the war and it simply makes no sense to risk expensive planes and pilots to take a 100 meters of Bakhmut, so we didn't see planes dive bombing and strafing Ukrainian positions.

    Where the calculation would change is if Ukrainian both air defence depletes enough and there is a proposed series manoeuvres that can win the war. Now, ok, maybe some aircraft will be lost, but the value of ending the war sooner rather than later is again measures in the tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

    And from bits and pieces that have been put together about the first days of the war, Russia did mostly succeed in destroying nearly all of Ukraine air defence, hit runways etc. and gained air superiority over most of Ukraine which was essential in taking all the territory in so short a time.

    However, then the West supplied large amounts of shoulder launched missiles and started to source Soviet components and systems from other ex-Soviet states to repair / rebuild Ukraine's integrated SEAD system, which then pushed Russian aircraft behind the Russian front line and not only did large offensive manoeuvres end for the Russians but they needed to retreat from large amounts of territory to consolidate their gains.

    The small force Russia invaded with only made sense with air superiority as a force multiplier, so Russia needed to call up more troops and dig in over the entire front line. The extent to which they expected this may happen is another question, but this is clearly what did happen.

    But what else did we see when the Russians started to dig in and consolidate ground based defences? A constant barrage of missile, drone attacks and constant sorties as close as possible to Ukraine, that have depleted Ukrainian air defence.

    The situation is one in which air defence simply makes no sense in an attritional mode. The only time it would make sense to engage in attritional air defence warfare is if you're also attritting the enemies air defence, which is not what's happening.

    In the current trajectory, eventually Russia will gain air supremacy.

    And this is what the recent pentagon leaks basically say, that Ukraine will be soon fully depleted (by now when the document was written, but obviously Ukraine can ration missiles and be provided more, such as the Patriot to delay depletion), and if Western SAMs aren't a long term solution either, then F16s are really the only option to continue to deny Russia complete air supremacy.

    This, in my view, is the mission of the F16s; nothing remotely close to supporting Ukrainian ground forces with strike missions.

    Depending how they operate, they can.

    AA systems may have hundreds of kilometers of range, but the radar horizon is a severely limiting factor when it comes to low-flying targets.
    Tzeentch

    The Ukrainians would have the same problem as the Russians did in facing man portable missile launchers, but in addition to that the Russians fighters have radar look-down capabilities that could then transmit that information to the SAMs.

    Now, it maybe true the Russian fighters would need to take risks to get close enough to these F16 to track them with look-down, but the fact your enemy is also risking a plane immediately justifies risking your own plane in attritional warfare.

    The risks are really high, and clearly far higher for the attacking aircraft trying to penetrate enemy SEAD systems and evade enemy fighters, than it is for the defending aircraft largely operating within their safety bubble. This is in the addition to the inherent risk of flying low under high stress.

    I really don't see Ukraine flying these F16s anywhere close to Russian airspace.

    Keep in mind also that Russia also has air superiority fighters, which we have not seen much of. Some say it's because they don't work, but another explanation is that it simply makes no sense for Russia to risk it's modern / modernised superiority fighters to shoot down Soviet era fighters.

    To shoot down F16s is a completely different equation and you would likely see Russia taking far greater risks to shoot them down. Each F16 and pilot would not only represent a large fraction of the Ukrainian air force but it would be a huge propaganda win. If Russia lose some aircraft in the process, as the general notes they have a thousand more.
  • boethius
    2.2k
    And? Even if the S-400 has a great range, again basic physics comes to play as you remarked to Boethius. The Earth is round and also Ukraine a big country. Hence you can do the math just how this effects target acquisition of radars and their ability to track low flying aircraft.ssu

    The mission purpose of S-400 long range missiles are against big and slow targets such as tankers and AWAKS, to keep these as far way from the fight as possible.

    However, you could also have the situation where high flying Russian fighters can track low-flying F16, though out of range, so an S-300 or S-400 could then engage with guidance from the Russian fighters.

    To what extent this is likely to occur, a capability Russia has even developed, is a different question, but, at least in principle, simply because ground based radar are limited by the horizon does not mean those missiles cannot engage with air-based tracking.

    Keep in mind also that high flying supersonic fighters decrease the range of AA systems because they can outrun incoming missiles. I.e. the range of a 100 km missile travelling at mach 5 is reduced to 50km if fired at a target running away at mach 2.5, and this doesn't take into account altitude, counter measures or additional manoeuvres that will all favour the aircraft.

    How SAM sites mitigate this is by moving around and simply waiting to turn on when the fighter is easily within range (such as with information provided by radar farther away, that can easily track high flying planes).

    How fighters mitigate this is just staying behind their own lines where, presumably, there are no enemy SAM sites that may turn on suddenly.
  • Tzeentch
    3.3k
    No, it is true. Just look at history: if you have a capable air force that can gain air superiority, then most of the kills will be done in air-to-air combat. Air superiority is the single most important factor in
    deciding the outcome of a modern conventional war. And when either side cannot gain air superiority, well, you have a war that likely will go on for a long time. Hence for the Ukrainian air force as it is smaller than the Russian air force, it's first objective is simply just to exist.
    ssu

    Exactly. And not having any combat aircraft is a huge disadvantage: even having a small contingent of aircraft that are sheltered and not used are basically a fleet-in-being. As long as they exist, it limits the actions of the other side.

    First of all, GBAD cannot gain air superiority above enemy territory. Hence aircraft are crucial in winning an air war. An effective GBAD will result in what basically has happened in Ukraine: the other side simply won't fly in the area where there is the effective GBAD. That's what GBAD can do. But it won't destroy the enemy air force if the enemy doesn't fly. In this war both sides have opted just to use artillery, fire missiles at each other from their own airspace protected by their own GBAD.
    ssu

    The idea that an air force is a "more effective" method of air defense is untrue, as I explained. It functions as part of an air defense network, and it won't function on its own.

    But you simply can have early warning system and get the jets into the air to intercept them.ssu

    All my objections assume early warning.

    My country's own air force has dealt with this from it's birth and has never assumed to gain air superiority. For some reason, you never saw them flying high during the Cold War, but dashing on treetop level when flying from one place to another.ssu

    Even if the S-400 has a great range, again basic physics comes to play as you remarked to Boethius. The Earth is round and also Ukraine a big country. Hence you can do the math just how this effects target acquisition of radars and their ability to track low flying aircraft.ssu

    This is obvious.

    You don't seem to understand that flying low severely limits the effectiveness of fighter aircraft, especially for a nation like Ukraine which is starved for resources.

    Your argument was that the weapon system was old.ssu

    No. My argument was that modern Russian AA like S-300 and S-400 can shoot the AGM-88 down.

    Why don't you do your due diligence and figure out what type of AGM-88 the Ukrainians are receiving and how that relates to my argument?
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