Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Art of the Deal: Can Trump Reach Agreement on Ukraine with Putin?

Douglas Macgregor

President Donald Trump, an American nationalist committed to the restoration of America’s economic prosperity, particularly the strength of its middle class and the rule of law and peace abroad, is now pitted against President Vladimir Putin, the Russian nationalist, on key national-security matters in Europe. It’s unclear what the final result will be, but as Trump argued in April 2016, it’s definitely time for a new American strategy.

For the Trump administration to reshape relations with Moscow, it’s important to realize that Vladimir Putin, like his country, has a foot in two camps—the Bolshevik and the Tsarist camps. George Kennan’s advice to President Truman in 1947 is still instructive: “It is a sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia,” he wrote, that “demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige.”

Putin is calculating, well educated and self-aware. Putin was not surprised that his seizure of Crimea provoked a military confrontation with the West. And despite damaging sanctions and almost universal hostility to Moscow’s act, Putin guided Russia through the economic storm with surprising success.

These points notwithstanding, to approach Putin with another rendition of Obama’s demands for a Russian retreat from Crimea would be dead on arrival. Crimea was never an integral part of Ukraine—at least not until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev presented Crimea as a gift to his buddies in the Ukrainian Communist Party (allegedly in a drunken stupor). Most important, Putin’s reconquest of Crimea, his reform and modernization of the Russian Armed Forces, and reinvigoration of Russia’s moribund economy have been characterized by Patriarch Kirill, Moscow’s Orthodox Christian leader, as a “miracle of God.” All Russians may not agree with the patriarch, but most are supportive of Putin.

It is true that Putin wants to return Ukraine to Moscow’s control. Doing so would place Russian military power directly on the Polish border in a position to intimidate the West, a geostrategic posture the tsars also favored. The question is: can Putin be convinced that this outcome is not attainable? The answer is . . . maybe.

Putin knows that there are at least thirty million Ukrainians who will fight against the Russian army if it invades Ukraine proper. Worse, the fierce bloodletting in the Donbas has simply added to the numbers of young Ukrainians violently opposed to Moscow’s rule. Murdering six to twelve million Ukrainians (depending on whose numbers you prefer), as the Bolsheviks did in the 1920s and 1930s, is off the table. In fact, Putin would much prefer to capture the Ukrainian manpower pool, with the goal of augmenting the diminishing numbers of Slavs available for service in the Russian Armed Forces.

Putin is also sensitive to the attitudes inside his own population. It’s one thing for Russians to kill Muslim minorities in the Caucasus, a recurring Russian strategy for three hundred years. However, it’s another to kill Christian Slavs in Ukraine. It’s not popular.

In sum, Putin may not like the idea of abandoning his campaign to restore imperial Russian control of Ukraine proper, but, depending on what President Trump offers, he may well be able to persuade Putin that it makes sense to do so. One avenue worth exploring is a future for Ukraine modeled on the 1955 Austrian State Treaty.

During the Cold War the Austrian State Treaty reestablished Austria as a separate, independent state. Representatives of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the United States and France agreed that in exchange for the restoration of Austrian national sovereignty and political independence, the Austrian Republic would declare its total and unconditional neutrality. Like the Austrian State Treaty, provisions for a Ukrainian State Treaty could include the prohibition of integration with NATO and a ban on all foreign military bases in Ukraine.

If Putin balks at the idea of a nonaligned, independent Ukraine without foreign bases, he runs real strategic risks. He may yet awaken Berlin, Europe’s sleeping military giant. Germany still has an enormous advantage (along with Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states) in terms of human capital and scientific-industrial power. Putin is quite capable of concluding that it is ultimately smarter to do business with Germany and the northern European states than it is to fight them.

To the east, Putin confronts a powerful Japan that wants to regain the territory it lost to Russia in World War II. It’s no accident that the largest Russian military maneuver since the Cold War ended was conducted in eastern Siberia, not in the West. Until Tokyo gets its wish, the proverbial Japanese hatchet will not be buried. In Central Asia, Chinese economic penetration is growing in ways that must worry Moscow.

Putin also knows that we Americans are part of the West that he confronts in Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states. Any action Putin takes in eastern Europe based on the assumption that Washington will do nothing in response is foolish. Putin is aware of how surprised Berlin was when Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914. With President Trump in power, Washington is no less of a wild card for Moscow today than London was for Berlin in both world wars.

To sum up, Washington and Moscow may never be friends, but they can be limited liability partners, a concept President Trump understands well. And, if a new American grand strategy emerges under Trump, it must consist of managing interests and avoiding unnecessary conflict, not extending the failed policies of the recent past.

Col. (retired) Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army, is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD and the author of five books. His newest is Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War, from Naval Institute Press.

Image: OSCE monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/OSCE

link to article

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump’s mission: Build a new American Army


- - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 
In January 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, together with their respective military advisers, met in Morocco at Casablanca to devise the strategy that would win World War II. To some, the Casablanca Conference may seem like ancient history, but the exchange between Gen. George Marshall, U.S. Army chief of staff, and Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, chief of Britain’s Imperial General Staff, has much to teach us.

Marshall opened the conference with a protest against Britain’s endless operations against the Italians and Germans in the Mediterranean. If the war was to be won, argued Marshall, France had to be invaded in 1943, preferably before the end of autumn. Brooke, Churchill’s principal military adviser, disagreed.

Brooke pointed out that the Germans still had more than 150,000 combat troops in France, and none had moved south in response to the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942 (Operation Torch). The strength of German air power over France was formidable, and the German capacity to rapidly reinforce its troops in the West made an Allied landing in France during 1943 extremely dangerous, if not impossible.
Brooke won the argument.

Political and military leaders in every country always want conflict to be short and decisive. Marshall was no exception. But the key to victory — an accurate and sobering self-assessment of one’s own strengths and weaknesses — is essential. Marshall’s self-assessment was not realistic. The next 18 months of titanic battles, involving tens of millions of Soviet dead and wounded, as well as the slow, costly Allied advance through Italy, proved Brooke was right.

Inside the Washington beltway, there is a lot of talk about “confronting Russia,” “pushing back China” and “aggressively challenging” Iran. However, few, in or out of uniform, comprehend what these phrases mean. Even fewer understand that great powers may escalate, not back down — particularly if they have the luxury of fighting on their own geographical doorsteps.

 For example, an American military intervention in southern Iran would seem relatively unchallenging, but a U.S. invasion of Iran would likely precipitate Russian military intervention in northern Iran, based on the model of China’s 1950 intervention in North Korea.

Both Moscow and Washington possess nuclear weapons, but short of defending Russian or American soil, their use is highly unlikely, meaning the military contest would depend primarily on the quality and composition of each side’s general purpose forces.

To sustain American ground forces thousands of miles from the continental United States, America’s Navy would contend with Russian submarines, as well as land-based Russian air and missile forces. For the first time in decades, the American Air Force would confront integrated air defenses stretching from the Crimea to Central Iran. The result would be a land war on strategic terms that do not favor the U.S.

Wars like the one just described demand the persistent employment of powerful aerospace, naval and ground forces. Keeping millions under arms in readiness to fight them is unaffordable, but maintaining the core capabilities to fight such wars is necessary and, as Defense Secretary James N. Mattis pointed out in his recent testimony before the Senate, it’s affordable. Unfortunately, the last 25 years of open-ended interventions — not just the last 15 — have severely eroded the U.S. armed forces’ military-technological edge and operational flexibility — and in particular, those of the U.S. Army.

Today’s Army is accustomed to irregular warfare — the suppression of weak insurgents who do not have armies, air forces or air defenses, let alone naval power — and military “train and advise” missions. If ordered to fight in Eastern Europe, the Near East or Northeast Asia, the Army would send its vulnerable airborne or truck-mounted light infantry forces and, eventually, its antiquated brigade combat teams with tanks, guns and armored fighting vehicles designed in the 1970s. All of these forces would operate today the way they did in 1991 — in linear configuration under several layers of Army division and corps headquarters.

The kind of disaster that Brooke feared in 1943 would unfold in short order.

Warfare today demands a different Army, an army of self-contained, independent battle groups and formations tightly integrated with aerospace power that operate on land the way the Navy’s ships operate at sea. These forces must have the mobility, survivability and firepower to prevail in an integrated, Joint ISR, EW and STRIKE-dominated battle space. It’s not just a question of numbers. In wars of maneuver, quality trumps quantity — but the Army is not organized, trained or equipped to maneuver in the 21st century.
When war comes, the right investments in human capital, technology and organization — made years, sometimes decades, before the battle begins — create the margin of victory.

If the Trump administration is to build America’s 21st century margin of victory, the archaic U.S. Army must become the Trump administration’s obsession.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, Ph.D., is a decorated combat veteran and author of five books. His most recent, “Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War,” is available from Naval Institute Press.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Margin of Victory Presentation at Metropolitan Club, Washington DC

 9 February 2017 Briefing Slides


On the evening of 9 February 2017 Col Dr Doug Macgregor presented a new briefing to a packed house at the Metropolitan Club of Washington, DC. Summarizing his latest book, Margin of Victory, his extemporaneous commentary was riveting.

His two most important points: first, that Grand Strategy covers all elements of national policy, not only national security — commerce and diplomacy, agriculture and energy — ALL elements of national policy must be managed as a whole to achieve peace and prosperity; and second, that wars are won or lost based on the ten years of strategy, policy, and acquisition that precede them — he did not say this, but it was clear that the military we have today cannot win wars.

Book presentation in the Metropolitan Club, Washington DC

February 9, 2017

Sunday, February 5, 2017


 Macgregor comment:  Puma is the best of the selections.

Selected Foreign Counterparts of U.S. Army
Ground Combat Systems and Implications for
Combat Operations and Modernization

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Commentary: What is the Appropriate Manpower Requirement of the U.S. Military?

This article gets some things right, but misses the key point. If numbers of people and platforms or the quality of individual weapon systems in the armed forces always decided the outcomes of battles and wars, the study of warfare would have nothing to teach us

We know from experience that wars are not won by individual platforms or simple masses of soldiers, ships and planes. Battles and wars are won by armed forces that integrate human capital with new technology inside new organizations. Each succeeding war demands new thinking and new organizations that are designed to exploit new technologies.  Clinging to the old organization or old solution that worked in the last major war is as dangerous as clinging to bow and arrow in an age of fire arms. Clinging to old organizational constructs and platforms that worked “well enough” against weak, incapable opponents is also delusional and dangerous, especially when far more capable opponents are already on the horizon.

What is the Appropriate Manpower Requirement of the U.S. Military?

Link to Article 

Time for a Reality Check

Since the Cold War ended, military manpower declined by 685,000, a 34.5% reduction.  In light of the current threat environment, have reductions put the U.S. at risk?

The correct sizing of the U.S. military is once again a topic receiving a close examination by almost everyone.   The Trump Administration wants to increase Army active duty end strength to 540,000 from the previously planned strength of 450,000.  The Navy would increase from 274 combatant ships to 350 with manning increasing from 330,000 to 380,000.  The Air Force would have 1,200 active tactical stealth fighter aircraft and add about 10,000 personnel.  The Marine Corps would need to add approximately 12,000 to the infantry.   Are these the right numbers for the U.S. to maintain its security and responsibilities worldwide? What are the repercussions if our active duty military is sized too small?

Of course, the worst case is we are invaded by an adversary and lose our way of life. This is not likely, for many reasons, in the upcoming decades. Another possibility is a surprise attack with nuclear weapons via ballistic missiles.  This is also viewed as unlikely from major adversaries based on the decades-old theory of MAD (mutually assured destruction) although a smaller attack from North Korea or Iran or radicals who get their hands on nuclear devices cannot altogether be ruled out.  Therefore, regardless of the overall size of the military, it is absolutely essential for the country to acquire and maintain a robust ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) capability.  Lesser interests, but interests that most consider vital, are to fulfill our treaty and other international agreements worldwide and to maintain the world’s oceans for freedom of navigation. International trade increases the U.S. GDP, which raises the standard of living for all Americans. Another reason for a strong military capability to project American strength worldwide is to prevent potential adversaries from taking actions against American interests. When countries are perceived weak, history has shown that adversaries are more likely to fill the void created by the perceived weakness.

When the U.S. military is required to protect worldwide interests while being insufficient in manpower, the strain on the undermanned military becomes unbearable for military members and their families. Currently, the suicide rate of 25/100,000 is 25% higher than the civilian population and has more than doubled since 9/11.  The military suicide rate in the 1980s was ~12/100,000. The suicide rate increase is one indicator of an overstretched military. One report not released to the public documents retention down across the Navy, even in the SEALs. The Air Force is short 700 pilots, and the figure is expected to grow to 1,000 as trained pilots are leaving the AF for the private sector in much higher numbers than desired.

The capabilities required of the military have been eroded by political social experiments required by politicians such as opening combat forces to women and promoting gay and transgender agendas instead of focusing on potential adversaries. Pregnancy rates for military women are 30% higher than the women in the civilian sector. The higher pregnancy rate increases the deployment time for the non-pregnant military women and the men when COCOM taskings driving longer deployments are already keeping members of all the services away from their families more than ever.  All of these factors have put immense strain on and weakened the current force. 
But what of the opposite arguments that indicate we should not use comparisons of manpower numbers as our primary indicator of the correct end strength? One convincing counter argument is that past programs, with ever increasing capabilities, were justified based on efficiencies, at least in part, in the manpower required to operate the new systems. Should we not factor in a reduction in manpower achieved from higher reliance on technology embedded in new systems? If the answer is yes, which should be obvious, the difficulty is determining the manpower reductions achieved in past programs. Some estimates indicate the Abrams tank results in an eight-fold increase in lethality over the tank it replaced, the M-60 tank. That should mean the tank corps of the Army should have been decreased to 1/8th its former size. The Infantry received the Bradley fighting vehicle, which was a significant increase in lethality over the M113 vehicles that it replaced. How much of an increase exactly? The answer is not readily available.

The Nimitz-class replaced Kitty Hawk class carriers, a cost increase in constant dollars of $800 million to $4.5 billion.  The cost increase was partly justified based on dramatic increases in the efficiency and capability of the Nimitz class carriers. Where did the manpower savings go for the increased efficiencies? These savings never seem to materialize.  Why?  The same arguments can be used for new classes of submarines, cruisers, and destroyers.

Likewise for the Air Force, the new more technologically advanced, expensive aircraft like the F-35 should have been justified based on a myriad of increased capabilities, including reduced manpower for maintenance due to logistic efficiencies and higher reliability rates.  Again, where are the savings?

In addition, don’t new state-of-the-art communication systems result in the ability to reduce duplicative staffs? A revolutionary move to eliminate the services consolidating into a single service with a central DOD headquarters would save tremendously.   Those in the field find operations with bloated headquarters and many layers of leadership cumbersome. One study found the Special Forces dangerously bogged down in bureaucracy, with elite operational units made less efficient by their higher headquarters elements. 

It is time for an honest, fresh review of the required military manpower needed to meet the country’s needs. It is safe to say the missions are clearly increasing now for the first time since the end of the Cold War. China’s resurgence due to their economic and defense infrastructure improvements are resulting in more systems fielded with ever increasing technological enhancements. Russia is becoming more aggressive, especially within their region. Equipment and manpower improvements are evident in all Russian military services. We are faced with smaller, but dangerous, and potentially more volatile threats from  North Korea, Iran, ISIS, and smaller radical Islamic extremists that likely will do all they can to threaten our military directly or our worldwide interests. We are faced with the militarization of space, nuclear proliferation, and cyber security attacks. All of these threats may require more military manpower levels for the services.
The points made in this article are intended to reflect the difficulty, yet criticality of estimating military manpower accurately. Manpower is the single most expensive element of the DoD budget. We must have an unbiased, joint effort to arrive at the correct numbers. To do otherwise wastes our national treasure at a time when our national debt already presents a huge threat to national security.