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lordhedgwich

Russian army under equipped?

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Of course this is only one more example in the West's long history of subtly maneuvering lesser states into political no-win scenarios. It turns out when you constantly push poor, small nations into binary decisions about their security they lash out but i'm not counting on anyone in America to figure out how this applies to the Russians. 

Ah yes, I missed that part where Iraq-Iranian tension were entirely manufactured by the West, as was the invasion of Kuwait, and that really, chemical and nuclear weapons are best held in the hands of small middle eastern dictatorships.  

He was useful in the 1980's because Iran was being aggressively anti-everything not Iranian.  But his designs on Iran were his own.  The Kuwait conflict was again, his own manufacture, as was refusing to stand down in the face of what was surely a massive overwhelming array of forces.  A fairly reasonable precaution after the end of the conflict was ensuring the Iraqi chemical weapons and nuclear arms were secured.

All of these things may have lined up to make a no-win scenario if you are Saddam Hussein, but you give yankee imperialists by far too much credit in being puppetmasters.  Which is my personal irritation as a yankee is that we are stupid arrogant idiot fat Americans who somehow also secretly run everything, and are the source of all the world's ills.  

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Which is to say that Russia would lose a conventional war against NATO :)
 
As alluded to in your previous post, that depends on several assumptions that would not necessarily be true. As you said, it's a numbers game. Given long enough time scales and sufficient political will NATO can muster more combat power than Russian can cope with. But on shorter time scales the equation is reversed. All the Javelins in the world don't alter the fact that the Baltic states have minuscule armies and air forces, most of which would be destroyed before they ever saw a Russian tank. The only way NATO "wins" a limited conventional conflict that does not ultimately end in the near-complete destruction of one side's military is if we assume a sufficiently large qualitative discrepancy. The Rand war games apparently did not assume that. CMBS doesn't either :P

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this is going nowhere.  In the interests of getting this back on track I won't bother responding.  More interesting to talk about where CM can work within strategic constraints than to rehash Iraq.

That was to a couple posts back Vanir, thank you for getting us back on track.

Edited by sburke

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Ah yes, I missed that part where Iraq-Iranian tension were entirely manufactured by the West, as was the invasion of Kuwait, and that really, chemical and nuclear weapons are best held in the hands of small middle eastern dictatorships.  


He was useful in the 1980's because Iran was being aggressively anti-everything not Iranian.  

 How can you say things like this and not see the irony? The arrogance? The dismissal? Not one of them????

 

All of these things may have lined up to make a no-win scenario if you are Saddam Hussein, but you give yankee imperialists by far too much credit in being puppetmasters.  Which is my personal irritation as a yankee is that we are stupid arrogant idiot fat Americans who somehow also secretly run everything, and are the source of all the world's ills.  

 

 These countries are already crippled and the gap is merely widening thanks alone to negligence. Conspiracy is not usually necessary and not characterized the way you think it is. You are welcome to pretend that's what i'm saying of course if it makes you feel better. 

Edited by CaptHawkeye

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How can you say things like this and not see the irony? The arrogance? The dismissal? Not one of them????

Iraq was going to invade Iran.  This was a policy objective of the Iraq regime.  Regardless of if we helped or not, Iraqi troops were going to go into Iran and do things.  

Iran at the time endorsed a revolutionary outlook that favored making the entire middle east into Shia theocracies.  It had done some stuff that generally was held as not okay.

If the US pushed Iraq to invade Iran, then I'd see your point.  But much more than any sort of US aid or pressure, it was a Sunni vs Shia throw down with the US tossing in an assist because hey remember that whole hostage crisis thing?  

Ascribing it to all be part of some US master plot is missing out the regional actors, and giving US foreign policy and intelligence work way more credit than it is due.  We helped Saddam do something he was doing anyway because it served our purposes for 1980-1988 or so.  Then Saddam bit the hands that fed him (Sunni gulf states) while offending western sensibilities/threatening regional stability.  On the other hand if Saddam was stuffed with any more hubris he would literally burst at the seams so of course he would see the logic, and the justice of attacking Kuwait because those sonsoffemaledogs are stealing HIS oil, being unreasonable about loans they gave him, and shed not a drop to contain the Iranian menace.  

I'm dialing down the antagonism.  But the US is not nearly as hidden in every bush, pulling at the strings as is believed.  

Edited by panzersaurkrautwerfer
spelling correction, location of Loch Ness Monster redacted

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Let's keep the Iraq thing out of this thread.  It has NO place in it other than the point I made to address the question about why countries would do something suicidal to their ruling elite.  I don't want to have a debate here about Iraq any more than I do Gaddafi or any of the thousands of examples throughout history of rulers who overplay their hands.

Steve

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Back on topic...

 
As alluded to in your previous post, that depends on several assumptions that would not necessarily be true. As you said, it's a numbers game. Given long enough time scales and sufficient political will NATO can muster more combat power than Russian can cope with. But on shorter time scales the equation is reversed. All the Javelins in the world don't alter the fact that the Baltic states have minuscule armies and air forces, most of which would be destroyed before they ever saw a Russian tank. The only way NATO "wins" a limited conventional conflict that does not ultimately end in the near-complete destruction of one side's military is if we assume a sufficiently large qualitative discrepancy. The Rand war games apparently did not assume that. CMBS doesn't either :P

There are all kinds of variables, agreed.  However, the most likely scenarios all wind up with Russia on the losing end of things.

The primary assumptions that must be decided are how big a force Russia sends in and if NATO decides to sit it out and let its member states get gobbled up by Russia.  Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent behavior (including reinforcing that Russia's word, and even signature, means nothing) there was quite a bit of concern that NATO *might* let the Baltics go.  However, since then everything I see shows that the EU and NATO have made a decision to stand up to further Russian aggression.  Of course I could be wrong, but for the sake of this discussion this point can not be left open.  Based on the last 2 years worth of evidence, including the US prepositioning equipment, basing combat troops, and other nations rotating troops/aircraft into the Baltics says NATO will fight a Russian invasion.

The next thing to decide is how much force Russia invades with.  The three Baltic states have an active military force of roughly 75,000 combined, mostly ground personnel.  They have some number that could be readily called to arms, so let's say 100,000 available within the first month of combat.  So, what could Russia realistically invest into an invasion of the Baltics without calling up reserves?

Russian active ground forces are about 230,000.  The first thing to do is look at what forces Russia has stationed in various places that can not be withdrawn without significant negative impacts on Russian policy.  Let's start with its occupation forces which are responsible for keeping Russia's sphere of influence functioning.  I haven't done a careful analysis in a while, but it's roughly 15,000 "peace keepers" and roughly the same number deployed in bases outside of the Russian Federation.  That takes the total ground forces available down to 200,000.  Subtract from this at least another 40,000 (overly generous) for Caucuses, Crimea, and Far East and we're down to 160,000.  Take away another 30,000 (again, generous) to keep the threat of military action in Ukraine on the table and another 5,000 in Donbas and Syria.  We're now down to 125,000.

OK, let's take that 125,000 and see what we have here.  Well, assuming that Russia uses 2/3rds of its best forces (VDV, Spetsnaz, and Marines) that means roughly 100,000 second line forces with a huge percentage of conscripts and mediocre to poor equipment.

Match this 125,000 force up against the Baltic 100,000 and I'd be tempted to bet on Russia not taking over the Baltics even if NATO did absolutely nothing.  Primarily because the Baltic's standing force is 2-3 times larger than Russia's best units, yet is probably on par in terms of combat potential. I'd give the edge to the Baltic reserves vs. Russian conscript forces because the will to fight and defensive posture are important factors.

But I don't think NATO will do nothing.  Which will make Russia's realistic chances of taking over the Baltics even less likely.

I don't think the Russian population will be too thrilled to see losses in the thousands within the first few weeks of combat.  Especially because roughly 3/4 will be conscripts.  A misguided war of adventure at a time when the economy is going down like a lead balloon very quickly.

And I haven't even touched the other obvious things like NATO being able to see Russian forces massing weeks ahead of a potential attack (as it did the forces which attacked Ukraine), the ability to reinforce with standing US and NATO forces prior to an invasion, and other things which would further put the Russian invasion in doubt of success.

Honestly, I have no idea what conditions Rand cooked up which could allow a realistic scenario of Russia taking over the Baltics.  I'd love to see the specifics.  So far the only tidbit I found is that they assumed that Russia would neutralize any pre-positioned NATO forces prior to invasion.  Wow.  That's a mighty big assumption.  And I'm sure there are several others built into the wargame that I could make a good case for being unrealistic (e.g. impractical, optimistic, etc.)

I have pretty high respect for RAND, but I smell someone cooking the books in favor of an argument for specific NATO policy changes.

Steve

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The other part of that discussion is Russia has to have something worth the risk.  I have to say I think Russia did plan Crimea well from a risk/reward perspective.  They pretty much nailed the west's inability to respond.  At least in the sense of a move to show off for Russian nationalism.  Personally I think taking Crimea was a huge mistake, but I get that there are emotional issues here as well.  Economically it is a massive sink not to mention a foreign relations nightmare.

I don't see anything like that regarding the Baltic States.  While yes it could be something to draw popular attention from the state of the economy, I just don't see Putin taking that big a gamble.  The playbook on Crimea won't work there.  These are NATO member states. UKR he still considered the Russian "zone".

If I were to cook up another CMBS type scenario it would more likely involve Belarus.

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No way, that never happens.  :rolleyes:

No, never :D

I will give RAND some credit though.  Very frequently I see customers with good intentions try to test a CM game feature for bugs/oddities, but in the process set up a test scenario that is fatally flawed in some critical way.  RAND might have done the same thing.  Or it could just be what I said earlier about RAND setting the bar very high for the NATO forces on purpose because when planning it is better to assume the worst.  However, they should also have tested for optimal circumstances and a few cases in between.  It seems they did a little of that for the NATO side but perhaps did not change the presumptions of the Russian side of things.

I also find that some of these studies start with premises which simply can't be justified from a practical standpoint.  I am very curious what they had for Russian forces going into the Baltics.

The other part of that discussion is Russia has to have something worth the risk.

This is an important point and it's the one that makes me think the Baltics are off Russia's menu.  The risks associated with taking Crimea were huge, but so too was the potential (short term at least) payoff.  The gamble on Novorussia definitely failed big time and that's got to make Putin's people wonder if their "hybrid warfare" playbook is perhaps not as useful as it once used to be.

There is a good argument to be made that if Putin gets desperate enough to distract the Russian people from troubles at home he will create yet another military conflict (Ukraine 2014 and Syria 2015).  I agree this is quite possible because it is certainly a common thing for autocratic regimes and even democracies.  However, there's a difference between engaging in a military activity that will distract the population and a military activity that will anger it.  There's plenty of places Russia could engage in military activities that could distract without the risk of regime suicide.  Especially since it is looking like revolutions are possible in 2-3 former Soviet Republics within the next 1-2 years.

Perhaps if Ukraine had collapsed and NATO/EU didn't do squat about it then MAYBE Russia would think attacking the Baltics might be worth the risk.  But we already saw that when it came time for Putin to push the "peace keepers" into Donbas he did not.  Some, me included, believe it is because Putin was told in back channels that very bad things would happen if he did that.  Ukraine, for sure, publicly stated that it would mean an outright and declared war with Russia.  If Putin thought putting "peace keepers" into Donbas was too risky it is hard to imagine him thinking that attacking the Baltics would be a good idea.

Steve

Edited by Battlefront.com

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Oh, and let's not forget what Ukraine and Georgia will likely due of Russia is busy bleeding to death in the Baltics.  Putin can not afford to have territory it has taken at great cost go back to the control of Ukraine and/or Georgia.  Yet Russia absolutely can not fight a three front war.  Then there's the Azerbaijan and Armenia war that would likely come about by Russian preoccupation.  And the toppling of several pro-Russian governments by people who see an opportunity to change the power dynamic.

Putin knows better than anybody else how fragile the Russian Federation and its control over neighbors is.  So if an amateur observer, which I most definitely am, can see how delicate the house of cards are balanced... bet that Putin sees it too.  If Putin invaded Baltics it would be game over for his regime, one way or another, sooner rather than later.

Steve

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Back on topic...

There are all kinds of variables, agreed.  However, the most likely scenarios all wind up with Russia on the losing end of things.

The primary assumptions that must be decided are how big a force Russia sends in and if NATO decides to sit it out and let its member states get gobbled up by Russia.  Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent behavior (including reinforcing that Russia's word, and even signature, means nothing) there was quite a bit of concern that NATO *might* let the Baltics go.  However, since then everything I see shows that the EU and NATO have made a decision to stand up to further Russian aggression.  Of course I could be wrong, but for the sake of this discussion this point can not be left open.  Based on the last 2 years worth of evidence, including the US prepositioning equipment, basing combat troops, and other nations rotating troops/aircraft into the Baltics says NATO will fight a Russian invasion.

The next thing to decide is how much force Russia invades with.  The three Baltic states have an active military force of roughly 75,000 combined, mostly ground personnel.  They have some number that could be readily called to arms, so let's say 100,000 available within the first month of combat.  So, what could Russia realistically invest into an invasion of the Baltics without calling up reserves?

Russian active ground forces are about 230,000.  The first thing to do is look at what forces Russia has stationed in various places that can not be withdrawn without significant negative impacts on Russian policy.  Let's start with its occupation forces which are responsible for keeping Russia's sphere of influence functioning.  I haven't done a careful analysis in a while, but it's roughly 15,000 "peace keepers" and roughly the same number deployed in bases outside of the Russian Federation.  That takes the total ground forces available down to 200,000.  Subtract from this at least another 40,000 (overly generous) for Caucuses, Crimea, and Far East and we're down to 160,000.  Take away another 30,000 (again, generous) to keep the threat of military action in Ukraine on the table and another 5,000 in Donbas and Syria.  We're now down to 125,000.

OK, let's take that 125,000 and see what we have here.  Well, assuming that Russia uses 2/3rds of its best forces (VDV, Spetsnaz, and Marines) that means roughly 100,000 second line forces with a huge percentage of conscripts and mediocre to poor equipment.

Match this 125,000 force up against the Baltic 100,000 and I'd be tempted to bet on Russia not taking over the Baltics even if NATO did absolutely nothing.  Primarily because the Baltic's standing force is 2-3 times larger than Russia's best units, yet is probably on par in terms of combat potential. I'd give the edge to the Baltic reserves vs. Russian conscript forces because the will to fight and defensive posture are important factors.

But I don't think NATO will do nothing.  Which will make Russia's realistic chances of taking over the Baltics even less likely.

I don't think the Russian population will be too thrilled to see losses in the thousands within the first few weeks of combat.  Especially because roughly 3/4 will be conscripts.  A misguided war of adventure at a time when the economy is going down like a lead balloon very quickly.

And I haven't even touched the other obvious things like NATO being able to see Russian forces massing weeks ahead of a potential attack (as it did the forces which attacked Ukraine), the ability to reinforce with standing US and NATO forces prior to an invasion, and other things which would further put the Russian invasion in doubt of success.

Honestly, I have no idea what conditions Rand cooked up which could allow a realistic scenario of Russia taking over the Baltics.  I'd love to see the specifics.  So far the only tidbit I found is that they assumed that Russia would neutralize any pre-positioned NATO forces prior to invasion.  Wow.  That's a mighty big assumption.  And I'm sure there are several others built into the wargame that I could make a good case for being unrealistic (e.g. impractical, optimistic, etc.)

I have pretty high respect for RAND, but I smell someone cooking the books in favor of an argument for specific NATO policy changes.

Steve

Well, that is... interesting. I don't recall ever seeing an analysis with those conclusions before. Given the vast gulf between your views and the Rand study there is definitely a book BBQ happening somewhere B) I would love to know more about the parameters and assumptions used in the Rand war games. However, there are more details on their results that I will share in a separate post (it's a bit lengthy).

Now, as to the idea of 100,000 Baltic troops defeating 125,000 Russians. The Russian number is reasonable if perhaps a little pessimistic. As of September 2015 Russia had 3,300 troops in Armenia, 7,000 in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, 1,500 in Moldova's, 500 in Kyrgyzstan, 5,000 in Tajikistan , and  20,000 in Crimea, which adds to 37,300. I don't have numbers for Syria or Donbas but I doubt it would be more than a few hundred. How many troops Russia feels the need to keep in Siberia or elsewhere within their borders is anyone's guess. 50,000? That would put us at around 140,000 which isn't far off your number.

The numbers for the Baltic states look way off and I think are very misleading in several ways. I don't know where that 100,000 figure come from, but if we look at the ground forces of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania the number of front line combat troops is a small fraction of 100,000.

Latvia: 971, basically in one brigade.

Estonia: about 6000, half conscripts

Lithuania: 3500, but soon to double to ~7000 with the addition of a new brigade of conscripts

To that you can add part time/reserves which would be around 14,000 (Latvia), 13,000 (Estonia), 4,260 (Lithuania). So if we make the questionable assumption that reservists are equivalent to active duty personnel we have a total of around 45,000, 70% of them reservists. But even those numbers don't reflect the actual capability of these forces. While they are NATO members they are not in the same category as say the French or the UK, or frankly the Russians The total defense budget for the 3 Baltic states combined in 2014 was around 9 billion US and their armed forces reflect that. The Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian armies are almost entirely light infantry with a small number of mechanized and artillery units (they each have a few dozen artillery pieces). They have no tanks at all. Their air forces have no combat aircraft.

The upshot of this is that without NATO intervention the 3 Baltic states would have no chance in a war against Russia. Zero. Zip. Their armed forces are outnumbered and outmatched in almost every way possible. Any attempt to defend their territorial integrity as a whole would be suicidal. They would be crushed within days.Their only chance would be retreat to the capitals to defend the government and hold out until the cavalry arrives or the Russians declare mission accomplished and leave.

 

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A few details on the Rand war games:

The United States needs to seriously consider stationing forces in Eastern Europe to support the nation's commitment to protect the independence of the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — NATO members all — against the specter of Russian aggression. Demonstrating American will and capability to respond promptly and powerfully will send a strong deterrent signal to Moscow. If the United States does not and Russia invades, the options available to this or a future U.S. president are stark.

Geography makes the Baltic republics vulnerable to Russian aggression. Should Russia choose to attack, no one seriously thinks that their defense forces and the other NATO troops currently in or close enough to Eastern Europe to respond could stop them.

Unclassified RAND war games indicate that Russian forces could overrun local defenders and the light U.S. and NATO units currently able to respond within as few as two days. While the capitals and a small number of key points could be held for some time, Russian forces could seal the border between Lithuanian and Poland, prevent reinforcement by sea, and confront NATO with a fait accompli.

Once secured, these territorial gains would be defended by heavy ground forces occupying the conquered states, along with very capable Russian anti-air and anti-ship defenses on Russian territory. Any serious attempt to liberate Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would entail attacks to suppress these systems.

If a Russian invasion of the Baltic states could not be deterred or defeated, the North Atlantic Council and the U.S. president would be faced with a very unpleasant choice: conduct a costly counteroffensive and risk nuclear escalation, or abandon the Baltics to renewed subservience to Moscow. Such a catastrophic failure to uphold the mutual defense responsibilities of NATO could cripple or even destroy the North Atlantic alliance, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's primary goals. It is therefore of paramount importance to deter Russian aggression before it happens.

Unless one is sure that Putin's Russia would not take these steps — a dangerous gamble, given Moscow's recent track record — the United States and its NATO allies need to be able to deter, and if need be defeat, Russian aggression in the Baltics.

Our analysis indicates that a NATO armored brigade combat team in each of the three Baltic states, supported by powerful tactical air forces, a division headquarters to exercise tactical command, and a corps headquarters to plan and oversee the campaign, would provide a reasonable deterrent signal and the capabilities to prevent a short warning coup de main, fundamentally altering Moscow's deterrent calculus. These should be comprised of both U.S. and other NATO forces. Follow on forces would be required to win should the Russians attack.

Placing heavy brigade equipment sets in the Baltics or elsewhere in Eastern Europe, to be drawn by soldiers flown quickly there from the United States in a crisis, is one option for providing this deterrent. However, if Russia were willing to invade NATO countries it would be tempted to, and likely could, destroy these equipment sets before U.S. forces could arrive to draw them.

Situating this equipment further west in Europe would improve its survivability. However, the challenges of quickly mustering and deploying three heavy brigades of personnel to Western Europe (there will only be nine in the Regular Army after the planned draw down, so one-third would need to be on constant alert), drawing the equipment from warehouses and motor pools, road marching hundreds of kilometers across Europe, and perhaps fighting through Russian positions that could be quickly established along the Lithuanian-Polish border in time to prevent a fait accompli are enormous. The chances of success would not be good.

 

Edited by Vanir Ausf B

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Well, that is... interesting. I don't recall ever seeing an analysis with those conclusions before. Given the vast gulf between your views and the Rand study there is definitely a book BBQ happening somewhere B) I would love to know more about the parameters and assumptions used in the Rand war games. However, there are more details on their results that I will share in a separate post (it's a bit lengthy).

Now, as to the idea of 100,000 Baltic troops defeating 125,000 Russians. The Russian number is reasonable if perhaps a little pessimistic. As of September 2015 Russia had 3,300 troops in Armenia, 7,000 in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, 1,500 in Moldova's, 500 in Kyrgyzstan, 5,000 in Tajikistan , and  20,000 in Crimea, which adds to 37,300. I don't have numbers for Syria or Donbas but I doubt it would be more than a few hundred. How many troops Russia feels the need to keep in Siberia or elsewhere within their borders is anyone's guess. 50,000? That would put us at around 140,000 which isn't far off your number.

The numbers for the Baltic states look way off and I think are very misleading in several ways. I don't know where that 100,000 figure come from, but if we look at the ground forces of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania the number of front line combat troops is a small fraction of 100,000.

Latvia: 971, basically in one brigade.

Estonia: about 6000, half conscripts

Lithuania: 3500, but soon to double to ~7000 with the addition of a new brigade of conscripts

To that you can add part time/reserves which would be around 14,000 (Latvia), 13,000 (Estonia), 4,260 (Lithuania). So if we make the questionable assumption that reservists are equivalent to active duty personnel we have a total of around 45,000, 70% of them reservists. But even those numbers don't reflect the actual capability of these forces. While they are NATO members they are not in the same category as say the French or the UK, or frankly the Russians The total defense budget for the 3 Baltic states combined in 2014 was around 9 billion US and their armed forces reflect that. The Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian armies are almost entirely light infantry with a small number of mechanized and artillery units (they each have a few dozen artillery pieces). They have no tanks at all. Their air forces have no combat aircraft.

The upshot of this is that without NATO intervention the 3 Baltic states would have no chance in a war against Russia. Zero. Zip. Their armed forces are outnumbered and outmatched in almost every way possible. Any attempt to defend their territorial integrity as a whole would be suicidal. They would be crushed within days.Their only chance would be retreat to the capitals to defend the government and hold out until the cavalry arrives or the Russians declare mission accomplished and leave.

 

This sounds about right... I find it hard to believe the baltics alone could fight off Russia... I feel like without the US not many European countries could fight Russia. I just think Steve doesnt like Russia :P

 

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If I were Putin and wanted the Baltic States, I'd think it'd be relatively easy conquest. The key would be to get in and take over before reserves could be called up and the West could gin up enough indignant feelings to be prompted to do something. There is not enough territory to really be an obstacle. The amount of time it would take Russian forces to overrun the 3 countries is trivial. The key would be to minimize the warning time during invasion force build up, rehearsal, and concentration.

The distance from border to sea is on the order of 200 miles. Russian forces could concentrate at/near Minsk, Pskov, and St. Petersburg. Call it rest/rehab for the forces involved in "novorussiya". Stage them 100 miles on the Russian border to be sure to be "non-provocative". That's a 4 hour military convoy drive, easily, including shaking out into tactical formation at the end. 

The Kaliningrad zone provides a buffer to south, Russia/Belorus to the east.

Vilnius goes within a few hours. Kaunus by late that night/pre-dawn the next day. (time the "intervention" such that it catches the West in the evening after everyone's home.) Lithuania is down.

Up in Latvia, Riga is a bit further inland. That gives them until ~18-30 hours after the convoys move.

Estonia has a similar setup, with Tallinn as far away from Russia as they could get it.

Toss in some seaborne landings and some helo-borne troops, and you've got yourself some new beachfront real estate.

Say the invasion starts late in the day, Western political time. By the time a decision is made, Russia (or the mysterious green men who always seem to do things to help Putin), will "own" the Baltic states. Sure, there'll be some resistance, but there's not much hunting rifles can do against a tank battalion.

No doubt it would be done to protect the historic ethnic Russian enclaves who are feeling discriminated against and need a "safe space". Or, to hunt down anti-Russian provocateurs. Or both. Or to protect Putin's supply of polonium so he can poison more journalists. Whatever...the reason given will be for domestic consumption and to slow down the West's response. Hey, if you can get Western media outlets to protect the rights of muslim "refugees" to rape women (it's what they're used to, and the women dress provocatively), then you can spin anything. (Not going off topic, there, but that is what has happened with some liberal news outlets. Stunning.) So, put out some flimsy excuse and release it as you move to take over.

 

All of that is a bit pessimistic regarding Western resolve and the ability for Russia to conduct surprise maneuvers within its own borders. That's why pre-positioning allied forces is important. ESPECIALLY with loose ROE. If you've placed elements of the 82nd in, say, Estonia, but ordered them to stay in their barracks and keep their weapons locked in the armory, well, then the green men just quarantine them and perhaps escort them to a dock in Tallinn. No blood, no casus belli. On the other hand, if you have that element up on the border, gunned up, with orders to fight off anyone who threatens Estonia without having to wait for orders, well, then you'll get a fight. That fight will force US/Nato involvement.

 

Shrug. The big question is why would Putin think such an action is in his best interest? Internal dissent is best managed by external wars. Up to a point.

 

Ken

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Couple items.  One I agree Russia could most likely overrun the Baltic states. I don't think however a fait accompli is gonna happen.  The west might not militarily move in with the intent of driving Russia out. I do think they would move forces there to protect the Polish border, but more importantly I think they would simply shut down Russia economically. People may scoff at the current sanctions, but they are a source of irritation for Russia. In this instance however I think you'd see a wholesale embargo. There would be no trade with Russia whatsoever with anyone. The US navy would stop all merchant traffic with Russia for those countries considering ignoring it.   Have a few images of Lithuanians with hunting rifles defending their capitol against Russia tanks go viral and all bets are off  

Secondly, I don't think Belarus would go along. Hell they won't even go along with Russia now. Risk war with NATO? Not gonna happen. The invasion would have to be an all Russian force launched from Russian territory and Russia would probably have to secure it's border with Belarus as well. Belarus is already uncomfortable with Russia action in UKR, an invasion along their northern border would have to trigger concerns they are next. This then means Russia would have to drive through all 3 countries in sequence and potentially face Polish troops in Lithuania with Kaliningad at risk.  Meanwhile the UKR would likely overrun the Donbass by end of that week.   It is a huge risk with the potential of the plan completely going off the tracks with very little reward. That being said, having a ready heavy brigade propositioned in Poland would give Russia cause to doubt and that is all one needs.  

I expect Russia is going to be busy enough over the next few years with other issues that a campaign against the Baltics will not be high on their list.  Don't rule out tension between Russia and China over trade along the "silk route". 

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Well, that is... interesting. I don't recall ever seeing an analysis with those conclusions before. Given the vast gulf between your views and the Rand study there is definitely a book BBQ happening somewhere B) I would love to know more about the parameters and assumptions used in the Rand war games. However, there are more details on their results that I will share in a separate post (it's a bit lengthy).

Yup, I'd love to see those parameters too :)  I found the same article you did and that's where I got the tidbit about assuming any prepositioned forces would be wiped out.  To me that ascribes a capability to Russia that it does not have.  Even the US would have difficulty doing this sort of action.

 

Now, as to the idea of 100,000 Baltic troops defeating 125,000 Russians. The Russian number is reasonable if perhaps a little pessimistic. As of September 2015 Russia had 3,300 troops in Armenia, 7,000 in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, 1,500 in Moldova's, 500 in Kyrgyzstan, 5,000 in Tajikistan , and  20,000 in Crimea, which adds to 37,300. I don't have numbers for Syria or Donbas but I doubt it would be more than a few hundred. How many troops Russia feels the need to keep in Siberia or elsewhere within their borders is anyone's guess. 50,000? That would put us at around 140,000 which isn't far off your number.

I think my numbers are pretty optimistic, actually.  It really comes down to a guess as to how many forces it can afford to move from their current positions.  We don't know, but keep in mind that the active military force size includes logistics and base personnel that would not move under any circumstances, yet are not capable of projecting power.  Or in business terms, it is Russia's "fixed overhead".  That could be as high as 40,000 right there.

I also think that if Russia reduced it's presence along the Ukraine's eastern border to 30,000 (as I used in my figures) it would not be enough to deter a Ukrainian offensive in the face of troubles in the Baltics.  Since it's pretty much certain that Russia would not have a cake walk to the coast AND be able to withdraw it's troops quickly/easily, leaving 30,000 along the border would be inviting problems on a second front.  Thinning of forces in Georgia would risk another front.  Thinning forces in the Caucuses could encourage various problems there as well.

Which is to say, the Baltic states only have to focus on defending their own territory, Europe has no significant military commitments anywhere (Turkey being the one exception), same for NATO and NATO friendly countries such as Canada, Finland, Sweden, etc.  The US is scaled to handle several major military commitments and not have to reduce forces in other areas, such as those arrayed against North Korea and China.  If Russia started a shooting war, all of this could be focused on one task and only one task... laying waste to Russia's armed forces and economy. 

On the other hand, Russia is ALREADY spread thin.  It has made a lot of enemies on its borders and within which its military is actively engaged in keeping a lid on.  It does not have the benefit of economic incentives as it once did.  Therefore, it's credible threat of force is the only thing keeping all its troubles from bubbling over.  In perhaps a dozen spots there is a risk of Russian interests being compromised if not outright threatened if it reduces it's ability to project fear.  Stripping away forces and getting bogged down in a losing war against NATO will certainly do that.

The numbers for the Baltic states look way off and I think are very misleading in several ways. I don't know where that 100,000 figure come from, but if we look at the ground forces of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania the number of front line combat troops is a small fraction of 100,000.

Latvia: 971, basically in one brigade.

Estonia: about 6000, half conscripts

Lithuania: 3500, but soon to double to ~7000 with the addition of a new brigade of conscripts

To that you can add part time/reserves which would be around 14,000 (Latvia), 13,000 (Estonia), 4,260 (Lithuania). So if we make the questionable assumption that reservists are equivalent to active duty personnel we have a total of around 45,000, 70% of them reservists.

These numbers are low because they do not include adjunct forces, such as border guards, which are designed to be integrated into the defense forces in time of war.  I also included the numbers likely to be drafted and pressed into military service in a short period of time who have some military experience but are not active reserves.  The numbers would be quickly fleshed out with conscription because that is within the existing defense plans of these three countries.  Unlike Russia, these countries would fully mobilize and the potential for defense forces is massive.  Lithuania, for example, has about 1.3 million citizens fit for active military service.  As soon as Russia started massing on the borders these plans would kick into high gear.

The question is how long could the Baltics hold out to get those forces into some sort of military readiness that matters.  Likely too long for the immediate scenario, so let's knock my number in half to 50,000 (which is similar to your number).

 

But even those numbers don't reflect the actual capability of these forces. While they are NATO members they are not in the same category as say the French or the UK, or frankly the Russians The total defense budget for the 3 Baltic states combined in 2014 was around 9 billion US and their armed forces reflect that. The Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian armies are almost entirely light infantry with a small number of mechanized and artillery units (they each have a few dozen artillery pieces). They have no tanks at all. Their air forces have no combat aircraft.

Correct.  But they are on the defensive and are HIGHLY motivated.  They don't need to wipe out the Russian forces in order to stall the offensive or even stop it, they simply need to destroy enough to get that result.  That's where we get into some interesting wargaming territory!  See my next post.

The Baltics have been preparing for a Russian invasion for 26 years... do not underestimate their resolve to avoid Russian occupation again.  And because these countries are NATO allies, it is a safe bet that a lot of unscheduled flights and port calls would be made in the days and perhaps weeks prior.  There is absolutely no chance of Russia taking these countries or NATO by surprise like it did Ukraine.

The upshot of this is that without NATO intervention the 3 Baltic states would have no chance in a war against Russia. Zero. Zip. Their armed forces are outnumbered and outmatched in almost every way possible. Any attempt to defend their territorial integrity as a whole would be suicidal. They would be crushed within days.Their only chance would be retreat to the capitals to defend the government and hold out until the cavalry arrives or the Russians declare mission accomplished and leave.

You say "zero" and "zip" and then lay out a case for them winning :D  Russia could only afford a war in the Baltics if three things were to happen:

1.  Everything went right in planning and execution, including concentrating enough force.

2.  Everything goes wrong on the Baltics and NATO.

3.  Nothing goes wrong elsewhere that diverts Russia's attention.

It is entirely possible that this could happen, but I personally don't think it can count on it.  Therefore, I do not think a Russian invasion of the Baltics would 100% result in effective control over all Baltic territory within days or even weeks.

Steve

Edited by Battlefront.com

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Although we do not know what assumptions/parameters that RAND used for its wargaming scenario, I can take a guess at a few of its weaknesses.

1.  (as mentioned) it likely presumes a series of sub-optimal conditions for the Blue force and near optimal, if not even fantasy, conditions for Red forces.

2.  It is probable that their wargame design is lacking detailed and well vetted "soft factors" at the tactical level.  Those factors have a cumulative impact on overall performance, sometimes disproportionally, and therefore on outcome.

I've already discussed #1 quite a bit, so I'll skip over that and go with #2.

Our customers range from privates to 4 star generals (yes, that high) in all US branches of service and all Western nations (as well as lots of non-Western), we do have a lot of experienced critics kicking our game around.  Many of them have combat experience on top of decades of military service.  We also have had significant contact with US DoD simulations contractors who have given us a bit of insight into how their stuff works (and why they think CM is far better ;) ).  One of the most common things I've heard from them over the last 15 years is that military training tools do not do very much, if anything, with "soft factors".  Morale, fatigue, and various psychological factors that CM explicitly simulates are either ignored completely or given short shrift.

Think about how the lack or poor modeling of these factors could produce a misleading end result.  Especially you guys with experience playing operational paper and dice games designed in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Let me put this into CM terms.  Which force do you think would win in a CMBS battle?

Light infantry vs. mixed heavy force

?

Although "mixed heavy force" might seem like the sure bet, anybody who has played CM should know that it isn't.  Terrain plays a big role, so does relative quality of the two forces, so does the specific equipment involved, competence of leadership, etc.  These factors MATTER at the tactical level and therefore they MATTER at the operational level and they MATTER at the strategic level.  You can not, and I mean absolutely can not, draw strategic conclusions from data and rule sets which are not designed to accurately portray tactical combat.  Maybe not so much with forces of the past, but with modern forces it's critical.

Case in point.  One of my favorite memories of testing CMSF was a small scenario where I had a Stryker Rifle Platoon, two Stryker ATGMs, and a bunch of air support (let's forget about that element for this discussion).  I was up against a full battalion of tanks and mech infantry.  I had the high ground and the battlefield was largely open.  The Stryker ATGMs knocked out something like a dozen tanks and IFVs before being destroyed.  My Javelin teams took out another half dozen before being overrun.  By most military definitions my reinforced platoon made a full mech battalion combat ineffective.  So while in theory the Syrian force won the battle, they were incapable of winning any more battles after that.  And in reality I used air power and wiped out about 75% of the entire battalion in total.  And if the AI were allowed to call off the attack, I bet my casualties would have been 2-3 Strykers and maybe 10 personnel.

Although it is an educated guess, I'd bet that RAND's wargame would not produce this sort of result.  That then calls into question the quality of their operational and strategic wargaming conclusions.  Especially if they are also designed to have a perfect Red force.

Sound unreasonable?  Not hardly.  Look at Khafji as a high profile example of what I'm talking about.  I bet that no DoD sponsored wargame at the time would allow for such an outcome.

Soooooooo...

My presumption is that Russia would go into the Baltics with too few forces for a safe margin of victory against a highly motivated force which had some amount of time to prepare for the attack based on long standing plans which have been recently updated.   NATO's overall contributions would be significant and have meaningful effect on the battlefield.  As a result the Russian offensive would do fine in some places and completely stall out in others.  Casualties would be much higher than could be absorbed, the second line units would show their limitations, and higher level planning would be thrown into disarray.  Problems elsewhere (massive protests in large urban areas, Ukrainian forces moving into the Donbas, etc.) would further compound the situation to Russia's detriment.  Under these circumstances I do not think a full occupation of the Baltics would be possible and Russia would be obligated to "sue for peace".

In short, for Russia to pull off a successful invasion of the Baltics pretty much everything needs to go right for them, including mediocre to poor performance of the defending forces and no distractions from other security concerns.  My guess is RAND had these conditions as parameters and therefore got the expected result.

Steve

Edited by Battlefront.com

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Since 2014 NATO actually made some significant steps to boost it's capability of reacting to the unexpected threats on it's eastern flank. The Very High Readiness Force ( so called "spearhead" ) has been formed. It's a combined arms, brigade size force, that can be deployed anywhere within 72 hours. Right now, it's made of two mechanized battalions ( German and Dutch ) and a tank battalion ( Polish ), plus a component of special forces with support units. Also, the equipment of US heavy brigade is going to be deployed PERMANENTLY  through the region. This may seem like little, if you think in terms of the Cold War, but Russia is not Soviet Union and those steps are a significant deterrent IMO.

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 I just think Steve doesnt like Russia :P

 

For sure I do not like the Russian government that is currently in power.  But Russia and Russians are not the same as Putin's ruling elite.  Under the right leadership, and with some hard work, I believe Russia could be one of the most prosperous and positive influential nations on Earth.  I honestly want that to happen because I think it makes the world a healthier, stronger, and definitely safer place to live.  Since I am a citizen of this planet, not just a particular country, why would I not want that?

Sadly, the fact that we're sitting here wondering if Russia might attack the Baltics shows that this is a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.

My decidedly negative opinions of Russia's military capacity has nothing to do with any of this, though.  It is simply looking at how things are and crunching some numbers.  I've read and debated these points enough to feel pretty confident that I'm not far off the mark.

Steve

Edited by Battlefront.com

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Couple items.  One I agree Russia could most likely overrun the Baltic states. I don't think however a fait accompli is gonna happen.  The west might not militarily move in with the intent of driving Russia out. I do think they would move forces there to protect the Polish border, but more importantly I think they would simply shut down Russia economically. People may scoff at the current sanctions, but they are a source of irritation for Russia. In this instance however I think you'd see a wholesale embargo. There would be no trade with Russia whatsoever with anyone. The US navy would stop all merchant traffic with Russia for those countries considering ignoring it.   Have a few images of Lithuanians with hunting rifles defending their capitol against Russia tanks go viral and all bets are off  

Secondly, I don't think Belarus would go along. Hell they won't even go along with Russia now. Risk war with NATO? Not gonna happen. The invasion would have to be an all Russian force launched from Russian territory and Russia would probably have to secure it's border with Belarus as well. Belarus is already uncomfortable with Russia action in UKR, an invasion along their northern border would have to trigger concerns they are next. This then means Russia would have to drive through all 3 countries in sequence and potentially face Polish troops in Lithuania with Kaliningad at risk.  Meanwhile the UKR would likely overrun the Donbass by end of that week.   It is a huge risk with the potential of the plan completely going off the tracks with very little reward. That being said, having a ready heavy brigade propositioned in Poland would give Russia cause to doubt and that is all one needs.  

I expect Russia is going to be busy enough over the next few years with other issues that a campaign against the Baltics will not be high on their list.  Don't rule out tension between Russia and China over trade along the "silk route". 

My bold in the first paragraph. Is this the same theory which shut down all trade with Iran? Using the same Navy which lost 2 boats to the Iranians?

Second paragraph: Yeah, Belarus would be a possible issue. Ukraine resurgent while Russia is distracted? I don't see it. It takes a LOT more to generate offensive power than it does to be on the defensive. Right now Ukraine has mostly stalemated Russia at their current lines. That does not mean offensive parity. It means Ukraine defense is sufficient to blunt Russian attacks (at a price Russia is willing to pay).

A heavy brigade in Poland is "meh". Political willpower is key. One guy is bare-chested and wrestles tigers. The other guy wears mom-jeans while riding bikes on Martha's Vineyard. ;) If that imagery doesn't do it, just look at past practice: "Don't cross my Red lines" vs invading Ukraine.

I do agree that the risk/reward seems out of balance. But then, Putin seems out of balance, too. Baltics are small potatoes compared to the issues facing Russia, especially, as you point out, with regards to China, Belarus, Ukraine, and internal issues. My point was only to show that a supposed Western defence of the Baltics is as flimsy as the West's defense of Poland in 1939.

In the meantime, this makes good grist for the CMBS follow-on: Combat Mission: Baltic States.

Ken

Edited by c3k

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