Poland Stands Up For the West Against Russia—Again

Voltaire is supposed to have said that God is on the side of the big battalions, but there can be no denying that, even in this age of technology-driven conflict, when machines do much of the dirty work once done by men, numbers still matter in war—and in deterring it.

Here NATO has a problem, since its eastern flank includes several countries whose militaries are dwarfed in size by the neighboring Russian bear. For instance, while recent defense efforts in Estonia are impressive, that little country of not much more than a million citizens would be steamrollered by the Kremlin’s forces in the event of war, before NATO reinforcements could arrive in enough numbers to help.

The outlier is Poland, which stands guard on the Atlantic Alliance’s vulnerable eastern flank. Warsaw’s military is NATO’s bulwark against Russian aggression from the east, especially considering Poland’s border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, which houses late-model ballistic missiles aimed westward. While there is a now a modest deterrent force drawn from a across the Alliance standing watch close to Russia, including a rotational U.S. Army armored brigade in Poland, military reality dictates that the success or failure of any Kremlin aggression against NATO will be determined by Polish resistance, more than any other factor.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Outgunned U.S. Army Isn’t Prepared For War With Russia

Ever since our lopsided victory in the Gulf War in early 1991, the U.S. military has been venerated by many Americans as an unbeatable force. How rapidly our combined air-ground offensive crushed Saddam’s large yet ponderous army gave the Pentagon an aura of invincibility. Military leaders and defense thinkers proclaimed the dawn of new era in warfare. With our advanced technology and precision strikes, everything was different.

But was it? In hindsight, the Gulf War merely confirmed what military historians always knew, namely that better weaponry and command-and-control habitually crush large numbers of less well-equipped enemies. A generation on, the “lessons” of 1991 appear no more noteworthy than the “lessons” of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898, when two brigades of British regulars easily crushed a force of 50,000 jihad-fueled natives because, as the wags of the day put it, “We have got the Maxim Gun, and they have not.”

Yet since the Gulf War, the U.S. Army’s technological edge over its potential foes— what defense doyens term overmatch—has dwindled, slowly but irrevocably. Through the decade after 1991, the army was busy managing post-Cold War cutbacks and peacekeeping in the Balkans and saw no peer-competitors anywhere. Since 9/11, as plausible rivals like Russia and China have slowly come into focus, our army has been busy managing costly and ultimately futile campaigns in the Greater Middle East. Our diffident war in Afghanistan, America’s longest by a good margin, is in its 17th year, and strategic victory is now as far off as it has ever been there.

Read the rest at The Observer …

There’s Nothing New About Trump’s Russian Spy Problem

Kremlin agents have deeply penetrated the nation’s capital. Spies for Moscow have burrowed into Congress, into every cabinet department and virtually every agency in Washington, sometimes at the top level. The White House itself is compromised. Meanwhile, media friends of the Kremlin ridicule the notion that Moscow spies on us, mocking those who try to point out the problem. 

The year is 1946. 

To anyone versed in espionage history, there’s not much that’s particularly new about Donald Trump and his problems with Russia. While our current president is unprecedented in his public kowtowing to the Kremlin, as Trump recently did in Helsinki, the rest of the messy matter that’s currently under investigation by Robert Mueller and his prosecutors would look remarkably familiar to anyone who witnessed the beginning of the last Cold War.

The sides have switched, but the venom (and the unwillingness of many Americans to avoid seeing inconvenient facts) is the same. In 1946, it was Republicans who angrily denounced Democrats for their too-cozy relationship with Moscow which allowed Kremlin spies to take root in Washington. Now, it’s Democrats saying all of that about Republicans. Both are correct, then and now.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Why Is Trump Trying to Start a War He Cannot Win?

I’ve been a hardliner regarding Iran my whole professional life. During my time in the Intelligence Community, I favored aggressive approaches to countering Tehran’s misdeeds abroad. What I witnessed in the Balkans in the 1990s convinced me that revolutionary Iran is a bad actor on the international stage which needs containment, not an olive branch or any good-faith deal which the clerico-fascist mullah regime in Tehran will inevitably breach.

The ugly foreign operations of Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the notorious Pasdaran, including espionage, terrorism, assassinations, and subversion in Europe, formed the basis of the detailed exposé I published after I left the spy business. That book remains the definitive work on Iran’s secret war, including alliances with jihadist terrorists, waged against the West.

Nevertheless, what the Trump administration is doing now is more dangerous than anything Tehran has done in recent decades to destabilize the Middle East. Although the Trump White House’s aggressive posture toward Iran has been prominent from its first day in office, 18 months ago, the president has recently upped the ante, with results that may prove catastrophic.

It wasn’t enough to trash his predecessor’s Iran Deal (an agreement which I opposed), pulling the United States out of that multilateral agreement. Shredding Barack Obama’s grand bargain with Tehran now is worse than the deal itself, and it means that diplomacy with Iran is off the table, since Tehran has no reason to trust any “deal” Trump proffers.

Read the rest at The Observer …

This Is How Vladimir Putin Manufactures Conflict Between Nations

As Helsinki’s one-on-one presidential summit looms, with foreign policy mavens fearing that Vladimir Putin will run circles around a clueless Donald Trump, it’s time to examine what makes the Kremlin’s Chekist-in-Chief tick. Our president’s troubling statement that Putin and his KGB background are “fine” at least focused attention where it needs to be, on the undeniable fact that a career in the Soviet secret police made the Russian strongman who he is.

The Chekist worldview that forms Putin’s mental furniture is cynical and cunning to a degree that naïve Westerners—and from the Kremlin point of view pretty much all Westerners are naïve and easily exploited—find difficult to believe. Westerners simply shut eyes and ears, since the reality is so unpleasant. The casual manner with which Kremlin spies ruthlessly exploit others for their own ends is not a nice story, given that their methods embrace violence and life-ruining measures as nonchalantly as Westerners order a cup of coffee.

The cornerstone of the Chekist worldview is provocation, what the Russians call provokatsiya. It’s not new, indeed it was honed into a secret weapon in the late Tsarist era, to be perfected under the Bolsheviks. I’ve tried to explain this alien concept to Westerners for years, and it really boils down to a basic, rather nasty concept:

Read the rest at The Observer …

A Divided America Does Not Mean Civil War

Civil war is in the air this steamy summer—at least according to the opinion polls. Many Americans are unhappy to the point of despondency about our political divisions, which have been mounting for years and have reached a crisis point during the presidency of Donald Trump. I’m not talking about mere partisanship, which is perennial in democracies, rather something more extreme—and potentially sinister.

Last week, a Rasmussen poll revealed that a shocking 31 percent of voters responded that “it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years.” This fear is not just relegated to left-wingers who are gravely unhappy with the current White House. While 37 percent of Democrats feared a new civil war was inbound, so did 32 percent of Republicans, per Rasmussen.

In America, talk of another civil war inevitably brings comparison to the last one, the fratricidal maelstrom that raged from 1861 to 1865. That eminently avoidable conflict, which thanks to political paralysis and stupidity wasn’t avoided, took the lives of roughly a million Americans. Since our country’s population then was about 31 million, that would be equivalent to the deaths of more than 10 million Americans today.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Liberal Nazi Hysteria Is Helping Trump Bigly

This was the week that President Donald Trump finally went too far. Our transgressor-in-chief overdid it, as was bound to happen eventually. His hardline on immigration, which did so much to get him elected two years ago, galvanizing voters while horrifying elites, blew up in the president’s face when images went public of migrant children separated from their parents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The images were heart-wrenching, depicting little kids—many on the run from El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent societies—detained apart from their parents while their refugee claims are adjudicated by ICE. This was part of Trump’s promised “get tough” approach to enforcing our southern border, but separating more than 2,000 children from their parents turned out to be more than many Republicans bargained for.

Images of kids in cages went viral with celerity, egged on by nonstop media coverage. Some of that coverage bordered on the hysterical, and Trump seems to finally pushed too far. But there’s every reason to think that, yet again, the seasoned media-manipulator in the Oval Office manufactured a crisis to distract journalists from things Trump would rather not see on the front pages.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Trump Betrayed Our Military by Saluting North Korea

President Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed Singapore pseudo-summit this week with Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s hereditary strongman, was a bizarre event by any standards, even Trump’s high ones for strangeness and norm-breaking. The mere fact that North Korea, the world’s nastiest dictatorship, was invited to meet with the American president as a peer, on equal standing, was a huge diplomatic victory for Pyongyang. Just by showing up, Trump gave that ugly regime the official imprimatur it has craved, and never gotten, ever since Joseph Stalin placed Kim Il-sung, the current leader’s grandfather, on the communist throne in 1948.

As for actual diplomacy, there wasn’t much on display in Singapore. This was a glorified photo op, hardly a bona fide summit, much less a significant diplomatic happening—except for the fact that it happened at all. Pyongyang received the famous Trumpian thumbs-up before the cameras, for the world to see. In return, North Korea gave, well, nothing, really. There are vague assurances in the joint declaration signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore about “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” notwithstanding that Pyongyang has demanded that for decades, by which they mean getting American nuclear weapons out of South Korea. Although the administration is promising “major disarmament” by Pyongyang imminently, no seasoned Korea-watchers consider that likely.

True to form, this week Trump has tweeted boastfully about his Singapore romp with the strangely coiffed fellow he so recently was dismissing as “Little Rocket Man.” As he stated plainly, complete with his customary weird capitalizations, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” This would be news to Pyongyang—and the U.S. military. Adding insult to injury, Trump promised his new friend that he would cease longstanding joint military exercises with American forces and South Korea’s, which is a serious blow to our military readiness and ability to deter North Korean aggression, not to mention a big win for Pyongyang—and their benefactors in Beijing. Tellingly, Trump has repeatedly called these exercises “war games,” a pejorative and propagandistic term used by the Kremlin and others who portray America as a global aggressor.

Read the rest at The Observer …

What the Hunt for a Top Nazi War Criminal Tells Us About Trump’s Russia Problem

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda guru, is infamous for his assertion that the bigger the lie, the more effective it is—particularly if you stick to it. It’s not hard to demonstrate that mixing fact and fiction together to spin a narrative, what is properly termed disinformation, can be mightily effective at removing inconvenient facts from public discourse.

With each passing day, President Donald J. Trump’s defense of his rumored Kremlin ties demonstrates this reality, while constituting a mounting exercise in what mental health professionals term projection. That is, rather than admit his own misdeeds, Trump merely passes them on to his accusers. Whereas the president for more than a year insisted there was “NO COLLUSION” with Moscow, of late he has taken to accusing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and those investigating him—particularly the Federal Bureau of Investigation—of being the “real colluders,” as O. J. Simpson might put it.

In this telling, which the White House and its media minions push hard daily, Trump is the innocent victim of a far-reaching conspiracy conjured up by Democrats to keep him from winning the Oval Office in 2016. This plot allegedly consisted of invented evidence designed to malign the reality TV star-turned Republican nominee.

Facts are immaterial to this administration, however, and the painful truth understood by anyone versed in the ways of the Kremlin, particularly under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, is that the entire Trump campaign in 2016 was an extended exercise in collusion with Russia. While the details of quid pro quos are unknown to the public, that Trump’s run for the White House was chockablock with efforts to enlist Kremlin help needs to be explained.

Read the rest at The Observer …

New Evidence Shows Russia Played a Role in Plane Crash That Killed Poland’s Top Brass

The crash of a Polish Air Force Tu-154 airliner near the Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010 stands as the most momentous air disaster in modern times. Although other crashes have claimed more victims—the death toll at Smolensk came to 96, all those aboard the doomed ship plus seven crew—those lost were the elite of Poland’s government. Among the dead were President Lech Kaczyński and his wife, much of the president’s staff, 18 parliamentarians, 10 generals and admirals representing Poland’s top military leadership, and many other political notables. The disaster decapitated Warsaw.

To make matters even more painful, President Kaczyński and his entourage died en route to a commemoration at Katyń, the forest in western Russia where, in the spring of 1940, Stalin’s secret police murdered 22,000 Polish military officers captured by the Soviets when they carved up Poland with Adolf Hitler the previous September. Here Moscow murdered Poland’s elite. Covered up by the Kremlin until after the Cold War (with help from the incurious West), Katyń lingers as an unhealed wound in the Polish psyche; the sudden death of so much of the country’s leadership on the way to that site of national martyrdom was too much for some Poles to bear.

From the outset, right-wing allies of the fallen president smelled a rat—a Russian rat, that is. Poles know their neighbor well, and Kaczyński had no illusions about Vladimir Putin’s thuggish regime. It seemed beyond suspicious that Poland’s government died in a disaster on Russian soil—particularly when the Kremlin is led by a man who came of age in the KGB, the very same people who executed and covered up the Katyń massacre.

Read the rest at The Observer …