US Strategy Against Russia: Give the Ukrainian Army Military Socks Deterrence is about having overwhelming military force and the willingness to use it. What about America's will?

WASHINGTON – Effective deterrence is essentially about two key components working in combination:

1) Having the tools to inflict immediate and irreparable devastation on an adversary who crosses a line

2) The unquestionable will and ability to do so at a moment’s notice, if and when the line has been crossed. For example, a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine. 

Force and the willingness to use it

In other words, in order to deter an adversary, you must have overwhelming numbers of deployable, state of the art military assets, and you must convey to the adversary that there is absolutely no doubt that you will use them if he does  something bad. To put differently, you can effectively deter only when the other side is absolutely convinced that his actions will bring about devastating consequences. Therefore, better not do anything that would invite such a response.

Putin’s dream

Now, imagine you are Vladimir Putin. You are now enamored of your own crazy idea of reconstituting something like the old Soviet Empire. You know that this project will encounter political resistance in the West.

However, as you ponder possible reactions, this is what you see. Europe is essentially no threat. No interest whatsoever to even considering the use of weak and mostly unprepared military forces against Russia.

And what about America? Well, here it gets a bit tricky. America has a lot more means, for sure. Its armed forces, however diminished, are still quite formidable. But what about the will to get into an open confrontation with Moscow? Well, the signs so far indicate timidity and an unwillingness to seriously engage. The Americans talk a lot; but they do little.

Step 1: MREs to Ukraine 

Indeed, if you look at the facts so far, a would-be aggressor does not have much to fear. Consider this.

After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the severely outgunned Ukrainians asked for military assistance. And Washington, aware of what’s at stake here, offered them Meals Ready to Eat, (MREs), military rations.

And here is the brand new “MRE Doctrine”: when embattled friends in dire straits ask for help, Uncle Sam comes to the rescue with…military rations. This is no joke.

Step 2: The socks strategy

After this tangible demonstration of strong support, the Ukrainians added other items to their wish list. According to a WSJ report, they asked for “medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks”.

Now, imagine that. The Russians look at all this strategic materials the Ukrainians are about to receive and they start trembling. The Ukrainians now will be fed with American highly nutritious food, making them much stronger and more resilient in the battle field. No doubt, this game changer forced Russia to reassess its entire war plan.

However, now it will get worse. The Ukrainians will have nicely tailored US uniforms, and new boots that will allow them to march forward without fear. But the real secret weapon here, the true force multiplier, are the US military socks. In combination with the new boots, they will energize every soldier and turn him into an unbeatable fighter.

“Release the socks”

As the WSJ story reports, a senior US military official (conveniently unnamed) explained how the US strategy will work: “He [Putin] does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks”.

This may sound really funny. But it is tragically true. America is planning to deter Russia mostly with MREs and military socks.

Taking all this into consideration, if I were Putin, I could conclude that I may get away with more aggressive acts, such as new attempts to destabilize Ukraine with the goal of getting it back or absorbing a piece of it.

America is willing to do very little

Sure, there is more. We know about US economic sanctions already targeting a few Russians and now a handful of pro-Russia Crimeans. And we know that other, potentially stronger economic measures are kept in reserve. Sure, America is a Super Power; while Russia, as Obama put it, is only a Regional Power with modest capabilities.

Nonetheless, the facts are the facts.

In reaction to Russian aggression, we have moved a few combat airplanes (12) to Poland and we have contingencies to move a few hundred (yes, it is hundreds, not thousands) US troops to NATO countries close to Russia. As I said, there is more beyond uniforms and socks. But not much more. If I were Putin, I would not worry too much.

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One comment to “US Strategy Against Russia: Give the Ukrainian Army Military Socks Deterrence is about having overwhelming military force and the willingness to use it. What about America's will?
  1. Please do not say it is “the Americans.” It is the American administration which refuses to assist the Ukrainian military.

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