Conflicto territorial

Herrumbrosos tanques

Aunque “Horas de invierno”, el melancólico artículo publicado por Larra en El Español el 25 de diciembre de 1836, es decir, el último día de Navidad de su vida, ha pasado a la posteridad por la lamentación “¡escribir en Madrid es llorar!”, sus primeros párrafos desarrollan una tesis geopolítica sorprendentemente vigente.

Tras dolerse por la decadencia del “orgullo nacional”, Larra se centraba en las contiendas que habían marcado el inicio del siglo XIX: “Juguete hace años de la intriga extranjera, nuestro suelo es el campo de batalla de los demás pueblos. Aquí vienen los principios encontrados a darse al combate: desde Bonaparte, desde Trafalgar, la España es el Bois de Boulogne de los desafíos europeos”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vladimir Putin on a phone-in, Moscow, 2021. Photograph: Sergei Savostyanov/Sputnik/ AFP/ Getty Images

Battlefield tanks are really only half the battle. Beyond military might on the ground in Ukraine, there is another critical confrontation in which the Kremlin has a superiority that must be challenged. The information war.

Russia’s media space has reverted to a grotesque parody of the Soviet-era model. (In fact, it’s far worse, as in the latter Soviet years at least, most people knew they were being fed lies). Television and the domestic press is utterly captured. Millions are fed a daily diet of Ukrainian “fascists”, western pederasts, and nuclear revenge on Anglo-Saxon civilisation.

It’s working. A broad consensus inside Russia still supports Putin and his wretched campaign in Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las armas de la concordia

El más pequeño de mis nietos cumplió dos años y medio el pasado 6 de enero, festividad de los Reyes Magos. Ese día, Sus Majestades, que todo lo pueden, le trajeron, entre otros, los dos juguetes que más había deseado y que más había citado durante, al menos, los dos o tres meses previos a la noche de Reyes. Cada vez que sus padres o abuelos le preguntábamos qué era lo que quería que le trajeran los Magos, siempre respondía indefectiblemente que quería «pistolas y un coche de policía».

Melchor, que es el Rey que se encarga de las cosas de mi nieto, consiguió, con no pocos esfuerzos, obtener un coche de policía con sirena y dos pistolas de colores de las que funcionan con pilas y hacen ruido como si lanzasen rayos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed the promise of tanks — including the Leopard 2, pictured — but questioned the size of the commitment © FT montage: AFP/Getty Images/AP

Ukrainian soldiers will face a steep learning curve when they clamber into a Leopard 2 tank for the first time next month. But the new tanks will be a serious upgrade from the Soviet-era models they have been fighting in over the past year.

“It’s like you have a car from the 1950s and then you sit in a Porsche”, says a person involved in organising training for Ukrainian troops.

The German government’s decision this week to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine — and allow other European capitals to do the same — will give the Ukrainian army vital new firepower as it sets out to liberate its country from Russian occupation.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier with the Ukrainian Army tests a drone, near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 25. Leah Millis/Reuters

To understand Russia and Ukraine’s very different ways of fighting, a good first place to look is up.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been described as the “first full-scale drone war.”

That description may be a little misleading – all of the ways in which we have seen drones being employed in the conflict have precedents, some of them dating back over a decade.

And this isn’t the first war in which the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been so thoroughly integrated into operations.

But it is true that the fighting in Ukraine represents the first long-term, sustained conflict where all the currently available uses for drones are an indispensable part of combined operations – and on both sides.…  Seguir leyendo »

Satellite images show the long Russian convoy of tanks and armored vehicles that stalled on the outskirts of Kyiv, in the early days of the invasion in February last year. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Going into the war in Ukraine a year ago, conventional wisdom suggested that tanks had seen the best of their days – outflanked and vulnerable to drones or fire-and-forget missiles.

Conventional wisdom is clearly wrong. It’s becoming quite apparent that armored dominance on a battlefield like Ukraine could turn the tide, dramatically.

After weeks of tense deliberation, Germany on Wednesday announced it would be sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine – a move matched by the US, which is providing its own M1 Abrams. Other European nations have indicated they will follow suit.

But the West needs to get the latest generation of tanks in place quickly.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kennan’s Warning on Ukraine

George Kennan, the remarkable U.S. diplomat and probing observer of international relations, is famous for forecasting the collapse of the Soviet Union. Less well known is his warning in 1948 that no Russian government would ever accept Ukrainian independence. Foreseeing a deadlocked struggle between Moscow and Kyiv, Kennan made detailed suggestions at the time about how Washington should deal with a conflict that pitted an independent Ukraine against Russia. He returned to this subject half a century later. Kennan, then in his 90s, cautioned that the eastward expansion of NATO would doom democracy in Russia and ignite another Cold War.

Kennan probably knew Russia more intimately than anyone who ever served in the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Scholz’s tentativeness looks like a desperate attempt to delay, if not fully prevent, decoupling from Russia.’ The German chancellor in Ostenholz, Germany, 17 October 2022. Photograph: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

If the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, chose to upgrade Germany’s military assistance to Ukraine this week, it was only as a result of the extreme amount of pressure that had been building up in recent days.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has thrust upon Germany the necessity of some serious self-analysis. It has shattered many certainties, including even that most iron-clad tenet of postwar German history, which maintained that no conflict could ever be resolved militarily. Germany’s famous creed “Wandel durch Handel”, change through trade, was directly derived from this thinking that had permeated virtually every part of its society.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘These tanks aren’t going to help end the war anytime soon.’ Photograph: Ints Kalniņš/Reuters

Christopher S Chivvis: ‘How does this end?’

These tanks aren’t going to help end the war any time soon. Hopefully, they are intended to build up Kyiv’s negotiating position and this might encourage the Kremlin to rethink its extreme war aims, thus moving this war toward a negotiated endgame. But the Ukrainians are likely to see the decision as a western endorsement of their aim of beating Russia definitively on the battlefield. This works against diplomacy and tends to draw the war out.

The tanks are not a gamechanger. Together, the three kinds of tanks – Challenger, Leopard, and Abrams – will give Ukraine more offensive firepower and help them break through Russia’s fortified positions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Joseph Stalin. (AFP photos/Getty Images)

“When we kill five out of 10 of their soldiers at once, they are replenished again over the course of several hours”, a Ukrainian officer said recently of the Russian troops that for weeks have besieged the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The Russians, he added, stormed the defenders’ positions “five, six, seven times” a day.

In the unprecedented ferocity and relentlessness of the Russian assault, Bakhmut might signal the emergence of a new Kremlin warfighting doctrine.

The Russians started this war as a relatively high-tech blitzkrieg. But after the retreat from Kyiv and the Kharkiv region, and the loss of Kherson, their conduct of operations is rapidly reverting to the way Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union fought the Great Patriotic War (as the Russians almost always refer to World War II): a maniacal slog over the corpses of Russian soldiers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lecciones de la guerra en Ucrania

La lección más obvia de la guerra provocada por la invasión de Ucrania es que pudo evitarse. La invasión rusa fue consecuencia del fracaso de Ucrania y de sus aliados, tanto en el intento de disuadir a Putin, como en el uso de los sistemas de gestión de crisis para evitar un conflicto militar. Otra de las lecciones evidentes es que Ucrania, con una extraordinaria voluntad de vencer, ha sido capaz con la decisiva ayuda económica y militar de la UE y Estados Unidos, de impedir que Rusia alcance los objetivos de la 'operación militar especial' (derrocamiento del Gobierno de Volodimir Zelensky, conquista del país, imposición de un gobierno títere afín a Moscú, colapso del acercamiento ucraniano a la UE y a la Alianza Atlántica).…  Seguir leyendo »

Un tanque Leopard 2PL polaco de maniobras. EFE

Durante las últimas semanas hemos vivido una lucha encarnizada entre los aliados europeos por el envío de carros de combate Leopard 2 a Ucrania. Mientras la mayoría de los aliados se ha mostrado a favor, Alemania parece reticente. La explicación no debemos buscarla en la guerra de Ucrania, sino en la Guerra Fría.

En 2005, el ministro de defensa polaco Radosław Sikorski hizo público una simulación militar de la Unión Soviética de 1979 que llevaba por nombre Siete Días en el Rhin. Se trataba de un plan de Moscú para lanzar una guerra nuclear relámpago sobre Europa Occidental rompiendo las defensas de Estados Unidos en Alemania Occidental.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los dirigentes rusos están convencidos de que los estados europeos carecen de la cohesión suficiente para mantener la ayuda que vienen prestando a Ucrania. En la medida en la que las Fuerzas Armadas rusas aumenten la presión –destruyendo ciudades, servicios y centros industriales– los europeos se verán obligados a aumentar la ayuda militar, momento en el que las grietas se harán más patentes. No se trata sólo de cantidad, sino también de letalidad.

En un frente estático y con las fuerzas aéreas paralizadas, el papel de la artillería y los vehículos acorazados gana importancia. Ucrania resiste por el compromiso de su población en la defensa de su soberanía y por la ayuda económica y militar de la comunidad atlántica.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an Orthodox Christmas mass in Moscow on Jan. 6. (This image is distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik; Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Wartime leaders change generals when they’re losing, not winning. On Jan. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, was to replace Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed just a few months earlier in October, as his new overall commander of Russian military forces in Ukraine. The only reasonable conclusion: Putin understands that Russia is losing in Ukraine.

This shake-up at the top of the military is not the only sign of Putin’s recognition of failure. He canceled his annual end-of-year news conference, evidently reluctant to take questions even from a mostly loyal and controlled press corps.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taiwanese soldiers in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, January 2023. Ann Wang / Reuters

Since the Ukraine war began, a growing number of U.S. officials have stressed the urgency of deterring Chinese military action against Taiwan. President Xi Jinping’s comments in October reinforced this view when he declared that China was prepared to take “all measures necessary” against foreign “interference” on the island and that “the wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification” with it. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Beijing may intend to seize Taiwan on a “much faster timeline” than previously thought.

Despite this assessment, the United States has not devoted sufficient attention to the current approach to deterrence—and whether it is adequate to meet an accelerated threat.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2-87th Infantry overseeing the training of Afghan National Army soldiers in 2016 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

I am an American Special Forces soldier, a volunteer knowing well the hazards of this profession in which I’ve served quietly for 14 years.

And I helped build Vladimir Putin’s foreign legion.

Green Berets — the “Horse Soldiers” who toppled the Taliban in 2001 — are not Army Rangers or Navy SEALs. We specialize in training and fighting alongside indigenous forces, and our greatest strength is the trust and camaraderie we develop with our counterparts. For years, the Green Berets and the commandos of the Afghan National Army were a bulwark against the Taliban. It was a partnership forged at immense cost in American and Afghan lives.…  Seguir leyendo »

La nueva fase de la guerra de Putin en Ucrania es brutal

La guerra en Ucrania ha entrado en una nueva fase, más mortífera y decisiva, y el hombre que puede detenerla, Vladimir Putin, no ha dado muestras de que vaya a hacerlo.

Después de 11 meses en los que Ucrania ha obtenido repetidas victorias decisivas contra las fuerzas rusas, ha recuperado parte de sus territorios y ciudades y ha resistido ataques letales contra su infraestructura, la guerra se encuentra en un punto muerto.

Aun así, los combates continúan, incluida una encarnizada batalla en la ciudad de Bajmut, en la región oriental de Donetsk. Los cruentos ataques con misiles rusos aparentemente indiscriminados contra objetivos civiles se han convertido en una catástrofe habitual: el 14 de enero, un misil ruso alcanzó un edificio de apartamentos en Dnipró, en el centro de Ucrania.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Polish Leopard tank is seen as troops from Poland, the United States, France and Sweden take part in a military exercise in Nowogrod, Poland, on May 19, 2022. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

The impressive unity of the Western alliance against Russian aggression has been marred in recent days by an ugly and unnecessary spat over whether Germany will send tanks to Ukraine. But while that dispute needs to be resolved pronto, it should not detract from the Biden administration’s success in keeping a large group of allies marching largely in lockstep.

The United States has assembled such a massive coalition only twice before in recent history: first in 1990-1991 to defeat Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War and then in 2014 to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Lloyd Austin led the latter fight when he was the four-star head of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Ukraine could soon get much worse.

Russia may be preparing to launch a major spring offensive, and it could come even before the winter snows start to melt.

The time to give Ukraine what it needs to defend itself and expel the Russian invaders is now. But despite a remarkably unified commitment, some of Ukraine’s supporters in the West are throwing wrenches in the pipeline.

Ukraine believes the Kremlin could make another push to take the capital, Kyiv, and anticipates that Russian President Vladimir Putin will call up some 500,000 more troops in addition to the 300,000 mobilized late last year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Carros de combate Leopard daneses, en Estonia.Pavel Golovkin (AP)

La reunión del Grupo de Contacto para Ucrania de la OTAN y las decisiones que allí se han adoptado han tenido al mundo mirando fijamente a la base aérea de Ramstein. La elección del lugar no debería dejar a nadie indiferente, una base militar inaugurada en los años cincuenta, diseñada por franceses, construida por alemanes y ocupada por norteamericanos y famosa por haber sido el lugar elegido por Washington en 1983 para desplegar los misiles Pershing II con capacidad para alcanzar Moscú que provocó la conocida como crisis de los euromisiles que terminaría con la caída del socialista Helmut Schmidt y el ascenso de Helmut Kohl.…  Seguir leyendo »