We Asked a Military Expert How to Invade and Conquer Russia
In the past, when I’ve asked military experts from IHS Jane’s what it would take to conquer, say,America, or the UK, the idea of it actually happening in the near future was relatively far fetched. But recent events in Crimea have raised the very real possibility of conflict, so when I asked IHS Jane’s Konrad Muzyka what it would take to conquer Russia, it all suddenly felt very real.
No one wants to see Putin riding into battle on the back of a nuclear warhead, but that said, I’d like to make it clear that I, for one, welcome our new Russian overlords and would like to remind them that I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground vodka caves.
VICE: I’m going to begin with a classic cliche. Over the centuries, plenty of power-hungry leaders have tried to take on Russia, convinced that they would be the first to overcome the brutal Russian winter. How could a modern army deal with this ancient problem?
Konrad Muzyka: I agree that from a historical perspective this has been a problem many countries have succumbed to. But the advent of precision guided munitions and, more importantly, nuclear weapons have completely nullified the issue. Any potential conflict with the West would most likely be fought in the air, space, and sea. Any use of land forces would be limited to capturing strategically important facilities—bridges, airfields, and the like. Given the size of Russian territory, I don’t think anyone would be interested in moving their troops to Russia and holding them there.
So how quickly might any invading force find itself plunged into a nuclear winter?
Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons even in a regional conflict scenario. As such, any country taking on Russia needs to be aware of a dramatic and quick escalation that could take place. But this is a sign of weakness rather than strength.
In the days of the Red Army, it felt as though there was an endless supply of men ready to die in the name of Mother Russia. Is this still true? What’s their manpower like?
That’s true, but many of those sent into battle during the Second World War fought at gunpoint. Not only that of the Nazi Wehrmacht, but also that of their fellow Russian “comrades.” Retreat was usually forbidden, even in a tactical sense—those who were caught falling back were either shot on the spot or court-martialed… and then usually shot.
Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch One)
Russia has invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and taken over its civilian and military infrastructure. Not a shot has been fired so far, but Russia is using its superior force to intimidate Ukrainian troops in an attempt to get them to surrender.
Russia claims it wants to stabilize the situation on the peninsula, which has a large Russian population, but Ukraine’s new government regards the move as an occupation of its sovereign territory.
Follow @simonostrovsky on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SimonOstrovsky
Russia Is Tightening Its Grip on Crimea
A little more than a week after the Ukrainian Parliament ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and Putin’s Winter Olympics in Sochi came to an end, Russian troops are now in control over Crimea, a chunk of Ukraine a bit larger than Vermont.
Russian troops are consolidating their hold on the region, and Ukraine’s still-shaky interim government is trying to organize a coherent response. While Western attention over the last week had been focused on nearby Russian military exercises, those troops may not be the ones directly intervening in Ukraine.
On Saturday Reuters reported that newly-installed Ukrainian defense minister Ihor Tenyukh stated that the Russian military had recently brought some 6,000 additional personnel into Ukraine. This suggests, although does not confirm, that unmarked Russian troops (i.e. wearing no flags or unit identification) were brought into the Russian naval base at Sevastopol several days in advance. The forces may have then set up their operations and staged their maneuvers directly from the base. It’s possible that the subsequent incursions into Crimea proceeded from the naval base, rather than coming directly over the border.
There are reports throughout the pro-Russian eastern regions of Ukraine involving pro-Russian protesters who have seized government buildings and raised the Russian flag. Similar events unfolded just a few days ago when protesters in Crimea stormed local government buildings, raising Russian flags. This has led some to speculate that protests elsewhere in the nation will provide a pretext for Russian intervention there as well.
Hotels in Kiev Are Being Used as Makeshift Morgues As the Death Toll Rises
Last night, protesters and police made an uneasy truce in Kiev, but this morning the ceasefire was well and truly broken as blood was shed once more in the streets of the Ukrainian capital. The death toll keeps rising. The Kyiv Post is reporting that at least 37 people have been killed—mainly from police gunshots. Yesterday, the country’s Lviv region declared independence from the central government after protesters seized the prosecutor’s office and the police surrendered.
President Yanukovych is today meeting with EU foreign ministers, and the EU will discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions. Yet it looks like Russia will prop up the Ukrainian economy by buying £1.2 billion in government bonds. Obama didn’t think much of this, attacking Putin for Russia’s role in the crisis and claiming to be “on the side of the people.”
VICE UK’s news editor, Henry Langston, is on the streets of Kiev. He called us this morning to give us an update on the situation.
VICE: Hi, Henry. Things sound pretty horrible out there. What can you tell me?
Henry: I’ve already seen several bodies, which have definitely been hit by gunshots. One guy was wearing a Kevlar vest but without the armour plate; there was a huge hole in it with blood surrounding it. They draped the bodies in a Ukrainian flag. They were young men, possibly in their mid 20s. Earlier, some protesters were shot when they were charging towards some police vans.
Can you tell me how the truce broke down? I thought Yanukovych and the opposition leaders were trying to bring some stability to the situation.
At about 8 AM, the protesters re-took the parts of Independence Square that police had withdrawn from as part of the truce. In retaliation to that, the police opened fire. I have been shown rounds from handguns. There are lots of worried people; these people cannot fight against AK-47s. They have shields and clubs. We haven’t seen any guns on the protesting side. That said, there are reports that outside of Kiev a large number of weapons were seized by protesters who stormed government buildings.
Kiev’s Euromaidan protesters began 2014 the same way they ended 2013: by rioting in the streets in an attempt to bring down their government. Key victories have already been won, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigning. The demonstrators also forced the annulment of a new anti-protest law that was, ironically, the cause of much of their protesting.
The protesters haven’t been contented by this. They are still out in the streets, demanding the head of President Viktor Yanukovych and the staging of fresh elections. What began as a protest against the Ukrainian government’s close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin has become a focus for wider discontent. However, Yanukovych seems in no mood to relinquish his power. As the social unrest spreads across the country, its first post-Soviet President, Leonid Kravchuk, has gone as far as to warn that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Dozens of people have lost their lives in just the last two days of violence.
At the end of January, VICE flew to Kiev as rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at police and the city turned into a battlefield.
The Ukraine Uprising Had Its Bloodiest Day Yet Yesterday
Kiev was burning again on Tuesday. After a period of calm, yesterday’s violence was the deadliest since Ukraine’s “Euromaidan” protests began in November.
The number of deaths rose throughout the day, as more and more corpses were found in the streets of Kiev. By Wednesday morning, at least 25 people had lost their lives, including nine police officers. Reports about the number of injured vary but start at over 200. A Ukrainian doctor on the scene said that the real number could run “into the thousands,” and the tolls of those both killed and wounded are only likely to rise. A stream of photos on social media showed people, many of them apparently unconscious, with their faces covered in blood.
Yesterday’s crackdown was a brutal riposte to anyone who thought the situation in Ukraine would be settled any time soon—a position that didn’t seem too fanciful as recently as a few days ago. On Sunday, police and protesters started to pull back from their standoff on Kiev’s Hrushevskoho Street, the site of the worst clashes in January. The place was an absolute mess: a sea of soot, tires, and burned-out vehicles, studded with Ukrainian and foreign flags.
Angry French Bigots… On Acid!
In early January, a bunch of bigoted French people gathered in Paris’s Bastille Square to celebrate their rage with a “Day of Anger.” About 20,000 of them turned up in the rain to complain about various things. Some were mad at the country’s President, François Hollande, for being too much of a liberal. Some were mad about abortion. A whole bunch of them were mad about gays. And the Jews. Quite a few people were mad about the Jews.
Anyway, our friend Félix dropped a tab, walked around, and talked to all the pissed off people. We hope you enjoy it at least as much as he did.