A chat with the Judge is stimulating and thought provoking, and today was no exception. One of the topics explored is what I call, “Russia’s Cuban Missile Crisis.” In 2016 the United States deployed a land based air defense system — i.e. Aegis Ashore — in Deveselu, Romania. Aegis Ashorek is a land-based version of the missile system now on Aegis cruisers in the U.S. Navy. Then, last year, the United States set up the same system in Redzikowo, Poland. Only one little problem — the Aegis Ashore system can also be used to launch nuclear tipped Tomahawk Cruise missiles.
These two systems have the potential to put a nuke in Moscow within 10 minutes of launch from Poland or Romania. See the problem? This threat situation is similar to the one the United States faced in 1961 when the Soviets deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba. Just as the United States correctly viewed those missiles in Cuba as an existential threat, Russia also sees that U.S. placement of missiles as an existential threat to Moscow.
Ray McGovern, in a recent speech to a peace group in New England, does a masterful job of describing how the missile launchers in Poland and Romania are a critical predicate for Russia’s Special Military Operation (aka SMO) in Ukraine. Without those missiles looming large in the strategic picture, Russia probably would not have gone into Ukraine on February 24, 2022. When Putin speaks of “de-militarization” as one of the primary objectives of the SMO, he is not just talking about eliminating the threat in Ukraine. I believe that Russia views those missile launchers in Poland and Romania as part of the de-militarization effort.
Ukraine is working hard to put a brave, heroic face on a bad situation. While the battle over Bakhmut continues to dominate the attention of Western pundits and politicians, the war in Ukraine is raging in other locations, including Zaporozhye, Maryinka, Avdyevka, Petrovskoye and dozens of other cities and hamlets. Russia has ample supplies of men, tanks and ammunition. Ukraine does not. Russia is choosing to fight a war of attrition rather than large scale maneuver. I realize this frustrating for those arm chair generals longing for a General Patton to breakout of hedge row country and go scampering across France. Apart from the whining complaints from Prigozhin, there is no sign of panic, fear or frustration on the Russian side. The essential question remains — how long can Ukraine hold out?