Thursday, 16 June 2022 — Quid Est Veritas
Let’s consider the differences in Grand Strategy that play into tactical prowess
In the Western corporate media, you often hear of Russian casualties and destruction and how many economic benefits Russians are deprived of as a result of the military operation in Ukraine. They speak of Russian “isolation” and how much that isolation supposedly costs Russia and her people, even to the point of predicting that the Russian government would topple under the weight of sanctions. You hear about how much Russia has lost in this period of history, as Western leaders, from President Biden to Ursula von der Leyen, attempt to portray the policies of the West as imposing supreme costs upon the Russian state. Yet do we consider the opposite? Do we consider how Russia is benefitting militarily from the conflict? Do we consider how much the Russian economy is growing in importance while ours wavers from self-imposed wounds? Dare we say, even, that Russia could even win an expanded conflict with the Western alliance? Let’s consider how differences in grand strategy yield surprising results.
Around a hundred years ago, Halford Mackinder, a diplomat for the British Empire, developed the foundations for grand strategy. Grand strategy refers to the general objectives that a state pursues in order to maintain its survival or to expand its potential power. In Mackinder’s mind, the most important element of consideration was world geography, particularly the Eurasian continent. He came up with the idea of Heartland Theory, which holds that a global hegemon must control the steppelands from Germany to the Ural Mountains in order to maintain itself. Russia knew NATO troops in Ukraine and Poland was a great existential threat to its future in the region, and it knew that there would be problems if NATO were able to threaten them within the Heartland. Thus removing the NATO threat in Ukraine, resulting from NATO supported and trained troops there, became a top strategic priority for Russia.
A visual depiction of the lines drawn by strategists.
Opposed to this general outlook was Nicholas Spykman, a Dutch geostrategist who immigrated to America and after America’s entry into World War II wrote about the importance of controlling the coastal areas of Eurasia he called the “Rimland.” This was a result of his understanding of his reading of Alfred Taylor Mahan, a general officer in the US Navy who maintained that creating a network of ports around the globe would enable a navy and fleet of merchants to dominate the world. For Spykman, this meant basing those ports on the Rimland, so that Eurasia could be managed and ultimately controlled from the Sea. Thus the United States would be able to enforce its will through a network of favorable regimes in coastal areas across the world. And so this resulted in the hundreds of American military bases as well as a close watch over countries like Britain, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Pakistan, just to name a few. This has allowed the United States strategic depth in the global system.
This isn’t just armchair observation either. It can have dramatic consequences for differences in tactical advantage depending upon the theater of war. Russia has largely followed the path of the Heartland Theory, pursuing the development and production of technically sophisticated and powerful artillery, rockets, and missiles. This resulted in a military doctrine primarily concerned with superior firepower on the ground, giving them massive advantages on the Heartland.
This can be contrasted by the grand strategy of the United States to assert power over the Rimland, involving aircraft carrier fleets and amphibious landing ship battle groups, allowing the United States to project power through air superiority and rapidly responding expeditionary marines. American firepower is thus primarily found on its ships and planes rather than its ground forces. Russia relies on its rail system and European roads as a means of transport while everything America deploys has to fit on ships and planes.
Now for the REALLY FUN PART
Has the Western corporate media ever explained this to you? Do you think it’s a problem when the media can’t even explain to you basic parts of international politics? It helps if you know that Russia and America are reading from the same playbook but are just choosing different plays. These are all ideas and people with whom foreign policy figures are intimately familiar. They are canon to them.
As a result of the Heartland strategy, we can see how Russia is using its forces on the Heartland to achieve an advantage on the battlefield. Ukrainian forces are trying to use advanced Western weapons to defeat Russia, but those weapons cannot overcome the superior firepower of the Russian army. As the battle continues, Russia just destroys all kinds of Western equipment and depletes the fighting force of Ukraine. In fact, Ukrainian officials say that Russia now has at least ten times the firepower of Ukrainian forces. This Russian advantage grows by the day as Russia also destroys Ukrainian supplies.
Even in the unlikelihood of Western countries directly engaging Russian forces, moreover, Russia would still have advantages over Western forces. Poland’s military is 100,000 in personnel, and they don’t have all of the heavy rockets and missiles Russia has. According to reports, Russia already has up to 200,000 military personnel in Kaliningrad, with many of those divisions being artillery, rockets, and missiles. Russia would inevitably grind Poland’s military down to nothing just like they are doing to Ukrainian forces, and do it faster with a greater numerical advantage.
In the event of a Baltic operation, we can see Russian advantage as well. NATO recently held a naval exercise involving around forty five vessels and a few thousand troops. This is in contrast to Russia, which held an exercise involving around sixty vessels with twenty thousand troops. With Kaliningrad with all of its missiles nearby, we would easily see NATO forces being overwhelmed in this scenario.
In the cases of a combined arms operation on the part of the UK, France, and Germany, we can also see how Russia would also be able to head them off with their superior artillery. Their combined force would total only around 250,000, which doesn’t equal the total fighting strength of the Russian army. Russia would prevent the US army from even arriving. Not to mention the fact that none of recent NATO combat experience is that applicable to a full-scale war, since all the West has done is gone after guerrillas in the Middle East, while Russian forces are seasoning themselves in a full-scale military operation in Ukraine, fighting some of the best NATO-trained troops already.
As Russia depletes the West of their stockpile of weapons, we can see how Russia is also challenging US dominance in the Rimland, where the US Navy and trading network depends upon a certain amount of control to function. Russia has already been assisting African countries in technical and security matters. Russia also has been pursuing free trade deals with the UAE, Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran. Saudi Arabia has not joined in support of the West in this conflict. Iraq is closer to Iran, a Russian ally, than the West. Japan has been backtracking and soft-pedaling. Russia is stepping in to bail out Sri Lanka in their current crisis. Ethiopia, Algeria, and Eritrea are also moving closer to Russia. Not to mention the reality that the biggest Rimland country in the world, India, continues to pursue economic and military independence from the West in close partnership with Russia. Russia seems very comfortable in the Rimland.
The West has also tried to defeat Russia in the war over the global economy by imposing sanctions to impoverish Russians and make them blame their president for something foreigners did to them. The West wanted to make regime change occur in Russia thereby, but it seems as though Putin is evermore popular, with an approval rating above eighty percent. Russian oil and gas revenues are increasing in this period of Russian patriotic renewal. While the rest of the world is worrying about gas and oil prices and food shortages, the Russian nation sits upon its own supply of food staples and energy resources. They are also working on the development of replacements of some specialty technology they had been buying from the West. Their Heartland is increasing while the rest of the world worries about food and petrol.
The Western corporate media completely ignores these basic realities. While they say Russia is suffering militarily and economically, we can see quite the opposite. Russia continues to grind down the Western NATO proxies and volunteers on the battlefield, refining their methods by the day while their enemies run out of firepower and manpower. Other Western forces wouldn’t fare much better, especially considering that they don’t even have the scale of Ukrainian military experience or better weapons than Russia. More and more countries are partnering with Russia, giving Russia plenty of room to maneuver in Eurasia. And the Eurasian Russian Heartland is secured with resources, while the West scrambles to jerry-rig whatever they can to fill the gaps of their own making. This is turning into a Russian triumph and a Western defeat. And Westerners have only their leaders and propagandists to blame.