Quotulatiousness

October 27, 2017

The Battle of La Malmaison – Breakthrough at Caporetto I THE GREAT WAR Week 170

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 26 Oct 2017

The French score a morale boosting victory over the German at La Malmaison, but the Canadians were not so successful elsewhere on the Western Front. Whilst the Germans continue on through the Estonian Archipelago and onto the Russian mainland, the 12th Battle of the Isonzo takes place on the Italian Front. Unlike the 11 battles that came before it, this one was initiated by the Central Powers and was their biggest breakthrough yet on that front.

October 13, 2017

Operation Albion – Passchendaele Drowns In Mud I THE GREAT WAR Week 168

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 12 Oct 2017

The situation for the German Army on the Western Front looks grim, but in the East they have the upper hand and this week begin to put pressure on the Russians in Operation Albion – an amphibious landing operation in the Estonian archipelago. At the same time, the battlefield at Passchendaele is turning into a muddy swamp.

August 8, 2017

The Baltic States in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR SPECIAL

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 7 Aug 2017

Before the First World War, what are today Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were part of the Russian Empire. As that empire fought and fell, so to fought the soldiers of the Baltic States, first during the war, and then in their struggles for eventual independence.

April 1, 2017

South Korean Thunder for Finland

Filed under: Asia, Europe, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Strategy Page reported on a recent deal for Finland to purchase a number of K-9 “Thunder” 155mm self-propelled guns from South Korea:

South Korean K-9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled gun (via Wikimedia)

Finland has ordered 48 South Korean K-9 “Thunder” 155 mm self-propelled howitzers for about $3.3 million each. This price includes training, spare parts, maintenance and howitzer modernization to Finland standards (installation of Finnish made communication equipment and battle management system). The contract also includes an option for additional K-9s. Deliveries begin by the end of 2017 and all 48 vehicles should arrive to Finland till 2024. Nearby Estonia will now be able to get valuable advice from Finland to determine if Estonia should go forward with a similar purchase of twelve K-9s.

In 2016 the Finns began negotiating the K-9 purchase terms with South Korea because the Finns had determined that the K-9 was the least expensive option to obtain modern self-propelled howitzers that could be easily handled by the conscripts Finland still depends on for most of their military manpower. By the end of 2016 the Finns had confirmed this with field trials of the K-9 which as expected, performed better than competitors.

K-9 is a South Korean designed and manufactured self-propelled howitzer which was developed as a replacement for the K55 (license variant of M109). K-9 is a 48 ton self-propelled howitzer operated by a crew of five and using a NATO standard 155mm gun which can take out targets 40 kilometers away. Development of the K-9 began in 1989 and mass production began in 1999.

April 13, 2016

The bureaucracy will always be with us

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page recounts some of the recent the bureaucratic snags between NATO countries in eastern Europe when troops need to cross inter-alliance borders:

In early 2015 Operation Dragoon Ride rolled through Central Europe to send a message to Russians. From March 20th to April 1st, an US Army squadron returning from Atlantic Resolve NATO exercises took an unusual route back to its base in Germany, after spending three months in training facilities in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. The unit involved was the 3rd Squadron (battalion) of the 2nd American Cavalry Regiment. This unit refers to itself as dragoons (an ancient term for horse mounted infantry) and the movement operation was called Dragoon Ride and the apparent reason for it was to demonstrate to the locals as well as the Russians that American armored units could reach the East European NATO nations by road, as well as by ship, aircraft or rail. Dragoon Ride purposely rode close to the Russian border, often in full view of Russians and Russian media. The American troops frequently stopped in towns and villages so the locals could meet their allies, take pictures and quietly enjoy the pain this demonstration was causing the increasingly aggressive Russians.

But what was not publicized, and what the Russian government knew full well, was that this road movement took the efforts of hundreds of unseen troops and bureaucrats to deal with the paperwork. For all of 2015 it required nearly 6,000 travel documents to be prepared, filed and approved to get foreign military vehicles across East European borders. Some of these documents take several weeks to get approved and operations like Dragoon Ride required hundreds of them and nearly as many NATO local government personnel were involved with this paperwork as were actually participating (500 troops) in the actual Dragoon Ride (of 120 vehicles). While all these rules and approvals would not stop invading Russians they would, in theory, slow down reinforces from the West.

The pile of paperwork and weeks required to handle it were used as very concrete evidence to persuade the East European nations to streamline the process, a lot, or have themselves to blame if reinforcements did not arrive in a timely fashion. As usual a compromise was worked out. Thus eight NFIUs (NATO Force Integration Units) were organized, each consisting of 40 troops trained and equipped to handle the paperwork and traffic control measures required to get military convoys across eastern borders as quickly as possible. The NFIU work out of embassies and stay in constant touch with the border control bureaucracies of the East European nations involved. NFIUs also arrange for rest areas and resupply for the convoys.

February 25, 2015

How worried are Russia’s neighbours? Lithuania just re-introduced conscription

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

A report from the Lithuania Tribune details a change in Lithuanian defence policy:

The State Defence Council, comprising of the Lithuanian president, prime minister, parliament speaker, defence minister and army chief, decided on Tuesday to reintroduce military conscription in Lithuania.

The conscription, which was suspended several years ago as Lithuania opted for the professional army, should be reintroduced in light of the changes in geopolitical situation, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said after the meeting.

“We must reinforce the country’s defence capacities. Under new geopolitical circumstances, the army must be properly prepared for the country’s armed defence even in times of peace. Today’s geopolitical situation requires that we strengthen and speed up the manning of our army. Therefore the State Defence Council has decided that it is necessary to temporarily, for five years, reintroduce compulsory military draft,” President Grybauskaitė said.

Under the proposal, compulsory military service would apply to men between the ages of 19 and 26. The plan is to draft between 3,000 and 3,500 men each year. Exemptions would apply to university students, single fathers, men with health issues or otherwise unsuitable for military service.

In Newsweek, Damien Sharkov reports on the high tempo of Russian “training” missions near the Baltic states:

Increasingly frequent snap military drills being carried out by Russia near its eastern European neighbours could be part of a strategy that will open the door for a Russian offensive on the Baltic states according to defence expert Martin Hurt, deputy director at Estonia’s International Centre for Defence and Security.

The Lithuanian and Estonian defence ministries have expressed alarm at the increased military activity, and drawn comparisons with moves prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

Commenting on Russia’s announcement last week that its armed forces will not cease holding snap military exercises, Hurt, who has previously worked for Estonia’s Ministry of Defence as well as for the armed forces of both Estonia and Sweden, warned against taking this news lightly.

“My take would be that the Russian authorities want to raise the readiness of their forces and also make European nations more relaxed to a new norm where the Russian Armed Force often conduct snap exercises,” Hurt says.

According to him, a relaxed European attitude about increased Russian military activity would be “extremely dangerous” for the democratic governments of Europe and particularly for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“A realistic scenario against the Baltics would be a ‘normal’ Russian snap exercise that without notice turns into a quick assault on one or several of the Baltic states’ capitals. Such an attack would have greater probability of success than the hybrid scenario we saw in Crimea,” Hurt adds.

“A decisive move by Putin assuming that the weak leaders of Europe will not react quickly and ‘avoid escalation’ is a possible scenario,” Hurt adds, highlighting that “the higher readiness NATO forces have, the better it is for the democratic part of Europe.”

September 9, 2014

Russian FSB lured Estonian official into a trap

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:26

In the Guardian, Julian Borger updates the situation in Estonia after the kidnapping of Eston Kohver by Russian forces:

The Estonian intelligence official seized by Russia thought he was going to meet an informant in a secluded spot on the border as part of an organised crime investigation but instead walked into an FSB trap, according to Estonian security sources.

Eston Kohver went to the arranged meeting at 9am on Friday in woodland near the village of Miikse, about five miles north of the official Luhamaa border post. He had armed backup in the form of Estonian security officers nearby but they were unable to react in time because of the use of flash grenades and because their communications were jammed.

By the time they realised what has happening, Kohver had been dragged into the woods on the Russian side of the border by a group of gunmen.

Kohver is now in Moscow where he is awaiting formal charges. Russian media have suggested he could be accused of spying; a pistol, a recording device and €5,000 in cash were displayed on Russian television as evidence.

Estonian security sources confirmed that all the items were Kohver’s but said it was entirely routine for him to be carrying them. The recording device and the cash were intended for the informant he thought he would be meeting.

September 6, 2014

Estonian intelligence official kidnapped by Russian FSB

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:14

Russia appears to be willing to test the patience of all of its European neighbours, as Estonia lodges a formal complaint that one of their intelligence officers has been captured by Russian FSB troops on Estonian territory:

A strange incident near the Russian-Estonian border on Friday ended with an Estonian intelligence officer in Russian custody and the two countries trading sharply contradictory allegations about what happened.

Estonia’s president and prime minister, among other officials, said the officer had been kidnapped at gunpoint from their territory and forced across the border in a blatant violation of sovereignty. The Russian Federal Security Service said the officer was in Russia and engaged in a clandestine operation when he was detained.

The episode threatened to heighten tensions between Russia and the NATO alliance, to which Estonia belongs, at a time when relations are already severely strained over the conflict in Ukraine. It came just two days after President Obama gave a speech in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, pledging that NATO would defend the Baltics against Russian aggression and suggesting that any attack on them would lead to war with the West.

Although the intelligence officer was apparently detained around 9 a.m., the Russian security service, known as the F.S.B., did not acknowledge the incident until Friday evening, when it issued a statement to three Russian news agencies.

Senior Estonian officials, including the director of the country’s Internal Security Service, held a news conference in the late afternoon, saying the officer had been abducted after unknown assailants set off a stun grenade and jammed communication signals. At the time of his capture, the officer was investigating a criminal case in the area of Luhamaa, Estonia, a little more than a mile from the border with Russia, officials said, according to Estonian news reports.

Update, 7 September: The Interpreter‘s Ukraine Liveblog included this information today.

Eston Kohver, an Estonian intelligence officer who was, according to Estonia, abducted and taken across the border to Russia yesterday, has appeared in Moscow, where he is being detained. The Estonian authorities reported that smoke grenades were used and that there were signs of a violent struggle. In addition, it was reported that communications signals in the area were jammed at the time of the reported abduction.

Meanwhile the FSB claimed yesterday that Kohver had been arrested on Russian territory, in the Pskov region.

Interfax reports that Russia’s state-owned Channel One announced today that the Lefortovo Court has approved Kohver’s detention on suspicion of espionage.

Here is video from Russia’s Ruptly news agency showing Kohver being taken out of a car and into a pre-trial detention centre (known in Russia as SIZO). The footage also shows a display of the items that the FSB has claimed that were found on Kohver including 5,000 euros in cash and a Taurus pistol.

June 7, 2014

Europe should bear more of the costs of their own defence

Filed under: Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:40

The American government is being called upon to re-assure NATO allies with suddenly volatile borders (that is, those near Russia and Ukraine). That re-assurance is to take the form of greater US military involvement in the Eastern European sector of NATO. The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow says that this is actually an opportunity for those NATO countries to start living up to their own obligations to maintain viable defensive forces:

The Baltic States are screaming for enhanced military protection. Yet Estonia devotes just two percent of its GDP to defense. Latvia spends .9 percent of its GDP on the military. Lithuania commits .8 percent of its GDP on defense.

Poland may be the country most insistent about the necessity of American troops on along its border with Russia. To its credit, Poland has been increasing military outlays, but it still falls short of NATO’s two percent objective. Warsaw spent 1.8 percent last year.

Only Great Britain and Greece joined Estonia in hitting the two percent benchmark. France and Turkey fall short. Germany comes in at 1.3 percent. Overall NATO hit 1.6 percent last year. America was 4.1 percent.

Per capita military spending is even more striking. My Cato Institute colleague Chris Preble figured that to be $1896 for Americans. And $399 for Europeans. A disparity of nearly five to one.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama doesn’t appear to recognize the dependency problem. At West Point he merely indicated that “we are now working with NATO allies” to reassure the Eastern Europeans. “We”?

Poland expects to hit 1.95 percent of GDP this year. Latvia and Lithuania promised to up outlays to meet the two percent standard — in a few years. No one else is talking about big spending increases. Absent is any commitment to move European troops to NATO’s eastern borders.

Nothing will change as long as Washington uses the defense budget as a form of international welfare. The more the president “reassures” U.S. allies, the less likely they are to do anything serious on behalf of their own defense.

Canada is also a military freeloader on US resources. While our NATO commitments imply we’ll spend 2% of GDP on our defences, we spend 1.3% in 2012, and the Department of National Defence is struggling to reduce spending below previous years’ outlays to meet the federal government’s overall budget balancing plans.

Update, 8 June: Stephen Gordon posted a Twitter update that puts Canadian military spending into a bit of perspective

March 19, 2012

Finland’s cold-cut warrior, RIP

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

The most unusual cold war hero died recently. Eero Iloniemi tells the story of Finland’s Väinö Purje and how his TV commercials featured in the Cold War in the Baltic:

While Purje is virtually unknown in the West his exploits are legendary in the Baltic States, especially in Estonia. Alo Lohmus of Estonia’s leading daily Postimees referred to Purje’s contribution to the Cold War as part of a ‘spiritual nuclear bomb’ that blew apart a corrupt system.

High praise, indeed, for a modest tradesman. That a butcher could gain such a position in a global conflict is one of the most curious chapters of Cold War history.

Due to its proximity to the Baltic Soviet republics, Finnish television broadcasts penetrated the Iron Curtain, into Estonia and on occasion Latvia. Purje, who was the star of Finnish retail chain Kesko’s food adverts, became a cult figure in Estonia. From 1974 to 1981 he featured in more than 100 television spots showcasing sausages and cutlets, all virtually unknown in the then Soviet republics.

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