Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
Follow Steven on Twitter
I would love to see a partisan breakdown on that opinion of Russia poll
@Stormy Dragon: Surprisingly, almost identical!
“Republicans and Democrats are united in their negative views of Russia, with 88% of both groups holding an unfavorable view of the country, compared with 82% of independents.”
It’s even: 88% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of Russia.
Guess TFG has gotten way ahead of his followers.
If anyone is interested in more tactical and operational-level analysis, the daily updates from the Institute for the Study of War are quite good IMO:
BTW, this interview with Fiona Hill is worth a read:
‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes
Russia just doubled interest rates from 9.6% to 20%. Overnight. For context, a half a point rise by the Fed would be considered major.
They’ve also demanded that corporations turn over 80% of their foreign reserves in a doomed effort to prop up the crashing ruble.
And they’ve banned short-selling and won’t accept any ‘sell’ orders from foreign companies, in an equally doomed effort to keep their stock market from tunneling its way to the center of the earth.
It seems all the clever people who said that sanctions wouldn’t really hurt Russia, were wrong. So far Putin’s actions are responsible for an economic crash, body bags, the contempt of the entire world, and on top of it all his military is looking rather impotent.
Five days in and the Russian Air Force still doesn’t own the skies? Note that unlike USAF operations that required long flight times to target from foreign bases, from aircraft carriers, even from Nebraska, the Russians are right next door. This is not an air force that wants to tangle with F-22’s and F-35’s with American/NATO levels of battle space awareness. I take with a grain of salt many of the claims of Russian military incompetence, but this is at least one metric to judge them against.
The plea for Byelorussian troops and the nuclear kabuki also point to a picture significantly worse than Putin would have wished for. Fair to say this is not working very well for Tsar Vlad the Shirtless.
The ruble has tanked. The Russian stock market is closed.
U.S. intelligence officials are warning that Putin might increase the intensity of the attack, in effect laying siege to Kyiv.
In fairness, I don’t think most anyone expected that the sanctions would be as all-encompassing and comprehensive as they have turned out to be. These sanctions are unprecedented in the modern era except maybe for North Korea.
@Michael Reynolds: I’m interested in all of the things that this is upending. Swiss banks chucking neutrality out the window, for one. The UK stating that all anonymous property buyers will be disclosed. Oil companies divesting from Russia. And so on.
It sort of feels like all of the shady stuff that has been criticized for ages is getting tossed out the window–as though everyone was just waiting for an external reason to do it.
I am guessing that a not insignificant chuck on that 18% of independents are folks who have gone far Left and Right to no longer accept the party name. And once again, by going to the extreme, the two meet again.
@Michael Reynolds: Yes, I look forward to hearing about just what’s happening with the Air Superiority push in after-action reports. Russian forces occupy Ukraine’s biggest airport, but they still don’t own the skies? What is up with that? Drones, maybe?
I think it’s becoming pretty clear that the Ukrainian Army is pretty well prepared for this, and had some very interesting and effective ideas for how to counter it. I’m eager to hear more.
True. Literally no one ahead of time was thinking, “I bet both NATO and the EU will be amazing.”
The one thing that would scare me if I were Russian, is Germany re-arming. A half a point more of a 3.8 trillion GDP is a big number, plus the 100 billion to get things started. Think Vlad was aiming for that?
What comes next will likely be indiscriminate slaughter. I think the Russians imagined they could fight an American-style war, but can’t. So they’ll probably go back to basic for Russians: mass murder of the defenseless. Genius, as TFG said.
A week ago, when people spoke of sanctions, it did not make me think of things like:
* Shell and BP divesting its share of Rosneft
* Swiss banks freezing Russian accounts and throwing in with the EU/NATO
* Germans extending the life of their nuclear powerplants.
* Everyone in Europe closing their airspace to Russian aircraft, and their ports to Russian vessels.
I think most of this stuff wouldn’t have happened if the Ukranians hadn’t been willing, and able, to fight. Something amazing is happening right now, it’s like everyone who has ever been irritated by Putin is figuring now is the time for payback.
@Jay L Gischer:
This is the main thing that puzzles me.
I don’t take promises at face value, so I’ll believe it when I see it. If Russia is shown over the coming weeks and months as a paper tiger, I would guess the rationale for greater German defense spending will quickly evaporate and they’ll return to the status quo.
Some more points:
Both Sweden and Switzerland have, in effect, thrown neutrality out the window.
The Swiss in saying they will follow all EU sanctions
While the Swedes have gone further, and for the first time since 1939 are prepared to supply arms to a belligerent (and give them away!): 5000 anti-tank missiles (very effective ones).
BP and Shell are selling off their joint investments/shareholdings in Rosneft and Gazprom.
Russian ships are being banned from British ports.
Maersk Line is “considering” (i.e. will be, once it gets it’s legal and logistic ducks in a row) halting it’s shipping to and from Russia; Maersk handles 20% of global container traffic.
@Jay L Gischer:
This is the power of effectively controlling and utilizing the information space. It’s been Ukraine’s biggest force multiplier by far.
Right now, I think if I were the person in charge of logistics for the Red Army*, I’d be heading off to any country that’s not Russia or a client of Vlad.
*Or whatever it’s called now.
@Jay L Gischer:
The Russians hit the airports pretty well, but I got a hunch the Uke AF managed to shift a significant portion of their assets to remote sites with straight, flat sections of paved road prior to hostilities. Their Russian-design planes are equipped with beefy landing gear for marginal runway conditions. It’s something the Soviets had always prepared to be ready to do.
Looks like in both air defence and ground operations Ukrainians have adopted tactics to counter known Russian operational modes and weaknesses.
Let the armoured spearheads pass at first, delay them at chokepoints, hit the supply columns behind and reinforcing units behind.
Force those to spread out, slow down, and increase the logistic burden.
When armour gets snarled up our out of fuel, slaughter them with long range anti-tank fire.
Air defences are popping up near battles, shooting then running or hiding.
Aircraft have been dispersed to secondary strips (most likely roads designed for use as runways, with hangers concealed) probably in the Carpathian Mts.
Russian SAMS are being targeted by specialist drones, homing on emissions then using PGMs to hit the batteries.
It appears Russian air force is very twitchy about sending high-value planes and pilots into contested airspace.
Also, highly likely there is a raging row between air and ground commanders:
– “We’ll increase air attacks and cover if you guarantee army SAMs don’t engage us!”
– “We’ll hold on the SAMs when you neutralise the Ukrainian planes and drones!”
I have a suspicion that Russian air and ground are not used to co-operative ops in even minimally contested airspace.
Potemkin exercises are one thing; reality another.
Current estimates though are that Russia has still a quarter of assembled troops in reserve, and can deploy more if needed for rear security and supply line operations.
Ukrainian air/air defence is a wasting asset, and once degraded Russian will be able to deploy more helicopters and massed ground attack aircraft, and have less need for a tight air defence bubble.
Russia will be moving heavy artillery up to the key combat areas.
Russia still has the numbers and firepower to win; but it is going to bleed for it.
Oh, and this needs mentioning again, and LOUD:
Turkey is closing the Straits.
That is a refrain from history I thought I’d never hear again.
Next stop: Denmark closes the the Sound?
Paging Lord Nelson…
This might be the biggest psychological blow for Putin.
@Scott: Last night on French televisioin in the inreview with
Sergueï Jirnov an ex KGB colleague of Putin who sat in the same KGB school promotion class (and ex Russian intel defector in 2000s to France), his opinion was essenentially the same, that Putin would indeed really potentially use tactical nuclear weapons, battlefield, to send a message.
@JohnSF: This Twitter thread by an analyst of Russian military makes the argument that to date, he presumes because the Putin leadership is trying to hide the war and cost from the Russian population (as evident in the ongoing pretence in Kremlin agitprop of merely a special Donbass operation…) and do this on the cheap, the Russian military is operating in a non-doctrine fashion and operating on an incoherent political plan. It is an interesting thumbnail analysis (and warning not to draw huge conclusions from Russian performance so far and as such). Also notes the unpopularity apparent among both soldiers and population for a general attack.
It seems to me credible that what we are seeing tells us less about general Russian military competence, but rather a Putin & enablers driven strategy that was based on wildly wrong assumptions, is unable to adjust because… Putin… and is also not enthusiastically supported in the General Staff.
In a fashion, a ‘late Hitler’ or ‘early Stalin’ type dictator-politik driven cock-up
The thread linked evokes Grozy. Going from cock up to city leveling…
However, politically for Russia, one thing to kill Georgians and Chechens en masse. another thing to kill “little Russians” (not to exclude but not also as easy politically)
@Michael Reynolds: indeed fucking genuis. Genuis level cockup worthy of Trump… a military equivalent of running a profitable casino or no-brainer air shuttle service into bankruptcy.
@JohnSF: A French Swiss security analyst, who seemed amazed, today stated (to translate loosely) “you have to have really fucked up to have provoked the Swiss to drop neutrality.”
Yeah. Putin on the Fritz.
Zelenskyy seems to have very cleverly maneuvered Erdogan into closing the straits.
@Lounsbury: I wonder if Putin would care which way the wind is blowing when it comes to tactical nukes.
That’s gonna get really ugly very quickly since most of those areas are cities.
Can anybody tell me what the protocol is if he does launch a nuke of any sort?
More like as though everyone suddenly realized they weren’t immune after all.
@Scott: Well, he may not care, but I rather do.
@Michael Cain: See Grozny.
I do not know who Retired Gen. Philip Breedlove is, other than a former “Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations”, but he is in favor of a no-fly zone even though it would be an act of war, because
He claims a friend said that, but I suspect it is his mythical Black friend or his Canadian (Ex-) Girlfriend that he still keeps in touch with or something.
Is there some super classified information that causes otherwise reasonable people to slowly go insane after seeing it? This isn’t Gen. Flynn stuff (yet), but it’s not good.
(Also, I oppose putting people with novelty names, like “Breedlove” in any position of authority over anything — they end up having some kind of breakdown and becoming novelty supervillains — Dr. Victor Fries becoming Mr. Freeze, Jack Napier (Jack O Napes) becoming the Joker, Harleen Quinzel becoming Harley Quinn, Edward Nigma becoming the Riddler, etc. I don’t know what Breedlove is going to become, but I don’t like the sound of it)
(The least believable thing about Mr. Freeze is that he isn’t constantly correcting people and reminding them that he is a doctor…)
@Jax: I dunno. My training has me diving under the closest school desk.
Signed, Cold War Kid
@Jax: This kind of thing was always thought to be a possibility during the Cold War in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m sure it was discussed and refined and debated endlessly then, and likely the possibilities have been gamed out in the DOD recently as well.
However, there’s no way the brass would ever let any sort of conclusions or doctrine that they developed become even the slightest bit unclassified. Bets are they never discussed with Trump what they might do.
If it is against Ukraine, military response = zero.
Diplomatic response: Total Cold War 2.
Absolute economic disconnect.
Preparations to expunge Russian overseas footholds or potential footholds via proxy war.
Rearmament of Europe to levels of 1980’s.
And Russians can probably look forward to Ukrainians letting off a radiological weapon, or something on that scale, in Moscow, at some point in the future.
Who needs a no fly zone when you can ship Stingers by the thousand?
And Turkey has some SAM 400’s and several East European countries S-300’s they might be persuaded to return to sender, sort of.
(There are also some UK Rapier and French/Italian Aster 30’s that might welcome a careful new owner; but the SAM types would be more familiar to Ukrainians)
Is it wrong that I’m hoping for a raft of distressed property sales in London? Not oligarch level, but maybe what they house their number two mistress in.
My understanding is that there’s a difference between a nuke he would deploy on a battlefield, correct, vs. a long range nuke meant for international foes? Where’s the red line?
It’s my personal opinion that should Putin unleash any kind of nuke, the physical body of Vladimir the Shirtless, Definitely Not a Black Belt, and the ground beneath his feet should be vaporized post haste, and streamed world-wide.
I honestly don’t understand why he’s still alive, with all the trouble he’s causing. He’s never gonna back down, this is his final stand. 😐
I can still think back to the Cuban Missle Crisis in October of 1962 when I was 14 years old. The news reports came over the radio that missles were out of their silos in the western United States.
“Not much I can do but wait and see what happens” I said to myself.
Sixty years later I guess I will actually see what happens on my laptop.
Somehow I have the idea that the Moscow–Washington hotline established in 1963 is all but useless today.
It’s rather complicated. As a rule, strategic nukes are placed on long-range “delivery systems” like ICBMs, cruise missiles, and bombers and have megaton range yields (a megaton is the explosive equivalent of about one million tons of TNT). Tactical nukes are shorter range and can be “delivered” by planes, missiles (small ones, not ICBMs), or even artillery shells, and are of kiloton range yield (ie one thousand tons of TNT per kiloton).
The Hiroshima bomb was about 15 kilotons. We know what that does to a city.
I’m not sure what the lowest yield is for tactical nukes, or how low is it possible to go while still having a nuclear blast. Possibly under ten Kt, maybe even under one. Either way, you can kill anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of people with one bomb, depending on where it’s dropped.
A nuclear blast differs markedly from a conventional one besides explosive energy. Nukes create a large thermal wave, that will incinerate people, trees, even buildings. they also create a large electromagnetic pulse, which affects electronics and power lines. Last there’s the radiation and fallout. The latter is made of of bomb debris (everything goes somewhere) that attaches itself to dirt and dust. A bomb detonated in the air far from the ground creates little fallout, one detonated on impact creates a lot.
Bomb debris is too simplistic. Mostly it means the radioactive elements as transformed by the energy of the blast. Meaning all sorts of rare, very radioactive isotopes; more radioactive than the original fission elements. Also most are heavy metals, which are chemically poisonous as well.
A nuke is a one-bomb massive atrocity, regardless of who uses it.
Vaporized? As in nuking Moscow?
There might not be much of an audience to enjoy the show. Certainly the reruns would have a limited shelf life.
@Gustopher: I would like to assume the US and NATO forces have the ability to vaporize him without nukes.
I mean, I’d settle for his head on a pike, if we have to get all medieval and shit. 😛
Very-low yield designs (under 100 tons of yield) have been around for a very long time, and Russia has reportedly been working on them in recent decades. For example, here is a video of the US “Davey Crockett” which was 20 ton yield nuke.
@Kathy: Jirnov evoked 1-1.5 KT battlefield weapons. As until 2000 he was in Russian security establishment, he presumably has some proper idea.
@Kathy: Your post presumes ground strike. More likely is usage of airbusts which do not generate fallout particularly as there is little or no ground effect. Exposed soldiers and irregulars get toasted and EMP wrecks havoc.
A no-fly zone, being pushed by people who a week ago were braying that the Ukraine invasion threat was a hoax to distract attention from the Durham “bombshells”, would amount to a declaration of war on Russia by whichever countries tried to enforce it. The fact United States senators are advocating it shows how perilous a world we live in thanks to half the US population having regressed to childhood.
An issue westerners are not thinking about generally but is of concern to people like me given where I invest and work: the Ukraine is a significant supplier of wheat to developing markets and particularly MENA. This year like in USA was a significant drought. Without Ukranian wheat on the market (and possibly Russian), there may be catastrophic short-falls unless USA, Canada step in on even a non-market basis
The general rule of thumb re. nuclear weapons is that only “direct alliance” states are covered by more or less automatic nuclear retaliation response.
That is, the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. Taiwan appears to be a bit of a grey area, probably deliberately.
Exactly how automatic has always been none too closely defined.
Which is why both the UK and France maintain independent nuclear forces.
Not on US/Russia scale but a few hundred nukes are enough to cause horrendous damage to any country.
If you are outside the alliance “umbrella” then it entirely discretionary.
As a nuclear response by to a nuclear strike by Russia would pretty much automatically trigger Russian retaliation on a massive scale, you can kiss the entire northern hemisphere (at least) goodbye.
“No fly” = war.
It’s off the table.
But, sufficient quantities of Stingers and other SAM might render Ukrainian airspace sufficiently lethal to Russian aircraft that “no fly” is hardly needed.
There are indications that Russia is limiting air operations due to Ukrainian air defence measures.
Some reporting indicates attempted Russian reinforcement of captured airfields by air transported forces have resulted in several transport aircraft and heavy helicopters being shot down, with casualty estimates of several hundred (an Il-76 can carry up to about 250 troops)
The question then is will Russia try to force NATO to cease supplying missiles by threats.
They would be very reckless to so, as at that point it would be impossible to determine what would be new or already held weapons.
Also, re. Ukrainian air operations.
Poland has stated it will transfer 28 MiG-29s; Slovakia a further 12 MiG-29.
Bulgaria reports uncertain; some indication will 14 Su-25; maybe further 28 MiG-29 if it can get replacements (tricky for them as they currently don’t operate any other fighter; Poland and Slovakia have F-16’s).
Ukrainian pilots are reported flying them out of Poland to the dispersal bases in SW Ukraine.
Also, another neutral gives Russia a massive FU:
Finnish Defence Minister:
Ukraine will receive direct military aid, will be delivered ASAP
2500 assault rifles, 150 000 pcs ammunition
1500 anti tank weapons
70 000 combat food rations
@JohnSF: Of all of the neutrals actions, Finland’s is the most significant. It is sending a huge sign, and ballsy on the part of the Finns given their history.
Basically saying Finland has concluded that Putin is extensial threat to them (and they are probably right).
@JohnSF: Indeed supply man portables is the only real route – a No Fly zone by NATO air essentially is direct NATO-Russian war, plays to Putin’s agitprop and probably a dangerously slippery slope to possible worse results.
Putin and his fellow thugs need to get a clear message: any use of tactical nukes in Ukraine will result in immediate implementation of a decapitation strategy against Russian leadership.
Playing into Putin’s hands.
He wants this escalated to a Russia-West confrontation, to solidify nationalist and military support, and (he thinks) increase the prospect of a breach between western governments and public opinion, or within the Alliance.
President Biden, and other governments, have very sensibly given this the “dead bat” treatment, with just undemonstrative statements that NATO is iteself a nuclear alliance.
Both sides know that any decapitation strike has an exceedingly high probability of triggering massive thermonuclear war.
Just don’t (at govt. level) raise it one way or the other at all.
@JohnSF: Exactly, on all points, exactly.
How anyone can think otherwise is baffling to me.
@JohnSF: First use of nuclear weapons is a scenario that, by violating norms accepted for decades, means all the rules are off the table. One possible alternative might be drone strikes within Russia, launched from Turkey, Romania, or Poland.
Also entails open war between NATO and Russia.
Ignore Putin’s threats, keep the arms flowing to Ukraine, ramp sanctions toward total disconnect, keep NATO forces at reinforced readiness in Central and Eastern Europe, respond if Russia attacks NATO.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Because some people would welcome another war more than they fear it? (Tongue in cheek question: Are such people rational? 😉 )
@JohnSF: Indeed. The play here is to continue to use Ukes as we did the Kurds for ISIS. They are motivated and committed in a way non of the rest of us could be.
It sucks for them and Im sorry they had to endure this–but this is an opportunity to bloodlet Putin’s Hard Power and retain our own.
Ride the Proxy War all the way…