America’s Secret Weapon To Stop Russia

America’s Secret Weapon to Stop Russia print/commentary/americas- secret-weapon-stop-russia- 10154

March 31, 2014

Robert Spalding III [2]

Today Ukraine is threatened by a large Russian force on its border. The Crimea has been annexed by Russia, and Russian forces are consolidating their hold on the province. Despite assurances by the Russians that they have no interest in invading Ukraine, it is easy to be dubious of their claims. Capability doesn’t lie, and intent can change in a heartbeat.

Many have already said that there are no military options in the Ukraine crisis. While Western Europe and the United States do not desire conflict with Russia, the lack of action supporting Ukraine is actually a provocative gesture that invites escalation by the Russians. Fritz Kraemer, a little-known but highly influential strategist in the Pentagon best known for his many years as advisor to numerous secretaries of defense, believed that there were two ways to be provocative. One way was to be threatening, and in so doing provoke an enemy to action. The other way was to appear weak, and thus to provoke an adversary into a similar risky misadventure.

Before the United States Air Force began pounding Saddam’s forces in what would be a prelude to a one-hundred-hour ground campaign, it provided a much more subtle service to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. When considering the first Iraq war, most people think about the offensive campaign that pushed Saddam’s forces out of Kuwait. Few remember the deterrence provided by airpower before allied aircraft began the offensive that would be known as “Desert Storm.”

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Almost immediately the threat to Saudi Arabia was recognized in the United States. On August 7, the first contingent of F-15s were deployed to Saudi Arabia. These aircraft provided a stopgap to prevent Iraqi aircraft from supporting a ground invasion of Saudi Arabia. It also bought time to work diplomatic initiatives, and sought to quell the Saudi’s fear of an impending invasion.

This was just one of many examples where the United States has used military deployments to deter an adversary. During the Kennedy administration, the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to the Western powers calling for the withdrawal of all military forces from Western Berlin. Then on August 13, 1961 the East Germans began constructing the Berlin Wall. Kennedy went to Congress and asked for an increase in the defense budget and authorization to boost the end strength of the Army to one million men. In October and November of 1961, the United States began the largest deployment of Air National Guard interceptors to Europe in an operation dubbed “Stair Step.” This served to dissuade further Soviet aggression, and though the Wall remained it would ultimately be torn down.

These examples highlight the importance of the military lever of national power in support of diplomatic efforts when faced with an adversary determined to use military force. Unless backed by a credible use of force, negotiations will often fail. Foreign-policy practitioners frequently dismiss the military as an option, because they prefer “soft power.” These same practitioners consider “hard power” to be inherently provocative. Yet, deployments of military forces need not be escalatory, especially when they are intended to be defensive in nature.

Crimea is most likely permanently lost until there is a change in government in Russia. To buy time for Ukraine and to allow time for diplomatic measures to be effective, a military solution is called for. A purely defensive deployment of F-22 fighters (along with supporting aircraft) is just one possible solution. To be diplomatically effective these forces would have to come with an American promise to defend Ukrainian skies from attack.

Without firing a shot, such a deployment would immediately change Putin’s invasion calculus. Faced with F-22s, Russian aircraft would not survive, and thus could not support a Russian ground invasion. Ukrainians would feel more confident about their ability to defend their country, since any Russian invasion would be subject to attack by Ukrainian aircraft protected by F-22s.

The resulting pause and collective exhale would allow all sides to consider a future where an aggressive Russia will be met with firm American resolve. Furthermore it puts some teeth into what everyone believes is the “strong message that needs to be sent to Putin,” rather than just sending the Ukrainians some groceries.

To those that wonder about the outcomes from what they would surely term a severe provocation without a clear understanding of United States’ interests, I propose three. First, Putin and others would be put on notice that unilateral attempts to militarily change the post-World War II global order will be forcefully countered. Second, countries that rely on American power as an alternative to developing their own nuclear-arms program would feel confident that the United States will honor its commitment to extended deterrence. Finally, the countries that have heretofore been prevented from joining NATO by a belligerent Russia can comfortably enter the global commons without fear of coercion.

Robert Spalding III [3] is a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Spalding was most recently vice commander of the 509th Bomb Wing based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, where he was responsible for preparing and maintaining United States’ only B-2 wing. He also commanded the 509th Operations Group, where he launched B-2s to protect civilians during Operation Odyssey Dawn.
More by
Robert Spalding III [2]

Topics: Defense [4]
Great Powers [5]
Military Strategy [6]
Security [7]

Regions: Russia [8]
Ukraine [9]

Source URL (retrieved on Mar 31, 2014): http:// commentary/americas-secret- weapon-stop-russia-10154

[1] bookmark.php?v=250& username=nationalinterest
[2] profile/robert-spalding-iii
[3] world/robert-s-spalding-iii/ b19446/bio
[4] topic/security/defense
[5] topic/security/great-powers
[6] topic/security/military- strategy
[7] topic/security
[8] region/eurasia/russia
[9] region/europe/eastern-europe/ ukraine


  1. Reblogged this on CLINGERS… BLOGGING BAD ~ DICK.G: AMERICAN ! and commented:

  2. The F-22 is an amazing aircraft and is (so far) superior in a qualitative sense to the best the Russians can deploy. We’ll wait and see how the PAK-FA measures up and whether that changes that assessment, but for the moment, the F-22 is superior in qualitative terms. But, quantity has a quality of its own. In your proposed scenario, the Russians could deploy much greater numbers of 4th, 4+ and 4.5 gen aircraft and over-match the F-22s in quantitative terms. Plus they could strike the air bases the F-22s are operating from with Iskander missiles. Or they could hit the airborne refuellers or the AWACS which the F-22s rely on to undertake operations using very long range BVR-AAMs. Or they could employ advanced EW and cyberattack to erode the F-22’s edge by denying use of off-board sensors. Or they could use large numbers of advanced double digit SAMs to make it much more difficult to operate F-22s over unfriendly territory.

    Stating that deploying only F-22s would ‘win the war’ is the gross oversimplification and makes a mistake of betting all on technology being the solution. Start thinking about ‘strategy’ before you think about what resources you are going to use to ensure that strategy works.

    And to borrow another strategic axiom – ‘the enemy always gets a vote’. They don’t have to play by our rules, and they can fight on asymmetrically or attack our vulnerabilities (and yes, NATO and the US have too many of those). An option would be coercive diplomacy against other NATO states to get them to back down on hosting US military forces – for example, using Russia’s chokehold on Europe’s energy is a very strong card for Moscow, and has already influenced EU decision-makers in terms of sanctions.

    Please don’t get me wrong – I love the F-22 and wish the US had not made the mistake of stopping production when it did. But the F-22, like any other advanced military technology, is not a technological panacea for strategic problems. Get the strategy right, and then apply the right military resources to achieve policy success – that’s Clausewitz 101.

    1. Great post – thanks

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