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Those are not the same things at all. In neither of the cases you listed was the US trying to reach them with a small force before the Russians did. (Although they probably should have.) The problem for the Russians in the Ukraine is that they have to move large forces, in this case in order to occupy eastern Ukraine against a potential fight with Ukrainians, whereas a small group of US or British special forces on the NATO side is sufficient to achieve the American objective of blocking roads and transit for Russian forces. If the Russians have to shoot at NATO in any way, they lose, so there is no need for a comparable sized force to match the Russians.

US speed and stealth has been very effective and has had, and continues to get even now, almost continuous, real battle condition experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc. It is very unlikely that the Russians would be able to win such a race in the Ukraine, even starting from a much closer distance.  

by santiago on Wed Apr 2nd, 2014 at 05:26:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In neither of the cases you listed was the US trying to reach them with a small force before the Russians did. (Although they probably should have.)
That is exactly my point - wherever the US has gone in my lifetime it has been with massive force with a slow buildup and in technicolor and quadraphonic sound. But it appears to be elementary strategy that if you can put a small force in charge of airstrips and communication centres it doesn't matter that the other guys can beat you with massive force. After all, the US still does not want to get into an actual shootout with Russian troops. So, while the US wonders about how to deliver a crippling blow, maybe Russia will simply take control of Donetsk or Kharkiv with a small force. And then you'll come back to tell us that the US is still superior in speed and stealth.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2014 at 05:37:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And no, Panama and Grenada don't count.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2014 at 05:39:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree that such a move on the part of NATO would be the kind of risk-taking that they presently don't do, operationally, outside of the early reconnaissance and special forces things, which is what winning the race to to parts of eastern Ukraine would have to entail. I'm not at all convinced that anyone in the US or NATO establishment has the kind of strategic, "outside-the-box" thinking that such a move would require and that Putin has shown himself to be so good at. But I am pretty certain that such a move is about the only way to actually stop Russian tanks from rolling into the Ukraine if Russia intends to send them sometime soon.
by santiago on Fri Apr 4th, 2014 at 01:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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