Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I do apologize for not writing in so long, it has been to long and my loyal readers deserve better. Truthfully, much has been going on at work, on the book, and at home. So much that every time I thought I might write something, I either procrastinated waiting for more information, or got a brain cramp and writers block. But tonight after 10 days of an illegal, immoral, and criminal war of aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine, I am going to speak some hard and bery personal experiences and truth.
This is a long, but necessary post because it deals with a reality that many people have either forgotten or have never experienced. Please understand it in that manner and please feel free to share.
In the 1980s I served as a platoon leader, Company XO, and Company commander in Central Germany at the climax of the Cold War. Our mission was to help,reconstitute the 11th ACR after they were decimated on the Fulda Gap. We were expected to take 70-90% casualties in the process. I was a Medical Service Corps officer with specialized training as a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare officer.
So much of that experience is seared into my brain. I can recite how chemical weapons including choking agents, blood agents, and nerve agents cause death. I know far too much about how biological agents do the same. If you are unfamiliar, depending on your ability to handle horror do some research, if you cannot because of your life experience, don’t traumatize yourself.
But most of all I remember the effects of nuclear weapons, the blast effects of air and surface bursts of various size and types of weapon, and what would happen to people, equipment, and structures from those blasts depending how far one was from the explosion. I understand the firestorms they would ignite, and the effects of radiation on the human body. I know from memory how many RADS one can live with without getting immediate radiation sickness, how long one could remain in an irradiated area, and how much radiation would give a person serious radiation poisoning and bring about death. I understand how the process of how people die from radiation poisoning not just from the immediate effects of the blast, and burn injuries.
I understand how to plot fallout patterns, and had to do so on 1:50,000 maps that had my house on them. I remember receiving and decoding FLASH messages in training exercises, saying where the nukes were going off and plotting the fallout patterns on those maps. If you want to see how frightening that is just watch the film “Crimson Tide.”
I predicted what Putin was going to do in Ukraine and even when he would do it as far back as last fall as he began to build up his forces and issue threats. you can check my Facebook and Twitter feeds to verify that information.
I knew that the Russian Army would struggle in this war because it is poorly trained, most of its soldiers are poorly motivated and trained, and its senior officers and commanders are inexperienced at the operational level of war. as a result they resort to destroying everything in front of them, even as whole Russian units surrender in mass as they suffer massive casualties.
The Russian Army has a nightmarish history of poor logistics, and its soldiers, mostly conscripts are ill-trained, and badly treated. This is nothing new, the Russian Army, including the victorious Red Army of the Second World War has had the same problems, neither is it prepared for a massive insurgency after it takes control of major cities, the Ukrainians will never give up. They will kill so many Russian soldiers in an insurgency that when the bodies come home and the Russian mothers demand justice, when the wounded return and tell their families and friends what they experienced. These accounts will end Putin’s nefarious regime, just as the Red Army’s defeat in Afghanistan sealed the fate of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union, and brought about the rule of a disillusioned KGB Agent named Vladimir Putin, who is determined to “Make Russia Great Again”, and damn the cost to his country and people. Despite Putin’s suppression of his opponents, the free press, and trying to cut off Russians from foreign news outlets, these stories will rock Russia, and bring about his fall.
But unlike some, I hate being right in my predictions. I don’t make any money from them, and you don’t see me as a talking head on cable news. Sadly, I am probably a better military historian, theorist, strategist, and subject matter expert than I am a Priest.
Personally, I am not sleeping well. I am having flashbacks, including from when we had to take action to protect us, our families, and even pets when the fallout from Chernobyl passed over us. Judy and I talk about this often. She remembers that time all too well.
Putin’s threats of nuclear war and his forces attack on the largest nuclear reactor, and seizure of the Chernobyl site, and the possibility of the Russians doing something with those places as the mother of all dirty bombs, make what is happening in Ukraine an existential crisis. Putin is now far more reckless than any of his predecessors in raising the nuclear weapons rhetoric.
Thus it is important that the United States, NATO, and the E.U., need to thread the needle of this historic crisis, because it is different than any of the major crises of the Cold War, by giving every means of assistance to Ukraine and punishing Russia without a direct confrontation with Russian military forces. Such a confrontation would give Putin the opportunity to use it as an excuse to launch a few nuclear weapons to test our response. Putin has crossed a line that no Soviet leader other than Krushev did when he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, and the brinksmanship he engaged in with John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In order to help the Ukraine without a provoking a direct confrontation that would likely lead to nuclear war, we will have to do things that will cause us pain, like cutting off all Russian oil and LNG trade to West, including us. This will result in higher oil prices with a ripple effect that all of us will feel in our pocketbooks in a myriad of different ways, but we and Europe have the means to compensate. But that is a small price to pay to help cut off Putin’s ability to make war by using economic means and hopefully stir the Russian people to rise up against Putin, and maybe even inspire someone or a faction in the FSB and military to remove Putin from power. But, in the mean time we cannot trust a word that Putin says and be wary as he grows more desperate in the military situation and the massive sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy and those to follow.
These weapons include more anti-tank and and anti-aircraft missiles like the Javelin and Stinger, as well as the former Soviet Su-27s and MiG-29s that are part of Air Forces Eastern European NATO nations that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact. We can also provide former Soviet artillery from those nations. We need to help Turkey provide more of their very effective and inexpensive drones to Ukraine. Speed is of the essence, while some would like to equip the Ukrainians with Patriot missiles, M-1A Abrams tanks, and F-16 fighters, the pipeline to provide them and train the Ukrainians on them is too long to help at the moment.
We also need to cross the line and provide Ukraine the best real time intelligence to allow their air and ground forces every advantage. Some say this crosses the line into deeper involvement, and possibility of conflict with Russia, but we will not be taking direct military action, simply providing information. This is a moral obligation.
Likewise, we need to let the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies use experienced contractors with Special Forces backgrounds to help arm, train and advise Ukrainian insurgents as we did the Afghans in the 1980s. The use of contractors and mercenaries to do this provides the cover of plausible deniability, and does not involve U.S. or NATO troops taking direct action against the Russias just like we did in Afghanistan.
Additionally we need to keep building up forces in Eastern Europe because there is no doubt that Putin harbors desires on Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Romania, and has pledged to punish Germany. That will mean deploying more U.S. Army, Marine, and Air Force units to those countries, and provide massive military and humanitarian aide to Ukraine and to the countries providing for the million or so Ukrainian refugees. We probably need to sent another three to five Brigade Combat Teams, and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
As for the United States, we need to reverse the historic mistake of President George W. Bush and every President after him and fulfill our commitment to joining the International Criminal Court. We helped establish international criminal at Nuremberg. Our refusal to join the ICC is a black mark on our moral and legal history. As Justice Robert Jackson said when the International Military Tribunal to prosecute the major Nazi War Criminals: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
For those born after the Cold War or those born at the tail end of it this is a foreign world, but to us who grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and served looking at the Soviets face to face in the Cold War, it is nothing new, and our President understands it far better than most. Whether you like him or not, he is handling this as good or better than any of our Cold War Presidents did the threats from their time, as this is similar to those but very much different.
Welcome to the old new world of the “hot” Cold War, war crimes, crimes against humanity, mutually assured destruction, and few good answers.
So, until the next time,