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Putin has made Nato stronger America's leadership is now uncontested

US generals got it wrong from the start (ALLISON JOYCE/AFP via Getty Images)

US generals got it wrong from the start (ALLISON JOYCE/AFP via Getty Images)


March 30, 2022   6 mins

War is the domain of paradox, contradiction, and boundless surprise. It is not merely because of ignorance or stupidity that military history is a record of crimes, follies, defeats, and very few victories worth their cost. Even so, the Ukraine war is exceptional in the amplitude of its paradoxes, the extremity of its contradictions, and the magnitude of its surprises.

For the “post-Pacifist” German mainstream, the most bitter paradox of all is that the Russians might not have attacked Ukraine had they foreseen Germany’s response: that the Bundestag would cancel the new Russian gas pipeline, invest in regasification terminals, send weapons to Ukraine, reaffirm its fealty to Nato, and move to drastically upgrade its armed forces with a €100 billion injection.

The Russians could not possibly have known these things. The day before Putin launched his invasion, the German government declared that the new Russian gas pipeline would be inaugurated no matter what, and that they would send no weapons to Ukraine; it even affirmed it would prevent Estonia’s delivery of 122mm howitzers to Kyiv because those guns had briefly belonged to Germany when the West German army absorbed East Germany’s. Yet more egregiously, Germany also denied overflight permission for British transports delivering weapons to Ukraine. As for Nato, Germany reiterated its refusal to spend 2% or even 1% of its GDP for defence. If there were to be collective defence at all, let it be European, and directed by the decidedly civilian European Commission.

In that remote past of a month ago, those were all decidedly mainstream preferences throughout Europe, albeit with a north-south divide. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden had all resurrected their ancient Baltic connections and therefore viewed Russia as a live threat. But in Italy and Spain such attitudes were rare, and declared Putin admirers could become ministers in coalition governments. As for France, Macron did not oppose the effectively pro-Russian stance of the German government because he also wanted a European defence, led by France, of course, as the only European nuclear power.

All this has now slipped into oblivion in today’s Europe, where Nato’s centrality and its US leadership are largely uncontested. The Russians assessed Nato as weak because it was weak, and therefore attacked Ukraine. Yet because they attacked, Nato is stronger than it has been for decades.

In every country’s military, the equally abrupt reversals are causing no end of trouble for the staff officers and civil servants working on next year’s budgets. The infantry is once again the queen of the battlefield, empowered as it is by anti-tank missiles that pursue armoured vehicles until they destroy them, and by portable anti-aircraft missiles that are the doom of helicopters, even if they cannot intercept much faster jets. This means that current combat helicopter and armoured vehicle purchases should be cancelled until they can be redesigned with much better protection; that is active defences that detect and intercept the incoming missiles — a process that might take years. (So far only Israel has active defence systems for its armoured vehicles )

By contrast, killer drones that can reliably destroy armoured vehicles and anything else beyond the horizon are grotesquely underfunded given their demonstrated combat value, largely because they are captive to air force priorities, set by pilots and ex-pilot senior officers. Only with political intervention can the stranglehold of the flying fraternity be overcome — they are today’s reactionary horse cavalry that resisted tanks in the Twenties. But the main thing, of course, is to have more infantry and to train it very well, and that raises the need for compulsory military service which only Sweden has confronted so far — by re-instituting it.

Because Nato has not instituted a no-flight zone, for the excellent reason that it would lead to air combat that the loser might try to nullify by escalation, and with everything happening much too fast for adult supervision, no new air combat lessons have been learned. While the heroism of Ukrainian pilots flying older models of Russian aircraft against newer models is highly admirable, it adds nothing that is not already written in The Iliad.

At the level of grand strategy, the largest and by far most consequential discovery is that in spite of decades of talk about the “diffusion of power”, particularly with the rise of China but also of Turkey, Iran, Brazil and South Africa, it is still the same old G7 countries that hold the keys of the world. Once the US, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union make a decision, any country can be cut off from world finance and most of world commerce. Russia’s Aeroflot, for instance, had to stop flying abroad because its aircraft are leased from Western companies, and the money-transfer sanctions blocked its payments to them, leading to the confiscation of its aircraft if they land outside Russia.

That would not bother the Chinese, whose airlines do not depend on foreign lessors. But by the second day of the Ukraine war, Beijing realised that China also lives in a G7 world, with its economy utterly dependent on the daily arrival of bulk carriers loaded with animal and human food from the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and a slew of other countries. China’s economy was self-sufficient if miserably poor in 1976 when I first visited, with a population on the edge of malnutrition. But today’s citizens will not grin and bear it without their meat, eggs, or milk. Last year, Xi Jinping’s naval groupies, including the jovial retired Admiral Luo Yuan, suggested that the US could be scared off from defending Taiwan against a Chinese invasion by sinking a US warship or two, perhaps even an aircraft carrier. Now Xi must realise that if a US warship is sunk, the supply of animal feed would end.

Finally for the United States, the greatest lesson of immediate importance is that its foreign and defence policies are drastically degraded by the lack of basic intelligence about foreign countries — not because the CIA fails to steal their war plans, but because it cannot acquire elementary situational awareness. This is an inevitable consequence of a cultural collapse: in the old days, a CIA officer appointed to serve in a foreign country whose language he did not know would apply himself furiously to learn as much of it as possible. But now, very few CIA officers speak any foreign language. Their superiors do not demand that they learn them, and they themselves are too busy chatting with each other to talk with the locals — other than with English-speaking local counterparts who mostly tell them what they want to hear.

This is why Biden paid a high political price for the effortless Taliban conquest of Afghanistan and the rapid fall of Kabul: the CIA told the White House that the Afghan army would hold out on its own for much more than a decent interval, for years perhaps, and said nothing at all to suggest that it might crumble without a fight. Not knowing Tajik, Uzbek, or any Pathan dialect, the CIA officers who uselessly served in Kabul from their offices did not overhear the jokes on the street about the Afghan army, or hilarious accounts of how incompetent fools could become instant officers by paying a modest bribe.

Because American generals, including media-star David Petraeus, flatly refused to call upon the regiments of Pathans, Tadjiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who might fight out of ethnic solidarity, instead creating a mythical national “Afghan” army, the result was a fraud from day one. When the time came, they did not fight or even flee: they handed over their US-supplied weapons to the Taliban.

In Kyiv, exactly the same thing happened, but in reverse. Just as in Kabul, we had CIA officers with no situational awareness. They did not listen, or understand, or even speak Ukrainian — they proclaimed it unnecessary “because everyone speaks Russian”, before sheepishly admitting that they themselves did not. Hence the CIA told the White House that Zelenskyy would flee, that the government would dissolve, that the Ukrainian army would not fight, and that the Russians would control Kyiv in 24 hours.

Since the White House still gave credence to the CIA in spite of its long history of incompetence, it ordered the urgent, even panicked evacuation of the US diplomatic mission to Lviv. Had they had any idea at all, they might have noticed that the Russians proposed to invade Europe’s largest country with very few troops — 150,000 compared to the 800,000 sent into far smaller Czechoslovakia in 1968 — and told the White House that with a bit of help the Ukrainians would contain the invasion.

But the CIA is highly professional in its press relations, and sure enough the New York Times promptly published an article that featured “former intelligence officers” highlighting the impossibility of ascertaining “fighting spirit”. It was as neat an illustration as any of why Kabul fell, and why Kyiv could too. Unless the US remedies its CIA problem by emptying out and fumigating the place, before restaffing it with people who care enough about the world to learn its languages, the US will continue to fly blind — and crash into the next Ukraine.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

I’m not surprised to hear this. Living in Zimbabwe I find the Westerners sent here are normally worse than clueless.
I met, for example, the British ambassador to the country when she first arrived. I asked her what she was going to do in her tenure, to which she replied, “Well, first of all, we’re going to stabilise the economy and the exchange rate…”
I raised an eyebrow as I waited for her to elaborate on just how she was going to work with a bloodthirsty psychopath mortgaging away his country’s future to the Chinese for proverbial beads.
The exchange rate at the time was 1.8$ZWD :1 $USD to the USD.
Today, just 3 years later, it is $240ZWD:1$USD.
I am dying to bump into her again so I can ask her how her Majesty’s foreign service’s ‘stabilisation plan’ is going.

The few at the foreign office who have a light on upstairs invariably keep their jobs by remaining silent in the face of superiors who are ideologically captured and magically deluded.
I met one young man who said to me candidly that the best the foreign office could hope for with their budget and manpower was “to actually understand what’s happening”. Sadly, humility and insight like this will guarantee that this gentleman works thanklessly in the shadows forever.
It appears that most Western nations gather their foreign intelligence from useful idiots who have done Women’s studies or “Africa studies” (whatever that is), and are worse than stupid – stupidity borne of ignorance, after all, is curable but stupidity borne of being intelligent but ideologically indoctrinated is, in contrast, impermeable and utterly incurable, as the British so frequently demonstrate in Zimbabwe.
My impression of the Americans here is similar, so the author’s description of the CIA failing to know the most basic information about Ukraine comes across as depressingly accurate.

Last edited 2 years ago by hayden eastwood
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Thank you for that, I had almost forgotten how disgraceful the conduct of HMG had been towards Rhodesia, Ian Smith, Ebagum & Zimbabwe etc. Good luck!

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

The standards keep getting lower and it will keep getting worse. The Fletcher School at Tufts recently dropped the foreign language requirement for its masters in law and diplomacy. It’s now possible to complete many US undergraduate degrees in area studies with the equivalent of one year’s language study.

Last edited 2 years ago by JP Martin
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

The consumerist model of higher education, encouraging providers to offer more attractive, easier options, has much to answer for.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

In the past these roles would have been filled by people who had most likely grown up or spent some of their life in a far flung corner of Empire. That likely would have given them some perspective – at least having some life experience in the continent.
Nowadays we have a very sterilised populace in terms of experience. They might have ‘travelled’ parts of the world but likely only on holiday or part of some very constrained tame work scheme.
This occurred to me once when sat on a terrace reading in Geneva. Across from me was a group of young 20-something individuals talking. All spoke excellent English, although I assume this was their common language as they could have been from anywhere (in the west./western influenced). They talked of jobs and work in Hong Kong and Singapore. They were clearly educated, extremely well-travelled – but what couldn’t escape me was that they seemed to have a very one-dimensional globalist, educated international view of the world that would be utterly at odds with 95% of the world’s population and their world views.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

True, my Grandfather was posted to Kenya during WW1, a driver or mechanic, not sure which, picked up Swahili in addition to his three other languages.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

That put a smile on my face. I’m reminded of the British comedy stereotype of the ‘old Africa hand’ who barks Swahili at his servants.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Indeed, what better ‘education’ could one find than thirty years in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) or even better, the fabled Sudan Political Service (SPS)?

A 25 year old, with little more than a copy of Thucydides in his back pocket, running a district the size of Suffolk. What absolute nectar!

Colin
Colin
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

All Wykehamists, I believe

Bruce Hill
Bruce Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin

Which meant they spoke flawless ancient Greek!

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
2 years ago

Funny that. I have often noticed it to. For some reason, it also extends to the missionary types, the Latter Day Saints being a good example. There are certain neighborhoods you advise them not to set foot on or people to be wary of. They disregard it anyway, finding some woke reason to do so.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

To be fair stabilising the ZWD isn’t her job. Not sure why she mentioned it.

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago

She probably mentioned it because she’d just been the UK’s Executive Director at the World Bank in Washington, and was refracting her new role through the prism of her old one.

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
2 years ago

For ‘Foreign Office’ you could substitute ‘Civil Service’.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

Your point being …?

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
2 years ago

They are all dysfunctional

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

I use Zimbabwe as a case study in inflation in my HS economics class. I have a set of old Zimbabwean dollar bills, and as I hand each set around the class, I announce that when it was printed, it would buy 1 loaf of bread.
We start with the $1/$10/$100 ZWD set.
Then we hand out the $1000 series. (the cost of 1 loaf of bread at the time)
Then the $1M series. Then the $1B. By now the kids mouths are totally agape. They have no idea what to think of a $1B note that will buy a loaf of bread. Finally, I hand out the Trillion dollar series.
It drives the reality of bad monetary policy home in a way nothing else can.
BTW: I loved this line: “stupidity borne of ignorance is curable but stupidity borne of being intelligent but ideological indoctrinated is impermeable” I’m stealing that one for something.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

Thank you Brian. I have some good news for you too! If you hang on a couple of years, you can do a refresher class with some brand new notes!
This time, however, the rate will not be limited by our inability to pay Germany to print the actual notes, because this time we’re 95% digital, so all that’s required to pay the civil service is for comrade Ncube to add some zeros to the government balance sheet from his laptop. Voila!

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

The US dollar became the global reserve currency because the US didn’t steal your assets. In the last year we have stolen the central bank assets of Afghanistan and Russia and the private property of wealthy Russians. We’ve weaponized the US dollar. The lack of a mass exodus is now caused not by faith in us, but only by the lack of a clear alternative. When dollar hegemony ends (which it will eventually), we’re in for a shocking adjustments to both exchange and interest rates.

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago

I wonder what the class reaction would have been if you started off with the $1B note that could buy a billion loaves of bread in 19??, but now it buys just one.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

stupidity borne of ignorance, after all, is curable but stupidity borne of being intelligent but ideological indoctrinated is, in contrast, impermeable and utterly incurable,”
What a gorgeous phrase! Spot on.
It’s not only the diplomats, but also our journalists who are pig-ignorant. They seem only to see the surface of things – finding someone who is crying and interviewing them. Almost oblivious of history, for example.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

“stupidity borne of ignorance, after all, is curable but stupidity borne of being intelligent but ideological indoctrinated is, in contrast, impermeable and utterly incurable,”
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. Need I go on?

Last edited 2 years ago by Terry M
Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

It sounds like CIA have gone Woke – which would explain a lot actually.

Matthew Scott
Matthew Scott
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Actually, it sounds like an over-reliance on some version of analytics. No one wants to pound the pavement anymore. Too convinced that discovering and interpreting data is both cost efficient and accurate.

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
2 years ago

This is indeed one of the big mysteries of this war: why did no one foresee the Ukrainians’ fierce willingness to fight the Russians? You can never be completely sure before a war actually starts. But on the other hand the will to resist appeared to be enormous and to be everywhere.

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
2 years ago

Too many experts assumed it would be a rerun of Crimea.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

To be fair to the agencies (and I’m not defending their skills and record), it’s difficult to know whether what people say will translate into action. It’s too easy to be ‘all mouth and no trousers’ as we say in England.
It works both ways. In the 1930s the Cambridge (or was it Oxford?) Union passed a motion saying they would not fight ‘for King and country’. A few short years later this same generation were ‘the few’, fighting heroic duels in the sky in the Battle of Britain.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Oxford. The motion did give confidence to the German regime that Britain wouldn’t fight though, maybe it even gave them confidence to go ahead with their expansionist plans, too. Even if you don’t want to fight don’t let your enemy (or potential enemies) know – take heed of the doctrine of deterrent.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Especially the writer of this article who claims to be a strategist.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

Well who would have guessed that the CIA were and are incompetent. WMD, slam dunk anybody?

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

…Billy Bob?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

bernie it is good to bring some humour to Unherd but be careful about denigrating the discussion process……

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Or you will have ‘Linda Snell MBE’ on your back.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

You rang?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Incompetent? I think you mean criminal

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

The intelligent and fit wanting a life of adventure joined the ICS, Indian Army, The Sudanese CS and Colonial Service; the effete joined The Foreign Office. An officer in the ICS/Indian Army had to speak at least four Indian languages, Richard Burton spoke at least twelve( possible 29 ) and had to be be willing to go in disguise, through territory where if caught, they would be tortured to death, Hopkirks’ ” The Great Game “.
In 1938 an ICS/Indian Army Officer may be travelling through Afghanistan in disguise , risking a long and painful death to assess what was happening; a diplomat in an embassy main worry would be sorting out place settings at a dinner party. By 1945, there were families with other five generations of service in India. The advantage of learning Latin and especially Greek at school is that they are Indo Aryan Languages which meant learning Persian, the language of the Moghul Empire and Sanskrit and Hindi much easier.
Fascination with Troy and the civilisations of the Middle east resulted in archaeologists such as T E Lawrence running digs at places such as Carchemish. After four years of managing the workforce Lawrence , being a Grecian, was fluent in Arabic and appreciated how they felt, thought and perceived the world. In WW2 archaeologists being classicists served in SOE in countries such as Crete.
The large number of middle and upper class who served as naval officers, army officers, engineers, planters, railway managers, bank managers, policemen, etc, meant that Britain has considerable body of people who spoke languages, understood religions, racial divides, geography, history, family divides, and understood how the World worked; this has largely gone. Third generation tea planters from Ceylon/Sri Lanka have told me far more about the conflict than any report from the BBC or newspapers. The USA has never had body of middle and upper class people who could perceive the World from a non American perspective.
In summary, unless an intelligence organisation has people who can perceive the World in the same manner as others, what is the point of it receiving tax payers money? Sir Francis Walsingham achieved much with little; The CIA achieves little with much.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

40 years ago we trained a State Dept FSO or CIA field agent on local culture and local language because his job was to help us understand the country to which he (or she) was assigned.
Today we train FSOs and field agents on pronouns, systemic racism, and LGBTQXYZ ideology because their job is to bring enlightened American liberal values to the poor benighted, backward countries to which they are they’re assigned.
Call it “colonization” or “foreign assistance”, it stinks all the same.
The problem isn’t that we’ve become too lazy. The problem is that we’ve become a bloated imperial bureaucracy convinced of its own moral, political, and legal superiority.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
ken wilsher
ken wilsher
2 years ago

Like so many articles in Unherd, the author lashes out at straw men.
Luttwak writs (Third paragraph) “The day before Putin launched his invasion, the German government declared that the new Russian gas pipeline would be inaugurated no matter what”
No – that is not what happened. Russia invaded on the 24th February. On the 22nd February “German chancellor Olaf Scholz announced he had ordered the economy ministry to withdraw a supply security report which is an essential element for certification, effectively putting the process on hold. This came as a reaction to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin officially recognizing two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine”
The whole section about the CIA/US military/US policy failure in the pullout from Afghanistan is wrong. Surely “everyone” – certainly the folks here on Unherd – knew after 20 years that Afghanistan was a house of cards. A Trillion-dollar house of cards that nobody wanted to be the first to make tumble.
We cannot blame our politicians for not understanding the Ukraine fiasco.
Russia masses forces on the Ukraine border for weeks. It seems crazy.
Russia actually invades Ukraine – seems even more crazy.
The Russian invasion is a pathetic failure. Yes, it was crazy!

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

That’s a bit unkind. It is certainly an improvement on some of Luttwak’s previous work.*

(‘The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire’ for example.)

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

You are accurate on the German reaction but overall I found the article informative.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

And “crazily” the CIA predicted it.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

“Surely “everyone” – certainly the folks here on Unherd – knew after 20 years that Afghanistan was a house of cards.”

No, because it is simply incorrect.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

Agree. Writers on Unherd seem to be doing that more often, I think to attract attention with new or ‘controversial’ opinions. Getting more like the MSM that’s free of charge.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  ken wilsher

Ken, I think you’re just looking at too small of a window. Even if Germany did spend 1-2 days prior to Putin’s actual invasion backpedalling, they’ve spent the previous 1-2 months insisting that “nothing will stop Nordstream II”. Politicians often say things they don’t mean, so Putin trusting months or years worth of German actions over a couple of days worth of German words isn’t surprising.
International relations is a world of “if you X, we will do Y to hurt you.” Wars start when nations don’t convey that accurately. We will never know whether the author is correct (clearer communication would have deterred Putin), but German hesitancy made the clear telegraphing of a unified EU/US response plan far more difficult.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

Manners maketh man. The manner in which one presents oneself to the World is the manner by which one is judged. Schroeder onwards has presided over increased dependence on Russian energy and a decline in German defence capability. Bidens’ actions and inactions indicated that the USA would not support the Ukraine. Nothing in British politics suggested we would provide effective support to the Ukraine. One can only deal with Russians from a position of strength.
Luckily Putin’s hubris which included underestimation of Johnson’s resolve, resulted in sending under equipped and under trained forces into the Ukraine. Russian tanks are more lightly armoured than the West such that they can be destroyed by NLAWs and there are anti aircraft MANPADs. There are two views of history, c**k up and conspiracy. Hopefully Putin is demonstrating the c**k up.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Agreed. Russian failure to defeat Ukraine is due far less to Western skills than to Russia’s rather surprising incompetence.

Andy E
Andy E
2 years ago

> Russian failure to defeat Ukraine
What failure exactly? Failure against the imaginary prospects reported by the Western intel that Ukraine falls “in three days” or “in a week or so”? Is that possible at all to defeat any country (even some Lesoto pardon me) in a few days/weeks?
When I hear Jen Psaki saying “failed to implement his plan to bla-bla” I always ask the TV set: “how do you happen to know their plans, eh?”
If Mariupol falls, then Donbas group destroyed there it would be tough to see it as a failure.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andy E
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

All of this may be true, but, as I recall, it was US intel that predicted the invasion. They thus seemed to have better situational awareness than virtually any other observer.
And I suspect that one or two might even speak Russian.
Any bureaucracy has problems, and hopefully they will be corrected. But don’t shoot the messenger when they bring a valid message.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Yep. The article is very odd on that. The US clearly pwnd Putin’s false flag/military exercise nonsense at outset by constantly pulling his trousers down on the world stage since December. And what is more, the anti-tank weapons and training supplied by the UK and US and so on for the past several years seems to have been absolutely crucial in countering Russian armour.

It’s like an article that has missed half of what has happened.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

At the time, it didn’t seem like pulling his trousers down to me. It seemed like believing his propaganda. One of the reasons I became convinced that an invasion was unlikely was because of the number of times our leaders said it was “imminent” only to be proven wrong. Before it finally happened, even Zelensky was asking Biden at all to tone down the “invasion is tomorrow” rhetoric.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

What nonsense saying the CIA could have prevented the Ukraine war.
It would have been prevented if Germany had simply kept its nuclear power stations open and avoided a dependency on Russian oil and gas that is now funding the continuation of the war. Everyone told them so.
Putin couldn’t have built up a war chest and there would have been no war.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Andy E
Andy E
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It is a common error thinking that Russia is super-dependent on selling gas and oil to Europe. It is so now, well, it’s grown to be cross-dependent and both Germany and Russia suffer if it stops NOW. But. There is China and it can easily consume 5x of what Russia sells to Europe. And it will. There is a new pipeline being built btw from the same gas field which is warming Europe right now — to China. It will be finished very soon and the dependency will faint. It just made news that some EU country (Poland or Slovak?) has stopped importing coal from Russia. Well, Russia produces 10% of coal China needs to import and 1% of what China wants to import to make a coal reserve. So it’s much ado about nothing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andy E
Prof Mitchell
Prof Mitchell
2 years ago

The CIA was too busy trying to overthrow the American election to bother with what might be going on in areas of their real responsibility.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

The CIA well well be substantially incompetent, but someone in the US has played a blinder by suckering Russia into the catastrophic invasion of Ukraine. Russian weakness and incompetence dwarves any problems the US may have, the US gets to reassert its military dominance, NATO is rejuvenated (neutrality ends for Switzerland and Sweden) and US defence spending is secured. Great outcome for US oil and gas and agriculture. And the US/West gets a convenient scapegoat (Putin) for the already existing economic problems (rising fuel prices, inflation generally).
The US may have blundered into this too, but this doesn’t look like a bad outcome for them.
Who knows – with a more competent CIA, the opportunity to put Putin away may have been missed.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

“The CIA may well” …

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

One does wonder if this was the western plan. It’s screwed Russia and messed up China’s plans for global dominance.
The Spartans of Ukraine are paying a high price for defending us at our Thermopylae.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

If it is, than our leadership encouraged and egged on Russia to attack its neighbor and kill thousands of Ukrainian civilians just to damage Russia geopolitically.
I think I’d rather believe they were just incompetent than that amoral.

John Bruce
John Bruce
2 years ago

The CIA predicted the invasion weeks in advance, even naming the day. This deprived Putin of the opportunity to cite some confected outrage as a pretext for invasion. As a result, Germany and France had no other option than oppose Putin’s aggression and duplicity.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
2 years ago

My first reaction to the invasion was that America must not have been able to believe its luck. It has reinvigorated NATO, and the re-armament of Germany and Central Europe resolves a strategic headache in that the US can now focus its activities in the Far East where it believes the real threat to its hegemonic power lies. It will also embroil one of its main adversaries in what is almost certainly a bloody disaster that will bleed it dry of men and resources. Even if Kyiv is taken and Zelensky beaten, the insurgencies will be devastating and prolonged. It has also driven many less-than-solid allies firmly back into the US orbit and will help launder the American reputation after Iraq and Afghanistan. And Putin’s choices are now to butcher and dismember Ukraine (if he can) or leave with his tail between his legs. Either choice will be a PR disaster which is likely to fatally weaken his power.
It may not have been of American design, but it certainly benefits them to an extraordinary extent.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

Your first reaction is the correct one. The US is in a “no lose” scenario and Russia in a “no win” one. China probably benefits too.

Philip Akinsoto
Philip Akinsoto
2 years ago

Though I agree with some of this assertions, I think he is just another Monday morning quarterback. I have more respect for the likes of Professor Mearsheimer whose analysis of the situation is more spot on
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4

Prof Mitchell
Prof Mitchell
2 years ago

It interests me how vastly superior the West’s missionaries are to the professional intelligence services. Every one of them learns the language of the country they intend to serve. This really impresses the natives. In hundreds of cases they INVENT the written language of the people group they serve. No wonder they have a bit better results. Africa has added about 500 million Christians to the world’s total in the last hundred years.

Riccardo Tomlinson
Riccardo Tomlinson
2 years ago

I’m not sure this is fair. I really enjoy Luttwak’s stuff but he did have to eat humble pie after rubbishing the CIA’s reports of imminent invasion, remember. In truth the reach and knowledge of the US intelligence has been very impressive in this conflict.

And despite all the chat about not having a clue about the Ukrainians, remember the UK, US and Canadian infantry have been training the Ukr army since 2015. Those soldiers have trained loads of troops around the world, and they rated the Ukrainians very highly. I think UK and US intelligence knew a lot more than you think.

What did Boris say to Russia in early Feb? Don’t do it, you will get bogged down for months or years. No one listens to Boris of course. That would be so uncool.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

I’m relatively sure that Putin knew that moving into Ukraine would make huge headlines and lead to a strenghtening of NATO. I’m also quite sure that he was aware of a danger towards the Nord Stream pipelines. Which is exactly why he is now saying that the gas will paid in Rubles or he won’t send it. Do you really think one of the most powerful people in the world just makes stuff up as they go along? Do you really think the sanctions were a surprise after multiple decades of sanctions against Russia?
There are even suggestions that the CIA may have provoked the Russian invasion in order to close Nord Stream 2 and sell liquid gas. Indeed, some geopoliticians have suggested years ago that the US seeks to prevent an alliance between the EU and Russia, because it would mean loss of US control & influence.
That besides, it’s pretty obvious that our organizations aren’t what they used to be. Remember how not too long ago, Chinese hypersonic missiles were discussed, and it was said on the air that the US has no technology to defend against that?

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael K
Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Do you seriously believe that the US publicly discloses all its defence capabilities ?
All the evidence since WW2 strongly suggests that the US military is way in advance of any other country equipment, scale, logistics and ability to deploy anywhere in the world.
As with any activity, in order to be the best you don’t need to be 100% competent, but rather less incompetent than the opposition.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

It does seem a ludicrous ‘own goal’ that we are at such odds with Russia, and the idea that the CIA may well have been provoking this is interesting. Who would believe they were capable of such dastardly conduct, given their somewhat dubious history?

As to Chinese ‘hypersonic missiles’, a typical US Defence Lobby hysterical overreaction, that reminds me of the dreaded ‘Sputnik’ back in 1957.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

No he didn’t expect sanctions on this scale, otherwise he’d have moved his huge war chest of reserves to a location where these could be accessed. Wishful thinking.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

Whatever the failings of the CIA, the organisation can’t be worse than Putin’s set-up, where he forces his advisers to publicly support his plans under the presumed threat of a ‘heart attack’.
Putin failed to appreciate that Germany’s policy towards Russia was based on the assumption that Russia would not invade another country, an assumption that no ‘educated’ German could dissent from making due to the conformity of the German elite and the taboos associated with Germany’s past. Detonate that assumption and Germany’s policies were bound to change.

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago

Odd that the article spoke little about NATO, as promised by the title, but more about the CIA. Never mind, that was interesting too.

Ukraine, it’s plea for a “no-fly zone” ignored by NATO because of its petrified fear of fighting Russia, has eminently proved it can, with enough of the right weapons, create a “no-trundle zone”. Russian vehicles, even there tanks, know their days are numbered if they dwell on Ukrainian soil.

Let’s get more and better NATO’s weapons to the Ukrainian government – at least they have the guts to use them!

Andy E
Andy E
2 years ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

It’s a dangerous game. Good or bad, mr Putin is always up to his word. Look, he said
“there will be no NATO base in Sebastopol” – and as soon Ukrainans started to talk about cutting the lease he took the whole Crimea, to close the issue.
“Ukraine will not be in NATO, [if there will be Ukraine after all – that is another question]” – and when the “mutual security” ultimatum was refused he started the war and no matter how it ends there will be no NATO in Ukraine.
“We don’t need this world without [prosperous] Russia”. Does it give you shivers? I honestly believe sending troops to kill brother slavs gave him more hesitation than the idea of wiping Miami or Glasgow from existence.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andy E
N T
N T
2 years ago

Until Zelenakyy uttered the ultimate unifying reply, “I need ammo, not a ride,” I don’t know that anyone would have considered it likely that he, and they, would rather die than live in exile.
Imagine if the Taiwanese did the same, when they have nowhere to run when the terror comes.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
2 years ago

First thank you. This is the first time I read Edward Luttwak and it looks like I missed a lot. I find every paragraph non-trivial and enlightening but I struggle with the main thesis of this article.
Maybe American leadership in general is now more appreciated but it cannot possible extend to the current administration. I agree that “Unless the US remedies its CIA problem by emptying out and fumigating the place” this organization will remain useless and dangerous for the country and for the American democracy.
But ultimately the President makes decisions and people around him evaluate the intelligence coming from CIA. Biden’s national security team is just a bunch of idiots who got their jobs because the hated Trump.
Afghanistan was a cluster… at every level: leadership, foreign relations, American security etc. Sending Harris to Europe, particularly to Poland was considered an insult to serious people dealing with a serious situation.
Accepting leadership requires certain level of trust. But Biden/Harris team incompetence is astonishing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

I enjoyed reading this over a cup of tea. (Safe in the knowledge that it was 
 doing me good).
Have to say, when you read a John Buchan ‘potboiler’, say Greenmantle, you just might believe it not so fantastical after all, what with all its intrigues and surprises.

Michael Ledzion
Michael Ledzion
2 years ago

At least one person on Radio 4 about a week before the invasion suggested that the Ukrainians would put up a fight: a British General. However, he also said that was why Russia was unlikely to invade…

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
2 years ago

But anyway. It is a United Nations problem more than a NATO one.
Resolution 377 known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution, allowed the United Nations General Assembly to circumvent Russia’s veto recently and voted overwhelmingly to deplore Russia’s actions and demand its immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.

This should now have been followed up by a vote recommending the establishment of an emergency force, even if that means a NATO one!

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Fraser

The UN is a house of talk, no action.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

Frankly after the Iraq debacle, it has been revealed as nothing more than an expensive carbuncle, and should be lanced accordingly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

An excellent informative article on a slightly ‘sub surface’ non ideological subject not given enough attention.

Hopefully many of us could agree with or at least discuss it without too much of the usual rancour.

One particular thought is that the Americans and British are by far the worst linguists of any nation (I’m no exception), so the pool of talent to gain a real understanding of another nation and culture will always be very limited.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

Maybe the purpose of the CIA is not to serve the US government but to generate business for arms manufacturers.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago

The CIA has a long history of not knowing what the people outside their office know. Not sure what they spend their time doing, but it’s not traditional grunt-work.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

Something is wrong with this article, the title is about US-dominance, but the link and article are about the failures of the CIA.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael K
Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

In this article, America’s leadership of NATO is emphasised and praised but I don’t think it is appropriate for America to be the dominant force in Ukrainian peace negotiations, which seems to be the case. (* below) The outcome of this war will affect European NATO countries but will have no affect on America.
This side of the Atlantic, we have more knowledge of the cultural and political differences in Ukraine, having increased our trade with both countries over the years, and enjoyed sporting rivalries, student exchanges and tourism..
Russia was not our enemy until this invasion and we must guard against Ukraine being used by America to conduct a proxy war against Russia.
*I got the impression that that might be the case from listening to the American Ambassador to Ukraine being interviewed on the “Today” programme (Radio 4) this morning.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

the Russians might not have attacked Ukraine had they foreseen Germany’s response

Oh, really? They would meekly have allowed Ukraine’s extreme nationalists to bulldoze the Donbass with a blitzkrieg, with all the rape, pillage and murder that goes with a Nazi mindset and deeply entrenched hatred of everything Russian? And Russia would have politely bowed while said Ukrainian admirers of Stepan Bandera took a shot at occupying Crimea? And then the Russians would have said: Oh yes, please put NATO nuclear warheads on the border, so they can reach Moscow in 4 minutes, and let them be managed by the Azov Regiment. And then the Russians would put a bayonet in Putin’s ass and Zelensky would have taken on the new gig of playing Russia’s president, while the country’s resources are looted at the behest of American concentrated wealth?

‘It is not merely because of ignorance or stupidity’ that this article is so ignorant and stupid. It’s also because the author is a rabid warmonger and a neocon fossil who should be transported back to the 20th century, having done enough damage and killed enough people already.

Hopefully the Germans get back to their senses before next winter, and cease to be a puppet in this US proxy war.

Last edited 2 years ago by Neven Curlin
David Harris
David Harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

Hi Vlad. How’s tricks?