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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments Sometimes 'common interests and values' result in mutual defense pacts and arrangements, however not always as communist USSR and Capitalist America ended up in the Allies confronting jointly the Axis.
Military alliances change over time:
After WW2 it was NATO vs Warsaw Pact. But with the latter disintegrating, the existence of the former may not be an axiom, especially with often shifting economic and other interests.
How do you think these alliances might change? Are there scenarios for Russia - China pact and maybe Germany joining? US-UK rather than NATO? Shia vs Sunni? Or EU - Iran even? What do you think?

message 2: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments US and Russia versus China.

Oceania is always an ally of Eurasia against Eastasia - except when the roles are reversed. (h/t Orwell, apologies for the paraphrase).

In reality, in a three way split between equivalent powers, the benefit is always with the allied pair versus the one left on their own.

The geopolitical goal for a declining US empire is to align with Russia or China versus the other one. Since China is the larger power and the greater threat, aligning with Russia presents the best option for containing China.

message 3: by Nik (last edited Jul 30, 2018 01:13AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments Graeme wrote: "US and Russia versus China...."

An interesting direction!
Maybe it's already happening vs EU? -:)
Trump doesn't seem to be happy with the old continent and not very secretive about it: Russia's selective about friends in Europe.
UK - Russia relations don't appear to be the warmest, but then again a lot can be done for a good pretense. Does Britain really care what happens to former Russian subjects? -:)

message 4: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments I'm thinking the timeframe for a US/Russia alliance is after a Trump presidency, but could happen during a second term. It would need a big shift in current media narratives to facilitate the occurrance.

Current US thinking is to go it alone (i.e. lone superpower) but that capability is on the wane, and new thinking won't come about till something happens to demonstrate a capability gap.

Say the Chinese sink a US carrier in the South China sea, then declare a no go zone enforced by fifth gen J-20/J-35 fighters flying off those militarized islands they've been building.

Suddenly the US just can't go where they expected too, a sudden set back, a refocus, and old enemies become new friends.

message 5: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) The retaliation that would follow from the US on China would turn most of China into rubble including full scale nuclear retaliation. For those that claim that the USA would not take that action they seriously underestimate US doctrine and or the ability of US conventional military to create havoc in China. Those little Islands they have built with Runways. A few tomahawks...

For those that argue remember every military strike by the US (and its allies) since WWII has been restrained by collateral damage considerations. I include Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in that assessment. Korean war may have seen a limitation caused by the horror from World War II and wish to stay conventional.

China has lots of big targets for the US to hit. THat's before the other users of the South China Sea join in. I doubt Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines will just accept China claiming control - they don't now

message 6: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Philip, you can add Vietnam to the lot that doesn't like China much these days. Both countries are centuries-old adversaries (China invaded Vietnam a number of times in the past) and China took away from Vietnam the Paracels Islands in the 1960s in a fight that went bloody. Also, the USA has lately improved a lot its relations with Vietnam. So, if China decides to play the big bully in the South China Sea, it will basically find itself alone against everybody else in the region. As for US retaliation, I agree with you: sinking an American carrier is a nuclear-enabling offence.

message 7: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments Hope no one sinks anything, however the tensions rise again in the Strait of Hormuz, which may result in possible interruption of oil supplies and worse..

message 8: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments At some point, China is going to push militarily against the US, and it will be demonstrative and designed to intimidate.

message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments Alliances should be based on either common interests, OR complementary support. Considering the latter, a Russia/China alliance makes more sense. In a conventional battle, Russia's biggest problem is not enough Russians. There is no shortage of Chinese. From China's point of view, Philip moralises to possibility of the US launching nuclear attacks that China could not defend against. Russia is the only country that could conceivably turn the US into ash. From Russia's point of view, such an alliance makes sense if the alliance is limited to support should the partner be attacked, i.e. someone else starts it.

message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments Nik wrote: "Hope no one sinks anything, however the tensions rise again in the Strait of Hormuz, which may result in possible interruption of oil supplies and worse.."

The problem of Iran is a little different from the need for alliances. As an aside, Iraq will continue to be a problem - ISIS is not defeated. The Caliphate might have gone, but holding territory was always a big ask, and additionally, it was all very well to smash places like Mosul into tiny bits of crushed rock, but that is no help for the Iraqis trying to live. What are they going to do next winter? The government has little control, and my guess is it won't be long before another flare-up occurs. Now what from the West?

message 11: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Graeme wrote: "At some point, China is going to push militarily against the US, and it will be demonstrative and designed to intimidate."

China's intentions may be to intimidate if it makes a military push against the USA, but don't kid yourself: it will only get an immediate, massive military response and will lose most of its fleet, plus its 'islands' within days and weeks. Attacking American ships now around the South China Sea will basically have the same effect as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did.

On the other hand, Russia may 'threaten' to launch nuclear missiles on the USA in defense of China, but I do not believe that Putin will risk the incineration of Russia just to support and protect the Chinese, especially if the Chinese start shooting first.

message 12: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments I can't see Putin risking Russia to assist China.

message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments The real question for Putin is how much does he fear a war with the US? If there is to be no such war, then no, he should not get too close to China. Any country should favour peace. The question arises as to whether peace can be guaranteed, and if not, nations try to form alliances. What other choices do Russia and China have, assuming peace cannot be guaranteed?

message 14: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Ian, ask instead how far China is willing to push and risk war just to impose its will on its regional neighbors? China's claims over the South China Sea don't hold any water and have already been declared without merit by the international tribunal in charge of maritime disputes. It has no allies in the area, thanks to its arrogance, and will sink alone if it is ever foolish enough to turn this dispute into a shooting war.

message 15: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments Don't know now, but there was time when Russia invested heavily into developing a strategic alliance with China, maybe bearing in mind countering competition with EU & US.
However, my impression - less things ensue from strategic planning now, more - from sporadic or situational decisions...

message 16: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) Nik wrote: "Don't know now, but there was time when Russia invested heavily into developing a strategic alliance with China, maybe bearing in mind countering competition with EU & US.
However, my impression - ..."

EU's military capability will be going backwards with UK leaving. Not that it ever went forwards. Raised the point before about neutral countries demanding say in how EU Army is run whilst contributing no funds and no forces and having no capability. This rests post Brexit with the main NATO players. The same forces allocated to EU initiatives are double counted in NATO contribution

EU has no Strategic Lift, no AEW, few submarines and even smaller Navy and still the majority of EU countries but US Arms even when European area available. Look at lack of orders for Eurofighter compared to F16 and F18 variants. France holds out only for French industry despite previous cooperation with UK (no hope for that now) UK was just as bad opting for F35s instead of asking French for Rafael. Sorry for Air focus but that's my background.

message 17: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments My guess is that right now China has no intention of deliberately getting into a shooting war, although I suppose we can't rule out an accidental entry. I agree that China would very quickly lose any fleet because it has very little anyway, but the mainland would be another matter, unless the US resorted to nukes. China does have ballistic missiles capable of hitting the US, but it would lose heavily in such an exchange. If, on the other hand, everything stayed conventional it is hard to know how this would end because the US could do nothing on the land and only infantry can end a war. China is not small. It cannot get at the US, but the US cannot really get at inland China readily, other than with missiles. It would be horrible for the Chinese, but the Americans would not necessarily prevail long term. The US can do a lot of damage, at a large cost, but China could keep going and if Afghanistan and Iraq have shown anything, the US is great at starting wars, but not at finishing them.

message 18: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin If it goes down to a full scale conventional shooting war between the USA and China, the Americans will not try to invade China proper. They will destroy via missile/aircraft strikes the Chinese Navy, its bases and the Chinese Air Force, so that China is left with nothing of consequence to retaliate with. China would be a big loser in a nuclear exchange with the USA, as it has less than a tenth of the nuclear warheads that the Americans have.

The places where the American could possibly land and take are the artificial islands China built around the South China Sea...or they could simply destroy the military installations on them and then invite in troops from the other countries who had been aggravated by the Chinese bullying and territory-grabbing. You could end seeing the US Navy attack the Chinese on one of those islands in order to allow Vietnamese troops to land on it and take it. Now, that would be one ironic twist!

message 19: by Ian (last edited Jul 31, 2018 02:30PM) (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments It seems a fair assumption the US would prevail against the Chinese Navy, but we have no idea what would happen then. We know the Chinese have some missiles, so the US could lose the odd ship, with a carrier being the easier target, and I am not convinced the US could easily take out the Chinese air force if it retreated inland and China kept up a strong lot of SAM assets. China can rebuild. The US would prevail in that sort of war, but would it win? What happens if the Chinese just keep going? They presumably can't hurt the US mainland much, but can the US politically keep up such a war?

My guess is if there is a next major war, it won't be fought like any previous one, so we don't really have much in the way of guidelines. In my opinion, nobody in their right mind wants to start a major war now, but every now and again we find politicians who aren't in their right mind.

message 20: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments I've read all your posts with interest. The common denominator in discussions seems to be who has the military power to dominate and come out a winner. That's why I'm always in favor of defense spending in the US. Because, like it or not, the strongest wins, and you always want to be the strongest. When it comes down to brass tacks in the real world, that's what matters. And, like it or not, the US is the good guy.

message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments One point about the EU that has not been mentioned. A strong military needs a strong military tradition. Basically, in war those who know what they are doing will prevail. Of course the next war is usually fought differently from the last one, but even so, tradition is important. For Europe, the only countries with anything like a tradition are Britain and France. Germany had one, but it was extinguished by the allies after WW II, probably with good cause then, but it is too much to expect them to be able to re-ignite it. Much of Eastern and Southern Europe never had it (leaving aside ancient history).

message 22: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Ian, Germany sent troops into Afghanistan as a NATO contribution. They took one of the quietest sectors and had all kind of ridiculous limitations on what they were willing to do in terms of combat (like no night patrols). The couple of times that they got in trouble didn't exactly show them in a good light (reluctance to fight aggressively, over-reliance on air and artillery support rather than using effective infantry tactics, etc.). Italy also had rather timid combat rules. Otherwise, the other NATO members who contributed troops to Afghanistan generally did well to very well.

In my past military experience, I worked with soldiers from many countries and I would say that British and French soldiers are not to be spit at. The French in particular have a lot of recent combat experience around Africa (and keep getting more) and are well-equipped professionals in my opinion. I encountered/worked with them in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, along with Americans, British and Italians. Sadly, and this may infuriate some, I must say that American combat performance then in Beirut showed some worrying shortcomings, especially in command and planning. While Israeli, French and British combat aircraft flew a number of missions over Lebanon and didn't lose a single plane, American planes tried only once but botched their raid and lost one A-6 INTRUDER over the mountains next to Beirut. I also personally saw some very questionable perimeter security policies (sentries on duty with empty rifles!) in place around the base of the American contingent at the Beirut Airport as I was paying a visit there. Less than a week later, a suicide truck-bomb crashed through the perimeter and blew up the building, killing 243 Marines. I believe that the American forces have learned much since then, but they still have the tendency to brag when they shouldn't. One example of that is the fact that, recently, three American cruisers/destroyers were unable to avoid collisions with merchant ships in daylight and good visibility conditions. That cost the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet his job.

message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments Michel, I suspect most militaries have the odd event they would rather forget, but the US navy collisions you mention does seem to hit a new low. Nevertheless, I think overall the US military still leaves most others behind, mainly because of its size and training. AS far as I can tell, the Germans simply do not believe in having a military. Yes, I know they have soldiers, but I don't think those soldiers are expected to fight.

message 24: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments What a fascinating discussion. And it's really interesting to hear from things from your perspective, Michel, as you actually have 'on the ground' experience.

message 25: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin I believe that any useful experience should be shared, so that mistakes could be avoided in the future. I am most happy to do so now and will continue to do so.

message 26: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2145 comments If we're looking at future, the one part of the world no one considers is the Arctic Ocean. If global warming manages to keep the ocean ice free, it will look very attractive for oil exploration. Thing is, just about every country with beachfront property has staked competing claims beyond the 200 mile limit - claims that haven't been resolved. You might remember a few years back when Russia made the silly move of dropping their flag to the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole. It is conceivable they may push their way into the waters, daring the US, Canada and anyone else with competing claims into challenging them. The question is, what do our alliances look like when the US and Canada have an open claims dispute? When Denmark and Canada have a claims dispute?

message 27: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin An interesting question indeed! I believe that, in the case of the Arctic sovereignty dispute, alliances will count for nothing: it will be 'every nation for itself', and the knives will come out. It is not only about oil and gas, but also the right to navigate, as the Northwest Passage is becoming more and more navigable as ice melts and could in a few years become a viable alternative to the Panama Canal as a link between the Atlantic and Pacific.

message 28: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments So, how important is it to have a strong military in today's world?

message 29: by Michel (last edited Aug 04, 2018 07:36AM) (new)

Michel Poulin Actually, not that much, if you mind your own business and don't try to play the World's policeman, or don't run an empire. A military force is first and foremost meant to protect the borders and territory of its country, so its composition and size varies according to the nature of the territory and borders. If you take Canada, for example, we have fairly small armed forces, for the simple reason that the isolation of Canada, with only the USA bordering us, makes an invasion very unlikely (unless it is the USA that invades, which is quite unlikely). Our army is mostly used for World peacekeeping and disaster relief operations, plus does its part as a member of the NATO alliance. Our navy, however, has a much larger and active role, as Canada is bordered by oceans on three sides, with active fishing grounds offshore and mineral and oil resources on the seabed. Unfortunately, our navy is not as big as it should, due to decades of budget cutting by the government. Our airforce is also small, again due to budget cutting, but its main role is mostly limited to air intercept of intruding aircraft, search and rescue and disaster relief, plus the occasional combat missions under NATO or allied command, like against Libya.

Another example I would give is France. Its territory is not really at risk of invasion by anyone, but it still has fairly large and well equipped military forces, mostly due to its links with countries that were part of its old colonial system, now dismantled (mostly in Africa). Those countries still rely on French forces to help them against extremists and armed rebels (like pro-ISIS groups around Niger, Mali and Tchad). France still has overseas colonies and territories (Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbeans, St-Pierre et Miquelon just off Newfoundland, French Polynesia in the Pacific, Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean) that are actively protected by France. As a consequence, France has a large navy and an army that is kept quite active and sees combat on a regular basis around Africa.

Germany is the perfect example of one that had once a very powerful military, but now has a medium sized one with very little left to do. None of the bordering countries around Germany are about to invade it, while the days of the invading Soviet hordes are long gone. Its coastline is also quite small and needs only a small navy. In truth, Germany could disarm and it wouldn't change things much and wouldn't create danger for Germany, but it is still a principal member of NATO. My impression is that many Germans don't care a bit about their armed forces, while German soldiers in general (they still have conscription) are not very motivated.

One country that is, in my mind, potentially dangerous is China. Why? First, it is a one-party state where its leaders can do pretty much what they want and don't care about the opinion of their people. Those same leaders also love power for the sake of power (while getting rich through corruption and embezzlement) and dream for China to become the leading World power, both economically and militarily. China is not afraid of pushing around other countries when it suits its goals of grandeur, like in the case of them building artificial islands around the South China Sea in order to enforce their (spurrious) territorial claims on most of that area. China is presently building up its armed forces at a rather vertiginous pace and is becoming increasingly bold and agressive, so watch China for the next few years and decades.

Russia is a special case, due mostly to its present leader, Vladimir Putin, who has dreams of restoring Russia to the grandeur and power of the old Soviet Union. Economically, Russia is not a true superpower and most of its revenues come from oil and gas export, while the standard of living of the average Russian is not high. However, Russia still is a nuclear superpower, thanks to the heritage from the old U.S.S.R., thus can only be ignored at our own risks. Its armed forces, while a shadow of its past Soviet self, are still disproportionally large compared to its true economical power, but military budgets still have priority in Russia. Go out of Moscow and St-Petersburg and drive around the countryside out in Siberia, the Caucasus and the North, and go see how backward the infrastructure and services become compared to, say, the American Midwest or the Canadian Prairies. The present danger with Russia is Putin's desire to re-annex or take effective control of much of the old Soviet states, pretexting a rather improbable NATO intention to attack Russia one day.

If anything, Israel is an even more special case. Threatened for decades by the Arab states surrounding it and having to fight many wars in order to survive, it now has one of the strongest and best equipped armed forces in the World, including a (not so secret) nuclear arsenal with ballistic missiles. Israel is probably the best case of a country that NEEDS to have a strong military to defend itself.

So, Scout, the military strength of countries is all dependant on the location, geo-political situation and mindset of their leaders.

message 30: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments I think that's an interesting and comprehensive analysis encompassing both general and special cases!
I imagine Australia and New Zealand should feel the safest-:)

Was quite surprised to find out (in Canberra's museum I think) that Australia was actively preparing for a Russian invasion at some point in history. Looked a little far fetched

message 31: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Nik wrote: "I think that's an interesting and comprehensive analysis encompassing both general and special cases!
I imagine Australia and New Zealand should feel the safest-:)

Was quite surprised to find out ..."

Well, Nik, Australia and New Zealand did find themselves with Japanese forces breathing down on them from as close as Papua-New Guinea and Timor during WW2, and Darwin was clobbered pretty bad by Japanese aircraft. As for Russia invading Australia, I agree that it was quite a large stretch.

message 32: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments "In 1866, the Victorian government ordered a ship to supplement the shore-based fortifications of Port Philip Bay, and to defend the colony in the event of a Russian attack. Cerberus was ordered on the understanding that if she operated in any role other than the defence of Victoria, she would revert to Admiralty control"


"During her life, Cerberus never left Port Philip Bay, and never fired in anger."

REF: Wiki:

message 33: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin I didn't know that they were smoking pot in London in the Victorian era.

message 34: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments Hi Michel, wasn't that also the era of "The Great Game,' politics captured in Rudyard Kipling's Kim, where Imperial Russia was just as likely to be an opponent, as ally, of the British empire.

message 35: by Graeme (last edited Aug 04, 2018 09:28PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments Although being my home state, I would not be surprised if the people who owned the company that built the Cerebrus, were well connected with the local politicians, and profited handsomely from the transaction to build an entirely useless piece of "military," hardware. Noting also that Victoria had recently gone through a gold mining boom in the 1850s and there was lot's of wealth to be harvested...

message 36: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Well, I suppose that, in the Victorians' view, all that wealth would have been wasted if used to make the lives of the working class a little less miserable.

message 37: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7229 comments LOL. Indeed!

message 38: by Nik (last edited Aug 05, 2018 10:50AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 13482 comments These same Russians might be encroaching again, now through the channels of the world wide web -:) Cerebrus may fire after all.
And others are lurking too.
Maybe partially thanks to one Democratic candidate and one big investigator a cyber security biz is entering its blooming, golden era

message 39: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9501 comments I don't recall hearing about any fear of a Russian attack on NZ in the mid 19th century but we were certainly nervous when Japan advances south in WW2. We had, effectively, no military capability of our own because it was all sent to aid Britain - the army was in Egypt.

As for our gold rush, social welfare was not strong here either in the mid 19th century. Banditry was stronger, and greed ran very strongly

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