The June DIRT Project: Defending Poland

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With a fresh outbreak of fighting underway in the Ukraine and the possibility of escalation increasing once again, I feel that this is an opportune time to talk about Poland. The Western media has spent over a year dissecting the conflict in the Ukraine, the dangers of a resurgent Russia and the US response to Vladimir Putin’s challenges. However, there has been very little talk about Poland and more specifically, the task of defending Poland if Russian designs should ever stretch that far west. The prospect of defending Poland is unquestionably being discussed in detail at the Pentagon, Brussels, and the Ministry of Defense in Warsaw. Unfortunately, the subject has not come up very often in military journals and foreign policy publications. Very little, if any information about how a potential war in Poland could play out is available for public consumption.

With all of this in mind, the DIRT project for June is going to be centered on the defense of Poland.

Poland is the nexus of Russia’s future designs on Eastern Europe. Since the annexation of Crimea, Poland has taken steps to strengthen its defenses, forge concrete assurances from its allies and prepare its population in the event of a Russian attack. The mood of the entire nation has changed since March, 2014. Civilians, politicians and military professionals alike recognize that there is a potential threat building to the east.

As history shows us, Poland is no stranger to war. The ground on which the nation-state is set upon has been contested many times. Even when the territory did not belong to the Poles, it was fought over. The land has been fertilized with the blood of soldiers from a score of armies over the centuries. In the 20th Century, Poland’s defeat at the hands of the Third Reich and Soviet Union in 1939 underscores the victory its armed forces achieved over the Soviet Union in the Polish-Soviet War in 1921. The Eastern Front ebbed and flowed across Poland in World War II.

Over the next three weeks, I will publish the series in 3-4 parts. In them, a host of political, military and economic factors will be discussed and a picture of what a possible defensive plan for Poland might resemble. Part One will be published on Saturday, 13 June.

A Cornered Bear? Increasing Russian Economic Woes

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Faster than you can say ‘Yeb vas’ the Russian ruble has gone from being in an exceptionally negative position to the verge of total collapse. A combination of Western sanctions and plummeting oil prices has inflation skyrocketing. The Russian government has thrown in the towel and all but admitted that the country is heading into a recession. The government expects the economy to shrink by 0.8% in 2015 and that estimate is not even a worst-case scenario. If oil prices keep dropping, the contraction could be as great as 5%.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Falling oil income is taking a large chunk of revenue away from the Russian government. Federal departments have been ordered to trim their budgets by 5%. So far, the massive military modernization the Russian military is undergoing hasn’t been affected. But if the current trend continues or even worsens, that could change. The pinch is going to be felt by the average Russian citizen too. Consumer price inflation is going to reach 10-11% by the end of the year. The reasons for this are the falling ruble and Russia’s ban on food products from the West. The ban was put in place as retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in the Ukraine.

How Russia responds to the economic downturn could have ramifications far beyond its borders and financial markets. It does not bode well for Vladimir Putin’s political future. At a time when world opinion is firmly against him, the last thing he needs is to lose favor with the Russian people. However, if we’ve learned anything about Putin, we know that he will not stay complacent while the economy sinks. There are plenty of culprits Putin can lay the blame on justly or not. The United States, the European Union and Ukraine top the list. Do not expect to see Moscow withdraw its support for the separatists in the Ukraine or hand Crimea back to Kiev. If the situation continues to worsen, expect Putin to begin playing the blame game and riling the Russian people up into an anti-West fervor.

What happens from there is anyone’s guess. Needless to say, the end result may not be good.