Vladimir Putin, sometime KGB Lieutenant Colonel and now apparently Russia’s President for life, has launched a war with the objective of toppling the Ukrainian government and replacing it with one of his choosing. At first it looked like a done deal, with Russian forces attacking on 4 axis and rapidly gaining ground, but then something happened—actually one thing happened and one didn’t. What happened? Russian forces started to enter built up areas.
Built up areas are especially difficult to fight in, especially for armored forces. Visibility is very short-range. Engagements are often at knife-fighting distance. Tanks rely on long range visibility, speed and agility in movement. None of which are present in urban areas. Tanks (and armored personnel carriers) are especially vulnerable to dismounted forces with hand-held anti-tank rockets, guided missiles and yes, even the historic “Molotov Cocktail.” Over at Red State, my good friend, and fellow Infantryman, Bill Crews (Streiff) has some good analysis.
Now on to what didn’t happen. The Ukrainians didn’t lay down and quit. They didn’t accept the “inevitable.” That attitude started at the pointy end of the spear, where by good friend and colleague Elizabeth Vaughn reported Ukrainian border guards’ defending Snake Island had some innovative response to a demand to surrender from a Russian Naval vessel.
A Ukrainian soldier, part of a group defending tiny Snake Island, located in the Black Sea, yelled “Go f*** yourself” to sailors on an approaching Russian warship, according to Politico. The ship opened fire, killing all of them.
That attitude percolates all the way to the top of the Ukrainian command structure. As Vaughn further notes:
As the Russian military approached the outskirts of Kyiv on Friday, President Joe Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “A senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation” told The Daily Mail that Biden offered to help Zelensky, Putin’s number one target, escape the city.
The Ukrainian leader, whose courage and resolve have been impressive throughout this crisis, reportedly replied, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
As of this writing, President Putin has announced raising his nuclear forces to a heightened state of alert. Although there appears to be an effort to negotiate, most in the know are not sanguine about a resolution that does not involve complete capitulation by Ukraine. But that’s not the point for what should be the U.S. point of view. Even if through sheer force of will, gallantry and some late arriving lethal aid from Europe and the United States, Ukraine manages to force a Russian withdrawal–the Ukrainians, they are still left with a devastated country and needless deaths—All of which could have been prevented.
Here’s how. First of all as I mentioned in previous articles, geopolitics, international relations whatever you call it, requires a multidimensional effort to establish and maintain your country in a position to exert its will when necessary. As I also mentioned, President Donald Trump was a master at putting all the enablers in place to ensure these United States always had viable options and courses of action on the World Stage. Joe Biden? Not so much.
No institution can focus all of its efforts and energies in more than a few directions. The larger the issue, problem, then the more energy is devoted to it, to the detriment of other issues. The key is to focus on the most important thing(s) and worry about other stuff when time permits. The key to success is in the old adage, “The first step in the problem-solving process is…Identify the Problem.”
A parallel aspect to this is figuring out what the essential focus of any issue or potential issue ought to be. The German Army, with such luminaries as Heinz Guderian and Irwin Rommel perfected a form of warfare that relied heavily on identifying the Schwérpunkt the main focus, focal point or center of gravity is, both their own forces and those of the enemy. Identify that enables commanders to focus their forces on the most important enemy vulnerability while hiding, safeguarding their own. Often, an enemy asset can also be his vulnerability.
If the international issue at hand is to keep Vladimir Putin from dominating Europe, then NATO and these United States must identify his Schwérpunkt, then make decisions that will turn it from his asset, into his vulnerability. Until a very few hours ago, the United States and allies had yet to quite figure this out and effectively address it.
It’s the OIL stupid! Of course everybody knows that. From Investopedia:
Oil and gas accounted for 60% of Russia’s exports and 39% of federal budget revenue in 2019.6 The energy sector is estimated to contribute up to 25% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).7
But, it’s more, much more than the significant part that energy exports play in powering the moribund Russian economy (said to be about the same level as that of Florida, but without the nice beaches and great governance). What oil (energy) is about, is its effect on the 4 instruments of national power: diplomacy, information, military and economic (D.I.M.E.). The economic effect on Russia is self-evident. If she sells a lot of oil, that’s revenue for her coffers—revenue that can help grow her economy and more importantly to Putin, fund his military. That makes his energy production a great asset to him.
But as I said, it’s not just about the revenue. Putin had somewhat deftly and with their willing cooperation, put the Germans and a number of other European countries under his energy thrall, their winter heat relying on oil and natural gas piped in from Russian oil fields. The net result? On the day he ordered his first forces to cross the Ukrainian border, oil (energy) was a key asset for Putin. It drove his economy and better yet, could be used as a cudgel (or so he (almost correctly)) thought, against Europe and even these United States, as gas prices spiked.
Sadly, it took until now before the European Union could be shamed into taking action to separate Putin from his ability to sell oil on the world market. Even more sadly, none of this had to take place. Ukrainians needed not die. How so? All the Biden administration needed to do, is identify the Schwérpunkt in relations with Putin, Europe and indeed a significant part of our ability to wield power on the world stage.
On day one of his Presidency, Joe Biden, advised by a bunch of radical environmentalists, voluntarily and deliberately ceded our position as a net exporter of energy. He removed sanctions on Russian pipeline development in Europe while at the same time, through executive orders and regulation, hamstrung our own energy industry. Biden was unable to identify the center of gravity and the militant tree huggers didn’t care. Between the two they turned oil (energy) into an asset for Putin, a vulnerability for Europe and these United States, and all by signing a few pieces of paper. Had they not done this, or better yet, were Donald John Trump still President, rest assured, none of this would have happened.
It’s the OIL Stupid!