Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Implementing the Doctrine

Yesterday Amy Goodman interviewed retired air force colonel Sam Gardiner. Well worth a listen or a read. Here is a very interesting excerpt from that discussion;

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about significance of this, in terms of nuclear warfare in Russia? Do we have anything to fear along those lines?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Absolutely. Let me just say that if you were to rate how serious the strategic situations have been in the past few years, this would be above Iraq, this would be above Afghanistan, and this would be above Iran.

On little notice to Americans, the Russians learned at the end of the first Gulf War that they couldn’t—they didn’t think they could deal with the United States, given the value and the quality of American precision conventional weapons. The Russians put into their doctrine a statement, and have broadcast it very loudly, that if the United States were to use precision conventional weapons against Russian troops, the Russians would be forced to respond with tactical nuclear weapons. They continue to state this. They practice this in their exercise. They’ve even had exercises that very closely paralleled what went on in Ossetia, where there was an independence movement, they intervene conventionally to put down the independence movement, the United States and NATO responds with conventional air strikes, they then respond with tactical nuclear weapons.

It appears to me as if the Russians were preparing themselves to do that in this case. First of all, I think they believe the United States was going to intervene. At a news conference on Sunday, the deputy national security adviser said we have noted that the Russians have introduced two SS-21 medium-range ballistic missile launchers into South Ossetia. Now, let me say a little footnote about those. They’re both conventional and nuclear. They have a relatively small conventional warhead, however. So, the military significance, if they were to be conventional, was almost trivial compared to what the Russians could deliver with the aircraft that they were using to strike the Georgians.

I think this was a signal. I think this was an implementation on their part of their doctrine. It clearly appears as if they expected the United States to do what they had practiced in their exercises. In fact, this morning, the Russians had an air defense exercise in the southern part of Russia that borders Georgia in which they—it was practicing shooting down incursion aircraft that were incursion into Russia. They were prepared for the United States to intervene, and I think they were prepared—or at least they were wanting to show the United States that their doctrine of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, if the US attacks, was serious, and they needed to take—the United States needs to take Russia very seriously.