Image Credit: Politico
Evolution of Russian Forces Since the 2008 Ossetia War
"The most distinctive feature of the Russian operation was its emphasis on economy of effort. Unlike previous interventions in Afghanistan in the Soviet era, or Chechnya and Georgia more recently, where Russian commanders relied on mass employment of tanks and artillery, the Crimea intervention featured fewer than 10,000 assault troops lined up against 16,000 Ukrainian military personnel...Once Russian troops had moved to blockade Ukrainian military personnel in their bases, psychological warfare, internet/media propaganda, intimidation, and bribery were their main weapons to undermine their opponents' will to resist". - Tim Ripley, London and Bruce Jones, 2014
The 45th Spetsnaz regiment, operating for the GRU, is credited with orchestrating the Russian take over of Crimea.
US Strategic Priorities
Image Credit: USN
Despite the bellicose actions of Vladimir Putin, the limited response by the United States was largely appropriate. The United States still requires Russian cooperation with respect to Iran, Syria, and its exit strategy out of Afghanistan (supply routes). Compromising all of the aforementioned interests for the purpose of being perceived as "tough" on Russia is short sighted and ultimately does not serve the long term interest of the United States. Contrary to public opinion, Russia's annexation of Crimea largely shows the limits of Russian power rather than its strength.
Putin's broader ambition for Ukraine and the former Soviet satellite states is to form the Eurasian Union (in some respects it has been compared to the former Soviet Union). The failure of Russia to secure its original trade pact with Ukraine and the subsequent annexation of Crimea ensures further Russian-Ukrainian integration is unlikely. Several former Soviet satellite states have also voiced concern over Russia's actions in Crimea meaning further expansion of the Eurasian Union is unlikely within the short term.
The map above is from testimony by Admiral Jonathan Greenert in Congress and it shows the future deployment of US Navy ships by region in 2020. The map essentially provides a glimpse of the strategic value placed upon of each region by the United States: South America, Europe, and Africa are of reduced significance when compared to the Middle East and Asia. US strategic planners are correct to focus on China over Russia: the demographic outlook of Russia is poor and its economy is commodity dependent. By comparison, China is the only nation that could credibly complete with the United States economically and military on a near equal basis over the coming decades. As a caveat, its important to stress than neither the US-China rivalry nor the growing feud with Russia qualifies as a new "Cold War".
Author's Note: Sorry for the long delay in blog posts, as a student my course work often occupies a great deal of my time when I have midterms. I am considering posting a few articles about the naval aspect of the Pivot in order to diversify this blog a little (e.g. DDG-51 Flight III, LCS, DDG-1000, etc.) let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Sources and Recommended Readings