Long time readers will recall and new visitors can deduce from the word cloud to the right that my primary area of interest is roughly the Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, the Mideast, the Caucasus, and Greater Iran. Topically food and water have tags, while counter-insurgency and maybe a few other concepts should, too.
Being neither arid, nor hungry, nor Muslim, this is well outside my normal patrol area, but given the extraordinary events shaping up both in the Ukraine and Pakistan, now is a good time to lay in some maps of the region.
Long under the Russian sphere of influence, the 1774 release and 1783 Russian annexation of the Crimean Khanate was the beginning of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
Eleven months ago I wrote The Only Red Line That Matters, which can be roughly summarized “Russia is not going to put up with any shit from NATO in Syria after the mess they made in Libya”.
There has been some chatter (from sources of varying quality) about NATO playing some role in the territorial changes happening between the Ukraine and Russia. Many NATO members are concerned – because their natural gas supplies transit the Ukraine.
One deeply suspect source reports company sized units of what must be Army Rangers deploying to NATO allies in the Baltic. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have very good historic reasons to worry about a resurgent Russia. Even so, the small units deployed are on a diplomatic reassurance/tripwire mission, or maybe this is forward deploying units large enough to secure an embassy in that need arises.
A contingent of 150 paratroopers arrived in Poland on Wednesday from their base in Italy to conduct joint training exercises with the Polish military as the situation in neighboring Ukraine shows no sign of easing.
While the lines on the map have not changed, Syria has de facto fissioned into Kurdish and Sunni Arab statelets in the interior while the mixed bag of minority groups on the coast tolerate each other. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, if you can characterize a remaining division sized presence as a withdrawal, is made more complex by the obvious jockeying between the military and civilian government in Pakistan. The army has staged four coups since Pakistani independence in 1947 and it appears almost certain that the fifth will happen some time this summer or fall.
Ukraine consumes the time and attention of the Russian government, and if things go badly it will be like the post Yugoslavia Balkans, leaking small arms all over the place. If things go really badly European natural gas supplies will be unstable for the winter of 2014/2015. Given the fragile state of the European banking sector this is not in anyone’s best interest.