Why Crimea is important to Australia

Russia’s Crimea victory is a warning sign of approaching balance of power changes as the US air power declines. Russia will soon have European air superiority, just as Indonesia and China will hold the same advantage in Asia.

While Western politicians babble nonsense about teaching Russia a lesson, the Russian people are cheering President Vladimir Putin. For the first time since 1991 the Russians have got away with a change in their borders.

But for the moment they have to be careful because the US (not Europe) has military superiority. But the American Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) disaster means that in a few years Russian fighters will be far superior and then Russia will have the option of returning its influence over the nation state neighbours that have gone into the European orbit.

And with Australia relying on the Joint Strike Fighter from 2020 onwards, Indonesia with its 180 modern Russian aircraft will have the same superiority over Australia. China has a fighter aircraft that looks like it will match the Russians (Hot air clouds the truth about the JSF, February 10).

It’s still possible for the US to recover the situation by restarting production of the magnificent F-20 and merging it with the JSF program. But time is running out. And President Putin knows it.

In this context I have selected some extracts from an excellent commentary on the Crimea from John R. Schindler, who is professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College.

Schindler explains that Russians are practiced at using a combination of special forces provocations, espionage and black and white propaganda to achieve their aims. This is what they have now done in Crimea.

Having been successful in Crimea (the March 16 referendum result is preordained) Putin’s next move may to try the same technique in Eastern Ukraine, where there are large pockets of ethnic Russians, and where Moscow’s intelligence services have been playing their customary provocative games, laying the groundwork for full-scale unconventional war.

At this point, Eastern Ukraine is a much higher risk move than Crimea because Russia is not yet ready for a war with NATO. But the chances of a Russian move into Eastern Ukraine, to “protect” ethnic kin from “fascists,” are rising because Putin smells Western dithering in the face of his Crimean coup. Putin perceives President Obama to be weak.

Schindler explains that Moscow’s nakedly nationalist chest-beating is widely popular among average Russians. There is much ‘happy-talk’ in the West about the ‘irrationality’ of Kremlin conduct, that such aggression has no place in our current, advanced age, and that it all makes no economic sense anyway.

Schindler says historians are aware that remarkably similar language was employed by Western pundits and statesmen in the late 1930s to explain away the increasingly aggressive behaviour, including cheerful disregard for international norms, by another leader of a resurgent yet recently defeated power.

Russia was indeed a defeated power after 1991, and it nurses a deep sense of humiliation at the hands of the West.

So here in Australia we are now watching Russia testing to see how far can will go. But once Russia establishes air superiority in Europe it will be able to go a lot further as it seeks to restore influence among its neighbours.

In Asia the situation is different but the same. Once the JSF disaster causes the US to lose air superiority in our region the vacuum will be filled. We will look back in Crimea as the warning sign.

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