September 17, 2016 | In The News, Research, Simulations | Defense Matters

Europe is Suffering from Collective Amnesia

Phillip A. Karber, President of the “Potomac Foundation” spoke with Defence Matters about the situation in Ukraine and collective amnesia in Europe. “I think in ten years from now Russians will pay Ukraine to take Crimea back,” he said.


In recent months there has been much talk and speculation about Russia’s ability to invade the Baltic within 36 hours. You have run some complex computer simulations, how realistic is this?

They can drop some guys on the capitals in two hours, however, I don’t think that they would survive without being relieved by the ground forces. I would seriously doubt that they would be anywhere near Riga in ten days. Maybe longer. And as your forces get stronger, the Russians, if they want to attack, would have to add more force. This means that there is more warning time and a better chance for NATO reinforcements, both air and ground forces.

But one of the issues isn’t the force ratio, how many of them versus how many of you. It’s the force to space ratio. If the defender has very few forces or they are not ready, they can’t get to their defence positions in time, the attacker has more room to manoeuvre. Once you get a basic force, the attacker has to fight his way through that. We have seen that in the Donbass.

You have run some of the simulation programs where you look at possible scenarios. The Russians must have similar ones, right?

They do.

Therefore they know where to attack and they know our advantages and disadvantages.

I have been always impressed with Russian staff. They have very professional military guys who have spent a lot of time on all of this. Now, they also had, and we found this out in Ukraine, because we actually got a copy of ten different documents, a war plan. Basically a Russian military guy leaked it to the Ukrainians. We verified it and as it turned out, the draft of the invasion plan was very, very accurate. It wasn’t complete yet and we only had about of 130 of what it appears to be 300 pages. It lays out the units, the targets, time sequencing and so on. They were planning targets in the Baltic and Belarus while they were invading Ukraine.


And the Baltic, yes. But it was the only place in the plan that we got, where the Baltic was mentioned. I don’t know what the invasion plan was. I was just shocked. I don’t know this, but my assumption is that in the missing parts someone was saying – well, what if this escalates, what if NATO does something? My assumption is that it was a contingency plan. Russian President Vladimir Putin was clearly worried about how the West might react.

We have seen other Russian plans for a Baltic invasion. Interestingly, in at least one of them they assumed that Germany and France would remain neutral.

What do you think?

I hope not. I hope that it’s a stupid assumption. At least they didn’t envisage us, or Britain, to be neutral. And we won’t be, we won’t be.

You have been in the Donbass, has the Minsk agreement really changed the situation in Ukraine?

There’s actually a video of me getting shot at. I’m laying on the ground with a piece of shrapnel sticking out of my arm. This is Minsk, this is Minsk 2! But my answer is yes and no.

But it seems now that almost everyone, perhaps due to the refugee crisis, has forgotten about Crimea.

I believe that this is because of European elites who are ‘bought off’ with Russian money. For pure self interest and business reasons they want to see the sanctions disappear. It is a terribly dangerous precedent for other countries around NATO. There is a collective amnesia about what’s going on. Germany has forgotten what it was like to feel threatened. It is really disappointing.

What will happen to Crimea next?

I have talked to some Russian generals and I know some of Putin’s advisers, and when I run into them I tell them that in ten years from now you will pay Ukraine to take Crimea back.

Because of the costs?

Yes, because of costs. Some 70% of electricity comes from the mainland. For millions and millions of dollars of investment you can build power plants, but it will be really expensive. The food issue isn’t a big problem because of the ferry service, except in the winter time when ferries don’t operate well.

But Putin is building a bridge, right? However, the Germans, who are pretty good engineers, tried to do the same in the 1940’s but concluded that the underground base is so unstable that it is basically impossible to build a bridge. But the most important point here is water, not only for drinking purposes but also for agriculture.

In addition, I don’t see it as an option for the Ukrainians to attack and take Crimea back.