Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Military help for Georgia is a 'declaration of war', says Moscow in extraordinary warning to the West
Last updated at 16:47pm on 27.08.08
Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.
The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.
And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.
Click to read entire article.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
It's about being equipped to get through the biggest challenges a person can be called upon to fight through.
Best case, preparedness delivers a personal sense of well-being. That comfort arises out of a readiness to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Really, there's nothing funny about preparedness.
But it's so easy to laugh at us
Two words--"Burt Gummer." (Or is that one name?)
Actor Michael Gross created what is probably THE classic stereotype survivalist in the 1990 "Tremors" movie (and capitalized upon in three follow-up portrayals in Tremors II, III, and IV, not to mention a TV series of the same name). Funny movies ... and of course most of us just plain love the Gummer character--especially in the first film in the series.
1. Why was the Gummer character a hit?
2. Why do "normal" folks chuckle and roll their eyes when the term "survivalist" comes up?
Two different questions, one answer: Because there are really people among us who live for disaster.
Do I intend to beef again about balance in one's life? I don't think so. Suffice it to say, being ready for life is not the point of life.
What I do want to mention here is that, just as it is easy to go overboard on the whole prepping lifestyle, it is also easy to get overly focused on one disaster scenario that you prepare for.
Two up-close and personal scenarios that get some of "us" really juiced up--
a. All-out nuclear war
b. Total societal breakdown (brought on by say, economic collapse, pandemic, peak oil, or civil war, etc.)
Pick your poison.
Of course, this is the stuff of situation comedies. Overspecialization can never be good. Train the telescope on one tree and the rest of the forest may burn down around you.
Those who are seriously into preparedness ... in other words, those who understand that major crises come in all shapes and forms ... do NOT zero in on all-out nuclear war as being THE threat that drives them.
Why? Numbers. More specifically--odds.
Disaster happens all the time. Just about every month, year in and year out, large numbers of people somewhere in the world are victimized by disaster and a subsequent inability to take even small steps toward recovery.
But how often does thermo-nuclear war erupt? Or how often do Western nations collapse?
Sure--the possibility for either one or both catastrophes exists, but true crisis preparedness is a far sight more comprehensive than embracing the caricature role of Burt Gummer.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Friday, August 22, 2008
Warning: Worldwide Wipeout Ahead
Think US stocks are on a life raft? Look around the globe, where seas are much rougher. This is serious, folks. Brace for a brutal riptide of more economic upheaval.
By Jon Markman, August 22
It barely seems possible that anyone is more pessimistic about corporate earnings prospects than American shareholders right now, with the U.S. stock market down almost 15% for the year and the banking system coming unglued before our eyes.
Yet if you take a moment to look around the world, you may be surprised to learn that U.S. stocks are the picture of health compared with their counterparts worldwide. And measured against the gloom in bonds, U.S. stocks are like a sunny day in spring.
Time to gloat? Not on your life. For if there's one thing we know about global markets these days, it's that they seldom diverge for long. So while it might be tempting to look with pity at investors across the seas and in other asset classes, it's more likely that U.S. equities will plunge than that foreign equities will float higher toward our perch.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The EMP Threat
August 9, 2008; Page A10
Imagine you're a terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. You could wipe out the U.S. city of your choice, or you could decide to destroy the infrastructure of the entire U.S. economy and leave millions of Americans to die of starvation or want of medical care.
The latter scenario is the one envisioned by a long-running commission to assess the threat from electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The subject of its latest, and little discussed, report to Congress is the effect an EMP attack could have on civilian infrastructure. If you're prone to nightmares, don't read it before bedtime.
An EMP attack occurs when a nuclear bomb explodes high in the Earth's atmosphere. The electromagnetic pulse generated by the blast destroys all the electronics in its line of sight. For a bomb detonated over the Midwest, that includes most of the continental U.S. Few, if any, people die in the blast. It's what comes next that has the potential to be catastrophic. Since an EMP surge wipes out electronics, virtually every aspect of modern American life would come to a standstill.
The commission's list of horribles is 181 pages long. The chapter on food, for instance, catalogs the disruptions up and down the production chain as food spoils or has no way to get to market. Many families have food supplies of several days or more. But after that, and without refrigeration, what? The U.S. also has 75,000 dams and reservoirs, 168,000 drinking water-treatment facilities, and 19,000 wastewater treatment centers -- all with pumps, valves and filters run by electricity.
Getting everything up and running again is not merely a matter of flipping a switch, and the commission estimates that many systems could be out of service for months or a year or more -- far longer than emergency stockpiles or batteries could cover. The large transformers used in electrical transmission are no longer built in the U.S. and delivery time is typically three years. "Lack of high voltage equipment manufacturing capacity represents a glaring weakness in our survival and recovery," the commission notes.
Many industries rely on automated control systems maintained by small work forces. In emergencies -- say, during a blackout -- companies often have arrangements in place to borrow workers from outside the affected area to augment the locals and help with manual repairs. After an EMP attack, those workers would be busy in their home regions -- or foraging for food and water for their families.
The commission offers extensive recommendations for how industry and government can protect against the effects of an EMP attack and ensure a quicker recovery. They include "hardening" more equipment to withstand an electromagnetic pulse; making sure replacement equipment is on hand; training recovery personnel; increasing federal food stockpiles; and many others.
If not, our vulnerability "can both invite and reward attack," the commission's chairman, William Graham, told Congress last month. Iran's military writings "explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States," he said. James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense, has said that China is developing EMP weapons. The commission calls an EMP attack "one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences." The threat is real. It's past time to address it.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Today, this is the latest news: Russia Says Response to U.S. Missile Shield Deal With Poland Will Go Beyond Diplomacy
Read the article. In a nutshell, a Russian general last week threatened a nuclear strike on Poland if they accepted US missile defense on their sovereign territory. Today the deal was signed by the USA and Poland. The Russian Foreign Ministry said their response would "go beyond diplomacy."
This is the resumption of the Cold War after a brief intermission. It is not time to panic.
Some folks now MAY have to reassess their analyses of the whole Perestroika-Glasnost period and the years since. I think in fact that is a big key right now ... to look back and get a handle on what has been really going on over there for the past 20 years.
Recent developments boil down to either ...
1. The Russo westernization experiment failed and this is an about-face by Russia, with an aim at re-establishing some semblance of the old glory days (but which is not at all likely to go beyond previously established Cold War etiquette).
2. Or, this is the true beginning of "The Final Phase" in a long-planned and executed strategy aimed at maximizing the Russians' chances at coming out on top in a carefully aranged full-scale war against the West.
I was there in front-row seats for Cold War I as an all-source NSA analyst in the '70s. FWIW, I never became a Glasnost convert and so this is not a big surprise. I know there were many others in the intell community who did not buy the Cold War victory spiels either. Unfortunately, I think most of them are now off the active payroll. To my way of thinking, that cannot be a good thing today.
Cold War redux is imminent. What are the odds of it going hot? I wouldn't bet much on either outcome at the moment, but you can take solace in the fact that the Russian way is to carry out the damnedest, scariest, most bellicose bluffs imaginable. They have always played the game aggressively, short of actually crossing the line of no return.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.
On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.
The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.
The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that t he Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?
It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.
The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.
That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.
The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.
The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.
From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.
Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.
Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.
By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.
The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.
The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.
Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).
In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.
The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Russia Invades Georgia
by J. R. Nyquist
Weekly Column Published: 08.08.2008
As these words are written, Russian mechanized troops are moving against the Republic of Georgia. The Georgian leadership has been taken by surprise. They did not think the Russians would go this far. So the question has to be asked: Why is Russia invading Georgia now? What would a war between Georgia and Russia accomplish?
Some observers have stated that Russia wouldn’t dare invade Georgia. Such an invasion would bog them down in an endless fight against Georgian guerrillas. From the Kremlin standpoint this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad outcome. First, the suppression of ragtag forces is always possible if the invader is persistent and determined. In Chechnya the Kremlin’s determination has been unwavering and brutal for almost nine years. Nobody thinks Russia has lost the war in Chechnya.
During World War II one of Hitler’s generals fretted about Russian partisans. Hitler corrected the general. Fighting partisans was a sign of victory, he explained. It meant that the enemy’s main forces were defeated. It meant that Germany’s losses would be comparatively minor. Only those who cannot keep the field in regular warfare hide in caves and snipe at convoys from the underbrush. In totalitarian terms, the Russian action is entirely rational.
One thing is certain: the Russian invasion of Georgia, if it continues, will mark a turning point. Why are the Russians acting in such a bold manner? Some may speculate that it’s about the price of oil, as the world’s second-longest oil pipeline passes through Georgia. And this point should be considered. But more than anything, the invasion impacts U.S.-Russian relations in a decisive manner. It changes the political atmosphere in Europe and the Far East, in Washington and London and Tokyo. The Kremlin strategists already know that the global economy is headed for trouble. This means growing political weakness within the democratic countries.
Already America has been weakened on many fronts. In strategic terms, this may be the perfect moment for Russia to break with the United States. There may never be a better moment to paint America as an imperialist aggressor. In Washington D.C., however, there is no desire for a break with Russia. American policy-makers have long assumed that Russia is a friendly country. They have assumed that disagreements can be worked out, and peace will prevail. There has been no real preparation for a renewed Cold War. Western politicians pose the following questions: Why should the Russians shoot themselves in the foot? Why should they damage their own economic chances? But these questions misunderstand the real situation.
The Russians see America’s weakness. First and foremost, the Americans are unwilling to bomb Iran. They have upset the Saudis by building a Shiite democracy in Iraq. The Americans have angered the Turks by supporting the Iraqi Kurds. The Americans have weakened NATO by admitting too many FSB/KGB-influenced countries into the NATO fold. The Russian leadership probably feels it is time to tip everything over. It is time to expose America’s weakness. What will President Bush do? By the time you read these words, the White House will probably have issued a statement denouncing the Russian invasion. But will American troops be sent to Georgia?
Read entire Nyquist column.
Get Ready ... Seriously - www.safecastleroyal.com
Friday, August 01, 2008
Check out his full August 2008 column (excerpted below) at National Geographic Adventure. You can read the whole article by clicking on the title below.
Most survival guides fail to consider some very useful tools: an individual’s character, wits, and worldview. The tips assembled here will change the way you approach each and every day—and help you survive a particularly bad one.
Text by Laurence Gonzales
Photograph by Dan Saelinger
Long ago I believed that survival meant having a pack full of equipment that would allow me to make fire and build shelter and trap varmints to eat in the wilderness. But then I kept coming across cases in which someone had survived without any equipment or had perished while in possession of all the right tools. Obviously something else was at work here. After more than three decades of analyzing who lives, who dies, and why, I realized that character, emotion, personality, styles of thinking, and ways of viewing the world had more to do with how well people cope with adversity than any type of equipment or training. Although I still believe that equipment and training are good to have, most survival writing leaves out the essential human element in the equation. That’s why I’ve concentrated my efforts on learning about the hearts and minds of survivors. You can start developing these tools of survival now. It takes time and deliberate practice to change. But new research shows that if we adjust our everyday routines even slightly, we do indeed change. The chemical makeup of the brain even shifts. To make these lessons useful, you have to engage in learning long before you need it—it’s too late when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Presented here are 14 concepts that have proved helpful to survivors in extreme situations, as well as to people trying to meet the challenges of daily life.
1. Do the Next Right Thing
"Debriefings of survivors show repeatedly that they possess the capacity to break down the event they are faced with into small, manageable tasks," writes John Leach, a psychology professor at Lancaster University who has conducted some of the only research on the mental, emotional, and psychological elements of survival. "Each step, each chunk must be as simple as possible.... Simple directed action is the key to regaining normal psychological functioning." This approach can sometimes seem counterintuitive. And yet almost any organized action can help you recover the ability to think clearly and aid in your survival. For example, Pvt. Giles McCoy was aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when it was torpedoed and sank at the end of World War II, tossing some 900 men into the black of night and the shark-infested Pacific. McCoy, a young Marine, was sucked under the boat and nearly drowned. He surfaced into a two-inch-thick slick of fuel oil, which soaked his life vest and kept him from swimming—although he could see a life raft, he couldn’t reach it. So he tore off his vest and swam underwater, surfacing now and then, gasping, swallowing oil, and vomiting. After getting hoisted onto the raft, he saw a group of miserable young sailors covered in oil and retching. One was "so badly burned that the skin was stripped from his arms," Doug Stanton writes in his gripping account of the event, In Harm’s Way. McCoy’s response to this horrific situation was telling. "He resolved to take action: He would clean his pistol." Irrelevant as that task may sound, it was exactly the right thing to do: organized, directed action. He made each one of the sailors hold a piece of the pistol as he disassembled it. This began the process of letting him think clearly. Forcing your brain to think sequentially—in times of crisis and in day-to-day life—can quiet dangerous emotions.