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March 04, 2016

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I think the Texas law applies to any candidate in the primary. So it would require a Romney or a Ryan.

I don't see the Republicans at the point where they want to play spoiler for Clinton (or much more distantly, Sanders). They still want to win. In theory they can run their spreadsheets as well as anyone.

What will be the point that galvanizes them into action? My guess is a loss in Florida and Ohio. If Kasich keeps Ohio -- he never neglected his state organization -- the panic merely is postponed, because the only state not favorable to Trump before the Northeastern grand slam is Utah. (The Milwaukee suburbs aren't large enough to carry Wisconsin for Rubio, I think. The majority of Carson support -- he was leader there! -- has migrated to Trump. It's a weird state.)

If I were a spy (not even close), I would keep tabs on what prominent establishment-friendly Republican election lawyers are up to, their schedules, their travel plans, etc. I feel certain that maverick and possibly Democratic-leaning election lawyers are already listed on Trump's smart phone.

So there are three separate issues that could converge on an "Independent Republican" run. Norm Coleman to the rescue? I hope someone gets that joke.

First, it can help with the Trumpmare in the Senate: http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/the-trumpmare-can-the-republicans-save-the-senate/

If you write off Johnson and Kirk as already almost doomed now, and certainly doomed with Trump on the ticket, McConnell needs to save vulnerable incumbents in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio. I suspect you'd quickly also write off Florida for the GOP in that scenario unless they get Alan Grayson as the nominee. Nevada would be a lost cause.

If Trump wins the Red states of Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, and North Carolina the GOP challengers there should be ok. His candidacy does open the door to Hillary winning them and helping sneak in Democratic senate candidates. But those are generally states where I could see Trump holding on through an extreme mobilization plan, trying to max out disconnected white support.

So an Independent Republican is a strategy to help Toomey, Ayotte, and Portman. Portman is already under fire on Trump: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/01/portman-wont-say-if-he-support-trump/81170196/

I'll also add Grassley to the list of potentially vulnerable incumbents based on how the new Democratic recruit changes the race.

These will be four incumbents who will face a campaign of questions around if they will or won't vote for Trump, and why are they blocking the President from appointing a Supreme Court nominee. Those aren't killer issues, but if Hillary is sweeping those states they will be fighting up hill to win over Clinton voters.

I'm reminded of 2010 when Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor said he didn't even vote for Obama in 2008. An Independent Republican is simply a way for three or four incumbent Republicans to say "I am a member of the Republican Party, but I'm an independent thinker (like you, swing voter I am desperately pandering to) and I will not support a candidate with such deeply offensive views."

The problem, and this will be a separate comment, is how an Independent Republican to save these four Senators interacts with Trump's strategy in the other Red states. If Trump is absolutely doomed in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire, does the party want to run an Independent Republican nationwide to help their chances of reelecting Toomey or Ayotte?

If McConnell has already lost Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and is facing at best a 51 majority to go after President Clinton, how much is keeping that last seat worth to him? What's the majority worth? It most likely comes down to gaming out the value of the Supreme Court and how badly a new Democratic appointment or two would set back the conservative cause.

Second, an Independent Republican candidacy could ensure that Trump is defeated, avoiding the outcome of him in the White House. This would be the favorite of good government conservatives like Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Save the party for the long term.

I call this the Coleman-Warner scenario, after Virginia Republican Marshall Coleman who ran in 1994 when Oliver North was the nominee. Coleman received the endorsement of sitting Republican Senator John Warner. In the midst of a significant GOP wave, there was a contingency of Virginia Republicans who would rather go down to defeat and help, indirectly, reelect Democrat Chuck Robb than allow Oliver North to serve in the Senate.

I think this is a very admirable position to take, but it's going to be tangential to the other reasons for an Independent Republican. The first reason, saving the Senate, is just cold hard rational politics. The third, next comment, is just political opportunism.

Third, and I'm happy to expand this into a full post, is the continued GOP desire to somehow, someway win the White House. Because why not?

This is complicated and would require actually throwing the election to the House. For some reason the LA Times calls this a "constitutional crisis" even though this has happened twice before. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0225-ackerman-12th-amendment-bloomberg-20160225-story.html

They use Bloomberg as the candidate, but let's assume some standard issue Independent Republican picked by certain establishment elders, but there are some problems there (see below).

Let's say the Democrats start off with their base from the last few cycles, but we put Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Hampshire off to the side. Trump takes the rest. That gets us to Clinton 261 and Trump 206.

Supposing you have an IR candidate that's taking more votes away from Hillary than Trump, those states may swing to Trump. Trump sneaks in with 277.

But that's a very narrow margin. If you could get the IR candidate to win just a small handful of votes it would throw the election to the House.

How, you may ask. Third party Southern candidates have won states, but none of the Anderson-Perot style candidates. Those candidates run much better in the West, which is also the one area where Trump is weakest in the GOP primary. Defections from Trump to the IR candidate could be very high in the west.

Perot's best state was Maine, followed by Alaska, Utah, and Idaho. Suppose you could combine generally dissatisfied Western voters with strong support among Mormon voters and carry the latter three states. You've pushed Trump under the 270 total now. Alaska isn't needed for this scenario, but it adds flexibility to the scenario.

So maybe Republicans see a way to combine a candidate that is taking votes away from Hillary Clinton in swing states among upscale white suburbanites, costing her those states when Trump is able to max out discontented white support, with strong appeal among Western Republicans (especially Mormons) that refuse to back Trump.

Murkowlski was already elected as an independent to the US Senate and her voices on choice make her a very, very strong candidate among suburbanites that would normally lean Clinton. Adding a Huntsman or Romney to the ticket (would they want to be President or VP) would also help max out Mormon support.

Also, worst case scenario.

Trump wins.

Mexico stops cooperating in Central Americans refugees.

Trump cracks down and does something dumb, overreaches.

Polarization and unrest. Arizona militiamen want to know why we don't just shoot them all. The violence against Sikhs misidentified as Muslim translates to random acts of violence across Texas, Southwest against anyone with a different skin tone.

Trump continues to crack down.

In a sort of late-1960s urban riots leading to Nixon and law and order, the chaos further polarizes white voters, pushing them deeper into the GOP orbit.

Turns into a remake of The Siege.

Question for the legislative branch guy: how much weight does the Senate have in the establishment party's thinking? Obviously McConnell is concerned about it, but is it the dominant factor in its decision making process? Or does control of the executive branch outweigh it? (which is my impression.)

I don't see the Republicans at the point where they want to play spoiler for Clinton (or much more distantly, Sanders). They still want to win.

I am skeptical that such a point even exists. For the past 35 years Republicans have always eventually fallen in line, no matter how crazy that line is.

And Trump might make it easier once he's sealed up the primary. You saw how Trump walked back his statement about how he'll force the military to commit war crimes. Probably some military friend of his actually explained how this works and what would happen politically if he pressed the issue. He's got some people talking to him; he might figure out how to comport himself such that Republican leaders and money guys can convince themselves he's not so bad.

I find it hard to believe the current House majority would ever impeach anyone of their own party, as well.

The walking back of that statement and the fact that people are talking to Trump is what makes me think a Trump presidency might not be the nightmare people envisage. It WON'T be a great presidency for sure. But it may not be the stuff of horror movies.

He might even be talked out of at least some of his isolationism. Perhaps some of the people talking to him might inform him of the disruptive effects of repealing the NAFTA legislation. End result:

- a middle of the road scenario where he still attempts to build a border wall but probably ends up with a few walls in some sections plus probably a beefed up border fence and border patrols in others (pending completion of the wall of course, which never does get completed). He still manages to sour relations with Mexico though, perhaps to the point that Mexico reduces efforts to interdict Central American refugees leading to an increase in those refugees making it into America. He probably is convinced to maintain current engagements around the world (even if scaled back a bit) but doesn't get convinced to authorize involvement anywhere else or to step up involvement in current conflict areas - this likely means that Afghanistan sees a scaling back, Iraq and Syria as well once ISIS has been sufficiently contained (it will probably also mean a marked reduction in support for the Syrian rebels and much less pressure on Assad), less cosmetic support for Europe to assuage their fears about Russia with the increased deployment of US military assets, scaled back support and training for the Ukrainians (their dysfunctional politics and continuing problems with corruption would also offer some good cover for this)..BUT efforts in Africa against ISIS and Boko Haram are probably maintained. The Asia-Pacific region might also see less deployments as with Europe (which will make China a much happier camper) or current deployments might be maintained.

Carlos I would say control of the executive branch is the dominant focus right now, with the Senate a side factor that can be part of the equation. I think the one factor that's keeping the Senate more relevant is the Supreme Court vacancy. Is the GOP going to be more desperate in trying to control the Senate in order to drag out opposition to Hillary's nominee, or hopefully force her to nominate a more moderate Justice?

If we didn't have a Supreme Court vacancy I think the establishment would very quickly accept that the Senate is a lost cause with Trump as the nominee and give up hope beyond saving members in North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, etc. The 2018 map is too good. Democrats in Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Florida ...

The three gimmes -- Johnson, Kirk, and Toomey -- only bring the Democrats to 49. But Ayotte, Portman, and Rubio's successor bring them up to 52, what Larry Sabato calls the "Trumpmare", and then Chuck Schumer cracks his new whip, and the judicial branch shifts from purple to blue, as Clinton works that two-year window as fast as she can, and that's a generational shift.

I would have put it as a long shot myself, but McConnell is making it clear that internal polling must suck and suck badly. (Democratic-leaning PPP agrees.)

I may encourage Noel to add another post on this, but it says something that the Trumpmare is 52 seats (pending more craziness in say Indiana or Arizona), far less than the party's 60 right after 2008. Transforming the judicial branch is important, but come 2020 try explaining to a Bernie Bro or Warren supporter who's bitter about the Clinton Presidency that there's just little that could have been accomplished with such narrow margins in the Congress. But hey look we protected Roe v. Wade!

My own gut sense on the importance of the higher courts is that they're a generation or a generation and a half behind the reality of American life, and it's hurting the United States, like a chronic pain the sufferer has become resigned to

If a Bernie Bro, which I can't help but think is just a vaping activist with a temporary transfer of allegiance, or a Warren Bro, even more ridiculous, given that Warren clearly believes her Senate seat is of vital importance, thinks that the only reason a liberal judicial branch is important is Roe v. Wade, and then pitch a fit about that -- well, it's revealed preference. They're actually a conservative in tie-dyed clothing. Young Republicans for Phish. Boring, and hopefully demographically small.

Reverse that. Try convincing a progressive activist after four years of Clinton not doing much of anything that it's still been a good Presidency because we saved the Supreme Court. "Yeah but President Warren would have done that too, and more!" I'm already thinking ahead to what events could trigger a Kennedy challenge to Carter scenario in 2020.

That's not a progressive. That's a petulant child.

This is why I find myself liking the new civil rights activists. They know about the long haul, and the difference between strategy and tactics.

This supposed progressive desire for instant gratification is... consumerist. You have to put the work in, people.

Alright, I recognize you want to throw shade at the hypothetical person, but I'm trying to use it to open the door to a discussion of what is achievable during a Clinton presidency and what yardstick to use. Judiciary? Check. What else?

Are they an actual group? I don't think they're a significant constituency. I mean, they don't even elect members to city councils in university towns with any regularity. That tells me enough about their political power.

If you want to ask what is achievable in a Clinton presidency, then you should just ask it. Assuming a Trumpmare, two years with control of the Senate, but under a recalcitrant House that will probably play another game of Chicken again. Probably at least two crises there caused by Trump-ized or older splinter Republican factions. I'm guessing that Ryan will not be in a better position than Boehner.

At the same time, increasing executive power. Obama has been careful about his precedent. Clinton I think will view its use as needful.

Here's what I was thinking.

1- At the end of the day, Bernie will have done "well enough" against expectations that a few annoying articles will be written on the "What if Warren had run?" scenario. Thanks insufferable Beltway.

2- A Clinton Presidency is going to be like another game of Chicken, Obama from 2011-2016. There's no Obamacare equivalent.

3- Increasing executive power, yes, but for what? Obama has DACA and Clean Power Plan.

4- There's some progressives (yes we both find them annoying) who will look at the lack of policy victories under Clinton and blame Clinton, believing that a stronger progressive like Sanders or Warren would have done better.

5- I take back the Kennedy-Carter analogy because Kennedy was a serious candidate. I'm thinking more of a Buchanan-Bush analogy. Which was a long-shot bid against Bush, but at least was a noticeable challenge to a sitting President.

That scenario is going to be annoying as hell with the way social media is. Just my fears, which I'm sharing to explain an interest in what is achievable in a Clinton presidency.

If we can get unified control with the House, elimination of the debt ceiling, reconciliation of some tax package that helps with an infrastructure surge, and immigration reform.

Without the House I think we have an early crisis with the debt ceiling.

I wonder if foreign affairs might intervene and reshape domestic politics before 2020. Russia may decide to pay the high cost of ending NATO (by invading a NATO member and then crushing the NATO military response). Would something like that reshuffle politics? What about China taking Taiwan and making Guam a smoking crater to stop a US response?

Given the inexorable decline in US power and the US's inability to maintain world order I wonder how long before one of the re-arming nations decides it is worth the cost to grab territory that NATO/US is unable to defend.

A situation where the US's forces are soundly defeated in battle might have a profoundly destabilizing effect on US politics. It would drive home that the US is actually a declining power.

The walking back of that statement and the fact that people are talking to Trump is what makes me think a Trump presidency might not be the nightmare people envisage. It WON'T be a great presidency for sure. But it may not be the stuff of horror movies.

Possibly. I don't know if I like the stakes being bet on that.

But the deeper problem is what's behind Trump. Trump wouldn't have decided to turn into a fascist demagogue if the situation wasn't getting ripe. Even if he loses, that's still there and a Clinton presidency probably does nothing to stop it.

A while ago in another forum Carlos talked about the US economy getting to a point where the hedonic improvements from better gadget technology and the like could no longer keep up with long-term wage stagnation and increasing inequality, and people realize they've been had. Well, we're getting there. But they're not flipping over to left-wing politics. Or, rather, some are, the others are rejecting post-Reagan conservatism in favor of something more like old-time fascism. I don't see that abating, with or without Trump.

I just read a rant by Chris Hedges about how the only way to stop this is for progressives to reject incrementalist/elite Democratic Party politics, which can never fix the situation, and for there to be a mass movement to immediately destroy all corporate power. I read stuff like that and just think "we are so screwed", because that ain't happening, sorry.

Dave K.: I think all that would "reshuffle politics" by means of vaporizing human civilization.

Weirdly enough, I just made a very informal poll on Facebook to figure out how much "perfect" expanded consumer choice was worth to my weird friends for a completely different reason. Turns out, not all that much. Maybe ten percent of income -- not chicken feed, but not worth years of wage stagnation. They'd rather have the money and then hire the personal shopper if they want.

The other thing that's happening is that after decades in which racial politics gradually became more and more aligned with the left-right partisan axis (resulting in gridlock in the US political system, because it's not really designed to operate under extreme partisanship), it feels as if it might be starting to de-align again. But that's not necessarily good. There's a worrying split on the Democratic side between white leftists and African-Americans (especially older and Southern ones), while on the Republican side there's a split developing between a populist/white-supremacist faction and money conservatives, much more intense than the old differences between the money guys and the God Squad.

Or maybe that's just the effect of being in presidential primary season, when intra-party conflicts come to the surface.

Russia doesn't seem to have that view. They believe the Western response to seizing NATO land on Russia's borders would be at best bluster and sanctions. At worst a military confrontation that NATO wouldn't escalate and that NATO would lose.

@Dave K.: I get the impression that a lot of analysts are deeply worried that Russia perceives NATO that way, because the perception might be wrong.

Possibly. I don't know if I like the stakes being bet on that.

But the deeper problem is what's behind Trump. Trump wouldn't have decided to turn into a fascist demagogue if the situation wasn't getting ripe. Even if he loses, that's still there and a Clinton presidency probably does nothing to stop it......... I read stuff like that and just think "we are so screwed", because that ain't happening, sorry.

Quite understandable.

Though the US system of federalism, the constitution (no "enabling act" could be done the same way as it was done in Weimar Germany) plus the various branches of government and the Senate and House would make it extremely difficult for even an outright fascist President to lead America down the horror movie path domestically (in foreign affairs that's a different story). For it to reach that stage you would probably need an outright mass popular fascist revolution. By the time things were to reach the point where a fascist revolution could be successfully executed due to the great majority of Americans ascribing to it, then America and the world have already long since been screwed.

I'm not sure what the discussion on Russia is about. There isn't any evidence that Russia "believe[s] the Western response to seizing NATO land on Russia's borders would be at best bluster and sanctions [and] [a]t worst a military confrontation that NATO wouldn't escalate and that NATO would lose." That's more the perception of some analysts. So in truth it is that some analysts believe that Russia believes that. But then I've never seen anything those analysts can point to (other than Ukraine and Georgia which are NOT NATO member) as proof. It wouldn't be the first analysts have got it wrong, nor the first time they have got it wrong with regards to Russia.

Putin pulled back from the Ukraine once it became apparent that the populace wasn't going to roll over. He made some gains that shows he's a winner, but he's not in the position to push for more. And certainly night when oil prices are where they are now, Russia can't handle another round of sanctions yet. And let's just look at China's economy ...

I'm over the bemoaning of the US's decline internationally. Let's talk facts, not rhetoric.

The period when great powers are in decline has been dangerous historically. I think it's naive to assume domestic political trends must continue without the world intervening and reshuffling things. I don't think the domestic response to a loss in Vietnam or Iraq is predictive of the reaction to a war where NATO/US forces have clearly been overwhelmed and defeated.

Dave: shouldn't we question the military premise? I have no evidence that Russia could sustain an invasion of the Baltic States.

There is the Rand report, but it doesn't really anticipate a conventional NATO defeat. Rather, it says that NATO would need to launch a counteroffensive to retake the Baltics ... but "any counteroffensive would also be fraught with severe escalatory risks." I.e., what Matt fears.

Ironically, an outright Russian invasion of NATO territory is possibly the only foreign policy scenario where President Trump and President Clinton would react almost identically. (Unless Trump had already dissolved NATO by the time it happened; unlikely, but possible. Hey, they don't pay enough tribute! America needs tribute!)

https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1200/RR1253/RAND_RR1253.pdf

I won't go into the military specifics but that is the element I find most plausible in a NATO defeat scenario. I think if you investigate further, you would see that NATO is at a severe disadvantage unless it escalates. I find a unilateral NATO escalation to be highly implausible under the current political leadership across the alliance. The elements that I find most constraining for a Russian invasion are the economic and political situations necessary to make Russia bare the cost even of victory.

I'm still not seeing it, unless the Baltic governments capitulate. The United States would hit back, hard, against the Russians. What President wouldn't? Maybe you'd have rules of engagement that prevented strikes in Russian territory, but no American leader could sit back and watch Russian troops march into NATO territory and expect to survive politically. And that's absent all the strategic arguments that would call for a counteroffensive.

It would be crazy gamble for a Russian leader to take unless they had an unambiguous signal from the United States that NATO was over. If American forces are going to be defeated in a conventional peer-on-peer conflict somewhere in the near future, it isn't going to be in the Baltic States.

Of course, maybe some canny Russian leader would see an advantage to invading the Baltics, defeating NATO forces on the ground, and then rapidly withdrawing completely. But what that advantage would be requires 11-dimensional chess skillz that I lack.

Cruz or Rubio or Clinton might actually be more aggressive in this sort of Baltics crisis than Trump. It's hard to say what Trump would do in any given situation, but his rhetoric seems to be more paleocon/isolationist, and he and Putin seem to actually like each other (kindred spirits).

...and, yes, my concern was not that Russia could defeat NATO in a conventional conflict, it was more that the whole thing would escalate into atomigeddon one way or another. Putin sees his nuclear arsenal as cover for conventional weakness, and uses tactical nukes against NATO forces in some way that NATO/US doctrine sees as demanding nuclear retaliation. Or else he simply tries a "let me invade or I push the big button" suicide ultimatum under the assumption that NATO will fold and disintegrate, but NATO calls his bluff.

I really don't see why this discussion on Russia has developed so. Russia and Putin =/= Iraq and Saddam Hussein no matter how many people might secretly wish it so. And even when Saddam decided to invade Kuwait at the time he didn't think the US would intervene to save the Kuwaitis given that there was no formal alliance and Kuwait was rather small and insignificant (except for that whole oil thing).

Russia is not going to invade the Baltics in an attempt to restore the USSR. Between 1991 and 2016 Russia did not invade Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan in order to restore influence that had been lost or waning, nor did it invade Azerbaijan in order to assist Armenia. In 2008, Russia had to opportunity to push on to Tbilisi and didn't bother despite having defeated the Georgian military.

Russia's gripe with the Baltic States is over the treatment and status of Russians and other Russian speaking East Slavs in their territories. As such this means Russia's real gripes are with Latvia and Estonia moreso than Lithuania and in the event that NATO was over/at an end, Russia likely would not even need to invade as in that event Latvia and Estonia might well be scared into just acquiescing (so citizenship is accorded to them and Russian given status as a local language). Or they might not until things reached a point where they would get scared.

From 1991-2004 the Baltics were not in NATO and Russia never bothered to invade them despite deep disagreements (whereas conflict over Crimea was a much more likely possibility in the early 1990s). Now that the Baltics (or rather Latvia and Estonia) are in NATO, the prospect of Russia invading them are zilch.

"I find a unilateral NATO escalation to be highly implausible under the current political leadership across the alliance. The elements that I find most constraining for a Russian invasion are the economic and political situations necessary to make Russia bare the cost even of victory."

I don't understand how NATO+US pushing back hard is "unilateral escalation." Outright Russian invasion is the escalation.

The economic and political situation constraining Russia are very, very real.

The Rand report stated that a counter-invasion involves serious escalation risks, not that would be an escalation itself.

Unless, as would be operationally sound, NATO attacked targets in Russia proper. That would technically be a counter-escalation, since NATO is not a nation. The Russian equivalent would be strikes on French, British, or American sovereign territory.

So NATO could strike back without escalating. The Rand study is not predicting a loss. Rather, it is urging that NATO spends the money needed to secure the Baltics in order to forestall unnecessary risks. I will admit to favoring that course of action and being unclear as to why the Obama administration has limited itself to half-measures.

But still, the Obama administration is risking little by avoiding a Baltic buildup. (And there may be gains on the other side of the ledger that I haven't considered.) So I'm also a little puzzled as to how the comment thread ended up here.

Matt: intriguing. And worrying. Would President Trump look the other way in a Baltic crisis?

I doubt he would if the Russians up and invaded. But a smaller, slower infiltration of little green men ... hmm.

So getting back on track: how isolationist (or unpredictable) would Trump be in a foreign policy crisis?

I guess it depends on the particular crisis doesn't it?

What are the likely flashpoints from 2016 to 2020?

The Middle East always presents a flashpoint.

We have Syria/Iraq as an ongoing crisis. Iran always threatens to become a crisis when Iran and America are at loggerheads.

What about the Spratleys? North Korea? Egypt? Saudi Arabia?

Noel: "So NATO could strike back without escalating. The Rand study is not predicting a loss."

This Rand Study does:
http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1253.html
As Presently Postured, NATO Cannot Successfully Defend the Territory of its Most Exposed Members

I'd also suggest you read the CNAS report on Assured Resolve.
http://www.cnas.org/assured-resolve#.V7XXO-Nf1hE

You can't have a defense that relies on technological overmatch to counter mass and then allow your opponent to achieve parity or overmatch in multiple military systems while your own mass is shrinking. A NATO victory is possible in a Baltic scenario, just unlikely given current posture and resources.

Hmm.

The Rand report is the same report I read. In fact, I linked to it above. So it's odd for you to present it as if it contains new information.

It is possible that you misconstrued my statement, but I think I was clear.

Assuming for argument that you didn't misconstrue my statement, the Rand report says that Russia could overrun the Baltics given NATO's current force posture. It does not say that NATO could not launch a counteroffensive. In fact, it explicitly states that counteroffensive would be quite possible but would involve significant escalation risks. They go so far as to use the expression "temporary defeat."

See page 7, where the report discusses in some depth NATO's options once Russian forces have taken Riga.

So what are you talking about?

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. I'm not entirely ruling out the possibility of NATO launching a counteroffensive long after Russia has dug in. That would require a very long military commitment and build-up that I find unlikely for several reasons. You'd have to maintain political support in the face of Russia information operations. At the same time Russia is going to be disrupting mobilization and deployment efforts. At the same time economic and strategic assets of NATO members will come under difficult to attribute attacks intended to sap political will. On top of all that the long build-up necessary for a decent chance of success is going to be difficult to sustain with NATO commitments elsewhere.

How many Brigades does NATO want to lose to the mother of all peer-to-peer battles in airpower, air defense, and artillery. Beyond that I think the US Army is well-aware it is not adequately trained to fight this war.

I find an insufficient NATO military response that is defeated/attrited and removes the political will for further military operations the most likely outcome.

I'm not sure if we're arguing semantics here or if you find it likely that NATO would achieve victory over Russia occupying some territory of a NATO member. That would be a bizarre overconfidence if that's what you're arguing.

Yes, you're misunderstanding me. It's odd, because you're repeating what both the Rand study and I said.

To recap:

NATO could mount a counteroffensive. Such a counteroffensive would carry serious escalation risk if it involved strikes inside Russian territory. Avoiding such strikes, however, would make the counteroffensive much riskier. So NATO might choose not to counter-invade. Better then to deter Russia. NATO's ability to strike Russia elsewhere may or may not be enough to accomplish deterrence. But should President Trump declare that the U.S. will not be responding to a Russian incursion then it will surely not be enough.

You're adding nothing that I can see. More importantly, I have no idea how you assumed that I neither read nor understood the Rand study.

From my perspective you seemed to imply the US could win short of missile strike within Russia that had the potential of being misconstrued as nuclear strikes. If you're talking just Tomahawks and the like that's not going to cut it given Russia's very robust IADS and deep inventory of targets.

I find escalation of the risky sort to be extraordinarily unlikely with current NATO (not just US) leadership. The likeliest outcome of a Russian invasion of peripheral NATO territory, is the inability of NATO to enforce its borders and the subsequent re-arming of Europe (particularly Poland).

If such an event occurred that would be very disruptive to US politics. If you roughly agree with that than I misunderstood your statement and I apologize.

I'm still lost. I have no idea what you're arguing, nor do I know what you thought I said. You keep repeating the same points in vehement agreement.

You are more doubtful than I am that a counteroffensive could be launched without strikes in Russian territory, but that difference is irrelevant. We both agree such a counteroffensive would be risky. I do find your certainty odd, given that AFAIK neither you nor I have any professional military knowledge outside of small unit tactics and some logistical matters.

But that said, we're in agreement. We both agree that a counteroffensive would be much riskier without airstrikes in the Russian Federation proper. We both agree that it would therefore entail escalation risks. We both agree that one might not happen at all.

If you must find some disagreement, I do not see how any American administration could avoid a counteroffensive unless it succeeded in inflicting sufficient damage on the Russians elsewhere.

I'm rereading my comment that started this off, and I'm still lost.

The apology is appreciated!

Well, the Obama or Clinton administrations, I should say. A Trump Administration, and God help the Baltics.

(I take that your point was about NATO, but I'm not seeing the squishes in this scenario. Any AFOE refugees to give comment?)

"I do find your certainty odd, given that AFAIK neither you nor I have any professional military knowledge outside of small unit tactics and some logistical matters."

Your assumption would not be entirely accurate. If you know my name, there is at least one somewhat vague public article about an area of my recent work.

"I take that your point was about NATO, but I'm not seeing the squishes in this scenario."

If we were talking Poland, I'd agree unequivocally. If Russia invaded and occupied the majority of the population of the Baltic states, I'd also expect a hawkish NATO. I don't find such an action to be in keeping with Russia's pattern of near abroad intervention (Ukraine, Georgia, etc). I'd expect invasion of lightly populated or Russophile areas, if an incursion on NATO was to occur.

Send me an email; I can't find your work on Google!

From your last paragraph, I think we're in contentious agreement. After all, the scenario we're discussing is an outright Russian invasion of two of the Baltics! If we agree that this would provoke a NATO response, then we have no disagreement! I have no idea how NATO would respond to a more limited incursion ... which kinda means I agree with you, no?

How did this get started?

"How did this get started?"

Honestly, I forgot that RAND had a quite different run-up to war than Assured Resolve and other wargames I've participated in. I guess we were speaking past each other. I find RAND's starting conditions a bit far-fetched (it is far outside Russia's character given current and plausible future leadership).

Dave: not that I know what you do, I withdraw the comment! Please feel free to bring your professional expertise to bear when necessary.

Summer is over, and with it our stay in Alabama.

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