Russia’s foreign policy toward USA is not schizophrenic

Professor Kimberly Marten tries to explain an apparently schizophrenic Russian foreign policy toward the United States in this policy memo on PONARS Eurasia.

She comes up with four possible explanations:

  1. Putin succumbed to his own ignorance and biases.
  2. Putin’s advisors are afraid to tell him the truth.
  3. Inconsistent foreign policy is the result of infighting in Putin’s inner circle.
  4. Disparate members of Russia’s intelligence network are controlling foreign policy with negative consequences for state interests.

I think there are a few additional explanations to consider.

It’s not about Russia: Nobody can figure out Donald Trump

Marten gives two examples of inconsistencies in Russia’s foreign policy toward the United States.

The first one Continue reading

Cyber attack targeted Lithuanian defense minister

Defense minister Raimundas Karoblis and government institutions were the targets of a small cyber attack against Lithuania on Thursday.

The attack consisted of three different elements. First institutions from the government, ministries, and embassies received emails containing an attached file with a virus. Then at 19.15 hackers took over the website and posted a fake news story discrediting defense minister Karoblis. The story was online for about five minutes before the TV-channel managed to remove it.

The fake story was written in decent Lithuanian, according to It claimed that Karoblis had sexually harassed a (male) journalist and at least eight anonymous diplomats. The hackers attacked from a server in Saint Petersburg.

The third element of the attack was another fake news story that appeared on foreign websites claiming that Lithuania had introduced sanctions against Mongolia. Apparently this gave the Lithuanian diplomacy some extra work, and they consider it a conscious provocation.

Karoblis is known as an avid advocate for a tough military line against Russia. It is suspected that the cyber attack is a response to Lithuania’s so-called Magnitsky list which was published on Monday. This list bans 49 named Russians from Lithuania.

Homicide charges for US warship collisions are a big mistake

Four officers from USS Fitzgerald and one from USS John S. McCain including both commanding officers will face criminal charges for negligent homicide. As Navy Times notes, this is a very rare step, and now the internet is boiling over with discussions about it.

I think the criminal charges are a big mistake. …Continue reading

More US soldiers and Baltic Sea Policing Mission among ICDS recommendations for NATO

How should the United States and NATO prioritize their resources to the Baltic States? That is the topic of this policy paper that Erik Marmei and Gabriel White have written for ICDS.

The policy paper outlines a series of weaknesses with the defense in the Baltic States. It is pointed out that despite the fact that all three Baltic States spend more that NATO’s 2 percent of GDP goal, there will not be enough local funding to create a credible defense against the threat from Russia. …Continue reading

A military reserve of cyber security experts

Monica M. Ruiz argues in War on the Rocks that the Estonian voluntary Cyber Defense Unit is a model that the United States should implement. I think this is a great idea for many countries, including other countries in the Baltic region.

The idea is that citizens who are specialists in cyber security or have other information technology skills can volunteer for the Estonian Defense League. When necessary, they can contribute to protect the online infrastructure of the country and participate in crisis management. …Continue reading

Sweden and Finland buy new torpedoes together

Sweden and Finland have announced a joint procurement of torpedoes of the type New Lightweight Torpedo (NLT). This torpedo is produced by Saab Dynamics and is also known by the Swedish name of Torpedsystem 47 or Tp 47.

The hope is that the coordinated purchase will lower the costs of sustaining and further developing the torpedo system. It is also anticipated that this opens other possibilities for cooperation within anti-submarine warfare. …Continue reading

Is there an epidemic of pneumonia among soldiers in Leningrad Oblast?

Almost 1000 draftees from Leningrad Oblast have been hospitalized in less than two months, reports Ekho Moskvy. According to the radio station, most of the soldiers have been diagnosed with pneumonia.

There are no official statements about the apparent epidemic. Ekho Moskvy says that the sick soldiers are brought to the hospital in Saint Petersburg in other cars than ambulances in order to hide the number of infections. The report says that the sick soldiers come from at least five different military installations in Leningrad Oblast. …Continue reading

Russian military moves from Windows to Linux

The Russian military has decided to move away from Microsoft Windows on all computers. The decision is grounded in security concerns connected with using an operating system that is produced abroad. That reports Izvestia.

Instead there will be installed a version of Astra Linux on all computers in the Russian Armed Forces. LibreOffice will be used as office suite. …Continue reading

Knowledge increases support for women soldiers, says Estonian study

Andres Siplane in an ICDS report about Women in the Estonian Defense Forces:

“As an important observation, it has to be pointed out that support for women serving in the [Estonian Defense Forces] is much higher among active service personnel than in society in general.[…]
While in society in general almost half of the respondents were inclined to agree with the claim that women should serve in the EDF only in peacetime or that women are not suited to fighting a war, among active service personnel only under 30% held that view.[…]
It is interesting that the experience of instructing female conscripts significantly increases active servicemen’s support for the idea that women manage equally well compared to male conscripts.”

30 percent is still a large number, but it’s a lot better than 50. And women in Estonia have only since 2013 had the chance to volunteer for conscription, so many in the military still haven’t had the experience of working with female conscripts.

The Baltic nations would be hard to beat

One of the things that I didn’t touch on in my description about how a war between Russia and the West will play out was the resistance that the populations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would muster after a Russian occupation. That was a deliberate omission because you just can’t fit everything into one piece, but to be fair this is indeed so important that it deserves attention. …Continue reading