Ukraine’s humiliation continued this week. The crisis heated up ever so slightly after Russian forces (or Crimea’s ethnic Russian militias, depends who you ask) seized two Ukrainian naval bases in Crimea without firing a shot, and briefly detained the top Ukrainian admiral. This has obviously created a lot of nervous neighbors in the Baltics and Scandinavian countries.
I can’t help but think of an old comrade, an Estonian exchange officer who was a classmate of mine at The Basic School and Infantry Officers Course years ago. “Ken” was a big, friendly bear of a guy who loved being at Quantico (which none of us understood) and embraced every learning opportunity he could lay his big paws on.
One day, he gave us all a brief about his small nation’s outmatched military capabilities if Russia ever tried to revisit its old Soviet glory (like many nations, Estonia has a small professional force and augments with reservists and conscripts as necessary). Naturally, a Soviet empire redux was the furthest thing from our minds at the time. We were reading about places like Kandahar, Tora Bora and the starling reach of Al Qaeda, and beginning to hear whispers about Iraq.
Ken acknowledged Estonia would be quickly overwhelmed (much like Georgia years later – not Jimmy Carter’s Georgia – when it was invaded by Russia in 2008). But he concluded, “We’ll make them bleed.”