Of sorts. I am residing in the state of puzzlement in regards to European military-political thought, or, rather, lack thereof, non-stop as of lately. Once I begin to find a semblance of balance in my lazy geopolitical "analysis", Europeans (this time French) throw a bizarre curved ball and it completely messes my feeble mind. Behold, Paris University's own Nicole Vilboux, who specializes in "European-American Relations" concludes that:
Le Pentagone fait sa revue des troupes en Afrique. Le Département de la défense a annoncé, mercredi, que près de 800 soldats seraient remplacés par des "instructeurs" chargés de former des forces africaines locales au combat. Selon Nicole Vilboux, chercheuse spécialiste des États-Unis, cet échange illustre le changement de stratégie militaire américaine, désormais centrée sur la menace chinoise et russe.... Les Américains ont donc décidé de se concentrer sur ce qu’ils considèrent comme une menace de Moscou et de Pékin envers leurs suprématie militaire dans le monde. Un rapport récent indique que le commandement militaire américain pour l'Afrique (Africom) a changé de stratégie vis-à-vis des groupes extrémistes. Il s'agit désormais de les "contenir" et non plus de les "affaiblir". Autrement dit, les États-Unis réduisent leurs opérations anti-jihadistes afin de mieux concurrencer la Chine et la Russie dans le monde.
Translation: The Pentagon reviews troops in Africa. The Defense Department announced on Wednesday that nearly 800 soldiers will be replaced by "instructors" responsible for training local African forces in combat. According to Nicole Vilboux, a researcher specializing in the United States, this exchange illustrates the change in American military strategy, now centered on the Chinese and Russian threat.... The Americans have therefore decided to focus on what they see as a threat from Moscow and Beijing to their military supremacy in the world. A recent report indicates that the US military command for Africa (Africom) has changed its strategy towards extremist groups. It is now a question of "containing" them and no longer of "weakening" them. In other words, the United States is reducing its anti-jihadist operations in order to better compete with China and Russia in the world.
My, inevitable question, after reading this machine-translated interview by Vilboux is this: if to consider her own admission that, and I quote:
But anyway, the United States cannot withdraw much more. Admittedly, they regularly come to American bases in Africa, but that does not mean that many American soldiers are permanently present in Africa.
Exactly. I am sure Russian General Staff is scared shitless (wink, wink) by the whole battalion and a half of US troops being withdrawn from Africa to do exactly what? Prepare for a large-scale conflict with Russia? Good luck with that. Even upcoming NATO exercise Defender Europe 20 with around 40, 000 NATO troops taking part in it are just a pathetic pale shadow of Zapad 2017 exercises, not to mention monstrous Vostok 2018 maneuvers which created a lot of intolerable butt-hurt in European capitals, especially in Stockholm. But the fact that United States is trying to show some efforts at getting back to large combined arms operations cannot hide the fact that it still cannot fight and win it even if there will be not 40, 000 but 140, 000 NATO troops present. The problem with the United States fighting a serious conventional war in Europe is in the fact of increasing obsolescence of its conventional arsenal against near peer, not to mention against peer such as Russia and some serious issues with re-supplying those forces once SLOCs will be cut and main ports' infrastructure demolished.
NATO's European forces are not even serious threat for Russia and here we come to the point of why this professor from Paris waxes "strategic".
This exchange is above all a political signal: it is a question of showing that Africa is no longer a priority. For the moment, this adjustment does not announce anything serious but in the long term, the Americans could reduce their forces in Africa. The consequences could be quite significant, in particular vis-à-vis France which is engaged in the Sahel. The French government also requests that the American forces remain in Africa because even if France makes a very significant effort in the Sahel, its military capacities are limited. If the United States continues to downsize, French forces could end up with less air supply and less intelligence on the terrorists.
Now, that's warmer! So, it is not about US willing to fight Russia (or China)--only a complete nutjob in D.C. (not that US capital doesn't have a good supply of those) can think that US can fight and win the war in Europe against some imaginary Russian "aggression". The issue is simple: if France cannot sustain her operations in Sahel, trying to still play the role of great colonial power (recall the speed with which both UK and France ran out of high-precision stand-off weapons while gang-raping Libya and then begged the United States to interfere), what's the point then of talking about the United States "changing strategy", when physical annihilation of Russia remains American goal since post WW II and, especially, after 2008. Let good ol' Henry speak:
"Kissinger: If we treat Russia seriously as a great power, we need at an early stage to determine whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities. We should explore the possibilities of a status of nonmilitary grouping on the territory between Russia and the existing frontiers of NATO. The West hesitates to take on the economic recovery of Greece; it’s surely not going to take on Ukraine as a unilateral project. So one should at least examine the possibility of some cooperation between the West and Russia in a militarily nonaligned Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis is turning into a tragedy because it is confusing the long-range interests of global order with the immediate need of restoring Ukrainian identity. I favor an independent Ukraine in its existing borders. I have advocated it from the start of the post-Soviet period. When you read now that Muslim units are fighting on behalf of Ukraine, then the sense of proportion has been lost.
But here are some news for Vilboux--to fight REAL conventional war in Europe and win it against Russia in her geographic vicinity requires resources and military depth United States simply doesn't possess, as doesn't Vilboux' thesis, in terms of common sense, and "change of strategy" in D.C. has very little to do with strategy but with pretending that one can actually be formulated. This is not a case in the US for decades. I am sure 800, or even 8,000 GIs do not change the balance of power in any way other than presenting a fat juicy target once deployed in Europe. In this respect, the United States and France are identical in a sense of two being ageing dames who still think that putting a bright lipstick on crepey lips, or powdering over crows' feet eye corners will stop the process of withering away. For the United States this withering away takes palce in the global arena, for France--it is facing the reality in Africa. So, no amount of "strategic" mambo-jumbo and pseudo-geopolitical psychobable can hide the fact that militarily (and economically) modern France is nothing but the US lap-dog and is trying to be a prince, while being a pauper. It is both comical and sad, especially when one looks at "intellectual" level of European "elites".