Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

Putin Appears to Be Angling for Invasion, Not De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, July 30, 2014
putin-invasion-ukraine Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front C), accompanied by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (front L), walks to watch military exercises upon his arrival at the Kirillovsky firing ground in the Leningrad region, March 3, 2014. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters)

Europe’s announcement of sectorial sanctions against Russia is welcome news. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued aggression in Ukraine should not go unanswered by the international community.  Over time, this latest round, which affects  military, financial, and oil sectors will surely bite.  Whether they will change Putin’s calculus in the short term, however, is far less certain.  In fact, Putin’s moves to date signal his intentions loud and clear. Far from seeking options for a face-saving de-escalation, Putin is posturing for more military intervention.

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Amid Growing Evidence of Russian Involvement in MH17 Tragedy, No Sign of De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, July 23, 2014
mh17-ukraine-intelligence College students gather around candles forming the shape of an airplane, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province July 19, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

As the Russian media continues to spin its own increasingly far-fetched narrative about the tragic shoot down of MH17, the U.S. military has released new intelligence that solidly links Russian military assistance to the disaster. The intelligence reaffirms the White House’s statements that Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, likely with Russian help, are responsible for firing the Buk missile that downed a passenger jet flying over Ukrainian airspace.  Officials have also stated that the Ukrainian military had no surface-to air-assets within striking range of MH17.

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As Facts About MH17 Emerge, U.S. Turns Up the Heat on Putin

by Janine Davidson Monday, July 21, 2014
mh17-putin-obama An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The burden is now on Russia.” This was the conclusion of today’s statement by President Obama, as mounting evidence suggests that the MH17 tragedy and deaths of 298 passengers can be directly attributed to Russian-armed and trained rebels operating in eastern Ukraine. This terrible incident has served as a wake-up call for those who have so far been content  to look the other way as Russia plays an increasingly heavy hand in the violent conflict.

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In Shootdown of Malaysian Airlines MH17, Two Likely Scenarios

by Janine Davidson Thursday, July 17, 2014
mh17-russia-ukraine-military The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Malaysian airliner Flight MH-17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in which Russia and the West back opposing sides. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and death of all 295 passengers on board is a heartbreaking tragedy. It ranks as the fourth deadliest single-plane disaster in aviation history, and the deadliest from a manmade cause. While the facts of the crash will take many days to determine, the political ramifications will come almost immediately. As Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, and the Ukrainian government each cast blame from one to the other, it is important to understand how this terrible event might have happened.

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(Early) Weekend Reader: Women and World War I, ADM Howard Wins Her Fourth Star, and the Future of ISIS

by Janine Davidson Thursday, July 3, 2014
july-4-defense-isis Jeffrey Silverstone, dressed as "Uncle Sam," marches in the Takoma Park Independence Day parade during celebrations of the United States' Fourth of July Independence Day holiday in Takoma Park, Maryland, July 4, 2012. (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters)

Happy Fourth of July weekend! This Reader comes a day early:

How World War I’s tragic course of events also changed the balance of gender equality foreverThe Daily Beast has the story. World War I fundamentally altered the relationship between women and the workplace.  “By the time the Armistice was signed in 1918, a British woman aged 16-32 stood only a one-in-ten chance of marriage.” These “surplus” women entered the workforce.

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Weekend Reader: Elsewhere in the World…Ukraine, the A-10, and That Future Battleground No One’s Talking About

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 20, 2014
ukraine-rebel-crisis-separatist-crimea An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard in Seversk (Siversk), located near the town of Krasny Liman, Donetsk region, June 19, 2014. (Shamil Zhumatov/ Courtesy Reuters)

Ukraine is quickly becoming “the foggiest of wars.” Julia Ioffe, embedding for a week with pro-Russian separatists, reports on the confused dynamics, motivations, and even basic facts behind the “foggy” war. More broadly, direct evidence emerges that the Russian government has provided the separatists with tanks and other military hardware. In light of recent events and with no clear message from NATO, some Ukrainians argue an invasion is yet to come.

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Putin, Brzezinski, and Deterrence 101

by Janine Davidson Thursday, June 19, 2014
putin-ukraine-deterrence Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, June 11, 2014. (Alexei Druzhinin/Courtesy Reuters)

On June 16, I had the opportunity to hear former National Security Adviser (and sage professor) Zbigniew Brzezinski speak at the Wilson Center. He gave an outstanding speech regarding the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine and what the United States and NATO can and should do about it.

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What Does NATO’s Core Mission Look Like in the Twenty-First Century?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, June 2, 2014
nato collective defense Soviet Army soldiers sit on their tanks in front of the Czechoslovak Radio station building in central Prague during the first day of Soviet-led invasion to then Czechoslovakia. Picture taken August 21, 1968. (Libor Hajsky/Courtesy Reuters)

By Mark Jacobson

This commentary comes courtesy of Mark Jacobson, who served previously in Kabul, Afghanistan as Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative. Jacobson observes that the political crisis in Ukraine has caused many members of NATO to agitate for a shift back to NATO’s “core mission”—collective defense against Russian incursion—and to swear off contingency operations like the one seen in Afghanistan. Jacobson also observes, however, that the modern security environment is much different from the one in which NATO was first created. It would not be wise to dismiss Afghanistan as an aberration. 

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Weekend Reader: Shinseki Leaves the VA; Ukraine Heats Up

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 30, 2014
shinseki United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki arrives to address The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington May 30, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary Eric Shinseki formally submits his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs. Foreign Policy has the story. Even as the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew, the tone remained often respectful: Shinseki was always “a good man.” As the Huffington Post’s David Wood recounts, Shinseki, who took the reins of the VA following a 38-year Army career—where he rose to become Army Chief of Staff—may simply have trusted too much given his organization’s complexity and inherent flaws.  Time will tell who can replace him.

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Interview with CTV News: More on Putin’s ‘Clever’ Strategy

by Janine Davidson Monday, April 21, 2014
armored pro-russian guards apcs An armed man, wearing black and orange ribbons of St. George - a symbol widely associated with pro-Russian protests in Ukraine, stands guard with armoured personnel carriers seen in the background, in Slaviansk, April 16, 2014. (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters)

I was recently interviewed by CTV News’ Kevin Newman Live to discuss the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and Putin’s pioneering form of warfare. My assessment should be familiar to readers of this blog: “Even though there are these suspiciously well-trained militants in Ukraine, Putin can still somehow claim plausible deniability.”

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