Col. Richard Black on an Austrian-Style Neutrality for Ukraine

A number of interesting points concerning military strategy were raised by Col. Black during the discussion period of the May 26 SI webinar, based on his personal experience from serving for over 30 years in uniform.

One question concerned the reports of how the Russians are carrying out “urban combat” in Ukraine and systematically destroying civilian infrastructure, and implicitly opposing it to the Americans’ modus operandi . In response, he noted that people “easily forget what we used to call ‘shock and awe’”, i.e. the strategy officially developed by the Pentagon’s which was later implemented against Iraq. Under “shock and awe”, Black explained, “we would go in, and we would massively bomb and we would destroy the entire electrical grid, the water supply, the food distribution, the transportation networks. Everything that was required for human life was destroyed…. In fact, to this very day, we’ve been fighting in Iraq for 30-31 years now, and the electrical system that we destroyed when we attacked back then has never been fully restored. Saddam Hussein ran a very fine electrical system, but we have never been able to replace it, because we could care less about the people of Iraq.”

Concerning the current crisis, Col. Black noted that he believed that a U.S. invasion of Cuba “would have been fully justified” had it been necessary, because the Soviet missiles represented “a serious nuclear threat” near the border. The threat for Russia today is similar, but “even closer on its border”. Therefore, in his view, “what we need to do ultimately is look to the Austrian solution.” Under the tready signed in 1955, Austria modified its constitution to state it would remain “a neutral, non-belligerent nation for eternity”, and no foreign troops would be stationed on its territory. Austria, as a result, “was this island of tranquility at the height of the Cold War where we had thousands of tanks and missiles, artillery pieces. I was part of NATO back then; I remember it very well. We were poised for an invasion at the Fulda Gap. Meanwhile, I managed to go into Austria, and I attended the Christkindl Market, and people were celebrating Christmas and the birth of Christ. There were lights and candles, and people were joyous and happy. Meanwhile, everywhere on the Iron Curtain, people were tense and faced off with bayonets and artillery pieces.” That type of solution is needed for Ukraine.

“I think realistically, Russia is not going to give up the territory” now acquired in very diffiult fighting, but at the same time, there have to be guarantees for Ukraine’s security. “there are solutions and we better start talking about them now, and stop talking about escalating toward nuclear war.”

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