In this episode of the MWI Podcast, John Amble speaks to Sandor Fabian. A former officer in the Hungarian military’s special operations forces, he has extensively researched the concept of resistance as an approach to national defense. Specifically, he argues that resistance is the most viable means of defense for small states—like, for example, the Baltics—facing the threat of aggression from a larger neighbor—like Russia.
Effectively embracing resistance as a strategic approach, however, would require dramatic changes in force structure, training, equipment, doctrine, and more. And if small US allies choose to do so, it would also have important implications for US special operations forces and for NATO.
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Note: This episode was originally released in 2021.
Image credit: Spc. Uriel Ramirez, US Army
If "roll back" (of communism in this case) can be considered to be a legitimate "resistance" strategy and activity (for example, of U.S./Western states and societies which considered themselves to be threatened — in the Old Cold War of yesterday — by earlier communist "conversions"/take-overs — of smaller countries in their hemisphere),
Then can "roll back" (of market-democracy in this case) be considered to be a legitimate "resistance" strategy and activity (for example, of Russian and Chinese states and societies which consider themselves to be threatened — in the New/Reverse Cold War of today — by earlier market-democracy "conversions"/take-overs — of smaller countries in their hemisphere)?
If so, then in both the Old Cold War and New/Reverse Cold War cases above — what name — other than "resistance" (which would seem to be already taken by the "roll back" great nations noted above) can we give; this, to:
a. Such efforts as these smaller nations might make; this,
b. To retain the ways of life, the ways of governance, the values, etc., (whether communist or market-democracy) that they prefer?
Regarding my thoughts immediately above — re: the Old Cold War of yesterday and the New/Reverse Cold War of today — note that "resistance" — in both such cases — this was/is best understood from the perspective of states and societies (great and/or small) seeking to prevent (for example via "containment") and/or seeking to reverse (for example via "roll back") the "revolutionary" political, economic, social and/or value "changes" that an aggressor nation seeks to make (or in the case of "roll back" has already achieved), for example, in these such "resisting" states' and societies' own "back yards"/in their "spheres of influence."
From this such perspective, thus,
a. The U.S. — under Reagan and via his strategies of "containment" and "roll back" in the Old Cold War of yesterday — could be seen to be actively "resisting" — the threatening advance (and/or already achievement) of communism, for example, in places like Central America back then? Likewise, from this such perspective:
b. Russia and China — under Putin and Xi respectively and via their strategies of "containment" and "roll back" in the New/Reverse Cold War of today — these folks, also, can be seen to be actively "resisting" — the threatening advance (and/or already achievement) of market-democracy, for example, in places like Ukraine and Taiwan today?
From this such point of view:
a. The term and concept of "resistance,"
b. This is already "owned" — by the states and societies practicing/engaged in "containment" and/or "roll back" strategies and activities — both in the Old Cold War of yesterday — and also in the New/Reverse Cold War of today?
Having served in ISAF 7, been in Lithuania when Russia took Crimea and sailed the North Atlantic in a grey ship, this episode is really something.
So first and foremost, thank you for this thought-provoking episode!
The driving argument is positive, productive and useful: That smaller countries should use their military resources in the best possible manner, to achieve their political goals. I.E., when military budgets are small, in absolute size, it is of particular importance to prioritize correctly. Furthermore, the argument is relevant for partners who want to train/corporate with smaller countries.
The cardinal point being – do the best with what you got.
Now with the caveat, that I have not read the litterature… I have the considerations/questions
1. Consider the aggressors calculation. I believe it is important to distinguish between different types of goals/command aims. Primarily: conquest vs annihilation. Resistance will be very relevant, if the aggressor considers conquest (land and population). It is a joy to listen to your in-depth conversation of the topic.
However, if the aggressor sets the command aim annihilation of country X, the concept of resistance is either challenged or of little relevance. In a full scale conflict, the use of CBRN-weapons can be used to ‘handle’ areas where the potential for resistance is high.
2. From the point of 'the defender': Has the scope of deterrence been specified? / Been conceptually divided into subdimensions and quantified (deterrence against which force / for how long?).
3. The two above mentioned points leads me to wonder, how Sandor Fabian and yourself would advice on overall political distribution between conventional forces and resistance forces? For example 15 percent conventional forces and 85 percent resistance forces? Of course many factors weigh in, but as ‘a sport’: What should the theoretical force composition be, for a small country, wanting to resist against a large country?
Militaries exist in a politically driven environment, so I believe it to be prudent, to specify your theoretical ideal and at the same time be ready to accept, that tradeoffs will be made, when theory meets reality.
The technicalities of laying out formulas, war gaming, theoretical work etc. are probably best left to the experts on the field
A retired (field commissioned) NCO of the Royal Danish Navy