The National Defense Medal Being Retired, According to Defense Department


The National Defense Medal, which had been issued to service members of all branches during designated periods of war, will no longer be issued after December 31st, 2022. The Department of Defense made the decision after the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan in 2021, ending America’s longest conflict.

The National Defense Medal was automatically awarded after a servicemember completed their training and entered regular duty. Affectionately known as the “pizza stain”, the medal was issued during the following periods of conflict:

The Korean War, Jun. 27 1950- Jul. 27 1954
The Vietnam Conflict, Jan. 1 1961- Aug. 14 1974
The Gulf War, Aug. 2 1990- Nov. 30 1995
The Global War on Terrorism, Sept. 11 2001-Dec. 31, 2022.

The discontinuing of it’s issuance is a reminder that major combat operations have ended for the United States. Though the U.S. is still involved in counter-terrorism actions, the majority of combat troops will not be involved in these operations.

I remember being issued the National Defense Award in 1991, though I was not deployed to Iraq during the Gulf War. It was a generic medal, that everyone was awarded, like the Army Service Ribbon for us soldiers.

Awards are important for the morale of the military. I’ve known many Army personnel who strived for perfection, not only to rank up, but to also receive awards and to better themselves as soldiers. It is very time consuming to learn about leadership, take classes and pass exams to become an NCO. It is even harder to be deployed to a combat zone, engage enemies, survive, then come back home possibly broken, both in body and mind. Awards for a combat veteran are signs of respect. In addition to these wards, more needs to be done to help heal our American veterans. See the links in the Resources page of this site.

JANUS: A Wargame Simulation Code and the Effects of Nuclear Artillery Yields


In the decades before the wonderful website Nukemap helped us with determining the effects of nuclear weapons when used against any target on the globe, The United States used a Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory program called JANUS. JANUS1 was an interactive wargame simulation code, in which the military could input various yield options on battlefield nuclear weapons, and calculate their effects on enemy forces.

The input would include a simulation of two opposing forces (representing NATO and the Warsaw Pact, respectively) using the colors red and blue. The simulations were ran to try and determine the effects of ER (enhanced radiation) nuclear artillery vs. one kiloton fission weapons. What the simulated wargames determined was that ER weapons caused more casualties among enemy forces than strictly fission weapons.

The simulation also recorded that if the Red Team reached losses between 40-60%, they would discontinue an offensive and rethink their tactics, potentially reorganizing and attacking again. The simulations also brought to light some conclusions deduced by the wargame simulations that could have been used by the United States and NATO:

  • The anticipated use of nuclear weapons by either side affects the character of a game significantly. It determines how Blue will plan his defense and how Red will carry out his offense. It causes both sides to keep large spacings between companies (or platoons), slowing the tempo of the battle.
  • If the employment of nuclear weapons is to have a decided effect on the progress and out come of a battle, each side will have to have an adequate number of nuclear weapons. Without an adequate number, the advantage of a nuclear capability is only temporary. On the average, each side can only count on destroying one combat company per nuclear weapon used, whether it is a 1-kt fission weapon or an ER weapon. Since the enemy has 50 combat companies per division, each nuclear weapon can only destroy 2% of a division. Even after using 10 nuclear weapons, Blue fails to blunt the overall Red capability.
  • In almost all the simulations we ran using JANUS, ER weapons were more effective than 1-kt fission weapons in imposing overall losses on Red. Essentially all the game histories illustrate this. This does not necessarily mean that more Red units were killed per ER -weapon used (which, of course, can be the case) but that the ER weapon causes a greater dispersion of Red forces, helping Blue’s conventional capability. Thus, force massing can be more of a liability with ER weapons than with 1-kt fission weapons.
  • The typical visibility in the JANUS simulation limits either side’s ability to acquire units deep into enemy territory. Thus, neither side had many opportunities to use a 10-kt fission weapon against deep enemy positions. Troop safety constraints limited use of the 10-kt fission weapon between companies that could see each other in direct-fire combat.

In the 3rd conclusion, it was determined that ER weapons were more effective against enemy forces than on-kiloton fission weapons. As stated, this did not mean that the enemy forces lost more soldiers, it was that the ER weapons caused a greater dispersion of said forces. The obvious reason is the reputation of ER weapons, which are better known as “neutron bombs”.

The United States Army, up until 1992 , had two ER weapons in it’s arsenal in Europe: The Lance short range nuclear capable missile, and the W79 warhead, which was a variant of the M422CA1 203mm nuclear artillery shell.

I trained on maintenance procedures on the W79 in Germany in 1991. Whenever I find articles and academic papers published about them, I am immediately drawn in to review if the information is accurate. U.S, Army ER weapons are relics of the past, and thankfully not in existence. There was only one reason to have them, and that was to destroy as many lives as possible, while minimizing static damage to property. They may have been rationalized until the end of the Cold War, but there is no need to return to enhanced radiation weapons in the 21st century.

1.Andre, C G. Look at nuclear artillery yield options using JANUS, a wargame simulation code. United States: N. p., 1982. Web. doi:10.2172/5035071.

Turkey and the Cyprian Crises of 1974..Official vs. Non-Official Reports concerning Nuclear Weapons


Nuclear weapons history, a la official reports, and the situation that was told to me by older nuke techs who were in Turkey during the Cyprian Crises of 1974 are a little different. When I was a young nuclear weapons specialist, I would hear stories from the older NCOs who had been around for a decades before I enlisted in 1989. One of the common shared experiences was being stationed in Turkey in the early to mid 1970s, and the problems the U.S. Army faced in dealing with two NATO allies who were at each other’s throats; Greece and Turkey.

In short, the Greeks and Turks fight it out over Cyprus in 1974. Turkey wins, gains significant control of part of the island.

The Greeks become upset at the U.S. for allowing the invasion, and Greek extremist group EOKA-B assassinates the U.S. ambassador Roger Davies by sniper fire. The U.S. Congress then puts an arms embargo on Turkey after the invasion (in 1975, against the wishes of the Ford administration), which now upsets the Turks, who then attempt to seize U.S. military installations in Turkey, except for Incirlik and Izmir air bases, both of which supported NATO missions.

In a recently declassified memo, Pres. Ford and Sec. of Defense Dr. James R. Schlesinger discussed the matter.

Now this is where official statements and actual on-the-ground situations differ.

Per the memo: “Under domestic pressure to retaliate, the Turkish government closed down U.S. installations in Turkey, except Incirlik and Izmir air bases because they had NATO missions, and asked for negotiations over the future of U.S. military facilities. There may have been some concern that Turkish forces would seize the area at Incirlik where the U.S. stored nuclear weapons. To avoid a “nasty incident,” Schlesinger proposed that Washington go to the Turkish government and say that there was some “mistake” and then get them out”.1

The memo further reads, “The Turkish government made no moves against the nuclear weapons, but Congress kept the embargo going until 1978, when Turkey restored access by U.S. forces to military facilities.”

Now, this is where it gets interesting

The U.S. official stance was that the Turks made no moves against U.S. nuclear weapons. This contrasts sharply with the history told to us younger nuke techs by our NCOs who were in Turkey at the time. These were men with TS clearances, reputable and did not have an agenda. This was in the early 1990s, at the time that we were dismantling and removing Army battlefield nuclear warheads from Europe during Operation Silent Echo.

The unofficial, on the ground situation (according to them) was…the Turks surrounded their depot, which housed Honest Johns and 203mm nuclear artillery. The Americans went into beast mode by putting shape charges on every nuclear weapons container, and wired the entire depot to explode if the gates were breached. There was a tense standoff, until the Turks departed empty handed.

I had heard this story many times by superiors, some differing in the finer details, but the wiring of the depot to explode scenario was always the same.

1 The official documents can be found here:

Nuclear weapon safekeeping is paramount. Reduction and elimination is desirable.

The U.S. has the Wrong Type of Nuclear Weapons? According to The Hill, It Does


In a recent article in The Hill by columnist Gordon G. Chang Do we have the wrong nuclear weapons to deter Russia and China?, it is suggested by Mr. Chang that the United States nuclear arsenal, and the lack of low-yield short and medium range nuclear missiles in the U.S. Navy, are a reason that both Russia and China would dominate the United States in a nuclear exchange between the three largest nuclear powers. This is in part do to the fact that the U.S. has a limited amount of “non-strategic” style nuclear weapons. Per the article:

There is great cause for concern. Among other reasons, the U.S. does not have the right type of “non-strategic” weapons. It has gravity nuclear bombs, but Russia knows they are particularly vulnerable while stored on the ground or carried on planes flying through contested airspace.

Up until 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and arguably a couple of years before then with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismemberment of the Warsaw Pact, non-strategic or “tactical” nuclear weapons were at the forefront of NATO strategy to deal with a Soviet Bloc invasion of Western Europe. Chang correctly points out that the Fulda Gap in Germany would have been the route that Warsaw Pact’s armored and infantry divisions would have taken, most likely within days reaching as far west as Spain.

The tactical nukes that would have been used to slow down, but not ultimately stop an invasion would have been nuclear artillery (the 203mm and 155mm howitzer fired nuclear projectiles, with ranges of 15 miles and up to 30 miles respectively, if rocket assisted; the Lance ground launched missile, which when equipped with a nuclear warhead, had a range of about 75 miles; and the Pershing II intermediate range nuclear missile with a range of around 1000 miles). The Soviets feared the Pershing II to the extent that it brought them to the bargaining table, allowing the INF Treaty to eventually be ratified by both nations. All of these systems were held by the U.S. Army, and were eventually removed from inventory by 1992.

The doctrine of NATO’s nuclear deterrence of the Soviet Union was to deploy 1000s of the weapons to Europe. The current situation in Ukraine, and the state of the Russian military (which had been vastly overestimated as well equipped and disciplined), is not the same as a Cold War era wartime scenario. Almost all of the former Warsaw Pact nations; Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, in addition to the Baltic States (former members of the Soviet Union) are now a part of the NATO Alliance.

The Russians are no longer be able to try and force their divisions through the Fulda Gap; chances are they would have a difficult time trying to push through a tough and dedicated Poland. So this alone would leave out the need of a return to short range nuclear artillery and missiles such as the Lance.

China, though a nuclear power, has an arsenal of a purported 260 nuclear warheads, about 55 to 65 of which are ICBMs. The total amount of weapons in their arsenal is not negligible, but China lacks the raw materials needed to produce enough nuclear warheads to be on par with the Russians or Americans.

The China threat, though very concerning, will not likely lead to a nuclear confrontation with the United States. Both nations are heavily connected economically, and a destructive nuclear, or even conventional war between the two would result in a near total collapse of the Chinese economy. The U.S. would be devasted economically as well, but a recovery would be made faster in the U.S. In addition, why would China risk economic collapse, with a rival, potential superpower right at their border? India, also a nuclear power, would most likely take advantage of weakened China to exert their influence in the region.

Having been an Army nuclear weapons technician, I understand the feeling of power and dominance that being around nuclear weapons can a person. We all know the ramifications of nuclear warfare. Mr. Chang grew up during the Cold War, as I had. He should know that a return to a development of short and intermediate range nuclear weapons is not the answer to the Russian and Chinese Question. A more focused approach to confronting threats to the U.S. should involve a return to being one-step ahead of those who wish us harm, by focusing our resources and funds to eliminate a threat before it has time to grow. We already learned this lesson by not investing in Russia after the collapse of the U.S.S.R, by opening China and exporting our manufacturing out of the United States, and by not addressing India as a serious regional power and potential strategic ally who also has a bone to grind with China.

These are answers we can start pursuing.

Not new nuclear weapon systems.

Nuclear Weapons Tech..55G Advanced Individual Training


A question I frequently get asked is “what did the training consist as a nuclear weapons technician?” In my book Last of the Glow Worms, I tried to explain some of the training we went through. Here, I will share some of that training with those interested in historical U.S. Army nuclear weapons maintenance training, which ended in 1991.

After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., I was sent to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama in September of 1989 to begin AIT (advanced individual training). The training was almost 12 weeks long, and consisted of phases of training that we had to complete to move on to the next phase.

I was still 17 when I arrived at Redstone Arsenal, and we were barracked in a set of brand new buildings, and were co-ed. Our drill instructors were 55G’s also, which I later discovered worked to our benefit. After a few days of orientation, we began training.

Electronics was one of the phases of training. In the electronics class, we learned the basics of electricity, how to use equipment such as oscillators, and finally trained on radiacmeters, or as they are better known as, Geiger counters. One of the radiacs was the AN/PDR60. We trained on how to read radiation levels, how far to keep the scanner away from the radioactive surface, and how to clean the mylar sheet on the hand-held radiation monitoring device.

We next moved to training on the nuclear weapon storage containers. These were specifically designed for the 203mm(M422) and 155mm(M454) nuclear artillery shells, and the containers for the Pershing II and Lance missile warheads. Maintenance consisted of repainting and stenciling the outside of the containers, monitoring of the humidity indicators, and replacement of desiccant if needed.

The last phase consisted of training on maintenance of the nuclear warheads themselves. These were “trainers”, which were identical to the nuclear warheads we were going to work with, but contained depleted uranium and LLC’s (limited life components) which no longer functioned. We learned how to change LLC’s, how to clean the heavy metals (which would flake frequently), and to disassemble/reassemble the warhead.

An interesting part of the training was in the use of C4 explosives. We trained on how to form it, insert blasting caps, run det cord, and wire everything together. We then went into a small bunker, and someone would pull the igniter at the end of the det cord, causing the small explosions. I did not understand the purpose of training with explosives until 1991, when our unit ran an all night training scenario, which involved an imminent overrun of our depot by hostile (Soviet or Warsaw Pact) forces. This involved our unit and the 165th MP Company, which provided security. The nuke techs would place (trainer) shape charges on every nuclear weapon storage container in every igloo and wire the complete site for destruction. The training lasted the whole night, and was exciting to say the least.

In January of 1990, I completed AIT at Redstone Arsenal, and one this lovely piece of paper below for completing the training.

55G AIT Certificate, 1990(coffee stains were not included)

Presentation about the 59th Ordnance Brigade and Nuclear Artillery


Nuclear artillery.

These words are reminiscent of the Cold War Era, when both the Soviet Union and United States developed what were termed as “tactical nuclear weapons”; in short, battlefield nuclear weapons used by artillery units with a short range, and possible short lifespan for the soldiers who fired these weapons.

The 59th Ordnance Brigade was the largest U.S. Army Brigade until 1992. It consisted of over 6000 soldiers covering an area that bordered with the North Sea in the north to Italy in the south, and as far east as Greece and Turkey.

While researching nuclear artillery I came upon a presentation given by former XO (executive officer) of a nuclear artillery unit, Keith Guillory, who gave a presentation at the Army War College on nuclear artillery sites and their basic operations.

Nuclear field artillery units in Germany were on the front lines of the Cold War in Germany. Their main goal during an outbreak of hostilities with the Warsaw Pact were to defend the Fulda Gap, wreaking havoc by firing nuclear artillery rounds (203mm and 155mm) and nuclear capable Lance missiles. The artillery rounds had a range between 15 and 25 miles, and the Lance missile had a range of about 75 miles. NATO strategy included the use of tactical nuclear weapons because of the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact.

In 1992, all U.S. Army tactical nuclear weapons were removed from Europe and South Korea and eventually removed from the Army itself.

This presentation is an excellent resource in historical studies of U.S. Army nuclear forces in Germany during the Cold War.

The M422CA1E1 Nuclear Artillery Round and the Reality of an 18 Year Old Nuke Tech


The M422CA1 and it’s variant, the M422CA1E1 were the mainstay of United States nuclear artillery throughout Europe and South Korea from the beginning of the Cold War until their removal in 1991. Also known as the Old 8″, the M422 was deployed by the United States in Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey as part of NATO’s containment strategy against the Warsaw Pact, and in South Korea as part of the SEATO deterrent against North Korea, China and the Soviet Union.

M422 Nuclear Artillery Round (source:Wikipedia)

One of four nuclear weapon systems deployed by the United States Army in Europe until 1992, the M422 was the easiest to maintain, and many warrant officers and NCOs in the 55G MOS had years of experience maintaining both the weapon system and it’s training counterpart, the M423.

I just turned 18 years old when I finished basic training at Fort Dix, NJ, and was sent to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama in October 1989 to begin AIT as a nuclear weapons specialist. After 13 weeks of classroom and hands-on training, I was then deployed to the 64th Ordnance Company, Fischbach, West Germany in January of 1990. Once there, I was assigned to the M&A (maintenance and assembly) platoon. We had four squads in the platoon divided into three sections; calibration, missile systems and artillery systems. I was put in the artillery systems squad. Our responsibilities included maintenance of the M422 and another nuclear artillery shell, the M454 (155mm).

At 18 years old, I was still rather immature and prone to partying and drinking a majority of time at the 64th. I was not alone in my indulgence, and many other young soldiers drank alcohol to kill the boredom we faced at being stationed at an isolated nuke depot. It started to wear on me; during the day maintaining nukes, at night drinking until late, rinse and repeat. I found solace in reading, being an avid reader since I was a child.

My reality in 1990 was beginning to change as we started Operation Silent Echo. We began to go TDY more often, first to Hahn AFB, then to Rammstein AFB, and the TDY’s became longer; instead of a one week deployment when we went TDY to artillery units to maintain their trainers, we began deploying for weeks at a time, dismantling nuclear warheads at the air force bases, for eventual shipment to the U.S. This was after we removed all of our systems from Fischbach. This continuous movement had me slow down with alcohol, changing an almost daily binge into a weekly, then bi-weekly occurrence. I traded my boredom for something more responsible, as I felt myself contributing to something larger than a selfish attraction to self-indulgence.

Of all the nuclear weapon systems that we maintained, the M422 was my favorite. It was the first real nuclear warhead that I worked on. Strange to have a love affair like that, but at 18 years old, single and no family…what else could I love?

As Biden Abandons Afghan Allies, We Must Remember Trump and His Betrayal of the Kurds


With the catastrophe of the American pull-out of Afghanistan in full force, there are many reports of Taliban fighters resuming their 20 year hiatus assault on women, and the murders of people who worked with the Americans during their involvement in Afghanistan. The accounts are horrific, as one article written in an August 18th, 2021 at CNN (The Taliban Knocked on her door 3 Times. The 4th Time, They Killed Her). It is no surprise that the Taliban were going to go back to their barbaric ideology; 20 years of seething at the loss of Afghanistan in December of 2001 to American and allied forces culminated in their all but assured victory this month. Their triumphant march into Kabul, and the chaos that followed as foreigners, former American employees and Afghanis fearful of Taliban rule pressed to the airport to leave the country, has boxed President Biden into a corner. He set a date of August 31st as the day all American forces leave the country, and that date is looking to be an almost impossible one to keep. The Taliban will not negotiate on the withdraw of American forces, and seem tense with anticipation as the date draws nearer. In effect, the Americans are abandoning their former allies in Afghanistan. A tarnish that will leave a sour taste in the mouths of former key Afghani contractors who have helped the Allies since 2001.

Yes, it did begin with Trump, but Biden will need to claim responsibility for the mess that is now America’s shameful retreat at the hands of the Taliban.

Former President Donald Trump stated he wanted to pull out of Afghanistan by May of 2021. His defeat at the polls did not make that happen. But what Trump did do, and people have seem to forgotten, is abandon another group that helped the Americans in their fight against ISIL, the Kurds.

In October 2019, then President Donald Trump made the decision to pull support away from the Kurdish fighters who had helped in the war against ISIL. The Turks, longtime enemies of the Kurds (who have been fighting for autonomy in Eastern Turkey for centuries, but becoming organized in 1978), massed their soldiers on the border of Syria and Turkey, waiting for the Americans to pull their support, with the full intentions of attacking the Kurds the minute the American advisors left. And that is what Turkey did. The U.S. pulled out of Syria on October 6th; by October 9th the Turks launched airstrikes into northern Syria, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing over 300,000 people.

Sound familiar?

Both Trump and Biden need to own their mistakes. The abandonment of allies in times of conflict is treacherous, deceitful and traitorous. The reasons we went to both Afghanistan and Syria may be debated, but we were there. And we abandoned people we were there to help. This should not be the conduct of the lone superpower of the planet.

How can America ever be trusted again? Who will come to our side in a time of need, when we have a track record of ditching allies when they need us the most?

We have much work to do to regain our standing in the world.

Adam Toledo Killed by CPD: When Does it Stop?


The recent shooting in Minnesota of Daunte Wright by a 26 year veteran of the Brooklyn Center P.D. when she believed she had a taser in her hand, accidently shooting and killing Daunte was hard to watch. I first asked myself, “Did he have a gun? Why was he resisting and trying to flee? Why didn’t he just comply with the officer’s orders?” I thought of these questions, and did some soul searching as I asked them. As I contemplated the reasoning behind Daunte’s shooting, his frame of mind and the officer’s fatal mistake, the body cam footage of the Chicago police shooting of Adam Toledo was released by COPA.

I fought with myself about watching the entire video and had no desire to see someone being shot, especially a 13 year old boy. My days of morbid fascination with Faces of Death and jihadi beheading videos have long since left me, and I have a hard time stomaching real violence. But I knew I had to see the entire video to come to a conclusion, albeit an opinionated one, about whether or not it was justified.

The CPD has a long, sordid history of violence and corruption in Chicago, with the conviction in 2011 of Detective Jon Burge due to his torture of over 200 innocent people to elicit confessions. Burge was a disgrace, and was reflective of the department and their reputation for brutality. I can not say that all cops are bad, but that is not the point. The point is No cop should be bad.

After viewing the Toledo video, I had to put what transpired into context. The young boy was out at 2am with 21 year old Ruben Roman in Little Village, a neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Allegedly Ruben fired a handgun several times, the shot being picked up by nearby shot-detecting equipment. This alerted the police to respond. Officer Stillman of the CPD was the first on-scene, and ended up in a foot chase down with Toledo down an alley. Police bodycam shows Stillman yelling at Toledo to stop. Toledo stops near an opening in a fence, when Stillman yells at him to “drop it” (gun), which Toledo throws behind the fence and raises his empty hands in the air. Within a time frame of .0832 seconds, Stillman fires at Toledo, striking him in the chest. Stillman then performs CPR on Toledo, and other officers show up to the scene, finding the gun that Toledo tossed behind the fence. A few minutes later, Toledo is pronounced dead at the scene.

It was very hard for me to watch the video. The sight of a 13 year old dying in the alley is heart-wrenching. I thought of my own son, and how a deadly event like this could have happened. It raised more questions for me.

Why was Adam out so late and where was his family?

Who is really to blame here, the cop that shot Toledo, Ruben for handing him the gun, Toledo’s mother, society at large or economic disenfranchisement? These questions are debatable, and no doubt will once again cause opposing viewpoints to be at odds with one another, debating and yelling and reaching for each other’s throats while nothing gets accomplished.

I have come to this conclusion. The boy was out in the middle of the night, had a gun in his hand, and had run away from home in the past. He was young, misguided, and influenced by his surroundings. All that said, none of this is why people are protesting his death. They are protesting because, despite his troubles, Adam Toledo was unarmed at the time he shot. At 13 years old he was not a hardened criminal, and complied with the officer’s request. Stillman, within a millisecond, shouted for Adam to drop the gun (which he did and raised his empty hands) then fired. This is the problem. Stillman shouted a command, Adam complied, and was shot, all within less than a second. This is why people are protesting his death. Not because he was out at night, not even because he had a gun; We all know this is wrong. The fact is that Toledo was shot for complying with a command that the officer shouted at him, then shot instantly.

This is why reform in policing is needed. Not all cops are bad, but reform is needed to make headway into the socio-economic underlayment that is creating situations that allow for 13 year old boys to be shot by police.

Adam Toledo, RIP

Soviet Army Divisions Amongst Soldiers During the Cold War


During my research of other aspects of the Cold War I was not directly involved with, I began to speak with customers that I visit frequently, most of whom are from former Soviet republics. Weekly visits to them to try and sell products has allowed a level of familiarity that has opened the door to more personal conversations. Once past the drudgery of trying to sell them something, some of my customers, over a period of years, have opened up about the “old country”, and their military service there. Most of these men who I speak with are from Lithuania and Ukraine, some are from Belarus and Russia itself. I am beginning to compile their stories into a collection that I will publish. Their stories are far ranging and interesting; everything from Russian navy personnel watching Rambo on a warship for entertainment, to one man who is Lithuanian, but had German and Soviet citizenship because his parents were sent to a gulag for “re-education” after World War 2.

Although the experiences of these former Soviet soldiers are varied, there was one constant among them that I found interesting. The fact that animosity between the various Soviet republic’s soldiers towards one another was not only present on military installations, but rampant throughout all branches of the Soviet military. The common denominator I discovered was the attitude that the European soldiers in the Soviet military felt “superior” to those from the Caucasus and Central Asia. As was explained to me by one former Soviet soldier, his army installation was divided between the Russians and Europeans (The Baltic States, Moldova and Belarus) and the soldiers from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, etc. This division was cultural, as the Russians and those from Eastern Europe considered themselves culturally linked, whereas the others from Asia and the Caucasus were “different” and “culturally backwards”. It was explained to me that fights broke out often amongst the soldiers, and a kind of tribalism took place in which one group of soldiers from the same Soviet republic would stick together and exclude themselves socially from the other groups. They trained together, of course, and performed routine military exercises as a unit, but outside of military related functions, they tended to divide themselves by cultural lines.

In retrospect, I wonder if NATO and the United States attempted to exploit these divisions, if they were even aware that they existed. The collapse of the Soviet Union was going to come about eventually, but I still think that it may have come about more rapidly if NATO focused on individual republics that were dissatisfied with the USSR since it’s inception, especially the Baltic States and Ukraine.