This article is focused on giving readers a better understanding of the Russian threat. Few of us have had the pleasure of visiting Russia so what we do know about it has generally been filtered through a national security apparatus so entrenched in a cold war mindset they have lost all appearance of objectivity. Those with this bias are always pounding on the drums of fear and demonizing Russia as a major threat to America and our way of life.
Read more of Bruce’s writing on his blog.
Getting away from what shapes American opinion here are some real facts about Russia. For over half a century economic policy was shaped by the Communist Party and like the rest of the USSR, was centrally planned. The state controlled virtually all investment, production, and consumption across the country. The transition towards a market economy in the 1990s was painful. The chart on the right shows even today Russia fails to place in the world’s top ten largest economies.
- Russia is the 9th most populated country in the world with 144.50 million people in 2017.
- In terms of land area, Russia is spread across 9 time zones and is the largest country in the world. Russia shares borders with many countries, including China, Ukraine, North Korea, and Norway.
- The official language is Russian but there are 27 other languages co-official in various regions of the country. It is located in Eurasia (the combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia).
- Some sources estimate that Russia contains over 30 percent of the world’s natural resources.
If a picture tells a thousand words then people need only compare a picture of downtown Moscow’s modest skyline with a picture of Beijing China which is rather overpowering. The overwhelming mass, density, and the number of sophisticated buildings in Beijing dwarf those in Russia’s capital. Simply put, Russia is not the massive global power American media portrays it to be. Elevating countries like Iraq, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, to “major threat” status has allowed money to pour into what President Eisenhower years ago aptly named the Military-Industrial-Complex. This has flowed into the pockets of Washington politicians and their cronies for decades.
Not being an economic powerhouse brings with it certain limitations.
The fact is with all the bravado aside a person might call the military situation in Russia a bit dire. Forgotten with all the talk about new supersonic weapons and more is the fact Russiahas delayed the production of a new generation of tanks because it lacks the money. This means it has been forced to rely on older equipment much of it dating back to the cold war. The Russian Army planned to acquire 2,300 T-14 Armata main battle tanks between 2015 and 2020. Production and fiscal shortfalls delayed this to 2025 and resulted in the cancellation of the main production run. The new tank together with a new heavy infantry fighting vehicle using the same chassis is slated to replace older T-72 tanks and its 1980s-vintage BMP-2s, infantry fighting vehicles.
Once a person has established Russia is not an economic powerhouse it is time to examine the real “bug-a-boo” and that is its military might. Those of us that have had the awesome experience of going deep beneath a Russian city to ride the subway will testify that it is indeed worthy of being declared as a shelter during a nuclear attack. The fact is most of our apprehension of Russia stems from its massive nuclear arsenal dating back to the cold-war. Today nine countries have a total of over 15,000 nuclear weapons the U.S. and Russia together have over 14,700 of them. Like many people, I do not find what is known as the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD to be reassuring.
Still, the truth is the nuclear deterrent we hold is a hundred times larger than needed to stop anyone sane or rational from attacking America, and for anyone else, an arsenal of any size will be insufficient. Logic dictates Russia would be insane to launch an attack on America and would have little to gain considering its military spending and the weapons Russia stands ready to deploy, America has little to fear and most of the noise is from those wanting more money to enrich those producing weapons.
As for what drives the “Russia is a threat narrative,” it is clear that America’s “Deep State” continues to consider Russia a major threat. If rational people were asked to speculate why, many would say they are held hostage by the money and power of those gaining from producing weapons of war. To be clear it was not just neoconservative Republicans like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham but Democrats and liberals were so upset about the meeting in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. This resulted in a full-court press to sabotage what they viewed as “peace talks.”
A lot of peace-hating beltway stalwarts wasted little time before painting Trump as wrong and misguided when it comes to our policy towards Russia. Fox News, NBC, and The Washington Post all continue promoting the same hard-line against any notion of normalizing relations with Putin and Russia. After all, Putin is guilty of halting Russia from and being carved up by a group stealing its resources in collusion with America.
The fact is many Russians credit Putin with saving Russia. He took Russia after its collapse in 1991 and resurrected the crumbling empire once again into a nation-state with coherence and purpose. Putin is credited with stopping the theft of his country’s wealth by the plutocracy and restoring Russia’s military strength. Putin’s biggest sin may be that with blunt rhetoric he refused to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world under a system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders.
The current dust-up in Ukraine is strongly linked to the fact that NATO has slowly been expanding towards Russia since Putin took power in late 1999 is not acceptable to Russia. President Eisenhower warned us of the power of the Military-Industrial Complex and history has proven him correct. As he left office in 1961, Eisenhower was deeply concerned about those that financially gain from producing weapons of war bending power for their gain were hijacking our government. He thought the cost of modern weapons took food from the hungry and shelter from the homeless.
One of the things we often forget is that many Americans don’t know very much about Russia or the Russian people. Also, much of the narrative we are being fed is being controlled by those with an agenda. It is clear the warmongering faction residing within Washington has declared Russia a major threat and sparked massive media coverage to convince us it is true. An example of what we are facing was revealed in an article published by The Intercept a couple of years ago.
It told of how a prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers before publication. Apparently, Ken Dilanian enjoyed a close collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending entire drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, significant changes were made before the story was published. Documents show reporters for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets also interacted with the agency.
The myth of Russia’s strength has been amplified by journalists seeking to routinely curry favor with government sources and others by falsely hyping the official point of view. A read of The Intercept article generates a reason for concern. Another article is even bolder when it states, “The US intelligence community’s job to lie to you.” It goes on to detail how two big Russian stories blasted onto the front pages loudly promoted Russia hysteria just days before the Trump-Putin summit were in effect an attempt to sabotage the meeting.
The first was that Robert Mueller had issued an indictment of 12 Russians. This was rapidly followed by America’s top intelligence officer Dan Coats who replaced Russophobic James Clapper declaring that the warning signs of future Russian cyber-attacks are akin to the warnings received prior to the September 11 attacks. The Washington Post bolstered this narrative with an article titled, “Trump hopes he and Putin will get along. Russia experts worry they will”.
In a nutshell, much of the blame for the current mess in Ukraine falls squarely on the shoulders of Barack Obama and his inability to accept Putin. With all the above in mind, one of the most idiotic and stupid blunders ever concocted by those in control of foreign policy was to drive Russia into the open arms of China. The reason America initially adopted its policy to work with communist China way back in the 70s was to drive a wedge between it and Russia. China is by far more of a threat and rival in America’s struggle to remain the most powerful nation on earth.
The root cause of all this drama is that NATO and Kiev simply refuse to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement. According to the agreement, Kiev is supposed to grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment referred to as “special status.” This includes a general amnesty and starting a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Over the years, Kiev has not honored its commitment. The asinine idea of going to war with Russia has disaster written all over it. Even if we have a lot of strong advantages Russia has both the will and the home advantage to make it a very bloody affair.