Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Putin Announces New Wunderwaffe – Sarmat ICBM, Avangard Hypersonic MaRV and Kinzhal Hypersonic ALCM (4)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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As the mainstream media infatuation abates, we are seeing more analytical commentary on the Wunderwaffe presentation. By far the most accurate and the most scathing are Russian analysts. Pavlovsky, Pastukhov and a number of others have very accurately assessed this for what it is – empty posturing mostly reliant on resuscitated and rebadged Soviet era weapons programs, that Russia will be challenged to afford even in modest numbers. The “Upper Volta with missiles” theme inevitably re-emerges (NB historical essays below).

Pastukhov is right, but possibly not for the reasons argued – as Russia’s bankruptcy progresses, all of the technology in these Wunderwaffe, and many of the Wunderwaffethemselves, will be exported globally to any nation prepared to pay for them, especially China. The US and its Allies will have no choice than to develop and deploy capabilities to defeat these threats.

What is possibly most disturbing about Putin’s Wunderwaffe presentation is the alternate reality within which Putin, his aides, and his followers exist in. As that alternate reality continues to drift further away from the ground truth, the potential for more strategically irrational and dangerous decisions by the Putin regime will increase.


Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Address Reflects His and Russia’s ‘Total Weakness,’ Pavlovsky Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 3 – Although intended to project force and dynamism, Gleb Pavlovsky says, Vladimir Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly in which he talked at length about Russia’s new arms “in essence was a demonstration of weakness. Russia is not ready for negotiations, nor for development, nor even for war.” Putin’s speech, the Moscow commentator says, was “his personal PR action” but he made “the classic mistake of amateurs” – each group received “a signal not addressed to it.” Pensioners were frightened, the military wasn’t reassured, and the West wasn’t impressed. The latter two know the real situation is not what Putin described (snob.ru/selected/entry/134865). Those in the hall clapped with apparent enthusiasm and approval – but “just try not to jump up and clap when your neighbor does,” Pavlovsky observes – but the only people who were perhaps were really impressed and pleased were those looking forward to spending and taking their cut from the trillions in new spending Putin talked about. “But the sarcasm with which the social networks caught the absurdity of the message is another side of the general weakness,” Pavlovsky says. “To be strong is simple: one need only to present an alternative to the regime of national weakening [and] an alternative means another political agenda.” However, “where is it?” Some say that everyone should look at the domestic part of Putin’s remarks. They are different in some respects, the commentator continues; but in one respect, they are identical: they are based on the proposition that everything can be solved by throwing money at it with no change in the way business is conducted. That may serve those in his audience who are part of the way business is carried out under Putin; but it won’t work on the larger issues that the Russian president talked about without any clear understanding or ideas about how these things could in fact be dealt with successfully. “Why is all this possible?” Pavlovsky asks rhetorically. The answer is simple: as a result of “the collapse of strategic administration at the upper reaches of the system. Despite the hopes of the Kudrin command, modernizing ideas in such a system will not work: they will be destroyed by the poor way in which things are run from above.” “You cannot carry out modernization with such administrators who do not distinguish between Russia’s real potential and comic films. Stalin, it is said, also judged about the state of the collective farms by the film ‘The Kuban Cossacks’ but only after having become quite old,” Pavlovsky argues. The current regime has “unlimited” opportunity to do harm, but “the demonstration of military might” on the video screen behind Putin “will not frighten military circles in the West.” They know what Russia can and can’t do and can distinguish not only between those two things but between reality and what Putin talked about. “This is dangerous,” Pavlovsky says. The world is changing and “new appetites and new technological platforms are taking shape.” But for Russia to be part of this, it needs a reason to do so. Freedom isn’t enough: it needs “space for creativity” rather than the kind of micromanagement that is no management characteristic of Putin’s siloviki. But what the speech showed was something even worse than the weakness of Putin personally and his regime: It showed “the weakness of the [Russian] nation” itself. It would be well to recall what a younger Putin once said: “The weak get beaten.” No one needs to reach agreements with them about anything, let alone “about a new world order.” “Today,” the Russian commentator says, “Russia shows that it is simply not ready for talks, for development or even for war. And with this situation, it is entering the next six years” of Putin’s term. “Before us is the prospect of an artificially weakened country, run by a weak president.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Speech Highlights His Fundamental Problem: Russia is ‘Armed to the Teeth but Poor’

Paul Goble Staunton, March 2 – Vladimir Putin’s message to Russians and the world was certainly not the one he would have liked to deliver: His words show, one Siberian commentator put it, that “Russia is armed to the teeth but poor,” too poor perhaps to support his militarist rhetoric (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=171296). Other Russian experts agree. Aleksey Kudrin said that Russia would need a Chinese economy to pay for Putin’s arms program (newsru.com/finance/02mar2018/kudringdp.html), something it doesn’t have. Instead, it exports raw materials and imports manufactured goods (newizv.ru/news/economy/28-02-2018/rosstat-import-prodovolstviya-vyros-na-8-mlrd-dollarov). One way out, still a third expert says, would be to cooperate with other countries; but Russia has almost no allies and, given Putin’s autarkic approach, appears unwilling to make the kinds of concessions that are required to make economic cooperation with others profitable enough to support Putin’s plans (svpressa.ru/economy/article/194335/). Consequently, the Kremlin leader is in the minds of many engaged in his last “bluff” presenting weapons with roots in Soviet times as something new and cutting edge (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2018/03/02/752531-oruzhie-putin and forum-msk.org/material/news/14401563.html Putin couldn’t even give his speech without relying on video game footage that observers immediately identified as being more than ten years old, hardly an example of cutting age technology (kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2018/03/02/116419/putin-prigrozil-miru-kompyuternymi-multikami-11-letnej-davnosti-plokhogo-kachestva.shtml and newizv.ru/news/politics/02-03-2018/izderzhki-sekretnosti-otkuda-vzyalis-kadry-floridy-v-rolike-o-novoy-rakete). And for those paying attention, developments in Russia outside the hall where Putin spoke were undercutting his message: His deputy prime minister admitted serious shortcomings in Russia’s existing nuclear missile program, remarks that hardly inspire confidence for the future (thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2018/03/while-putin-brags-about-new-nuclear-missiles-his-deputy-prime-minister-admits-world and censoru.net/25192-ves-mir-snova-hohochet-yadernaya-raketa-putina-ne-rabotaet-ona-nedavno-ruhnula-v-arktike.html). Moreover, few who are presenting Putin’s words as if he can keep them, something he has rarely done in the past, bothered to notice that in the last year alone, Moscow has been forced to cut back its military spending because it simply doesn’t have enough revenue to do otherwise (rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/03/01/1685990.html). Finally, those who see Putin’s words as a repetition of his Munich speech a decade ago forget, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Khots says, is that in 2008, Russia had plenty of money. Now, in what some are calling his “Munich 2” speech, Russia doesn’t. His words thus represent “an absolutely ‘Soviet’ path toward a guaranteed catastrophe” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A9822908F07E).

Window on Eurasia — New Series: With His Aggressive Stance, Putin May Not Get a New Yalta but Face a New Star Wars Program, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 2 – Vladimir Putin’s address yesterday was primarily directed at his domestic audience which wouldn’t have believed him if he promised improvements at home but could be kept drugged with a surrogate for imperial triumphs by his suggestion that Russia has weapons that mean America is “already ours,”Vladimir Pastukhov says. But unfortunately for him, the Kremlin leader isn’t able to keep his remarks away from those beyond Russia’s borders, the UK-based Russian historian says; and they will read Putin’s threatening tone not as a reflection of Russia’s real power, which is much less than the West’s, but as a reason to extend their advantage (republic.ru/posts/89802). Because that is so, Pastukhov says, Putin won’t get what he wants and virtually promises his electorate, “a new Yalta” in which the West will divide things up with a revived Russia, but a new version of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars, which Moscow wasn’t and again isn’t in a position to counter. The Kremlin leader certainly achieved his goal with the Russian people providing them with a “surrogate” for the narcotic of real imperial conquests like the Crimean Anschluss. To judge by his words, the historian says, “America is already ours” because Russia has weapons which no one else has and against which no one can defend. Thus, Pastukhov continues, if one accepts Putin’s logic, Russia “has the right to dictate its will to even the most powerful state in the world; and if it doesn’t do so, then this is only the result of its innate peace-loving quality.” That is not the kind of language he is likely to use with Trump or other Western leaders, however. They have their own sources of information. But by his words, Putin “without suspecting it, quite possibly has really provoked the beginning of profound transformations in Russia. Unfortunately for him,” however, Pastukhov argues, “the form of talk with electors chosen by him cannot remain a secret between the two of them.” People in the West are going to read it to, and he may think he has frightened them. “But this is not entirely correct.” Those who follow such things know what Russia can and cannot do whatever Putin says, and the Kremlin leader’s words have thus only “armed Western hawks and real rather than invented ‘Russophobes,’ who in general aren’t so few in number.” It is thus quite likely, Pastukhov says, that “the militant rhetoric of the Kremlin intended mostly for internal use all the same will provoke a serious move toward a real arms race, consolidate anti-Russian circles in the West and force them to develop still more actively scenarios for ‘containing’ Russia.” “Considering that the total financial, economic, technological and beyond doubt military might of the West exceeds the Russian potential many times over, Putin could get instead of ‘a new Yalta’ a new ‘Star Wars’” and the second edition of that could have results very much like the first. Again, it will be difficult for Moscow to keep up, and it may soon be the case that Putin will wish that he could call back his words.

A speech by Putin heats up a global arms race in hypersonic weapons

Astonishingly fast and hard to detect or stop, hypersonics could pose a new threat to superpower security

Pentagon Floats Missile Defense Policy in Case of Threats From Russia, China

She said it was “unfortunate” to watch a Russian video animation Putin showed during his address that she said depicted “a nuclear attack on the United States”. News about the deliberations at the Pentagon comes a day after Russian strongman Vladimir Putin threatened the USA by announcing new weaponry – including a nuclear-powered missile that can evade defense systems and hit any spot on the globe. His remarks came after he claimed at his State of the Nation address that Russian Federation had nuclear weapons, including an intercontinental missile that would render defense systems “useless”. “The key challenge to United States national security and the security of U.S. friends and allies is the emergence of new threats created to defeat the existing” ballistic missile defense system, Pennett said recently. As the weapon name contest went on, Russian officials and lawmakers insisted that Putin’s speech wasn’t an announcement of a new arms race but a warning to Washington to treat Russia as an equal partner. One of them is already on combat duty. “US defense capabilities are and will remain second to none, and now because of the new defense budget of $700 billion our military will be far stronger than ever”, Sanders said. According to the leader, the drone sub is capable of travelling faster than a torpedo and capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons. The spokesman said Russia’s nuclear doctrine explicitly outlines circumstances that permit the use of such weapons – including a nuclear attack on Russia or an attack by other weapons that threaten Russian security. Russian nuclear missiles already have the ability to annihilate the United States, and USA defence strategy is based mainly on the deterrent threat of massive nuclear retaliation, not on an impenetrable shield against Russian missiles. Deploying emotional language and an animation of a cruise missile streaking toward North America, Russian President Vladimir Putin used an annual speech to his nation on Thursday to claim Russia was developing new nuclear weapons that he said could overcome any US missile defenses.

US to step up work on hypersonic missiles to counter China, Russia | TheHill

The Pentagon’s high-tech office will more aggressively pursue so-called hypersonic missiles as Russia and China make advances in that area, the office’s director said Thursday.

Pentagon looks to adjust missile defense policy to include threats from Russia, China – The Washington Post

New policy reflects national security strategy proclaiming return to great power competition.

Senator: New Russian nuclear weapons are largely bluster

Sen. Dan Sullivan says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unveiling of a new catalog of doomsday weapons is largely bluster.

The warnings of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the NATO allies are “unacceptable” and do not contribute to the easing of tension – NATO explaines why Putin’s warnings about nuclear weapons unacceptable – 112.international

The warnings of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the NATO allies are unacceptable and do not contribute to the easing of tension

Russia Intentionally Leaked Info on Advanced Sarmat ICBM for US in 2007 – Source – Sputnik International

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The information leak that took place in 2007 on the Russian Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles was specifically intended for the United States, a military-diplomatic source said on Saturday.

Putin Has Touted An Invincible Nuclear Weapon That Really Exists – Here’s How It Works And Why It Deeply Worries Experts | IFLScience

During a speech on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin showed test footage of a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The nuclear weapon, called t

Putin has touted an ‘invincible’ nuclear weapon that really exists — here’s how it works and why it deeply worries experts | Business Insider

During a speech on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin showed test footage of a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The nuclear weapon, called the RS-28 Sarmat or Satan 2, has been in development since 2009. Putin claimed the ICBM is “invincible” to missile defence systems. He also presented animations of several other weapons, including what some call a “doomsday” drone submarine.

Russia’s Avangard Hypersonic Glider Warhead Enters Production – Source – Sputnik International

The source emphasized that it’s time for Russia’s Western partners to recognize the ‘new reality’ created been by Moscow’s strategic capabilities.

TASS: Military & Defense – Russia’s Avangard strategic systems enter series production – source

MOSCOW, March 3. /TASS/. Russia has begun series production of strategic missile systems Avangard equipped with a glide vehicle, a military-diplomatic source said on Saturday. “It is time for our Western counterparts to perceive new reality. Russian Kinzhals are on duty, while Avangard [systems] have entered series production,” he said. The missiles “which Americans are determined to roll out as a global anti-missile and air defense system, have no military value now after Russia’s presentations of new weapons,” sourse added. “There is no sense in shielding positioning areas and various military groups with them now,” he noted. “There is neither protection nor antidotes against the Russian Kinzhal systems capable of flying at a speed of 10 Mach.”.

Scientists have detected something 7 miles up in the atmosphere which no one can explain

Researchers from the NOAA unexpectedly detected a particle of enriched uranium floating above Alaska.

The message of Putin-2018: the Wunderwaffe in the Manège – YouTube

РОЙ ТВ Published on Mar 1, 2018 Maxim Kalashnikov – on the military-weapons part of the message of Putin-2018. Is it not Soviet developments? Will the weapon help if your economy falls? The war in Syria shows Russia’s lag in arms.

An unmanned submarine for extremely large depths – YouTube

Vladimir Putin spoke about an unmanned submarine for extremely large depths, which can move to unlimited range

We Now Know Why Russia Wants a 100-Megaton Nuclear Torpedo

We Now Know Why Russia Wants a 100-Megaton Nuclear Torpedo In a speech on March 1, 2018, Russian president Vladimir Putin detailed a half-dozen “invincible” new Russian weapons under development, which he assured would give his nation the ability to launch “unstoppable” nuclear attacks on the United States. The speech, which was met with cheers by the audience, was accompanied by a video presentation that included an animation of a separating nuclear warheads raining down on Florida, apparently in the vicinity of President Trump’s retreat in Mar-a-Lago.

Why is Russia Building Nuclear Powered Cruise Missiles? The Answer: “Capacity”

Why is Russia Building Nuclear Powered Cruise Missiles? The Answer: “Capacity” During a March 1 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin rolled out several new novel strategic nuclear weapons—some of which might seem outlandish. Among these weapons are the Status-6 nuclear-powered intercontinental range torpedo and a new nuclear-powered nuclear-tipped cruise missile. While the Russians seem to genuinely believe that they need ways to counter the United States’ missile defense system, there are easier ways to defeat those nascent defenses. Is there another factor driving Russia’s new developments? Part of the reason the Kremlin is pursuing these new weapons—apart from genuine concern about American missile defenses—is the Russian military industrial complex, which is perpetually in search of new projects. In the case of these weapons, the Russian defense and nuclear energy industries played a large role in convincing the Kremlin to proceed—and by some estimates, Russian industry might have had the dominant role.

Will the US Be Able to Stop Russia’s New Arsenal of Missile Defense-Piercing Nukes?

Russia could soon be able to conduct nuclear strikes all over the world without any chance of being intercepted. Here's how we got to this point.

Are Putin’s New Nukes a Real Threat?

“Invincible” nuclear weapons sound scary, but don’t really change the balance of power.

Why Putin Is Obsessed with America’s Missile Defense

Astonishingly fast and hard to detect or stop, hypersonics could pose a new threat to superpower security

Nigeria with Snow?

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Window on Eurasia: From ‘Upper Volta with Missiles’ to ‘Nigeria with Snow’

Paul Goble Staunton, February 28 – Twenty-five years ago, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt characterized the Soviet Union as being an “Upper Volta with missiles.” Now, Russian analysts, in response to findings of a Swiss firm, have suggested that a better analogy might be between the Russian Federation and a “Nigeria with snow.” The three differences between these declarations tell a great deal about the path that Russia has followed over the last generation. In the earlier time, the analogy was made by a Western political leader, horrified Soviet citizens, and suggested that Russia’s military strength was the thing that set it apart from a much weaker country. Now, the analogy is being made by Russian analysts, horrifies Western business interests, and suggests that it is precisely Russia’s similarity with Nigeria on a wide range of economic and political measures including corruption and government inefficiency that is the heart of the matter and cannot be obscured by snow. In an article posted yesterday on the “Svobodnaya pressa” site and entitled “Nigeria in the Snow,” commentator Andrey Polunin said that in the view of foreign investors as expressed in a report by the Swiss Coca-Cola HBC, “Russia stands closest of all to … Nigeria” becaue of the nature of its political and economic system (svpressa.ru/society/article/64866/). (That this analogy is now widespread in Moscow is suggested by the simultaneous appearance of another article, this one by Petr Svoekoshtny on the Polit.ru portal entitled “Northern Nigeria” (polit.ru/article/2013/02/27/russia/).) According to Polunin, the Coca-Cola HBC report makes five basic points. First, for Russia as for Nigeria, state policy is inconsistent and thus makes investing more risky. Second, the legal systems of the two countries are poorly articulated. Third, like Nigeria,Russia has too many different government players for any company to know whose decision will stick. Fourth, both countries “historically have very high levels of corruption,” something that makes it difficult for US firms, restrained as they are by anti-corruption laws, to operate. And fifth, the lack of clarity in the legal systems of the two countries makes it difficult to calculate profitability and thus determine whether an investment is wise or not These conclusions are hardly original, Polunin points out. But they underscore the reality that “the third presidential term of Vladimir Putin – more precisely, the political protests and growth of tensions connected with it – have made Russia ever more like Nigeria in the eyes of foreigners.” “Svobodnaya pressa” appends a table comparing Russia and Nigeria in 2007 across a large number of indicators to underscore that even then “the basic social-economic indicators of Russia and Nigeria were very close.” Apparently, the article implies and the Western analysts suggest, they have become still closer in the intervening years. Polunin asked two Russian commentators for their reactions, Valery Solovey, an MGIMO professor who heads the New Force Party, and Ruslan Khasbulatov, a professor at the Russian Economic University and the former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation. Solovey said that the Coca-Cola HBC assessment “corresponds to the general assessment of the overwhelming share of Russian economists” The situation is “not simply bad; it is getting worse” because of the Russian government’s policies. “Unfortunately,” he said, “everything” that the Western risk assessment report found “is pure truth.” The factors it identifies make it extremely likely that Russia “is now at the first stage” of serious political unrest, with a new round of protests likely to emerge and on “a new basis, not political protest against dishonest elections but of social-economic dissatisfaction.” That will make the protests broader and larger. In addition, increasing immigration “pressure” is viewed by many Russians as the reason their lives are not getting better, and the influx of North Caucasians into the southern part of Russia is affecting social and political attitudes there. Over the next year, Solovey suggested, these various factors are likely to come together. The outflow of Russian capital is also likely to continue “and even increase” for the reasons the report listed. And that will only make the situation worse for ordinary Russians, the New Force Party leader said. Khasbulatov, in contrast, said it was “madness” to compare Nigeria with Russia. Instead, he suggested, one should see this report and this comparison as part of a general pattern of Western opposition to continued investment in the Russian Federation, opposition that was reflected most recently in statements by George Soros at Davos in January. Nonetheless, he conceded that there are “enormous” problems with the Russian economy, and he argued that they were largely of Moscow’s own making. Relying on gas and oil exports alone, as the Putin regime has done, “is a sign of a colonial economy,” and it puts Russia at serious risk when prices fall. “The faith of the Kremlin that prices for oil will be high eternally stupefies me,” Khasbulatov continued. If the influx of petro-dollars falls, he argued, this will force the government and business to cut pay, social programs and pensions. And when that happens, people will go out in the streets not just in Moscow but throughout the country. Clearly, the Kremlin does not understand this or how to avoid it. The majority of Russians are disappointed and distrustful of those in power. “Russian society does not trust anyone, not Putin or the government.” Indeed, Khasbulatov suggested, “today the real level of trust in political leaders is comparable to the level of trust in [former Russian President Boris] Yeltsin in 1996.” “In other words, it is catastrophically low.” That is “pushing Russia to instability,” something foreign analysts fear and is driving them to suggest, as Coca-Cola HBS has, that Russia today has become “a Nigeria with snow.”

From ‘Upper Volta with Missiles’ to ‘Nigeria with Snow’ – Johnson’s Russia List

 

Vladimir Putin Wants to Frighten the World into Respecting Russia | HuffPost

MOSCOW — At the recent Valdai Discussion Club forum, President Vladimir Putin conducted a three-hour tour of his own special world — the same world that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned us he lives in. I must say that Putin’s world is more frightening and filled with hidden terrors than any horror movie. I was most surprised by one of the Russian president’s main assertions — namely, that the collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed a certain system of “checks and balances” that existed during the Cold War. As a result, according to Putin, the United States began behaving uncontrollably in the international arena. I wonder exactly what “system” the Russian leader had in mind. I would venture to assert that no such “system” ever existed. Both Moscow and Washington more or less did as they pleased, acting as they felt their own national security interests demanded. That thinking led to the invasions of Vietnam, Grenada, Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. The only system that existed was mutual nuclear deterrence, the understanding that the potential adversary could always cause unacceptable damage if the need arose. However, that system remains effectively unchanged to this day: The U.S. and Russian nuclear forces are relatively equal. At the very least, each side has a large enough arsenal to dissuade the other from ever launching a nuclear attack. The fact is, it was not a system of “checks and balances” that influenced Western governments, but the fear that they felt before unpredictable Kremlin leaders. But as Putin showed in his speech, it is specifically the violently unpredictable nature of the Soviet Kremlin that he misses most. It is no accident that, after making this point about checks and balances, Putin praised the most unpredictable former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. “True, the Soviet Union was referred to as ‘the Upper Volta with missiles,’” Putin said. “Maybe so, and there were loads of missiles. Besides, we had such brilliant politicians like Nikita Khrushchev, who hammered the desk with his shoe at the UN. And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: This Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile, they have lots of them, we had better show some respect for them.” In all fairness, Khrushchev could only dream of the degree of nuclear parity that Russia now holds with the U.S. That is why he bluffed and waived his shoe around at the UN podium, thereby convincing everyone of his unpredictability. And now Putin has pulled a similar stunt before the Valdai forum participants. He was obviously using demonstrative aggression to compensate for Moscow’s undeniably weak position. Russia clearly lacks all the essentials for a confrontation with the West — the money, the faithful allies and the industrial capacity. In fact, the Kremlin has only nuclear weapons at its disposal. But Putin finds it terribly annoying that Western leaders know he commands the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal and yet deny him the respect he believes he deserves. That is why he claims that crafty Washington has destroyed a system that granted the Soviet Union superpower status. In reality, believing in the rationality of the new Russian leaders following the collapse of the Soviet empire, Western leaders became convinced that a situation could not conceivably arise in which either side would push the red button and turn the planet into a radioactive desert. The result was that the “nuclear factor” gradually lost significance when dealing with the Kremlin. When NATO began military operations against Yugoslavia, Russia’s then-President Boris Yeltsin genuinely wondered: “Why aren’t they afraid of us?” Putin wants to regain that same “respect” that the West held for Khrushchev, and he sees no other way but to underscore his own unpredictability. I suspect that the recent sorties by Russian strategic bombers over the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic, North and Black seas are a manifestation of this new unpredictability. It is no wonder then that in his Valdai speech Putin said: “Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers.” Welcome to the brave new world of Vladimir Putin, a world ruled by 19th-century realpolitik where disagreements between “major powers” are resolved through war. The only difference is that 19th-century leaders did not have nuclear weapons. Is another Cuban missile crisis already in the making? This piece also appeared on The Moscow Times.

The Frightening World of Vladimir Putin

At the recent Valdai Discussion Club forum President Vladimir Putin conducted a three-hour tour of his own special world — the same world that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned us he lives in. I must say that Putin’s world is more frightening and filled with hidden terrors than any horror movie. I was most surprised by one of the Russian president’s main assertions — namely, that the collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed a certain system of “checks and balances” that existed during the Cold War. As a result, according to Putin, the United States began behaving uncontrollably in the international arena. I wonder exactly what “system” the Russian leader had in mind. I would venture to assert that no such “system” ever existed. Both Moscow and Washington more or less did as they pleased, acting as they felt their own national security interests demanded. That thinking led to the invasions of Vietnam, Grenada, Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. The only system that existed was mutual nuclear deterrence, the understanding that the potential adversary could always cause unacceptable damage if the need arose. However, that system remains effectively unchanged to this day: The U.S. and Russian nuclear forces are relatively equal. At the very least, each side has a large enough arsenal to dissuade the other from ever launching a nuclear attack. The fact is, it was not a system of “checks and balances” that influenced Western governments, but the fear that they felt before unpredictable Kremlin leaders. But as Putin showed in his speech, it is specifically the violently unpredictable nature of the Soviet Kremlin that he misses most. It is no accident that, after making this point about checks and balances, Putin praised the most unpredictable former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. “True, the Soviet Union was referred to as ‘the Upper Volta with missiles,'” Putin said. “Maybe so, and there were loads of missiles. Besides, we had such brilliant politicians like Nikita Khrushchev, who hammered the desk with his shoe at the UN. And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: This Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile, they have lots of them, we had better show some respect for them.”

Televison: From Burkina Faso with rockets to Upper Volta without | The Independent

The Soviet Union was famously described as “Upper Volta with rockets”, a catchphrase that was updated by the geographically precise to become “Burkina Faso with rockets”. It was a powerfully succinct description. The United States was rich and space-age powerful; the Soviet Union was poor and space-age powerful. The contradictions and paradoxes that stemmed from that could never fully be resolved – least of all by the citizens of the Soviet Union themselves. During the 1930s, Stalin turned Russia into an industrially powerful nation, and made his Soviet compatriots feel proud of what they had achieved. The defeat of Hitler’s might, at the cost of millions of lives, was also seen as proof of Soviet greatness. The idea that Soviet was best took deep root. It convinced some Western visitors, and millions of Russians. Even now, many Russians find it hard to believe that there was anything wrong with the model itself. In last night’s episode of the Cold War series, interviewees visibly hankered after a time when Khrushchev was in his Kremlin, and all was right with the Soviet world. “Sputnik”, the title of last night’s episode, is the Russian word for a fellow-traveller: the spaceship was seen as a travelling companion for the planet earth. Here it was that we found true Soviet heroes, including Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. As a Moscow baker declared – still misty-eyed, after all these years: “Gagarin, he was everybody’s love. He and his smile. I still keep his photograph.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Window on Eurasia: From ‘Upper Volta with Missiles’ to ‘Upper Volta with Credits’

Paul Goble Staunton, December 31 – Moscow has moved from being an “Upper Volta with missiles,” as German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once described the Soviet Union, to an “Upper Volta with credits,” a change that may threaten the Russian Federation both abroad and at home, according to Moscow analysts. In an essay on the Grani.ru portal yesterday, Vitaly Portnikov says that when Schmidt made his remark, many Soviet citizens n assumed he was joking because the stores in Ouagadougou had a better selection of goods than those in Moscow and because the source of happiness was fear, not money (grani.ru/opinion/portnikov/m.223017.html). “If they were afraid of you, then one neeed to be proud of [one’s country’s] rockets, sputniks and tanks,” even if the store shelves in Moscow and other Russian cities were empty, Portnikov argues. Now, three decades later, Schmidt on a visit to Moscow told Vladimir Putin that “one needs to say farewell to one’s neighbors “correctly.” Putin “only nodded in response,” as if he had not take note of the fact that “Germany and Russia hav not had a common border for seven decades.” But more to the point, the Moscow commentator says, Putin is “not sying farewell to the neighbors. He is buying them: 15 billion to Ukraine, two to Belarus and this is still not the limit.” He’ll spend more of Russia’s money to keep them in the Russian orbit: thus, “in place of Upper Volta with rockets has appeared Upper Volta with credits.” And the Kremlin leader will do this even if it means that soon “the Russian leadership will not have the money to pay” pensions or government employees. But there is a big difference from Soviet times and now, Portnikov continues: “now the majority of Russians don’t want to pay.” That is not only because the Russian economy is in trouble, and they think the money should be spent on their needs first, but also because they do not believe that such loans now will work any better than they did three decades ago. Those Russia is loaning money to won’t repay it, and to keep them in line by this means, Moscow will have to give them more and more, keeping enough at home only to beat up journalists who are too active, politicians the Kremlin doesn’t like, and creating “servile” television channesl and “falsified” elections – but not enough to pay Russians or their pensions. Portnikov’s argument is seconded by Moscow experts whom Anton Mardasov of “Svobodnaya pressa” surveyed last week and who insisted that if the Kremlin continues to give enormous sums of money to the post-Soviet states, it “risks having an empty budget trough” (svpressa.ru/politic/article/79816/). Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy head of the Moscow Institute of the CIS Countries, said that “if one considers Belarus an absolutely independent and sovereign state, then why are we giving it money? [But] if we consider this country as our closest ally” and as something like a Russian region in trouble, then “there is nothing terrible” in the loan Putin has given. Andrey Zaostrovtsev, an economist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, observed that “the leadership of the country is trying to restore a destroyed emprie. The president still has a strong nostalgia for the USSR.” Consequently, he is prepared to give Belarus and Ukraine money – and it is important to recognize that these are subsidies rather than loans. The Kremlin leader, he continued, is “giving money without any conditions,” except the requirement that Ukraine’s leadership maintains “the existing social-economic and political model” of integration with Moscow rather than with Europe. It is unclear whether these loans or future ones will be sufficient for that. But what is of perhaps greater concern is whether Moscow will be able to continue to give away money like this, Zaostrovtsev said. “The reserves and opportunities for Russia in the uture to presereve such an empire like the lost Soviet Union will continue to narrow,” despite Putin’s desires. Moreover, the Russian president is spending enormous sums for the defense ministry “as if we intend to fight with the entire world.” As a result, the economist concluded, “sooner or later,” Russia will face “a dead end, out of which it will have to find a way for itself,” something that will be all the more difficult if money continues to flow abroad.

 

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