Thursday, May 12, 2016

Russian into War

You might assume that the Russians still have at least a lingering fear of “Mutually Assured Destruction,” where the mere thought of a devastating, civilization-killing nuclear retaliation serves as a sufficient deterrent against anyone contemplating a nuclear first strike. That was long before weapons narrowed their potential impact from strategic to tactical (focused) nuclear and powerful non-nuclear choices. But weapons development has been at the very top of Russia’s priority list, and she seems oblivious to global condemnation of the resulting aggression that typifies her relationship to the rest of the world.
Having a powerful arsenal – far less than the aggregate of American forces but more modern in many ways to American counterparts – has encouraged Russia to walk in and take Crimea, move towards taking over Ukraine (at least the eastern side) and scoff at the rest of the world as it re-entrenched the Bashir Assad regime into firm control of the non-ISIS section of Syria. Watching Russia get away with aggression, China seems to be sharing a belief that mega-strength empowers its own ambitions as it builds an area-claiming-island in the South China Sea to the consternation of neighboring nations.
Though not on par with our own armed services, Russia’s military is impressive and her willingness to deploy those forces, clandestinely or openly, has empowered her quest to return to the “glorious years” of Soviet military equality with the West. President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is having its way with the United States and the West, even as Western sanctions seem to have crippled her economy and oil prices have amplified that damage. It seems that anything that American policy desires is precisely what Russians will oppose. Do Putin and Trump really admire each other? Seriously? Watching U.S. efforts in the Middle East fail – as Iraq has now fallen rather completely under Iran’s control and the Taliban have returned to take back Afghanistan – has emboldened them further.
Russia sustained 70% of the casualties from World War II, so the celebration of victory against the Germans is of great significance to that part of the world. So it is fairly typical for Russia to celebrate victory with a massive parade showcasing its military might to the rest of the world. “Russian armed forces have paraded in central Moscow to mark the 71st anniversary [May 9th] of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
“Some of Russia's latest military hardware was on show, including the RS-24 Yars long-range nuclear missile [pictured above]… Fighters, heavy bombers and helicopters flew over Red Square, including types combat-tested in Syria, where Russian aircraft are helping government forces… The march past included Russia's new National Guard.
“The National Guard will be armed with new AK-74M machine guns and will be tasked with fighting terrorism and organised crime. Those operations are currently the domain of interior ministry Omon and Sobr special forces… The parade involved 10,000 military staff, 135 armoured vehicles and 71 aircraft… The heavy armour included new Russian anti-aircraft missile systems - the S-400 and Pantsir - as well as the Iskander medium-range missile. The S-400 is currently protecting Russia's airbase near Latakia in Syria.
“Addressing the armed forces, President Vladimir Putin praised the wartime feat of millions of Soviet citizens, who ‘demonstrated the true strength of our nation, its unity, triumphant spirit and patriotic devotion.’… He also called for a ‘non-bloc system of international security’ - reiterating Russian opposition to NATO, without mentioning the Western alliance by name… There was an aerobatic display by Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack planes, which have been used by Russia to bomb rebels in Syria. The Su-25s trailed clouds of smoke in the Russian red-white-blue colours.”, May 9th.
We spend 41% of the earth’s military budget, but we don’t seem to know what to do with it. We’ve failed abominably at regime change in recent years, but that may be more a factor of American diplomatic/cultural naïveté and unrealistic military expectations than any inherent weakness in our military capabilities. Asymmetrical warfare (stateless zealots/terrorists fighting a global war) still eludes our capabilities, and military expenditures are sapping our strength, leaving educational, infrastructural and research needs – necessary for economic growth and job creation – simply unmet.
Are we going to have to fight off Russia or China anytime soon? Highly unlikely. Is having a massive military intended to bring lesser nations into alliance and assert world power status? Perhaps, but global interests are splintering. Latin America, for example, is not remotely involved in the West’s defense against jihadist terrorism. They’ve got their own battles with narco-terrorism, corruption and failed political-economic policies.
The combination of increasing pressures for American isolationism with a rather consistent push for greater military capability seem to be driven by a profound lack of understanding of both global economic realities and our deep ignorance and respect for the cultures and national aspirations of others. Instead of simply demanding what we want from the rest of the world as if it were our right, we would be a lot more successful by listening to others and building a capacity predicated on how the world really is. The world is listening to us, less and less. We need to relearn how to communicate and work with those of different cultures and religions without labeling them as supplicants to our own priorities, whether they like it or not. Or we like it or not.
I’m Peter Dekom, and building our policies in the real world will increase our efficiencies and reduce our massive federal budget for elements that have not achieved any real benefits for our citizens… we are a lot less safe than we should have been for all of our efforts. 

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