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Posted on Oct 8, 2008 in Stuff We Like

Red Storm Rising or Passing Shower?

By Brian King

The recent incident between Russia and Georgia has been over hyped as the start of a second Cold War, with all the trappings of political re-alignments, proxy wars, and massive spending on defense budgets.   Soviets bombers are flying over the Caribbean, the Russian navy is sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar, and the US and NATO allies are told they are on the decline.  This is the stuff right out of a Tom Clancy novel – but before we get ahead of ourselves and dust off the fallout shelters let’s take a sober look at the Russian Bear.

These two articles by Pavel Felgenhauer at Eurasia Daily Monitor outline some of the plans and problems of rearmament for Russia, something Russia clearly feels it needs in order to become a resurgent superpower on the world stage;

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MEDVEDEV’S PLANS FOR MILITARY REARMAMENT

WILL MORE MONEY HELP BUY MORE MODERN WEAPONS?

Another article by Murray Feshbach at the Washington Post highlights some of the social problems facing the Russians internally, which point not only to a decline in Russian influence vis-à-vis population decline, but also the unhealthy state of the existing population.  Hardly the tidings of a resurgent superpower…

Behind the Bluster, Russia Is Collapsing

In contrast, statements of Western decline are greatly exaggerated and are designed to minimize the true strength of the West to a level of parity with Russia.  Kicking out a few thousand Georgians 50 miles from your border is one thing, but pales against the US and coalition forces crushing Iraq militarily and then maintaining sufficient forces for half a decade or more on the other side of the planet.  Sure, the West has problems of a resurgent Afghanistan and no one doubts the US military is strained, but if you consider how much skill and effort is needed to maintain an all-volunteer force thousands of miles from home for this amount of time you will realize just how wide the gap truly is.  This doesn’t even begin to address such technological show pieces as stealth bombers, aircraft carrier battle groups and anti-missile systems which have at best crude parallels on the Russian side.  If you throw in a comparison of living standards between Russia and the West the scales continue to tip.  If this is Cold War II, there is already a clear winner.

Have you read anything to suggest Russia can truly become a superpower again?

3 Comments

  1. The West dismisses ‘Russia’ with predictable arrogance.

    Anyway – what or where is “Russia” nowadays?

    Okay; the great, amorphous Soviet Union is dissipated from a
    former massive conglomerate land-massed empire chuck-full of
    incredible shared European history. Today She appears to be
    coalescing once more into a new ‘conglomerate online empiric
    database’ that looks to outdo anything ‘US Microsoft ever did’.
    E.g. I for one in my dotage glance, with available monies to
    invest, favourably toward ‘the lovely delights of St. Petersburg’
    for more substantial returns. –

    Don’t you?

  2. “Have you read anything to suggest Russia can truly become a
    superpower again?”

    Nope.

    Everything is pretty much working against their re-emergence
    as a super power. Demographics, economics, politics, you name it.
    Rusia had a brief power surge when the price of oil peaked and it
    suddenly, unexpectedly (and temporarily) found its pockets
    litterally stuffed with cash. Now that oil has tanked again, it’s
    back in the shadows, and all the long-term lines for it seem to be
    trending down, not up. Even the next rie in oil prices will do litle
    more than give it another short-term cash transfusion. The long-
    term fundamentals aren’t changing, asfar as I can see.

    Could it turn thing around? You bet. But I don’t see any evidence
    that the current political leadership has any interest in the
    fundamental reorganization of its economy that is required.

    Maybe someone else who watches Russia closer than I do has seen
    something I haven’t?

  3. Arguably, the former USSR was not a ‘true’ superpower in military terms because it couldn’t project its power far beyond its land frontiers – 1. logistics and 2. lack of credible tac air cover for amphibious ops or re-supplyagainst the kind of opposition that strong regional air forces might have been able to mount, never mind U.S. carrier aviation.

    Nevertheless, if NATO expands to Russia’s borders, these ‘frontline’ states will next agitate for NATO/U.S. tripwire forces and that, in turn, will require contingency planning for rapid reinforcement and so the commitment will grow. Thus Russia only needs to be a strong regional power to be more or less permanently on NATO’s/ US’s radar once again, like in the old days.

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