The Christian Science Monitor: How big is the military threat from Russia?
29 August proposed the international online publication The Christian Science Monitor (CSM), which published an article by Anna Groeb, “How big is military threat is Russia, really?” (“How big is the military threat from Russia?”). The task of the author of this publication was to determine the characteristics of the current situation and to study the reality of the “Russian threat”, which is one of the main themes of recent times. The result of this study was the publication, which can be attributed to the preferred CSM "not hysterical journalism."
In a brief annotation to the article, it is noted that the generals of the United States tend to perceive differently the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin concerning Ukraine and Syria. Some generals see them as dangerously aggressive, while others do not consider them a direct challenge to the United States, although they also admit that they are focused on reducing American influence in certain regions.
One of the latest cases of mentioning the “Russian threat” by officials, as A. Groub reminds, occurred not so long ago. A high-ranking US commander during a speech at the main US military college warned future defenders of the country that there was a threat from Russia. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, during his speech, recalled the Russian “annexation of the Crimea”, Moscow’s interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine, as well as assistance to the Syrian authorities. According to the general, even under the conditions of serious economic pressure, the Russians "modernize their nuclear facilities and modernize their submarine forces." Such warnings are increasingly heard in the higher echelons of American power.
Recalling the statements of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the author of the CSM asks the question: does Russia really pose such a serious military threat as they say?
Many analysts who study Russia agree on current Russian actions and their consequences. They believe that Moscow is indeed stepping up efforts in the military field. At the same time, experts do not agree that this problem really deserves the attention that it managed to attract.
A. Groub quotes Olga Oliker, Program Director for Russia and Eurasia, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington). She notes that the Russian president clearly showed his intentions. V. Putin made it clear that he is not interested in creating challenges for American security in areas where the United States has clearly ensured the inadmissibility of such actions. In addition, O. Oliker draws attention to another interesting feature of the relationship between the two countries. In her opinion, the Russian side itself is afraid of the United States. The Russians believe that they are opposing the hegemony of the United States, and are taking appropriate steps. In this case, the statements of Russia are not an ordinary rhetoric. As a result, the opposition of the American expansion leads to the strengthening of its own armed forces.
It is precisely in connection with the need to confront the United States and their policies that Russia is increasing its conventional arsenals, developing hypersonic missiles, and also building new submarines.
Further, the author of The Christian Science Monitor quotes the publication of Foreign Affairs for the authorship of former CIA chief David Petraeus and military analyst at the Brookings Institution Michael O'Hanlon, published in the latest issue of the publication. According to the authors of the publication, the steps of the Russian authorities remain well selected and calibrated. In addition, they recall that the Crimea has historically been Russian. The majority of the population of the peninsula speaks Russian, and the only Russian naval base on the Black Sea is also located on it.
Also D. Petraeus and M. O'Henlon touched upon the Russian operation in Syria, as well as its prerequisites and consequences. They write that Mr. Putin began the Syrian operation last fall only after it was determined that the Barack Obama administration adheres to a policy of limited intervention. Perhaps these actions were cynical or reprehensible, but they cannot be considered reckless, accidental, or particularly violent for a military conflict. In general, the former head of the CIA and a military analyst come to the conclusion that Russia does not represent a real threat to the basic interests of NATO.
A. Groub notes, against the background of what events the current discussion is going on. Both the West as a whole, and the USA in particular, are attempting to work out a common tactic to counter the new steps of Russia. Moscow, in turn, resorts to more and more courageous and impudent steps in various areas.
Conventional threat weapons
An important factor affecting the current situation is conventional weapons. Not so long ago, Major-General David Ellwin, Director for Strategy at NATO's European Command, said that conventional weapons are rapidly becoming the force that has to restrain Russian aggression.
Such a warning from the commander, as often happens, was accompanied by the demand for additional funding. The military is demanding that the new military budget provide for additional spending in the amount of 3,4 billion, which is necessary for the implementation of the European Reassurance Initiative program. This money should go to various projects within the framework of the “European Security Initiative”, including the maintenance of an increased group of troops in European countries.
The CMS author writes that not all opinions about the current situation are particularly popular. Thus, the view that the US should not do anything in the circumstances, finds only minimal support among experts. The main discussions concern a different question: what should be the reaction of the United States to Russia's “aggressive” actions? D. Petraeus and M. O'Hanlon write that after the recent reduction of the US contingent in Europe to 30 thousand people, a logical step would be a new group reinforcement. However, the placement of large connections in the Baltic countries, in their opinion, can not be a solution. Such actions are not necessary, and besides, they may not become a means of deterrence and only provoke V. Putin to new actions. According to experts, such a development of events can contribute to the temperament of the Russian president and his desire to revive Russia as a powerful superpower.
O. Oliker believes that there is no reason for Russia to demonstrate some specific opinions. For example, the Russian side should not think that the United States does not intend to intercede for its allies in Europe in the event of a real conflict.
Also in the current situation should consider a possible nuclear threat. President of the Institute for the Study of War (Washington) Kim Kagan believes that V. Putin will not challenge the United States in the form of the threat of the use of nuclear weapons in regions that are in the sphere of Russian interests. Nevertheless, the threat of nuclear weapons does exist. K. Kagan urges those responsible to remember this and take this issue seriously.
Also, experts recall some other manifestations of "Russian aggression." According to O. Oliker, unfriendly plans of Moscow can not only concern the military-political sphere, but also be realized in the “gray zone”. Attempts can be made to intervene in domestic politics or campaigns. Conventional weapons or, for example, the navy, are not very suitable for such actions. As D. Petraeus and M. O'Hanlon wrote in Foreign Affairs, such features of different methods lead to an increase in funding for activities in the “gray zone”.
Between war and peace
Confronting actions in the “gray zone” is a very difficult task for the American side. K. Kagan notes that Washington in general and the Pentagon in particular tend to clearly distinguish between a phase of peace and a phase of war. American specialists developed a conflict model suitable for the Cold War or for the first period after it ended. However, this technique cannot cope with the current "era of fierce competition."
Part of the Pentagon’s attempts to resist V. Putin concerns the so-called. information warfare or simply propaganda. In this area, words and phrases play a crucial role. Some analysts, considering the situation in the field of propaganda, express concern that the possibility of provoking V. Putin by the actions of the American military may have unpleasant consequences. Wrong actions may be useful to the Russian president, as well as help promote the ideas of Moscow.
The ratio of political positions and propaganda in an interesting way comments on K. Kagan. She understands the position of D. Petraeus and M. O'Hanlon, expressed in the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine and implying a refusal to provoke Moscow. However, the expert has a different opinion. If the USA changes its policy due to the fact that V. Putin can call them an aggressor, then this will lead to serious restrictions. Washington’s capabilities and their use will decline dramatically. In such a situation, there are hardly any actions that the United States will be able to take and not get accusations of aggression from the Russian president.
K. Kagan believes that prudence is useful for politics. Therefore, she believes that V. Putin is trying to find the "red lines", and has already found some.
In the context of the possible actions of the Russian leadership, A. Groub cites the words of former acting security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden Julianne Smith. The question of the “red lines” and V. Putin, in her opinion, among other things, is what the Russian answer will be. J. Smith is worried that in a certain situation Moscow may react in an unpleasant or dangerous way, “like a cat driven into a corner.” J. Smith notes that this question was not considered in detail by D. Petraeus and M. O'Hanlon. However, it is necessary to take into account the risks that a minor incident will quickly get out of control.
Now the former. Advisor to the Vice-President is Director of the Strategic and Management Programs of the Center for New American Security (Washington). Recently, J. Smith conducted several war games, in which some relevant scenarios of possible developments were considered. In particular, one of the scenarios implied an unacceptable development of Russian actions that quickly went out of control.
J. Smith recalls that Russia often conducts sudden checks of the combat readiness of the armed forces. In addition, "on Putin's orders," fighters approach a dangerous distance to key infrastructure, civilian aircraft, or American ships in the Black Sea. The expert believes that these incidents are only attempts to show their strength and intimidate the United States. However, they have a dangerous potential: under certain circumstances they can lead to the most unpleasant consequences.
As the article “How big a military threat is Russia, really?” By The Christian Science Monitor shows, not all American specialists agree that Russia is indeed a serious military and political threat to the United States. In addition, even those representatives of the expert community who see Russia as a threat can argue among themselves about the size and nature of risks. As a result, such disputes lead to controversy over the issue of confronting the “Russian aggression”. It should also be noted that some methods of such confrontation are regarded as things that could provoke an additional deterioration in the relations of countries.
Nevertheless, official Washington, as the current situation shows, is inclined to listen to other experts, who, unlike their colleagues, see Russia as a real threat and hindrance in promoting their own interests. Because of this, an alternative opinion can be heard, but is unlikely to be taken as a guideline. As a result, it’s not yet possible to count on improving the international situation and improving relations between countries.
The article “How big a military threat is Russia, really?”:
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