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Russia: The Big Lies
   Next Article → SUDAN: Immune to Sanctions
June 11, 2007: Russians have been rewriting their own history, more so than most nations, for a long time. The most recent example is their current attitude towards the Cold War, how it ended, and the legacy of 70 years of communist tyranny. Because most Russians, especially the leaders, have not accepted the Soviet Union  as a truly evil institution, it's possible for many Russians to blame the collapse of the Soviet Union, and end of the Cold War, on the missteps of Soviet leaders, especially the last head of the Soviet empire, Mikhail Gorbachev. However, most Russians go with the, "we just got tired of the incompetent Soviet bureaucrats and shed them" explanation. Either way, most Russians have not come to terms with no longer being one of the world's two superpowers.  

 

Russia today is a much diminished version of the Soviet Union. The population of 140 million is shrinking because of a plunging birth rate, and falling life expectancy.  The Russian GDP, at $900 billion, is less than seven percent of  the United States (which has more than twice as many people). That, however, is an improvement. In the early 1990s, when economists and accountants got the first good look at the Russian economy since the early 20th century, it was found that the Russian GDP was about four percent of the U.S. GDP. Add back all the lost components of the Soviet Union, and you still don't have a GDP amounting to more than six percent of the American one. How did the Soviet Union achieve superpower status on such a thin economic base? They did it mostly with illusion, and an excessive arms budget that ruined the economy. Starting in the 1960s, the military got a priority on government spending, and permission to build an industrial complex that dominated the entire economy. This was part of a political deal, to keep one faction of the Communist Party in power. 

 

With a GDP more than ten times the size of the Soviet Unions, the U.S. could spend five percent of GDP on defense, and far outspend the Soviet Union. Worse yet, Soviet accounting practices, like so much else they did, were opaque and self-delusional. It wasn't until after the Soviet Union collapsed that anyone could get an idea of how large the Soviet defense budgets were, and it turned out they were less than half the size of the American ones. Suddenly, a lot of Soviet military policies  made sense. Russia bought lots of weapons, but did not have the money to maintain them, or even allow the troops to train with them. That was known, and in light of how the Soviet defense budget was set up, was understandable, and inevitable. 

 

The really bad news is, most Russians are still not aware of how screwed up their Soviet era military was. There are two reasons for this. First, Russians take for granted how their armed forces operates. Russians complain about the brutality and incompetence in the military, but that's all they've ever known. Second, Russians remember fondly that their ramshackle armed forces defeated the Germans during World War II. What the Russians play down is how much the Germans lost World War II in Russia, rather than being beaten. The Germans made a lot of serious mistakes during the war, while the Russians got their act together. What Russians fail to realize is that the Soviet Union was an accidental, and largely imaginary, superpower. Russia has long employed large scale deception, and the Soviet Union continued this on a sustained basis. Military weaknesses (poor training and readiness) were hidden, and strengths (sheer number of weapons and troops) emphasized. But as was seen many times (from Budapest in 1956, to Chechnya in 1994), the Soviet military system produced little in the way of real military power. Soviet weapons, as impressive as they appeared to be, always came out a distant second when they were used against Western ones. The main thing that kept the Soviet military reputation going was the need of Western militaries to make the Soviet Union look strong, in order to justify high Western military budgets. 

 

The one effective weapon the Soviets did have were their nuclear armed ballistic missiles. Better maintained than the rest of the military, enough of this missile fleet would work, if used, to devastate Western nations. Russia still has a large part of that nuclear arsenal. But that does not make Russians feel like a superpower. That's because Russia no longer has the huge fleet, air force and army. And that's because this huge force was all an expensive illusion, which was disbanded in the 1990s, once it was obvious what a waste it all was. But the big thing that's missing is the size of the Soviet Union. Over half the population of the Soviet Union were not Russian, and did not want to be part of the Soviet Union. Most of these people got their wish in 1991, when the Soviet Union came apart. Many Russians want to undo that, but they cannot. It took Russia over four centuries to build that empire, and the inept Soviet Bureaucrats a few weeks to lose it all.  An increasing number of Russians want it back, but are unwilling to confront how they lost it in the first place, or why rebuilding the empire is an uncertain and dangerous enterprise. This is all very dangerous stuff.

 

June 8, 2007:   Russian, American and European leaders met for the G8 economic meeting, and Russias attitudes towards the post-Cold War world became a major topic. Russia has been increasingly hostile towards its neighbors joining the European Union, or NATO. Russia sees all this differently than does Europe, the U.S., or even Russias neighbors. These nations, especially those like Ukraine, which were part of Russia for centuries, understand Russian resentment over the loss of empire. Europeans and Americans have a harder time appreciating Russian fear of potential enemies making economic and military pacts with Russians neighbors. To many Russians, the West is still out to destroy them. But the West has always seen Russia as the aggressive empire to be contained. This was the case even before the Soviet Union was established. Some things never change. Russia sees an American sponsored anti-missile system, being built in Poland and the Czech republic, to stop Iranian or North Korean missiles, as part of a plot to diminish Russian military power. But everyone agrees that this system could easily be overwhelmed by the large Russian missile force. However, what the West does not appreciate, is the Russian admiration of Western military technology, and suspicion that those clever Americans will be able to tweak this seemingly limited anti-missile system, so that it will stop any Russian missiles headed for Europe. Europeans see this as absurd. Europe is the major customer for Russian gas and oil (the largest, and fastest growing, component of the Russian economy.) Why would Russia fire nukes at their largest customer? By the end of the G8 conference, Russian leaders have been forced to concede the logic of this, and even offered to join in building the anti-missile system. But nothing has really changed. Russia still has centuries of prejudices and illusions to deal with, and a cure is not likely any time soon.

 

 

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davod    Russian capabilities   6/11/2007 10:28:48 AM
   How much of Russia's new military capability is deception.
 
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Xyxp Haxp       6/11/2007 11:16:33 AM
Some small remarks : 1. The Russian GDP, at $1500 billion now, it in view of export of oil and gas but without taking into account "services" which for example in GDP USA make up to 70 % Moreover last 6 years growth of Russian gross national product - 6,5 % a year (Do not forget that soon your shuttles will cease to be capable to fly and then NASA will be compelled to address to Russia for delivery of the cosmonauts on ISS ) 2. Parities of budgets will exchange when in the near future Russia will start to trade in oil, gas, the weapon and space technologies for roubles (not for $ as it now), and access of the Russian goods on the foreign markets will be adjusted not by pro-American structures of type of WTO and on the basis of bilaterial agreements by a principle of proportionality - to that how many the given market will want to receive Russian oil and gas 3. The military budget of Russia does not contain clause - a seat for toilet bowls on B2 for 50.000 $:) and high cost plasma panels (TV) in each barracks in Iraq for viewing propagation films - therefore the budget in 2-2,5 % from GDP now quite suffices Russia for manufacture and the modern weapon and regular army trainings 4. Russian army for 3 years (from 2000 till 2003) has completely destroyed the Chechen terrorists in MOUNTAIN district with a dense WOOD cover and supported financial and the weapon from for borders (through Georgia), the American army here 4 year cannot will win in Iraq with guerrillas in desert and where from "wood" one only rare palm trees 5. Our "old" and cheap weapon clicked as nuts Israeli "super" modern tanks in Lebanon, except for that compare cost of system C-125 (40 years age) and F-117 brought down to it in Serbia, consider it when compare budgets of the USA and Russia, and also our and your weapon. Best regards
 
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Scoobydo       6/11/2007 11:39:25 AM
I wish that Russia would "come in from the cold" so to speak and stop viewing Western Europe as a potential enemy. They are, by and large, a Western civilisation. I would love to see Russia, at some point in the future, joining the EU. I get the impression however, rightly or wrongly, that they are a reasonably paranoid bunch and think everyone is out to get them.

Europe doesn't have much to worry about security wise in the foreseable future. If Russia was on board, that period of security would be further extended for both Russia and the EU. With the EU's and the USA's population and economic advantages, Russia can never seriously expect to be a true superpower in the foreseable future.

Sadly, I fear they see themselves are rivals rather than as potential partners.

 
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Xyxp Haxp       6/11/2007 12:06:56 PM
The problem in that speaking about partnership the Europe and the USA mean partnership of the horseman and a horse - It is not necessary for Russia, at Russia is have all resources (intellectual and natural) what in case of continuation of similar policy from the West independently to leave on the leading part in the world
 
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displacedjim       6/11/2007 12:12:20 PM

4. Russian army for 3 years (from 2000 till 2003) has completely destroyed the Chechen terrorists in MOUNTAIN district with a dense WOOD cover and supported financial and the weapon from for borders (through Georgia), the American army here 4 year cannot will win in Iraq with guerrillas in desert and where from "wood" one only rare palm trees
5. Our "old" and cheap weapon clicked as nuts Israeli "super" modern tanks in Lebanon, except for that compare cost of system C-125 (40 years age) and F-117 brought down to it in Serbia, consider it when compare budgets of the USA and Russia, and also our and your weapon.


I don't know enough about the numbers to comment, but these last two points were certainly good for a nice long, loud laugh.  Thanks for the entertainment!
 
 
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mithradates       6/11/2007 3:10:54 PM
Russia is an independent power, NOT a western vassal state.  And it's culture is more Eastern than Western.
The problem in that speaking about partnership the Europe and the USA mean partnership of the horseman and a horse - It is not necessary for Russia, at Russia is have all resources (intellectual and natural) what in case of continuation of similar policy from the West independently to leave on the leading part in the world


 
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Barca       6/11/2007 4:13:08 PM
I wish I could figure what you are saying.
 and high cost plasma panels (TV) in each barracks in Iraq for viewing propagation films

Propagada films such as?
I am always amazed that people raised behind a dictatorship can not understand a free media and that films made in Hollywood might as well be stamped 'approved by Al Qaidi'.

 
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displacedjim       6/11/2007 4:24:37 PM



4. Russian army for 3 years (from 2000 till 2003) has completely destroyed the Chechen terrorists in MOUNTAIN district with a dense WOOD cover and supported financial and the weapon from for borders (through Georgia), the American army here 4 year cannot will win in Iraq with guerrillas in desert and where from "wood" one only rare palm trees
5. Our "old" and cheap weapon clicked as nuts Israeli "super" modern tanks in Lebanon, except for that compare cost of system C-125 (40 years age) and F-117 brought down to it in Serbia, consider it when compare budgets of the USA and Russia, and also our and your weapon.




I don't know enough about the numbers to comment, but these last two points were certainly good for a nice long, loud laugh.  Thanks for the entertainment!

 

I would say you don't know enough to comment on anything.  It's incredible how little the people running this website understand about history and modern affairs.  And yet they claim you can "Get it straight."  This site is the neo-con playground from reality. 

 

 
And I’d say you’re the one not qualified to comment. I’ll grant the Russians have pretty much destroyed the Chechens and in the process have destroyed the Chechen terrorists, too. If it was acceptable to the American people to commit mass killing/murder of civilians we could turn Baghdad and the rest of Iraq into another Grozny moonscape, too. The only reason we have anything near the difficulty we do have in the counter-guerilla/terrorist war currently being fought in Iraq is because we fight by a different set of rules than does Russia?and I’m glad for it, even if it doesn’t appear as successful so far (and might not succeed at all) than a Russian-style scorched earth mass destruction. As for the Hizballah in Lebanon the actual numbers do show that the Israelis had something like about 50 tanks hit by ATGMs and about half were knocked out. Hizballah’s tactics certainly were more effective than the Israeli army had anticipated, but would not have prevented Israel from crushing them if it had the political resolve to actually try. The surprise generated by those panzerjaeger teams will not repeated in the next confrontation with Hizballah/Syria. The circumstances of the lone kill by the one SA-3 battalion of the one F-117 point to outstanding human factors on the part of the Serbian commander and operators, not to any technical factor of the SA-3 or Russian equipment in general. The Serbs capitalized on the unique circumstances of that war to create a couple opportunities to actually engage our aircraft at the cost of allowing us to operate uncontested over the vast majority of the battlespace for the vast majority of time. I certainly hope all our adversaries always decide to fight against us in that fashion; it will give us air superiority every time at very little cost.

 
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Nomad32       6/11/2007 4:55:28 PM
Great post. I knew it was going to rile the trolls as soon as I read it.
 
I remember a few years ago arguing with another member of the species Tollus Messagebordius/Trollus Onlinus on whether or not the SU had been the primary reason that the Germans were defeated in WWII. He seemed to be relatively immune to logic but I did get him to boil his argument down to more or less - russia suffered more dead so the had to have been the main reason the nazis were consigned to the proverbial dustbin of history... It was fairly east to ignore him from that point on.
 
Since this piece basically calls 'BS' to that cherished myth of the left, expect the comments to reflect thir angst and displeasure.
 
We have exey hap and mythrades basically calling from the playbook of the axis of evil and those nations who could have been included as honorable mentions. And we have darthjesus barking from the leftwing trotskyite-fanboy perspective - dude, displacedjim has added more to this board than you probably ever will.
 
Watch this space.
 
 
 
 
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VelocityVector    DarthJesus   6/11/2007 9:56:07 PM

And we're heading towards another disaster with Russia.

Remind me what other disaster we have experienced with Russia?


 Frankly I believe we've managed them quite nicely given their nature.

v^2
 
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