Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 23, 2011

Russia to West: Don’t Defend Yourselves or We’ll Start an Arms Race

When it comes to believing in mutual assured destruction, or MAD, as the basis for Russian security, Russia never left the Cold War.  Today’s leaders are as determined as their predecessors from the Soviet era to base Russian security on holding the US and Europe at risk with nuclear missiles.  They regard anything the US does with missile defense as a threat to that strategy.

Putin, Medvedev, and their diplomats couch their objections as follows:  American missile defense plans “threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent.”  And the proper response – the honest, consistent response – is:  “Of course.  That’s what they’re supposed to do.”  In Reagan’s original vision, effective missile defenses would make it meaningless for anyone – Russia, the US, China, India, Pakistan – to have an arsenal of strategic nuclear missiles.  When George W. Bush withdrew from the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2001, he explicitly delinked US security policy from the symmetrical, “nuke-versus-nuke” deterrence concept of the Cold War era.  The whole point of layered missile defense is to void that concept.

That doesn’t mean Russia must be fated to be insecure.  It means the US does not agree to be held hostage as the guarantee of Russia’s security.  Nor do we agree to consign our allies to that fate.  The Russians are doing everything in their power to induce us to revert to the old “balance of terror,” however, and in 2011, the Reagan vision for escaping it hangs by a thread.

Obama’s 2009 decision to cancel the ground-based interceptor (GBI) deployment in Poland was not enough to reassure Russia about American missile defense plans (some of us predicted that at the time).  Obama’s concept for deploying tactical assets instead is meeting with the same resistance from Moscow.  The original GBI plan, besides defending Europe, would have given the US a defense against ICBMs launched across Europe from Asia.  The new plan, involving only tactical interceptors, provides no defense for North America; it can only intercept medium-range theater missiles targeted at Europe.  But even that is more than Russia will accept.

The Russians have been perfectly explicit as to their concern.  Even supposing that the purpose of the missile defense plan is to defend Europe against missiles from Iran, Russia is unwilling to have defenses deployed that might conceivably prevent Russia from launching nuclear missiles at Europe.  That’s why the Russians proposed last month that they have a “red button” veto over the use of a joint NATO-Russian missile defense system.  It’s why they are threatening to withdraw from the New START agreement that took effect in February.  It’s why they are threatening a new “MAD arms race.” And it’s why they have conducted two launches of their new-generation Sineva ballistic missile (modified SS-N-23 SKIFF) from the Barents Sea in the last month.

There’s a tendency to dismiss the Russian military as hollow today, and that tendency is dangerous.  The Russian military is hollow – but nations with hollow militaries rely more, not less, on strategic nuclear arms for their concepts of national security.  It doesn’t matter to the performance of a nuclear warhead whether the army that fields it is feeding its soldiers dog food or not.  The force build-up Russia has undertaken since 2007 has been weighted toward the “strategic nuclear triad” of the Cold War, and principally toward two legs of it:  land-launched ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).  (The third leg is strategic bombers.)  While the US has allowed our strategic nuclear forces to stagnate, Russia has been updating hers.

Going back down the path of MAD because Russia wants it and Americans don’t bother to understand that it’s happening is a terrible idea.  Russia isn’t the only nuclear-armed non-ally out there.  China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are all nuclear armed; Iran is moving heaven and earth to become so; and unstable nations like Burma and Venezuela are hanging out with just the rogue elements that can put them on the list as well.  In 2011, we should be putting everything we can behind establishing missile defense, rather than MAD, as the global basis for security.

This doesn’t mean missile defense is perfectly seamless, of course.  One day it may be so, but it isn’t now.  What it can do, right now – today – is ensure that no first strike can possibly cripple the US and our allies so that we can’t mount a debilitating second strike.  That reality is as much a deterrent to the first use of nuclear weapons as the threat of annihilation under MAD.  And Russia could implement a missile defense for her own security – against China or Iran, as well as against NATO – quite as well as we could.  We have repeatedly offered our technology for that project, but the Russians also have missile defense programs of their own.

If we don’t think missile defenses will deter Iran, in particular, then clearly the threat of a massive counterstrike won’t deter Iran either; the two go together.  The argument that a missile defense won’t deter Iran is not an argument for MAD; it’s an argument that Iran is undeterrable under her current leadership.  Regime change is the remedy for that condition – ideally, the regime change the Iranians themselves are more than willing to undertake.  MAD is the last thing we should rely on.

Russia is trying to get the US (and by extension, Canada and NATO Europe) to accept reverting to MAD, largely because it’s more convenient for Russia to remain a great power and retain outsize leverage that way.  We cannot let that consideration drive our national security decisions.  It’s better for America – and ultimately better for Russia – to press forward with the concept of missile defense as the basis for security.  Unlike a proliferation of layered, interlocking, or chaotic MAD regimes across the globe, missile defense offers the possibility of defanging nuclear arsenals altogether.  Giving in to Russia on her missile defense demands would send us back in the other direction – this time with multiple nuclear-armed wolf packs snarling and snapping at our heels.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


Responses

  1. —-“This doesn’t mean missile defense is perfectly seamless, of course. One day it may be so, but it isn’t now. What it can do, right now – today – is ensure that no first strike can possibly cripple the US and our allies so that we can’t mount a debilitating second strike.”—-

    what??? we reached the point where we couldn’t be “knocked out” by a first strike long before Reagan ever became president.
    we have had a capacity to retaliate against any strike by any nation since the time you were still a kid.

    and rather than “not perfectly seamless” current missile defense systems are not near to reliable against even a small number of missiles and near to useless against dozens.

    • Calm down, fuster. It took having thousands of nuclear missiles spread out all over the place to be able to survive a first strike during the period you refer to. The idea of missile defense is to be able to achieve that same status without the thousands of missiles — which we no longer have.

      Missile defense is quite effective against dozens of missiles, as long as you have enough interceptors. The number of interceptors is the limiting factor, not the performance of the systems.

      • I’m fairly calm, Kid.

        Please clarify what you mean by” effective” and ‘enough”.

        Last I heard, interception meant that you needed two missiles to have about a 30% chance of knocking down one.

        The system that Obama didn’t build in Europe was going to provide a total of 20 interceptors with a max capacity (unlikely to be achieved) of knocking down 10,

  2. This is what the metastasizing of the nation-state has meant for humanity, that governments are able to hold the populations of not only their enemies but the entire world itself hostage through the insanity of a policy like MAD, financed by the confiscation of the wealth of their own citizens. What better justification for anarchy could there possibly be?

  3. Russia and ourselves each have several thousand nuclear devices. In our case, a larger percentage of them are in submarines which are a generation ahead of their Russian counterparts and are virtually undetectable. If either of us used even a fraction of these things we would not only destroy the other as a functioning society, but we would also make the northern hemisphere an extremely hostile place for everyone unlucky enough to survive. No existing technology (nor any envisaged) would ensure knocking out more than a fraction of these things in a serious exchange between ourselves and the Russians. This is rather important because even one of these things hitting a US city is an utterly unacceptable proposition. No doubt the Russians feel the same about their people and cities. To say then that deterrence is a relic of the cold war is nonsense. Once there was more than one nuclear-armed power, deterrence, or MAD became the one and only raison d’etre of the things (other than national prestige). And so it remains.

    What this is all about is something different altogether. The Russians also have a bone-headed constituency of neanderthals who weren’t best pleased with the treaties which saw the scrapping of much of their pride and joy. They are just looking for an excuse to get out of the straight-jacket (most of them should be in one) of START. Medvedev and Putin are hoping that our own bone-headed neanderthals won’t provide such an excuse. That is what they are signalling. Of course, if we start installing ABM,s on Russia’s borders, the Russians won’t build a terribly complex and expensive ABM system in retaliation. They will just go back to building lots and lots of nice simple (relatively) cheap nuclear missiles to swamp the ABMs and to compensate for the few warheads our terribly complex and expensive ABMs will knock down. They would also probably upgrade and enhance their submarine deterrent on the basis that all the ABMs in the world are almost useless against mobile underwater launchers. Of course, Putin and Medvedev, like most sane people in the US, would much prefer to spend their tax-money on something more useful (or, better still, give the money back to the taxpayers – Hows that for an thought?)

    And ABMs in Poland are an irrelevance to countering rogue-states or terrorists.

  4. OptiCcon,
    I freely admit; I’m confused. Why do you continue to opine on subjects with which are so easily eviscerated by contributors such as fuster and Paulite?

    While they claim no specific experience in nuclear defense activities or nuclear deterrence, it’s intuitive in examining their commentary that as a minimum, they have an occupational understanding of strategic protocols far in excess of what you seem to be able to grasp.

    Face it. You’re nothing more than eye candy.

    • delightsome to the eye she is for sure, but I’m advised on the effectiveness of interceptors by the guy who developed the Patriot for Raytheon.

    • You’re confused?

      So am I.

  5. Jim,

    Some [insert throat clearing here] people just understand Moore’s Law and 21 years. Besides the Patriot of that era being old enough to drink. Must have missed that SM-3 knock (one of those Navy things that the Libs swore wouldn’t work) out that re-entering satellite a few years back.. but then those are facts… not Democrat talking points.

    The average smart phone has several times more processing power than a Patriot Battery of a generation ago.

    But that’s Liberals… they are perpetually stuck in 1935, and they are doing their level best to get us back there as fast as possible.

    [Leaves the room, disgusted … shaking his head]

    -tmf

  6. well, mighty one, is my friend had given me the advice twenty-odd years ago or if he hadn’t continued to work on interceptors since then, maybe you wouldn’t have so much muck in your throat and up.

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  8. “Russia never left the Cold War.”

    That’s the operative phrase. Whether we’re talking missile defense or whatever, the bear is still the bear, and it’s good to know somebody recognizes that fact.

    No matter how many misspelled “reset” buttons we present to them, Russia’s essential nature will not change.

  9. There are three classic arguments against Missile Defence, one theoretical and two practical:

    1. Missile Defence is inherently threatening since it allows the user to use nuclear weapons without facing the consequences of a retaliatory strike. It could therefore encourage countries to “get their retaliation in first” by launching a strike before the system is completed.

    2. Missile and delivery technology is advancing faster that of defence systems, making them obsolete before they are ever completed.

    3. Because it can never be fully effective (esp. because of terrorism) it gives a false sense of security, undermining attempts to stop rogue regimes and organisations acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

    While (1) is weak because even the most irrational and deluded regime knows that, with two obvious exceptions, the US doesn’t use nuclear weapons offensively (2) and (3) still remain serious concerns. While Obama’s decision to use missile defence as a bargaining chip is troubling, I don’t think that it is ever going to be the sole solution to the problem of proliferation and that it is no substitute to preventing Iran, Burma and Venezuela from getting nukes in the first place.

    • While I would have very minor quibbles with your comment, I think that you have grasped and condensed the essentials excellently.

      I should also add that none of our allies feel in the least bit concerned at the demise of this ABM system, or even want it, and that includes the present Polish government. In fact the Obama decision (effectively taken quietly by Bush the year before) was greeted with relief all round. The consensus was that it undermined rather than enhanced European security.

      I would imagine that we wouldn’t be too pleased if the Russians started installing ABMs in venezuela or Cuba. The prospect of some foreign power exploding these devices over our territory is hardly an inviting prospect either – whether or not they are supposed to be “defensive”. Come to think of it, how would the Russians be able to distinguish between these ABMs and “offensive” missiles – or ensure they couldn’t be used “offensively” ? – a particular concern where they are parked on their border with zero effective warning time.

      (why any sane person – other than perhaps someone who was in line to trouser some taxpayer provided loot from making the things – would consider 3,000 nuclear devices inadequate deterrent utterly beats me. If we or the Ruskies used a quarter of them the environmental effects downwind on the coriolis would be the biggest own-goal in the (thereafter, short) history of mankind)

      p.s. I hope you’re not embarassed by my agreeing with you.

  10. I meant to say

    “2. Missile and delivery technology is advancing faster THAN that of defence systems, making them obsolete before they are ever completed”

  11. No Putin, is an old fashioned Russian nationalist, a ‘czar in all but crown’, but he certainly thinks ‘armies and navies do play a part in history’, he is zealous in his defense of the Rodina, and he’ll use all measures to assure it. Obama on the other hand, has forgotten every lesson of the last 30 years, and it shows.

  12. It’s always good to start a discussion like this and see the opinions come out. I find some things to agree with and things to disagree with, as one would expect.

    Regarding the number of interceptors required for missile defense, the GBI deployment to Poland was to be a beginning, not an end state. If the argument were valid that a mere 20 interceptors are meaningless to Russia’s large inventory, the Russians wouldn’t have been so hysterical about it.

    A missile defense strategy has to start somewhere. Like anything else in its category — deterrence — it starts small. When there was only one ballistic missile submarine, carrying 3 missiles, it was certainly the case that that represented much less than a game-changing capability. But the obviousness of the possibility that there would be more in the future meant it was foolish to argue that it didn’t matter.

    With respect to the effectiveness of missile defense, the same people are always insisting that X won’t work, no matter how well X has developed and been proven to work. In 1983, plenty of people were certain that missile intercept could never, ever happen. But now it does. The same people are certain today that it cannot possibly ever, ever become reliable (e.g., to better than 2 sigma probability) or cost-effective. Such predictions have never been a good bet, but people keep making them.

    Some of the arguments used here are false analogies. The reference to how the US would feel if Venezuela installed an ABM system is one. The analogy is false because Venezuela under Chavez, in Latin America, is not the US or Poland in Europe. The situations are different.

    If Brazil or Honduras wanted an ABM system, because of the emerging threat from Venezuela, the US would find that understandable and would probably provide assistance. If Venezuela — already known to be installing a Shahab-3 complex on her northwesternmost tip — wanted an ABM system, we and everyone else in the hemisphere would quite rightly be worried about what Chavez was planning.

    I have a rare disagreement with chuck martel here, on the value of the nation-state. The alternative to the nation-state isn’t anarchy, it’s empire. The West has decided to conveniently forget most of history in its modern antipathy to the nation-state, but the historical truth is that the nation-state is the antidote to empire. Tribes can’t stand against empire; only nation-states can. The concept of individual liberties, guaranteed against armed depredation, has only been ascendant in proto-nation-states (e.g., the city-states of the ancient Greeks) and modern nation-states constituted on what our friend Mighty Fahvaag likes to call the Westphalian model.

    Russia has wavered for the last 4 centuries between nation-state and empire, in large part because of her peculiar territorial situation, with very long, thinly-populated, and vulnerable land borders. She lives in a rotten neighborhood, with China on one flank and Central Asian tribes to the south. Germany has attacked her twice in the last century. Russia’s imperial urge comes from the same cause it did with Rome, Persia, and Babylon: self-defense.

    I would argue that Russia behaves more like an empire justifying enlargement for security than like a classic European nation-state. We forget today that Germany did the same thing in the period from Frederick the Great to 1945, pulsating outward and contracting inward through war and settlement in the search for defensible borders. And that German effort was mounted on the historical model of the Holy Roman and (unholy) Roman Empires — not on the republican idea of the nation-state. The European solution for denaturing empires was the “Westphalian” nation-state, whose chief virtue is that it is a defensible, non-imperial level of political organization.

    Empires never found themselves on protecting individual liberties. Only nation-states do that. Empires can’t be held accountable by their subjects, but the governments of nation-states can. There are good reasons to prefer the nation-state and defend it as the basic model for political organization. With the ideological pressures of caliphate-Islamism and left-wing world-order-ism mounting, I think it’s important for classical liberals to sharpen up our thinking about the role of the nation-state so we don’t get log-rolled.

    Meanwhile, my position isn’t in disagreement with Matthew Partridge’s point that nations like Iran, Venezuela, and Burma should be prevented from getting nukes in the first place.

    As long as having nukes is considered the premier means of deterrence, however, those and other nations will just keep wanting them, badly enough to court isolation and risk. To me it is a very non-sensible approach, to give up at the outset and say, “Our pessimistic arguments have talked us out of going further with missile defense. We are giving up. Our only option is to let Russia and China hold us at risk with nukes. That attractive proposition will manifestly encourage other potential enemies to try and do the same — it has already — and we will have to carry on years of ineffective sanctions and diplomacy while they achieve milestone after milestone, alarming our allies (whom they can strike before they can strike us) in the process. But that’s better, to our minds, than trying to neutralize the attractiveness of nuclear arsenals by deploying effective defenses against the missiles that would deliver most of them. Let’s be sure that the only alternatives we have to accepting nuclear proliferation are sanctions, fear, blame-laying, and the occasional regime change. The important thing is that we NOT seek a means of defending ourselves. Especially because the Russians might think we would be effective at it.”

    • The argument isn’t against developing the capability to intercept, it’s against building and deploying one that doesn’t do the job and putting it in a position that irritates the Russians somewhat gratuitously.
      If and when we have a system that was able to thwart their offensive capability, irritating would matter less, but it might matter still, as we have other places to be and other folks to thwart.

      • fuster, I don’t think we’d necessarily need a missile defense system that “does the job.” As long as the Russians (or whoever else) *think* that it *might* “do the job,” that would probably be enough.

        • Not sure about that, RE. conditions are a bit different from when Gorby couldn’t afford to call the bluff.

          Putin has a different agenda, and while he has a tough-guy image to maintain that placing Americans bases ever-closer to Russia tarnishes, he both has a clear understanding of the effectiveness of our interceptors and he has a bunch of ways he can respond, as we need or desire his cooperation in other arenas, ranging from Afghanistan, to Iran to even Venezuela.

          We base our soldiers around even a fairly unimportant base for a dozen interceptors in Poland, and it’s a thumb in his eye likely to cause him to sell a big bag of hardware to a goon close to our borders that will be a thumb in our own.

      • We could deploy enough interceptors to shoot down all of Russia’s missiles, even if they were launched in multiple salvos in a short space of time. We could pay for it, and the interceptors would work. The limited deployments we have managed so far are a function of political resistance, not technical incapacity. If you agree with the political reasons for not going with larger-scale deployments, then your objection isn’t really that the system doesn’t “do the job,” it’s something else.

        • “We” could pay for it.

          By “we” I presume that you mean the long suffering US taxpayer.

          Not a chance. No way.

          Given that a significant part of the Russian deterrent is submarine-based, and could come from any point on the compass with little warning-time, we would need several ABMs for each SBBM to have any prospect of intercepting even a fraction of the Russian nukes. The cost of such a system would be utterly mind-boggling. If this level of logic is typical of our “intellegence” services it is little wonder that we took a decade to track bin Laden to his hacienda in the middle of Abbottabad.

        • If you assert that in seriousness, allpw me to ask you when could we do that deployment that would shoot down all the Russian missiles and how much it would cost.

    • It is difficult to know where to start in relation to this rambling nonsense.

      The logic is rather simple:

      There is at present a balance of deterrence. In fact, because the Russians and ourselves each have several thousand deliverable devices, the level of deterrence is what is known as MAD. The strategists consider MAD to be established at below the level of 250 single megaton warheads on each side – premised on 40% of these attaining their targets. Given the several thousand Russian missiles, you can work out that only a few percent need to elude the ABMs to obtain MAD.

      If either we or the Russians move to upset the balance of deterrence by increasing the number of deliverable devices, or installing systems to reduce the effectiveness of the other’s deterrence, the other will do what is necessary to restore the balance. In this case – even if our ABMs could guarrantee a (statistical improbable – irrespective of the technological advances)100% effectiveness, all the Russians need do is increase their BMs at the same rate as we put our ABMs in place. The liklihood is that each Russian BM would to be much cheaper (and probably more reliable) than each American ABM. They have signalled that they would consider START breached by an ABM shield and would respond accordingly.

      I have no doubt that our scientists are capable of greatly improving the hit-rate of our ABMs, but unless they can garrantee a 100% success rate against every potential Russian missile – including all the ones they will build to compensate for our ABMs – there is no logic whatsoever in an ABM system. It makes even less sense for the US taxpayer who would have to fund this futile leapfrogging exercise.

      The sad reality is that the nuclear genie has been out of the bottle since 1949, and forevermore the nuclear powers will always hold each other hostage. The best course in the circumstances is to try to keep the balance of terror at as low (and cheap) a level as possible, and to maintain confidence-building measures to reduce the liklihood of conflict. An ABM system would do the exact opposite. All our allies think so too.

    • Perhaps the nation-state/empire distinction is a semantic one. To an ordinary citizen there may be no distinction at all. The still adolescent free market system and the technological revolution that has accompanied it has produced such wealth that governments of whatever stripe have been able to confiscate sufficient quantities to develop and implement weaponry of still unimaginable fury. This can only be justified by mutual hatred between parties. Using the Canadians as a rationale for our own despotism and defense spending doesn’t work. We speak the same language and visit one another regularly. It’s much more effective for us to depict the Russians as a dangerous adversary and for them to do likewise. Both governments then assume the role of paternalistic protector, making themselves crucial to societal survival while tithing the productivity of their countries. It’s not hard to imagine an allied US and Russia developing a combined (and expensive) defense against invaders from another galaxy. Somebody has probably made a movie on that very theme.

  13. One way to neutralize Russia and their absurd standard that we *permit* them to hold us hostage to their weapons is to drill baby drill (or more accurately perhaps, everything baby everything). The Russian economy is so dependent on proceeds from oil and gas sales that if those prices were to sink, so would the Russian economy. Putin & Co wouldn’t be able to worry about intimidating the West if they had catastrophic internal problems with which to deal.

    The US has massive reserves of oil, gas and coal. If the Left would permit us to tap those reserves, the price of energy would drop significantly (and also bring profits into the USA that would otherwise go elsewhere). More over, it would starve Putin, Hugo, Saudi, Iran, etc… and make those bad actors much less potent on the world stage. The benefits so far outweigh the negatives such that it’s all but unbelievable that a country would voluntarily tie its own hands behind its back like, thanks to the Left, the US has.

    • Good point, RE. Multiple points of pressure should include undermining the profitability of the oil and gas trade for Russia, by drilling here and bringing down world prices.

      • we’re extended far more than the Russians these days, and they know as much about finding multiple points of pressure as anyone else does.

        whether we drill or not, the Russians have all the customers that they need and our drilling isn’t going to swing the market price down by more than pennies.

      • Good point?

        Only if you know as little about oil-economics as you know about the logic of nuclear deterrence.

        The cost per recoverable barrel of oil is much greater in the US than in Russia. This is partly because US wage levels and input costs are so much higher . More importantly, unlike in the USSR which still has vast reservoirs of easily and cheaply recoverable oil, the cheaply recoverable oil in the US is mostly depleted and we are now drilling for oil at home whose economic recoverability depends entirely on the international price of oil being high. This is another one of those nasty Catch 22’s of which you seem totally unaware.

        Have you any ideas at all, on anything, that aren’t completely silly?

        • Did I say USSR? Freudian slip……

        • “Have you any ideas at all, on anything, that aren’t completely silly?”

          If the ideas and point of view advocated by J.E. are so ‘silly’…then what does it say about you that you continue to visit the site? Surely you have better things to do than waste your time over ‘silly pursuits’?

          • Geoffrey, something upon which our opinions line up.

          • Good question, Geoff.

            This semi-retired grumpy old person does it for fun and stimulation when he hasn’t anything better to do.

            If I hadn’t the wonderful fantasties of the OC to amuse me I might be out robbing banks or trying to start nuclear wars or one of the other things bored seniors do these days.

        • Been to North Dakota lately?

          • Never been there. they say there are big holes there which the unwary might fall into.

    • “That we *permit* them to hold us hostage to their weapons…..”

      In case you hadn’t noticed, THEY also “permit” US to hold them hostage to OUR weapons.

      Of course, we can both embark again on a revival of the cold war, and each of us can take steps and counter-steps to stop the other ‘holding them hostage’. We have already been there and done that. It was called the “arms race”. This time around we would be setting the race in motion with a fabulously expensive system of unknown efficacy, and which could easily be countered and swamped by a relatively cheap and proven technology. You might also note that it isn’t the supposedly belligerent Russians who propose starting us on this absurd road to break the existing balance of deterrence. It is our own home-grown bone-headed neanderthals who dreamt this thing up.

      Anyway, this madcap scheme has thankfully died, almost without a whimper. It died, partly because the Polish government changed, but more importantly, because it dawned on the defence establishment in the Republican Party that the entire ABM escalation was illogical. In fact, the ABM thing was clinically dead well before the end of the Bush administration and more than a year before Obama walked into the Oval Office.

  14. The greatest value of an effective nuclear defensive system is less its ability to successfully defend against an attack(s) than to place pressure upon potentially hostile nuclear powers to make concessions in negotiations that they otherwise would refuse. Once an enemy starts to doubt it’s ability to effectively attack the other side, psychological emasculation arises and nation states ruled by ‘bullies’ (criminal mind-sets who seek to dominate) once emasculated, can’t function.

    Russia currently has the money to compete with the US in a new arms race. It does not however have the technological capability to compete with the US in a new arms race. Putin knows that and that is why he’s so adamant in his opposition to any increase in defensive deployment. It’s a contest he does not want to get involved in and he’s relying on our unwillingness to call his bluff.

    Until the US acquires new Presidential leadership on the Reagan model, it will continue to be a winning strategy on Putin’s part. Putin no more has to worry about Obama than Hitler had to worry about Chamberlain. Moral cowards always choose appeasement because cowardice always rates survival over principle.

    “War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse.  A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” — John Stuart Mill

    • Nah, Geoff, wrong again.

      Pray what “concession” do you think the installation of ABMs is supposed to extract from the Ruskies? Perhaps it is the “concession” of pulling out of start and rebuilding their nuclear arsenal so that they can kill us all (and themselves too) seven times over rather than three times over?

      And I fail to grasp why by sticking to the status quo rather than (in an act of extravagant futility) threatening to upend mutual deterrence the Russians are “bullying” anyone.

      Russia possibly has the money to match us, but, as you correctly surmise, probably not the technology. Which means that they will counter our expensive and unproven ABMs by swamping them with cheap existing technology. There are just as many bone-headed neanderthals in the ex- USSR as there are here. Both these groups of knuckle-draggers would just love to return to the good ol’ days when they ruled the roost.

      It is difficult to understand how maintaining mutual deterrence at the current level (particularly when the alternative is a ruinous arms-race to re-establish deterrence at a higher and more precarious level) is “appeasement”.

      No, Geoffrey, the ugliest thing is spending zillions of our tax-dollars to rack up international tension for no strategic advantage to the US whatsoever (unless you are suggesting the ludicrous proposition of using nuclear blackmail to settle every little row we have with the Russians). As an exercise in logic you might ask yourself as to what circumstances you believe either we or the Ruskies would use nuclear weapons against each other.

      • It’s amazing that an economic savant such as yourself hasn’t come to the conclusion that advanced technology armaments systems exist because they are CHEAPER and MORE EFFECTIVE than their predecessors. If it were otherwise, armies would still be operating with the phalanx and navies with triremes. A US nuclear deterrent is not only cheaper in that it doesn’t require the expense of the support of thousands of conscripted garrison troops, the individuals that would have made up those garrisons are free to engage in productive economic activity.

        • Maintaining the nuclear deterrent isn’t particularly cheap. In fact when you factor in the cost of producing the nuclear materials for the things (including the cost of maintaining the tritium component) the device itself, the delivery systems, and the security, storage, and maintenance, and all the personell involved at each stage of the process, it isn’t cheap at all. However it sure is effective as a deterrent to others who possess them – and that is their point and value. The other point is that as a deterrent-system they are likely to be cheaper and more reliable than any ABM system which would seriously impinge on their effectiveness.

          There is another crucial mathematical reality (I say mathematical, because it is an axiom of the game-theory that underpins nuclear strategy). Human systems are always fallible to some degree. A nuclear deterrent is still effective as a deterrent even if a high percentage of the missiles fail to find their targets. Yet, the loss of only one city and its inhabitants is utterly unacceptable, and so the same proposition demands that an ABM system has to be an impossible 100% reliable. As you can appreciate, the math is completely against the logic (and economics) of an ABM system.

          I like the “productive economic activity” bit. If only. Is invading other folks lands “productive economic activity”?

          And alas for the “economic savant” comment. Far from being a “savant”, I’m only an ordinary old fart with a sceptical eye.

      • The concession(s) I would look for are exemplified by what we are currently not getting. The new Start treaty Obama is pushing is an example of negotiating from a weak position and ending up with something that greatly favors the Russians.

        Whether 3 or 7 times over is irrelevant. Once you’re dead, you’re dead.

        Trying to use overwhelming numbers of cheap weapons to overwhelm a defensive system works… until a paradigm change in weaponry occurs. Pizzarro, in the Battle of Cajamarca, slew 6-7k Incan warriors, he had 168 men. In that battle, the Spaniards lost one man. 100 soldiers with repeating rifles were able to defeat thousands of plains Indians with spears, bows and arrows. The US Navy is close to achieving a practical laser defensive missile system. A computer guided, robust, laser defensive system would be a paradigm change.

        Sticking to the status quo is acceptable when nation to nation conflict is the sole consideration. Unfortunately that is not the case. Obama, within the current political constraints is seeking to unilaterally disarm the US and incrementally place our defense under the UN’s control. Then there is the covert strategy Russia is employing of facilitating and empowering nuclear proliferation to hostile, unstable third-world nations. Both of those factors make sticking to the status quo unacceptable.

        • Take your tablets Geoffrey.

  15. At the heart of this discussion is the idea of defense as somehow taking an unfair advantage. This is really a new definition of defense as a form of offense. It is based on MAD, which made sense when both the USSR and we had no practical defenses against these weapons.

    Now these defenses are within reach. What exactly does Russia fear from our defense based on the last 100 years of experience? Primarily that we will protect Eastern Europe from Russian hegemony. It can win more subtle hegemony, as Geoffrey points out, by spreading nuclear capabilities to hostile states, but it’s hard to imagine the US threatening Russia with a missile attack because of surreptitious sales to Iran. So I think it is time to lose our MAD mindset and face the realities new technology offers us.

    • Good thinking, Margo. However, there is already a cheap and effective defence against our expensive and unproven “defence”. And by the same measure, what exactly would the US have to fear from the Russians just commissioning more nukes to swamp our ABMs – or moving more of its existing deterrent into submarines?

      Luckily, there were wise people in the Bush administration who came to the conclusion that re-starting the arms race would add considerably to the deficit and nothing whatsoever to US or European security. Of course this is a bitter blow to the armchair generals on both sides who feel naked and unloved since the end of their beloved cold war, and are scuttling around looking for ways to revive it.

  16. POTUS Slappy gets rolled again by the Cossacks.
    For DECADES the Russian / Soviet military has been a paper tiger – rice paper-thin at that.
    Only a sleazy coward would not uphold STATE promises to its allies.
    The Black Narcissus is making a career of insulting our (personal) intelligence and allies.
    Urkel met his match in MEDVEDEV? LMAO

    ~(Ä)~

    • not possible to insult your intelligence.


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