Streetwise Professor

March 1, 2018

Teetotaler Putin Channels the Bourbons–And I Don’t Mean Old Granddad or Maker’s Mark

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 5:35 pm

Talleyrand famously said of the Bourbons: “They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” That thought came to mind in reading more about Putin’s speech.  He has obviously not forgotten a single slight, perceived or real, from the west, ever.  But he obviously learned nothing from the demise of the USSR, which was economically ruined attempting to compete in military power with a far more economically vibrant and productive rival–the west generally, and the US in particular. If anything, the economic gap has widened since the Cold War.  Indeed, this is especially the case in most military production: the hollowing out of the Russian military-industrial complex is manifest, and the loss of skilled labor in particular has been severe.  The USSR was unable to compete in an arms race, and Russia is in an even worse position to do so.

Yet Putin is announcing a new arms race.

Perhaps this is why Putin’s speech focused on nuclear weapons.  It is the one area in which Russia is competitive, and may actually have some advantages.

But the enemy (and Putin definitely perceives the US to be an enemy) gets a vote too, and Putin cannot unilaterally limit the locus of competition to nuclear weapons.  The US is likely to respond to a more truculent Russia with some new nuclear weapons (e.g., air-launched cruise missiles), but also by expanding conventional forces, and by innovating in technologies that Russia cannot hope to compete in.

This is a sobering thought though–or if you look at it a little differently, one that might get you to hit the bourbon. If nukes are the only tool in Russia’s kit, the likelihood of use becomes higher.

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  1. There’s an ulterior motive for “drill baby” and tariffs
    on steel and aluminum. Mining and processing of strategic
    raw materials within the USA should follow soon. Nothing
    like an arms race to squeeze Mad Vlad!

    Comment by eric — March 1, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

  2. Russia has clearly declared Cold War II and we should not be so Obamaesque as to keep our blinkers on. the time has come to restart COCOM, the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, and ensure Russia is not getting hardware and technology transfers that just make our security worse.

    Comment by Dave. — March 3, 2018 @ 8:18 am

  3. Another piece (related): When the decision makers physically move out of the location(s) where the organization”s operations take place, the organization loses most of it”s chance of operating effectively. Once the decision makers are no longer exposed to the day-to-day operations, the effectiveness of their decisions is reduced drastically.

    Comment by Alizee — March 6, 2018 @ 1:15 am

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