Streetwise Professor

March 22, 2015

Russia: The Travis Bickle of Nations

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 4:02 pm

It’s been quite a week for Russia. In a documentary about Crimea, Putin said he would have put Russian nuclear forces on alert had the west contested his anschluss. Further, the Russian military deployed nuclear capable Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers to Crimea, and Iskander nuclear capable missiles to Kaliningrad. They launched massive maneuvers in the Northern and Western Military Districts, and threw another hissy fit over very small, largely symbolic US operations in the Baltics and Poland. Latvia accused its gentle giant neighbor of sending submarines to probe its waters, and Sweden claimed that one-third of Russian “diplomatic” personnel were intelligence agents engaged in preparations for Russian military action against its western neighbor. (Remember the Great Northern War and Charles XII!) Quite a week!

But they weren’t done! They saved the best (by which I mean worst) for last, when the ambassador to Denmark threatened the tiny Scandinavian nation’s navy with nuclear annihilation for having the temerity to incorporate its air defense frigates (of which it has a grand total of 3) into the Nato anti-missile defense network. Talk about overkill: nuclear weapons to target 6500 ton frigates? Really? What, does Russia doubt the accuracy of its conventional weapons, so it has to go with the close-counts-in-horseshoes-and-nukes theory?

Actually, you know that’s not it. It is just another example of Russia channeling its inner Travis Bickle. You know, the title character from Taxi Driver, played by Robert De Niro. “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talkin’ to?” [whips out nuclear weapon concealed inside sleeve].

The only question before the house is whether this is all an act intended to intimidate the neighbors into acceding to Russian demands, or they are descending into madness under the stress of events, just like Travis. I honestly don’t know, but don’t discount the second possibility altogether.

Regardless, it is apropos that this occurred right around the time of the death of Singapore’s  Lee Kwan Yew, who said “Russia has an enormous nuclear arsenal, but what else?”

One particularly disturbing aspect of this is that Vanin is not one of the real mouth breathers. He is a career foreign service man, who was once closely associated with the Yeltsin “family” and Roman Abramovich while serving as Chairman of the State Customs Committee. He was deeply involved in the Three Whales scandal. Three Whales was a FSB-connected furniture shopping center that was running a smuggling operation. The State Customs Service launched an investigation, which set off a war between Vanin’s people and the siloviki. Vanin was one of the casualties, losing his job when Putin reshuffled the organization of various ministries in 2004.

So the guy rattling the nuclear saber against a nation of 5.6 million people that was last a military power in the 10th and 11th centuries is not one of Russia’s real siloviki thugs. Comforting thought, eh?

The Pentagon, Nato and the Europeans are fretting about how to deal with Russia’s hybrid warfare. (Note I omit Obama from that list: I doubt he gives a damn.) They need to give more thought to the real reason why hybrid warfare can work: it is conducted under a nuclear shield wielded by madmen, or those who are content to give a portrayal  of one that de Niro could appreciate.

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  1. I like this part,

    “…Copenhagen called unacceptable and NATO said would not contribute to peace.” That’ll show Putin what we’re made of. Putin Is NOT interested in peace, he’s interested in the fruits of war and, if it they are obtained without the war, so much the better.

    The Pilot

    Comment by The Pilot — March 22, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

  2. Russia is just a bigger North Korea these days. Leader worship, mindless propaganda swalloing, nuclear threats in the face of general contempt the civilized feel for it.

    Comment by d — March 23, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

  3. A certain Rogozin was put in charge of Cosmodrome Vostochny construction. Interim result: hundreds of millions stolen, considering use of semi-slave student labor to finish it somehow or other:

    Comment by Ivan — April 1, 2015 @ 11:11 pm

  4. @Ivan. But Rogozin wears cool Cossack uniforms, and rants about the glories of Russian civilization, so it’s all good.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 3, 2015 @ 9:34 pm

  5. @Ivan. Thanks for the heads up. I did a little digging on this. Fascinating. And they can’t even pay the light bill! And they can’t even pay the light bill!

    Rogozin has promised to “rip the heads off” contractors who sabotage the project.

    Ripping Rogozin’s head off would have no noticeable effect.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 3, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

  6. @Ivan-The Vostochny story is the gift that keeps on giving.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 4, 2015 @ 6:18 am

  7. “война все спишет”

    According to Illarionov, Russian military expenditures over Jan-Feb 2015 are 43,3 % of federal budget or 12,68 % GDP.

    In unrelated news, Obama assured Netanyahu the Iran deal will not put Israel’s security at risk. Immediately reminded me of some pundit explaining how the US was careful to make sure the Budapest memorandum contained “assurances” rather than “guarantees”.

    Comment by Ivan — April 4, 2015 @ 9:30 am

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