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The Much Diminished Russian Bear

Any assessment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia needs to stipulate that: 1) he is a corrupt dictator sitting on top of a rotten kleptocracy; 2) political freedom and democracy in Russia are imperiled; 3) the human rights situation in Russia is not good, with political opponents of the regime subject to routine harassment, arrest, and in a few cases political violence; 4) Russia under Putin has been willing to use various instruments of coercive diplomacy, from outright military force (Georgia and Ukraine) to wielding cyber and propaganda weapons (Estonia, Ukraine, and the United States).

But even with these stipulations, there remains a yawning gap between the apocalyptic rhetoric about the Russian threat and the reality of the domestic regime and foreign policy behavior of contemporary Russia. Moreover, many of the recommendations that those hyping this threat bruit about are in fact precisely the sorts of steps that strangled the baby of Russian democracy in its cradle and today threaten to turn an increasingly frosty peace into a hot war.

Consider the domestic political situation in Moscow. It is true that Russia has become an oligarchy dominated by President Vladimir Putin and bolstered by his former security service colleagues and nouveau riche crony capitalists. Political participation is constricted and opponents of the regime are regularly harassed, sometimes jailed, and on occasion killed. On the other hand, Russia is no longer the totalitarian state that the Soviet Union was under Josef Stalin. Communism killed millions during the Soviet period; lethal political violence in Putin’s Russia is deplorable but relatively rare, the murders of a few journalists, political opponents, and defectors notwithstanding [1].

And while political association in Russia is increasingly constrained, other forms of association remain vibrant. Two examples, one profane, one sacred. As the recent World Cup demonstrated, social freedom, for Russians and foreigners, remains vibrant. And while one would hardly call Russia religiously ecumenical, the role of the Orthodox Church in Russian society has grown dramatically.

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Russia has employed military force against its neighbors twice in recent years. In 2008, it fought a short but sharp war against the former soviet republic of Georgia, and in 2014 it seized the Crimean Peninsula in a largely bloodless occupation and then ratcheted up a proxy rebellion of pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine.

Two points to keep in mind here: first, in both cases, Russian moves were not unprovoked bolts from the blue. Rather, they were responses—albeit excessive and illegal—to efforts by NATO and the European Union to draw former Soviet republics further into the West’s orbit. Second, Russian aims were limited and showed little indication of being the first shots in a longer campaign to recreate the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact, whether by blood, iron, or electrons.

For many Americans, U.S.-Russian history begins in 2014 with the Ukraine crisis and reaches its nadir in 2016 with Russian meddling in our presidential election. But Russians have an alternative chronology of the conflict. It begins in 1990 with discussions between the George H.W. Bush administration and the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev over the unification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev believed, and recent historiography confirms [2], that he received verbal promises that if there was a unified Germany, NATO would not expand. Yet despite a decade of warnings from Russian democrats against doing so, starting in 1999, the first of five waves of NATO expansion rolled through. Vladimir Putin rode a counter-wave of anti-Western nationalism to power in Moscow. The Russian narrative continues by highlighting Western support for the various pro-Western Color Revolutions in the former Soviet republics.

From Moscow’s perspective, the events in Kiev in late 2013 and 2014, in which the pro-Russian but democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted before the next round of elections, looked suspiciously like a Western-backed coup. The fact that a U.S. State Department official, Victoria Nuland, was cheering the Maidan rebellion on from the streets (while serving tea and cookies) certainly smacks of American election meddling.

Putin’s fraught relationship with Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, was not helped by the American envoy’s relationship with members of the political opposition in Moscow. Putin critics in America would distinguish between wishing democratic reformers well (what we do) and trying to influence a democratic election process (what the Russians do), but those outside the United States who recall numerous instances of American meddling in elections and overthrowing democratically elected governments no doubt wish a pox on both our houses.

Neoconservative pundit Max Boot’s recent  [3]Washington Post column notwithstanding, there is no solid evidence that Russian cyber vandalism actually mattered in terms of the outcome of the election. If it did matter, it did so simply by revealing the ugly truth that the Wikileaks emails were not fake news but rather a raw and unfiltered peek into the Democratic National Committee’s Tammany Hall efforts to put a thumb on the primary scale in favor of Hillary Clinton, as Putin snarkily pointed out in Helsinki.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Putin’s motives are as malign as Russia hawks on both sides of the American political aisle fear. How much of a threat is the angry Bear today?

The Russian Army’s performance in Crimea in 2014 was an improvement over the ugly win over Georgia in 2008. That assessment, though, is damning with faint praise. True, Russian troops were well-equipped, disciplined, and not obviously drunk, but they also faced no organized armed resistance and were operating in an area where the majority of the population supported them.

More importantly, Crimea hardly constitutes evidence that Russian forces would be eager to take on states with more hostile populations (the Baltic States and Poland, for example). It is one thing to prod neighbors by using denial of service attacks or aiding local separatists; it is quite another to risk yet another defeat by a small but determined neighbor such as what the much more powerful Soviet Union suffered in the Russo-Polish and Russo-Finnish wars.

The recent kerfuffle at the NATO summit about allied burden sharing and President Trump’s recurrent ruminations on our alliances’ relevance have Atlanticists hyperventilating about the threat from a resurgent and revanchist Russia, especially if the United States no longer has Europe’s back. That, of course, assumes that in an earlier era, Washington really was willing to trade Chicago for Bonn. More importantly, today, when you look at the most important indices of latent and actual military power, NATO even without Uncle Sam’s muscle is hardly outgunned. Indeed, it has advantages [4] in population (more than four to one), GDP (14 to one), defense spending (more than five to one), tanks (more than two to one), warships (four to one), and combat aircraft (two to one).

The only category in which the Europeans are at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Russians is nuclear weapons (.11 to one). But recent scholarship has shown [5] that even a large advantage in nukes does not translate into coercive leverage. For example, just a handful of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis offset massive U.S. nuclear superiority [6] and led President Kennedy to try to end the crisis through diplomacy rather than combat.  

President Putin’s recent press conference [7] in which he revealed—mostly through animations and simulations—a new generation of Russian nuclear weapons garnered much breathless press attention. What was lost in the media chatter is the fact that the United States’ Cold War legacy nuclear arsenal is capable in the eyes of many analysts [8] of executing a splendid first strike against Russia’s decrepit strategic force. I would not go as far as these analysts who suggest we “wouldn’t get our hair mussed [9]” in “nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Russkies [10],” but their assessment does highlight how much the nuclear imbalance favors the West. Keep in mind, too, that President Obama announced a $1 trillion nuclear modernization program [11] to maintain our advantage before Putin did.

Despite President Trump’s chummy summit with Putin in Helsinki, something is rotten in the Kremlin. The West is right to regard Putin’s Russia as a strategic problem to be managed. But we should not lose sight of the fact that even the authoritarian regime occupying the Kremlin today is a far cry from the totalitarian and mass-murderous governments of the Soviet period. Moreover, while Russian behavior in recent years hardly merits the Nobel Peace Prize, it is also not surprising given Western actions and the dynamics of great power politics. Finally, NATO Europe, even without direct American participation, is fully capable of defending itself against a bumptious but much diminished Russian Bear.

Michael C. Desch is professor of Political Science and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center.

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "The Much Diminished Russian Bear"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 27, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

Didn’t bother to read past the nonsensical first paragraph… The academy sure is irrelevant these days.

#2 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On July 27, 2018 @ 2:33 pm

ok then. more ‘disruptive’ less ‘menace’. are we to ignore externally produced disruptions? gee, if we only had a Department responsible for “defending” us from foreign threats? Better yet, an Agency responsible for National Security? How about a different Centrally positioned Agency tasked with compiling and analyzing Intelligence? No wait, why don’t we have a Federal Bureau whose main role to INVESTIGATE criminal actions both domestic and abroad? that’s right, Virginia, there are “witches” beyond are borders (and they’re not in Central America), as there are “deep state actors” who seek to ‘disrupt’ life in the good ‘ol USA. while it is prudent and judicious to establish a sliding scale of “threats” from the disruptive to the menacing; to ignore or dismiss any threat based on partisan political ambition, or even worse, emotional/psychological immaturity/insecurity is perhaps a greater threat.

#3 Comment By TJ Martin On July 27, 2018 @ 2:55 pm

Your logic , analogies and overall line of thinking are about 40 years out of date therefore both erroneous and irrelevant in regards to the present and Putin specifically . Suffice it to say this is a brave new world where even a diminished player has more power at his or her fingertips than the most powerful during the Cold War .

And the simple fact is .. Putin is anything but diminished . If anything he grows stronger and bolder by the day … because in no small part … we’re letting him .

#4 Comment By Greg On July 27, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

“Any assessment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia needs to stipulate that…”

Why? What if some or all of this interpretation is inaccurate at best?

#5 Comment By SteveM On July 27, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

Re: “Putin might be loud and disruptive”

Michael Desch must see a Khrushchev stereotype in every Russian politician. Vladimir Putin is anything but loud and disruptive. He is an intrinsic introvert who never raises his voice, but will rise to Western baiting in measured tones.

Putin is a nationalist, but he is also one of the most effective politicians of his generation. His mastery of content and scope of knowledge surpasses almost all of the shallow political hacks in Washington. Putin will take questions for hours when many U.S. politicians are tongue tied unless tethered to tele-prompters.

Re: “True, Russian troops were well-equipped, disciplined, and not obviously drunk, but they also faced no organized armed resistance and were operating in an area where the majority of the population supported them.”

And Dr. Desch continues the stereotype of Russia the backward gas station saturated with drunks. How did the those shiftless alcoholics manage so successfully in Syria? Or develop those weapons systems that have eclipsed American technology?

#6 Comment By JR On July 27, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

Clueless author clearly doesn’t even know that what under MAD is defined as a ‘First Strike Capability’. Just try it and you will realize that the US has no such ‘First Strike Capability’ because the return will still nearly totally devastate the US. The new Russian weapons are designed to evade the US ABM systems on frigates and ‘Aegis on Shore’.
Still keeping up the myth that Russia attacked Georgia, while it was Georgia initiating the attack on a South Ossetia, which only had been part of an independent Georgia from 1918-1921.
White lie about Crimea of course omitting the US instigated coup in February 2014.
What a load of crap.

#7 Comment By LM On July 27, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

The US should look in the mirror. There are more threats to the future of the US coming from our own college campus’s than from Russia.

#8 Comment By skeptic On July 27, 2018 @ 6:32 pm

There is something stomach-churning about the mixture here of moral grand-standing and double-standards, on the one hand, and utterly cynical realpolitik on the other (“I would not go as far as these analysts who suggest we ‘wouldn’t get our hair mussed’ in ‘nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Russkies,’ etc.). Does one have to phrase one’s policy language in such self-flattering rhetoric if one wants to get a hearing in this exceptional nation?

#9 Comment By laninya On July 27, 2018 @ 7:12 pm

“loud and disruptive “?

You have actually never listened to this man speak, have you?

#10 Comment By fayez Abedaziz On July 27, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

Is the first paragraph a joke?
None of what was said there is true!
Insert the USA rather than Putin or Russia there and that is what is what is happening in America.
Who invaded Libya and Syria, slaughtering the people there? Illegally, Immorally.
Why, it’s your fine nation/guv’ment/military you dishonest shallow ‘know it’s all!’
Who overthrew the government in Ukraine?
The USA!
How ’bout that!
Who committed and does still, torture and bombings across the world?
Don’t tell me…okay it’s the USA! You coulda also have read someplace, y’all that…surprise, Putin was elected!
And stateside here, elections are lobbies/$$$
and demonstrators are restricted and they’re pictures are taken and all phones, computers,etc are spied on and oh, did I mention that thugs are running the policing agencies that separate little children from their parents and put them in camps? Are you people insane? Ah, the American public, getting meaner and dumber all the time.
You who support America’s wars against nations and cruelty to immigrant families, as I just mentioned…make me sick, so shut up, read some history books not written by demented neo-cons. Then there are so many of you that just hafta believe that you are better than other people/religions/ nations.You’re not. Iraq,Afghanistan, Syria. Mass murder and yet many think that’s fine? Those three actions there should have Bush, Cheney, Hillary, Condoleezza Rice and the military brass dragged to criminal courts.
And, the USA owes those and several more nations $100 billion each for the huge damages and apologies. And that’s the minimum.
Reality ain’t always pretty. Ain’t that the truth. Dig it.

#11 Comment By Mark Krvavica On July 27, 2018 @ 7:59 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a jerk and I don’t wish him well, but the Cold War is over and Crimea isn’t worth another war, cold or not. As for U.S., we have been meddling in foreign elections since the late 1940s, we’re hardly in a position to complain about perceived interference from Putin in 2016.

#12 Comment By Youknowho On July 27, 2018 @ 8:54 pm

They may be weakened, but their ability to make trouble is undiminished, given their aptitude for cyberattacks

Just because a mosquitto is tiny does not mean that it cannot do a lot of damage as a disease vector

#13 Comment By pohzzer On July 27, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

A website that would publish such lying hypocritical dreck no longer deserves my attention.

Bye,

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 28, 2018 @ 1:27 am

“Any assessment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia needs to stipulate that: 1) he is a corrupt dictator sitting on top of a rotten kleptocracy; 2) political freedom and democracy in Russia are imperiled; 3) the human rights situation in Russia is not good, with political opponents of the regime subject to routine harassment, arrest, and in a few cases political violence; 4) Russia under Putin has been willing to use various instruments of coercive diplomacy, from outright military force (Georgia and Ukraine) to wielding cyber and propaganda weapons (Estonia, Ukraine, and the United States).”

Ohhh nonsense.

There are any number of methods to evaluate ant artifact.

good grief!

And to start out with such subjective references as the above lends one to cease reading because the evaluation are not so much evaluative properties as they are conclusions.

In fact, the conclusions you note don’t have anything to do with much of the content which is a discussion of Russia’s strategic military capabilities.

Which does not address Russia massive size, compared to that of the US. a size that matters even when considering nuclear strike capabilities.

The best way to deal with Pres Putin is first to acknowledge he is a shrewd player and prudent Second that he managed to survive the Soviet Transition, even as a KGB member, to be elected president of Russia more than once, no small feat this. Third, he has outmaneuvered, and out played our president’s to a one, despite the last tossing him under the bus to score points at home. Fourth, President Putin has actually been playing the card of diplomat more than military force. his comments concerning military capability were in response to our us e of force and threat of force in Syria.

There may be some time when war with Russia or china will be a a must. But that time does not appear to be in the immediate, and the tiresome warmongering about it is old hat.

And just for the record, should nuclear war be the case — even conventional war — i suspect that the US is going to experience far more severe than mussed hair.

#15 Comment By VG1959 On July 28, 2018 @ 3:47 am

It doesn’t matter what Russia is today, it is the Russia Putin wants for tomorrow. The resurrection of the old Czarist/Soviet empire and reestablishment of the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe.

It is in the pursuit of empire that Putin, like Napoleon or Hitler before him, threatens the stability of Europe and by extension world peace.

#16 Comment By Ioannis Andris On July 28, 2018 @ 4:13 am

A lot of factual errors in this piece but I will focus on the author’s assessment of Russia’s “decrepit” nuclear arsenal.

Russia-even in the dark days of the 90s-did everything possible to maintain and modernize its strategic forces, resulting in a state-of-the art force regarding all aspects of the nuclear triad. In fact, the new weapons Putin showcased recently have no analogue in the US arsenal (that is not saying US cannot build equivalent or better systems but it will take it a decade or so to catch up).

Concerning the overall state of Russian military capabilities, neither the South Ossetian (Georgia) war of 2008 or the bloodless Crimea operation are reliable indicators, but the largely successful Syrian campaign where Russian forces have fought continuously for almost 3 years is.

#17 Comment By Realist On July 28, 2018 @ 5:14 am

I agree with Fred.

#18 Comment By Winston On July 28, 2018 @ 10:00 am

GDPs (2017):

California – $2.751 trillion
Texas – $1.707 trillion
Russia – $1.578 trillion

#19 Comment By Michael Kenny On July 28, 2018 @ 10:59 am

One day we’re told that the US better not dare stand up to Russia because Putin’s mighty and irresistible hordes would whip the socks of the “much diminished” US military. The next day we’re told that it is Russia that is “much diminished” and the US doesn’t need to stand up to Putin because his military is no threat to the US! Conveniently (too conveniently!), both arguments lead to the conclusion that Putin should be allowed to win in Ukraine.

#20 Comment By Alexis TK27 On July 28, 2018 @ 1:33 pm

A lot of good things in this text, but I want to draw attention to massive and dangerous error of imagining a US «first strike» on Russia would have any chance of success.

The short version is that Lieber and Press, authors of 2006 piece «the end of MAD», have no military, scientific nor engineering qualification. They are political analysts, and their text is full of errors.

#21 Comment By John Perry On July 28, 2018 @ 1:48 pm

“Vladimir Putin rode a counter-wave of anti-Western nationalism to power in Moscow.”

Uh, no. Putin came to power at a time when Russia seemed to be falling apart, quite literally. There was war in Chechnya, open criminal activity on the streets, and clear social decay. Putin’s popularity begins with his address to the nation after the bombing of the Moscow metro, promising that the government (which he did not then lead) would chase those responsible down and kill them, even if that meant chasing them into outhouses. The relationship between the bombing and Putin’s rise is so well-known that the conspiracy theorists who have Jay Nordlinger’s ear over at National Review claim that the bombing was a set up by Putin’s pals in the FSB, precisely to bring Putin to power.

My wife is Russian, from the city of Kazan in the Tatar Republic (part of Russia; it’s complicated), and when we were merely pen pals in 2003 she wrote me what it was like. It was bad, very bad. At one point her entire neighborhood was placed under curfew on account of open warfare between criminal gangs. And of course when we visit the cemetery today one sees the striking spike in tombstones whose date of death is at some point in the mid- to late 90’s, when it all seemed to be going to pieces and the government didn’t even pay its own employees for half a year.

Today, by contrast, Russians can walk the streets more or less without fear, count on a paycheck, read in the news how their country has sent yet another capsule of Western astronauts to the international space station (because Westerners haven’t been able to do that for the better part of a decade, thanks to Bush and Obama), and even find jobs in a successful tech sector (Kaspersky, JetBrains, Yandex, … the list goes on).

But, hey, if you want to fantasize that Putin’s rise is thanks to anti-Western sentiment, you go ahead and do that.

#22 Comment By John Perry On July 28, 2018 @ 1:53 pm

One other comment, if I may. I share the concern most Westerners have about Russia’s seizure of Crimea. But where is our concern about Turkey’s 40-plus-year occupation of northern Cyprus, also sparked by internal political disorder on the island? Why is it alright for a NATO country to invade another nation and prop up its separatists, expel the inhabitants of a disfavored ethnic group — in this case, the Greeks?

#23 Comment By Rodrigo Alvarez On July 28, 2018 @ 6:15 pm

Shame on TAC for publishing this garbage. For one, Putin more or less saved Russia as a sovereign state, it is easy to forget the sorry condition Russia was in at the turn of the century. Without him, Russia would’ve most likely been dismembered or simply colonized by the West and China. He has performed admirably in the face of massive odds. Russia will still exist in 100 years as the state of the Russian and other native people of its land – can the same be said of the United States? Russia is slowly climbing its way out of the pit of despair created by 80 years of Communism, the United States is crawling into the very same pit.

#24 Comment By Cynthia McLean On July 28, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

I am much more concerned that voter roll purges, suppression of the vote, Citizen’s United Dark Money and folks like the Kochs and Addelson are undermining US democracy than the Russians. As for the aggression of military machines around the world, the US wins hands down.

#25 Comment By Groucho On July 28, 2018 @ 6:37 pm

Like Fran my inclination was to bail after the first paragraph but I pushed on.

In the first paragraph Mr Desch lays out his position which is well within the bounds of polite discussion that Russia is a corrupt oligarchy but don’t worry because it’s an economic and military basketcase.

Where to start?

1. Corrupt kleptocracy. The Russian oligarchy/ mafia was a biproduct of the privatization binge that followed the collapse of the USSR. This evolved under the disastrous Yeltsin aided and abetted by US elites. The case of William Browder is instructive. Putin has taken significant measures to reassert government control and has greatly improved the lot of the average Russian.

2. Political freedom. Putin did not inherit a developed liberal democracy. Russia needs to be judged in the context of its own historical timeline in this regard not compared to western democracies. Do you prefer Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov? In contrast compare the state and trajectory of US democratic institutions to, say the 1970s.

3. Human rights. Again the situation in Russia vis a vis human rights needs to be judged in terms of Russia’s history not against Western nations with a long-standing tradition of human rights and political freedoms. That said, the illusion of political repression is largely overstated. For example Putin is routinely accused of murdering journalists but no real proof is ever offered. Instead, the statement is made again in this article as though it were self evident.

4. Foreign aggression. This is my favourite because it flies in the face of observable reality to the point of being ridiculous. Russia did not invade Ukraine. It provided support to ethnic Russians in Ukraine who rebelled after the illegal armed overthrow of the Russian leaning democratically elected president.That coup was directly supported by the United States. Far from ratcheting up tensions Russia has consistently pressed for the implementation of the Minsk accords. Putin is not interested in becoming responsible for the economic and political basket case which is Ukraine. The “largely bloodless” occupation of Crimea was actually a referendum in which the citizens of Crimea overwhelmingly supported annexation to Russia. Again This result makes sense in light of even a basic understanding of Russian history. Finally, in the case of Georgia Russia engaged after Georgia attacked what was essentially a Russian protectorate. This was the conclusion reached by an EU investigation.

Russia’s so-called aggressive foreign-policy has been primarily in response to NATOs continuous push eastward and the perceived need to defend ethnic Russians from corrupt ultranationalist governments in former republics of the USSR. This is what Putin was talking about when he called the dissolution of the USSR one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century – the fact that, overnight 20 million Russians found themselves living in foreign countries. It wasn’t about longing for a Russian empire.

As for the current state of Russias military capabilities, Mr Desch Would do well to read Pepe Escobar’s recent article in the Asia Times. Russian accomplishments in Syria illustrated a level of technology and strategic effectiveness that rivals anything the US can do. Name one other nation – other than the US – that can design and build a world class 6th generation fighter jet or develop its own space program. Even Germany can’t do that.

This silly article is proof, as if more was needed that what passes for Russia scholarship in the US is little more than politicized group-think.

#26 Comment By laninya On July 28, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

VG1959 says:
“It is in the pursuit of empire that Putin, like Napoleon or Hitler before him, threatens the stability of Europe and by extension world peace.”

Ah! ha!ha! Right.

Like… Russia with a population of 150 million persons inhabiting a land mass that stretches across 9 or 10 time zones, from the Arctic pole to the Black Sea is chafing for “lebensraum” !?

No, Russia just wants to develop what it already owns. And, trying to do it on the strength of their own efforts (no overseas colonies filling the coffers), on a GDP … as Winston, above, has pointed out … which is smaller than that some US states. They’re focussed, not on grabbing tiny, constipated territories like Estonia. Latvia, and Lithuania (full of Nazi sympathizers), but on bringing back to life those ancient trade routes which are their inheritance from the past (the Silk Road, primarily).

Why not just leave them alone and see what they can do? Those who have been relentlessly picking fault with Russia (and North Korea) might want to put down their megaphones and start taking notes.

What I mean is: pause for a moment to consider that:

1. Russia has risen from utter economic, political, and societal collapse (gold reserves, factories, military secrets, science labs … stripped bare and shipped or brain-drained out of the country; millions of pre-mature deaths; plunging birth rates) to recover, within a mere 20 years, to the point where the population has stabilized and the nation can credibly hold its own again on the world stage. Infrastructure is being rebuilt and modernized, the military has been restructured and re-equipped, pensions and salaries have risen 3 or 4-fold.

2. North Korea, in 1953, had been so destroyed by war that no structures over a single story were left standing (and American generals were actually barfing into their helmets at the horror of what had been done to those people). The DPRK authorities, helpless to assist the population, could only advise to dig shelters underground to survive the winter. Yet, 70 years later, under international sanctions designed to starve those traumatized people into surrender, North Korea has restored its infrastructure, built modern cities, and developed a military apparatus able to credibly resist constant threats from abroad.

See: rather than picking nits to find things that are not yet perfectly hunky-dory with the governing structures/systems in those countries, I’m taking notes!!

Because, I’m convinced that if those people (those nations) were able to do what they’ve done with the time and resources they’ve had to work with, there is absolutely no reason and no excuse for our rich nations of “the West” to be caught in a nightmare of austerity budgeting, crumbling infrastructure, collapsing pensions, and spiralling debt.

Funny how the English speaking world SO resisst learning something that could actually do us a whole lot of good. I don’t know who coined the terms “stiffnecked” and “bloodyminded”, but it sure describes us!

#27 Comment By connecticut farmer On July 29, 2018 @ 12:43 pm

“From Moscow’s perspective, the events in Kiev in late 2013 and 2014…looked suspiciously like a Western-backed coup.”

Gee, ya think? Kinda reminds one of the 1996 Russian election. But, hey, don’t broadcast this because, after all, too many people might start, er, noticing.

#28 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 29, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

“They may be weakened, but their ability to make trouble is undiminished, given their aptitude for cyberattacks.”

And if you have evidence that Russia so engaged, the FBI has a place for you.

#29 Comment By Janek On July 29, 2018 @ 6:52 pm

Oh! Well, the comments to this article by Michael C. Desch one could call the ‘virtual carpet bombing’ of the America and the neoliberal/neocon paradise that America became. I wonder where are the brave Americans so called patriots? Hiding in their underground bunkers? Are you Americans completely and totally brain washed and brain dead? It looks like that you are only brave when picking up on the Central Europe and Baltic States.

#30 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 30, 2018 @ 4:00 pm

“And if you have evidence that Russia so engaged, the FBI has a place for you.”

Even if you don’t.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 31, 2018 @ 3:39 am

“Are you Americans completely and totally brain washed and brain dead?”

You are still itching for a fight with Russia. For the life of me, I don’t yet understand why.

#32 Comment By An American veteran On July 31, 2018 @ 5:01 pm

I cannot for the life of me believe than anybody but a card-carrying neocon would ever submit to the author’s ‘stipulations’, thus rendering any conclusions based on the following speculations, worthless. But I would be willing to stipulate to the inference taken from the lede; that any fear of Russia’s military is wholly overblown in order to justify unjustifiable American weapons purchases and sales.

#33 Comment By amx Usted On July 31, 2018 @ 8:20 pm

Every time the western part of the European continent has been unified under one banner (Napoleon, Hitler, the current US vassal EU state) that empire has marched into Russia. It’s logical, given the geography of that part of the world.

Right now, Russia is very right to take extreme caution against the *totally insane* and gross US provocations, which threaten the entire world.

Also many across Europe will likely look to Russia for cultural leadership, this given the totally depraved, idiotic and frankly disgusting anti-white genocidal, racist dross coming out of American universities. Russia has so many opportunities arising out of American debauchery, degeneracy and particularly out of the grotesque Political Correctness US empire religion.

#34 Comment By Marshall Carter On August 1, 2018 @ 11:10 am

Russia did not “seize” Crimea. When the elected government was overthrown in 2014, with help from the US, and its neo-Nazi connections became clear, the citizens of Crimea voted in an election attended by international observers to return to Russia. (Crimea was part of Russia until Krushchev, who was of Ukrainean origin, handed it to Ukraine in the 50s.) Russian military forces were in Crimea under an agreement with Ukraine. Russia of course was concerned about the possible loss of its only warm-water port, which may well have been part of the reason why the US was so anxious to remove a government even slightly friendly to Russia.