No, Russia Is Not Preparing for War. She Simply Can’t
Enough already. Quit repeating this war-mongering neocon nonsense. Quit fretting about it. The rising panic about Putin’s supposed preparation for war is just another scare, no different from Ebola, the flu epidemic, or the imaginary terrorist training camps on American territory. (The only real terrorist training camps in the US are the police academies.) All these scares serve the attempts of the US government to increase its tyrannical power by using fear tactics. I have explained how fear tactics works in my article, “Terrorism: Biblical Analysis and Solutions.” So, quit succumbing to fear. Fear is suicidal.
For anyone who knows the mentality of Eastern European governments, and the mentality of dictatorial government – because history has given us enough examples – it is very clear that Russia is not preparing for war, and is not trying to start one. No, not because I believe in any inherent goodness of Putin and his government; far from it. The clear obvious reason is: Russia can’t fight a war now. She can’t even start it.
First of all, of course, if Russia was preparing for war, no one would have known it. Putin is not a modern type of political leader; he is your typical mid-20th century KGB apparatchik. He and his government think in clichés, within the same box all the socialist dictators of the 20th century thought. When it comes to war, one thing is sure for all of them: Dictators never announce they are starting a war until after the fact. They all perceive themselves weaker than their enemies, and they all rely on the element of surprise. That’s how Hitler started his wars. That’s how Japan attacked the United States, China, and the British and Dutch possessions in the Pacific. That’s how Stalin fought his wars against Finland and Poland. That’s how Brezhnev invaded Afghanistan. That’s how the Arab dictators attacked Israel several times. That’s how North Vietnam fought its war against South Vietnam. That’s how Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978, and how China invaded Vietnam in 1979 in response to that invasion. That’s how the Communist government in Angola broke several cease-fires with its rivals.
Take this from someone who has studied history: Dictators never declare wars until after they have started them. There are no warnings. No preliminary talks. No building up of tension. Dictators establish silence right before they start the war. Information smoke screen. What we see today is not a preparation for war on the Russian side. It is something else.
I have not been able to track where these rumors of war come from. Most probably they come from neo-conservatives circles in the US; the same circles who are constantly looking to justify America’s military intervention anywhere around the globe. Such rumors have been around for a couple of years, but this last wave of daily “warnings” seems to come from Mark Schneider’s National Institute for Public Policy, a neocon organization whose main policy is war drums banging. In August, Schneider took a regular report by intelligence officers mentioning some small-scale anti-nuclear construction around Moscow (dozens of bunkers), and made a mountain out of that molehill, declaring in his interpretation that “Russia is getting ready for a big war, assuming it will go nuclear, with them launching the first attack.” The level of dramatism doesn’t match the data in the report, but it does match the needs of the media in the US, so Schneider’s exaggeration got picked up and made a huge news.
I speak and read Russian as fluently as I speak and read English, and I follow many Russian-language media and blogs, and there is not a single confirmation in Russian that the Russian government is preparing for anything even close to a war. In fact, if anything, it seems Putin is carefully distancing himself from both the war in Ukraine and the debacle in Syria. Russians who read Western media usually joke about the scare campaign in the West. The Russian military has not moved to higher alert levels, and even the bloggers who try to play whistle-blowers against Putin’s government do not discern any realistic danger of Putin leading the country into a war. If anything, the nation is rather depressed because of the success of the economic sanctions, and because of the low prices of oil and gas. As I said in one of my podcasts, Russia has never been a real economy, she has always been a gigantic mining cartel where everything else in the economy besides oil and gas is simply like a convenience store in a mining town owned by the mining company: whether it makes profit or not doesn’t really matter, no one cares. So now that the mining cartel has lost revenues, the convenience store doesn’t have the revenue to fill its shelves, and everyone’s mood is down.
The Russian leaders are aware of this fundamental, structural weakness of their economy, and therefore their government structure. They are aware of another problem as well: the Russian military is completely unprepared for war. Russian military technologies have always been a step behind American technologies, well-attested in the fact that the Soviet government had two special departments (one part of the KGB and the other part of the GRU) specifically devoted to aggressively working to overcome the CoCom regulations and acquire or even steal technologies from the United States and their NATO allies. After 1991, this gap has only widened. While the Soviet Union and later Russia have been able to produce scores of theoretical scientists in many areas, they have not been able to follow up with a well-trained and entrepreneurial engineers’ class, crucial to technological progress. (That’s why in the 1980s, the Soviets could have the highest ratio of nuclear scientists per capita in the world while lacking nuclear engineers to man Chernobyl.) This has affected their military technologies as well. As recently as last year, the Russian failure in this area was attested by the failure of the their newest tank, Armata, supposed to be the latest word of Russian technologies, to even finish the parade on the Red Square in Moscow. Failures of Russian weaponry, like this one, are so common that they don’t even cause surprise for those who have a history of working with Russian technologies (like the author of this article). Until recently, the bulk of the Russian military consisted of conscripted troops; this, combined with the still lingering memories of the 1980s’ debacle in Afghanistan and the recent involvements of the Russian military in Georgia and Ukraine, makes for a troops’ morale low enough to discourage any government from any military venture.
Add to this the fact that despite its impressive size on the maps, population-wise, Russia is not the giant the Soviet Union once was. For most of its history between 1917 and 1991, the Soviet Union was the third most populous country in the world, reaching 293 million in 1991, right before its dissolution. (The US didn’t reach that number until 2005.) This made up for its lag in technological development, for the Soviet military had more than 4.5 million active personnel during the 1980s, plus over 90 million reserves of age between 18 and 27, making it the largest active army in the world. Only the troops stationed in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, facing the NATO troops in Western Europe, were between 400,000 and 500,000. (The army of East Germany itself numbered only 170,000 personnel.) The Soviet Union was, indeed, a military giant.
Nothing even remotely similar can be said about Russia. The dissolution of the Soviet Union left Russia with only 150 million population, and for two decades, the population numbers were declining. The economic legacy of the Soviet Union, and the inability of the Russian leaders to break free of their old Communist habits, decapitalized the Russian economy even further, even in times of high oil prices. (Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister of Russia for most of the 1990s, expressed the psychological inertia of the Russian leadership in his characteristic way: “No matter what social organization we try to create, the result is always a CPSU.”) Russia continued to bleed capital and brainpower for more than 20 years, and the Russian military shrank to levels of insignificance. As of now, Russia’s armed forces are down to less than 1 million active personnel, with only 2 million in reserve. Add to it the sorry state of the Russian economy, and add to it the significant lag in technological development, and the conclusion is obvious: Russia can’t even begin to prepare for any significant war. There are no economic resources for it, and there is no human reserve for it. Nor any political capital to energize that reserve.
And I don’t even need to go into the sensitive issue that the Russian government can’t even trust its own soldiers and officers. A well-concealed truth about WWII is that Hitler’s initial successes in the Barbarosa campaign were not due to the strength of the German military. Whole Soviet regiments surrendered at the very beginning of the war because they refused to fight for Stalin, and because they believed the Germans were there to liberate them. It was only after Russians realized that Hitler’s plan was their physical extermination that they started fighting in earnest. If Hitler had treated the conquered Russians slightly better, the Soviet Union would have ceased to exist in 1942.
Given that Russia of today is seriously outnumbered and outmatched militarily, the rumors about Russia’s preparation for a major war can’t come from any real state or actions of the Russian government or military. They can only come from neo-conservative warmongers in the US, ever eager to bang the drums of war and plunge the US in newer and newer military conflicts.
Ironically, though, such rumors also serve the agenda of the Russian government. Being mindful of its own weaknesses, both domestic and international, the elite in the Soviet Union has always tried to compensate for those weaknesses with propaganda, both at home and abroad. That propaganda always tried to project strength greater than what it is in reality, both at home and abroad. Achieving technological superiority proved to be impossible, but achieving propaganda superiority was much easier, and the Soviet Union mastered the art of propaganda to perfection. If you want to get a simple picture of the Soviet leadership of these years, imagine the little boy Xiri from The Gods Must Be Crazy II with a piece of wood on top of his head to scare away the hyena. Or the Wizard of Oz behind his screen.
With even fewer resources, a weaker military, and a widening gap in military technologies, modern Russian government needs an even larger propaganda piece of wood on top of its head. Putin’s macho pictures of himself are simply an imitation of Ronald Reagan of back in the 80s, whose stamina and personal strength at his advanced age scared the Soviet leaders to death. His bravado in foreign affairs is an imitation of Hitler of the 1930s, when the weaker German military created the image of invincibility, making superior armies like those of Britain and France retreat in disarray. His pretended “protection of persecuted Christians around the world” is the old Soviet tactics of encouraging the political opposition abroad against their government; the Russian government perceives American conservatives as political opposition to Obama as the political ruler of the US. At every step, and in every political act, the current Russian government simply uses old propaganda tactics of intimidation and disguise. And to those of us who know the modus operandi of the Soviet and Russian leadership, all this is a sign of weakness, not of strength. If the Russian leaders really perceived themselves as having the upper hand, they would have played weak, or would have been silent . . . until they struck. Their propaganda activity clearly shows they perceive themselves as the weaker side. They are not planning on war. Not any time soon.
Oh, yes, and there is no order for Russian government employees to bring their families back from the West. They know it is against the very ethos of the West to use non-combatants as hostages. Russians may be lacking in technology and military strength, but they know the Western mindset perfectly well.
Therefore, American Christians and conservatives in general should stop worrying about Russia, and about a supposed major military conflict between the US and Russia. Such “information” only serves the neocon circles in the US, in preparing the public opinion for yet another war, and another waste of tax money. Our real enemies today are not foreign; they are domestic. There are more enemies of America within the DC Beltway – both Republican and Democrats – than there are around the globe. That’s where real Americans need to shift their attention to. And their cross-hairs as well.