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Russia Not As Great A Threat As Depicted In Media, But Does Need Slap In Face – OpEd

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Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, couldn’t catch a break in America, even before the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Russian government had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails and had given them to Wikileaks for public release. After Putin’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in the Ukrainian and Syrian Civil Wars, the U.S. government and media long soured on the macho man.

Yes, Putin is an autocrat who snuffed out democracy in Russia and wants to regain some of Russia’s status in the world long after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Yet the U.S. government, the world champion of unneeded military interventions around the globe since World War II and currently running simultaneous wars in at least seven countries, has little room to talk. In fact, one doesn’t have to like Dictator Putin to make a reasonable argument that the U.S. expansion of a hostile military alliance—NATO—eastward right to the borders of the defeated and downtrodden Russia after the Cold War ended, led to the rise of the nationalist Putin in the first place and compelled him to salvage what he could of his traditional sphere of influence in Ukraine, Crimea, Moldova, and Georgia. As for Putin’s intervention in Syria, he is trying to rescue the even more despotic Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Russia’s only ally in the Middle East and a country not strategic to the United States.

However, generally, Russia is much weaker than its “resurgent” depiction by the American media, which is always willing to find a cartoonishly diabolical villain with which the United States can joust for global supremacy. The Russia has been severely affected by low oil prices—a mainstay of the Russian economy—and Western economic sanctions imposed because of Russian meddling in Ukraine and Crimea. For the first time in Putin’s long tenure as the Russian strongman, the country’s incomes are declining. Much of Putin’s increased bluster overseas might be explained as a distraction from Russia’s ills at home.

The long economic recession will lead to the substantial reduction of Russia’s defense spending by six percent annually for the next three years, at a time when U.S defense spending is beginning to needlessly increase again. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States already spends more than six times what Russia does on defense and more than what the next seven highest spending countries combined expend on their militaries—including China and Russia. Also, this vast advantage in American military spending has been cumulative ever since the end of the Cold War, leading to a widening advantage of the U.S. military over other militaries, including Russia’s.

Thus, although Putin has recently exhibited military bluster, it hides military and domestic weakness. For example, with much fanfare, Russia recently sent its single obsolete aircraft carrier (the United States has 10 powerful modern carriers)—the Admiral Kuznetsov—to the Syrian coast to help Assad in his civil war. Yet what was supposed to be an impressive show of force to show that Kremlin is back as a maritime power turned out to be a bit of an embarrassment, because the decrepit carrier, prone to breakdowns, had to be accompanied by an oceangoing tugboat in case of mechanical trouble. The New York Times lampooned the carrier as a “lumbering tub fit for the scrap heap,” “something of a lemon from the start,” and “known more as a threat to its crew than anything else.”

In the long term, Russia faces potential economic decline because of a demographic crisis—as its population ages rapidly. And all the grandiose talk about costly new Russian military bases in Egypt, Vietnam, and Cuba is likely to be a ghost ship that will crash on the shoals Russia’s money problems and the lukewarm response of host countries.

However, despite Russia’s weakness and the general exaggeration of that country’s threat to American security, the U.S. intelligence community believes that to attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election, Putin’s Russia was behind the audacious hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails and their subsequent distribution to Wikileaks. While Hillary Clinton had previously drawn Putin’s ire for criticizing a Russian election, and the United States has a history of meddling in other countries’ elections (which should stop), any foreign meddling in U.S. elections—critical to America’s system of government—needs to be quickly stanched. Fully defending the vast and decentralized American election system from attack is difficult, but such hacking can be deterred in the future by retaliating in kind on Russia’s computer systems with superior U.S. cyber attacking capabilities. For example, after the U.S. election is safely over, perhaps Moscow’s lights need to be turned off for a couple of days.

An aggressive U.S. posture toward Russia is unneeded—especially in areas not strategic to the United States, such as Crimea, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Syria—and, to counter a rising China, general U.S.-Russian relations should be improved, but U.S. elections are too important to the republic to allow Russia or any other country to feel that they can try to manipulate them without retaliation.

This article was published at and is reprinted with permission.


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Ivan Eland

Ivan Eland

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.

3 thoughts on “Russia Not As Great A Threat As Depicted In Media, But Does Need Slap In Face – OpEd

  • November 4, 2016 at 10:51 am
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    The title of the article is phony because no one will slap Russia in the face. US imperialism has lost all its wars and could not win even in Somalia. US imperialism just destroys hospitals, funeral gathering, universities, bridges, mosques, and the like and cannot take on any country with weapons and army. President Putin has been connected to political problems in the USA because Secretary Clinton is phony and has been losing ground to Mr. Trump. If she is asked about foreign policy she invokes President Putin to show that she is strong. If she is asked about the email issues, she brings Russia without providing answers to questions. She was even given questions of the presidential debates. But we all know she is phony. How do you expect an empire losing wars to be in charge of global affairs and to affect President Putin’s decisions? Currently, US imperialism has been trying to direct missiles against Russia from small peaceful European countries. This means in any provocation then these countries will be wiped out by Russia. So, where is the morality of US imperialism when it sacrifices these small countries for its own interests. Who cares about the recession whether it affects Russia’s military spending on defense, because Russia has the ability to destroy many countries in minutes. In USA, huge funds are spent because the Pentagon purchases phony and ineffective weapons at very high costs. For example, the Pentagon has paid a lot for F35, given its military ineffectiveness. That is, military spending is not efficient, and it looks like the spending on healthcare: more dollars for less services. Russia’s military power has not been exaggerated, and in effects it is more powerful than what US imperialism thinks.

    Reply
  • November 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm
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    The writer of this article seems to have no brain for the sake of impartiality and independence. He is blind towards ‘US military intervention’ and EXTREMELY PREJUDICED to Russia…may god give him some wisdom….

    Reply
  • November 5, 2016 at 8:29 am
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    Russia is not a threat to America. Instead, America is a threat to Russia.

    The US built up a phony story of the Russian threat mostly to hide that the real threat is that Russia is independent, has powerful weapons, has an economy that won’t implode because Russia can if it must produce all they need themselves. Russia is a threat because the Russians refuse to believe the American lies.

    Russia is a threat the same way China is a threat: the silk road integration of Eurasian markets works. And the EU is warming up to them. The TTIP, TPP, TISA don’t work, because they oblige countries to give up their sovereignty to US multi-national corporations. The pivot to Asia is faltering because the Philippines and Malaysia left the US and went to China. Simply put, they don’t want to fight the US war against China for US hegemony.

    Russia is a threat because it signed a defense treaty with Iran and will help China if attacked by the US.
    Russia is a threat because it has excellent diplomatic skills and will tilt India east, away from the US because India of course wants to be part of the silk road.

    Russia and China are a threat because the US hegemony is passé.
    Russia and China are threats because they de-dollarize.
    China is a threat because it has a larger and more vital trade than the US.

    None of these “threats” are justified causes for war. Hence the frantic attempt by the US to ensnare Russia into a war in either Ukraine or Syria. It won’t happen.

    Reply

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