Each and every one of us wishes to be valued and respected, and some of us don’t care with what means this is achieved. This can be done with someone’s actions and attitude towards others, or instead by using intimidation and threats. In the first case, the respect gained is long-lasting, while in the second case the respect lasts only while the person holds power and influence. When their power is gone, people’s attitudes change.
This is the case not only with individuals, for instance, a scientist or an artist is respected because of the work they have done, therefore people listen to them, or a criminal who uses intimidation and brute force to make people listen to him. This applies to nations as well – some gain respect because of the achievements of their scientists, athletes and artists, while some do the same by showing off their weapons and staging displays of power for their neighbors.
Of course, it’s crucial for a nation to ensure its safety, but this can also be done without boasting, which most of the time is just empty noise. Regardless, headlines in Russian media outlets are staggering – for example, “UK is scared of Russia’s terrifying missile”. The article cites the British newspaper Express that called Russia’s RS-28 “Sarmat” ICBM “terrifying” and added that the missile can be fitted with ten thermonuclear warheads capable of destroying areas the size of France.1
I was slightly surprised when I saw this article, so I looked for the original source. I didn’t find the article in Express, so I tried a search engine, and there were indeed articles that contained both “Sarmat” and “France”2 but they were published between 2016 and 2018. In addition, the only article that mentioned that the Russian nuclear weapon is capable of destroying an area the size of France was an article from 11 May 2016.
Interestingly, the article I mentioned previously was published very recently – on 4 January 2021, and in the article the Brits are citing Russian officials. However, now Russian media outlets are republishing this article and presenting it as something new and as something that the Brits have said. This is classic information warfare, but this time against Russia’s own people – to evoke patriotic feelings.
What concerns Russia’s attempts to “raise its prestige” by citing foreign publications, there is one notable peculiarity. Russia doesn’t cite the exact article, but instead the media outlet that published it. This can be compared with citing your national library as a source.
Next example: on 10 January 2021 the regime’s news site ria.ru published an article titled “National Interest evaluates the power of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal”.3 In order to show you how Russia manipulates information, I will provide you with the Russian version of the article and the original article as well.
So, Russian media wrote: “По его словам, широко распространено мнение, будто у России есть от трех до шести тысяч ядерных боеголовок — то есть меньше, чем у СССР. Однако это не так: у России больше всего тактических ядерных боеголовок в мире.”
But the original text was: “The Russian Federation is widely believed to possess around 3,000 to 6,000 tactical nuclear warheads; that number is significantly down from its Soviet predecessor, which owned at least 13,000 and as many as 22,000 tactical warheads by the end of the Cold War in 1991. But Russia continues to have the most tactical nuclear warheads in the world, and there are no signs that this will change anytime soon.”
There are significant differences between both articles. The original article names the approximate number of warheads in Russia’s possession by comparing it to the number of warheads the USSR had (which had a lot more) but adds that regardless Russia currently has the most warheads of any nation in the world. The article in Russian, however, says that: “It’s widely believed that Russia has 3,000 to 6,000 warheads, which is less than the USSR had, but this is not true: Russia has the most warheads of any nation in the world.”
The article in Russia manipulates the information to create the impression that Russia isn’t doing worse that the USSR.
Let’s return to the RS-28 “Sarmat” missile. I will cite only the information published by Russian media outlets regarding the testing and commissioning of the missile.
On 10 August 2016, it was reported that mass deliveries of the missiles to military units will begin in 2018-2019.4 On 7 September of the same year, it was said that flight tests of the missile will begin in 2018 and mass deliveries to military units will take place no later than in 2019.5 We can see that already after a month the deliveries were postponed by a year. On 2 January 2021, it was announced that the deliveries of Sarmat missiles to military units will begin in 2021. Will this indeed be the case – no one is able to answer this question. Russia loves to boast, but it seems that that’s the only thing it’s capable of.
Some might say – it’s no easy task to develop and build a missile. I agree, but is this the first case when Russia officially says that a weapon will be delivered very soon and then postpones the date of deliveries several times? If it’s only one such case – no problem; however, when this becomes a trend it’s impossible not to look at it like its empty boasting.
Let’s look at the T-14 “Armata” tanks. In 2016, it was reported that the army is to receive 70 mass-produced tanks by 2020.6 On 21 August 2018, information appeared that in 2018 the army had already ordered 100 tanks.7 And in 2019, an article was published titled “The dates are set – Armata ison its way to units”. The article informed that the first batch of tanks will be delivered to the army in late 2019 or early 2020.8
As you have probably guessed, the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 have passed, however on 2 January 2021 an article appears informing what armaments the army is to receive in 2021, and it’s stated that the Russian Ministry of Defense may commission the T-14 “Armata” tank.9 Do you see the difference? If initially there were talks of a particular number of T-14 deliveries to military units, now it’s stated that the tank only may be commissioned. How could there have been mass deliveries in the previous years, if the tank hasn’t even been commissioned yet?
Okay, perhaps the situation with the T-14, just as with the “Sarmat”, is an exception. Let’s continue.
It was announced that by the end of 2020 the Russian Navy will receive the Borei-class submarine Knyaz Oleg.10 Of course, this didn’t happen. What concerns this particular project, Russia has even stopped giving any particular dates, only saying that the Navy may receive the submarine in 2021.11
What can we conclude from all this? First, Russia eagerly tries to maintain the myth of its greatness in the media. Second, Russia’s announcements, especially when looked at over a longer period of time, reveal that it’s military production capabilities are significantly lower than what it tries to paint with its political announcements.
Therefore, the respect I mentioned in the beginning of the articles is earned by Russia using lies. Russia wants to be perceived as great and powerful, it wants everyone to be afraid of it, but in reality… Some of you might again argue that I’ve looked at complex large-scale armaments that aren’t that easy to produce. It’s possible, but let’s remember how Putin himself said that Russia won’t be able to produce the required number of its own vaccines due to the lack of equipment.12 All of this just proves that Russia’s production as a whole – not only military production – has collapsed, which will only lead to the collapse of Putin’s Russia. It’s the same when you cover an old, run-down building with a pretty poster.