The Russian Military and the New Cold War

In 2013, the U.S. military budget fell by 15% while the military budget of the Putin dictatorship in Russia is expected to soar nearly 60% from 2012 to 2015. But according to Putin's English-language propaganda mouthpiece "Russia Beyond the Headlines," it's "dishonest" to be worried about this fact, as the prestigious Institute for Strategic Studies in London has been doing recently.

Dishonest? Takes one to know one. The dishonesty of RBTH is really breathtaking on this issue, nothing but shameless propaganda designed to lull the West into complacency as Putin ratchets up the intensity of the new cold war.

In its "analysis" of Russian spending, by staff writer Vitaly Litovkin, RBTH points out that in raw dollars Russia is still spending a fraction of what the U.S., China, U.K., or France are laying out on weapons each year, standing fifth on the list of annual military expenditures. But it forgets to mention that Russia isn't fifth of the list of world economies, it is tenth. Japan, Germany, Brazil, Italy, and India all have economies that match or exceed Russia's in size, yet all spend substantially less on weapons than Russia does. Not a single word is said about this fact in RBTH's distorted pseudo-reporting.

Incomprehensibly, RBTH states that Russia's defense budget for 2013 will be "$55-60 billion" without explaining why it can't give an exact figure as it does for the other countries. Nowhere in its "analysis" does it give the figures for the percentage increase of the Russian military budget in 2013 or the raw dollars it will be adding, instead attempting to deceive and mislead its readers by focusing on the fact that there are four countries in the world who will still be spending more than Russia.

RBTH doesn't mention that the U.S. economy is more than seven times larger than Russia's, or that China's economy is more than three times larger, or that the economies of the UK and France are 50% larger than Russia. It doesn't mention that Russia is spending roughly the same share of GDP on defense that the USA is spending, about 3%, although Russia doesn't have extra money to spend on the military the way the U.S. does, because for example the U.S. ranks #40 in the world for life expectancy of its citizens while Russia ranks a miserable 130.

This is, in other words, the same sort of bizarre "reasoning" that was relied upon by the USSR to justify its malignant activities. Apparently, the Kremlin still believes the West is packed with suckers who can be easily duped by such tactics.

But no matter how RBTH tries to hide it, the fact is that Putin plans to increase the size of Russia's military budget from $61 billion last year to a stunning $97 billion in 2015 even as the budgets of the NATO countries are declining. A similar increase had been announced in 2010, when Russia's military budget was just $42 billion. In other words, it is expected that Putin will have more than doubled the size of the Russian military budget in the course of just five years, increased it by half in just three. RBTH doesn't report these facts, it hides them.

Having dishonestly misled its readers about nature of Russian military spending, RBTH then jumps the rails into outright incoherence. In one of the most astoundingly bizarre statements about Russia I've ever seen in print, RBTH writes:

The Russian army defeated the Georgian troops mainly thanks to its courage and fortitude, rather than advanced military equipment. It was only after those events that 20 trillion rubles ($700 billion) were allocated in 2011 for re-armament of the army and navy over the next 10 years. Once again: over 10 years. 1.3 trillion rubles was allocated in 2011, some 1.4 trillion in 2012, and 1.5 trillion in 2013, as was planned.

Just. Wow.

First of all, 20 trillion rubles are not worth $700 billion but rather $632.4 billion at the current exchange rate of 0.03162 rubles to the dollar.

Second, as noted above the author himself admits that Russia's military budget in 2013 was "$55-60 billion." But 1.5 trillion rubles isn't "$55-60 billion" it's just under $41 billion at the current exchange rate. What mysteriously happened to the other third of Russia's 2013 military budget? RBTH doesn't care to say.

Third, is the author seriously suggesting that Russia, a nation of 140 million people with a GDP of nearly $2 trillion could only defeat Georgia, a nation of 4.4 million people with a GDP of $73 billion, through "courage and fortitude"? Georgia spends less than $1 billion on its military, while Russia spends over $60 billion. Is RBTH really suggesting that but for extreme heroism Russia would have lost its 2008 war with tiny Georgia? Is it really possible the Kremlin still believes it can get away with telling whoppers this brazen and outrageous?

And does the author really not see that Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia and annexation of its territory in Ossetia and Abkhazia is more than enough reason for the NATO to worry about massive increases in Russia's military budget while their own budgets are in decline?

Finally, the author seems to be suggesting (although he certainly doesn't say so) that Russia will not spend more than $633 billion on its military forces between 2011 and 2021, in other words that while it may be engaged in radical increases in the short term in the long term such increases will plateau and stop. But the Kremlin's own wire service, as noted above has reported that this simply can't be true. Even if Russia's military spending plateaus at $97 billion in 2015, in just the period between then and 2021 Russia would spend well over $633 billion. To maintain a $633 billion cap, Russia's defense spending would have to radically decline after 2015 and there's not a shred of evidence that is planned.

In other words, what RBTH printed was pure gibberish, clearly designed to confuse and mislead rather than inform.

In fact, no sources of any kind are cited by the author in labeling the world renowned Institute for Strategic Studies "dishonest" fear mongers. RBTH doesn't even try to look at both sides of the issue of Russian military spending soaring while spending in the West declines, not from the perspective of potential Russian aggression and not from the perspective of squandered resources in a country that is a demographic nightmare on every front. A twenty-year-old Russian male has just a 63% chance of reaching age 60, while his counterpart in the EU has a 90% chance of doing so. Yet Russia maintains universal conscription (nearly a quarter million draft-age Russians will dodge service this year) and its military spending is soaring? A person who really cared about Russia would find at least one sentence to remark upon this fact.

This same exact policy is what drove the USSR to bankruptcy and collapse. The USSR insisted on devoting vast sums to weapons and ignoring the critical needs of its population in an unsustainable manner, and Russia, led by a proud KGB spy who views the collapse of the USSR as a tragedy, is doing the same.

RBTH, you see, doesn't care about Russia or about its citizens. RBTH cares about its masters in the Kremlin, who pay its bills, who fund a weekly color insert in the New York Times and other western media giants where RBTH can seek to pass off its propaganda as journalism. So all it wants to do when the Kremlin's dangerously aggressive policies are exposed is to attack those who report it by any means possible.

Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.

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