Russia, China: The Torpedoes Circle Back
The situation in Ukraine is like the fate of the USS Tang, a submarine in WW2 with an exemplary record in sinking Japanese ships before she was sunk by one of her own torpedoes that had circled back on her. The tale was told by the nine survivors.
Sometime in the late 1960s, the Soviet Union embarked on a long term influence operation in the United States. Through their ties to US communists they knew of the existance of the young Barack Obama. The Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 but the torpedo they had fired at American values stayed on course and duly started doing damage once he was elected president in 2008, possibly 40 years after the scheme was hatched.
The damage included making American institutions far more progressive. The State Department, to cite one example, became more progressive and adopted regime change as a way of remaking the world in its own image. The first fruit of that was changing out the pro-Russian regime in Ukraine, aided by the sniper of Maidan Square.
The election of President Trump didn’t slow things down much. For example in 2019 the Army Quadrennial Review Office commissioned the RAND Corporation to produce a report entitled Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground. The report is a discussion of “measures that would stress Russia’s military or economy”, causing the Russians to overspend on defence thus suppressing their domestic economy. It seems that the Army wanted to emulate the success of Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ progam in stressing the Soviet economy.
The problem is that while the Soviets did want to take over the world, the Russian state of the 21st century had more modest ambitions. On page 17 of the RAND report it is noted that:
Significantly, Russian leaders seem committed to keeping defense spending under about 5 percent of national GDP. If this is the case, then the United States will find
it hard to persuade Russia to substantially increase defense spending unless it convinces the Kremlin that new threats to Russian security demand a change to this policy.
A country that resiles from spending more than 5% of GDP on defense isn’t all that bellicose. Note that the RAND report was complaining about that and wanted Russia to waste money by building a bigger military. But the Russian heirachy has also read the RAND report and would have wondered why they were being baited. Russia is paranoid enough to begin with. As this sentence from page 4 of the RAND report notes:
Importantly, increasing Russian fear and anxiety are only instruments in encouraging Russia to overextend itself militarily or economically; they are not ends in and of themselves. In fact, a risk discussed throughout this report is that Russia could respond to certain U.S. measures in ways that harm the interests of the United States or its allies or in ways that reduce stability.
Hello to real world consequences!
Another couple of years pass and Obama’s team gets back together in the State Department. They resume tormenting the Bear. Just as the Chicoms see the existance of any democratic country on the planet as an existential threat, the progressives running the State Department see the existance of any country not worshipping at their gods of climate and gender fluidity as being an affront to their sensibilities.
Unfortunately Putin rose to the bait and we have entered a whole new world. The torpedo the Soviets launched in the early 1970s circled back on its creators. Without Obama, the State Department wouldn’t have become so progressive and could have lived with a country that didn’t want to spend more than 5% of GDP on defense.
That said, there are some nasty elements in the Russian hierarchy, right up to the top. Beyond things like the poisoning of the Skripals in the UK in 2018, Russian intelligence in 2016 arranged the murder of a Ukrainian electrician who had done maintenance work on military equipment in Georgia during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. This is an unnecessary level of nastiness and vindictiveness.
But if you want resentment, the current war in Ukraine has created plenty. Russia has discovered that it needs to spend a lot more to create an effective military that can defend their vast territory against everybody’s short term and long term threat: China. The oil price rise will provide the funds for that. Oil production in Russia is so heavily taxed that almost all the oil revenue increase will end up in their treasury.
There was a saying in the Soviet Union – If you are not stealing from the government, you are stealing from your own family. The Russians continued that tradition with the result being that their army was burdened by shoddy equipment and poor quality troops. The war in Ukraine may motivate them enough to get rid of corruption to achieve a quality increase without extra spending. As page 18 of the Rand report notes:
Corrupt and inefficient as the Russian defense industry might be, the cost-control problems afflicting U.S. defense procurement are so large that the Russians are often highly competitive on a cost-comparison basis.
Ideally, the State Department would have played nice with Russia to keep them onside when China attacks one of its neighbours in force. Or at least neutral. Now the Russians will be motivated to cause pain and suffering to the US and its allies during China’s war of choice, just out of spite. And the cost of the State Department’s meddling in Ukraine and Russia will be counted in US dead.
The Obama retreads in the Biden regime haven’t applied the lessons of history. But common idiom would have sufficed: Let sleeping dogs lie.
The lesson China is likely to take from the Ukraine war is that a small force with stand-off weapons can chew up a large invading force. China’s problem in invading Taiwan is that the result is binary; once the first shot is fired they have to win or they will lose, and losing might mean the end of the regime. The Chicoms may be reduced to invading Vietnam again as a rerun of their 1979 invasion, this time requiring Vietnam to give up their bases in the South China Sea in return for withdrawing. As in 1979, their forces could get chewed up and they could still claim it as a victory.
While the Russians had decades of peace before their Obama effort circled back on them, the Chicoms had only two years before Covid came back to them. In 2011, Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was able to alter the SARS virus so that it had a 15- to 20-fold increase in mutation rate. Since the late 2019 escape of the covid virus and Xi’s encouragement of its spread beyond China, Covid has mutated to become far more virulent and has landed back in China. Large numbers of people are now locked down and the Chicom economy has taken a hit. Not that we are weeping for them.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare