Saturday, February 23, 2008
Is Russia A Threat?
My last post highlights EU naivety about Russia, where MEPs often refer to Vladimir Putin as their 'partner'. As Gerard Batten MEP UKIP says (in the video clip in that post) in November 2007, Russia is hardly an appropriate partner for the EU, becoming, not a democracy as was until recently still hoped for, but a totalitarian dictatorship where 300 journalists have been murdered and political opponents are imprisoned. As a result the hoped for 'partner' is becoming something less than ideal.
The question then arises - is Russia becoming a threat?
That question breaks down into two parts - what capability for the military projection of power does Russia possess?
And second, how likely would Russia be to use what it has to gain geopolitical advantage?
A Swedish consultancy carried out a detailed survey of Russian military capability in 2005, showing how it had a conscript army capable of carrying out an internal or defensive role, combined with a professional army of about 150,000, which had the capability to be deployed on offensive operations anywhere on the Eurasian land mass.
The primary problem faced by the Russian military was to upgrade its weapons to a higher level, and in 2005 when the report was written, it was thought that it would take Russia about ten years to play catch-up to western standards of military equipment. In 2005, however, it was not foreseeable that Russia's income would rise as fast as it has done in the last three years with high energy prices. And it was possibly not expected that Russia would spend quite such a high proportion of its government income on 'defence' as it is doing. Russia is spending half of all its government revenues on its military capabilities, compared with a mere 1.8% in the UK.
Russia will be increasing its output of aircraft, it claims to around 5800 planes a year by 2025 or about 15% of world output, of which a significant share will be military in nature. While pilots were frequently unable to carry out meaningful exercises three years ago, due to lack of funds, this is now certainly not the case.
Liam Fox the Conservative Shadow Secretary For Defence wrote about Russia's growing military capability in The Times like this in July 2007 -
Two weeks ago Russia announced its intention to annex a 460,000-square mile portion of ice-covered Arctic. Scientists claim that the area, on which Russia has audaciously set its sights, may contain an estimated 10 billion tonnes of gas and oil deposits. While this ridiculous claim has no legitimate legal basis, the West must take threats like this from Russia seriously.
Russia is rivalling Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer and is estimated to have the world’s largest natural gas supplies with 1,680 trillion cubic feet - nearly twice the reserves in the next largest country, Iran. If military might and nuclear weapons formed the core of Soviet cold war power, Russian elites view its energy resources as the basis of its power now.
Russia has demonstrated that it will use its energy resources to promote a broader foreign policy agenda. This was illustrated when Russia reduced gas supplies to the Ukraine as part of a bilateral dispute and when it doubled the price of gas to Georgia in 2005.
Russia’s petrodollars are financing a $189 billion overhaul of its armed forces between now and 2015. They will purchase more than 1,000 new aircraft and helicopters, 4,000 new tanks and armoured vehicles and a new submarine fleet.
See the full article - Energy The New Cold War - HERE
When you think that the UK army has less than 400 main battle tanks, you realise that Russia' rearmament is aiming to create a military superpower. No doubt Russia's equipment will be of the latest and best specification, with costs of production, design etc being a small fraction of what they are in Britain.
Russia has always shown herself a highly technically capable nation when it comes to producing weapons or sending up space missions, and the amount of money being spent on weapons and their development by Russia now and in the next couple of years could well leave her able to carry out offensive campaigns by land, sea and air anywhere it wishes in the Eurasian land mass, even rivalling the firepower of the US Army, Navy and Air Force.
2008 is probably too soon for Russia to be able to carry out the kind of threat she is making to use military strength to ensure that her views over Kosovo are 'treated with respect', but somewhere between 2010 and 2015, the threat from Russian military power and Russia's ability to challenge NATO will become very real.
WILL RUSSIA ACT AS AN AGGRESSOR?
It is hard to make such a prediction, but there would be little point in developing such awesome military power unless it was to be used either for military purposes, attack or defence, or in the support of games of brinkmanship.
For example, from comments made this week by the Russian Ambassador to the UN threatening that military action would be taken to back up Russia's position as regards Kosovo, if these forces had already been available for Russia to deploy, one could imagine that the temptation of hitting back against the EU, and in support of Serbia in some way, would have been irresistible.
The EU has precious few military resources at its disposal. Those it does have are supplied by countries which have shown a remarkable unwillingness to incur casualties. France and Germany, for example will not permit their troops in Afghanistan to be sent into the more dangerous areas like Kandahar or Helmand. There is going to be a huge imbalance of military power and willingness to use it between the EU and Russia in a few short years. In any negotiation over territory or resources it seems almost inevitable that Russia will use the leverage that a powerful military will bestow on them, to the disadvantage of the EU and the US, if they allow Russia to do so.
Russia feels humiliated by the loss of so many of her former satellites into the western sphere of influence, and she is concerned that those remaining under her influence might also be lost. The Ukraine voted for the Orange Revolution, and that threatens to cut Russia off from the Crimea and her Black Sea Port at Sevastopol.
There are tensions all along her southern flank with Moslem states, especially Chechnya which has descended into a brutal suppression. And Russia must longer term, be concerned by potential aggression from China with her exploding population and economy, combined with shortage of land, food, water and commodities.
The EU is the least threatening to Russia in military terms, but is possibly the most threatening to Russia in political terms. The pull of democracy and of growing wealth, and the desire of ex-Communist populations to be allowed to travel and trade with Western countries and operate across the globe is strong enough to destabilise the remainder of Russia' empire. Even Serbia, Russia's oldest ally in Central Europe, is giving in to the temptation of joining up with the future.
Unless Russia can be brought in to join the democratic free world or at least be seen as part of the Christian world, her humiliation, and isolation can only get worse, bringing her to the point where she will want to strike back in some way, if she can. Her claims to be taking over the oil rich Arctic region will be far more serious when backed up by military power, as would Russia's attempt to bring the EU back to the negotiating table over Kosovo. The years of her renewed military strength cannot be all that far away.
As democracy fades away inside Russia, and the recent hopes that Russia will at last become democratic are dashed, the trend for government to become increasingly brutal, and for extremist political parties to grow unfettered by the Kremlin is clear (see the video clip above). All in all it reminds one of Germany between the wars. Humiliated by the loss of the Cold War, Russia is descending into brutality and extremism, and like Germany did, wants to have a rerun of the earlier contest, but this time to win it.
The West is performing in exactly the way it did in the 1930s. The EU and the US are in complete denial as to the failure of the democratisation process in Russia, the growing military threat, and the growing political threat. Just at the moment that the West needs to be rearming and building up its defences, it is instead allowing them to approach the point of near collapse (NATO is in disarray with key countries unwilling to actually fight), providing Russia with the opportunty to take some easy revenge and set back the course of progress in Central Europe.
Russia should not be made into an enemy, however. Russia should be seen as an ally in the war of terror, which is the primary threat facing the non-Moslem world. But with the West backing the wrong side in Iraq (Saddam and the Baathists were a secular regime, and there was no need to rush into an invasion in 2003) and in the Balkans (the Serbs are the Christians and not supporters of international terrorism, and there was no need to rush into recognising Kosovo's independence), Russia is being driven into a posture of hostility.
Any strategic vision of how to deal with an increasingly threatening world must include the point of view that Russia, Serbia and secular Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, as it was, are potential allies. The EU is burning up the security that an alliance with Russia could provide, by rushing to support Kosovan independence, and tinkering inside the Ukraine. I am all for humanitarian and democratic gestures, but when they are in diametric opposition to the strategic interests of your own side, such things will just have to wait.
It would be far more sensible for the West to stop humiliating Russia as early as possible and bring her in as a secure ally if at all possible. It was not worth falling out with her over Kosovo, for example.
As well as doing everything possible to prevent Russia from becoming an enemy, the EU should also secure its peace with Turkey by advancing her status as a member of the EU, and take every opportunity to build her into a strong alliance. With these two vast and militarily powerful countries securely on board, the fight against extreme Islamism across the globe will be a little nearer a successful completion.
Let's hope that Barack or McCain have the strategic vision that George Bush and the EU so clearly lack.