On March 1, in his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin adopted a decidedly bellicose tone. Claiming that the world’s great powers — notably the United States — had long ignored and humiliated Russia, Putin unveiled a bunch of new weapons, such as nuclear-powered ballistic missiles and unmanned submarines.
According to Putin, those weapons are more advanced than anything else that currently exists in the world. In particular, he claimed, they could evade U.S. missile defenses.
The Russian President illustrated his talk with some fairly primitive animation, with one shot clearly showing his miracle missile striking a peninsula that looked very much like Florida. “We’re not bluffing,” Putin assured his audience.
However, bluffing was exactly what Putin was doing, say independent military experts. First of all, Russia is technologically backward and is unlikely to be so far ahead of the Pentagon in the development of new weaponry.
Equally to the point, with over 4,000 nuclear weapons, of which nearly half are active ballistic missiles, Russia already has the capability to annihilate the United States, for all its sophisticated missile defenses.
So one wonders: Was all that talk of Russian miracle weapons meant for domestic consumption ahead of Russia’s March 18 presidential elections?
What if it wasn’t? What if Putin is more devious and his Cold War stance was meant for Americans? What if his goal was to sow more turmoil in Washington and, ultimately, to bankrupt the United States?
Remember how the Cold War came to an end? Ronald Reagan unleashed a massive rearmament program. It widened the U.S. budget deficit, but helped relaunch the U.S. economy after the stagnation of the 1970s. It also crushed the Soviet economy as it tried to stay abreast of the United States in that breakneck arms race.
A lot has changed since the early 1980s. When Reagan was elected, U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP stood below 30% (and was falling). Today, it has risen toward 100% of GDP. Last year’s tax cut will boost the U.S. budget deficit by another $1.4 trillion.
The Republicans have chosen to hollow out the revenue base at a time when America needs to fix its crumbling infrastructure and pay for the retiring Baby Boomers who will live well into their nineties (while having next to no financial reserves) and foot the mounting bill for the effects of the global warming.
Going forward, money is going to be tight. Attempts will be made to cut entitlements, such as U.S. spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — which are already among the shoddiest in the rich industrial world. None of it is fat any more — and cutting those programs to the bone is not going to sit well with voters, notably the traditional base of the Republican Party.
A godsend for the Pentagon
In this environment, Putin’s Cold War rhetoric and miracle weapon visuals are a godsend for the Pentagon. It could get a lot of mileage out of this in the fight for budget allocations.
For Putin, then, it will be the best of all possible worlds. Without spending a penny — not counting the few bucks he spent on that primitive animation — Russia’s President could exacerbate divisions in American society. His grand move is to pit the Pentagon against a huge and growing army of retirees.
Ultimately, Putin may even hope that he is able to force Washington to bust its budget by not being able to turn down either the military or the retirees. If that happens, he would have managed to send America into bankruptcy the way the old Soviet Union was 30 years ago.
Was Putin’s talk of a Russian miracle weapon merely meant for domestic consumption ahead of Russia’s March presidential elections? Or does he pursue another goal with his move?
With over 4,000 nuclear weapons, Russia already has the capability to annihilate the US, for all its sophisticated missile defenses.
What if Putin’s goal was to sow more turmoil in Washington and, ultimately, to bankrupt the US?
Cold War rhetoric and miracle weapon visuals are a godsend for the Pentagon. It could get a lot of mileage out of this in the fight for budget allocations.