In “Russia Rearms for a New Era,” the authors assert Russian military spending is growing and has risen $11 billion from 2014 to 2015. Lurid maps and diagrams of weapons make it seem that Stalin’s 210-division Red Army is again on the march – and headed into Europe.
Let’s look at the true figures. The US so-called “defense budget”(it should be called “offense budget”) is in the range of $600 billion, 37% of total world military spending by a nation that only 5% of world population.
Some studies put the true figure at $700 billion.
Not included in this figure are “black” projects, a lot of handouts to foreign military forces, and secret slush funds for waging small wars in Afghanistan, the Mideast, Africa and Asia. The US has over 700 military bases around the globe, with new ones opening all the time.
Russia defense spending is roughly $70 billion, and this in spite of plunging oil prices and US-led sanctions. France and Britain each spend almost as much; Saudi Arabia spends more. A French admiral ruefully told me the US Navy’s budget alone exceeded that of France’s total armed forces.
Russia is a vast nation with very difficult geography that limits its different military regions from supporting one another – a problem from which Russia has suffered since its 1904 war with Japan. Moscow needs large, often redundant armed forces to cover its immensity. This includes the warming Arctic, where Russia, like other coastal nations, is asserting its sovereignty. And Russia must also keep a watchful eye on neighboring China.
The Kremlin’s view is that America is trying to tear down what’s left of the post-Soviet Russian Federation by subversion (see regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine) and by stirring up Muslim independence movements in the Caucasus and Central Asia. That’s why Russian military forces are fighting in Syria.
After the total collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s economy and its once potent military fell to ruin. For two decades, Russia military was starved of men and money, and allowed to rust. Putin has been playing catch-up for the past decade to rebuild his nation’s great power status and defend against what Russians see a constant western plots.
Russia’s relatively modest military budget is hardly a threat to the mighty United States. In fact, the only real Russia threat we face is the danger of blundering into a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia in Ukraine, the Black Sea, Syria or Iraq. Great, nuclear-armed powers should never…repeat, never…engage in direct confrontations.
It appalls and mystifies me that otherwise smart, world-wise people at the NY Times and the anti-Russian Council on Foreign Relations would even contemplate military conflict with Russia – for what? Mariupol Ukraine or Idlib, Syria, places no one has ever heard of.
We have been closer to blundering into nuclear war with Russia than any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Or worse, 1983, when a NATO military exercise codenamed Able Archer was misinterpreted by the Soviet military as an incoming attack by NATO.
This ultimately terrifying crisis was played against the background of intense anti-Soviet propaganda by the West, crowned by Ronald Reagan’s fulminations against the “Evil Empire,” which convinced the Kremlin a western attack was coming. Nuclear war was just averted thanks to a few courageous officers in the Soviet Air Defense Command.