Who Will Stop the US-Russia Arms Race?

Jerri-Lynn here: This Real News network interview with Professor Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus at Princeton and NYU,  about the insane arms race between the United States and  Russia is terrifying. Cohen concludes by discussing how the state of debate over detente has deteriorated since the ‘70s and ‘80s, when “the pro-detente people, the anti-Cold War people had lots of very senior allies many in Congress. Even in the State Department. Even among presidential aides. It was always a fair fight.”

Yet now:

There is no one today. Only the Schumers and the Pelosis. And they have become with this Russia gate stuff, claiming that Putin attacked America and it was like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. I mean I never call people names, but this is warmongering. That’s exactly what it is. If you claim Russia attacked America, the assumption is we have to attack Russia. And we’re talking about nuclear war potentially. So what kind of political leadership is, we have descended into a morass of degraded commentary on Russia that has never even when the Soviet Union existed, even during the worst days of the Cold War, we didn’t have this kind of discourse.

AARON MATE: It’s the Real News. I’m Aaron Mate.

President Trump is drawing heat for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election victory. During a phone call with Putin this week Trump reportedly ignored a written directive from his aides that instructed him, quote, do not congratulate. Speaking to MSNBC, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner echoed the outraged response from Republican Sen. John McCain.

MARK WARNER: I think John McCain put out a statement today, and his words were better than mine. He says, the leader of the free world doesn’t call up and congratulate a dictator over a sham election. And clearly that’s what happened today.

AARON MATE: News of the friendly phone call prompted former CIA Director John Brennan to suggest that the Russians could have compromising information on Donald Trump.

REPORTER: Why won’t the president confront Vladimir Putin, why won’t he read the cards and say the things that you say need to be said to Vladimir Putin? Do you believe he is somehow in debt to the president of Russia?

JOHN BRENNAN: I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia.


JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I think one can speculate as to why. That the Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.

REPORTER: Do you believe Russia has something on him?

JOHN BRENNAN: I believe that the Russians would would not, they would opt for things to do if they believed that it was in their interests. And the Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and they have things that they could expose.

REPORTER: Something personal, perhaps?

JOHN BRENNAN: Perhaps. Perhaps.

AARON MATE: In his defense, Trump said on Twitter that President Obama had also congratulated Putin during his last win in 2012. And like Obama, Trump claimed he wants to cooperate with Russia on several issues, including the arms race. This comes weeks after Putin gave a speech unveiling a new nuclear arsenal and blaming the U.S. for the arms race. He later spoke to NBC News.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you were to speak about arms race, then an arms race began at exactly the time and moment when the U.S. opted out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

AARON MATE: Well, why does Russia blame the U.S. for the arms race? And in this current political moment, can their differences possibly be resolved. Well, to discuss this, I spoke recently to Professor Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton. And I began by asking him what Putin is seeking in his relationship with the U.S.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, let’s begin by saying that there’s hardly been a time when Putin did not call for good relations with the United States, even in the worst of times. And he continues to refer to American political leaders as ‘my partners,’ even in the worst of times. This, by the way, drives harder line, or harder line people in the Soviet security establishment up the wall. They say to him, why do you keep calling them your partner?

Putin is a guy who came to power with the hope and intention of a real, functional, constructive economic political relationship with the United States. And though he may have given up that hope, he still calls for it. The speech he gave that you’re referring to, the equivalent, I guess, of the state of the Union speech on March 1, was exceedingly important.

The first two thirds of it was essentially his electoral program. It dealt with domestic issues, what he hopes to do for the Russian people. It was very similar to speeches made here during our elections. He talked about education, he talked about infrastructure, he talked about pensions. He talked about health care. No American would be surprised.

[But the latter third. Putin called it historic, and I think it is. And we can explain this simply. Ever since the America and the Soviet Union acquired the capacity to put nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles, cross the seas and strike the other country, we have been in a strategic agreement called mutual assured destruction. And all that meant that if Washington launched at Moscow, within minutes Moscow would launch at Washington, and both countries would be grievously affected, if not completely destroyed. And this doctrine, called MAD, may seem frightful, but it kept the nuclear peace until the idea came up that you could build an antiballistic missile weapon, missile defense. It started with Reagan.

To prevent that, I think signed in 1972, was a treaty, the antiballistic missile treaty, which meant that the sides were prohibited from deploying antiballistic missile systems in order to preserve this mutual assured destruction so that neither side would be tempted to launch a first strike. Each side, America and the Soviet Union, was given one exemption. Moscow put a missile defense system over, Russia did over Moscow. And I think we have our someplace in South Dakota for some reason, I’m not sure why. In 2002 President Bush left this treaty, nullified it unilaterally.

Ever since then we’ve been pushing missile defense installations toward Russia. I think there are 30 or 40. They range from, as I understand it, California to Alaska. But there’s one operating in Romania, one to open in Poland. But here’s the thing. we’ve figured out how to deploy them on ships. And so these anti-missile defense systems are sailing on ships in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, right on Russia’s borders.

So what did Putin say? And it’s really, if if half of what he claimed for these weapons is true, and I’m sure more than half is true, he said, we have developed several weapons that do not lie at the ballistic level. That is, high in the sky and descend. They fly much lower, much faster, and they can elude any any missile system that you Americans have spent trillions of dollars on. So therefore, we have restored mutual assured destruction. He’s saying that you Americans, and it’s true some Americans did this, tried to develop missile defense so that you could threaten us wit,h or perhaps launch, a first nuclear strike knowing that your missile defense would protect you from retaliation. He said that was a fiction from the beginning. But we now have these new weapons which make it absolutely impossible. And so he ends by saying, therefore, having restored the balance of sanity, let us sit down and have major nuclear weapons talks again.

But again, Aaron, I mean, if it’s true, and I have no reason to think it’s not true, though the stages of development of these weapons is a little unclear, it’s true what Putin said about these four or five new weapons systems. We are now in a completely new era, because since the end of the Soviet Union the United States has tried to develop at least the capacity of a first strike capability at Russia using these missile defenses. That is over. It’s not possible any longer. Trillions of dollars have been wasted.

By the way, I forget which administration, Bush or Obama, made missile defense a NATO project. It started out as an American project. But it officially gave it to NATO. Why? Because where NATO goes, the missile defense installations go, and NATO has expanded right to Russia’s borders.

So this is an historic turning point, assuming what Putin said is largely true. Though you wouldn’t know it. I guess you had on professor Theodore Postol of MIT. And I mean, Ted is excellent on this stuff but you don’t get any of this in the mainstream media. Putin’s speech was read as an act of threatened aggression against the United States. It was just the opposite.

AARON MATE: Right. And you know, I think what we often forget, too, is that as this missile system , defensive missile system, whatever it’s called, was developed, especially under Bush number two, George W. Bush, it was billed to Russia for so long as being targeted towards Iran. Which seems like a pretty tough sell to accept when, when it’s actually being positioned so close to Russia.

STEPHEN COHEN: Look, it’s bogus. It’s fiction. It’s B.S. It’s disinformation. It’s American propaganda. The reality is this: Russia has been protesting about the, once we left, Washington left the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, Russia has been protesting what we’ve been building. We told Russia, why are you worried? It has nothing to do with Russia. This is all about Iran and, quote, rogue states, unidentified. Russia said, OK, in that case let’s build it together. We actually have better radar facilities than you have. We’ll build it, we’ll manage it together. We refused that systematically.

Every attempt Russian made to join in the creation of a missile defense system was rejected by Washington. Everybody, unless, you know, you believe in the Easter Bunny, I guess, that this system as it was expanded, increasingly, and it branched out, was directed at Russia. I mean, maybe it would have worked against Iran, too, but that was going to be a bonus. This was about Russia. The Russians knew it. You and I knew it. Everybody knew it. Do you know what is an indestructible weapon system?

AARON MATE: No I don’t.

STEPHEN COHEN: One funded in all 50 states. All right. That’s what this missile defense has been. They farmed out manufacturing of it everywhere from Paducah Kentucky to Israel. Everybody gets a piece of the action. Therefore you get no protest in Congress because it’s constituency politics. And that’s true of a lot of the weapons systems we make. They’re indestructible when all 50 states get a piece of the action, and that’s what you have with this missile defense stuff.

AARON MATE: OK, so, speaking of Congress. If there is to be any push for Trump to engage with what Putin said seriously and try to restart some sort of arms control talks, including the New START treaty, which Trump has indicated little interest in advancing, you’d think that it would be Trump’s opposition party who would be pushing him towards that.

Now, recently there were some Democratic senators to call for a new round of strategic arms talks with Russia. But I want to read to you a quote from the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, where he is greeting the news of Mike Pompeo now being the secretary of state. And instead of pointing to Pompeo’s open disdain for the Iran nuclear deal and his hawkishness on things including Russia, this is what Chuck Schumer said. He said: The instability of this administration and just about every area weakens America. If he’s confirmed we hope that Mr. Pompeo will turn up we’ll turn over a new leaf and will start toughening up our policies towards Russia and Putin, unquote.

So Professor Cohen, as we wrap, that is the top priority from the leader of the opposition party Chuck Schumer, for the new nominee to be secretary of state to be tougher towards Russia.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, but it’s not just Schumer. And Schumer is not to make this distinction as statesmen. He is a kind of local politician risen way above his pay grade when it comes to foreign affairs. It was outrageous what he said. But a lot of the Democratic leaders are saying this sort of thing.

I mean, let me make the point you made before. One reason this situation is so dangerous, Aaron, so dangerous, is that in the ’70s and ’80s, and I participated at a junior or younger level, the debate over Cold War or detente in the United States, that the pro-detente people, the anti-Cold War people had lots of very senior allies many in Congress. Even in the State Department. Even among presidential aides. It was always a fair fight.

There is no one today. Only the Schumers and the Pelosis. And they have become with this Russia gate stuff, claiming that Putin attacked America and it was like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. I mean I never call people names, but this is warmongering. That’s exactly what it is. If you claim Russia attacked America, the assumption is we have to attack Russia. And we’re talking about nuclear war potentially. So what kind of political leadership is, we have descended into a morass of degraded commentary on Russia that has never even when the Soviet Union existed, even during the worst days of the Cold War, we didn’t have this kind of discourse.

AARON MATE: We have to leave it there. Professor Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University. Thank you.

STEPHEN COHEN: Pray a lot, Aaron.

AARON MATE: Will do. And thank you for joining us on the Real News.

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  1. Tomonthebeach

    Warmongering or just politics as usual?

    That Washington is behaving is a reckless manner these days re Russia is disconcerting, but so is its bellicose behavior toward China, N. Korea, Syria…. It is the age of the Moron in Charge.

    Pelosi and Schumer, are likely motivated by sticking as much McCarthy-tar to Trump as they can before the elections, because Mueller-goo is not yet available. I doubt that they would support preemptive attacks. In Trump’s case WH recklessness appears to be adolescent bravado – soon to be amplified by his new National Jingo Advisor. Preemptive attacks are Bolton’s broken record (whyizit saber-rattlers are always cowardly draft dodgers?).

    1. timbers

      That Washington is behaving is a reckless manner these days re Russia is disconcerting, but so is its bellicose behavior toward China, N. Korea, Syria…. It is the age of the Moron in Charge.

      If by the Age of Moron in Charge you refer to Obama as well as Trump, I agree with you. Yet sill, your moron in charge misses the point that it is primarily Democrats – not Trump – who’ve embraced and created the Russiagate nonsense that is probably the far greater danger.

      But your moron in charge holds up perfectly with all the other nations, besides Russia.

      Russia isn’t Iraq. She can wipe the United States off the face of earth at will if she is forced to.

      IMO you underestimate the level of danger the “politics as usual” is causing this time with the Democratic Tea Party Birtherists spreading so many lies about Russia it’s impossible to keep track of, and it’s affect is to create war with Russia.

      In other words, the politics of usual you think this is not usual at all. Its UN-usually dangerous and irresponsible.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Well put. It’s hard to grasp the danger we are in so we talk about it the way we talk about ordinary events.

        1. berit

          Thanks. Shared your heartfelt tweet. They want war. Here, up north, the US academic, military, industrial, congressional complex, in cohort with the Norwegian government, has installed surveillance radars close to our border with Russia, there are US marines in Troms and Trøndelag and plans for upgrading the small airport at Torp, Østfold in the south. Since the 1950s we’ve had a base-declaration saying no to foreign bases on Norwegian soil in times of peace – endangered, obviously, tragically, MADly.

    2. oh

      The tar babies will soon have s**t on their face and after millions of $$$$ the Mueller-goo will fail to stick. Too bad we can’t get Trumpie and his boys as well as the Dimrats to sink in the large tar pit.

  2. jackiebass

    The answer is no-one. Our government and policy is controlled by the security, industrial , military complex. Exactly what Ike predicted before leaving office.

      1. Synoia

        Financial-Military-Industrial-Congressional complex.

        Best deal on earth is the lend money to a defense contractor. Or its employees.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Yes, Ike did indeed deliver that notable speech. But he didn’t shut down the Dulles brothers when he had the chance. Instead, he more or less gave them carte blanche. I recently read Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers– and it reminded me just how odious they were, and how their malign influence continues to haunt US foreign policy.

      1. beth

        Yes, Ike’s behavior fully supported the Dulles’ brothers torture. In Alfred McCoys book Torture and Impunity, it is clear that Ike supported the U.S. selecting autocratic leaders in other countries & overthrowing democratically elected leaders in Iran and Honduras.

        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          The Dulles brothers et al successfully overthrew leaders in Iran and Guatemala, and tried to instigate similar shenanigans– to one degree or another– in Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and of course, Vietnam. I don’t know this McCoy book– although I do know his Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. I’ll look out for the book you have cited.

  3. Dirk77

    I have often wondered about Aristotle’s observation of democracy -> oligarchy -> tyranny and if it were really universal. But as time goes on I see myself wondering if a tyrant who was actually an adult would be better than the children who run this country, elected though they may be.

    A possibly softer landing would be for the rest of the world to gang up on the USA and administer a beat down a la Sparta in the Peloponnesisn war. Perhaps if the US economy finally crashes and no one fears us anymore economically. Would that do it? I don’t see the children having much of a spine.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The children in this neighborhood all have caches of old-fashioned matches and lots of butane lighters and the gasoline cans from the garages in their single-family houses. And if the beat-down happens, handed out by folks in other neighborhoods, my bet is that these children are socio-psychopathic enough to burn down the other neighborhoods.

      Earlier versions of the “Single Integrated Operational Plan” which like its successors and what’s now OPLAN 8010-12 listed out the targeting options for the US imperial nuclear weapons, included some interesting possibilities. Maybe it was because the stockpile numbers of warheads was so large, at over 30,000 weapons, that the “most strategically important” target set was expected to be “taken out” (cue the nuclear winter scenario), leaving a lot of “unused” warheads for other purposes. So those target lists, from what I read, included the capitals and commercial centers of a whole lot of other supposedly “friendly” or at least “neutral” places. The notion being that if the Empire was to be destroyed, why should some upstart probably socialist-tending bunch of Wogs be left to survive and profit from picking over the remains of the Vast Global Capitalist Empire?

      So my guess is that, given all the globalization-effectuated corruption and interlocking interests of the Elites, and the Empire’s innovative and disruptive means and methods of “destabilizing” and “democratizing” places where “anti-full spectrum dominance global capitalist US” sentiments and motions might arise, getting the Peloponnesus Consensus together and functioning is just not going to happen. The pathogens and Neo-plasms have hijacked all the other organ systems, all the incentives are lined up (as with Cohen’s rendering of that other “50-state strategy,” and like In that scene in “Planet of the Apes” franchise, you’ll have Charlotte Heston encountering the top of the Statue of Liberty sticking up from the beach and wailing, Oh my God… I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [falls to his knees screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! AH, DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!! [camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand] For the video version, looking here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XvuM3DjvYf0

      But never you worry, children, it’s only a movie… And Daddy has such a good job there at the Pantex plant… https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantex_Plant And you know Reverend Billy Bob has it straight from God that we will all be raptured up to Heaven before the bombs detonate! And We Are Ready! https://www.raptureready.com/

      1. Dirk77

        So you don’t think the children can estimate odds very well? Hmm. Since change seems to occur now faster than in the past, I guess we are all going to find out in our lifetime.

  4. Quentin

    Imagine being a North Korean, Russian, Iranian.. hearing the ravings of Washington about attacking your country, your house, your family, killing whoever gets in the way…why? Mrs. Clinton knows all about it, ‘…and he died’. guffaw, girly giggle, guffaw; Mr. McCain, ‘bomb, bomb Iran’, to the tune of teenage, musical drivel from half a century ago; Mr. Obama ‘Gee, I’m really good at killing’, concluding with a knowing grin worthy of an Academy Award; and so forth. Only a rant can possibly relay the breadth and depth of US institutionalised violence at home and abroad.

  5. timbers

    Watching the video truly is scary. Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer have truly lost their minds. Parapheasing Stephen Cohen: “We have never seen this kind of rhetoric even at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.”

    Sometimes I fail to realize how insane Democrats (and of course Republicans) have become, because I don’t watch TV and the corporate news shows regularly, and I’ve lost interest in the relentless fake news charges against Russia…it just never stops and it’s always wrong.

    I do have Democratic friends who have called me names, insulted my intelligence, and implied bad social identity labels to me like “DO you believe the hallocaust even happened?” and talked down to me like I am mentally retarded, when I insist to them that money laundering and tax evasion by Americans in deals in Ukraine or elsewhere is not equivalent to showing evidence that Russia meddled in the election, who insist it’s illegal to talk to Russians, that all Russians are spies and enemies of America. One Democrats told me Capone was convicted of mail fraud, and he was a gangster, so these people are guilty of election meddling.

    My Republican friends a bit more nuanced regarding Russia. They usually don’t like Putin, but seem indifferent or show little interest with the election meddling angle.

  6. Bill Smith

    Funny, today the Russian newspaper at nvo.ng.ru has an article on the rise of the Chinese military and the need to keep up with them.

  7. RenoDino

    The budget that Trump just signed doubles down on all the weapons systems that Russia just made obsolete with its recent announcement of new strategic delivery systems. General Mattis thanked the country for its sacrifice in making this huge military expenditure possible. (I about drove into a tree when I heard him say this. He is actually admitting that everyone and everything must now suffer because this is now the country’s highest priority when, in fact, we are not at war…yet.)

    In exchange for crumbling roads, schools and bridges, a public healthcare crisis and massive economic inequality, you will be receiving half a trillion dollars of military gear that will be useless right out of the box.

    Given the corrupt and archaic procurement methods used by this country, that has virtually no oversight, we can expect the defense gap between our current weapons systems and the Russians to be at least twenty years at current funding levels.

  8. rkka

    I’ll gently disagree with Prof. Cohen on one point.

    Opposing the destroyers of Detente was never a fair fight.

    Yes, the policy of Detente did have support at the highest levels of government and academia, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Paul Nitzes and the Richard Pipes’se, and the destroyers of Detente lied about & distorted Brezhnev’s intentions every bit as much as their intellectual heirs now lie about & distort Putin’s intentions.

    And this is nothing new. A similar hysteria followed the victory in 1945. A perceptive observer at the time, a British Army officer who served on the British military mission to the USSR, minces no words.

    “Even in Russia, the land of immensities, it means that one in every twelve Russians alive in 1941, one In twelve men, women, and children, has died a violent death, in order that the others might resume their lives with a swing and, if possible, a flourish. And most of those fifteen million were adults.

    The survivors will not, of course, forget this. But we seem to have forgotten it. Because now, with this great country shattered, ravaged, and exhausted, with her people strained to the breaking-point, and with her adult manhood more than decimated-now, at this moment, there are many loud voices in the West crying out that another war is coming quickly and that this time the aggressor is Russia. And these voices, which cry out of a depth of imbecility, or ignorance, or unimaginativeness which is truly horrifying to contemplate, are widely believed.”

    Edward Crankshaw-Russia and the Russians, 1948, pgs 200-201

    Imbecility, ignorance, unimaginitiveness. Of a depth which is truly horrifying to contemplate.

    Hallmarks of the postwar US foreign policy elite, from the get-go.

  9. Blue Pilgrim

    Cohen understands.

    The arms race is over, and Russia has won, for decades to come, but for some carrying through and tying up some strings. Sadly, the plutocracy and politicians, especially the psychopaths, don’t know this or are in denial.

    The fictions (with the aid of the media) in the demonization of Russia and trying to maintain the empire may well push us into war and global destruction before climate destruction takes most of us out.
    Since I wasn’t here for the beginning of the ‘Stupid Mankind play’, maybe being here for the end is next best thing? The final curtain call could happen any time now if huge numbers of people don’t wake up, end the absurd games, and stop it. Otherwise, this is not business or politics as usual, but very likely the last act.

      1. Rates

        They have weapons now that will totally nullify an aircraft carrier group. Their weapons actually work as demonstrated in Syria, while America did all sorts of shitty expensive stuff that bombed like the F35.

        Think about it this way. You have a common enemy, and you take turns to take the enemy on. If you are doing better than your rival, presumably your weapons/tactics are better no? That’s what Russia demonstrated in Syria.

        Americans continue to think that they have the best military in the world. It’s as if Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq didn’t happen. Americans better pray that they are not engaging Iran soon. Let’s put it this way, if Iran is so easy to beat, why haven’t the Israelis done it on their own?

        1. Bill Smith

          1) How did anything the Russians do in Syria negate the usefulness of aircraft carriers?

          2) What do aircraft carriers have to do with Russia? The days of the aircraft carriers launching raids into USSR / Russia mainland have been over since the days of Reagan. The usefulness of aircraft carriers is their ability to project power into ‘limited’ wars. A war with Russia would not be ‘limited’.

          1. Rates

            1) Huh. That was a separate point.
            2) Well it can be used to launch aircrafts that carry nukes? Come on, a simple search shows that it’s a strategy that the US had thought of: https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/02/nuclear-weapons-at-sea/

            Not sure about how engagement with Russia will be limited/not limited. But I am willing to bet it will not be Russia that fires the first bullet. It will be America through some 3rd party.

            1. Bill Smith

              Nukes where removed from the carriers and other surface ships with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

              For anyone on the carrier this was easy to see as the guards and the no-go zone where they where stored was removed. A lot of paper work was also removed with them. Made it easier for all involved.

        2. Lambert Strether

          > They have weapons now that will totally nullify an aircraft carrier group. Their weapons actually work as demonstrated in Syria

          They do? Or do they have videos of potential weapons that are in the pipeline? (I accept the Russians can do the engineering and the manufacturing, but are the nuclear-powered cruise missiles, e.g., deployed?

          In Syria, the Russians showed rugged and effective aircraft. How did they show they could destroy a carrier group?

          1. The Rev Kev

            The US Navy seems to consider the Russians a deadly threat against their carriers if attacked. Back in 2016 the Russians launched 26 Kaliber missiles from the Caspian Sea into Syria. After they hit, the US Navy ordered the USS Theodore Roosevelt (named after the 26th US President) out of the Persian Gulf leaving it uncovered for the first time since 2007. They had taken the hint and didn’t stay to argue.
            Fun fact. The range of a US carrier is less that 500 nautical miles and is decreasing as the F-35 comes into service. This range is roughly a third what is was in the late 1950s. The Chinese now have carrier-killer missiles whose range is at the very least twice that. Sort of like having a long-range gunfight where your opponent has a rifle and you have a pistol.

            1. vlade

              TBH, Carriers are IMO obsolete technology now – very expensive, very vulnerable.

              The way to go are missile destroyers/frigates, as you can have many of those, they are harder to detect, and I believe slightly easier to defend, can operate independently or in packs, and are cheap to run and cheap to build.

              But they are not very glamorous, especially for your Fleet Admiral as a flag ship. And, because they are cheaper and can be mass-produced (well, unless you’re UK, which can’t mass produce even a missile destroyer these days), they are not so lucrative.

          2. PlutoniumKun

            Its been clear that the Russians have put a lot of research focus onto long range missiles intended for area denial. The Granit missiles – a fairly old design – seemed to have worked successfully in Syria. So any notion that they were primitive and wouldn’t work in reality has been knocked on its head.

            The real strategic game-changer has been their new stand off conventional hypersonic missiles (not the atomic cruise missile, as this is a strategic nuke), as these will be incredibly difficult to defend against, whether they are aimed at ships or strategic land targets. If they work – and there is no reason to think they don’t – the Russians can use even fairly old Migs and Tupolevs standing out of range of US defences and pick off targets. This is a very cost effective way of making any regional war very difficult for the US if the Russians decide to intervene. You won’t defeat a Carrier Group with them, but you can make the risk of losing a carrier so great that they will have to stand off out of range, in which case they are useless.

            Its also possible that the Avangard ballistic vehicle could be used to attack carriers anywhere in the world – it all depends on how good its navigation system is. When the original models for this were tested in the 1980’s it was speculated that they were designed to attack carriers, and this may well be an intention.

            Ultimately, nobody really knows how any weapons system will operate in the real world until its used. I’ve no doubt the US has plenty of secret defensive and decoy systems and has spent billions on looking into stopping hypersonic missiles, etc. But the problem for the US is that there is an asymmetry in its aspirations compared to Russia (and China). The US seeks strategic control of regions in the Pacific, Middle East, etc. The Russians just need to demonstrate that in the event of a regional conflict it can punch a large messy hole in a carrier deck. Without carrier support, suddenly the US Navy looks a lot more vulnerable and less intimidating. And without sea support, any land based operations in much of the world becomes much more difficult – it becomes a fair fight, something that famously several US generals have said it is exactly their policy to avoid.

        3. vlade

          Russia had weapons to negate a carrier group for decades – tactical nukes (on torpedos or missiles). So what?

          FFS, Sweeden had weapons to negate a carrier group for decades – a humble diesel sub. Diesel subs (and not just Sweedish) were regularly “sinking” US carriers in various war games, but it’s generally so embarassing that little of it gets out.. (as it does not fit well with hyper-teched US navy)

          At the same time, Russia still, after years of development, can’t put together its own night vision camera – the gear on its boats and tanks is French or US.

          1. steelyman

            Hmmm….. seems that Russian night vision technology is good enough for the Taliban. And last I heard they were kind of slowly but surely gaining the advantage in that now 17 years and counting conflict. Maybe wars are won with technology more critical than night vision? Like combat aircraft that work in conflicts with high operational tempos (Syria) as opposed to lining the pockets of the MIC (F35)?

            From 2017 — The Taliban Is Using Russian Night-Vision Goggles to Kill Afghan Soldiers:

            With regards to the alleged inability of the Russians to develop thermal imaging optics for their tanks, that all appears based on a report by an American cybersecurity outfit (Taia Global) and their report was itself based upon some dubious Ukrainian intelligence sources.

            1. vlade

              So, http://cast.ru/ is too a dubious Ukrainian Inteligence source? Hm… Surprised they are allowed to base it in Moscow, and have people like retired RU military work there.. Oh no, they happen to be a Russian defense think tank, with close links to the government, military, and the Russian defense industry. How naughty of them!

              If you want Russian sources, here are some https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/02/26/75605-synki-otechestva

              Or maybe that Ukraininan spy agency, TASS:
              http://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/3457178 (admitedly, a bit older article)

      2. Blue Pilgrim

        What ‘Rates’ says, and also the new weapons Putin talked about in his speech, unstoppable hypersonic non-ballistic weapons, and M.A.D. fully in effect. Except Russia has somewhat better chance for surviving for a while, until the global radiation and nuclear winter takes out everyone who live through the initial onslaught.

        The ABM stuff, what might have worked to a very limited extent, is now totally obsolete. US doing first strike is suicide. And even trying to catch up will not only take decades, but bankrupt the country entirely.

        Putin’s annual address to Federal Assembly (FULL VIDEO)

        (March 1, 2018) Military section begins about 1 hour 15 minutes.


        1. Bill Smith

          The Russians have had unstoppable ICBMs for decades. The ABM stuff has worked under very limited circumstances and then only against the slower ballistic missile classes.

          It was the US that has on and off had first strike capability since the 1950s. First the bomber gap and then the missile gap. Most recently, an ‘early warning gap’ as the Soviet era early warning satellites decayed and died. There was a gap of over a decade before the Russians launched replacements called the EKS Satellite System. (Kosmos 2510 & 2518)

      3. steelyman

        At one level, the Russians have pretty much deflated the bubble of American military exceptionalism.

        On a more practical level, Putin is claiming, via these new weapons, to have restored strategic nuclear parity aka MAD to the first strike advocates (dreamers) of the NATO dominated West.

        He’s still ready to negotiate new arms control treaties with the West. This continued desire to talk to what the Saker describes as “the treaty incapable” entities of the West is something that continues to mystify me.

  10. The Rev Kev

    You know the democrats should really re-consider their push for a war with Russia. Clinton supporters on the 2016 electoral map were scattered in small pockets around America which came to known as the Clinton Archipelago. With a few judicious nuclear strikes, the Russians could virtually wipe out the bulk majority of democrat voters for good leaving an all-Republican America left standing.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Given the state of the Democrat party, it might better be described as, Foreign Aid.

    1. Blue Pilgrim

      That won’t help at all and could well be worse. The partisan politics is mostly just a deceptive game, and the Republicans are worse in various ways (especially in domestic policies); it’s the deep state and the wealthy who are running the circus. It’s the perverted system, including capitalism (it’s pretty much late stage feudalism and/or early stage fascism/corporatism), that must go away.
      The ideologies are bad, but it’s largely driven by mammon (and lust for power), which has corrupted both conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats. Both anarchism and socialism are open to such corruption too unless the people gain control of government.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Category problem: “The people” is demonstrably not any kind of entity, certainly not one capable of “gaining control of government.” All one has to do is read the pages of NC for a while, to learn that there are enough “people” with drives to power and insatiable greeds and the skills, those paychopaths (I’ll stay with that even though it’s a typo) who always drive to the top. Always enough “people” of that sort to lead to what we got now. And of course so many of us loves us our comforts and conveniences and having more children and having a tribe and someone to hate and feel superior to and envy.

        Like you say, all forms of “government,” that set of structures that we mopes just have to have to organize all the stuff we do, to ourselves, each other, to validate the Iron Law of Institutions, and the only planet we’ve got, are “open to such corruption.”

  11. Watt4Bob

    The sad fact is that America’s rulers are not actually pushing war with Russia, they are just trying to make a lot of money by aligning themselves with the interests of those who profit from the arms race.

    Our rulers long ago gave up even pretending to oppose wasteful military spending and simply rubber-stamp any spending requests no matter how obviously ill conceived, or even useless.

    They probably feel deep in their hearts that since the whole point of their game is to enrich those who produce the weapons, and by extension, themselves, as opposed to preparing for war, that their behavior is not evil, dangerous warmongering, it’s only making money, which everyone knows is the sacred right of every American, enshrined in our constitution

    The problem is, that even though every thinking person on the rest of the planet understands that our rulers believe“we’re really only making money”, they also understand that that belief is a giant delusion, obscuring the fact that making all that money involves not only spending $trillions buying weapons from the folks who pay to get them elected, but killing millions of people in the mindless process of manufacturing enemies to justify the expense.

    So now we’ve arrived at the point where our collective insanity, and bad behavior has convinced Russia and China to develop weapons systems to counter ours, but theirs are not simply money making schemes designed to enrich a small bunch of their richest people, their weapons are actually reliable and effective.

    You may ask how I know that their weapons are reliable and effective, it is because their purpose is to defend their countries from the obviously greed-crazed and hysterical psychopaths who have purchased control of our country, and have perpetrated the myth that we are busy spreading peace and our superior democratic values around the world by spreading chaos, death and destruction.

    We’ve become the existential threat to the planet, and most of people on earth understand that fact more clearly than we do, because we’re so thoroughly marinated in the myth of America’s unassailable virtues, and blind to the fact that hysterical greed is not a virtue.

    Donald and Hillary and Nancy and Chuck are all just trying to make a some money, that’s one way of looking at it.

    1. marku52

      Russian and Chinese weapons *have* to work, because they have all the evidence in the world that the US is deranged enough to use its own.

    2. The Rev Kev

      So wait, are you saying that the spirit of modern America is no longer life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but life, liberty and the pursuit of a fast buck?

      1. JTMcPhee

        Strike the “life and liberty” or amend it to read “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the Elite tiny few…” and I’d agree.

  12. Whoa Molly!

    “funded in all 50 states. All right. That’s what this missile defense has been.“

    Serious questions for NC commentariat:

    – Why has there been no serious movement for infrastructure spending instead of bloated, wasteful MIC spending? Seems like infrastructure is (could be) a 50 state spending.

    – Has any empire ever prioritised infrastructure spending over military expansionism and wars? Ever?

    – Would depression era WPA be an example? If so why did WPA cause such antipathy on right?

    1. oh

      The MIC with its bloated contracts have more lobbyists (bribers) than the construction companies that compete locally since the states have to pitch in a considerable amount for infrastructure projects. And the Congress critters can’t use the fear card to promote infrastructure spending.

      1. Whoa Molly!

        Sounds like fear is the easiest and most consistent motivator for social and political change.

        Once MIC spending begins, a load of people who are getting rich off the contracts are highly motivated to keep things going.

        Thus the “New Red Scare”, bloated MIC contracts, and endless war.

        (I am trying to think clearly about this)

        1. John Wright

          This guns over infrastructure might be well explained by Germany’s Hermann Goering

          Citizens do not fear bad infrastructure but fear can be stoked to get the citizenry to go to war.

          Also see the rejoiner from Gustave Gilbert about US Democracy and the safeguard that only US Congress can declare war.

          Then read Goering’s response.

          From https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hermann_G%C3%B6ring

          In an interview with Gustave Gilbert in Göring’s jail cell during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (18 April 1946)

          Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

          Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

          Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

    2. Huey Long

      – Why has there been no serious movement for infrastructure spending instead of bloated, wasteful MIC spending? Seems like infrastructure is (could be) a 50 state spending.

      MIC spending is completely unaccountable. (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/08/569394885/pentagon-announces-first-ever-audit-of-the-department-of-defense) Infrastructure spending is not.

      – Has any empire ever prioritised infrastructure spending over military expansionism and wars? Ever?

      I can’t recall any imperial state that has done so, although Rome and China did build some major infrastructure projects such as the Grand Canal and the Roman Aqueducts. Both are still in use today thousands of years later.


      – Would depression era WPA be an example? If so why did WPA cause such antipathy on right?

      I’ll quote Kalecki here and leave it at that:

      We have considered the political reasons for the opposition to the policy of creating employment by government spending. But even if this opposition were overcome — as it may well be under the pressure of the masses — the maintenance of full employment would cause social and political changes which would give a new impetus to the opposition of the business leaders. Indeed, under a regime of permanent full employment, the ‘sack’ would cease to play its role as a ‘disciplinary measure. The social position of the boss would be undermined, and the self-assurance and class-consciousness of the working class would grow. Strikes for wage increases and improvements in conditions of work would create political tension. It is true that profits would be higher under a regime of full employment than they are on the average under laissez-faire, and even the rise in wage rates resulting from the stronger bargaining power of the workers is less likely to reduce profits than to increase prices, and thus adversely affects only the rentier interests. But ‘discipline in the factories’ and ‘political stability’ are more appreciated than profits by business leaders. Their class instinct tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view, and that unemployment is an integral part of the ‘normal’ capitalist system.


  13. Anarcissie

    To repeat myself from a few years ago, ‘‘The Devil rages because his time is short,’ indeed, but, ‘Beware the lash of the dragon’s tail as he dies.’

  14. julia

    I am canadian but was born in communist germany, lived “ behind the iron curtain “ for the first twenty years of my live. I still do not know, whom to thank for, that back than, we did not get “ liberated” by the western world, or that they did not try for regime change…
    Now by default, I am supposedly on the other side of the new cold war. It is not my side either.
    I absolutly do not want any war, no even a cold war, but this aggressive Neoliberal US and Nato politic is pulling the whole world down.
    I am no fan of Putin, but he is not pushing for war.
    I went in the 80’ to soviet union and could still see what my people had done there…
    and no, the russians do not want another war.

  15. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    For any hope of change, the first thing we need is an acknowledgement that *The Democrats* are a primary enabler and promoter of APWOE (America’s Perpetual War On Everybody).

    Pointing at The Orange Man and the deranged Bolton as though they somehow represent something even marginally different from core Democratic Party policy (like, say, Obama’s $1 *trillion* for brand new nukes) is a complete waste of breath.

    The Pentagon prepared their ultimate Christmas wish list: every way they could imagine in their wildest fantasies to prosecute war into every possible corner of the planet, from the depths of the oceans to the far reaches of space weapons. The Dem reaction? “Oh that can’t possibly be enough, here’s another $60 billion”.

    Half a million kids marched yesterday to protest the arms race (the retail one). They said “Our parents do not know how to operate a democracy so we have to show them”. Maybe the kids can move next to the *institutional* arms race…apparently their parents are also too stupid to know what to do about that one.

  16. Altandmain

    I think that the US is stuck in self-destruct mode.

    There are alarming parallels between the US today and the USSR in the 1980s. Too much military spending was a major contributing factor to the USSR’s demise.

    The Pentagon is basically in bed with the defense industry. None of this has anything to do with keeping the American people or the Western world safe and everything to do with enriching the defense industry.

    Basically the defense industry, like Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall Street are a bunch of rent seekers.

  17. meeps

    Somewhere betwixt the publishing of Harry Reid’s search for aliens and this interview I’ve had this sensation of having been teleported back in time to 1988, so I revisited Carl Sagan’s book, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. Chapter 14 contains an article he authored, The Common Enemy, which appeared in both Parade and in Ogonyuk. His piece concluded with optimism toward “signs of change.” Yet thirty years have passed and one would never know it to compare that article with today’s headlines. It’s a tragic read. The powers have aligned so stubbornly with the hard-liners that no discernible progress has been made.

    Is it the case that the “other” 50 state strategy cannot be to re-purpose or re-direct manufacturing away from arms toward ANY other meaningful and urgently needed task? Today’s [March 25, 2018] array of links and posts (h/t Jerri-Lynn Scofield) detail–in no uncertain terms–what these tasks are and what they entail. Sagan knew decades ago. At least he was spared the disappointment and disgust of his optimism being smashed by imbeciles.

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