Having rebuilt a small medieval world in Russia, President Putin has backed himself into his own paranoid corner as regards the “active measures” he has taken against the entire Russian constituency, which he has sewn up with state-controlled misinformation about western behavior.
Veteran nuclear defense analyst Jeffrey Lewis had this to say in Foreign Policy back in August:
Titter has been aflame with reports that the United States is moving the few dozen nuclear weapons stored at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to Deveselu military base in Romania. I am calling bullshit on this one — but it’s bullshit in a telling way.
It’s most likely Russian propaganda, all part of an elaborate strategy to build opposition to U.S. missile defense efforts and deflect criticism of Moscow for violating arms control treaties. This is a particularly irritating manifestation of the bullshit asymmetry principle: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”
Earlier this year:
For Russia, the Cold War had never simply disappeared. It had resulted in defeat and the loss of empire, leaving Russia’s rival of more than 40 years to dictate the terms of peace in Europe. By the time Putin took power in 2000, the only vestige of his country’s superpower status was its nuclear arsenal, which was still the biggest in the world. So he began to use it as a crutch.
“Even in the darkest days of the Russian military, when they weren’t able to afford to pay their soldiers and fly their airplanes, they paid close attention to the readiness and modernization of their nuclear forces,” says David Ochmanek, who served as a U.S. Air Force officer during the Cold War and, between 2009 and 2014, was the Pentagon’s top official for force development. “Their doctrine reflected this,” he says.
Back to the moment:
Nuclear proliferation destabilizes the equilibrium of mutually assured destruction. In a multipolar nuclear world, in which many countries have a few nukes and threaten to use them, the possibility of a “limited” nuclear war—one in which all of civilization is not obliterated—begins, for some people, to appear feasible. The truth, however, is that there’s no such thing as limited use of nuclear weapons. Retaliation and escalation are extremely likely.
Cogent and published the day after the previous excerpt:
Grievances against the West and predictions of militaristic doom are not new in Russia—they have run through all sixteen years of Vladimir Putin’s rule. But they took on a heightened intensity in early 2014, after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the U.S. sanctions that followed. Suddenly the question of war was in the air in Moscow. If nothing else, the spectre of a conflict with Washington served as retroactive justification for the Kremlin’s policies, and a ready-made excuse for why the Russian economy had sunk into recession. At home, Russia’s ostracization was spun as a sign of its righteousness.
Political theater? “Theater of the Real”? Political Theater of the Absurd?
“A Russian takes a long time to harness a horse, but then rides fast,” said the news anchor, quoting a famous Russian saying.
By “riding fast”, Kiselyov was referring to a string of recent Russian military deployments:
- Last week, Moscow sent three warships from the Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean: on board, cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads
- Russia deployed nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Kaliningrad region bordering Poland
- Russia announced it would send several hundred paratroopers to Egypt for military exercises
- Moscow also suspended three nuclear agreements with the United States
As he has done in Syria, which damage so far has been largely contained in Syria and spilled out primarily in mass migration to the west, Putin and Company may well produce a complete medieval and totalitarian theater of politics and war by way of the state’s central control of media and the manipulation of what appears on the surface of so much turmoil.
There has been talk this week, already, of a “CIA cyber retaliation” against Russia in reprisal for meddling with the American election. May it be accompanied by the transferring into the former Soviet Union higher-integrity news coverage and analysis in Russian.
Addendum – Additional Reference