The graying bear is getting a make-over. Russia’s military is launching its biggest rearmament effort since Soviet times, including a $650 billion program to procure 1,000 new helicopters, 600 combat planes, 100 warships, and 8 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
Analysts say Russia, while already the world’s fifth-largest military spender, needs strong conventional forces to reduce its overreliance on its aging Soviet-era nuclear missile deterrent. Valentin Rudenko, director of the independent Interfax-Military News Agency, says it could create “a whole new ballgame.”
“For about two decades we’ve had no real modernization, at least not like what’s being proposed now,” he says. “Russia will finally have a modern, top-level armed forces that are capable of protecting the country.”
The New START Treaty made perfect sense for Russia. Only the U.S. has to reduce longe-range nuclear stockpiles, since Russia is under the limit already, so Russia no longer needs to direct resources into competing with the U.S. as to the number of long-range nuclear weapons. Those resources are being re-directed by Russia into conventional weapons and an upgrade of its existing long-range nuclear arsenal.
In other words, while Obama, the Democrats and 13 Republicans viewed New START as part of some dreamy dream for world peace and disarmament, the Russians viewed it as a strategic decision to enable Russia better to compete with the U.S.
It also is not surprising that Russia is delaying negotiations over short-range nuclear weapons, where Russia has a large advantage.
Russia got what it wanted from New START. It’s moving on, like a three-card monte dealer who quickly scurries down the street before the dupes figure out what has happened.