Friday, June 08, 2007

You've Got to Know When to Hold Up, Know When to Fold Up

Austin Bay argues that Russia unsucessfully tried to bluff Europe into rejecting a limited missile defense.

The Cold Spell ended quickly. Despite the sensationalist “Cold War” revival rhetoric, the mutual interests bind the US and Russia –and Russia and Europe. The Russian threat to “re-target” missiles and point them at Europe was bluster and threat. That’s right, Mr Putin, threaten to destroy your consumers. Assuming Russia survived its limited war with the US and Europe, its Atlantic-less future would be rather limited: a trans-Ural oil vassal of China might be a better deal than Islamist satrap.

Austin quotes a recent New York Times article which reveals Russia's real concerns. "After months of angrily rejecting a White House plan for missile defense in Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia surprised President Bush on Thursday with an offer to build a joint system in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. The proposed system, designed to guard against a missile attack from Iran, poses serious diplomatic and technical challenges, experts said. But the fact that it was suggested by Mr. Putin, and not immediately rejected by Mr. Bush, indicated a desire on both sides to cool the hostile exchanges that in recent months had driven relations to a low point in the post-cold-war era." Austin Bay says, "As I’ve argued many times, the missile defense argument is a charade. Russia needs missile protection – from the east and south. It also needs western allies."

The really interesting theme here is that while Europe and Russia may tactically want to embarass the United States for short-term political gain, strategically their weakness requires that America continue to remain the hegemon so that they can pursue their business schemes from behind its protection. Twit America to be sure, but don't damage it fatally because, if God forbid, the hated USA actually collapsed, then neither Russia nor Europe would have the means to protect themselves a chaotic world. There's a moral in there somewhere too for domestic Leftists who call for the downfall of America on their way to buy a good bottle of vintage wine. Power to the people! Long live Hugo Chavez and Osama Bin Laden! But not yet. Not yet.


Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

This is simply the kind of grinding noises that are heard when history is changing gear.

The Europeans (along with their US fellow travellers) are already sliding into the pages of dusty unread history books -- in their curent triumph, they have forgotten (or never learned) the term Phyrric Victory.

Russia is well placed temporarily, but they need the Euros as customers and as a (hoped-for) defence against China. The failure node is of course the Middle East, and just how wrenching the coming changes will be depends a lot on the mechanism by which the inevitable break-down there actually comes to pass.

But at the end of the day, the unsustainable Western liberal nanny government model will fail; Russia will face China alone; and China will win.

But then China will have to face India. The "end of history" -- what a liberal conceit!

6/08/2007 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Err, don't think so, Kinauchdrach. May I draw your attention to this:

6/08/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

Interesting thesis kinuachdrach.

i have a few questions about your perspective.

"Russia is well placed temporarily"

Are you speaking of its natural resource wealth (oil and gas)?

How will they address declining infrastructure?
Russia: Pipeline Monopolies Stymie Infrastructure Improvement

How do you propose that Russia overcomes its population decline in the coming decades?
Russia's population decline spells trouble

How will Russia increase their military capabilities to match that of the U.S. and NATO?

- See U.S. nuclear primacy and missile defense (U.S. missile defense being multi-layered involving ground-based interceptors, sea-based systems, airborne laser platforms, and space-based lasers.

"The failure node is of course the middle East"

If the middle east explodes how will China meet its energy needs?

China's strong economic growth is spurring a concomitant growth in energy demand that together are outstripping energy supply and infrastructure capabilities. This supply-demand gap will become more acute over time, particularly in light of the fact that, ever since 2000, China has become far less efficient in energy use per incremental dollar of (GDP).

How does China balance the great income divide of its population?

"The unsustainable Western liberal nanny government model will fail"

A good description of why Putin is popular in Russia; no oil, no nanny state.

"But then China will have to face India"

What about Japan and Taiwan?

Thank you for the discussion.

6/08/2007 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Elam Bend said...

Amazingly, I think Bush called Putin's bluff, and publically at that. The best part is that he laughed it off,"The cold war is over."
And props to the Euros for not tripping into Putin's "I must break you" moment.

6/08/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Russia needs missile defense against the nation state it is helping to arm...

They need a defense against the short/mid range missiles Iran has which can soon be tipped with weapons Russia is bent on selling them. That is why Putin is whining about us setting up a missile defense for missiles Iran will build in the future. My best guess is that we will have a missile shield in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Stans before too long.

Everybody but the silly anarchist, greens, and ignorant libs will be happy!!!

Beautiful, simply beautiful

By the way, China is an economic and cultural near/mid term threat to Russia – but, only a very limited threat to the United States. China will adjust one way or another over the era in which they ‘are a growing red menace’. However, Russia is a failure by all measures. They may be picked apart by neighbors to the south, east, and west. Of course, there will be no aggressive military strike – just a slow death and submission.

6/09/2007 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Interesting discussion.

Elijah asked: "Are you speaking of its natural resource wealth (oil and gas)?"

Indeed! Russia is the only major economy which is self-sufficient in energy & minerals. The Eurocrats tend to forget that the EU imports as much oil as the US, and a lot more gas & coal. But the Russians have not forgotten it.

"How will Russia increase their military capabilities to match that of the U.S. and NATO?"

NATO (i.e., EU) has military capabilities independent of the US? Come on, we all know better than that.

Russia is not going to have to face the EU or the US militarily.

Russia knows that it can bring the EU to its knees any day it chooses simply by closing the valves on some gas pipelines. And it knows that the EU would respond to that aggression with a humble apology.

Similarly, Russia no longer has to worry about the US because of the victory of the New York Times set. "Leaders" who do not want to fight sworn enemies in Iraq are certainly not going to shed US blood in defence of France.

However, Russia does have to worry about China.

Look at the map -- uninhabited resource-rich Eastern Siberia across the border from populous resource-poor China. There is no question about what is going to happen there, only questions about when & how.

Suppose (as an extreme alternative) Russia decided to pre-empt their Chinese problem by unloading their entire nuclear arsenal on China, and succeeded in eliminating half the population. The surviving now mad-as-hell Chinese would outnumber then nuclear-free Russians by almost 3 to 1. Game over.

As a wild speculation, one of the few survival options for Russia might be to try to foment a hot war between China & India. But it is doubtful that either China or India would allow themselves to fall into that trap.

The "peaceful" alternative is for Russia to sell Eastern Siberia to China, just as it once sold Alaska to the US. Certainly, China has lots of idle US dollars to cover the purchase. Then it would be Chinese hands on the EU's gas supply. And as the article James linked to implies, the Chinese dictatorship would not feel bound to play by EU rules.

Our world is going to change -- that much is certain.

6/09/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

I was in discussions at the Pentagon in 1992 about how Russia might contribute to a US missile defense system. Other topics addressed included use of Russian tracking sites to augment our own and joint programs for nuclear rocket engine development. Not long after that, US B-52s made a friendship visit to a Russian airbase, a couple of Tu-95 Bear bombers visited England AFB, and a AN-124 made the trip to Oshkosh for the fly in – flying an American flag from the cockpit window as it taxied in. Heady stuff!

It all came to an end when Clinton went into Bosnia. The Russians could not figure out why any sane and truly peace-loving country would do that, decided that we were nuts, and were P.Oed over our attitude toward their friends the Serbs.

The “we will point missiles at you” gambit almost worked for Gorbachev when we started putting AGM-109 Tomahawks in Europe to oppose their already deployed SS-22’s. The “Western” Left went nuts. Then Pres Reagan suggested “Take yours out and we will do the same” and a few months later Gorby acted like it was his idea and took him up on it. The INF treaty resulted - which the Russians then cheated on, emplacing SS-25’s in Czechlovokia.

But as for the proposed radar site – I can’t see how it would do any good. We already have a radar in Turkey that can spot Iranian missiles during the boost phase and that is all the site Putin offers would be able to do. The interceptors we propose to deploy are terminal phase interceptors, not for boost phase or midcourse. Putin is just trying to sabotage our efforts while appearing reasonable to the uninformed.

6/09/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger sleeper said...

There is an interesting detail that shouldn't be forgotten: At the end of May a delegation of the socialists from the European Parliament went to Russia, to assure them that on missile defense they are with them, against the US and against Angela Merkel's firm stand in Samarra. They also refused to meet with opposition activists. Now, after one week, they are revealed for what they are - irrelevant idiots. Putin showed them that he prefers to deal with the US over their heads.

6/09/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

When I first read about Putin's proposal, I just automatically assumed it was yet another Russian effort to access American technology and secrets. We keep reading about Russia's improving economy but they don't seem to have ANY new toys, gadgets, gizmo's or patents. And much of their improved money-flow is simply form selling old worn-out technology to the Mugabe's of the world.

BTW, Wretchard - for future headlines, it should read, "Know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em," with the "em" being a contraction of "them". "Them" would be a handful of cards in the game of poker, and "folding 'em" would be giving up on that particular bet. But you already knew that, I'm sure.

6/10/2007 10:17:00 AM  

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