Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Russian Military Machine

Russia recently tried to put some new GLONASS navigation satellites into orbit. They've come back down again.

There are a number of ways that this might be spun. One is that this shows that the Russian military machine is becoming so degraded that we don't need no stinkin' treaties. We can just watch them going down the drain.

Another is that this degradation of the military machine is precisely what makes the Russians so suspicious, because they are losing their capability to know what the United States is doing. This, along with their belief that antimissile emplacements in Europe might be used against them, is part of the basis for their desire for treaties. They are willing to share some of their data if we'll share some of ours.

The first spin, of course, is the triumphalist stand that some, Republicans in particular and neocons very specifically, prefer. The problem with it is that Russia still has a fair bit of military might: they can still put their Bear bombers up in the air with nukes, and if a Proton-M with nuclear warheads fired in anger came down in the wrong place, well, so be it. Frightened and suspicious people, outside of communications, can be unpredictable (cf. North Korea).

Alternatively, the current rather rapid decline of Russia's military machine is something we might want to keep closer tabs on via the inspections New Start will provide and something that we don't want Russia to get too upset over. So transparent mutual declines in armaments, via treaties, keep the sides balanced and Russia not quite so frightened and suspcious.

The second course makes a lot more sense to me. And I have to say that I'm surprised at this significant failure while encouraged by Russia's willingness to announce it.

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