72 hours of heavy-dosing on Russian Coldrex and the buzz ain't what it used to be...
Now, every self-respecting Russian blog has been posting this diagram, below, from those folks at English Russia, promoted courtesy of the apparent Eliteny uber-blog, Siberian Light.
To be honest, though, while not disputing the truth of what it says, I am not sure this observation passes the 'so what?' test. It is intellectually tired and old to say that the US neo-cons are re-setting their nuclear sights on Russia: like they ever stopped? And a global picture of nuke placement, as the French would say, would show the US continues to be an equal-opportunity would-be aggressor.... That is what war-gaming and preparedness is, surely, all about.
But, still, I say, Russia needs more (and newer) nuclear weapons. eh? you think.
Here's my humbled supposition as to why: demographic collapse is already in its early stages in Russia - I don't think it will nearly be as bad as some say, but a population below 100,000,000 by 2040 has to be an odds on certainty at this stage. In that scenario, the current policy to aspire to a standing conscription force is just never going to stack up. I mean, Sergey Ivanov's reforms to reduce 'exceptions to call-up' notwithstanding (because God knows, a broader social and intellectual base in the conscripted army could only but have a positive effect on the force's welfare and fighting potential), it is going to be harder and harder for the Russian armed forces to maintain man-power at their current level (1,500,000 including conscripts and paramilitaries?). I think no-one should pretend that it serves any global interests for Russia to be weak... A Russia, secure in her own borders, is a Russia that can engage outwardly, return us to a bi-polar world (albeit benignly so) and both keep the US in geo-political check (like we've benefited recently from its unfettered unipolar dominance) and show that there are some world normative values of power-play which rogue-states cross at their multi-lateral peril.
Since I genuinely cannot see the case for Russia being anyone's expansionary military threat (the noise of the trouble-making paranoids in Tbilisi excepted), therefore what we are talking about is an armed force for defensive purposes.
And this is my point.
Just as the United Kingdom tonight voted for the renewal of its nuclear arsenal, so I think we should rip up those '80s US-USSR treaties and allow Russia to re-arm too. For exactly the same reason.
For while I think India and Pakistan have now learned the meaning of M.A.D., and North Korea has only ever played Dr Strangelove to blackmail the world for more aid, the simple brutal truth is that Iran will become a nuclear power... and much sooner than we all pray for. Russia, especially under VVP, has been playing a long and subtle game with Iran, which I still believe has every chance of being more effective than implicit threat of a Yankee stand-off. But here's the thing: one has to prepare for the time that it might go wrong. Bluntly, we need the five permanent nuclear powers to reinvest and upgrade in nuclear weapons capability, if only because 'frogs' and their ilk may become a tragic necessity to prevent wider conflict. And since events after 2003, and the Anglo-Saxon adventure in Iraq, tell us there is no Western monopoly on common sense, then we need Russia - we, all of us, the global community of wanna-be survivors - need Russia to be one of those re-arming countries too.
It is a sad comment on our human condition - but I think an accurate one - that it is only through strength and the certainty of overwhelming retaliation - that nations can truly guarantee peace. Of course we have the edifice of the EU to counter-point that assertion (nations of historic conflict coming together in harmony)... yeah right.
Maybe it is my flu'd up and miserable state that says this but, I think it is an awful race against history to see which happens first... urban 'nuclear' terrorism or an angst-y, trigger-nervous Israel doing Washington's work and taking out those Iranian nuclear facilities. But neither Russia, nor the non-aligned world, should hope or bank on that. Regimes like Iran have to believe this is still a multi-polar world where, in contrast to 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', it can see that if it ever does the unthinkable it faces annihilation from more than one direction: my enemy's enemy is mine too. It doesn't say a bunch of beans about human nature, but I honestly think it is a workable strategy for preventing the awful.
...and now I go back to being 'high' on Russian Coldrex...