Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

reset_buttonThe famed Russian reset, the defining foreign policy victory of the Administration, is dead. I’m shocked, shocked!

Why did such a thing happen?

Because the Russians have played the ‘reset’ out for all it’s worth (to them, anyway). They’re now staking out/probing regarding positions to take for either a new American president, or are pondering throwing more sand in the Vaseline of the security/diplomacy machinery of the administration, should President Obama win a second term.

In a market environment, the buyer gives up something (money, usually) for item(s) he wants at a price he’s willing to pay. Similarly, the seller sells at a price he’s willing to sell at. Everyone wins.

In a nation-state environment, win-win is not nearly so prevalent, perhaps because things are less transaction oriented and more promise oriented.

In fact, in the case of the Russian reset, the events (a New START treaty significantly skewed in Russia’s favor, promises of Russian support for Iranian sanctions, and promises of sustained U.S./NATO access to Afghanistan) were wins for Russia that provided benefits (cash, power, and prestige) and cost them literally nothing. The outcomes of the “reset” to the U.S. were temporary and mild benefits at best and a permanent and perhaps profound weakening at worst.

The lesson is that Russia is in it for Russia (or maybe better said, Russia’s leaders are in it for themselves). What’s so hard to understand about that truth?



It would appear at least some in the media start with an opinion they hold (for example, U.S. nuclear weapons are not useful at best, dangerous for certain, and evil at worst) and then attempt to build a selective reality which appears to confirm their opinions. Concurrently, there is often the mutually supporting appeal to authority (like arms controller hero Senator Sam Nunn), whereby an anecdotal story can be used for the same effect. These phenomenon are played out in an article in Foreign Policy (a part of the total Foreign Policy/Slate/Washington Post effort) called The nuclear bombs to nowhere.

Nunn has often told the story of his visit to Europe as a young senator in 1974… Nunn and his staff director, Frank Sullivan, [clandestinely] went to [a military] barracks. The sergeant [who Nunn had met earlier] and “three or four of his fellow sergeants related a horror story to me,” Nunn recalled. “A story of a demoralized military after Vietnam. A story of drug abuse. A story of alcohol abuse. A story of U.S. soldiers actually guarding the tactical nuclear weapons while they were stoned on drugs. The stories went on and on for over an hour.” Deeply worried about what he had heard, Nunn reported it to then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger immediately on return to the United States.

I don’t doubt the veracity of the anecdote, but the modern questions from Nunn’s anecdote are profound: today, should we base our war plans (which might include tactical nuclear weapons) on a nearly 40-year old story, when the now highly-professionalized all-volunteer force was one year old, and before drug testing had been instituted?

To me, it seems wiser to make our war plans (again, to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons) based on the capabilities and intentions of the adversary than on Sam Nunn’s polyester-era observations.  

After discussing the significant draw down in both U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapon counts, the article’s author David Hoffman, offers this forehead slapper:

[Today,] Both the U.S. and Russia face new threats — terrorism, proliferation, economic competition, pandemics — for which these long-range or strategic nuclear weapons are of little value.

Ya got me there, big guy: nuclear weapons did not stop 9/11. However, nuclear deterrence exists to keep others from doing something we really don’t like as the costs to the attacker will exceed the benefits.

Carpenters have this rule, you see: use the right tool for the job. Strategic nuclear weapons were never intended to defeat terrorism, weapons proliferation, economic competition, nor pandemics: in fact, they’re of little value except for holding strategic targets at risk… a self-evident hypothesis without which, the whole point of the strategic arsenal is lost (as Dr. Strangelove might offer).

And of course, there are the tactical nuclear weapons.

NATO [today] has between 150 and 200 B-61 gravity bombs in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey… Today, Russia has an estimated 2,000 useable tactical nuclear weapons, although it is not clear precisely how many nor where they are located…

Yet by many accounts, these [NATO] nuclear bombs have no military utility. Where would they be dropped? The war plans of the Cold War are defunct. Our modern nuclear-tipped missiles are plenty accurate and sufficient for any future contingency or target.

The indirect plea, of course, is for NATO to purge itself of these (useless, dangerous, or evil) tactical nuclear weapons, which according to stories, were guarded by depressed post-Vietnam stoners and winos in 1974. What’s to account for this disparity in numbers between NATO and Russia and how is it that tactical nuclear weapons appear to have value to Russia, but are security value-subtracted for the West, that is, for the United States?

[In Russia], tactical nuclear weapons are seen as a useful complement to conventional or non-nuclear military forces, which are declining. Eugene Miasnikov of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow laid out the Russian perspective in a recent paper.

But didn’t the U.S. just "pivot" to Asia, and away from Europe, power-wise? Aren’t U.S. forces in Europe (and elsewhere) going to be greatly reduced? And isn’t the Air Force today on track to be the smallest ever, the Navy the smallest since the beginning of World War I, and the Army and Marines the smallest since the start of World War II? In other words, it would seem the same circumstances the Russians use as justification to keep their tactical nuclear weapons are already facing NATO (read the U.S.).

It would also seem our tactical nuclear weapons have value, if nothing else, in negotiations. Russia is now locked into a tremendous advantage and since they’re already selling missiles to Syria (we must not have pushed that darn reset button hard enough), who knows what they might do with their nuclear weapons?

Maybe U.S./NATO tactical nuclear weapons could be useful in getting the Russians to draw down their stockpile, maybe not. But one thing seems obvious: expecting Russia to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons after we’ve already unilaterally gotten rid of ours is an intellectual bridge too far.

Iranian Missile WorksIt appears Iran killed at least 20 of its own in a secret missile test, including Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hasan Moghaddam. Details surrounding the disaster are not well known.

Given the observed outcome, all I can advise is this: keep working boys, keep working. You’ll know you’re fully successful when you’re all dead.

Of course, over time, practice makes perfect, especially when Iran is likely to be getting a fair amount of outside help.

In other news related to the foreign policy success of the so-called Russian Reset comes this from NTI:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his nation would target U.S. antimissile installations if the two nations cannot come to accord on the Obama administration’s missile defense plans, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The United States and NATO for the last year have sought to reach agreement with Moscow for collaboration on a developing Europe-based missile shield. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce a deal, with the sides remaining at odds over the set-up of a cooperative defense system.

The Kremlin has also demanded a legally binding pledge that the NATO defenses would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces. The alliance has rebuffed the request but says the missile shield is intended to counter ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East, notably Iran.

Medvedev said that should the dispute continue Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles in the far-western Kaliningrad region that could be fired at U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. Additional missiles could be placed in the west and south of Russia, he added.

New long-range nuclear missiles would be equipped with technology enabling them to defeat antimissile systems, Medvedev said.

There is a potential upside to U.S. national security embedded within Medvedev’s threats:

The president also said that Russia could suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and curb additional arms control discussions with Washington.

"The United States and its NATO partners as of now aren’t going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account," according to Medvedev.

With security partners like Russia, who needs non-partners?

Iran had a deal with Russia to buy approximately $800 million worth of S-300 ground-to-air missiles.  The deal has subsequently been canx’d, attributed to the Iranian sanctions.  What’s Iran to do?  Lawfare!

Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, announced on Aug. 24 that Tehran had lodged a complaint against Russia with an international court of arbitration, Russian news agencies reported.


Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti, quoting Sajjadi, said Iran had filed the complaint nearly half a year ago.

So why’s the issue being brought to light just now?  Perhaps it’s some sort of disinformation campaign to move the focus off the Russian agreement to deal Iran yet more nuclear capability.

Or perhaps the S-300 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?  That is, the Russians didn’t want to sell something which had great foreign military sales potential only to have it defeated/bypassed by Israel in real-world conflict?

Our President has a bus tour; their dictator has the guv train to Russia.  Possible North Korean – Russian topics of discussion: repressing human rights, enhancing government power, nuclear weapons, and trade.

And while Putin’s kiss may have once been on Kim Jong Il’s list, it’s now Medvedev’s kiss he can’t resist.  And soon, it’ll go back to Putin.

putin kiss


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Earlier this month, a mission failure was attributed to the Breeze M upper stage.  This time the mission failure for an ISS resupply is (at this point) being attributed to the Soyuz upper stage.

Breeze has storable fuels; the Soyuz uses RP-1 and LOX.

Probably just ineptitude, bad workmanship, or another form of human error, right?  Or is something more sinister at work?

When you think space comes easy, especially for the well-established space-faring nations (the U.S., Russia, and China), life steps up and slaps you in the face.

The failures anomalies issues? Fairly recent examples include AEHF-1; Eutelsat W3B; the Glonass launch failure; SkyTerra 1 (resolved); and others.  More recent examples include ViaSat-1 delays and Telstar 14R.  Very recent examples include Russia’s apparent Breeze M (upper stage) failure and a Chinese Long March 2C failure (of an “experimental” payload).  These non-successes are representative and not inclusive.

The lesson is if you can get an equivalent (or near equivalent) service from something that doesn’t have to go to space, you’d be foolish to not consider its use.  While space is important, it isn’t like love, breathing air, drinkable water, or Cheetos.

In the meantime, enjoy the stars Starr in a music video from era when dinosaurs roamed the earth.