Staunton, March 2 – Vladimir Putin’s message to Russians and the world was certainly not the one he would have liked to deliver: His words show, one Siberian commentator put it, that “Russia is armed to the teeth but poor,” too poor perhaps to support his militarist rhetoric (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=171296).
Other Russian experts agree. Aleksey Kudrin said that Russia would need a Chinese economy to pay for Putin’s arms program (newsru.com/finance/02mar2018/kudringdp.html), something it doesn’t have. Instead, it exports raw materials and imports manufactured goods (newizv.ru/news/economy/28-02-2018/rosstat-import-prodovolstviya-vyros-na-8-mlrd-dollarov).
One way out, still a third expert says, would be to cooperate with other countries; but Russia has almost no allies and, given Putin’s autarkic approach, appears unwilling to make the kinds of concessions that are required to make economic cooperation with others profitable enough to support Putin’s plans (svpressa.ru/economy/article/194335/).
Consequently, the Kremlin leader is in the minds of many engaged in his last “bluff” presenting weapons with roots in Soviet times as something new and cutting edge (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2018/03/02/752531-oruzhie-putin and forum-msk.org/material/news/14401563.html
Putin couldn’t even give his speech without relying on video game footage that observers immediately identified as being more than ten years old, hardly an example of cutting age technology (kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2018/03/02/116419/putin-prigrozil-miru-kompyuternymi-multikami-11-letnej-davnosti-plokhogo-kachestva.shtml and newizv.ru/news/politics/02-03-2018/izderzhki-sekretnosti-otkuda-vzyalis-kadry-floridy-v-rolike-o-novoy-rakete).
And for those paying attention, developments in Russia outside the hall where Putin spoke were undercutting his message: His deputy prime minister admitted serious shortcomings in Russia’s existing nuclear missile program, remarks that hardly inspire confidence for the future (thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2018/03/while-putin-brags-about-new-nuclear-missiles-his-deputy-prime-minister-admits-world and censoru.net/25192-ves-mir-snova-hohochet-yadernaya-raketa-putina-ne-rabotaet-ona-nedavno-ruhnula-v-arktike.html).
Moreover, few who are presenting Putin’s words as if he can keep them, something he has rarely done in the past, bothered to notice that in the last year alone, Moscow has been forced to cut back its military spending because it simply doesn’t have enough revenue to do otherwise (rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/03/01/1685990.html).
Finally, those who see Putin’s words as a repetition of his Munich speech a decade ago forget, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Khots says, is that in 2008, Russia had plenty of money. Now, in what some are calling his “Munich 2” speech, Russia doesn’t. His words thus represent “an absolutely ‘Soviet’ path toward a guaranteed catastrophe” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A9822908F07E).