Thursday, June 18, 2015

Putin’s Sabre Rattling Threatens Russia’s Neighbors, the World, and Russia Itself

Paul Goble


            Staunton, June 18 – Vladimir Putin’s increasingly belligerent stance and his announcement yesterday that Moscow will put in place 40 additional nuclear weapons not only represents a threat to Russia’s neighbors and the world but to Russia itself, according to Russian commentators.


            Liliya Shevtsova argues that as a result of Putin’s statements and actions, “Russia is being transformed into a military camp” and the sense of hopelessness and of the inevitability of disaster characteristic of the last years of the USSR is spreading among Russia’s population (


            What Putin is doing is no longer a bluff or a threat or an effort at intimidation directed at Ukraine but rather “a forceful confrontation with the most powerful community of states,” with the entire region around Russia becoming “the field of this competition.”  Under these circumstances, Russia’s neighbors must “be prepared!”


            And both they and the international community must come to terms with the reality that it turns out that the people in the Kremlin “are trying to survive by repeating the course of the USSR while threatening to make it much more dramatic.” Indeed, although Shevtsova does not draw this analogy, one often made in 1990-1991 suggests itself: “a nuclear Yugoslavia.”


            That at least some in the West understand this is suggested by a new ranking of countries in the world in terms of their commitment to peace prepared by Australian and American scholars. Of the 162 countries rated, Russia now occupies 152nd place, down 10 from last year, leaving it just ahead of North Korea ( is now spending


            Obviously what Putin is doing threatens Ukraine and the West, but ever more people in Russia and elsewhere recognize that his statements and actions are threatening Russia.  In a commentary for, Leonid Storch points out that Moscow is now spending 4.79 percent of its GDP  on the military (


            That is more than three times the average spending on defense of EU countries. They spend on average 1.45 percent of GDP, the Moscow commentator notes; and the extra Russian spending is a serious burden on the Russian economy which is already suffering and even more on the well-being of the Russian people.


            At present, Russia is spending 8.4 times as much on defense as on health care, a disproportion which helps to explain rising mortality rates among Russians as well as the immense amount of human suffering caused by Putin’s “optimization” of health care, “optimization” being a euphemism for deep cuts across the board.


            “If sanctions and low oil prices are driving the Russian economy into a dead end,” Storch says, “the paranoid buildup of military power Putin promises will put this economy on its knees [and] together with growing inflation, a declining GDP, a weak ruble, capital flight, and spending on excesses like the 2018 World Cup, [this] will destroy the Russian economy.”


            In that event, Storch says in words that echo Shevtsova’s argument, Russia and the world will see a repetition of what happened in 1990-1991: “yet another collapse of Russian statehood and the massive impoverishment of the population.” And against that  looming disaster, “no St. George ribbons will be able to help.”



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