Friday, December 1, 2017

Putin’s New Militarist Rhetoric Reflects His Domestic Political Problems Rather than Foreign Agenda, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 30 – Vladimir Putin’s talk about military threats and the need for the Russian economy to go on a war footing has more to do with his domestic political problems than with any real plans by the Kremlin leader to put Moscow on course toward a third world war, according to Vladislav Inozemtsev.

            Tragically, the Moscow economist says, while “there are no real plans to put industry in Russia on a military footing,” Putin’s “militarist rhetoric,” as useful for his regime as it may be by distracting the attention of the population from economic problems, “can inflict not a little harm” on the country (

            If Putin were not employing this type of rhetoric, Inozemtsev says, Russians would be asking questions about why Moscow thinks it can plan to spend 19 trillion rubles (300 billion US dollars) between 2018 and 2015 instead of using that money to address many of the immediate economic and social problems Russia now faces. 

            Russia’s military industrial complex is “an enormous part of the Russian economy in which about two million people are involved,” the economist says. But it isn’t producing anything like the number of weapons Russia would need were it to get involved in a conflict with NATO.

              In 2016, it produced 69 military planes and 60 helicopters, miniscule numbers if one considers the likely losses in any such conflict and if one remembers that “today Russia is so far behind our Western ‘partners’ in conventional weapons that no mobilization of civilian enterprises can correct the situation.”

            A recent assessment of the balance of forces shows that Russia had 750 tanks on its western flanks while NATO had 8500, it had 420 attack aircraft while NATO had 2900, and it had 280 military helicopters while NATO had 1100.  Given this imbalance, how can any Russian talk about really going to war?

            But talk of war has even more serious consequences than that, Inozemtsev says. “In recent months, it is becoming ever more obvious that the economy is stagnant, any ‘growth’ is extremely unstable, real incomes of the population are falling ever more rapidly, and investments are supported in the first instance from the federal budget or by state companies.”

            In such a situation, he continues, “talk about a foreign threat and correspondingly about the need to finance resistance to it reduces the level of the expectations of citizens as far as the growth of their well-being is concerned.” Indeed, Inozemtsev suggests, it represents a call to put off all such subjects until after 2024 or perhaps even 2030.

            But what that means for the economy, he continues, is that all this talk is not about a genuine mobilization but rather about exactly the opposite.  The powers that be don’t need mobilization right now; they need to pacify the population and keep the Russian people focused only on issues of survival.

            It should be remembered that Moscow’s military moves in Georgia and Ukraine “began not on the background of military hysteria but at a time of talk about rapprochement with the West and modernization (2008) and about the Olympics games (2014).” That too leads to the conclusion that talk about mobilization now bears “an imaginary character.”

            And that means this: “the more talk about the shift of the economy onto military rails, the fewer chances there are for the realization of such plans.” Putin clearly is more interested in playing at being a leader in wartime than in actually being one since business in Russia “does not have any military-mobilizational potential.”

            But the war hysteria Putin has sponsored depresses the economy further, driving down savings and investment because people see no use in such steps if the end of the world is at hand and undermining the regime’s authority because “a significant portion of society understands that the authorities are lying when talking about the aggressive intentions of the West.”

            “It is difficult to say,” Inozemtsev concludes, “whether those in the Kremlin recognize this; but there is almost no doubt that no real mobilization will be achieved by raising the military rhetoric.” 

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