April 7, 2015
Rostislav Ishchenko for Cont
Translated by Kristina Rus
The Weapon of Retribution
In the past year, an increasing number of Russians support the disputed opinion that Russia should have spit on the world and quickly occupied Ukraine in March 2014. Now, in light of the actions of Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen, the notion that Russia should not follow the protocol, but follow the example of the USA, and now the “wretched Saudis,” by bombing left and right is spreading like wild fire (the particularly zealous recommend to use nuclear weapons) to put everyone in their place, afraid to make a peep, and the state interests of the Russian Federation would, thus, be protected worldwide.
Since it is obvious that the tendency of society for mindless use of force in both cases has common roots, and because in both cases it is motivated by Russian national interests, it must be worthwhile to take a detailed look at how realistic are such ideas and whether they really correspond to the national interests of the Russian Federation.
First, contrary to the societal consensus, Russia’s armed forces cannot stretch like rubber. To ensure the existence of more or less stable regime in Kiev, not less than one hundred thousand Russian soldiers would have to be stationed in Ukraine on a permanent basis. This is the minimum number of troops under favorable conditions.
If the US was able to organize the Bandera underground, it would have to be increased at least twice. These are not only maintenance costs. And not only unavoidable losses (the hope is they would be relatively small). It is also the need to plug holes that appear in other areas from engaging so many troops. And this is only in Ukraine.
But if Russia goes the way of solving all problems with military means, it would quickly be presented with a dozen more crises requiring an analogous military response. There would simply not be enough armed forces for all potential expeditionary corps.
Secondly, in this case, the sanctions that nobody cares about today, would mean a complete rupture of economic relations with the West. As for the Russian economy, it can certainly survive and even adapt to the autarky regime, only for the decade that it needs to rebuild, it can only meet the minimum needs of the society. Emphasizing: not the minimum needs of fans of jamon and professional oyster eaters, but the whole society.
This perestroika would require all efforts, because the method of the wild 90’s (when most of the society was simply abandoned to survive on their own) now is not suitable, the problem would be solved only with the introduction of a system that is painfully reminiscent of war communism, with not even coupons, but piecemeal distribution of food and manufactured goods, and artificial restriction of demand to only the exclusively necessary for mere survival (no frills). I don’t think that it would appeal to the society accustomed to abundance. Everyone has something to lose here. Moreover, we are not talking about waiting a year or two.
In a maximum of ten years (ideally) we could talk about starting some kind of minimal growth. In about 20 years we could get back to the minimum level of welfare (not as today, but at least the level of the late 50’s-early 60’s of the last century). At the end, the “perestroika” generation would die in poverty, and the new generation would grow up in poverty. In real poverty, not when there is not enough for a “Lexus,” and thus you have to drive a “Ford”.
Thirdly, if you send your troops somewhere, then you have to assume full responsibility for the occupied territory. Not only moral (it’s easy), but also economic, financial, political, and administrative. And it all costs money. A lot of money. And the costs may not be recovered. The USSR has invested tens of billions of real (the old) dollars into Afghanistan, buried nearly fifteen thousand soldiers and was forced to leave. The USSR had one Afghanistan, while Russia has a dozen hot spots, where it would have to send troops (and that’s just at first glance).
Fourthly, I was not mistaken when I said that the troops would have to be send everywhere. If you once decided to achieve results with military force, you have to solve all your problems in the same way, until you have terrorized everyone to surrender after the first threat. But practice and experience shows that there are always those who are not afraid.
Even the USA, which was at the peak of its power in the 1990’s, had to accept “the concept of the simultaneous conduct of two wars of medium intensity”. Although they couldn’t really pull two wars of medium intensity simultaneously and the concept had to be revised, but the fact that such a need arose, testifies that even a sole hegemon, who had at that time undeniable military superiority over the entire planet, constantly faced with resistance, and at several points at once. That is, there was a need to constantly wage war.
Well, fifthly, the USA took that path – of constant projection of force and permanent deployment of the armed forces to ensure their political interests. As a result, since the mid-90’s, they lost their moral superiority, the sole lead, broke their back economically and financially, stretched their military forces across the planet so that they are not able to collect a more or less meaningful team of allies. For carrying out a minor, by the standards of the US, operation in Libya, the forces of all the leading (in military terms) NATO countries were involved, and the preparation took over two months. In Yemen, they had to use the armed forces of the Saudi monarchy, putting in jeopardy the key US ally in the region, since there was simply not enough of their own. The US could not pull another war.
Sixth, even when the USSR had reliable allies, and like Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Cuban volunteers fought in Angola, and the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia was overthrown by the Vietnamese army, the burden on the Soviet economy was still great. But then the USSR also had the best in numbers and armament ground forces in the world (3 million people, not counting the allied armies) and second in the world Navy after the U.S., constantly present in all the oceans.
Today Russia has no such military or economic opportunities, as the USSR in the 80’s. And if even then the Soviet leadership sought in each individual case to avoid direct military intervention, then now this is even more important. In the end, war is the last argument which is applied only when all other avenues to protect your legitimate interests are finally exhausted. The wise Sun Tzu said that the best war is one that is not started.
In the end, if the U.S., which for two decades is fighting whenever they want, against whoever they want and how they want, did not reach their goals and are now trying to impose on Russia the same method to solve problems, to draw it into the infinity of military conflicts, then perhaps they are doing it not from a good life and not in good faith.
But to win the “war that never began” is very possible. While you are not fighting, you don’t waist your resources. On the contrary, your military power and your economic opportunities only increase. And they increase the more, the longer you are outside of the fight at the time when your opponent is fighting. Not accidentally, the US won those wars, in which it almost did not participate (WWI and WWII).
Not accidentally they are trying to suck Russia into battle now, and to remain on the sidelines. And they are most annoyed by the fact that the Russian leadership has managed to flip the situation: the United States got bogged down in numerous conflicts, and Russia, as a wise monkey from a Chinese Proverb, is sitting on a hill and watching the tigers fighting in the valley, so when they exhaust each other, to come down and remove the skins.
The strongest weapon of retribution is to allow the enemy to weaken himself in the process of the hunt of the infinitely elusive final military victory, and then to accept the surrender of the enemy who is not only unable to fight any longer, but needs your help just for basic survival. This is the highest skill of a politician, but to heroically die on the battlefield in vain, which could be avoided – is not a method, and not a result.