Talking Up the Russia Threat
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. October 14, 2004
In the real world, as opposed to the mythical world of the sixty-second sound bite, the leading threat to U.S. security is not al Qaeda (an organization with nonexistent oil reserves, spurious WMDs and shadowy cave-dwelling leadership). The main threat to the United States is a large country with thousands of nuclear weapons. As Alexei Bayer pointed out in his Oct. 8 commentary ("Russia off the Radar Screen") for the Wall Street Journal: "[F]oreign policy elites in Washington have been mislead by their own claims and have come to believe that the U.S. is now the world's only military superpower, holding an overwhelming advantage over any potential rival. This is patent nonsense."
One might ask how this "patent nonsense" attained currency? As with all widely accepted nonsense, it was enthroned by that cleverest of clever in-groups - "the smart set." The problem with Washington, and the problem with America in general, is that too many people want to belong to the "smart set." And here is where comedy and tragedy become as one. With sadness I must report that there is no "smart set," and there never was. There is only a dominant herd that demands intellectual compliance as the price of admission. What is genuinely smart doesn't come in "sets," cannot be bottled, packaged or sold to mass audiences and political climbers. Thoughts and ideas that are bottled, packaged or sold to mass audiences are necessarily simple and shallow. The problem with the democratic process is that packaging political "truth" for the masses involves our leaders in dangerous mythologizing. As Mr. Bayer pointed out in his October 8 commentary, "The Pentagon Budget may be larger than the sum total of what the rest of the world spends on defense, but Russia can still incinerate all of the U.S. in about 15 minutes - hardly a condition for world domination by Washington."
Bayer's statement craves the following amendment: If Russia has the firepower to "incinerate" America, it stands to reason that Russia's intercontinental rockets (with their pinpoint accuracy) could be directed at the U.S. military in such a way as to cripple America's nuclear deterrent (and neutralize U.S. conventional forces). American experts, and the American public, have yet to understand that Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is a myth, along with the supposedly unbreakable "triad" of nuclear retaliation (consisting of bombers, land based missiles and submarine-launched missiles). There is no military reason to destroy cities when destroying weapons will put the enemy's cities at your mercy.
The destruction of America's nuclear deterrent in a surprise attack is not fantasy. Russia has been training its forces for exactly such an opportunity. In fact the entire international landscape of today, down to the anti-U.S. shift of France and Germany, the diversionary nature of the "war on terror" and the Russia-China strategic partnership fits snuggly into this scenario. While our strategic attention is fixed on al Qaeda and Iraq, America's nuclear deterrent may be vulnerable to surgical strikes. "Terrorist" hits against critical U.S. communications might conceivably negate U.S. early warning systems. New methods for tracking ballistic missile submarines may already exist. Russian intercontinental missiles, launched in the wake of diversionary terror attacks, might destroy America's missile silos and bomber bases. Pundits and so-called "experts" are often guided by the mistaken notion that nuclear weapons exist solely for the purpose of obliterating population centers; but the shock wave of a 25-megaton bomb detonated in the ocean will destroy all submarines within an 18 to 20-kilometer radius. Smaller nuclear weapons can take out bomber bases and missile silos. The truth that Mr. Bayer has put forward in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, therefore, has much wider significance. It is not simply that Russia has the power of launching a suicidal strike that could destroy America. Russia possesses weapons that have a war-winning potential if used in proper combination with other forces (regular and irregular). In this context, President Vladimir Putin's resuscitation of the USSR is hardly a spontaneous shift. There is a growing body of evidence that this shift was long in the making; that it may have been conceived prior to the Soviet Union's collapse.
This week an overseas friend passed along his concerns about the persecution of an independent Russian journal. "They have no doubt that Communism is back," he explained. If this is true, imagine the danger that is now developing against the United States. Communism was dead but now it is alive. Will the Bush Administration come to its senses and confront this emerging challenge?
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal jolted readers with Janusz Bugajski's "A Look Into Putin's Soul." According to Bugajski, "Russia's relative weakness, so often cited by Putin apologists, is dangerously misleading�." But America stubbornly clings to a myth. And this myth is very comforting. Adding to the mix, American ignorance of things Russian is readily evidenced by presidential candidate John Kerry's remark, during his first debate with George Bush, about visiting KGB headquarters in "Treblinka Square." Treblinka, of course, was the first Nazi death camp in which Jews were systematically gassed. There is no "Treblinka Square." As far as I saw, none of the media commentators noticed Kerry's error on the night of the debate. And nobody in the broadcasting media is likely to criticize the Democratic candidate on this account.
The signs are bad throughout the former Soviet Imperium, but the Western media is oblivious. In the supposedly democratic Czech Republic, where secret communist structures dominate the economy and the state, courageous voices are speaking out. In the ongoing trial and persecution of former political prisoner Vladimir Hucin, Czech activist Hana Catalanova offers the following warning to the West: "Political correctness does not apply or serve when fighting terrorism and extremism, as we, who honor freedom and democracy, have already come to know. The world has changed for all of us since September 2001, and it will never be the same again. The origin of evil, terrorism and extremism spreads to all parts of the world. It has a name. It is called communism! History and present times are a convincing proof of this."
There is also the recent testimony of Frantisek Bednar of the World Association of Former Czechoslovak Political Prisoners. Bednar states: "There is no doubt about the ongoing existence of communist laws after the upheaval of 1989. Let us ask ourselves a question: How is it possible that something like [the Hucin trial] can still take place in the 21st century, 15 years after the dissolution of the communist secret police?" Cutting directly to the heart of the matter, Bednar says that the West and its representatives "accept former communists as business partners. Furthermore, the term 'anti-communist' is now regarded as right-extremism." He also states that, "the anti-communists totally lost, and Western democracy has been defeated. Everything now boils down to naked profit seeking. That is why in Hucin's case the EU is silent and so is America!"
The Wall Street Journal is to be congratulated for publishing bold, honest columns about Russia. Despite these timely warnings, the West remains asleep. Something has to be done to wake a sleepwalking nation. A debate must begin on the question of Russia. Perhaps it has started.
I am not holding my breath.
© 2004 J. R. Nyquist