Russia’s Gangland Defense Policy

The always brilliant Pavel Felgenhauer, writing for the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, exposes the fundmental fraud that underlies Russia’s foreign military adventurism:

This week the Russian armed forces began month-long strategic military exercises called Stability 2008. According to the Defense Ministry, the scenario suggests “a worsening of the situation and an escalation of crisis situations into military confrontation” (, September 20). The composition of the forces and ministries that will be involved in the exercise does not leave any doubt—it’s a scenario of a nuclear war in which Russia and its ally Belarus will face the United States. and NATO. The Russian military, intelligence and special services, and other executive government agencies and ministries, including local governments, together with their Belarusian counterparts must jointly “liquidate military conflicts, insuring strategic stability.”

The exercises will involve mobilization and deployment to forward positions of forces in the Moscow and Far East Military Districts and the deployment of the navy in the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and the Pacific. Three air armies and one air defense corps, the Strategic Rocket Troops, strategic bombers, and Space Troops will be involved as well as Belarusian military formations. This exercise involves all of Russia’s nuclear forces, most of the battle-ready navy, and the Air Force, but only partially the army. This implies a predominantly indirect war with a far-off enemy—the United States—on sea, in the air, and in space, using nuclear weapons, with a limited engagement of army ground forces (, September 20).

Of course, only a fraction of the manpower and hardware that would be needed in a real military confrontation between Russia and NATO will be deployed during Stability-2008 maneuvers. This is mostly a staff exercise to prepare the military, the Interior Ministry, the special services and civilian executive government to work together in a possible future confrontation with the West. Russia may some day move to secure its vital interests and defend its citizens (as was the case with Georgia in August) in other parts of the former USSR, say, in Ukraine’s Crimea. The West may decide to intervene. According to Air Force chief General Alexander Zelin, during Stability 2008, Russia’s air defenses will repulse an enemy air onslaught, while Russia will use its strategic bombers and other nuclear capabilities to enforce peace and “stability” (Interfax-AVN, September 22).

According to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, the maneuvers have been planned for a year; they are not a reaction to current political events (RIA-Novosti, September 23). Indeed, such massive military exercises with an outright anti-Western scenario could not have been improvised at short notice in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Georgia in August. Apparently, the present atmosphere of East-West confrontation was envisaged long before by military planners in the Defense Ministry just as the invasion of Georgia itself was planned in advance.

While military staffs and other parts of the executive branch will be preparing to meet the challenges and consequences of an air, sea, and space confrontation with the West on home turf, a small naval force led by the nuclear cruiser Pyotr Velikii will sail to the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean to show the flag and the finger to the United States, Russia’s archrival. Long-range bombers will fly out to far-off waters and coordinate their maneuvers with the Pyotr Velikii (see EDM, September 11).

Russian journalists and TV crews specially selected by military authorities have been posted on board the Pyotr Velikii to cover the planned two-month voyage (RIA-Novosti, September 23). Since the ship sailed on September 23, Russian state TV has been showing daily satellite-transmitted reports on the progress of the mission from on board. The exercises Stability-2008 and the voyage of the naval force are getting massive coverage in the government-controlled Russian press. It was reported that the Pyotr Velikii will visit the Russian naval outpost in Tartus, Syria, that ten Russian warships are already in Syria, and that “aircraft carriers and cruisers may be based there” in the future. The visit of the Pyotr Velikii to Syria, it is said, will transform Russia into a naval superpower (Izvestia, September 22).

There is, in fact, not a single Russian warship based in the run-down Soviet-era naval outpost in Tartus, and the Pyotr Velikii is too big to dock there. Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is again in disrepair and not ready to sail. The Kuznetsov was built in a shipyard in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. Russia does not have a shipyard capable of building any more carriers (Kommersant, RIA-Novosti, September 24).

The voyage of the Pyotr Velikii and the Stability 2008 exercises seem to be mostly publicity stunts to boost anti-Western propaganda at home and send a clear message to Washington. Russia’s rulers want to be taken seriously and can make trouble in different parts of the world if not respected; but they are ready to make deals: Do not send warships to the Black Sea to help Georgia and we will not go into your backyard; respect our sphere of influence and we will respect yours—or else. The offer resembles youth gangland politics, but Vladimir Putin grew up in a bad neighborhood in St. Petersburg

5 responses to “Russia’s Gangland Defense Policy


    Unlike microbiologist-turned-military-expert Felgenhauer, this author is an Army officer who saw real fighting.


    Oh really? Did he see fighting in Georgia? Does he live in Russia, or speak a word of the language? It seems not, you moronic ape. Couldn’t you even have found at least a colonel? The whole world has turned against Russia, and the best you can do is a major? LOL! Funny stuff.

    You cite the Reverend Moon’s paper? Gosh pretty compelling! What’s next, the National Enquirer?

    Next you’ll give us Pat Buchanan and David Duke “proving” Russia is right!

  2. LR, you gotta tone it down a little! Washington Times is a respectable newspaper. And it was National Enquirer that reported about John Edwards’ love child. And the fact that Washington Times gave an Army Officer a space for op-ed doesn’t say anything about their editorial position (beyond the fact that they are open to alternative views). In my opinion, your feisty response distracts from the merits of this discussion.

    Now, Eugene does not explain why an opinion of an US Army Major on US policy towards Russia carries more weight than an opinion of “microbiologist-turned-military-expert” on Russia’s defense policy. In fact, they both could be right – Eugene offers a non-sequitur comment. But, of course, logic has never been Eugene’s strong point. Still, LR – you don’t have to level with him…


    You’re entitled to your opinion, but we’ve previously indicated that we don’t have much respect for the WT:

    and just recently Kim pointed out that it published the crazy ravings of David Axe, who believes Georgia was at fault in the recent war with Russia.

    Naturally you are correct in saying that even a psychopath can be right by sheer happenstance, but we find it most amusing the depths to which Russians are forced to sink these days in their desperation to find allies. Nobody in their right mind sets out intentionally to publish an op-ed in the WT. It only ends up there when it can find no better home, and often that’s for quite good reasons.

    The major fault, of course, lies with the commenter and not the paper. The commenter offers no “merits” whatsoever, as is his wont, and makes no effort to point out any specific statement of Felgenhauer which is false or contradicted by the WT writer, who has no apparent expertise whatsoever in Russia — the subject to which Felgenhauer has devoted his life’s work. The commenter’s actions remind one of the old Soviet joke where an American complains to a Russian hotel desk about poor quality service and they reply “yeah, but America lynches blacks.”

  3. LR:
    I’ll settle for 95% agreement with you, and won’t dwell on 5% disagreement (although, I did mention my dissent on several occasions). Anyway, I just looked at today’s WT commentary page – Bill O’Reilly, Mona Charen, Jay Ambrose, Maggie Gallagher and Debra Saunders. You have to agree – they don’t go to WT out of desperation.

    Anyway, we can agree to disagree on WT – it’s really marginal to your main point with which I agree – “The major fault, of course, lies with the commenter and not the paper”.


    Nobody should ever agree with anybody 100%. If anyone ever did we’d know for sure we were doing something wrong!

    Not sure that Bill O’Reilly or Mona Charen can get on the pages of the Times or Post whenever they want, both are somewhat widely regarded as right-wing kooks. Not to say of course that the WT never does anything right, we may well have republished them a time or two over the past three years. But if they were casting about to find someone to speak on Russia’s behalf and some major was the best they could do, that’s pretty lame. Ought to at least be somebody who can pretend to have Russia credentials.

  4. Its funny LR that you called Bill O’rally a right wing cook, are not you the one who not long ago indorced Sara Palin, whose qualification for VP is that Putin wearing a hat you know lands in Alaska as he crosses “american airspace”. and I know you’ll say what about Obama but the difference is 18.000.000 people voted for Obama.


    It’s funny that you dare to comment on blogs before you learn to read. We didn’t call him a right wing kook, we said many people view him that way.

    Palin’s qualification to be vice president is that she has FAR more elected executive experience than ALL THREE other candiates COMBINED. It’s true she doesn’t have much foreign policy experience, but she has just as much as Barack Obama does, and he’s trying to be PRESIDENT, not vice president. Obama named Biden specifically because he has no foreign policy experience at all, and he ALSO lacks executive experience. He’s the least qualified candidate for the Oval Office in American history, period.

    Moreover, Palin’s right-wing connections are very valuable to John McCain, who lacks them. They help to energize his base, and have done so amazingly well.

    Your comments are ignorant and totally uninformed.

  5. “we tell Russia they should not do business with Iran while we provide military advisors to Georgia; we tell Russia under no circumstances can they have any military presence in Cuba, but we dismissively tell Russia they have nothing to say about our expanding a military alliance to their very borders. ”

    Strange bedfellows the Russians pick as friends. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria. These are rogue nations. None are democratic. None have free speech or freedom of religion.
    To equate the US support of Georgia as the same as Russia’s support of Iran is ludicrous.

    I am sick and tired of these Liberals’ moral equivalences.

    George Bush is not the same as Hussein.
    The Taleban are not the same as US soldiers.
    The Russian “liberation of Ossetia” is not the same as America’s liberation of Iraq.

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