Putin Again Warns U.S. Against Breaking Strategic Nuclear Balance

November 12, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered stark opening remarks before meeting with top defense officials and representatives of the Russian military/industrial complex in the annual review session. The meeting, which took place on Tuesday in Sochi, coincided with the announcement that the Russian defense budget for next year will be $49 billion, with $35 billion earmarked directly for Russian armed forces. By comparison, the US defense budget is 10-15 TIMES bigger; and two new US weapons programs — the F-35 new stealth fighter plane and the replacement ballistic missile-carrying submarines — are each more expensive than the entire Russian defense budget.

Putin focused his opening remarks on the threat to Russia posed by the US and allied global missile defense program. Putin said early in his remarks:

"As we all know, the United States and their allies are continuously building up their global missile defense system. Unfortunately, neither our concern nor cooperation proposals are taken into consideration. We indicated on numerous occasions that we see such actions as an attempt to undermine the existing parity in nuclear missile armaments, and actually to destabilize the entire system of regional and global stability."

Putin noted that Washington persistently claimed that the ABM deployments were related to the danger from Iran, but the deployments continue even after the P5+1 deal. He concluded:

"Therefore," he concluded, "references to the Iranian and North Korean nuclear missile threats are a cover-up for the true intentions, which are actually directed at neutralizing the strategic nuclear potential of other nuclear states, apart from the United States and their allies; primarily that of Russia, of course, and at obtaining a decisive military supremacy with all the ensuing consequences."

The fact that Putin did not elaborate on "the ensuing consequences" in no way watered down his direct message: Obama, like Bush and Cheney before him, is driving the world rapidly towards thermonuclear confrontation. Putin made clear that Russia is already preparing for such a confrontation by the very work that was the subject of the special annual session he was addressing.

Putin explained:

"We have said repeatedly that Russia will take the necessary reciprocal measures to strengthen its nuclear potential. We will also work on anti-missile defense systems as well, but on the first stage, as we have repeatedly said, we will focus also on offensive systems capable of overcoming any anti-missile defense systems."

Putin noted, in concluding his opening remarks, that Russia has been working for the past three years on developing "a number of promising armament systems capable of performing combat missions in conditions of an anti-missile defense system in depth," noting the combat units have begun receiving such new weapons systems this year already.

Not everyone in the US and the West has missed the point. Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council recently wrote an article titled, "The West Underestimates Putin at Its Peril." He began,

"To the great British military analyst Basil Liddell-Hart, it was axiomatic that the purpose of war was a better peace. In other words, for military operations to be successful, they must be correlated with political outcomes and strategic gains." After noting that the Obama administration has shown itself to be incapable of strategic thinking, Blank wrote, "Whatever defects Russia and its armed forces have, this disdain for strategy is not one of them. Washington's elites, with few exceptions, cannot accept that Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks and acts strategically." Blank then demonstrated that, in the current case of Syria, Putin has done precisely that. He concluded that "Putin may ultimately lose his game in Syria, because nothing is as unpredictable as war. But that possibility cannot justify the complacency, arrogance, and intellectual laziness that threatens U.S. interests and allies."

Julian Borger writing in the Guardian Nov. 10, brought the issue directly back to US nuclear weapons provocations against Moscow. Borger reported on recent warnings by former US Joint Chief of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, who stated that the modernization of the US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the B-61 12, makes that weapon "usable," and this poses a grave danger of a slide into thermonuclear war. Cartwright told PBS "If I can drive down the yield, drive down, therefore the likelihood of fallout, etc., does that make it more usable in the eyes of some — some President or national security decision-making process? And the answer is, it likely could be more usable." Borger noted, "The great thing about nuclear weapons was that their use was supposed to be unthinkable, and they were therefore a deterrent to contemplation of a new world war. Once they become 'thinkable' we are in a different, and much more dangerous, universe."