The most important section of this year’s Presidential Address by Vladimir Putin before the Russian Federal Assembly, which was dedicated to strategic stability issues, got an ambiguous reaction from the leaders of Western nations. On one hand, they expressed the view that these latest Russian strategic weapons systems that he was unveiling actually existed only as promising new R&D projects, meaning that Putin was bluffing, while on the other hand they also claimed that Russia had launched a new arms race. It should be noted that although any psychologist could identify elements of autosuggestion and self-hypnosis in the first reaction, the second is already being actively employed as the new nucleus of the West’s infowar against Russia.
Immediately after his speech, in an interview with the American television network NBC, President Putin was forced to remind everyone of the true nature of these new weapons, some of which have undergone successful tests while the others have already been put on combat duty. He further explained that, contrary to the Western propaganda claims that he was “declaring a new arms race,” these Russian military and strategic achievements that he had made public were not proactive measures, but rather responses to the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the active expansion of the American missile-defense program.
The accusations leveled against Russia are wholly unwarranted, primarily because the current situation does not even meet the definition of that phenomenon known as an “arms race,” which is a political confrontation between two or more powers (quite often entire military blocs) vying for military supremacy, during which each side manufactures massive stockpiles of weapons, trying to either achieve parity with the enemy or overtake him. Nowadays, NATO (led by the US) is the only existing military bloc, and Russia has never tried or even seriously considered attempting to eclipse the armed might of that institution. Despite the strategic nature of the weapons at Russia’s disposal, they were obviously not created for direct, targeted military operations, nor could they be used in that manner. Which is something that certainly cannot be said about the US or its allies.
In 2002, the US defiantly and unilaterally withdrew from the Soviet-American ABM Treaty, which set limits on both sides’ number of interceptor missiles and the sites where they could be stationed. The US then began the forward deployment of its sea- and land-based ABM systems and other weapons, placing them just outside of Russia’s borders. Over the course of just the past two decades, the US and its allies have carried out a series of military campaigns that were nothing other than pure aggression against sovereign states. From 1999 to 2000 Yugoslavia was pounded by cruise missiles and bombs before being dismembered. In 2003 Iraq was invaded. In 2011 an intervention was staged in Libya and war was ignited in Syria.
It is a proven fact that since 2001 the US has been using banned intermediate- and shorter-range missiles as targets, without withdrawing from the 1987 INF Treaty. Washington has been guilty of thus violating that treaty a total of 93 times.
In violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the US is the only nation in the world that still deploys nuclear weapons outside of its own borders, in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Germany. It has also entered into “nuclear sharing agreements” with many NATO states that do not possess their own nuclear weapons.
Ever since 1945 the official American nuclear policy has reserved the right to inflict a nuclear first strike. There were seven different occasions during those post-war years in which the US threatened to use nuclear weapons: in five regional conflicts and the two confrontations between the great powers in Berlin and Cuba. And Washington’s new 2018 Nuclear Posture Review significantly loosens the criteria for its use of nuclear weapons, including their potential employment during conventional conflicts.
And to this end it should be noted that the US has constructed airfield infrastructure in the Baltics and Poland that can accommodate not only American heavy strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons, but also what are known as dual-capable fighter-bombers that can be equipped with either conventional or nuclear weapons. Since 2004 NATO air forces have been flying regular patrols over the skies of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia using these dual-capable aircraft.
Unlike Russia, the US has still never ratified the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, nor the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which would set limits on five types of heavy ground- and air-based weaponry.
It was not Russia that moved in closer to NATO’s borders, but the US and its allies that inflated their own alliance to the extent that it practically butts right up against Russian territory, along with a fivefold expansion in their military operations conducted alongside Russia’s borders.
Since 2014 the US and other NATO countries have in truth been spearheading the second phase of the Cold War, which is characterized by their encroachment on Russian territory using the transatlantic bloc’s unified war machine in the form of what is known as the “Chicago triad“: a combination of nuclear missiles, missile defense, and conventional weapons.
In fact, if we’re going to talk about an “arms race”, then the most obvious sign of who is leading this competition can be seen in the ranked list of military budgets, in which US defense expenditures are roughly equal to the outlays of the next ten countries combined. In 2019 Washington plans to spend a record $716 billion to support its military and buy weapons.
When Russia repeatedly tried to point out to the states of the North Atlantic Alliance that this undermining of regional and international security was unacceptable, Moscow’s opinion was disregarded — no one listened or even tried to hear. Now the West has seen and heard about Russia’s new strategic weapons. But will the Kremlin’s parallel appeal for dialog, engagement on an equal footing, and partnership also be heard? There has as yet been no answer to this question from Washington or any other Western capitals.