HYPERSONIC WEAPONS. Are real game changers. Extremely fast and, at the same time, manoeuvrable, impossible to stop with present or imaginable technology. And certainly not by anything the USA has: “Patriot Missiles Are Made in America and Fail Everywhere“. Russia has systems fielded and more in the works, it is years ahead of the USA, the latest US test was a bust. What does this mean? In a word: everything within 2000-3000 kilometres will be hit. Every forward base; every assembly area; every logistics base; every airfield; every warship. Can you stop one? Probably not; but you won’t have to stop one: ten Kinzhals for one carrier? Good exchange. Stay at home.

ECONOMY. Russia’s economy is obsolete, ‘exhausted’ and has failed to transition to better, modern model, says ex-finance minister Kudrin. If you say so, but I don’t think a FIRE economy is a good idea.

LEVIATHAN. Russian movie: “But behind them – way, way behind them – stands the Leviathan of post-Soviet Russian politics, a figure who is never named and seen only in the official portrait on the mayor’s wall: Vladimir Putin“. Actually, a wholly American story. Never saw the movie but sure got the “only in Russia bit” from the reviews; didn’t knew the American source until Vladimir Golstein’s post.

ENGINES. Remember when Russian shipbuilding was doomed for want of Ukrainian engines? No more, done it themselves. Two years earlier, too.

BAM. A second tunnel is opened.

GRUDININ. His ex-wife ratted him out and he’s banned from running for the Duma.

OLYMPICS. The Country Which Must not be Named is third in the medal count. Whining.

RUSSOPHOBIA. Interesting piece by Alexander Lebedev about the anti-Russianism which even he – a rich and insulated guy – meets. One wonders whether he, or some other Russian plutocrat, funds Strategic Culture Foundation. Much more likely than Washington’s idea that it’s run by Russian security organs: Moscow still thinks RT is the way to go. Washington is, as usual, projecting and deflecting: it buys opinions, therefore Moscow does too.

STRATEGIC WEAPONS. US and Russian team met in Geneva. Martyanov discusses: the Russians are ready to talk about hypersonics et al but only later. Russia has the upper hand here and Washington will have to make real concessions. Something, as we see with the Iran negotiations, it doesn’t know how to.

FAKE NEWS. KGB takes over Russia and moves West. Or so the book said. The “Putin Whisperers” get away with all sorts of nonsense but in this case they guessed wrong. Russian plutocrats are losing patience and have the deep pockets to sue. Fridman and Aven forced one withdrawal. Abramovich will be next. Meanwhile, the author has been under-bused by her main source. (Nasty Russian bullies say her supporters.) Regard everything you see or read about Russia from Western authorities or media as wrong. You’ll be correct to do so much more often than not. And Browder loses a case in Switzerland.

SYRIA. Interesting video on Russian MPs in Syria and what they do. Many are Vaynakhs and everybody knows not to mess with them.

AFGHANISTAN. Russian exercises in Uzbekistan, deployments in Tajikistan. Taliban visits China.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “[Putin] has a real problem — he is — he’s sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else. Their economy is — what? — the eighth smallest in the world now — largest in the world? He knows — he knows he’s in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous, in my view.” Biden to US Intelligence Community. Two days later the Nauka docked with the ISS. No wonder the US Establishment is surprised all the time.

EXPERTISE. Anne Applebaum is looking for the English text of Putin’s Ukraine essay. Incredible!

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Slow to be vaccinated? Blame Putin, the NYT does. Putin’s Long War Against American Science. A year ago but ever-young.

WARGAME. The US military is a paper tiger. A wargame in October simulating a Chinese attack on Taiwan ended with utter defeat for the US forces. “Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably… They knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it.” No kidding: China, Russia and Iran know they’re on the hitlist, they haven’t been sitting around. I’ll have a piece in Strategic Culture Foundation shortly on this and other US wargame disasters which presaged real-world military failures.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Russia-China military exercise in China. To counter terrorism. Of course. Video.

UKRAINE. Moscow’s long game.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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66 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5 AUGUST 2021 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. Fred says:

    Interesting news on the train tunnel. On the same site Tass quotes Foreign Minstry spokesman Bikantov as saying that the Taliban doesn’t have the resources to sieze major cities. The rest of his comments were not so optimistic.

  2. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Slightly OT-sorry.
    I wonder how long it will be before the US nomenklatura accuses V. V. Putin of weaponizing cats. Check out Vasily Vasiliyevich:
    Probably a major in the FSB.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  3. aka says:


    And their solution is to put all data in a “combat cloud”.
    Sounds like big money for the US cloud vendors (Microsoft, Google, Amazon) and Starlink.

    • chris moffatt says:

      Much easier to hack if it’s in the cloud than on secure servers under your own control. In fctonce in the cloud who knows where it is stored and who gets to see it and under what conditions (a little silver for the tech multinationals perhaps?). This is malfeasance of a high order.

    • Yeah, Right says:

      The idea of a “combat cloud” seems quite astonishingly reckless.

      Cloud computing and cloud storage makes sense if you are a commercial enterprise and, therefore, want to reduce capital costs to make the bottom line look better.

      But national defense is not a commercial enterprise. It isn’t run for profit.

      I… honestly… there is so much wrong with this idea that it is difficult to know where to start, except to say that the chances of such a “combat cloud” staying up and remaining accessible once hostilities start is less than zero.

      What does Hyten do then? Consult a ouiji board? Or examine animal entrails?

      • aka says:

        Clouds are not even in good a “commercial enterprise” if it has important enough secrets.

        The cloud provider (or the CSP) has access to everything which is on the cloud. So you have to trust the CSP and the people who work for them.

  4. English Outsider says:

    A while ago the Russians moved large forces to their Western region. They hadn’t bothered much before. Lowish threat level. Now they have.

    And one reads of intensive military preparations all over the country. It must cost a deal of money and absorb a lot of manpower.

    Same with North Korea on a smaller canvass –

    The North Korean military preparations also absorb a lot of manpower. So much so, apparently, that the rice harvest doesn’t get the labour force it could do with. Just having powerful forces hanging about on their border is wrecking the North Korean economy.

    In both cases I don’t believe the West has any serious intention of attacking. It doesn’t need to. Merely range forces along the border and force the spending of great amounts of money and manpower.

    In the case of Russia, and particularly on the Baltic to Black Sea border, the Western forces deployed amount to something of a job lot. It’s doubtful the various military contributions of the European powers, even with the highly professional American military nursemaiding them, would be much of a coordinated fighting force if it came to anything serious. Doesn’t matter. You just need a lot of ships and equipment and men ranged along the border any old how and the Russians are forced to spend on precautionary defence measures.

    It’s been fascinating reading the Colonel’s site recently, reading people who know the subject mulling over who’s got what weapons and how they’d fare in combat. But this doesn’t have to be a battle of weapons in real earnest. We’re already in a battle. A battle of the purse. Simply piling on the pressure in the hope that Russian money and manpower will be overstretched reacting to it.

    Mr Armstrong. Are the Russians up to such a contest? An economy said to be managing but still struggling out of the dereliction of the ’90’s? And if they’re not, will they just quietly collapse? Or will they use some of those fancy weapons all are talking about to deter at least the European countries from massing on their borders, and relieve the pressure that way?

    They could have sunk HMS Defender recently had they wanted to, and not risked Armageddon. One of the Colonel’s contributors for that reason christened it HMS Tethered Goat. Seems pretty well the entirety of Europe is the tethered goat of the West if this battle of the purse is pushed too far.

    • Regular Zapad exercises. They rotate around the compass and it’s the west’s turn now. As usual NATO & Co will get the fantods.
      “Are the Russians up to such a contest? ” didn’t you watch what they massed in the Spring? Russia will beat the crap out of NATO in its own area.

    • Fred says:

      To quote the great researchers you link to:
      “which underwent deep structural reforms between 2013 and 2019 to better address Western threats. ”

      Perhaps they could call LTC Vindman or Victoria Nuland up and ask what was going on during most of that time period that might make the Russians move troops to Their border.

      • English Outsider says:

        Fred – I don’t know how accurate those researchers were. They seemed to me to be buying a lot of narrative, or at least not examining it properly. I go more with the Robinson narrative – that Russian moves at the time you mention were reactive, and slowish at that, rather than aggressive. I think that’s certain for the Donbas.

        No doubt they were pleased that the Crimea fell into their laps, and ran a tidy operation to catch it, but there again if they’d let it all slide the Right Sektor would have been in there doing an Odessa or a Mariupol. Serve us right for using neo-nazis in the Ukraine, I thought at the time and still do. Bloody silly neocons.

        But it was the cost side of things I thought significant. There were a whole lot of other defence costs the study didn’t mention but they did mention financial constraints in one respect –

        “Expansion of divisions, within both the ground and airborne forces, is stymied by a lack of manpower, appropriate equipment, modernization priorities, and—perhaps the most important—financial considerations.”

        And it was those financial considerations that are the determining factor in the “Battle of the Purse” as it’s termed above. Sure, as Mr Armstrong confirms above, they could repel attack. But the cost of perpetual readiness to do that is a severe financial burden. Beef up the Russophobia in Europe – never seems difficult, that – put the pressure on to a greater degree than now, and the question is whether the Russians have the economic strength to increase and then maintain that readiness indefinitely.

        Doubt it. For all the financial games we’re playing in the West now, the European economy in aggregate is massive. So also that of the US. We can just keep piling on the pressure and the Russians have no choice but to match it, with an economy that even were it firing on all cylinders is far smaller. They lose the economic battle without a shot being fired. It’s when that happens that they become increasingly vulnerable to destabilisation as a population deprived on a good standard of living because of heavy defence expenditure becomes restive.

        To take the minor example used above, would we in the UK have gone nuclear had HMS Defender been sunk? No. Nor the US. The temptation for the Russians to knock back at least the European component of the forces threatening them, and that without risking Armageddon, will increase the closer they come to losing that Battle of the Purse.

        That’s not considering whether we in the West ought to be putting Russia effectively under siege. Leave that question aside. It’s that if we do escalate the siege tactics, Europe is open to a riposte it could not deter or ward off.

        • No, it’s the West that will be outspent:
          “China and Russia, because they have given up exceptionalism, full spectrum dominance and all those other fantasies, only have to counter the U.S. military and only in their home neighbourhoods. That is much cheaper and much easier. What’s really expensive, because unattainable, is chasing after the exceptionalist goal of dominance in everything, everywhere, all the time. That’s a “tried and true” road to oblivion.”

          • English Outsider says:

            Jersey Jeffersonian – One comes across a surprising number of people floating around on the internet, continental and English, who don’t buy any of it. That’s “Left” or “Right” too.

            That’s also the case in my local area, I notice. The Russophobic media slant – often more than slant in some papers and TV programmes – is certainly pronounced. Russophobia is of course bred in the bone with the Integrity Initiative types. Also most of our politicians. But it’s not got blanket acceptance by any means.

          • English Outsider says:

            Mr Armstrong – apologies – I put a reply to “JerseyJeffersonian” in the wrong place. Posted it in the correct place but that now leaves a duplicate.

            The article you linked to was heartening. Thank you for linking to it. I find over my way a tendency for those who find the neocon pantomine appallling to lionise the other lot by way of compensation. the “other lot” in this case being the Russians.

            So between the Russophobes and the Russophiles who believe all in Russia is ipso facto wonderful it’s sometimes difficult to strike a balance.

            Difficult therefore to judge how vulnerable the country is to destabilisation.

        • JerseyJeffersonian says:


          I think from the evidence, that the Russian government, and the Russian people as a whole, understand that there is no way, ever, to ameliorate the hatred towards Russia that flows from the Deep State of the West. Thus, the situation is existential for their nation and people.

          In the past, the reason presented for this hostility was based upon their form of government and its policies, and not one directed at the Russian people or their right to a nation of their own. But now, it has become crystal clear that that was an enormous lie, and the hatred is, indeed, directed toward the Russian people, and toward their civilizational form.

          This changes everything, and any effort to “outspend” the Russian people or to eviscerate their civilization will be resisted no matter the nominal cost. If Napoleon and his armies could not prevail, if the mighty Wehrmacht could not prevail, how in the world would one expect that the “boycott mentality” of the light-minded fools sitting athwart a congerie of decadent, jack-leg “societies” which comprise the contemporary West will make out with their malevolent project?

          • English Outsider says:

            Jersey Jeffersonian – One comes across a surprising number of people floating around on the internet, continental and English, who don’t buy any of it. That’s “Left” or “Right” too.

            That’s also the case in my local area I notice. The Russophobic media slant – often more than slant in some papers and TV programmes – is certainly pronounced. Russophobia is of course bred in the bone with the Integrity Initiative types. Also most of our politicians. But it’s not got blanket acceptance by any means.

        • Doubt it. For all the financial games we’re playing in the West now, the European economy in aggregate is massive. So also that of the US. We can just keep piling on the pressure and the Russians have no choice but to match it, with an economy that even were it firing on all cylinders is far smaller. They lose the economic battle without a shot being fired. It’s when that happens that they become increasingly vulnerable to destabilisation as a population deprived on a good standard of living because of heavy defence expenditure becomes restive.

          We need to start with a simple fact that combined West doesn’t have realistic assessment of either own or Russian economy. It is expected from the graduates of “economics” departments in the West. No, West’s, and especially US economies are not as massive as you want it to believe and, evidently, after reading number of my books even Center for Naval Analysis begins to suspect so:

          This is just one example. You also have to contend with the fact that EU’s economic power is in decline, while US real productive economy is around $2.5-3 trillion, with the rest being FIRE. Chinese economy dwarfs US economy, and I mean it. Just to give you one fact: China produces almost 13 times more steel than the US, while Russia produces almost the same amount of steel as the US, having more than twice smaller population that the US. Feel free to look up how much energy Russia and US produce and compare. EU’s “big” countries such as Germany, France or UK do not even factor into this competition.

          • English Outsider says:

            Might as well tell you straight off, Mr Martyanov, that I don’t understand joint EU/UK defence policy.

            EU policy itself is not easy to follow because, as with the Ukraine in ’13/’14, you’re never sure whether Berlin is acting independently of Brussels or acting through Brussels. Kissinger’s enquiry – “If I want to phone Europe who do I phone” is all too easily deflected these days by “Not me. The other one.”

            As for HMG, a few years ago the UK was supposed to be at daggers drawn with the EU while in the process of extricating itself from it. You may imagine my surprise therefore when I came across the Munich Security Conference – I had wanted to see what Lavrov had to say – and found the then UK Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, enthusiastically supporting EU plans that seemed to indicate the EU was moving towards becoming a defence alliance in its own right. Independent of NATO.

            Blair also attending and telling a side meeting that right now might not be the best time to emphasise UK/EU cooperation in this respect.

            Wanting to hold on to joint defence projects? I’ve seen that and other explanations advanced. Since then bilateral UK defence cooperation both with the French and the Germans has also increased.

            HMG is the most Russophobic of the Europeans together with the Baltics and the East Europeans. There’s a tension in Germany between those who wish to trade more with Russia and those who want a harder line. But you’ll recollect that the Germans played up Navalny as much as HMG did Skripal. Their Greens are now straight neocon and have been since Fischer.

            So what’s relevant here is that Europe, including the UK, is behind the anti-Russian foreign policy of the Biden administration. And though the EU admittedly has severe structural problems, and is now going down the primrose path of effectively money printing like us and the US, it’s still a massive trading bloc far larger than the RF. If the “War of the Purse” got going in earnest that weight would count.

        • Ishmael Zechariah says:

          IMHO the discussion so far has ignored one of the biggest elephants in the room. What do you think of the role izzies, their embedded operatives, and their “Shabbos goys” play in determining Western policy, economic and “military”, against Russia? I would especially be interested in your take of their influence in UK operations.
          Ishmael Zechariah

          • JerseyJeffersonian says:

            Ishmael Zechariah,

            I think you put your finger on it. The real hostility and animus does not flow from the mass of the citizenry, but rather from a small, but powerfully entrenched core group with their tentacles insinuated into every societally influential quarter. So, you, English Outsider, are correct that the hostility of which I spoke above did not spontaneously arise among the broader populace, but rather it has been sedulously cultivated.

          • English Outsider says:

            Ishmael Zachariah – the Israelis lobby and spread money around just like all the others. What purchase that gets in reality I don’t know. That’s the sort of question David Habakkuk or perhaps one of the Colonel’s London correspondents could give an informed answer to.

            On the “Russophobic media slant” mentioned above I don’t think this lot – our top of the range opinion shapers – are that interested in Israel as an issue in itself –


            I’ve seen some of the material put out by the East StratCom Task Force and it looks, some of it, to be a straight copy of material put out by such as Bellingcat. So it seems to me the answer to that EP question was disingenuous in that we and the EU do share the same information channels. Always possible, however, that the EU Task Force doesn’t have a lot of staff so grabs whatever it can get from elsewhere in that line. I’ve not seen them put out material on Israel either but I’ve only seen a little of their output

            Here’s a past UK Prime Minister knocking out the party line on Israel. But I don’t think she’s speaking from deep conviction. Just tending to some necessary vote harvesting.


            In contrast, when our UK politicians and opinion formers put out material on Russia I believe they are speaking from deep conviction.

        • Ishmael Zechariah says:

          Thanks for the response. I think I learnt something. Consider:
          re: “the Israelis lobby and spread money around just like all the others. What purchase that gets in reality I don’t know. “
          Given the Corbyn affair, the million dollar award to Blair ( ), the Gilad Atzmon saga, etc. the izzie lobby seems firmly in control of both domestic and foreign policy in the UK.
          Also I must take issue with your statement “In contrast, when our UK politicians and opinion formers put out material on Russia I believe they are speaking from deep conviction.” First, such convictions do not pass the cui bono test. The idea that UK will gain anything by attacking Russia seems illogical. OTOH, Russia’s Syria policy stopped a very interesting izzie gambit from full success. The izzies cannot confront Russia directly but have been wagging several dogs.
          Second, I do not believe “UK politicians and opinion formers” have any convictions except lining their pockets. Some made a lot of money from the Steele dossier and other IO used to attack D. Trump as being a Russian asset Were these also due to “deep convictions”? Do you think D. Trump was a Russian asset?
          Seems to me you are denying the obvious but, perhaps you are right.
          Ishmael Zechariah

          • English Outsider says:

            I can’t find a solid source for this quote. Is it one of those apocryphal quotes that litter the internet?

            Doesn’t matter here. I think it sums up the relationship between the West, particularly the States, and Israel –

            “It’s about time we stop apologising for our support for Israel,” Joe Biden told the US Senate in 1986. “There’s no apology to be made. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

            The Likudniks, as the old Jabotinsky crowd, are pretty repulsive. Deeply so when you look at what they’re up to. But for all that those several million people over there in Israel are as much caught up in a machine they cannot control as are we in Europe or you in the States.

            I believe those who have charge of our affairs in the Western countries are engaged in a deliberate attempt to destabilise Russia. Why is a matter of speculation though I can see no benefit to me or to my country, nor to you or yours, in that attempt. But I do think, Mr Zechariah, that we must look to Washington and Berlin and Westminster to find the engines of that attempt rather than to Tel Aviv.

    • Lytenburgh says:

      I think that EO is both a gentelman and a scholar, what with being an “English”, albeit an “Outsider”. His continual attempts of concern trolling in every Russia-related comment section are both a testament to high-class persistence and no small amount of saltiness.

      Truly, Sir, you are a worthy son of your nation. I expect more of the same from you in the future. Whatever it takes to ameliorate all the pain you must be suffering seeing the Albion in its present condition.

      • English Outsider says:

        Hmmm. That was fast. Looks like one of those written in haste and repent at leisure comments. I’ve been there a time or two so feel your pain, Lytenburgh.

        Feel it, yes, but don’t understand it. Is this impromptu explosion going to be one of those unsolved mysteries of the internet? Or could you let fall a hint or two what it’s all about.

        • English Outsider says:

          Hmmm. That was fast. Looks like one of those written in haste and repent at leisure comments. I’ve been there a time or two so feel your pain, Lytenburgh.

          Feel it, yes, but don’t understand it. Is this impromptu explosion going to be one of those unsolved mysteries of the internet? Or could you let fall a hint or two what it’s all about.

        • Lytenburgh says:

          >”Looks like one of those written in haste and repent at leisure comments.”

          Well, you took your sweet time to write the original comment above, so I don’t think you were in any haste – more like deliberate, ponderous attempt.

          But if you are to sincerely repent your concern trolling – I would be the first to emrace and believe you, EO. No matter how small a chance, given your posting history (one only has to check the comment sections below the previous “Russian Federation Sitreps” by Mr. Armstrong on this blog and see your valuable “concern”), I believe in repentance and redemption. Everyone could be saved – even you, EO.

          >”Is this impromptu explosion going to be one of those unsolved mysteries of the internet?”

          “Explosion”?! Heavens, no! You must be imagining things, EO. Nothing went “boom”, no damage been done to anyone here, nothing destroyed.

          I for one expect more to come from you. It is heartening, you know, to see a red-blooded subject of Her Mahesty the Queen of England to devote so much of his time and effort in writing lenghty passages about his “concern” on what Russia aka [checks the notes] “the main adversary” of your country as per “Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy” policy papaer produced by Her Majesty’s Government just a month ago, does on its territory, well, that’s heartening!

          Bless your heart, userperson “English Outsider”!

          • English Outsider says:

            Got it now. You don’t like HMG’s defence policy.

            Lytenburgh – neither do I. For more reasons than you’d think Shan’t expand on that here. But elsewhere I’m used to being termed a Putinversteher so your comment puzzled me.

            You know what my comment’s about. During the Cold War it was said that we outspent and thus weakened the old Soviet Union. Are we trying the same again this time round?

            Given that, do we expect the Russians to just sit there and let it all happen?

            Your view?

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            >”You don’t like HMG’s defence policy. Lytenburgh – neither do I.”

            Common decency commands me to believe you. Or, at least, pretend that I believe you.

            >”You know what my comment’s about.”


            Nope. Don’t imply to know what you can’t, EO.

            >”Your view?”

            I’m deeply heartened by concern-trolling by Her Majesty’s most loyal subject(s) resting on the concenpts derived from the previous Cold War.

            By all means, userperson EO – carry on!

    • Ghost_Ship says:

      The British Fourteenth Army fighting in India and Burma could not acquire enough food to feed itself so it took to running its own farms to produce the food it needed. Perhaps the Russian Army should do the same.

    • David Habakkuk says:


      I am rather baffled by your comment, given that the paper from the ‘Center for Naval Analyses’ to which you link largely demolishes your argument. Although the name of its author – Konrad Muzyka – suggests a ‘Galician’ origin, most of the time he is actually quite rational. So, he writes:

      ‘In her recent interview with Krasnaya Zvezda, Tatiana Shevtsova, who is responsible for MoD finances, stated that “the increase in defense spending in previous years was due to the comprehensive re-equipment of the army” and that “this peak has been passed.” This indicates that the top brass is happy with what the rearmament has delivered and that it is unnecessary to maintain elevated defense spending (perhaps it is also unaffordable).’

      Actually, ‘unaffordable’ is not a very precise term. If you think that the Russian ‘top brass’, in the sense of people like Sergei Shoigu and General Gerasimov, are not very well aware of precisely the dangers you discuss, you have not been listening. An important concept is Russian strategic thinking for a long time now has been what is called ‘asymetry.’ You appear not to have noticed, but it was already very visible in Soviet discussions of how to respond to ‘Star Wars’, back in the ‘Eighties.

      Precisely what this means is avoiding imitating an adversary, and what you might call ‘Brezhnevite’ concerns about ‘parity’, but instead employing a collaboration of the ‘best brains’, both military and scientific/engineering, to identify and target his ‘weak spots’ at low cost.

      It is relevant here that that the ‘best brains’ in contemporary Russia really are quite good. The extent to which the ‘top brass’ in Britain simply ‘don’t get it’ and are living in the past – very much in the spirit of Brezhnev – was vividly illustrated in June 2017, when our then Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, described the lone Russian anti-aircraft carrier, the ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’, not entirely inaccurately, as ‘old and dilapidated.’ In response to his suggestion that the Russians would regard our new ‘HMS Elizabeth’ carrier with ‘a little bit of envy’, the Russian MoD spokesman, Igor Konashenkov responded, entirely accurately, that Fallon had proved he had a ‘clear lack of naval knowledge’, and the British carrier was ‘just a convenient oversized target at sea’.

      (See .)

      You appear also not to have paid due attention to the discussion by Muzyka, in the ‘CNA’ paper, of the the ‘Kalibrization’ of the Russian Navy. He writes:

      ‘Indeed, one of the most significant surface ship developments has been the fitting of the Kalibr capability to the Project 21631 Buyan-M corvettes. The ships’ eight-cell 3S-14 VLS launcher has been used to fire missiles on a number of occasions during combat operations in Syria. What is most striking in this development is the proven ability to fit a long-range land-attack punch to even relatively small surface platforms, and for these platforms to have a demonstrable impact on shaping events ashore. With a reported range of 1,500 km (932 miles), these missiles can effectively engage targets across Western and Northern Europe.’

      So, a decidedly low-cost platform – and one which being small would be much easier to conceal – could be used, if appropriate right at the outset of any conflict, to attack not just various forms of ‘convenient oversized target’ at sea, but also a very great many on land. Conceivably, among other things, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, GCHQ, the ‘Ministry of Defence’, and perhaps, if there were enough missiles, the homes of Sir Richard Dearlove and Christopher Steele, could just ‘go up in smoke.’

      If I may say so, your comments also illustrate a rather basic methodological problem. If one wants to think seriously about defence planning, one needs to start by obtaining as accurate an assessment as possible of the capabilities and intentions of the various relevant ‘players’. This emphatically does not mean that the requirement for prudent contingency planning for war exists only if an adversary has an intention to attack one. There are many complex ways in which ‘hard power’ is relevant to international relations. That said, one really cannot base planning on ‘fantasy’ views of the actors involved.

      However, the road to wisdom is emphatically not simply listening to opposing sides of an argument, be they ‘Russophobes’ and ‘Russophiles’, or whoever, and trying to to ‘strike a balance.’ Part of it, for us non-experts, is identifying people who have specialist expertise and genuine judgement, like Andrei Martyanov and Patrick Armstrong, both of whom have been immersed in the technical issues as well as the broader strategic questions for decades.

      What appears to underlie your comments are echoes of the notion that, somehow, the Soviet élite was full of deeply committed communists, until the Reagan-era military build-up, and in particular ‘Star Wars’, made them see the unviability of their project of achieving ‘world domination’ by military means. This is actually a classic instance of a ‘fantasy’ view. It was actually the result of people who had been utterly unable to anticipate the changes introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev and denied they were happening when they were in progress fitting them into the conceptual structures that had failed to predict them. This is one of the worst ‘sins’ one can commit in any form of intellectual inquiry, and is liable to be seriously dangerous in intelligence analysis.

      Actually, at the time, in trying to make sense of what was happening, I found that it was necessary to forget about the general run of ‘strategic studies’ experts – figures like Sir Lawrence Freedman, KCMG, CBE, PC, FBA, as he now is, with whom I worked back in 1986, and who I came to realise was a ‘careerist cretin.’ To see an analysis which I – rightly – thought was prescient, and of which I got a prepublication copy, you have only to download a paper by Michael MccGwire, published in the spring 1988 edition of the ‘Brookings Review’, entitled ‘Rethinking War: The Soviets and European Security’ from the ‘Unz Review’ site.

      ( See )

      Actually, although MccGwire may have ended up as something of a ‘Russophile’, he did not start as such. By background he was a career naval officer, having graduated ‘chief cadet captain’ from the Dartmouth naval college in May 1942. After the war, he opted for Russian language training, and in 1952 was seconded to GCHQ, where a crucial body of material he was analysing were ‘decrypts’ about the Soviet submarine programme which that agency had obtained when it was breaking top-level Russian codes back in 1948, before the detection of the Rosenbergs caused ‘loopholes’ to be closed.

      Ironically, as he told me, he had been, and in some ways remained, an admirer of Paul Nitze, who masterminded the key NSC 68 paper of April 1950, out of which ‘neoconservatism’ largely comes. Actually a central point about that paper relates to a fact of which MccGwire was vividly aware, having been present, as a seventeen-year old midshipman, at the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942. In both world wars, a decisive factor had been the immense military industrial potential of the United States, and the ability of that country, when necessary, to mobilise it rapidly for war and deploy it across the oceans.

      Accordingly, an actual Soviet nuclear capability, and even more a potential thermonuclear one did, just as Nitze argued, open up the possibility of a pre-emptive or even preventive attacks which would render the possibility of such remobilisation and deployment moot. A problem however was that a corollary of this interpretation had been the assumption that the prime purpose of the Soviet submarine programme was to attack NATO’s sea lines of communication. However MccGwire eventually came to realise the operational and deployment characteristics of the bulk of the submarines involved made clear that their purpose was to counter the possibility of amphibious landings in the Baltic or Black Sea coasts. What was in the minds of Soviet planners was not successful preemptive or preventive nuclear strikes by them, but ones on them, ‘buying time’ for a repeat of what the Allies had done in the war just ended.

      As to why they came to this conclusion, which was very relevant to the ‘Rethinking War’ paper, the analysis which underpinned this was set out in greater detail in a Brookings report MccGwire produced in July 1987, entitled ‘The Genesis of Soviet Threat Perceptions’, which he sent me not long after, and which I see is also now available on the net, at .

      An important point about the ‘Rethinking War’ paper is that one of the sources on which MccGwire drew was the ‘OSINT’ analysis done at the ‘Soviet Studies Research Centre’ at Sandhurst, then headed by Christopher Donnelly, who became an important influence on post-Cold War NATO policy, and a key figure in the ‘Integrity Initiative.’ In 1989, that figure would edit a collection of articles by leading specialists, entitled ‘Gorbachev’s Revolution: Economic Pressures and Defence Realities.’

      In his own contribution, he referred to a version of MccGwire’s paper, but he and his associates were absolutely determined not to take the point. In their view, all the ‘new thinking’ represented was an attempt to secure a ‘breathing space’ before going back to business as usual, as they interpreted it. If one had actually taken the trouble to go to Moscow and talk to some of the key people involved, as I had, one knew this was claptrap.

      I have gone on long enough, but a key point, which will perhaps become clearer if you read the MccGwire paper, is that Donnelly was quite patently wrong. By the same token, the coherence of the position of the ‘new thinkers’ depended on the premise that a radical transformation of Soviet external and internal policy, involving the liquidation of the whole security posture inherited from the Stalinist period and in some respects earlier, would defuse Western hostility.

      On this, there was a famous acrimonious exchange between one of the central ‘new thinkers’, Georgi Arbatov, and the former Chief of the General Staff, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, in 1990. At the time, it seemed reasonable to me to assume that the former was largely right, and the latter a kind of Soviet-era ‘fossil.’ Today, this is simply not a view which can be held by anyone who is interested in ‘fact-based analysis.’

      A natural consequence is that one finds a a product of the ‘Institute of the USA and Canada’ which Arbatov ran, Sergei Karaganov, now a kind of ‘panjandrum’ of the Soviet foreign policy ‘establishment’, a leading proponent of the orientation towards China. Indeed, he can now be found apologising for helping precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union through his naive belief that the West did not really threaten Russia.

      (See .)

      The situation is quite bad enough already. Do not make matters worse by embracing delusional readings of the Cold War, and concluding that economic pressure can bring Russia ‘to heel.’

      • TTG says:

        David Habakkuk,

        I read your comment/response in the older article, but decided to answer you here. The old comment string was stretching out to the crack of doom.

        MccGuire’s observation that Moscow feared an amphibious invasion through the Baltics makes sense to me. Our enunciation of a rollback doctrine didn’t do anything to allay that fear. The cry to “free the Baltic nation” was loud within the emigre community, although the Western governments did nothing concrete to do so. I have said, and still hold, that Moscow’s fear was also behind the occupation of the rest of Eastern Europe, the WTO and the impressive offensive forces arrayed against the West. I certainly don’t blame Moscow for wanting to avoid having to ever fight an invasion on her territory ever again. But that impressive offensive force poised to burst through the Fulda gap screamed expansion rather than defense.

        In my Infantry Advance Course in 82-83, we had two Egyptian colonels who graduated from several Soviet military courses. With that background, they evaluated our active defense strategy for defeating a Soviet invasion of Germany. Their opinion was that our plans didn’t stand a chance of stopping a Soviet invasion. That was the NATO mindset as long as the Soviet Union existed. Moscow, obviously, misinterpreted that just as badly as we misinterpreted Russia’s intentions.

        The same mutual misinterpretation exists today. Our talk of full spectrum domination and our inherently expeditionary military sure looks offensive to me. Russia’s inherently offensive long range hypersonic missiles and her desire to keep potential adversaries off balance also looks offensive to me. Both strategies are actually defensive in nature and are not designed or meant to wipe the opponent off the face of the map.

        • David Habakkuk says:


          He spelt himself MccGwire, with two ‘c’s – an element of deliberate eccentricity perhaps, his family having originally been chiefs in Fermanagh – and I think you are missing his main point.

          A central fact in the Second World War and afterwards was the massive superiority in industrial strength of the United States, as compared to absolutely everybody else. This meant that, when, as it were, Americans were ‘roused’, your country could become very formidable indeed rather quickly. Less than a year after Pearl Harbor, where MccGwire had seen this in action at the North African landings in November 1942, U.S. forces had, on the other side of the world, secured one decisive victory against the Japanese, at Midway, and were in the middle of another, in the Guadalcanal campaign.

          A distinction which the great Russian ‘Clausewitzian’ Aleksandr Svechin, about whom I first heard from General-Mayor Valentin Larionov in his room in the ‘Institute of the USA and Canada’ in February 1989, and whom General Gerasimov has repeatedly quoted, is between wars, and strategies, of ‘attrition’ and ‘destruction.’

          In the absence of nuclear weapons, any war between the United States and the Soviet Union would inevitably have been one of ‘attrition.’ According to the figures on which Paul Nitze based his analysis of the implications of the first Soviet atomic test, and the possibility of the vastly more destructive thermonuclear weaponry, in the April 1950 NSC 68 paper, the United States was producing more than ten times the number of motor vehicles as the Soviet Union.

          His apocalyptic view of the implications of these events was related to several hardly contemptible arguments. At the risk of ‘paraphrasing’ excessively, one was that, given the ‘escalatory dynamics’ of large-scale warfare, it was inherently difficult to be confident that these weapons would not be used, sooner or later. Another was that they could be expected to give a massive advantage to whoever used them first, generating pressures for pre-emptive or indeed preventive action.

          This however, was bound up with the fact that, in a ‘war of attrition’, if the United States could do against the Soviet Union what it had done against Germany and Japan, turn ‘potential’ power into actual capabilities and deploy them effectively on ‘bridgeheads’ from which it bring this power to bear, it could be expected eventually to win. Accordingly, it was not simply stupid to suggest that precisely the American superiority in ‘potential’ power might be one of a number of considerations that meant that Soviet strategists would contemplate preemptive or preventive action, both against that power and the ‘bridgeheads’ on which it could be deployed, at the outset of a conflict.

          What MccGwire, and his U.S. counterpart Raymond Garthoff, then working in the ‘Office of National Estimates’ had realised by the start of the ‘Sixties was that assessments both of Soviet nuclear and conventional capabilities had been very greatly inflated – in the latter, the role of Reinhard Gehlen is an interesting subject. This had in turn contributed to an inability to grasp that Soviet planners might be very genuinely concerned about the possibility of pre-emptive, or indeed preventive, nuclear attacks on them. An image of Soviet capabilities, and intentions, came to be consolidated, which had only a very limited relation to reality.

          An interesting part of the history is that it became clear that, in this situation, Khrushchev, who was concerned to avoid the crippling economic burdens of maintaining permanent preparedness for all-out conventional warfare, resorted to bluff – and that the same General-Mayor Larionov we interviewed in February 1989 had been at the heart of this.

          A 2007 paper by Andrei Kokoshin, his collaborator at the ‘Institute of the USA and Canada’ on ‘Nuclear Conflict in the Twenty-First Century’, describes the origins of the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of winning a nuclear war by pre-emption, the original edition of the study ‘Military Strategy’, published under the name of Marshal Sokolovsky in 1962 Actually, he had been reported making the same argument in 1995, but I think it better to have him say it ‘in his own words’:

          ‘As recalled by the main developer of this work, General-Major V.V. Larionov, Sokolovskii having been commissioned to prepare this collective work decided to obtain direct orders from the head of the government and of the Communist Party, Commander-in-Chief Nikita S. Khrushchev. At the time, Sokolovskii was no longer in office; he had resigned the post of chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces because he was dissatisfied with Khrushchev’s policy of reducing the number of the USSR’s armed forces while the role of missiles and nuclear weapons increased. Sokolovskii emerged from his session with Khrushchev in a somewhat flabbergasted state. Khrushchev’s main directions in Sokolovskii’s account were very distinct and clear: Write the book so that when they read it in the West they’ll be scared half to death (Khrushchev, in his characteristic style, actually used a much coarser expression). The directions (given before the Cuban missile crisis occurred) were successfully carried out. Many years later, this book (having gone through many editions in translation in the West) was used by hawks in the United States and other countries as a basis for their own analogous military strategy and for massive military build ups, especially for those that assumed that it is possible to wage nuclear war and achieve victory.’

          (See )

          One of the consequences was that, confronted by the sharp build-up in Soviet conventional forces in the ‘Seventies, Richard Pipes, another figure carrying over East European traumas, and ‘vendettas’, into American policy, concluded that the Soviets were looking for both nuclear and conventional superiority. What had actually happened, as MccGwire and Garthoff established, was that the U.S. adoption of ‘flexible response’ in 1961 had, after a delay, triggered a move away from contingency planning for nuclear war, which was further compounded by the fact that it had become impossible to ‘operationalise’ the notion of victory in such a conflict. All it could be was an unimagineable catastrophe.

          To see the implications, however, you need only to go back to NSC 68. If one is trying to keep any possible conflict conventional, then the military-industrial potential of the United States cannot be targeted. Accordingly, looking at the matter in strictly military terms, the requirement for ‘deep operations’ westwards, to eliminate the ‘bridgeheads’ and render the possibility of the implementation of threats of first use ‘moot’ by a combination of the speed of the offensive and targeting with conventional means, including ‘spetsnaz’ increases in saliency.

          The problems that had caused Khrushchev to want to rely on nuclear ‘deterrence’ then however ‘kicked in.’ The Soviets did not need the threat of ‘Star Wars’ to bankrupt themselves: they had rather effectively done it already. At the same time, however, some other changes that were glaringly apparent in 1989, if one bothered to look, were also become rather relevant. There were many elements to this. One, which was partly related to generational change, was a much greater awareness of the hostility that Soviet policy, with the offensive nature of contingency planning for war being an important element, had caused.

          Another was the general – actually global – crisis of credibility of ‘Marxism-Leninism’, the ideology on which the ‘legitimacy’ of the Soviet system depended. There were many aspects here, but an obvious one was economic. In 1986, Brookings published a study by the Duke University Sovietologist Jerry Hough, entitled ‘The Struggle for the Third World: Soviet Debates and American Options.’ After an exhaustive review of writings by people in the research institutes associated with the ‘Academy of Sciences’, and others, about development economics, and extensive conversations with their authors, its author had this to say:

          ‘Or what is one to say about the argument – now very widely accepted – among Soviet economists – that countries with “capitalist-oriented” economies in the third world have a natural tendency to grow more rapidly than countries with a “socialist orientation” because well-rounded development seems to be dependent on foreign investment and integration into the world market? A quarter of a century ago, let alone in the Stalin period, it was just as widely accepted that integration into the capitalist world economy doomed a third world country to slow, deformed growth and that foreign investment exploited a local economy.’

          One thing one could say that a whole range of different currents were feeding into the revival of the thinking of Aleksandr Svechin in which Larionov and Kokoshin played a key role. Unfortunately, a central conclusion they drew turned out to be wrong. In an interview in June 1990 with Robert Scheer of the ‘Los Angeles Times’, Georgi Arbatov referred to the recent attacks on him by the former Chief of the General Staff, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev.

          (See )

          What Svechin had stressed was the ‘two-sidedness’ of Clausewitz, the way in which the ‘Napoleonic’ strand, aimed at decisive victory through offensive action, is accompanied by what one might a ‘Barclay de Tolly’ strand, seeing defence as the stronger form of war. Involved with this was an insistence of the fundamental Clausewitzian point about the need for an integration of military strategy into national strategy.

          The coherence of the argument for a radical version of a ‘defensive’ strategy, implying that there was no reason for concern about the possible implications of the very radical defence cuts which the ‘new thinkers’ championed, depended on the answer which Arbatov gave to Scheer’s question as to whether the Cold War was over. The response articulated a key premise behind the ‘new thinking’: ‘I cannot imagine that we will play this game again, and without us you cannot play it either.’

          At the time, I was happy to accept that Arbatov was essentially right here, and Akhromeyev, as it were, a kind of ‘fossil.’ However, this is clearly no longer a tenable position. Western policy over the past thirty years has rather clearly established that the ‘new thinkers’, while right about many things, were utterly naive about the West. Among other things, if ‘integration into the capitalist world economy’ is being exploited so that ‘revanchist’ figures like Brzezinski can collaborate with ‘Banderistas’ to wrest the whole of Ukraine, including the Crimea and Sevastopol, away from Russia, then clearly the whole project of integration with the West was misguided.

          People who think that something they can ‘rinse and repeat’ Reagan-era strategies in this context simply do not grasp that, once it is clear that these are applied alike to a non-communist as much as a communist Russia, one of the things that is unleashed is, actually, an immense ‘creativity’ always present in Russian strategic thinking. In the Soviet period, this was inhibited alike by ‘Marxism-Leninism’, and an unquestioning adherence to the ‘Napoleonic’ strand in Clausewitz. Neither constraint any longer applies.

      • Just an observation. I used to think they called the Kuznetsov an “aircraft-carrying cruiser” rather than “aircraft carrier” as some sort of propaganda thing. But now I realise that it and the USS Ford are two different beasts. The Ford’s weapons are principally its aircraft and it depends on its escort ships for other weaponry; thus US carriers cannot operate alone. The K, on the other hand, carries aircraft, AD, ASW and a whole bunch o’ Kinzhals. So it (and its accompanying tugboat) can operate independently. Whole different idea.

      • English Outsider says:

        David – thanks for your reply. As ever, deeply informative and lots there to think about. I see you’re still fuming about Dearlove and Steele as indeed I, but without your background knowledge, am also still doing. Such an extraordinary affair – and to top it all I saw that Steel was regarded as a valued witness at a recent HoC Committee hearing! If such as Steele are now regarded as authoritative sources then our UK establishment is far gone indeed.

        On your specific reply to my query to Mr Armstrong I think you’re wrong on the central point. My query was not to do with whether the Russians can cope with an attack. That they can surely do.

        It’s whether they can afford to spend indefinitely preparing for one even given that they can do so asymmetrically – that is, that they can spend less to defend themselves than we must do in threatening them. They seem to be very good at doing the most with the least – I reckon we in the UK could learn a lot from their procurement procedures – but the increasing strain they will be under if further pressure is applied will surely tell. Don’t forget they’re under pressure in other theatres and in other respects as well.

        But that point I’ve already covered in comments above. My original query to Mr Armstrong was not an adversarial query. He’s a Russia expert, as are others here, and some idea of how stable Russia would be under such pressure would be valuable.

        Putin is not some supreme dictator. He’s balancing many opposing forces, some of those still powerful, and faces considerable opposition still. Of course enquiry on that point is proper enquiry.

        Here you say ” Do not make matters worse by embracing delusional readings of the Cold War, and concluding that economic pressure can bring Russia ‘to heel.’”

        But here you are again missing the point. Read the article Mr Armstrong referred to – “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it.”

        That is the type of pressure Russia is being put under. How delusional is the belief that it will crack under that pressure? That the economic pressure will render it more vulnerable to destabilisation?

        My final point, that you have also missed, is that before it got that far, or anywhere near it, Russia could well pick off one or more of Biden’s European partners without risking full scale conflict with the US. “Spending the adversary into oblivion” sounds all very well but not if the adversary decided to forestall that by such means. To put it bluntly, Biden’s European partners in this enterprise are by no means secure against such action should the pressure on Russia be increased.

        Recently, David, you slated TTG for some very perceptive and informative remarks on how the Americans are devising means of integrating forces in combat. To suggest that examining that and setting it out demonstrates pro- or anti-Russian partisanship was wrong. Are you not doing the same in this comment, and in this case confusing enquiry with bias? For I do not believe that the abhorrence of neocon foreign policy that you and I share should extend to embracing a formulaic belief that all aspects of the Russian response and of the Russian condition are not susceptible to reasoned enquiry.

        Where I was hoping you could bring your great knowledge of UK politics and in particular of the arcane dealings of our IC to bear was in a response to Ishmael Zechariah. I have asserted that I don’t believe the Israeli lobbing here in the UK indicates more than the usual such lobbying in the UK. That Israel does not exert pressure on UK foreign policy such that it modifies that foreign policy to any significant extent, especially when it comes to UK policy towards Russia.

        Am I right in that assertion? From your extensive knowledge of the working of UK politics do you believe that Israel does exert significant pressure on us when it comes to UK policy on Russia? My answer, from the little I see of the workings of the Westminster swamp is “no”. From your considerably deeper knowledge, is that correct?

        • David Habakkuk says:


          Unfortunately, it has been necessary to deal with the objections of ‘Twisted’ to my arguments, before I can deal with yours.

          However, before proceeding further, I need to ask whether you have actually read the full transcript of what Marshall Billingslea said at the Hudson Institute on 22 May 2020, and the exchanges that followed. I did, not long after I read the reports of what he had said.

          (See .)

          Whether or not you have, I would like to hear your reflections on the apparent absence alike of Billingslea and the questioner, Tim Morrison, of any signs of awareness of the announcement by Putin at the Valdai Club meeting on 3 October 2018 that Russia was helping China create an ‘early warning system.’

          (See )

          • English Outsider says:

            Have now read it. Those people are loopy – ” The use of the deadly Novichok nerve agent in the Skripal assassination attempt in the United Kingdom was a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention.”

            Not as loopy as all that. They and their industrious information warrior equivalents in the UK have got most of the DT readers and all the Guardian readers over here believing it. After all, they wouldn’t spend so much money on disinformation if it didn’t work.

            Which returns me to a question I asked of you some time ago. You know these people, David. You study them. Do they really believe all the nonsense they feed us? Are they the victims of their own groupthink, or are they just hoping we will be?

            But on the subject here I now get your point. Billingslea is I think talking mainly in the context of nuclear deterrence and I’m talking in the context of conventional warfare of the sort Defender Europe 21 or Sea Breeze was training for.

            It’s that massing of conventional forces along the border, and making use of any pinprick opportunities the Ukraine or other pressure points afford, where the US/Europe has the edge. That forces the Russians to match that threat, as shown by the reinforcement of the Western Military District mentioned in my first enquiry to Mr Armstrong. The Western conventional forces don’t have to attack and as Mr Martyanov says they’d likely get chewed up if they did. They just have to be there and thus force the Russians to beef up manpower and equipment to guard against them.

            If it comes to an intensification of that sort of contest – the “Battle of the Purse” as termed above – the two big economies of the US and of Europe can outspend Russia.

            As said, just massing troops on the border can wreck North Korea’s economy. If that were done to any great extent to Russia then before the resultant destabilisation went too far the Russians could pick off or deter Biden’s European allies risk free. I think I’m correct in saying that if they’d sunk “HMS Tethered Goat” it wouldn’t have gone nuclear and all know it. If they sank an American ship it very likely could.

            Something like Syria, where the Russians and the US can attack other forces but dare not attack each other.

            So what does all that boil down to? That the European forces playing their damn silly games along the Russian border may think that’s safe because they’ve got Uncle Sam keeping watch and ward over them. But if they push it too far they’re not.

            Look forward very much to your opinion on Mr Zechariah’s Israeli query.

          • David Habakkuk says:


            Patrick Armstrong has said that what was at issue were ‘regular Zapad exercises.’ This set may indeed have been structured so as to make a point to NATO, but have you reason to believe that this necessitated significant expenditure beyond which was already provided for in military budgets that appear quite sustainable?

            More generally, I fear you are continuing to make the same kind of mistake which is leading me to wonder whether Marshall Billingslea has a statue of Leonid Brezhnev on his desk. Something that was repeatedly pointed out back in the ‘Eighties was that ‘Star Wars’ could be successfully countered, at very much lower cost, by ‘asymetric’ measures. The actual technological problem for the Soviets was rather different.

            To my continuing regret, I had an attack of ‘flu over Xmas 1988, so that the – excellent – presenter of the BBC Radio ‘Analysis’ programmes on the so-called ‘new thinking’ which I was producing, Stuart Simon, had to go down to Sandhurst to interview Christopher Donnelly without me. And then, I was too preoccupied with organising and preparing for the interviews we went on to conduct in Moscow and Washington to read his interview with proper attention.

            From the ‘Seventies, Soviet military theorists – with Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, Chief of the General Staff between 1977 and 1984 in the lead – were becoming acutely aware that what they termed the ‘Military Technical Revolution’, centered round computers, space surveillance, and long-range missiles, was shifting the conventional balance towards NATO. As Donnelly told Stuart, these developments – called in the United States the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ – threatened to render the vast Red Army tank armies obsolete, and, he argued, even if the Soviets could design the new weaponry, the inadequacies of the command economy meant that they could not manufacture it in large volumes.

            What Donnelly simply would not accept was MccGwire’s argument that, while this might have been one element in the ‘new thinking’, it was no more than that, and Gorbachev, was not a ‘Machiavellian manipulator’ looking for a ‘breathing space’, but really did want a radical demilitarisation of East-West relations, and if anything was a ‘utopian idealist.’ In the event, the anticipation of his principal advisors – notably Georgy Arbatov and Anatoly Chernayev – that they could ‘defuse’ Western antagonism by liquidating the existing Soviet security posture turned out hopelessly naive, and the objections of figures like Ogarkov’s successor, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, much more to the point than I once thought.

            So preparations for conflict with the West are now taken very seriously by their successors. As a very good Princeton ’area studies’ expert, Michael A. Reynolds, put it in his April 2018 paper ‘Outfoxed by the Bear? America’s Losing Game Against Russia in the Near East’, the comparison of Russia to a ‘bear’ is commonly employed to suggest ‘a lumbering and clumsy creature.’ Particularly given that the current Russian Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, does look a bit ‘bearish’, one can usefully keep in mind the reminder by the Princeton professor that those who ‘know their bears’ are aware that these are ‘clever, agile and fast.’

            (See )

            As has been vividly illustrated by the use of the ‘Kalibr’ missile in actual combat in Syria, as well as – very visible – tests of for instance the ‘Zirkon’, the extent to which economic weakness constraints the Russian ability to design, and manufacure, high technology conventional weaponry has been vastly overestimated. If planning focuses on creating the ability for very rapid and decisive action in support of limited objectives, with a single-minded concentration of development efforts on the weaponry needed to make this possible and ‘deter’ NATO from escalating, costs can be kept right down.

            If you seriously think that, as it were, ‘prodding’ a ‘bear with brains’ – if you are in any doubt about that fact, compare an address by Gerasimov with one by Sir Nick Carter – will cause him to come ‘lumbering towards you’, so you can get him to exhaust himself and eventually ‘roll over’, I suggest you look more closely at what has happened in Syria.

            The ‘cost’ side of equation, as well as other effects of the Russian intervention, is well covered in a piece back in March by Thomas Schaffner on the ‘Russia Matters’ site of Harvard’s ‘Belfer Center’, headlined, ‘Five Years After Russia Declared Victory in Syria: What Has Been Won?’ Citing a March 2018 estimate of expenditure to date by the opposition ‘Yakoblo’ Party, he comments: ‘This estimate, at around $1.2 billion to $2 billion a year, would represent 1.7 percent to 2.9 percent of the roughly $70 billion allocated annually to military spending in the Russian budget for most years since 2015, according to SIPRI data.’

            (See .)

            A discussion by two academics at King’s College London, Marina Miron and Rod Thornton, published online by the ‘The Journal of Slavic Military Studies’ in June, headlined ‘Emerging as the ‘Victor’ (?): Syria and Russia’s Grand and Military Strategies’ goes beyond the obvious gains, among which the provision of real combat experience is hardly insignificant.

            (See )

            An interesting suggestion they make is that the firing of the ‘Kalibr’ missiles from vessels in the Mediterranean may have been related to a desire to make a point to NATO, relating to the U.S. project of ‘Prompt Global Strike’ (‘PGS’), explaining that the kind of capabilities that concerned Ogarkov in the ‘Seventies can now be countered.

            So they quote another assessment from the ‘Center for Naval Analyses’, by Dmitri Gorenburg, putting together the implications of the 2,600 km range of these missiles with the creatiom of an ‘umbrella’ for ‘Anti Access/Area Denial’ using anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities in Syria which also cover a good deal of the Eastern Mediterranean. As Miron and Thornton explain:

            “He argues that the use of the Kalibrs was primarily for strategic deterrent purposes. ‘The real goal’, he stresses, ‘was to show NATO military planners . . . that Russia has a new standoff land-attack missile capability that can be difficult to neutralize’. His point is that as well as hitting IS targets in Syria, these missiles fired from the Eastern Mediterranean could just as easily strike NATO targets (capital cities, military headquarters, logistics hubs, troop concentrations) across most of Europe. And they would be ‘difficult to neutralize’ because the vessels they would be fired from can operate largely safe from NATO attack beneath the extended cover of the A2/AD umbrella based ashore in Syria. As such, and in Kremlin logic, this would help in deterring NATO from launching any possible future offensive action against Russia itself (principally using PGS). There is clear messaging here: Russia has very effective strategic non-nuclear missiles (although nuclear warheads can be fitted to Kalibrs), and if it was quite prepared to use them in Syria, then it must also be quite prepared to use them against NATO targets in Europe.”

            So, you see, the ‘bear’ might not need to ‘lumber up’ towards NATO forces. As a ‘clever, agile and fast’ creature, he might strike you from behind. In addition to this, a rather obvious effect of ‘Prompt Global Strike’ is to increase the incentives for co-operation between Russia and China. As I noted, the address by Billingslea you quoted provided the extraordinary spectacle of him and Tim Morrison firmly convinced they were involved in a ‘three-way’ arms race, after Putin had announced that assistance was being provided to the Chinese in creating an ‘early warning system.’ The thought that an arms race in which we confront the complementary assets of ‘bear’ and ‘dragon’ is one we could lose, one might say, ‘hands down’ has not occurred to him. (Of course, Brezhnev had his ‘blind spots’, too.)

            As to the issue raised by ‘Ishmael Zechariah’ about the influence of the ‘Israeli lobby’ in Britain. Unfortunately, while back in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties I followed internal British politics quite closely, and even knew a few people who later became quite ‘consequential’, this is no longer the case. That said, there are some elements about which I think I have relevant knowledge.

            It is I think relevant that any discussion of how policy is influenced inevitably brings up questions to do with what policy should be. If one believes that influence is being exerted in directions of which one approves, then one will be likely to be less concerned about how it is exercised. (For instance, I am hardly disposed to ‘weep bitter tears’ about U.S. involvement in the 1948 elections in Italy.)

            Obviously, my prime concern in arguments about the ‘Israeli lobbies’ is with their influence on British and American policy. However, it is material that a view I repeatedly expressed on ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ is that, whatever it does, the long-term prospects for a Jewish ‘settler state’ in the Middle East in the twenty-first century have to be problematic. Accordingly, a prudent approach would be very much a matter of choosing the ‘lesser weevil’, to quote the fine definition of the way that the Royal Navy believed in fighting by Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey.

            It is also I think relevant that some of those who have exercised this influence I know to be fools. The ‘Department of War Studies’ at King’s College – the institution where the authors of an article quoted above work – was largely the creation of Sir Lawrence Freedman, KCMG, CBE, PC, FBA, as he now is. I was working with him, turning notes he wrote into a television script, back in 1986 when I first came across the writings of Michael MccGwire.

            Central to these was a critique of the kind of academic theorising about ‘deterrence’ which had been the subject of the 1981 study of ‘The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy’ with which Freedman had made his name. His response was something about ‘retired spooks go the other way.’ This I learnt was complete nonsense. The roots of MccGwire’s thinking, as I noted earlier, were in an intellectual evolution going back to his work on Soviet submarine programmes in the ‘Fifties.

            A document of some significance in recent British, and to an extent American, history, is the speech advocating ‘humanitarian intervention’ which Tony Blair gave at the ‘Economic Club of Chicago’ on 24 April 1999. Key parts of this were based on notes from Freedman which were produced in evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry.

            (See .)

            One key paragraph:

            ‘As we address world problems, at the NATO summit and G8 meetings, we might be tempted to think back to the clarity and simplicity of the cold war. There were arguments about the right strategy to adopt to contain the Soviet threat but the threat itself was well understood.’

            Anyone who has looked at the arguments over the NSC 68 paper of April 1950, which I discussed in a previous comment, will know that to suggest that there were not radical disagreements about the nature of the ‘Soviet threat’ in the ‘Fifties, as in the ‘Eighties, is simply false.

            Also somewhat questionable, as we have had reason to learn, is the section in Freedman’s notes that starts: ‘Many of our problems have been caused by two dangerous and ruthless men – Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosovic.’ This articulates what I call the ‘wicked king’ theory, which is particularly dangerous when used by a certain kind of liberal to suggest that if one removed the ‘dangerous and ruthless men’ in question, bitter and intractable ethnic and religious feuds would suddenly be resolved in favour of a happy ‘multiculturalism.’ It smacks of what elsewhere I have called ‘Fukuyamism-Lennonism.’

            Both Christopher Donnelly and Lawrence Freedman have been doubly influential in forming British policy, in that they have both helped shape its development, and contributed materially, in different ways, to the marginalisation of dissenting opinions. This intellectual control, in my view, may well have been more important than the more widely publicised forms of influence, such as finance, or the smearing of Jeremy Corbyn (in my view, a largely unreconstructed ‘Eighties vintage ‘fake proletarian’, but certainly not an ‘anti-semite’ in any meaningful sense of the term.)

            In Freedman’s case, it is think clear that his Jewish heritage and Zionist commitment came together with intellectual inadequacies to blind him to the fact that ‘régime change’ in Iraq would empower Iran. Likewise, I doubt he was capable of even beginning to glimpse the possibilities that would eventually materialise as result of processes which started when, the month before Blair’s speech, the then Russian Foreign Minister, Yevgeny Primakov – actually also ethnically Jewish – turned his plane round, on a trip to Washington, in response to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

            Given the way that events have unfolded more recently, however, there are I think rather large questions as to whether the efforts of Freedman, and his like, have benefited anyone – including, and perhaps in particular, Israel. And certainly, I think we would have been better off had there been the kind of open, and honest, debate, which both he and Donnelly have appeared keen to prevent. As to the question you raised about the states of mind of such people, the forms of dishonesty which arise when people have made such a clusterf**k that it is impossible for them to honest with others, and difficult to be honest with themselves, is a very interesting subject. But I have gone on far too long for a single comment already.

  5. Joseph Baio says:

    How are these war games conducted? I don’t understand why General John Hyten was surprised that the enemy knew what the US forces were going to do. Is it not obvious what may be done? Are not the games enemy forces comprised of US forces and Allies who have the same equipment and trained in the same operational plans and tactics? How are these games constructed to be a real indicator of what may happen against real enemy forces who would be using different equipment and tactics and not have the inside knowledge that the games enemy forces have?

    • Wargames (popular term) are conducted indoors on table tops (computers mostly these days which raises the GIGO problem) or outdoors with live troops getting rained on and vehicles using up gas and sometimes a combination of both. They can be free play in which case the outcome is determined by rules, umpire decisions and what the players do, or they can be scripted in which case the idea is to actually exercise something (eg assault river crossing — actually build the bridges and go through the elaborate ballet of doing the crossing). Sometimes they’re a vehicle to explore possibilities (in the day I designed a wargame to try and discover things about fighting in CW conditions that no one had thought of before).
      I would assume this particular one had a strong element of free play. But watch SCF — I’ll be having an essay out shortly on this.

      • Fred says:

        “outdoors with live troops getting rained on and vehicles using up gas…”

        I remember one such NATO op in the early ’80s when I was on one of the older SSNs. The CO managed to catch one of the carrier groups flat footed, made the approach and fired off the required flares to simulate a torpedo attack. We thought that was a great achievement; but found out later that, according the rules, it took 12 torpedoes to sink one of our carriers. I sure hope the flag ranks didn’t actually believe that. Regardless it was fun watching the replay of the periscope video of the crew on the flight cutting their ‘blue nose’ initiation short to launch an ASW helo.

        • Ghost_Ship says:

          I don’t understand this obsession with sinking carriers. Once the carrier is sunk, the other ships in the CBG can be redeployed elsewhere where they may take an effective role in combat. Make a carrier inoperable but still afloat with the possibility of repair and the other ships in the CBG have to stay the carrier while it limps back to port to await its turn in dry dock. By then war will be over.
          Also there are those who believe that war against an enemy who sinks a carrier should be escalated to include nuclear weapons, not sinking a carriers precludes this escalation, or at least it should do but there is no telling what new rules of war the “rules-based international order” might come up with.

          • Fred says:

            Ghost Ship,

            Once the carrier air wing sinks with the carrier the striking power of the task force is significantly reduced, as is the fuel supply for a number of escorts.

            “By then war will be over.”
            That’s been said by many and not been true almost always.

  6. James says:

    With respect to Russian exercises in Uzbekistan and deployments in Tajikistan … I remember when Islam Karimov was America’s great friend and when the US military ran the airport in Bishkek … but I have never seen a timeline for how Russia brought Central Asia back into its sphere of influence. I would like to.

    I’ve been assuming that the US just demonstrated to the leaders in the region that they are an unreliable partner.

    • Easy enough to explain — the US isn’t there any more but it’s left a problem behind it that the countries there have to deal with.
      How big a problem? We’ll find out.

  7. Tidewater says:

    “Everything within 2000-3000 kilometers will be hit.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to venture at this point that everything within three thousand MILES will be hit?

    To explain what I mean: I think it is accurate to say that Russia has been able, since the abrogation of the INF treaty (on August 2, 2019), to press forward with the development of a ground-launched missile with a standoff capability that could be 4500 -5500 kilometers. This would be the Novator 9M729. This missile was one of the reasons why the US wanted to get out of the INF treaty. And yet this missile seems to have been if not superseded at least overshadowed by the Kalibr-M.

    There was another reason to get out. The treaty did not cover inland waterways/ water-borne missiles launched from within Russia. With the ‘Roughneck’ (Buyan) class of corvette, each loaded with eight 3M-54 Kalibr missiles, Russia has had for a few years a range of 1500 miles from any point on its vast inland waterway system. From way up on the Don River, six Roughnecks could have done real damage to the recent ‘Operation Sea Breeze’ in the Black Sea. (Who thought that name up?) That’s forty- eight launches and probably mostly hits. My view of these sea maneuvers is that they were utterly strange, puzzling, risky, and indeed futile. I honestly think that if something had gone wrong, and ‘came time for gunshoot’ (as the Geechee say), very few of our ships would have ever gotten out of there. Like ‘Holmes’s bonfire’ or Santiago de Cuba, 1898.

    And then, just recently, on July 30, the Russian navy launched the Krasnoyarsk, a new Yasen class submarine that carries the 3M14(M) Kalibr, probably at least forty of them, among other deadly new ordnance. This is the new, bigger, more powerful Kalibr which most likely is now being built –or has been built–as a land-attack missile as well.

    This M Kalibr is a cruise missile. It’s not hypersonic. No matter. It really works. They’ve got it and we have not. I haven’t figured out what twenty-seven hundred to three thousand miles means, exactly, for targeting something in Europe but remember, these missiles could also end up being based in Cyrenaica, say in the Green Mountains, Jebel Akhdar. Russia has Europe covered.

    I notice that Alastair Crooke uses the term “inflection point” to describe where we are now in our history. A calculus term, I think. A line curving one way or the other. I was thinking ‘watershed.’ That is something that happens at a point like Cashier, N.C. where the continental divide runs right through. Here, at High Hampton, the young Wade Hampton would pour fish from a bucket into a creek that would take the Carolina fish off on a long journey to the Mississippi. (Do you know Paddle to the Sea?) He could have poured in another creek that would have taken them to the Atlantic. Maybe he did. I wonder at the moment by which river. Things can go one way at a watershed, or then again in a very much of a different way… I think we are at a watershed moment in our history.

    Thanks, Patrick. Cheers. You’re on a roll.

  8. Lelush says:

    But…all these wars games and alleged confrontation and animosity, is for what, when Russia is obviously aboard the WEF´s “live exercises” on varied “pandemics” ( infectious viruses, cyber ones, and so on…) co-adressing the crowd of assistants?

    It seems that eventhough they confront some governments in the US and the EU on some issues, they come along with powers that matter, TPTB, I mean…

    I would be happy to hear the usually seasoned Martyanov on this, what is the explanation he founds to this…also by you, Mr. Armstrong…

    • Barbara Ann says:


      I take it you have read Whitney Webb’s piece on Cyber Polygon, in which she highlights the unusual aspects of Russia’s involvement in the event (link below). Whitney presents good arguments that Sberbank’s key role in hosting the event signals Russia embracing the Great Reset agenda, at least to some extent.

      In the light of this seemingly very significant development, I’d second your request for a view by Patrick and maybe Andrei on the degree of support Russia may have for the WEF’s plan.

      I have not seen Mishustin’s Cyber Polygon address, I will look it up. I did watch Putin’s address (via video link) to the last Davos get together and it was apparent to me that with his characteristic extremely dry wit, he was very politely telling Schwab where he could stick his Great Reset. Perhaps things have changed.

      If Russia is on side, I can only think its own reset will have strongly nationalist characteristics. Everything Putin has done in the last nearly 2 decades suggests he has no interest in supporting a global technocratic government, Russia will surely have her own.

      Yet this is of no comfort to those of us in the West witnessing the Reset in real time. The merger of government with powerful private sector interests is well underway and any sign that Russia supports this abomination is very worrying. As Whitney Webb observes, “stakeholder capitalism” is the WEF’s Orwellian label for absolute techno-fascist rule, where the “stakeholders” consist purely of the billionaire elite.

      • Just read the Webb piece. Two thoughts
        1. It does make sense to think about cyberattacks and Russia would be well advised to do so to protect itself. (Armstrong’s First Law of Russianology: Everything Russia is accused of doing is already being done to it by its enemies.)
        2. We already have experience of a society with robots. And that is Rome (what is a slave, after all, but a robot?). So what to do with the unemployed plebs in the city? Bread and circuses worked pretty well.

        • Barbara Ann says:

          Thanks Patrick. What was interesting for me was Webb’s point about cooperation on cyber security at the WEF event including Russia – the same Russia that the USG FP establishment makes out to be the font of all cyber evils.

    • I am quite puzzled myself on this. Take COVID. There is clearly some sort of disease there but there are no FACTS to suggest that it’s especially lethal and. even so, it hits the over 65s most. The reaction has had an enormous amount of BS, political special pleading, profiteering, bogus authoritarian “science”, incompetence, absurd over-reaction (we all shut down our economies to protect people who were mostly retired. Why?), Fauxi trying to cover up his involvement in Wuhan and so on.
      I do not understand either Putin or Xi on this one.
      I’ve thought about it and I still can’t put it together.
      I did think at the start that they thought it was a bio-attack but The Letter convinced me it was natural origin. But now that I discover that The Letter was orchestrated by Fauxi’s minions…
      So, was it a bio-attack? I haven’t a clue. The more I learn, the less I know.
      It’s a kind of medieval dancing mania.

  9. Ken+Roberts says:

    The document, “04-Aug-2021, Russia’s position at the seventy-sixth session of the UN General Assembly”, is perhaps relevant. As one instance, point 56: “It is States that bear the primary responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights…”

    To the extent that Russia can be considered a rational actor in international affairs, these 77 points may offer at least an initial basis for understanding possible behaviour.


    Best wishes,

  10. JohninMK says:

    Patrick, do you have a view on the theory that Russia’s strategy, with regular announcement of ‘scary’ new weapons, is feeding the US MIC with new excuses to spend ever increasing amounts of borrowed money on defence? Forcing the US deficit higher whilst sitting hard on their own.

    The target being to give the US their Russian 1991 moment.

    • One can certainly wonder. Consider for example, Poseidon: is there any actual practical real-world use for it except as some sort of Doomsday weapon? And yet (and don’t forget the “accidental” way the first news of it was leaked) how much would you have to spend to counter it?
      Certainly naming the new single-engine inexpensive fighter “Checkmate” was a little rude, wasn’t it?

      • Yeah, Right says:

        Has NATO given it a reporting name yet?

        I suspect that will be with you will see some boorishness at play.

        • JohninMK says:

          No name yet but Patrick you have to admit that ‘Checkmate’ was brilliant PR.

          Under normal circumstances it won’t get a Russian title let alone NATO until VKS decide to buy it. At the moment the Su-75, as it has been nicknamed, is just a trial balloon by the Sukhoi design office, basically a single engined version of the Su-57 for export but still years away.

          There is no known Russian VKS requirement for a single engined fighter either. It looks to be an attempt by Sukhoi to create a modern equivalent to the Mig-21 for the export market. The biggest opportunity could be India who could assemble it in the plant currently busy with the Su-30MKI.

      • JohninMK says:

        The Poseidon that you mention Patrick is almost impossible to counter.

        By concentrating their military R&D resources on one area, defence against known attackers, the Russians have been able to pull way ahead of the West in key areas, like IADS and BM.

        Whilst US Intel may be well aware of the implications of the superiority of the breadth of Russian technical education over the US in particular there seems to no recognition of it at a political level. The Russians don’t seem to be inching ahead its striding and its not just the ‘bling’ products like tanks and hyper fast missiles, its down in core areas like metallurgy. The US still hasn’t been able to reverse engineer the near 30 year old RD-170/180 rocket motor, having to buy the latter for its Atlas.

        Unlike Russia, the US and the rest just dump what they have that works and rather than rework it for a new generation they pump huge sums into new R&D (more jobs for the boys and political contributions I suppose that way). Just look at the current General Dynamics British Ajax light tank debacle as a prime example. But at least the USAF have seen the Russian Flanker family light and are putting the F-15EX into production.

        We in the West are going to have to spend a lot smarter to keep up, let alone get in front.

  11. Barbara Ann says:


    A very odd op-ed in RT today by Artyom Lukin. Don’t know if you have come across this guy, he’s a Stratfor & Valdai Club contributor, holds a PhD in Political Science. Lukin tries to make the case that climate change may be a net gain for Russia and that she should not be “ashamed” of this. Well I guess.

    He also argues Russia should “monetize its climate-change advantages” with a plan to resettle “climate refugees” – paid for out of an international fund specifically for this purpose: “The value, for the West at least, would potentially be to keep at bay a burgeoning climate refugee crisis that would divide governments and the public, and force, for example, the EU to make tough and unpopular decisions about people’s lives”. Sounds just like Erdogan’s scheme to keep the huddled masses out of Europe. He does not offer an opinion as to why mass immigration from all corners of the globe would suddenly be a popular decision in Russia.

    Most bizarre of all Lukin concludes with a new take on Tsar Alexander III’s aphorism and claims Russia’s “..two main allies could be its nuclear weapons and global warming”. Just goes to show that highly credentialed intellectual diarrhea is not a uniquely Western problem.

    I could see this developing into another dastardly Russian plot to cook the temperate latitudes of the West and retreat to the high Arctic, with the magnetic pole of course.

  12. English Outsider says:

    DH – “As to the question you raised about the states of mind of such people, the forms of dishonesty which arise when people have made such a clusterf**k that it is impossible for them to honest with others, and difficult to be honest with themselves, is a very interesting subject. But I have gone on far too long for a single comment already.”

    Absolutely not! Will look forward very much to your further examination of the subject.

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