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Tag: "russia"

You Say Proliferation, I Say Diffusion

[ 18 ] January 16, 2013 |

I have some thoughts on the diffusion of anti-access military technology over at The Diplomat

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a strong political incentive to maximize diffusion of its military capabilities.  Proxies with Soviet technology could fight the United States and its proxies on their own. Consequently, states from North Korea to Vietnam to Cuba to Syria, Iraq, and Egypt gained access to the many of the most advanced Soviet fighter, submarine, and missile systems. Often, these systems overwhelmed the capacity of recipients, with buyers lacking the ability to put pilots in planes, sailors in subs, and mechanics in either. Nevertheless, these systems still forced the United States to act cautiously; the combination of a couple Nanuchka class missile boats, some Foxtrot subs, a few MiG-23s and a reasonably sophisticated air defense system could give the US Navy or Air Force a bad day.

Russia doesn’t see much of an upside in this kind of diffusion today.  States get the equipment they can pay for, without political subsidy . China has displayed little interest in developing proxy relationships of the type seen in the Cold War. Moreover, few states have an interest in devoting resources and attention to making life difficult for a superpower.  Still, given the rapidly advancing capabilities of China’s anti-access forces, questions of diffusion and proliferation bear consideration.



Foreign Entanglements: Russia, Syria, and R2P

[ 1 ] August 23, 2012 |

Dmitry Gorenburg and I chat about Russian foreign policy on the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements:

Unfortunately we lost the last forty minutes of the video, which included discussions of Sino-Russian relations, Sino-Indian relations, Russian views of the US election, and Russian rearmament.

Intervention and Uncertainty

[ 13 ] July 17, 2012 |

Was on the Alyona Show last night with Ali Gharib.  I had lighting issues.

Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats Living Together…

[ 25 ] July 5, 2012 |

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind:

In spring of 2012 it became known that the Russian Air Force is to participate in the Red Flag training exercise in the fall of 2012 together with Americans. From 8 until 19 of October, Red Flag Air Combat Exercise 13-1 will be held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada (the exercises are numbered in accordance with the fiscal years, and exercise in the fall will be number one in the 2013 fiscal year). Like India, who participated in the Red Flag several years earlier using its Russian-made SU-30 MKI, Russia will get a chance this year to test its aircraft in realistic combat maneuvers with USAF aircraft. This chance is very important, since up until now the only Russian aircraft of the fourth generation which fought in a real combat situation against western aircraft has been the MIG -29, but the possibility of deploying it in the conditions of very specific wars of 1991 and 1999 was limited. Under such circumstances, the chance to test modernized Russian aircraft such as the SU -27 SM, SU-30M2, MIG -29SM and other strike aircraft – despite simulations, they are still against real western aircraft and pilots – is too attractive to be miss out on.

I miss the Cold War.

….sadly, it was not to be…

TNR vs. RT

[ 26 ] March 27, 2012 |

Jesse Zwick at TNR engages in some policing of the left side of the political discourse:

What is surprising, however, are the number of decidedly non-crazy American experts and journalists who appear regularly on the channel’s news programs as guest analysts. Indeed, whether it’s playing host to contributors from respected outlets like The Nation or Reason or the Center for American Progress, RT has excelled in cultivating American liberals and libertarians eager to criticize the United States for its adventurism abroad and sermonizing posture toward other nations.

Between the outrage following allegations of fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections last December and the country’s more recent veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria, it’s clear why RT would want Americans to supply a counter-narrative that makes the United States look out of line for lecturing Russia. The bigger mystery is why American journalists and academics continue to go along for the ride.

I’ll take this seriously for a second, given that some commenters here have also raised eyebrows about my own appearances on RT. Some thoughts:

  1. Although Zwick doesn’t frame it precisely in these terms, part of the issue clearly lies with a discomfort for standpoint journalism, resting on the notion that otherwise accurate observations about American foreign policy run the risk of taint due to the clear biases of RT’s funding sources. Beyond that, however, there’s a clear sense that RT represents the wrong sort of standpoint; Russia is a semi-authoritarian country, and de facto facilitation of Russian criticism of US foreign policy helps undercut American criticism of the Putin regime, or something. However, since I strongly doubt that anyone who watches RT doesn’t appreciate what RT is, it’s hard for me to take this very seriously. It’s also worth noting that there aren’t a lot of American networks that offer the same standpoint as RT, or really any at all. Even on MSNBC serious leftish critique of American foreign policy is limited in both space and scope. And of course, it’s rather rich for the organization that provides a platform for the international politics musings of Marty Peretz and Leon Wieseltier to criticize…. well, anyone or anything.
  2. Zwick points out a number of problems with RT’s international coverage; they’re sometimes a bit given to conspiracy mongering, they reflexively defend Russian foreign policy decisions and the Putin regime, they draw unflattering (and sometimes inaccurate) comparisons between the US and Russia, and so forth. Having seen Fox News now and again, it’s hard for me to take these criticisms seriously. If there’s a difference between RT and Fox, it’s only of the mildest degree. I didn’t watch RT during the South Ossetia War, but I did read TNR, which set an astonishingly low standard for fair and accurate reporting. Moreover, the Alyona Show is genuinely good, comparable to news/talk programs on respectable stations.
  3. That said, I haven’t been pleased with all of my appearances on RT; in a couple of cases I just haven’t been happy with the direction that the conversation has gone.  I suspect, however, that this is true of any set of media appearances on any network. For my part, I prefer to stick to questions of American foreign policy or of general international interest, and would be uncomfortable talking about Russian foreign policy. An American criticizing some aspect of US foreign policy on a Russian-funded station feels to me wholly unproblematic; an American defending Russian foreign policy to an American audience feels more sketchy, depending on the foreign policy in question. But then I don’t recall that they’ve ever asked me to do so.

Overall, I’m pretty comfortable in saying that RT enriches the American marketplace of ideas, and provides space for political voices that would otherwise never be heard. I hope that RT builds in the right direction, allowing for editorial independence while also maintaining a distinct identity. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with making a Russian view of American politics available to a US audience, especially given the nature of extant media offerings in the United States.

Foreign Entanglements

[ 1 ] February 17, 2012 |

Mark Leon Goldberg and myself talked Russia-Syria on Wednesday:

Triangle Trade

[ 22 ] January 4, 2012 |

This week’s Over the Horizon column suggests that the Russian arms industry is in for some long term trouble:

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s military-industrial complex sustained the massive Soviet military institution, which regularly gobbled up 15-25 percent of the nation’s GDP. In an odd and unexpected twist to the end of the Cold War, the Russian arms industry has turned to sustaining itself by arming a pair of Asian giants: Arms exports to China and India have proven lucrative for Russia — and have even had a synergistic and competitive quality. The unease each country has felt due to the other increasing its military capability has led to higher revenues for Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-owned arms exporter. For the post-Cold War Russian arms industry, this trade has represented a boon, helping to replace lost customers in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Russian military itself. However, this situation is almost certainly unsustainable in the long run, as both China and India appear to be outgrowing their dependence on the Russian military-industrial complex. This will spell trouble for Russia, which has had great difficulty developing exports based on anything other than arms or energy.


Russia-India Cooperation

[ 8 ] December 29, 2011 |

Finishing a book manuscript, and so haven’t had much time for serious blogging recently.  Nevertheless, would like to drag everyone’s attention to Dmitry Gorenburg’s excellent series on Russia’s military relationship with India.  First part examines naval, second part ground and air, third part joint projects.

There’s a lot of interest here.  From a strategic point of view, the Indo-Russian relationship suggests that there’s something wrong with geopolitical scenarios that don’t take balance-of-power considerations between the three Eurasian giants seriously; I’m not looking at any one in particular, of course, but… From a technical point of view, I think it’s interesting how dependent both China and India continue to be on updated Soviet technology. I think that Feng might have more to say on this, but there’s a fascinating contrast between India and China as customers of Russian military tech.  India is a better international intellectual property citizen than China, and also lacks any serious security flashpoints with Russia.  On the other hand, China seems to be interested in pushing beyond what Russian technology can offer, even if major questions about the quality of the product of the Chinese military-industrial complex remain.

Cross-posted at ID.

Russia and China: Countries with Interests Beyond Messing with Texas

[ 7 ] October 19, 2011 |

My latest at WPR takes a look at the Russia-China arms trade:

By the middle of the last decade, however, the factors that made the relationship so strong had begun to subside. The sophistication and reliability of Chinese military equipment improved, while the quality of Russian industrial production declined. Some Russians also began to express concern about the growing military might of China, with which many border issues remain unsettled. By contrast, the military relationship between Russia and India appears to have remained relatively healthy, even in the face of recent disagreements over the price and delivery schedule of a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier.

The problem of intellectual property rights also looms large in the Sino-Russian arms trade. Russia remains concerned that China will not respect Russian intellectual property rights for arms transferred to China or licensed for Chinese production. Those concerns are well-founded. China’s lack of respect for intellectual property rights in civilian fieldsremains a sore spot with the United States. Moreover, China has clearly copied Russian weapon systems that were transferred in the past. While Russia and China have engaged in repeated discussions over intellectual property concerns in the past four years, China’s ability and interest in complying with Russian requirements remains suspect. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Russia now views China as a major competitor in the international arms market. If Russia believes that sales to China will actively undercut the position of its exports to the rest of the world, then the future of Russia-China arms trade seems grim.

The major problems afflicting the Russia-China arms relationship can, in large part, be traced to China’s growing power and influence. Russian desperation and Chinese weakness produced a great match in the 1990s, but as the situations in Moscow and especially Beijing have improved, tensions have inevitably developed. The problem lies not simply with Russian fears of Chinese power, but also with China’s “natural” desire to play a global role commensurate with its strength. For China, this means becoming a major player in the international arms market, not to mention ignoring demands from Moscow and Washington that it reform its intellectual property policies.

A Surprising Transfer of Power in Russia

[ 16 ] September 24, 2011 |

isn’t happening.  I, for one, am shocked.


[ 52 ] July 27, 2011 |

Two updates to posts from last week. First, Colbert is absolutely brutal to Jennifer Rubin:

Second, Eli Lake has additional sourcing on the Georgia bombing. Two US intelligence officials describing a classified report ain’t gospel, but it’s a lot better than sole sourcing the story to the Georgian Ministry of the Interior. I suspect that the administration would prefer that the activities of the GRU not interfere with larger US-Russian relations, although of course the motives of individual intelligence officers will vary. If the US intelligence community believes that the GRU is responsible, them I’m inclined to give much more credence to the report. See also Spencer.

GRU Bombing Campaign in Georgia?

[ 18 ] July 22, 2011 |

Sourcing is a little thin (and by thin, I mean entirely sourced to the Georgian Ministry of the Interior), and implication seems strong (based on Russian behavior in Georgia, we should scotched New START, put Russia on terror sponsorship list, etc.), but interesting nevertheless:

A bomb blast near the U.S. Embassy in Tblisi, Georgia, in September was traced to a plot run by a Russian military intelligence officer, according to an investigation by the Georgian Interior Ministry.

Shota Utiashvili, the most senior official in charge of intelligence analysis for the ministry, said in an interview with The Washington Times that the recent spate of bombings and attempted bombings – including what he said was a blast targeting the U.S. Embassy – was the work of Russian GRU officer Maj. Yevgeny Borisov.

Georgian court has charged Maj. Borisov, who is based in the Russian-occupied province of Abkhazia, with being the mastermind behind a spate of 12 bombings and attempted bombings throughout the country in the past year. These attempts include the detonation of a military-grade explosive about 100 yards from the U.S. Embassy in Tblisi on Sept. 22. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Lake’s description of the South Ossetia War is… tendentious, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find that Russian intelligence had embarked on a campaign like this. Whether the United States should react to such a campaign by suspending- I’m not sure what, exactly, but it has something to do with “reset”- is a different question entirely.

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