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The Difference Between Good Attention and Bad Attention

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I get some comments now and again on Russia posts accusing me of being alarmist. I don’t think that’s true; rather, I think that the Russian defense establishment has undertaken an effort to become as alarming as possible. Exhibit Z-12:

Russia has tested the world’s most powerful vacuum bomb, which unleashes a destructive shockwave with the power of a nuclear blast, the military said on Tuesday, dubbing it the “father of all bombs.”

The bomb is the latest in a series of new Russian weapons and policy moves as President Vladimir Putin tries to reassert Moscow’s role on the international stage.

“Test results of the new airborne weapon have shown that its efficiency and power is commensurate with a nuclear weapon,” Alexander Rukshin, Russian deputy armed forces chief of staff, told Russia’s state ORT First Channel television. The same report was later shown on the state-sponsored Vesti channel.

“You will now see it in action, the bomb which has no match in the world is being tested at a military site.”

It showed a Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber dropping the bomb over a testing ground. A large explosion followed.

Pictures showed what looked like a flattened multi-storey block of flats surrounded by scorched soil and boulders. “The soil looks like a lunar landscape,” the report said.

“The defense ministry stresses this military invention does not contradict a single international treaty. Russia is not unleashing a new arms race.” … The report said the new bomb was much stronger than the U.S.-built Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — MOAB, also known under its name “Mother of All Bombs”. “So, Russian designers called the new weapon ‘Father of All Bombs’,” it said..

Showing the orange-painted U.S. prototype, the report said the Russian bomb was four times more powerful — 44 metric tons of TNT equivalent — and the temperature at the epicenter of its blast was two times higher.

Fascinating, although .044 kilotons would be pretty small for a nuclear blast. Apparently, the Russians have used similar (if smaller) weapons against Chechnya.

On the upside, countries that plan on having really aggressive foreign policies (that is, actually attacking neighbors) tend to disguise their military capabilities rather than showcase them. Recent Russian behavior seems to be part of an extended campaign of deterrence, combined with some helpful intimidation of near abroad neighbors and demonstration of Vladimir Putin’s manli-manness.

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