Game zero: Putin under the mask of friendliness “hid” the arms race

Игра в ноль: Путин под маской дружелюбия "спрятал" гонку вооружений

The expert community is still under discussion a number of statements of Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Ukraine, the EU and the USA at the annual “big” press conference. At the end of each year, the master of the Kremlin responds to questions from the foreign press about the most topical issues on the international agenda, the domestic and foreign policy of Russia. This time from the lips of the Russian President voiced the contours of the future policy of the Kremlin towards Ukraine and the West.

Mask of friendliness

This time Vladimir Putin changed the tone towards Ukraine. In his opinion, should be introduced visa-free regime between Ukraine and the EU and relations with Russia normalized. He supported the preservation of the Normandy format talks on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas, the exchange of prisoners “all for all”. The Russian President stated that Crimea was facing a shortage of energy resources, is experiencing difficulties with use of grants of the Federal government. Recall that traditionally, the supply of the Peninsula and the provision of energy supplies carried out from continental Ukraine.

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The intention to “normalize relations” have been heard in the West. Vladimir Putin promised to cancel the counter-sanctions against European manufacturers after the EU lifted the anti-Russian sanctions. In the opinion of the master of the Kremlin, Russia is interested to engage in constructive dialogue with a strong, stable and independent Europe. Vladimir Putin has expressed its willingness to work with the newly elected President of the United States Donald trump to improve bilateral relations that worsened the alleged fault of the current administration of Democrats. Vladimir Putin even sent Donald Trump a letter of congratulation on the eve of new year holidays.

Behind the mask of friendliness lie quite objective reasons “reverence” of the Russian President to Ukraine and the West. The Russian economy cannot withstand the consequences of anti-Russian sanctions. Russian mass media published the forecast of the Ministry of economic development of the Russian Federation on development of the Russian economy for the next three years, given the continuing anti-Russian sanctions. Under any scenario, Russia expects stagnation, weak economic growth at the level of 0.6-2.4% per year. According to Russian economists, is not the growth necessary in order for the Russian economy recovered from the crisis of 2009, when GDP fell by 7.8%.

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The economic development Ministry does not exclude that the price of oil will be $ 40. per barrel during the 2017-2019 biennium. For this reason the Russian industry, retail trade, salaries and incomes, investment in fixed capital will grow at the minimum rate. It is likely that the income of the population the situation will repeat the 90-ies, when the Russians from depressed regions surviving on benefits and pensions. Public sector wages will grow. Annexed Crimea and occupied territories of Donbass continue to be hole in the budget of the Russian Federation. From an economic point of view, Russia is beneficial to end the confrontation with Ukraine and the West in the near future.

“Normalization” on the Kremlin’s terms

However, one should not take Putin’s statements on normalization of relations with Ukraine and the West literally. During the press conference, Vladimir Putin promised to fulfill the Minsk agreements and to agree with the Ukrainian vision of the conflict settlement in the Donbass – first, the withdrawal of Russian-terrorist troops from ORDA and transfer 40 km of the state border under the control of armed police mission, OSCE and the elections and the decision of a question with a “special status” of Donbass. Russia will not make any progress on conflict settlement in the Donbass as long as the countries “Norman Quartet” will not be a change of government. The Kremlin nurtures the hope that during the presidential election in France and parliamentary elections in Germany come to power politics-eurosceptics, which will cancel the anti-sanctions regardless of the situation in the conflict zone in the Donbass in exchange for normalization of trade and economic relations with Russia. In the Donbas Moscow expects to realize TRANS-Dniester scenario is to maintain the power of Pro-Russian separatists and its military presence.

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Russia wants to keep Crimea in the southern Federal district and is ready to support the Pro-European vector Bankova only in that case if Ukraine will not prevent the international recognition of Crimea as Russian territory. Recall that thanks to the diplomatic efforts of Ukraine of the PACE and the UN General Assembly adopted resolutions condemning the annexation of Crimea and violation of human rights on the Peninsula. In the current tough economic reality the Kremlin is interested in Ukraine to restore economic and trade relations with the Crimea, in order to increase the sustainability of the Peninsula and to save the Russian Treasury from unnecessary expenditures.

The Kremlin hopes to convince the new owner of the Oval office to abandon the policy of anti-Russian sanctions and a policy of strengthening NATO’s military presence near Russia’s borders. The USA is the main conductor of the policy of containment of Russia. The Kremlin is counting on the fact that the administration of Republican Donald trump to refrain from support of Ukraine’s efforts to restore territorial integrity, will not interfere with the military assistance of the Russian Federation to a resident Bashar al-Assad in the fight against the moderate Islamist opposition in Syria.

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Otherwise, Russia will resume with the US arms race “cold war”. During the press-conference Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is stronger than any aggressor. Do not forget the master of the Kremlin to mention that in response to the US withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile Treaty (ABM), during the reign of John. Bush, Russia began to develop nuclear complexes. Russia intends to play with the West and Ukraine in the game with zero result and normalizing the relations on favorable terms.

The arms race with the United States: a farce of the Kremlin

Apparently, Vladimir Putin underestimates the consequences of a zero-sum game for Russia. If the new administration Republicans are ready to try to negotiate with Russia on difficult issues, it does not mean that the United States deliberately make concessions. Flexibility never was typical of the Republican party, sponsored by the business of the military-industrial complex. The newly elected President of the United States Donald trump thinks that the US needs to strengthen and expand opportunities in the field of nuclear weapons and in the case of the arms race they will win anyone.

Игра в ноль: Путин под маской дружелюбия "спрятал" гонку вооружений

The political course Donald trump against Russia will revise the U.S. Congress and individual representatives of the future team. In the Congress among Republicans and Democrats is dominated by line extension and tightening of anti-Russian sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria. Future Vice-President Mike Pence supports the placement in Poland and the Czech Republic object of a missile defense system in response to Russia’s support of Assad regime in Syria. The opinion of Donald trump on the strengthening of the US nuclear Arsenal coincides with the point of view of the future Minister of defense James Mattis, former commander of the Central command of the U.S. Navy (2010-13).. The U.S. military believes that for adequate deterrence policies need to be modernized “nuclear triad”: the strategic aviation, Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear submarines. James Mattis also believes that the United States underestimated the threat posed by Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

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Something the US is indeed inferior to Russia in terms of nuclear Arsenal. According to the publication Business Insider, the Pentagon does not use ICBM mobile basing on the database of trucks, similar to Russian PC-24 “YARS”. American ICBMs Minuteman III 70-ies of the issue have one combat block, while the Russian equivalent of the Topol-M in 2007 capable of carrying several separable blocks, which increases the damage. The United States has fewer nuclear warheads (1367 units) than that of Russia (1796 ed.). At the same time, since the days of the cold war, the United States adhere to the strategy of mutual destruction. The existing number of nuclear warheads America is enough to turn Russia to ashes. The Kremlin will not be able aiming to destroy all nuclear warheads in the United States. The Kremlin understands the utopian nuclear war with the United States. Because the nuclear arms race will be another hole for the military budget of Russia.

No matter how perfect nor was Russia’s nuclear Arsenal, any war for resources on the territory of third countries is carried out by conventional weapons. According to the information of the resource Global Firepower, the number of military aircraft and naval forces, Russia is behind the United States. According to the publication NationalInterest close to the military-political circles of the USA, in Russia there is a shortage of qualified fighter pilots due to the insufficient attention of authorities to the military in the 90-ies Russian army is mobile enough in comparison with the United States. The number of aircraft carriers and transport aircraft of US is superior to Russia.

Игра в ноль: Путин под маской дружелюбия "спрятал" гонку вооружений

The military-industrial complex, which involved the private sector, more high-tech. In the U.S. production of arms specializiruetsya about 47 companies, while in Russia there are about 20 manufacturers of defense products. The United States has the largest military budget in the world. In 2017 the US plans to spend on defense 773,5 billion., while the RF – 45,1 billion dollars. Next year, the Kremlin cut military spending by 7%. One of the priorities in his election campaign, Donald trump has made increasing the military budget and the modernization of the armed forces of the United States.

Russia should take a more cooperative stance with the West on issues of peaceful settlement in Ukraine and Syria. The second cold war and a new arms race, the Kremlin can’t afford financially.

George Kuhaleyshvili

political analyst on international Affairs,

master of political science

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