April 26, 2019

VLAD THE IMPLODER: Vlad the Impaler was the historical figure behind the Dracula legend. Alas, Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet imperial dreams are imploding. The StrategyPage podcast discusses why — and includes praise for U.S. fracking.

Here’s some useful background to Vlad’s implosion.

Leon Aron is a scholar and has an op-ed in The LA Times that does a good job summarizing Putin’s neo-Soviet imperialism. In another article linked at RealClearDefense Paul Goble notes the Russian Navy really isn’t capable of supporting Putin’s grand imperial plans.

After Goble quotes a Russian naval expert who says the Russian fleet is in “horrific” condition, he adds a telling sentence: “The Kremlin, for its part, is doing what it can to suggest otherwise via an intense propaganda campaign.” This tidbit follows a few paragraphs later:

But that is not the only problem the Russian navy faces, Timokhin continues. “It is a lie” that there has not been enough money for the fleet. Rather some of it has been drained off by corruption and much of the rest lost because of the absence of a strategic plan and structures capable of adhering to one, rigid plan. He also blames sanctions and unnamed “foreign agents” for undercutting the Russian fleet (Topwar.ru, April 5).

And just why are the sanctions in place? Oh yeah, Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian Navy’s misery is a topic StrategyPage has covered for the last two decades. StrateyPage’s latest Russia update discusses other military woes, to include poor morale. It’s a post rich with insights. Here are a couple:

Russia has other problems with its actual military capabilities. Government efforts to project the image of a modern, professional and constantly improving armed forces is proving more difficult to sustain…Russian development and manufacturing efforts are still crippled by shortages of cash and talent. Arms exports are hurt by this, especially with competitors like China continuing to produce Russian designs more efficiently (more effective, reliable and less costly in the long run). New gear that does get produced in significant numbers is usually for export customers who have the cash for procurement that the Russian military still lacks.

This poverty of money and talent is very visible with the Russian military efforts in Ukraine (Donbas) and Syria. Both are being carried out on the cheap and with as much discretion as possible because these operations are unpopular with the Russian people. They see Russian money and Russian lives being wasted on expensive political games that do the average Russian no good at all. Thus government efforts to mask just how much these operations cost in terms of resources and casualties. Hiding the spending is easier than concealing the number of dead.

Read the entire post.

VERY RELATED AND READABLE: Chapter 4, Cocktails from Hell.

RELATED BUT WONKY: A new RAND study discusses ways to “extend” Russia — make the Kremlin pay for meddling. It’s long but despite the wonk a decent reference.

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