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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Readers Agree on Dire Need for Military Reform

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The following two letters sent in response to "Reform Military to Cure Nation's Cancer," Aug. 31.


Yevgenia AlbatsТs piece on reform of the Russian military is a much-needed and refreshingly accurate look at the crisis facing the nation today.

Even in the heyday of the Soviet military-industrial complex Ч the late 1970s through the early 1980s Ч the military lacked the tools and doctrine needed to win a war against insurgents in Afghanistan. It should have been a sobering call for reform of the military then, but, unlike the United States, which learned its lessons in Vietnam and was superbly prepared for the 1991 Gulf War, the Soviet Union Ч and later the Russian Federation Ч was content in passing blame and letting matters slide.

The notion of ceding aspirations to superpower status is a wise one. The ideological war with the West is over. Geopolitically, there is no logical reason whatsoever for conflict with the West in general or the United States in particular Ч and, thus, no need for expensive and demanding weapons systems like those of the Kursk.

If the United States is taken off the threat board, RussiaТs security requirements come into clear focus.

Externally, the potential threats all lie to the south of the CIS. Specifically, they include militant Islamic states, the PeopleТs Republic of China and Japan. Internally, the threats are of low-intensity conflicts with national minority-based terrorist groups and insurrections of the Chechen variety.

The kind of army required to fight out a war with NATO on the North German Plain is not the army that Russia needs today. The new Russian army needs to be able to deter the PeopleТs Republic of China and Japan from any future land-grabs in Siberia. A modest nuclear counterforce is indicated, with an emphasis on cruise missile-deliverable warheads. Conventional forces should be firepower-rich and technology-rich armored and armored infantry and airmobile forces, along the lines of the formations deployed by the Desert Storm coalition.

Naval requirements are more modest. National pride notwithstanding, the nation has no need of a blue-water navy. The emphasis should be placed instead on attack submarines capable of defending Russian shores and projecting power out into Japanese waters and the South China Sea. The nation already has a good foundation in terms of its guided-missile cruisers, but the navy needs ships that are faster and more stealthy: fewer cruisers and more ASW and AA missile frigates and destroyers.

Air power requirements do not include weapons systems with intercontinental reach. Russia should continue its refinement of fifth-generation fighters like the MiG-29 and move on to the sixth generation of fighters and fighter-bombers, capable of using smart munitions.

Security is also a political matter. One hopes that the United States and Russia will come to see that their security interests are not in conflict. As a first among equals, Russia should become a member of NATO and have access to NATO weapons systems and technologies. Russia and NATO, if co-dependent, will never come to blows and can actually work together to keep the East European region at peace.

In Asia, Russia faces no immediate threat from Japan, but that could change over the course of history. On the other hand, Japanese capital can be put to work in the development of Siberian natural resources, allowing Japan access to the raw materials it needs and infusing foreign currency into the Russian economy. This kind of relationship would ensure enduring peace between the two nations.

The nation is faced with a number of choices, all of them tough. Facing down the power of the United States is not one of those choices. Realizing that, the nation can build a military-industrial complex that works to provide real security for the Russian Federation and that can be a profitable and productive sector of the economy.

Richard Klein
Seattle, Washington


The recent article by Yevgenia Albats regarding President Vladimir PutinТs unprecedented admission that Russia is crumbling, from the military-industrial complex down to Stalinesque towers (and to whatever may collapse next), is exactly the first step necessary toward the rebirth of Russia as a normal country. Just as in drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, the first step is admitting that you have a problem or problems, that you are not able to control.

With the possession of nuclear-strike capabilities, the Soviet Union may once have been a superpower, but it was never "super," nor even a First World country throughout its entire history. For the current population Ч and its leaders Ч to maintain a deluded longing for such status is a form of addiction worse than drugs or alcohol. RussiaТs girth might allow it to be a multi-regional player, but its economy is currently smaller than several combined states in America. Super status, or world respect, or whatever else it is that Russia seems to think it deserves, is sadly out of reach for the moment.

The nation needs to enter a 12-step recovery program. It needs to admit the reality of its problem, and it must recede from the world stage while undergoing treatment. When it emerges whole and healthy, it can then take its productive place in the world, and its rightful place, perhaps for the first time.

But, like any recovering addict, it must fully understand that it may never again, even for a moment, revisit its old drug(s) of choice.

Brian Murphy
Fairfield, Connecticut

Kursk Condolences

We continue to receive letters from readers around the world about the sinking of the Kursk submarine and the tragic fate of its crew. For a look at these letters, please click here.

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