Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Will Funding Revive the Cold War?

Russian born Canadian academic Sergei Plekhanov postulates that world concerns about nuclear weapons are missing the proverbial elephant in the room.

The Nightmare Scenario: Now, the reality is that of the world’s estimated 22,000 nuclear weapons, about 21,000 belong to the U.S. and Russia, each of the two possessing nearly equal numbers and keeping about 1,000 of them ready for launching within 30 minutes. The rest are distributed in batches of a few hundred among France, the UK, China and Israel, while the new members of the “nuclear club,” India and Pakistan, possess a few dozens each. (Itemized inventories: The World's Nuclear Arsenals). …

This progress in arms control reflected the liberal internationalist worldview of the Clinton administration, which believed that U.S. interests would be better served by significant progress in nuclear arms control. As far as Russia was concerned, it needed deep reductions both because it could not afford the Soviet-era capabilities and because its new leadership, accepting the basics of the liberal internationalist outlook, did not need those capabilities. In 2000, governments were changed in both capitals, and U.S.-Russian relations entered a new stage.

Plekhanov makes the case that continuing to pretend the Russians were strategic equals kept their military and political fears in check, and allowed for planned stockpile reductions to move forward. He believes the movement towards disarmament ended abruptly when the Bush administration stopped pretending and began their aggressive pursuit of the war on terrorism. In other words, the Bush White House acknowledged that Mutually Assured Destruction is no longer a reality and that truth really scares the old communists.

The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy: “Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States’ nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces. Unless Washington’s policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China—and the rest of the world—will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.”

It is generally assumed President Reagan won the Cold War by forcing the Soviets to admit they could not compete financially. What is of concern going forward is Vladimir Putin observing and learning that oil money closes the financial gap significantly. In July 2003 the Russian government begins criminal prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, eventually resulting in the de facto nationalization of YUKOS Oil Company. This month Putin seizes effective control of Sakhalin Energy from international corporations. What waits to be seen is if oil money is used to clean the rust off the rockets.