Can Russia even afford its new tough-guy image?

The New York Times had an excellent article yesterday: “As Putin Talks More Missiles and Might, Cost Tells Another Story.”

Here were some of the major highlights from the story:

  • “Everybody should understand that we are living in a totally different world than two years ago,” said Alexander M. Golts, an independent Russian military analyst. “In that world, which we lost, it was possible to organize your security with treaties, with mutual-trust measures,” he said. “Now we have come to an absolutely different situation, where the general way to ensure your security is military deterrence.”
  • Russia feels alone and besieged, a sentiment that continuously provides fresh inspiration to overhaul a military once better known for the drunk, ill-equipped conscripts who fared so badly during two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s.  “The Russian Army is returning to normal combat activities and training,” said Igor Korotchenko, the editor in chief of National Defense, a monthly Russian magazine. “We are doing exactly what our Western partners are doing.”
  • “Russia has been making aggressive statements, insisting that it lives in a world of mutual military deterrence, while thinking that the West will not pay attention,” Mr. Golts said. But the West paid attention, he said, and Russia is not ready. It is one thing to use a force of up to 100,000 well-trained, well-booted soldiers to seize Crimea or even to destabilize a neighbor, but it is a very different matter to take on NATO, he noted. Russia, lacking both the manpower and the weapons systems, will not be ready to do so any time soon, which is why Mr. Putin resorts to asymmetrical responses like nuclear weapons, analysts said.

The article goes on to discuss new tanks, whose orders have already been reduced. So, too, fighter jets, such as the T-50.

One thing the article didn’t discuss, which I thought it should, was a comparison of the two economies, America and Russia, side-by-side.

Here are those figures (from Wikipedia):

  • GDP: United States equals $17.4 trillion.
  • GDP: Russia equals $1.8 trillion.

And here are military expenditures (from Wikipedia):

  • U.S. $581 billion.
  • Russia $70 billion.
  • (Also worth noting that China’s is $129 billion.)

You can click either Wikipedia link above to compare other countries. For instance, one interesting thing is that I had no idea that the U.K. has a much larger GDP than Russia.

Yes, the U.K. Crazy, right?

Anyway, I continue to think Putin will bluster and talk loud and maybe do a few stupid things, but in the end, he has to know he can’t truly bully NATO and the United States. Not once he seriously forces the usually slow to act American people and Congress to act. Just ask the Germans and the Japanese.

Fact is, we typically arrive late to the party, but we bring the Suburban loaded with all our rich, drunk friends. And I don’t care who you are, you really don’t want us showing up to the party, because we’re going to wreck the place… : )

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and entrepreneur who spent nine years running a weekly newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

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Why the Marines have failed to adopt a new sniper rifle in the past fourteen years

Former infantry Marine Thomas Gibbons-Neff wrote a hell of a story for the Washington Post about the Marine Corps and how it’s failed to upgrade its sniper rifles:

Why the Marines have failed to adopt a new sniper rifle in the past 14 years.

Since I’m writing a book series on a former Marine sniper, this is is clearly a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, and I was a bit embarrassed to realize how outgunned Marine snipers are quickly becoming.

While I knew the range limitations of the Corps’s sniper rifle, I didn’t realize the frustration going on inside the Marine Corps sniper community about the weapons. I assumed — wrongly, it seems — that for various reasons they were pleased with the current .308 M40 variant.

Clearly, I was wrong, if the article is as dead on as it seems to be. Go take a quick read yourself, and let me know your thoughts.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.

More on ISIS in Iraq

The Economist in its May 23rd edition discussed the fall of Ramadi and had a pretty in depth article on ISIS, and it had a couple of graphs I wanted to make sure you all saw.

These are the two final graphs in the article.

First, here’s some insight into how ISIS is actually able to hold ground — and nope, it’s not completely through fear, as I mostly assumed.

  • “(ISIS) administrators win plaudits for their efficient management, clean streets and timely payment of salaries. They have partially restored electricity to Mosul, refurbished a hotel there and opened Saddam Hussein’s palaces for weekend strolls. Debt-burdened Jordan hopes that IS might see a mutual interest in keeping its border crossing open for trade, and even recognises the receipts it issues for import duties as tax-deductible.”

So, clearly, ISIS  is actually competing with the Iraqi government — it seems, quite well — on providing services. This has been exacerbated by the pro-Shia government of Iraq, which I’m certain has short-changed the Sunni-part of its own population.

Thus the opening for ISIS, a Sunni-based organization.

The final paragraph was the nail in the coffin, so to speak. I mean, I like to be optimistic, but reading this graph helped convince me that Joe Biden was probably right all the way back in 2006 about dividing up the country. Here’s the last graph from the article:

  • “The danger is that the IS caliphate is becoming a permanent part of the region. The frontiers will shift in the coming months. But with the Kurds governing themselves in the north-east, and the Shias in the south, Iraqis question the government’s resolve in reversing IS’s hold on the Sunni north-west. “Partition is already a reality,” sighs a Sunni politician in exile. “It just has yet to be mapped.””

Colin Powell famously said “if you break it, you own it.” I think we certainly broke it, and there’s probably not any putting it back together.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

P.S. You should really consider buying this book: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way. It’s absolutely changed my life for the better.