BBC radio this morning asked this blog's author to talk about how the Pentagon views the recent bluster from Russia. The question: is this the beginning of a new arms race and a Second Cold War?
The answer, of course, is absolutely not!
The arms race is over. The US won. The Pentagon is aiming to spend about $600 billion this year. The Ministry of Defense in Moscow may get lucky and spend about $20 billion.
To be sure, Russia still retains the world's largest stockpile of strategic arms (aka nukes), so they will always get a seat at the adults' table in international gatherings. But, as a good friend of mine has told me, there is a huge gap between what Russia blusters about and what they can actually do.
There is indeed more antagonism these days between the US and Russia, but it is thin shadow of the competition for world domination that was the Cold War. The bickering now is mainly confined to the spreading of US influence in Russia's own backyard -- ie, the old Soviet states, the East Bloc and Central Asia. Russia wants to dominate East Europe and the Caucusus, not convert the world to Communism by force and coercion. Its tools have also spready beyond mere military muscle to include that old capitalistic stand-by: economic linkages.
Russia's recent military build-up will not provoke a response from the Pentagon. Rather, the build-up in Moscow is itself a response to the 10-year-old arms build-up now in progress in Washington DC. Whatever the Russian military becomes over the next 10 years, it will not be in position to compete as a conventional force on a global scale against the US military. It will instead become a much more potent tool to influence Russia's less-defended neighbors.
Listen to the BBC report and the interview here.