Arms race, on top of sanctions, destroyed the USSR and will destroy Russia

Early Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles demonstrated on parade for first time. Red Square in Moscow, USSR. November 07, 1957

Early Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles demonstrated on parade for first time. Red Square in Moscow, USSR. November 07, 1957 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Vladimir Putin’s plans to spend more money on rearmament is “a squandering of valuable natural and labor resources, Mikhail Bobryshev says. But more than it, “an arms race led to the collapse of the USSR and the same thing will happen with Russia if it doesn’t stop and reflect about this.”

As in Soviet times, the country has been subjected to Western sanctions, but Moscow is compounding the problems they create by entering into an arms race, something it is even less well equipped to pursue than was the USSR, according to Mikhail Bobryshev, a Moscow specialist in international trade.

Bobryshev is only one of many Russian writers now given to drawing parallels with the late Soviet Union and Putin’s Russia today. Another is Aleksandr Khots who points out that it was the cold war, including the arms race, which “buried the USSR, a country which couldn’t withstand competition with the West.”

President Reagan giving a speech on Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Nov-18-1981 (Image: reaganlibrary.archives.gov)

President Ronald Reagan giving a speech on Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Nov-18-1981 (Image: reaganlibrary.archives.gov)

Khots says that Putin has sparked a confrontation with the West copying “Soviet models” because he sees in “neo-Sovietism” a way of giving meaning to his domestic and foreign policy. For a long time, the West refused to recognize that reality, but now Putin’s “dream” of returning to the past has “achieved.” The consequences, however, are not ones he’ll welcome.

Putin’s pursuit of confrontation “cannot end other than as a new ideological war,” one that it would be hard for “the rational West” to begin but “now will be complicated to stop.” As many don’t remember, Brezhnev began with the pursuit of détente but ended by invading Afghanistan – and sparking the final phase of the cold war.

“It is striking,” Khots says, “to what degree the Putin ‘elite’ is repeating the path of Soviet diplomacy,” moving “from being a member of the G8 to that of international outcast, from trade links with the West to complete isolation.” Today’s Putin’s Russia is where Brezhnev’s Soviet Union was when Ronald Reagan gave his “evil empire” speech.

Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev

That Soviet-provoked view led to the end of the Soviet Union, and its current analogue can have the same effect on Russia. “However, all this is hardly a basis for pessimism. Rather the reverse.” The Cold War ended the USSR but gave Russia a chance to start anew, something many Russians want even if Putin doesn’t.

Putin’s readiness to begin a new arms race, one that he can’t win and that his “imperial and ineffective regime” won’t survive. Thus, “paradoxically … a new cold war is a historic chance for a new Russia to return to the historical arena,” albeit via a path that will be filled with “hurt, collapse and chaos.”

Moreover, the Moscow analyst says, the more Putin strives to enter into an arms race with the West, the more destructive that will be for the Russian economy and “the greater the window of opportunities which will open for us into the civilized world.”

Dostoyevsky once wrote in his Diary of a Writer that “war is not always evil; sometimes, it is a salvation.” Today is “a rare case” when a new Cold War will allow one to agree with the nineteenth century classic.

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Edited by: A. N.

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