Putin listening to both “party of war” and “party of peace” within his regime, Felgenhauer says

A Russian S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) anti-aircraft weapon system being deployed in the Putin-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea near the city of Sevastopol (Image: Russian MoD)

A Russian S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) anti-aircraft weapon system being deployed in the Putin-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea near the city of Sevastopol (Image: Russian MoD) 

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Vladimir Putin is listening both to “a peace party” within his administration and “a war party,” responding positively first to the appeals of the first that Russia cannot afford an arms race and saying there won’t be one and then positively to the arguments of the second that Russia must be ready to defend itself, according to Pavel Felgenhauer.

Pavel Felgenhauer

Pavel Felgenhauer, Russian military analyst

The peace party, which includes Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina, Presidential assistant Andrey Belousov, and former Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, argues that Russia must cut military spending to meet social needs and thus must reduce tensions with the West, the military expert writes for the Ukrainian news site Apostrophe.ua.

Without such steps, they say, “the economy simply won’t grow.” On occasion, Putin has appeared to agree with them, saying in response to the new tough line from Washington that Russia “will not be dragged into an arms race [because] we are smarter than that. But,” Felgenhauer continues, “this means nothing.”

The war party in contrast is extremely powerful and has won many battles for the Russian president’s soul.

It argues that Russia must re-arm because it is “surrounded by enemies” who may attack at any moment” because “the threat of such action is growing. There is no other way to block the aggression of America except with murderous new kinds of arms.”

They also dismiss arguments that defense spending killed the USSR and could kill Russia. That is possible but it won’t happen tomorrow or indeed anytime soon as long as Russia has oil, gas, metals and so on to sell. These things “will always have value;” and consequently, the economy may not be growing but under conditions of stagnation, “it is possible to live.”

Some military projects may have to be delayed or even cancelled because there isn’t enough money. But it is clear that Russia is now spending approximately five to six percent of GDP on its military, approximately what Israel and Ukraine do, far more than the Europeans although somewhat less than the Americans.

Putin “balances between” these two, saying “yes, we must spend everything on people … and at the same time saying we must be well defended.” Felgenhauer says that he personally “doesn’t know how these things can be combined.” But the debate can go on for sometime as Russia is going to survive for a long time yet unless something unexpected happens.

The independent Russian military analyst concludes by noting that he just returned from a conference in Vilnius on international security where Western participants suggested that the conflict with Russia “will last another two generations, that is 50 years.” And this suggests that the West is ready for “a long cold war.”

A Russian TOS-1 "Buratino" heavy flamethrower system destroyed by the Ukrainian troops during the defense of the Donetsk airport in April 2015. (Image: Ukraine MoD)

A Russian TOS-1 “Buratino” heavy flamethrower system destroyed by the Ukrainian troops during the defense of the Donetsk airport in April 2015. (Image: Ukraine MoD)

And in this second cold war, Felgenhauer continues, Ukraine is going to be on the front lines much as West Berlin was in the first – “or even worse like Vietnam or Afghanistan,” places where the two sides in the earlier conflict tested themselves.

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Edited by: A. N.

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