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) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

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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  • Eddy Verhaeghe

    May God have mercy on Ukraine and on Russia…

    • Микола Данчук

      If God is truly merciful, Putin would disappear.
      Let us pray.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The Ukrainians, yes. But why should God have mercy on Dwarfstan? The Dwarfstanians support the dwarf, knowing perfectly well what kind of thug he is. They fully deserve to reap the whirlwind.

      • Quartermaster

        When Putin passes, Russia is in deep trouble. I don’t see Russia surviving in its current form post Putin.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          The country is already in deep trouble. As for surviving within its current borders, it won’t. Decades of mismanagement mean it’s being left behind by all major economies- the US, China, Japan, the EU, Canada etc. Everything is concentrated, focused, on the security services and armed forces to the detriment of everything else- education, health care, infrastructure etc etc. Terminal collapse is inevitable.

          • zorbatheturk

            Bring it on!

          • Bers Bersemann

            WTFF are you talking about?! Russia’s economy is going to grow 2% this year. All ministers in Moscow yesterday from Pakistan, Iran, India, Venezuela and China confirmed their support for Russia. Obviously Russia is by far the largest country in the world, and it’s not possible to keep every city perfect. If you are so keen to destroy Russia, volunteer for the Ukrainian army in Donbass. Indeed, you should. Go and fight them!!! Maybe you’ll learn something, or nothing at all ;))))))))))

          • MichaelA

            going to grow? like it was going to grow last year?
            ukraines economy is growing
            do you understand the difference between going to and is?

            nice of you to find recruits for the ukrainian army
            so you yourself have volunteered for the russian army i assume – which unit did you serve in?

  • Alex George

    “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”.”

    Unfortunately that makes it more likely that Putin may be planning an all-out invasion of Ukraine. He knows that Russia is far less able to pursue a cold war than the USSR, and he is also conscious that the USSR eventually lost the cold war. Russia is already slowly losing this one.

    In typical Tsar fashion, he may decide that a victory will secure his reputation and his regime, regardless of the cost in lives. Ukraine should ensure it has plenty of anti tank weapons and plenty of anti-helicopter weapons.

    • Микола Данчук

      Putin can’t afford a long cold-war, he will be dead by the time its over and so will a lot of innocent citizens of the RF with nothing to show for it except a ruined society. And he sure as hell can’t afford an open hot-war.
      He is between a rock and a hard place with no exit.

      • Alex George

        He may believe that he cannot afford not to have an open hot-war. He is losing the current cold-war, however slowly.

        If he does opt for the hot option, he must ensure no NATO intervention for whatever time he calculates it will take to get a puppet regime installed in Kyiv. Stavka may believe it can do this in as little as 2-3 weeks. https://www.unian.info/politics/10035065-russia-positioned-for-short-notice-conventional-war-with-ukraine-study.html

        • Ihor Dawydiak

          What Putin says and what he will end up doing are not necessarily the same thing. Yes, he could order an invasion of Ukraine even though it would be very costly for the invading forces. However, the cost of any continuing occupation would be an entirely different matter. In this case, the cost would be overwhelming. Not only would the Russians be faced with constant resistance including terrorist attacks, but any Government they would try to install would also be labeled as “Quislings” and would meet fierce resistance. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the Western powers would in all probability substantially increase sanctions and as a result hasten Russia’s inevitable slide towards bankruptcy. And with bankruptcy, critical instability would be sure to follow. Now, that of all things would be something that would terrorize Putin since he would view such a calamity as a recipe for his own ruin. So all of this leaves 2 questions: 1) Is Putin a moron comparable to Nero who played a musical instrument while Rome burned to the ground, or, 2) Is Putin a Pouter Puff Pigeon who regales primarily in bluffs but can’t take the heat when a hot poker is shoved into his face? We’ll see.

          • Alex George

            I doubt that Putin sees things the way that you do (or I do, for that matter). He probably thinks he can wear down the west against sanctions eventually. Also, with a victory in Ukraine, he expects to see more of eastern Europe courting him. He would also see the advantage of once again putting the disparate parts of the old Soviet military industrial complex back together again. etc etc.

            As for “fierce resistance”, the Kremlin (and indeed most Russians) have never reconciled themselves to the idea that the Maidan was spontaneous and uniquely Ukrainian. They have convinced themselves that it was paid for and arranged by the CIA.

            So yes, he could well do this, even if we think its stupid, and even though we are right.

            No doubt that is why the Ukrainian high command is taking the possibility of a major attack seriously.

          • Quartermaster

            Putin knows the US had nothing to do with the Maidan. He also doesn’t care because there is the truth, then there is Putin’s propaganda which his people swallow whole. They’ve been doing it for years and all they’ve done is drink poison.

          • Alex George

            I suspect that Putin and the Russian elites have convinced themselves that the US and EU were behind the Maidan. They believe that all other nations act the same way they do.

            When our leaders talk about democracy or the rule of law, the Russian elites think our leaders are just being cynical and lying, as the Russian leaders do in the same situations.

          • Quartermaster

            There is no honor among thieves because all thieves think everyone else is just like them. Similar situation. Putin thinks everyone lies like he does.

      • zorbatheturk

        Putin is becoming a cornered rat.

    • gmab

      There you go again- LOL

      • Alex George

        Yes, funny that. President Poroshenko and Chief of Staff Muzhenko say the same thing.

        The sad part is that some people would rather not hear unpleasant news. They would rather Ukraine be unprepared, just as it was in 2014.

        • gmab

          We’ve heard the same news for 4+ years. Often times imminent danger. Ukraine is prepared as well as it can be. Ukraine is not on the front page in Russia anymore therefore the sheep aren’t foaming at the mouth as they were years ago. In fact, more than 25 million openly oppose the war. PUtler never expected a war in the first place or as it is now. He crept into Crimea & planned the same scenario in Donbas but was met with strong resistance. He has sanctions to contend with and Ukraine is much stronger now. It was easy to trample over predominantly peasant territory with an aging soviet population but to invade Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Odesa? He doesn’t have the former support within Ukraine to do that.

          • Alex George

            “We’ve heard the same news for 4+ years.”
            You have heard it sometimes – the Ukrainian leaders have been concerned about it during at least two periods in the past. How is that relevant?

            “Ukraine is prepared as well as it can be.”
            No it isn’t. It may well be sufficiently prepared to defeat such an attack, but not “as well as it can be”. For example, if that were the case, the Oplot contract with Thailand would have been completed on time three years ago, and Ukraine would have a reserve of a hundred Oplots, instead of zero. And Ukraine would have a lot more Corsar and Stugnas, about 100 more helicopters of varying types than it has now. Poroshenko has stated that a lot of the overdue equipment is expected at the end of this year, which makes this autumn through to winter the danger period, i.e. if the Russians do try a conventional attack, it will most likely be then.

            “He crept into Crimea & planned the same scenario in Donbas but was met with strong resistance.”
            He was indeed, but that wasn’t a conventional attack and the Russian army has improved in number, equipment and readiness since then.

            “He doesn’t have the former support within Ukraine to do that.”
            He doesn’t need support within Ukraine for a conventional attack in the same way that he needs it for a hybrid warfare operation. You can be sure that whatever Poroshenko, Muzhenko and Turchinov think about this, they are not complacent about the possibility.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            A lot of the T64s and T-72s that were in “reserve” at depots in Kharkiv, Kyiv and elsewhere are being refurbished and modernised, or already have been. Upgrading a T-64 or T-72 makes perfect sense as it costs much less time and money than building an Oplot from scratch. Which would you rather have- three upgraded T-72s today, or one Oplot next year?

          • Alex George

            Both. Why would you want one or the other?

  • Микола Данчук

    Maybe, I’m just really ignorant but isn’t it Moskva that is the aggressor state in all of this?
    Has any part of the RF been invaded or what exactly am I missing?
    Is not kissing Putins ares an act of hostility or war?

    Do the people of the RF understand why they are going hungry and may ultimately die.
    For what, Putins paranoia?

    • Alex George

      The history of Russian support for mad leaders is not encouraging.

    • Ihor Dawydiak

      It remains to be seen what type of war Putin may be planning but the prognosis of some analysts that the West could be in store for a 50 year cold war conflict would seem to be highly pessimistic. Why? The simple answer to negate such pessimism would be ever increasing socio-economic pressures. To be more specific, it was none other than Putin’s current Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, who issued a stark warning in 2017 that if Western sanctions continued unabated then the Russian Government would be faced with almost certain bankruptcy by late 2018 to early 2019. Now, should this trend continue, how would Putin engage in any type of “hot war” including an all out invasion of Ukraine and/or other countries without upsetting his much depleted “apple cart”? He most certainly could never afford such an adventure so what does all of this boil down to? Another bluff for the umpteenth time from Russia’s cowardly Pompous Pederast who would never even contemplate a risk to his own personal safety?

      • Alex George

        Why do you think he couldn’t afford an invasion of Ukraine? He has the men, tanks, helicopters, artillery etc. He has plenty of ammunition and no shortage of fuel. His division/army HQs are already in position for an attack from four directions.

        Of course he doesn’t have the new super weapons – the T14 tank, the T15 IFV, the SU-57, etc only exist in token numbers, if at all. But as the Ukrainian high command has pointed out several times, there are 1,000 tanks in close proximity to Ukraine and ready to roll. That will include hundreds of T-90s whose active defences defeated the latest Ukrainian Stugna-P missiles at Debaltseve. The rest will be T-72Bs, which are good enough for his purpose.

        If he does attack, he won’t be intending to fight NATO. He will use political and espionage means to keep NATO off his back, and probably a hybrid warfare offensive in the Baltics as well.

        What he will need is time. Lack of time (such as all thrusts getting bogged down) is what will beat him. I would like to see the Javelins delivered to the Ukrainian Army sooner rather than later, as well as a lot more Stugna-P and Corsar.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          Dwarfstan would require a force 3 times the size of the current Ukrainian army to actually invade. With the Ukrainian army at some 250,000 it would mean a force of 750,000. What’s more, the Ukrainian army of 2018 is no longer the joke it was in March 2014. Any invading force would suffer significant losses. And even if the dwarf succeeded in seizing the whole country (highly unlikely), he wouldn’t be able to hold on to it. There’s little doubt the Dwarfstanian army would face guerrilla action, certainly in Central and Western Ukraine.
          Even Igor Girkin (admittedly perhaps not the most reliable witness) stated in late 2015 that in his opinion it was no longer possible for Dwarfstan to defeat the Ukrainians.
          And this doesn’t even take into account that any further invasion of the Ukraine would result in REAL sanctions- not even the dwarf’s lapdog Adolfina Merkel would be able to protect Dwarfstan from being kicked out of Swift and other more unpleasant actions which would bring the Dwarfstanian economy crashing down.

          • Alex George

            The reason I bear bad news is because preparation is the key to making sure it never happens. Bear that in mind when reading the following:
            “it would mean a force of 750,000”
            Sorry but that is absurd. Hitler’s victories from 1939 on and many other examples show what can be done by a relatively small but high tech force. Compared to Ukraine, the conventional Russian forces are high tech.
            “the Ukrainian army of 2018 is no longer the joke it was in March 2014”
            Indeed it is not. That doesn’t mean that the Stavka doesn’t believe it can’t defeat them in a Blitzkrieg. And it is what they believe (since we are discussing whether it is possible that they could attack) not what you or I believe.
            “Any invading force would suffer significant losses.”
            You seriously think that bothers the Kremlin?
            ” he wouldn’t be able to hold on to it”
            Why would he intend to? His aim would be to spread chaos while a government which claims to be acting in the interests of Ukraine negotiates a peace, yet is secretly Putin’s puppet. Its been done before.
            “There’s little doubt the Dwarfstanian army would face guerrilla action, certainly in Central and Western Ukraine.”
            He doesn’t want western Ukraine and never has. As for guerilla warfare in central or eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has a history of suppressing same with the utmost brutality.
            “Even Igor Girkin (admittedly perhaps not the most reliable witness) stated in late 2015 that in his opinion it was no longer possible for Dwarfstan to defeat the Ukrainians.”
            FWIW, Girkin is saying that the Kremlin should do an all-out invasion of Ukraine. He condemns Putin for pussy-footing (as he sees it) in the Donbass.
            “any further invasion of the Ukraine would result in REAL sanctions”
            Only if Europe is united. With Ukraine friendly to Russia (i.e. the aim of his invasion) all of eastern Europe will start to worry about being the next victim. They will start to be more polite to Russia and this in turn will strengthen the pro-Russian elements in Germany. At least, that is what Putin hopes.
            That is why it is vital that Ukraine does NOT fall, not just for the sake of Ukraine, but for the sake of western civilisation. If it does, Putin will retire revered and happy. His successor will work on bringing the rest of Eastern Europe back under the Kremlin yoke.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            The losses suffered in an invasion may not bother the dwarf, obsessed as he is in controlling the Ukraine…. but they will weaken the dwarf’s armed forces significantly, benefitting China. For reasons of its own Peking wants a weak Dwarstan, and the weaker the better. Peking wants, at the very least, the territories back that Aleksandr II stole from China in 1856 and 1860- and it will get them. Peking holds all the aces here as there is nothing Moscow can do to prevent a takeover, especially if he has to deal with an occupation of the Ukraine.
            Girkin was right inasmuch as a full-scale invasion most probably being successful in March 2014, given the state of the Ukrainian army then. But the window of opportunity has long gone.

            Assuming the dwarf DOES manage to occuppy the Ukraine, he will be forced to permanently station large amounts of troops there to pacify the country and prop up his puppet. The moment he withdraws his occupation forces the puppet will be thrown out, just as Proffessor Viktor Yanukovich was.
            As for trying to control Eastern Europe, tell that to the Poles. I doubt whether they are willing to become Moscow’s slaves again. They will fight the dwarf tooth and nail- and I wouldn’t bet on the Rumanians, Czechs, Slovaks or even the Hungarians willingly becoming Moscow’s slaves again, despite Viktor Orbán.

          • Alex George

            “but [losses] will weaken the dwarf’s armed forces significantly, benefitting China”
            Unfortunately I don’t think they will, because Russia is already completely vulnerable to China. It simply doesn’t have the forces in Siberia or the Far East to keep out a determined Chinese invasion. The Kremlin appears to believe that the Chinese won’t attack. I have no idea if it is right or not, but the point is that a conventional attack on Ukraine will not make the Kremlin any more vulnerable to Chinese aggression than it is already.

            “Girkin was right inasmuch as a full-scale invasion most probably being successful in March 2014, given the state of the Ukrainian army then.”
            That’s not what Girkin is saying. He understands the difference between hybrid warfare and a conventional offensive. Girkin is an unreconstructed Muscovite imperialist and he wants to see “little Russia” back in the Kremlin fold. He is smart enough to know that the hybrid warfare way won’t work.

            “But the window of opportunity has long gone.”
            For hybrid warfare against Ukraine to succeed, yes. That is Girkin’s point.

            “Assuming the dwarf DOES manage to occuppy the Ukraine, he will be forced to permanently station large amounts of troops there to pacify the country and prop up his puppet.”
            No he won’t. In such a tragic event, his puppet will claim to be a loyal Ukrainian who negotiates the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian soil. The ones that don’t withdraw will pretend to be separatists or even Ukrainian nationalists and will keep their presence as quiet as possible. The SBU will be purged and taken over by the FSB but that won’t be obvious.

            “The moment he withdraws his occupation forces the puppet will be thrown out, just as Proffessor Viktor Yanukovich was.”
            It took four years for Yanukovych to be thrown out, and this time the puppet will have much better covert support from Moscow, including secret service action to identify Maidanistas early and arrest or eliminate them. The consequences of a Russian conventional victory against Ukraine will be frightful.

            “As for trying to control Eastern Europe, tell that to the Poles…”
            We aren’t talking about what the Poles think, but about what the Russian elites think. Anyone who thinks that large sections of the Russian elite don’t yearn to control eastern Europe again is a fool. They have never stopped being imperialists, and that includes many Russians who we think of as liberals.

          • Bers Bersemann

            Good god, you need to see a doctor immideatly. Something is not right in your head

          • MichaelA

            what did he write that led you to that conclusion?

  • Quartermaster

    “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.”
    The USSR had that stuff, and it didn’t save them. Stagnation can only last so long. It took about 10 years of economic stagnation to kill the Soviet Union.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Quite apart from the fact that the world is slowly but surely shifting from fossil to alternative energy sources which will automatically reduce Dwarfstan’s sales, there is no guarantee that countries will continue to purchase them from Dwarfstan. Dwarfstan does not have a monopoly on oil and gas, and other countries are more reliable suppliers. Poland and the Baltics have shown that it’s possible to reduce dependency on Dwarfstan’s oil and gas- indeed, Poland will not renew its contracts with Gazprom when they expire in 2019 and 2021. Why buy oil and gas from an extremely aggressive and unreliable neighbour and thus finance his aggression?

      • Quartermaster

        There will other that buy it. China, as just one example, is quite thirsty and if pipelines are built to Chinese territory, they’ll buy just about as much as Russia will pump. What that means is the US will then be financing Russia’s aggression through China trade.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          China does not see Dwarfstan as an equal partner. Peking has been de facto taking over large stretches of Dwarfstan’s Far East, if not de jure yet, witness the deal with Transbaikal where Peking has leased huge areas for 50 years for a pittance- $50 or so per hectare. Furthermore, Chinese workers will be exploiting the leased land, no Dwarfstanians will be employed.
          It’s merely a question of when, not if, Peking decides to formalise its occupation by sending in its “little gleen men to plotect Chinese citizens flom Lussian agglession and hold a lefelendum” following which (surprise!) Peking will formally annex said territories. China abstained from voting on the dwarf’s aggression in the Crimea at the UN for a reason: it wants to carry out a similar takeover of the land that Aleksandr II stole in 1856 and 1860. It’s no secret that Peking wants that land back. Peking wants a weak Dwarfstan, and the weaker the better.
          Remember the Great Gas deal with Peking the dwarf was boasting about a few years ago? It still hasn’t been finalised. Peking is ruthlessly exploiting its superiority over Moscow to dictate prices and other terms. Peking can wait, the dwarf can’t.

  • zorbatheturk

    Putin’s soul? Cockroaches don’t have souls.

  • Mephisto

    Putin is a grandmaster of geopolitical chess. He needs no advice.

    • MichaelA

      for a grandmaster he makes some extraordinarily incompetent moves
      he managed to turn ukraine against russia
      he has seen the russian economy go downhill as soon as the cheap oil ran out
      russia is losing markets for energy and weapons
      china and iran are taking over the kremlins traditional hegemony in central asia
      other countries dont even want to play sport with russia anymore
      poverty is increasing in russia
      and a real grandmaster kasparov thinks putin is a moron

    • zorbatheturk

      Putin is an ass-sucking rodent and a criminal.