by Vitalii Usenko and Dmytro Usenko
As reported by Voices of Ukraine, yesterday’s statement by über-propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov on the Russia One channel provoked a great reaction. Putin’s Jolly Jester suddenly started boasting, “Russia is the only country in the world that is actually capable of turning the US into radioactive dust.” Then he started to scare viewers with the spectre of Perimeter, also known as Dead Hand, “our system of guaranteed nuclear retaliation.”
To explore the subject in more detail, Dmitry Kiselyov, acting as a Kremlin mouthpiece, asked during Russia One’s program Vesti Nedeli on March 16, 2014, “Why does Obama call Putin and have long talks with him? Why has Obama got gray hair? Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but maybe it is because Russia is the only country which could turn the US into ashes.
“Obama called Putin on January 21, and on January 22 an article appeared in the Russian state media. The article explained how the Russian system of guaranteed nuclear retaliation works. The system is named Perimeter, known in the US as Dead Hand. The core of Perimeter is that even if all of its operators are killed in an enemy attack, the automatic system will launch all Russian strategic missiles in the right direction from shafts and submarines. After that article was published, Obama started calling Putin more frequently, and got more and more gray hairs. Coincidence? No. Obama does not want direct military confrontation with Russia.” Kiselyov hinted that Obama is very scared of Putin.
Most of Kiselyov’s show is bluster intended to stir the emotions of the Russian public and deceive and deter the West. He manipulated the audience, which is not familiar with technical details and Russian history.
The Perimeter system is activated once all command points of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces are destroyed. Kiselyov also forgot to mention that all components of the system may not currently be operational.
Let us briefly go into some details about the Perimeter, or Dead Hand, system. Perimeter is a Cold War-era nuclear control system used by the Soviet Union.
The government of the USSR commissioned KB Yuzhnoye in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine to develop this system in 1974. KB Yuzhnoye was one of the largest producers of strategic ballistic missiles in the USSR.
Many institutions participated in the development of Perimeter, such as the R&D production facility Strela in Orenburg, Russia; the All-Russian R&D Institute of Experimental Physics; the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute in Ukraine, and many others. In this article, I would like to focus on KB Yuzhnoye, as one cannot deny that KB Yuzhnoye is of strategic interest to Russia in Eastern Ukraine.
KB Yuzhnoye is necessary for the rearmament of Russian strategic military forces. Many of the enterprises, plants, and institutions related to the Russian military-industrial complex were duplicated in Russia after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian institutions and plants are integrated with the Russian military-industrial complex. They remain an important factor.
General speculation from insiders alleges that the system remains in use in post-Soviet Russia. An example of failsafe deterrence, it can automatically trigger the launch of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) if a sufficient number of parameters indicating a nuclear strike, as measured by seismic, light, radioactivity, and pressure sensors, are met.
The major components of the system are as follows:
System command posts, which contain necessary control equipment and communications
Command missiles, among them the 15A11, one of the most well-known missiles
Communication devices providing commands and code exchanges with command missiles
An autonomous control and command system–the most mythical component, the key element of the Doomsday Machine, a complex system equipped with number of communication devices and sensors monitoring the combat environment (not confirmed to be operational at this time)
Perimeter, in essence, was designed to be an alternative command system for all military bodies with nuclear warheads at their disposal.
Command missile complex 15P011, with missile 15А11, was in combat readiness until mid-1995. Command missile complex 15P011 was withdrawn from service in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) START I was a bilateral treaty between the USSR and the US signed on July 31, 1991, and which took effect on December 5, 1994.
The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and bombers. START I expired on December 5, 2009. On April 8, 2010, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new START treaty in Prague. Following ratification by the US Senate and the Federal Assembly of Russia, it took effect on January 26, 2011.
In 2011, the commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, Sergey Karakaev, described in an interview with a Russian tabloid the operational state of Perimeter’s assessment and communication systems, but these data are not confirmed and are considered to be a stretch by some military experts. That is, it is not currently confirmed that Perimeter is fully functional.
Participants of the Valday discussion club’s September 2013 meeting alleged that during the meeting Putin, when asked “Can you destroy the US in half an hour?”, replied “Even faster.” Regardless of whether Putin actually said this, the current situation shows that he likes saber-rattling and showing ‘Great Russia’ to his domestic Russian audience.
What is KB Yuzhnoye doing these days? Yuzhnoye produced the Zenit-3SL carrier rocket for the Sea Launch program. Sea Launch filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code in June 2009. In 2013, Boeing sued Yuzhnoye for reimbursements related to Sea Launch, and Russia began mulling the possibility of taking it over.
“The Russian government will a take closer look at the idea of buying commercial launch services provider Sea Launch, which is owned by a top Russian space contractor but whose key assets are based in California,” said Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on February 19, 2014.
This confirms my assumption that Russia could be extremely interested in the Eastern Ukrainian institutions and enterprises integrated into the Russian military-industrial complex. KB Yuzhnoye would come in handy in rearming the Russian Strategic Missiles Forces, and possibly enable further development of the Perimeter system.
KB Yuzhnoye is in a sensitive position for Russia, as it services ICBMs of older generations. Today, the Strategic Missile Forces have only four dozen fully Russian RT-2UTTKh Topol-M missiles (NATO designation: SS-27 “Sickle B”) at their disposal. Ukrainian enterprises in Eastern Ukraine are still producing other types of Russian ICBMs. Now Russia is launching Dnepr light missiles, whose design is based on the ICBM SS-18 ‘Satan’.
The SS-18 ‘Satan’ is the most powerful nuclear missile ever built. This missile was viewed by some US analysts as giving the Soviet Union first strike advantage over the US, particularly because of its very heavy throw weight and extremely large number of re-entry vehicles, with a maximum of over 10 warheads.
This missile was made in Ukraine by KB Yuzhnoye. Russia still involves KB Yuzhnoye and other Ukrainian enterprises in its maintenance. In December 2013, Putin was ready to sign a decree on the creation of joint Russian-Ukrainian Space and Missiles Corporation.
Ukraine’s Maidan has suddenly disrupted Russia’s plans. Russia intends to start deploying a new type of long-range missile in 2018 to replace the Cold War-era SS-18 ‘Satan.’
“We are counting on being armed with this qualitatively new missile system … by 2018-2020,” Interfax news agency quoted General Sergei Karakayev, commander of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, as saying in December 2013. But it is now 2014, and dependence on Ukrainian institutions and enterprises cannot be overcome in so short a time. Seizing Eastern and Southern Ukraine, or putting it under a Russian protectorate, could resolve this issue for Russia.
Let’s return now to Dmitry Kiselyov. Perimeter is not a first nuclear strike system, and its full functionality is under question. Kiselyov used manipulative tactics to deter the West and make the Russian audience proud and enthusiastic about the crusade against the West.
This strategy is not new. In a way, it is similar to the one used in presenting the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), more commonly known as Star Wars. US President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative on March 23, 1983, presenting it as a network of ground- and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense, rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). President Reagan used the SDI to deter the USSR in the late 1980s. The Strategic Defense Initiative rendered all Soviet nuclear assault potential useless. This, in turn, gave the US strategic nuclear superiority.
A lot of publications and documentaries were produced to illustrate this initiative not just for domestic audiences, but for international ones, as well. Soviet leaders were able to get this information. In reality, Star Wars turned out to be a sort of bluff. Some publications alleged that in 1987 the American Physical Society concluded that a global shield such as Star Wars was not only impossible with existing technology of that time, but that ten more years of research would be needed to learn whether it might ever be feasible. Many military experts denied this allegation, but they were unanimously in their assessment that SDI was not ready in full capacity in the 1980s and was not a real threat to the USSR at that time.
The Star Wars myth was used successfully to weaken the USSR’s position in negotiations with the US. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, scared of the SDI, unilaterally made a series of striking reforms in both domestic and foreign policy. He offered the US a wide variety of concessions in disarmament talks, insisting only that the US stop the SDI program (the one principle on which Reagan refused to concede). Then he instituted the Glasnost policy, increasing freedom of the press and allowing a left-wing reform movement to develop.
Putin is trying to play the same trick on Obama, using the Perimeter mythos to achieve concessions on position about Ukraine.
Ronald Reagan inadvertently employed a second successful trick in August 1984. During the soundcheck prior to his weekly address, he joked about bombing Russia. “My fellow Americans,” he said, “I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Though the joke was not broadcast, it was leaked, and it reached Soviet ears. Soviet Communist Politburo old-timers were shocked and demoralized. Actually, Ronald Reagan, an actor before he became a president, played his role well, presenting the image of careless cowboy and blood-thirsty ‘maniac.’ He played it well to suggest that he would stop at nothing to destroy the USSR by nuclear assault if the USSR continued its aggressive foreign policy. This phrase hit its target squarely. The USSR offered the US many concessions related to disarmament.
Putin is trying to play similar tricks on Obama and the West. As Vladimir Putin is not as good an actor as Ronald Reagan was, he must use his propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov to convey his bogus message, to scare Obama and West to death with his ‘resolve’ to use nuclear arms to destroy the US at any cost. But is it real? Let us explore further.
The US is not going to make the first nuclear strike against Russia. Perimeter is not a first-strike system, so its availability, even if fully functional, adds nothing to Russia’s military superiority over NATO in local and regional military non-nuclear conflicts. That is, this is a psychological deterrent only.
One should remember that the USSR, which had one of the largest nuclear arsenals and one of the largest armies, imploded without any nuclear exchanges with the US, or even direct military contact, in 1991.
Putin is neither Hitler nor Stalin. The key difference is that Hitler, Stalin, and their associates were not billionaires and oligarchs at the top of the oil and gas monopoly, with large personal accounts and considerable assets inside and outside the country.
Putin, unlike Hitler and Stalin, handles Russia as his own commercial enterprise. That is why his motivations are very different from Hitler’s and Stalin’s. Hitler and Stalin had world dominance as their prime directive–Hitler on behalf of the German nation, Stalin on behalf of the global Communist revolution–without taking much notice of the population of any nation in the USSR. Putin’s prime directive is unlimited personal enrichment, cloaked in declarations for domestic ears about Great Russia, Russian World, Third Rome. That is, Putin’s similarity to Hitler and Stalin is only superficial. Putin and Company need the world for personal enrichment purposes first. Unlike the Communist Politburo of the Soviet era, the oligarchs and top officials who surround Putin, who are controlled by him and the FSB, do have personal property and bank accounts outside Russia. In addition, a share of the Russian stabilization fund is in US papers, outside of Russia. This is a huge liability.
All they have in common is a paranoid belief in conspiracy theories and a thirst for world domination, playing the chauvinism and imperialism cards in order to distract their populations from domestic problems. This allows Putin to maintain his kleptocratic and totally corrupt regime. Putin’s regime is far more vulnerable than Hitler and Stalin’s were.
Putin is even worse than Hitler or Stalin. They at least had prime directives, however wrong and dangerous they were. Putin has no mission except personal enrichment and the thirst for unlimited power. For Hitler and Stalin, power was the means; for Putin, power for its own sake is the ultimate goal.
I have one more important point to add. The USSR collapsed not only because of economic problems, but also because Communist Party Mr. Bigs decided to be oligarchs, to privatize USSR property with the help of young ‘reformers.’ The advantage was that the state had no obligations to the population. One slogan went, “We are building capitalism and it’s every man for himself.” Enrichment become more efficient and uncontrolled. The remnants of Soviet ideology cementing society collapsed. Under the Soviet system, once a Communist Party official retired, he or she lost almost all privileges and access to state property. Party bigwigs could not pass Soviet property and privileges to their children. That was very upsetting for them. The same could happen in any totalitarian communist state. Once the bigwigs at the top of the Communist Party in any country decide to be oligarchs and privatize the country’s property for their own benefit, the system will collapse. That is why Communist hardliners are so afraid of the ‘corrupt’ West.
The catch-22 of democracy is that democratic countries cannot always elect strong leaders, especially in peaceful, quiet, predictable periods. In order to withstand and defeat authoritarian regimes in cold or even hot war, democratic governments become pseudo-authoritarian, feeling that they have a great mission to save the free world.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930-1940s, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the 1940s, and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s are excellent examples of this. The question is: are the citizens of the West ready to have such governments in order to fight the threat to the free world? Is the West up to the challenge?
In this newest clash, as Russian aggression evolves, Western opinions of Russian actions become more practical and pragmatic. According an op-ed piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski, United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981 and now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, published in Financial Times on February 22, 2014, Russia needs to be offered a ‘Finland option:’ “The US could and should convey clearly to Mr Putin that it is prepared to use its influence to make certain that a truly independent and territorially undivided Ukraine pursues policies towards Russia similar to those so effectively practiced by Finland: mutually respectful neighbours, wide-ranging economic relations both with Russia and the EU, but no participation in any military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at itself – while also expanding its European connectivity. In brief, the Finnish model is the ideal example for Ukraine, and the EU, and Russia.”
Brzezinski published another op-ed in The Washington Post on March 4, 2014: “Regarding the Russian aggression against Ukraine, much depends on what Vladimir Putin does next. But what Putin does depends not only on his calculation of the likely NATO (and especially US) response, but also his estimate of how fiercely the Ukrainian people would respond to any further escalation by Russia.
“Efforts to avert miscalculations that could lead to a war should be matched by a reaffirmation of the West’s desire for a peaceful accommodation with Russia regarding a joint effort to help Ukraine recover economically and stabilize politically. The West should reassure Russia that it is not seeking to draw Ukraine into NATO or to turn it against Russia.”
Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, expressed similar opinions in the Washington Post articles “How the Ukraine Crisis Ends” (published on March 6, 2014), “A Response to Henry Kissinger’s Advice on US-Russian Relations and the Ukraine” (published on March 5, 2014), and in an interview with CNN on February 1, 2014: “Why Ukraine Matters to Putin.”
These opinions took into consideration Russia’s paranoid fears that NATO’s expansion into Ukraine would dramatically weaken Russia’s anti-missile defenses, as well as put an end to the successful rearmament of the Russian Missile Strategic Forces and the rest of the Russian army due a sudden end to military-industrial cooperation between Russia and Ukraine.
Charles Krauthammer provides a summary of what shall be done if Russian aggression against Ukraine evolves in his Washington Post article “How to Stop—or Slow—Putin,” published on March 14, 2014. He proposed three main steps:
· Reassure NATO
· Deter Russia in Ukraine
· Reverse the annexation of Crimea
Kissinger and Brzezinski, as wise, experienced, and pragmatic advisers, took into consideration both Ukrainian and Russian interests. The industrial complex in Eastern and Southern Ukraine integrated with the Russian military-industrial complex creates many high-tech jobs in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. It is in Ukraine’s interest to develop high-tech, high-margin industries. If these Ukrainian enterprises were to close suddenly, it would cause mass unemployment in these regions. The West is currently unable to integrate the Ukrainian part of the Russian military-industrial complex with the US and EU military-industrial complexes, or to attract private investments for this sector. This could lead in the middle term to mass protests against the EU in favor of integration with Russia. Such developments could make it far easier to annex these territories or bring them under a Russian protectorate.
Kyiv must understand this and provide a clear agenda to Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The fears of people in these regions that they will lose their jobs in connection with EU integration must be relieved as soon as possible. Ukraine must discuss with the US and the EU how the Ukrainian part of the Russian military-industrial complex could be modernized and reoriented towards the US and EU’s private high-tech, non-military industries. Cooperation with Russia must not stop, as modernized Ukrainian enterprises could cooperate more efficiently with Russia as well. Cooperation with Russia is only possible under the following conditions: Russia unconditionally recognizes the existence of the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian nation, stops its aggression in Ukraine, and stops the annexation of Crimea.
I think that Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Zbigniew Brzezinski are looking strategically and long-term. What seems to be good in short term not necessarily good in the middle or long term. It seems to me that Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Brzezinski assume that Putin is not forever, that Putin and Russia are totally different things. Democratic and modernized Ukraine and Russia integrated with the EU could create the mightiest regional bloc in the world. If, on top of this, this EU regional bloc could be integrated with North America, it could create the mightiest possible configuration for Western civilization, ready to face any global challenges.
On the other hand, the West is not going to tolerate Russia’s impudent expansion. Efficient strategies do not necessarily start with military strikes. There are signs that play has already begun in this field. I assume that the arrest of the Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmirty Firtash was at the request of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Dmitry Firtash has deep insights into the operations of Gazprom, both within and outside of Russia. Perhaps these insights would help the US craft efficient sanctions, and reveal companies operating on behalf of Putin and the FSB outside Russia.
The US, the EU, and Canada imposed sanctions when Putin recognized Crimea’s ‘sovereignty,’ effective since March 17, 2014. These sanctions are personal ones directed at a few members of Putin’s inner circle, and came hours after Crimea’s parliament declared the region an independent state, following its residents’ landslide but very dubious vote Sunday to break away from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.
Some officials believe that “[t]hese are by far the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the Cold War.” Additional actions are predicted if Russia does not de-escalate the situation.
The West was not able to use similar strategies to pressure Stalin and Hitler, but the West can do it to pressure Putin and his kleptocratic oligarchs and officials. Due to militarization in the 1930s, Germans received well-paid jobs which in turn made it less feasible to arrange any sort of effective protest against Hitler. This is not case with Russia. Populations outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg are generally poor. That is the difference. They may not hate Putin, but they certainly hate the Kremlin and its corrupt regime.
Sanctions are not a fast way to resolve the situation in Ukraine. Currently Putin ignores them, and does not recognize the new government of Ukraine. Despite the sanctions, Putin submitted to Duma a draft of the law on annexing Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia on March 18, 2014.
Sanctions and economic pressure on the USSR led first to a change of the USSR’s stance, and then to its disintegration. If Putin continues his suicidal actions, his regime could collapse, opening the way for democratic developments in Russia. Putin has another option: sit at the negotiating table and agree with Ukraine to de-escalate of this crisis, under Western mediation in the early stages.
Only in this scenario could Russian interests be taken into consideration. Putin reiterated these interests in his speech to the Federation Council and Russian Duma devoted to the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol on March 18, 2014. But Putin must not forget that further escalation and the use of force will only hasten the end of the Putin regime. Putin and his associates cannot stop history and set the world back to the Middle Ages. Both Ukraine and Russia will be important, integral parts of Western civilization, whether Putin likes or not. It is not too late for Putin to recognize this.
Written by: Dr. Vitalii Usenko, MD, MBA, expert of the Center of Military-Political Studies in the sphere of psychology of communications, and by Dmytro Usenko, student at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Edited by Robin Rohrback
1. Information Resistance: On the Subject of TV anchor Kiselyov and Radioactive Dust Dmitry Tymchuk, Information Resistance – Translated by Voices of Ukraine, March 17, 2014
2. Vesti Nedeli, March 16, 2014, Russian Channel 1
Excerpt where “We can turn the US into ashes” was said:
4. Мертвая рука. Александр Железняков – October 2004
5. Система гарантированного ответного ядерного удара “Периметр” – December 5, 2012
7. Boeing Sues Yuzhnoye, Energia Over Sea Launch Reimbursements By Edvard Pettersson – Bloomberg February 4, 2013
8. US court dismisses Yuzhnoye’s motion to dismiss Sea Launch RIA – August 14, 2013
9. Russian Government Mulls Takeover of Sea Launch By Anatoly Medetsky | February 21, 2014
10. Президент Путин встретится с членами клуба “Валдай” – Vesti.Ru – October 25, 2012
11. Выступление Владимира Путина на заседании клуба “Валдай” – September 19, 2013 http://cyrrus.tumblr.com/post/45659112272
12. Заседание международного дискуссионного клуба «Валдай» – сайт Президента России – September 19, 2013
14. President Reagan: “Bombing Russia” (1984)
15. Victory: The Reagan Administration’s Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union Paperback by Peter Schweizer
18. «Вернуть запуски в США или продолжать финансировать русских». Американская космонавтика может пострадать от санкций в отношении России – Газета.РУ – March 6, 2014
19. Украина предложила России сотрудничество в космической сфере – Новости ВПК – December 9, 2013
20. Путин берет контроль над стратегическими предприятиями и космической отраслью Украины – Аргумент – December 4, 2013
22. The first target of Putin’s Russia is not only Crimea, but all Eastern and Southern Ukraine, by Vitalii Usenko – Euromaidan PR, posted on March 16, 2014
23. The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David Hoffman, Ancor Books, 2010
25. Here’s your death … face and the voice of Satan. R-36M (SS-18 Satan) – Video – posted in February 2010
27. Russia plans new ICBM to replace Cold War ‘Satan’ missile – Reuters – December 17, 2013
28. Russia needs to be offered a ‘Finland option’ for Ukraine by Zbigniew Brzezinski – Financial Times, February 22, 2014 8:11 pm
29. What is to be done? Putin’s aggression in Ukraine needs a response by Zbigniew Brzezinski – The Washington Post – March 4, 2014
30. How to stop — or slow — Putin by Charles Krauthammer, – The Washington Post Published: March 14, 2014
31. Why Putin and Russians are so emotional and obsessed about Ukraine? By Vitalii Usenko – Euromaidan PR – Posted on March 8, 2014
32. How the Ukraine crisis ends by Henry A. Kissinger, – The Washington Post, Published: March 6, 2014
33. A Response to Henry Kissinger’s advise on US – Russian Relations and the Ukraine, March 4, 2014
34. Kissinger on why Ukraine matters to Putin – CNN – February 1, 2014
36. Is it enough? Obama imposes sanctions on Russian officials over Crimea – FoxNews.com – Published March 17, 2014
37. US, EU set sanctions as Putin recognizes Crimea “sovereignty” – Reuters – March 17, 2014
38. Crimea crisis: Canada to join US, EU with new Russian sanctions – CBC News – March 17, 2014
39. Russia’s President Putin moves towards annexing Crimea – BBC News, March 18, 2014
40. Путін висунув Україні нові територіальні претензії та заявив, що українців не існує – Espresso-TV, March 18, 2014
41. Крым принят в состав Российской Федерации с 18 марта – ИТАР-ТАСС – March 18, 2014
42. Основные заявления Владимира Путина по обращению Крыма о вступлении в РФ – ИТАР-ТАСС – March 18, 2014