Since Moscow can’t print its way to prosperity (neither can Washington — but, shhh, nobody tell them that), the Russians have to be a little more creative. Here’s their new approach to national defense:
Now the Russian leadership is again calling for Russia to be dominant in space. This is seen as a matter of national security, as a way to gain information dominance and have the ability to fight for control of orbital space. Russian leaders have concluded that maintaining large and well equipped conventional forces is not possible (too few Russians are willing to join the military). Nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (mainly missiles) have been well cared for since the Soviet Union dissolved, and these are seen as Russia’s primary defense. To better protect the nukes, and make them more effective, having a large presence in space is considered essential. Otherwise, a foe could launch a surprise attack and destroy Russia’s missiles and render the nation unable to respond to a ground threat. Despite this attitude, many military commanders would rather spend the money on elite ground forces, new warships and upgraded aircraft. But for the moment, the Russian defense budget is backing a space based defense.
Keep your satellites working and your nukes dry, in other words. I’d call that doing the best you can with what you’ve got, but it isn’t without risks. Other countries — specifically China — must be made to believe in their heart of hearts that Moscow really would nuke the bejeebus out of them, rather than lose one square kilometer of Mother Russia. Because when nukes are Plan A, there really isn’t a Plan B.
Complicating things further, even a nice Guards Rocket Division armed with shiny new Topol missiles isn’t much use against restive ethnic minorities. Besides, it’s considered bad form to nuke your own cities. Russia’s most pressing national security threat isn’t China taking Siberia. Rather, it’s the collapse of Russian authority in the northern Caucasus.
And so it goes: Repression at home and nukes abroad. It ain’t pretty, but it mostly works.