An Arms Race

And we should welcome it.

Russia is creating three new divisions to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s planned expansion along its eastern flank, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday, in a move that comes amid rising tensions in the region.

Moscow has threatened it will respond to NATO plans to boost its troops’ presence along its border with Russia.  Western officials said last week the alliance will send four battalions—about 4,000 troops—to Poland and the ex-Soviet Baltic countries.

These three divisions are being created, in part, by adding men and equipment, and they’re being created, in part, by reassigning men and equipment from existing units.  It’s the latter that’s instructive.

With the Russian economy in shambles—among other shortfalls, it needs oil priced above $100, remember, the ruble still is in the tank, and inflation remains high and growing—it can ill-afford the expansion on which it’s embarking.  In addition to these “new” divisions, Russia is spending its money on modernizing its military, developing and deploying nuclear weapons near the Baltics and Poland (since before it began creating these three divisions), supporting its occupation forces in Georgia and Ukraine, and on and on.  Although Russia certainly can sustain its buildup for a time, it can’t go on indefinitely.

We should welcome this arms race.  We should accelerate our technological developments and production.  We should answer those three divisions with further deployments into eastern Europe, with an expansion of our Baltic fleet (which we should move deeper into the eastern reaches of the Baltic Sea), and with arms transfers and sales to Ukraine and Georgia.  Every buildup by Russia should be answered with a bigger, more technologically capable one by us.

The Soviet Union couldn’t sustain its arms race; neither can Russia.  It will take an administration different from the current one or its potential Progressive-Democratic successor to engage, though.

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