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How Russia’s Military Posture Is Linked to Its Political Goals

The V-day military parade sent a no-nonsense signal that Russia is prepared to protect its sphere of influence

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is an Italian industrialist and Honorary member of the Academy of Science of the Institut de France

The gigantic parade of May 9, 2016 to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the USSR victory in the Great Patriotic War  - as the Soviet struggle against Nazi invaders was called - was an opportunity for Russia to display its new and recent Russian weapons and, above all, to make clear their strategic use.

10,000 soldiers, 135 units of military hardware and 71 aircraft paraded.

An evident show of strength, and a clear, but implied threat to the Russian Federation’s enemies.

There was first, the Yars RS 24 long-range nuclear missile (the one that NATO currently calls SS 27 Mod.2), a MIRV system that may contain multiple independent warheads, probably ten in this case, and which is deployed in a regiment consisting of three battalions.

This missile is needed to ward off the United States and its allies from the Russian Federation’s traditional areas of interest such as Ukraine or the Western border, following the Cold War. And also, to make it difficult to manage any anti-Russian tensions in the Middle East, Central Asia and in the peripheral seas. (Many years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski assumed that Ukraine was basically close to the West and therefore would become an unacceptable vulnerability for Southern Russian security.)

The Russian weapons showcased in the parade are powerful strategic deterrents that will enable Russia to have a "free hand" where smaller Western threats cannot arrive.

The new National Guard security force, recently created by President Putin to combat terrorism and organized crime, also paraded, armed with the new AK74M assault rifle.

Tanks included the new T-14 Armata battle tank, which, with its unmanned remote gun control is now considered superior to the Leopard and Abrams 2  tanks  - and this, too,  is a clue. Furthermore the T-14 tank will shortly be fully robotized.

The challenge is to make any escalation along the old Cold War borders dangerous.

The old aircraft that flew during the military parade were the solid Su-25, but also the new Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA, namely a 5th generation aircraft which is said to be superior to the F-22 and, above all, to the US F-35, which is a generation 4++ aircraft. It features excellent stealth characteristics, high attack speed and radar equipment using original nanotechnologies.

Another aircraft displayed was the Tupolev Tu22M3, which  NATO called Backfire, and is operating optimally in Syria.

Two other missile systems were showcased, namely the S-400 and Pantsir. The former, the S-400 "Triumph" (NATO code SA 21 Growler), is a new generation anti-aircraft/anti-missile SAM, already sold to China and Iran, and which can simultaneously intercept 36 missiles and planes (indeed, 80 in the latest versions) flying at a speed of up to 17,000 kilometers.

The Pantsir S1 (NATO code SA Greyhound) is a combined system of surface-to-air missile launching and anti-aircraft artillery, both already operating in Syria from the Latakia base.

In his speech before the 71st military parade, President Putin called for an international system not based on opposing blocs, but lone that would overcome the tendency of many Western countries  to re-ignite the Cold War.

In other words, Vladimir Putin wants first, to dissuade Western countries from trying to split Eurasia which, in Russia’s opinion, should have geopolitical continuity from Moscow to the tip of the European peninsula and China, including the great Central Asian Heartland, the area of greatest future economic growth.

Russia does not want US supremacy at the global level –but rather to divide supremacy into various geopolitical areas: Japan, China, the Shi’ite region with Iran and Iraq, the large African areas, Latin America.

Furthermore, while the Americans convert every area over which they have supremacy to the same uniform political and cultural model, the Russians adhere to the various economies, strategic threats and cultural patterns. (Suffice to recall its actions in Syria.)

In all the strategic areas mentioned, the Russian Federation wants to expand its power and, above all, to ensure for each of them possible alternatives to US hegemony.

Russia believes that in future, no country will be in a position to gain clear military superiority: that security also includes economic, health and social issues.

These are the factors that Russia can currently interpret as a direct threat to its stability and, above all, to its sovereignty.

Russian analysts were impressed by the initial effectiveness of the "color revolutions" and the "democratic" ones in the Maghreb region. Obviously the results gradually proved to be disastrous, but the management of non-military techniques to destabilize a country, together with Gene Sharp’s old theories, which were studied by the Muslim Brotherhood during Mubarak’s fall, are the focus of current Russian strategic thinking.

These are the Russian themes that respond to non-military subversion: 1) avoid ”cultural contagion"; 2) strengthen national identity and, where possible, the Welfare State; 3) steadily increase the level of possible military threats; 4)  develop strategies designed to avoid hostile actions against Russia on the financial or commodity markets – also true for China.

Economic and financial destabilization has been studied by Russian analysts, and military superiority is needed to avoid it. Moreover, there is also what I would call the identity strategy: rejection of the globalist ideological mix to protect Russian symbols, traditions and popular culture from attacks by US pop culture.

Great military parades with the soldiers’ joyful, proud faces, together with a credible strategic threat, also contribute to achieving these goals.

Russian strategic thinkers know all too well that the modern strategy is full spectrum, including  economic, political and cultural stability as well as technological progress.

The reason why Russia maintains a superpower military structure, with some technologies largely superior to its competitors’, is that President Putin wants to make Russian hegemony flow from military power.

This is the primary theme raised by Russia against NATO’s enlargement: Russia is opposed to it and is ready to  block it, as happened with the challenges in Ukraine and Crimea, as well as with the network of NATO radar stations surrounding the Russian Federation, from Poland up to Romania.  

Any limits to Russia’s autonomy and sovereignty will be fiercely opposed, first with non-military actions, and later, with surgical military strikes.

The US idea of repeating the old Cold War game, in the situation of current strategic imbalance unfavorable to the United States, will be the harbinger of many American difficulties.

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