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More than nine years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen says it is “unclear” whether Russia is going to make a transition to free markets. But nothing could be more clear. Russia is not going to make a transition to free markets. Russia’s leaders never intended such a transition. They only wanted to us think they were moving toward free-market democracy. And they successfully fooled Cohen and
others for nine long years. In fact, Cohen is still fooled because he still holds out hope for democracy and free markets in Russia.

Secretary Cohen needs to wise up. Russia is still being run by the same old Bolshevik crowd. Consider what Grigory Yavlinsky, Russia’s leading liberal politician, has to say about Russia’s rulers. Speaking in Oslo at the invitation of the Nobel Committee, Yavlinsky said, “Our country lived through a nomenklatura Thermidor that brought to power people from the Communist Party Central Committee, its Politburo and the secret police. They simply changed their guise and started speaking of reforms, democracy and the free market, instead of Lenin and socialism.”

Secretary of Defense Cohen should realize that Russia’s reforms did not aim at genuine democracy or economic freedom for the Russian people. It aimed at improving and refining the Kremlin’s military, diplomatic and political weapons, which are not fully appreciated in the West. Instead of changing to a market system, as Yavlinksy points out, Russia’s leaders
“established an absolutely non-transparent system.” The reason for this non-transparency is very simple. “What has happened in our country,” Yavlinsky explained in Norway, “is not a revolution. It is a reconstruction of the previous regime.”

The economy of the Soviet Union was a war economy. Today, the economy of the Russian Federation is the same. But it parades as something else — it holds out hopes of becoming something different. And foolish Western politicians, like Secretary Cohen, are seduced by such hopes.

Yavlinsky points out that during the period of “democratization” under Yeltsin, “eight premiers were changed in that time, each of whom was either a former ranking communist functionary or a KGB officer, with the exception of a former Young Communist League leader.”

Under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s war doctrine openly embraced the first use of nuclear weapons. This alarmed some people, but this open admission from Russia — this “hide in plain sight” admission — represented no real change. In 1970 the Russians believed in winning through a nuclear first strike. So what is new? Now that false democracy and free market reforms have hoodwinked the West, the Kremlin can state the truth openly. On their side, Western politicians interpret this as another yet sign of Russian weakness. “It is a symptom of collapse,” say the experts and pundits.

Secretary Cohen and the Pentagon believe that Russia’s “increasing reliance” on nuclear missiles is due to the dilapidation of Russia’s conventional military strength. But this is an error. Russia is now deploying a new tank, a new attack helicopter, a new sniper rifle, the
world’s best fighter-bomber, and the world’s quietest submarines. Of course, most Russian army divisions are training with old equipment. They therefore complain of the “poor state” of the armed forces. But as GRU defector Viktor Suvorov pointed out years ago, the Russians always train their troops with poor quality tanks and obsolete equipment. The theory is that if you can drive a Volkswagen, you can drive a Mercedes. So train them in a Volkswagen. When war comes, give them a Mercedes.

But tanks and artillery and fighter-bombers are not the most important weapons in modern war. Everyone knows that America is a rich country, which can mobilize on the basis of the world’s largest economy. Whatever Russia builds America can build better. And that is why Russia’s war doctrine emphasizes nuclear weapons. Russia’s plan for the next world war involves the mass use of nuclear missiles. If you think such a war would result in the extermination of mankind, think again. Nuclear winter is a myth and nuclear fallout can be coped with. Besides this, the purpose of nuclear missiles is not to exterminate all life on earth. Their purpose is to destroy specific targets.

The hysterical propaganda of the anti-nuclear activists should not be taken seriously. When have radical environmentalist predictions ever been reliable? In “Nuclear Wars: Exchanges and Outcomes,” former CIA analyst and defense expert Peter Vincent Pry explains that “the belief that nuclear war is not survivable is false.” Pry dedicates an entire chapter of his book to “Societal Survival.” His work on this subject is thoroughly documented and completely agrees with the conclusions of Russian war analysts.

Because recovery and survival from nuclear attack is possible, nuclear weapons are more practical than most Americans realize. This is something that the American public and U.S. policymakers refuse to face up to. It is a failure of nerve that could damn America to defeat as Russia and China — joined in a strategic partnership — continue to modernize their nuclear
forces.

And yet, at a time when U.S. forces are at low readiness — due to poor morale and logistical difficulties — Defense Secretary Cohen cannot resist a disparaging remark about the dilapidated state of Russia’s armed forces. This is how we comfort ourselves. When we learn that Russia is not preparing for a future conventional war, but for a future nuclear war, our remedy is to shake our heads at Russia’s desperation. Speaking on Wednesday, Cohen said “I think there’s cause for concern with the current deterioration in Russian conventional and strategic forces.”

According to a recently released Pentagon report, Russia has lowered its threshold for the use of nuclear and biological weapons to compensate for a declining conventional military. But this evaluation merely reflects America’s failure to comprehend the true significance of Russia’s reliance on nuclear rather than conventional weapons.

In the 1960s Russian military texts openly stated that the decisive weapon of the next war was not the armored division, as it was in World War II, but the nuclear rocket. To a Russian general most tank divisions exist to soak up nuclear hits and pave the way for a victorious Third Strategic Echelon.

Col. Stanislav Lunev, a defector from the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, once described for me Russia’s 1980s war strategy. Simplifying the plan to its essentials, he said the Warsaw Pact divisions of Russia’s First Strategic Echelon would cross into NATO’s nuclear mine fields and blow themselves up, creating openings. The Second Strategic Echelon would then move forward and exchange tactical nuclear blows with the
NATO forces, resulting in mutual annihilation. The Third Strategic Echelon would then overrun Europe. I asked Col. Lunev what came after that. He said that the Third Strategic Echelon would then be used to invade North America.

For the Russians, World War III was always a nuclear war. Reliance on nuclear missiles was imbedded in Soviet war planning all along. In his book, “The Offensive,” Col. A. Sidorenko noted that “nuclear weapons will become the main means for destroying the enemy in a battle.”

Why should a country waste resources having high quality troops when these troops only exist to absorb or to deliver nuclear hits?

It also must be understood, in the present situation, that Russia no longer aims to invade Western Europe. Instead, Russia is trying to form a partnership with the European Union. No longer are Russia’s ground forces tasked with entering NATO’s nuclear mine fields or braving NATOs nuclear-armed divisions. Today Russia is conquering Europe through
diplomacy, natural gas and other energy resources. Today there are no nuclear mine fields in Europe and no nuclear-armed divisions — except the Russian ones in Kaliningrad.

Secretary of Defense Cohen looks at the Russian Navy and sees that they have only one aircraft carrier. He looks at the Russian Air Force and sees a poor level of pilot training. He looks at the Russian Army and finds stories of shortages and low morale. He then looks at Russia’s large stockpile of nuclear and biological weapons and concludes that Russia is forced to rely on such weapons because of the dilapidation of its weak conventional strength.

But Cohen misses the point.

“From the point of view of weapons,” says a leading Russian military text from the 1960s, “a third world war will be a missile and nuclear war. The massive use of nuclear weapons, particularly thermonuclear, will make the war unprecedentedly destructive and devastating. Entire states will be wiped off the face of the earth.”

Therefore, why should Russia follow the American lead by building aircraft carriers that can be destroyed by nuclear missiles? Why should Russia waste money on fancy computerized forces whose circuit boards will be fried by nuclear EMP effects?

Is American technical prowess really superior to Russia’s nuclear common sense?

Consider the following apocryphal story, which serves to illustrate the difference between American and Russian problem-solving. During the space race America learned that pens do not work without gravity. So U.S. scientists spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would work in space. The Russians did not attempt to match America’s technical ingenuity. Instead, they gave their cosmonauts pencils.

The Russian military is dilapidated, says the Pentagon report. And that is why they now rely on nuclear and biological weapons. Perhaps it is really the other way around. Perhaps the Russians rely on nuclear and biological weapons because these are more important — more decisive — than conventional weapons. The recently released 187-page Pentagon report states that “Russia has thousands of tactical nuclear warheads that it is unlikely to dismantle soon and that are not subject to current arms control agreements.”

Why do the Russians refuse to dismantle these weapons?

For the same reason Russia’s reforms did not result in a free market democracy. They refuse to dismantle the weapons because, as Grigory Yavlinksy maintains, the Communist Party Central Committee still governs the empire. And they are still preparing for nuclear war against the United States.

Secretary Cohen is confused when he says “it is unclear” where Russia is headed. No, Mr. Secretary. It is crystal clear.

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