All the conservatives and pro-defense types applauded Donald
Rumsfeld’s appointment as secretary of defense. Such a tiger. Such a man of
steel. But now an element of doubt has crept into the equation. On Aug. 8
the Wall Street Journal reported that aides to Secretary Rumsfeld are
“calling for deep personnel cuts to the Army, Navy, and Air Force. …”
The plan is to gut U.S. conventional forces in order to raise the
money for high tech upgrades and anti-ballistic missile weapons. The plan
also involves gutting our nuclear deterrent as well. Putting all his eggs
into the high-tech basket, Rumsfeld is determined to arm us with exotic
devices of questionable utility. In exchange for these he is willing to get
rid of tanks and fighters and submarines.
Under Rumsfeld’s plan, the U.S. Army would have to eliminate almost
three divisions. The Air Force would have to eliminate a quarter of its
fighter squadrons. The Navy would liquidate two carrier battle groups. And
these changes are proposed at a time when the U.S. military is already
downsized and neglected.
It is peace for our time, say the economic optimists. So why worry?
But with the North Korean military forward deployed and mobilized, with the
Middle East on the brink of war, with the Balkans inflamed and a communist
insurgency in South America, the situation is not exactly coming up roses.
It seems the optimists have taken over Rumsfeld’s brain. His scheme to rob
from the present in order to afford the future makes fiscal sense. However,
it is a military mistake. You do not weaken yourself under any
circumstances. The world is not a Disneyland ride. Serious troubles are
developing on more than one front.
Quite mistakenly the Rumsfeld team thinks Russia is weak. They
believe that Europe is calm and safe. But a KGB officer is in charge of the
Kremlin. Russia is pulling paratroopers out of the Balkans and making them
available for “other” operations. The city of “Volgograd” may shortly change
its name back to “Stalingrad” (as suggest by Volgograd Oblast Governor
Nikolai Maksyuta on Aug. 10). And don’t forget the fact that the one-time
chief of staff of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev recently
acknowledged that the August 1991 coup – which collapsed the Soviet Union —
was ordered by Gorbachev himself.
Oh yes, everything is Russia is exactly as it appears. No threat from
that direction, say Rumsfeld’s optimists. The coast is clear for America to
downsize its military. In order to pave the way for this downsizing,
Rumsfeld decides to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is time
to talk tough. It is time for Russia to accept the fact that we’re leaving
the ABM Treaty. Tell them that NATO is going to advance toward Russia’s
Watch as the color drains out of Vladimir Putin’s face.
A defense secretary proposing rapid unilateral disarmament on the
basis of false confidence is not about hear the real story. But listen to
what the American side is willing to propose. While in Moscow to see
President Putin last week, Rumsfeld told Russian reporters that America is
determined to reduce its nuclear arsenal. “We’re going to do it,” said
Rumsfeld, “regardless of what Russia does.”
The Russians must be trembling and humiliated – in between fits of
To assist America’s defense secretary in his campaign to gut America’s
military strength, the Russian leadership is perfectly willing to back down
and complain of American bullying. It is all part of the game. The Russians
are smart enough to reassure Americans of Russia’s inferiority. “Tell them
what they want to hear,” is a good Leninist strategy. But “show them what
they want to see,” is even better. Resist the idiotic American proposals for
national missile defense and NATO expansion for a time, but in the end you
give the Americans what they want. And this in itself will destroy them.
Contrary to what many believe, the Americans do not hold all the
cards. The Russians have a working ABM system now. They have already
deployed this system, and they could have hundreds of ABM launchers in a
hidden reserve. This possibility was discussed by intelligence analyst
William Lee in his book, “The ABM Treaty Charade.” Suppose the U.S. begins
working on a system that will take 10 years to deploy. The Russians could
deploy something more effective in five months.
As for the eastward expansion of NATO, the situation is quite comical.
The generals of Russia’s former allies – Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary – are now inside the Western Alliance. Former communist functionaries are
in the councils of NATO. With a further eastward expansion of NATO the
Western character of the alliance begins to change. The trustworthiness of
officers who were trained by the communists should not be taken at face
Even more alarming in this regard, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
recently said that Russia will eventually join NATO. “Thinking long-term,”
said Schroeder, “Russia’s NATO membership cannot be ruled out.”
The Russians have protested the Eastward expansion of NATO as they
protest the construction of U.S. national missile defenses. But Russia
protests too much. We must consider the possibility that in the long run
NATO expansion is to Russia’s advantage, both in terms of anti-American
propaganda and in terms of gaining access to the alliance.
It is a curious story, indeed, when a disarming power throws
ultimatums into the face of a clandestinely rearming power. The fact is,
Secretary Rumsfeld is no tiger. His policy is one of extended weakness.
Americans need to realize that Rumsfeld’s policy is not causing much
consternation. In fact, such policies are secretly celebrated in Moscow and