The real threat from Russia is not to elections, but to our lives.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu describes their recent massive military exercise VOSTOK-18 as involving 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and other vehicles, 1,000 aircraft, 80 ships, and joint military operations with China.
VOSTOK-18 is the largest rehearsal of World War III in the 21st century, as big as ZAPAD-81, the then-USSR’s biggest military exercise simulating invasion of NATO during the height of the Cold War, nearly 40 years ago.
Yet Democrats and the liberal media, hysterical over preposterous allegations Russia “hacking the elections” poses an existential threat to our constitutional republic, hypocritically oppose President Trump’s modernization of U.S. nuclear and conventional forces to deter Russia’s war machine — the real threat.
Dangerously, many professional analysts also underestimate the Russian military threat, indeed seem reflexively to underestimate all military threats, feeding a liberal press that would rather “see no evil” except in Mr. Trump.
Perhaps it is the hubris of free societies, naturally preoccupied with domestic political “enemies” and biased against defense investment, that makes it possible for press and professional analysts to report so little, and such rosy-hued theories as these about VOSTOK-18:
• Moscow exaggerates the size of VOSTOK-18.
• VOSTOK-18 is to impress the Russian people.
Moscow is exaggerating the size of VOSTOK-18?
There is no evidence Russia overstated the number of forces exercising. On the contrary, ever since Russia won World War II in part by hiding 200 divisions from German intelligence, Moscow has tried to conceal its real military strength.
Russian military doctrine calls for launching a surprise attack by mobilizing forces under the guise of an exercise. Russian mobilization for invasions of Crimea and Ukraine happened during so-called military exercises.
By the way, NATO military exercises rarely involve more than 30,000 troops — one-tenth the size of VOSTOK-18. But NATO exercises, no matter how small, are routinely described by the press as “large-scale” or “massive” or other such unwarranted adjectives.
NATO has not conducted a big exercise, like REFORGER, that mobilized 115,000 troops, since 1987.
Nor do NATO’s political leaders participate in military exercises, whereas Vladimir Putin often personally supervises Russian exercises.
How will the often quarrelsome 29 NATO leaders cooperate in war? For example, what will Germany’s Angela Merkel do if Russia threatens, if she supports NATO defense of Poland against Russian invasion, an EMP attack on Germany?
Surely the Russian General Staff notices how small NATO’s military exercises are, and how thin the U.S. shield in Europe (1,000 troops in the Baltic States; 4,000 in Poland; 35,000 in Germany) are. Such an anemic posture may undermine deterrence.
Any alliance between military dictatorships, like partnerships between gangsters, like the Hitler-Stalin Pact, is usually based more on mutual fear than friendship.
But the larger purpose of VOSTOK-18 is to impress upon Washington that there is an undeclared Russia-China military alliance by a joint exercise that simulated against the United States a nuclear World War III.
VOSTOK-18 signals to Washington the escalatory risk of denuclearizing North Korea by military force, giving the State Department another reason to pursue negotiations, which, like all before, will ultimately prove fruitless.
Russia and China want their client North Korea to pose a nuclear threat to the United States to undermine U.S. security guarantees, to encourage U.S. isolationism, to engineer a new world order dominated by Moscow and Beijing, at minimum risk to themselves.
China’s growing military might is based on Russian technology. China’s wealth helps prop up Russia’s moribund economy. They conduct many military exercises together, including simulating nuclear war with the U.S. over Taiwan.
VOSTOK-18 is to impress the Russian people?
Dictator Vladimir Putin has convinced most Russians that nuclear civil defense drills involving 20 million Russians are necessary, and VOSTOK-18 is necessary, because World War III is imminent.
Very relevant reading is the now declassified report “The Soviet ‘War Scare’” by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board about how a 1983 military exercise nearly became nuclear war — because of paranoid miscalculation in Moscow.
So maybe gigantic Russian military exercises like VOSTOK-18 — that simulated two nuclear strikes against the United States in one week — deserve a lot more attention from Washington and the press than Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s teen-age sex life?
• Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff of the congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, served on the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.
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