08.05.2006
Dangerous Relapses
№2 2006 April/June
Sergei Karaganov

Doctor of History, is Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the National Research University–Higher School of Economics (NRU–HSE), and Honorary Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Russia.

Recently, two remarkable foreign policy papers were released in
the United States. One is the president’s report, The National
Security Strategy of the United States of America, which is the
first such document to be issued since 2003. The Council on Foreign
Relations, America’s most prominent foreign policy organization,
prepared the other, entitled, Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the
United States Can and Should Do. The two documents of course differ
in scope, but are crucial for understanding where U.S. foreign
policy thought is directed, where the White House is heading, and
in what direction the different groups of the policy-making elite
are attempting to push U.S. policy toward Russia.

DEMOCRATIC MESSIANISM AND MONOPOLY ON WAR

The first thing that strikes the eye from reading the documents,
especially in the presidential report, is democratic Messianism as
a keynote of U.S. foreign policy. The words “democracy” and
“freedom” occur several times literally on every page. The spread
of these ideals is declared not only as the principal goal of U.S.
foreign policy, but also a cure-all for the world’s misfortunes:
poverty, tyranny, diseases, and terrorism, as well as the main
instrument of ensuring U.S. security. Elements of political
realism, the understanding that America cannot always be guided by
high-minded ideals in its policy, do exist but somewhere in the
background.

One could cynically dismiss the calls for the spread of freedom,
democracy and human rights as traditional election campaigning by
the Democrats (after all, it has traditionally been the Republicans
who have been more pragmatic, appealing to the realism of force
rather than the idealism of freedom and democracy in the world).
The description of the triumphant march of democracy in the world,
showcasing the democratic “success stories” of Afghanistan, Georgia
and Saudi Arabia, where Islamic radicals won the country’s first
ever election on the municipal level, or Kyrgyzstan, where the
situation is increasingly destabilizing and on the verge of chaos,
is bound to raise some eyebrows. Finally, for all the empathy that
the world feels for America’s suffering in Iraq and the tragedy of
the Iraqi people, it is a bit of a stretch to call civil
war-ravaged Iraq a victorious democracy.

It is also somewhat surprising that the list of the most
tyrannical regimes, including North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba,
Zimbabwe, and Belarus, does not include certain notorious regimes,
including those in the FSU area, some of which produce oil and
natural gas.

Yet, even if we disagree with the U.S. president (due to Russian
political experience or cynicism born from seven decades of
abortive Communist Messianism, a decade of quasi-democratic
revolution chaos and the last few years of “managed democracy” that
have been void of ideas or ideals), we cannot but feel respect for
the leader of a nation who is attempting to restore Western
humanistic ideals in a world that is rapidly losing faith in them.
I actually believe that the deeply religious George W. Bush thinks
of himself as a democratic messiah and is obsessed with the ideas
and slogans that he is proclaiming, while the ruling elite (some of
it believing in these ideals, some half believing, and some not
believing at all) must adjust to them. In pursuing a specific
policy line, George W. Bush and his inner circle deviate from the
proclaimed lofty objectives or use them for very practical purposes
– i.e., advancing U.S. interests. Nevertheless, the United States
does have ideals, occasionally acting to its own detriment in the
name of these ideals, while criticizing its representatives and
denying them support. Yet, it still manages to get involved in a
war whose catastrophic consequences and implications for American
interests were predicted by nine-tenths of experts. Where are those
critics now who kept saying at that time that the Americans started
the war in Iraq over oil? What have the Americans gained from this
operation except the loss of power, prestige and money? Thus far,
it has been other oil-producing countries that have gained from it,
above all Russia.

American democratic idealism should not be underestimated, nor
should we judge American leadership by those who have lost faith.
Such a temptation is fraught with costly mistakes.

Another important subject of the president’s message is the
declaration of war – I believe, for the first time ever – on
Islamic radicalism. All the right words about respect for the great
and proud Islamic civilization were spoken. But it was also said
that the fight against most militant and billigerent form of
Islamic radicalism is the greatest ideological conflict at the
beginning of the 21st century; that all great powers have joined
forces on counterterrorism; and that this situation drastically
differs from the 20th century, when the great powers were divided
by ideology and national interests.

Bush stated what many were thinking about but did not dare say
aloud. Now it will be more difficult for Russia to ignore this
reality, especially since we were the first to take up arms and,
having paid a terrible price, won the battle – not yet the war – in
Chechnya against this most militant and belligerent form of Islamic
radicalism and terrorism.

Yet, by their ill-judged intervention in Iraq the Americans have
made this struggle far more difficult for everyone.

Russia’s unique history and geography, as well as many of its
partners, are responsible for pushing it onto the battlefield of
this new confrontation. Now we are faced with the extremely
difficult task of avoiding this fate to the maximum degree
possible. 

Predictably, Iran – said to be the evil of all evils,
overflowing with tyranny, Muslim radicalism, terrorism, and the
proliferation of WMD – was declared America’s number one enemy. It
looks like the United States has abandoned its attempts (at least
for the next two years) to convince Tehran to mend its ways, and
will now rely on mostly coercion to achieve its goals. This will
not frighten Iranian radicals, but it will certainly drive Iranian
reformers into a corner. It would be wiser to fight Tehran’s
attempts to acquire nuclear weapons rather than fight the Iranian
leadership.

One provision of the National Security Strategy that has caused
the most controversy is the option of preemptive actions to counter
a sufficient threat to U.S. national security. This option can be
used on any scale against regimes or terrorists who have acquired
or seized weapons of mass destruction and are threatening, or have
the capability, to use them. I was struck by the unanimously
negative reaction to this provision in the Western media. I was
even more stunned by the criticism that the doctrine received from
Russia. After all, preemptive action to counter an attack is an
axiom of military theory and practice. Those who did not follow
this theory in the past and built Maginot lines invariably suffered
severe punishment. In our increasingly dangerous age, the need for
preemptive strikes becomes more and more evident.

Does Russian military doctrine not provide for such actions as
well? Indeed, if it does not, our strategists must be fired on the
spot. But as far as I know, such options have never been precluded,
and all our potential adversaries understand this. I am sure that
the General Staff knows what it is doing.
It is another matter altogether, however, to argue that the United
States is attempting to monopolize the right to preemptive actions,
saying that (other) nations should not “use preemption as a pretext
for aggression.”  Please, let’s be serious. If there is a
direct threat to a country’s vital interests and national security,
no one will ask Washington what to do.

The presidential report put forward a positive program to
control WMD proliferation, and Russia would be ready to subscribe
to it almost without reservations. Indeed, Russia is naturally
interested in playing a key role in the implementation of this
program, and without Russian participation no such program can be
effectively implemented.

A RETURN TO “PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE?”

The presidential report offers a vision of Russia that the White
House would like to convey to America, the world, and Russia
herself. The report reiterates that there should be no rivalry
between the great powers, stressing the importance of Russia for
the United States and the world. It expresses a readiness to work
closely together in areas where our interests coincide, and take
problems in stride where they don’t. These are words from the old
“positive” lexicon. But there are also some new notes. For example,
it is stated that some recent trends (in Russia) point to a
diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions.
Russia is urged to move forward, not backward. The report also
contains a veiled warning that relations could worsen should Moscow
hinder democratic development not only at home but also in
neighboring countries. The presidential report does not proclaim a
turnaround in Russian-U.S. relations, yet it definitely implies
such a possibility.

By contrast, the report issued by the Council on Foreign
Relations puts a much greater thrust on the possibility and even
the desirability of a turnaround in Russian-U.S. relations.

I will not provide an overall review of the report out of
respect for the Council that I have been cooperating with for 30
years, and out of respect for the experts and politicians who took
part in preparing it, for I have been linked with many of them by
professional and friendly relations for decades. Briefly, I would
hate to think that many of the report’s astounding evaluations were
caused by ideological bias. They obviously resulted from simple
misunderstanding. I will only say that this particular report
highlights the need for a deep and frank dialog between the elites
of our countries. Presently, this dialog is practically
non-existent, and certainly more lacking than during the Cold War
era. Allow me to consider some of the basic points of the
report.
The Russian economy is developing very successfully. While this is
certainly good news, many people in Russia would not share this
degree of optimism.

At the same time it is stated that in its domestic policy,
Russia is backtracking on the democratic gains of the past.
Corruption is growing. Over-centralization of power at the expense
of building modern state and public institutions is approaching a
critical point indicating the decline in the efficiency of state
governance.

These assertions have a substantial element of truth. Actually,
if I were to write a report about the development of Russia’s
domestic policy, I would have thrown in a few more serious critical
remarks.

The problem with the report in question, however, is that it
presents practically all aspects of Russia’s domestic policy in a
black light – it’s all gloom and doom. Thus, it creates the
impression that the 1990s witnessed the thriving of democracy,
while the middle of this decade is only characterized by its
demise.

The authors refuse to face up to the fact that Russia, which no
one has ever really helped to reform, is passing through a natural
period of conservative consolidation after the chaos of the 1990s.
And it is rather strange to hear criticism from people who publicly
approved of the use of tanks and guns against the Russian
parliament in 1993, supported the methods by which Boris Yeltsin
was elected in 1996, granted loans to his bankrupt government in
1998, and stood by the Kremlin in 1999 when it had virtually lost
touch with reality and become ineffective, while the state was
visibly disintegrating. I was with or on the side of those who had
used tanks and provided that support, but I felt ashamed not only
for myself and for my country but also for leaders of the
democratic world, including the U.S. president, who had openly
backed the execution and methods of governance that were being
practiced at that time.

While I may be somewhat dismayed about the backsliding on some
democratic principles and in disagreement with many aspects of
Russia’s domestic policy, I will make a heretical point for a
person of democratic and liberal persuasions: When all is said and
done, Russia has never been a more thriving or freer country than
it is now. We were only slightly freer in the turbulent 1990s,
while just a handful of people enjoyed a normal life, let alone
prospered at that time.

The report makes gloomy forecasts, stating that Russia’s future
is unpredictable. But when was it more predictable than right now?
A stagnation/authoritarianism scenario is possible, but it is
equally possible that within the next several years, the country
could turn to more modern and effective development. On the other
hand, we are practically past the Weimar period of our history,
while any retreat to a totalitarian or ultranationalist regime is
extremely unlikely. 

The description of Russia’s foreign policy produces an even
stranger impression. The authors of the CFR report say that this
policy, except perhaps for Russia’s cooperation on Iran and WMD
nonproliferation as a whole, is becoming almost completely
anti-American.

Of course, Russia feels more confident, perhaps even
overconfident, and now wishes to protect its own interests, while
giving up the servile “what can we do for you” policy of the first
half of the 1990s that some Americans must be feeling nostalgic for
now.

However, is it realistic to call Russia’s present policy
anti-American? Here are some of the manifestations of “hostility”
mentioned in the report. It turns out that we are pushing China
into a confrontation with the United States by selling arms to it
or conducting joint military exercises. We support antidemocratic
regimes in Central Asia and ousting the United States out of the
region. As far as the last-mentioned point is concerned, I believe
that the Americans were pleased to leave Uzbekistan, shifting
responsibility onto Russia. But then the Russian president
supported the deployment of the U.S. and NATO base in Kyrgyzstan.
What are we expected to do – overthrow bad or very bad local
regimes and pave the way to chaos, radical Islamism and drug
barons?

We stand admonished for conducting dialog with Hamas.
Personally, I do not believe that a country that has suffered so
much from Chechen terrorism should have hastened to open
negotiations with a terrorist organization even if it legitimately
came to power. But in his message, the U.S. president told Hamas
essentially what the Russian authorities did: recognize Israel’s
right to exist, conduct a responsible policy, and we will work with
you.

Cooperation in the energy sphere, although not very effective
but still highly positive, is described as anti-American. Even the
delay in the construction of an oil pipeline to Murmansk is seen as
an anti-American move.

It is proposed that this narrow level of cooperation be narrowed
further, not expanded.

And this is the strangest thing of all. A narrowing and
downgrading of cooperation is being proposed at a time when the
United States has become considerably weakened because of Iraq,
while the new agenda – the Greater Middle East, energy, WMD
proliferation, the integration of new giants into the world system
and other global challenges – requires closer cooperation than ever
before. The United States is obviously not in a position to deal
with these problems single-handedly, while its traditional allies
cannot or do not want to play a global role.

By far the greatest sin of Russia’s foreign policy, however, was
the “politically motivated” energy blackmail against Ukraine. I do
believe there was a political ingredient in the gas price hike, but
there was definitely more bad politics and corruption in the
decade-long practice of selling natural gas to Ukraine at
below-market prices. For the past few years, we had been
subsidizing the Ukrainian ruling class to the tune of more than
$4.5 billion a year – probably 30 times as much as what the United
States had provided to Kiev. So, is the transition to market
prices, the abandonment of paternalism, and the treatment of
Ukraine as a completely sovereign state also anti-American
policy?

What is especially striking is that the authors of the report
fail to see a number of important spheres where Russia and the
United States are closely cooperating. We have consistently
supported the U.S. peace operation in Afghanistan, and closely
cooperate on the North Korean nuclear problem. During the crisis
involving Iraq, unlike many U.S. allies, Russia did nothing to
undermine Washington’s positions. Moscow warned in advance that it
saw military action as bad judgment, and it proved right. Now,
there are very few people who would describe Russia’s present
policy on Iraq as unconstructive.
The report is not entirely negative. It calls for constructive
cooperation in nonproliferation and a number of other spheres, but
on the whole both its tonality and recommendations are
negative.

However, whereas the report is rich on criticism, it is rather
short on advice. It recommends cooperation only in areas that are
beneficial for the United States. It also proposes predicating U.S.
policy toward Russia on the level of its democratic development.
(On this point, however, most Republican authors expressed
disagreement, arguing that only anti-American moves should be
countered.)

In this context, the report offers a curious list of instruments
to pressure Russia.

First, downgrading the level of cooperation
within the Russia-NATO Council. Now, we thought that our
cooperation with NATO helped the organization by providing it
desperately needed legitimization.

Second, restoration of the G7 within the G8 –
preliminary consultations without Russia, which somewhat downgrades
her status. Well, psychologically, this is not a very nice
prospect, but Russia today is little reminiscent of the Soviet
Union in the late-Gorbachev era or of Boris Yeltsin’s Russia.
Moscow is more confident and no longer places much significance on
outward signs of respect or disrespect. Furthermore, the G8 remains
somewhat weak and not as yet in a position to fill the emerging
vacuum in international relations. The group’s enlargement to
include India, China and possibly Brazil is high on the agenda, so
the threat of reviving the G7 within the G8 does not look very
credible. Meanwhile, the G7 within the G10, which is bound to come
about sooner or later, would look very strange indeed.

So what conclusions should we make from the analysis of these
two reports?

First, we have reached a limit in conservative
evolution. If we cross this line, we will give the “knights and
pages” of the Cold War in the West an excuse for worsening
relations with Russia. These people feel lost; they simply cannot
live without an enemy nor are they able to acknowledge past
mistakes. However, they will only be playing into the hands of our
own “knights and pages” who, driven by their parochial mentality
and old stereotypes, would like to fight against America, not fight
for Russia, thereby pushing the country into ruinous
isolationism.

We cannot allow the creation of an “unholy alliance” of the most
backward elements within our policy-making class. They and their
predecessors have already caused us colossal damage by playing into
each other’s hands during the real Cold War.

Second, Russia should not be too cynical toward
the democratic rhetoric of the United States or Europe, as we
sometimes are toward such rhetoric in our own country. Many people,
including political leaders, believe in what they say, and if we
want to be together with the developed and relatively free world,
we should start playing according to the common rules of the game
not only in word but in deed.

Third, we should not be afraid of criticism. We
should not become complacent. Criticism should be heeded; the views
of “knights and pages” should be taken into account. But we are now
acquiring a sense of our motherland and statehood, and we should go
our own way, modernizing, strengthening and democratizing the
country for our own benefit and therefore for the benefit of the
entire civilized world.

Finally, we are being pressured, both at home
and abroad, to return to the prehistoric era of the Cold War or
“peaceful coexistence.” We must not yield to this pressure either
politically or intellectually. We have gone through the tragedy of
confrontation. We should not get ourselves involved in a farce as
well.

SCHOOLBOY TRICKS OR PROVOCATIONS?

Unfortunately, however, there are certain people in the West who
seem to be itching for a fight with Russia judging by the spate of
provocative ramblings lately. Foreign Affairs, the world’s most
respected and popular American journal on foreign and defense
policy, in its latest issue (March/April 2006) published an article
by two young authors – an Assistant Professor and an Associate
Professor from good, yet minor, U.S. universities. Having read the
article, I smiled and recalled my younger years when, during the
Cold War, I spent – or rather wasted – more than a decade studying
nuclear theology and writing numerous articles, memorandums and
booklets on this issue.

Two things in this article by the American authors struck me
most: first, their utter lack of professionalism, not to mention
the lack of knowledge of the subject and even its appropriate
terminology. This is especially strange as the U.S. has for 60
years, since the end of World War II, been the leader and
trendsetter in the theory of nuclear deterrence and has produced
many outstanding specialists in this branch of science or
theology.

The second thing that struck me was the article’s main message:
the United States may soon gain a first-strike disarming capability
against Russia and China, that is, the capability to deliver a
nuclear first strike without suffering any consequences. Such a
capability would let the U.S. break out of the restraining and
civilizing bounds of the mutual assured destruction (MAD) theory,
which thus far has kept countries from using nuclear weapons, while
forcing them to exercise military and political caution in all
other spheres.

Surprisingly, this article – which, as a university professor, I
would certainly reject as a Bachelor’s graduation paper or even a
third-year student’s term paper – has been widely discussed in the
Russian press. Serious newspapers and venerable authors published
lengthy articles in a bid to disprove the claims.

The main point of the article is that the United States’ current
modernization programs, which involve “incremental improvements to
existing [weapon] systems” rather than their buildup, will enable
the U.S. to totally destroy Russia’s steadily shrinking and
decaying nuclear arsenal by a first strike. The authors place
emphasis on the quantitative and qualitative decline of Russia’s
strategic nuclear arsenal. In doing so, they ignore Russia’s recent
efforts to modernize its nuclear forces, and argue that the U.S.
missile defense system, although relatively ineffective, would
vindicate itself in a situation where the United States gains a
first-strike capability.

As regards the essence of this subject, it has long been proven
that those who will be the first to deliver massive nuclear
strikes, will be the second to die – even if because of the
ecological consequence of those strikes.

It is even more obvious that no U.S. leader would ever dare
deliver a first strike because the theoretical possibility will
always exist that several retaliatory missiles might breach missile
defenses. One must bear in mind that any retaliatory strike would
be launched on warning, and Russia’s early-warning system, which is
not very reliable today, would only increase the probability of
such a strike should a nuclear confrontation ever become a
reality.

Therefore, from the point of view of established strategic
theory, fabrications of this kind are either pure provocation, or
sheer nonsense that is occasionally recanted even in the U.S.

As regards the U.S. antimissile defense, as far as I understand
from comments by Russian and American experts and from defense
publications, even its most zealous supporters admit that this
system cannot and will not work even against just several single
missiles (that is, of course, if the latter are equipped with
systems enabling them to breach missile defenses). Furthermore,
after having spent massive funds on its missile defense and related
technologies, which must have provided a boost to U.S.
technological development, the United States is actually freezing
the system’s construction. Thus, it remains doubtful that we will
ever witness anything close to the realization of the fairy-tales
that we were treated to, first by Ronald Reagan and then by other
Republicans, before the incumbent Administration came to power and
during its first days in office.

Finally, any expert, even with a slightest bit of knowledge,
knows that a retaliatory strike – or any strike for that matter
against a “potential enemy” – can be delivered without necessarily
having to launch the missiles from one’s own territory. This is why
the United States, Russia and other countries are so concerned
about the threat of so-called nuclear terrorism. If nuclear
warheads start spreading throughout the world, irreparable damage
can be inflicted on any country without a formal declaration of
war. This is just one of a dozen ways to prevent a strike against
one’s territory.

As I mentioned earlier, this article made me recall my younger
years. In those days, I wrote policy papers, books and theses and
was one of the few people – and, quite possibly, the only Russian –
to have access to particular documents of the U.S. National
Archives. From this source, I read, for weeks on end, declassified
Cold War documents of the National Security Council on strategic
planning. I still keep quotes from these sources, so it gave me
much pleasure to shake off the dust from these old files and draw
my “good old weapon.” These documents all make one absolutely
unequivocal conclusion: nuclear war became unacceptable to the
United States as far back as the early 1950s, actually since the
year 1950 when American strategists concluded that Russian bombers
were capable of delivering at least one nuclear bomb to U.S.
territory. The rhetoric of threats continued, but the real strategy
was soon reoriented toward the prevention of war.

Many renowned official U.S. strategists wrote about this
situation, among them Paul Nitze, one of the authors of the nuclear
deterrence strategy. In 1954, during discussions on the National
Security Direction NSC 5410, President Dwight Eisenhower expressed
skepticism as to whether any nation would survive – in any
recognizable way – after a nuclear war. He said that every single
nation, including the United States, which entered into such a war
as a free nation, would emerge from it as a dictatorship. This
would be the price of survival. This statement by the U.S.
president deserves special attention.

Eisenhower meant that the explosion of even one (low-yield by
modern standards) nuclear bomb on U.S. territory would shatter the
American way of life, as well as its social system, that its
leaders loved so much and fought so hard to preserve. National
Security Direction NSC 5440 of December 13, 1954, said that U.S.
military action against the Soviet Union to reduce the latter’s
might should not be a priority either for the U.S. or its allies.
Being familiar with this and many other documents, I can say with
almost absolute confidence that the United States’ political
leadership, fearing a retaliatory strike against the U.S., has
never planned to use nuclear weapons – even in the event that the
Soviet Union attacked its allies in Europe. (One must not be misled
by the rhetoric and military plans that the U.S. presented to its
allies, who were also increasingly prone to discount America’s
promises.)

Presidents John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and I believe all other
subsequent presidents, supported Eisenhower’s position. The plan
known as ‘extended containment strategy,’ i.e. U.S. readiness to
use nuclear weapons in response to a hypothetical threat of Soviet
attack against Western Europe, was a bluff. Nevertheless, like the
Soviet bluff, it worked. Fearing a U.S. first strike in Europe,
Moscow was building armies that were capable of immediately moving
warfare to NATO territory. As a result, Russia had more battle
tanks than the rest of the world combined. Today, looking back at
those policies, it is clear that both sides believed in that
phantasmagoric idiocy and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on
bluff.

It surprised me that a reputable American magazine published an
article on a problem that had long been overcome and shelved by the
political leaderships of the two countries, and blatant attempts
are once again being made to set our two countries against each
other and make them “potential enemies.” Indeed, as long as there
exist nuclear weapons, there will be deterrence, but this fact has
been pushed into the periphery of Russian-U.S. relations.

It is possible, perhaps, that the authors, professors of two
American universities, do not know that the U.S. and the Soviet
Union, and later the U.S. and Russia, made public declarations not
to aim their nuclear weapons against each other. Furthermore, both
countries have made unprecedented efforts in cooperation in the
nuclear field and have become partners. Yet it is difficult to
imagine that the authors can be that ignorant.

What caused the publication of such an article then? Is it
explainable by the ordinary enthusiasm of provincial teachers or,
perhaps, lack of material for publication? The latter explanation
is doubtful. There must be many respectable analysts and
policymakers eager to contribute their articles to Foreign
Affairs.

Another possibility is that someone is hoping to provoke Russia
into a harsh political reaction and to aggravate the already
fragile relations between the two countries. Several groups inside
the American political establishment must fuel the tensions. By way
of example, I can refer to the abovementioned report by the Council
on Foreign Relations, which is definitely an attempt to revive
tensions. There is yet another possibility that such commentary is
meant to provoke anti-American, anti-Western and isolationist
sentiments throughout Russia, thereby strengthening the positions
of groups that already entertain such attitudes in this country. If
this is the case, then this move aims to weaken Russia, tie its
hands and stop its foreign-policy progress, which is becoming ever
more influential on the international stage.

There is another possible explanation. One of the main
objectives of the arms race was to bleed the enemy economically.
The United States succeeded in these efforts to a much greater
extent than the Soviet Union, although it must be said that the
latter occasionally launched fake projects, thereby causing the
Americans to spend great sums of resources in response to the
perceived threat and much more than the systems really cost. One of
the main motives for the Star Wars initiative, as well as the idea
of a U.S. national missile defense, was the hope that Russia would
take the bait and launch a counter-system of its own. Thus, the
Star Wars theory was meant to undermine an already ailing Soviet
economy. Eventually, that did happen, although on a much smaller
scale than the Americans had expected.

Still another possibility is that a certain group of individuals
in the U.S. is provoking Russia into spending its petrodollars and
funds from the Stabilization Fund – not on the development of
cutting-edge technologies, education, the creation of a
multi-vector energy system, and finally, the country’s
modernization – but on a senseless arms race.

Finally, the article may be intended to instill a sense of fear
in China and prevent the natural Russian-Chinese rapprochement by
implying that Russia is a weak ally. Meanwhile, at the present time
neither Beijing nor Moscow is planning to establish any sort of
mutual military-political alliance.
I do not insist on any of the above explanations, but if the latter
three explanations are correct, it has been clumsy work.

With that said, it goes without saying that in today’s
increasingly unpredictable and dangerous world Russia does need to
modernize its nuclear potential. But we must do this in an
economical and sensible fashion, in accordance with our
requirements and capabilities, without reacting to bluff, thereby
allowing ourselves to get involved in a new arms race.