Posted on March
If wonder missiles exist, why tell us?
If the Russians are as adept at corrupting America’s
electoral system as they are at playing nuclear poker, our republic has little
In his annual State of the Nation Address, Russian
president Vladimir Putin boasted that his country has developed “the next
generation of missiles,” which would leave our defenses “completely
useless.” Just to prove he was serious,
he showed a cartoon. Not just any
cartoon, but an image of a new wonder missile swimming around American defenses
before striking, and presumably blowing up, Florida.
had boasted of such weapons for years, and it turns out the video – depicting
“hypersonic missiles” that travel at higher speeds and lower trajectories than
ballistic missiles – had been produced back in 2007. His address therefore contained no news, Newsweek’s credulous report that he’d
“revealed new nuclear-capable weapons” notwithstanding.
Nevertheless, Jeffrey Lewis of the
authoritatively-titled Foreign Policy
magazine has written a piece whose title gloats, “Putin’s Nuclear-Powered
Cruise Missile Is Bigger Than Trump’s.”
Its subtitle, “There’s no point in competing with Russia’s new trove of
bizarre doomsday devices,” summarizes the position that FP held throughout the Cold War.
Victory is Russia’s. Resistance
is futile. Fighting back will only make
The fact that Putin blames the alleged existence of
these new weapons on former president George W. Bush for withdrawing from the
ABM Treaty must have been too much for Lewis, a professor in “nonproliferation
studies,” to resist. Ditto that for his
publication, FP, which for 30 years
had been owned by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, before being
purchased by the somewhat less loopy Washington
Post in 2008. Even so, one would
hope that foreign policy analysts would be willing to be a little more … oh …
For example, the ABM Treaty severely curtailed the
development of defensive missile
systems, in an attempt to deter an attack by either side through the theory of
mutually assured destruction. It did not
prohibit a nation from producing superior offensive
weapons, which have the potential to tip the balance of power all the same.
To wit, Putin now claims that our destruction is not
so mutually assured, but that Russia now has a decisive upperhand. If that’s true, then why does he continue to
rail against the events he says created that circumstance? If his wonder weapons have been in
development for over a decade, then why has he angrily opposed the deployment
of our missile defenses throughout that time?
Why did he bother bullying President Obama into withdrawing our missiles
and radar system from Poland and the Czech Republic, if they’d have done us so little
our investments in missile defense had gone for naught because of these new
offensive weapons, the former KGB chief would have no trouble keeping it a
secret. He and his neo-Soviet henchmen
would simply sit back and watch us pour billions of dollars a year into a
defense system they’ve already rendered obsolete, while they laughed their
furry Russian posteriors off. Instead,
Putin explains how our defenses supposedly enable him to destroy us, like some
geek who’s watched the Star Trek episode
“The Corbomite Maneuver” a few times too many.
It’s hard to imagine what good that does him, until
one considers that he’s been in need of a superficial demonstration of
strength. It can’t be coincidental that
this display so closely follows the killing of more than 200 Russian soldiers
in a failed attack on an American position in Syria. Putin disavowed the action, instead
portraying the Russian dead as mercenaries, fighting on behalf of an
unspecified faction. That implausible
denial was an unmistakable show of weakness from the shirtless poseur, and he
surely knows it.
Putin might as well have kept his decade-old missile
cartoon in a container marked, “In case of national humiliation, break
glass.” Just like that, the narrative
changed from one of Russian weakness and inferiority to one of Russian
dominance. The fact that this latter
narrative is heavily embellished is of secondary importance.
Our government has known of Russia’s intention to
create hypersonic missiles and other “doomsday devices” for many years
now. The belief that it has already
succeeded, and the assumption that we are neither working on the same kinds of
weapons ourselves, nor studying defenses against them, is based simply on the
fact that Putin is talking about it, and we’re not.
… Well, that, and the usual help that our enemies can
expect from experts at liberal foreign policy think tanks.
The Shinbone: The
Frontier of the Free Press