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Johnson's Russia List #2209 8 June 1998
From: "Finch, Ray MAJ  FINCHR"
Subject: Submission
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998=20

For the past two and a half years I have worked as military analyst for the Department of Defense, where I have followed developments in the militaries in the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A considerable portion of my effort was spent trying to figure out what was occurring within Russia and her military, and the reporting gleaned from Mr. Johnson's list has been invaluable in this endeavor.  As I'm now on the verge of hanging up the uniform, I thought I might share some of my impressions and a few of the unclassified fruits of this research:

Have you ever watched a glass of milk fall from the counter, and yet were unable to halt its downward crash?  Though the analogy is imperfect, Russia in 1998 bears many uncanny resemblances and shares the same sense of unpredictability and doom which was observed in Weimar Germany of the late 1920's.  Given the near inevitability of a collapsed Russian economy, watch for continued internal instability and the growth of an extreme and aggressive Russian nationalism.

It's both curious and depressing that this collapse into instability and aggressive Russian nationalism will have 10,000 witnesses and heralds. Many of the intelligence assets dedicated to studying the "evil empire" during the Cold War remain in place and most remain focused on yesterday's threats.  For instance, last month, while many analysts were studying the soldiers forming in Red Square for the Victory Day celebrations, other young Russian men were prowling the streets unobserved looking for foreigners to beat.  I suspect that the latter portray a more accurate image of the future threat.

Even more depressing is the realization that the Vodka Hall Putsch and Moya Borba (aka' Mein Kampf) will be observed and duly reported on by the intelligence community and all of the major news sources.  But like Rwanda, Bosnia, and now, Kosovo, this information will hardly prompt effective action.  Despite the advances in information technology, human nature has not changed.  More information does not necessarily equate to greater virtue, wisdom or even more resolute action.

Though perhaps difficult to prove, I suspect that many within the DoD and the Washington-beltway community have vested interests, or are at least, benignly negligent toward the future collapse of Russia.  Not only will the collapse justify the enlargement of NATO to the east, but it will also keep much of the Cold War work force gainfully employed.

Alas, NATO and the post-Cold War infrastructure will be largely ineffective in stopping the real dangers that will result from collapse in Russia.  Enlarging this alliance reminds me of the Polish cavalry in 1939 who marched out proudly to meet the German enemy: right tools, wrong threat. Even a "digitized" tank division, however, will be no match for the Chernobyl-like clouds, crime and millions of refugees which will "attack" as Russia continues to falter.

Regarding the Russian military, in spite of the continued reports describing the catastrophic conditions within their armed forces, little, if anything positive has been accomplished during the past five years.  Every six months or so, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) has announced some new reform plan or strategic concept, only to be superseded six months later by an equally unrealistic (and unfulfilled) plan.   The driving force today is not any coherent reform plan, but rather the fact that the larder is bare.  For the past five years, the Russian military has been largely subsisting on their ample Soviet wartime reserves.  With little left to barter and saddled with a cash-strapped government, the MOD has no choice but to shrink and consolidate its forces (and then call it reform).

A military will reflect the values, ideals and philosophy of the society it purports to defend.  The crime, corruption, arbitrariness, poverty, cruelty and confusion which are the hallmarks of today's Russian military are found in spades within most sectors of Russian society. Indeed, a growing number of Russians look upon the military as a savior from final collapse.  This sentiment will continue to grow among the 75% of the Russian populace who have seen their standard of living deteriorate, and likely become global should Russia continue its slide into a corrupt and vicious oligarchy.  =09

Finally, without input from those who study and care about this region, there is a danger that forums like Mr. Johnson's list will become the propriety of the "experts."  It's amazing how often these experts have
gotten it wrong.  I'm afraid that the same skepticism toward the development of policy and the political process observed in Russia has also reached epidemic proportions in the US.  The question of the next decade will not be "who lost Russia," but rather, "why did so many remain silent?" Hopefully, visionaries like Mr. Johnson will induce the info-age constituent to move from intellectual passivity to active involvement.


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