What was it that Winston Churchill said about Russia? “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
If that’s the case, Russia has been downright transparent — or at least boastful — when it comes to various weapons developments in recent months.
Last month, there was the Kremlin’s swagger regarding the new RS-18 Sarmat a.k.a. Son of Satan because of its links to the long-deployed SS-18 Satan. It is an ICBM so powerful it will be capable of hefting 12-15 MIRVs each with a 750 kiloton yield. (That’s more than 20 times the yield of the Hiroshima bomb.)
Now, there is news that the Russians will shield their SA-21 Growler in containers that will block electromagnetic signatures created by operating electronic equipment, presumably to escape detection that would compromise their positions. Propaganda publications like Sputnik claim it will make the missiles invisible. I give what I hope is a more balanced assessment here.
Sometimes its easy to dismiss the Russians and what seem to be their outlandish claims. After all, isn’t Russian leadership even claiming that European football hooliganism by Russian fans was provoked?
It’s worth noting that in defense matters all the Russians are telling us is how they are living up to the military goals set by the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin has made it clear repeatedly that Russia will not be No. 2 to any nation, including the United States. Some say he has a long way to go before accomplishing that goal. If your metric is just manpower and hardware, maybe. If its willpower and achievements, just look at how the Russian Federation has supplanted the United States in terms of influence in the Middle East.
Most people forget Churchill’s own answer to his statement about Russia:”…But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Putin has reinvigorated the cause of protecting and expanding the fortunes of Slavic peoples while embracing the belief in a unique worldwide role for Mother Russia. It’s in Russia’s national interest to brag about its military might, even if its claims are perhaps more powerful than some of its military hardware. Its boasts remind the world that Russia is still a force to be reckoned with. The political leadership of the United States, our military, and our intelligence community dismiss that fact at their peril.