The Russian Menace Made Simple 190

There is currently a major propaganda blitz by arms and security industries to convince us was are in a “new cold war”, and therefore should be spending even more ludicrous sums of money on weapons of mass destruction. Here are a few simple facts.

a) Russia is not a great power. Its total GDP is about the same as Spain’s – and Spain is pretty knackered. Russia has even less economic clout as a basis for world domination than the UK.

b) Russia’s economy is not diversified. It is over-dependent on raw commodity production and export. Its distribution of wealth is even worse than ours, although the Tories are doing their best to catch up. We have a totally false popular impression of Russian wealth because a few oligarchs have most of the money – and export it straight to the West. Capital flight is a huge problem for the Russian economy.

c) Russia is no threat to the UK and never has been. Centuries of Russophobia are entirely baseless. The idea of a defensive posture against Russia is ludicrous as there is no threat. Churchill, incidentally, asked Truman to nuke Moscow. A nuclear attack would be the only realistic way Russia could attack the UK – and the only thing that could make that possible are the mad calls for cold war and more weapons currently being heard in the West. None of which is to say it would be militarily sensible to attack Russia, as history shows. But Russia’s aggressive potential is very limited indeed. It will not be long before Poland plus the Baltic states are economically stronger than Russia.

None of this is to say Russia cannot continue to bully those very weak states which neighbour it. I have no time for Putin’s aggressive nationalism. But his position is fundamentally weak and his powerbase very limited. Neither the left nor the right in the UK (and in this comments section) want to hear this. The right constantly exaggerate Russia as a threat to boost their political interests and military funding. The left want desperately to believe in Putin as a strong counter to the West, as indicated by the ludicrous analyses that the Syria conflict was all about Russia’s decrepit and worthless Black Sea Fleet.

How to handle relations with Russia is not quite as much of a conundrum as it sounds, as Putin’s vaulting ambition is severely limited by his economic constraints. He is feeling that severely now, and it is nothing to do with the token and pointless economic sanctions. Russia desperately needs economic and political form – but Putin’s hand is only strengthened by the bellicose nonsense which enables him to appeal to the powerful atavistic strand in modern Russian social culture. I remain of the view that internationally supervised, genuinely fair referenda in Eastern Ukraine should be the way forward. That should include a new and properly conducted referendum in the Crimea, including free campaigns. It should be made plain that there will be a fast track into the EU for the Ukraine at the end of that process, after the secession of any districts that wish to join Russia.

190 thoughts on “The Russian Menace Made Simple

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  • Beeston Regis

    I wonder if there are any tanks left in Russia, given the number of times they have ‘invaded’ the Ukraine.

  • Pete

    Craig, I’m sure you’re right about the non-threat of Russia- the miltary/industrial/security complex need a permanent supply of enemies and will create them as and when required.

    But regarding your preferred solution for Ukraine, is there any realistic prospect of Ukraine joining the EU? I’d have thought the last thing the richer EU countries would want would be another, very big, very poor East European country joining and needing more EU funding. Certainly this would be the nail in the coffin for the UK’s (well, England’s anyway)continued membership.

  • Kempe

    Russia isn’t short of tanks, it has around 2,000 in service and about another 14,000 of various types in reserve.

    The UK has 400.

    Europe imports a third of it’s oil and 40% of it’s gas from Russia.

  • Mary

    10 November 2014
    David Cameron denies seeking ‘Cold War’ with Russia

    ‘The UK is not seeking another Cold War with Russia, but Britain must stand up for its values, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

    Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, he accused Russia of “violating territorial integrity” by what he said were its illegal actions in Ukraine.

    If the UK took no action it would pose a danger to the rest of Europe and our own economic stability, he said.

    He ruled out military action but said economic sanctions were effective.

    Addressing an audience of over 1,000 guests at the banquet, he said: “They [Russia] are ripping up the international rulebook and disregarding the democratic will of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future.’


    He’s had a busy day. Earlier, he was doing some PR for Aldi.

    They promise 35,000 jobs! Yes 35,000 really.

    and then at the CBI

    EU referendum will not damage economy – David Cameron

  • MJ

    “Its total GDP is about the same as Spain’s”

    You’re under-estimating Russia’s economy. Not only is it the world’s biggest exporter of oil and gas, it also has a large, mostly self-sufficient, rural population whose output isn’t marketed and which isn’t therefore reflected in GDP figures. It also has the vast, largely untapped, mineral and other resources of Siberia.

  • Pete

    “Europe imports a third of it’s oil and 40% of it’s gas from Russia.”

    Kempe, that’s the whole point! If Russia made a serious WW2 style attack on Western Europe and destroyed WEstern Europe’s economy, they would have no buyers for these fuels exports on which their economy totally depends. So they’d be economically ruined.

    In the long term however they might start selling more of it to China. Moral of this- UK and rest of EU should make a huge effort to develop renewable energy, thus avoiding dependence on oil-exporting countries which are mostly hostile, unstable, or both.

  • MJ

    “I’d have thought the last thing the richer EU countries would want would be another, very big, very poor East European country joining and needing more EU funding”

    No no no, that’s exactly what the bankers want. EU funding isn’t given away for nothing y’know, it gets converted into debt. When the debt isn’t paid they help themselves to the country’s material and cultural assets. The EU thrives on funding poor countries. Look at Greece.

  • Joe

    Disagree on a few points. Russia played a major role in preventing last year’s attempt by the US to bomb Syria. That’s a good thing. Russia may be economically weak, but it has major gas reserves that the EU needs, and is using that fact to exert its influence, as it is entitled to. Putin’s Russia, so far, appear to have taken a clear stance against NATO expansion and US political interference in Ukraine, that also is a good thing. Russia is also attempting to promote an integrated Eurasia. Eurasia is the largest and most populous single landmass on the planet, and has lion’s share of the world’s resources. Eurasian integration would spell the end of the brutal reign of the anglo-American empire, which is why the Americans and Brits have been engaged in a hysterical anti-Russian propaganda campaign. So far, pretty much everything Putin has said about the nature and tactics of the US and its ‘allies’ has been on the money and a definite breath of fresh air.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    When I read your post I told myself that some of what you wrote would please your more obtuse “followers” and other parts would meet with instant denial.

    Denial has indeed been quick to appear. Example: You’re under-estimating Russia’s economy” and “I believe you understimate Russian potential and Putin’s huge popularity”.

    I’m touched by the note of wistful longing behind such denials – and feel sorry for those who would not recognise a failing economy if it assumed phsucal form and slapped them in the face with a wet towel.

    Keep up the good work – you know you’re right when the likes of MJ and Mr Goss (not to mention with the regular who has responded under the moniker [email protected] take issue with you. 🙂


    NB – the rouble has fallen by 20% against the USD/Euro in the last few weeks.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Our resident polymath “MJ” comments as follows (in respect of Greece):

    “When the debt isn’t paid they help themselves to the country’s material and cultural assets.”

    I’m intrigued and think MJ may well be onto something. To convince me even further, could MJ perhaps explain to which of Greece’s “material and cultural assets” has the EU helped itself?

    A stab at a monetary quantification of those “material and cultural asssets” would also be helpful.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Mary

    Sunday 9 November 2014

    Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Iron Curtain fell because of Mikhail Gorbachev – yet today he is despised as a traitor by Russians

    Britain’s Ambassador to Moscow in 1989 says we must not overlook the man whose reforms changed everything, and recalls the build-up to the fall–a-man-now-despised-as-a-traitor-by-russians-9849117.html

  • Je

    “A nuclear attack would be the only realistic way Russia could attack the UK ”

    That dwarfs all the other ways – that ‘only’ is bigger than all the rest put together. They could also do things like carry out assassinations and Polonium attacks.

    “internationally supervised, genuinely fair referenda “. Great. You just need to persuade Putin. At the moment Russia is behind a war in Ukraine in which thousands of people have been killed. And there is no sign of them backing down.

  • Mary

    Ref O/T above

    Goldman Secret Greece Loan Shows Two Sinners as Client Unravels

    Greek Debt Crisis: How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt
    Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules. At some point the so-called cross currency swaps will mature, and swell the country’s already bloated deficit.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    For what it is worth – I think that the world is better off as multi-polar than uni-polar.

    The US appears to be pushing ahead for global hegemony. With the likes of Russia, China and others with nuclear capabilities the US would have its way.

    Europe appears to have a really good chance for a symbiotic relationship with Russia. You sell us your oil and gas and we will sell you some food, machinery and technology. It makes no sense these sanctions. However if one looks at things through a US/NATO prism then the sanctions and unnecessary tension building works more in the interest of the US than does it work to Europe’s advantage.

    In a fair and sensible world this:-

    ” That should include a new and properly conducted referendum in the Crimea, including free campaigns.” would simply result in the Crimea saying – we are Russian. I don’t think that any fair observer could deny this.

    What if there were a referendum in Eastern Ukraine?

    “It should be made plain that there will be a fast track into the EU for the Ukraine at the end of that process, after the secession of any districts that wish to join Russia.”

    This is a problem because the US/NATO problem comes knocking on Russia’s doorstep.

    Would Obama permit Russia again placing missiles in Cuba? For the same reason the suggestion of a fast track into the EU is not practical with Ukraine being heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. The natural link is Russia/Ukraine and trade ties Russia/EU.

  • Peacewisher

    Craig… if the current fascist-inspired Ukrainian administration is allowed to join the EU, I’ll certainly vote UKIP because I wouldn’t want Britain to be any part of it. It also has to be said that much of Eastern Europe wasn’t up to EU human rights standards in 2004, and that was when the problems really started for the great European project. Expansion from 16 to 25 states should have occurred on a state-by-state basis, allowing time to thoroughly check whether each individual country was ready.

    Do Ukrainians just wish to secede to Russia? Maybe the Donbass people do, but in the West they’ve also had enough of the fascists on their doorsteps and wish to (re)join Hungary.

  • craig Post author


    Whether the world is better off multipolar or not – and I would agree with you it is – does not rule out the fact that Russia is not a great power. And no amount of non-monetised beetroot transactions as posited by MJ make it a great power too.

    Yes it has enormous economic potential, but awful governance prevents that from being realised. The capital flight rather than investment is part of it. If you simply sell off all your massive mineral wealth and stick all the money in oligarch’s bank accounts in Geneva or London, you don’t develop and economy.

    The Putinistas here are far far removed from cold reality.

  • craig Post author


    There is absolutely no significant proportion of the Ukrainian population which wishes to “rejoin Hungary” which has a totally different language.

  • Peacewisher

    You’d be surprised, Craig. It would have been unlikely just a few years ago, but having Svoboda on their borders and being drafted to fight against Donbass has apparently changed minds considerably. At the recent elections I think the vote in Zakarpatska showed an even lower turnout than Lugansk.

  • Peacewisher

    Reminder of the UNCHR, and how far we have moved away from it as a continent since the trouble started in Yugoslavia, where I think the human rights abuses started and then went off the scale. I haven’t visited Ukraine, but I did visit Yugoslavia, and couldn’t believe that a country could fall apart so quickly:

  • craig Post author


    If you wanted to escape right wing government you would hardly join Hungary. I would have hoped the Ukrainian elections would have calmed down all the nonsense about Svoboda, but evidently not.

  • MJ

    “no amount of non-monetised beetroot transactions as posited by MJ make it a great power too”

    Haha! I enjoyed that. I wasn’t however arguing that it was a great power, only that you’ve under-estimated its GDP if you’re equating it with Spain.

  • Peacewisher

    No, absolutely not, Craig. They’ve been “adopted” by Yats’s own very right party as part of the new government. As we all know (or should know), the main left wing parties (Party of Regions, Communists) weren’t even allowed to take part. The US neocons started all this nonsense, and it shouldn’t be left to the EU to do the clearing up.

  • Peacewisher

    Thank you for that, Je. Same for GDP, it seems. A lot of changes from the 2012 figures. Didn’t realise that India had overtaken Japan!

    Perhaps David Cameron should be told these figures before he unilaterally declares economic war on Russia. Question… is the Guildhall speech a desperate attempt to lever a few UKIP voters over to the tory side? Rochester, etc. is a garrison town so maybe he thinks it’ll be worth it. Never mind about further upsetting a country that should be our ally.

  • craig Post author


    PPP is a pretty selective way of looking at the statistics – particularly meaningless if you are considering ability to purchase high tech weaponry. Availability of cheap beetroot not really helpful.

  • MJ

    What that table shows is that China, India, Russia and Brazil are among the top seven. No wonder the neocons are so nervous about the BRICS and their plans for a new global financial system. That’s what Ukraine is really all about.

    By the way Craig it’s not just beetroot. It’s timber, meat, dairy products, fruit – a whole nation’s GDP-worth of useful stuff. True, you can’t buy hi-tech weaponry with it but you can eat it and wear it and build houses with it. Russia of course builds its own hi-tech weapons, another industry you’ve over-looked.

  • Tony M

    Is the exploitation of western countries or Arab countries commodity wealth, by dumping for example oil and gas on the market at suicidal prices, itself further lowering prices not another form of waging war on Russia. All through the 1980s Scotland’s North Sea oil was rapaciously extracted, in a manner which made no sense it was squandered away, in concerted US and UK efforts to bankrupt and beggar the USSR. Rather a pyrrhic victory over the ‘soviet menace’ when you have thrown away, dumped irreplaceable assets which would have lasted much longer and provided a century or more’s perfect economic security, if differently managed, and states were not driven by US and UK elite-inspired pathological obsession with geo-political dominance over that resource-rich landmass, however much damage and self-harm they inflict on even their ‘own’ people in the pursuit of this discredited aim. This barking mad policy has never ended, is still being played, the goal as always is subjugation of the people’s of Eurasia and theft of their resources by the west’s corporations, to further enrich and empower a oligarchic few. In order to do that firstly it required our governments doing exactly the same to its own people and their fortuitous mineral inheritance. The difficulty is our resources were meagre and now largely gone, Russia’s potential their present economic circumstances aside, are hardly impacted at all. If they, supposedly in our name for our good as some would covetously think, must have all or nothing, I very much think they’ll end up with and deserve less than nothing, for which we all suffer, not they calling the shots in the least, as this permanent war-footing, this economic warfare costs plenty. There is a term in economics for the loss, the destruction, the tie-ing up of capital for no productive or profitable return: opportunity cost, what and how all the countries and peoples of the world could have gained if it were not for this ceaseless futile pissing contest, this senseless rivalry and studied non-co-operation.

    As for ‘Putinistas’, you seem to have lost the plot Craig, you could not be further from the truth I believe, you seem to relish the impoverishment of the greatest number of the Russian and former soviet people as well as almost all others, including your own people, as their just desserts, a high price but well worth paying; this inconsistency, this strand of presumptuous western supremacy, as if we have no super-rich oligarchs too and entrenched political opportunists on the make and on the take, reveal something unsettling, perhaps it’s your feet of clay sticking out. A new cold war? The old one never ended, it’s a continuation of the great game that existed before that, the west’s motivations and intentions are no more honourable than Putin’s, but to our leaders, the Russian people are even more of an inconvenience, they’re considered expendable, a nuisance as if pushed are willing and demnstrably able to defend their territory and the resources thereon in therein and to Russia’s leadership they are usefully sustained if only for that cannon-fodder role. You seem guilty of personifying the whole Russian people and nation into the bogeyman egotist Putin, as the Britnat unionists caricatured Alex Salmond as totemic of the Scottish Independence movement. Good and bad, I’m thought you might agree are not distributed amongst people depending on their nationality, but your knee-jerk and indoctrinated Russophobia, shared with the western establishment elite, of which you still remain a part, however semi-detached and out in the cold, suggests now and again you hanker, quite understandably, nostalgically, to be back in those exalted circles, playing god.

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