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JRN Notes


Africa's Race War
Africa Exchange
Havel's Democracy

For the Week of 3 September

Notes by J.R. Nyquist

    We are sometimes won over by advertising.  At its best, advertising is amusing.  For example:



    Advertising may also employ black humor, as in the following instance:



    And on occasion there is something amiss in advertising, as with the following item:



    But outright false advertising, put forward by supposedly knowledgeable persons (who have themselves fallen for it), now and then slips past our sensors. As an example, look at the 13 August 2001 Wall Street Journal article by Carla Anne Robbins and Andrew Higgins entitled "Decrepit Radar Base Is All That Putin Has For Missile Defense: Debate Over Bush Proposals May Depend on Russia Confronting Its Weakness."

    In this article Robbins and Higgins team up to off-handedly dismiss Russia's ABM capability. No doubt lobotomized by one of the Russian General Staff's guided tours, the WSJ authors describe "the centerpiece" of Russia's missile defense at Sofrino, north of Moscow, as "crumbling ... dilapidated, and ... rusting."  

    According to Robbins and Higgins, "It isn't even certain whether the missile-defense system still works."

    I suppose it isn't certain whether the Easter Bunny is a real rabbit. But how would we know, after all, having no intimate association with Russian ABMs or Easter bunnies.

    Thankfully, a researcher and intelligence expert stepped forward last week to clear things up. William T. Lee's letter was published in the Wall Street Journal on 28 August, and I suspect that Higgins is walking a little funny on account of it (though he may still believe in the Eastern Bunny).  

    "One of the first things Americans need to learn about Russia," wrote Lee, "is that appearances often are deceiving and misleading. The rusty signs your reporters observed around the Sofrino radar building have nothing to do with the radar's operation...."

    As a good intelligence analyst, Lee knows false advertising when he sees it.  The roads to Sofrino are good, the radar is good, the ABM launchers are good -- but the signs, alas, are rusty. 

    "Comrade Colonel, take those stupid American reporters to Sofrino and show them our rusty sign, our dilapidated building, our unweeded lot!"

    "Yes, Comrade General!"

    Try and imagine the following scene: 

    An overzealous Russian officer -- on his own initiative -- has spruced up a dilapidated military base with fresh paint and repairs. His superior calls him into the office for discipline. Loud yelling is heard, as follows:

    You idiot! You moron! You nincompoop! Do you realize what you've done? Five American senators are coming through next week and they are expecting to see those unpainted awful looking buildings, you imbecile!

    Fifteen years ago the situation in Russia was quite different.  The bus for the collective farm tour would break down while passing through a certain village. The West European and American tourists would be encouraged to walk through the village. They would find a wedding taking place. The tourists would be invited into the party. They would be offered food and drink. Poor stranded, unhappy Western tourists. We Russians will show you a good time! The Russians would then reveal their comfortable lifestyle. They would testify to their happiness, destroying preconceptions about the "failure of socialism" in Soviet Russia. Of course, if you took that same collective farm tour the following year the bus would break down in the exact same village. Once again there would be a wedding -- with the same two people getting married!

    Russia was a model communist paradise in 1986. Today Russia is "crumbling ... dilapidated, and ... rusting."  Of course, the current tour does not take us to a collective farm. Today the tour shows us rows of rusting Russian submarines. We see the unjunked derelicts of four Cold War decades. 

    And what does this signify?

    For a Russian admiral an obsolete ship is worth more on display than its value in scrap.   

    The Russians fully understand the art of misdirection, and William Lee wants the Wall Street Journal to eat its newsprint. "The function of the Sofrino radar is to engage and destroy the 69 warheads the U.S. may have targeted on that installation," explained Lee.  

    Why would America waste 69 nuclear bombs to guarantee the destruction of a dilapidated target?  That is because this target houses a recently installed supercomputer "capable of performing up to one billion operations per second." This computer can be used to discriminate between incoming decoy warheads and the real thing.  In other words, it can be used to direct Russian ABMs.  

    "Among the details your reporters were not shown," wrote Lee to the Wall Street Journal, "was Russia's national missile defense (NMD), consisting of some 8,000 missiles, many of which have nuclear warheads, the huge battle-management radars that provide early warning as a by-product, and the command control system that ties it all together."

    As it turns out, the Russian high command, not being as stupid as it pretends, operates on the basis of something called Maskirovka. Russian military writings describe three types of maskirovka:

    Strategic maskirovka [is to] preserve the secrecy of preparations and campaigns, and also for the disorientation of the enemy with regard to the actual intention and actions of the armed forces.

    Operational maskirovka [is to] support the secrecy of preparations of operations.

    Tactical maskirovka [is to] conceal the preparations of battle or the presence of targets.

    In the case of Sofrino, with its rusted signs and dilapidated barracks, we see an attempt at both strategic and operational maskirovka which is clearly understood by intelligence analyst Bill Lee; for the Russian presentation at Sofrino was and is meant to disorient the Americans with regard to Moscow's actual intentions while disguising preparations to make Russia invulnerable to U.S. missiles. 

    While exposing Russia's strategy, Lee's letter is scathing in his critique of the American intelligence establishment and journalists. "The history of Russia's NMD is documented by voluminous Russian-language literature, which is read neither by the press nor by the U.S. intelligence community," noted Lee.

    The laziness and slovenliness of our press is a fact. A basic unwillingness to read and learn, even in the upper reaches of the CIA, is also a fact.  As a former CIA and DIA analyst, Lee knows the situation from firsthand. Since he is now retired and free to speak his mind, the unpleasant truth appears. 

    According to Lee, "Vladimir Putin is spending Russia's money modernizing its NMD with new missiles and radars, and has yet another new system scheduled for production around 2010."

    In response to this -- if an American response were possible -- does anyone really think that Bush will successfully deploy an ABM defense for America?  Consider what Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the Russian Parliament recently said about the political hurtles faced by U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD):  

    [The American administration] must deal with the problems this creates with their opposition in Congress, with their allies, with China as it increases its nuclear buildup; it is their problem how to avoid stimulating an arms race with India and Pakistan. 

    The Russians know that we are unlikely to build such a system. We have tried to build ABM defense before. Every previous effort has collapsed. The Russians are laughing at our strategic incompetence and lack of will power. 

    According to Bill Lee, "Thanks to the 1997 Protocols to the ABM Treaty negotiated by the Clinton administration, Mr. Putin's NMD and his modernization program are legal."

    It is an absurd situation, reveals Lee: "As a result of major technological advances -- computers, software, a non-nuclear electro-magnetic pulse warhead -- the effectiveness of Mr. Putin's modernized NMD is growing rapidly. The other way to increase its effectiveness is to reduce the U.S. arsenal from the current 7,000 to 2,500, or 1,500 weapons."

    And that is exactly what President George W. Bush has proposed. From this it would seem that the U.S. leadership does not know up from down. The blame for this belongs not only to President Bush and his advisors. It also belongs to America's intellectual class as a whole, influenced as it is by a "culture of narcissism" in which homework is left undone and slackers rule by bluff and pretense. 

    As Bill Lee stated in his letter to the Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Putin's resolute adherence to the ABM Treaty and his proposals for deep cuts in the U.S. arsenal in his meeting with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was no surprise. But it should serve as a warning to heed the evidence as to what is really going on."

    In 1971, Voyennaya Mysl, the official journal of the Soviet General Staff offered the following insight:

    Neutralization of the opponent's deduction, increasing his uncertainty with regard to our intentions, on the one hand makes it more difficult for the opponent to shape the objectives of his actions, and on the other hand disrupts the algorithm of his decision making, requiring additional effort and more time to reach a well-founded decision.

     The false advertising of the Russian General Staff has more than delayed a well-founded decision in Washington. It seems they have short-circuited the West's ability to think strategically on any level.