US vs. Russia: Strategy, numbers, purpose, and propaganda

Washington, DC (TFC) – An article titled “U.S. vs. Russia: What a war would look like between the world’s most fearsome militaries” has been making waves. It subtly hints at nuclear war, compares the militaries, assigns motivations and blame to Russia, and ultimately declares that the US would be victorious. Why shouldn’t it? The main readership of the publication is US military members. Hence, the name: Military Times. In a very telling bit from the publication’s “About” page, the company describes who it serves:

“Since its inception in 1940, Army Times Publishing has a strong heritage and tradition of meeting the highest standards of independent journalism and has expanded with publications serving all branches of the U.S. military, the global defense community, the U.S. federal government, and several special interest, defense-oriented industry sectors.”

Having established exactly what the outlet’s purpose is, how much of the information in the article is accurate? The article is being cited by outlets from across the political spectrum. It’s time for a reality and fact check. The good news is that you can cancel the construction of your nuclear bunker. The article attempts to distort even open-source intelligence.

Within the first three paragraphs, the article begins to display its propaganda campaign in full force:

“With the launch of airstrikes in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated a proxy war with the U.S., putting those nation’s powerful militaries in support of opposing sides of the multipolar conflict. And it’s a huge gamble for Moscow, experts say. “This is really quite difficult for them. It’s logistically complex. The Russians don’t have much in the way of long-range power projection capability,” said Mark Galeotti, a Russian security expert at New York University.”

It was Russia that instigated the proxy war, according to the article. It wasn’t the US funding of “moderate rebels” in Syria. It wasn’t the US airstrikes. It wasn’t the US push to overthrow the leader of foreign country without provocation. It wasn’t the US’s complete disregard for international law and the norms of war. It was Russia. It was Russia for actively following international law and entering the country with the full blessing of the recognized government. That makes sense.

It isn’t much of a gamble for Moscow, either. Putin isn’t really known for his gambling attitude. It isn’t difficult. It isn’t logistically complex. The Russians don’t need long range power projection because they have the support of the local government. Russia’s doctrine does not require a need to project military force, beyond the mutually assured destruction doctrine related to nuclear weapons.

In the next paragraph, the outright distortion of intelligence comes into play:

“Moscow’s military campaign in Syria is relying on supply lines that require air corridors through both Iranian and Iraqi air space. The only alternatives are naval supply lines running from Crimea, requiring a passage of up to 10 days round-trip. How long that can be sustained is unclear.”

So the six Su-34 bombers that flew the Caspian Sea route? We have the flight data. Yes, the flights pass over Iraq and Iran, but they fly over Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds, so far, seem to be very pleased with Putin’s efforts. It seems unlikely the Kurds will be firing at Russian aircraft. Iran is staunchly supportive of Assad’s government. So, to imply that these routes would somehow no longer be available is ridiculous.

“That and other questions about Russian military capabilities and objectives are taking center stage as Putin shows a relentless willingness to use military force in a heavy-handed foreign policy aimed at restoring his nation’s stature as a world power. In that quest, he has raised the specter of resurgent Russian military might — from Ukraine to the Baltics, from Syria to the broader Middle East.”

Note how once again, Russia is blamed as being heavy-handed and using military force. In reality, the US is the aggressor. The US is the country attempting to destabilize a foreign power without provocation (again). The article attempts to tie the situation in Ukraine to Syria, but it should be noted that the US supported and fomented the revolution in Ukraine, much the way it attempted to do in Syria.

The article then begins to compare US and Russian military by the numbers. “By the numbers” military comparisons led to the US belief that the war in Vietnam was going to be easy. These comparisons lead war planners to reach the wrong conclusions consistently. It leads them to believe that the engagement will be won, and therefore the war won’t be costly. These numbers never take into account what happens once the conventional war ends and the occupation and insurgency begins. The article does at least acknowledge that the war will likely be asymmetrical.

While promising that the US would “clobber” the Russians, the article notes that Russia excels in “aircraft, air defenses, submarines, and electronic warfare.” All of US military success since the 1991 Gulf War has been greatly reliant on air superiority. The Russians possess decent aircraft, and advanced air defenses and electronic warfare capabilities. While it does not completely dull the US edge in the air, it isn’t a given that the US will maintain air superiority.

The article is blatantly a propaganda piece. The only thing that seems honest is the prediction that Baltic states, such as Estonia, could become the next flashpoint in the New Cold War.  Even this prediction is littered with language about Russia “menacing” the weaker countries.

"Встреча Владимира Путина с Нурсултаном Назарбаевым 1" by Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the US is in better hands than it should be. While our political leaders have deteriorated to the point of bumbling clowns over the last few election cycles, Putin remains a pragmatic and deliberate leader. The odds of full-scale war between the United States and Russia are slim to none. This is not due to any of the opportunistic corporate-owned stooges in Washington, DC. Our safety is entirely owed to a man sitting in Moscow that has been able to successfully wield our leaders the way Geppetto pulled Pinocchio’s strings. While Putin will not go down in history as a great lover of freedom and human liberty, he very well may go down in history as the man that placed wanton US aggression in check.