Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Dog That Did Not Bark in the Night

It does seem curious that Russia emphasizes the largely self-defanged NATO as the primary threat in their formal defense policy when growing China looms over their vast, resource-rich, and partly former Chinese-owned but ill-defended Far East. Yet don't doubt that Russia knows China.

Yes, this is an odd omission:

Although often presented as cold-minded, objective, statements of national policy, military doctrines are part of a wider public diplomatic activity tightly enmeshed with a country’s foreign policies. Furthermore, doctrines are prisoners to a great extent of those same policies. Thus, it comes as no surprise to find no recognition of any potential military threat from China in Russia’s 2014 military doctrine, just as none was to be found in its 2010 predecessor. Bent on recovering economically, militarily, and in terms of self-image and worldwide prestige, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia seems on the surface to have found in China the ideal partner to escape from Western Sanctions and any real or perceived encirclement. However, leaving aside (more on them further down) for a minute potential areas of competition or conflict such as the Arctic and Central Asia, we should perhaps remember Russians’ traditional insistence that it is “capabilities, not intentions” which count, a mantra religiously chanted every year at RUSI’s conference on missile defence. It is thus clear that the 2014 military doctrine’s silence on China cannot be taken at face value.

Despite Russian military exercises that highlight NATO as a threat and which even practice nuking Poland, I believe--as I say in those posts--the intent of those exercises is to practice fighting China.

Russia just can't say that. So focusing on NATO which can't react to Putin's bluster by invading western Russia makes far more sense than antagonizing China, which could roll across the Russian eastern border.

When you realize that Putin is really appeasing China, it all makes sense.

The Russians did not write their military policy as an objective third-party looking at capabilities and geography. It supports their diplomacy and security.

So absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of an awareness in Moscow that China is the real threat to Russian territorial integrity.