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Military-Industrial Complexities: Who Wins A Modern War Between The US And Russia?

Military-Industrial Complexities: Who Wins A Modern War Between The US And Russia?

There is an undeniable rivalry, a parallel sense of petulant pride between two countries with a grudge. Some people are even asking the unspeakable: Could the United States beat Russia in a fair fight, no nukes allowed?

The answer is...maybe. Revelations about President Donald Trump’s back-channel ties to the Russian oligarchs and their front man, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have wrought a downright serious debate about toe-to-toe, pound-for-pound combat supremacy between the countries.

And some experts believe Russia has an edge in the one weaponized area that counts most in the 21st century: the cyberfield.

Even on the diplomatic front, there is trepidation. The Brookings Institution intimated that the United States should start competing with Russia for spheres of influence, something that smacks of the Cold War days that began at the end of World War II and ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

“Today we have what is, in effect, the worst of all worlds,” wrote Brookings Senior Fellow Michael E. O’Hanlon. “The countries that Putin most wants to influence are not in NATO and not covered by any formal U.S. security guarantees — yet Putin worries that they may be someday. Hence the incentive is high to make mischief now.”

The answer? Make pacts with non-NATO nations before Mother Russia takes their hand. It’s already sort of happening in Syria. History: Rinse, repeat.

And In This Corner...

So, assume that the atomic-age doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (that nuclear war only becomes avoidable when both sides can incinerate the planet) hangs in there. What happens if the United States and Russia get into a ground war in, say, the Ukraine? Or the Baltics or the Balkans or perhaps even Poland?

The serious and authoritative defense intelligence journal C4ISRNET says, in essence, that the Pentagon has an app for that. It’s called “near-peer capabilities,” a part of military doctrine that breaks down your military’s capabilities and weaknesses against your closest potential enemy’s.

“In the assessments by several top military leaders, Russia poses the greatest strategic threat to the U.S. and its allies,” the journal warns. “Russia’s capabilities in cyber, unmanned systems, special forces (sometimes referred to as ‘little green men’), proxies — all taken together as so-called hybrid warfare — have forced the U.S. to reassess how it fights and organizes.”

The United States got a look at Russia’s cocktail of combat assets when the latter easily invaded and occupied Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

Martin C. Libicki, writing in Strategic Studies Quarterly, noted that Russia has become adept at mixing the old and the new. It has folded cyber warfare neatly into its historic mastery of disinformation, propaganda, psychological warfare and sheer, blunt-force manpower, something in which the United States also has excelled, albeit without quite the cyber sophistication.

Russia was crafty about its mix of information weapons to achieve “near-successful attempts to corrupt Ukrainian election reporting.” Sound familiar?

Comparing The Contestants’ Hardware

The United States has the most modern military in the world by a longshot, but David is but a stone’s throw from Goliath. While the United States builds state-of-the-art aircraft carriers, some see the big boats as floating targets in a stealthier world of cheap drones with GPS.

“We did this Russian New Generation Warfare study. That’s what essentially spotlighted for us that there were old technologies being used in new ways and new technologies being used in new ways, and the combination of those are creating gaps that we do not have solutions for,” Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, acting director Army Capabilities Integration Center at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, told reporters during AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, in March, according to C4ISRNET.

So, does that mean the United States is in trouble if a shooting war breaks out? Well, military leaders are famous for overestimating an enemy when it comes to defense allocations. And they have the ear of Trump, who surrounds himself with generals even though he took deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of European Command, told the House Armed Services Committee during a March 28 hearing regarding Russia’s capabilities, that the Kremlin is operating just below what the United States would consider the brink of conflict, C4ISRNET noted.

That includes dissemination of disinformation and, of course, lots of hacking.

United States Needs To Shift Strategy, Some Say

A report released at the end of 2016 by the firm CrowdStrike described malware distributed by Russian military intelligence into Ukrainian online military forums. It found its way onto Android phones. The bug let the Russians spy on Ukrainian soldiers and detect their locations, a technique that eludes the United States.

That is the sort of thing that ballooning defense expenditures don’t really cover: the clever way an enemy recalibrates old tech to penetrate the new.

But some people measure the rumble in terms of pure hardware and cannon fodder, er, people. Check out the Infographics Show’s delightfully frightening breakdown of who would win if Russia and the United States went to war. It’s closer than one would think.

As Jim Morrison of The Doors once sang, “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.”

Related Links:

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Image Credit: By DonkeyHotey [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted-In: Bo Dyess Brookings Institution C4ISRNETNews Politics Global Tech General Best of Benzinga


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