Fox News on the Russian Military

We laughed, we cried, two thumbs way down to Fox News for yesterday’s story on the Russian military.  It makes us wonder what kind of crap they say and write on topics we don’t know anything about.  Well, actually, we already know how bad that drek is too.

Now, no one who frequents this blog will accuse your present author of giving Moscow credit for much.  No, of course not.  But Fox News has succeeded in taking the absurd in Russian defense policy and making it ridiculous.  Fox’s article couldn’t garner a C in a high school journalism class.

At the risk of getting some of the stink on us, let’s examine the piece a little:

  1. Ahem, if you didn’t notice, the Russian military’s been falling apart for a long time.  And, actually, in the most objective sense, experts who’ve watched the process would say Defense Minister Serdyukov and his cronies may have arrested the process some over the last 4 years.
  2. Yes, CAST did put out a new monograph, but it’s a slender volume, and certainly neither comprehensive nor groundbreaking in any sense.  CAST is valuable, but hardly well-known.  And its leadership is probably not fully independent of the current regime.
  3. Fox’s claim that Russia only has 8-10 thousand deployable troops is a ridiculous misreading of intentionally hyperbolic statements in the CAST report.  No serious analyst believes that Russian forces aren’t more ready today than they were 5, 10, or 15 years ago.  But this is a relative comparison.  It doesn’t mean they’re sufficiently ready, in sufficient quantity, to execute the missions they’ve set for themselves.
  4. The Russians have already beat the furniture salesman stuff to death, but one supposes it’s still funny to a nonspecialist audience in the U.S., a country where actors become governors and presidents (and good ones at that).  But even the most basic journalistic accounts normally note that Serdyukov married well, gaining a father-in-law with a strong connection to Vladimir Putin.  And Serdyukov’s no dummy; he probably engineered most of the tax case against Khodorkovskiy.  Not sure Fox knows who Khodorkovskiy is though.  The bottom line is, most people accept Serdyukov as a savvy and tough bureaucrat with talent, who was specifically selected to do a job he’s well-suited for.  Doesn’t mean he hasn’t pissed off Russian military men.  That’s exactly what he was supposed to do.
  5. Fox missed the point that Serdyukov was sent in to stop the stealing, not to cut the military’s budget.  Does Fox realize the $78 billion that DoD’s going to trim over five years isn’t much less than what Russia’s military budget will be over that period?  Duh.
  6. Fox saves itself a little by referring to Felgengauer, but it can’t spell his name.
  7. Russian defense industry has problems, yes, but buying abroad is more complex than Fox’s passing mention.  Fox didn’t bother to Google Mistral either.
  8. Fox’s military expert is wrong; Russia still has a military.  But the U.S. needs to worry about whether and what kind it will have in the future.  We don’t need a “sick man of Eurasia,” and a military vacuum there wouldn’t be good for Americans.  And we also need to worry if there will be a country there, by the way.  Fox’s retired general is right, however, when he reminds that Russia is still a nuclear weapons superpower, and it is relying on nukes heavily for its security.  And its conventional weaknesses increase the risks of miscalculation.  But this has been the case for much of the past 20 years. 

But none of this is a news story.  The news story is that even skeptics have to admit the Russian military is doing a little better, and it’ll be interesting to find out how much better the next time it goes into action.  It’ll be interesting to see if it’s somewhere on the former Soviet imperial periphery, or against another internal threat in the North Caucasus.

The Russian media reactions to the Fox article are just starting, we’ll see if they get interesting.

But thanks Fox for providing something to write about this morning.

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One response to “Fox News on the Russian Military

  1. Robert Petersen

    I want to thank you for writing these comments. I am afraid that the Western perception of Russia – even among experts – is still locked into the image of the Soviet collapse in 1991. Russia is therefore always on the verge of another collapse, the economy is always in chaos, corruption and crime are always prevalent, the Russian military can not win any wars.

    Particularly the war with Georgia in 2008 was interesting in this regard. Even as Russian tanks stood in front of Georgia’s capital, I got the impression that it was just the opposite and that it was Moscow which was surrounded. Naturally the war once again exposed major weaknesses in the Russian military, but even with the old weapons the Russians went to war with, they managed to wreak considerable damage to the Georgian forces who were trained and armed by the U.S..

    The funny thing is how these same experts to panic about the threat from North Korea, the threat from Iran or even the threat from Sudan. It makes no sense.

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