Putin trumps Trump

IN December, 2002, President George W. Bush proclaimed the US would unilaterally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that had curtailed the development of nuclear missiles and anti-missile systems to defeat them.

The arrogant, dim-witted Bush believed that US space technology was advancing so rapidly that it would neutralise Russia's ICBM missiles.

Bush was just a puppet. The real power was Vice-President Dick Cheney, the leading neocon who sneered at Russia, dismissed it as a mere "gas-station", and was determined to see the US achieve global dominance.

In Cheney's view, the ABM Treaty was holding the US back. Bankrupt Moscow would never be able to stand up to the mighty US. Moscow warned that reneging on the treaty would re-ignite a ruinous arms race. A then little known politician, Vladimir Putin, vowed that Russia would never bend its knee to the US nuclear colossus.

Last week, Putin stunned the world by revealing a new arsenal of nuclear-armed weapons.

Russia's new arms include the RS-28 heavy ICBM, called "Satan 2" by Nato. This big brute of a liquid-fuelled missile can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads over 10,000km (6,000 miles).

It can carry nuclear-armed hypersonic vehicles through low earth orbit that can attack North America from multiple directions unseen by radar.

Putin also revealed a nuclear-armed cruise missile propelled by a miniature nuclear engine that can stay aloft for long periods and fly over Latin America and the South Pole to attack North America from the south.

The US has been trying to develop such a nuclear engine since the 50's but with no success. During the corrupt Yeltsin era, the Kremlin accepted huge amounts of bribes to sell a miniaturised reactor to the Americans designed to power ocean surveillance satellites.

This reactor will also power Russia's new unmanned submarine which can carry a very large nuclear explosive – up to 25 megatons – to the North American coasts or US aircraft carrier groups.

Putin also unveiled a hypersonic glider deployed from space, and an aircraft launched Mach-10 missile called "Kinzhal" after the deadly dagger carried by Caucasian mountaineers. And, on top of this, a combat laser system that is being deployed.

Maybe Putin was exaggerating, but he usually tells the truth and rarely embellishes. As he said in his speech, "nobody wanted to listen to us", referring to Moscow's failed attempted to restore a strategic arms agreement, cut nuclear forces and lower tensions with the West.

"Now," said Putin, "you listen."

But will Washington listen? Donald Trump has announced a huge modernisation of US nuclear forces and a big increase in the military budget from US$634 billion (RM2.4 trillion) to US$716 billion (RM2.7 trillion), with an additional US$69 billion (RM269 billion) to fund "foreign wars".

The real US military budget is close to US$1 trillion (RM3.9 trillion), not including the US intelligence budget which is larger than Russia's entire annual defence budget, a meagre US$42.3 billion (RM165 billion).

Washington's war party has convinced itself that Russia can be intimidated and spent into the ground.

But Putin is too smart and deft to allow this. He has neatly trumped Trump's arms buildup and shown up Trump's empty bullying.

One hopes Washington's deep government that has been promoting a run-up to war with Russia in the Middle East, Ukraine, Baltic and Black Sea will be sufficiently sobred by Putin's show last week.

They should be. The multiple warheads on one new RS-28 missile could destroy Texas or France.

Russia's new missiles and space gliders can outflank US anti-missile radars in Alaska and Romania, rendering them as useless as France's Maginot Line.

War must never, ever be allowed to occur with Russia and China and the US.

Will we risk the life of the planet over a stupid quarrel over some one-tractor town in Ukraine or a Syrian village no one has ever heard of? Yes, if the neocons have their way.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com