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This is the fourth in a series of guest publications and translations which The Henry Jackson Society is producing by arrangement with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. This publication was written by Vladimir Voronov, a Russian investigative journalist, and translated by Arch Tait.
For the Kremlin, the arms race never really ended. The only difference now is that Russia has absolutely no chance of winning it.
The magic words “arms race” were uttered by Vladimir Putin quite deliberately. In his message to the Federal Assembly on 4 December 2014, he said, “We have no intention of getting drawn into a costly arms race.” At the same time, he added, “You can be completely confident that we will safeguard our country’s defence capability in the new circumstances.”He concluded, “Nobody will succeed in gaining military superiority over Russia. Our army is modern and combat-ready. It is, as they say, polite but formidable. We have the strength, the willpower, and the courage to protect our freedom.”
It would be a mistake to talk about the start of a new arms race, because the last one never stopped. The beginning of the first one, in what we may call the Dreadnought Era, dates back to the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the early twentieth century battleships were the strategic resource the great powers would go to any lengths to possess. Winning that race meant victory in the battle to control the vital sea lanes. For industrialists, the “Dreadnought Saga” was truly a bonanza: a single Dreadnought brought in commissions for shipbuilders and manufacturers of artillery systems, munitions and armour steel which were by an order of magnitude greater than all a nation’s rifles and machine guns put together.