A Philosopher's Blog

Is Russia a Threat to the United States?

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 27, 2008

A common view is that Russia ceased to be a viable threat to the United States when the Soviet Union fell apart. While the fall of the Soviet Union did diminish Russia’s capabilities, it did not eliminate them. Russia still possesses a significant nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal. No doubt many of the Russian weapon systems are still targeted at the United States (although Russia recently threatened to target the Ukraine) and this obviously still presents a threat to the United States.

It might be argued that while Russia is still well armed, her leaders have no intentions that would threaten the United States. This seems to be unlikely. Russia has been showing clear signs that it has not lost the desire to be a world power and a major player and has done so in ways that put it at odds with the United States. If Russia is going to ascend once more, it almost certainly be at the expense of the United States. This, naturally enough, positions Russia as a potential threat.

Are the Russians likely to attack America? This seems unlikely, given the behavior of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. What I think we can expect to see is a gradual return to some of the hidden conflict of the Cold War as Russia makes deals with countries hostile to America, steps up its espionage efforts and makes trouble for American allies.

One lesson I recall from my days in political science is that Russia has always historically sought to create a buffer zone between itself and potential enemies-hence the formation of the Soviet Union.   Given that Russia has been a favorite target for invaders (Napoleon and Hitler being the most recent) their view is actually quite understandable. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost its buffer. Further, the countries around it have been acting in ways that the Russians seem to dislike (hence the recent blustering about targeting Ukraine with nuclear weapons). If Russia follows the historical pattern, then trouble awaits on the horizon.

As we get mired down further into the war on terror, we certainly should not forget about the Russians.