The ongoing problems with the F-35 and other military programs, stemming from virtually unlimited budgets, underline the inefficiency of the American military-industrial complex (MIC). In contrast, Moscow develops armaments capable of counteracting the latest technological advances of the US at minimal cost.
One of a state’s most insidious mechanisms is the inefficiency of the military-industrial sector. When looking at the world’s first superpower, this becomes all the more pronounced. Still, the ongoing problems highlighted by the F-35 program and failed missile interceptions by ABM systems are a good demonstration of how inefficiency in the US military sector has risen to worrying levels.
The main cause of these issues is related to the huge military-industrial complex that employs hundreds of thousands Americans directly or indirectly. The unhealthy composition of this power conglomerate often employs a revolving door involving politicians and board members from large arms-producing companies. This situation raises questions about corruption as well as a number of obvious conflicts of interest.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Congress is increasingly willing to grant what almost amount to blank checks to finance military budgets, numbering in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The second factor that impacts negatively on the efficiency of the MIC is the propaganda to which the entire American system is subjected. Looking at the example of think-tanks, they are all practically funded, directly or indirectly, by the military-related industries or foreign governments (especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel). The role of think-tanks is to influence policymakers, creating a common view between components of the (deep) state.
A problem arises when almost all experts and politicians participating in these Washington based think tanks come from federal agencies or industries tied to the military through contracts worth billions of dollars. Hardly offering any dissent from official or mainstream opinions on issue ranging from Russia to the F-35, politicians, experts and journalists all agree that Russia constitutes the main danger and that the F-35 program does not have any critical issues and is actually a superior weapon, two lies in full swing. Think-tanks and their guests promote an erroneous narrative that seeds, nourishes and sustains the problems and inefficiencies that beset military systems and Washington’s strategic vision. They offer no criticism, no change of policy, only echo chambers of lies and propaganda.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time while leaving Naval Station Newport, Virginia (USA), on 8 April 2017. (Source: U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons)
In addition to the think-tanks and the revolving doors involving board members of MIC companies and Congress and Senate members, a major problem concerns the timing of projects and the contemporary technological advancements of geopolitical opponents. The cost of projects such as the F-35, the ABM system, and the new supercarrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, have reached astronomical figures, following decades of development. The immediate consequences are the obsolescence of these systems once they come into service, especially when compared with weapon systems developed, or being developed, by countries such as China and especially Russia.
Despite the fact that US spending is unmatched in the world, amounting to about half of that of all countries combined, the weapons systems of competitors often cost less and are more efficient.
The survival of the MIC is inextricably tied to the US dollar and its role in the world as a reserve currency. With almost $700 billion a year worth of military spending, it is easy to reach a nationwide debt of over $21 trillion. The only way to sustain this kind of debt is due to the credibility of the dollar itself.
The reason why US treasury bills are considered safe and a great way for a foreign investor to diversify in long-term assets, despite $21 trillion of debt, is because of US credibility and the dollar’s status as reserve currency. The dollar, being the main global reserve currency, continues to be purchased by foreign countries to pay for commodities as well as for trade between each other. Just as the MIC warns breathlessly of all the dangers and threats through propaganda, resulting in enormous investments in unnecessary and obsolete weapon systems, the dollar is also printed by the Fed without any fear of devaluation or inflation risk, providing Washington with virtually unlimited funds for defense budgets and the ability to carry out massive wars. If you combine the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and add to it the cost of the F-35, it amounts to more than $7 trillion. It is an almost incomprehensible figure that is at the same emblematic of how the global economic system is at the service of American warfare imperialism.
In response to this dysfunctional system, we find a diametrically opposite situation in Russia. With a budget that is about one-tenth that of the US, but with the need to keep pace with the world’s most powerful war machine (at least in terms of quantity; we can discuss quality at another time), Moscow has had to optimize costs to get the greatest possible benefits from its weapon systems. This has led to a much more logical management of the Russian military apparatus.
By carefully observing the most important American technological advances (fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35, new ICBMs and aircraft carriers), it is easy to discern two asymmetric strategies by Moscow, one defensive and other offensive. With the defensive one, for each American action there is a corresponding Russian response. The F-35 and fifth-generation aircraft become easy targets thanks to complex systems such as the S-400, the future S-500, and cutting-edge radar technology. The Gerald Ford supercarrier becomes a simple target to hit if attacked by a Russian supersonic Zircon missile (ready to be put into production in 2018). The S-500s will also be able to intercept any kind of ICBM directed at Russian territory, thus succeeding in sealing Russian skies, a goal the United States is light years away from achieving.
Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat Nuclear Missile (Source: nationalinterest.org)
In terms of offensive strategy, Moscow’s capabilities are even more impressive. Emphasis must be placed on the most effective system possible, the SS-28, better known as the Sarmat, a nuclear missile capable of modifying its own trajectory in descent, accelerating or decelerating, thus becoming impossible to intercept for American ABM systems. It is thought that the overall power of a single Sarmat missile (armed with up to 24 MIRVs) is likely to reduce to ashes an area as large as Texas or France. It is the ultimate deterrent weapon.
Other programs related to the development of fifth-generation aircraft or aircraft bombers (PAK-FA and PAK-DA) have slowed down to facilitate the upgrading of aircraft such as the Su-34 and Tu-160, with the Su-35 already within the category of 4++ generation. Such choices can only be made through an military-industrial system that favors the strategies of the nation and not that enrichment of individuals, corrupt shareholders or politicians.
Finally, an operating mix capable of providing defense or attack performance certainly involves cyberspace and, more generally, electronic warfare (EW). Of these systems we know little to nothing; they are secrets jealousy guarded by the Russian defense ministry. But from what many experts write, Moscow could be far ahead of their American colleagues in this field.
It is no exaggeration to say that the technological gap between Russia and the United States is being overcome by the need for Moscow to efficiently optimize its key weapons systems. The main problem for the United States concerns its maintenance of the status of military superpower. The continued issuance of dollar-denominated bonds, the use of the dollar as the main reserve currency, provokes a dangerous sequence that allows the US to print unlimited amounts of money, therefore being able to invest incredible amounts of money in old and vulnerable weapons systems.
The blatant squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars over the course of two decades, without anyone ever being held to account for it, has produced enormous damage to the reliability and effectiveness of most of the advanced American military systems and those still in the process of being developed. The military-industrial complex continues to spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money without fulfilling the need for concrete or tangible results. Dozens of failed projects costing tens of billions of dollars have ended up allowing competitors to close the gap enjoyed by US military superiority.
A new era is opening up, one where the United States will no longer possess military and technical superiority over its geopolitical opponents in all domains. This will certainly bare consequences for Washington’s present and future strategy of power projection, possibly deterring the US from further engaging in failed policies, leaving countries completely destroyed and millions of lives lost.
Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies.
This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.
Featured image is from the author.