BACK TO NUCLEAR BASICS: DOES UNlateral RESTRAINT WORK?” by Pete Hoekstra

Editor’s Note: From our great friend and regular SUA contributor former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Pete represented Michigan for 18 years in Congress as chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and as a leading bipartisan voice on policy and oversight of national security, education, labor, and economic issues.

 

 

 

“BACK TO NUCLEAR BASICS: DOES UNlateral RESTRAINT WORK?”

By Pete Hoekstra

Nuclear weapons are in the news multiple times each day, with unsettling events in North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia escalating the concern that the United States is entering an era of growing instability and uncertainty.

While there are serious and gathering nuclear threats facing the United States and our allies, there is no need to panic, nor believe that doomsday is just around the corner. But we do need to get on with the task of modernizing our nuclear deterrent, enhancing our ballistic missile defenses and working effectively to stop the proliferation of such weapons.

This essay addresses the question of how best to maintain nuclear deterrence. Critics of the current US modernization plan urge the US to exercise restraint by curtailing the modernization of significant portions of our nuclear deterrent under the assumption that if the United States unilaterally stops “arms racing”, our adversaries such as Russia and China will as well.

My conclusion is three fold: (1) recent history shows restraint does not work; (2) nuclear modernization is absolutely required; and (3) a renewed “peace through strength” policy will both reduce nuclear dangers and restore some stability in international affairs.

First, let’s review the facts of the nuclear landscape.

The United States has deployed in its strategic nuclear forces under 1600 nuclear warheads, at least 1000 warheads less than the Russians. [The Russians have to reduce these numbers to the New Start level by February 2018].

Second, the United States has a few hundred tactical or theater nuclear weapons, less than the 2000-5000 such weapons held by Russia.

Third, the Russians are on a pace to modernize at least 90% of their nuclear deterrent force by the turn of the decade, no later than 2021 it appears. By contrast, the US modernization begins with the deployment of a new bomber, submarine and land based missiles no earlier than from mid-2027 through 2031, so US modernization restraint is hardly called for.

Fourth, and just to be clear, current forces are capable but in need of significant investment. Most of the US forces were fielded 30 or more years ago and are at the end of their service lives. They are thus actually way past due for modernization, and that is the only way they can remain credible and capable as the foundation of our deterrent. Four senior USAF and Navy nuclear commanders underscored this point in HASC testimony on March 8, 2017.

In that context, how should we treat calls for major US restraint in rebuilding our nuclear arms? Perhaps it would be instructive to review the impact of US nuclear unilateral restraint just before and following the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now to be clear, the US and the Soviet Union and then Russia jointly agreed to the INF (1987), START I (July 1991) and START II (January 1993) nuclear weapons treaties. But unlike in the post 1990 period, we significantly invested in a simultaneous modernization of our entire nuclear deterrent during the Reagan administration while also seeking arms control. Peace through strength worked as we secured major reductions in Soviet-era nuclear weapons and the end of the Soviet Union.

It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union did our nuclear investments markedly decline. The US went beyond the joint treaties with Moscow and took a large number of additional unilateral actions in both the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations, many of them codified in the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This restraint included a US nuclear policy which:

“Created no new mission or scenario for nuclear-weapon use and articulated the premise that nuclear weapons play a smaller role in U.S. security today than at any other time in the nuclear age.

“Codified that the United States no longer targets any country with strategic nuclear forces on a day-to-day basis.

“Specified that U.S. strategic bombers were taken off alert. Further, more ballistic missile submarines now patrol on “modified alert” out of the range of their targets than on an “alert” status. The U.S. airborne command and control posts now operate at a reduced tempo.

“Called for continued reduction of defense expenditures for strategic nuclear forces and in the number of associated personnel. The levels for FY 97 were roughly one-third those of FY 88.

“Terminated U.S. ground-force nuclear capability and training for nuclear missions. By FY 97, the number of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe was down from a peak of 7,000 to ‘hundreds.’

“Mandated that all nonstrategic nuclear weapons, including nuclear cruise missiles, depth charges, and torpedoes, be removed from surface ships, multipurpose submarines, and land-based naval aircraft bases. The capability to deploy such weapons on U.S. surface ships has now been eliminated.

“Continued the reduction of the overall U.S. nuclear stockpile–a 59 percent reduction from FY 88 to FY 97. Ninety percent of the nonstrategic nuclear stockpile was eliminated.

The NPR also assumed such unilateral reductions were safe to undertake because the Russians would not brandish for diplomatic or military purposes its nuclear weapons. The study further assumed the Russian leadership was intent on fully joining the “international community of market economies”, and that the Russian nuclear arsenal would not pose a serious threat to the United States. Overall, the report generally foresaw a relatively benign future nuclear environment. (1)

What happened?

In fact, after the American unilateral exercise of nuclear restraint, these serious and adverse nuclear developments followed:

  • The Russians in 2000 turned down START II arguing that Moscow would not agree to the treaty’s ban on multiple warhead land based missiles. Russia insisted that all US work on missile defenses had to be contained within the laboratory with strict adherence to the ABM Treaty. Those conditions were not acceptable to the Clinton administration nor the Congress and thus the treaty never went into effect.
  • North Korea worked to produce nuclear weapons fuel in violation of the 1995 Agreed Framework that purported to end Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Eventually, in 2006 North Korea tested an actual nuclear weapon while advancing its ballistic missile delivery systems.
  • Iran went forward with its nuclear work, both increasing its capacity to make enriched nuclear fuel and seeking help to design warheads.
  • The Khan network out of Pakistan, what I have termed the “Nukes ‘R Us” outfit, expanded its work of distributing nuclear weapons technology and scientific nuclear know-how to North Korea, Libya, and Iran.
  • Pakistan and India, as well, exploded nuclear devices and made plans to sharply increase their inventory of nuclear weapons.
  • China, too, expanded its nuclear capability, and began the construction of what appears to have been $50 billion (my estimate) in missile tunnels and train tracks that would come to house mobile land based missiles, as part of a modernization of all elements of their nuclear deterrent.

In addition, Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea went unchecked, and China unilaterally seized atolls and reefs in the South China Sea on which it is building military bases.

In just the past decade, Russia and China together have rhetorically brandished nuclear weapons three dozen times, threatening to use such weapons in the conduct of their foreign policy, and rhetorically threatening to push the US and its allies to give up important international security objectives or risk nuclear attack.

Recently, both Norway and Denmark, for example, were added to the Russian nuclear target list said the Kremlin, for the “provocative” one for protecting its territorial sea from the incursion of Russian submarines and the other for planning to put a missile defense capability on its Navy Aegis cruisers.

The gathering nuclear threats today cannot be tied to any notion that the US has not evidenced sufficient restraint, including unilateral gestures of nuclear arms control.

China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, seek to replace a rules based civilized order with one of blackmail, coercion, terror and aggression. Acting with restraint in the fact of such aggression is not a policy but it is a faith based hope. Nuclear dangers arose in part because we exercised excessive restraint, what one senior Air Force official described as a “nuclear procurement holiday”created a security vacuum that over a period of the past two decades the bad “hombres” filled.

President Trump has argued that the United States must maintain its nuclear deterrent forces at “the top of the heap” when compared to our adversaries. He has also repeatedly noted that our forces are in need of repair and modernization as Russia and China fully modernize their nuclear forces.

Here the disarmament advocates appear to trying to have it both ways—the claim nothing is wrong with our deterrent as it still is better than the Russians but simultaneously they argue we need to kill large segments of that same force so the Russians don’t engage in an arms race!

For example, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former defense logistics staffer Lawrence Korb both advocate a massive unilateral 97% reduction in America’s nuclear assets plus a one-third reduction in our warheads, arguing that maintaining nuclear parity with the Russians is unnecessary.

If we don’t try to retreat our way to nuclear safety, isn’t the alternative unaffordable? Can we really increase the defense budget adequately to fully modernize the nuclear deterrent?

Again, let us look at the facts. The United States now spends in the neighborhood of 5% of the defense budget on nuclear modernization. At the peak of this effort next decade, we will be spending 6% but only one half of one percent of the Federal budget. That means for every $100 Uncle Sam spends, the nuclear deterrent gets 50 cents.

Looked at another way, this is the equivalent of a household with a $52,000 income—the national per capita GDP average—spending on auto, fire, life, and homeowners insurance $22 a month.

Ok, it may be cheap the critics might admit, but what does it matter if we underfund our defense? What if we simply gamble and spent less?

Well, let’s look at some history.

Prior to World War II and the Korean War, the US defense budgets were dramatically curtailed or sustained at levels incompatible with our security.

We know that the US and its allies were woefully unprepared for both conflicts.

Defense spending in the US was $700 million in 1933; it remained at that level for every year of that decade up to Pearl Harbor.

After WWII, from 1945-50, US defense budgets declined markedly, from near $90 billion at the war’s end to under $10 billion. Just a year prior to the Korean War, the US defense secretary was urging Congress to cut the defense budget down to no more than $7 billion a year.

On December 7th, 1941, and June 25, 1950, respectively, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. These wars killed a combined 81 million people, out of a world population of roughly 2.4 billion, or three percent of all the people alive at the time.

These wars were fought almost entirely without the use of nuclear weapons, with the exception of the bombing of two Japanese cities which historians agree saved the lives of millions of people by ending the war in the Pacific.

Spending $26 billion annually now on nuclear deterrence, increasing to $35 billion by the middle of next decade, is a prudent insurance policy that will annually cost $9 billion more next decade than today.

These are the projected nuclear investments now planned in budgets approved by Congress.

By contrast, Americans spent $11 billion in 2016 just going to the movies.

Today’s investment is with treasure and yes the amount is a lot of money.

But if we get this wrong, tomorrow will be paid in blood.

Just to save $9 billion a year or $28 for every American living today, think of what we are willing to risk. As the advertisement says, you can pay me today, or you can pay me tomorrow.

World War II and the Korean War were fought with conventional weapons. And upwards of 84 million people perished.

The next war could be fought with nuclear ones. And we are willing to take that risk just to save each American $28 a year?

 

 

 

 

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Paul Vallely, MG USA (ret) RBTH Interview: Trump won’t take a confrontational approach with Russia.

U.S. General: Trump won’t take confrontational approach with Russia

March 3, 2017 NIKOLAI SHEVCHENKO, RBTH

What would Trump’s reaction to Crimea have been, and what will the U.S. President discuss with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at their first, as yet unscheduled, meeting? In an exclusive interview with RBTH, retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Vallely and Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst for the Secretary of Defense, share their views on these and other issues in U.S.-Russia relations.

Trump, Crimea and the meeting

RBTH: General, imagine that Crimea happened today. How would Trump have reacted?

Paul E. Vallely: I think he would have wanted to talk to Putin and say “Hey, what’s going on? What’s happened, there’s got to be a reason for this, would you let me know?” Obama could never do that. If you read Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, you find out how he does it.

It’s difficult to guess what he would have done, but we know what his thinking is, and it’s very different from Obama’s. Now, if Russia takes some action somewhere, he is not going to overreact. And if it’s not in the interests of the U.S., if it’s not a threat to the U.S., he is going to think very hard about getting involved.

RBTH: What do you expect from the first meeting between Trump and Putin?

Paul E. Vallely: Putin is going to meet with Trump sooner rather than later. That’s very important. A long time has passed since Mikhail Gorbachev met Ronald Reagan and we are in a very different environment now that looks almost like a new Cold War. But this happens because the media and the Democratic Party blame Russia for everything, which is just ridiculous. There is absolutely no evidence that the Russians affected the U.S. elections by hacking or by any other means.

I think Trump and Putin will discuss issues related to energy, economics. They will talk about the situation in Syria, extremism and how to deal with it. Trump is likely to bring up North Korea as a subject of the discussion too. He will see to it if to bring Crimea and Ukraine as part of the discussion, but he will not be fixated on that. In general, I think Putin respects Trump. I know Trump respects Putin. I would say rather sooner than later we will be surprised about the way things happen.


 

Misunderstanding Russia

RBHT: There are many military representatives in Trump’s inner circle. Do they see Russia as a challenge, a threat, or a potential ally?

Paul E. Vallely: We have a couple of guys who do not understand the new Russia. We still have a contingent of old CIA types who regard Russia as a main threat. I have one person in mind. But I don’t want to name him only because of the transition period. If you quote me on that, he is going to say “Why did he say this about me, I’ve been here for only a week.”

RBTH: Is it true that, among the military members of Trump’s team, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has the most influence with the President?

Paul E. Vallely: Yes, Mattis has an upper hand in pushing his agenda with the White House. Mattis certainly has more power than the other military within the Trump team to shape policy.

RBTH: Does James Mattis see Russia as a threat?

Michael Maloof: Yes, Mattis still regards Russia as a threat, but at the same time he says we can work with Moscow. But it’s important that it was Trump who has brought these people in, knowing what their positions are. And he made it very clear that he wants their opinions, but the ultimate decision remains with him.

Paul E. Vallely: And Trump is very positive about Russia. He does not have any preconceptions that Russia is a threat.

RBTH: Some saw former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation as the closure of an opportunity for Moscow. Was Flynn indeed the Kremlin’s window into the Trump administration?

Is McMaster’s appointment as national security adviser bad news for Moscow?

Paul E. Vallely: Flynn indeed was a window into the Trump administration for Russia. And this was particularly important in light of the legacy Obama had left. Obama never knew how to develop a relationship with Russia. Flynn, on the other hand, has been very proactive in engaging Russia. But even though he had to resign, Trump will still reach out to Moscow.

Trump’s line in the sand

RBTH: Trump seems to be under significant pressure on issues related to Russia. Is it true he has been pressured by the Washington political establishment and the military to change his rhetoric on Russia?

Michael Maloof: To a point. Trump has been more forthcoming about expressing the desire to work with Russia than the old Cold Warriors had. And that’s a part of the changes that are happening in the U.S. now. The country is being mentality oriented into a new direction by the new president. And this is pretty hard when you have old CIA types who are still in their positions and the media, which has been very anti-Russian.  But if Trump makes a decision to cooperate with Russia, they will stand up and salute.

Paul E. Vallely: Definitely, they will stand up and salute. An important thing is that the soldiers are very happy to have Trump as president. And this is what is really important. From that stand point we get a new spirit within the armed forces now.

RBTH: If the military has Trump’s ear, does it mean Trump is going to pursue a more assertive policy towards Russia if he fails to find common ground with Putin?

Paul E. Vallely: No, I don’t think Trump is going to take that approach. Trump and Putin will get along well, and they will make a deal. Trump is not going to take a military confrontational approach to Russia at all.

RBTH: In Syria, what does the U.S. military think about a prospect of cooperating with the Russian military?

Michael Maloof: There is already some level of cooperation. They have video conferences. There was one episode when the U.S. bombed Syrian troops. A serviceman left his post on the U.S. side, and that created the problem. That episode helped establish new procedures to be followed from then on. They are trying to make it work, but that’s the level of cooperation for now.

There is substantial internal resistance within the military against cooperating with the Russians in Syria. There is reluctance on part of the military to share the intelligence, because of the perceived notion that Russia remains the primary threat.

But the whole Syrian thing might change this mindset. From our personal meeting with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, we have an impression that Russia is willing to achieve it too. And this is one of the messages we are bringing back to the U.S.

RBTH: Obama was criticized for drawing a line in the sand on Syria and then not acting upon it. Would Trump be more decisive to act in a similar situation?

Paul E. Vallely: I don’t think Trump will draw any lines to begin with. For Trump, if there’s a threat to the U.S., then we are going to go and take it out. If, in the meantime, we have to work with the Russians to eliminate that threat, then we will. That’s the attitude. Trump is not that kind of person who wants to draw lines. He wants to identify a problem and work with everyone he can to solve it.

Paul E. Vallely is a retired U.S. Army Major General, Chairman of Stand Up America, Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund and NEMO ARMS Inc. He is senior military analyst for Fox News.

Michael Maloof  is a contributing writer for national security affairs for WND and G2Bulletin, a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense, and the author of A Nation Forsaken.

Paul Vallely and Michael Maloof both came to Moscow for a series of events organized by the Valdai Discussion Club, including a private meeting with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Nikolay Shevchenko is a foreign correspondent for Russia Beyond The Headlines and an editor at the Global Ethics Network.

Article here

 

MG Paul Vallely, U.S. Army (ret): “President-elect Trump understands need for new vision in Syria – that includes Russia’

putin8736a
‘President-elect Trump understands need for new vision in Syria – that includes Russia’

There will be no status quo in America after January 20, and then President Trump will be more than willing to work with the Russians to solve the Middle East problems, Paul Vallely, retired US General and Chairman of Stand Up America, told RT.

The Syrian army liberated almost half of Eastern Aleppo from militants, according to the Russian defense ministry. Thousands of civilians can now flee to the safety of government-held areas of the city.

Last ditch effort? Kerry ‘wants to seal deal’ with Russia before Trump becomes US president – Kremlin https://t.co/KFxyfGf1X3

— RT (@RT_com) 28 ноября 2016 г.

US President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, who will assume office in January, have different approaches to solving the crisis in Syria and the Middle East in general. Trump’s remarks suggest the US doesn’t “know who the rebels are,” while highlighting the importance of cooperation with Russia to bring about some sense of normalcy in Syria. Meanwhile, some Syrian groups that define themselves as ‘moderate’ hope that Trump will be able to separate so-called ‘rebels’ from terrorists.

RT: You’re now working with Trump’s team. Can you shed some light on what could potentially change regarding America’s approach to the Syrian crisis?

Paul Vallely: Well, here’s a number of things that you have to realize, the importance of the transition right now naming new members of the administration is the top priority. But as these individuals are named, like General [Michael] Flynn of National Security, they are starting to form positions so that when Trump takes over as President January 20, they’ll have a firm ground and they will have some vision and strategy particularly as it pertains to the Middle East and Syria.

Much of the advice and recommendations coming from my organization to the Trump organization really deals with a whole new vision for Syria, and it is called ‘The Reconciliation and Reunification of Syria,’ and that is what we would like to work very closely with the Russians, as well as with a lot of the ex-patriots and members of the Syrian population that do not support Assad. So we’re looking for a whole new vision here and a whole new strategy to come after the first year.

Trump Jr. discussed Syria crisis with supporters of cooperation with Russia https://t.co/bU4vQWbpAYpic.twitter.com/bBva9sonX8

— RT (@RT_com) 24 ноября 2016 г.

RT: Do you think the new administration will look to increase cooperation with Russia in Syria?

PV: I’ll guarantee there will be no status quo in America after January 20, and that President Trump at that time will be more than willing to work with the Russians to solve the Middle East problems over there. General Flynn and I both realize that nothing is going to be solved in the Middle East until we can work up some kind of relationship and some kind of a strategy with the Russians. It is very important we do that, just like we did with Gorbachev; just like we did with Stalin in WWII to defeat the Nazis. Trump is very open to work with anyone that can come up with solutions that will solve these problems that we see, particularly in the Middle East.

Syrian govt forces take over 40% of east #Aleppo from rebels – Reconciliation center https://t.co/EpmO9j9oarpic.twitter.com/ndW4JTnJ4e

— RT (@RT_com) 28 ноября 2016 г.

RT: How will Obama’s legacy concerning Iraq and Afghanistan be viewed by Trump and his advisers?

PV: I think very badly, because they have been very unsuccessful as you well know, when you examine what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. Basically the frustration and the complexity of understating the dynamics of Syria, and they certainly – in the Obama administration – have never understood that. As you know, I am the only senior officer that has gone into Syria on two occasions. So the credibility I have there in Syria with the opposition and the ex-patriots who would like to see a new government in Syria for this reunification I thoroughly understand it. I am imparting my experience to the Trump organization at this time so that we do have new a vision and a new outlook.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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Russia Flexes Might – The Fearsome Armata T-14 Tank

Editor’s Note – In the relentless build-up of his military, Putin and Russia are growing as a threat and are filling the leadership vacuum created by President Obama. Putin rolled out a fierce new armored titan, the Armata T-14 tank on their Victory Day Parade.

The Western allies though, stayed away this time, in protest – that will show Putin who is boss!!

Challenging the West in all theaters across the globe, this was another moment for him show off his prowess. The trouble is, during a rehearsal of the parade, one of them stopped moving and they even tried to tow it while its engine was running, but the tank wasn’t moving.

Russian army officers speak a crew member of new a Russian T-14 Armata tank at the Red Square during a preparation for general rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square on May 9 to celebrate 70 years after the victory in WWII, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 7, 2015.  One of the tanks moving on Red Square suddenly stopped while others drove away. The engine was still rumbling but it wouldn’t move. After an attempt to tow it away the T-14 rolled away about 15 minutes later. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian army officers speak a crew member of new a Russian T-14 Armata tank at the Red Square during a preparation for general rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade.

A state-of-the-art Russian tank, which was shown to the public for the first time earlier this month, on Thursday ground to a halt during the final Victory Day rehearsal.

The tank, T-14 Armata, is said to surpass all Western versions because of its remotely controlled cannon and the protection it offers to its crew. The T-14, which replaces the T-72 and T-90, is set to undergo trials next year. (Read more at Yahoo.)

The tank did eventually move off under its own power after a tow attempt failed. Despite this setback, the west has much to consider, and we here in America remember that during the 2012 Presidential debates, Mitt Romney did tell the world what is not obvious, Russia is our greatest threat, despite the scoffing he got at the time.

Romney was vindicated many times since then, yet Obama still continues his ‘transformation’ of America. Aren’t you again so happy how 2012 turned out? How weak we have become and continue to watch Putin strengthen.

How are those Jade Helm 15 exercises going to turn that around, or intimidate anyone but our citizenry, or is that even part of the goal?

Russia flexes military might for sparse crowd of dignitaries on Victory Day

LA Times

A western boycott of Russia’s Victory Day parade Saturday did little to chasten the Kremlin as Russian President Vladimir Putin rolled out fearsome new armor and weapons in a thundering message that might makes right.

In the absence of Russia’s World War II allies who stayed away in protest of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, Putin was surrounded at the Red Square event largely by leftist foreign leaders for his display of the military power that has made Russians proud and their neighbors nervous.

Russia's new Armata T-14 tanks rolled through Red Square in Moscow on Saturday as part of the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. (Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images)
Russia’s new Armata T-14 tanks rolled through Red Square in Moscow on Saturday as part of the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. (Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images)

Under blue skies and sunshine befitting a postcard, the Kremlin marked the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany by parading 16,000 troops, nearly 200 tanks and armored vehicles, truck-mounted ballistic missiles and 140-plus aircraft before thousands of Russian dignitaries, Soviet war veterans and about two dozen foreign leaders.

The Russian military unveiled its new Armata T-14 tank, the first major upgrade of its infantry workhorse in decades. With a 125-millimeter cannon, the tank offers better protection for its operators than the T-72 it is designed to succeed.

The Armata and other new weapons displayed ahead of a roaring aircraft flyover are part of a major rearmament program undertaken by the Kremlin with a projected outlay of $500 billion through this decade.

Some defense analysts say the massive modernization effort is imperiled by the financial crisis gripping Russia, where the ruble has lost about 40% of its value over the past year amid Western sanctions and a sharp drop in oil revenue on which the Russian budget depends. Others, though, say defense and security investments have the highest priority in Putin’s Russia and the costly mission to enhance the strategic arsenal will continue unabated.

Putin brushed off the U.S. and Western European boycott of the parade, blaming the concerted censure on White House bullying of leaders who would have preferred to show their respects to fallen heroes in Moscow. He alluded to the no-shows in a brief address from the reviewing stand in front of Lenin’s Tomb and the crenelated red-brick eastern wall of the Kremlin.

Putin praised the courage and sacrifice of Soviet troops in defeating the Nazis at a cost of more than 20 million lives. He also paid tribute to “the people of Great Britain, France and the United States for their contribution to the victory.”

But he suggested the absent allies were neglecting their roles as defenders of world peace.

“In recent decades, the basic principles of international cooperation have been ignored ever more frequently,” he said. “We see how a military bloc mentality is gaining momentum.”

Putin has justified his actions involving Ukraine, including the annexation of the Crimean region, with assertions that Russia needs to defend itself against NATO encroachment and what he contends is a U.S.-led plot to oust him from power. Russian officials have portrayed Ukraine’s new leaders as neo-fascists bent on repressing the Russian minority in the country’s eastern regions, where a separatist rebellion has killed more than 6,100 people.

RussiaPoawer

During the 2005 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of World War II’s end, 53 heads of state attended the Red Square festivities, including President George W. Bush and nearly all European leaders.

News agencies reported that 20-some heads of state from among the 68 invited took part  Saturday, including those from China, India, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon was in the official reviewing stand, as were Czech President Milos Zeman and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, the only European heads of state known to have broken ranks with the symbolic reprimand.

“Serbia will never damage relations with the Russian Federation, even for the sake of becoming a member of the European Union,” Nikolic told Rossiya-24 television on the eve of the parade, suggesting his country’s prospects for induction into the bloc may be hurt by his renegade attendance.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was the de facto guest of honor, seated with his wife to the right of Putin. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the longest-serving former Soviet republic leader in attendance, was also among the honored guests.

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Xi arrived to Moscow on Friday for meetings with Putin and other Kremlin officials to sign the first of a sheaf of trade and economic cooperation agreements expected during his visit that runs through Sunday.

The 80-minute parade kicked off with the chimes of newly renovated Spassky Tower and a goose-stepping honor guard carried Soviet and Russia flags between ranks of soldiers in sharp formation. Many of the units were dressed in World War II replica uniforms and sported the black-and-orange St. George’s ribbons symbolizing Russian war triumphs from both the Soviet and imperial eras.The ribbons have become a symbol of support for Kremlin policy in Ukraine over the past year and were incorporated into the banners and logos of the Victory Day anniversary decorations that fluttered from lamposts and billboards across the country.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu rode an open limousine around the sprawling cobblestone square, saluting the troops as he made his way to the dignitaries’ reviewing stand to present the armed forces to Putin and his reported 2,300 guests.

Moscow airspace was closed for nearly an hour during the parade, the Tass news agency said, quoting the Federal Air Transport Agency. Security was tight throughout the capital, with major thoroughfares closed to traffic a mile out from the Kremlin. Many Muscovites watched the massive procession as it made its way from an assembly point five miles northwest of Red Square.

Afterward, a people’s parade followed, with thousands carrying small flags hailing “70 years of victory” and placards bearing the portraits of forebearers who gave their lives in a war that brought peace – and longlasting divisions – to Europe.

The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 spun the 15 republics into independent nations, some now aligned with the European Union and NATO in a shift of allegiance that is fueling Russia’s quest to reassert its authority over its communist- and imperial-era sphere of influence.