Gabriel Schoenfeld asks an excellent question in today’s WSJ: “Why Should We Underwrite Russian Rearmament?” It made sense, he argues, to help the new, unstable, and economically struggling government of Russia to dismantle its decaying nukes in the 1990s. But that was then. Today, Russia is quadrupling its defense spending.
The Russian defense budget nearly quadrupled from 2001 through 2007. Over the past few years, it has increased annually by between 20% and 30%. Russia, President Dimitry Medvedev announced in March, is embarking on a “comprehensive rearmament.”
Money is fungible. If the U.S. were not defraying the costs of safeguarding or dismantling Russia’s deteriorating weapons of mass destruction, Moscow would be compelled to do so out of its own pocket. Russia has an interest even more compelling than ours in the safety and surety of its nuclear systems. Thanks to political stability and a measure of prosperity—enough, certainly, to commence “comprehensive rearmament”—Moscow is now in a position to take care of such problems on its own.
Of course, the Russians much prefer our assistance. And why wouldn’t they smile at a program that in effect pays for a build-up of their military even as we build down ours?”