8 April 2015 by Stephen Hughes

The Return of the Cold War:  The US and European Union sanctioned Russia over the crisis in Ukraine emerging from the shadows a cold war storm front decided around the world.  Last year, as Russia annexed Crimea, Kiselyov a prominent news anchor for Kremlin State-Sponsored Television threated, Russia as the only country capable of turning the United States into “radioactive ash”, in an incendiary comment at the height of tensions over the Crimea referendum. Putin appointed Kiselyov to be head of the new Russia weekly news show on state-controlled Rossiya 1 television. Economic Union (EEU), turned Ukraine into the site of a tug of war, which soon resulted in a violent crisis with global implications.

In 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the Arctic was ‘a concentration of practically all aspects of national security; military, political, economic, technological, environmental and that of resources’. 

Russian armed forces have been holding military drills in the Arctic using paratroopers and rapid reaction forces. Moscow media agency TASS  stated the drills were part of a so-called "humanitarian search and rescue expedition." Over 45,000 Russian troops, warplanes and submarines took part in military exercises across much Russia over the past weeks. These wargames are one of the Kremlin's greatest shows of force since the Cold War era. At the same time, Moscow has engaged in a series of provocative military encounters with European and U.S. aircraft and other targets in the past year, raising the likelihood of mishaps that could lead to dangerous escalation.

Putin’s actions in Ukraine and his military build-up in the Arctic region have led to important shifts in regional security alliances which affect the Arctic, most notably the Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO) between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In February Sweden called for elevated defense cooperation in NORDEFCO to boost air and sea cooperation and renew the early warning systems in the Arctic region. 

Recent Russian armed forces exercises have included nuclear elements; Putin has vowed a full overhaul of Russia’s land-based nuclear arsenal in the next five years. In a recent documentary on state television, President Putin coldly remarked he was prepared to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert as the Kremlin moved ahead with retaking Crimea from Ukraine last year. The fact that this nuclear threat option was on the table for consideration is a very clear indication that there’s a low nuclear threshold now that didn’t exist during the Cold War.

The Nixon Doctrine: Nixon saw Iran as a Cold War bulkhead against the Soviet Union, Iran became “the key guardian of Western interests in the Gulf. Washington was eager to support the Shah’s militarily modernization.  President Nixon saw Iran as a Cold War bulkhead against the Soviet Union’s possible designs on warm-water ports in the Gulf for Soviet naval power as well as on Iran’s and the Gulf States oil wealth.  

By 1969, the Washington was looking for assistance in carrying out its military commitments in the Third World. In addition to Britain’s decision to withdraw military forces from all ports east of the Suez Canal, including the Persian Gulf (formal confirmation of the withdrawal occurred on March 1, 1971). The US feared that unless actions taken before the British withdrawal, a dangerous vacuum would develop in the Gulf.  Argued was the Soviet Union could move to fill this vacuum and, therefore, jeopardize Western access to the region's oil resources.  The Nixon administration recognized the US was overextended militarily in Vietnam and that the American public, already divided in American participation in the Vietnam conflict, would not support deployment of military forces involvement in the Gulf. America had reached its peak oil inflection point and was becoming increasingly dependent on oil imports, especially from the Middle East.  Oil exporting states such as the Gulf region were becoming more and more empowered. The US could not afford a power vacuum in a region that supplied 32% of the world’s petroleum and that, at the same time, held 58 % of the world’s proven energy reserves. Consequently, President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger decided to employ a Nixon Doctrine, authorizing the US to provide arms to selected client states instead of sending troops. Iran became “the key guardian of Western interests in the Gulf.

Washington lavished the most sophisticated military hardware on the Shah, who was willing and able to tap his financial resources from Iran’s oil wealth to buy modern conventional arms.  The Shah had the ambition, the financial means, and the political-military backing of the United States to turn Tehran into the Persian Gulf’s most formidable military power.  For example Shah was allowed to purchase the most capable combat aircraft in the American arsenal at the time, the F-14.

Washington’s Pentagon relied on Iran’s armed forces as a critical component of Nixon’s “Twin Pillar” strategy for holding at bay Soviet expansion in the Middle East.  President Nixon saw Iran as the first pillar and Saudi Arabia as the second pillar.  Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter ( Carter’s early years) saw Iran in the same light, and lavished the Shah’s military with American arms and training, the scope and depth of which was not given to any other American security partners save Israel.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has been the President of Russia since 7 May 2012. Putin previously served as President from 2000 to 2008 and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. During his last term as Prime Minister, he was also the Chairman of United Russia, the ruling party. For 16 years Putin was an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he retired to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg in 1991. President Putin has proclaimed the breakup of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century because it left tens of millions of Russians living outside the borders of the Russian Federation.

For most of the Cold War, Soviet rhetoric generally presented the U.S.S.R. as a peace-loving nation that would turn to nuclear weapons only as a final defense. The actions of Soviet officials notwithstanding, public statements and broadcasts tended to glorify the military’s capability to repel a nuclear attack or accuse the West of nuclear warmongering. Public nuclear threats were considered largely taboo.

“This whole notion that ‘you don’t want to test how far we’ll go’—that was never part of Soviet propaganda,” says Pavel Podvig, an expert on Russia’s nuclear forces. “The Soviet propaganda was, ‘If you attack us, we are ready, we are here.’ It wasn’t anything like, ‘We dare you.’ ”

That has changed. In a Danish newspaper in March, the Russian ambassador to Denmark threatened to target Danish ships with nuclear weapons if Copenhagen were to support construction of a U.S.-backed missile defense shield in Europe. “It is best not to mess with us when it comes to a possible armed conflict,” Mr. Putin warned at a pro-Kremlin youth camp last August. “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Putin threatened to use “nuclear force” to defend his annexation of Crimea. He also warned that the “same conditions” that prompted it to take military action in Ukraine existed in the three Baltic States, all members of NATO. According to a meeting between Russian generals and US officials and seen by the Times newspaper, Moscow threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” if NATO moved more forces into Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

On to Iran, In April 2013 Putin sent a Russian Naval task force to Iran, this was an historical event, as it was the first time in ten years.  "The presence of the Russian fleet in the Iranian port indicates growing relations between Teheran and Moscow as well as the promotion of naval cooperation for regional security," the Iranian Navy said. The task force was led by the Russian Navy destroyer Admiral Panteleyeve.

In 2014 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held private talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders had met previously first in September 2013 at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization get-together in Kyrgyzstan and later in China in May 2014. The Rouhani government’s emphasis on economic collaboration in its approach toward Moscow was apparent from the commencement. In his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Rouhani set the preliminaries. At the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in September in Bishkek, Rouhani and Putin tellingly stressed the utility of closer economic cooperation. Two months after the November 2013 Geneva nuclear deal, Tehran and Moscow announced an oil-for-goods swap deal. This would be to the tune of $1.5 billion per month or roughly 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day in return for Russian goods and commodities such as grain (Reuters, January 10). Tehran has stated that some of the Russian payment for Iranian crude oil repaid in the form of assistance with the development of more nuclear plants in Iran.

Tehran was one of a few Muslim states supporting Russia's integrity during two Chechen wars and shared the Kremlin's vision that the jihadist movements there were fueled from without, primarily by the Gulf States.

Putin’s Military Shift to Iran: On January 20,   It is the first time in 15 years that a Russian defense minister had visited the Islamic Republic. Moscow Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Iranian counterpart, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, signed an intergovernmental agreement on “long-term and multifaceted” military cooperation in Tehran, Iran. This event underlines the growing military and diplomatic ties between both countries united by their joint opposition to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle Eastern region and beyond. According to Sputnik News, Dehghan emphasized during discussions, quoted  “the importance of the need to develop Russia and Iran’s cooperation in the joint struggle against meddling in the affairs of the region by external forces that are not part of it was framed.” Dehghan remarked Russia and Iran singled out the U.S. policy that “meddles in the domestic affairs of other countries” as a major reason for the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world today.

Regardless what President Obama is peddling on his final Iran deal, the Kremlin and Tehran are pushing for all sanctions to be lifted before a final deal is made. The White House is ignoring the rising roar out of the Islamic state which makes it clear there will be no signing of any nuclear accords until all sanctions, and embargos are lifted. “Lifting sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, would be an absolutely logical thing to do,” said Igor Korotchenko, who heads the Global Arms Trade Analysis Center think tank in Moscow.

The Syria crisis found Moscow and Washington not only backing opposing sides in the strategically important Middle Eastern country but also disagreeing fundamentally about the global order: sovereignty, intervention, and the use of force.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for an "immediate cessation of military activities" in Yemen and increased efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. Iran and Russia have called on Saudi Arabia to halt airstrikes on Yemen.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the Communist South Yemen remained strongly in the Soviet orbit and was commonly referred to as a Soviet satellite state. It is estimated that over 5,000 Soviet military advisors worked with the local government and over 50,000 Yemeni professionals (President Hadi being one of them)were educated and trained in the USSR.

Iran purchased Russian’s modern air defense system the S-300, but Moscow cannot deliver because of the arms embargo. Experts believe that Russia is most likely delivering the S-300PMU-2 systems - also known by the NATO codename SA-20 are comparable to the US Patriot Air Missile Defense System. With the arms embargo lifted Putin will sell billions of dollars of military hardware to Iran.

Russia is keen to export arms one of its leading sources of income to Iran, which has purchased Russian military equipment since the end of the Iraq-Iran War. Moreover the billions of dollars will be mandated to invest in Russia armed forces. It is a win – win deal for both countries.  It is also of critical to the Kremlin as the cold war builds and international sanctions expand against Russia.

Stockholm International Research Peace Institute (SIPRI) (an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament) [Russia] could surpass the U.S. in terms of major conventional arms as we define them," SIPRI's senior researcher Pieter Wezeman said. He noted that the U.S. lead is probably larger if the entire arms trade, including smaller arms, equipment and services, were taken into account. "Ten to 15 years ago, the Russian arms industry was in shambles," he said, adding that Russia has been able to rebuild on the strength of technological capability and lower prices. Russia's single most significant export last year was of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, a Soviet-era ship that was rebuilt to become the Indian navy's INS Vikramaditiya at a reported cost of around $2.3 billion. Over the past five years, Russia was the world's largest exporter of ships, accounting for 27% of international deliveries.

More modern Russian military equipment will likely fall into the lap of the Tehran, such as the advanced Russian air defense system, the S-400, which was sold to china in 2014. With the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter still in limbo over reliability problems, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration on Monday said it would begin regular production of its newest fighter jet, the T-50, next year. According to Kremlin State-Sponsored news agency Rossiya 1 Moscow will begin mass-producing the advanced fighter jet in several versions, and will also begin making models that will be available for export. “We have plans to deliver the first series of fifth-generation fighter jets next year,” said Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, after visiting a plant owned by Sukhoi, the Russian defense contractor responsible for the new plane, which is also known as the PAK-FA. The T-50 is significantly faster than the F-22, and has a huge advantage in terms of range – 5,500 kilometers compared to the F-22’s 3,400. The T-50’s detection systems allow it to spot incoming threats at a distance of up to 400 kilometers, compared to the F-22’s 210 km.

In 2014 Russia's state-owned arms export agency Rosoboronexport reported Moscow would begin negotiations with potential clients for the Iskander-E missile. They said Iskander, termed by NATO the SS-26, would be offered clients of the Middle East. "Iskander-E is ready for deliveries to other countries, as well as S-400 Triumf, but state authorities need first to approve this," Valery Varlamov, an official of Rosoboronexport, said.

The Iskander road mobile missile system is equipped with two short-range ballistic missiles, which substantially increases firepower of missile units. Each missile can be targeted independently.

Missiles can be launched 16 minutes from traveling or 4 minutes from highest readiness. The second missile can be launched in less than a minute once the first missile is launched

These missiles are capable of hitting moving targets, as target coordination can be adjusted while the missile is in-flight. The Iskander has several different conventional warheads, including cluster, fuel-air explosive, bunker-busting and electro-magnetic pulse. It can also carry nuclear warheads despite the fact that this will violate INF treaty. Maximum range of fire is 280 km for the export version and 400 km for the Russian Army version. Minimum range is 50 km.

 The Iskander was designed to overcome air defense systems. Missile files at supersonic speed, excessively maneuvers in the terminal phase of the flight and releases decoys. In some cases this ballistic missile can be used as an alternative to precision bombingAccording to Reza Khalili, is the pseudonym of a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who worked undercover as a CIA agent for several years in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He reported Russia had sold Syria the Iskander system in 2012.  World Net Daily on Russian deliveries of the Iskander (SS-26 Stone) Mobile Ballistic Missile to Syria, “Russia arms Syria with powerful ballistic missile,”. 

With all sanctions lifted the Islamic Republic will be able to procure an entire arsenal of deadly weapons for its armed forces. With the cash inflow of billions of dollars rolling in, and its military first policy Tehran in a mere matter of months will make a giant leap in military capability spanning from tactical to strategic.

The international cold war storm is breaking into epic levels; former KGB agent President Putin has turned the tables on President Obama using the Soviet equivalent to the Nixon Doctrine. Both Russian and the Islamic Republic stand to reap tremendous geo- political and economic benefits. In addition it will strength both countries armed forces. 

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