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Turning Deterrence Into Absurdity

Published: February 18, 2014 (Issue # 1797)


In an old, Soviet-era joke, a resident tells his apartment building manager, “Voice of America just reported that the roof of our building has been leaking for the last year.” To which the manager answers, “Yeah, the same old U.S. lies and slander.”

Nowadays, that same manager would probably say that such reports are an attempt by the treacherous U.S. to contain Russia, now that it has risen from its knees during President Vladimir Putin’s 15 years in power. In a recent meeting with representatives of the Public Council for the Preparation of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Putin gave his own, peculiar interpretation of the theory of deterrence. “A theory took shape in Cold War times: It was called the deterrence theory,” Putin said. “This theory and its policies were aimed at hindering the development of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, now we are seeing the same thing. The remains of this outdated deterrence theory are still alive and well [in the U.S.]. Whenever Russia demonstrates positive development and when it shows itself to be a new, strong player and a new source of competition, this is bound to cause concern [in the U.S.] in terms of its economic, political and security interests.”

Related: Russia’s Win Now Followed by the Hard Part

But the traditional interpretation of deterrence has always carried a primarily military connotation — namely, deterring a potential aggressor from using nuclear weapons against the other side. Nobody doubts that this question was urgent during the Cold War, when the possibility of a military confrontation was real and serious.

The first was the attempt to stop the spread of Soviet influence throughout the world, leading to bloody wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and many other places.

Related: Strong-Armed Tactics

The second and most important thrust of deterrence was the desire to prevent the Soviet Union from launching an attack. U.S. theorists argued that an attack could be deterred if the potential aggressor knew that the other side was capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on his own country. The main deterrence theorist of the 1950s was the professor and future U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He believed that to deter a potential aggressor, a country must possess the guaranteed ability to destroy, even after sustaining a first strike, one-fourth of the aggressor country’s population and one-half of its economic potential.

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Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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