Wednesday, May 18, 2022

3590. The World Has No Choice but to Care About India’s Heat Wave

By Bill Spindle, The Atlantic, May 8, 2022



The CHANDIGARH, India—Soon after I arrived in the eastern megacity of Kolkata in February, temperatures began climbing. They always do when India’s short winter turns into an early spring. But then they kept rising

After the hottest March in 122 years of record keeping, the scorching temperatures continued through April, with the nationwide high averaging more than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. During my recent stop in New Delhi, the mercury topped 110 degrees for two consecutive days, overwhelming the air conditioner in my rental apartment. The maximum temperature last month in the capital, home to more than 30 million people across the metro area, averaged more than 104 degrees. Even higher temperatures have been reported elsewhere: 111 in other regions of India, and to the west, in parts of Pakistan, above 120.

The I was fortunate to have any air-conditioning at all. Most of India’s 1.4 billion people would consider themselves lucky to have a fan and the electricity to run one. A ride in a three-wheel tuk-tuk feels like having a blow-dryer directed straight at your face. The inside of a slum dweller’s windowless room, often housing an entire family, can become a lethal hotbox. Health authorities have reported hundreds of deaths across the country from heatstroke, but the actual number is likely to be far higher.

The only saving grace, as I write now from the northern state of Punjab, is that the unseasonable spring heat has come before the monsoon rains. Although that’s led to drought conditions in some places, it has also kept humidity levels low enough for India to largely avoid a national spike in deaths from heatstroke. For the country’s health and climate experts trying to plan for global warming, the “wet bulb” temperature is the danger they fear most. This deadly combination of heat and humidity, which prevents a human body from cooling itself by sweating, is a huge looming threat for South Asia’s wet season, experts say. Although climate scientists are still puzzling out the precise details of global warming’s role in India’s current heat wave, the correlation is clear enough: Spells of blistering heat such as this are becoming a regular feature of South Asia’s weather, rather than a once-in-a-decade-or-more crisis.

The heat wave has been severe enough to make international headlines, but it is far from the only impact of climate change I’ve witnessed in the first half of my six-month journey through the country to research and report on climate change and the energy transition India is undertaking in an attempt to mitigate it. India is at the sharp end of this predicament. A recent report by Standard & Poor’s concluded that South Asia’s economies are the world’s most vulnerable—10 times more exposed to global-warming threats over the coming decades, the consultants estimated, than the least vulnerable countries, mostly in Europe.


During a visit to the sprawling Sundarbans mangrove swamp, part of the world’s largest tidal estuary, where several great rivers meet the Bay of Bengal, I saw for myself how rising sea levels and more frequent and intense cyclones are helping destroy what is not only a complex and sensitive ecosystem but also a major carbon sink. One island in the estuary, Ghoramara—pounded by four major cyclones from 2019 to 2021—has lost about half its landmass and more than half its population in recent decades. A tropical storm last year submerged the entire island under several feet of churning water. Thousands of residents were forced to take refuge in a school shelter. Though inches above the floodwaters, they escaped with their lives but lost practically everything else, including personal effects and the school’s textbooks.

Nearly a year on from the disaster, I met Ajiman Bibi, a 60-year-old mother of five who was born on the island. As we talked, she spread out grain to dry on a blanket in front of her makeshift shelter. “If the government didn’t give this to us, we would have nothing,” she told me.

Continuing my journey, mostly by train, to the tea-producing slopes of Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas, I saw the damage from last October’s shattering rainfall—a phenomenon associated with a warming climate. The autumn “rain bomb,” in which a month’s worth of precipitation fell in a single day, caused landslides that cut a path down the mountainside still visible from across the valley. Tea producers told me how irregular rains and higher temperatures, especially at night, have severely challenged the delicate crop in recent years, threatening the entire industry.

Here in Punjab, India’s breadbasket, wheat farmers who were looking forward to a bumper harvest in a year when prices have been boosted ahead of reduced yields from Ukraine have seen crop losses amid the searing heat. This is not just disappointing for them but, as The Atlantic’s Weekly Planet newsletter recently noted, deeply concerning for countries facing worldwide food shortages in coming months. The state’s power minister said electricity demand had jumped 40 percent, year on year, as people ran fans and AC units at home and industrial production picked up after COVID. Railways canceled dozens of passenger trains in order to rush coal shipments to power plants trying to avoid blackouts.

Wherever I go, I expect to encounter more signs of climate change. In the northern Himalayas, rapidly rising winter temperatures have thrown snowfall patterns into disarray and are causing glaciers to melt. Down south, cities such as Chennai are plagued by both drought and flooding, depending on the season.

In the face of these mounting challenges, Indians are scrambling to adapt. Cities have implemented “heat action plans,” halting some outdoor work and prompting special measures to distribute water. In Darjeeling, tea growers have turned to organic-farming techniques, partly to make their estates more resilient against the gyrating weather patterns.

“Everybody now is trying to work to mitigate the climate challenges,” Kaushik Das, an experienced manager for the Ambootia Group, told me as we drove through the Chongtong estate he oversees.

And in the Sundarbans, I met researchers who were studying how to restore the degraded mangrove habitats—as a crucial natural barrier against the rising sea level and tidal surges that accompany cyclones. Still, even if such strategies have further room to run, there are limits to adaptation. Solutions to climate change are also needed.

India has committed publicly to generating half of its energy from renewable resources by 2030 and aims to install 500 gigawatts of renewable capacity by then. That’s a huge undertaking, building from a capacity of about 150 gigawatts today. India has added renewable energy at a faster clip than any other large country in the world, including an 11-fold increase in solar-generating capacity over the past five years, but it is playing a seemingly perpetual game of catch-up.

ccording to the International Energy Agency, as a developing nation, with large swaths of its population still living in poverty, India will account for more energy-consumption growth than any other country from now until 2040. To make that happen while scaling back on coal, the country will need to grow renewables much faster still to meet its pledge to reach “net-zero” emissions by 2070. This will require major foreign investment, which is becoming more active in India, but meeting the net-zero target is a daunting task.

On top of the heat wave, India’s energy industry has been rattled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India imports more than 80 percent of its oil, so the cost of meeting demand is creating a yawning current account deficit. The prices of gas shipments from abroad—a vital input in manufacturing fertilizer—have similarly shot up. That, too, is hammering the federal budget as the government boosts subsidies to keep prices stable for struggling farmers.

All of this casts a pall over pressing global climate negotiations. This fall, national delegates will assemble in Egypt for the 27th United Nations climate-change gathering known as the Conference of the Parties. Last year’s COP26, held in Glasgow, Scotland, ended on a sour note when India, cheered on by China, forced a watering-down of the conference’s ambitions to cut the use of coal (China and India are the world’s top two users). The move came after India’s and other developing countries’ acute frustration over the abject failure, yet again, of the world’s wealthier, industrialized nations to make good on a promise to deliver $100 billion annually to help them deal with climate change.

Those tensions were already likely to resurface at COP27. This spring’s heat wave in India is already ratcheting up the pressure. As Indian officials are quick to note, the country may be the world’s third-largest greenhouse-gas emitter now, but it is a latecomer, and its share of the warming gases accumulated in the atmosphere is just 3.4 percent, compared with the U.S.’s 20 percent and fast-growing China’s 11.4 percent. Although the developing world played little part in causing global warming, this is where the toll will be the worst.

A thundershower this week brought a welcome break in the weather here in Punjab, at least for now. But without new commitment from the developed world to bear more of the costs of climate change, India’s spring heat wave will still be felt in the fall.

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

3589. Where Have All the Insects Gone?

In the summer of 1942, Ed Wilson, age thirteen, decided that it was time to get serious about research. He had already determined that he wanted to be an entomologist, a choice made partly out of interest and partly out of injury. As a child, he’d been fascinated with marine life. One day, he jerked too hard on a fish he caught, and one of its needlelike spines lodged in his right eye. The lens had to be removed, and, following the surgery, to see something clearly he needed to hold it up near his face. Insects were just about the only animals that submitted to this treatment.

That summer, Wilson was living with his parents in Mobile, Alabama, in a run-down house that had been built by his great-grandfather. He resolved to survey every species of ant that lived in an overgrown lot next door. This proved to be quick work, as there were only four species. But one of them turned out to be, as Wilson put it nearly eighty years later, “the find of a lifetime—or at least of a boyhood.” It was a species that Wilson had never seen before; nor, it seems, had anyone else north of Brazil.

That species is now known formally as Solenopsis invicta and informally as the red imported fire ant. Native to South America, the creature has, from a human perspective, many undesirable characteristics. Its sting produces first a burning sensation—hence the name—and then a smallpox-like pustule. It has a voracious appetite and will consume anything from tree bark to termites to the seeds of crops like wheat and sorghum. Red imported fire ants have been known to kill fledgling birds, young sea turtles, and even, on occasion, baby deer. They construct rigid mounds that damage harvesting equipment. When a colony is disturbed, hundreds, even thousands of ants are dispatched, more or less instantaneously, to attack the intruder. Wilson once stuck his arm into one of these mounds and described the pain as “immediate and unbearable.” As he observed to his companions, “It was as though I had poured kerosene on my hand and lit it.”

Red imported fire ants were, almost certainly, introduced into the United States in cargo unloaded at the port of Mobile. When Wilson conducted his survey of the vacant lot, they had probably been in the city for several years but hadn’t ventured very far. This soon changed. The ants began to spread in a classic bull’s-eye pattern. In 1949, while Wilson was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, he was hired by the state’s Department of Conservation to conduct a study of Solenopsis invicta. Since no one knew much about the species, the teen-age enthusiast counted as an expert. Wilson found that the ants had already pushed west into Mississippi and east into Florida. He was, he later recalled, “exhilarated” by his first professional gig, which gave him the self-confidence to pursue his insect-driven dreams.

By 1953, the red imported fire ant had spread as far north as Tennessee and as far west as Texas, and the so-called Fire Ant Wars had begun. In an early skirmish, the state of Mississippi provided farmers with chlordane, an indiscriminate, organochlorine pesticide long since banned. It made little difference. Next, the U.S. Department of Agriculture embarked on a campaign to spray heptachlor and dieldrin—two similar insecticides that are also now banned—over millions of acres of farmland. The campaign killed countless wild birds, along with vast numbers of fish, cows, cats, and dogs. The ants kept marching on. (“The research basis of this plan was minimal, to put it mildly,” Walter R. Tschinkel, an entomologist at Florida State University, has observed.) Undaunted, the U.S.D.A. launched itself into a new battle, this time claiming that it was going to eliminate the ants entirely, using Mirex, yet another since-banned organochlorine. In the late nineteen-sixties, more than fourteen million acres were sprayed with Mirex, which is a potent endocrine disrupter. The effort appears to have had the perverse effect of helping Solenopsis invicta spread, by exterminating any native ants that might have stood in its way.

As the U.S.D.A. was raining down destruction, Wilson’s career was taking off. He received a Ph.D. from Harvard and was offered a position on the university’s biology faculty. The job was supposed to be temporary, but by the time he was twenty-nine he had been granted tenure.

Wilson thought of himself as a naturalist in the venerable tradition of Joseph Banks, the English botanist who sailed with Captain Cook in 1768. Wilson loved to explore places no entomologist had surveyed before, and once spent ten months collecting ants from New Caledonia to Sri Lanka. But he was fated to follow a different path. Wilson became a professional biologist just as it was becoming clear that the biosphere was unravelling. Though he resisted the knowledge at first, later he would become perhaps the most important chronicler of this crisis—the nation’s first great post-naturalist.

Wilson is now ninety-two and lives in a retirement community in Lexington, Massachusetts. He’s the subject of a new biography, “Scientist: E. O. Wilson: A Life in Nature” (Doubleday), by the journalist Richard Rhodes. Rhodes, who’s the author of more than twenty books, including “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” interviewed his subject several times before covid hit and they had to switch to the phone. During one of Rhodes’s visits, he ran into an old friend, Victor McElheny, a journalist who lives in the same retirement community and, as it happened, had written a biography of Wilson’s nemesis, James Watson. “Small world,” Rhodes observes.

Wilson’s dispute with Watson was an academic turf battle and, at the same time, something more than that. In 1953, Watson and his collaborator Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA—the famous double helix. Three years later, Watson joined Harvard’s biology department. Though he was only twenty-eight when he arrived, he treated the two dozen other members of the department with an offhand contempt. Specimen collecting, he suggested, was for hobbyists. Henceforth, real scientists would study life by examining its molecular structure. The brilliance of Watson’s discovery, combined with his sublime self-assurance, intimidated many of his older colleagues. Wilson, who’d been hired at Harvard the same year, has described Watson as “the Caligula of biology.” When, owing to an offer from Stanford, Wilson received tenure ahead of Watson, the latter stomped through the halls of the Biological Laboratories declaiming, according to some sources, “Shit, shit, shit, shit!,” and to others, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Eventually, the differences between the traditionalists and the molecularists were judged insurmountable, and, in an intellectual version of speciation, Harvard’s biology department split in two.

Wilson continued to collect ants. He spent a sabbatical conducting field work on Trinidad and Tobago and in Suriname. But he was, by his own description, fiercely ambitious, and he yearned to make a bigger contribution to science—a contribution more like Watson’s. One of the obstacles, he decided, was math; he had never even taken an upper-level course in the subject. At the age of thirty-two, he enrolled in calculus and sat awkwardly in the lecture room with some of the same undergraduates he was teaching.

Around this time, Wilson began collaborating with a Princeton professor named Robert MacArthur, who possessed all the mathematical skills he lacked. In 1967, the two published “The Theory of Island Biogeography.” The book was an effort to explain how island ecosystems come into being, a puzzle that had fascinated both Charles Darwin and his rival, Alfred Russel Wallace. It combined field observations with a tangle of equations to account for why larger islands harbor more species than smaller ones, and also why distant islands host fewer species than similar-sized islands situated near a mainland. Wilson and MacArthur proposed that the keys to understanding island biogeography are the rate at which new species immigrate to an island (or evolve there) and the rate at which established species wink out. “There’s nothing more romantic than biogeography,” Wilson once told the author David Quammen.

Though Wilson and MacArthur boldly labelled their work on island biogeography the theory, it was still just a theory. Wilson, the field biologist, was eager to test it on the ground. The difficulty lay in finding the right islands; for a rigorous experiment, these would have to be empty. Wilson hit on the idea of using clumps of mangrove north of Key West. The cays were so small—about forty feet in diameter—that the only breeding animals on them were insects, spiders, and, occasionally, wood lice. Wilson persuaded the National Park Service to let him fumigate six of them. Then one of his graduate students, Daniel Simberloff, who’s now a professor at the University of Tennessee, spent a year monitoring the “defaunated” cays. It was painstaking, mud-splattered work, but, at least as far as Wilson was concerned, it paid off. Those cays closest to the shore were quickly recolonized. Species diversity rose, and then levelled off, just as Wilson and MacArthur’s theory had predicted. On the sixth, more distant islet, recolonization took longer, and the eventual number of resident species was lower—more confirmation. Though some of the details of “The Theory of Island Biogeography” have since been discarded, it’s still considered a classic. A paper that appeared on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary noted that it remains one of the world’s “most influential texts on ecology and evolution.”

As many of Wilson’s colleagues soon realized, the significance of the theory extended well beyond actual islands. Through logging and mining and generalized sprawl, the world was increasingly being cut up into “islands” of habitat. The smaller and more isolated these islands, be they patches of forest or tundra or grassland, the fewer species they would ultimately contain. Wilson had moved on to new research questions, and initially didn’t concern himself much with the implications of his own work. When the first surveys of deforestation in the Amazon appeared, though, he was, in his words, “tipped into active engagement.” In an article in Scientific American, in 1989, he combined data on deforestation with the predictions of his and MacArthur’s theory to estimate that as many as six thousand species a year were being consigned to oblivion. “That in turn is on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate that existed prior to the appearance of human beings,” he wrote.

The same year that Wilson published his article in Scientific American, a group of insect fanciers installed what are known as malaise traps in several nature reserves in Germany. Malaise traps look like tents that have blown over on their sides, and they’re designed to capture virtually anything that flies into them. The group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, was interested in how insects were faring in different types of parks and protected areas. Every summer from then on, society members set out new traps, usually in different preserves. In 2013, they resampled some of the sites they’d originally sampled back in 1989. The contents of the traps were a fraction of what they’d been the first time around.

Over the next three summers, the group members resampled more sites. The results were similar. In 2017, with the help of some outside experts, they published a paper documenting a seventy-five-per-cent decline in “total flying insect biomass” in the areas surveyed. These areas were exactly the sort of habitat fragments that, according to Wilson’s theory, were destined to lose species. Nevertheless, the findings were shocking. In 2019, a second group of researchers published a more rigorous and extensive study, and its findings were even more dire. In the course of just the previous decade, grasslands in Germany had, on average, lost a third of their arthropod species and two-thirds of their arthropod biomass. (Terrestrial arthropods include spiders and centipedes in addition to insects.) In woodlands, the number of arthropod species had dropped by more than a third, and biomass by forty per cent. “This is frightening” is how one of the paper’s authors, Wolfgang Weisser, a biologist at the Technical University of Munich, put it.

In the years since, many more papers have appeared with comparable findings. Significant drops have been found in mayfly populations in the American Midwest, butterfly numbers in the Sierra Nevadas, and caterpillar diversity in northern Costa Rica. While many species appear to be doing just fine—for instance, the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species from Asia, which was first detected in Pennsylvania around 2014, and has since spread to at least ten other states, including New York—there is, as was noted in the introduction to a recent special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences devoted to the state of the insect world, “ample cause for concern.”

Dave Goulson, an entomologist at the University of Sussex, is one of the experts the Krefeld group contacted to help make sense of its data. Like Wilson, Goulson could be described as a naturalist turned post-naturalist; he decided to study insects because he found them enthralling, and now he studies why they’re in trouble.

“I have watched clouds of birdwing butterflies sipping minerals from the muddy banks of a river in Borneo, and thousands of fireflies flashing their luminous bottoms in synchrony at night in the swamps of Thailand,” he writes in “Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse” (Vintage). “I have had enormous fun. But I have been haunted by the knowledge that these creatures are in decline.”

Goulson bemoans the fact that many people consider insects to be pests. He wants readers to appreciate just how amazing they really are, and sets off his chapters with profiles of six-legged creatures. Males of many species of earwigs have two penises; if disturbed during mating, they snap off the one they’re using and beat a quick escape. Female jewel wasps sting their prey—large cockroaches—to induce a zombielike trance. Then they chew off the tips of the roaches’ antennae, use the stumps to guide the stupefied creatures back to their burrows, and lay their eggs inside them. Aging termites of the species Neocapritermes taracua develop pouches around their abdomens that are filled with copper-rich proteins. If an intruder is gaining the upper hand—or leg—in a fight, the elderly termites, in effect, blow themselves up to protect the colony, a practice known as suicidal altruism. The proteins react with chemicals stored in their salivary glands to become highly toxic compounds.

Insects are, of course, also vital. They’re by far the largest class of animals on Earth, with roughly a million named species and probably four times that many awaiting identification. (Robert May, an Australian scientist who helped develop the field of theoretical ecology, once noted, “To a first approximation, all species are insects.”) They support most terrestrial food chains, serve as the planet’s chief pollinators, and act as crucial decomposers. Goulson quotes Wilson’s observation: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

Like insects themselves, the threats to them are numerous and diverse. First, there’s habitat loss. Since Wilson’s article in Scientific American appeared, in 1989, South America has lost at least another three hundred million acres of tropical forest, and Southeast Asia has experienced similar losses. In places like the U.S. and Britain, which were deforested generations ago, the hedgerows and weedy patches that once provided refuge for insects are disappearing, owing to ever more intense agricultural practices. From an insect’s perspective, Goulson points out, even fertilizer use constitutes a form of habitat destruction. Fertilizer leaching out of fields fosters the growth of certain plants over others, and it’s these others that many insects depend on.

Climate change, light pollution, and introduced species present further dangers. The Varroa destructor mite evolved to live on (and consume the body fat of) Asian honeybees, which are smaller than their European counterparts. When European honeybees were imported to East Asia, the mites jumped hosts, and when European bees were taken to new places the mites hitched a ride. Varroa mites carry diseases like deformed-wing virus, and they’ve had a devastating effect on European honeybees, probably causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of colonies. In the U.S. (and in many other countries), European honeybees are treated as tiny livestock. They’re carted around to pollinate crops like apples and almonds, and their health is carefully monitored. But what’s been the impact of imported parasites and pathogens on other bees, not to mention ants, beetles, crickets, dragonflies, moths, thrips, and wasps? “For 99.9 per cent of insect species, we know simply nothing,” Goulson laments.

Then, there are pesticides. Since the Fire Ant Wars, which were prominently featured in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” a great many have been taken off the market. New ones, however, have replaced them. Goulson is particularly concerned about a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids. Neonics, as they’re often called, are, in some respects, even more toxic than Mirex and chlordane. They were first marketed in the nineteen-nineties; by 2010, more than three million pounds a year were being applied to crops in the U.S., and almost two hundred thousand pounds to crops in Great Britain. Neonics are water-soluble, which means they can leak into soils and ponds and potentially be taken up by other plants. There’s a good deal of controversy over the dangers they pose to non-target insects, especially bees; in 2018, the European Union found the evidence of harm compelling enough to ban three key neonics from outdoor use. (The chemicals continue to be applied in many European countries under “emergency authorizations.”) Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, including the U.S., their use continues apace. “Carson may have won a battle, but not the war,” Goulson observes.

In the last chapter of “Silent Earth,” Goulson offers dozens of actions we can take to “change our relationship with the small creatures that live all around us.” Some involve tending one’s own garden—for instance, trying “to reimagine ‘weeds’ such as dandelion as ‘wildflowers.’ ” Others are regional or national in scope: “plant streets and parks with flowering, native trees” or “introduce pesticide and fertilizer taxes.” The list is long enough that nearly everyone who wants to can find some recommendation to follow, but it’s heavily tilted toward reducing the use of pesticides, which, as “Silent Earth” makes clear, is just one of the many hazards insects are facing.

Wilson, who’s been called the “father of biodiversity,” has a bigger idea. In “Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life” (2016), he argues that the only way to preserve the world’s insects—and, for that matter, everything else—is to set aside fifty per cent of it in “inviolable reserves.” He arrived at the figure, he explains, using the principles of island biogeography; on fifty per cent of the globe, he calculates, roughly eighty-five per cent of the planet’s species could be saved. The task of preserving—or, in many places, restoring—half the world’s habitat is, he acknowledges, daunting. The alternative, though, is to grow dandelions while the world burns: “The only hope for the species still living is a human effort commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.” ♦

Monday, May 2, 2022

3588. A Marshall plan for Ukraine?

Michael Roberts, Michael Roberts Blog, May 2, 2022


The Great Recession of 2008-9 was a turning point for the US global strategy.  Up to then, the general aim was to ‘engage’ important economic powers like Russia and China.  Throughout the 1990s onwards, the US government pressed for the opening-up of their economies to multi-nationals and banks from the ‘West’.  These economies would then grow and trade, but in doing so also provide the global profits expansion that US imperialism needed as domestic profitability began to slip.  Globalisation’ would take advantage of cheap labour and new markets in China and the rest of the Global South which had expanded sharply from the early 1980s, under this policy of ‘engagement’.  It was no accident that the World Bank published a report in 2013 calling on China to move quickly to a full ‘market economy’.

But the Great Recession changed all that.  It became clear to the US strategists that, while globalisation brought extra profit, it also led to much faster economic expansion of countries like Russia, China and east Asia.  The problem here was it was becoming clear that the likes of China and Russia (but particularly China) were not prepared to play ball with American imperialism and its multi-nationals.  Russia sought to link up with Europe and separate it off from the UK and the US; while China sought to rival the US in technology and spread its influence throughout the global south.  US capitalism plunged during the Great Recession and the advanced capitalist economies crawled along afterwards during the Long Depression of the 2010s.  Meanwhile, China grew rapidly and Russia also built up it energy and mineral exports.  This was too much.  Something had to be done to put these rival economic powers in their place.  ‘Engagement’ was dropped for ‘containment’.

Under the Trump administration, the US sought to isolate China with tariffs and bans on Chinese goods and companies.  It insisted that Europe start paying for an expansion of NATO and arms in Europe.  Under Biden, that policy was extended to back any pro-West and nationalist parties against Russia.  The aim to was to include in NATO all countries along Russia’s borders, most of which were keen to take advantage of supposed economic prosperity from the European Union and ‘protection’ from Russian control with NATO.  This has culminated in the Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine is now being destroyed by Russian bombing and arms.  Thousands have died, millions have been displaced and/or fled the country.  The economic base of the country is being annihilated.  Before the war, Ukraine was already a very poor country with a real GDP of just $160bn.  Before this war is over – and it looks like lasting years, not weeks or months any more, that GDP is going to be halved at least. 

Ukrainian sources estimate the cost of restoring infrastructure: financing the war effort (ammunition, weapons, etc.); losses of housing stock, commercial real estate, compensation for death and injury, resettlement costs, income support, etc.) and lost current and future income at from $500 billion to $1,000 billion.  The World Bank estimates that Ukraine’s produced capital stock per capita in 2014 was approximately $25,000, which amounts to approximately $1.1 trillion at the aggregate level. Early reports by government officials and business leaders suggest that 30-50% of that capital stock has been destroyed or severely damaged. Assuming 40% destruction, the cost stands at $440 billion.  In addition, on the assumption of a cost of €10,000 per refugee (per year), the cost of financing 5 million refugees for one year is €50bn, or 0.35% EU GDP.  So to restore the Ukraine economy and rebuild is likely to cost $500bn minimum, say over the next five years.  That’s about 1.0% of EU GDP per year or 0.75% of G7 GDP - at a minimum.

Will the West in its wisdom decide that it is worth spending that sort of money to fund Ukraine’s war effort indefinitely, supporting its population and rebuilding the country as a NATO bulwark against Russia?  It looks like it.  Ukraine is becoming the touchstone of the US global containment policy.  Already US President Biden is pushing US Congress to agree to $30bn in support of Ukraine – that’s nearly equivalent to writing off US student debt, which Biden is refusing to consider.  International policy is more important that helping American youth to get an education.

For example, here’s what Martin Sandbu, the Keynesian columnist in the FT, said“the EU, which should shoulder the bulk of this (and support radical debt relief for Kyiv as with post-war Germany) should not see this as an expense. EU companies will be contracted for infrastructure, housebuilding, transport and more — but should transfer skills and technology to Ukrainians.  Beyond this, it is an investment in Europe’s values and its security. It would bring 44mn people firmly inside the liberal democratic fold and into the social market economy — a historic achievement to rival the continent’s post-cold war reunification and the Marshall Plan itself.

Will the US and Europe go further and opt for what might be called a Marshall Plan for Ukraine?  The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative enacted in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe. The initiative was named after United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall.  The US transferred over $13 billion in economic recovery programs to Western European economies after the end of WW2. The aims was to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers for US mulit-nationals, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and so prevent the spread of communism  George Marshall’s stated goal in his 1947 speech was “to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist”.

How does the Marshall Plan compare with the cost of an aid plan for Ukraine?  Well, $13bn in 1948 was about 1.1% of US GDP then and is equivalent to about $130bn now.  So any Marshall Plan for Ukraine would have to deliver double that, as shared between the US and Europe.  The 1948 plan was composed of both outright grants and loans. The aid accounted for about 3% of the combined GDP of the recipient countries between 1948 and 1951, which meant an increase in GDP growth of less than half a percent.  Ukraine will need much more. 

What really revived Europe’s capitalist economies from 1948 was not so much the Marshall Plan, but the opening-up of US and European markets to Europe’s industries, which could expand based on very cheap and plentiful labour after the war and the ability to purchase the latest technology.  Is that the way forward for a weak and destroyed Ukraine?  Only if Ukrainians can live on extremely low wages and expect little in the way of public services, while Ukraine’s capitalists (who used to be called ‘oligarchs’) and US and Europe’s multi-nationals take over Ukraine’s natural resource base.

But It seems that the US (and Europe more reluctantly) are prepared to stump up the cash to get Ukraine fully restored as a pro-West state in order to weaken Putin’s Russia.  Most historians reckon that the political gains for capitalism after 1945 from of the Marshall Plan were even more important than the direct economic ones.  Europe was kept safe from Communism.  Indeed, the CIA received 5% of the Marshall Plan funds (about $685 million spread over six years), which it used to finance secret operations abroad. Through the Office of Policy Coordination, money was directed toward support for pro-business labour unions, and anti-Communist newspapers, student groups, artists and intellectuals. 

In an analysis of the Marshall Plan, Keynesians Bradford DeLong and Barry Eichengreen concluded that: “It was not large enough to have significantly accelerated recovery by financing investment, aiding the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, or easing commodity bottlenecks. We argue, however, that the Marshall Plan did play a major role in setting the stage for post-World War II Western Europe's rapid growth. The conditions attached to Marshall Plan aid pushed European political economy in a direction that left its post-World War II "mixed economies" with more "market" and less "controls" in the mix

As for Ukraine, it is not the end of the cost for the West.  The US is now insisting that Europe break with the use of Russian oil and gas.  Phasing that out even as fast as the end of this year is going to cost Europe in higher energy prices and lower supply.  That will take perhaps another 0.5% of GDP out of the European economy, which is already heading towards a recession.  Inevitably that will force governments to expand their spending, both on weapons to meet new NATO commitments and on ‘butter’ as unemployment rises. 

Again, this is at a time when government debt to GDP in most economies is at its highest since the Marshall Plan began.  According to the IMF, global government debt to GDP stands at 97%, up 20% just from 2017 and is forecast still to be way higher in 2027 than in 2019 before the COVID pandemic hit.  In the advanced capitalist economies, government debt to GDP was over 120% in 2020, with US gross debt at 134%.  If you include private sector debt, then global debt reached 290% of GDP in 2021, up 40% from 2001.  And the IMF forecast for 2027 does not take into account a Marshall Plan for Ukraine and the NATO build-up. 

Source: BIS

There is big price ahead for working people in the West to pay for saving Ukraine from Russian domination and opening up the country to Western multi-nationals.  But it seems to the strategists of capital that it is a price worth paying by the working people of Europe and the US, with more costs to come in dealing with China over the rest of this decade.

Of course, the burden of funding Ukraine could be reduced if the Western powers order the seizure of Russian FX reserves held abroad as reparations for Ukraine – that might be worth some $400bn.  But then that would be another step up the ladder towards outright confrontation with resisting powers like China.  No wonder this week Chinese leaders discussed how to protect their $3trn of FX reserves from seizure by the Western powers.

3587. RAND Corporation Policy Brief: Overextending Russia

By James DobbinsRaphael S. CohenNathan ChandlerBryan FrederickEdward GeistPaul DeLucaForrest E. MorganHoward J. ShatzBrent Williams, Rand Corporation, 2019


Editor's Note: The following policy brief is republished here for informational purposes only. RAND Corporation was created in 1948 by Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces. It is financed by the U.S. government and private endowment. It has approximately 1,850 employees.

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This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress—overextend and unbalance—Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime's political standing at home and abroad. Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall U.S. strategy for dealing with Russia, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.


Despite these vulnerabilities and anxieties, Russia remains a powerful country that still manages to be a U.S. peer competitor in a few key domains. Recognizing that some level of competition with Russia is inevitable, RAND researchers conducted a qualitative assessment of “cost-imposing options” that could unbalance and overextend Russia. Such cost-imposing options could place new burdens on Russia, ideally heavier burdens than would be imposed on the United States for pursuing those options.Today’s Russia suffers from many vulnerabilities—oil and gas prices well below peak that have caused a drop in living standards, economic sanctions that have furthered that decline, an aging and soon-to-be-declining population, and increasing authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin’s now-continued rule. Such vulnerabilities are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

The work builds on the concept of long-term strategic competition developed during the Cold War, some of which originated at RAND. A seminal 1972 RAND report posited that the United States needed to shift its strategic thinking away from trying to stay ahead of the Soviet Union in all dimensions and toward trying to control the competition and channel it into areas of U.S. advantage. If this shift could be made successfully, the report concluded, the United States could prompt the Soviet Union to shift its limited resources into areas that posed less of a threat.

The new report applies this concept to today’s Russia. A team of RAND experts developed economic, geopolitical, ideological, informational, and military options and qualitatively assessed them in terms of their likelihood of success in extending Russia, their benefits, and their risks and costs.

Figure 1. Russian Petroleum Exports Are Declining

YearPercentage of the total value of exports
2012~70
2013~70
2014~68
201563
201647

SOURCE: United Nations (UN), UN Comtrade Database, electronic online database, 2017.

Economic Cost-Imposing Measures

Expanding U.S. energy production would stress Russia’s economy, potentially constraining its government budget and, by extension, its defense spending. By adopting policies that expand world supply and depress global prices, the United States can limit Russian revenue. Doing so entails little cost or risk, produces second-order benefits for the U.S. economy, and does not need multilateral endorsement.

Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions would also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process. But sanctions come with costs and, depending on their severity, considerable risks.

Increasing Europe’s ability to import gas from suppliers other than Russia could economically extend Russia and buffer Europe against Russian energy coercion. Europe is slowly moving in this direction by building regasification plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG). But to be truly effective, this option would need global LNG markets to become more flexible than they already are and would need LNG to become more price-competitive with Russian gas.

Encouraging the emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youth has few costs or risks and could help the United States and other receiving countries and hurt Russia, but any effects—both positive for receiving countries and negative for Russia—would be difficult to notice except over a very long period. This option also has a low likelihood of extending Russia.

Economic Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and Risks
Expand U.S. energy productionHIGHHIGHLOW
Impose deeper trade and financial sanctionsHIGHHIGHHIGH
Increase Europe’s ability to import LNG from sources other than RussiaMODERATEHIGHMODERATE
Encourage emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youthLOWLOWLOW

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in light orange while a low likelihood of success is shaded in dark orange. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors. 

Air and Space Cost-Imposing Measures

Sailors

Marines assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 remove a training AGM-88 HARM from an F/A-18C Hornet on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

Photo by Anthony N. Hilkowski/DVIDS

Reposturing bombers within easy striking range of key Russian strategic targets has a high likelihood of success and would certainly get Moscow’s attention and raise Russian anxieties; the costs and risks of this option are low as long as the bombers are based out of range of most of Russia’s theater ballistic and ground-based cruise missiles.

Reposturing fighters so that they are closer to their targets than bombers as a way to achieve higher sortie rates to compensate for their smaller payloads would likely concern Moscow even more than reposturing bombers, but the likelihood of success is low and risks are high. Because each aircraft would need to fly multiple sorties during a conventional conflict, Russian leaders would probably be confident that they could destroy many fighters on the ground and shut down their deployment airfields early on with few or no additions to their missile inventory.

Deploying additional tactical nuclear weapons to locations in Europe and Asia could heighten Russia’s anxiety enough to significantly increase investments in its air defenses. In conjunction with the bomber option, it has a high likelihood of success, but deploying more such weapons might lead Moscow to react in ways contrary to U.S. and allied interests.

Repositioning U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense systems to better engage Russian ballistic missiles would also alarm Moscow but would likely be the least effective option because Russia could easily saturate current systems and any planned upgrades with a small percentage of its existing missile inventory, leaving many missiles still available to hold U.S. and allied targets at risk.

There are also ways to get Russia to extend itself in strategic competition. In terms of benefits, such developments would exploit Moscow’s demonstrated fear of U.S. airpower capabilities and doctrines. Developing new low-observable, long-range bombers, or simply adding significantly more of types that are already available or programmed (B-2s and B-21s) would be worrisome for Moscow, as would developing autonomous or remotely piloted strike aircraft and producing them in high numbers. All options would likely incentivize Moscow to devote ever-greater resources to making its command and control systems harder, more mobile, and more redundant.

A key risk of these options is being drawn into arms races that result in cost-imposing strategies directed against the United States. For example, investing in ballistic missile defense systems and space-based weapons would alarm Moscow, but Russia could defend against such developments by taking measures that would probably be considerably cheaper than the costs of these systems to the United States.

As for likelihood of success, some options are good cost-imposing strategies, but some—such as investing more in HARMs or other electronic warfare technologies—are clearly better than others, and some approaches should be avoided, such as those that focus on space-based weapons or ballistic missile defense systems.

The United States might goad Russia into a costly arms race by breaking out of the nuclear arms control regime, but the benefits are unlikely to outweigh U.S. costs. The financial costs of a nuclear arms race would probably be as high for the United States as they would be for Russia, perhaps higher. But the more serious costs would be political and strategic.

Air and Space/Nuclear Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and Risks
Option 1: Changing air and space force posture and operations
Reposture bombersHIGHMODERATELOW
Reposture fightersLOWMODERATEHIGH
Deploy additional tactical nuclear weaponsHIGHLOWHIGH
Reposition U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense systemsLOWLOWMODERATE
Option 2: Increasing aerospace research and development (R&D)
Invest more in low-observable aircraftMODERATEMODERATEMODERATE
Invest more in autonomous or remotely piloted aircraftHIGHMODERATEMODERATE
Invest more in long-range strike aircraft and missilesHIGHHIGHMODERATE
Invest more in longer-range high-speed antiradiation missiles (HARMs)HIGHMODERATEMODERATE
Invest more in new electronic warfare technologiesMODERATEMODERATELOW
Focus on long-range, precision-guided conventional missiles (e.g., conventional prompt global strike)MODERATEMODERATEHIGH
Focus on space-based weaponsLOWMODERATEHIGH
Focus on “spaceplanes”LOW TO MODERATEMODERATEHIGH
Focus on small satellitesLOWMODERATEHIGH
Option 3: Increasing air and missile components of the nuclear triad
Break out of the nuclear arms control regimeLOWMODERATEHIGH

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in light orange while a low likelihood of success is shaded in dark orange. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Maritime Cost-Imposing Measures

USN

A U.S. sailor aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) fires a torpedo at a simulated target during Valiant Shield 2014 in the Pacific Ocean September 18, 2014.

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Declan Barnes/DVIDS

Increasing U.S. and allied naval force posture and presence in Russia’s operating areas could force Russia to increase its naval investments, diverting investments from potentially more dangerous areas. But the size of investment required to reconstitute a true blue-water naval capability makes it unlikely that Russia could be compelled or enticed to do so.

Increasing naval R&D efforts would focus on developing new weapons that allow U.S. submarines to threaten a broader set of targets or enhance their ability to threaten Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), which could impose anti-submarine warfare costs on Russia. There are limited risks, but success depends on being able to develop these capabilities and on whether they are sufficiently capable of influencing Russian expenditures.

Shifting nuclear posture toward SSBNs would entail increasing the percentage of the U.S. nuclear triad assigned to SSBNs by increasing the size of that fleet. While it might force Russia to invest in capabilities that can operate in a blue-water environment in two oceans and would reduce risks to U.S. strategic posture, the option is unlikely to entice Russia into changing its strategy and, thus, extending itself.

Checking the Black Sea buildup would involve deploying strengthened North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) anti-access and area denial over the Black Sea—perhaps in the form of long-range, land-based anti-ship missiles—to drive up the cost of defending Russian bases in Crimea and lower the benefit to Russia of having seized this area. Russia would certainly mount a vigorous diplomatic and informational campaign to dissuade coastal NATO and non-NATO states from participating. Also, operating in the Black Sea is politically and logistically more difficult for the U.S. Navy than the Russian Navy; it is also more dangerous for the former in a conflict.

Maritime Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and Risks
Increase U.S. and allied naval force posture and presenceMODERATEMODERATELOW
Increase naval R&D effortsMODERATEMODERATEMODERATE
Shift nuclear posture toward SSBNsLOWLOWLOW
Check the Black Sea buildupMODERATEMODERATEMODERATE

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in light orange while a low likelihood of success is shaded in dark orange. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Land and Multidomain Cost-Imposing Measures

#ArtemisStrike

Exercise Artemis Strike was a German-led tactical live-fire exercise with live Patriot and Stinger missiles at the NATO Missile Firing Installation in Chania, Greece, from October 31 to November 9, 2017. More than 200 U.S. soldiers and approximately 650 German airmen participated in the realistic training within a combined construct, exercising the rigors associated with force projection and educating operators on their air missile defense systems.

Photo by Anthony Sweeney/DVIDS

Increasing U.S. forces in Europe, increasing European NATO member ground capabilities, and deploying a large number of NATO forces on the Russian border would likely have only limited effects on extending Russia. All the options would enhance deterrence, but the risks vary. A general increase in NATO ground force capabilities in Europe—including closing European NATO member readiness gaps and increasing the number of U.S. forces stationed in traditional locations in Western Europe—would have limited risks. But large-scale deployments on Russia’s borders would increase the risk of conflict with Russia, particularly if perceived as challenging Russia’s position in eastern Ukraine, Belarus, or the Caucasus.

Increasing the size and frequency of NATO exercises in Europe may help to enhance readiness and deterrence, but it is unlikely to prompt a costly Russian response unless the exercises also send risky signals. Large-scale NATO exercises held near Russia’s borders and exercises that practice counterattack or offensive scenarios could be perceived as showing the intent and willingness to consider offensive operations. For example, a NATO exercise simulating a counterattack to retake NATO territory lost to advancing Russian forces might look like an exercise to prepare for an invasion of a piece of Russian territory, such as Kaliningrad.

Developing but not deploying an intermediate-range missile could bring Russia back into conformity with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty but could also prompt an acceleration of Russian missile programs. Withdrawing from that treaty and building the missiles but not deploying them in Europe would add little to U.S. capabilities and would probably prompt Russia to deploy such missiles itself—and, perhaps, invest more in ballistic missile defense. Taking the further step of deploying the missiles to Europe, assuming that NATO allies were willing, would also almost certainly prompt a Russian response, potentially involving substantial resources, or at least the diversion of substantial resources from other defense spending, though it is hard to assess what share would be directed toward defensive capabilities versus offensive or retaliatory ones.

Incremental investments in new technologies to counter Russian air defenses and increase U.S. long-range fires could significantly improve defense and deterrence while compelling increased Russian investment in countermeasures. Investments in more-revolutionary, next-generation technologies could have even greater effects, given the Russian concerns about new physical principles, but depending on the capability, such investments could also risk strategic stability by threatening the Russian regime and leadership security in a crisis.

Land and Multidomain Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and Risks
Option 1: Increasing U.S. and NATO land forces in Europe
Increase U.S. forces in EuropeMODERATEMODERATEMODERATE
Increase European NATO member ground capabilitiesLOWHIGHLOW
Deploy large number of NATO forces on the Russian borderMODERATEMODERATEHIGH
Option 2: Increasing NATO exercises in Europe
Increase the size of U.S participationLOWMODERATEMODERATE
Generate a mass mobilization of European NATO member forcesLOWHIGHMODERATE
Hold exercises on Russia’s bordersMODERATEMODERATEHIGH
Hold exercises practicing counterattack or offensive scenariosMODERATEMODERATEHIGH
Option 3: Withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Fund a missile development program without withdrawingMODERATELOWMODERATE
Withdraw and build missiles but do not deploy to EuropeHIGHLOWMODERATE
Withdraw, build missiles, and deploy to EuropeHIGHMODERATEHIGH
Option 4: Investing in new capabilities to manipulate Russian risk perceptions
Invest in incremental improvements in counter–anti-access and area denial capabilities (e.g., enhanced Army Tactical Missile Systems, advanced anti-radiation guided missiles)HIGHMODERATEMODERATE
Invest in revolutionary, swarm counter–anti-access and area denial capabilitiesHIGHHIGHHIGH
Invest in incremental improvements in counter–ground forces/fires (e.g., enhanced Javelin)LOWLOWLOW
Invest in revolutionary, unmanned ground forces/fires capabilitiesMODERATEMODERATEMODERATE
Invest in weapons based on “new physical principles” (e.g,. directed-energy counter–air-defense weapons)MODERATEHIGHHIGH

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in light orange while a low likelihood of success is shaded in dark orange. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Implications for the Army

The task of “extending Russia” need not fall primarily on the Army or even the U.S. armed forces as a whole. Indeed, the most promising ways to extend Russia—those with the highest benefit, the lowest risk, and greatest likelihood of success—likely fall outside the military domain. Russia is not seeking military parity with the United States and, thus, might simply choose not to respond to some U.S. military actions (e.g., shifts in naval presence); other U.S. military actions (e.g., posturing forces closer to Russia) could ultimately prove more costly to the United States than to Russia. Still, our findings have at least three major implications for the Army.

  1. The U.S. Army should rebuild its linguistic and analytical expertise on Russia. Because Russia does pose a long-term threat, the Army needs to develop the human capital to engage in this strategic competition.
  2. The Army should consider investing and encouraging the other services to invest more in capabilities, such as Army Tactical Missile Systems, Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2, longer-range anti-air defense, and other systems designed to counter Russian anti-access and area denial capabilities. The Army also might consider spending some R&D resources on less-mature, more-futuristic systems (e.g., swarm unmanned aerial vehicles or remote combat vehicles). While these measures would likely be insufficient in themselves to greatly extend Russia, they would benefit U.S. deterrence efforts and could augment a broader whole-of-government policy.
  3. Even if the Army were not directly involved in extending Russia per se, it would play a key role in mitigating the possible blowback. All the options to extend Russia incur some risk. As a result, enhancing U.S. deterrence posture in Europe and increasing U.S. military capabilities (e.g., an enhanced Javelin or active protection systems for Army vehicles) might need to go hand in hand with any move to extend Russia, as a way of hedging against the chance of tensions with Russia escalating into conflict.

Conclusions

The most-promising options to “extend Russia” are those that directly address its vulnerabilities, anxieties, and strengths, exploiting areas of weakness while undermining Russia’s current advantages. In that regard, Russia’s greatest vulnerability, in any competition with the United States, is its economy, which is comparatively small and highly dependent on energy exports. Russian leadership’s greatest anxiety stems from the stability and durability of the regime, and Russia’s greatest strengths are in the military and info-war realms. The table below draws from the earlier tables to identify the most-promising options.

Most of the options discussed, including those listed here, are in some sense escalatory, and most would likely prompt some Russian counterescalation. Thus, besides the specific risks associated with each option, there is additional risk attached to a generally intensified competition with a nuclear-armed adversary to consider. This means that every option must be deliberately planned and carefully calibrated to achieve the desired effect. Finally, although Russia will bear the cost of this increased competition less easily than the United States will, both sides will have to divert national resources from other purposes. Extending Russia for its own sake is not a sufficient basis in most cases to consider the options discussed here. Rather, the options must be considered in the broader context of national policy based on defense, deterrence, and—where U.S. and Russian interests align—cooperation.

Most-Promising Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and Risks
Expand U.S. energy productionHIGHHIGHLOW
Impose deeper trade and financial sanctionsHIGHHIGHHIGH
Increase U.S. and allied naval force posture and presenceMODERATEMODERATELOW
Reposture bombersHIGHMODERATELOW
Invest more in autonomous or remotely piloted aircraftHIGHMODERATEMODERATE
Invest more in long-range strike aircraft and missilesHIGHHIGHMODERATE
Invest more in longer-range HARMsHIGHMODERATEMODERATE
Invest more in new electronic warfare technologiesMODERATEMODERATELOW

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in light orange while a low likelihood of success is shaded in dark orange. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.