Putin offers missiles, not bread
President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of powerful new nuclear weapons should make Russians feel cheated, said Karina Orlova. In his annual address to the Federal Assembly last week, Putin displayed “cartoons with poor-quality graphics” purporting to show that Russia has developed a nearly infinite–range cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone, and hypersonic missiles that can evade U.S. defense systems. “Escalation of an arms race is a serious matter,” especially because the collapse of the USSR was partly caused by Soviet attempts to spend their way to military parity with the U.S. Little money was left to fund technological innovation or business infrastructure, so the USSR dropped behind the U.S. in those areas, and Russia still lags to this day. Yet in the same speech, Putin made the Soviet mistake of setting ridiculous benchmarks for development, saying he wanted to double tech exports and the number of people employed by small businesses. Such goals are not met “merely because Putin—or Brezhnev—orders it.” In the U.S., the country where companies invent advanced rockets and popular computers, no president has ever set as a national goal the doubling of yields or crops. Instead, America’s civil society and market economy set the conditions to allow innovation. Our authoritarian system can build weapons, sure. But that won’t make this country great.