The Pentagon issued a new report Friday that ought to make a lot of eyebrows go up.
Through surreptitious and illegal means as well as legitimate purchases, the study notes, Russia has acquired enough western technology to enable it to start overtaking the Free World in terms of the quality of its military hardware.Since Russia already enjoys an advantage over NATO forces in terms of the sheer numbers of troops and weapons in Europe, the new report ought to be particularly chilling.
But then it shouldn't have taken this Pentagon study to alert the West to the increasing danger posed by Russia's growing military sophistication and some of the under-handed methods that help produce it.
Long before the new report was issued, it was no secret that Soviet arms producers have been making rapid strides. As a case in point, take the new tank that the Russian army is now field-testing. The new vehicle, available five years sooner than NATO experts had predicted, has high-tech armor that makes it virtually invulnerable even to the West's most powerful anti-tank weapons. It also carries a 135-mm gun that can penetrate the thicket armor on NATO's tanks.
The Soviet bloc already enjoys a two-to-one tank superiority in Europe. This new weapon gives Moscow a better prospect than ever of a blitzkrieg victory like Nazi Germany's conquest of France in 1940.
Such breakthroughs in improved weapons can't be attributed entirely to a combination of Soviet sophistication and Moscow's willingness to steal western technology. Sadly, some parts of the Free World are voluntarily contributing to the increased danger from Russia.
The case of the Toshiba Corp. is, of course, already well known. In violation of an agreement curbing the sale of security-sensitive technology, the Japanese firm sold Russia sophisticated machine tools that enabled the Soviets to manufacture quiet submarine propellers that make Russian undersea vessels harder to detect.
Unhappily, members of Congress seeking to punish Toshiba for its perfidy now have another candidate for their wrath this one in France. French authorities have arrested four current and former executives of a French firm for selling Russia machinery that enabled the Soviets to produce in mass quantities turbine blades for advanced jet engines. To make matters worse, the French company involved was owned at the time by the French government.
If stiff fines and long jail terms are required, so be it. The West must get as tough as it takes to persuade some people to stop putting profits ahead of national security.
Another kind of reappraisal also is in order in Washington. For four years in a row, Congress and the White House have agreed to cut U.S. defense spending in real terms. The new report on how Russia is overtaking NATO in terms of the quality of its weapons ought to prompt a new assessment of some American priorities.