I don't know if I'm asking this on a correct site but here it goes. I've noticed this trend on many occasions. Examples: recently Russia announced the start of production of new "superweapons" such as their "kindjal" missile, anti missile laser and others. The videos themselves were of extremely poor quality CG and the later revealed laser itself turned or to be just a plastic model which was easily noticable, as if Russians didn't even try to make all of this look realistic. To make matters even more weird, lenta.ru, the pro-government outlet in Russia has written an article on how the laser had a PVC pipe in its construction. North Korea makes absolutely unrealistic claims all the time to prove its superiority, with their new. Venezuelan military recently came out with an extremely poorly made video with a horrible display of tactics or whatever they tried to show off.

Now it's pretty clear that this kind of show is not meant to scare anyone outside of their own country, unless the leaders are so far from reality to think these would have any effect. This leaves their own public as the target audience. The question is, is this really the case, and if it is how effective are these tactics?

  • Question seems reasonable to me, but the original headline looked like it was attempting to discredit these shows of force. I've edited it to hopefully keep it factual while keeping to the spirit of your question.
    – Joe C
    Feb 9, 2019 at 9:15
  • True, this way it's more neutral. Although I do think the so called "silly" look these videos etc. have, by which I mean they seem to be deliberately downplayed by the authors themselves is worth mentioning. Let it stay as comment, but this feature of these films/claims is a common trend and might have to do something with the tactic itself. Feb 9, 2019 at 10:04

1 Answer 1


All of the above, I would say.

Every state communicates to domestic and foreign audiences. The communication strategies and goals will differ, but they should be consistent with each other or people will wonder. (This is probably least relevant to North Korea, but it certainly applies to Russia.)

  • Leaders might want to communicate new capabilities while their intel people try to keep classified information secret. So here will be props for public messaging. Take John Boltons infamous notepad -- a genuine error or a blunt message?
  • States point to foreign threats to "rally the population around the flag" and to explain away hardships.
  • At the same time, they should not claim to be powerless against those threats.
  • Last but not least, the threats may be real rather than imagined.

The Russians are a good example. On the one hand, they are unwilling to accept that their role was diminshed with the breakup of the Soviet Union. They are a revisionist state (in terms of power transition theory) and operating in the domain of loss (in terms of prospect theory).

On the other hand, they have seen "the West" support Color Revolutions politically and financially, and they have no reason to believe assurances that no such thing is planned in Russia.

And they see the US install missile defense systems ostensibly against Iran, in places where they might be used to diminish a Russian second strike after a (conventional or nuclear) first trike by the US. Personally, I don't believe that the US would do such a thing, but then I'm no Russian. Soldiers and spies are supposed to worry about capabilities, not intentions.

Russia cannot win an all-out arms race, but they want to show the West that beating them will be expensive to improve their negotiating position.

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