Russia Resurgent - 2007

Russia Resurgent


When we look back at the end of the Western stand-off with Soviet Russia that dominated global politics for half a century, we can see it as a spending competition that a lumbering communist autocracy could never hope to win. In short, we were able to maintain the edge in a terrifying game of brinkmanship with the Russians because our economic system worked and theirs did not: the West generated wealth, while the Soviet Union could only bleed itself dry trying to keep up. In the end, as Mikhail Gorbachev realised, the only solution for Russia was a programme of economic and social reform that was dependent for its success on the friendship of her enemies. But as Lilia Shevtsova pointed out in these pages yesterday, that friendship was offered more grudgingly than it might have been, and there was too much suspicion and too little magnanimity shown in our dealings with the defeated power. Now that Russia can not only pay its bills but also invest heavily abroad, and is able to use its energy reserves to blackmail its neighbours, we are paying the price for the coolness of that early welcome. President Vladimir Putin is a proud man, and one who cares little for the good opinion of his peers. But he is also a former Cold Warrior who knows that, if there was one weapon that enabled the Soviet Union to survive as long as it did, that weapon was fear. So now that he can afford to restore the strategic bomber patrols that were abandoned in 1992, he has done so; he taunts the West by engaging in cosy military exercises with the Chinese; his aircraft have restarted the game of forcing American planes to scramble from Guam. The message is that Russia is neither bankrupt nor contrite, and that east-west diplomacy is once more a potentially deadly contest of equals. And there is a lesson for us in Mr Putin's domestic policies as well, for the return of that climate of dread in which Soviet citizens lived for so long has now become the medium for a calculated insult to Britain. As we report today, the last Russian radio station to broadcast the BBC World Service on FM has been told to desist, on pain of closure; and although the service will still be accessible on shortwave and via the internet, we can't help but fear the consequences for Russians who use it too publicly. Meanwhile Mr Putin has shown just how far Western unity has crumbled since the Cold War, for there has been no coherent response to his sabre-rattling. Russia is back, but Reagan and Thatcher have gone. Maybe now it's our turn to catch up.


Russia Resumes Patrols by Nuclear Bombers

President Vladimir V. Putin said Friday that the Russian Air Force would resume regular, long-range patrols by nuclear-capable bombers over the world’s oceans, renewing the practice after a 15-year hiatus in another sign of Russia’s growing assertiveness. In the first flight, 14 bombers and six supporting airplanes took off at midnight on Friday, Mr. Putin said, in remarks carried on state television. Mr. Putin said such patrols would continue “from this day on.” The sortie on Friday included Tu-160 and Tu-95 airplanes, known by their NATO appellations as Blackjacks and Bears, according to a statement posted on the Russian Defense Ministry Web site. The Russian bombers were flying Friday over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the North Pole, and were being escorted by NATO fighter jets, the site said, recalling cold war-era standoffs. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia would periodically send its aging bomber fleet on missions, but only during major military training exercises; the country was too poor to fly the planes often.

That is no longer the case. Now the bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, will regularly fly missions far from Russian soil separately from scheduled training exercises. Mr. Putin suggested Friday that the decision was a response to military threats to Russia. This month, Russian bombers flew near the American military base on the Pacific island of Guam. Gen. Pavel V. Androsov, the commander of long-range aviation, boasted that the sortie prompted the United States to scramble fighter jets that flew so close to the Russians that the pilots, “smiled at each other and then peacefully went their separate ways.” The Pentagon confirmed that Russian airplanes had been spotted but said that no fighter jets had been sent to intercept them. In July, Russian Tu-95 bombers flew toward Scotland but turned back before entering British airspace. In that case, the Royal Air Force confirmed it had scrambled fighter jets in response. The American the response on Friday was muted. “Militaries around the world engage in a variety of different activities,” Gordon D. Johndroe, the White House spokesman, told reporters in Crawford, Tex., according to a transcript. “It’s not entirely surprising that the Russian Air Force, the Russian military, might engage in this kind of activity.”

Russian television showed images of sleek bombers soaring into the air, refueling and landing, though it was unclear whether the images depicted the sorties that took off Friday. Russia has 79 strategic aircraft, capable of carrying 900 cruise missiles, Russian television reported, far fewer than at the height of the cold war. Still, the resumption of bomber flights was the latest in a series of assertive gestures by Russia, emboldened by windfall petroleum wealth and angered over what it has called American and NATO aggressiveness, including plans for a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, analysts said. Earlier this year, Russia backed out of a major arms pact, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, and defied British demands to extradite the principal suspect in the radiation poisoning of a Russian security service defector in London. “They believe, with some legitimacy, that they are a rising power,” Cliff Kupchan, a Russia expert at the Eurasia Group in Washington, a political risk advisory and consulting firm, said in a telephone interview. “Until they feel they are playing their due role in international relations, we will continue to see assertive behavior from Russia.” “It’s a symbolic gesture, but it stands for something very real, which is a resurgent Russia,” he said of the resumption of strategic bomber patrols.


Russia in $250bn plan to restore its military might

In a hangar at an airfield 30 kilometres south-east of Moscow, technicians are checking the latest additions to the burgeoning military arsenal that a resurgent Russia hopes can restore its status as a major world power. The MiG-35 and MiG-29 fighters, which Russia plans to showcase at this week's Moscow international air show, are just a small part of a £100 billion ($A249 billion) plan to return the Russian military to the heights of its Cold War might. At the weekend, President Vladimir Putin caused consternation by announcing the resumption of regular, long-range nuclear bomber patrols, but there is more to come. Russia is planning to double combat aircraft production by 2025, with more nuclear missiles, aircraft carriers and tanks at the top of Moscow's shopping list. The message to the West is clear: the days of being able to dismiss Russia as a spent force are over. Bolstered by the cash from sales of oil and gas and Mr Putin's steely determination to re-establish the country on the world stage, the Russian military machine is back in business. Intelligence sources say Washington and London have been taken aback by just how seriously Russia has viewed the perceived slight of being overlooked as a world power. They admit that in concentrating so heavily on Iraq and al-Qaeda, they took their eye off the ball. "They were slow to see that these people are still players," said a former White House staffer, who served both Ronald Reagan and George Bush. "My great fear is that I wake up one day soon to discover that we lost the Cold War — or rather that, like everything else, we won the war and then lost the peace." A source close to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who cut her teeth in government as a kremlinologist in the 1980s, said that Middle East issues had diverted her attention from a more rigorous engagement with Moscow. "She wants to spend more time on Russia but that hasn't always been possible. She said to me that she regrets the fact that she has not done enough on what is, after all, her major area of expertise," the source said. Mr Putin has not been slow to take advantage of the US and British problems in Iraq and Afghanistan. The carefully staged pictures of the President stripped to the waist and striking various manly poses on holiday in Siberia last week are not the only Russian muscle-flexing that has been going on in recent months. While Russia's submariners have managed to upset even the mild-mannered Norwegians and Canadians by planting a flag under the Arctic ice, its long range TU-95 Bear bombers have rattled America's cage by buzzing its US naval base on the island of Guam in the western Pacific.


In related news:

Moscow’s New Military Assertiveness Isn’t Just Talk

The Great Horned Owl is a magnificent raptor with feathers so soft its prey can’t even hear it coming until it’s too late. But, even this superb hunter has a major challenge to overcome — it cannot move its eyes. To scan forest or field for danger — or its next meal — the owl, with its eyes fixed straight ahead, must rotate its head. Today, the U.S. national security apparatus is much like an owl with a stiff neck. For more than three years now, our White House, State Department and Pentagon have been fixated on America’s adversaries in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Our preoccupation has been on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Unfortunately, we seem to have missed what’s happening in Russia. Not to carry the wildlife metaphor too far — but the bear is back. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would build a new air defense radar system in St. Petersburg, to be “the first step in a large-scale program,” and that it will be “carried out before 2015.” This follows Mr. Putin’s threat to re-target Russian nuclear weapons on Europe if Washington goes ahead with plans to deploy missile defense radars in the Czech Republic and anti-missile interceptors in Poland. As usual, the "Blame America First" crowd claims that the U.S. ICBM shield is precipitating a “crisis.” Perhaps, but the Euro-critics and our own foreign policy wonks — like owls that can’t turn their heads — may be missing what’s really happening in Mr. Putin’s world.

In July, the Russian president told newly promoted military and security officers at the Kremlin that “one of our absolute priorities is an all-round strengthening of the armed forces.” Mr. Putin added that, “both the situation in the world and internal political interests demand that Russia's foreign intelligence service constantly increases its resources, above all in the field of information and analytical support for the country's leadership.” And last week, Adm. Vladimir Masorin, Russia’s navy chief, declared intentions to “restore a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea,” a capability Moscow has not had since the Cold War. But Moscow’s new assertiveness isn’t just talk. Sales of Russian military hardware to Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea are up more than 25 percent in the past two years. In July, Russian explorers planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole "claiming" the region for Moscow — despite angry protests from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway. Last week Pentagon officials acknowledged Moscow’s boast that two Russian Tu-95 long-range turbo-prop bombers had “buzzed” U.S. military bases on Guam. And this week Russia and China began a massive joint military exercise — only the second ever — and the first to be held on Russian soil. What’s going on here? What’s “the bear” doing behind “the owl’s” back? Is Vladimir Putin bent on starting a new Cold War? The fact is, we don’t know. Our human intelligence resources are so thin that “we have no idea what’s happening inside the Kremlin,” according to one retired senior intelligence officer. But what we do know for certain should be alarming enough to make us pay attention.

First, we know that Russia is awash in gas and petro-dollars. Thanks to the worldwide spike in oil and natural gas prices, Moscow is raking in Euros and fueling military and intelligence expenditures that were previously financially impossible. Second, we know that long-term, Russia is in very serious trouble — because it is simply running out of Russians. To sustain economic growth, a nation needs a growing population; increasing the number of people requires either babies be born in sufficient numbers or immigration — or both. Moscow’s problem is that it has neither. Even neutral population growth requires 2.1 live births per couple. Russia’s birth rate is less than 1.6 — and nobody immigrates to Russia. According to the CIA, Russia also has one of the lowest average life-spans on the planet — 66.6 years. Absent a dramatic increase in birth-rate, longevity and/or massive immigration, the population of 141.3 million Russians will continue to decline at a rate of about 700,000 per year. This population implosion means that in little more than a decade there will simply be too few Russians to control one-sixth of the world’s land mass and perhaps one-third of the world’s petroleum and natural gas reserves. To further complicate the situation, to the south, energy starved China — population 1.4 billion — already has 70 million more men than women — and a military more than double the size of Russia’s. We don’t seem to know what Vladimir Putin has decided to do about his country’s precarious future — but it would be naïve for us to ignore the enormous potential for miscalculation. Better intelligence is a must. Even owls move their heads to look around. Maybe that’s why they are said to be wise.


Russia, China, Iran issue veiled warning to U.S. to stay away from Central Asia

The leaders of Russia, China and Iran have warned the outside world to leave Central Asia alone to look after its own stability and security, in a veiled message to the United States issued on the eve of major war games between Russia and China. Leaders issued a statement Thursday, at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that was an apparent warning to the United States to stay away from the strategically placed, resource-rich region. "Stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations," the leaders said at the end of the organization's summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and leaders of four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that are part of the SCO were all also set to attend Friday's military exercises in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia's Ural Mountains.

Some 6,000 Russian and Chinese troops, dozens of aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles and other heavy weapons will be participating the games — the first such joint drills on Russia's territory. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an observer at the summit, criticized U.S. missile defense plans as a threat to the entire region. "These intentions go beyond just one country. They are of concern for much of the continent, Asia and SCO members," he said. The SCO was created 11 years ago to address religious extremism and border security issues in Central Asia. In recent years, with Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia signing on as observers, the group has increasingly grown into a bloc aimed at defying U.S. interests in the region, which has huge hydrocarbon reserves. Ahmadinejad is attending the annual summit for the second consecutive year. In 2005, the SCO called for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from two member countries, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan evicted U.S. forces later that year, but Kyrgyzstan still hosts a U.S. base, which supports operations in nearby Afghanistan. Russia also maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan. Putin didn't mention the United States in his speech at the summit, but he said that "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless." He also called for "strengthening a multi-polar international system that would ensure equal security and opportunities for all countries" — comments echoing Russia's frequent complaints that the United States dominates world affairs. Moscow has also bristled at Washington's plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying the system would threaten Russia security. The United States says the missile defenses are necessary to avert the threat of possible missile attacks by Iran.

Hu also said signaled that security for Central Asia was best left to the nations themselves. "The SCO nations have a clear understanding of the threats faced by the region and thus must ensure their security themselves," he said. Moscow and Beijing have developed what they dubbed a "strategic partnership" after the Soviet collapse, cemented by their perceptions that the United States dominates global affairs. China hosted the first-ever joint maneuvers in August 2005, which included a mock assault on the beaches of northern China and featured Russia's long-range bombers. The SCO, whose members are some of the world's biggest energy producers and consumers, also discussed ways to enhance energy cooperation. The U.S. has supported plans for new pipelines that would carry the region's oil and gas to the West and bypass Russia, while Moscow has pushed strongly to control the export flows. China also has shown a growing appetite for energy to power its booming economy. A further sign of the group's intention to influence energy markets was the participation in the Bishkek summit of Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, whose country is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the former Soviet Union after Russia. Turkmenistan is not a SCO member; the president was attending as a guest.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.