Monday, August 20, 2007

Bear Facts...Russia On The Prowl

While the US has been fixated on the Middle East, something ominous has been happening in Russia...and by extension, in Central Asia.

The Russian Bear is on the prowl.

The Russian-Western relationship has become an adversarial one, for all intents and purposes. This is not a temporary `divergence of views' as the current occupant of the White House would have it, but a drawing of battle lines:

  • 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 is in addition to Putin's threat to re-target Russian nuclear weapons on Europe if the US goes ahead with plans to deploy a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and anti-missile interceptors in Poland.
  • Last month, Putin announced a seven-year, $200-billion rearmament plan designed to refurbish the Russian military with new generations of missiles, planes, and ships. And the new, aggressive military posture is already being implemented. Putin announced that Russian bombers armed with nukes are resuming patrols, and those bombers have extended their forays far into the Atlantic and Pacific, forcing US and NATO jets to scramble and take to the air for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Just last week, the Pentagon officials acknowledged that two Russian Tu-95 long-range turboprop bombers had "buzzed" U.S. military bases on Guam.
  • Sales of Russian military hardware to Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea are up more than 25 percent in the past two years, especially to Iran and Syria....and last week, Adm. Vladimir Masorin, The head of Russia's navy announced that Russia will "restore a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea" again, something the Russians haven't had since the Cold War. As part of that presence, Russia recently signed an agreement with Syria allowing them to utilize the ports at Tartus and Latakia, a factor that could provide `insurance' for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime against a potential attack by the US or Israel in the event of a war.
  • A few weeks ago, Russian explorers planted a flag on the seabed at the north pole, "claiming" the region for Moscow and ignoring angry protests from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway. And most ominous of all, Russia and China just finished holding joint military exercises under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which includes Iran as an `observer' and is being touted as a `counterbalance' to the US and NATO. The military exercises included tight military cooperation between the Russian and Chinese armies with two separate command posts 3,000 miles apart, with Chinese forces entering Russian territory for the first time in modern history and Russian units from Chelyabinsk in the Russian Urals operating from Urumchi, capital of the Chinese province of Xinjiang. This marks the first time China has ever drilled its air force over any foreign territory, and also the first time Chinese troops have ever used the Russian military railway system.While billed as a `joint anti-terrorism exercise' it was an obvious message to the US to stay out of energy rich Central Asia and to avoid attacking Russia's client state, Iran.

While a number of observers express puzzlement over what's going on, to me it's fairly obvious. Russia has been a blatantly imperialist nation since the days of the Czars, and they want their empire back....and to recover the prominence as a world power that goes with it.Moreover, they want revenge on the adversary that defeated them and deprived them of that empire.

To that end, Putin's Russia has adopted the old doctrine `the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' That means Iran and Syria, and to an extent, China.

Russia - for now - is well supplied with gas and petrodollars,because of the worldwide rise in oil and natural gas prices. Moreover, supplying arms and other materials to clients like Iran and Syria has also proven to be a major source of revenue. That gives Putin the ability to pay for military and intelligence expenditures that were simply unaffordable before.

This is essentially a devil's bargain on Putin's part. As I've mentioned before, Russia's birthrate is plummeting...except in the parts of Russia that are predominantly Islamic. The Islamification of Russia is an established fact.

Russia's overall population is dropping at a rate of 700,000 people a year, mostly because of the short life expectancy - 66.6 years - and low birth rates of ethnic Russians. Abortion is widespread - I've seen estimates that state that up to 70% of pregnancies in non-Muslim Russia are terminated by abortions.

On the other hand, since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 per cent to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims could make up the majority of Russia's army and they could account for 20% of the population by 2020.

Putin has attempted to counteract this by passing legislation limiting the amount of mosques that can be constructed and encouraging birth rates among ethnic Russians, and his agreewment with Iran was partially designed to cut off the flow of arms and fighters to insurgent Chechnya, but it remains to be seen how successful his efforts will be.

In the meantime, with his term as president approaching it's end, Putin needs a justification to unify the country with a new nationalism, build up its armed forces and curtail democracy and civil liberties. Invoking the historic illusion of Russia as a `beseiged fortress' and demonizing the evil West is an effective tool, and could very well be a stepping stone to Putin retaining power, either directly or behind the scenes.

In short, Putin is simply playing both ends against the middle, a mistake similar to the one Stalin made with Hitler. And with the added side benefit of creating a climate that allows him to retain power.

There are really only three ways the US can handle this situation. One way is to enter into advanced negotiations to bid for Russia's loyalty by dropping any expectations for democracy and a normal succession, getting out of Central Asia, acceding to a nuclear Iran, offering major commercial concessions and essentially leaving Eastern Europe, the Baltic nations and the independent countries in what was the former Soviet empire open to Russian imperialism.

Another is to show Putin that we are ready, if necessary, to re-open the Cold War, seize Russian assets in the West and treat Russia as an adversary again, thereby perhaps making it worthwhile for Russia to make a decision on where its best interests lie.

Since both of those options are unlikely to be exercised in the current geopolitical climate, the third, passive alternative seems to be the one the US is prepared to go with - do nothing and let events take care of themselves.

In the end, that option, combined with increased US military preparedness, a shoring up of our allies in `new Europe' , the Middle East and Central Asia, and a show of strength towards any Russian aggression may end up being the best policy.


Anonymous said...

Great post!! You have had many good posts but in my humble opinion this one is one of your best. I think it is without a doubt that Russia is the most dangerous threat to American national security in the world. You seem to suggest three possible ways to handle the issue. 1.)Be prepared to aggressively confront Russian bullying even if it means renewing the Cold War. 2.) Pull out of Eastern Europe and other Baltic states. This would essentially make things wide open for Putin to fulfill his dream of reestablishing the Soviet Union. 3.) Do nothing and allew events to take care of themselves.

Personally I prefer option 1 but, as you point out in your post, this one cannot be implemented right now. As for option 2 the Russians would likely be unsatisfied. They would probably look to expand westward as the old Soviet Union did. At least there is an upside to option 2. Most of the American and World media is in the hip pocket of Vladimir Putin. By surrendering on Putin's terms, we lessen the media hostility toward the United States. This will help us restore our battered world image. It also would make it less easy for Putin justify Russia's aggression. It still would not be hard for the Russians to justify their aggression. It simply would not be as easy as it currently is. The world media is riddled with Putin toadys. As you can see, I don't like option 2. As for option 3 meaning no disrespect I think it is even worse than option 2. Do nothing and let events take care of themselves seems to be largely based on hope. What if events don't take care of themselves? For example, Vladimir Putin is one of the shrewdest political operators the world has ever known. He has instituted programs designed to make ethnic Russians proud of their heritage. Such people, will be more likely to have babies in the future. This combined with the tax credits being offered by the Russian government for familiies to have more babies make it unlikely that Russia's native population will continue to fall. Also, if Iran should get out of line, the Russian military along with the Russian intellegence agencies can easily handle them.

Some policies such as renewing the Cold War while they may be the optimal solution, this cannot be done. The US military is currently inadequate to fight and win a war with either Russia or China. Also, the US has downgraded its nuclear arsenal in recent years. Russia has expanded and upgraded theirs. The military prepardness that might give option 3 a chance to work cannot be implemented right now.

I would suggest a variation of option 2. The US would agree to abandon all military installations in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Republics and would agree not to intervene in these areas even if Russia recolonizes them. (I estiamte a 99.99% possibility that Russia would use this oppoertunity to recapture the colonies it lost at the end of the Cold War.) In exchange for this, Russia agrees to withdraw all support from Venezuela and the other Central and South American countries it currently supports.

Russia is the clear winner here. They get to reestablish their empire. The current NATO prescense in Eastern Europe is not significant enough to even think of seriously threatening Russia. This is in contrast to the regimes Russia supports in Central America, such as Venezuela. Venezuela is an enormous threat to the US. If we could eliminate that threat, in this manner, this may make the deal somewhat palatable. As I stated previously, I DO NOT like this but it may be the best we can do.

The Russians build Iran's military capability. The US and its allies begin to desparately look for ways to defend themselves. They suggest a missle defense system to be placed in Poland. Then Russia complains that the US is trying to restart the Cold War. The brazeness of these people is amazing. They create a threat. We attempt to respond to defend ourselves and we are accused of being war mongers!! Putin has gotten a valuable assist from his toadys in the media. What a racket!! The Russians have proposed that the missle defense be built in a Russian puppet state. This would be unacceptable. American secrets would fall into the hands of Russia and then ultimately into the hands of their Iranian allies. Even the Aemricans are not that stupid. If the Americans reject the "genreous" offer of the Russians and build the missle defense system in Ppland, they will be attacked by the world media as being "unreasonable" or worse. If the system is built in the Russian puppet state, it will be worse than useless. In other words, Poland will probably have to go defenseless unless they build the system themselves. How dare the the US or its allies defend themselves!!

Limiting the construction of mosques is a smart move on the part of the Russians. After all, the teachings in the mosques are incompatible with Western civilization. In other words, these people pose an existntial threat to the United States. As such, we should be doing what the Russians are doing.

Unfortunately, if we tried this, the media and other Communist front organizations, such as the ACLU, would be beside themselves with rage. The media remains silent when the Russians do this. I think this is no accident. Apparently the American and world media elites think Russian civilizaiton is worth saving but American civilization should not be defended.

Having said all of this, it is not to late to confront Russia effectively but time grows short. If we are going to convront them, we will need to get started soon. Part of confronting them will be to make better use of the media. No country is better at manipulating the world media than Russia is.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster!
Thanks for the kind words.

I have a somewhat different take on this.

First of all, Russia is NOT the biggest threat to our security. It is a dying nation desperately trying to do exactly what the Soviet Union did..foment trouble worldwide in an effort to divert attention from its weakness. Also, Putin is no political mastermind..he's merely a KGB apparatchnik trying to play both ends against the middle.

He can cause mischief, but not impded us, which is why he's being so belligerent.

The biggest imminent threats against us are Iran and Saudi Arabia,both within and without.

You would not get Putin to keep his word if we took your suggestion,because Russia desperately needs to keep on the good side of the Islamists (read the links).No matter what Putin does, the population of native born Russians is shrinking and the Muslim population is growing...and there is also energy hungry China to consider,

I give the Bear about a decade at most before they can no longer control the territory they now have...and probably less than that.

I do not favor option one because it distracts from dealing with the Islamists, and option two gains us nothing.

Option three will likely belatedly bring the Russians in on our side when the Islamists attack them, as events will take care of themselves.


Anonymous said...

Freedom Fighter

Thanks for the reply to my post. If Irana nd Saudi Arabia are the biggest threats, then hopefully we can find some way to get the Russians to withdraw their support from Iran. Without Russian support the Iranian threat would only be a fraction of what it currently is. Also, without Russian support of Iran the US would not be arming Saudi Arabia in a desparate attempt to contain Iran.

Aemrican troops were initially placed in Saudi Arabia to protect the kingdom against Iraq. Iraq was a Soviet/Russian client state.

I agree with you that Putin wants to foment trouble world wide. Part of the Russian strategy appears to be to try and tie down the Aemrican military. Inevitably people die in wars. This plays to Putin's advantage becuase he can use his toadys in the world media to hammer away at Aemrica's image. The media does their readers and viewers a disservice when they do not supply the context of the American actions.

Btw, you may be right about Putin. He may not be a political mastermind. I amy be giving him to much credit. I certainly hope so.