Russia: A New Warsaw Pact Appears


October 10, 2007: The anti-corruption campaign is upsetting former KGB officials who now run many of the security services. The arrest of five officers of the anti-drug police raised cries of protest from former KGB men who now run most of the government. While former KGB men occupy many key positions in the government, the entire operations is largely run by a new generation of businessmen and technocrats, who quickly got up to speed on modern management techniques, and how to function in a market economy, back in the 1990s. The "businessmen" and "secret policemen" agree on one thing, Russia must have its economy modernized and made competitive in world markets. For too long, Russia has survived by exporting raw materials (like oil) and subsidized substandard industries that sold to a captive audience. The collapse of the Soviet Union ended that, and the sharp increase in oil and gas prices has brought in a flood of cash. Unlike many Third World nations awash in oil money, Russia has been investing in its economy. But it still has a problem with its shrinking population. The birth rate is declining (although less slowly of late) and life expectancy dwindling (although that is slowing down as well). Population is being maintained by allowing in ethnic Russians, and others, from former parts of the Soviet Union, as well as Chinese in the far east. Russians also want to be a super power once more, forgetting that their vast arsenal of nuclear weapons assures them of that status, despite the fact that 80 percent of the Soviet era armed forces have disappeared.

October 8, 2007: In the Caucasus, the continuing violence in Ingushetia and Dagestan, both neighbors of Chechnya, are more the result of long standing ethnic feuds, and competing criminal gangs, than of Islamic terrorists. The violence is not as bad as it was ten years ago in Chechnya, but is harder to stamp out. It's more an anti-crime campaign, than a counter-terrorism one.

October 5, 2007: The Warsaw Pact has been revived, sort of. Throughout the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact (the Soviet Union and the East European communist states) were lined up against NATO. That ended in 1990. Now Russia has arranged a treaty of cooperation between the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). This joins Russia, China, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus. In other words, most of the components of the former Soviet Union, plus China.

As a practical matter, the treaty doesn't amount to much. It's mainly about military cooperation, in the form of exchanging information and making it easier for Russian defense firms to sell weapons to member states. Most of the members were parts of the Soviet union that were heavily subsidized by Russia. Now, Russia is offering gifts in return for some token allegiance, and help in security matters. Same deal with China. While China is still a communist police state, it recognizes that the Russian democracy has turned into an oligarchy, with Vladimir Putin maneuvering himself into the position of president for life, or at least for as long as he can hold on to power.

CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) was formed in the 1990s, mainly to foster economic cooperation between components of the former Soviet Union. The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), a regional security forum founded in Shanghai in 2001 by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and China. The main purpose of the SCO was fighting Islamic terrorism.

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