Russia: Resist The Invaders

July 17, 2008: The Caucasus continues to be a headache, although it's all more of a nuisance than a significant threat. Police and troops are pursuing several Islamic radical gangs in Ingushetia (next to Chechnya). The gangs are often more nationalist, or purely criminal, than into religion. But religion still defines relationships in the Caucasus, where Christians, Moslems and others have clashed for over a thousand years. Christian Georgia, for example, is threatening war with two separatist groups (one Moslem, the other Christian), and their Russian sponsor. In response to Russian diplomatic and military pressure, Georgia is increasing its armed forces 15 percent, to 37,000 troops, and trying to join NATO. About a thousand U.S. troops recently conducted a training exercise in Georgia.

Russia is getting a lot of criticism in Europe over increased espionage efforts. The Russians are seeking to steal business secrets (technology or other useful data) in a big way. The Russian spy agency has been rebuilt and given lots of money. Senior British counter-espionage officials are seeing some familiar Cold War faces, and operations, returning. Some of the Russian agents are also involved in keeping an eye on Russian political exiles, and trying to control them. At least one of these Russian exiles have been assassinated, and others are threatened with the same fate if they do not shut up. British counter-terrorism officials complain that resources needed to deal with increased Russian espionage efforts, are coming out of their budget. Thus Islamic terrorists are having an easier time of it because of the need to deal with Russian spies.

As the Czech Republic comes closer to hosting an American anti-missile system, the Russians  have increased their threats. Now the Russians promise a vague "military response" if the anti-missile system (meant to protect against Iranian missiles) becomes operational. The Russians do not want their ability, to hit West European targets, diminished. Russia also believes the Iranian threat is much overrated. Iran is also a major customer for Russian weapons and high tech exports.

Russia is also annoyed with joint military training exercises being held in the Black Sea, involving forces from Ukraine, NATO, America, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Macedonia and Latvia. The exercises cover, ground, naval and air operations. Russia has, for centuries, considered the Black Sea to be "Russian territory," and this "invasion" by "foreigners" has roused lots of nationalistic anger back in Russia.

Russia and China continue to protect their business interests. Both vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, where the government has trashed the economy and chased a third of the population away. Russia and China also block UN attempts to halt the Sudan governments mass murder and depopulation of rebellious people in Darfur. Russia and China both do a lot of business with Zimbabwe and Sudan. But the opposition to UN sanctions is more personal. Russia and China both have long histories of mass atrocities against their own populations, and do not want to support any precedent for foreign intervention to halt this sort of thing.

Russia is resuming warship patrols in arctic waters off its north coast. This is the first time this has been done since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. These patrols, by two warships this Summer, is considered more of a "feel-good" nationalistic PR stunt, than anything else. Russia has made more claims recently, to underwater resources in the arctic. But that's not anything new either.

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