Russia: Back To The Future



September 10, 2008: The new, aggressive, Russia has generated some interesting reactions. Initially, most of Russia's neighbors were reluctant to criticize, or sanction, Russia for invading and dismembering Georgia. But within a few weeks, new reactions emerged. The Russian invasion has triggered an arms race among Russian neighbors. Sweden, for example, despite its decades of neutrality, and recent aggressive defense budget cuts, is planning to build up its military capabilities. The Baltic States want more NATO (and especially American) troops stationed on their territory (to further ensure reinforcements if the Russians invade.) Ukraine is openly planning to revamp its military defenses.

If Russia believed its Georgian operation would discourage its neighbors from joining NATO (to gain protection from Russian aggression), it didn't work. But Russia is not discouraged, especially since the Georgian operation is enormously popular inside Russia. The events in Georgia are interpreted quite differently inside Russia, where some politicians see this as an opportunity for the rest of Europe to join with Russia in an anti-U.S. coalition. Russians really believe this stuff, partly because the government has, in the last few years, taken control of most mass media in the country. Russia also has a new set of "satellite states" (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) who all expressed approval of the "peacekeeping operation in Georgia." These Russian allies are all nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and are still dependent on Russia for economic or political aid.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has provided Georgia with a billion dollars of economic and military aid. This includes NATO sending technicians and equipment to link Georgia's air defense radars with the NATO system. That means anything the Russian Air Force does over Georgia, will immediately show up in NATO air defense command centers. The U.S. is also believed sending new anti-aircraft weapons (most likely Stingers.) This aggressiveness is partly in response to Russian sales of air defense systems to Syria and Iran. The new Cold War is heating up.

The pressure from Western Europe, UN and the U.S. has resulted in Russia saying it will pull all of its troops out of Georgia before the end of the month, and never turn off the natural gas supplies for Western Europe. These troops are mainly manning roadblocks (where even UN aid trucks are being halted) and teams of troops who go around destroying Georgian military equipment. Russia also announced that it would station permanent garrisons (of nearly 8,000 troops) in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which Russia now recognizes as independent of Georgia, and sort-of part of Russia). Russia is also looking to build more natural gas pipelines, so that it has other customers for all that gas (all of it goes to Western Europe now, which is why Russia can promise to not cut off the supply to the only customer for the stuff.)

September 9, 2008: Although Russia deported 150,000 illegal migrants last year, it's estimated that there are at least ten million people living illegally in Russia. Most of these people have come from less prosperous neighbors, looking for employment in Russia's booming economy. These migrants will often find help from legal Russian residents belonging to the same ethnic group, as during 70 years of Soviet rule, there was a lot of population movement between the Slavic Russian heartland, and the non-Slav borderlands (which became 14 new nations when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991).

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