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Russia: A Very Public Spectacle
   Next Article → INTELLIGENCE: The Ridiculous Rules Are Killing Our Friends
January 3, 2010: The government is calling for more money to be spent on developing new ICBMs. This is because the Russian fear of American technology takes it as fact that U.S. anti-missile defenses will, otherwise, eventually render Russian missiles useless. While this is ability is not generally accepted in the West, in Russia there are many who believe that the Americans are out to neutralize Russian ICBMs, thus eliminating the only leverage Russia has to stop America from "doing whatever it wants." But it's difficult getting more money for new missiles, when the rest of the armed forces are falling apart because Cold War era, non-nuclear, weapons have to be replaced. Real soon. Or else.

Although the Internet recently implemented the ability to use web site and domain names (like .ru) in alphabets other than the Roman one used in the West, most Russians do not want to be forced, by the government, to only use web site names written in the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most Russian web users believe such a policy is just another step towards the return of the Soviet era police state.

Russian officials, both in Moscow and in the Caucasus, are blaming outside influence (American aid and cash from Moslem countries) for keeping the violence going. This is an interesting response to the real reasons; corruption and bad administration. But it's a typical response. Blame an outsider.

January 1, 2010:  In yet another effort to curb alcoholism, a higher minimum price has been established for vodka, and similar beverages. At the same time, police are cracking down harder on illegal manufacturing and distribution of vodka.

December 31, 2009: In Dagestan, police found and killed a leader in the Islamic terrorism there. Umalat Magomedov was known as the "Emir (military leader) of Dagestan" to his Islamic radical followers. He was killed, along with three of his followers in the gun battle.

December 24, 2009: The government has decided to take some serious steps to root out corruption in the national police (Ministry of the Interior) force. The new proposal is to cut the Ministry of Interior manpower 20 percent. In theory, the cuts would include, for the most part, the corrupt cops and officials. However, the dismissals are not to start until 2012, giving the bad guys time to shoot down this idea, like they had done so many times in the past.

December 23, 2009: The Defense Ministry made it official. The Bulava missile program will proceed no matter what. The 13th test of this new Bulava, submarine launched ballistic missile, failed on December 9th. This makes seven failures, a record that would normally cause a program to be cancelled. But Bulava (a submarine version of the successful Topol M ICBM) is itself a replacement of an earlier failed effort to develop a new SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) for the new Borei class subs. These ballistic missile nuclear subs (SSBN, or “boomers”) will replace the current Delta IV class SSBNs. The Delta IVs are getting old, and have only about a decade of useful service left. But The new Borei SSBNs are useless without a new SLBM. One Borei is in service and two more are under construction. In another decade, there might be six Boreis in service, and apparently the navy is going to get Bulava into service no matter what (as in ignoring a high percentage of missiles likely to fail if used.) This would not be the first time this happened, but in the past, such failure-prone weapons had their defects hidden from the public. Not so with Bulava, whose failure has been a very public spectacle. This sort of thing is eroding the pride, confidence, and nostalgia Russians have had for their Soviet era past. Most of the Soviet era military failures are still state secrets, but people are beginning to understand that the past was not as glorious as they had been taught.

December 19, 2009: Georgia blew up a Soviet era World War II memorial, to make way for a new parliament building. Russia protested. This is part of a trend, where memorials to Russian rule, in nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, are increasingly defaced or destroyed. Russians consider this ungrateful and disrespectful, but the locals want to be rid of symbols of Russian occupation and oppression. Most Russians can't comprehend this attitude, which is a big problem for the non-Russian world.

December 17, 2009: The head of NATO declared that Russia was no longer a threat to the West. But Russia is still a threat to many of the new countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and NATO would like to work out some sort of deal with Russia on how NATO and Russia would cope with things like the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, and the subsequent annexation of Georgian territory by Russia. Russia is not interested.

December 15, 2009: Vietnam has signed the contract to purchase six Kilo class submarines, for $300 million each, from Russia. This is part of a larger package, that includes over a dozen patrol boats, at least two frigates and dozens of aircraft. In effect, Russia is supplying the weapons to modernize Vietnam's armed forces. Until Vietnam enacted market economy reforms in the last two decades, the country was broke. But that has changed, and Russia offered attractive prices. This annoys China, which considers Vietnam part of southern China. But despite centuries of military efforts, the Chinese could never keep Vietnam under control. Now Russia is arming this wayward part of the motherland. China has not made open claims on Vietnam for over a century, but the animosity, and memories, are still there.

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Photon       1/3/2010 3:36:01 PM
It sounds like a big stretch, but as long as there are states like Georgia and Ukraine stuck between NATO and Russia, the Russians will simply not accept the fact that their imperial days are over and are not coming back.  Normally, I would recommend having buffer states between two major power blocs, but 21st century Russia is an exception because it is a declining power.  In that case, the side that is not declining should force the issue by increasing its membership.
 
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kerravon       1/3/2010 7:02:20 PM

It sounds like a big stretch, but as long as there are states like Georgia and Ukraine stuck between NATO and Russia, the Russians will simply not accept the fact that their imperial days are over and are not coming back.  Normally, I would recommend having buffer states between two major power blocs, but 21st century Russia is an exception because it is a declining power.  In that case, the side that is not declining should force the issue by increasing its membership.

Those "buffer" states have no interest in being a buffer and want to have the same protection that everyone else in NATO gets.  It's a reasonable request, and we can't have world freedom while some have to live in fear of an aggressive neighbour with a really warped sense of right and wrong.
 
 
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Photon       1/3/2010 10:43:16 PM
Meanwhile, I think the worst part of Russian chauvinism centers on the way it has handled its neighbors since shortly before WW2.  The fact of the matter is, if I were any one of its neighbors, I would see the Russians having too much blood on their hands.  By contrast, I would not see enough evidence from the Russians indicating much in the way of assurance.  They have inflicted quite a bit of misery to their neighbors, as well as to themselves.  Yet, all they want to dwell on is their glorious Soviet days and not dwell on things they have done to piss off a lot of people.  I guess we should wait another decade or so, when China and India weans from their Russian military imports -- there goes two biggest importers of Russian military goodies ... LOL!  Finally, they think they have a lot of clout because of their energy exports.  I say ... think again.  Just ask the Saudis.  While they may have the single largest oil reserve in the world, they have to spend their oil money on just about everything else .. food, medicine, cars, warplanes, and scores of others with huge price tags.
 
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Lance Blade    A russian point of view   1/4/2010 8:10:28 AM
"Georgia blew up a Soviet era World War II memorial, to make way for a new parliament building. Russia protested. This is part of a trend, where memorials to Russian rule, in nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, are increasingly defaced or destroyed. Russians consider this ungrateful and disrespectful, but the locals want to be rid of symbols of Russian occupation and oppression. Most Russians can't comprehend this attitude, which is a big problem for the non-Russian world."
 
Technically, this was a memorial to Georgian soldiers who fought in WWII against Hitler. Never mind that apparently a mother and daughter got killed as a result of safety standards breach during the demolition... Russians find it odd that Georgians would want to destroy a symbol of their anti-Nazi legacy. Then again, considering their army recruitment ad features a quote from Hitler of all people (On the lines of "we have to rely on ourselves, the League of Nations is powerless" etc) this could be part of a trend.
 
Reasonably, what kind of society would rally for over two decades to stopping the secession of people who don't want to be part of your country? In my eyes, the kind of society who's very nationalistic. 
 
And this is how Russians see the world today. They see Ukraine, Georgia, sigh with relief and think "at least we're not THAT bad". At the same time, they see the West as something vague and unattainable, a magic land where people don't give bribes to policemen all the time, where democracy works, where rule of law is real, not imagined, etc. In many ways, it's a very infantile society. Putin tried to set the example for Russians to follow, but they seem to have taken the worst out of it and ignored the best bits. Just my opinion plus observation really...
 
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cwDeici       1/4/2010 5:39:07 PM
Putin killed democracy in Russia, and I frankly believe that most of the economic boom would've happened without him. I don't know about Georgia, but Ukraine doesn't seem worse than Russia to me. Georgia seems like an all right country, though I don't know why they'd knock down a memorial to themselves unless they're being reactionary obviously - they're being infantile because they got invaded last year. I can understand the message of their recruitment quote, as to some extent they've been hung up to dry, but it's horrible if it's true that it's a direct quote from Hitler.
 
Last and mainly I do not think the Russians have anything to fear from American safety from their nukes. America was alone with those weapons at one time after all, and nothing happened except Japan getting two of them in the face to stop the war.
 
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RtWingCon    Putin is a thug   1/4/2010 10:09:36 PM
"Putin killed democracy in Russia" - Never a truer statement, and he did it while becoming a billionaire to boot. So, what example was he suppose to be? Smash your enemies and seize assets and you'll live? Example of mob rule, literally. The diehard soviets should remember that Hilter was initially viewed as a liberator until he f*ckd up that notion real quick with his own genocidal tactics. Have to feel sorry for that region during WWII, caught between 2 sociopaths, no wonder they wish to be part of a coalition of sanity today. My Russian friends here in the States are still proud russians, but damn glad they're here and not in the motherland.
 
Here's fodder for the forum, there are many potential conflicts between the west and Russia. My question is how the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway are going to react to Russian drilling (and claims) under the Artic cap-North Pole. All the nations listed claim it, but Russia has surveyed it and plans to exploit/drill it.
 
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Photon       1/5/2010 3:58:30 AM
As for the claims on the Arctic sea floor, if I remember correctly, the US officially does not recognize any such claims by both allied and non-allied powers.  (Likewise, the US also officially does not recognize claims over Antarctica.)  In some ways, this official non-recognition stance is understandable:  The US, as the premier naval power, have maritime interests which run counter to regional powers who tend to want to claim more bodies of water and things underneath them.  On the other hand, if maritime territorial grab escalates, chances are, neighboring claimants will more likely to get into spat among themselves, rather than with the US.  On the other hand, since the US is the premier naval power, it would be rather doubtful for someone to claim a body of water and expect to get his way, if the US says -- *ahem*.
 
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Lance Blade       1/5/2010 7:24:50 AM

Putin killed democracy in Russia, and I frankly believe that most of the economic boom would've happened without him. I don't know about Georgia, but Ukraine doesn't seem worse than Russia to me. Georgia seems like an all right country, though I don't know why they'd knock down a memorial to themselves unless they're being reactionary obviously - they're being infantile because they got invaded last year. I can understand the message of their recruitment quote, as to some extent they've been hung up to dry, but it's horrible if it's true that it's a direct quote from Hitler.

 

Last and mainly I do not think the Russians have anything to fear from American safety from their nukes. America was alone with those weapons at one time after all, and nothing happened except Japan getting two of them in the face to stop the war.

I would say Russians killed democracy in Russia, to be honest. And I would cite Ukraine as proof. There, nationalist forces came to power with the promises of "democracy". They then proceeded to bicker amongst themselves, order assassinations against each other, bribe each other, and generally act like little children rather than grown up, responsible leaders. As a result, today, Ukrainians despise every single one of them, and have truly lost faith in democracy. (my impression having talked to Ukrainians from pretty much all walks of life) Meanwhile, over in Russia, Putin - for the first three years - acted in a reasonably responsible way. He didn't badmouth his opponents (the communists), or Yeltsin, but instead quietly and patiently consolidated power, appearing calm and collected before his electorate. He also didn't drink. Having nearly given up on their leadership, the Russians suddenly fell in love with him. He used his enormous popularity to secure TV channels. Since the box is where most Russians get their news from, the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Ukraine's fall in GDP is higher than Russia's. Her whole economy is collapsing. Her political system is so dire the IMF refused to issue her bailout funds. Russia's GDP drop is huge too, but the public still loves Putin, even despite feeling the pinch.
 
Westerners may see Putin as a thug, and heck, maybe he is. To Russians, he's the only sensible man in the Kremlin, and the best president (in terms of quality of life) the Russians had. Today, Russia's GDP is plummeting, and ordinary people are feeling it (rising unemployment, falling wages etc). Putin's approval ratings remain high. It isn't just about oil. You really had to be there to understand the Putin phenomenon. It was like a ray of light in the midst of a storm. Incidentally, he is the only person in Russia who knows how to do politics Western-style. He's remarkably toned down in his criticism of his opponents. This inspires confidence.
 
As for nukes, Russia has been invaded by simply too many people in the past not to be paranoid. Their paranoia rivals that of the Poles. On the bright side, Russia hasn't herself started too many wars (four? in a thousand years?), so the West has nothing to fear from her either. Not quite India, but close :)
 
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Lance Blade       1/5/2010 12:21:24 PM

"Putin killed democracy in Russia" - Never a truer statement, and he did it while becoming a billionaire to boot. So, what example was he suppose to be? Smash your enemies and seize assets and you'll live? Example of mob rule, literally.
He doesn't drink and does sports. Which is more than many Russians can say for themselves today.
 
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cwDeici       1/6/2010 12:26:30 AM

"Putin killed democracy in Russia" - Never a truer statement, and he did it while becoming a billionaire to boot. So, what example was he suppose to be? Smash your enemies and seize assets and you'll live? Example of mob rule, literally. The diehard soviets should remember that Hilter was initially viewed as a liberator until he f*ckd up that notion real quick with his own genocidal tactics. Have to feel sorry for that region during WWII, caught between 2 sociopaths, no wonder they wish to be part of a coalition of sanity today. My Russian friends here in the States are still proud russians, but damn glad they're here and not in the motherland.

 

Here's fodder for the forum, there are many potential conflicts between the west and Russia. My question is how the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway are going to react to Russian drilling (and claims) under the Artic cap-North Pole. All the nations listed claim it, but Russia has surveyed it and plans to exploit/drill it.



My gut instinct is that Norway will whine about it and hope the US says something about it. Norway is quite pussified though, even though it sends more than Denmark on average to Afghanistan.
 
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