Russia: Unpopularity Contest


January26, 2007: Russia will build four nuclear power plants in India, a deal worth several billion dollars. Russia has been selling India an average of $2 billion worth of weapons a year for the past five years, and some 70 percent of Indias weapons are of Russian design or manufacture. Russia wants to keep it that way, and is always willing to add special perks to Indian beals. This includes refusing to allow China to install Russian RD93 jet engines in a Chinese JF17 aircraft that China wants to export to Pakistan. Russia is particularly eager to snag a $9 billion Indian contract for 126 "Light Fighters," and is offering the MiG-35 (an updated MiG-29). The competition is the U.S. F-16 and F- 18F, Sweden's Gripen, the French Rafael and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Russia hopes to gain an edge by offering to work with India, and transfer technology, in developing a fifth generation fighter to match the U.S. F-35. Russia already has done some of these cooperative deals with India, and has a good track record here. No other nation has that edge.

January 24, 2007: Estonia caused an uproar in Russia by planning to move a war memorial (a bronze statue of sad looking soldier, with inscription in Russian and Estonian saying; "to the fallen of the Second World War") from the center of the capital, to a less conspicuous place. What it comes down to is this. Estonians, and many other Russian neighbors, who used to be part of the Soviet Union, see the Russians as conquerors, while the Russians consider themselves liberators. It's that attitude that has fueled the growth of the Russian empire for centuries. That empire largely (but not completely) fell apart in 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared. But many Russians want their empire back, which is why many Russian neighbors rushed to join defense organizations like NATO. To make matters worse, about 25 percent of Estonia's population are ethnic Russians, who came to Estonia when it was part of the Soviet Union. These Russians are much better off economically than Russians in Russia, but there is friction because the Russo-Estonians resist learning Estonian (a difficult, Asian, language related to Finnish).

To make matters worse, Russia's democracy is turning into a highly centralized police state, with elections. This kind of centralizing of power often leads to the disappearance of the elections. Russians say that won't happen.

January 23, 2007: For reasons unknown, Russia is not cooperating with the United States and Georgia in attempts to find where three ounces of weapons grade uranium, a Georgian man tried to sell last year, came from. It probably came from a Russian facility.

January 22, 2007: An American proposal to put an ABM (anti-ballistic missile) radar in the Czech Republic, and ABM missiles in Poland, to stop missiles from Iran or North Korea, caused Russia to protest, and insist that the ABM system was there to stop Russian missiles. To Russian thinking, the ABM system could render some Russian missiles impotent, thus reducing Russian military power and making Russia weaker. The East European nations back the ABM plan, especially because it can stop Russian missiles as well. Russia does not like to be reminded how unpopular it is in Eastern Europe.




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