Russia: Reviving The Glorious Cold War


March 3, 2012: As Vladimir Putin runs for election (tomorrow) to be president of Russia, one of his major themes is that he has restored the nation's military might. When Putin first became president in 2000, he was faced with a decade of post-Cold-War decline in the armed forces. Since then, aging Cold War era weapons and equipment have been replaced. But cash shortages made that a slow process, so as part of his election effort (to become president again, after four years as prime minister) there have been a lot of announcements of new purchases for weapons. Polls predict that Putin will win over 50 percent of the votes and avoid a runoff.

In response to the vigorous anti-Putin demonstrations Putin has pledged not to retaliate on opposition groups after the election. The protestors are angry with the police-state tactics Putin seems so fond of. The Putin opposition is largely composed of the educated people who have prospered under Putin. But this new middle class is well aware of how Putin has used police state powers to run things. There is no rule of law or press freedom and a few thousand Putin allies own (often via theft or fraud) most of the economy. Putin appeals to Russian nationalism, which is strongest in people with the least education or knowledge of how the "new Russia" actually works.

While still holding up America as the biggest threat to Russia (which requires some pretty elaborate and amazing conspiracy theories), Putin also urges Russians to be "more American." Here he is referring to economic and military efficiency, not the type of democracy and separation of powers found in the U.S. Putin sees any threat to the strong rule in Russia as a threat to Russia and many Russians agree with these traditional views. Putin calls for the return of many Soviet era practices, like aggressive espionage efforts in the West. This is popular inside Russia, less so with the target nations.

Russia is backing away from its unconditional support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is largely the result of the growing death toll in Syria, as the government uses more and more violence against Syrians protesting the corrupt rule of the Assads. Putin is under increasing international pressure to stop using the Russian UN veto to block efforts to assist the Syrian rebels.

March 1, 2012: Russia announced it had ordered another 92 Su-34 fighter-bombers to replace aging Cold War era Su-24s.

February 29, 2012: The navy has ordered 24 MiG-29 carrier-based fighters. These will replace the Su-33 on Russia's only carrier.

February 28, 2012:  Russian and Ukrainian police announced the arrest of several men from the Caucasus who were plotting to kill Vladimir Putin after the March 4th elections. Putin opponents view this as another publicity stunt with Putin calling in favors from the Ukrainian government to make it all look authentic. Then again, many Islamic radicals in the Caucasus would like to see Putin dead.

February 27, 2012: Over 10,000 anti-Putin protestors held hands to form a ring around Moscow. They seemed to have a lot of popular support. Putin has called on his fans to hold demonstrations supporting him but these don't match the fervor of the anti-Putin crowds.

February 24, 2012: The air force announced that it was upgrading 60 of its MiG-31 interceptors to include new radar and a longer range (over 300 kilometers) R-73 air-to-air missile.

February 22, 2012: Five Russian Tu-22M bombers flew close to Bulgarian and Turkish air space in the Black Sea. Turkey sent up two F-16s to escort the Russian warplanes.

In Abkhazia the pro-Russian ruler escaped injury when someone tried to kill him with a roadside bomb. Three years ago Russia took over border security in South Ossetia (population 50,000) and Abkhazia (population 200,000), two areas formerly part of Georgia. In 2009, these two ethnic separatist areas declared themselves independent but they have actually become part of Russia. Georgia has a population of 4.6 million and a hostile relationship (going back centuries) with Russia. Now Georgia has to live with the fact that Russia annexed six percent of its population and territory and no one can do anything about it. This annoys the UN but Russia pays no attention to any criticism of its actions down there.

February 21, 2012: The navy has ordered six corvettes, six frigates, and one intelligence collection ship all to be built at the Northern Shipyard in St Petersburg.

The army announced that it will receive a new wheeled APC, called "Boomerang", next year to replace the current BTR-82A and BTR-80 vehicles.

February 18, 2012: In the Caucasus (on the Chechnya-Dagestan border) security forces and Islamic terrorists fought, leaving 17 policemen and seven terrorists dead.

In Moscow thousands of vehicles, driven by anti-Putin Russians, staged an unauthorized but effective demonstration.


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