Skip to comments.Is Russia's Power on the Decline?
Posted on 08/07/2007 4:18:51 AM PDT by Renfield
The drive-by media never ceases to amaze with their inability to notice world events, much less understand the global maneuvers in the War on Terror. Ever since Secretary of Defense Gates told Vladimir Putin to butt out concerning his bid to muck up the US - European Missile Defense Shield, several developments have shown how he has been forced to scramble to maintain at least a minimum level of influence over world events. Putin is an excellent practitioner of the bluff and bluster school of foreign policy, even as he struggles by "putting fingers in the dykes" of his dissolving empire. The trend is not favorable for the ex-KGB agent and current President of the Russian Federation.
Russia vacates the Caucasus
In late 2003 during the a peaceful revolution in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, known as the "Rose Revolution," the last vestiges of the old Soviet guard were ostensibly ushered out. Despite this, Russia's military forces did not "pack up and leave" the country the next day. On the contrary, Putin embarked on a campaign to obstruct and delay the withdrawal of his troops from Georgia. He was not about to voluntarily give up a strategic chunk of land that allowed lines of commerce to Russia's aspiring nuclear partner, Iran, and smuggling routes for lucrative criminal enterprises.
Only because of Western political pressure and a constant influx of NATO forces and advisors did Russian units gradually depart from the area. Even then, Russian "peacekeepers" have stubbornly held on to the so-called "breakaway" republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and several key Soviet-era military installations. Essentially, Putin was thumbing his nose at the international community and was placing the national security of the new democracy in jeopardy.
Thanks to a superbly executed strategic campaign by the US and NATO, the land bridge between Russia and Iran has been sealed, and with the backing of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Putin has been coerced to withdraw more Russian troop contingents from major Soviet Cold War bases. On June 27th it was announced that the Russian 62nd Military Base in Akhalkalaki is now officially Georgian property. This Soviet-era base was actually established before the Russian Revolution in 1910. Not only was it one of the oldest Soviet-era bases, it was also large. To give you an idea as to the magnitude of this military base, in it's heyday it comprised:
...196 facilities on 12,824 hectares of land, among them seven headquarters, seven barracks, three mess-halls, one officers' house, a hospital, two schools - one of them a music school - one kindergarten, two music clubs and other technical facilities. The loss of thie 62nd Military base is not only symbolic of Russia's demise in power, it is real.
The Breakaway Provinces
This still leaves the situation of Russian troops occupying the contested provinces, particularly Abkhazia. Since Abkhazia's "declaration of independence," it has been under the watchful eye of Russian 'peacekeepers.' Even though Georgian President Saakashvili conducted a decisive campaign last year in the Kodori Gorge area of Abkhazia, Putin will hang on to this area at all costs. Simply put, Putin desperately wants to preserve control over the port of Sokhumi since it is a vital transit point for drug smuggling, a major source of cash for Putin, his fellow nationalists, and their criminal allies.
He is also eager to hold on to the town because its military bases were repositories of nuclear and radiological materials including plutonium, uranium and cesium-137. Other unverified reports say the Sokhumi's munitions depots also had chemical weapons. Besides being a prolific source of cash for Mother Russia, this second motive for Putin's refusal to withdraw from Sokhumi is "personal." Public disclosures as to the lack of security pertaining to nuclear materials, or of major damage to the environment due to lack of internationally accepted storage regimens would further damage Putin's standing in the world, even among his Western apologists.
But time is running out for Putin and his Russian "peacekeepers." We now learn from Georgia's Defense Today (the national security offshoot of the English language weekly, Georgia Today), that Georgia's acceptance into NATO is dependent on its maintaining the traditional territory of the sovereign kingdom including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister, Batu Kutelia, emphasized that the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) permits no compromise on Georgia's borders. He noted that NATO sees acceptance into the alliance only where,
Georgia's territorial integrity is an issue which will be never questioned and if Georgia is adopted into NATO it will be adopted in its full territorial integrity. That is, the conflict over the two provinces currently under Russian control will not be resolved in Putin's favor.
The Black Sea Fleet needs a new home
Often overlooked in the grand scheme of the world's power plays is Ukraine. The go-soft-on-Putin crowd and other critics of the Administration's Eurasian policies have slammed the Orange Revolution with a fervor normally reserved for GW's successful operations. During the period from late 2004 through January of 2005, Ukraine reformers and nationalists overturned a fraudulent election and swept the Russian-backed President Victor Yanukovich and his pro-Russian party out of an office they had tried to steal. Putin had openly backed the Yanukovich and his pro-Russian party. Now Ukraine is on its way to being accepted into NATO. In keeping with this, US and European personnel have ramped up their Ukrainian military training and assistance projects over the last year; these will likely evolve into long-term advisory operations.
Ukraine has one other critical capability that is virtually unknown in the other newly formed democracies in the region - it has a robust defense industry. Its industrial infrastructure has enabled it to equip other small nations with newly manufactured combat systems of Soviet design. Now veterans of the Red Army in the new democracies can quickly organize and train to achieve NATO operational standards.
Putin's forces have not totally withdrawn from Ukraine either, but the signs are that this will happen sooner rather than later. It was reported this week in Voice of America News that the chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, is looking to move the Black Sea Fleet from its Ukrainian base in Sevastopol to a "permanent naval base on the Mediterranean Sea;" another acknowledgment of the decline of Russia's power. Recognizing that the Mediterranean is strategically important to Russia, Admiral Masorin will look for an alternative to maintain a military presence in the region. Translation: "we can't have the Russian Navy based in a NATO port; we need to go somewhere in order to salvage our reputation and influence in the Eastern Med."
Clearly, the Black Sea port of Sokhumi is out of the mix. In another example of the curtailment of Russian world power and prestige, Putin must now work to stave off the inevitable return of Abkhazia to the Georgian central government or face continuing pressure from NATO and the US, while simultaneously looking for a new smuggling route for drugs and the transference of WMD materials and technology. He may also need to buy time to clean up hazardous waste sites or risk a public relations and environmental disaster.
The VOA report suggests an alternative for the Russian Navy. It said that Russia was looking to expand an existing naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus in order to homeport the ships of the Black Sea Fleet. Not surprisingly, this was denied by Russian officials. It may be that Putin and his Black Sea Fleet will get a "return trip" to one of the former USSR's Middle East client states, home to Assad's Baathist regime and the starting point of the Sunni "rat line" into Iraq. And if this comes about, it will cement Putin's ties to a terror supporting country.
Let's hope our friends in the MSM, and the rest of the world take notice. All things considered, it's no wonder Vladimir has been in a foul mood lately.
it’s a good article.
putin is a thug.
RE Putin. What would you do if all you had was a KGB education and you faced rebuilding a country that had imploded seven years ago, was found to have had its nukes embezzled, was found to have wrecked its oil-producing wealth, had debased its currency, had become infiltrated by thousands of criminal “families....what COULD you do?
“what COULD you do?”
Follow the footsteps of the past and sell weapons to third world countries, make false claims on oil reserves, lie to your countrymen and kill anyone who dares to disagree. Did I miss anything?
Ahh yes, those stop off grounds PRIOR to death.
Here’s this, from Captain’s Quarters: (http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/010882.php)
Georgian officials claim that Russian jets invaded their airspace last night and fired a missile, which turned out to be a dud. The incident appears to be an escalation of Russian hostility towards its former republic and NATO aspirant:
“...Russia has been accused of launching an airstrike in an “act of aggression” against neighbouring Georgia.
Russia, which has a long history of tense relations with the former Soviet state, has denied the claim.
Georgian officials said that two Russian jet fighters violated its airspace and fired a missile which did not explode.
A Georgian government spokesman said that the intrusion took place on Monday night when the aircraft entered Georgia’s airspace over the northeastern Gori region and fired a missile which fell near the village of Tsitelubani, around 40 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi....”
This puts a rather interesting twist on Georgia’s relationship with NATO. They have made no secret about their desire for membership, but NATO has hesitated to provoke Russia with an offer. Russia has made clear that they would see NATO membership for either Ukraine or Georgia as a provocation, having drawn a diplomatic line in the sand last month on that issue.
However, Georgian independence should matter to the West, and an attack on Georgia should not go unanswered by NATO. The last thing we need in the Caucasus is another flashpoint for border wars. Violating Georgian air space and firing a missile constitutes two acts of war, especially the latter, and Georgia has to give some response to that provocation. Likely that will be a diplomatic response. Georgia doesn’t have the resources to make good on a military attack, and it would probably give Vladimir Putin an excuse to invade Georgia.
Do you suppose Putin is embarrassed over the dud? Had the missile exploded, it might have been harder to prove that the attack came from Russia. If Georgia has the missile intact, though, it will show that Russia attacked Georgia, and that Russian armament leaves a lot to be desired.
Russia under Vladimir Putin seems intent on remaking its empire through any means necessary. If we value Georgian independence as a check on Russian imperial ambitions, and we should, we had better make clear to Putin that we find this unacceptable, and offer a few consequences of our own. That NATO membership application could be dusted off at any time.
(Quoted text taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/07/wgeorgia107.xml )
Did I miss anything?
claim to be a Christian
You pretty much summed it up. Putin had to analyze his strengths and put an emphesis there. He has almost no manufacturing capability except weapons. He really has no choice but to make weapons and hope he can sell them.
That is make weapons, deliver them and then receive hard currency cash. His predecessors did all that except collect the cash.
I admire the man simply because he is carrying an extremely heavy burden of a nearly dysfunctional ans dying population with an economy that by world standrds is fourth rate.
waking up to all that is probably very disconserting.
No. Oil is power. And they’ve got lots of it.
Like I’ve said many times... He who has the last barrel of oil will rule the world.
While former Warsaw Pact members and Soviet republics strive desperately to join the West, Russia continues a tradtion of existing on the margin of Europe, seeking none of its benefits from the intellectual to the economic. Thus, unlike the Ukraine which is rushing pell-mell into the 21st century, Russia is stuck in the 20th and remains truly an Asian despotism. One wonders how long the Russian core of 100 million people will be able to hold on to its periphery (Siberia, the Caucasus).
I will give credit to the KGB Putin, he hates Muslim terrorists. Guess they disagree a bit too much with him.
“...I will give credit to the KGB Putin, he hates Muslim terrorists. Guess they disagree a bit too much with him....”
I have believed for a long time that Putin uses Muslim fanatics as proxies against us. He doesn’t hate them at all, he sees them as his allies (or, at least, useful idiots) in his struggle against the U.S.
Remember, the PLO was entirely a creation of the KGB.
Oil is power? Yaaa, I guess that’s why Saudi Arabia is the world’s
No, he who has the last barrel of oil will have the last barrel of
oil. Nothing more. And you can bet that he who has the last
bareel of oil will not be the bearer of the next energy technology.
The article actually speaks some truth. Refer to US “diplomatic”
activity in the former southern repubs of the former USSR during
the 90s. Alos refer to an op-ed by James Pinkerton from June 2005
I belivee re the US Arc of Power. US military overseas re-alignmnts
scheduled to begin next yr bear out what the article says.
US bases throughout Central Asia (all in former USSR repubs) and
bases to be hosted by E European nations. Sounds like the Berlin
Wall is shifting about 900mi east. And coming around the southern
soft white underbelly of the fomrer ‘empire”. This one designed
to keep Putin at home w/ the promise of putting his landmass at
Yes, pass a flat tax. Prosecute robber barons. Steadily improve the economy. Promote Christianity. Develop programs to increase the birth rate. Monitor and check the MSM out to destroy its' host sovereignty.
Do a good job and have a 60%+ approval rating from the people. Don't fool yourself, Russia is steadily moving forward.
Why so many FRs think we need Russia and Mexico as enemies, instead of focusing on the Islamists threat is beyond me.
We showed him how. First in Afghanistan, then in Bosnia. What else would you expect?
Things that make you hmmmmm....
If it weren’t for oil, Saudi Arabia would be nothing but a big sandbox.
“RE Putin. What would you do if all you had was a KGB education and you faced rebuilding a country that had imploded seven years ago, was found to have had its nukes embezzled, was found to have wrecked its oil-producing wealth, had debased its currency, had become infiltrated by thousands of criminal families....what COULD you do?”
If I was a thug and a criminal, I would have done exacty as Putin has done. Since I am not, I would have done the opposite.
If Putin benefits from drug trade, why wouldn't he grow/make narcotics on the Russian territory? That's way cheaper and handy than all this North-Caucasusean mess.
The whole article is nothing more than ridiculous. The one who wrote it knows nothing of the history and the present situation of/in the former USSR. Unfortunately it's too long and there's no time to answer all its pieces of rubbish.
Okay, what is your plan?
This is a too broad statement. What actual projects can you present as examples?
It’s counter productive to ordinary Russians standard of living, however, apparently, Russians would rather live in an imaginary world of power and prestige than an actual world of physical well being.
This failure to comprehend reality led to communism and millions of deaths last time. Can’t even guess what it will lead to this time around, but hope it isn’t more of the same for Russia's sake.
No need. Just 1 or 2 specific point would do.
antagonizing the US and Europe is the way to win domestic support.
This is not because of seeking public support. Russia's now is a major exporter of mineral goods what likens it rather to Saudi Arabia than to Europe & the USA. Europe wants cheap prices Russia would like high - a very simple issue why Russia cannot agree with Europe on this.
Take weapon sales. Russian military can't afford buying the staff while the military industry wants orders. The staff can't be sold to the NATO countries, so it's sold to Pakistan/China/Arabian countries. Since China may pose a threat we sell mainly naval equipment to them which woudn't be used against Russia.
The military industry is an asset by itself especially the experienced engineering staff. To keep the asset we need to train more, so ->orders->sales to the countries the USA don't like.
Peasants consisted 75% of the Russian population before 1917. That was the asset Bolshevicks used to industrialise the country. Before 1917 the Russian Empire imported almost all advanced tech goods like airplane engines, in 1930 and later the USSR did all by itself. This could be achieved only be sacrificing people's lives what exactly was done.
Now Russia doesn't have the population asset and any repetition would be a suecide what is understood by many.
Those 1917's peasants weren't interested in grandeur of any kind - just 13% of them were literate. But Bolshevicks offered them land for free (taken from landlords) and peace. The Tsarist government collapsed because of its incompetence.
OK. Whats the point of threatening Estonia about moving a statue IN ESTONIA? Does anyone outside of Russia complain when Russia moves one of its statues?
Why is Russia threatening to target Europe with nuclear missiles if Poland and the Czech Republic allow the US to position missile shields in their countries? It’s almost funny since the threats demonstrate more effectively than anything just exactly WHY the missile shields are necessary. Namely that Putin is crazy and crazy people with nuclear missiles are dangerous.
By the way, these are rhetorical questions. I don't expect you to answer them because the only context in which these actions make any sense is that Putin has determined that threatening the west is popular with the Russian public. I guess the average Russian wasn't getting enough anger and rage by living peacefully with other countries.
So starving millions to death in Ukraine and killing millions more in gulags somehow industrialized the USSR? If what you say is true, how is it possible that other countries managed to industrialize without killing millions of people?
He wrote two other books on geopolitical interests and brought the Russians into them tangentally. Specifically he predicted that the Russians would inevitably attempt to overwhelm the European powers of Germany, France and England. The Americans would once again be drawn to their defense and a major conflagration would occur. His projected date for this war was 2026.
Military prognosticators predicting the next war are a dime-a-dozen but Mr. Lea does seen to have an impressive resume. His first book was The Valor of Ignorance in which he predicted the rise of militaristic Japan and the collision with the United States. He predicted when, where and how Japan would strike. His predictions were unbelieveably accurate. The book was written in 1909. MacArthur tried and failed to make it required reading at West Point. America paid the price for that failure.
The second book was The Day of the Saxon written in 1912. In it he predicted WWI and its result. He went on to predict the rise of a new militant Germany based on racial and nationalistic themes. He predicted the territorial claims, the land grabs and finally the overrunning of Europe. He was correct in naming the Allied powers and their roles and the final result of the war.
Saxon describes in some detail the historic Russian lines of expansion and how they will eventually manifest. The collapse of the Soviet Union may have upset the timetable somewhat but these are geo-political imperatives. They can be influenced but not altered. Lea had no concept in 1909 of the role of the airplane in future wars and it did throw his projected timeline off - by 48 hours.
Russia’s criminal occupation forces must be driven from Ukraine, Georgia and and Moldova.
Near all the machinery had to be imported. Only grain was available to be sold for the cash necessary. That leaded to grain requisitions and, finally, to starvation. The starving population was allowed (not always) to move to cities seeking for industry jobs what constituted cheap labour force.
as well as other places: Southern Russia and Kazakhstan which were top producers of grain together with the Ukraine.
and killing millions more in gulags somehow industrialized the USSR?
Gulags were founded to do a job: build a canal, a factory or even to design a new fighter planes. (In the last case engineers were convicted and put to work).
If what you say is true, how is it possible that other countries managed to industrialize without killing millions of people?
Because none of them managed to complete it within 20 years.
“Because none of them managed to complete it within 20 years.”
...and because no one but Russians would find the death of millions worth the price of industrializing within 20 years. Apparently Russians don’t value life if your argument is that this sacrifice was worth it or in any way noble. It is a national disgrace, yet you seem proud of this obscene holocaust. So strange, so sad.
That was a preparation for war. I'm not sure whether it had been meant defensive (against imperialist West)or offensive (to spread Communism) but turned out vitally necessary for fight with the Nazi Germany. There are little chances charging with cavalry swords against diving bombers.
I think its one of the most accurate assessments available today.
I’m constantly amazed at how many Communigroupies still exist, touting Putin and Russia even today. And how they act as though nothing has changed since the fall of the Soviet ‘empire’.
Then again, every time you run across one of these Communigroupies, they also express to you that Bush has caused all the worlds ills, and they can’t wait to vote for a Democrat for President - any Democrat - in 2008.
Funny how history repeats itself.
Very simple. For Russians, the statue is a proper monument for those slain in the fight with the Nazi. For Estonians it is a symbol of foreign occupation. Estonians didn't suffer under Hitler, Russians (Ukrainians, Belorussians) did.
Why is Russia threatening to target Europe with nuclear missiles if Poland and the Czech Republic allow the US to position missile shields in their countries?
Back in history shields were as important as swords. Unbreakable shield gives superiority thus fuels agression. Once the USA feels unvulnerable to the Russian nuclear arsenal it will attack Russia since
- it has means,
- it inclined to military solutions for its problems,
- it has pretext since Russian national interests contradict with the US ones
BTW Estonians did suffer under Soviet occupation. You should keep Russian war memorials in Russia where they belong.
I've provided arguments for that.
You should keep Russian war memorials in Russia where they belong.
Estonians did suffer under Soviet occupation. You should keep Russian war memorials in Russia where they belong.
Sorry, but WWII happened not on the Russian soil exclusevely. Anyway the option you mentioned was offered to Estonia but they somehow refused.
True, but Russia can’t put up war memorials where ever it want’s. It can put up memorials only on Russian soil. Estonia has every right to do what ever they want with a memorial on their soil. They could have tossed it in the sea if they wanted. As it turns out they only wanted to move it to a place where it wouldn’t cause traffic jams and congestion. It’s a very reasonable solution, unlike Russia’s reaction to it.
“I’ve provided arguments for that.”
Sure. Crazy arguments. The US is too weak to even maintain peace in Iraq and you think it could or would invade Russia? You must be crazy.
Eventually there are several monuments in Russia devoted to Estonians killed in gulags. Applying your logic, Russia has every right to "do what ever they want with a memorial on their soil. Russia can toss them in the sea if it wants."
As it turns out they only wanted to move it to a place where it wouldnt cause traffic jams and congestion.
Before that they organised traffic in a way that the memorial would have caused jams. Secondly, the move wasn't solely on practical grounds(which are excusable, of course). The monument was a meeting point for the Estonian Russian minority's activists. Thirdly, they keep celebrating Estonian SS vets' parades.
The US is too weak to even maintain peace in Iraq and you think it could or would invade Russia?
Maintaining peace is far more difficult job than an invasion. If the USA truly wants to achieve this, get ready to station your troops up to 20-30 years or more. Remember Ulster.
Of course. Do you doubt it?
” The monument was a meeting point for the Estonian Russian minority’s activists.”
Which caused traffic jams. The Russians can meet at the new location and won’t cause traffic jams, but then they wanted to cause traffic jams. That is why they are so upset.
Is it fair that ordinary Estonians have to put up with Russians marching in their main square? How would you like it if Estonians were constantly demonstrating in Red square, causing traffic jams and annoying passersby?
“Thirdly, they keep celebrating Estonian SS vets’ parades.”
Estonia is now a free country. People can celebrate whatever they want as long as they don’t cause traffic jams and make a nuisance of themselves.
This concept is hard for Russians to comprehend I know, but in the US also, are marches held by Nazi’s. Passersby mock them, but their marches are allowed.
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