How dangerous is Russia? 68

The population of Russia is shrinking rapidly. The global economic downturn has hit Russia hard. Is this declining nation a serious threat to the US? It shows signs of wanting to seem menacing, but is it in fact a toothless old tiger?  Is it modernizing its armament, or letting its military striking power degrade?   

 Consider this piece of information (Debkafile) –

The Russian Kommersant reported Tuesday, Dec. 16 that Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s armed forces, visited Israel in November for talks on the purchase of a first batch of the unmanned reconnaissance drones which Georgia used successfully in its conflict with Russia last August.

– along with this (AP):

Russian warships have been plying the waters off Venezuela and Panama in recent weeks and are now heading for Cuba, but U.S. officials are not so much wringing their hands as yawning. Asked about a Russian warship transiting the Panama Canal earlier this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — who saw the ship while crossing the canal last week — told The Associated Press: "I guess they’re on R&R. It’s fine."

The Pentagon, while puzzled by the Russians’ actions, also is taking a ho-hum attitude. The U.S. military commander for the region, Adm. James Stavridis, head of the U.S. Southern Command, said that from his vantage point, there is no reason to be concerned about the Russian naval activity." They pose no military threat to the U.S.," Stavridis said in an e-mail to the AP on Tuesday. It was the first such passage by a Russian or Soviet warship since World War II.

There is no suggestion of a military confrontation, but the Russian moves are notable in part because they appear to reflect an effort by Moscow to flex some muscle in America’s backyard in response to Washington’s support for the former Soviet republic of Georgia and elsewhere on the Russian periphery. That includes U.S. missile defense bases to be erected in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians were unhappy with a U.S. decision to send a state-of-the-art warship into the Black Sea as part of an American humanitarian aid mission for Georgia in the aftermath of last August’s war with Russia. The Russians also are angry about the Bush administration’s push to add Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine as members of the NATO military alliance.

Under the gaze of the U.S. Southern Command, Russian ships this fall held joint exercises with the navy of Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is a fierce U.S. critic. Navy Rear Adm. Tom Meek, the deputy director for security and intelligence at Southern Command, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he sees little chance of Russia teaming up with Venezuela in a militarily meaningful way."I don’t think that Russia and Venezuela are really serious about putting together a military coalition that would give them any kind of aggregate military capability to oppose anybody," Meek said. "Frankly, the maneuvers they conducted down here were so basic and rudimentary that they did not amount to anything, in my opinion."

And it’s not just the Russian navy that is showing up in the West. In September, two Tu-160 long-range bombers, known in the West as Blackjacks, landed in Venezuela — the first landing in the Western Hemisphere by Russian military aircraft since the Cold War ended. Rice shrugs it off. "A few aging Blackjacks flying unarmed along the coast of Venezuela is — I don’t know why one would do it, but I’m not particularly going to lose sleep over that," she said in the AP interview Monday. She said Russia is welcome to have relations with countries in the West. "I don’t think anybody’s confused about the preponderance of power in the Western Hemisphere," Rice said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made no effort to hide his irritation at what he considers American arrogance."God forbid from engaging in any kind of controversy in the American continent," he said, referring to his Blackjack bombers flying to Venezuela for a training exercise. "This is considered the ‘holiest of the holy,’" he said during a meeting with Western political scholars at his Black Sea residence in Sochi. "And they drive ships with weapons to a place just 10 kilometers from where we’re at? Is this normal? Is this an equitable move?"

On Monday, the Russian navy announced that a destroyer and two support vessels will visit Cuba for the first time since the Soviet era. The ships are from a squadron that has been on a lengthy visit to Latin America; they are scheduled to put in at Havana on Friday for a five-day stay, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. Moscow’s support for Cuba fell sharply after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but the Russians have bolstered ties recently.

The joint naval exercises with Venezuela were Russia’s way of "demonstrating to the U.S. that it has a foothold in a region traditionally dominated by the U.S.," said analyst Anna Gilmour at Jane’s Intelligence Review. Still, she and many Russian analysts say Moscow’s deployments of warships are largely for show. Russia’s navy is a shadow of its Soviet-era force, having suffered from a serious lack of investment since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Many ships and submarines have rusted away at their berths, and deadly accidents occur regularly.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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The weakness of the West against Russia and Islam 20

 That lone voice crying the truth in the wilderness of Europe, Melanie Phillips declares in The Spectator:

The message Putin wants to deliver is that no-one messes with Russia. Like a Mafia godfather, he wants respect for his country’s power – and will mow down anyone who fails to offer it. That’s also why Russia is busy murdering those of its own citizens who oppose its fascistic regime. (It is, after all, the only country so far to have carried out an act of nuclear terrorism in Britain by murdering Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium 210 and leaving a trail of radioactive poison across London – for which it has never been brought to account, flicking away our huffing and puffing Foreign Office like a mosquito on the nose of a bear).

It is behaving in this way because it has correctly perceived that America is paralysed and Europe is steadily destroying itself, and so there is an enormous vacuum in global power which it thinks it can fill. It has no less correctly concluded that the west will no longer defend itself or the values for which it once stood. See yesterday’s entirely predictable and futile hand-wringing over Georgia by the EU, full of sound and fury but signifying no action at all. Once upon a time, the west believed it should go to war to defend the sovereignty of nations. Now, it supports instead those who destroy that sovereignty – as it did when it recognised Kosovo as an independent state, thus demonstrating contempt for the sovereignty of Serbia. Who therefore can be surprised that Russia, which not only complained bitterly about Kosovo but had previously insisted on the virtue of its own suppression of the Chechens on the grounds that national sovereignty had to be upheld or else chaos would follow, is now cynically using that very same Kosovo precedent to justify its support for South Ossetia and Abkhazia breaking away from Georgia?

Despite the fact that Russia is threatened by Islamism, there are nevertheless notable similarities between the attempt to re-establish the Russian empire and the attempt to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate. In similar fashion, both employ not only violent force but cultural infiltration and sedition; both use sophisticated propaganda and covert influence; both invert truth and lies; both hijack the concept of victimhood. Thus Russia’s patently absurd claim of genocide in south Ossetia parallels the preposterous Islamist claims of genocide in Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza; thus both claim that their own aggression is merely self-defence against victimisation. Such similarities are scarcely surprising considering that Islamism borrowed so much from Communism (as it did also from fascism). Nor is it surprising that both Russians and Islamists make common cause against the west – their common enemy.

The whole article is a must-read. 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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NATO bares its toothless gums 28

Charles Krauthammer writes:

Read the first five paragraphs of the NATO statement on the Russian invasion of Georgia and you will find not a hint of who invaded whom. The statement is almost comically evenhanded. "We deplore all loss of life," it declared, as if deploring a bus accident. And, it "expressed its grave concern over the situation in Georgia." Situation, mind you.

It’s not until paragraph six that NATO, a 26-nation alliance with 900 million people and nearly half of world GDP, unsheathes its mighty sword, boldly declaring "Russian military action" – not aggression, not invasion, not even incursion, but "action" – to be "inconsistent with its peacekeeping role."

Having launched a fearsome tautology Moscow’s way, what further action does the Greatest Alliance Of All Time take? Cancels the next NATO-Russia Council meeting.

That’s it. No dissolution of the G-8. No blocking of Russian entry to the World Trade Organization. No suspension of participation in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (15 miles from the Georgian border). No statement of support for the Saakashvili government.

Read the rest of this important article here.


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 21, 2008

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Should the US pull out of NATO? 27

 More wisdom from Thomas Sowell:

Some people seem to think that, if we had already included Georgia in NATO, Russia would not have attacked. But what if they attacked anyway? Would we have done any more than we are doing now?

Would that have protected Georgia or would our inaction have just brought the reliability of our protection of other NATO countries into question?

If anything, we ought to be thinking about pulling out of NATO ourselves. European countries already have the wealth to produce their own military defense. If they do not have the will, that is their problem. What American officials can do is keep their mouths shut if they don’t intend to back up their words.

Read the whole article here


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 21, 2008

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Who’s afraid of the big bad bear? 50

 Who’s afraid of Russia? NATO is, and the EU, and Bush and Rice.

On August 15 President Saakashvili of Georgia made an impassioned plea for effective help against the invasion of his small democracy by Russia.  He stated bluntly that NATO’s rejection of Georgia’s application for membership of NATO  on the grounds that there were territorial conflicts within Georgia [created and stirred up by Russia] had been ‘asking for trouble’ from the Russians. Putin, he explained,  was testing the  waters – how far could Russia go? At what point would there be an angry enough growl from the Western alliance to indicate ‘so far and no further’? No growl came. At the same time – a stretch of some years –  Russia was preparing to invade Georgia, extending (for instance) railway lines through North Ossetia, which is in Russia, to faciliate the transport of men and material to the borders of Georgia. Then they built tank bases inside the two disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then they put military specialist in them, and then paratroopers. Step by step they prepared their invasion. Georgia, Saakashvili said, ‘screamed to the world’ for help. The West remained unmoved. The Russians took note, and continued to build up an infrastructure for invasion, and to send troops. Finally, Russia brutally invaded sovereign Georgian territory. 

In reply to this, Condoleezza Rice had this to say: 

That President Bush  had sent her to Georgia ‘to show the solidarity of the United States with Georgia and its people [sic]  in this moment of crisis’.  Big comfort for the country ‘and its people’? 

That [verbally, theoretically, gesturally] the US supported Georgia’s independence, territorial integrity, and democracy’, as did ‘the Europeans as well’.   So reassuring to the country ‘and its people’!

That the most urgent task was to get the Russian forces out of Georgia.  Great! How?

By having President Saakashvili sign a six-part ceasefire accord brokered by France.  Has he signed it? Yes. And that will do the trick? Well, no, because the Russians haven’t signed it yet. 

Still, Rice declared:  ‘This is the understanding I had with President Sarkozy [of France] yesterday, which is that when President Saakashvili signed this ceasefire accord, there would be an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgian territory. Sheer magic! And did that happen? Well, no. Why not? Because the Russians haven’t signed the agreement. 

So next effective step? ‘We need international observers on the scene fast,’ Rice said. That will make the Russians tremble! But wait, that is not all. ‘Eventually,’ Rice went on, ‘we need a more robust and impartial peacekeeping force that would follow these [hypothetical] monitors.’  And will they be able to keep the peace, although the record of such peace-keeping forces – for example in the Middle East – has been one of utter failure?   Hmm … well…  And who will provide them?  Hmm… Well ….

But wait – that still is not all. The United States, Rice assured the Georgians, is ‘already providing humanitarian assistance’ to them.  [A planeload or two of some useful things]  Thanks. And? This humanitrain mission will be vigorous and ongoing. What is more it will be ‘headed by the United States military’.  By the military? That sound strong. You mean, some US soldiers will dole out the useful things? Good.  And? 

Well, ‘when the security situation is stabilized’ [that is to say, when the Russians have withdrawn which will be if and when they decide to do so]  ‘we will turn immediately to reconstruction’. Ah, you mean you will give money? Yes. The G-7, the IMF  ‘and other international financial institutions’ will ‘rapidly develop an economic support package’.  They will? When the security situation is stabilized? You are sure? Fairly sure. But how is the stabilization to be brought about?

Well, one step at a time, Rice said. First things first. The ceasefire agreement has been signed (by one party to the conflict, anyway).  ‘It is a ceasefire agreement,’ she repeated four times. It didn’t ‘prejudice future arrangements’.

So what is the sum-total of the achievement of NATO, Europe and the United States so far in helping Georgia against the Russian invaders? They have got the president of Georgia to sign a ceasefire agreement. One side of the arranged marriage has agreed to it.  First things first. And maybe nothing coming after. Or perhaps some money. Eventually. Maybe. 

And will these steps deter Russia from trying the same thing on again with other states in the old Soviet sphere ? Poland say? The Ukraine? The Baltic states?

That question, Rice said, would be addressed next Tuesday by NATO. She was sure that there would then be ‘confirmation of NATO’s transatlantic vision for Georgia [whatever it may be] as well as for Ukraine, and of NATO’s insistence that it will remain open to European democracies that meet its standards’.  NATO’s insistence, eh? That should be worth something, shouldn’t it? 

 And what was even more, the North Atlantic Council will ‘also have to begin a discussion of the consequences of what Russia has done.’ Really? There will be consequences for Russia for invading a small neighbouring country? Well …  discussion of consequences anyway.

Finally, Rice assured everybody that there was no need to be afraid of NATO. Especially, she went on to stress, Russia had no need to be afraid. It should not fear the US missile defense system which Poland has agreed to have on its territory. It is not designed to deter Russia, only ‘small missile threats of the kind one could anticipate from Iran, for instance’.  NATO, she said, ‘has never been aimed at anybody’ [except the Serbs, of course], and is certainly not aimed at Russia. 

Now Russia can breathe easy. (Though not Georgia, Poland, the Ukraine, or the Baltic states.) Thank goodness for that! 


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 17, 2008

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The weakness of NATO 149

 John Bolton writes:

Europe’s rejection this spring of President Bush’s proposal to start Ukraine and Georgia towards Nato membership was the real provocation to Russia, because it exposed Western weakness and timidity. As long as that perception exists in Moscow, the risk to other former Soviet territories – and in precarious regions such as the Middle East – will remain…

The United States needs some straight talk with our friends in Europe, which ideally should have taken place long before the assault on Georgia. To be sure, American inaction gave French President Sarkozy and the EU the chance to seize the diplomatic initiative. However, Russia did not invade Georgia with diplomats or roubles, but with tanks. This is a security threat, and the proper forum for discussing security threats on the border of a Nato member – yes, Europe, this means Turkey – is Nato.

 Saying this may cause angst in Europe’s capitals, but now is the time to find out if Nato can withstand a potential renewed confrontation with Moscow, or whether Europe will cause Nato to wilt. Far better to discover this sooner rather than later, when the stakes may be considerably higher. If there were ever a moment since the fall of the Berlin Wall when Europe should be worried, this is it. If Europeans are not willing to engage through Nato, that tells us everything we need to know about the true state of health of what is, after all, supposedly a “North Atlantic” alliance.

Read the whole article here. 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, August 15, 2008

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Poland also a target of Russian aggression 14

 Now Russia threatens Poland, the Telegraph reports:

As Condoleezza Rice arrived in Georgia to finalise a peace deal and secure the withdrawal of Russian troops from the former Soviet state, Moscow raised the stakes with an explicit threat against another US ally.

"Poland is making itself a target. This is 100 percent" certain, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted General Anatoly Nogovitsyn as saying.

"It becomes a target for attack. Such targets are destroyed as a first priority," Gen Nogovitsy was quoted as saying.

He added that Russia’s military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them," Interfax said.

Russia reacted furiously last night when Washington agreed to sell a Patriot defence battery to Warsaw. "The fact that this was signed in a period of very difficult crisis in the relations between Russia and the United States over the situation in Georgia shows that, of course, the missile defence system will be deployed not against Iran but against the strategic potential of Russia," said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to Nato.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Friday, August 15, 2008

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Something rotten in US-Russia relations? 65

 Fred Thompson has an interesting article in Townhall today, the main point of which is that McCain has the necessary experience, understanding and strength of will to be the leader of the Free World over the next few dangerous years, and Obama has not.  MacCain’s first-hand knowledge of Georgia and quick grasp of what Russia intends by invading the small Western-allied democracy is a vivid illustration of his contention.  The whole thing is worth reading. But one part of the information it contains strikes us as puzzling and shocking.  He says:

Former Soviet provinces have faced all forms of intimidation, from thuggish trade shakedowns to cyber attacks that shut down communications with the outside world. And whether a former satellite like Poland or a longtime western ally like Germany, Russia has made overt threats over plans to bring eastern European countries into NATO or to deploy a U.S.-provided missile defense system.

Russia is not above using anything at its disposal to make its point. It is a wealthy nation, built on a petro-economy that provides oil and gas to dependent European nations, which are petrified of having their energy supplies disrupted and are now in their own economic doldrums.

Given all this, Russia’s incursion into Georgia is a logical extension of Putin’s autocratic words and deeds and Russia’s regional ambitions, which must be leaving those nations closest to Russia’s borders – the Baltic states and Ukraine – nervous about a bitter and uneasy winter.

All the while, in Eastern Europe some of America’s staunchest friends are watching to see what the reaction of the U.S. and the west will be to Russia’s latest gambit. The U.S. and others use the word “unacceptable,” undoubtedly with the same effect that we get when we use it with the Iranians. So do we threaten Russia with denial of the membership in the World Trade Organization that it so covets? Do we expedite Georgia and the Ukraine’s entry into NATO? Do we cut off the tens of millions that we send into Russia to – hopefully – provide for security of nuclear materials? Everything should be on the table.

‘Russia is a wealthy nation’ – okay. Then why is the US sending ‘tens of millions’  to Russia? How does this ‘provide  for security of nuclear materials’?  Is this a form of extortion? Who in the US was responsible for the descision to do this? When? Answers are urgently required. 


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 14, 2008

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Weakness towards Russia now will encourage Iran 45

 From an article in the Jerusalem Post:

Russia’s move into Georgia will have ramifications far beyond the Caucasus. It will send a shiver down the spines of decision-makers in countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, all of whom might now think twice before deepening their romances with the West.

And if allowed to go unanswered, the attack on Georgia will strengthen Russia’s resolve to further undercut key Western interests.

THAT IS where Iran comes into play. The ayatollahs are glued to their television screens, waiting to see how the West responds. After all, in recent years Moscow has stood by Iran’s side in the face of mounting Western pressure. Russia has been supplying Iran with materials for its nuclear program. And the Kremlin is planning to ship advanced anti-aircraft systems to the Iranians that are aimed at making it harder for Israel or the US to take out their nuclear installations.

While Moscow has thus far voted in favor of three UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Teheran, it has only done so after it succeeded in watering them down and delaying their implementation.

But a newly emboldened Russia will prove to be even more troublesome when it comes time to confront Iran and stop its drive toward nuclear weapons.

If Putin sees that the West is a paper tiger and allows Georgia to be trampled, then he likely will not hesitate to block additional Western efforts to strip Iran of its nuclear ambitions. An atomic Iran, Putin realizes, would further expose the powerlessness of the West, as well as heighten its sense of vulnerability. Consequently, he may be tempted to defy the West yet again, on an issue even closer to its heart, in an effort to push the envelope.

The ayatollahs know this all too well, and will be encouraged to continue their mad drive for atomic power, confident in the knowledge that they have little to fear.

It is therefore essential that strong and immediate measures be taken to punish Russia for its Georgian adventure and strip it of any illusions it may have about a lack of Western resolve. These might include moving quickly to bring Georgia formally into NATO, suspending Russia’s membership in the "Group of 8" leading industrialized nations and freezing talks recently launched with the European Union on a new EU-Russia agreement.

Whatever course is decided upon, Moscow must be made to pay a heavy economic, political and diplomatic price for its actions, lest it persist in causing still greater harm.


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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The strength of America 115

 What should the presidential election be about? 

Tony Blankley answers (in Townhall):

Our presidential election ought to be about: how to strengthen our blessed land – with overawing military strength, a bountiful and independent energy supply, and a strong and prosperous free market.

We concur.

Read his whole article here

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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