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February 21, 2008
Another Cold War with Russia? Not Likely
StrategyPage.com has a superior summation of the reasons that Vladmir Putin is blowing hot air when he talks about a new "cold war" with the United States.
The reason? Russia's military is something of a joke:
The government is making a lot of noise about rebuilding the armed forces, and another Cold War with the U.S., but this is all talk, to make the government appear like it’s doing something. The military would need massive amounts of money (over $100 billion a year, for a decade or more) to restore any meaningful amount of military power. Nothing near that amount is forthcoming. The government is trying to get the population stirred up, so there is less resistance to the purchase of many expensive warplanes and ships. A lot of this necessary because China is buying less, and starting to offer their own stuff, often containing stolen Russian military technology, on the world market. China is threatening to offer its copy of the Su-27 (the J-11). Currently, half of Russian weapons export sales are Su-27s. The Chinese ignore Russian complaints about the stolen technology. To keep Russian weapons manufacturers in business, the Russian military has to buy more, to make up for the lost Chinese sales. Western firms are also going after the lucrative Indian arms market, which Russia has dominated for decades. Last year, Russia sold $7 billion worth of weapons overseas, and may have a hard time topping that this year. Or opponents end up with a bullet to the head or radioactive material put in their tea. Putin and his cronies are getting quite creative when it comes to offing their opponents.
While there is less kidnapping and gunfire in the streets, Russian criminals are still in business. Computer crime is increasing, apparently under the protection of the government. Large scale assaults on foreign banks, corporations and governments are traced back to Russia, yet Russian police refuse to cooperate in rounding up the suspects. At the same time, a former senior intelligence official, who defected to the West, explained how, in the 1990s, Russia stole half a billion dollars from the UN “Oil for Food” program that was supposed to be feeding Iraqis. Russian officials are still known to be ready to deal, if the payoff is big enough. Back home, the government is increasingly making up the rules as it goes along, sliding back to the customs so common when the Soviet Union existed. Those who make a lot of noise in opposition either flee the country, or get prosecuted on some trumped up charge.
Read the whole piece for some fascinating insights into today's Russia.