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Thread: Russia's Twice-Cold Tale

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    Lightbulb Russia's Twice-Cold Tale

    Russia's Twice-Cold Tale
    Russian strongman Vladimir Putin now wants the U.S. to take back its offer of a defense shield for Eastern Europe. Each day, it becomes clearer: Putin's reviving the Cold War.

    Putin last week said Russia might unilaterally abrogate its 1987 agreement with the U.S. on getting rid of intermediate- and short-range nuclear missiles. This is a dangerous and destabilizing move, the kind that could set off a new arms race.

    Why is he doing this now? The U.S. is in talks with Poland and the Czech Republic to build missile-defense bases in those countries. Both have a history of being invaded or attacked by their bigger neighbor, and also fear new threats such as Iran and North Korea.

    Putin is already enraged that the U.S. has created forward bases in Romania and Bulgaria. He sees U.S. missile defenses on Polish and Czech soil as another bid by the U.S. and NATO to weaken Russia's influence. Russia's old satellites, it seems, have become our fast new friends.

    And because of its geography — sandwiched between China in the east, a tier of radical Muslim states to the south and pro-U.S. Europe in the west — Russia fears encirclement by hostile powers. Today, that means us.

    Yet we have repeatedly extended Putin's Russia the hand of friendship, offering trade and aid, making clear we mean no harm and seeking only to bolster democracy and free markets in the area.

    Nonetheless, Putin sees the U.S. hand not as a gesture of cooperation and conciliation, but as a threat. Then again, there's always been an undercurrent of tension between Putin, a crafty ex-KGB chief, and the U.S.

    Despite Putin's supposed friendship with Bush — remember him wolfing down barbecue on Bush's ranch right after 9/11? — he's always maintained a wary distance from U.S. policies. Now that distance has turned into outright opposition and hostility.

    Two weeks ago, at the annual global security conference held in Munich, Putin stunned even anti-U.S. European delegates when he railed against America's "hyper-use of force." The U.S. had "overstepped its national borders in every way," he snarled. "No one feels safe anymore."

    Ironically, this year's conference theme was "Peace Through Dialogue."

    Those who think this is just rhetoric should think again. Just last week, Russia's foreign minister met with counterparts in India and China. Their topic: countering U.S. power. That may sound harmless, but this new alliance, as the Times of London put it, makes up "40% of the world's population, a fifth of its economy and more than half of its nuclear warheads."

    Now, the Times says, the three countries seem to be forming an alliance to challenge the U.S.-led world order that has dominated since the end of the Cold War.

    Friday, Putin ominously named Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov — a former KGB apparatchik, like Putin — to the post of first deputy premier. That established Ivanov as Putin's heir apparent and kept Russia on its current hard-line, Cold War-lite path.

    Are we making too much of this new threat? It's true, as some note, that Russia nominally remains a democracy. And its economy, about $760 billion in size, is actually smaller than Mexico's — though Russia has a third more people. It's also true that Russia's population is shrinking, not growing — a dire problem for any nation's economy.

    Yet Russia's not a basket case, and it's playing a weak hand well. As one of the world's top suppliers of crude oil — late last year it even passed up Saudi Arabia in daily output — Russia is now flush with more than $300 billion in reserves.

    Even more is coming in through sales of weapons and nuclear technology to U.S. foes such as Iran and Venezuela — earning money and tweaking the U.S. at the same time.

    Russia is not sitting on its cash. It's using it to rebuild its shrunken, post-Soviet military. It will spend $189 billion over the next five years, according to Heritage Foundation scholar Ariel Cohen, on "new nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, a fleet of TU-160 supersonic strategic bombers, and development of a fifth-generation fighter jet."

    "Such a program," said Cohen, "is clearly aimed at balancing U.S. military power, not fighting terrorists in the Caucasus Mountains."

    As we suggested, the Russian bear isn't dead; it was only hibernating. After a 15-year slumber, it's waking up and starting to growl. We ignore it at our peril.

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    Default Re: Russia's Twice-Cold Tale

    Russian general threatens tough response to US missile shield

    Feb 19 11:18 AM US/Eastern

    A Russian general has threatened a tough response if the United States goes ahead with a plan to site a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
    "If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a decision, the strategic missile force will be able to aim at these installations," said the force's head, General Nikolai Solovtsov, on Monday.


    Russia, he said, could easily restart production of medium-range missiles if the decision were taken to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987.

    "If the political decision is taken to withdraw from this treaty the strategic missile force will be ready to fulfil this task," Solovtsov said at a news conference.

    While Russia had destroyed all its medium-range missiles under the treaty, "all the technical documentation remains and restarting their production will not be difficult," he said.

    The United States has said it wants to begin formal talks soon on deploying a missile defence system comprising missiles to be sited in Poland and a radar station to be sited in the Czech Republic.

    Washington says the aim would be to intercept potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.

    But Moscow does not accept this, saying that the system, close to Russia's western borders, would threaten Russia.

    The INF was recently described as a "relic" of the Cold War by Sergei Ivanov, formerly Russia's defence minister and now a first deputy prime minister.
    On Monday Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said both his country and Poland were "likely to give a positive answer" to Washington's request.

    Jag

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