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Typically thin sourcing for the British press, but according to the Telegraph, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is facing a mini-rebellion within the officer corps because of his plan to professionalize the military. Note to Vlad: Talk to Paul Bremer before you fire 200,000 officers during a global depression. Apparently the grunts aren’t very happy, either. Conditions are atrocious, and morale is low: . . . The feeling of discontent is even deeper in the non-commissioned ranks, who complain of appalling conditions in their barracks. Doctorswere summoned to one unheated navy base earlier this month. Of 1,000sailors housed in the […]

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The difference between foreign policy and foreign affairs is thedifference between what you hope will happen and what actually does.Last week I’d been all set to flag the $25 billion energy deal Russia and China just signed that injects much-needed Chinese cash (in the form of loans) intoRussia’s energy sector while guaranteeing much-needed Russian oilsupplies for the Chinese economy. This week the two countries arefacing the kind of diplomatic incident that often has serious consequences forbilateral relations. In case you missed it, here’s the video of Russian naval vessels sinking the New Star, a Sierra Leone-flagged, Chinese-owned cargo ship (via […]

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I’ve always said that for all our focus on UFOs and high technology, when an extraterrestrial finally does make it to Earth, chances are it will be a non-intelligent, space-resistant insect. But if it turns out to be a mosquito, I’ll be seriously pissed.

Russia’s foreign arms sales recently had another banner year, breaking all post-Soviet records, causing Moscow policymakers to celebrate. Meeting with the Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States on Feb. 10, President Dmitry Medvedev reported that the value of Russian weapons exports in 2008 exceeded $8.35 billion, up from $7.4 billion in 2007, also a record. On Feb. 12, Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Russia planned to export $8.5 billion of arms in 2009. On Feb. 16, Nikolai Dimidyuk, special programs director for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s arms export monopoly, announced that the company […]

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If you’re wondering why the headline of this DefenseNews article is “Russia Admits China Illegally Copied Its Fighter,” it’s because everyone knows China reverse engineers indigenous products from imported models, but the Chinese market has so much pull that people sell them the hardware along with technology transfers anyway. Then the trick becomes how to get the Chinese to respect the contract without making them lose face. A guy I met here in Paris who works for Alstom, the French train manufacturer, was telling me how they started seeing their trains show up in South America under Chinese brand names. […]

The Neo-Eurasianist movement has been a curious feature of the Russian intellectual landscape throughout the post-Soviet years. It is dominated by a single figure, the monk-bearded Aleksandr Dugin, who argues that Russia is not a European country but an Asian one, and advocates a grand alliance with the Turkic and Arab worlds, India, Japan, Iran and even Israel, to counter American influence, which it regards as an existential threat to Russia. Dugin’s theories are larded with a significant amount of the occult, are complex and often contradict each other. But their anti-American emphasis and open call for return to empire […]

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The interesting thing about walking back our objectives (and/or additional troop deployments) in Afghanistan is that it instantly reduces our need for Russia’s help. Add to that an (admittedly still theoretical) warming of relations with Iran, and you’ve got further lightening of need for Russian support (on the nuclear standoff), as well as a diversified energy source for Europe. There are still plenty of areas where our interests overlap with Russia’s, and it seems silly to needlessly antagonize Moscow, especially if it’s to cultivate alliances with unreliable and/or unstable states like Georgia and Ukraine, or to deploy unproven and not […]

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When I first read the transcript of Vice President Biden’s remarks in Munich over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think the language with regard to Russia sounded remarkably similar to that of the Bush administration (prior to the Georgia War, anyway). So I was a bit surprised to see the Russians respond so warmly to it. Apparently, “press the reset button” translates better into Russian than “sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances” or “we will continue to develop missile defense to counter the growingIranian capability, provided the technology is proven […]

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A funny thing happened over the weekend, besides me getting knocked for a loop by a bad chest cold. Friday it seemed as if the Obama honeymoon was over. The Iranians were lobbing satellites into space, the North Koreans were trucking ICBMs cross-country, Russia was strong-arming Kyrgyzstan into shuttering our air base, and the Republicans were doing the bipartisanship approach to economic stimulus like Tyson did Marvis Frazier. Now it looks like the Russians love us again, the Iranians are willing to talk, Kyrgyzstan is willing to deal, and the big winner on economic stimulus is Obama. Anyone got a […]

Recent news reports indicate that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about whether it wants to double the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The president has directed the Pentagon to think very clearly about the specific strategy and purposes involved with any troop increase. Independent defense experts continue to debate the wisdom of applying a variant of the troop surge policy that has apparently stabilized the security situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, with its very different local conditions. One weighty constraint on the proposed force increases concerns logistics. Recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia in […]

On Feb. 2, Iran launched its first wholly indigenous satellite, the Omid, from a two- or possibly three-stage liquid-fuel Safir missile launcher. Assessments of the launch by European, Israeli, and American experts concurred that it raises the specter of Iran having a usable ballistic missile capability with which it can eventually launch the nuclear weapons that they and their governments fear Iran is building. Specifically, they believe that Iran can now target Europe with its missiles. Neither are they alone in the belief. Vitaly Lopota, president of Russia’s Energiya Corporation, congratulated Iran for having missiles capable of reaching any spot […]

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Matt Eckel cruelly sums up most of the arguments I make here on the blog in four words: Makes sense in theory. . . . More particularly, he was responding to this post on U.S.-Russia cooperation on European missile defense, and the idea of a three-pillar security architecture for Europe. Here’s Matt: All this to say that if there’s going to be a comprehensive collectivesecurity arrangement between the U.S., Europe and Russia, there has tobe a comprehensive convergence of security interests. That doesn’t seemto exist right now. A better idea, from my perspective, would be totrade European missile defense for […]

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The gas is back on in Sofia, but Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev is still feeling the political chill. Increasingly out of favour in Brussels and frozen out by fair weather friends in Moscow, Stanishev’s government also faced the wrath — and hurled bricks — of street protestors in recent weeks. It was an inauspicious start to a year featuring elections that could be crucial in reinvigorating the country’s reform process and restoring relations with its European partners. Bulgaria’s big freeze came to an end on Jan. 20, when gas flows from Russia via Ukraine — cut […]

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Nicolas Gros-Verheyde cites two prominent EU diplomats (here and here) to the effect that the Obama administration has pulled the plug on European-based missile defense, even if it will languish away quietly to deny the Russians a victory lap. That was before the Iranian launch of a satellite, however, that could theoretically put Israel and Europe in range of its missiles. Of course, Iran has everything to gain from keeping the wedge between the U.S. and Russia firmly in place. So the timing of the launch isn’t surprising. The intelligent response would be to invite Russia into the European missile […]

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In his WPR feature article from last November, A Grand Strategy Agenda for the Next President, Thomas PM Barnett defined President Obama’s challenge as leaving enough space between the security demands America makes of targeted nations and the “safe harbor” security guarantees it is willing to grant them so as to create the room for diplomatic maneuvering. Under the Bush administration, the lack of wiggle room between the two amounted to a demand for capitulation, and created standoffs everywhere. The Bush administration’s response was a campaign of diplomatic and economic isolation (Syria and Iran), or else confrontation (Russia) with similar […]

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Russia has experienced a remarkable resurgence in recent years. Despite its strategic resurgence, however, the country’s new status rests on shaky foundations that will limit Moscow’s capacity, and perhaps ambitions, to become a peer competitor of the United States. Richard Weitz examines the country’s recent history, foreign and military policy, and national strategy in the first WPR Strategic Posture Review. The Russian Federation has experienced a remarkable resurgence in recent years. Following a decade spent managing the collapse of the Soviet Union while watching its global influence decline, Russia has once again become a world power. With the use of […]