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The Bear Roars From The East

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Feb 14, 2007
President Vladimir Putin's tough talk about U.S. foreign policy at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend should not be shrugged off as mere diplomatic rhetoric: Putin's comments reveal the transformed strategic scenario facing the United States in the coming decades. Putin's comments in Munich were no one-off phenomenon.

On Wednesday, he renewed them during a visit to Jordan. Speaking in Amman the Russian president accused the Bush administration of trying to increase tensions with Moscow in order "to solve its domestic problems and secure more substantial defense spending."

"I have an impression that some partners are promoting themselves and have started using the non-existent Russian threat to get more money from the U.S. Congress for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the expensive missile defense project," Putin said according to an RIA Novosti report

Some countries "speak about (the) U.S. administration rudely and confrontationally and insult it. We believe it is unacceptable. Others speak about it in undertones," Putin said. "It is better to speak directly and openly."

For the past five and a half years since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. national security policies have been focused on the Middle East and the international war on terror. Unprecedented financial resources have been poured into funding these initiatives. Major wars are still being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of that grand strategy, and a confrontation with Iran is looming.

Through most of that time, Russia was a significant ally to the United States, especially in the rapid campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan and to drive al-Qaida out of its safe haven there in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. But Putin's comments, following a range of major issues where U.S. and Russian strategic interests have been clashing head-on, signal that a new and very different era is about to confront U.S. military and dipomatic policymakers.

As Russian military analyst Alexander Bogatyroyov wrote in an analysis for RIA Novosti, republished today by United Press International, Putin has authorized a massive expenditure program to modernize and upgrade the Russian armed forces, especially the Army and Navy.

U.S. policies on pushing to deploy ballistic missile defense radars and even missile systems in entral Europe have alarmed and angered the Kremlin. The U.S. invasion of Iraq to topple long-time dictator Saddam Hussein was seen as a bold and destabilizing upset of the long-standing balance-of-forces in the Middle East. Russian officials have long felt uneasy at what they see as the aggressive U.S. promotion of anti-Russian democratic movements in former Soviet republics in Europe and Central Asia, from Georgia to Kyrgyzstan.

There has been a widespread assumption in Washington for many years that there was nothing Russia could do to block or retaliate against such U.S. policies. But that is no longer the case. Soaring global energy prices have given Moscow a fiscal bonanza and the resources to upgrade their conventional armed forces on a scale not seen in nearly 30 years.

Putin's tough talk is backed by that fiscal power and reviving military muscle.

Russia has also just finished supplying its most advanced anti-aircraft missile defense system, the Tor-M1, to Iran. The Tor-M1 is supposed to be effective up to 30,000 feet but it has not yet been subjected to the test of preemptive knock out strikes and evasive measures by the U.S. Air Force. Russia has also supplied a variety of anti-ship weapons to the Iranian navy. which is also equipped with the Sunburn, the Chinese version of the Russian N-SS-22 Moskvit, the Mach 2 low-level anti-ship weapon that was expressly designed to "kill" large warships, including U.S. aircraft carriers. If the United States and Iran clash in a full-scale conflict, Iran will be armed with these formidable Russian-designed or made tactical weapons, and both Russian and U.S. military analysts will be able to study how effective the Russian weapons are against long-dominant U.S. aircraft and warships.

Even the huge resources deployed in the war against terror would shrink into insignificance compared with the size of the commitment that the United States would have to make to guard against a renewal of strategic global rivalry and tensions with Russia. Russian officials have expressed their unease with a wide range of U.S. policies for many years without seeing their concerns being acted upon to any significant degree. The only way U.S. policymakers can hope to head off such a formidable global challenge is by making significant concessions, or negotiating new compromises with Moscow in key areas where they have never bothered to do so before.

There is as yet no sign of any such realpolitik being considered in the corridors of power in Washington.

Source: United Press International

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Putin Takes A Tour Of The Mideast
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Feb 15, 2007 Gas, terrorism, and Palestine were the key issues raised during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. Trade and economic cooperation deserve special attention because they are a subject for the future. Security and military-technical cooperation are classified. The sides discussed them and even reached agreements, but we will not know any details today, or maybe ever.

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