Saturday, July 26, 2008

Russia Tests Military Capabilities in the Arctic

We like to keep tabs on what the Russian military does--almost as much as we like squirrels and punk rock. This falls into two categories--harmless posturing or signs that Russia is trying to reassert itself militarily.
Russia's navy conducted test flights near the North Pole on Thursday, boosting its military presence in an area believed to contain vast quantities of oil and natural gas.

Cpl. Vladimir Serga, a naval spokesman, said that Il-38 anti-submarine bombers and Tu-142 long-range strategic bombers of the Northern Fleet took part in the exercise, in which the planes' crews tested radio and weapons systems management equipment.

Serga described the exercise as successful.

The flights come two days after a Russian missile cruiser began patrols in the Arctic.

Russia's military glory days are probably behind it--but what is true is that the aging, irrelevant military of ANY country is probably a dangerous thing. Not enough attention is being paid by what is really the intent or goal of Russian military posturing. Widespread conflict? Highly unlikely. Limited displays of power that intimidate smaller trading partners? More likely. Overall, I would say that the goal is to strike a stronger bargaining position when it comes to negotiating trade deals and energy deals. Russia has to back up any and all threats to its economy--which is roughly the same size as that of France and hovers around 2.7 trillion in GDP--with the threat of limited force. Russia is dwarfed by the combined economies of Europe and has to assert itself any way that it can. In many ways, all it can do is behave like a slightly dangerous version of a mob hit man who still has the ability to take a few people out. No one really thinks he will, but no one wants to find out whether he is crazy enough to try it.

The Bush Administration, of course, remains disengaged and distracted.


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