Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

From Russia With Arms

By Aussiegirl

With friends like Russia, who needs enemies?

From Russia With Arms

From Russia With Arms
By Robert T. McLean

The Cold War may be over, but relations between the United States and Russia are slowly beginning to freeze over once again. Nowhere has this become more evident than in our dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the United States and its European allies remain committed to ensuring that Tehran will not acquire the capability to produce a nuclear weapon, Russia maintains its opposition -- along with China -- against any use of sanctions or the threat of force. This has damaged efforts to convince the Iranian regime that serious consequences can result from noncompliance. However, the current situation in Iran is only one element in a comprehensive Russian strategy that seeks to boost its defense industry and undermine its geopolitical rivals.

The Russian economy remains largely dependent on weapons sales. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia's vital defense industry faced an enormous crisis. Not only would domestic spending be decreased, but exports to friendly regimes would no longer be necessary in many cases. As a result, even after enormous downsizing in the Russian defense industry -- an estimated 2.5 to 6.1 million lost their jobs between 1991 and 1995 -- by 1996, the sector was working at a capacity of only about 10 percent of its potential. Thus, to maintain the country's military industrial complex the Kremlin has taken on the role of the world's weapons supplier. From Algeria and Venezuela to Syria and Iran, Moscow displays few reservations to arming any regime that can help fuel its defense industry. [....]

As noted, the extent of Russian arms exports has had consequences well beyond its periphery and the Middle East. In Africa, Russia has supplied Sudan with MiG-29 fighter-jets and Mi-24 attack helicopters, helping the genocidal regime in Khartoum and their Janjaweed militias kill hundreds of thousands in Darfur. Algeria has recently purchased $7.5 billion worth of arms from Russia, drawing concerns that this might upset the balance of power with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara. Defense Minister Ivanov explained: "No one is preventing Morocco from buying our arms and we are ready to consider such proposals, all the more so, since we already have military and technical cooperation with Morocco."

And while the largest recipients of Russian military equipment are India and China, the latter is of far greater concern as Moscow has essentially been the enabler of Beijing's rise as principal long-term threat to American military primacy in Asia. Moscow's provisions of military hardware and technology to the Chinese -- about 45 percent of Russia's total arms exports -- have done much to alter the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait and the region. While economic factors are certainly the primary motivation for this promiscuity, the Kremlin sees strategic benefits as well. The Beijing-Moscow alliance not only is about preserving peace and economic benefits for the two countries, but also contains a powerful element aimed at balancing the United States and establishing a "multi-polar world."

Venezuela has also witnessed the benefits of Russia's export regime. Hugo Chavez and his "Bolivarian Revolution" have received 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 30 combat helicopters. The United States had been able to convince Brazil and Spain away from making similar sales, but Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak held that the deal was "a sovereign decision by the Russian Federation and Venezuela." As for the implications the influx of weapons could have on the region, Kislyak proclaimed that the delivery "is not having a destabilizing effect." Washington, meanwhile, is rightfully worried that these weapons could end up in the hands of rebels in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America where Chavez hopes to export his revolution.

Russia is using the export of arms to its benefit both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately, this revitalized influence from Moscow has produced few benefits for the rest of the world. Many of the world's rogue regimes must be pleased with this development, but international security is being severely undermined. Russia now finds itself at a crossroads where it will continue to drift east towards China and towards Cold War strategic competition with the United States, or it will continue to democratize and become a responsible world actor engaged in genuine cooperation with the West.

The 2008 presidential elections to determine the successor of Vladimir Putin will be essential in this progression. Will Putin select a successor with similar Soviet era tendencies, or will a democrat seeking to strengthen ties with the West emerge? This will have monumental consequences in Russia's future strategic relations and determine the future direction of Russia's arms exports. As the cases of Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, and numerous others have illustrated, a secure and stable world can ill afford the continued consequences of a Russian effort to improve its economy and undermine its strategic competitors through the export of arms to tyrants in every corner of the globe.


At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was this guy smoking before he wrote this?

"continue to democratize"??

When did Russia start to democratize? The collapse of communism and the Soviet Union didn't come with an automatic default to democracy. Maybe he missed the Orange Revolution.

"[Russia] ... become a responsible world actor engaged in genuine cooperation with the West."

OK, it's obvious this guy is seriously into the hallucinogens.

OTOH, one shouldn't be too hard on him. He does display a healthy skepticism in contrast to the slavering of most academics and politicians (especially of the left variety).

Let's hope articles like this have some influence on the thinking (or lack thereof) in political and academic circles, and open some eyes. (President Bush's notwithstanding ... he seemed to be hallucinating himself when he gazed into Vlad's eyes a while back.)

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Great piece!

One need merely read the statements made by Putinoccio and his posse to see the bitter anti-Americanism which runs through the Russkie government (and, indeed, Russia`s hoi poloi.)

These guys are displaced Soviet Heroes, and they have dressed themselves in tuxedos. It`s the same batch of thugs running the show, by and large; they`ve gotten rid of the Marx because they can steal more money without him!

Russia needs a revolution, and badly. If President Bush thinks Democracy is the answer, he needs to push for true democracy in the land of the Tsars and Commissars.


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