Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Did Vladimir Putin Burn His KGB Card?

    Well - sort of. Comrade Putin was a KGB operative for a number of years. From 1985 to 1990 he was stationed in East Germany. When the West Germans got stuck with the East Germans he was reassigned to Leningrad in a position with the International Affairs section of the Leningrad State University, followed by a brief assignment as head of the International Committee of the St. Petersburg Mayor's office for promoting foreign investments (sort of sounds like our CFIUS huh?).

    After the "fall" of the USSR, the KGB was remolded into the FSB, and Vladimir was the head of the FSB from July 1998 to August 1999 - guess once it's in your blood you just can't really leave.

    So has the central topic of our spy movies and books become the wimp of the world? While the focus seems to be on Iraq, Iran, N. Korea, and anything Arab - what of the quiet giant? Is the Soviet Union still a giant? Is the Soviet Union still classed as a superpower? Is Russia a friend or foe? Does Russia suddenly love the USA?

    Some items to consider:

    Putin to invite Hamas to Moscow:
    The US and the European Union have called on the resistance group to renounce violence and disarm its fighters. Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by the US, does not recognise Israel.

    Putin went on to say that he did not believe in burning bridges.

    "We have never called Hamas a terrorist organisation," he said.
    Putin says Russia working on new missile systems:
    President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia is developing a new form of nuclear missile unlike those held by other countries, news agencies reported.

    "I am sure that ... they will be put in service within the next few years and, what is more, they will be developments of the kind that other nuclear powers (like the USA) do not and will not have," Putin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
    Russian Nukes Redux:
    Is energy the nuclear weapon of the 21st century? In recent months, Russia has shown that control of gas supplies to its neighbors can be a potent political tool. But when Vladimir Putin was asked exactly that question last week, he disagreed. "We still have plenty of nuclear rockets too," boasted Putin.

    "We recently carried out tests on new ballistic-weapon systems, weapons which no other country in the world has." The new Russian systems, he said, "don't care if there is a missile-defense system or not." In other words, for Putin, nukes are the nukes of the 21st century.
    NATO's New Nemesis:
    What later became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO is rapidly emerging as a strategic competitor to the United States and its allies throughout Asia.

    The SCO is led by Russia and China and includes the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. While the alliance was established under the guise of "fighting terrorism, separatism, and extremism," these stated objectives seem incomplete when compared with reality.
    Where is Russia Headed?:
    The Kremlin seeks to subjugate and control many formerly independent institutions, including television and the legislative and judiciary branches of the government, and to retake some of the "commanding heights" in the economy.

    Recently calling the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century," Putin has shown a far greater willingness than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, to try and bend the former Soviet republics, which are now independent states, to Moscow's will.
    Arsenals of Tyranny:
    Putin's Russia has approved the sale of a vast array of advanced aircraft, missile systems, submarines, other seagoing vessels and armored equipment. Worse yet, the Russians have in many cases transferred not only end-items but manufacturing know-how, enabling the Chinese to produce even larger quantities of such sophisticated equipment in the future - for its own use and for sale, in turn, to other despotic regimes.

    The Kremlin has recently agreed to sell as many as 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles to one of this hemisphere's most worrisome, and ambitious, despots: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. These arms will be used by Chavez to equip his allies in fomenting anti-American revolutions throughout Latin America - including, notably, in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas appear poised to retake power.
    Somehow I'm not convinced Russia sees the USA as their friend.

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