Monday, April 12, 2010

The Russian Bear

About 20 years ago the Cold War came to and end, and with it the Russian threat.  After decades of proxy wars, political infighting, and failing communist policies the Russian Bear was left a crippled, shadow of her former self.  Her satellite nations abandoned her, communism fell, and our fight with Russia was over.  The world assumed that, much like the former soviet nations, Russia would accept Western democracy and eventually integrate into Europe. And even if it didn't, what credible threat could this broken nation pose to the most powerful nation the world has ever seen?

20 years later and it seems the Russian Bear has healed up.

In 2009 Kyrgyzstan came under Russian pressure to shut down a vital US air base in the nation that was being used to resupply troops in the landlocked Afghanistan.  A bidding war commenced and initially the Russians won.  President Bakiyev would receive Russian aid money, and in return ordered that the US base be shut down.  However after receiving 20% of the aid money from the Russians Obama offered to triple the rent on the base, and Bakiyev allowed the Americans to stay.

Russia was less then pleased.

Fast forward to April 6th, 2010, only 6 days ago at this time of this post.  Protests against the Kyrgyztan government commenced, and a few days later the protesters had forced the government to flee and the opposition took control of the capital. Today we got this little bit of news:

Less than a month before the violent protests that toppled the government of Kyrgyzstan last week, Russian television stations broadcast scathing reports portraying President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as a repugnant dictator whose family was stealing billions of dollars from this impoverished nation.

The media campaign, along with punishing economic measures adopted by the Kremlin, played a critical role in fanning public anger against Bakiyev and bringing people into the streets for the demonstrations that forced him to flee the capital Wednesday, according to protest leaders, local journalists and analysts.

"Even without Russia, this would have happened sooner or later, but . . . I think the Russian factor was decisive," said Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader who is now the No. 2 figure in the government.

Keep in mind that the person saying this is now the number two man in the country.  Of course he's going to say the revolution would of happened anyways, he doesn't want to portray his government as Russian puppets, but the mere fact that he admits that Russia had a large enough influence to impact the revolution means that Russia played a huge role in this.  Maybe it was just a coincidence that a man who defied Russia and warmed up to America would soon find Russian backed revolutionaries at his door.  I mean its not like this sort of thing happened before right?

In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia under the excuse of "protecting" two breakaway regions.  The invasion came just as Georgia has been pushing to join NATO, and was in the middle of an effort to strengthen ties to America. Eastern Europe recognized the invasion for what it was, Russia going back its old tricks, and it would certainly seem that way given the timing. 

Both of these events are pretty big.  Invasions are never minor occurrences, and a Russian backed revolution in a nation that holds the last US air base in Central Asia needs to be taken seriously.  But what is equally dangerous is the work Russia has been conducting in one middle eastern nation in particular.

In Iran Russia has worked hard to not only stop the West's attempts to sanction Iran, but has actively worked against us by arming Iran with surface to air missiles.  Surface to air missiles that would be good at, say, stopping a potential air attack against a nuclear facility.  And its not just arms sales.  In fact the Russia has worked closely in helping Iran develop its nuclear program.

Russia also took to saber rattling when it threatened to move aim its nuclear weapons at the West if we dared to build a missile defense shield in Europe.  Don't worry though, Obama agreed to not build the missile defense shield for the princely sum of...nothing.  A move our Eastern European allies were outraged about, to the point of their media claiming we betrayed them.

The US is currently engaged in a campaign to "reset" relations with Russia despite all she's done.  How's that going? Well a picture is worth a thousand words right?

Nah, this relationship is healthy.

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