Monday, March 16, 2009

Fun in foreign policy or dealing with the Russians

Well, the economy seems to be stabilizing for the moment (stocks did well last week), though it's still too soon to say what will happen next.

However, our foreign policy is looking pretty pathetic. I think we're going to have to resign ourselves to watching the Russians take pot shots at us for a few years. However, short of economic retaliation, there was and still is very little chance for us to do anything to support Georgia militarily in the near future (I stated this when the Russians invaded Georgia last year). However, this seems to be another move by the Russians to test the resolve the Messiah.

" The Russian General Staff has chosen the small town of Bombora outside Gudauta to be an air force base. In Soviet times a paratroopers' regiment was based there. Now about 20 aeroplanes are proposed to be stationed there: Su-27 fighters, Su-25 low-flying attack aircraft and some An-26 transport aircraft."

Probably elements of several squadrons, I'm assuming? It's a pretty balanced mix: interceptor/air superiority, ground attack and transport/supply. However, the base could be used to house much larger numbers in the future (as the article implies). It's possible that the Russians are moving a small force to see how we'll react, and then slowly build up as needed later on.

And how is the West reacting to this?

"An official NATO spokesman James Appathurai explained at a press conference in Brussels that the alliance and its allies had determined their positions on Georgia's territorial integrity - on the basis of accepting 'll recognized borders' Therefore they view reports appearing in the press that Russia might build military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia with some concern. 'he Secretary-General of the alliance Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,'assured Appathurai, 'ill raise this question at the February meeting with Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov.'
ou may agree that this is quite a mild reaction. The alliance - for the time being, at least - has avoided making any vociferous demands or protests. While Moscow has found its 'nternational levers' As a result of which Appathurai spent more time talking about the fact that NATO and Russia had reached an agreement over the transit of civilian cargo for the alliance's contingent in Afghanistan. Which might very well explain why we have heard what almost amounts to a willingness from them to resign themselves to Russian bases on the 'recognized borders of Georgia'

Well, naturally, the spineless Europeans aren't going to do anything about this. What is surprising is that there is not a peep from the US. However, our supply corridor through Central Asia is vulnerable and the US is dependent on the goodwill (or at the very least hefty bribes) of the Central Asian countries, many of which still have strong ties to Russia. My guess is that this is how the interceptor missile question in Eastern Europe will eventually finish: We'll remove them so that Russia won't strangle our supply lines into Afghanistan.

Georgia isn't the only area where the Russians are aggressively pushing. Apparently, the Russians are once again very interested in Caribbean airbases to land their long-range bombers.

"The Russian military has reached a contingency agreement to land long-range supersonic bomber aircraft in Venezuela, according to reports from Moscow on Saturday, which analysts cast as a nuisance rather than reason for alarm.
U.S. Defense and diplomatic officials told The Miami Herald they were aware of the report by the at-times unreliable InterFax agency but downplayed its significance

While it is nothing more than posturing by the Russians, it could have long-term significance. It's another example of someone else looking at the long-term future while we blithely look five minutes ahead. Russia only has 16 Tu-160 Blackjack bombers (their most modern long-range bomber) and its production rate is abysmal. Other potential aircraft include the Tu-22M Backfire (mainly a naval bomber) and Tu-95 Bear (recon and apparently once again a strategic bomber). Tu-16 Badger bombers were retired in the 90's.

My favorite part of this article was at the end where the Miami Herald quoted an anonymous military analyst.

"An American military analyst who has studied Latin America for 20 years questioned whether the Cuban airstrips were maintained well enough to handle anything more sophisticated than cargo aircraft.
Absent details from the Kremlin, he said, the general may have exaggerated the arrangement or 'may have gotten ahead of this.'
'I would have to wait for more information or confirmation from Moscow,' said the analyst, who was skeptical of the report and declined to comment with his name attached. 'It surprises me because we're pressing the reset button on Russian-U.S. relations and for the Russians to say this at this point seems out of whack
.' "

Ok, the part regarding Cuban airstrips is a valid point. It is also possible that the Russian general spoke out of turn. However, the last paragraph made me very suspicious because the "analyst" sounded like an Obama hack. It surprised this person because "we're pressing the reset button on Russian-U.S. relations"?

First of all, the "reset" crap is entirely a diplomatic game (and judging from the screwup by Clinton when she actually coined it, not a very good one). Why on earth would this military analyst be so shocked that the Russians are doing this? Because it doesn't fit into the Messiah's preconception of the world bowing to him because of his "oratory" genius? Is the analyst serious? Russia is going to look after its own interests, however the US feels. Russia is looking to regain some of their power, and while they probably aren't a high priority threat, they can be a vicious nuisance. This administration has, on several occasions already, looked at foreign affairs like a deer looking into the headlights of an oncoming car. It had better wake up before something drastic does happen.

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