Monday, March 16, 2009

Resurgence of Russia

Russia, the largest country in the world in area, stretches across the continents of Asia and Europe. It extends for over 9600 km from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean and for 4,800 km from North to South.

Russia, an independent country since Dec. 1991, is 75 per cent of the total area of the erstwhile Soviet Union and has 50 per cent of its total population. About 70 per cent of the USSR’s total industrial and agricultural output came from Russia. It has now taken the place of the former Soviet Union in international fora. Russia adopted the name ‘Russian Federation’.

Collapse of the USSR
The collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union also heralded the degradation of Russia’s status as a major power monger in what was called the Cold War era of yore. The Western bloc, spearheaded by the US, continued without any competition thereafter and has generally secured for itself the title of the world’s sole superpower in current international relations.

The US has gerrymandered in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Asia Pacific region with impunity and is presently busy trying to browbeat Iran. All this has been possible because there is nobody to present an effective opposing front to America’s dominance of most global sensitive spots.

Russia’s problems were further exacerbated through two successive ineffectual Presidents. First was Mikhail Gorbachov whose glasnost and perestroika hardly made any difference either to his country’s standing or to the Western bloc’s attitude towards it. Next came Boris Yeltsin who took refuge in vodka whenever he found things were getting too complicated for him to handle. His performance during the Balkan crisis was deplorable. Consequently, Russia became somewhat of a loose ball without any direction and remained so till Vladimir Putin became the country’s President.

Emergence of Putin
Putin, the present Prime Minister and a dynamic person, has firmly set his sights on two aspects of Russia’s resurgence—first of all, to positively address its faltering economy and second to regain its place as an appreciable power centre. He appears to be on the right course for both his objectives.

While the economy is taking its own path to betterment, Putin has uplifted Russia in global politics with the intention of relocating itself in a position from where Moscow can dictate terms in international relations again. His initial pronouncement in this context was strongly objecting to the North Atlantic Treaty Organi­sation’s (NATO) expansion eastwards to within reach of Russia’s European border.

However, the Western bloc, with the European Union playing a leading part, paid little heed to his objections and is at present locked in a fresh controversy over a missile defence system that this bloc wants to set up in Eastern Europe. Although the bloc’s leader to wit, Washington furnishes vague replies when queried by Moscow as to against which enemy is this system being established, it is apparent that the bloc is pursuing a policy of sanitising its territorial entity from any visualised Russia threat be it real or imaginary.

Another factor that bothers Russia is the increasing membership of the European Union wherein former Russian States are being wooed to join. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic set the stage for this entry and these States are now cocking a snooks at their previous partner.

At present, Russia has virtually no influence in West Asia as all the Arab countries directly or indirectly enjoy a good equation with the US. Making matters worse are periodic reports that Russia’s insurgency problem with the Chechen rebels is being fuelled by Wahabi ideology from West Asian countries, egged on by the US.

Reasserting National Pride
Russia has recovered to great height from the crippling and humiliating aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union and is now in a position to reassert its national pride, mainly regaining its earlier place and influence in the international arena. It is truly concerned about its security environment, especially about the enlargement of American military process close to its borders, a sort of re-run of the old encirclement policy by displaying, deploying and developing its military clout, Russia is only resuming what the West on its part never stopped doing.

The Putin leadership wants to convince Russians that the era of want and weakness is past and they are, militarily and otherwise, second to none again, thereby creating the right ambience for Putin’s successor in the Kremlin to stay the course.

There is more to the new stance. The Russia have deployed their latest air defence missiles around Moscow. These can down any flying object—missiles, warheads, stealth bombers, whatever. And, after 15 years of politically dictated restraint, the Russian army has resumed long-hand missions by their strategic bombers capable of hitting targets in the US with nuclear weapons. Their surviellance aircraft have buzzed the US military base at Guam. They are working on a fifth generation air defence missile system capable of hitting targets in space and, like the Americans, are also developing a range of new attack and defence weapons.

Need of the Hour
It is believed that Russia should get as close to Iran as possible, which has been seen with the Putin’s recent visit to Tehran. Iran enjoys a high status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and it would definitely be to Russia’s advantage to build an effective friendly relationship with this Islamic country. Ideally, Russia should take the initiative to recreate the earlier Warsaw Pact group, this time with Eurasian States.

Another important step would be to befriend Turkey, besides forming a multinational military force with the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The last but not the least, Russia has to increasingly ensure that its presence is adequately felt in the Asia Pacific region. It should counter the US influence in this region, an influence that encompasses pro-Washington countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and going south, Australia and New Zealand.

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