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Saturday, August 18, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Russia restarts Cold War patrols

Russia is resuming a Soviet-era practice of sending its bomber aircraft on long-range flights, President Vladimir Putin has said.

Mr Putin said the move to resume the flights permanently after a 15-year suspension was in response to security threats posed by other military powers.

Somehow I have to think that this move is far more about Russian domestic politics than it is about any threat, real or perceived, from the outside. This clearly smacks of an attempt by Putin to demonstrate Russian strength and to show the Russian people how he has restored Russia’s place in the world. That the ability to fly these planes has more to do with increased oil revenues than it does with governmental policy is beside the point, as is the fact that we are talking here about planes from the Soviet era that were grounded in the first place because there was no money to fund the patrols.

Beyond air patrols, there is also the recent Russian claim over the arctic (see USAT: Russia plants undersea flag in Arctic) which both has symbolic domestic-politics boosting qualities, and also the potential to control oil reserves.

Meanwhile, Matthew Shugart notes that Russia is heading towards a hegemonic party system dominated by the Putin-supporting party, United Russia. Under the new electoral rules, Shugart projects that UR could win between 2/3rds to 3/4th of the seats in the Duma (and that’s with less than majority support).

Also, the BBC has been kicked off of Russian FM frequencies (via the BBC): BBC radio ordered off Russian FM

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One Response to “Russia Flexs it Muscles (and Democracy Continues to Recede)”

  1. Captain D. Says:

    The most interesting part to me is the increasing military cooperation between China and Russia. They just completed a long series of joint operations along their border, also involving some of the central asian states. The operations simulated repulsion of terrorist forces from oil pipelines and other infrastructure assets. That these operations and the resumption of strategic bomber patrols coicide with each other has implications of its own.

    It suggests to me that the Russian bomber flights are part of a broader policy aimed at both domestic and foreign relations - but I think the foreign relations part is aimed more at China and the central asian states. Some of these states own significant oil reserveres and other natural resources, and there has been talk about building pipelines to divert some of those resources to the west.

    By puffing itself up and strengthening military ties with China, Russia seeks to present itself as a capable power, capable of checking US power and influence in the region, and providing security for the assets that are developed in the area. It is of course a PR stunt for Putin, as well.

    The bottom line to me is that even if Russia is resuming these flights, it is a) on a very small scale compared to the bad old days of the Soviet Union and b) probably not meant to try and scare the west.

    Because, really, are a few decrepit Tu-95′s really that scary these days?

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