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Russia: Too Many Threats

Discussion in 'Europe & Russia' started by Averageamerican, Jul 19, 2017.

  1. Averageamerican

    Averageamerican Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Russia: Too Many Threats

    July 18, 2017: Ukraine and the “war against NATO” is becoming an expensive distraction for Russia. While Russian backed rebels still hold parts of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) it is costing Russia a lot of money to support the civilians there and the heavy-handed discipline (assassination and so on) required to keep rebel leaders in line also requires more efforts to keep foreign journalists out. Too many people in Russian occupied Donbas are willing to talk with foreign reporters. In the rest of Ukraine security measures and increasing popular hostility towards Russia has made it more difficult and expensive to carry out covert operations. Making matters worse is the fact that no matter how much Russia threatens Ukraine the Ukrainians become more determined to develop stronger economic, cultural and military ties with nations to the west, especially NATO and the EU (European Union). Every month Ukrainians are reminded that Ukrainian soldiers are still dying while confronting the Russian aggression in Donbas. In June 28 Ukrainian troops died in the east and over 170 were wounded. Since the Russian invasion began in 2014 about 10,000 Ukrainians have died, 70 percent of them civilians.

    Ukraine has also suffered from more Russian Cyber War attacks, particularly the recent WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. This has generated a lot of sympathy from hackers for Ukraine, in part because Ukraine has long been home to lots of criminal hackers. Now this hacker underground is quietly providing evidence of how Russian Cyber War operations work and who is involved (along with lots of incriminating details). This is a cost of the Donbas operation that Russia will not admit even exists, yet it surely does and is getting worse. There is no easy way out of this mess for Russia and it seems to keep getting worse.

    Further west a new American government has pledged more support for East Europe against Russian aggression and this has led to more orders for American anti-missile systems and all manner of military upgrades for the countries on Russia’s western border. Even Sweden and Finland, which remained neutral during the Cold War, are now joining military alliances with the rest of Europe to better deal with the Russian threat.

    The U.S. has long sought to put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe to protect against ballistic missile attacks from Iran. Russia has opposed this and sees it as a subterfuge to weaken the effect of Russian ballistic missiles attacking European targets. Most Europeans don’t know what to make of that, but East European countries (like Romania) that spent 1945-89 as involuntary Russian vassal (or “satellite”) states, do see a need for protection from Russian missiles.
     
  2. Averageamerican

    Averageamerican Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Russia: Too Many Threats

    The Eastern Front

    China, the only real threat to Russia, quietly makes progress advancing from the east. China has claims on much of the Russian Far East and is openly replacing Russia as the primary economic, military and political force in Central Asia. This area, which used to be part of the Soviet Union, has become an economic and diplomatic battleground for Russia and China and China is winning. This is something Russia doesn’t like to discuss, but among Russians the real threat is from the east, not the west. According to recent reports from the Russian government China has already become the dominant supplier and trading partner with the Central Asian states and is having the same impact on other nations that were part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Russia will allow open discussion of the Chinese economic impact but is rather more sensitive when it comes to the diplomatic implications. China is replacing Russia as the dominant foreign power east of Moscow.

    For several centuries Russia was dominant in the east but now that is all over and Russia seems unlikely to regain the economic and diplomatic dominance it long enjoyed. Actually Russia began losing in 1904 when they went to war with Japan and lost. These days Russia is minor power in purely economic terms, with a $1.2 trillion GDP compared to $11 trillion for China and nearly $19 trillion for the United States. For Russia, the economic news is even worse. Because of overdependence on oil and gas exports (and the sharp drop in oil and gas prices since 2013) plus sanctions (because of aggression against Ukraine and other neighbors) Russian GDP is still shrinking. In 2016 the decline was .2 percent of GDP and that may turn positive in 2017 as Russia adapts to the lower export income and sanction related difficulties. The sanctions and corruption caused another serious problem that the Russian government would rather not discuss (but are well aware of); the flight of investors and talented people from Russia. The investors and talent are mainly seeking better opportunities. The corruption makes investors (be they Russian or foreign) uneasy because the lack or legal protections makes for a very unpredictable economic environment. The same incentives drive talent away. Since 2013 over a million such people (most of them Russian citizens the rest disillusioned foreigners) have gone and the exodus continues.

    Even before the 2013 economic collapse Russian leaders were trying to adapt to their diminished circumstances. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Russians in general came to realize that with much less economic and military power (which Russia had in abundance for centuries) Russia had much less impact on regional and world affairs. But since the late 1990s the government had been increasingly dominated by former KGB (secret police) officers who were smart (getting into the KGB was a major achievement in the Soviet days) and skilled at using deception and media manipulation to achieve their goals, especially outside Russia. Yet many former-KGB officers realize that these methods involve exploiting corrupt societies and one thing nearly all Russians can agree on is that corruption is a bad thing and the ultimate cause of so many other problems. In other words the “KGB State” is not sustainable and that has a lot of Russians wondering what comes next?
     

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