Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cold war heating up…

Think Crocodile Dundee: Poland? Czech? Those aren't missiles. THIS is a missile!
Interesting article today in Yahoo news:

    Russia tested new missiles Tuesday that a Kremlin official boasted could penetrate any defense system, and President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe would turn the region into a "powder keg."

    First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple independent warheads, and it also successfully conducted a "preliminary" test of a tactical cruise missile that he said could fly farther than existing, similar weapons.

    "As of today, Russia has new tactical and strategic complexes that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile defense systems," Ivanov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. "So in terms of defense and security, Russians can look calmly to the country's future."

The article goes on to tell us that the new RS-24 was fired from its mobile launcher and hit a target some 3400 miles away. Their claim is that this new missile, which has the capacity to carry multiple nuclear warheads, has an absolute range of 10,000km and can beat any missile defense system. This move on the part of the Russians of course is in "retaliation" to the US's placement of defensive missile emplacements in the Czech Republic and in Poland.

If you would like to take seriously the US's line that the missile emplacements are purely a defensive move to protect Europe from rogue states, then the Russian's spending to find missiles which can beat such systems seems rather foolish. You probably also find it discomforting that Russia would even think of starting to rebuild or modernize its missile arsenal, thinking that this is an archaic thought and a throwback to cold war times. Why bother with such things in a world that is enjoying peace and affluence.

And of course it would be foolish to spend a lot of money for missiles when the cold war is over. But then again, is it really over?

I guess the biggest mistake on the part of westerners is believing that the Russians have been all that comfortable for the last decade and a half. Life in fact has been incredibly hard. And what is more, as anyone who has been put in an uncomfortable position tends to do, they tend to asses blame on who they think is guilty for that discomfort. Or basically, and I hope this doesn't come as too much of a shock you, the Russians don't like the west very much at all.

A teacher a long time ago taught us that the value system of the people who are in charge today was founded in the events from 20 years ago. This is certainly true for Lukashenka and there is no reason to think the situation is any different in Russia. Both Lukashenka and Putin got re-elected on stances that had more than a little nostalgia for the old days. And certainly through all of those lean years, there had to be some thoughts about what it was like when the former USSR was more than a cheap sex tour stopover. People who have been through great discomfort also tend to dream of the better times when life was grand.

Right now Russia is finally enjoying a comeuppance. They are making money hand over fist from their natural resources and what is more, they are also showing a very hard edge in how they do business. Now, according to the western press, all of this seems a bit harsh and "uncultured" but nevertheless, Russia still gets the deals they want and at the prices they wish paid. The American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stopped over and asked for Putin to "cool it" and not one single pundit thought that this was worth anything but a laugh. I think that downplaying the thought of how powerful Russia really wants to be is as grave a mistake as believing that they see the US as being someone they want to listen to.

I mean, let's not kid ourselves: Russia has found a way to take a lot of western money and they are liking it.

This moment of Russian affluence and power has not come cheap. A decade and a half of $100 a month wages tends to make people hungry. And it also makes them hard. Think about how we used to speak of grandparents who had been through the depression; the Russians are not going to let go of what they have now without a fight. But also, there is also a lot of talk about rebuilding a contending power in the world to offset US omnipotence from many countries these days. Do not think for a moment that this sort of talk is idle chatter, because it is not. Or in other words, we are talking about there being a war going on and most probably, it is an equally popular war locally as Iraq seems to be with the American public.

I say that this isn’t a joke. The world has come a long way since Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev played nuclear hardball down in Cuba. But I for one am not convinced that we have become any more civilized or understanding. In fact, if you stop and think about how really "hard core" we like our entertainment these days, about all of the gangster movies we love so much, about all of the "winners always win" ethos and the "don't look to me for help, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" life philosophy we all like to think we live by, I say don't be surprised if the east doesn't even blink an eye in the next gunfight at the OK coral. And what is more, when thinking about multiple-warhead ICBM's with a 6000 mile kill radius, please keep in mind that the Russian people have actual, real-life everyday experience in farming radioactive land by hand.

Just listen to what they are saying and think Crocodile Dundee: Poland? Czech? Those aren't missiles. THIS is a missile!

More soon…