Friday, September 26, 2008

More good news and bad news from Russia

First, the good news about Russia's nuclear capability. President Dmitry Medvedev announced today that Russia would modernize its armed forces, including its warships armed with nuclear weapons, according to the Reuters international news agency. This could well be good news because the Russians, and before them the Soviets, were notorious for building environmentally irresponsible nuclear facilities without proper safeguards (think Chernobyl). Former Soviet nuclear facilities deteriorated further after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the United States and other Western nations had to go in and secure the region's vast weaponry. If Moscow finally wants to improve the safety of its nuclear arsenal, nobody should complain. Of course, it would be better if Moscow said it was eliminating its nuclear weapons and its reliance on poorly constructed nuclear power generating plants. Instead, there is the bad news. Medvedev resorted to bellicose rhetoric apparently designed to antagonize the United States, Vladimir Putin-style, like his recent deal-making with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. "We must ensure superiority in the air, in carrying out precision strikes at land and sea targets and in the timely deployment of forces," Medvedev told military commanders after military exercises in Russia's southern Orenburg Region, Reuters reported. Medvedev said Russia must have "a guaranteed nuclear deterrent system" by 2020. These remarks apparently were directed at the United States, which has announced plans for a missile defense system in former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. If Russia, emboldened by oil revenue, doesn't want to return to the days of nuclear tension with the West, it had better tone down the rhetoric and find a better way to release its pent-up aggressions than attacking weak neighbors.

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