The Reawakening Bear
Vol: 29 Issue: 24 Tuesday, February 24, 2004
President Vladimir Putin dismissed the entire Russian government, ending weeks of speculation. Putin fired his Prime Minister, claiming that he purged the government in advance of the March 14 presidential elections. By firing the Prime Minister, Putin effectively removed the entire cabinet at the same time.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov served in the Soviet-era state planning agency Gosplan during the 1980s and after the Soviet collapse in 1991 began a steady rise through the economic and financial hierarchy.
He became finance minister under Yeltsin in 1999 and one of his main achievements in that post was persuading the Paris Club of creditors to reschedule some $8 billion in Soviet-era loans.
After Putin, who was Yeltsin’s prime minister, became acting president when Yeltsin resigned on Dec. 31, 1999, he appointed Kasyanov first deputy prime minister. After Putin was elected president in the spring of 2000, he appointed Kasyanov prime minister.
By firing the Russian government, Putin has silenced his critics — just in time for his reelection.
Putin has cultivated his image as a leader that is attempting to restore the country’s military power and global clout. He has repeatedly pledged to modernize the bloated, underfunded armed forces, which have struggled to maintain aircraft and ships in the decade that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The day before dismissing his government, Putin gave a speech in which he called for a stronger, more modern Russian military.
“We are strengthening and modernizing the armed forces, including the strategic forces, in order to reliably defend the nation,” Putin said at a reception Sunday on the eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day. He added, “We are not intending to threaten anyone.”
In terms of raw power, Russia is clearly inferior to the former Soviet Union. Russia is neither capable, nor interested, in full integration with the West.
But weakened as it is, Putin’s Russia still regards itself as a great power. The ruling elite rejects transforming Russia into a junior partner of the US or an unimportant member of the West.
Putin does not view closer relations with the West as an ideological imperative. Ideology and values play little role in the Kremlin’s gameplan. To Putin, good relations with the West are necessary only to boost Russia’s status.
Russian leaders no longer expect real assistance from the West. Self-help has replaced the discredited notion that foreign countries will come to Russia’s rescue.
The same sort of thinking holds true in military/strategic affairs. Because America only respects strong partners, Russia will modernize the components of its national power that make it comparable to the US, in particular its nuclear arsenal.
But, because an alliance of equals is impossible, a flexible combination of limited partnership and local rivalry seems the most likely course.
Russia’s leaders clearly recognize the country’s true current condition, so they accept the need to concentrate on vital interests. They remain convinced that Russia is a great power, but one that for now must act primarily as a regional one.
Putin’s regional plan is to revive the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) that replaced the collapsed Soviet Union but never really took off. Putin’s object is not to revive the Soviet Union, exactly.
CIS states will all retain their sovereign status, but will integrate economically with the Kremlin. In return for Russia’s economic support, CIS states will join a new Russian ‘security framework’.
According to a report to the Carnegie Moscow Center, Russian activism in the CIS will also bring it into direct rivalry with the EU.
“If the Kremlin uses force to establish its regional hegemony, Europe may again see Russia as a security threat, which would bring about a renewal of the Cold War/NATO policy of containment.
Likewise, China might oppose “Operation CIS.” Until recently, China feared that Russia’s withdrawal from the region would create a vacuum that the US would fill. Viewing the region as its strategic backyard and a source of energy, China is now expanding its influence.
Consolidation of Russian strategic power would limit the scope of China’s sway. But if Russia acts as a reliable rear guard and provider of energy and military hardware, China is unlikely to seriously object to expanding Russian influence.”
The Kremlin’s ultimate goal is to open up membership in the CIS to Middle Eastern non-aligned countries like Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, etc.
Evidence of that can be seen in top secret reports that Russia provided Saddam Hussein’s regime with wide-ranging assistance in the months leading up to the war, including intelligence on private conversations between Tony Blair and other Western leaders.
Moscow also provided Saddam with lists of assassins available for “hits” in the West and details of arms deals to neighboring countries. The two countries also signed agreements to share intelligence, help each other to “obtain” visas for agents to go to other countries.
The documents detailing the extent of the links between Russia and Saddam were obtained from the heavily bombed headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service in Baghdad. A letter from the Iraqi embassy in Moscow shows that Russia kept Iraq informed about its arms deals with other countries in the Middle East.
Documents dated January 27, 2000, informed Baghdad that in 1999 Syria bought rockets from Russia in two separate batches valued at $65 million and $73 million
It also says that Egypt bought surface-to-air missiles from Russia and that Kuwait – Saddam’s old enemy – wanted to buy Russian arms to the value of $1 billion. The Russians also informed Iraq that China had bought military aircraft from Russia and Israel at the end of 1999.
While secretly working with Saddam Hussein, the Russians were openly working with Iran’s mullahs, building them nuclear reactors. Israeli intelligence reports indicate that Iran, which already has the ability to build long-range missiles, could have nuclear warheads in three to five years and threaten the entire Mideast.
In 2002, Putin played host to a secret meeting between Yasser Arafat and Iranian government officials. Israeli intelligence officials say Yasser Arafat forged a new alliance with Iran involvingIranian shipments of heavy weapons and millions of dollars to Palestinian groups that are waging guerrilla war against Israel.
All this sounds hauntingly familiar. A resurgent Russian bear, antagonizing its neighbors, developing secret alliances with the Arabs and Iranians, working specifically with Arafat against Israel, all as part of a larger plan to develop a Russian-led regional power bloc.
Ezekiel foretold a Russian-led regional alliance of nations would develop in the ‘latter days.’ Among its members Ezekiel named Persia (Iran), Libya, Ethiopia (Islamic North Africa), together with portions of Eastern Europe and northern Turkey. (“Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.” – Ezekiel 38:6)
That alliance, according to the prophet, would come together for the express purpose of annihilating Israel.
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates.”(Ezekiel 38:8,11)
It is worth noting once more that Israel is currently being tried by the World Court for building a security fence to wall out Palestinian suicide bombers. According to Ezekiel, that ‘wall’ will eventually come down, making Israel a literal ‘land of unwalled villages’ — in this precise point in history. A coincidence?
But, according to the prophet, at some point, “thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.” (Ezekiel 38:15-16)
The Russians are helping arm the Middle East with long range rockets, nuclear reactors and nuclear material. Eventually, these weapons will be turned back against them upon the mountains of Israel.
According to Ezekiel, “And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. ” (Ezekiel 38:22)