Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25, 2016--Dateline: The Rest of the World

While waiting for election returns from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland, and Prince's autopsy findings, a new Cold War is breaking out. This time not only with Russia but also China. And, who knows, maybe with Saudi Arabia.

Vladimir Putin's Russia is beginning to sound and look like the old Soviet Union with economic dislocation fueling an aggressive foreign policy to both reannimate dreams of a restored Imperial Russia and as a chauvinistic distraction for the Russian people who will soon likely be needing to line up for hours to buy a loaf of bread or a liter of vodka. But while in line they will have their nationalistic dreams to sustain them.

Circuses but no bread.

Rather than acting like a European partner, which we saw signs of for a decade or so, Putin is leading Russia's military buildup and deploying forces on numerous fronts in an attempt to secure what it sees as its sphere of influence and to provide opportunities to flex military muscle in order to poke the US and Western Europeans in the eye, partly as a response to the economic sanctions we and our European allies have imposed on Russia in retaliation for its expansionist moves in Ukraine.

And, while they're at it, they've taken to buzzing U.S. warships in open waters

Under Putin's leadership they have of course reannexed Crimea, threatened various parties in the Balkans, and have become actively involved in Syria, deploying an entirely new mix of smart weapons whose existence has caught Western observes by surprise.

What happened to all those clunky Soviet tanks and misfiring missiles? Clearly once again avoiding CIA detection, right under the noses of our various surveillance agencies, the Russians seemingly overnight on the ground and in the skies in Syria are putting on display a whole range of new, sophisticated 21st century weapons systems.

So much for recent efforts under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to "reset" relations with Putin and Russia. He and Obama can't even talk to each other. Even Stalin and Roosevelt got along better!

Meanwhile, in Asia, also with thoughts about a restored Dynasty, President Xi Jinping of China, also in part to distract the Chinese people from a cooling economy and to deflect thoughts from rampant governmental and corporate corruption (which directly involves his own family), Xi has been investing heavily in modernizing and rapidly expanding China's military capacities and reach.

New fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and a modern submarine fleet are among recent acquisitions. In addition, as an extension of its imperial moves in the South China Sea, encroaching on what we impotently claim to be international waters, and pushing toward South Korean and Japanese waters, under Xi, China is creating a series of new islands which already include air strips and naval facilities. We talk and talk and threaten and threaten while China dredges and dredges and builds and builds.

Perhaps most ominous is Russia's and China's moves to modernize their nuclear weapons. Making warheads smaller and smaller so that they can be mounted on advanced intercontinental missiles with vastly increased capacities to avoid detection. In retaliation, the Obama administration, has quietly begun to do the same for our aging nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Ironically, Barak Obama who came to office proclaiming that nuclear disarmament was his highest priority, and thus quickly received the Noble Peace Prize, is leaving office engaged in a restored full-tilt nuclear arms race with Russia and China.

And also while we have been obsessing about our presidential election and other entertainments, in response to the bold nuclear deal we struck with Iran, Saudi Arabia is talking quietly, in response to that, of developing its own nuclear weapons.

Sic transit . . .

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