Russia loses its swagger



Russia is ripe for a deal. Last year’s war in Georgia, its dispatch of warships to Cuba and Venezuela, and its general bluster were supposed to put the world on notice that it is once again a great power and ready to project force abroad.

Instead, as this week’s report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies highlighted, Russia is more rattle than sabre. Its military is outdated. Its economy is in freefall. It faces huge social problems. The first cases of unrest have already broken out.

Those attending the World Economic Forum in Davos last night must have enjoyed watching Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister, eat his words.

The architect of Russia’s assertive foreign policy and the man who oversaw the country’s rearmament insisted last night that “militarisation did not solve problems”.

His message was clear: in today’s world the Kremlin needs all the friends it can get.


Maybe, but I doubt there has been a change of heart so much as a change of needs. The Russian operation in Georgia did show a relatively primitive army without such things as UAVs and precision weapons and with planes that were vulnerable to a equally primitive air defense system.

Their tanks were probably adequate for the job, but their APCs were not adequate for training much less a war. The drivers needed a man outside to guide him where to point the vehicle.

With oil tanking their inability to dependably supply gas to Europe it is only right that they should step forward hat in hand.


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