The latest in Vladimir’s tantrums:
Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, on Wednesday highlighted the tense relations between Moscow and Washington when she hit out at Russia’s “reprehensible” rhetoric and said she would appoint a special energy co-ordinator for central Asia, a region dominated to date by Russian energy interests.
Appearing at the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Ms Rice responded fiercely to questions about recent Russian behaviour, including President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion this week that Ukraine could be targeted with nuclear missiles and his warning of a new arms race with the west.
“The unhelpful and, really, I will use a different word, reprehensible rhetoric that is coming out of Moscow is unacceptable,” Ms Rice said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have hardened in the wake of disputes over Russia’s objections to proposed US missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as US concerns about what it sees as Mr Putin’s use of intimidation at home and abroad.
But the US secretary of state emphasised that she believed the principal areas of difficulty related to the post-cold war map of Europe – on issues such as North Korea and Iran, the two countries co-operated much more closely.
“The Soviet Union . . . is gone forever, and I hope that Russia understands that,” she said. “We are absolutely devoted to the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine and of other states that were once a part of the Soviet Union.”
Putin didn’t get the memo.
Russia, unlike the majority of the former Warsaw Pact, has been slow to let go of the centralized communist form of government.
……between 1999, the year before Mr Putin became president, and 2007, the Russian economy expanded by 69 per cent. But the economies of 11 of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union expanded by more than Russia’s. Indeed, only Kyrgyzstan did markedly worse. A number of the former Soviet republics did, it is true, benefit from an oil and gas bonanza. But so, too, did Russia: its oil and gas exports jumped from $76bn in 1999 to $350bn last year. Even so, the Russian economy expanded by less than Ukraine’s.
Like all post-communist countries, Russia’s economy suffered a steep initial decline, which reached its trough in 1998. Countries that reformed more decisively, such as Poland, bottomed out more quickly and are now far ahead. Again, Russia’s recovery is in no way exceptional: tiny Estonia has done far better. Maybe this is why the Kremlin hates the Baltic state so much.
……Russia’s neighbours – at least those in which the people may express their opinions – are more hostile. The KGB-state is unable to understand that fear and respect are antitheses, not synonyms. Mr Putin has made no secret of his regrets about the collapse of the Soviet empire and his resentment at the subsequent expansion of the European Union and, even more, of Nato. What seems absent from his discourse is why these countries, so familiar with beneficent Russian rule, should have handed over their futures to bodies whose central powers are Germany and the US, respectively. Why, too, as Edward Lucas of The Economist notes, are Russia’s friends a “rogue’s gallery” of tinpot despotisms?
My previous blogs about Putin’s hissy fits:
We can look forward to more erratic behavior from Russia’s leadership, the more it spirals downward into economic and political chaos. The former Soviet satellites have fulfilled Russia’s worst nightmare: reaching out to NATO for cooperation and becoming part of the capitalist system so reviled by Lenin and Marx.
Russia has two choices; either get itself into the 21st Century or fade into oblivion. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if, for better or worse, there’s another Russian revolution.