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Published: Sunday, 5/31/2009

Russian leaders try to rekindle the good old days

A huge, khaki-colored, snub-nosed tube moved slowly across Red Square and past cheering onlookers, evoking memories of the Cold War-era May 9 military parades.

But the year was 2009, according to a commentator, who then said on the national Russian television that "these awesome missiles are capable of striking targets 10,000 kilometers [about 6,200 miles] away." The distance between Moscow and New York is about 4,670 miles.

As if pulling strategic missiles across Red Square wasn't outlandish enough, a strategic supersonic bomber then flew over the parade - for the first time ever.

Two weeks later Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the placeholder for the notorious Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, cast some light on the parade antics by signing Russia's national security strategy for a period through 2020.

The document lists strategic deterrence as Russia's answer to the perceived military threat presented by "the policy of a number of leading foreign countries directed at achieving military supremacy" (translation is mine). It also asserts that the U.S.-led missile shield project threatens the military stability in Europe.

The Kremlin appears to be of the opinion that picking on the world's only superpower is a national security guarantee - never mind that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is seven times greater and the defense budget is 12 times greater than those of Russia.

Appearances notwithstanding, the Kremlin leaders are not mentally challenged. They are driven by self-interest.

First, Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev realize that the United States is not a threat to Russia, so there is little risk in baiting it.

Second, they understand that the Russian population is growing restless over the economic crisis that has hit Russia much harder than the United States.

So the two leaders are resorting to the good old Soviet practice of using the United States' supremacy to justify their authoritarian practices.

With Russia's economy critically dependent on exports of natural gas and oil, the Kremlin can't sustain its power indefinitely, as evidenced by the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Russia's anti-American stance may prompt the Obama Administration to review its policy toward Russia, particularly to give up any expectations that Russia may be useful to the West in talking the Iranian regime out of the idea of developing a missile strike capability against Israel.

Unfortunately for the Russian regime, the Obama Administration is revising America's energy policy, shifting the focus to development of alternative energy sources. If and when that shift is effectively made, the Kremlin will discover two unpleasant things. First, its energy blackmail of the United States' European allies will be ineffective.

Second, the size of its handouts to ordinary Russians will follow the path of foreign investment in the Russian oil and gas industries and dry up for good.

In other words, the Kremlin is on its way out again. And just as 20 years ago, its strategic missiles and bombers will be of no help.

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