What is Russia doing?

Or I guess I could say, “What is Putin doing?”

Vladimir Putin dropped two bombs this week. One, literally, tested a ferocious explosive device. The other – his naming of a virtual unknown as prime minister and potential heir – was a political shock. The flash from both illumines his own power, and his quest to restore Russia’s greatness. Unpredictable Putin

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This is all about elections next year. Putin is not allowed to run again. So what does he do? He picks his prime minister, a complete nobody–he was a crony in St. Petersburg, and he is a loyalist–to become the prime minister. And he might be a candidate next year.

The way that Putin entered office was that Yeltsin at the end of his second term appointed Putin, also obscure at the time, as the prime minister, and then in about a year he became the president.

The most important event in Russia in the last few weeks was the release of the Putin vacation pictures, the ones we saw a few weeks ago, which all of a sudden exploded on soviet Russian TV, which Putin controls, showing him shirtless on vacation in Siberia like the Marlboro man.

This is essentially saying to the Russians here is a young, vigorous president with good abs. Why would you not want to have him returned? Even though the constitution says he can’t, unlike Yeltsin, who was old and dying and decrepit at the end of his second term.

This is all about how Putin holds on to power. And, presumably, he might have a factotum like, this new guy, this unknown guy in office for a couple of years. He resigned and Putin is allowed to come back and run again, and almost indefinitely. Special Report Roundtable: Putin’s Russia

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Now, about that other bomb, the world’s most powerful nonnuclear bomb. That display of force, dubbed the “father of all bombs,” was meant to show up America’s weaker “mother of all bombs.” It’s part of Putin’s push to restore Russian “greatness,” especially militarily.

The 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and the subsequent expansion of NATO put Russia on the defense. Putin tired of that. He’s pouring petro rubles into the military. He’s standing up to the West: using fuel supplies as a political weapon; pulling out of a NATO conventional arms deal; planting the Russian flag on the Arctic seafloor, and last month, suddenly resuming air-bomber patrols over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic. What will Russia pull next? As at home, unpredictability is at work abroad. Unpredictable Putin

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And he is also done things that revive cold war tensions. They are now flying the old fashioned bear bombers. They are obsolete, but nonetheless they are flying against our air defenses in Alaska and against Japanese air defenses in Japan, testing them out. Checking out to see–it is all the old stuff again. Special Report Roundtable: Putin’s Russia

Kind of scary, huh?

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