Daily Archives: August 21, 2007

August 21, 2007 – Contents

TUESDAY AUGUST 21 CONTENTS


(1) Telegraphing a Warning on Russia

(2) Zaxi Blog on Russian Irrationality

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she exposes Russia’s amazing hypocrisy in claiming that the West rushed to judgment over the Russia’s most recent Georgia incursion.

Telegraphing a Warning on Russia

An editorial in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper on Sunday:

Prepare to face the Russian Threat

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, has cemented his growing reputation as a belligerent leader whose preferred method of diplomacy is confrontation. Last week, he ordered the resumption of regular flights across the globe of Russian military planes capable of dropping nuclear bombs. As he made that announcement, President Putin watched a joint military exercise between Russian and Chinese troops. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was present as an observer. President Putin has invited Iran to join the Shanghai Group, Asia’s equivalent to Nato Russia has also signed a deal to supply Iran with “peaceful” nuclear technology, in defiance of international treaties.

As if that were not enough, Russia’s broadcasting authorities forced the BBC World Service off the FM airwaves. And the Russian state remains the strongest suspect for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a suspicion reinforced by its obstinate refusal to cooperate with the British police investigation into the killing. Last summer, Russia’s parliament passed a law that authorised the Russian president to order the assassination of anyone living abroad considered to be a threat to the Russian state.

Russia may be a country on the brink of demographic collapse, with a diminishing life expectancy and a falling birthrate – but it still possesses a colossal nuclear arsenal, some of which is no doubt aimed at Britain. President Putin’s aggressive rhetoric may be no more than posturing. But Britain cannot afford to assume that that is all it is.

The way that Russia has treated the republics that gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union provides ample evidence of the way the country is prepared to bully less powerful neighbours. Russia has, for instance, simply cut off gas supplies to Ukraine when it wanted the country to pay a higher price.

Russia’s potential seriously to threaten Britain has two consequences. First, it provides an important argument for retaining some form of effective nuclear deterrent. Until recently, the arguments for the renewal of Trident looked thin: Russia’s belligerence has given the case for replacement unexpected force.

Second, Britain should try to diminish its dependence on supplies of essential raw materials, such as natural gas, from Russia. That means building more nuclear power stations: nuclear generation is the only viable, non-carbon spewing alternative to power stations that generate electricity by burning gas.

Tony Blair’s policy towards Russia was based on the conviction that he could ensure that Vladimir Putin, and whoever succeeded him, turned Russia into a responsible, liberal and democratic state. President Putin’s behaviour has demonstrated the fallacy of that belief. It has to be recognised that there is much more continuity between the old Soviet Union and the present Russian state than was previously thought, especially when the President is a former head of the KGB and the secret police have been given back many of their old powers.

The present ruler of Russia appears to want to return to something approximating to the Cold War. Britain should try to stop that happening – but we must be in a position to respond effectively should we fail.

Zaxi on Russia’s Georgia Outrage

The bilingual blogger at Zaxi blog offers the following analysis of Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia:

Russia-watching is never an exact science. But it strays into the field of psychoanalysis once the Kremlin adopts an Alice in Wonderland approach to its foreign policy.

What happens when a bomb etched with Russian writing drops from a plane with Russian insignia and falls on Georgia before said plane returns to Russia? Georgia gets accused of staging a provocation aimed at ruining Russia’s good name.

What happens when President Vladimir Putin suddenly discovers that Western strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons have been circling Russia in a menacing way? He declares a defense of Russia’s borders – by ordering his strategic bombers to start flying sorties to Alaska and such for the first time since the Cold War.

And how does Russia try to sell its ties with China – and possibly Pakistan and Iran – at a regional meeting that includes Central Asian states and is meant to threaten the West with a new Asian military bloc? It picks an unprovoked fight with China by telling it to keep its nose out of Central Asia.

Russia fills the gaps by sending a lawmaker in a scuba outfit to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole and running a doctored front page of The Times of London on state television news.

Does zaxi really need to mention that Putin capped the quiet summer month by posing semi-nude during a fishing outing with the Prince of Monaco? zaxi ordinarily would not – but this all ties into a startling new pattern that seems to explain Russia’s future through 2012.

The spinning of myths has become an increasingly popular Kremlin hobby as the date of Putin’s departure nears. Some of them have concerned a rewrite of Russia’s Stalinist history. But a great deal more have been focused on making enemies of the West where none had stood days before – the North Pole expedition irritating four countries alone.

The resulting Soviet haze leaves no room for maneuver by anyone even most superficially linked to liberal or slightly forward looking ideas. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not being groomed for the presidency of a nation that appears to have reengaged in ideological warfare.

Instead the stage is being cleared for his fellow first deputy Sergei Ivanov – although zaxi is still waiting for a sudden appearance by Putin’s other best buddy: the devoutly Orthodox former spook and current billionaire railways boss Vladimir Yakunin.

Does anyone remember the name of Russia’s new defense minister? One would think Anatoly Serdyukov had something to say about his bombs falling on Georgia or his “mothballed” – according to the US State Department – strategic bombers suddenly buzzing about the seas.

But it is Ivanov who now attends to such affairs on the news. He can speak with equal temper on subjects ranging from the Georgia bombing – a “theatrical production” by Tbilisi – to missile defense. Military analyst Alexander Golts notes that state television no longer identifies Ivanov as a first deputy prime minister in charge of industry. It seems silly for such a bureaucrat to be spewing about global affairs. He is simply called a Putin adviser.

Serdyukov’s curious vanishing act points to another detail: Russia can function quite well without a defense minister – just as it has basically run without an entire foreign ministry since Putin rolled through the Kremlin gates.

This concentration cannot hold with Ivanov or his double acting as president until Putin resumes duties in 2012. There must be a meaningful role for Russia’s spiritual leader – but one that also treads lightly on the mundane running of the state.

Which seems to explain both why foreign policy is suddenly coming to a boil and the role Putin envisions for himself: he will – for lack of a more formal job description – be in charge of recreating the Soviet Union on the global arena.

Putin will in effect function as Russia’s foreign and defense minister in one – speaking not only on behalf of Moscow but also the former Soviet republics that cannot stay free because of energy dependency.

It is a frightening scenario for the West but one gaining an air of inevitability in Moscow. Putin will be dropping in on world summits as a kind of Soviet ambassador who oversees future regional pipeline projects and military sales to Iran.

It really matters little that such a post does not exist today. Putin’s name would give any such job title instant credibility – one the West would have little choice but to accept. But two obvious possibilities are as head of Russia’s Security Council or as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The second option is far more tempting for its obvious Soviet overtones. It is slightly more problematic because it would demand immediate subordination from the other ex-Soviet republics. It would also instantly shrink the size of the CIS itself – Georgia would be out the same evening while countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan might pause for thought. Ukraine would threaten to crack apart again. But the CIS is already heading toward partial dismemberment if not outright dissolution. Russia would thus be creating a functioning superstate out of what has until now been a messy divorce court – one whose authority would only grow as it officially takes over duties being overseen by the Kremlin today.

The less aggressive approach involves the Security Council. The body sits headless after the timely departure of former foreign minister Igor Ivanov. It also serves no clear purpose and thus perfectly suits Putin’s plan. Ivanov was unofficially engaged in secret negotiations with Iran over the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its members – all the top ministers – still meet regularly with Putin every Sunday morning. ITAR-TASS issues the exact same dispatch after each session saying the group discussed “foreign and domestic affairs.”

Either option will work to correct history’s greatest injustice in Putin’s eyes – the dissolution of the Soviet state. Domestically Russia is now centralized economically and politically monolithic. A foreign vision however remained largely undeveloped. Its turn has come.

So the West should get used to the image of a barrel-chested Soviet “muzhik” casting his fishing line further and further out. It can think of this as Putin’s extended fishing vacation.

Zaxi on Russia’s Georgia Outrage

The bilingual blogger at Zaxi blog offers the following analysis of Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia:

Russia-watching is never an exact science. But it strays into the field of psychoanalysis once the Kremlin adopts an Alice in Wonderland approach to its foreign policy.

What happens when a bomb etched with Russian writing drops from a plane with Russian insignia and falls on Georgia before said plane returns to Russia? Georgia gets accused of staging a provocation aimed at ruining Russia’s good name.

What happens when President Vladimir Putin suddenly discovers that Western strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons have been circling Russia in a menacing way? He declares a defense of Russia’s borders – by ordering his strategic bombers to start flying sorties to Alaska and such for the first time since the Cold War.

And how does Russia try to sell its ties with China – and possibly Pakistan and Iran – at a regional meeting that includes Central Asian states and is meant to threaten the West with a new Asian military bloc? It picks an unprovoked fight with China by telling it to keep its nose out of Central Asia.

Russia fills the gaps by sending a lawmaker in a scuba outfit to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole and running a doctored front page of The Times of London on state television news.

Does zaxi really need to mention that Putin capped the quiet summer month by posing semi-nude during a fishing outing with the Prince of Monaco? zaxi ordinarily would not – but this all ties into a startling new pattern that seems to explain Russia’s future through 2012.

The spinning of myths has become an increasingly popular Kremlin hobby as the date of Putin’s departure nears. Some of them have concerned a rewrite of Russia’s Stalinist history. But a great deal more have been focused on making enemies of the West where none had stood days before – the North Pole expedition irritating four countries alone.

The resulting Soviet haze leaves no room for maneuver by anyone even most superficially linked to liberal or slightly forward looking ideas. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not being groomed for the presidency of a nation that appears to have reengaged in ideological warfare.

Instead the stage is being cleared for his fellow first deputy Sergei Ivanov – although zaxi is still waiting for a sudden appearance by Putin’s other best buddy: the devoutly Orthodox former spook and current billionaire railways boss Vladimir Yakunin.

Does anyone remember the name of Russia’s new defense minister? One would think Anatoly Serdyukov had something to say about his bombs falling on Georgia or his “mothballed” – according to the US State Department – strategic bombers suddenly buzzing about the seas.

But it is Ivanov who now attends to such affairs on the news. He can speak with equal temper on subjects ranging from the Georgia bombing – a “theatrical production” by Tbilisi – to missile defense. Military analyst Alexander Golts notes that state television no longer identifies Ivanov as a first deputy prime minister in charge of industry. It seems silly for such a bureaucrat to be spewing about global affairs. He is simply called a Putin adviser.

Serdyukov’s curious vanishing act points to another detail: Russia can function quite well without a defense minister – just as it has basically run without an entire foreign ministry since Putin rolled through the Kremlin gates.

This concentration cannot hold with Ivanov or his double acting as president until Putin resumes duties in 2012. There must be a meaningful role for Russia’s spiritual leader – but one that also treads lightly on the mundane running of the state.

Which seems to explain both why foreign policy is suddenly coming to a boil and the role Putin envisions for himself: he will – for lack of a more formal job description – be in charge of recreating the Soviet Union on the global arena.

Putin will in effect function as Russia’s foreign and defense minister in one – speaking not only on behalf of Moscow but also the former Soviet republics that cannot stay free because of energy dependency.

It is a frightening scenario for the West but one gaining an air of inevitability in Moscow. Putin will be dropping in on world summits as a kind of Soviet ambassador who oversees future regional pipeline projects and military sales to Iran.

It really matters little that such a post does not exist today. Putin’s name would give any such job title instant credibility – one the West would have little choice but to accept. But two obvious possibilities are as head of Russia’s Security Council or as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The second option is far more tempting for its obvious Soviet overtones. It is slightly more problematic because it would demand immediate subordination from the other ex-Soviet republics. It would also instantly shrink the size of the CIS itself – Georgia would be out the same evening while countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan might pause for thought. Ukraine would threaten to crack apart again. But the CIS is already heading toward partial dismemberment if not outright dissolution. Russia would thus be creating a functioning superstate out of what has until now been a messy divorce court – one whose authority would only grow as it officially takes over duties being overseen by the Kremlin today.

The less aggressive approach involves the Security Council. The body sits headless after the timely departure of former foreign minister Igor Ivanov. It also serves no clear purpose and thus perfectly suits Putin’s plan. Ivanov was unofficially engaged in secret negotiations with Iran over the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its members – all the top ministers – still meet regularly with Putin every Sunday morning. ITAR-TASS issues the exact same dispatch after each session saying the group discussed “foreign and domestic affairs.”

Either option will work to correct history’s greatest injustice in Putin’s eyes – the dissolution of the Soviet state. Domestically Russia is now centralized economically and politically monolithic. A foreign vision however remained largely undeveloped. Its turn has come.

So the West should get used to the image of a barrel-chested Soviet “muzhik” casting his fishing line further and further out. It can think of this as Putin’s extended fishing vacation.

Zaxi on Russia’s Georgia Outrage

The bilingual blogger at Zaxi blog offers the following analysis of Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia:

Russia-watching is never an exact science. But it strays into the field of psychoanalysis once the Kremlin adopts an Alice in Wonderland approach to its foreign policy.

What happens when a bomb etched with Russian writing drops from a plane with Russian insignia and falls on Georgia before said plane returns to Russia? Georgia gets accused of staging a provocation aimed at ruining Russia’s good name.

What happens when President Vladimir Putin suddenly discovers that Western strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons have been circling Russia in a menacing way? He declares a defense of Russia’s borders – by ordering his strategic bombers to start flying sorties to Alaska and such for the first time since the Cold War.

And how does Russia try to sell its ties with China – and possibly Pakistan and Iran – at a regional meeting that includes Central Asian states and is meant to threaten the West with a new Asian military bloc? It picks an unprovoked fight with China by telling it to keep its nose out of Central Asia.

Russia fills the gaps by sending a lawmaker in a scuba outfit to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole and running a doctored front page of The Times of London on state television news.

Does zaxi really need to mention that Putin capped the quiet summer month by posing semi-nude during a fishing outing with the Prince of Monaco? zaxi ordinarily would not – but this all ties into a startling new pattern that seems to explain Russia’s future through 2012.

The spinning of myths has become an increasingly popular Kremlin hobby as the date of Putin’s departure nears. Some of them have concerned a rewrite of Russia’s Stalinist history. But a great deal more have been focused on making enemies of the West where none had stood days before – the North Pole expedition irritating four countries alone.

The resulting Soviet haze leaves no room for maneuver by anyone even most superficially linked to liberal or slightly forward looking ideas. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not being groomed for the presidency of a nation that appears to have reengaged in ideological warfare.

Instead the stage is being cleared for his fellow first deputy Sergei Ivanov – although zaxi is still waiting for a sudden appearance by Putin’s other best buddy: the devoutly Orthodox former spook and current billionaire railways boss Vladimir Yakunin.

Does anyone remember the name of Russia’s new defense minister? One would think Anatoly Serdyukov had something to say about his bombs falling on Georgia or his “mothballed” – according to the US State Department – strategic bombers suddenly buzzing about the seas.

But it is Ivanov who now attends to such affairs on the news. He can speak with equal temper on subjects ranging from the Georgia bombing – a “theatrical production” by Tbilisi – to missile defense. Military analyst Alexander Golts notes that state television no longer identifies Ivanov as a first deputy prime minister in charge of industry. It seems silly for such a bureaucrat to be spewing about global affairs. He is simply called a Putin adviser.

Serdyukov’s curious vanishing act points to another detail: Russia can function quite well without a defense minister – just as it has basically run without an entire foreign ministry since Putin rolled through the Kremlin gates.

This concentration cannot hold with Ivanov or his double acting as president until Putin resumes duties in 2012. There must be a meaningful role for Russia’s spiritual leader – but one that also treads lightly on the mundane running of the state.

Which seems to explain both why foreign policy is suddenly coming to a boil and the role Putin envisions for himself: he will – for lack of a more formal job description – be in charge of recreating the Soviet Union on the global arena.

Putin will in effect function as Russia’s foreign and defense minister in one – speaking not only on behalf of Moscow but also the former Soviet republics that cannot stay free because of energy dependency.

It is a frightening scenario for the West but one gaining an air of inevitability in Moscow. Putin will be dropping in on world summits as a kind of Soviet ambassador who oversees future regional pipeline projects and military sales to Iran.

It really matters little that such a post does not exist today. Putin’s name would give any such job title instant credibility – one the West would have little choice but to accept. But two obvious possibilities are as head of Russia’s Security Council or as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The second option is far more tempting for its obvious Soviet overtones. It is slightly more problematic because it would demand immediate subordination from the other ex-Soviet republics. It would also instantly shrink the size of the CIS itself – Georgia would be out the same evening while countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan might pause for thought. Ukraine would threaten to crack apart again. But the CIS is already heading toward partial dismemberment if not outright dissolution. Russia would thus be creating a functioning superstate out of what has until now been a messy divorce court – one whose authority would only grow as it officially takes over duties being overseen by the Kremlin today.

The less aggressive approach involves the Security Council. The body sits headless after the timely departure of former foreign minister Igor Ivanov. It also serves no clear purpose and thus perfectly suits Putin’s plan. Ivanov was unofficially engaged in secret negotiations with Iran over the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its members – all the top ministers – still meet regularly with Putin every Sunday morning. ITAR-TASS issues the exact same dispatch after each session saying the group discussed “foreign and domestic affairs.”

Either option will work to correct history’s greatest injustice in Putin’s eyes – the dissolution of the Soviet state. Domestically Russia is now centralized economically and politically monolithic. A foreign vision however remained largely undeveloped. Its turn has come.

So the West should get used to the image of a barrel-chested Soviet “muzhik” casting his fishing line further and further out. It can think of this as Putin’s extended fishing vacation.

Zaxi on Russia’s Georgia Outrage

The bilingual blogger at Zaxi blog offers the following analysis of Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia:

Russia-watching is never an exact science. But it strays into the field of psychoanalysis once the Kremlin adopts an Alice in Wonderland approach to its foreign policy.

What happens when a bomb etched with Russian writing drops from a plane with Russian insignia and falls on Georgia before said plane returns to Russia? Georgia gets accused of staging a provocation aimed at ruining Russia’s good name.

What happens when President Vladimir Putin suddenly discovers that Western strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons have been circling Russia in a menacing way? He declares a defense of Russia’s borders – by ordering his strategic bombers to start flying sorties to Alaska and such for the first time since the Cold War.

And how does Russia try to sell its ties with China – and possibly Pakistan and Iran – at a regional meeting that includes Central Asian states and is meant to threaten the West with a new Asian military bloc? It picks an unprovoked fight with China by telling it to keep its nose out of Central Asia.

Russia fills the gaps by sending a lawmaker in a scuba outfit to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole and running a doctored front page of The Times of London on state television news.

Does zaxi really need to mention that Putin capped the quiet summer month by posing semi-nude during a fishing outing with the Prince of Monaco? zaxi ordinarily would not – but this all ties into a startling new pattern that seems to explain Russia’s future through 2012.

The spinning of myths has become an increasingly popular Kremlin hobby as the date of Putin’s departure nears. Some of them have concerned a rewrite of Russia’s Stalinist history. But a great deal more have been focused on making enemies of the West where none had stood days before – the North Pole expedition irritating four countries alone.

The resulting Soviet haze leaves no room for maneuver by anyone even most superficially linked to liberal or slightly forward looking ideas. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not being groomed for the presidency of a nation that appears to have reengaged in ideological warfare.

Instead the stage is being cleared for his fellow first deputy Sergei Ivanov – although zaxi is still waiting for a sudden appearance by Putin’s other best buddy: the devoutly Orthodox former spook and current billionaire railways boss Vladimir Yakunin.

Does anyone remember the name of Russia’s new defense minister? One would think Anatoly Serdyukov had something to say about his bombs falling on Georgia or his “mothballed” – according to the US State Department – strategic bombers suddenly buzzing about the seas.

But it is Ivanov who now attends to such affairs on the news. He can speak with equal temper on subjects ranging from the Georgia bombing – a “theatrical production” by Tbilisi – to missile defense. Military analyst Alexander Golts notes that state television no longer identifies Ivanov as a first deputy prime minister in charge of industry. It seems silly for such a bureaucrat to be spewing about global affairs. He is simply called a Putin adviser.

Serdyukov’s curious vanishing act points to another detail: Russia can function quite well without a defense minister – just as it has basically run without an entire foreign ministry since Putin rolled through the Kremlin gates.

This concentration cannot hold with Ivanov or his double acting as president until Putin resumes duties in 2012. There must be a meaningful role for Russia’s spiritual leader – but one that also treads lightly on the mundane running of the state.

Which seems to explain both why foreign policy is suddenly coming to a boil and the role Putin envisions for himself: he will – for lack of a more formal job description – be in charge of recreating the Soviet Union on the global arena.

Putin will in effect function as Russia’s foreign and defense minister in one – speaking not only on behalf of Moscow but also the former Soviet republics that cannot stay free because of energy dependency.

It is a frightening scenario for the West but one gaining an air of inevitability in Moscow. Putin will be dropping in on world summits as a kind of Soviet ambassador who oversees future regional pipeline projects and military sales to Iran.

It really matters little that such a post does not exist today. Putin’s name would give any such job title instant credibility – one the West would have little choice but to accept. But two obvious possibilities are as head of Russia’s Security Council or as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The second option is far more tempting for its obvious Soviet overtones. It is slightly more problematic because it would demand immediate subordination from the other ex-Soviet republics. It would also instantly shrink the size of the CIS itself – Georgia would be out the same evening while countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan might pause for thought. Ukraine would threaten to crack apart again. But the CIS is already heading toward partial dismemberment if not outright dissolution. Russia would thus be creating a functioning superstate out of what has until now been a messy divorce court – one whose authority would only grow as it officially takes over duties being overseen by the Kremlin today.

The less aggressive approach involves the Security Council. The body sits headless after the timely departure of former foreign minister Igor Ivanov. It also serves no clear purpose and thus perfectly suits Putin’s plan. Ivanov was unofficially engaged in secret negotiations with Iran over the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its members – all the top ministers – still meet regularly with Putin every Sunday morning. ITAR-TASS issues the exact same dispatch after each session saying the group discussed “foreign and domestic affairs.”

Either option will work to correct history’s greatest injustice in Putin’s eyes – the dissolution of the Soviet state. Domestically Russia is now centralized economically and politically monolithic. A foreign vision however remained largely undeveloped. Its turn has come.

So the West should get used to the image of a barrel-chested Soviet “muzhik” casting his fishing line further and further out. It can think of this as Putin’s extended fishing vacation.

Zaxi on Russia’s Georgia Outrage

The bilingual blogger at Zaxi blog offers the following analysis of Russia’s recent incursion into Georgia:

Russia-watching is never an exact science. But it strays into the field of psychoanalysis once the Kremlin adopts an Alice in Wonderland approach to its foreign policy.

What happens when a bomb etched with Russian writing drops from a plane with Russian insignia and falls on Georgia before said plane returns to Russia? Georgia gets accused of staging a provocation aimed at ruining Russia’s good name.

What happens when President Vladimir Putin suddenly discovers that Western strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons have been circling Russia in a menacing way? He declares a defense of Russia’s borders – by ordering his strategic bombers to start flying sorties to Alaska and such for the first time since the Cold War.

And how does Russia try to sell its ties with China – and possibly Pakistan and Iran – at a regional meeting that includes Central Asian states and is meant to threaten the West with a new Asian military bloc? It picks an unprovoked fight with China by telling it to keep its nose out of Central Asia.

Russia fills the gaps by sending a lawmaker in a scuba outfit to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole and running a doctored front page of The Times of London on state television news.

Does zaxi really need to mention that Putin capped the quiet summer month by posing semi-nude during a fishing outing with the Prince of Monaco? zaxi ordinarily would not – but this all ties into a startling new pattern that seems to explain Russia’s future through 2012.

The spinning of myths has become an increasingly popular Kremlin hobby as the date of Putin’s departure nears. Some of them have concerned a rewrite of Russia’s Stalinist history. But a great deal more have been focused on making enemies of the West where none had stood days before – the North Pole expedition irritating four countries alone.

The resulting Soviet haze leaves no room for maneuver by anyone even most superficially linked to liberal or slightly forward looking ideas. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not being groomed for the presidency of a nation that appears to have reengaged in ideological warfare.

Instead the stage is being cleared for his fellow first deputy Sergei Ivanov – although zaxi is still waiting for a sudden appearance by Putin’s other best buddy: the devoutly Orthodox former spook and current billionaire railways boss Vladimir Yakunin.

Does anyone remember the name of Russia’s new defense minister? One would think Anatoly Serdyukov had something to say about his bombs falling on Georgia or his “mothballed” – according to the US State Department – strategic bombers suddenly buzzing about the seas.

But it is Ivanov who now attends to such affairs on the news. He can speak with equal temper on subjects ranging from the Georgia bombing – a “theatrical production” by Tbilisi – to missile defense. Military analyst Alexander Golts notes that state television no longer identifies Ivanov as a first deputy prime minister in charge of industry. It seems silly for such a bureaucrat to be spewing about global affairs. He is simply called a Putin adviser.

Serdyukov’s curious vanishing act points to another detail: Russia can function quite well without a defense minister – just as it has basically run without an entire foreign ministry since Putin rolled through the Kremlin gates.

This concentration cannot hold with Ivanov or his double acting as president until Putin resumes duties in 2012. There must be a meaningful role for Russia’s spiritual leader – but one that also treads lightly on the mundane running of the state.

Which seems to explain both why foreign policy is suddenly coming to a boil and the role Putin envisions for himself: he will – for lack of a more formal job description – be in charge of recreating the Soviet Union on the global arena.

Putin will in effect function as Russia’s foreign and defense minister in one – speaking not only on behalf of Moscow but also the former Soviet republics that cannot stay free because of energy dependency.

It is a frightening scenario for the West but one gaining an air of inevitability in Moscow. Putin will be dropping in on world summits as a kind of Soviet ambassador who oversees future regional pipeline projects and military sales to Iran.

It really matters little that such a post does not exist today. Putin’s name would give any such job title instant credibility – one the West would have little choice but to accept. But two obvious possibilities are as head of Russia’s Security Council or as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The second option is far more tempting for its obvious Soviet overtones. It is slightly more problematic because it would demand immediate subordination from the other ex-Soviet republics. It would also instantly shrink the size of the CIS itself – Georgia would be out the same evening while countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan might pause for thought. Ukraine would threaten to crack apart again. But the CIS is already heading toward partial dismemberment if not outright dissolution. Russia would thus be creating a functioning superstate out of what has until now been a messy divorce court – one whose authority would only grow as it officially takes over duties being overseen by the Kremlin today.

The less aggressive approach involves the Security Council. The body sits headless after the timely departure of former foreign minister Igor Ivanov. It also serves no clear purpose and thus perfectly suits Putin’s plan. Ivanov was unofficially engaged in secret negotiations with Iran over the Bushehr nuclear power plant and its members – all the top ministers – still meet regularly with Putin every Sunday morning. ITAR-TASS issues the exact same dispatch after each session saying the group discussed “foreign and domestic affairs.”

Either option will work to correct history’s greatest injustice in Putin’s eyes – the dissolution of the Soviet state. Domestically Russia is now centralized economically and politically monolithic. A foreign vision however remained largely undeveloped. Its turn has come.

So the West should get used to the image of a barrel-chested Soviet “muzhik” casting his fishing line further and further out. It can think of this as Putin’s extended fishing vacation.