Russia Huffs and Puffs as the House Comes Down

medved081309.jpgHere is the beginning of Robert Amsterdam’s latest contribution to Huffington Post:

It really is impressive the level of tolerance we’ve built up when it comes to Russia’s confrontational antics. Take for example the move in early August to deploy two Akula II-class nuclear attack submarines off the East Coast of the United States. The Pentagon quickly discarded any potential threat from the stunt, which was only slightly more diplomatic than the response to the resumption of bomber patrols: “If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that’s their decision,” a State Department rep quipped back in 2007.

It’s the same story with the Europeans. At the end of the G8 Summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev resurrected his threat to place Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave, shortly followed by Ukrainian police stopping a Russian military convoy hauling missiles around Sevastopol streets. What can they do but shrug before this kind of behavior? Back in 2008 the Polish Defense Minister politely pointed out how often these threats come from Moscow: “Of course we don’t like it when the Russian president or Russian generals threaten us with nuclear annihilation. It is not a friendly thing to do, and we have asked them to do it no more than once a month.” (…)

So the question is why Russia bothers to go through the motions – sending Soviet era submarines of a rapidly degrading naval fleet, flying bombers which belong in a museum, or otherwise huffing and puffing in anger with all their aging military toys? They know that we know that actual military capabilities do match the hostility of the rhetoric, and they can predict our response. With these growing problems at home, how does the muscle flexing serve Russian interests?

Photo credit: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is seen during the recording of an address for his personal Internet site at the Bocharov Ruchei presidential residence near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, early Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009. Medvedev has criticized Ukraine’s leadership and says he won’t send a new ambassador until relations improve. (AP Photo)