World News and Trends: Russia's muscle-flexing

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Russia's muscle-flexing

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Russian leaders Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have been using the country's oil wealth to rebuild and modernize its military. The armed incursion into neighboring Georgia and threats to deploy missiles to counter the proposed U.S. missile shield are a reflection of Moscow throwing its weight around.

The Daily Mail reported that "the Russian Navy is poised to sail into the Mediterranean to conduct operations in NATO's backyard for the first time since the end of the Cold War" (Oct. 4, 2008). Russia is presently conducting a fresh diplomatic offensive in selected nations. For example, The Sunday Times of London reported that "Russia is considering increasing its assistance to Iran's nuclear programme . . . The Kremlin is discussing sending teams of Russian nuclear experts to Tehran and inviting Iranian nuclear experts to Moscow for training" (Sept. 7, 2008).

A Wall Street Journal news report related that the "Belarus president seeks to deploy Russian missiles . . . that could reach deep into Europe" (Nov. 14, 2008). Medvedev has also signed energy deals with Hugo Chavez designed to help develop Venezuelan oilfields. Muammar Gadhafi has offered Russia a naval base in Libya. A diplomatic push in Moldova has begun. Montenegro has a new nickname, "Moscow-on-the-sea." All these trends show that Russia seems intent on re-exerting its former cold war power.