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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 433,491 346,520 310,000 16
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,610 2,140 1,750 97
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Russia



Update No: 354  (26/06/10)

The UK - Russia axis
The Russian leadership is fascinated by recent political developments in the UK. They have a strong inclination to regard Great Britain as the bell-weather of the West. After all everybody now speaks English as their first or second tongue, practices or pays lip service to liberal democracy and has adopted industrial capitalism, all of which originated there. The US itself, the eternal foil of Russia, is in one aspect a greatly enlarged continental version of its insular original, albeit with accretions from others too.

The UK Liberal Democrats have entered government as coalition partners with the Tories. This is arguably a positive outcome of a strongly contested campaign; two heads are better than one.

The Russians are already practising a dual leadership of their own, Medvedev in the presidency, yet Putin in the premiership. It is doubtless the latter who calls the tune.
Yet who will call the future tune? Medvedev is Putin's obvious successor, just as Putin was obviously Yeltsin's.

In Russia one can never be sure of anything. There could be a KGB operative lurking in the wings who will take over after all.

Medvedev strikes out
There is little doubt that Medvedev, a technocrat, not a KGB veteran, like Putin, has his own agenda. He wants to give the governance of Russia a new stamp, making him the natural next ruler of the country.

He wants a new deal with the West. He has struck a novel note by his recent comments on the great victory over Nazi Germany, the vindication in Soviet eyes of the Bolshevik Revolution and the existence of the USSR, even of Stalin's gruesome regime. “It was our people that won the war, not Stalin. A great number of people paid with their lives for this victory (20 million at a conservative estimate). Stalin committed many crimes against his people (and) we cannot pardon him.” Nobody since Khrushchev has been as candid as this.

He proposes a 'new European security structure.' “Had we had effective institutions for European security we could have definitely avoided the events of August 2008,” referring to the war with Georgia at that time. Were it not for the NATO Supreme command being permanently in US hands perhaps he might be hinting at enlarging NATO to be a North Atlantic and Arctic Treaty Organisation (NAATO), including Russia, although the NATO image has been so long characteristic of western imperialism in RUSSIA that a new name and image would be necessary. Perhaps he has the EU plus Russia in mind, in a grand alliance with the US.
RUSSIA always has to be geopolitically conscious of an overpopulated China looming along thousands of miles of frontier, with the almost unpopulated Siberian wilderness.

The Arctic, where the Russians have a large presence, is indeed an energy frontier of the future. It has enormous, untapped, reserves of oil and gas, a long way away from densely populated areas, should a spill occur, as with BP in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the logical place for the next energy push by the seven sisters and whatever additional players emerge from China.

In fact this kind of thinking is a logical middle term approach for Medvedev, since if RUSSIA and the US are no longer to be enemies then they might as well be friends – that is do-able!

Into the Caucasus too
Medvedev is keen to develop Russia's potential in every direction. He wants to build five ski resorts in the North Caucasus to rival the best Austrian resorts by 2020.

The resorts could face problems attracting tourists to a region plagued by political unrest and war.

But Rostislav Murzagulov, managing partner with project consultant Agitpro, indicated that the Kremlin saw the resorts as an opportunity to improve the lives of the locals – thereby discouraging separatism and violence.

Armed forces upgrade
But of course a country the size and motley composition of Russia has always to be prepared to counter their very two problems – separatism and violence. The Kremlin has earmarked $189bn to upgrade half of army and navy equipment by 2015; this in an economy now worth GDP $ one trillion per annum.

And then there are the air force and missile sectors demanding their hundreds of billions too. Putin told the military chiefs to improve the combat readiness of Russia's nuclear arsenal against 'muscle-flexing ' by NATO. He has denied 'sabre-rattling' by reviving the Red Square annual parades, indeed western military contingents took part.
One such parade was held on May 9th, Russia's public holiday marking victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. More than 100 vehicles, including armoured troop carriers, T-90 tanks and giant Topol-M nuclear missile launchers, paraded through Red Square, while MiG fighters, Blackjack supersonic bombers, plus a huge transport plane flew overhead. Putin and Medvedev stood with veterans, as 8,000 troops marched past.

Revamp of air force
The Russian air force remains on track to receive a fifth-generation fighter replacement for its MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fleets, according to the service’s senior officer.

The new aircraft, the Sukhoi PAK FA (Advanced Tactical Fighter), will be built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft manufacturing plant in Russia's Far East. The twin-engined fighter, which is expected to have thrust vectoring and super cruise ability, plus stealth capabilities, will be the Russian equivalent of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

Speaking at Zhukovsky, just outside Moscow, the site of the Gromov Flight Institute, Col Gen Alexander Zelin told the RIA Novosti press agency: “We will begin test flights soon, and hope to receive the aircraft in 2013.”

All of this is indicative of RUSSIA making its point that it is a great power, in the historical sense. Not to be ignored nor sidelined and of course it will expect to earn large sums from exporting its modern weaponry, a field in which it is a major player. The fact is that in a world where power and influence is now in semi-perpetual motion, RUSSIA’s new place in the scheme of things has yet to be determined and Medvedev by such pronouncements may be exploring the possibilities available including how it plays with public opinion, or at least that of the ruling cadres who are still the primary decision makers.

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