"Russia enters 2008 in the strongest geopolitical position it has known since
the Cold War's end"
"The rampant decay of its military has largely been halted, new weapons systems are beginning to be brought on line, the country is flush with petrodollars, its debt has vanished, the Chechen insurgency has been suppressed, the central government has all but eliminated domestic opposition, and the regime is popular at home."
"Chinese pipelines to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (to be constructed in 2008) threaten to divert the energy that until now could only flow northward and serve Russian purposes."
"China is stealing Central Asia, building a network of infrastructures that will make it more attractive for the Central Asian states to integrate with China than to use Soviet-era links to Russia."
"NATO and the European Union occupy Russia's entire western horizon and are flirting with expanding their memberships. Rising defense modernizations in Asia are forcing Russia to deal with two military fronts - something at which Moscow never really succeeded during Soviet times."
"First, the consolidation that began in Russia's energy sector in 2003 will
culminate. This will be the year that state giants Rosneft and Gazprom swallow
up - whether formally or through 'alliances' - most of the remaining independent
players in the country's energy industry."
"In 2008 a number of natural gas import projects will begin operation in Western Europe, reducing that region's dependency on Russian energy and allowing the Western European states to be more dismissive of Russian interests."
"The Russians need a defining confrontation with the West. Russian power is at a relative peak, and American power at a relative low. It is a temporary circumstance certain to invert as the United States militarily extricates itself from Iraq, and one that Russia must exploit if it seeks to avoid replicating the geopolitical retreat of the 1990s."
"By 'confrontation' we do not necessarily mean a war - simply a clash that
starkly lays bare Russia's strengths against Western weaknesses."
"For Russia - which has publicly invested much political capital in opposing Kosovar
independence - European success would be more than a slap in the face.Moscow
must prevent this from happening... Simply put, for the Western world, Kosovo is
not even remotely worth an escalating conflict with Russia."
"The former pro-Western Soviet republic of Georgia, long a thorn in Moscow's side, has two secessionist regions that rely on Russia for their economic and military
existence. Russia could easily absorb them outright and thus break the myth that
American protection in the Caucasus is sustainable."
"Gazprom could swallow up Russian-British joint oil venture TNK-BP, destroying billions in U.K. investment in a heartbeat. Union with Belarus would return the Red Army to the European frontier and turn the security framework of Eurasia inside-out overnight."
"When that happens, Russia will face a resurgent United States that commands alliances in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Russia must use the ongoing U.S. entanglement in the Middle East to redefine its immediate neighborhood or risk a developing geopolitic far less benign to Russian interests than Washington's Cold War policy of containment."
On the other hand, Nikita Petrov at Russia's RIA Novosti paints a future Russia that is crunk, disorderly and in need of more Western style out of the box thinking than old school collectivist conventional considerations:
"It is unclear whether the 2007-2015 state rearmament program will be
implemented because some of its provisions are not being fulfilled
The management of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant had promised to supply six, rather than two, Su-34 bombers in late 2006. Moreover, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) remains only partially operational with 13 spacecraft. Right now, the Army can buy only six to seven, rather than ten, fighting vehicles because raw materials, components, fuel, heat and electricity are becoming increasingly more expensive.
Only 36% of strategic defense enterprises are solvent, while another 23% are tottering on the verge of bankruptcy.
Another problem has to do with human resources. Most skilled workers and scientists are nearing retirement age. At the same time, quite a few technical-college graduates are in no hurry to sign up with the defense industry because of low wages and insufficient career opportunities.
The lack of qualified personnel and up-to-date production equipment will inevitably impair product quality. In fact, India, Algeria and some other countries are beginning to file quality claims.
Since 1992, not a single state defense order has been fulfilled completely and on time. It would be naive to hope that the industry's problems will be solved in a couple of years. Nor should we expect a major breakthrough this year. All we can do is work patiently, without deviating from the preset program.