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  Global Views
Letters from Tokyo
Russia Faces Many Security Concerns
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square is the iconic symbol of imperialist Russia. Its official name is the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat. At 17,075,400 square kilometers, Russian Federation is the largest country in the world with 21 autonomous republics within its federation.

The vastness of the Russian Federation is enormous and this nation is clearly Eurasian with regards to landmass and ethnicity. Therefore, the security concerns of this diverse country is also vast and complex. During recent times the leaders of this nation have been worried about both NATO expansion and the rise of radical Islam in southern Russia and the Caucasus region. However, other major concerns also exist, therefore, what are the main security concerns for the Russian Federation?

One major internal concern applies to the rise of radical Islam within parts of southern Russia, the Caucasus region, and throughout the nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which are located in Central Asia. Therefore, a lot of special attention was focused on Chechnya and the surrounding region. This applies to the bloody civil war which erupted in Chechnya because the green flag of Islam was raised. This rebellion led to many deaths and the military armed forces of the Russian Federation were clearly tested. To make matters worse, Chechen Islamists also used terrorism in order to threaten the Russian Federation and they spread their radical version of Sunni Islam to other parts of southern Russia and the Caucasus region.

Also, the nation of Tajikistan had been blighted by a bloody civil war in the past. Once more the green flag of Islam challenged the central government and this nation only survived because of the role of the Russian Federation and combined forces of the CIS. While other nations, notably Uzbekistan, have had serious internal problems with radical Islam, therefore, the leaders of the Russian Federation clearly understand the importance of unity within the CIS. Given this, the armed forces of the Russian Federation have to be prepared at all times.

However, on a brighter note the tide began to turn several years ago in Chechnya and the current leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is clearly pro-Moscow. After all, Ramzan Kadyrov stated "I want to achieve a peaceful Chechnya within the Russian Federation." Also, more Chechen Muslims are joining the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, other mainly Muslim ethnic groups like the Tatars are very loyal to the Russian Federation. Therefore, mainstream Islam serves the nation just like their Orthodox Christian counterparts within the armed forces.

A completely different threat comes from NATO and this organization desires to expand throughout the geographic security space and influence of the Russian Federation. Therefore, ex President, Vladimir Putin, was often at loggerheads with NATO and he demanded a halt to NATO expansion. Vladimir Putin, in April 2008 at the NATO summit in Romania, stated that the "appearance of a powerful military bloc on Russia's border would be taken as a direct threat."

Therefore, both President Medvedev and PM Putin, are trying to keep both the Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO. Also, the Russian Federation is worried about nations within Central Asia and they are seriously worried about the intentions of America in this strategic region. For this reason both leaders desire a genuine dialogue with America and NATO, however, both leaders believe that they are being ignored and that America is forcing the issue via their allies, Georgia and the Ukraine. Given this reality, the leaders of the Russian Federation had to be strong when Georgia launched an attack against South Ossetia.

One major area of success, however, is the advancement of the Russian Federation in Asia and this applies to very strong ties with China, India, and Iran, respectively; and of course the same applies to strong relations with all the Asian nations which belong to the CIS. In the past relations were extremely cordial with India during the Soviet period and today the same applies since the demise of the Soviet Union. However, relations with China have reached new heights and President Medvedev also made a point of visiting China on his first trip abroad. Also, the Russian Federation, unlike America and Japan, can play "the honest broker" with regards to the Korean Peninsula and the nuclear issue.

Therefore, the Asian borderlands which includes many diverse nations is relatively stable because of cordial relations and this means that the Russian Federation can focus on other strategic regions. Also, the role of Russia`s military equipment and technology is vital to both the armed forces of China and India. Of course this will be reduced in the future, however, ties and military sales will still remain potent. Another "binding card" is the need to stop or prevent American hegemony, therefore, China, India, and the Russian Federation, have a lot to gain from strong military and political ties.

Another recent major factor applies to energy politics because the Russian Federation is increasing her regional power via energy. Also, the European Union, and nations like Germany within the EU, understand the importance of Russia`s influence. Given this, the Russian Federation have enticed Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, to agree to an alternative energy pipeline and this in turn will strengthen the power of the Russian Federation.

The European Union (EU) also understands the importance of energy politics and this issue is certain to be raised many times in the future. Therefore, tensions may be increasing over Georgia and the EU is making many negative noises. Yet if this issue can be resolved or contained, then cracks will soon appear within the EU. So instead of the EU focusing on Norway and other nations with regards to reducing dependence on Moscow, you will have a natural move back towards the Russian Federation.

Energy politics is also important in Asia and within the next 20 years Northeast Asia will get at least 30% of all energy supplies from the Russian Federation. So it is clear that the influence of this nation is increasing and it will continue to do so in the near future. Other nations, notably America and Japan, must understand that times are changing and it is better to work alongside the Russian Federation rather than always being hostile or passive, at best.

Overall, the Russian Federation is now going to focus on modernizing her armed forces because of the oil and gas boom. At the same time, the Russian Federation is using energy in order to boost Moscow`s international influence. Another major area of growth applies to relations with India and China, and the Shanghai 6 and CIS organizations also help Russia to influence Central Asia. Of course negative areas remain, notably radical Islam in southern Russia and the Caucasus region, relations with America, demographic factors, NATO, the current crisis in Georgia, and other factors. Yet despite this, the future looks bright for the Russian Federation providing economic growth can be maintained.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

http://journals.aol.com/leejaywalker/uk/



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute.

 

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