Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Russia Grows Aggressive in Aiding State Sponsors of Terrorism
I am not a Russia expert, but it is clear that the Putin-led government is going out of its way to antagonize the United States and its allies. One of the primary, and most dangerous methods, is the sale of billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry to state sponsors of terrorism, particularly Iran and Venezuela.

These just happen to be the two states most intent on inflicting as much harm as possible on the United States and its allies, as well as the two governments funding the unrest that has pushed Bolivia to the brink of civil war and actions that are turning Nicaragua into the pariah state.

As the Times of London notes,the sales include anti-aircraft missiles and top of the line fighter jets, due in production in 2010.

It is interesting to note that Russia's deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, one of the closest allies of Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, visited Venezuela and Cuba this week. Sechin is widely reported to be the main backer of Viktor Bout, the notorious weapons trafficker in prison in Thailand, awaiting an extradition hearing next week to determine if he will be handed over to the United States to stand trial.

(In an ominous sign that Bout's extradition will not be approved, the Thai appellate court, for the first time this week, rejected a U.S. extradition request. This one was for Jamshid Ghassemi, an Iranian indicted in the United States for acquiring dual-use equipment and accelerometers for Iran's nuclear program. The court ruling gave no reasons for its decision, which is unappealable, and foul play is suspected.

There are several parallels to the Bout case, where the Russians have been offering large financial inducements, oil deals and preferential weapons deals in exchange for Bout's freedom. Another terrorist supplier under Russian protection.)

The justification for Russia's behavior seems to be that it is now threatened by U.S. and Western European involvement in former Soviet republics. The general deterioration in the U.S.-Russia relationship is likely to have widespread impact.

That may explain Russia's desire to project force into the Western hemisphere, as it did by flying two TU 160s, the world's largest supersonic bomber, to Venezuela. It does not, however, explain the desire to arm regimes with a history of violence and state sponsorship of terrorism against their neighbors.

Kommersant, the financial newspaper, said that Russia was forming “alliance relations” with the two antiAmerican regimes as a response to US involvement in former Soviet republics.

The Russian moves mark a serious deterioration in relations between Washington and Moscow. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, threated to block Russia’s membership of key international organisations. She told the Kremlin that its “authoritarian policies” could prevent it from joining the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates economic policies among industrialised countries. In an outspoken speech to the German Marshall Fund, an institution promoting greater cooperation between America and Europe, Dr Rice said: “The picture emerging is of a Russia increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad.

Dr Rice said that Russia’s actions in Georgia fitted into a “worsening pattern of behaviour”, which included its “intimidation of its sovereign neighbours, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to states and groups that threaten international security and its persecution – and worse – of Russian journalists and dissidents.”

I don't know enough about Russia to draw conclusions on what the viable policy alternatives are. But it is clear we have entered a new and dangerous era of alliances, flush with oil money that we are shelling out, that can and will acquire and eventually use the new weapons against us.
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