Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Russia's biggest military exercise since the collapse of communism flopped yesterday, ruining an attempt to project Vladimir Putin as a global leader and reaffirm the country's status as a nuclear superpower.

With Mr Putin and a host of military officials watching from the nuclear submarine Arkhangelsk, two intercontinental ballistic missiles went wrong during a firing from a submarine believed to be the Novomoskovsk. They were aimed at Kamchatka on the Pacific coast. A malfunctioning satellite was blamed.

The Russian website said one of the missiles blew up shortly after firing. The navy refused to confirm the accident.

Television, which had been leading news programmes with glowing reports of the exercises, quickly reduced them to a short bulletin.

For Mr Putin, decked out in naval garb, it was an embarrassing setback.

With less than a month before presidential elections, he has sought to cast himself as a hard man in the mould of the old Soviet leaders.

He has also pledged to preside over a return to the days when Russia was a powerful global player.

Last week he said the collapse of the Soviet Union had been a "national tragedy of enormous scale".
Really? A national tragedy?

Seems President Reagan saw the Soviet Union in a differrent light:
It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then...

Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people.

And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we’ve seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward the Communist world.

Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.
Mr. Putin bears watching.

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