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When U.S. turns its back, others get more aggressive

Currently the United States is witnessing a version of ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play.’ In this case, it’s when the United States is over-committed in one area, other nations decide they can become more aggressive.
Case in point ‘ Russia. President Vladimir Putin has used the last three years to throttle dissent in his nation. With fewer and fewer exceptions, there is now just one line in Russia ‘ the government’s. New regulations have allowed the government to close many independent news outlets. Another set of regulations has forced many non-Russian, non-governmental organizations out of the country.
Putin, a former KGB operative, has made effective use of his training to give the average Russian a greater sense of security at the cost of the loss of numerous freedoms and much of the people’s control over government.
Last month a woman journalist was murdered in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in what observers say was certainly a contract hit. The reason seems to be that she was a long-time critic of governmental actions and was about to publish a series of articles citing major violations of human rights in the Russian war to stamp out the Muslim revolt in Chechnya.
Russia is a major supplier of materials needed for the Iranian nuclear developments. All of it sold for hard cash.
Putin has seen his hand further strengthened by the rise in oil prices in recent years capped by the huge run up last summer. Russia, with its oil and gas reserves, now has a lot of excess money to fund projects of any kind.
It has also begun to use these same oil and gas reserves as a weapon. In an argument with the former Soviet Republic of the Ukraine over the price of gas, it shut off gas supplies to the Ukraine for several days. This in turn has caused all kinds of alarm bells to sound in Europe over whether the Russians would shut off supplies to any customer in a dispute.
Russia has been shoving around several other former Soviet Republics, apparently to prove to them there will be problems if they oppose Moscow. Right now they are making things difficult for Georgia which in October arrested five Russian officers for spying. Despite their release, Moscow has made it difficult for any ethnic Georgian living in Russia. The latest event I’ve heard of was Russian ‘gangsters’ busting up a Georgian art gallery in Moscow. Not tragic, but it does keep the pressure on.
The only situation in which Russia seemed willing to cooperate with the United States was in recent efforts to put sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons test. But here I assume they were acting out of the simple desire to keep the nuclear weapons club as small as possible.
When the United States finally begins to move beyond its current Iraq tunnel vision, it will find the world has gotten more complicated and difficult in a number of areas. Latin America has elected several more radical and confrontational leaders, including the just-chosen Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Africa has continuing conflicts, including new Muslim fundamentalist control of Somalia along with the expanding problems in Darfur. Indonesia seems to be drifting in the direction of weak leadership and increasing Muslim fundamentalism. The list goes on.

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