The Russian Bear Has Awoken

Those of us that grew up in the 1960s and 1970s have an image of a dangerous Russian bear imprinted upon our brains. In 1989, the bear was declawed and our leaders promised us a peace dividend. A peace dividend made perfect sense to a public that was sick of fighting the Cold War. Being able to spend less on our military would allow us freedom to save or spend on other needs. Our businesses would be able to take advantage of new trading partners. All was right with the world.

The rise of Vladimir Putin has changed all of that. Putin recognized where the West was weak and Russia strong. He invested a lot of time and money to take control of the Russian energy industry, even throwing the original owner of the largest Russian oil company into the gulag. Putin has used an iron fist to get control over Russia. The bear is reborn. President Bush ignored the rise of Putin and it has cost us.

The recent invasion of Georgia solidifies the strategy that dissidents, like Garry Kasparov, have been writing about for the past number of years. Putin aims to put back the confederation of Russian states as it existed pre-1989. In a perfect world, he would have an iron curtain. Poland, an independent nation, wants to put missile defenses within its own borders. Putin doesn't want it and threatens to invade if they antagonize him.

Recently a Putin acolyte, Alexi Gordeyev, said that the Russians were mulling an embargo on American poultry and pork. It is interesting timing for such a statement. First, a few weeks ago, there was a terrific rally in pork prices. Rumors on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor pointed to heavy Russian buying. Then they invaded Georgia. Obviously, they were stocking their freezers to feed their troops in case the U.S. stopped them from buying. These things are not coincidental.

From time to time since Putin has gained control, he has instituted various embargoes on American poultry and pork. Senator Joe Biden's press release after the last dust-up six years ago said the "Delaware farmers were not going to be forgotten" when Bush made his next visit to Russia. Putin is trying to outmaneuver us militarily, but he is cunning in his economic warfare as well.