Russia resurgent -- sort of

What on earth is a Russian carrier group doing in the Mediterranean?

Russia dispatched an 11-ship aircraft carrier group to the Mediterranean Sea, the defense minister said Wednesday — part of what he said was an effort to resume regular Russian naval patrols on the world’s oceans.

The announcement by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is the latest move by Russia to expand its military presence internationally and flex growing economic and military strength…

The naval expedition is the latest effort by Putin to breathe new life into Russian armed forces, bolstered by the torrent of oil revenues pouring into government coffers.

Earlier this year, he ordered the military to resume regular long-range flights of strategic bombers. In recent years, Russia’s bombers have resumed flights to areas off Norway and Iceland, as well as Russia’s northeast corner, across the Bering Strait from Alaska several years ago.

The Navy Times article might also have mentioned the Russian bombers that buzzed U.S. forces on Guam this summer, or maybe Russia's withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which limits the size of the Russian army west of the Ural mountains.

But is Putin really out of line under the circumstances?  As Pat Buchanan reminds us

How did we lose a Russia that Ronald Reagan and Bush I had virtually converted into an ally?

We pushed NATO into Moscow's face, bringing six ex-Warsaw Pact nations and three ex-Soviet republics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – into our Cold War alliance and plotted to bring in Ukraine and Georgia.

We financed a pipeline from Baku through Georgia to the Black Sea to cut Russia out of the Caspian oil trade. After getting Moscow's permission to use old Soviet bases in Central Asia to invade Afghanistan, we set about making the bases permanent. We pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty over Moscow's objection, then announced plans to plant ABM radars in the Czech Republic and anti-missile missiles in Poland.

Putin has now responded in kind, and who can blame him?

Well, I'm sure some corners of the neoconservative movement will try.  But as the Navy Times notes, Russia's military remains in a major state of decrepitude:

Last month, a group of independent military experts said Putin’s government had failed to reverse the post-Soviet decline of Russia’s armed forces despite repeated pledges, saying the military continues to suffer from rampant corruption, inefficiency and poor morale. The Kremlin also has failed to deliver on promises to modernize arsenals, they said.

Experts also have said increasing military budgets under Putin have actually bought fewer weapons than under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, blaming graft as the root of the problem.

Yup, Putin's brand of crony capitalism has actually undermined Russia's defenses.  Some strategic threat, that.

The Daily Reckoning