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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1805
Putin fires his defense minister;
U.S. Congress to vote on normalized trade relations bill
Edited by Amanda Pitrof
November 12, 2012
According to the New York Times, representatives for Russian President Vladimir Putin are working overtime to downplay rumors that the sixty-year-old Putin is starting to feel his age. After a slew of announcements postponing events including state visits to Turkey, Bulgaria, and India, as well as his annual question-and-answer session, reports began to circulate that the President suffered from a serious back problem that might require surgery. Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, insisted that although the president pulled a back muscle in September, and suffered a “painful reaction for a couple of days,” there are no lingering effects from what he called “just a mismovement.” As for the president’s recent trend of working from home, the Kremlin press secretary attributed the decision to a concern for “traffic congestion.”
This year’s “National Unity Day,” a Putin-era replacement for the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, was dominated by thousands of nationalists who marched through Moscow voicing hostility to ethnic minorities. Although analysts blame Putin’s undertones of ethnic nationalism for the rise of such groups, the six thousand protesters who gathered this year for the far-right rally clearly advocated the causes of Russia's opposition movement, shouting slogans like "Russia without Putin." “Our democratic system is ruined,” one protester said. “The Russian people need to unite and create their own civil society.” Reuters reports that National Unity Day commemorates the November 4th anniversary of a Moscow uprising against a Polish-Lithuanian occupation in the seventeenth century.
In a surprisingly bold move, a Russian attack submarine was detected a mere 200 miles off the east coast of the United States. The sub’s presence is consistent with a February 2012 promise by the Kremlin to resume patrols of the world’s oceans, reports the Washington Free Beacon, which most analysts view as an effort to re-establish Russia as a global naval power. What’s troubling about the report is that at the same time American officials were picking up signals from the Sierra-2 class submarine, a Russian electronic intelligence gathering ship was granted safe harbor in Jacksonville, Florida, which lies within range of a submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia. The U.S. military uses the base as a home port for several nuclear missile submarines—a known target of Russian attack subs. The incident was downplayed by the U.S. military, which took a similar attitude toward the appearance of a Russian fighter jet in the airspace over Alaska on July 4th of this year.
The Kremlin hasmade it clear that Moscow expects U.S. President Barack Obama to follow through on his promises of “greater flexibility” over the proposed NATO missile defense shield now that he’s been re-elected. Soon after President Putin sent Obama a telegram expressing “hope that the two countries’ relations would improve further,” the Associated Press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin added that “We hope that President Obama after his re-election will be more flexible on the issue of taking into the account the opinions of Russia and others regarding a future configuration of NATO’s missile defense.” Analysts noted that the Kremlin’s reaction to Obama’s re-election was far more enthusiastic than Washington’s following Putin’s election to a third presidential term. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made his relief clear that “the man who considers Russia its No. 1 geopolitical foe won’t be the president of this very large and important country.”