Thursday, August 21, 2008

Forty years ago

There has been a great deal written about the events forty years ago in Czechoslovakia, not least because certain far more recent events in Georgia have been a reminder though not, I fear, necessarily that hackneyed thing, a wake-up call.

For all of that, much has changed, not least in Russia itself. On the one hand, we are unlikely to see those brave dissidents who went out to protest on Red Square - the population appears to be more supine and accepting, being somewhat tired of history, one suspects.

On the other hand, the Russian military is in a far worse state than it was forty years ago. The numbers are still there when one speaks of a small country like Georgia. But they are only just there. The birthrate has fallen below replacement levels while life expectancy, especially among men, is going down.

Military technology has not been upgraded despite the many millions poured into it, as became obvious to many observers. The country's infrastructure is falling apart and, apparently, no money is being invested in it. The revenue from gas and oil is not being used to diversify the economy and make it into a first-class modern one.

A military adventure may seem to be a good idea to divert people's attention from the undoubted problems the country has, especially, it continues Putin's policy of whipping up fear of neighbours with endless references back to the horrors of the Second World War. But a long-drawn out military adventure may cost more than the country can afford and a diversification of military adventures will, most probably, bring about a crisis. Not that's particularly useful to the rest of the world, as history will confirm.

More on the anniversary on EUReferendum.

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