February 27, 2016: apparently The Washington Post has finally caught up with current events.
Forbes is reporting that Putin has a new satellite state as he continues his quest to rebuild the "old" Soviet Union. Call it the Putin Union, I suppose.
Two days before Christmas, as American policymakers were settling into the holidays, Russia quietly signed a sweeping air defense agreement with Armenia, accelerating a growing Russian military buildup that has unfolded largely under the radar. It was the most tangible sign yet that Putin is creating a new satellite state on NATO’s border and threatening an indispensable U.S. ally.
The buildup in Armenia has been glossed over in Washington, despite being a key piece of Vladimir Putin’s plan to dominate the region — along with its proxy Syria and growing military ties with Iran. Most importantly, Armenia shares an approximately 165 mile border with Turkey, a NATO member and the alliance’s southern flank.
Over the last six months — as Russia’s war in Syria and pressure on Turkey has intensified — the flow of its arms and personnel into Armenia has escalated to include advanced Navodchik-2 and Takhion UAV drone aircrafts, Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Iskander-M ballistic missiles. Last July, Putin ordered snap combat readiness checks in Armenia to test the ability of his forces to react to threats to Russia’s interests abroad.
Earlier this month on orders of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Russia began a massive military exercise in its “southwestern strategic direction,” which includes Armenia. The total strength of the regional operation included approximately 8,500 troops, 900 ground artillery pieces, 200 warplanes and 50 warships.
The growing Russian military presence in Armenia is but the latest indicator of a worrisome trend: Putin’s threat to NATO and America’s interests in Europe.
Many, many story lines:
- Putin takes advantage of the grudge match between Turkey and Armenia
- even if no one else sees it (or admits to it), Turkey soon to become the next Muslim state
- this will remind some folks of the Cuban missile crisis; how JFK resolved the stand-off so that Russia could claim some victory while removing missiles from Cuba
- Putin takes advantage of Obama's lame-duck status
- Putin moves into a political vacuum created by President Obama's anxiety about playing hardball with Putin in this part of the world
- Saudi Arabia needs to figure out a way to co-exist with its arch enemy, Russia
- the chess game continues