Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to parliament last week was perhaps less interesting in its "how-to-spend" content than in what was left out. The secrecy around the drafting of the speech had been tighter than around Stalin's war plans or Brezhnev's health bulletins, but observers with any amount of insight had expected two key themes: Russia's profile as an "energy superpower" and foreign policy in the context of the upcoming G-8 summit (Vedomosti, May 3; Moskovskie novosti, April 21). The reasoning behind those expectations had appeared solid indeed: energy is at the top of Putin's priorities, and his lieutenants have put much spin on the idea of "super-powerness." Furthermore, Kremlin analysts have touted the July St. Petersburg summit as the crowning moment of Putin's presidency (Expert, March 27). Yet in the actual address, the energy theme was reduced to technicalities, such as organizing markets for trading oil and gas in rubles and Russian territory, while the G-8 was not mentioned at all (Kommersant, May 11). There are several reasons that explain Putin's change of focus.
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So, to summarize, Russia's military is still broken, but looks strong because they're building new nuclear weapons...so we can't criticize them. hm. Have to think about that.