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Russia Runs a Nuclear War Drill for Shits and Giggles

“While much Western attention has been bestowed on Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, Moscow also began a massive nuclear offensive exercise on Thursday.

According to the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, on Thursday Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces began a massive three-day exercise involving 10,000 soldiers and 1,000 pieces of equipment from more than 30 units. The major purpose of the drill, according to the report—which cites multiple senior Russian military officers—is to ensure Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces have sufficient readiness to conduct offensive operations involving the massive and simultaneous use of nuclear missiles.

Global Security Newswire previously carried a story on the nuclear exercise, also citing the Nezavisimaya Gazeta article. GSN described the exercise as “as practice for a large-scale nuclear offensive.” It added: “Exercise participants were set to position and prepare missile-firing units for launch, and to practice various administrative and support functions for the operation

As Russia’s conventional military capabilities have deteriorated following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has become increasingly reliant on operationalizing its nuclear arsenal. This has been reflected in successive Russian security documents. For example, Russia’s 1997 national security concept stated that Russia would use its nuclear arsenal “in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation,” whether that threat came in the form of nuclear weapons or from a conventionally superior military power.

This threshold was further lowered in Russia’s 2000 military doctrine, which was the first released during Vladimir Putin’s presidency. This document said that Russia would use nuclear weapons “in response to large-scale aggression utilizing conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.” This held out the possibility that Russia would use nuclear weapons even if Russia proper hadn’t been attacked. The same doctrine further noted that Russia reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of any kind of weapons of mass destruction against it.

Shortly before reassuming the Russian presidency for a third term, Putin reaffirmed the importance he placed on Russia’s nuclear forces in a number of articles and speeches. For example, in an op-ed article in Foreign Policy magazine, Putin wrote: “We will, under no circumstances, surrender our strategic deterrent capability. Indeed, we will strengthen it.”

Thus, this week’s massive offensive nuclear drill is in line with the goals that Russia and Putin have been articulating for well over a decade. It is also consistent with Putin’s recent emphasis on conducting more frequent and sophisticated military drills to improve the combat readiness of Russian military forces. Indeed, Russia conducted a much smaller surprise nuclear drill in October of last year…..”

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Fun Theory on Missing Malaysian Plane Story

Sooner or later a conspiracy theory would have to pop up on the missing plane that has been on the news for past few weeks. I have not followed the story closely, but it seems strange that a plane would simply go missing given black boxes, radar, satelite technology, and a host of other reasons for it not happening. At any rate, here is an interesting angle on the story that may or may not be true. We will just have to wait and see.

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Q1 GDP Growth Expected To Be Tepid Due to Weak Consumer Spending

“Tepid gains in consumer spending have helped send some economists’ first-quarter GDP growth forecasts below 2 percent, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The economy expanded 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in February, the government announced, but January’s increase was revised down to 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent.

Research firm Macroeconomic Advisers now predicts the economy will grow 1.3 percent in the first quarter, down from its prior forecast of 1.5 percent, according to The Journal. JPMorgan Chase cut its first-quarter projection to 1.5 percent from 2 percent.

Barclays Capital trimmed its prediction to 2 percent from 2.4 percent, and research firm MFR cut its forecast to 1.2 percent from 1.8 percent, The Journal reports.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of GDP. The nasty winter weather in much of the country may have kept numerous consumers at home during the first three months of the year….”

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Russia’s Prime Minister Declares Plans to Turn Crimea Into a Special Economic Zone

“(Reuters) – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia’s grip on Crimea on Monday by flying to the region and announcing plans to turn it into a special economic zone, defying Western demands to hand the region back to Ukraine.

The visit, hours after Russia held talks on Ukraine with the United States, is likely to anger Kiev and the West, which accuse president Vladimir Putin of illegally seizing the Black Sea peninsula after a March 16 referendum they say was a sham.

Shortly after landing in Crimea’s main