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Formerly the Big Bad. Now just lots of corruption and lots of missing nukes. Has a jockey-sized President called Vladimir Putin, who always looks Put-out for some reason. (Anyone ever seen him smile?) Big Bad Vlad continues the recent honourable tradition of KGB bosses getting to the top in Russia. Yuri Andropov would've kicked arrse like Putin today, but he kicked the bucket before he had the chance.

From very early in the piece, Russia was a cow of a place to get stuff into and out of. The rivers all run in the wrong directions, and form barriers instead of arteries of trade. Great if you're erecting defences against Napoleon or Hitler; bugger-all use when you want to get your goods to market.

One aspect of the old Soviet Union, was the distribution of defence industries throughout the member states. This led, on the break-up of the USSR, to Ukraine retaining the giant Antonov manufacturing plant. The Russians today have to buy their military heavy-lift aircraft from the honchos in Kiev.

One industrial site they were happy to offload, was Chernobyl. (What has feathers and glows in the dark? - Chicken Kiev.) The place is still bubbling away, decades later, under all that decaying concrete. Scary. Makes Sellafield & Three Mile Island look like Butlin's.

And they still haven't solved the Chechnya problem. OK - the Chechens are like a bunch of bikies on speed AND 'roids. And they've set new benchmarks for creative criminality. (Some people are just like that.) But the guys from Grozny have heapsa reasons for hating the Russkies. Stalin tried to wipe 'em out in 1927, and successive Soviet leaders tried to finish the job.

All in all, despite its huge size and enormous population, a pretty sad excuse for a country... Least it WAS. Now the economic muscle of huge gas fields have finally been recognized and energy hungry European nations have been tempted - it could all go terribly wrong for the previously victorious west. What the nasty USSR couldn't do with threats, espionage and a scary army ... they could do with your central heating.

Well - maybe European central heating. Can't see the Australians worrying about it. Come to think of it - GazPromAvia have to be the world's worst payer of bills in the aviation industry. The way these people run their businesses, it's hard to see them being any economic threat at all for years to come.

A founder member of the Pornoland Confederation but now threatening to withdraw as the result of increasing nationalistic hubris and a disinclination to allow Russian women to be DP'ed by fat American redneck pornographers.