Russia: The Secret Policeman's Bawl


May 9,2008: The U.S. and Europe are united in one area, their hostility towards Russia and China for tolerating Internet based crime and factories that produce counterfeit goods. Russia has been a little better in cracking down on the gangsters, but, as in China, a well connected criminal (who has bribed the right politicians), continues to be immune.

Russia is putting more troops and cash into Georgia's breakaway areas of Abkhazia (population 200,000) and South Ossetia (50,000). Georgia has a population of 4.6 million, and a hostile relationship (going back centuries) with Russia. In response to this bad attitude, Russia has backed the rebels of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which are on the Russian border) since the early 1990s. Georgia was part of the Soviet Union (and Russia) for over two centuries. Georgians tolerated this for a long time as the only way to keep the Moslem Turks out of Christian Georgia. But with the end of the Cold War, this was no longer an issue and the Georgians wanted the Russians gone. The Russians considered the Georgians ungrateful and unreliable (for allowing Chechen rebels to hide out in neighboring Georgian mountains.) The fighting in the two regions stopped over a decade ago, because Georgia could not muster sufficient military force to regain control of the two breakaway border areas. Then a UN brokered peace deal brought in several thousand Russian peacekeepers, who also serve to keep the Georgians from trying to take back control. Georgia has recently been flying recon UAVs over Abkhazia, and one of these was apparently shot down by a Russian MiG-29 on April 20th. The Russians deny this, and insist that the MiG-29 (caught on the UAVs video camera) was actually a NATO MiG-29 (several new East European NATO members have them) that was secretly operating out of Georgia. Russia is not happy with Georgian efforts to join NATO (for protection against Russia, which was why NATO was founded in the first place.) It's all very strange by Western standards, but rather familiar to the Russians and Georgians.

In neighboring Chechnya, the gangs are more restless this year, with several clashes or bombings a month. The Chechen factions that control the government are fighting each other more often, and the Russians are trying to convince the pro-Russian Chechens to cool it.

In the last year, Russian long-range reconnaissance aircraft have come close enough to British air space, to cause British interceptors to be launched 21 times. U.S. and Canadian interceptors went up to face Russian recon aircraft 16 times last year.

Increased espionage activity between the U.S. and Russia (and its satellite Belarus) has led to dozens of diplomats from all three countries being expelled recently. The U.S. began it all earlier in the year by expelling some Russian diplomats for spying. Then Belarus got upset about U.S. diplomats possibly aiding pro-democracy activists in Belarus. It all has a rather Cold War flavor to it.

Russia is still the ramshackle house-of-cards superpower it was when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. At that point, a decade of reform efforts by KGB (secret police) leaders had accomplished nothing. The KGB were always the most knowledgeable people in Russia, and noted the economic mess Russia was in as early as the 1970s. But the corrupt communist politicians that were running the place were not interested in shaking things up. After Stalins purges and World War II's horrors (which together killed about a third of the population over 25 years), these guys just wanted to relax and enjoy themselves. Corruption and complacency are still popular, and the secret policemen are still trying to make things right. And they are still having a problem getting enough Russians to pay attention.


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