Russia: The Good Old Days
August 22, 2006: Russia has paid off all of its Cold War era debts to Western nations. The Soviet Union had incurred huge debts during the final decade of the Cold War, in a desperate effort to keep their command economy, and police state, afloat. But better government, a booming economy and rising price for oil has enabled Russia to pay off $40 billion this year alone, and much more in the last few years. Paying off all this debt now will save over a billion dollars a year in interest charges, and is seen as a good investment, which it is.
August 21, 2006: A bomb blast in a Moscow market left ten dead, and over 40 wounded. Most of the casualties were not Russian, and police believe the attack was not the work of terrorists, but criminals fighting each other.
August 20, 2006: Israeli government officials arrived to lay out detailed complaints about the many Russian weapons, and items of military equipment, in use by Hizbollah in Lebanon. Israel wants to know how Hizbollah got this stuff. Russia denies supplying Hizbollah, but Israel has ample evidence that Hizbollah used lots of Russian made gear.
August 19, 2006: Another Chechen terrorist leader has surrendered. So far, some 124 major Chechen terrorists have accepted amnesty and surrendered. However, many of the terrorist gangs are also involved in criminal scams, and some are apparently concentrating on money-making schemes for the moment, and cutting back on the religious and political terrorism.
August 11, 2006: Despite the return of police state methods in Russia, there is also growing anti-Americanism. The United States is blamed for economic, diplomatic and political problems. Part of this is just convenience. Blame the biggest potential culprit. Part of it is cultural differences. Many Russians do prefer a "strong leader" (what Americans would call a dictator.) Many Russians are also nostalgic for the Soviet Union. Nostalgia tends to downplay the negative (police state oppression and poverty) and play up the positive (Russia was a superpower and got some respect.)