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Russia: Chasing the F-22
   
December 18, 2006:  The Russian Air Force is accepting its first two Su-34 jet fighter-bombers this week. Russia is not happy that the U.S. has put dozens of F-22 fighters into service, and Russia has nothing of comparable capabilities. The Su34 is a 44 ton variant of the Su-27 that is roughly equal to the U.S. 36 ton F-15E fighter-bomber. Both aircraft are equipped to deliver the latest smart bombs and precision missiles. A Russian answer to the F-22 is perhaps a decade away, and the Russians are expected to make a major espionage effort to steal the F-22s technical secrets. Otherwise, it would cost billions of dollars to develop the high-tech features that make the F-22 such a superior combat aircraft.

December 16, 2006:  Over two thousand anti-government demonstrators showed up in Moscow, and  were met by an even larger number of police. The demonstration was against the growing police state atmosphere in the country. But the majority of Russians are content with the greater government control, and the increasing levels of "order." Russians hate chaos.  

December 14, 2006:  The case of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London last month of radiation poisoning, gets stranger and stranger. Police, using radiation detection equipment to track the presence of the poison, polonium 210, are finding more people in Germany and Russia who have been exposed to high doses of this stuff. The current thinking is that the death of  Litvinenko was not the result of the FSB silencing a defector, but gangsters hired to kill    Litvinenko for digging up (as part of a lucrative assignment) dirt on a wealthy Russian businessman. Such a death is still common in Russia, and would go unnoticed. But pulling off stuff like this in Western Europe, especially Britain, is another matter. In the last few years, some 200,000 Russians have sought refuge in Britain, to escape the growing police state atmosphere in Russia. The death of  Litvinenko sends a message to that exile community.  

December 13, 2006:  Russia is taking advantage of inexpensive Internet tools to automate many areas of the economy. especially infrastructure. That means energy and transportation systems are vulnerable to hacker attack. As a result of this, the government is taking Internet crime more seriously, as the Internet criminals are developing the capability to attack nation-wide economic targets. The police do not see criminals willingly working for terrorists, but hacking into gas pipeline control systems, for something like an extortion attack, is seen as possible. Moreover, many major political gangs are run by Chechens. These gangsters are not particularly political, but they do provide a possible point of access for Chechen terrorists seeking access to powerful Internet hacking tools. 

December 12, 2006:  The government is forcing foreign oil companies to give back some of the ownership in gas and oil fields, from deals made in the 1990s when Russia needed foreign investment to develop these projects. Renegotiating deals like this is costing the foreign companies a lot of money, and makes Russia's customers for natural gas nervous. Russia has already used the threat of cutting off energy supplies to coerce neighbors like Ukraine and Georgia. Russia says it would never do this to Western Europe, but an increasing number of Western Europeans are not so sure.


  
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