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Russia: The Old Ways Are The Nastiest
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April 25, 2007: While most Russians appreciate the decline in crime and corruption over the past few years, older people are noting that the methods used are similar to those employed during the Soviet period. For example, political demonstrations, both indoors and out, are strictly regulated. In effect, they are discouraged. The government now controls most of the radio and television stations, and has issued restrictive rules on what can be reported, and how. Many younger Russians believe this is the way things operate in the West, or at least in Western Europe. That's a bit cynical, but not far off the mark for many countries. What does bring the youngsters up short are the government attempts to regulate what is said on the Internet. That does hit a little close to home for the kids.

April 23, 2007: The U.S. offered to cooperate with Russia on ballistic missile defense, in order to overcome Russian objections to American missile defenses being built in eastern Europe (to defend against Iranian and North Korean missiles.) Russia refused, but the U.S. is coming back with more goodies (technology, shared communications and data). Russia is uptight about the East European efforts because many Russians still resent losing the Cold War, and no longer being considered a superpower. That's a wound that is difficult to heal.

April 21, 2007: After reaching $6.5 billion last year, Russian arms exports look like they will be up fifteen percent, to $7.5 billion for this year. Russia is becoming the arms seller of choice for those looking for the best price, or a source that is not bothered by bad press.

April 19, 2007: Russia and Georgia are still at odds over Russian support for Georgian separatists. Georgia believes Russia is doing this to maintain some control over the Georgian government. Most Russians, at least unofficially, are inclined to agree. Russia is using this approach with many of its neighbors, in a continuation of practices that are centuries old.

April 12, 2007: Police in Azerbaijan arrested eleven men suspected of being Islamic terrorists. The men had ties to Islamic terrorists in Chechnya. The eleven men were followers of the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam. Wahhabis are showing up all over the region, thanks to decades of missionary efforts paid for by Saudi Arabia (where Wahhabism originated in the 18th century.)April 10, 2007: The government controls who gets appointed to be the paid imam (prayer leader and administrator) of mosques throughout the country. Taking these jobs is becoming dangerous, for there are a growing number of more radical Moslems, who resent moderates running all the mosques.

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