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.