Russia: The Losers Lament

September 30, 2007: The September 6 Israeli air raid in Syria has been a major setback for Russian arms sales. The Syrians had invested heavily in new Russian air defense systems, and the Israelis apparently brushed right by them. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russians have been trying to rehabilitate the reputation of their weapons. Throughout the Cold War, whenever Russian and Western (especially American) weapons met on the battlefield, the Russians lost. The Soviets tried to compete on price, but even "free" was not low enough for many countries. Using Soviet weapons came to be seen as a sure ticket to battlefield defeat. In the 1990s, Russia upgraded its manufacturing capabilities, and its weapons designs. Much Western technology was imported. By the late 1990s, sales were climbing. OK, the Iraqis went down real quick in 2003, but they didn't have any of the new stuff, nor did the Taliban in 2001. Sales continued to climb, until now. Russias arms customers are asking for answers, but so far the Syrian incident is being dismissed as nothing to worry about. The Russians believe that most of their customers have little choice. That may be true of China and Iran, but India is increasingly looking West for modern arms. And so are many other smaller customers. This even extends to commercial products. Sukhoi, which makes the Su-27/30, recently rolled out the first new Russian airliner since 1991. The "Superjet" is a 95 seat transport competing with the Boeing 727. It has only a dozen foreign orders. The "Syrian Incident" may prove to be not-so-minor after all.

September 29, 2007: The anti-corruption campaign is having a hard time. There are still many gangs for hire, that will murder and intimidate businessmen and government officials, who refuse to go along with scams. The sheer number of these gangs, and the huge market for their services, makes them difficult to stamp out. Many of these gangsters have done favors for the secret police (formerly KGB, now FSB), and this gives them a degree of immunity.

September 26, 2007: Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is facing renewed violence from two separatist groups who control part of the country with Russian help. Georgia claims they killed a Russian officer in a recent clash with the separatists.

September 21, 2007: In the south, police cornered and killed Rappani Khalilov, who was the leader of Islamic terrorists in Dagestan. Many Islamic terrorists from neighboring Chechnya have fled to Dagestan, to escape the Chechen led, but pro-Russian, government in Chechnya. Khalilov was the most wanted terrorist in southern Russia. Islamic radicals have become a powerful force in the Caucasus, especially in placed like Dagestan. There, the Islamic terrorists have been intimidating, and murdering, more moderate religious leaders. By controlling the mosques, the Islamic radicals secure themselves bases for support and recruiting.

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