October 10, 2007: The anti-corruption campaign is upsetting
former KGB officials who now run many of the security services. The arrest of
five officers of the anti-drug police raised cries of protest from former KGB
men who now run most of the government.
While former KGB men occupy many key positions in the government, the
entire operations is largely run by a new generation of businessmen and
technocrats, who quickly got up to speed on modern management techniques, and
how to function in a market economy, back in the 1990s. The "businessmen"
and "secret policemen" agree on one thing, Russia must have its
economy modernized and made competitive in world markets. For too long, Russia
has survived by exporting raw materials (like oil) and subsidized substandard
industries that sold to a captive audience. The collapse of the Soviet Union
ended that, and the sharp increase in oil and gas prices has brought in a flood
of cash. Unlike many Third World nations awash in oil money, Russia has been
investing in its economy. But it still has a problem with its shrinking
population. The birth rate is declining (although less slowly of late) and life
expectancy dwindling (although that is slowing down as well). Population is
being maintained by allowing in ethnic Russians, and others, from former parts
of the Soviet Union, as well as Chinese in the
far east. Russians also want to be a super power once more, forgetting
that their vast arsenal of nuclear weapons assures them of that status, despite
the fact that 80 percent of the Soviet era armed forces have disappeared.
October 8, 2007: In the Caucasus, the continuing violence in
Ingushetia and Dagestan, both neighbors of Chechnya, are more the result of
long standing ethnic feuds, and competing criminal gangs, than of Islamic terrorists.
The violence is not as bad as it was ten years ago in Chechnya, but is harder
to stamp out. It's more an anti-crime campaign, than a counter-terrorism one.
October 5, 2007: The
Warsaw Pact has been revived, sort of. Throughout the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact
(the Soviet Union and the East European communist states) were lined up against
NATO. That ended in 1990. Now Russia has arranged a treaty of cooperation
between the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). This
joins Russia, China, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus.
In other words, most of the components of the former Soviet Union, plus
As a practical matter,
the treaty doesn't amount to much. It's mainly about military cooperation, in
the form of exchanging information and making it easier for Russian defense
firms to sell weapons to member states. Most of the members were parts of the
Soviet union that were heavily subsidized by Russia. Now, Russia is offering
gifts in return for some token allegiance, and help in security matters. Same
deal with China. While China is still a communist police state, it recognizes
that the Russian democracy has turned into an oligarchy, with Vladimir Putin
maneuvering himself into the position of president for life, or at least for as
long as he can hold on to power.
CSTO (Collective Security
Treaty Organization) was formed in the 1990s, mainly to foster economic
cooperation between components of the former Soviet Union. The SCO (Shanghai
Cooperation Organization), a regional
security forum founded in Shanghai in 2001 by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and China. The main purpose of the SCO was
fighting Islamic terrorism.