Russia: The Rot Continues

November 27, 2007: Although Russia has announced ambitious military construction and rebuilding programs, when you do the math, you realize that the Russian military is still in decline. For example, Russia's aging ICBM force, which has gotten little money in the last decade, is still wasting away. This despite some new missile construction. Over the next decade, Russia's ICBM forces will decline from nearly 700, to under 200. Similar declines are underway for ground, naval and air forces. Aiding this collapse is the continuing corruption, particularly when it comes to procurement. All the stealing means that the military pays more than it should, for less than it is supposed to get. This is one reason for increasingly hostile diplomacy in response to NATO forces on Russia's borders. After three ruinous invasions in the past two centuries, such paranoia ("of course NATO is planning to invade us") has become acceptable in Russia. The decline in Russian ICBM forces is one reason Russia is so opposed to the anti-missile system the U.S. is building in Eastern Europe (to protect Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles.)

November 26, 2007: Public protests in the capital, against new government regulations that make it more difficult to form effective opposition parties, were broken up by police. Opposition leaders were arrested.

November 22, 2007: In southern Russia, near the Caucasus, a bus was apparently hit by a roadside bomb, killing five civilians and wounding a dozen. There's a lot less terrorist violence in the Caucasus, but there are still several hundred Islamic terrorists in the region.

November 19, 2007: An agreement has been reached with the U.S., to ensure that less weapons grade plutonium is produced in Russia, and that 34 tons of existing plutonium is processed into power plant fuel (that cannot be used for weapons.)

November 15, 2007: Not all Russian are gone from Georgia, as contingents still remain in the breakaway districts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia is not happy with this.

November 13, 2007: Diplomats from Russia and India hustled to come up with more public signs of mutual cooperation. This is needed to counteract the increasing acrimony from arms deals gone bad. India is getting stiffed by the Russians on several major deals (a converted aircraft carrier, air transports for AWACS, fighter aircraft upgrades and maintenance, etc), that make more headlines in India than in Russia. But other foreign firms are getting more attention in India, and many key arms export markets the Russians now dominate, appear at risk.

November 11, 2007: Russian arms exporters expect to increase sales to Venezuela, from the current $4 billion, to over $10 billion.

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