Russia: Not Fade Away



January 9, 2008: The aircraft carrier Kuznetzov, and escorts, have entered the Mediterranean and are conducting training exercises. It's been two decades since so much Russian naval power has been seen in this part of the world. But most of the additional money being spent on Russian military forces, is going to the strategic nuclear forces. This is what makes Russia a military superpower, at least in terms of being able to destroy the world. Russia still has over a thousand nuclear warheads that it can deliver with varying degrees of reliability and accuracy.

January 8, 2008: The war against Islamic terrorism continues to spread in the regions adjacent to Chechnya (where the locals are fed up with the Islamic radicals, and are quite hostile to them). The Chechen terrorists have fled to neighboring areas, where they have joined with local Islamic radicals to continue the effort to establish an Islamic religious dictatorship in the Caucasus. This is causing an increase in violence in places like Dagestan. But the police are getting a lot of help from citizens horrified at the prospect of undergoing the kind of violence Chechnya has endured for over a decade. But the Islamic militants are able to exploit ethnic, as well as religious, differences in order to keep their terror campaign going.

January 1, 2008: The population of Russia continues to decline. It went down 200,000 last year, to 142 million. At this rate, it will be under 100 million by 2050. To avoid that, the government is offering additional maternity and child support benefits. But the biggest incentive to increase the birth rate is prosperity. Income increased ten percent last year, and the proportion of the population living in poverty dropped to 15 percent. The growing middle class is beginning to have more children, and live healthier lives. The biggest problem has been is premature death, largely from alcoholism, drug addiction and poor habits in general. Last year, there were more deaths than births. But the number of immigrants was up 87 percent. Most of these are ethnic Russians returning from neighboring countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. Especially in Central Asia, these nations are growing more chaotic, less prosperous and increasingly hostile to the Slavic settlers who have been living among them for a century or more. An increasing number of non-Russian migrants are coming in from these neighboring areas, but they are less welcome. Meanwhile, if the government can keep the economic growth going for another decade or so, demographers see a resumption of population growth.

December 25, 2007: Three GLONAS navigation satellites were put into orbit, completing the array that can now compete with the GPS satellite system. Russian manufacturers are already selling navigation devices that have receivers for both GPS and GLONAS. This improves accuracy and reliability, because the receiver has more satellites to get signals from.

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