Russia: The Bad Old Days Return




November 13, 2008: The November 8 submarine accident off the Pacific coast occurred once before, in the 1990s, when a submarine that had been refurbished, had the fire extinguisher system go off in a compartment because shipyard workers had rewired a control panel incorrectly. This sort of sloppiness is all too common, and Russians have long ago learned to live (or die) with it. Things are changing, however, as more and more Russian manufacturers adopt higher international standards for quality control. Otherwise, Russian exports could not compete. Even the military manufacturing industries are slowly moving in this direction. Meanwhile, Russians have this inferiority complex which is often expressed by aggressive behavior. It's nothing new. During the communist period, the bad behavior was hidden by a façade of communist revolutionary rhetoric. But now we're back to where we were a century ago, when the czar was in charge. Go read some of old newspaper stories from back in the day, and you'll find that the Russians are picking up where they left off. The communists came and went, but Russian paranoia and threats prevail.

November 11, 2008:  Off the coast of Somalia, a Russian  and  British frigates cooperated to drive away pirates who were trying to capture a Danish merchant ship. Both warships sent an armed helicopter to the scene, once they received the distress call from the Danish ship.

November 9, 2008: In Chechnya, someone attacked a police station, killing one policeman and wounding two others.

November 8, 2008: Off the Pacific coast, 20 people died when the fire extinguishing system was accidentally set off in the forward compartment of a new Akula II submarine undergoing sea trials. A sailor who survived the incident later admitted he had set off the fire extinguishing system. This process removes most of the oxygen in the compartment, and sailors are trained to reach for breathing masks when this happens. But most of the people in the compartment were civilian shipyard workers and technicians. In addition to the dead (most of them civilians), 21 people were injured.

November 6, 2008: In another paranoid outburst, the government said it was sending five brigades (60 launchers) of Iskander ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad (on the Polish border) to neutralize the American anti-missile system being built there (to protect Europe from Iranian missiles.) Russia insists the anti-missile system is actually there to neutralize Russian missiles that might be used against Europe. Or something like that.

Another terrorist bomb went off in North Ossetia, killing eleven people in a market. A female suicide bomber was involved. No one took responsibility for the attack.

November 5, 2008:  A small bomb (about three pounds of dynamite) went off on railroad tracks on the outskirts of Moscow. There were no injuries and no one took responsibility.

November 4, 2008: In Georgia, the head of the armed forces was replaced, as part of reforms to make the military more effective. Georgia believes that Russia may invade again, and new military leadership is needed to improve Georgian defenses. Russia now defends its invasion of Georgia with the "Rwanda Defense." This doctrine was developed by the UN to justify invading another nation to halt atrocities against civilians. About a hundred civilians died when Georgian troops moved into their province of South Ossetia, which the Russians now say qualifies as genocide, and justifies an invasion of Georgia.

November 1, 2008:  Russia has offered to mediate the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan (both parts of the former Soviet Union). In the early 1990s, Armenia went to war with Azerbaijan to annex an Armenian majority district (Nagorno-Karabakh) that was separated from Armenia by a strip of Azerbaijan territory (populated largely by Azeris). Although Azerbaijan is larger than Armenia, and has oil, the Armenians are better fighters, and the conflict festers, despite a 1994 ceasefire.

October 30, 2008: The Russian president has removed the head of  the south Caucasus province of Ingushetia (which is adjacent to Chechnya). Both provinces are run by corrupt officials, who stay in power by catering to their cronies, and Russia, and screwing everyone else. Russia will tolerate this, as long as the local guy keeps things under control. Murat Zyazikov was not doing that, and is now the former boss of Ingushetia. He was given a new job in Moscow, just in case he is needed again in the future.

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