April 10, 2009: A report recently issued in the U.S., accused Russia and China of hacking into the Internet based control systems for many American electrical, water and other utilities. Russia and China have denied any government participation. They have a case, as the software found secretly inserted into utility company networks appears to be the same stuff that Russian and Chinese Internet gangsters have been planting all over the place, including Russia and China. Those two countries have been accused of tolerating these gangs, in return for help in delivering Internet based attacks on foreign foes (most notably Georgia, Estonia and the Dali Lama), and helping with espionage efforts. But more of these gangsters are also plundering Russian and Chinese computer users, giving the U.S., Russia and China more incentive to work together to eliminate sanctuaries for the Internet gangsters.
Russia has come to agree with American estimates of how quickly Iran is progressing in its efforts to build nuclear weapons. Russia is now willing to allow more severe sanctions against Iran.
April 9, 2009: Over 50,000 demonstrators in Georgia called for a new government, believing the current one responsible for last Summer's disastrous war with Russia, and bungled reconstruction efforts in the aftermath. The Georgian government blames the demonstrations on Russian agents.
April 8, 2009: The Russian space agency has officially ordered a new generation of spacecraft to replace the current Soyuz vehicle designs, that have been the in use since the 1960s.
April 7, 2009: Thousands of Moldovans held demonstrations protesting the recent victory of the local, pro-Russian, Communist Party. Moldova is a tiny (population 4 million) country, created in the 1990s, along the Ukraine-Romanian border, that is split between pro-Romanian and pro-Russian factions (who have split away a sliver of the eastern part of the country to form pro-Russian Transdnistria). The 30,000 rioters want union with Romania, while Russia wants to keep Moldova independent and pro-Russian. .
April 6, 2009: After announcing that they believed North Korea had put a satellite into orbit, Russian space reconnaissance officials changed their stance and agreed with their American counterparts that the North Korean missile launch yesterday did not put a satellite into orbit. Both Russia and the United States have elaborate satellite monitoring operations, which use radars and telescopes to spot and track low orbit satellites. Given the fact U.S. spy satellites were watching North Korea when the alleged satellite launch took place, it is difficult to believe that North Korea slipped a bird into orbit without Russian or U.S. observers noticing (not to mention thousands of amateur satellite observers, using telescopes, calculations and Internet based cooperation, to track things up there.)
April 5, 2009: In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), police accused the pro-Russian government of Chechnya of being responsible for the murder of Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev in the UAE last week. His brother as murdered in Moscow last September. This all goes back to a clan feud in Chechnya. The feud between pro-Russian Chechen clans was settled late last year in favor of the guy running the province (technically a republic within the Russian confederation). Akhmad Kadyrov, is a religious, as well as a clan, leader and was elected president of the Republic in 2003. He was assinated in 2004, and succeeded by his son, Ramzan. Kadyrov was able to shut down most of the separatist and religious violence, but was not able to pacify all the clans and rebellious individuals. The Russians anticipated that, and the army recruited “contract soldiers” from the other pro-Russian clans (that felt screwed by the Kadyrov monopoly on government goodies). The army took these men, who were paid about three times what a policeman got, plus bonuses for special jobs (including some tasks that could be called war crimes), and formed them into the Zapad (West) and Vostok (East) battalions. The Vostok battalion was a particular problem because that outfit was run by the Yamadaev brothers, and the Yamadaevs were bitter enemies of the Kadyrovs. Local army commanders backed the Yamadaevs, while government officials back in Moscow backed the Kadyrovs. As expected, the government eventually ordered the Vostok battalion disbanded, and some kind of deal made to prevent the battalion leaders from becoming rebels. The Yamadaevs did not take this well, and soon had to flee Chechnya to escape assassins. Going to the Persian Gulf was not unusual. Many Chechen gangsters operate out of the Persian Gulf, and Chechens have been working down there, as mercenaries and entrepreneurs, for over a thousand years. The UAE police know quite a lot about Chechens in the area, and arrested several locals and Russians for involvement in the Yamadaev murder. Elsewhere in Europe, two other opponents of the current Chechen government have been murdered. The Russian government tries to ignore this, hoping it will go away. Chechen politics, and Caucasus politics in general, has always been a little on the rough side, even by Russian standards.
April 1, 2009: The U.S. and Russia have agreed to resume disarmament negotiations, with the goal of reducing each others nuclear weapons arsenal to 1,700 warheads. The current reduction goal, stipulated in a 2002 treaty, is 2,200 warheads. It costs several hundred thousand dollars per warhead per year for maintenance, security and other expenses. So taking warheads out of service, and recycling their nuclear material as power plant fuel, can save lots of money. Currently, Russia has 4,100 warheads in service, and the U.S. has nearly 6,000.
Croatia and Albania joined NATO. This expansion of NATO in eastern Europe has long annoyed Russia, but the new arms reduction negotiations will, it is hoped, reduce some of the post-Cold War Russian paranoia about NATO expansion. The Russians just cannot accept the fact that these new NATO members are seeking protection from future Russian aggression. Russians see themselves as benefactors to their neighbors, while the neighbors see Russia as a cruel bully. Russians have a hard time dealing with how their neighbors really feel.
March 29, 2009: A new pipeline in the east will soon be supplying China with four percent of its oil needs. China lent Russia $25 billion to build the pipelines to eastern Asia, and Russia sees this new arrangement as a way to help keep the peace with China (which has ancient claims on most of eastern Russia.)