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Russia: Glory Days
   Next Article → WEAPONS: False Hopes
May 20, 2009:  Russians, and their government, see themselves as being surrounded by NATO, which intent on keeping Russia weak and vulnerable. Russian scientists issued a report that the U.S. anti-missile system being built in Poland and the Czech Republic, to protect Europe against Iranian missile threats, will not work. Russians believe that the anti-missile system is there to prevent Russian missiles from threatening Europe. This is seen as weakening Russia, and thus is considered a form of aggression. This is how the Russians see the world, and the world has cope with that mentality.

Russia and the United States have begun negotiations to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires this December. The treaty limits the number of nuclear weapons each nation has. This is beneficial to both nations, as during the Cold War, both nations built far more nuclear weapons than were needed for defense. These weapons are expensive to maintain, and many are becoming useless because of old age. But taking nuclear weapons out of service (even ones that don't work anymore) and destroying them, hurts national pride in Russia (and to a lesser extent in the U.S.). The negotiations are likely to be rough.

The violence in the Caucasus continues, despite Russia declaring that Chechnya has pacified its nationalist and Islamic terrorists, and that the violence was never as great in other parts of Russian controlled northern Caucasus. The problem is that no one in the region likes Russia, and more than a dozen ethnic groups living there don't get along well either. Corrupt local governments add to the unrest, which is expected to continue indefinitely.

Russia is not happy about two of their diplomats getting expelled from Estonia, for spying on NATO operations there. Russia responded by expelling two Canadian diplomats.

May 15, 2009: Russia has told India that the Akula class nuclear sub that India is leasing, will be delivered by the end of the year. The sub was completed last year, but during sea trials, a flaw in a safety system killed twenty people on board. Thus for the last six months, the sub has been in the ship yard, getting all safety systems examined and modified, as needed.

May 9, 2009: Russia celebrated its victory over Germany in World War II. This is a really big deal in Russia, where most of the population backs a proposed law to ban criticism of how the communist government ran the country during World War II. Historians are now reporting long-suppressed mistakes, and screw-ups in general, committed by the communist rulers during World War II. This is embarrassing to the current government, and most Russians, who see the Soviet period (1920s to the 1980s) are a sort of "good old days." The proposed law would forbid discussion of any of the bad aspects of that period, or at least the years just before, during and after World War II. That was a sacred time, in which the nation had 18 percent of its population killed. It will take another generation or two before the shock effect of that wears off.

May 6, 2009: Several thousand NATO and Georgian troops began four weeks of joint exercises. This is part of a four year effort by Georgia to join NATO.

May 5, 2009:  The commander of a Georgia tank battalion attempted to lead a coup against the government. The attempt quickly failed, and the Georgian government accused Russia of instigating the coup attempt. But there has been much unrest in Georgia over the cause of the war with Russia last year, and how the Georgian leadership handled things. Many Georgians want the government held responsible for the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But the government insists that it's Russian aggression and there's not much anyone can do about it. Meanwhile, the people in South Ossetia, where hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged by the fighting, are complaining that local (pro-Russian) officials have stolen most of the reconstruction money Russia sent.

April 30, 2009:  Russia took over border security in South Ossetia (population 50,000) and  Abkhazia (population 200,000). These two ethnic separatist areas have declared themselves now part of Russia. Georgia has a population of 4.6 million, and a hostile  relationship (going back centuries) with Russia. Now Georgia has to live with the fact that Russia annexed six percent of its population and territory, and no one can do anything about it. This will annoy the UN, as Russia will have, in effect, taken two provinces from neighboring Georgia, and gotten away with it. Russia has been doing this sort of thing for centuries, and considers it necessary to its national defense, and perfectly all right. This plays well inside Russia, not so well elsewhere.

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