July 31, 2009: Representatives of the Chechen government, and the main rebel group, have been meeting in Norway, to try and negotiate a peace deal. Chechnya has been in Chaos since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. No clan, warlord or religious faction was strong enough to rule the entire province, and all was chaos. The Russian bureaucrats left as well. A decade ago, the Russians returned (because the crime, and growing Islamic radicalism in Chechnya was spilling over into southern Russia) and put Chechnya under Russian control again. The Russians selected the most powerful warlord and put him in charge. This was a traditional Russian method for running Chechnya. But there were still factions in the province that wanted a better deal, and the violence has continued, although at a lower level.
The Russian military has replaced the cigarettes, that are included with combat rations, with candy. The military does not forbid smoking, but is trying to discourage it.
Although Russia threatened to impose economic sanctions (if it could) on any nation that supplied Georgia with weapons, it has ignored the fact that Ukraine is still, quite openly, selling weapons to Georgia. Russia wants Georgia to disarm and become more subservient to Russian foreign policy needs. The Georgians are seeking aid and protection from the United States, which further annoys Russia.
July 26, 2009: In Chechnya, a suicide bomber killed himself, four policemen and two civilians.
July 23, 2009: The man in charge of developing the Bulava SLBM, Yury Solomonov, has resigned from his post. Solomonov was also in charge of developing the successful solid fuel Topol-M ICBM. Eleven years ago, Russia gave up on another project to develop a replacement for the liquid fuel Sineva SLBM. Solomonov proposed modifying the Topol M for SSBN use. He tried, he failed, and now the navy is stuck. In theory, the Bulava should work, and a new development team is being assembled to make it so, or at least try to. A new class of Borei SSBNs are under construction, and if the Bulava cannot be made to work, these new boats (one in service, two more building) will have to be modified to use the older R-29R Sineva SLBM. Many of the best scientists and engineers have left weapons research, for better paying civilian enterprises, since the Soviet Union collapsed (and went bankrupt) in 1991. The Bulava mess is just one example of how that worked out.
July 22, 2009: The sea trials for a new Akula II submarine are finally nearing completion, and the boat is on schedule to be turned over to India (which is leasing it) by the end of the year. When sea trials began last fall, there was an equipment failure that killed 20 sailors and shipyard workers. This delayed sea trails many months.
July 19, 2009: In Chechnya, a rebel and a senior police commander were killed.
July 16, 2009: Russia successfully tested two of its Sineva storable liquid fuel SLBMs (sea launched ballistic missile) used by its Delta SSBNs (nuclear powered missile subs). These late Cold War systems are the only operational sea based strategic weapons Russia has, and only eight of the Deltas are in any shape to go to sea. There are also shortages of skilled crew. Attempts to design a new solid fuel SLBM have failed, for over a decade.
July 15, 2009: A Russian investigative reporter, Natalia Estemirova, was found dead in Ingushetia. She had been kidnapped in neighboring Chechnya the day before. Estemirova has publicized corruption in the security forces, and had been warned to stop it, or get killed. Other reporters have met a similar fate. A new generation of Russian reporters, inspired by colleagues in the West (where you are much less likely to be murdered for exposing corrupt cops) have gone after bad cops in places like the Caucasus. This part of the world has had corrupt (by Western standards) government for centuries, with death squads used to get rid of those who threaten the system. So far, the crusading reporters are not making much progress in changing that system.
Another test of the solid fuel Bulava SLBM failed. That makes 6 of 11 tests failures.
July 14, 2009: In Chechnya, five rebels and three policemen were killed.
July 12, 2009: Crime in the armed forces has been tracked for over a decade now, and it keeps getting worse. So far this year, 287 officers (including one general) have been accused of crimes. While much of the crime involves sale of government property, the most common source of corruption is among officers responsible for inducting conscripts. Parents are eager to pay bribes to keep their kids out of the military. Not even elite units are immune, as some paratrooper officers were involved in accepting faulty parachutes (for heavy equipment, not troops.)
In Chechnya, four rebels were killed near the Ingushetia border.
July 11, 2009: In Chechnya, a policeman and eight rebels were killed over the weekend.
Kyrgyzstan has granted permission for the opening of a second base in the south of the country. Russia extended the Kyrgyzstan government $2 billion in credit to get this base approved. Much of that loan will probably not be repaid.