October 28, 2009: Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan recently held joint counter-terrorism exercises. These involved commando and hostage-rescue troops carrying out various simulated situations. The nations involved belong to the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), a replacement for the Soviet era Warsaw Pact, that gave the non-Russian nations protection (from internal and external enemies), in return for toadying to Russia.
Russia continues to have diplomatic problems, because of disagreements over how to interpret the actions of the communist police state that ran the Soviet Union (Russia and fourteen of its current neighbors) and coerced many other neighbors for 70 years (1921-91). Many Russians have rosy visions of the Soviet past. One reason this is possible is that most of the Soviet atrocities (killing over 30 million people), took place before 1953 (the year Josef Stalin died). From 1953-1991, the Soviet Union was at peace, as it slowly fell apart economically and socially. But the Soviet Union was also a superpower, and many Russians really miss that. These same Russians tend to ignore that the superpower status (largest armed forces in the world) was achieved by impoverishing most Soviet subjects. Russian politicians blame "foreign influence" for many of Russia's problems. This is always a popular theme in Russia, especially since the Soviet Union usually blamed "foreign agents" for anything that went wrong. Thus seven decades of anti-foreigner propaganda still resonates throughout Russia, and opportunistic politicians can't resist taking advantage of it. But knowledge of the ugly truths of the Soviet period is no longer forbidden. Books and videos are available, and there's much more Russian language material available on the Internet. But the study of these aspects of Russian history is not widely popular. Most Russians know it happened, and know it was bad, but would rather not reflect on it. It's much easier to swallow the "foreign conspiracy" line.
Russia and China are negotiating a settlement over the Kalashnikov assault rifles (who owns what designs and who should be paid royalties). Russia believes there are about 100 million Kalashnikov rifles in existence (most of them AK-47s and variations), and that half of them are illegal copies. China is responsible for the largest number of illegal copies. Russia and China have made peace over decades of Chinese theft of Russian military designs. The two nations are making joint development deals, to create advanced versions of old Russian equipment designs.
The government is openly critical of Russian defense companies. These firms are the survivors of the collapse of the Soviet economy in the 1990s, during which the Russian military budget was cut by over two-thirds. It got worse. The government believes that about a third of the military budget is lost to corruption. Like civilian bureaucrats, those in the military tend to demand bribes to do anything. This includes some promotions, and taking care of basic functions like building housing or providing food and fuel.
But what bothers the government most is the flaws in Russian high tech weapons. Jet engines and electronics end up having serious flaws revealed when they are sold to foreigners, or the Russian armed forces. Weapons that look better on paper than in reality, is an old problem with Russian equipment. It's been worse since the 1990s because most of the expensive, high tech, weapons have been exported. This seemed to inspire Russian manufacturers to tighten up on quality control. While things got better, they did not get better enough as foreign customers began to notice that more expensive Western weapons were more reliable and, apparently, a lot more effective. So senior government officials are leaning on defense industry executives, in the hope that this kind of pressure will produce positive results. That's not a sure thing, as an old Russian tradition (the "Potemkin Village") encourages deception rather than decisive action.
October 26, 2009: In Dagestan, a police commander was killed by gunmen who attacked him at home. In neighboring Chechnya, two Islamic terrorists were killed.
October 17, 2009: A Russian court has sentenced a Serbian man (Aleksandar Georgijevic) to eight years in prison for passing on Russian military secrets to an American. This took place in the late 1990s, and the government would not explain why a Serb had access to Russian military secrets. The government did reveal that Georgijevic was arrested two years ago, as he sought to fly out of the country. Georgijevic was arrested because his name was on a watch list.
October 16, 2009: In Ingushetia, police killed four Islamic terrorists who were trapped in a house and refused to surrender. Ingushetia continues to be a mess. The government is corrupt, and uses terror to deal with clean-government advocates, as well as Islamic terrorists and armed opponents to the nasty characters appointed by the national government to run the province. It's the wild west with automatic weapons and roadside bombs. However, the Caucasus has always been like that. But many locals are nostalgic for the last few decades of the Soviet period (1921-91) when a combination of police state terror and political compromises created a period of peace and stagnation.