Russia: A Very Public Spectacle

January 3, 2010: The government is calling for more money to be spent on developing new ICBMs. This is because the Russian fear of American technology takes it as fact that U.S. anti-missile defenses will, otherwise, eventually render Russian missiles useless. While this is ability is not generally accepted in the West, in Russia there are many who believe that the Americans are out to neutralize Russian ICBMs, thus eliminating the only leverage Russia has to stop America from "doing whatever it wants." But it's difficult getting more money for new missiles, when the rest of the armed forces are falling apart because Cold War era, non-nuclear, weapons have to be replaced. Real soon. Or else.

Although the Internet recently implemented the ability to use web site and domain names (like .ru) in alphabets other than the Roman one used in the West, most Russians do not want to be forced, by the government, to only use web site names written in the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most Russian web users believe such a policy is just another step towards the return of the Soviet era police state.

Russian officials, both in Moscow and in the Caucasus, are blaming outside influence (American aid and cash from Moslem countries) for keeping the violence going. This is an interesting response to the real reasons; corruption and bad administration. But it's a typical response. Blame an outsider.

January 1, 2010:  In yet another effort to curb alcoholism, a higher minimum price has been established for vodka, and similar beverages. At the same time, police are cracking down harder on illegal manufacturing and distribution of vodka.

December 31, 2009: In Dagestan, police found and killed a leader in the Islamic terrorism there. Umalat Magomedov was known as the "Emir (military leader) of Dagestan" to his Islamic radical followers. He was killed, along with three of his followers in the gun battle.

December 24, 2009: The government has decided to take some serious steps to root out corruption in the national police (Ministry of the Interior) force. The new proposal is to cut the Ministry of Interior manpower 20 percent. In theory, the cuts would include, for the most part, the corrupt cops and officials. However, the dismissals are not to start until 2012, giving the bad guys time to shoot down this idea, like they had done so many times in the past.

December 23, 2009: The Defense Ministry made it official. The Bulava missile program will proceed no matter what. The 13th test of this new Bulava, submarine launched ballistic missile, failed on December 9th. This makes seven failures, a record that would normally cause a program to be cancelled. But Bulava (a submarine version of the successful Topol M ICBM) is itself a replacement of an earlier failed effort to develop a new SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) for the new Borei class subs. These ballistic missile nuclear subs (SSBN, or “boomers”) will replace the current Delta IV class SSBNs. The Delta IVs are getting old, and have only about a decade of useful service left. But The new Borei SSBNs are useless without a new SLBM. One Borei is in service and two more are under construction. In another decade, there might be six Boreis in service, and apparently the navy is going to get Bulava into service no matter what (as in ignoring a high percentage of missiles likely to fail if used.) This would not be the first time this happened, but in the past, such failure-prone weapons had their defects hidden from the public. Not so with Bulava, whose failure has been a very public spectacle. This sort of thing is eroding the pride, confidence, and nostalgia Russians have had for their Soviet era past. Most of the Soviet era military failures are still state secrets, but people are beginning to understand that the past was not as glorious as they had been taught.

December 19, 2009: Georgia blew up a Soviet era World War II memorial, to make way for a new parliament building. Russia protested. This is part of a trend, where memorials to Russian rule, in nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, are increasingly defaced or destroyed. Russians consider this ungrateful and disrespectful, but the locals want to be rid of symbols of Russian occupation and oppression. Most Russians can't comprehend this attitude, which is a big problem for the non-Russian world.

December 17, 2009: The head of NATO declared that Russia was no longer a threat to the West. But Russia is still a threat to many of the new countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and NATO would like to work out some sort of deal with Russia on how NATO and Russia would cope with things like the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, and the subsequent annexation of Georgian territory by Russia. Russia is not interested.

December 15, 2009: Vietnam has signed the contract to purchase six Kilo class submarines, for $300 million each, from Russia. This is part of a larger package, that includes over a dozen patrol boats, at least two frigates and dozens of aircraft. In effect, Russia is supplying the weapons to modernize Vietnam's armed forces. Until Vietnam enacted market economy reforms in the last two decades, the country was broke. But that has changed, and Russia offered attractive prices. This annoys China, which considers Vietnam part of southern China. But despite centuries of military efforts, the Chinese could never keep Vietnam under control. Now Russia is arming this wayward part of the motherland. China has not made open claims on Vietnam for over a century, but the animosity, and memories, are still there.

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