Russia: Proud And Defenseless


May 22, 2010: Russia has agreed to sell Syria (an Iranian client) MiG-29 fighters and Pantsir self-propelled anti-aircraft systems. Both of these are second-rate, but lucrative, weapons. Sometimes, weapons that are shipped to Syria, end up in Iran.

Russia is putting more pressure on the United States to halt heroin exports from Afghanistan. These are up 13 percent in the last two years, and many Russians believe U.S. troops are not stopping this on purpose. Russia has a big, and growing, drug addiction problem, fueled largely by Afghan  heroin. In reality, the Afghan heroin goes in several directions (west, through Iran to the Persian Gulf and Europe, north through Central Asia towards Russia and West Europe, east through Pakistan, to East Asia and India and south, via sea, to more distant markets). NATO has been putting more pressure on the heroin smuggling routes headed north, into Central Asia, but corruption within Afghanistan and on both sides of the border, and inside Russia, presents the biggest problems to halting heroin flow.

The government has cracked down on Internet users, much more harshly than in neighboring China. Russians setting up informational web sites need a government permit, which is not easy to get. There are so many Internet regulations, that just about any Russian Internet user can be prosecuted, and the government increasingly does this for web users that are saying things the government does not like. The government also cultivates pro-government Internet user groups, who can be directed to attack Internet based critics of the government, or Russia in general.

There is growing public unrest in Ukraine, against the pro-Russia policies of the newly elected government. Russia provided covert support to newly elected president Viktor Yanukovych. To the east, Russia apparently played a key role in the recent change of government (via an uprising) in Kyrgyzstan. The new government there contains a lot of politicians known to be more friendly towards Russia. This is how Russia prefers to deal with neighbors.

May 21, 2010: The U.S. lifted sanctions against three Russian, government owned, weapons export organizations. This appears part of an effort to get Russian to not block the establishment of harsher sanctions against Iran (for developing nuclear weapons.) Russia considers Iran a major market for Russian weapons and industrial equipment. Russia also doesn't want Iran to have nukes, but does not want to lose the arms sales (needed to keep ailing Russian arms industries alive.) The proposed UN sanctions against Iran would make all Russian arms sales to Iran illegal.

May 18, 2010: In Dagestan, two police commanders were ambushed and killed. In neighboring Chechnya, a policeman died while trying to disable a bomb.

May 15, 2010: An opinion survey revealed that 55 percent of Russians believe bribery is the best way to deal with government bureaucrats. Only ten percent of the population believed that only criminals and cheats resorted to these bribes. International surveys of corruption place Russia as 146 out of 180 nations (in the 25 percent most corrupt nations on the planet.)

May 14, 2010:  A former commander of the Russian Air Force went public with what many people already believed, that Russian military technology was 25-30 years behind the United States, and falling farther behind. The retired general claimed that this backwardness rendered Russian air defenses largely incapable of stopping a Western air attack.

May 13, 2010: In Dagestan, eight members of a repair crew, travelling to fix a remote communications site that was damaged by terrorists the night before, were killed by a bomb and gunfire. The victims had a police escort, and the police were still exchanging fire with the terrorists several months later.

May 9, 2010: The annual World War II victory day parade in Moscow was bigger than it has been since the Cold War, and featured many weapons (armored vehicles, missiles, warplanes overhead). Over 10,000 troops marched in Moscow (with over 100,000 nationwide in over 70 major parades). The Moscow parade included, for the first time, contingents from World War II allies America, Britain and France.

In Dagestan, a suicide car bomb went off a hundred meters from a military check point, as it tried to flee from police. It is believed that the car bomb was meant for a nearby military base. Only the bomber died, apparently to avoid capture. In neighboring Chechnya, a bomber was shot dead before he could trigger his bomb.

May 8, 2010: Last night, an explosion in a Dagestan railroad station left one dead and eight wounded.


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