December 5, 2010: Russian leaders admit they have not been able to eliminate the terrorism coming out of the Caucasus. Although police made arrests after nearly all terror attacks in the last year, there seems to be an endless supply of unemployed, angry and motivated men in the Caucasus willing to continue the violence. Most of the violence is in the Caucasus, but some attacks have occurred in other parts of Russia. So far this year, 61 major counter-terror operations have been carried out in the Caucasus, still a major battleground for Russian anti-terror forces. There have been 4,500 armed clashes, most resulting in just gunfire and terrorists escaping into the woods. But 332 of the outlaw gunmen were killed, and 453 arrested. The Russians have also concentrated on the enemy leadership, and claim to have killed 32 and arrested seven of the terror gang leaders. In addition, 90 terrorist bases and 274 arms caches were found and destroyed.
The terrorists fight back by finding out who the key intelligence and counter-terrorism operatives are, and trying to kill them any way they can. This makes service in the Caucasus very dangerous. But it's been this way for centuries, and the Russians consider it a challenge. What's keeping the current violence going this time is the religious angle, the idea of establishing an Islamic State in the Caucasus. This brings in additional personnel, and money, from the Middle East. So much so that the leaders of these Russian Islamic terror groups are considering switching from Russian to Arabic as their operating language. This would help the Russians, as few of the Caucasus rebels speak Arabic, and learning it would be a distraction. The idea of an Islamic state in the Caucasus is nothing new, but stubborn Christian groups in the area (mainly the Armenians, Georgians and Russians) have always managed to fight back effectively.
A ten year Spanish investigation into Russian organized crime (which has set up shop, along with lots of Russian tourists, in sunny Spain) recently released a lot of its findings, backed up by wiretaps and interrogation reports. These agreed with recently leaked diplomatic messages (Wikileaks), describing the Russian government as dominated by the security forces, who formed an alliance with major criminal gangs. Corruption is not so much rampant as it is highly organized. This has been hurting the economy, as it discourages foreign investment and partnerships, and makes Russian firms less competitive. There is still an active reform and pro-democracy movement in Russia, but they face an increasingly ruthless foe, who uses murder and intimidation to keep everyone in line.
The leaked messages also indicate desperation to increase Russian arms sales, and keep the Russian arms industry alive. Russian weapons production declined more than 80 percent in 1990s, and many manufacturers went out of business. Those that survived have lost many of their best technical people (to better paying jobs in Russia and overseas). Now, the best customers for Russians second-best weapons tend to be losers and outlaw states (Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria). Many of these potential customers have little money, or are very slow to pay. But it's a matter of national pride, not to mention some quick profits, to make these sales. All that Russia worries about is being declared an outlaw state for breaking international arms sanctions (on nations like Iran and North Korea). There is also fear that government involvement, with Russian gangs that export to criminals, terrorists and rebel groups anywhere, will be exposed. The government is also making risky loans to encourage arms sales. Venezuela was recently given $4 billion in credit to buy Russian weapons, despite the fact that the Venezuelan economy is a mess and approaching collapse. The Russian arms industry isn't out of the woods yet, as it still has a hard time competing with Western weapons, and continues to drag around a reputation for always arming the losing side.
November 28, 2010: Russia opened its sixth chemical weapons destruction plant. Russia is still behind in its agreed deadline (of 2012) to destroy all its Cold War era chemical weapons. Russia really does want all this stuff gone, because the longer the bombs, shells and rockets filled with noxious chemicals sit around, the more prone they are to leak, and kill Russians living nearby.
November 26, 2010: The Russian parliament officially admitted that Russia was responsible for the Katyn Massacre. This is a big deal in neighboring Poland. Earlier this year, Russia published the files on this 1940 Russian massacre of 20,000 Polish military and civilian leaders at Katyn (outside Smolensk). Until the Cold War ended, the Russians blamed this on the Germans, and most nations went along with the lie. But most experts on the period believed the many Poles who insisted it was Russians who did the killing. In the 1990s, Russia admitted it was they, not the Germans, who did the deed. But only a few scholars were allowed to examine the Russian records. Now everyone can see these documents, online.
November 25, 2010: Russia has agreed to allow NATO to ship armored vehicles, via Russian railroads, to and from Afghanistan. This is part of a growing cooperation between Russia and NATO to destroy heroin production in Afghanistan. Russia believes NATO can get the job done, and is being more helpful to NATO as a result. Russia has also agreed to work with NATO to build a missile defense system against the growing arsenal of Iranian ballistic missiles. Previously Russia had denounced the U.S. led effort to defend Europe from Iranian missiles (using American anti-missile systems). The Russians claimed that the American anti-missile systems would make Russian ballistic missiles less effective (if they were to attack Europe.) After the laughter died down, the Russians checked on where the more immediate threat was, and decided to join the NATO defense effort.