April 17, 2011: The political and military leadership have announced that conscription will be phased out as quickly as possible (a decade or so) and the armed forces (especially the army) will change to a smaller, more professional, all-volunteer force. There is little choice, as the number of young men answering draft calls keeps shrinking. The generals admitted that this smaller force means abandoning the use of massive number of troops and tanks to win battles, as was done during World War II. Many generals disagree with the new program, but they have been ordered to shut up and make the new program work (or lose their jobs). Such dismissals can be the equivalent of social and economic "death" because so much social stature, and economic benefits, come along with being a general on active duty.
Russian police and intelligence services are perplexed about who, and what, was behind an anonymous attacker on the country's largest blog hosting site on April 6th. The site was shot down for about an hour. Among the millions of bloggers who were shut out, was the president of Russia, and many other prominent politicians. This was being done with the same kind of hacker attacks (DDOS) used against Estonian, Georgian and Central Asian sites over the last four years. These earlier attacks were seen as Russian government efforts to cripple political parties and groups that do not agree with Russian policies. Meanwhile, Russians have become the most energetic social networking users on the planet, spending twice as many hours (as the world average) on blogging and other social networking activities. The DDOS attack may have come from Russian hackers angered at apparent government efforts to censor what appears on Russian websites. The government won't admit to actual censorship, but there are growing incidents of anti-government items not showing up after posting, because of mysterious (and seemingly bogus) "technical issues." Since the government depends on the Internet a lot to maintain control of the public opinion, the DDOS attack is believed to be a warning that there are many Russians capable of shutting down government Internet operations.
The government is making some serious moves to curb corruption. This month, senior government officials have been forbidden to serve on boards of directors for corporations (which was an easy way to deliver bribes to these officials, via directors fees and other perks). Dozens of police generals and other senior police commanders have been dismissed, and replaced with carefully screened commanders who have pledged to not be corrupt, and go after those who still are. There is a growing urgency to these anti-corruption measures. That's because not only is the corruption scaring foreign investors away, but it is causing a growing number of highly trained specialists and successful entrepreneurs to flee the country. A substantial reduction in corruption is the only thing that will reverse these two trends. Reducing corruption won't be easy. Those who benefit most from corruption are rich and powerful, and will kill to keep things the way they are.
April 14, 2011: The first 152 Indian naval personnel have arrived in Russia to begin training on the carrier INS Vikramaditya (the former Russian Gorshkov). The Indians will learn about all the ship's systems, so they can instruct the other 1,250 members of the crew. India will take possession of the INS Vikramaditya next year. This project is four years behind schedule and $1.5 billion over the original budget. It is a major cause of ill-will between Russia and India.
April 11, 2011: In Belarus, a bomb went off in a subway in the capital, killing seven people. Belarus is still run by its communist era bureaucrats, who have managed elections and continued to maintain a police state form of government. As a result, there are a lot of angry people in Belarus.
April 10, 2011: The first new RS-24 ballistic missiles entered service. This was sort of just-in-time and something of an improvisation. Russia has not been able to develop a new ICBM design, to replace it's "heavy" Cold War era ICBMs (the SS-18 and SS-19). All it really has is the Topol-M (SS-27 in NATO parlance), which was developed at the end of the Cold War. The Topol-M was modified (with great difficulty) to serve as a new sea launched ICBM (Bulava) and as a heavy ICBM (RS-24) to replace the elderly SS-18s and SS-19s. There is no money for a major new ICBM development program, but Russia can afford to create some scary press releases and interesting variants of the SS-27.
April 9, 2011: In Moscow, a hundred people showed up for the monthly demonstration to protest the government efforts to ban all anti-government demonstrations. At least a dozen of the demonstrators were arrested and others were beaten.
In Dagestan, another prominent Islamic religious leader was killed. This makes six such leaders who have been killed in the last year. All of them openly opposed Islamic terrorism.
April 8, 2011: This month the Russian Army will begin receiving new and improved Tornado-G multiple rocket launchers, to replace the Grad line of launchers developed in the 1960s (to replace the original World War II models)
April 4, 2011: France has agreed to equip all three of the Mistral amphibious ships, that Russia is buying, with the same modern communications and command systems found in Mistrals France uses. Two of the Russian Mistrals will be built in Russia, giving Russian engineers and technicians experience with these advanced communications and command systems (which are quite common in NATO nations, but not yet in Russia.)
March 31, 2011: Supyan Abdullayev, a senior Islamic terrorist leader, was cornered and killed by police in the Caucasus.
March 28, 2011: Police have concluded that Chechen Islamic terrorists were responsible for the January airport bombing in Moscow that killed 37. In the Caucasus, two policemen were killed in action against Islamic terrorists. At least 17 terrorists were also killed, mostly because of an air attack on one of their rural bases.
March 27, 2011:
March 26, 2011: The government announced that air-defense units would, in the next decade, be reequipped with new S-400 and Pantsir-S systems. These provide defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, the kinds of attacks likely to come from North Korea, China or Iran.
March 24, 2011: Russian military commanders are unhappy with the rising crime rate among their troops. In the last year, there have been 16 percent more such criminal activity than the previous 12 months. For example, in the first two months of this year, there were more than 500 crimes, resulting in two military personnel killed and twenty seriously injured. When queried, lower level commanders blame new rules that make it possible for larger numbers of ethnic minorities to get into companies and battalions, which leads to violent ethnic conflict in those units.