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Russia: Closing The Quality Gap
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September 12, 2011: The government has recognized the new government in Libya, after decades of defending, and doing lucrative business with, the recently deposed Kaddafi dictatorship. Russia is expected to lose most of those Libyan business deals. Now Russia is backing another long-term Arab dictator (and Russian customer) in Syria. Russia publicly justifies this by accusing the Syrian opposition of containing Islamic terrorists. But the Syrian government has hosted Islamic terror groups (often the same ones Russia supported) for decades.

The call to reform the accident-prone airlines puts the spotlight on the impact corruption has on the economy. Increasingly, foreign firms won’t do business in, or even with, Russia because of the lack of law and order in the corporate world. This has been a growing problem since the Soviet Union (which tended to keep its word when it came to business deals) dissolved in 1991. For the last decade, corruption has not been eliminated so much as it has been better organized. That is not a good long-term solution.

The recent Yak-42 crash may have been engine related (mechanical failure or dirty fuel). Same with the recent MiG-31 crash. Then there were two embarrassing incidents (where Russian warplanes had to abort because of engine problems) during the August MAKS air show outside Moscow. Russia still has a major aviation industry weakness; the inability to produce quality aircraft engines. The West is still way ahead in this area, just as it was throughout the Cold War. The government is putting more money into the Russian engine companies, in yet another attempt to close the quality and reliability gap.

Terrorism in the Caucasus remains a problem. The government can’t eliminate the violence, but believes it has the terrorists under control (meaning on the run most of the time.) Russia believes Afghanistan and Pakistan are the main sources of support for Islamic terrorism, and the opium/heroin trade. Both these afflictions are causing Russian problems.

September 11, 2011: The government ordered several smaller airlines to shut down until they can upgrade their safety equipment and improve their safety procedures.

September 9, 2011: In the Caucasus (Dagestan), a bomb went off, wounding two policemen.

September 8, 2011: In the Caucasus, several raids left four Islamic terrorists dead. In two other incidents, a policeman and a civilian died.

Russian space program officials announced they have found what caused the August 24th failure of the Soyuz supply mission to the International Space Station. But now all similar space vehicles must be checked to make sure they do not have the same flaw. If this problem is not fixed quickly, the International Space Station may have to be left unmanned in two months, and remain abandoned until the Russian Soyuz spacecraft can get back into service. Two years ago, the Russian space agency officially ordered a new generation of spacecraft to replace the current Soyuz vehicle designs, which have been in use since the 1960s. Several other nations are building such systems. Soyuz has been improved over the years, and in 769 launches, 97.3 percent have succeeded.

September 7, 2011: Northeast of Moscow, a Russian made Yak-42 passenger jet crashed on takeoff, killing 42 (including most members of a professional hockey team). This accident was just one of too many involving Russian commercial aviation. There was a public outcry to reform civil aviation, which has always been badly run in Russia.

September 6, 2011: A MiG-31 jet fighter exploded on takeoff outside the city of Perm. The MiG-31 is an upgraded version of the MiG-25, but is reaching the end of its service life.

September 1, 2011: In the Caucasus, two Islamic terrorists died when the bomb they were building went off. Two civilians died from Islamic terrorist attacks in the region.

August 30, 2011: In the Caucasus (Chechnya), three suicide bombings left nine dead. There were also fatal attacks in neighboring Ingushetia.

August 26, 2011: In the Caucasus (Ingushetia), a police commander was shot dead outside his home. Islamic terrorists were suspected. In neighboring Chechnya, two Islamic terrorists were killed.

August 25, 2011:  In the Caucasus (Dagestan), Islamic terrorists ambushed a patrol and wounded three soldiers.

August 24, 2011: A Russian Soyuz unmanned supply mission to the International Space Station failed to reach orbit, and the supply craft, carrying three tons of supplies, crashed in Siberia.

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