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Russia: Paranoia Losing Its Punch
   Next Article → LEADERSHIP: Afghanistan Discovers Spin
December 3, 2011: Opinion polls show that the ruling party of president Medvedev and prime minister Putin is losing support. Despite Putin's success at taking control of the mass media, and organizing his United Russia party to include several hundred thousand "observers" all over the country (to report on and intimidate political opponents), a growing number of voters don't want Putin to be president-for-life. After one presidential term for his crony Medvedev (who succeeded two-terms of Putin), Putin can now run for president again, and serve another two terms. While most Russians appreciate Putin's efforts to reduce the crime rate and spread the wealth (from growing oil production and prices) around, younger Russians want real democracy, not a market economy version of the Soviet police state. Putin followed the letter of the law in not running again after two terms as president, but will he allow the Russian people to get their way? While Putin pleased a lot of older voters by increasing their pensions and bringing more order and safety to their twilight years, younger Russians want less corruption and more economic freedom. The young Russians are the future, and it appears Putin will try and resist the future to maintain power.

Russia continues to support the Assad dictatorship in Syria. This includes recently delivering Yakhont anti-ship missiles. Israel is the only one in the region the Yakhonts would be used against. However, because Iran is supplying (unofficially) the cash for the missiles, there is also the risk that some of the Yakhont's would end up in Iran. A major reason for this steadfast support for the seemingly doomed Syrian tyrant is the agreement to allow the Russian Navy to use the Syrian port of Tartus as a naval base. There are over 500 Russians in Tartus, building facilities for Russian warships. Russia plans to base a squadron in the Mediterranean, and Tartus will be its base. If the revolution succeeds in Syria, the Russians apparently believe they have a shot of negotiating a deal with the new government (which will still be anti-Israel and interested in having a major power stationing some forces in Syria, to discourage Israeli attacks.)

The Russian leadership continues to portray the American anti-missile system being built in Europe (to defend against Iranian missiles) as, in reality, an attempt to weaken Russia's ability to attack European nations with nuclear missiles. Russia is now threatening to aim more nuclear armed ballistic missiles at the new anti-missiles systems in Europe. All this still resonates in Russia, especially among older Russians. But the old, Soviet era, generation is dying out, and younger Russians consider this "NATO is the enemy" line as absurd. Russia also threatened to shut down NATO access to Russian railroads for supplying troops in Afghanistan. This would seriously damage Russia's commercial reputation, which is already badly hurt because of corrupt courts and government officials. Russia complains about a lack of foreign investment, and ignores the causes. Afghanistan is another example of that twisted thinking. At the same time that Russian leaders are threatening to cut NATO supply lines, they are asking NATO to increase their attacks against Afghan drug gangs. Afghan opium and heroin are a growing problem in Russia. Potential invasion by NATO is not, but the political leadership believes that talk of the "NATO threat" works with Russian voters. It does, but less and less.

December 2, 2011: The Interior Ministry announced that it had killed over 300 Islamic terrorists in the Caucasus so far this year. In addition, 366 terrorist camps and safe houses had been discovered, along with 1,400 firearms and 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of explosives and other bomb making material. Corruption and unemployment are the major causes of Islamic terrorism in the Caucasus, and Russia continues to spend a lot of money to remedy the economic problems. But corruption by local officials gets in the way.

November 30, 2011: A newly built early warning radar in Kaliningrad (on the Baltic) entered service. The media played this up, as part of Russia rebuilding its armed forces. This Voronezh-DM type radar has a range of 6,000 kilometers and replaces older, and worn-out Soviet era radars. Some of those older systems were also in countries that were created out of the dissolved Soviet Union, and no longer owned by Russia. The new owners kept increasing the rent, so new radars were built and old ones abandoned. The new Voronezh-DM radars are all on Russian territory.

November 26, 2011: President Medvedev threatened criminal prosecutions of Russian Space Agency officials. In the last year, several senior officials of the Space Agency have been dismissed in response to failed launches, space vehicles or satellites. The latest embarrassment is an expensive Mars probe that failed after launch, and is now uselessly in orbit, rather than on its way to Mars. Such dismissals of senior officials are an old Russian custom. In the past, the official would be sent to a prison camp or executed, but these days losing your well-paid job is punishment enough to encourage other officials. The cause of these failures is that officials running technical government operations have not been able to get good people. Over the last two decades, many of the most talented technical and managerial people have emigrated or have higher paid jobs in the civilian sector or overseas.

November 22, 2011:  Britain and the U.S. said they would cease sharing military information with Russia. This came about because, four years ago, Russia abandoned the Cold War era CFE (Conventional Armed Forces in Europe) treaty, which limited where Russian and NATO military forces could be stationed in neighboring nations. In practice, the treaty is moot, as the enormous Cold War armies are now largely gone. The number of Russian combat divisions has shrunk some 80 percent since the end of Cold War, with NATO losing over a third of their ground forces. No one is inclined to threaten war if CFE is discarded. But CFE also had data sharing provisions that remained in force, as a way to reassure Russia and NATO that they were not a threat to each other. But Russia stopped cooperating, and now most NATO nations have stopped as well.

Next Article → LEADERSHIP: Afghanistan Discovers Spin
  
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Babeouf    Perhaps ,perhaps NOT   12/3/2011 6:45:25 AM
Heh would that be the same economic freedom that the Greeks,Portuguese,Spanish etc are striking against? That would be the Freedom that has delivered effective Oligarchy in the USA. As discovered recently by the American  Occupy movement. Who also discovered that Representative Democracy is neither representative nor democratic. And that the Democratic world is a facade  behind which the interests of the 1% advance. If that is the best you can do in political economy I should stick to the military reports. And in my judgement since the only existing opposition in Russia, in large party form, is led by the Communist Party. And the  rest are advocates of Principled Oligarchy  there is in fact little threat to the ruling party. It is a common place in the West that people vote for parties that they neither respect nor trust but regard ,for a wide variety of reasons ,as the best of a bad lot.
 
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Thomas       12/3/2011 12:39:51 PM

Heh would that be the same economic freedom that the Greeks,Portuguese,Spanish etc are striking against? That would be the Freedom that has delivered effective Oligarchy in the USA. As discovered recently by the American  Occupy movement. Who also discovered that Representative Democracy is neither representative nor democratic. And that the Democratic world is a facade  behind which the interests of the 1% advance. If that is the best you can do in political economy I should stick to the military reports. And in my judgement since the only existing opposition in Russia, in large party form, is led by the Communist Party. And the  rest are advocates of Principled Oligarchy  there is in fact little threat to the ruling party. It is a common place in the West that people vote for parties that they neither respect nor trust but regard ,for a wide variety of reasons ,as the best of a bad lot.

No the European economic problem is the uneven distribution of wealth among generations. This has led to young families being settled with a debt they cannot pay.
 
But a Russian squadron in the Mediterainean? That will not sit well with the Turks.
 
New nuclear arms against the anti-missile systems in Europe?
Well, I am not so sure the Russians will do that - once they have had a chance to think.
ANY Russian rearmament can - at a very low cost - be  countered by Nato members. Not that the russians won't try their luck; but I've never said the russian approach to national security is suffering from to much brain.
 
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Crims    Yakhont anti-ship missiles   12/3/2011 3:00:30 PM
Didn't Iran send a warship plus a nice sized supply ship to Syria earlier this year? Haven't heard anything suggesting that ship has left Syria, if it hasn't its quite possible its there to pick up some goodies for shipment back to Iran and a away around the embargo.
 
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Thomas       12/3/2011 9:38:25 PM

I saw that as well. And no - I haven't heard of it leaving.
A frigate (just f.i.) plus supplyship brings the deployment under the 3 ship limit for operating a fleet.
 
What they might transport FROM Syria remain a mystery to me. I would be infinetely easier to arrange a secure landtransport from Syria to Iran - OK that would entail passing through kurdish territory in Syria and Iraq - where the turks are liable to hit - theyv'e done that beforeEspecially as the frigate with supplyship is vulnerable to interception.
It could be a transport for Assad if he throws in the towel. To me it seems that his goons have more or less secured the road viá Homs.
If Assad decides to make a run for it - he is not going south or southwest through Israel from Damaskus.
The way north-east to east is not - as mentioned - not attractive: To much bad blood on all three sides of the boarder.
The only realistic escape route for Assad is Damascus via Homs to Latakya.
 
Just a wild guess as to the mission of that frigate.
 
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WarNerd       12/4/2011 7:40:35 PM
What they might transport FROM Syria remain a mystery to me. I would be infinetely easier to arrange a secure landtransport from Syria to Iran - OK that would entail passing through kurdish territory in Syria and Iraq - where the turks are liable to hit - theyv'e done that beforeEspecially as the frigate with supplyship is vulnerable to interception.
It could be a transport for Assad if he throws in the towel. To me it seems that his goons have more or less secured the road viá Homs.
If Assad decides to make a run for it - he is not going south or southwest through Israel from Damaskus.
The way north-east to east is not - as mentioned - not attractive: To much bad blood on all three sides of the boarder.
The only realistic escape route for Assad is Damascus via Homs to Latakya.
 
I don’t think Iran would want to try cross Iraq at all until the USA is completely out of the country, and probably not even then with most cargos that need the apparent level of security. It would be way too vulnerable to interception. The Coalition/US does operate in Kurdish territory if they feel a need.
 
As for what they might be transporting from Syria, NBC materials and documents come to mind. Saddam is rumored to have slipped a lot of items (mostly documents and samples, but some materials) from these programs across the border to Syria in the lead up to OIR. For example, it is suspected that most of the uranium in the Syrian nuclear program came from Iraq, the timing is suspicious. Those documents and samples could buy a lot of support from Iran.
 
The supply vessel is, I believe, an Iranian naval vessel. As such it and the frigate cannot be simply intercepted and searched under International Law. It can be searched as a condition of passage through territorial waters, which is why those 2 ships had to go around Africa instead of through the Suez Canal.
 
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Thomas       12/5/2011 7:41:44 AM

Heh would that be the same economic freedom that the Greeks,Portuguese,Spanish etc are striking against? That would be the Freedom that has delivered effective Oligarchy in the USA. As discovered recently by the American  Occupy movement. Who also discovered that Representative Democracy is neither representative nor democratic. And that the Democratic world is a facade  behind which the interests of the 1% advance. If that is the best you can do in political economy I should stick to the military reports. And in my judgement since the only existing opposition in Russia, in large party form, is led by the Communist Party. And the  rest are advocates of Principled Oligarchy  there is in fact little threat to the ruling party. It is a common place in the West that people vote for parties that they neither respect nor trust but regard ,for a wide variety of reasons ,as the best of a bad lot.

No - the general problem is that those with the highest income are those most in debt - and they are the biggest consumers.
Families with kids, both employed and with a mortgage.
 
Do anyting to interest rate (they default), cut public spending (they get fired) og schools - they are in the toilet.
This is a crisis we cannot work ourselves out of.
 
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