November 27, 2012: Navy modernization plans are underway despite the threat of cuts in the spending needed for all the new equipment and facilities. New base construction is under way in the Black Sea (at Novorossiisk, as an alternative to the old Soviet base of Sevastopol that is rented from Ukraine), the north coast (for the new Borei and Yasen class nuclear subs), and the Pacific (for the two new Mistral class amphibious ships). Dozens of new ships are on order and the navy is on schedule to complete the current modernization plans by the end of the decade if the promised money keeps coming.
The corruption investigation surrounding the November 9th replacement of defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov continues. Serdyukov has not been accused of any wrongdoing but several people who worked for him have. Serdyukov had been brought in five years ago to carry out much needed reforms and curb corruption. He did a lot of both but made some powerful enemies along the way. This eventually made him a liability to president Putin. The government has made corruption in the military a special target because this misbehavior slows down efforts to reform the military. Nation-wide anti-corruption efforts are hampered by the fact that most officials are dirty, and completely cleaning up the corruption would mean replacing most of the senior government officials (elected and appointed).
Russia continues to support the besieged Syrian government. The Assad family has ruled Syria for nearly half a century and done business with Russia for most of that time. Russia also opposed the rebellion last year against Libyan dictator Moamar Kaddafi (who was killed by the rebels). This support of Arab dictators has made Russia very unpopular in the Moslem world. This is made worse by Russian threats against anyone that aids the rebels. For example, Russia has warned NATO nations of unspecified consequences if they send Patriot missile batteries to Turkey to help guard the Syrian border from Russian made Syrian warplanes that have made threatening moves against NATO member Turkey.
Not all Russian support for Syria has been diplomatic. It was recently revealed that between July and September, a Syrian Air Force Il-76 made eight trips to Moscow and brought back over 200 tons of newly printed Syrian cash. Sanctions had prevented the Syrian government from using their usual bank note printer in Austria. Naturally, Russia kept this quiet, not wanting to be condemned for breaking the sanctions. The amount received (between one and two billion dollars) was about as much as the government normally spends in a month. With most sources of income (like oil exports) cut off, this infusion of Syrian cash was a big help.
Russia now has yet another reason to be angry at America. The rapid growth of shale gas in the United States has crippled the ability of Russia to overcharge European customers for Russian natural gas. That is because suppliers of liquefied natural gas (delivered by ship anywhere in the world) have lost a lot of American business (to cheaper shale gas) and are shipping their gas to Europe and selling it for less than what the Russians are demanding. Russia long dismissed shale gas (and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”) as an American fad that would fade. Now Russia has to cope with lost markets because of shale gas. Since oil and gas are Russia’s major exports, this is a serious matter. With less foreign currency available from energy sales there is less money to import new technology and consumer goods, as well as rebuild the military. Older Russians remember how successful American efforts to lower the price of oil in the 1980s helped bankrupt and destroy the Soviet Union.
November 23, 2012: Russian officials admitted that the second Chinese stealth fighter design, the J-31, was powered by Russian engines (the RD-93, which is also used in the MiG-29). About the only military gear Russia will sell to China these days are jet engines. Some 90 percent of Russian military exports to China are these engines which the Chinese have still not been able to duplicate. Russia is currently in the process of delivering several hundred AL-31F/FN (for the Su-27/30 fighters) and D-30KP2 (for Il-76 freighters) engines. The RD-93 is also used in the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17.
November 22, 2012: The Russian Air Force received the first two Su-30SM jet fighters. The Su-30SM is a Russian Air Force version of the Su-30MKI that has long been exported (to India, Algeria, and Malaysia). For the last two decades Russian defense manufacturers have survived on exports. The Russian military halted most procurement spending after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 (largely from financial mismanagement). In the last decade the Russian military has gradually resumed buying. Initially, the Russian military could not afford the best stuff (like the SU-30MKI that was only sold to foreigners). But that has changed, and now the Russian military is catching up.
In the Caucasus (Dagestan) police killed an Islamic terrorist they had cornered.
November 21, 2012: In Dagestan two policemen and a civilian were killed when a bomb went off in a building were searching (for Islamic terrorists).
November 20, 2012: In Dagestan a policeman was killed and another wounded in a clash with Islamic terrorists.
November 17, 2012: In the Caucasus (Kabardino-Balkaria) police killed two Islamic terrorists.
November 16, 2012: Russia sent a detachment of ships (a cruiser, a destroyer, two amphibious vessels, a tug, and a tanker) to the eastern Mediterranean in case it was necessary to help evacuate Russian citizens from Gaza. The Russian policy is not to support Hamas but to criticize anything the United States does.