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Scary Press Releases
by James Dunnigan
December 27, 2008

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

Watching Russian mass media, you'd have a hard time finding out that the Russian stock market has plunged 75 percent in the last four months, and that oil exports have dropped as well. Russia is suffering from a recession, but the state controlled mass media has been ordered to ignore it. Older Russians feel a twinge of nostalgia, for the Soviet period and the need for rumor networks to find the truth that the state controlled press hid. The Internet makes it easier to find the truth, although the government is putting a lot of effort into limiting what news gets into Russia via the web. The government also wants to prevent Russians from getting the truth about Russian history. There is a campaign underway to rewrite the history books and play down the mass murders and state sponsored terror of the Soviet period. During the seven decades of communist, Russia had a third of its population killed off. The Soviet government killed more Russians that German armies and nazi death camps, and the current Russian government wants to keep that knowledge buried along with all of Stalin's victims.

Criminal gangs in the south Caucasus (mainly Chechnya and its neighbors) are growing bolder and more troublesome. The gangs contain separatists and religious fanatics, and are trying to intimidate local police into backing off. Attacks on police stations, and individual cops, are on the rise. The national government has sent down more counter-terror forces, which are also getting hit by the local gangs. Long term, the government usually wins these wars, but determined gangsters can win a lot of the battles.

Russia is making a lot of noise about the U.S. anti-missile systems being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia believes the anti-missile systems are meant to negate Russia's nuclear weapons (the only really effective military weapon Russia has left). East European countries are fine with that, but the main purpose of the anti-missile system is to knock down the handful of ballistic missiles Iran might be able to fire at Europe in the near future. Nevertheless, Russia sees the anti-missile system as a threat, and has made a series of announcements about new ICBMs being developed that will negate the anti-missile system. In fact, 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 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.

In the last few months, there has been some unrest in the military over major reforms underway. One of these was the dismissal of about half the officer corps. Most of these guys were basically on welfare, with jobs that really had no responsibilities (like commanders of reserve units that lacked equipment, or reserve troops to man the non-existent equipment). Retirement pay is less than active duty pay, and the younger officers won't even get the pension (but a smaller lump sum separation payment instead). With over 150,000 officers getting sacked, there was bound to be some grumbling. But since most of these officers were drones, not go-getters, this is all smoke (and not much of that) and no fire.

Oil exports last month were down 15 percent compared to a year ago, and the oil price continues to plummet (towards $40 a barrel, compared to $140 six months ago).

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