November 9, 2009:
Iranian officials are threatening Russia with retaliation (fewer orders for military and civilian goods, no contracts to develop Iranian oil fields), if the S300 anti-aircraft missiles ordered two years ago, were not delivered. Russia has delayed delivery because of protests from the U.S., Israel and other Western nations. It's believed that the S300 would make it more difficult to punish Iran if Iran caused a lot of trouble (closing the entrance to the Persian Gulf or attacking one of its neighbors.) Russia has been convinced that Iran is more of a threat than an opportunity.
The government is making another attempt to reduce alcoholism. Russians drink a lot, about twice as much as Americans, and about fifty percent more than Western Europeans. Alcohol consumption has tripled since the end of the Cold War, although most of the additional booze has been beer or wine. But there are over two million alcoholics, and alcohol related diseases are a major reason for low life expectancy. It was thought that improved living standards would reduce alcoholism, but all it did was greatly increase the demand for beer and wine.
November 8, 2009: In Chechnya, police killed two Islamic terrorists, while another two were killed in neighboring Dagestan. So far this year, nearly 200 Islamic terrorists have been killed in the Caucasus. The terrorists had declared, earlier this year, that this was going to the be the year of major terror operations in the Caucasus. But it's mostly been minor stuff, although a lot of attacks. Hardly a week goes by without some terrorist incident. But most of the casualties are among the terrorists, who appear to be weaker after their " year of the offensive". Most of the suicide bombing attacks were sloppy, indicating a shortage of technically competent people to build the bombs, and supervise the operations. The Islamic terrorist groups appear to be still based in Chechnya, although there are angry armed groups in Dagestan and Ingushetia as well. A lot of the "Islamic terrorists" are simply locals fed up with the corrupt officials appointed by the Russian government.
November 7, 2009: A Tu-142M3 reconnaissance aircraft crashed 20 kilometers off the Pacific coast, during a training mission. Largely grounded through the 1990s, the Russian Navy has revived the use of these Cold War era recon aircraft, especially for long flights to the North Atlantic or Canada's Arctic frontier.
November 4, 2009: The annual Unity Day ceremonies (celebrating the ethnic diversity of Russia) featured less ultra-nationalist racism. The government has been cracking down on the racists, even though it long tolerated them (because the ultra-nationalists supported rebuilding the Russian empire.) The ultra-nationalists (including fascists) account for about 8 percent of the population, compared to 13 percent for the communists.
November 1, 2009: For the second time in two months, a Delta class SSBN (nuclear powered sub carrying ballistic missiles) successfully test fired one of its older, liquid fueled, Sineva SLBMs (sub launched ICBMs). Many navy and political officials are urging the government to drop the troubled Bulava (a solid fuel missile) SLBM, that is to be used in the new class of Borei SSBNs. The Delta's entered service two decades ago, and won't last another decade. Russia needs a new SSBN, and a missile that will work in it, before then.
October 31, 2009: An Il-76 jet transport crashed on takeoff in Siberia. This is the second serious accident involving an Il-76 in the last few months. There are several hundred Il-76s in service, and Russia is trying to revive production to provide another high-priced export product (for military and civilian) markets. But the many elderly Il-76s still flying are beginning to show their age in an unattractive way. Twice this year, all Russian Il-76s have been grounded so that they could be examined for common flaws.
October 30, 2009: President Dmitry Medvedev publically criticized those who have been trying to rehabilitate the reputation of Soviet era dictator and mass-murderer, Josef Stalin. Medvedev pointed out what Stalin's immediate successors strongly criticized Stalin as a ruthless tyrant who killed tens of millions of Russians to stay in power. But Medvedev's predecessor (and current prime minister), Vladimir Putin, had ordered textbooks revised to show Stalin as a strong, but flawed, leader who was essential to national survival during hard times. The state controlled press has also pushed this angle, and run into a lot of opposition from Stalin's many victims and their descendents. But the many people who carried out Stalin's orders, and their descendents, favor this praise for Stalin, and downplaying the role of those who did Stalin's dirty work.