Russia insists it will never abandon the Assad dictatorship in Syria. But Arab diplomats are pointing out that the Assads are doomed and Russian support simply prolongs the fighting. Arabs will hold Russia responsible for the additional deaths and that means Russia will be a pariah in the Arab world for a long time. For the moment, Russia is officially ignoring that prospect, but the Arabs are most definitely not.
Russia has demanded that China do more to halt drug smuggling into Russia. China has become a major source for amphetamines and “designer drugs” (new formulations that have unpredictable results but are popular with many younger Russians). While not as big a problem as the flow of Afghan heroin, the Chinese Connection is growing.
Arms sales to India remain in jeopardy. India recently announced it would cut its order for the new T-50 Russian fighter from 200 to 144 aircraft. The T-50 is the Russian answer to the U.S. F-22/F-35 and delivery is supposed to be by 2017. India does not expect to see T-50 until 2020, and is not as enthusiastic about this project as it once was. India is supplying much of the development money for this aircraft. On the plus side India has ordered 200 more BrahMos cruise missiles and 10,000 Invar anti-tank missiles (that are launched from the 125mm gun of the T-90 tank). This deal involves India manufacturing an additional 15,000 Invars.
The government is now seeking to prosecute (for terrorism) leaders of pro-reform demonstrations. Many Russians oppose the decade old trend that is turning Russia back into a police state, but the majority of Russians approve of the current government.
Russia does not want to renew the 1992 Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. This American financed program upgraded security for Russia’s nuclear arsenal and paid for the prompt return of thousands of nuclear warheads from newly independent nations that were once part of the Soviet Union (which, when it dissolved, left all weapons where they were). CTR also paid for the dismantling of hundreds of missile silos and missile carrying submarines. Thousands of former weapons designers and technicians have been found good jobs, to keep them from going freelance with their special skills. But partly due to bureaucracy, partly due to Russian paranoia, and partly due to corruption, the warhead security part of the program was not entirely successful. Now the Russians want to just be done with CTR because they believe it is used mainly to spy on Russia. The U.S. spent $6 billion on CTR and is trying to persuade the Russians to reconsider renewing the deal.
October 20, 2012: The Strategic Rocket Forces (long range missiles armed with nuclear warheads) completed a large-scale two-day drill. These forces are the main defense for Russia, as the conventional forces have declined since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, losing over two-thirds of their combat power.
October 19, 2012: A Topol ICBM and R-29R Sineva SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) were test fired, the latter from a SSBM (nuclear powered missile carrying sub). Topols are launched from silos. Both tests were successful.
October 17, 2012: President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party won most local elections held yesterday.
October 15, 2012: India has been asked to join with Russia in forming a more vigorous anti-terrorism effort after NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014. While American forces may remain, Russia sees drug gangs and Islamic radicals becoming more powerful in Afghanistan and providing bases for Islamic terrorists groups who operate against India and Russia, as well as the West in general. India is already increasing its counter-terror efforts in Central Asia, and Russia is simply offering to join forces to become more effective. It was earlier believed that Russia might try to work with Pakistan against Islamic terrorists but apparently the Russians concluded that Pakistan was too sympathetic to Islamic radicals to be an effective ally against international Islamic terrorism. Let China (a longtime ally of Pakistan) worry about Pakistani support for terrorism. Russia has been a major trading partner with, and arms supplier to, India for over half a century and both countries are quite energetic in fighting Islamic terrorism.
October 13, 2012: The government announced that it had closed 20 foreign NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations, usually aid groups) in the Caucasus because of ties to foreign espionage agencies. But when contacted by foreign journalists, no NGOs in the Caucasus reported recent closings. The government announcement was then interpreted as a threat. A new law makes it easier for the government to shut down foreign NGOs.
October 12, 2012: In the Caucasus (Kabardino-Balkaria) one policeman and two Islamic terrorists died in a gun battle.
October 11, 2012: Russia is playing down the recent confession of a Canadian naval officer, who admitted he spied for Russia for over four years, being paid $3,000 a month for information on Canadian and NATO defense matters. The Russian ambassador to Canada described the matter as “marginal.”
October 10, 2012: Turkey forced a Syrian airliner, flying from Moscow, to land and be inspected. The Turks initially insisted they had found illegal (because of an arms embargo on Syria) items on the aircraft. Russia insisted it was parts for radar sets, which were legal. The Turks later admitted the Russians were right but said that the radar cargo should have been declared before the Syrian aircraft entered Turkish airspace.
October 9, 2012: Iraq agreed to buy $4.2 billion worth of Russian weapons and military equipment.
October 8, 2012: In the Caucasus (Dagestan) a policeman and three Islamic terrorists were killed in a gun battle.