September 6 Israeli air raid in Syria has been a major setback for Russian arms
sales. The Syrians had invested heavily in new Russian air defense systems, and
the Israelis apparently brushed right by them. Since the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, the Russians have been trying to rehabilitate the reputation of
their weapons. Throughout the Cold War, whenever Russian and Western
(especially American) weapons met on the battlefield, the Russians lost. The
Soviets tried to compete on price, but even "free" was not low enough
for many countries. Using Soviet weapons came to be seen as a sure ticket to
battlefield defeat. In the 1990s, Russia upgraded its manufacturing
capabilities, and its weapons designs. Much Western technology was imported. By
the late 1990s, sales were climbing. OK, the Iraqis went down real quick in
2003, but they didn't have any of the new stuff, nor did the Taliban in 2001.
Sales continued to climb, until now. Russias arms customers are asking for
answers, but so far the Syrian incident is being dismissed as nothing to worry
about. The Russians believe that most of their customers have little choice.
That may be true of China and Iran, but India is increasingly looking West for
modern arms. And so are many other smaller customers. This even extends to
commercial products. Sukhoi, which makes the Su-27/30, recently rolled out the
first new Russian airliner since 1991. The "Superjet" is a 95 seat
transport competing with the Boeing 727. It has only a dozen foreign
orders. The "Syrian Incident"
may prove to be not-so-minor after all.
September 29, 2007: The
anti-corruption campaign is having a hard time. There are still many gangs for
hire, that will murder and intimidate businessmen and government officials, who
refuse to go along with scams. The sheer number of these gangs, and the huge
market for their services, makes them difficult to stamp out. Many of these
gangsters have done favors for the secret police (formerly KGB, now FSB), and
this gives them a degree of immunity.
September 26, 2007: Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union,
is facing renewed violence from two separatist groups who control part of the
country with Russian help. Georgia claims they killed a Russian officer in a
recent clash with the separatists.
September 21, 2007: In the south, police cornered and killed
Rappani Khalilov, who was the leader of Islamic terrorists in Dagestan. Many
Islamic terrorists from neighboring Chechnya have fled to Dagestan, to escape
the Chechen led, but pro-Russian, government
in Chechnya. Khalilov was the most
wanted terrorist in southern Russia. Islamic radicals have become a powerful
force in the Caucasus, especially in placed like Dagestan. There, the Islamic
terrorists have been intimidating, and murdering, more moderate religious
leaders. By controlling the mosques, the Islamic radicals secure themselves
bases for support and recruiting.