Russia invaded Georgia in August, the Russian stock market was falling sharply.
This was because the Russian government was intervening in business affairs, brushing
aside the rule-of-law that is so essential to economic growth. The Georgian
invasion made foreign investors even more nervous, and they began pulling their
investment funds out of the country. Some wealthy Russians moved their money
out as well. This caused the Russian markets to fall even more, so that they
have lost over half their value in the
last four months. Many Russians blame this on yet another U.S. conspiracy to
humiliate Russia (as the Americans did in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart
and Russia "lost" the Cold War.)
The EU has looked at its armed forces (about two million troops) and
realized that, although twice the size of the Russian armed forces, the EU
probably has less combat strength. The EU armed forces have been allowed to run
down since the Cold War, too often becoming a bunch of aging civil servants
with obsolete weapons. The Russian invasion of Georgia, and the inability to
muster enough troops for peacekeeping in Afghanistan, has finally motivated
Western Europe to improve their defenses. In effect, a new arms race is
stirring in Europe.
The Czech Republic and Poland have refused Russian suggestions that
Russian military personnel be stationed at the new U.S. anti-missile bases on
their territory. Russia insists that these bases are an act of aggression
against it. The U.S., and Europe, insists that the bases are to protect Europe
from Iranian, or other Middle Eastern, missile attacks. Czech
counter-intelligence officials also accuse Russia of funding Czech groups that
oppose the missile bases.
Russia is cracking down on Western media appearing on Russian
television. The government controls most of the mass broadcast media, and wants
to remove "decadent" U.S. stuff like South Park and the Simpsons, and
replace it with more patriotic shows. Just like in the good old days, before
the Soviet Union disappeared. The government has had some success in
manipulating public opinion, usually by exploiting existing attitudes (anger at
the loss of empire and hostility to the United States).
September 24, 2008: A Russian
military museum in Moscow has been displaying American military equipment,
taken from Georgia, and portraying military operations in Georgia as a victory
over America. The American gear was material provided to Georgia over the past
few years as part of a training program for Georgian troops headed for
peacekeeping duty in southern Iraq.
September 22, 2008: The Russian
nuclear powered battle cruiser Peter The Great, and support ships (a destroyer and two supply
vessels), have set off from Northern Russia for Venezuela, where they will show
the flag for their ally, and arms customer, Venezuela.
September 21, 2008: Israel
accused Russia of supplying Syria with satellite photos, and other
intelligence. Russia has long done this, as part of arms sales or diplomatic
deals. Russia always denies it.
September 18, 2008: Another
successful test of the Bulava SLBM (sea launched ballistic missile) was
conducted. This missile will be used on the new Borei class SSBNs (SLBM
carrying nuclear subs). The Bulava is a version of the successful land based
Topol ICBM. The Bulava has a range of
8,000 kilometers and can carry up to ten warheads.
September 14, 2008: Under strong
pressure from Western Europe and the U.S., Russia has withdrawn its troops from
western Georgia, including the port of Poti. The EU (European Union) has been
humiliated by the Russians, who treated demands to get out of Georgia, with
disdain. The EU has handled Russia carefully, despite warnings from East
European members that this just encourages the Russians to be more aggressive
September 13, 2008: Russia will
increase its defense budget 26 percent, to about $50 billion, next year. There
is some doubt that the Russian defense industry will be able to meet the new
demand, unless they divert equipment from export customers. In any event,
export customers are getting harder to come by.
September 12, 2008: South Ossetia
announced plans to formally join Russia, thus leaving Georgia without a chunk
of its territory.
September 11, 2008: Russia has
sent two Tu-160 heavy bombers to visit Venezuela. This pleases the anti-American
government of Venezuela, and plays well at home, where the government is
pushing anti-Americanism in order to increase patriotic feelings.