Russian diplomats are pushing the idea that
the Russian invasion of Georgia last August was a reaction to another American attempt
to extend its power. Russia is trying to sell the idea that the United States is
bent on world domination, and that Russia is one of the few nations determined to
stop America. This line is popular inside Russia, somewhat less so outside
Russia, where it tends to be perplexing. Many outside Russia are anti-American,
but not to the degree the Russians are.
In support of the governments fears
(about American power) the armed forces have been ordered to design and build
missile defenses and organize the armed forces so that they are on high alert
24/7. All this is mainly for propaganda. The military can barely maintain its
nuclear forces, and most of the conventional forces are poorly maintained and
trained. Attempts to change this are remarkable only for how much decline they
reveal. For example, the air force recently announced the first full test of
cruise missiles, fired from heavy bombers, since 1984. This is where a heavy
bomber, like the Tu-160, fires off all the missiles it can carry (12) to make
sure that it can. This hasn't been done in 24 years because the missiles cost
several million dollars each, and the generals did not want to risk the
backlash from something going wrong. But there are a lot of other types of
military exercises that have not been conducted since the end of the Cold War
in 1991. Russia may be pouring billions into rebuilding the military, but it
will be a decade or more before the troops are a threat to anyone.
The governments takeover of the
nationwide mass media in the last few years has worked. That is, public opinion
is now successfully manipulated to conform to government interests. Thus
Georgia and the United States are, according to the latest opinion surveys,
very unpopular (67 percent negative for the U.S., 75 percent for Georgia). Despite
the presence of the Internet and smaller, independent, media, the government is
able to mould public opinion via efficient use of the mass media (mainly
The Somali government, such as it is,
has given Russia permission to use force against Somali pirates holding a
Ukrainian ship (the SS Faina) loaded with weapons. The frigate Neustrashimy
left its Baltic sea base in late September (a day before the Faina was taken)
for anti-piracy duty off Somalia. The Neustrashimy is due to stop at Tripoli,
Libya, on October 11th, for a two day visit (and replenish its fuel and food
supplies). It appears that the Neustrashimy won't show up off Somalia until mid
October, at the earliest. The Neustrashimy is being accompanied to Libya by the
nuclear powered battle cruiser Peter the Great (which will head for Venezuela
after the Libya visit).
The government has accused Ukraine of
criminal acts in supplying Georgia with weapons. This is part of a diplomatic
effort to improve relations with Ukraine.
In the south Caucasus, above average
violence continues in Chechnya, and neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan. All
three provinces are run by corrupt officials, who stay in power by catering to
their cronies and screwing everyone else. This has led to violence.
October 8, 2008: As promised, Russia withdrew its troops from
inside Georgia, where they were manning checkpoints. Russian troops still
occupy two small areas (one near South Ossetia and the other near Abkhazia)
which are disputed.
October 3, 2008: In South Ossetia, Russian troops stopped a
car carrying four Georgians. As they searched the car, they found weapons. But
then the car exploded, killing eight Russian soldiers and three civilians, and wounding another eight soldiers. One of
the dead was a colonel, whose office was next to where the car was parked. Russia
blamed the Georgian government for this.
September 30, 2008: Russia has agreed to sell India four 1,000
megawatt nuclear power plants. Back home, Russia plans to build 26 new nuclear
power plants over the next twelve years.