The Russian economy is taking a
beating, with the local stock market down 70 percent from its all-time highs
last May. This is only partially due to the worldwide economic contraction.
There is also investor (especially foreign ones) nervousness over the invasion
of Georgia and threats to other neighbors, and the increasing lawlessness
inside Russia against foreign firms and investors. This is causing a
contraction of the economy, and less money for everything, including rebuilding
the armed forces.
is already in the midst of major reforms. It was recently announced that half
of the 355,000 military officers would be dismissed or retired in the next five
years. Currently, about a third of those in the military are officers. Most of
these officers are assigned to make-work jobs (reserve combat units that can no
longer be mobilized because the equipment and troops are not there anymore), or
are incompetent hacks. The military is rebuilding itself along Western lines,
with professional NCOs (sergeants) and higher quality officers. Getting rid of
all these officers will also save a lot of money. The military needs it,
because they are in bad shape. The equipment is old, and there has not been
much training for the last decade or so. The only real defense Russia has now
are its nuclear weapons, which it has continued to invest heavily in since the
Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
The U.S. has
reassured the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) that they will be
defended if Russia makes a move on them. Although these three countries
recently joined NATO, there are still doubts that the other NATO nations would
actually take on Russia in order to comply with the mutual-defense obligations
of the NATO treaty.
In the last
three years, Russia has sold four billion dollars worth of weapons to Venezuela,
and is now negotiating to sell another $1-2 billion worth of tanks, and other
ground combat gear.
2008: Fifteen men entered Ingushetia,
dressed as policemen, and kidnapped fifteen people, including a local policeman.
The kidnappers were believed to be either bandits or Chechen rebels (it's often
hard to tell the difference.) Lawlessness in the Caucasus is an old problem.
2008: Rebels in Ingushetia attacked an
army convoy, killing dozens of troops. In response, the army launched a major
operation to find the shooters.