The navy has ordered more of its 18 elderly IL-38 maritime recon aircraft to be upgraded to the IL-38N standard. The Russian Navy only has about 18 IL-38s operational, which are roughly equivalent to the American P-3s but have not had their sensors and communications equipment updated since the Cold War. Only 59 were built between 1967 and 1972. This upgrade has already been installed on five Indian IL-38s a decade ago and one Russian aircraft, to assist development. Getting the upgrade for more Russian aircraft was mainly a matter of getting the money.
Russia continues to make progress in reversing its population decline. Last year the birth rate increased 5.6 percent and population increased 292,000. This is in sharp contrast to the massive decline that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Over the next 17 years the population declined from 148 million to 142 million in 2008. At its worst the Russian population was declining 750,000 a year. A growing economy, more health consciousness, and more pro-family laws have all contributed to this turnaround, with the population now at 143 million. A decade ago it was feared that it would take another decade or two before the decline was halted. If the decline was not reversed the Russian population would have been under 100 million by 2050. The biggest problems were premature death, largely from alcoholism, drug addiction, and poor habits in general. During the period of decline there were more deaths than births. But the number of immigrants (mainly looking for work) continued to grow. Many of these were ethnic Russians returning from neighboring countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. Especially in Central Asia, these nations are growing more chaotic, less prosperous, and increasingly hostile to the Slavic settlers who have been living among them for a century or more. An increasing number of non-Russian migrants came in from these neighboring areas but were less welcome. The government reversed the population decline by keeping the economic growth going and encouraging a healthier lifestyle and having more children. This was why the West saw all those photo ops of Vladimir Putin showing off his healthy physique and athletic abilities. Putin encouraged subordinates to get in shape, to set an example. Birth and death rates are now about equal, but the death rate continues to decline as the birth rate increases.
Under pressure from Israel and the United States, Russia agreed to cancel the sale of S-300 (similar to the U.S. Patriot) missile systems to Syria. It was feared that these systems might fall into the hands of terrorists (either pro-government Hezbollah or the numerous anti-government groups) and be used to attack civil aircraft flying over Israel or elsewhere. Russia was forced (by international pressure) to halt S-300 sales to Iran three years ago. Until a week ago Russia was still insisting that the Syrian sale would go through.
Russia continues to try and rescue its ally, the Syrian Assad government, by organizing peace talks with the Syrian rebels. Neither side is interested, although the Assads go along to keep Russia happy and the arms shipments coming. Russia has recently flown in some Yakhont anti-ship missiles, much to the displeasure of Israel and the United States. Before the civil war, Syria accounted for seven percent of Russian annual arms exports. But that is slipping away and Russia is defying international arms sanctions by insisting that it is legal to deliver weapons ordered before the sanctions were imposed by the UN. The lawyers disagree, but no one wants to go to war with Russia over the matter.
In the south (Dagestan) a female suicide bomber attacked some policemen, wounding two of them and 16 civilian bystanders. The attacker was the 25 year old widow of two Islamic terrorists. Her first husband was killed in 2009, and the second one in 2012. Widows are often recruited by Islamic terrorist groups as such women feel abandoned and usually have dim prospects in Islamic societies. Over 25 women have been used as suicide bombers in Russia (mainly the Caucasus) since 2000.
May 23, 2013: In the south (Dagestan) police clashed with two Islamic terrorists, who were killed. Four policemen were wounded in the gun battle.
May 21, 2013: In the south (Dagestan) Islamic terrorists opened fire on a patrol, killing a policeman and wounding a soldier.
May 20, 2013: In the south (Dagestan) two car bombs went off, killing four people. Hours earlier police announced that they had thwarted a terrorist attack in Moscow. Two terrorists were killed and one arrested. These three men were believed to have received terrorist training in camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
In the Mediterranean Sea two Russian amphibious ships arrived to join the Russian flotilla (of about ten ships) recently organized and stationed there. The force also includes two destroyers, a frigate, and several support ships. From 1967 until 1992, Russia maintained a force of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels in the Mediterranean. Russia was building a base in the Syrian port of Tartus, but that has been suspended because of the civil war.
May 15, 2013: The Baltic Fleet has received one of the new
Stereguschy class corvettes. Russia is building these to replace decrepit Cold War era coastal patrol ships and for export. Four have been built and two more are under construction. These are small ships (2,200 tons displacement), costing about $125 million each. These "Project 20380" ships have impressive armament (two 30mm anti-missile cannon, one 100mm cannon, eight anti-ship missiles, six anti-submarine missiles, two eight cell anti-missile missile launchers, and two 14.5mm machine-guns). There is a helicopter platform, but the ship is not designed to carry one regularly. Crew size, of one hundred officers and sailors, is achieved by a large degree of automation. The ship also carries air search and navigation radars. It can cruise 6,500 kilometers on one load of fuel. Normally, the ship would stay out 7-10 days at a time, unless it received replenishment at sea. These are being succeeded by
Gremyashchy class corvettes (basically improved
May 14, 2013: Russia ordered a U.S. diplomat expelled from the country. The man (actually a CIA agent operating out of the embassy) had been arrested earlier while trying to recruit a senior Russian security official. That offer failed and the CIA man did not detect a trap. Russia later revealed that this also happened back in January but was kept quiet so as to maintain good relations with the U.S. But now the Russians are angry at the sloppy CIA operations and showed that displeasure by revealing the name of the senior CIA official (the “resident” in spy-speak) in Russia. This fellow will also have to leave now, which is what the Russians apparently want. They hold the CIA resident responsible for this sloppy and embarrassing spy craft. By mutual consent, Russia and the U.S. keep the names of their own and the other nation’s residents secret. That rule is only breached when there are embarrassing incidents like this.