Russia: Passing Gas


January 22, 2009: The U.S. has signed a new agreement with Georgia, bringing with it more cooperation between the two countries. This is apparently to show the Russians that their aggression last Summer has not scared the United States away from Georgia.

Last year, for the first time in a decade, Russian oil production fell (one percent, to 9.78 million barrels a day). The lower world price for oil, and the global recession, has caused much hardship inside Russia. Government attempts to calm the population down with distorted news in the mass media (which the government now owns or controls) has not worked because so much alternative news is available on the Internet. The government fears that this may lead to loss of control the next time elections are held. The current government has been rebuilding the traditional Russian police state, but opposition parties would like to halt this.

Russia is modifying Indian Su-30s to carry the new, $2.3 million each, Brahmos cruise missiles. The BrahMos was a late Cold War weapon whose development was stalled (when the Cold War ended) until India invested several hundred million dollars for the Russians to finish it. While India has purchased hundreds of the missiles, Russia has bought none. The BrahMos recently failed its first operational test firing.

Hundreds of Russian MiG-29 fighters remain grounded as investigators attempt to find out what caused one to crash a month ago. The company that produces the MiG family of aircraft has lost much business to the firm that produces the Su-27/30 aircraft (Sukhoi), and it appears that the MiG producer is being absorbed by the larger and more profitable manufacturer  Sukhoi. This is another example of the continuing consolidation in the Russian arms industry, a result of the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian diplomats have approached officials in Libya, Syria and Yemen about restoring Cold War arrangements for Russian warships to regularly obtain supplies and maintenance at their ports. Russia is not moving quickly on this matter, because money is still tight (because of the collapse in oil prices), but wants to get an idea of what it would cost (financially and diplomatically).

Violence continues to grow in Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya, with more attacks (with bombs or gunfire) against security forces.

January 21, 2009:  A Russian destroyer was ordered to leave its Baltic base and join another Russian warship on anti-piracy patrol off Somalia.

January 15, 2009:  Azerbaijan sent a nastygram to Russia over continued weapons shipments (nearly a billion dollars worth) to archenemy Armenia. Russia has long supported Armenia (which, like Russia, is Christian) against the Azeris (who are Moslem Turks). These days, Russia sends diplomats to Azerbaijan to placate the Azeris, and promises to defend them if they are attacked by neighboring Iran, or whatever it takes to calm down the Azeris.

January 14, 2009: Russian natural gas shipments, via the pipeline the transits Ukraine, resumed to Western Europe. It will be three days before supplies return to normal. The West European nations now have an agreement with Ukraine and Russia to station monitors at the natural gas pumping station, to settle disputes over whether Russia is sending the gas, or Ukraine is diverting it. Ukraine has agreed to pay more for the natural gas it gets from Russia, but not as much as Russia was originally asking.  Western Europe, in general, is losing patience about the unreliable, and often criminal, manner that Russian firms do business. Many of these firms are state owned, and the Russian government is being told to shape up, or lose a lot of business with Western Europe.

January 3, 2009: The natural gas price dispute between Russia and Ukraine has led to a cut off of some supplies 20 percent of the gas used in Western Europe. This was not supposed to happen, and Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other for it.


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