March 19, 2011:
Russia is in the midst of reforming its armed forces, and some of the changes are causing a lot of unrest among the admirals and generals. For example, next month, aviation units of the navy and strategic rocket forces will come under the command of the air force. The admirals see this as adding another layer of bureaucracy for them to deal with when trying to develop and deploy reconnaissance or anti-submarine aircraft. Even some air force generals recognize this. Moreover, for most of the last century, the army ground forces controlled the ground attack aircraft and bombers that supported the combat divisions. This is not a problem unique to Russia, Britain has gone through the same problem, with naval aviation going back and forth between navy and RAF (Royal Air Force) command. The big advantage of pooling all warplanes is the elimination of competing "air forces" within the armed forces. That is also considered the biggest disadvantage.
Russian efforts to deal with corruption are not going so well. The big problem now is foreign companies refusing to invest, or those that are already there, leaving the country, because there is no working legal system to cope with all the government officials demanding bribes, or equitably settle commercial disputes. The corruption extends to the armed forces, where secrets and weapons are for sale, and there are still many officers more interested in money than in their profession. Still, there has been progress against corruption over the last two decades. But the progress has been too slow for a lot of foreign corporations, who go to less corrupt China and India instead.
Attempts to completely extinguish rebel and Islamic radical activity in the Caucasus continue to fail. The violence can be suppressed somewhat, but not completely eliminated. Looks like it's going to stay that way for a while.
March 17, 2011: The UN authorized military action against Libya, which is currently attacking rebels with great brutality. Russia and China had long opposed backing UN approval of armed interference. As recently as a week ago, Russia was openly opposing any international intervention in Libya. But the four decade old dictatorship in Libya was using foreign mercenaries to kill its own people, and had long supported international terrorism and supported rebels worldwide. Russia was persuaded to agree that this was an exception, and got behind the UN "no-fly zone" proposal (although they simply abstained from the vote, allowing it to pass). In the short term, this meant cancelling lucrative Libyan purchases of Russian weapons. Russia's official position is still non-intervention, and selling weapons to anyone who can pay.
Some in Russia believe that backing the removal of the Libyan dictatorship will make their weapons salesmen welcome with the new governments that just replaced dictatorships. Any help here is very much appreciated. That's because Russia is having more problems hanging on to major customers. India is increasingly angry with Russian price gouging. A recent example is the Indian plan to mount its 2.5 ton BrahMos missile on its Russian made Su-30 fighters. Indian firms offered to modify the Su-30s to carry the missile (a relatively simple job), for much less than the Russian firm. Then the Russians said that a Russian firm had to do the mods because otherwise a technology transfer agreement would be violated. This was nonsense and a scam, as far as the Indians are concerned, and just another Russian attempt to do a little price gouging. China is also becoming more aggressive selling their new weapons designs, which often contain a lot of stolen Russian technology.
March 14, 2011: In Dagestan, someone fired on a police station, wounding a policeman.
March 11, 2011: In Dagestan, someone fired on a local politician, wounding him, and killing his brother.
March 10, 2011: In Dagestan, a bomb went off on a rail line, but failed to derail a passing freight train.
March 5, 2011: In the Caucasus (Kabardino-Balkaria) police killed a suspected terrorist at a checkpoint.