January 18, 2012:
In the last few months, Russian warplane manufacturers have completed development of upgrades for several existing aircraft. There's an all- weather Su-25 trainer (a ground attack aircraft), an upgraded AWACS, and several new and upgraded helicopters. While the press releases make it sound like a new era for the Russian defense industries, the very public failures of the Russian Space Agency causes doubt. So does the widely publicized groundings of hundreds of warplanes after one of them unexpectedly crashed. There are doubts, but Russian leaders simultaneously replace senior air force and space agency officials while also blaming foreigners for the failures. The recent failure of a space probe going to Mars is now being blamed on the United States, on a U.S. radar that does not exist. While that accusation is rather public, the government encourages rumors of foreign meddling for all sorts of technical failures. The tragedy of all this is that the technical and scientific prowess of the Soviet period is largely a myth. Many Russians see the Soviet period (1921-91) as a kind of golden age. It wasn't, but many Russians feel better by pretending it was.
Large numbers of Russians continue to come out and demonstrate against corruption and the current government. Nothing the government does has been able to stop this sort of thing, which has been going on for over a month. A total crackdown would simply prove the point the demonstrators are making - that Russia is turning back into a corrupt police state.
January 16, 2012: The Ministry of Defense announced that the major military exercise this year, called "Caucasus-2012", would be held in Southern Russia (including the Caucasus), Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Armenia and would simulate operations if there were a war against Iran by Israel and the United States. Russia is a staunch ally of Iran.
January 14, 2012: A Russian cargo ship delivered ammunition to Syria. The captain of the ship had earlier given written assurances to port authorities in Cyprus (where the Russian ship was refueling) that the munitions were not for Syria (which is under an arms embargo) but for Turkey. Russia does not respect this embargo and apparently instructed the ship captain to do whatever was needed to deliver the cargo. The captain might be prosecuted if he visits Cyprus again.
January 12, 2012: Under growing public pressure not to run for a third term as president, Vladimir Putin announced that if elected he would make the government more open and attack corruption more vigorously. While Putin has improved the economy and reduced a lot of the criminal chaos so common in the 1990s, he has also rebuilt many aspects of the Soviet police state. There is still a lot of corruption (as there was during the Soviet period). Worst of all, for Putin, is that many Russians no longer believe him, or believe in him. Putin is not willing to accept this. Putin has been president or prime minister for twelve years and apparently wants to continue running the country using rigged elections.
January 11, 2012: In Dagestan, a policeman was killed and two members of his family were wounded by assassins.
January 10, 2012: In Dagestan, one policeman was killed and eight wounded as they were disabling eight roadside bombs.
January 9, 2012: In Chechnya, Islamic terrorists ambushed soldiers, and killed four of them. But the troops counterattacked and killed five of the terrorists and chased the rest into the snow covered forests.
January 8, 2012: Russia's only aircraft carrier, and several other navy ships, visited the Syrian port of Tartus. This was to show support for the Syrian dictatorship, which is under severe pressure by a popular uprising. Russia showed similar support for Libya's dictator, who was eventually overthrown and killed. Russia tends to support dictators and tyrants, which is an ancient Russian custom. Both the Soviet Union and the centuries of czarist rule were anti-democratic. Some things never change.
January 6, 2012: The head of the Russian Orthodox Church used the holidays (Christmas is celebrated two weeks later by Orthodox Christians) to criticize the government for ignoring the popular demands for fair elections and less corruption.