Russia: Drifting Back To The Bad Old Days


June 30, 2012:  The security forces (local and national, police plus specialized counter-terror forces from the police and military) have managed to reduce the terrorism in the Caucasus but not eliminate it. Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia are still full of nationalist and Islamic radical gangs that pursue criminal activities (theft, kidnapping, extortion) as well as frequent attacks on government officials. Local resentment of Russian rule goes back to the 19th century, when Russia conquered the Caucasus, in part to halt the raids by criminal gangs into Russia. It's an old problem made worse by the current popularity of Islamic terrorism among young Moslem men. This has long since produced an animosity towards Caucasians (especially the Moslem ones) by most Russians. Refugees from the Caucasus violence often face violence and discrimination when they settle in other parts of Russia.

The security forces are spending more time going after reformers in the cities. These people are not terrorists but their government opponents often are. In addition to frequent arrests for demonstrating their opposition of a resurgence of communist type rule (state ownership or control of much of the economy, corrupt elections, and a few people making all the decisions), the government uses all its resources (especially economic and judicial) to pressure reformers to be silent. The government is eager to maintain the illusion of a free market democracy because most Russians do not want to admit they are drifting back to the bad old days of the communist police state.

Many Russians still yearn for the days of the Soviet (and before that Czarist) empire. While many Russians don't miss the communists (and have no memory of the Czarists at all), they are angry at the fact that half of the old empire disappeared in 1991, and became 14 new neighbors. The dream of reunion is fading fast as the parts of the old empire seek to distance themselves from their former masters. Most of the former Russian subjects are seeking new allies. In the West everyone is learning English, forgetting Russian, and seeking to join NATO and the European Union. In the east the former Russians are learning Chinese and having no problem forging new economic ties with China. Rebuilding the empire is a fading dream that just won't go away.

Russia continues to support the Assad dictatorship in Syria, even after a 15 month long rebellion that has left 16,000 dead. UN and Western negotiations with the Russians have failed to achieve any result. Russia is willing to ask Assad to share some power but not give up control of the government. Any deal like that is unacceptable to the Syrian rebels, who represent over 80 percent of the population and are gradually dismantling Assad control of Syria. Russia appears willing to support the Assad family to the end. Russia and China (and several other diehard dictatorships) are very much opposed to rebellions against non-democratic governments.

Last week a cargo ship carrying three Russian built helicopter gunships (and other weapons) to Syria was forced to turn back to Russia. This was done by the British government, which got the ship's insurance cancelled and threatened to send commandos to seize the ship if that didn't work. The elderly attack helicopters were owned by Syria and had been sent back to Russia for refurbishment. Russia now plans to send the shipment again, this time on a ship covered by insurance the British cannot cancel and escorted by a Russian warship.

June 29, 2012:  In Dagestan Islamic terrorists killed an Islamic cleric who opposed Islamic terrorism and burned down his mosque.

June 27, 2012: In Ingushetia police caught and killed the leaders of two Islamic terror gangs operating in the area. One of the dead men was transporting a large bomb.

June 25, 2012: The government gave NATO permission to use an air base outside Ulyanovsk for military flights to and from Afghanistan. This caused unrest in Ulyanovsk, which is the birthplace of Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin and still full of tourist attractions for the 20 percent of Russians who still have some fondness for the old Soviet police state. The demonstrators failed to change the decision.

June 20, 2012: In Ingushetia police found and disposed of nearly half a ton (450 kg) of explosives apparently belonging to Chechen Islamic terrorist leader Shamil Basayev. The owner of this stuff was killed six years ago and his organization fell apart. But caches of weapons and explosives like this still remain throughout the region.

A court in St Petersburg sentenced two college professors to 12 years in prison for selling ballistic missile secrets to the Chinese.



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