Russia: The New Russian Empire

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February 1, 2006: Counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya are being turned over to local police and special units. In other words, the Russians have, as they have done in the past, convinced the majority of Chechens that they are better off siding with Russia, and fighting the Chechens who insist on independence. While that scenario has played out before, this time it's a little different. Islamic radicalism and al Qaeda (international terrorism) is now a factor. Chechen Islamic terrorists have been identified (usually in the form of dead bodies) in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Europe. There are not a lot of Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, but they are dedicated, and will fight to the death. The "mission from God" attitude of the terrorists, and willingness to kill any Chechens who do not agree with them, has turned most Chechens against the Islamic terrorists. Chechens were never noted for intense dedication to Islam, so the Islamic terrorism is seen as an outside, foreign, influence. The Chechens don't like outsiders, but won't leave their neighbors alone. That's what brought the Russians in two centuries ago, and keeps them there today. The Russians have learned to reach an understanding, and peace, with the Chechens. The Islamic terrorists have not.

January 31, 2006: Propelled by high oil prices, the economy grew 6.3 percent last year. Growth has been continuous since the late 1990s, and sharply increased oil demand from China and India appear likely to keep oil prices high. This means that the growing defense budget can keep growing, and the replacement of Cold War era equipment, and the abolition of conscription, can continue.

January 30, 2006: Espionage in Russia is increasing, or, at least the ability of Russian counter-intelligence forces to catch the spies has increased. Last year, Russia caught 93 "spies" (26 foreign intelligence officers and 67 of the Russians they had recruited to help them.) That's up from 18 foreign spies in 2004, and 13 in 2003. Russian espionage overseas has been up as well, mostly in an effort to steal technology.

January 25, 2006: Oil, electricity and gas supplies have been restored to Ukraine, Georgia and Finland. Supplies were interrupted for different reasons in each case, but the message delivered was the same; mess with Russia and your lights go out. While each of these countries says it will seek alternative energy sources, there are not many options. The Russians will supply energy at a discount if you make sure your foreign policy is pro-Russian. The Cold War and Soviet Union may be over, but Russia is still dominating it's neighbors. The weapon today is not tanks and nukes, but oil, natural gas and electricity.

 

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