Russia: Reforms Get Rough


October 28,2008:  The Russian economy is taking a beating, with the local stock market down 70 percent from its all-time highs last May. This is only partially due to the worldwide economic contraction. There is also investor (especially foreign ones) nervousness over the invasion of Georgia and threats to other neighbors, and the increasing lawlessness inside Russia against foreign firms and investors. This is causing a contraction of the economy, and less money for everything, including rebuilding the armed forces.

The military is already in the midst of major reforms. It was recently announced that half of the 355,000 military officers would be dismissed or retired in the next five years. Currently, about a third of those in the military are officers. Most of these officers are assigned to make-work jobs (reserve combat units that can no longer be mobilized because the equipment and troops are not there anymore), or are incompetent hacks. The military is rebuilding itself along Western lines, with professional NCOs (sergeants) and higher quality officers. Getting rid of all these officers will also save a lot of money. The military needs it, because they are in bad shape. The equipment is old, and there has not been much training for the last decade or so. The only real defense Russia has now are its nuclear weapons, which it has continued to invest heavily in since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

The U.S. has reassured the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) that they will be defended if Russia makes a move on them. Although these three countries recently joined NATO, there are still doubts that the other NATO nations would actually take on Russia in order to comply with the mutual-defense obligations of the NATO treaty.

In the last three years, Russia has sold four billion dollars worth of weapons to Venezuela, and is now negotiating to sell another $1-2 billion worth of tanks, and other ground combat gear.

October 23, 2008: Fifteen men entered Ingushetia, dressed as policemen, and kidnapped fifteen people, including a local policeman. The kidnappers were believed to be either bandits or Chechen rebels (it's often hard to tell the difference.) Lawlessness in the Caucasus is an old problem.

October 18, 2008: Rebels in Ingushetia attacked an army convoy, killing dozens of troops. In response, the army launched a major operation to find the shooters.


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