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Russia

Post  polka23dot on Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:48 am

Out of 20 million males of working age, one million are in prison, a million in the armed forces (including paramilitaries), five million are unemployed (or unemployable due to poor education, health, or attitude), four million are chronic alcoholics, and a million are drug addicts. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htatrit/articles/20121221.aspx

US diplomats view Putin's Russia as a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centered on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organized crime are bound together to create a virtual mafia state. sources:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-cables-russia-mafia-kleptocracy
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334865/WikiLeaks-Putin-probably-knew-Alexander-Litvinenko-poisoning.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/europe/02wikileaks-russia.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

Recently the reformers got troops liberated from the prison-like restrictions they have long endured. For generations, Russian conscripts were confined to their barracks when not on duty. This was not pleasant, as the barracks were often decrepit and uncomfortable. The barracks themselves are now being upgraded, because they long lacked flush toilets, showers central heating and many other amenities Western troops take for granted. In these old barracks troops were allowed to bathe once a week in a bathhouse (actual or improvised for the occasion)... Another new reform has received a lot of opposition from traditionalists. This one will replace the traditional rugged (and crudely made) slip on boots and foot wrappings with Western style combat boots that use laces, come in many different sizes and are meant to be used with socks. The problem with the foot wrappings (“portyanki”) was that if you did not wrap your feet just so, slipping the foot into the “tarpaulin” boots would leave your flesh exposed to the rough inside surface of these boots. This could lead to debilitating blisters... Military reform has never come easily to Russia and usually occurred when a particularly strong and harsh ruler was in charge... Then there's the corruption, which expanded in the military in the 1990s, as the size of the force shrunk over 70 percent. Officers and troops sold off a lot of unneeded military equipment and officers stole money they had control over. This caused all sorts of problems, from lack of maintenance for equipment and barracks to shortages of fuel (to stay warm during the severe Russian Winter) and food (causing hunger and even some starvation deaths among lower ranking troops). source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmoral/articles/20130120.aspx

Russia continues its transformation back into a police state. Foreigners are demonized and foreign aid organizations are banned. Now the government wants to eliminate independent Russian charities. This is based on the fear that any independent organization is a potential threat to the state. Very Soviet and this attitude has a lot of support inside Russia who still see many enemies of the state wandering around. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20130207.aspx

Russia recently held some public celebrations of Soviet era prison camps, popularly known as the Gulag... The government made much of how the prison camps inspired inmates to be more patriotic, taught them how to cooperate with each other and respect war veterans... This celebration of the Gulag is part of more than a decade effort by former KGB officer and currently Russian president Vladimir Putin to turn Russia back into a police state very similar to the Soviet Union. This involves eliminating local government (appointing rather than electing provincial governors), nationalizing most of the mass media and enacting laws that once more make it a crime to criticize the state. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmoral/articles/20130213.aspx

In most nations the media are, like the first newspapers two centuries ago, the creatures of one special interest group or another. It was in America that the "independent" media was invented and even the U.S. media is not completely free of biases and favoritism towards special interests. In most countries, the bias and special interest control is much stronger. Yet in all countries, the local media is, like it (or agree with it) or not, the primary source of information for the population. Compared to America, the rest of the world's journalists are not well paid (even by local standards). Thus it is common for journalists to accept "gifts" (or outright bribes) in return for writing certain stories or slanting their reporting a certain way. The Soviets took advantage of this and their local agents (who were often not Russians) were liberally supplied with cash in order to buy the media attention they needed. The American CIA engaged in the same practice, but the Soviets were much more aggressive, and generous, in this area...  In typical Russian fashion, the Soviets would plant dozens of stories in different countries all hitting the same invented idea from a different angle. That way, the press in one country could cite a Soviet story planted in another country to back up their local "reporting..." Thousands of pro-Communist fighters believed, to the death, in the tangle of disinformation the Soviets had created. Without such motivation, many of these wars, rebellions and uprisings would not have happened. Information is power, even false information. And this translated into firepower for decade after decade. It has happened again and this time the true-believers are Islamic radicals. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20130314.aspx

Russians have always idolized their most violent rulers (like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, both responsible for killing a lot of Russians). While most Russians do not “approve” of Stalin, nearly half do. Stalin was from the Caucasus (Georgia) where he is also admired (in part for killing so many Russians). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20130313.aspx

Russia is now less of a land power than at any time in centuries. The Russian Army is smaller than that of the United States and China. In fact, China has an army three times the size of Russia’s and the Chinese defense spending is three times that of Russia. In practice, Russia depends on its nuclear weapons, especially those carried by ballistic missiles, to keep major enemies out. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20130323.aspx

Current Russian GDP is nearly $2 trillion and 2.8 percent of that is $50 billion. The U.S. spends over three percent of a $15 trillion GDP on defense but is reducing that a bit...  After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it was discovered (the communists were very bad at accounting) that actual Russian GDP was much lower (less than a tenth of the U.S., then six trillion dollars) than believed. The chaos of the 1991 collapse led to further economic contraction in the 1990s. By the end of the decade, Russian GDP was about $200 billion. But by then reforms and new ideas had taken hold. In the last ten years the GDP has grown to nine times its 1991 level. Even greater growth is expected. While there’s a lot of enthusiasm for rebuilding the armed forces, when it comes time to write the checks, other priorities, more immediate priorities, appear. The Soviet Union left a legacy of poor, or non-existent, infrastructure. For the economy to grow you need infrastructure (roads, utilities, ports, sanitation). Guns are nice, infrastructure is essential. There is talk of rearmament but in a democracy (despite the totalitarian aspects) the people’s needs cannot be ignored. This makes the Chinese offer to help attractive, even though many Russians fear that the rapidly growing Chinese economy is gradually making thinly populated eastern Russia (Siberia and the Far East) more Chinese than Russian. Over the last few weeks the government has carried out raids (“inspections) on hundreds of the 2,000 NGOs (Non-Government Organizations, like the Red Cross and pro-democracy groups) in Russia to check their financial records and remind these organizations that they are not welcome. The government is angry at the NGOs and Russian pro-reform groups for publicizing corruption among pro-government politicians and senior officials. Last year new laws were enacted that declared foreigners working for NGOs as "foreign agents" who must register with the government and be subject to taxation and constant supervision. The FSB (the Russian FBI/CIA) has long accused Western nations of working with pro-democracy Russian NGOs to spy on Russia. Western states deny it. The government has been campaigning against NGOs and foreign influences in general over the last seven years. Now many NGOs are not being allowed to register and are being ordered out. Western countries see this as part of an effort to turn Russia back into a paranoid police state, as it was during the Soviet and Czarist periods (as in the last thousand years). China is fine with this and would prefer Russia be more like the Soviet Union than a Western democracy. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20130328.aspx

As expected, a new Russian law allowing the government to block Internet traffic considered (by government censors) to be a danger to children is being used to block foreign criticism of the Russian government and the growing use of police state practices. Increasingly over the last five years Russians have held large street demonstrations in major cities, demanding more freedom and democracy (like direct election of provincial governors, rather than having them appointed by the federal government). The government has been energetic in trying to stop these public expressions of opposition. But the majority of Russians appear to back the government, which has exploited the Russian preference for security (financial and physical) over political and economic freedoms... Much to the dismay of the West (and pro-democracy Russians), there was relatively little dissent as Putin turned Russia into what can best be described as an "authoritarian democracy..." Over the last few years the government has been pushing Internet censorship almost as aggressively as China. This is done mainly to cripple the Russian Internet community that has taken the lead in spotlighting corruption and government inefficiency. This censorship campaign is all for the children, of course. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20130420.aspx

The Russian war against Islamic terrorists in the Caucasus continues, as part of a centuries-long battle with unruly peoples there... The three provinces (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan) have been unusually violent for the last decade, leaving over 10,000 terrorists, civilians, and security personnel dead. This is not unusual for the Caucasus, as the Russians occupied the area two centuries ago because of the chronic unrest and banditry (which preyed on nearby Russian territory). Nothing much has changed in all that time and the three provinces still see up to a hundred killed and wounded each month because of terrorist activity. The Soviets had suppressed the violence for many decades (via mass punishment, deportations, and a lot more arrests) and once the Soviet police state was gone, the people of the Caucasus went back to their ancient ways. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20130511.aspx

Russians always had the best spies...  The KGB was so good that most of these ops were not even suspected. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20130531.aspx

Chechnya: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htun/articles/20130613.aspx

Although Russia has imported a huge amount of Western technology since the end of the Cold War in 1991, it has been unable to develop the culture of innovation that long prevented Russian defense industries from catching up and overtaking their Western rivals...  The absent innovation has been traced to corruption and that is something most Russians agree is the cause of so many things that are still wrong in Russia. For innovators and entrepreneurs the corruption is poison because the established businesses can easily crush new (and more innovative and competitive) companies by simply enforcing many of the Soviet era laws that made it a crime to be an entrepreneur and innovator... http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20130724.aspx

About 20 percent of Russian defense spending is stolen by corrupt officers and officials. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20130809.aspx

By rebuilding the old police state (although now more czarist than communist) the Putin government has crippled the economy. Not only are foreign investors avoiding Russia in droves, a lot of Russian investors are moving their money elsewhere. Most businesses inside and outside Russia have given up on the new police state which bring more order at the expense of conditions conducive to economic growth (as in less corruption and more economic freedom). This change has had dramatic results. Two years ago economic growth was moving along at a brisk five percent a year. Since then it has slid down to one percent a year and continues to head south. The government is alarmed, but not yet willing, or able, to undo all the economic damage its police state has inflicted over the last decade. The people are getting restless. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20130818.aspx

Those who expected Russia to transition from socialism to democratic capitalism were mistaken. Putin, instead, has built an “autocratic state” that has exploited the country’s raw materials, making “a tiny minority of Russians wildly rich, while the vast majority of Russians are left to grapple with an environment that is deeply toxic to entrepreneurship, innovation and honest business...” Money is not all that is leaving: There also is an exodus that “rivals in size and scope the mass out-migration that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution,” and which undoubtedly includes many of Russia’s best minds. As “Russia’s Slavic population is constricting,” Berman adds, Russia’s Muslim population is expanding. “And by the middle of this century,” he reports, “officials in Moscow predict that the Russia Federation might become majority Muslim.” source: http://www.phillyburbs.com/00redesign/opinion/op-ed/russia-s-long-term-prospects-look-dim-to-author/article_1a379faf-6509-598f-b848-233d31ab04b1.html

With so many of the troops now one year conscripts, an increasing number of the best officers and NCOs get tired of coping with all the alcoholics, drug users, and petty criminals that are taken in just to make quotas. With the exodus of the best leaders, and the growing number of ill-trained and unreliable conscripts, the Russian military is more of a mirage than an effective combat (or even police) organization... Polls constantly show that most military age men do not want to serve in the military and the main reason is the hazing and prison-like conditions in the barracks. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htatrit/articles/20131017.aspx

Government economists are lowering growth prospects (from 4 percent between now and 2030 to 2.5 percent and similar reductions for near-term growth). That is largely the result of world oil and gas prices declining because of the American fraking revolution... Corruption and lack of a reliable legal system has scared off foreign investment and made it difficult for Russian entrepreneurs to create new businesses and expand existing ones. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20131201.aspx

Russian efforts to gain more control over the Ukrainian government are running into growing popular opposition. Over the last four weeks huge demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital have stalled government efforts to replace a popular economic deal with the EU (European Union) and instead adopt a less favorable arrangement with Russia... Western Europe, in general, is losing patience with the unreliable, and often criminal, manner in which Russian firms do business. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20131222.aspx

The problems with the Russian defense industry are many. They include a shortage of skilled workers and competent managers as well as corruption, very poor quality control and a tradition of ignoring complaints from users. Changing these Soviet era habits has proved extremely difficult. There are simply too few competent Russian managers (in general) and fewer still willing to work in the defense industries. Same deal with skilled workers. Even during the late Soviet era the defense industry was regarded as a refuge for over-paid and corrupt incompetents. Imposing Western ideas like warranties and financial controls didn't work. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htproc/articles/20131224.aspx

Russian military is so weak that the only thing keeping foreign invaders out is the long-range ballistic missiles and their nuclear warheads. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htproc/articles/20131225.aspx

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 a lot of Soviet era weapons simply disappeared... Most of this stuff was sold to gun runners who exported the majority of it. But because of the vast quantities involved (millions of rifles, pistols, machine-guns, mortars, RPGs and grenades plus equally large tonnage of ammo) some of it got lost, left behind or is still seeking a buyer... Over the last two decades, some 30,000 tanks were scrapped or abandoned in unguarded rural military camps that are no longer guarded or even occupied. These tanks have been picked over by locals who strip them of gear they can carry out of the woods. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20131231.aspx

Russia is still angry over losing Ukraine in 1991 and is using the fact that 17 percent of Ukrainians (mainly in the southeast) are ethnic Russians and another five percent are various minorities (mainly Turkic Tatars) to create a pro-Russian political block in Ukraine. Southeastern Ukraine is where most of the industry and Soviet era economic development was. Since the 1990s Russia has been using economic pressure and ethnic animosities to gain more influence over Ukrainian politics. The basic problem for Russia in Ukraine is the feeling among most Ukrainians that economic salvation will come from the West, not Russia. Consider that when the Cold War ended in 1991 Ukraine and neighboring (both, until then, subjects of Russia) had the same (low) per-capita GDP. Since then Ukrainian per-capita GDP has declined 22 percent while Poland, which quickly developed economic and political ties with the West after 1990, has soared to the point where Polish per capita GDP is three times that of Ukraine... After World War II the fighting in the Ukraine lasted into the 1950s...  Most Russians feel Ukraine should be a part of Russia, while most Ukrainians disagree... Many senior Russians (including president Putin) openly claim that much of Ukraine actually is Russian territory. This includes Crimea and much of eastern Ukraine (where most of the industry and Russian speaking population is). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20140222.aspx

Putin and his KGB cronies... recently... tried to restore the statue of the founder of the KGB, Polish count Felix Dzerzhinsky, to its place of honor in Moscow’s Lubyanskaya Square. There, from 1958 to 1991, the 15 ton bronze statue of “Iron Felix” stood directly in front of the former KGB headquarters... Although a Polish aristocrat, Dzerzhinsky became an enthusiastic, ruthless and efficient communist and was key in creating the KGB and turning it into one of the most feared and hated secret police organizations in history. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20140227.aspx

Russia and China are both using nationalism, in this case the promise of the restoration of lost imperial territories, to distract the population from the corruption and mismanagement of their government officials. This is an ancient political technique that depends on near-total control of information available to their populations. The Internet threatens that and this is a new risk for those planning to build and maintain an empire... European nations (including Ukraine) who buy Russian natural gas are now much more enthusiastic about their own shale gas deposits. Until Crimea, there was a lot of resistance to shale gas in Europe because to get it you had to use a new American technology called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Environmentalists and leftists in general are very hostile to fracking. But with Russian natural gas providing a third of European energy and Russia demonstrating some really bad, and undependable, behavior, customers of Russian natural gas are now more enthusiastic about seeking alternative supplies. Most European states have shale gas deposits, but they have to frack to extract the gas. Suddenly fracking has become pragmatic and even patriotic. Europe is believed to have shale gas deposits almost (about 80 percent the size of) the United States. Meanwhile fracking is not a new threat for Russia. The rapid growth of shale gas in the United States has crippled the ability of Russia to overcharge European customers for Russian natural gas. That is because suppliers of liquefied natural gas (delivered by ship anywhere in the world) have lost a lot of American business (to cheaper shale gas) and are shipping their gas to Europe and selling it for less than what the Russians are demanding. Russia long dismissed shale gas and fracking as more American fads that would soon fade. Now Russia has to cope with lost markets because of shale gas and their own misbehavior. Since oil and gas are Russia’s major exports, this is a serious matter. With less foreign currency available from energy sales, there is less money to import new technology and consumer goods as well as rebuild the military. Older Russians remember how successful American efforts to lower the price of oil in the 1980s helped bankrupt and destroy the Soviet Union. It is happening again. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20140413.aspx

The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) report that Russia is offering a large discount on what they pay for Russian natural gas if they will leave NATO. None of the Baltic States sees this as a good deal and consider NATO their only real protection from Russian aggression. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20140625.aspx


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Cold War returns to the Ukraine

Post  T.J. Donatello on Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:59 pm

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/west-draws-up-plan-to-bring-opposition-to-power-in-ukraine/article5646187.ece?homepage=true
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Re: Russia

Post  polka23dot on Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:18 am

On July 1st (2014) Britain gave the public access to most of the secret KGB files Britain obtained in 1992 when they smuggled Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior KGB official in charge of the KGB archives, out of Russia along with thousands of KGB documents Mitrokhin had copied and hidden for over a decade. Mitrokhin had offered the files to the U.S. first, but was turned away. Then he tried the British, who immediately recognized the opportunity and not only got Mitrokhin out of Russia along with his files, but set him up in comfortable, and anonymous, retirement in Britain until he passed away in 2004 at age 81. The Mitrokhin files were a goldmine of information and a disaster for Russian intelligence. This apparently contributed to the current extreme anti-Western hostility shown by senior Russian officials who used to be KGB officers. This includes Vladimir Putin, who has run Russia for more than a decade and brought a lot of his former KGB cronies into the government. The Mitrokhin files and the presence of Mitrokhin in Britain was kept secret for over a decade so that the data in those files could be exploited... Mitrokhin had spent his career in the KGB archives and eventually became the guy in charge. For an espionage agency, having a leak in the archives is the worst possible nightmare... His disappearance was not unusual because a lot of KGB officers had been disenchanted with their communist government but did nothing about it until the Soviet Union collapsed. Many left Russia to find their fortune elsewhere. Some were selling KGB secrets and many of these were later hunted down and killed. Others stayed and were running the new Russia by the late 1990s. The KGB had always recruited the “best and the brightest” and rewarded them well for performance and loyalty. Traitors were executed but these were few because those who applied to join the KGB knew what they were getting into and were content to have interesting work and lots of fringe benefits. This included immunity from arrest except by other KGB officers. In addition to the names of agents and descriptions of operations the Mitrokhin files also contained lists of secret weapons, explosives and equipment caches hidden in the West. These were to be used by sleepers in emergencies or in the event of war with the Soviet Union. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20140713.aspx

In Ukraine (Donbas) the Russian backed rebels are still very active, as are over 3,000 Russian troops who have quietly entered Ukraine in the last month. The Russians deny they have troops in Donbas but it is an open secret in Russia where many parents of Russian soldiers killed in Donbas are demonstrating their anger at government efforts to keep them quiet about where their sons died and how... Many (Ukrainians, Russians. Westerners) believe Russia is intent on grabbing all of Ukraine, even at the risk of starting a major war or even at the risk triggering use of nuclear weapons. In late August the Russian government (in the form of leader Vladimir Putin) warned the West to not get involved in Ukraine otherwise Russia would consider using its nuclear weapons to protect Russian interests... The impact of the UN sanctions have been made worse by the falling price of oil. Russia is economically very dependent on oil revenue and the falling oil price is a major, and growing, problem. This oil price decrease is caused largely by American innovations (fracking) that have unlocked huge quantities of oil and natural gas. For example, in 2010 foreign oil accounted for half the oil consumed in the United States. That is now 20 percent and falling rapidly. The U.S. expects to be a major oil and natural gas exporter soon and that hurts the economy of Russia a great deal... As Russia strives to reassemble its empire, first with bits of Georgia in 2008 and now with larger bits of Ukraine, several even larger bits of Russia want to secede, or at least become more independent. Several parts of Siberia have expressed an interest, often in the form of large street demonstrations, for this. Siberia (the Siberian Federal District) is a huge area (5.1 million square kilometers, about two thirds the size of the continental United States) with a population of only 20 million. But it has lots of natural resources and a coastline on the Arctic Ocean. The other area with separatist tendencies is Kaliningrad. This used to be part of the ancient German province of East Prussia, which disappeared after World War II. Most of it went to Poland, but Russia retained the city of Konigsberg and its environs (15,100 square kilometers, about the size of Northern Ireland.) They renamed the city Kaliningrad and made it a major naval base. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20140921.aspx

Kobalt M spy satellites weigh 6.7 tons and contain three re-entry vehicles for returning film. Yes, a quarter century after the United States stopped using this method Russia continues to use film, instead of digital photography, for some of its recon birds. In the United States the last generation of film-using spy satellites, the Keyhole 9 (or KH 9), was used in 1984. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htspace/articles/20140926.aspx

For centuries the Russian Army was rightly feared because of its huge size and the determination of its leaders to win at any cost. That army died out in the 1990s and was replaced by not much. This can be seen clearly during recent Russian efforts to annex parts of Ukraine. For the operations in and near Ukraine the Russians have sent in about twenty percent of their combat brigades, usually the most effective (Spetsnaz and airborne) and experienced (ones recently in the Caucasus). Parts of at least three of these brigades are currently inside eastern Ukraine. Over a dozen combat brigades have had some of their troops in Ukraine so far this year. These brigades represent the best Russia has, as the rest of the army is crippled by inexperience and shortages of personnel and equipment. Russia is still trying to replace obsolete and worn out Cold War era weapons and equipment. Since Russia does not admit it has troops inside Ukraine, the hundreds of Russian soldiers killed there so far have been coming back and the families are increasingly angry about the government secrecy about how their sons died and where. Despite strenuous efforts to suppress news of dead soldiers the Internet allows the news to get around and the families of dead soldiers to get in touch with each other and organize protests and unrest the government does not want. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htworld/articles/20140929.aspx

“I’m old and tired. Let them cope by themselves. I’ve done the main thing. Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn't suit us anymore and suggesting he retire? Not even a wet spot would have remained where we had been standing. Now everything is different. The fear is gone, and we can talk as equals. That’s my contribution. I won’t put up a fight.” - Nikita Khrushchev, source: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/after-kim-why-the-mystery-surrounding-north-korea-very-bad-11412

Economic conditions in Russia are becoming dire. The ruble has weakened to record lows not seen since the 1990s, capital is bleeding out of the country for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, and the economy is projected to grow a piddling 0.5 percent this year. source: http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-economy-is-crumbling-2014-10

The fighting in Ukraine has left about 3,500 dead so far. About 25 percent of the dead have been Ukrainian soldiers and militia. About 30 percent were rebels and nearly ten percent were Russian soldiers. The rest were civilians. The death of so many Russian troops, and the attempt by the Russian government to hide the fact that they died in Ukraine, has caused a growing number of anti-government demonstrations and protests... While Russian aggression in Ukraine gets most of the headlines, there’s plenty of Russian misbehavior against other neighbors as well. Finland reports that Russian aircraft increasingly test Finnish air defenses and twice recently Russian warships have threatened a Finnish research vessel operating in international waters in the Baltic. The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are receiving similar harassment, as well as Russian offers of a large discount on what they pay for Russian natural gas if they will leave NATO. None of the Baltic States sees this as a good deal and consider NATO their only real protection from Russian aggression. Some Baltic States leaders have been openly comparing Putin’s aggression to that of Stalin and Hitler before World War II. Russians get very upset at these comparisons, insisting that they are only seeking to regain territory that is really theirs’ and lost due to foreign conspiracies. At that point Russian logic involves plots by NATO and the United States which strike Westerners as absurd but appeal to a lot of Russians. That’s what makes Russia’s neighbors nervous. Russia is being forced to depend on China for tech and cash it can no longer get from the West because of the growing sanctions. As much as Russian leaders loathe and fear NATO, many also resent being forced to grant China access to Russian markets, raw materials and military technology in payment for help coping with the sanctions. Russian leaders believe they can handle China and Chinese leaders believe their economic power will give them unprecedented control over Russia. Someone has miscalculated here and it is as yet unclear who. While China gains more raw materials and export markets along with improvements to its locally developed weapons, Russia is forced to halt its efforts to diversify its economy away from dependence on raw materials exports. The diversification depended on Western tech and investment. That has been halted for the moment and the Chinese can’t replace it. Many Russians see this as a bad decision and that helps fuel the growing popular opposition to the government. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20141013.aspx

The majority of Russians believe their country needs a form of "democracy" that is substantially different from that practiced in the West, a recent poll shows. Asked what form of democracy would suit Russia, if at all, only 13 percent of respondents said that a Western-style democracy could work for their country, and only 5 percent saw it as a necessity for Russia's development, according to a survey by independent Levada Center pollster released Tuesday. A more popular choice was the form of "democracy" practiced in the Soviet Union, which was favored as the best option for Russia by 16 percent of respondents. source: www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/510286.html

Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin was a Soviet Russian Major-General who served as the chief executioner of the Stalinist NKVD... He is recorded as having executed tens of thousands of prisoners by his own hand, including his killing of about 7,000 Polish prisoners of war during the Katyn massacre in spring 1940, making him the most prolific official executioner and mass murderer in recorded world history. source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Blokhin

A new team of hackers has been identified. This one has been concentrating on finding and taking political, diplomatic and military data from NATO nations involved in opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine. This group, called APT28, was identified as Russian. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20141110.aspx

There’s a river of shit running through St. Petersburg. It starts in a little town called Novoye Devyatkino and flows into the Neva, where it empties into Neva Bay and then the Gulf of Finland. Locals for some time have sniffed with suspicion at the waterways from Novoye Devyatkino, but a group of ecologists now says it has proof that human feces are sailing unfiltered through St. Petersburg. source: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/17/russia-sewers-poop-river-petersburg-gps/

rise of Russian ultra nationalist movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMQSTgsgABA

Russia's gas leverage over Europe: http://www.businessinsider.com/russias-gas-leverage-over-europe-2015-2

The fighting in eastern Ukraine (Donbas) has killed over 6,000 since April 2014. Most of those dead have been civilians and over a million people have been driven from their homes... Russia, which sponsored and encouraged the rebels from the start soon found that the only way they could take territory was to send in Russian troops and heavy weapons (tanks, artillery, rocket launchers, missiles). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20150126.aspx

"The machine of the Red Terror works incessantly. Every day and every night, in Petrograd, Moscow, and all over the country the mountain of the dead grows higher... Everywhere people are shot, mutilated, wiped out of existence... Every night we hear the rattle of trucks bearing new victims. Every night we hear the rifle fire of executions, and often some of us hear from the ditches, where the bodies are flung, faint groans and cries of those who did not die at once under the guns. People living near these places begin to move away. They cannot sleep... Getting up in the morning, no man or woman knows whether he will be free that night. Leaving one’s home, one never knows whether he will return. Sometimes a neighborhood is surrounded and everyone caught out of his house without a certificate is arrested... Life these days depends entirely on luck." - Pitirim A. Sorokin (sociologist living in Leningrad) source: Leaves from a Russian Diary – and Thirty Years After, 1950

56 percent of Russians wished the Soviet Union had not collapsed... 53 percent of Russians felt Vladimir Lenin's role was entirely or largely positive in Russian history. That is the highest approval rating for Lenin since... 2006... Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continues to sit above 80 percent. source: europe.newsweek.com/majority-russians-fond-lenin-and-regret-soviet-collapse-449624

Russia is not making much progress dealing with corruption and is stuck near the bottom (131 out of 176 nations rated)... Russia has returned to police state ways and the traditional threatening attitude towards neighbors. Rather than being run by corrupt communist bureaucrats, the country is now dominated by corrupt businessmen, gangsters and self-serving government officials. The semi-free economy is more productive than the centrally controlled communist one but that just provides more money to steal. A rebellion against the new dictatorship has been derailed by astute propaganda depicting Russia as under siege by the West. Yet opinion polls that show wide popular support for this paranoid fantasy has left enough Russians with democratic impulses to continue leading the struggle for better government and needed reforms. For now most Russians want economic and personal security and are willing to tolerate a police state to get it. That atmosphere, plus the anxiety generated by having troops fighting in Syria and Ukraine has scared away a lot of foreign investors and many Russian ones as well. Russia can downplay this in the state controlled media but without all that foreign and Russian capital the economy cannot grow. Meanwhile China, the only real threat to Russia, quietly makes progress in the east. There China has claims on much of the Russian Far East and is openly replacing Russia as the primary economic, military and political force in Central Asia... Russia has returned to police state ways and the traditional threatening attitude towards neighbors. Rather than being run by corrupt communist bureaucrats, the country is now dominated by corrupt businessmen, gangsters and self-serving government officials. The semi-free economy is more productive than the centrally controlled communist one but that just provides more money to steal. A rebellion against the new dictatorship has been derailed by astute propaganda depicting Russia as under siege by the West. Yet opinion polls that show wide popular support for this paranoid fantasy has left enough Russians with democratic impulses to continue leading the struggle for better government and needed reforms. For now most Russians want economic and personal security and are willing to tolerate a police state to get it. That atmosphere, plus the anxiety generated by having troops fighting in Syria and Ukraine has scared away a lot of foreign investors and many Russian ones as well. Russia can downplay this in the state controlled media but without all that foreign and Russian capital the economy cannot grow. Meanwhile China, the only real threat to Russia, quietly makes progress in the east. There China has claims on much of the Russian Far East and is openly replacing Russia as the primary economic, military and political force in Central Asia... Big news in Russia recently were revelations that China had moved some of their ICBMs to the Russian border. source: https://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20170126.aspx
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