S-400 Gets Better - January, 2009

S-400 Gets Better

January, 2009

Russia continues to develop and test new versions of its most powerful anti-aircraft missile, the S-400 (also known as the SA-20, Growler or Triumf). Particular attention is being paid to electronic countermeasures that the Americans might have, or be developing. Eighteen months ago, Russia put its first S-400a into service when a S-400 battalion (eight launchers, each with four missiles, plus a control center and radar) officially became operational outside Moscow. A second battalion was deployed in the same area this year. Belarus is also getting the S-400 from Russia. This system is similar to the U.S. Patriot, and is expensive. Belarus is broke, but is a close ally of Russia, and will apparently get a good terms and a low price. This will also provide at least one export customer. Russia is unsure if they want to export S-400 right away, but they do want to deploy the S-400 system where it will do the most good, and pro-Russian Belarus is a good place to put the missiles. The S-400 missiles weigh 1.8 tons each and are 26 feet long and about 20 inches in diameter. The missiles have a range of some 400 kilometers, and can hit targets as high as 100,000 feet. The missile has a 320 pound warhead. The target acquisition radar has a range of 700 kilometers. The S-400 has over five times the range of the U.S. Patriot, weighs twice as much and claims the ability to detect stealthy aircraft. The S-400 also has an anti-missile capability, which is limited to shorter range (3,500 kilometers) ballistic missiles. That would mean a warhead coming in at about 5,000 meters a second (the longer the range of a ballistic missile, the higher its re-entry speed.) The S-400 system actually has two missiles, one of them being a smaller, shorter range (120 kilometers) one. The S-400 has no combat experience, but U.S. intelligence believes that the tests these systems have undergone indicate it is a capable air defense weapon. Just how capable won't be known until it actually gets used in combat. Russia plans to buy up to 200 launchers (each with four missiles) by 2015, and phase out the older S-300 and S-200 systems. This would mean deploying at least 18 battalions in the next six years, and perhaps more than twenty. The S-400 is sometimes described as an improved version of the S-300. Basically, it is. This is how Russia prefers to develop weapons, making incremental improvements on a basic design, and doing so for decades if the system continues to be successful.

Source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/hta.../20081231.aspx

Russia's S-400 Air Defense System May be World's Best

Russia is testing a new missile for its formidable S-400 Triumf air defense system that, if it performs according to its claimed specifications, is the most formidable long-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system in the world. Three-star Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, the commander of the Russian air force, announced testing plans for the new missile Tuesday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. RIA Novosti described the S-400 Triumf -- NATO designation SA-21 Growler -- as being "designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles) -- twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot and 2.5 times that of the S-300PMU-2." The report said the S-400 was projected to remain the backbone of Russia's theater air and missile defense systems at least until 2020, and possibly even until 2025. "The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units. At present, we are testing a new missile for this system," Zelin said, according to the report. RIA Novosti noted that in 2007, the Russian air force announced it had carried out effective live firing tests of the S-400 air defense complex at its Kapustin Yar firing range in south Russia's Astrakhan region. As previously reported in these columns, the Russian air force already has put into operational service a battalion of its first missile regiment armed with the S-400 to defend the Russian capital, Moscow, and its surrounding regions. The S-400 Triumf system is claimed to have the capability to intercept "stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers per second (10,800 mph)," RIA Novosti reported. The report said a regular S-400 battalion operates at least eight launchers with 32 missiles. The Russian government has approved funding for a state arms procurement program to produce 18 such battalions with a total arsenal of 576 missiles by 2015, it said.

Source: http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry...91230740065/2/

In other news:

Russia to Overhaul its Most Famous Army Divisions

The Russian Defense Ministry is moving to disband the Moscow Military District's 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motorized Rifle Division and 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, and to convert them into four brigades. Both divisions now have 12,000 to 14,000 officers and men. The four brigades will have 50% more personnel, or between 18,000 and 20,000 officers and men. This makes up for 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers per brigade. Other army divisions will also be converted into brigades. Unfortunately, brigade level tables of organization, as well as the organization of their battalions, companies and platoons, are not yet known. Moreover, it is unclear whether the new brigades will have infantry-heavy or tank-heavy battalions with light infantry regiment status, as some analysts predict. No plans for dividing divisional artillery and air defense units, for subordinating the brigades to tactical commands and for facilitating their cooperation with military district commanders have been published to date. In this situation, it would be imprudent to make any conjectures. This raises the issue of the military reform's openness. However, minimal publicity is essential. This is particularly true of plans to overhaul the Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions, which have a long and glorious history. The 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Tamanskaya Order of the October Revolution, Order of the Red Banner and Order of Suvorov Division named after Kalinin was established in the summer of 1940 as the 127th Rifle Division in Kharkov, Ukraine.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the division fought enemy forces in the first few months of the Great Patriotic War, and was renamed as the 2nd Guards Rifle Division in September 1941 together with several other Red Army units. The division subsequently took part in many large-scale military operations, was renamed as the Tamanskaya Division for its heroic exploits during the Novorossiisk-Taman operation and finished the war on April 17, 1945 on the Samland Peninsula in East Prussia. After the war, the division was converted into a motorized rifle division and deployed in the Moscow Region's Naro-Fominsk District. Its elements always took part in military parades on Red Square, helped to overthrow Lavrenty Beria, former chief of the dreaded Soviet secret police, in the summer of 1953 and were also involved in the abortive August 1991 coup against the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the October 1993 clashes between President Boris Yeltsin's supporters and the Russian parliament.

The 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner Tank Division named after Yury Andropov, which is also deployed in the Naro-Fominsk District, has an equally distinguished history. Formerly called the 17th Tank Corps, it was established in the spring of 1942 and renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Corps in 1943 for its exploits during the battle of the Don River. The corps fought in many other strategic operations and finished the war on May 9, 1945 on the outskirts of Prague. The Soviet tank force was overhauled in the fall of 1945; and the corps was renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Division. Just like the Tamanskaya Division, the Kantemirovskaya Division participated in Red Square parades. On September 8, 1946, when the U.S.S.R. celebrated Tanker Day, the entire division marched through Red Square. In 1991 and 1993, the division's elements were also deployed in Moscow. Its officers and men fought in both Chechen campaigns, and took part in various peacekeeping operations. The Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions have a proud place in the Russian army's history. Their glorious traditions are the pillar of any great nation's army. The high command of the Russian armed forces has said the newly established brigades would retain their honorary names and banners. Hopefully, their banners and other regalia will not end up in museum collections.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081124/118483324.html

Russian Carrier-Based Aircraft to Exercise in Greek Airspace

Deck-based aviation of Russia's heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will hold exercises in the Greek airspace in January, the Greek National Defense General Staff said on Friday. "The exercises will take place on January 3-4 and on January 8-10 southeast of Rhodes Island and on January 11 south of Crete," the General Staff said. The exercises will be held in international waters but the aircraft will fly in the Athens airspace, the General Staff said. Russia announced in 2007 that its Navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different regions of the world's oceans.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090102/119334382.html

Swaggering on - January, 2009

Wishful thinking by the economist...



Swaggering on

But Russia will find the going harder

January, 2009

A few minutes before midnight on December 31st 2008, President Dmitry Medvedev will stroll out of the Kremlin and stand before cameras in Red Square, steam coming from his mouth. In his first new-year address to the nation he will speak about Russia’s resurgence and its demand for respect; he may talk about his difficult decision to send troops to Georgia; he is likely to mention the turbulent economic climate and Russia’s ability to weather the storm. Then the clock on the Kremlin tower will strike 12 and millions of Russians will click glasses to the tune of the old Soviet anthem, restored by Vladimir Putin eight years ago.

What will happen next and how much Mr Medvedev’s reassuring words will correspond with reality is harder to predict. But all the signs are that Russia is heading into its first truly difficult years since Mr Putin took power in 2000. Its small victorious war in Georgia was the culmination of Mr Putin’s era, which was marked by high oil prices and the sense of restored pride. In practical terms, however, this escapade did not win Russia anything that it did not have already while pushing its relationship with the West to a new low. Russia’s hurried recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which it controlled anyway, has created the prospect of a prolonged stand-off with the West.

When Mr Putin announced his choice of Mr Medvedev as his successor some forxeign pundits, bankers and home-bred liberals rejoiced: at last, after the belligerent Mr Putin, comes a mild-speaking young lawyer with no background in the secret services and few memories of the cold war. Only unrepentant pessimists, such as Andrei Illarionov, who had worked with Mr Medvedev at one stage, gloomily predicted that Mr Medvedev would try to overcompensate for his civilian background. So far the pessimists have the upper hand: Mr Medvedev has tried to prove himself not by diverging from Mr Putin, but by imitating Mr Putin’s bellicose style and sounding even tougher than his patron.

The West may not have much leverage over Russia, but the rift in the relationship is coming at a time when Russia can least afford it. One reason Mr Putin was able to ignore Western opinion on human rights or the worsening business climate was that Russia was swimming in money. The Kremlin never paid the price for destroying the Yukos oil company or revising the terms of producxtion-sharing agreements with foreign firms. Rising oil prices and a steady flow of cheap credits from foreign banks made Mr Putin feel all but invincible and masked structural problems in the economy.

In 2009 Russia will face a much tougher economic reality. Credits from foreign banks have dried up. Oil prices have fallen sharply. Imports are rising faster than exports, so that Russia’s trade surplus, which had been growing strongly, will start to shrink. To make up for this, the government will spend more money from its oil-fuelled stabilisation fund, but some of this money will go into inefficient state corporations, increasing the state’s share in the economy and complicating efforts to bring down inflation, which is in double digits. Russians will see their real incomes grow more slowly.

No more mister tough guy?

In the past, the Kremlin had to worry only about a marginalised group of Russian liberals. Now it may face discontent from a wider public which cheered Mr Putin’s tough stance with the West while incomes rose. Russia’s economic growth will become a lot more dependent on foreign investments. The optimistic scenario is that Russia’s economic needs will tame its hostility towards the West and that the political system created by Mr Putin and inherited by Mr Medvedev will become more flexible. The war in Georgia makes this scenario less likely than it would have been a year ago. Instead, the self-sustained logic of the Putin regime suggests that Russia will continue to search for enemies both outside the country and within. This may mean more hostile rhetoric and possibly actions in the former Soviet republics which Russia considers its own sphere of influence.

But it would also make Russia’s economic modernisation less likely. Several years of unchecked xenophobia have made Russians much more receptive to authoritarian and nationalistic rule than to liberal ideas. On the other hand, the more oppressive the Kremlin becomes, the more resistance it will face from its own ethnically Muslim republics, particularly in Ingushetia, where people are fed up with corrupt leadership and the constant abuse of human rights. In the short term, Russia’s war in Georgia has served as a reminder to places like Ingushetia and Chechnya that Moscow is ready to steamroll any opposition. But in the longer term, having undermined Georgia’s territorial integrity, Russia has inadvertently put its own at risk as well.

Source: http://www.economist.com/displayStor...tures_box_main

Ukraine Steals European Gas


European gas supplies at risk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmPJ9aR9ADg

Ukraine has started siphoning off Russian gas bound for European customers, according to Russia's energy giant Gazprom. This follows the cutoff of gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1, after the two countries’ gas companies failed to agree on a price for 2009. Gazprom deputy CEO Aleksandr Medvedev is in Prague to inform the EU about the on-going gas conflict with Ukraine, blaming Ukraine for the reduction in supplies. “It's not Russia, but Ukraine which is blackmailing both Russia and Europe. It seems that Ukraine's authorities don't care about their country, but are simply playing political games. The Ukrainian President and Prime Minister are using the gas crisis for their own political aims,” said Medvedev on Saturday. “We want the EU to have full information on the issue so that it has a realistic understanding of who is to blame for the crisis.” Gazprom's board is also holding an emergency meeting in Moscow where they are discussing Ukraine's siphoning of gas. “Ukraine has cynically announced it's siphoning off gas from the export pipe. Dispatchers in the Balkans say the region is already suffering from Ukarine's actions. Gazprom believes the Balkan states need to use the Energy Charter signed by Ukraine to protect themselves. This charter says no contract disputes should affect supplies provided by a transit country,” stated Gazprom’s Deputy CEO Aleksandr Medvedev. Earlier on Friday the company’s spokesman Sergey Kuriyanov said that Ukraine is avoiding negotiations with Gazprom. He noted that Ukraine’s Naftogaz has promised to pay $US 1.5 billion by January 11. “But there will still be an outstanding debt of $US 614 million. Therefore, we plan to increase the transit level of gas through Belarus,” Kupriyanov said.

Ukraine, however, has denied it is siphoning off gas from transit pipes. Also, according to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko, Russia has asked the EU parliament to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue of Russian gas transits via Ukraine. “Gazprom representatives are ready to head to Brussels, and all European countries, to fully inform them about the dispute between Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz,” he said. Earlier Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said that independent auditors are being blocked from checking whether gas supplies to Europe are being hindered. "We don't have an effective gas delivery contract with Naftogaz now. Naftogaz is currently obstructing the operators of RosUkrEnergo and is not letting them extract the gas from underground facilities which they have," said Kupriyanov. There is still no contract signed between the two countries and debts must be paid in full before another can be signed. The Russian energy company has also calculated over $US 600 million in penalties Ukraine owes. Gazprom’s overall supply reduction amounted to 90 million cubic metres a day, which is roughly Ukraine’s consumption.

Prices don’t meet

Both Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko have appealed to Russia not to cut gas supplies to the country and to continue talks. They've also named the price their country is prepared to pay for the gas: $US 201 per 1,000 cubic metres. Gazprom, though, wanted a higher price - $US 250 per 1,000 cubic metres – which is almost half the market price. Ukraine turned down this offer. A statement by Gazprom followed that it would now sell gas to Ukraine at the market price of $US 418. “Ukraine didn't accept the preferable gas price we offered - which was $US 250 per 1,000 cubic metres," said Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller. "So starting from January 2009, Gazprom will deliver gas to Ukraine at a market European price." As Europe depends on Russia for about a quarter of its gas supplies, and the fact that 80% of their supplies pass through Ukrainian pipelines, it is watching the ongoing conflict closely. After Russia had announced a new gas price for Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko said it would be "logical" that transit costs should go up too. The Ukrainian leader said that talks with Russia are to be resumed shortly with the final agreement to be reached by the time of the Orthodox Christmas, January 7. A Ukrainian delegation has set off on a tour of Europe, which aims at informing the European Union about the gas situation and to provide guarantees that the gas will be transported across Ukraine as normal. Also, Ukraine's president Yushchenko has sent letters to the leaders of eight countries and to the European Commission to explain his reasons of the gas dispute. Earlier Ukraine had threatened to confiscate Russian gas passing through the country, refusing to guarantee supplies to Europe as Russia promises to stop gas supplies to Ukraine due to debts. Gazprom called Ukraine’s reaction ‘blackmail’.

No choice

As Gazprom has vowed to maintain supplies to Europe in full, its gas will be entering Ukraine for the foreseeable future, at least until the Nord or South Stream is opened. One major pipeline – bringing gas to Ukraine – passes through the town of Kursk, while a larger one – taking gas to Europe – operates in Voronezh (see picture). Meanwhile, German gas company E.ON Ruhrgas has taken precautions in case supplies of Russian gas are hampered. Its press secretary Helmut Roloff said that the company has agreed on additional gas supplies from Norway in case of emergency. Nevertheless, on Friday, they received all the gas they had ordered.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/35530

Russia looks to re-route EU gas

Ukraine steals European gas:

Russian gas giant Gazprom says it can no longer depend on Ukraine as a transit route to the EU and is looking to develop alternatives. In a BBC interview, the deputy chairman of Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, said he hoped EU countries would back the move. Gazprom cut off Ukraine's gas supply on Thursday in a row over payment. The firm has since accused Ukraine of stealing gas, however Ukraine's state energy firm said Russia was not sending enough gas to ensure the EU supplies. Ukraine's state gas company, Naftogaz, denied illegally siphoning Russian gas, saying it was ensuring the export supply. Ukraine has insisted it will not interfere with gas transported from Russia to other states via its pipelines, as it has enough gas in its reserves to look after its own needs for some time. Hungary and Poland said pressure on their pipelines had dropped. Naftogaz said earlier it was diverting some gas to maintain pressure in the pipeline network.


In his first foreign interview since the gas was cut off to Ukraine, Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev dismissed the suggestion his company was deliberately picking a fight with Kiev. Instead he said Gazprom was ready to end the dispute immediately - but there was no-one to negotiate with. "We are ready to enter negotiations day and night, but they probably have other tasks than to solve this problem because they are not in Moscow," he said. Mr Medvedev said Gazprom has gone out of its way to ensure supplies of gas to Europe are maintained. He said the problem was not with Russia, but Ukraine, adding "that's why we believe it's necessary to develop, as soon as possible, alternative transit routes". The alternatives he talks of are two new pipelines Russia is planning to build that will by-pass Ukraine on their way to Western Europe. The Nord Stream gas pipeline would run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, and the South Stream link would pass under the Black Sea. The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow says this latest dispute is expected to give those Russian plans a significant boost. The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said it would call a crisis meeting of envoys in Brussels on Monday to discuss the row. Pipes across Ukraine carry about a fifth of the EU's gas needs. A similar row between Gazprom and Ukraine at the beginning of 2006 led to gas shortages in several EU countries.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7808937.stm

Britain Feared Annihilation by Soviets - December, 2008

The what ifs of history... Too bad their fears were never realized!



Britain Feared Annihilation by Soviets

December, 2008

Britain feared that it would have been overwhelmed in the event of a Soviet attack because of the depleted state of its armed forces, according to secret files made public on Tuesday. Papers released by the National Archives, under the 30-year rule, reveal that Royal Air Force fighter jets only had sufficient ammunition for two days of combat and the Royal Navy would fail to defend the country from Russian submarines. The army would have been too over-stretched to cope with a widescale campaign of sabotage and subversion by Soviet special forces, the papers show. Prime Minister James Callaghan called the situation a "scandal" when he discovered the scale of the problem and demanded resignations among the military. "Heaven help us if there is a war!" he scrawled on one note. But ministers could do little until the Tornado fighter plane became available in the mid-1980s along with other military hardware. The problem became clear when senior intelligence officers warned in late 1977 that, in the event of a conventional war, the Russians could unleash up to 200 bombers and 18 submarines against the UK. The assessment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was that British forces would be unable to cope. "UK forces cannot match the threat postulated by the JIC assessment," the chiefs noted in January 1978 in a document marked Top Secret UK Eyes Alpha. "Air defenses would be outweighed because aircraft would be outnumbered and stocks of air defense munitions would sustain operations for only two or three days. "Maritime forces need better anti-submarine weapons, and face a massive threat from submarine and air-launched missiles and also from mines; the most serious deficiency is in numbers. "The army in the UK would, until mobilization is complete, have insufficient forces to meet its commitments; after mobilization of the reserves, a process taking between 15-20 days, the Army would be able to counter the currently assessed Soviet land threat during the initial stages of the war but, lacking supporting arms and logistic support, it would be inadequate to deal with any more significant threat, including sabotage or subversion on a wide scale."

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/eu...ars/index.html

Medieval Hero Beats Stalin in National Poll - 2008

Medieval Hero Beats Stalin in National Poll

Alexander Nevsky : Prokofiev (extraits): http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7k...extraits_music

December, 2008

The Medieval prince Aleksander Nevsky has been chosen as the most important figure in Russian history by a nationwide poll. He beat off a formidable list of historical rivals – including Stalin - to win the title of Greatest Ever Russian. Voters had more than six months to choose from among 500 names. Nevsky had a winning score of 524,575 votes, overtaking the early 20th century reformer Piotr Stolipin with 523.766 nominations. Communist dictator Joseph Stalin finished a close third with 519,071 votes. A Russian prince from Novgorod, Alexander got the nickname "Nevsky" after his victory over an army of Swedes in a battle near the Neva river (in present day St Petersburg) in 1240. The Swedes came to Russia to conquer the cities of Novgorod and Pskov and to convert them from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Historical records say early in the morning of July 15, 1240 Alexander attacked the intruders unexpectedly while they were sleeping and wiped out the enemy troops by the end of the day. Later, in 1242, he conquered the Baltics-based knights of the Tevton Order, in the Ice Battle on Chudskoe lake and stopped them from conquering Russia’s north. The organiser of the Greatest Ever Russian contest, Alexander Liubimov, said Nevsky’s victory in the poll “demonstrates that Russians are dedicated to their ancient history, starting 1,000 years ago.” He said there was awareness in modern Russia that the nation’s ancestors “created a multi-national community within the Russian borders and defended Russia both against East and against west,” he said. In second place behind Nevsky was Pyotr Stolipin, an early 20th century Russian prime minister and a reformer. Stolipin believed in strong executive power in Russia and conducted a series of large-scale reforms in the country. The changes he brought about improved opportunities for well-off peasants. However, his decision to relocate peasants to Siberia to farm its vast lands remains controversial. Stolypin took a tough stance against left-wing extremism and violently suppressed strikes and peasant riots. The Soviet totalitarian leader, Josef Stalin, finished third in the poll. He ran a reign of terror in Russia and was responsible for a series of bloody repressions that affected millions of people across the country. Voting in the poll was suspended in August after Stalin clearly had a majority of the ballots cast the previous month. The organisers ‘zeroed’ the vote, claiming that spammers had attacked the site in order to give Stalin the victory. This time viewers had a choice of voting method. The could use the phone, text message or the internet. Technically, however, each voter was not limited to one vote. National poet Alexander Pushkin took fourth spot ahead of Peter the Great in fifth.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/35371

In other news:

Some 400 Latvians ask Russia's Abramovich to Buy Their Country

Over 400 Lativans have signed a letter addressed to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich asking him to buy their country, Latvia's novonews.lv website said on Monday. The letter, posted by an unknown person on the petitonline.com website, reads, "Dear Roman Abramovich. As you may already know our homeland Latvia went bankrupt and is currently holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on the sale of our country for 7.5 billion euros ($10.7 billion)." "I would like you to consider the possibility of purchasing Latvia: the population are hard working and pleasant, environmentally clean area and plenty of space to dock your yacht," the letter said. Latvia has experienced the worst economic decline in the European Union, with the country's GDP declining for a third quarter this year by 4.6% against the same period last year. Abramovich is ranked Russia's second richest man by Forbes magazine with an estimated $23 billion. His business interests include steel plants and coal companies in Russia and abroad. In the West, he is more famous as the owner of Chelsea soccer club. Earlier in the year some 2,000 Latvian residents, the country has a population of around 2.3 million, posted a petition on the internet asking the government of Sweden "to occupy" their country.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20081229/119221445.html

Russia to Set World Record With 39 Space Launches - December, 2008

Russia to Set World Record With 39 Space Launches in 2009

December, 2008

Russia is planning to set a world record by conducting a total of 39 space launches in 2009 despite the current global financial crisis, the head of the Russian Space Agency said on Monday. "We have scheduled a record number of launches for next year. We are planning to carry out 39 launches, half of them commercial and civilian satellites," Anatoly Perminov said. Russia conducted 27 space launches in 2008 and 26 launches in 2007, becoming the world's leader in this sphere. Perminov said Russia would meet all its obligations before international partners in a variety of joint space programs. "Despite the difficulties created by the crisis, we are preparing to launch in 2009 four manned space missions instead of two, and we are planning to send six Progress cargo vehicles to the International Space Station instead of four," Russia's space chief said. Perminov also said there were no changes in Russia's Glonass satellite program. "We will conduct two launches with three satellites each to increase the Glonass orbital grouping by six satellites," he said. The Glonass grouping currently consists of 19 satellites, of which 16 are operational, two are undergoing maintenance, and one is due to be withdrawn. The system requires 18 satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of the Russian Federation, and 24 satellites to provide services worldwide. A total of 9.9 billion rubles ($360 million at the current exchange rate) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($170 million) in 2006. Six new Glonass satellites were added to the network in 2008. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive on September 12 allocating an additional $2.6 billion to develop the system. Anatoly Perminov said in September that the number of satellites in the Glonass network would be increased to 30 by 2011.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081229/119210306.html

In other news:

Russia Selling Surface-to-Air Missiles to Libya, Syria: Report

Russia has begun to fulfil a 250-million-dollar contract to deliver surface-to-air missiles to seven countries including Libya, Syria and Venezuela, the Vedomosti business daily reported Friday. Russia will also deliver the S-125 Pechora-2M missile batteries to Egypt, Myanmar, Vietnam and Turkmenistan under the contract, the newspaper said, citing a source in the state-owned Russian Technologies corporation. Contacted by AFP, a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment. Russian Technologies includes arms exporter Rosoboronexport among its holdings. The paper did not say which parties had signed the contract. The Pechora-2M -- known as the SA-3A Goa in NATO parlance -- is an upgraded version of a surface-to-air missile originally developed in the 1960s that was widely shared with the Soviet Union's allies around the world. Under the contract, 200 missiles are to be delivered including 70 for Egypt, an unnamed manager at a Russian defence-industry factory told Vedomosti. He added that most would be built at the Obukhov factory in Saint Petersburg. "It is a simple but effective system, like the Kalashnikov assault rifle," he said of the Pechora.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081226...nezueladefence

Russia Sells SA-20 to Iran

Irrespective of Kremlin denials, Iran is buying the Russian-built SA-20 strategic-range air defense system, say senior U.S. government officials. Deployment of the system - a threat previously thought to be only a bargaining tool - would mark a capability leap in the Middle East and considerably improve Iran's ability to defend its nuclear facilities. Western officials are concerned that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons. "The Iranians are on contract for the SA-20 [which NATO designated Gargoyle]," says one of the U.S. government officials. "We've got a huge set of challenges in the future that we've never had [before]. We've been lulled into a false sense of security because our operations over the last 20 years involved complete air dominance and we've been free to operate in all domains."

The proliferation of so-called double-digit surface-to-air missile systems - such as the Almaz Antey SA-20 (S-300PMU1/S-300PMU2) - poses an increasing threat to nonstealthy aircraft, and will force changes in tactics and operational planning. The SA-20 has an engagement envelope of roughly 100 mi., and Iran may be signed up for the S-300PMU-2 variant with even greater range. Russia could use Belarus as the route for a sale, allowing Moscow to deny any direct involvement, says a U.S. official. It would likely take the Iranian armed forces as long as 24 months to become proficient in the operation of the SA-20; however, any deal would almost certainly cover training support in the interim. Israel might be tempted to preemptively strike suspected nuclear sites prior to the SA-20 becoming operational, or even try to hamper delivery. "The beginning of proliferation of double-digit SAMs is more of a concern than the potential air threats [such as Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 and China's Chengdu J-10] that are coming into service," says the government official.

The presence of Russian double-digit long-range SAM systems in the region during the recent Georgian incursion had a direct impact on NATO planning - resulting in a decision not to use the Boeing E-3 AWACS for surveillance. The SA-20 and, even more so, the SA-21 Growler (S-400) now entering service pose an increasing problem for mission planners using conventional strike aircraft. While low-observable aircraft offer greater latitude for operations, they are not totally immune to air defenses. The Lockheed Martin F-22 with its all-aspect, -40-dBsm. radar cross-section signature can operate within the engagement envelope of the SA-20 and SA-21. But the Lockheed Martin F-35 with its -30-dBsm. signature, but not all-aspect stealth, is at greater risk. The rear quadrant of the F-35, particularly around the engine-exhaust area, is not as stealthy as the F-22. Because of its aging stealth design, the Northrop Grumman B-2 also has limitations in the amount of time it can spend within the range of double-digit SAM systems, since small signature clues can become cumulative and offer a firing solution. The U.S.'s next-generation bomber program is aimed at developing a low-observable platform capable of operating irrespective of the threat from systems of the SA-21 class.

During the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia, the caution with which double-digit SAMs are treated was obvious. NATO wanted to monitor the fighting and refugee problems and track combat forces with its fleet of recently updated E-3 AWACS surveillance aircraft. They were banned from the area because the Russian attack columns included mobile SA-20 batteries. From their location in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, these SAMs covered airspace over the eastern Black Sea where the E-3s would have needed to operate. "If a coalition organization wanted to establish [surveillance or reconnaissance] flights or a no-flight zone in an area populated by double-digit SAMS, you couldn't do it with nonstealthy aircraft," the government official says. "These modern weapon systems are going to deny us strategic and operational options that in the past we haven't had to worry about."

The Iranian deployment of the SA-20 would most directly be a threat to Israel's fleet of advanced, but nonstealthy, F-15Is and F-16Is. Israel would need to rely on countermeasures - such as airborne jamming, false-target creation and network attack - rather than on platform survivability to counter the introduction of the Gargoyle. More capable point-defense systems - which would likely be used to protect SA-20 sites, for example - are also being introduced into the region. Syria is acquiring the SA-22 Greyhound (KBP Pantsyr), which uses a vehicle-mounted combination of cannon and missiles intended to provide defense against aircraft, helicopters, precision-guided munitions and cruise missiles. New threats, involving advances in commercially available electronics, continue to rapidly mutate in the area of secure communications and command and control, as demonstrated in Mumbai, India. During the recent attack, gunmen talked by cell phone and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to their commanders in Pakistan for orders about avoiding police, attacking additional sites, and selecting hostages for execution.

And during the 2006 fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the non-state group was able to set up command-and-control networks - using commercially available, Chinese-built, high-power cordless phones - to shift combatants and rocket launchers. These messages could not be intercepted by the Lebanese or Israeli governments. "[Part of the threat is] the new phones that are coming out with GSM, Satphone, Bluetooth, 80211G and 80216 [technologies] all built into one handset," says an electronic warfare specialist in the U.S. aerospace industry. "It's already happened. A multifunction handset switches you through all the options to find a usable route. If your GSM link goes out, it will automatically hook up to the nearest 80211G link, get the message to an Internet node and then go VOIP. That kind of connection technology is here, and it's cheap for the bad guys. All you have to do is be clever about how you use it for command and control."

Recent pictures of the interior of a new Chinese surface-to-air-missile command-and-control vehicle show two Lenovo laptops and the commander of the integrated air defense system talking on a Blackberry. In the battery's briefing vehicle, there's a VOIP connection. These are all good, cheap commercial products. Defense officials say that with the new telecommunications used by opponents, U.S. planners have to be much more detailed about how electronic attack is conducted against certain networked, computer-controlled threats such as integrated air defenses. The question arises: Is there any good news in this scenario? Perhaps there is at the intersection of electronic attack and cyberwarfare (a new specialty called special-purpose electronic attack, or SPEA) and at the overlap of electronic attack and high-power microwave weapons (called nontraditional electronic attack, or NTEA).

SPEA moves into cyberwarfare because operators are looking at more than jamming external emissions. They are dealing with affecting layers of digital instructions, called protocols, that run the network. They are using electronic attack, but it is against a computer network and not just a radar or radio signal. So there are new procedures that can be used in the electronic attack domain that are special and unique. NTEA involves producing long-lasting, instead of temporary, effects on enemy electronics. "It's not solely about effective radiated power [for jamming] anymore, it's about control," the EW specialists says. "It's about what part of the protocol stack can you get to and, possibly, take control of. A lot of it is not about preventing them from communicating; we're just controlling it in some way."

Source: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/gener...20%20to%20Iran

Russia Testing New Missile for S-400 Air Defense System

The Russian Air Force is testing a new missile for the S-400 Triumf air defense system, the Air Force commander said on Friday. The S-400 (SA-21 Growler) is designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles), twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot, and 2.5 times that of the S-300PMU-2. The system is expected to form the cornerstone of Russia's theater air and missile defenses up to 2020 or even 2025. "The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units. At present, we are testing a new missile for this system," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said. Russia successfully conducted last year live firing tests of the S-400 air defense complex at the Kapustin Yar firing range in south Russia's Astrakhan Region, and deployed a battalion of the first missile regiment equipped with the new system to protect the airspace surrounding Moscow. The system is believed to be able to destroy stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second. A regular S-400 battalion comprises at least eight launchers with 32 missiles and a mobile command post, according to various sources. The new state arms procurement program until 2015 stipulates the purchase of enough S-400 air defense systems to arm 18 battalions during this period.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081226/119183668.html

Russian Army Faced Critics, But Did Well in Ossetia War - December, 2008

Russian Army Faced Critics, But Did Well in Ossetia War

December, 2008

The Russo-Georgian War in August of this year demonstrated a basic truth about the Russian army: it is a sledgehammer, not a rapier, and a fairly effective sledgehammer at that. The five-day conflict left few doubts that, when it came to high tech and training, Russia's fighting men are behind modern armed forces. Western experts routinely pointed out during the conflict how antiquated some parts of the Russian military are. However, the well-orchestrated, lightning invasion also made clear that the Kremlin's soldiers are more than capable of using ingenuity and overwhelming numbers to crush an opponent like the Georgian military. Even as experts in Brussels and Washington were repeating conventional wisdom about Russian military weaknesses, rapidly- advancing armoured forces like Russia's 58th Army were lancing into Georgia, and in high spirits as they systematically demolished Georgia's US-trained army. 'Join us, we have plenty to eat!' an ethnic Ingush trooper from Russia's 503rd Motor Rifle Regiment told a dpa reporter visiting a strongpoint without invitation: 'Rice, vegetables, and plenty of meat.'

A drab green ZiL lorry hauling hot food and bottles of greenish fizzy water rumbled through the sector, held by a Russian armoured reconnaissance company. Two tanker lorries followed, one with diesel for BMP fighting vehicles, the second with water, which was going fast in the 35-degree August heat. That scene of a combat unit supplying itself with little fuss jarred with reports from the Pentagon and US news agencies. According to the Western narrative, Moscow's armed forces were massive but shoddy, with vehicles breaking down repeatedly. Other purported problems included obsolete weapons, sloppy field commanders, primitive communications, and pilots incapable of low-level flight. But on a rise overlooking the highway to Tbilisi, under a Caucasian midday sun, Russian infantry hacked away at the rocky ground with picks and shovels. They were digging in, in positions well chosen to command the highway. Sentries were posted, tanks were camouflaged, junior officers were on the move, and anti-tank rockets were cached at 500- metre intervals by the blacktop.

Despite an absence of GPS, or even topographical maps for anyone but the commanding captain, the reconnaissance company of 503rd Motor Rifle Regiment gave no appearance of the incompetence highlighted by the pundits back in the NATO countries. Nonetheless, even after the war ended, criticism of the Russian army's performance came thick and fast. A spokesman from Janes Defence International Weekly, a leading arms publication, pointing out to the Wall Street Journal that the Russian tanks operating in South Ossetia lacked modern steel lattice armor. Additionally, the publication noted, some of the tanks were more than twenty years' old. Such analysis failed to impress the Russian rank-and-file. 'She (our tank) got us here from Chechnya, we love her, and she's going to get us home too,' boasted a sergeant commanding a T-62 tank, according to him one of the oldest tanks in all of 19th Motor Rifle Division. 'She's good enough to fight Georgians ... and in any case, there is more to war than equipment.'

The Russian army also displayed a dangerous weakness in communications, with a general resorting to use of a journalist's satellite phone in an attempt to locate his troops, in an incident widely reported in Russian and Western media. However, Russian troopers and junior officers appeared unfazed by communications problems, employing captured Georgian mobile telephones and military radios. And, just like their Red Army forefathers, they sent important messages by motorcycle or jeep courier. Perhaps the worst problem experienced by the Russians in the war was Georgia's surprisingly effective air defence, which knocked down between four and 16 Russian planes, depending on which side one believes. But the Grakali railroad bridge - a key transport link between Georgia's capital and the coast - is good proof the Russians weren't stymied. Forced to pull back their air force, and still wanting to knock down the bridge, the Russians sent a platoon of combat engineers, who dropped the span with high explosives.

The Russians dealt with a critical Georgian air defence radar, located on a mountain overlooking the Tbilisi airport, using similarly rough-and-ready means. Confounded in repeated attempts to hit the radar with a daytime surgical strike, the Russian air force unloaded a single massive bomb in the middle of the night, leveling the radar and a substantial portion of the hilltop. Critics of the Russian military also have been mostly silent on a whole host of skillful moves by the Kremlin, which made the five-day war a hands-down Russian success. Among those moves was a complicated surprise amphibious landing on Georgia's sea coast that went off without a hitch and the lightning capture of the strategically critical Kodori Gorge by heliborne infantry deep in Georgia's mountains.

Russian electronic jamming forced Georgia's officers to abandon their radios and issue orders by mobile phone, which were then intercepted by Russian intelligence. In a striking psychological move, Russia sent Chechen mercenaries - feared for ruthlessness throughout the Caucasus - as shock troops against Georgian positions. Georgian morale crumbled, and in some cases Georgian troops literally ran rather than face the Chechens. 'We are here to teach people a lesson,' a xxxxy Russian motor rifle lieutenant said. 'Russia is no longer on her knees.'

Source: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/ne...in_Ossetia_war

Russia Accuses Foreign Nationals in Georgia War

Russian investigators on Tuesday charged that volunteers from the United States and a number of other countries fought on the side of Georgia in its war against Russia. Russian news agencies reported that Aleksandr Bastrykin, chairman of an investigative committee with the Russian prosecutor's office, said the mercenaries included nationals of the U.S., Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Turkey. Russian officials have previously accused the U.S. and Ukraine of sending servicemen to take part in the fighting in August — claims both countries have denied. The war over the separatist province of South Ossetia devastated Georgia, crippled its military, destroyed much of the key infrastructure and uprooted more than 160,000 people.

The Kremlin recognized South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent, drawing strong condemnation from the West. Representatives of Georgia's Defense Ministry were not immediately available to comment on the accusations that they recruited foreign volunteers during the fighting. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined immediate comment. A spokesman for Ukraine's Defense Ministry was not immediately available and UNA-UNSO, the Ukrainian nationalist organization whose members Bastrykin accused of taking part in the fighting, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. In Prague, Czech Defense Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said that no member of the Czech national army took part in the fighting and that authorities were not aware of any volunteers participating either. Authorities in Turkey could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bastrykin also released what he said were final figures for civilian deaths in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, saying that 162 residents were killed and more than 5,000 people were considered to be "victims" of the war; he did not elaborate on the concept. Previously Bastrykin's committee had said 133 civilians were killed. The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said in September that fewer than 100 civilians were killed. Bastrykin also said 48 Russian servicemen, including 10 peacekeepers, were killed in the fighting, reducing the death toll from the previously announced figure of 64. Bastrykin also renewed accusations that the Georgian military had committed acts of genocide against South Ossetians in the war.

Both sides have accused each other of that crime, and Georgian authorities were quick to respond. "The Russians should themselves answer for the ethnic cleansing they've committed, which is a proven fact," said Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili. Human Rights Watch and the Georgian government have said Ossetian militias were involved in systematic persecution of ethnic Georgian civilians in South Ossetia following the war. Russia says it invaded South Ossetia and then moved deep into Georgia proper to protect Russian passport-holders and peacekeepers after Tbilisi launched an assault on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. Georgia blames Russia for the war, saying it was forced to act by growing Russian support for South Ossetia and a buildup of troops around the region.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/...zGkkAD958EFHO0

Medvedev Sums up 2008

Medvedev Sums up 2008

Medvedev sums up 2008 - Full version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myE8d5jFJhQ

December, 2008

How strong and efficient could relations between Russia and the US be? What's to be done about the global financial meltdown? What are the main goals of modern Russia? President Medvedev answered these and many other questions in his interview with Russia’s top TV channels.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to ask you some questions on the results of the past year. What do you think about 2008? From your point of view, was it mostly positive or negative?

Dmitry Medvedev: Many different things happened this year. Of course, each year is different. On the one hand, this year brought us some happy occasions, some victories - in sports, first and foremost; in arts… There were some significant achievements in the economy and in the social sphere. From this point of view, this year was a normal one; it was the way we expected it to be. But on the other hand, this year brought us some dramatic events as well. Of course, I mean primarily what happened in the Caucasus - Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia. Also, I must say that throughout the last part of the year we have been doing our best to overcome the consequences of the global financial crisis. Thus, this year had both many positive things and big problems… serious trials for our country.

Q: Mr. President, let’s go back to one of the main subjects you mentioned: the war in the Caucasus. My colleagues have prepared a short video as a reminder about the events of August 2008. Let’s take a look. Can you recall how the events unfolded? How did you find out that Georgia had attacked Tskhinval? And how did you make the decision? Did it take you long? Or maybe, on the contrary, it was a quick decision.

Dmitry Medvedev: This picture will stay with me for the rest of my life. Things like this produce such a deep impression that they stay with you forever. To me, this was perhaps one of the most difficult days of my life. I can recall minute by minute what happened on that day. At about 1 a.m., Defence Minister Serdyukov called me. He said that according to the information they had, Georgia had declared war on South Ossetia. But there was no troop movement at the time. I told him to monitor the situation, to follow the events, and report to me on a regular basis, which is what he did for several hours. Every thirty minutes, he called me and told me what was going on: when the tanks first appeared, when other military vehicles transporting Georgian troops moved in, and so on. For some time, we still hoped this was a provocation and that Georgia wouldn’t follow through. But once missile launchers and tanks opened fire, and I was told there were casualties among Russian nationals, including our peacekeepers, I didn’t hesitate a single minute and I gave orders to return fire and destroy the attacking forces. Naturally, when making such a decision, one has to consider all the consequences, including the irreversible nature of the orders. Until you reach a certain point, it is still possible for you to turn back; but once the decision is made, it is impossible to go back to the way things were before. Of course, I realised this. And I hoped that common sense would prevail. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The Georgian leadership started a full-blown, bloody war against its neighbour. We took all the necessary measures and, on the whole, I believe the military campaign, which lasted only five days, demonstrated the effectiveness of our response, the strength of the Russian Army, and the fighting spirit of our troops. They were able to inflict extensive and, basically, irreparable damage on Georgia’s military without suffering major losses themselves. As a result of these actions, peace was restored in the Caucasus, and, most importantly, tens of thousands of people who were on the verge of extermination were protected. Thus, that was a very difficult day for me, but I think we had no other option and the events that followed confirm that we made the right decision.

Q: Mr. President, you’ve just mentioned that it was difficult for you to make the decision to send our troops into action. Were you absolutely certain the operation would be successful?

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, of course, we did suspect that our neighbour was not fully sound mentally, although we did not think it was that bad. But we knew about their preparations. I have said this before: at some point, I realised that our Georgian partner had simply ceased to talk to the Russian Federation. In the past, he used to suggest that we meet someplace, in Sochi or somewhere else, and discuss things. But at some point he stopped talking to us. It was at this point that I began to suspect he might resort to force. So naturally, we took some steps to be prepared. And this preparation made it possible for us to minimize our losses. The Russian Army destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure, but at the same time it avoided inhumane actions. But, of course, I could only hope that our Army and our peacekeeping force would fight valiantly. Their training, their morale and courage proved excellent. They were worthy of the Russian Army’s glorious past. And this, of course, is precious.

Q: By the way, while you were still running for president, as you were preparing to become the president of the largest country in the world, did you ever consider that maybe you, Dmitry Medvedev, personally, as the Supreme Commander in Chief, would at some point have to make a decision which would transfer Russia from peace to a state of war? And, in fact, is it possible to foresee such things?

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s a good question. Anybody making a responsible decision to run for the highest office in the country - the office which makes one the Supreme Commander in Chief - must not rule out such a possibility. This is why the President is both the Guarantor of the Constitution and the Supreme Commander in Chief. Of course, it is very, very difficult for anyone, including myself, to make such a decision. It is one thing to have certain functions defined under the Constitution and other laws as an abstract possibility in case of an armed conflict - and quite another to make an actual decision when a real armed conflict unfolds… when you realize it is enough to say a word and you’ll never be able to go back to the way things were before. This is a genuine ordeal for anyone. I think that under such conditions a responsible leader should think soberly, consider all the pros and cons, and make a balanced decision.

Q: It sounds like you made the decision to send troops to South Ossetia rather quickly. But how do you usually make decisions? And which ones, aside from the decision on South Ossetia, were the most difficult to make?

Dmitry Medvedev: Some decisions really have to be made quickly. Moreover, in some situations, like the decision with regard to South Ossetia, there is no one I can consult. I just have to make a decision, period. Other decisions are also difficult, but they are not so urgent. I mean, you have time to consider all the pros and cons. I often have to make such decisions, but I can tell you frankly they are nowhere near the decisions like those that involve using the Russian Army to protect law and order, to protect Russian citizens. Some decisions involving the economy are also not easy to make. These include the decisions we make regarding the financial crisis the entire world is battling today. In this case, you have time to consider everything: how the situation is evolving in other countries, what has been done in other countries, both now as well as in the past. Such decisions are made as a result of “brainstorming.” It’s not like you have to decide right then and there. But I repeat, for me, these decisions are easier to make, even though their consequences may be very, very significant as well.

Q: Let’s go back to March. I’m sure you remember the presidential race and its overwhelming outcome. On television, it was rather bright, too. Still, we have entered a period, by the will of the world events, in which some things do not work, and some things works different than they should. In such moments many may be tempted to act ‘differently,’ too. For instance, local authorities may try to dodge their duties or employers may be tempted to lay off their employees, considering the labour force as mere dead wood, while honest citizens may also be tempted to position themselves above the law. Also, criminals may be tempted to decide their time has come. How will the state react to this? Have you any approach to such things? Or do you rely on improvisation?

Dmitry Medvedev: In such a situation, the state should react wisely but strictly. You mentioned honest people. Well, their distinction from others is that even when there are temptations, their brains work appropriately, and they do not commit crimes. This concerns the overwhelming majority of our citizens. As for hardships, they may indeed be there, including an increase in unemployment which is now about six percent of the economically active population. But this is not a high figure. It’s less than in the U.S. and Europe. However, during the crisis, employers may also face problems. Normal and responsible employers should simply behave according to the law, which means that they should try and continue to pay wages or allowances. At the end of the day, what we succeeded in doing in recent years is that we managed to create huge human potential. There used to be much discussion about the lack of a labour force, overproduction of, say, lawyers and managers whereas qualified labour was in short supply. Rural areas have received considerable investment. The reason I am saying all this is that any sensible employer - either the government or private – should, in this situation, do their best to preserve basic labour force potential for the future because if we consider current developments on the world markets, clearly the crisis is not a pleasant thing, but it will pass eventually, as in the rest of the world. And in time, growth will follow. So, a sensible employer should have the necessary capacity to restore production in order to switch on the conveyor belt that was stopped earlier. It is very delicate work, and it’s up to all of us, the state and businesses, as well as society in general. If it is a question of certain infringements, as I have mentioned - the reaction should be prompt. If the labour code is violated, if wages are not paid, if someone is fired unlawfully, the prosecutor’s office should immediately respond and instigate administrative proceedings or, a criminal prosecution, if necessary. Otherwise, these things won’t be suppressed. And it’s up to all - not only federal officials, but also heads of regions and municipalities. In this situation, nobody will be able to sit on the sidelines - one will have to get involved or let someone else do the job.

Q: Dmitriy Anatolyevich, could you please elaborate on the future in terms of the crisis, as we have countless forecasts of possible scenarios for the future, so different from each other that it’s something close to wild guesses. Do you think the “bottom,” as economists put it, will be reached? When will Russia come out of this hard situation? And, very importantly, what country will Russia be when it is over?

Dmitry Medvedev: I am not an analyst or fortune-teller, so I am not going to present any forecasts which would be irresponsible on my part. At the same time, I can say that, first of all, this crisis has patterns which are not quite clear. And there are some hopes that since it started so unexpectedly, it may, with a consolidated stance by the states outlining a new financial architecture, end even quicker than we hope. But, I repeat, it depends on future research on this subject. As to what country Russia will be when it comes out of the crisis, this is indeed very important. It is crucial that Russia becomes not weaker but stronger. The crisis is not only about irritating problems like less money, smaller investments and discontinuation of some production, but also about new opportunities. Our economy is not ideal. And in this situation, we must try and make it more efficient by optimising it, creating new jobs. It is essential to raise productivity, understand what professions may be required. We do have unemployment, but at the same time we have many vacancies, which means unemployment is always peculiar. We need to fill vacancies that are crucial for the development of our country, and continue to create infrastructure and strengthen the non-financial sector of the economy. It is our immediate task, just as we must reinforce our financial sector. We have to admit that our banking system belongs to an economy in transition. We need banks that are more powerful and more prepared to address domestic problems and, at the same time, the ones that receive state subsidies should be more helpful in resolving problems. This does not mean the problem is insurmountable. We must monitor the situation and, in some cases, help some banks. At the moment, the government is preparing a list of several hundred companies which will receive state support. We were not going to do so six months ago, but now we have no other choice. We have to directly finance areas which are strategic for our country. We have enterprises in the country which are city-forming. We’re not alone in this. Other countries do the same. This is our current challenge and it is very important. So, our task is to come out of this crisis with minimal losses and, hopefully, with improved manufacturing capabilities, by diversifying the economy through innovation and thus decreasing the dependency on exported raw materials, the latter being admittedly one of our drawbacks. Those countries that are export-oriented lose more. Despite rapid development they are now facing problems. It’s not only about us but our neighbours as well. Therefore we must create an economy that is more balanced and diversified, represented both by high-tech industries and new jobs, with properly developed infrastructure. This is something we have to address.


Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/35211

Medvedev Signs Constitutional Amendments

The new laws amending the Russian Constitution to extend the term of office for the president and the State Duma were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday. The law states that the president is elected for a term of six years which is up from the previous period of four years. Members of the State Duma will now be elected into office for a period of five years, as opposed to its current four. After being passed by the State Duma on 21 November and the Federal Council on 26 November, the amendments were just a Presidential signature away from becoming law. The amendments were first proposed by Medvedev at his state-of-the-nation address in November. The new laws, though official, will not affect the current administration or house of parliament and will come into effect after the next election. President Medvedev also signed a law requiring the Russian government to report annually to the State Duma. This law will come into immediate effect. These are the first amendments to the constitution in its 15-year history.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/russian_news/news/35456

Orthodoxy’s Revival in Russia - December, 2008

As the Soviet Union was collapsing approximately two decades ago there were expressed concerns amongst Western policymakers that a new alliance comprised of "Byzantine" (i.e. Christian Orthodox) nations could emerge from the ashes of Communism. The main concern in the West at the time was that Russia could lead this neo-Byzantine revival. I personally was privy to such rhetoric at the time. Consequently, when the inevitable wars began to breakout during the early 1990s in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, it was quite obvious to me where the geopolitical lines were to be drawn and who Western powers would support. In short: Western powers would pursue an active policy against Russia and Christian Orthodoxy. The tools Western powers used in this regard were Islamic extremists from around the world, Chechen separatists, Croatians, Albanians, Turks, Azeris and Georgian nationalists. This Western effort to prevent the rise of Christian Orthodoxy proved successful. With the region engulfed in sociopolitical unrest, the neo-Byzantine alliance they feared never materialized. However, the potential for such an alliance has always remained. Thus, Western hostility towards it remains as well. Why does the Western world fear Christian Orthodoxy? Besides helping guide society in a tumultuous period in the world, the revival of Christian Orthodoxy can also provide a cultural and political commonality amongst regional nations that share an Orthodox/Byzantine heritage. We must recognize that every nation, without exception, needs political ideology and cultural identity to grow and prosper. Just within the last century we saw Capitalism fail, we saw Democracy fail, we saw Communism fail and and although endued with great potential, we saw National Socialism fail due to Nazi fanaticism. In the absence of major sociopolitical movements today and with the onset of a post Western world, Christian Orthodoxy, perhaps in union with some positive tenets of National Socialism, can play a major role in unifying a large segment of Eurasia's population under one ideological, political, military, economic and spiritual banner. In conclusion: I believe that the secret to a stable Eurasia is the revival of a new Byzantium headed by Moscow. I hope to see one day a union of nations from Serbia to the eastern reaches of Russia - under Christian, Orthodox rule.



With Orthodoxy’s Revival in Russia, Religious Media Also Rise


December, 2008

By the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, there were nearly 600 newspapers and magazines throughout Russia devoted to Orthodox subjects. They were all shut down by the Soviet regime by 1918. Today, in a country that was officially atheist about two decades ago, there are again hundreds of newspapers, magazines and newsletters covering the world’s largest Orthodox church. There are about 3,500 Russian Orthodox Web sites, and some priests are even blogging. The Russian Orthodox media, like the church itself, have not always fallen into step with the Kremlin line. The Moscow Patriarchate, its official newspaper and most Orthodox media have addressed the war with Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia as a tragic misunderstanding between two countries that share an Orthodox Christian heritage.

After 70 years of state-imposed atheism and 20 years that have run the gamut from glasnost to post-Soviet chaos to a revival of Russian pride, Russians have increasingly embraced their Orthodox roots. When Sergei Chapnin, editor of the Moscow Patriarchate’s official newspaper, Tserkovny Vesnik, organized the first Russian Orthodox media festival in 2004, a government bureaucrat called to inquire about the event. “I could tell he thought we would have 50 people or so attending,” Mr. Chapnin said about the first festival, which brought together 400 journalists. “I said there are about 500 publications with up to 10,000 journalists connected to them. There was silence at the end of the line.” This month, after the death of Patriarch Aleksy II, the head of the church, nearly an entire day of live television coverage was devoted to the funeral. The days before and after were dedicated to documentaries about Aleksy II’s life and talk shows discussing his death.

Vladimir Legoyda, the editor of Foma, the most influential of the Orthodox magazines, said that Kommersant, a business newspaper, inundated him with phone calls after the patriarch’s death. “That they came to us and are paying very active attention to this theme, this is a change,” he said. But he adds: “I want to be a realist. I understand that society doesn’t change so easily and maybe so quickly.” The revival of Orthodoxy is reflected both as a trend in the secular media and in a stable of publications that have appeared to discuss religious faith both with newly devout believers and those who are still finding their way in the church. Kommersant was the journalistic training ground for Yulia Danilova, editor in chief of Neskuchny Sad, another Orthodox magazine. It has editorial offices in a church located on the grounds of Hospital No. 1 in Moscow and is known for its charity work. A colleague from Kommersant who works with her at the magazine is an ordained Russian Orthodox deacon. Another editor used to work for Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Soviet newspaper turned tabloid, and secular magazines, but moved to Neskuchny Sad when those publications began to conflict with her deepening religious faith.

Foma, Mr. Legoyda’s magazine, has a staff of about 30 and a monthly budget of over $100,000 for all of its expenses and projects, which include a Web site and radio program. It is financed mostly by sponsors, with some money coming from advertising and subscriptions. Foma is the most successful Orthodox magazine, with a print run of 30,000, but it is small compared with secular publications. Mr. Chapnin said Tserkovny Vesnik, whose name means The Church Herald, had a print run of about 20,000, the same as Neskuchny Sad’s in November. Successful diocesan publications might print about 10,000 copies, while others in the provinces average about 3,000. While the magazines are most easily found in churches and religious literature stores, Foma can be found on many newsstands, next to secular papers. The Orthodox magazines are supported by advertising, which is weighted toward offers of icons and religious literature. The financial crisis is taking its toll on Orthodox publications, requiring some belt-tightening.

Mr. Legoyda is also the chairman of the department of international journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a training ground for future diplomats. He began going to church as a student in Moscow in the early 1990s. Later, as an exchange student in California, he met punk rockers turned Orthodox monks and helped them put out a magazine called Death to the World that used the punk aesthetic to talk about Orthodox themes. Back in Russia, Mr. Legoyda started to reach out to young people outside the usual church context. He has published a collection of his articles in a book titled “Do Jeans Stand in the Way of Salvation?” As Orthodoxy has become more ingrained in Russia, Mr. Legoyda said Foma had addressed different levels of religious skepticism. “We were never didactic,” he said. “We always said that we have doubts too. But if before someone might have said they doubt the existence of God, now they don’t. Instead they wonder if they should go to church.”

The popularity of Orthodoxy has created new problems. “Today a person easily calls himself Orthodox but doesn’t change his life,” he said. “Orthodoxy, as any religion, means changing your life.” That has especially become an issue in the coverage of celebrities, both in the Orthodox and secular media. That has prompted debates about the dangers of “Orthodox glossies” and “Orthodox glamour” and the absurd juxtapositions that often arise when secular magazines touch on Orthodoxy. Foma often features interviews with celebrities who now speak openly about how important religious faith is in their lives. Ms. Danilova, the editor of Neskuchny Sad, says she worries that glossy Orthodox magazines risk reducing religion to an attractive lifestyle. “There is a danger that people will organize a very nice Orthodox lifestyle and stop at that,” she said. “Bake the right pies, have the right braid like in the old days. But this is avoiding the problems of contemporary life.”

Orthodoxy turns up in some of the most unexpected places. A magazine cover hanging on the wall of Nikolai Uskov, editor of the Russian edition of GQ magazine, has an elaborate, medieval-looking certificate of honor from Patriarch Aleksy II, given to him for his work as editor of the Catholic section of the Orthodox Encyclopedia. It is surrounded by GQ covers featuring Jennifer Aniston and Hugh Jackman. Mr. Uskov was a scholar specializing in the history of Christianity and monasticism in early medieval Western Europe before he switched gears and became editor of GQ. But even a magazine editor in Russia could not escape Orthodoxy, he said, because it had been embraced by the elite. “The church has become part of public ritual,” he said. “Glamorous people must believe, go to church, have icons and go on pilgrimages to places like Optina Pustyn and Valaam and tell everyone about this,” he said, referring to two famous Russian Orthodox monasteries.

But Orthodox magazines feature articles that will never be found in GQ. “Our No. 1 subject is veneration of the ‘New Martyrs,’ ” Mr. Legoyda said, referring to victims of Bolshevik and Stalinist terror who died for their Orthodox faith and were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. “Just as in the first three centuries of Christianity, people in this country, in Soviet times, were martyred for Christ, except many more were martyred here.” Foma writes about the martyrs in every issue. “This is our sacred treasure,” Mr. Legoyda said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/bu...html?ref=world

Cubans Line up to Visit Russian Warships in Havana - December, 2008

Cubans Line up to Visit Russian Warships in Havana

Russia Navy Holidays in Caribbean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cOcTqz0bNk

December, 2008

Cubans waited in long lines to step on board the Russian destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, which sailed into Havana Bay on Friday, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported. Three ships from Russia's Northern Fleet arrived in Havana Bay on Friday as part of the Russian Navy's first visit to Cuba since the Cold War. The Admiral Chabenenko is being escorted by two supply ships, the Ivan Bubnov and the SB-406. The ships will be in port until December 23. On Sunday, the Admiral Chabenenko was opened to the public for excursions. Old and young alike waited for hours in line to get on board the destroyer and talk to the Russian sailors. Whole families came to the port to visit the ships and take photographs. Cubans were not the only ones to visit the ships as Havana has a large number of Russian expats living in the capital. Groups of Russian sailors also got the chance to go ashore to see the sights and walk through Old Havana and visit the capital's museums. The visit to Cuba completes a Caribbean tour by Russian battleships, which included stops in Venezuela, Panama and Nicaragua. Russia announced last year that its Navy had resumed, and would continue, to build up a constant presence throughout the world. Meanwhile, another Northern Fleet task force started a visit to Lisbon on Friday. After the visit, which will last until Monday, the group will sail through the Strait of Gibraltar, visit several ports in the Mediterranean, and take part in joint exercises with Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20081222/119087101.html

Russia's Latin America Aims Still Unclear: U.S. Official

The recent Russian naval visits to Cuba and Venezuela may be linked to August's Georgia war, said a U.S. diplomat Monday, though he said Washington was watching for the next Kremlin moves before taking a firm view. On a first visit to Moscow that he linked to Russia's growing interest in South and Central America, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said Russia may be considering a security presence there and warned of a regional arms race. Just weeks after a Russian warship carried out joint exercises with Venezuela and then visited Cuba for the first time since the Cold War, Shannon said Washington would draw its conclusions based on future Russian actions. "What would be telling however, is not this ship visit, it's the next one," said Shannon, responsible for Western Hemisphere relations in the State Dept. "If the purpose of this ship visit was just to make a point about Russia's periphery, if its purpose was just to make a point about Georgia, then we probably won't see them again," "But if the Russians really are attempting to build a more longstanding relationship in the region, then they will look for ways to maintain some presence in their security relationship with partners," Shannon told Reuters in a shared interview.

Immediately after Russia's August war, U.S. warships traveled to Georgian Black Sea ports, a gesture that angered Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who asked how Washington would like it if Russia sent ships close to U.S. waters. In September, Moscow dispatched two Tu-160 nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela and a naval flotilla there, led by the nuclear-powered battle cruiser "Peter the Great." Because of its overwhelming naval presence, the United States was not threatened by Russia in the region, said Shannon. "What's interesting for us about how Russia is engaging in the region is this is not the Soviet Union, they do not bring an ideological purpose to their engagement," he said. Shannon said he did not directly discuss the Georgia conflict during a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. But he urged Russia to join patrols in the region if it intended a future presence.


Russia's trade interests include arms sales and, while Venezuela has the right to buy weapons, said Shannon, he was concerned an arms race might develop in the region or that decommissioned arms might be sold off to illegal groups. "They're (arms) sold in a context, so when Venezuela buys $4 billion worth of weapons with very high-end aircraft, it has an impact in the region and one consequence of this is the Brazilian decision to modernize its armed forces," said Shannon. Russia and Venezuela have signed 12 arms contracts worth $4.4 billion over the past two years, a Kremlin source said in September when Moscow announced it was providing Caracas with $1 billion in credit for more weapons purchases. Arms sales to Caracas have included 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles. But Shannon said that, should Russia intend further naval voyages to the region, it should help block drug trafficking. "If the Russian navy intends more Caribbean voyages, it shouldn't just sail around, but do something useful like help patrol the seas."

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/gc07/i...4BL3ZT20081222

Amid Gloom, Russian Reserves Post Record Rise - 2008

Amid Gloom, Russian Reserves Post Record Rise

December, 2008

Russia's gold and foreign exchange reserves rose by a record $15.4 billion in the latest week thanks to a stronger euro and a rise in commercial banks' foreign currency deposits. The reserves, the world's third largest, rose to $450.8 billion on December 19 from $435.4 billion in the previous week, central bank data showed, even though the central bank spent an estimated $7 billion to support the rouble.

The reserves have shrunk by a quarter from early August peaks, dented by the central bank's defense of the rouble. Some of the money is also being used to help Russian companies to refinance their foreign debt. The rouble has come under pressure as Russia's key export earner, crude oil, falls in price. Russia has run seven small devaluations of the rouble since oil prices began to slide. The currency is now nearly 16 percent below August's historic peaks. Oil, Russia's main export, has lost 76 percent since July peak. The euro, which accounts for about 45 percent of Russia's gold and forex reserves, strengthened by about 4 percent against the dollar during the week between December 12 and December 19. A stronger euro boosts the dollar value of reserves. First Deputy Chairman of the central bank Alexei Ulyukayev said the reserves rose also due to an increase in foreign currency deposits in the central bank.

Many Russian banks took long positions in foreign currencies in anticipation of the rouble's devaluation, contributing to overall capital flight and prompting a backlash from President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russian authorities told commercial banks not to increase their foreign currency positions or risk losing their access to the central bank's liquidity through collateral-free auctions. Instead, the central bank gave banks a possibility to park their foreign currency in interest-free accounts with the central bank. Ulyukayev said "several billion" were currently held in these accounts. Commercial banks' accounts in the central bank are matched by corresponding foreign currency positions in the central bank's assets, which count as part of the international reserves.

Russia will also tap its $132.6 billion Reserve Fund, which serves as a safety cushion for the budget and is set to stay at around 10 percent of Russia's GDP, to plug holes in the next year's budget. The Kremlin's aide on economy Arkady Dvorkovich told Vesti 24 news channel on Thursday Russia will run a deficit of 3-4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 if global economic growth resumes in the second half of the year. Dvorkovich said that in case the global economy will be contracting throughout 2009, the deficit will not exceed 5 percent of GDP. Russia expects the economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2009 if the average price of oil stays at $50 per barrel.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...122500327.html

In related news:

Russian-Armenian Ties ‘Unaffected By Economic Crisis’

Armenia’s economic ties with Russia have so far been largely unaffected by the global economic crisis, a Russian official said on Thursday, reporting a nearly 20 percent increase in bilateral trade registered in the first ten months of this year. According to government statistics cited by Aleksandr Zaytsev, Russia’s trade representative to Armenia, the volume of that trade totaled about $860 million during this period. Armenian and Russian officials repeatedly said earlier that it will pass the $1 billion mark in 2008. Russia thus remains Armenia’s number one trading partner, accounting for almost 20 percent of its external trade turnover in January-October 2008. Zaytsev also announced that Russian investments in the Armenian economy nearly doubled to $570 million in January-September 2008.

The bulk of those investments were apparently channeled into Armenia’s energy and telecommunication sectors dominated by large Russian companies. “The financial and economic crisis has not seriously affected [Russian-Armenian commercial ties,]” Zaytsev told a news conference in Yerevan. “It will certainly somehow affect them later on.” Russia has seen its stock markets collapse since the outbreak of the crisis in September and the resulting sharp drop in international prices of oil, a key Russian export. The downturn’s impact on the Armenian economy has been far milder so far. Still, economists fear that the economy will be hit hard by a possible reduction in large-scale cash remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of Armenians working abroad. Russia is the main source of those remittances.

Economic issues were reportedly high on the agenda of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s October visit to Yerevan. “Our current economic relations are impressive but tend to lag behind our political relations,” Medvedev’s Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian said after the talks, calling for the launch “large-scale joint projects.” Sarkisian said he and Medvedev discussed potential Russian involvement in two such projects: the planned construction of a new Armenian nuclear plant and a railway linking Armenia to neighboring Iran. Armenia’s rail network, recently renamed the South Caucasus Railway (SCR), is managed by Russia’s state- run rail company, RZD. The Armenian authorities have signaled their discontent with SCR’s Russian management of late. A series of reports in the Armenian press accused the Russians of failing to honor their investment commitments. They also alleged that the SCR’s chief executive, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, has misappropriated company funds.

Zaytsev categorically denied the allegations. He said RZD has invested $108 million in Armenia since taking over its rail network’s management in January. Under the terms of its management contract with the Armenian government, RZD is to invest $230 million in the network during the first five years of operations and another $240 million in the following years. Zaytsev also criticized Armenia’s State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC) for fining the SCR 500,000 drams ($1,600) on Wednesday for its failure to provide the regulatory body with a detailed explanation of its tariff policy. The SPCEC demanded the information last month in connection with its ongoing inquiry into the legality of a recent sharp increase in the cost of cargo shipments and other services provided by the railway. The anti-trust inquiry was demanded by one of Armenia’s largest fuel importers owned by government-connected businessmen.

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...8E59671F67.ASP