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Russian subway killers revenge 3, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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It is becoming clear that the women who killed nearly 40 Russians on attacks on the Moscow subway last week did so after their husbands were killed is highly dubious circumstances by Russian forces.

Yet now Russian President Medvedev is insisting that Russia’s police use “crueller methods” in putting an end to terrorism in Russia. Do I even need to comment…

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Russia: We don’t want Iran to have nukes 9, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Russia.
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Russia’s Ambassador in Jordan has said that Russia do not want a nuclear Iran. Whilst this is hardly revelatory news, it is quite unusual for this to be made explicit. He also said that Russia would support targeted sanctions but not military ones.

Iran expels Russian pilots 7, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Russia.
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MEMRI reports that Iran has ordered several Russian pilots to leave the country. MEMRI reasonably suggests that this can be seen as part of a tiff between Russia and Iran over hints that Moscow is more inclined to support further sanctions against Iran.

The times, they are a’changing in Russia 13, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, Russia.
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Russian time zones

Russian President Putin Medvedev announced that he is considering cutting the number of timezones in the country. Currently, Russia spans 11 timezones which, for example, makes business difficult for those at opposite ends of the country. Looking at the map above, it doesn’t look too difficult to do. The +4, +6 and +8 ones look like ripe candidates for the chop to start with. Then again, he could go the Chinese route and make everyone work by a unified Moscow timezone. And to think that people in the UK think that Britain is too London-centric…

Russian economy down 7.5% 14, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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…according to the BBC. This is a truly frightening figure. To think that those in the West are fretting about negligible growth…

America’s dissolution? 6, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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us-break-up

Another strange map from strange maps. Where do they keep on finding these things?

Russia’s MIG diplomacy 11, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon, Russia.
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I have written before about Russia’s use of its MIG fighter planes as part of its diplomatic strategy. It seems that this instance was by no means unique. The Times of London reported back in December 2008 that it was donating 10 MiG 29 Fulcrum fighters to the Lebanese government. The article further commented that this was seen potentially as the first of many such heavy ordinance arms deals. Yet is this quite the benevolent gift that it seems? I don’t mean this in terms of what the Russians are getting in return, but simply is this a good thing for the Lebanese?

 

First, considering that the Lebanese air force consists solely of a few massively outdated Hawker Hunter aircraft, they certainly do not have the pilots for such relatively new and complex machines. Training them will be costly and time consuming.

 

Second, whilst the planes are covered by some kind of warranty, this will eventually run out, leaving the Lebanese with a massively expensive bill for upkeep and parts. (Discounting the fact that they probably don’t have mechanics skilled enough to maintain the planes).

 

Third, this puts the Lebanese in a very awkward place with their American allies. Accepting this gift will not go down well in Washington in any, way shape or form and rejecting it will offend Russia.

 

Fourth, as angry as the US Administration might be, Bashar Assad in Syria is guaranteed to be practically apoplectic. Whilst Syria’s forces remain vastly superior (in number if nothing else) the fact that Lebanon has such potentially devastating weapons will not sit well with Assad’s military.

 

All this may be a moot point if Al Nahar recent reports are to be believed. They quote Russian sources maintaining that the MiGs are unsafe and probably ought to be scrapped. Russian’s entire MiG fleet was grounded recently after a second MiG crashed in Siberia killing its pilot. Adding to the calls insisting that Russia’s jets are of poor quality is Algeria, which is returning 15 of the MiGs that it purchased.

 

In short, it seems that the MiG is most certainly a plank of Russia’s foreign policy strategy. Just how useful a tool it is, however, is up for debate. The Lebanese example seems to have backfired on Russia. Not only was it intrinsically not a good proposition for the Lebanese, but now that they are little more than expensive scrap metal. This, along with the Algerian example, could seriously damage Russia’s arms exporting reputation, a crucial earner of hard currency for its struggling economy.

 

(Many thanks to Arab Media Shack for the hat tip)

 

Russia’s contribution to solving Sudan’s problems 25, November 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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MIG 29

Russia has agreed to sell 12 MIG-29s to Sudan in a bid to help them overcome the multiple and chronic humanitarian issues they are facing. It is not clear, however, exactly how these supersonic fighter-jets can help out with the near-famine or with the building of new schools or hospitals or villages or houses or with the resettlement of the 2,000,000 people who have been forced to flee since the start of the conflict in 2003.

A corollary of this agreement is that – and i want to make it clear that i am casting no aspersions as to Russia’s motives here – Russia will now (coincidentally) have better access to Sudan’s oil industry. And speaking of large sums of money, whilst some may say that the untold millions of dollars that the Sudanese government spent on these exceedingly useful jets could have been better spent on medicine or food or shelter or something ‘practical’ like that, Russia, no doubt, thought long and hard about this, listened to their conscience and – as ever – came up with (what some people might refer to as) the most morally reprehensible course of action.

The oil roller coaster continues 28, October 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Oil.
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It is a joy to see (from a Western perspective) the price of oil falling through the floor. The FT reported recently that US consumers had been spending up to 4% of their income on fuel – around $440 billion. However, now that oil prices have fallen to roughly half of what they were but a few months ago, you don’t need to be a financial wizard to see that savings in the region of $200 billion are in the offing.

On the other side of this there are the oil producers. Smug as well as inordinately and unexpectedly rich for so long off the back of soaring prices, it is hard not to feel sizable waves of schadenfreude crashing down on their disconsolate leaders. The picture is, however, by no means universal. The surprisingly prudent Saudis apparently predicated their budgetary plans on the price of oil at around $50 per barrel. This, coupled with incredible levels of liquidity, means that the Saudis will not suffer greatly from this decrease, barring any unexpected crashes. The less conservative Venezuela and Iran, however, bet that oil would remain somewhere around $95. This, therefore, leaves an impressive hole in the midst of their financial plans. Russia too, according to the same FT article, could be in for a rough ride, after expecting prices of $70 per barrel.

 

New Cold War? 15, October 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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Foreign Policy has some impressive pictures in this month’s issue of the Russian rocket that took Richard Garriott into space last week. Despite the muted notions of a new cold war, surely examples of cooperation like this suggest that such notions are wildly off the mark. Inshallah.

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