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World War One: reparations finally over 2, October 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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Germany has finally paid back all World War One reparations with a payment of £60m. Stemming from defeat and the Treaty of Versailles, Germany and its allies were saddled with enormous debts to pay back for ‘starting’ the war. The ‘war guilt’ price alone was some 100,000 tonnes of gold.

There were various plans that amended the amount to be paid (such as the 1924 Dawes Plan and the 1929 Young Plan) but the coming of Hitler ended any notions that Germany would fulfil its commitments.

The London Treaty in 1953 agreed to suspend payments until Germany was unified. Thus in 1990 the debt effectively began to ‘count’ again, though the majority of the debt was written off.

Why it was not all written-off is beyond me. I think that it’s truly absurd that Germany was still servicing this debt in any way, shape or form nine decades after the initial hopelessly biased and unfair punishment was passed down.

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Russia bans S-300 sale to Iran 23, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Russia.
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Russia has formally announced that it will not sell Iran its advanced S-300 missile defence system. Despite initially obfuscating whether they would sell them or not, given the latest round of U.N. sanctions, President Medvedev has banned their sale. This must also mean that the more advanced S-400 will not be sold to Iran either.

Not receiving these supplies is a blow to Iran’s air defense systems, leaving their critical sites relatively undefended given the technologically advanced American and Israeli aircraft. Iran are instead continuing work on their own IR-300 defense systems though their effectiveness and date of operation is unknown (to me at least).

Stop Press: Putin saves bear 29, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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Vladimir Putin’s holiday snaps are getting ever more bizarre. Clearly he has seen some polling suggesting that Russians like men that have some kind of affinity with nature and animals. Hence Putin’s most recent snap saving a Polar Bear…

…and saving a Tiger

…and for the gay section, riding horseback

Ridiculous. What’s next? Tending delicately to budgies? Giving mouth to mouth to dolphins? Saving a kitten down a well?

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Russia’s missile launcher in a box 27, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia.
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The ever inventive Russians have designed a vastly powerful missile system that is disguised as an ordinary shipping container. Reuters reports that

One of the missiles on offer is a special anti-ship variant with a second stage which splits off after launch and accelerates to supersonic speeds of up to Mach 3.

Apparently, Emirati authorities have shown an interesting in buying the Club K system, but then again, what piece of new technology have the not shown an interesting in buying recently?

Given the high and unprecedented ease with which this system can be moved around it is causing some consternation in Washington DC where it is feared that it might get into the wrong hands i.e. Iran.

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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…

Russia enters the GCC arms market with a splash 28, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, Russia.
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I’ve been a great fan of UPI news agency for some time now. It seems to have an unusually acute coverage of the Middle East, often picking up on stories that otherwise get missed, which it combines with professional analysis.

Their latest little gem is about Saudi Arabia’s potential purchase of Russian air defence systems. Whilst this may not appear that unusual, there are various interesting points to note about this.

– So far it is believed that Saudi might be seeking to buy as much as $4 billion worth of Russia’s S-300PMU air defence system. Some think, however, that Riyadh might prefer to wait for Russia’s more advanced S-400 system which has a range of 250 miles and the ability to counter sophisticated missile countermeasures. Russia is believed, however, to prefer to use the first few batches of S-400s domestically.

– Additionally, notions of Saudi buying 30 Mi-35 assault helicopters, up to 120 Mi-17 transports, 150 T-90 main battle tanks and 250 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles are being mooted, according to UPI.

– It would be quite unusual for Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from Russia. Not only because of its heavy reliance on American and European weapons suppliers but because of questions surrounding the interoperability of Western and Russian systems.

– The most interesting aspect of this deal is that some see Saudi buying these weapons to make sure that Russia do not sell similar S-300 air defence systems to Iran. UPI writes that Russia ought to have delivered 5 highly effective S-300 batteries to Iran according to existing contracts though it has not claiming ‘technical difficulties’, which seems like the thinnest of veneers for US and international pressure. The UPI article sees Iran’s expulsion of Russian pilots recently as an angry reaction aimed at Moscow.

RAF intercept Russian bombers. Again 25, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Russia, UK.
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The RAF reported that roughly once every three weeks they are scrambled to escort Russian military aircraft that purposefully stray into British airspace back to international areas. The above picture was taken and released by the RAF of a Tornado F3 from RAF Leuchars escorting a Russian Tu160  Blackjack bomber out of Britain’s airspace on 10th March.

Russia’s petty game of cat and mouse with the RAF based in Scotland has been going on for sometime now. Can you imagine if British or French military aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons illegally and without warning entered Russian airspace? They would squeal, whine and rattle their saber has hard as they could. The double standards in this issue are just breathtaking.

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…