More from the last couple of weeks:
India to Order 29 MiG-29Ks in Russia
September 19, 2008 - India intends to order additional consignment of 29 MiG-29Ks in Russia, Lenta.ru reported with reference to defense sources of Indian Express. The cost of the order is estimated at around $2 billion, but the negotiations with Moscow haven’t been launched yet.
In 2004, India ordered 12 one-seat MiG-29Ks and four two-seat MiG-29KUB under the complex contract for supply of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier cruiser. The deal budget amounted to $1.6 billion.
The purchase of the second consignment will enable India to create additional squadrons. India plans to extend the 50 MiG-29K fleet to 50 jets.
Russia deploys warships to the Caribbean
Russian warships are sailing towards the Caribbean for the first time since the Cold War to take part in a joint naval exercise with Venezuela.
September 22. 2008 - In a display meant to show off Russia's military resurgence and to provoke the United States, four vessels from the Northern Fleet set sail on a mission replete with an atmosphere of Soviet-era bombast and brinksmanship.
Symbolically at least, the manoeuvres represent the Kremlin's boldest challenge yet to US military hegemony. By sailing so close to the American coastline for a series of exercises with Washington's principal detractor in Latin America, Russia seems to be deliberately attempting to irritate the White House.
The flotilla that left the northern port of Serveromosrk on Russia's Arctic coast was lead by the guided missile cruiser Peter the Great, one of the largest warships of its kind. The Kirov-class warship is equipped with cruise missiles that can be armed with nuclear warheads.
It was accompanied by the Admiral Chabanenko, an anti-submarine destroyer, and two support vessels.
Although navy chiefs insisted that the exercises had no political overtones, most analysts believe the Kremlin is signalling its determination to challenge the United States and retaliate for Washington's support of Georgia during last month's war in the Caucasus.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, vowed that Moscow would respond in kind after accusing American naval vessels ordered to Georgia to deliver aid of carrying weapons to re-arm the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The mission, which will formally begin in mid-November, will delight Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, who has already revelled in the presence of two Russian bombers in his country earlier this month.
"It is a message to the empire that Venezuela is no longer poor and alone," Mr Chavez said last week.
Over the past 18 months, Mr Putin has unnerved the West by ordering the resumption of long-range bomber patrols close to the airspace of several countries, including Britain and the United States.
Whatever their private reaction, American officials are likely to mock Russia's latest attempt at swagger. The White House has already derided the Kremlin's attempts to court Latin America's socialist states, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as part of a newly assertive foreign policy that again has many echoes of the Cold War.
There were also insults from the Pentagon over the state of Russia's ageing air force and those jibes are likely to be revived with even greater intensity over the feeble condition of the country's navy.
According to some military analysts, about half of Russia's navy is in dry docks at any one time undergoing repair. The Peter the Great itself was put out of commission for several months in 2004 after Russia's navy chief warned it was in such poor condition it could "explode" at any moment.
Last week two sailors were killed aboard another Russian ship after it caught fire - a regular hazard on many vessels.
Even so, Russia is undergoing a rapid modernisation of its armed forces. While the focus has been on upgrading the country's nuclear capability, Russia unveiled plans last week to increase its defence budget by 50 per cent over the next three years.
Moscow is also seeking the international presence of its navy by building naval bases outside Russia for the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed and could build a new port in Syria, another close ally.
As it tries to reassert itself as a power, Russia has offered itself as a champion of many countries that are bitterly opposed to the United States, among them Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe.
Many of Russia's new friends will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which convenes on Tuesday. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran will address delegates in a speech that is expected to echo Russia's demands for an overhaul of the world order.
Mr Chavez will make his speech on Wednesday, with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe due to talk on Thursday.
Stealth in Venezuela
by Michael J. Economides and Nate Evans
09/23/2008 - Nearly five decades after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Russians are once again trying to increase their influence in Latin America. On September 11 (which is fascinating timing), two Russian Tu-160 long-range nuclear-capable bombers arrived in Venezuela, along with a contingent of Russian warships. The jets and 1,000 Russian troops were there to begin training exercises with Venezuelan forces.
Much of Venezuela’s weaponry is Russian-made, a result of a $3 billion arms deal between the two in 2006 that allowed Hugo Chávez to purchase 53 Mi-28N helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 jet fighters, TOR-M1 anti-aircraft systems, and 100,000 AK-47s. A more recent arms deal calls for Venezuela to buy Russia’s Varshavianka-class (aka Kilo-class) submarines. Chávez, never at a loss for blustery rhetoric, declared after the Russians’ arrival: “Yankee hegemony is finished.”
The reaction of the United States to all this has been rather muted. Because the U.S. is so heavily committed in other parts of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Chávez believes he has free rein in South America. But while the international community has come to expect bluster and aggression from him, it is Russia that has surprised many. First came the invasion of Georgia. Now it appears that Russia is directly challenging the U.S. in Latin America.
Mighty Russian Black Sea fleet making waves
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers – Fri Sep 19, 2008
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — As the Kremlin seeks to reassert its sphere of influence around its borders and beyond, this home port for Russia's Black Sea fleet — marooned in the south of Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union — has moved to the center of tensions between Russia and U.S. allies in the region.
Some Ukrainian politicians worry that Russia will stoke anti-Western sentiments in Sevastopol and cities around it on the Crimean peninsula to create an opportunity to annex the area, the same way Moscow did with two breakaway provinces in Georgia last month, or at least use its considerable influence here to push the central government in Kiev to drop plans to join the European Union and NATO.
Either move would heighten the rising tensions between Russia and the United States , which have returned to Cold War levels over the past year.
Georgia and Ukraine , with American backing, angered the Russian leadership with their NATO aspirations. If they were to join, Russia's Black Sea coastline would be surrounded by members of the military organization.
Sergei Zayats, the administrator of Sevastopol's largest district, said he thought the Russians would be willing to resort to force to keep their ships docked in Crimea, where their fleet has operated since the 1780s. "The events in Georgia show that this may happen at any time," said Zayats, who was appointed by Kiev .
Russia has said it has no plans along those lines.
CANADA BOOSTS ITS FRONTIER TROOPS AS RUSSIA EYES ARCTIC
OTTAWA (September 19, 2008) - Canada is stepping up its military alertness along its northern frontier in response to Russia’s “testing” of its boundaries and recent Arctic grab, the prime minister said yesterday.
“We are concerned about not just Russia’s claims through the international process, but Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other indications ... (of) some desire to work outside of the international framework,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“That is obviously why we are taking a range of measures, including military measures, to strengthen our sovereignty in the North,” he said, highlighting a new sensor net, navy patrols and a military training camp in the Arctic.
Five countries bordering the Arctic – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US – claim overlapping parts of the region, which is estimated to hold 90bn untapped barrels of oil.
Russia's envoy mocks NATO rapid-response force plans
BRUSSELS, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's envoy to NATO dismissed on Monday the military alliance's plans to create a rapid-response force to be deployed in member states that feel threatened by Moscow.
Dmitry Rogozin called the plan a "noisemaker," and said it was nothing but part of the 'arsenal of weapons' used in the current U.S. presidential campaign.
NATO defense ministers considered at an informal meeting in London on September 18-19 the creation of a rapid-response force that could be deployed to threatened member states.
The Russian envoy said the idea was destined to fail as there was no major European country that feels threatened by Russia.
"I am very skeptical about this idea," Rogozin said, going on to say that the idea was "a distraction from the real work of the rapid-response forces."
Though the plan is widely supported by NATO member states, it is still unclear who would staff and equip the force, as well as who would have the authority to deploy it and under which circumstances.
The plan was formulated in the light of the five-day Russia-Georgia war over South Ossetia.
France-Russia business booming despite Georgia crisis
Published: Monday 22 September 2008
French Prime Minister François Fillon and his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin met in the Black Sea Resort of Sotchi on Saturday (20 September). Unveiling an impressive bilateral economic package, they seem to have put disagreements over the recent Georgia crisis on the back burner.
Putin described the energy sector as "the locomotive" of bilateral economic relations, announcing French confirmation that Total would participate "at all stages" in the development of the Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea, one of the biggest offshore gas fields in the world.
Total has a 25 percent stake in the Shtokman Development Company, the company which is to develop the 3.7 trillion cubic metre field. The rest of the company is controlled by Gazprom (51%) and StatoilHydro (24%). Faced with the need to address huge technological challenges, such as developing floating platforms, for when global warming unleashes huge icebergs, Gazprom badly needs Western expertise to develop the Shtokman field.
Nuclear energy also featured at the top of the bilateral agenda, with Russian company Atomenergomash and French firm Alstom to jointly develop steam turbines for nuclear power plants, Putin said, quoted by the Russian government's website. The Russian prime minister also announced plans to further develop cooperation between the two countries' electricity giants – Electricité de France and Inter RAO UES, as well as a series of projects in the transport sector. French companies Vinci and Bouygues will be building roads in Russia, while there are "big plans" for carmakers Renault and Peugeot in the country, Putin said.
He also highlighted cooperation in the space sector, with French company Arianespace, the world's first commercial space transportation company, to buy ten Russian booster rockets.
Russian warships in Syrian waters
Sat, 20 Sep 2008 01:15:34 GMT
Ten Russian warships have been deployed at the Syrian port of Tartus based on an accord reached by the two sides after the August south Caucases conflict.
Rear Admiral Andrei Baranov, head of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's operations directorate, said Friday the Russian engineering crew was at Tartus to expand the capacity of the harbor to host additional fleet vessels.
The teams will also be working on expanding Latakia, another Syrian port, possibly for aircraft carriers or guided missile cruisers, said Baranov.
On Sept. 12, nearly one month after the south Caucases conflict broke out, Russia and Syria reached an agreement that would provide Moscow with a long-term base rights at Syrian ports.
DEBKAfile's military sources reported that Israeli military leaders were stunned at the news of the Russian fleet being deployed near Israeli shores.
The Moscow Times
Israel Says Russia Feeds Tips to Syria
22 September 2008JERUSALEM -- Israel believes that Russia passes intelligence it gathers about the Jewish state to Syria and indirectly to Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon, a senior military officer said Friday.
"My assessment is that their facilities cover most of the state of Israel's territory," Colonel Ram Dor, chief of information security in the armed forces, told Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, describing Russian spy ships that dock in Syria and Russian personnel who he said serve in electronic eavesdropping stations on the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
"The Syrians share the intelligence that they gather with Hezbollah, and the other way around. This we know, because we know how to build a mirror-image that shows us what enemy intelligence knows about us," Dor said.
"So if the Russians help the Syrians get information, and the Syrians constantly pass it on to Hezbollah, it is a reasonable supposition that the information gathered by the Russians also reaches Hezbollah's hands."
Russian officials were unavailable for comment. Moscow has denied providing Syria or Iran with support that could boost their offensive capabilities and in recent years has offered to host Israeli-Arab peace summits.
Russia plans delivery of more air defense systems to Iran
Source: Press TV 9/21/08
Russia is negotiating the delivery of more air defense systems to Iran in defiance of Western pressure to halt the move, an official says.
General Director of Russian arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, made the remark while talking to reporters at the Africa Aerospace & Defense-2008 (AAD-2008) exhibition near Cape Town in South Africa.
According to RIA Novosti, , Anatoly Isaikin added that contacts between Iran and Russia on the delivery of air defense systems are continuing and Moscow sees no reason to suspend the negotiation.
""Deliveries of Russian anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran were aimed exclusively at increasing its air defense capability and were not subject to international restrictions,"" he reiterated.
The report said that Iran recently took delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a USD 700m contract signed in late 2005 and trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders.
At the same time, Israel has urged Russia to halt its sale of advanced weapons to Iran and Syria.
This is while the U.S. and Israel have consistently refused to rule out the possibility of military action against Iran.
Iran, however, has denied reports that it has purchased the advanced Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defense system.
S-300 surface-to-air missiles could greatly improve Iranian defenses against any air strike on its strategically important sites, including nuclear facilities.
The advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 km (100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes.
Tehran has carried out several high-profile war games this year, including a three-day series of Air Force and missile defense exercises on September 15-18 aimed at achieving preparedness against all possible threats.
Russia courts leftists in Latin AmericaU.S. influence dwindles
Friday, September 19, 2008
Russia is expanding its presence in left-leaning Latin American nations, with an offer of aid to Bolivia to replace drug-fighting money cut off by the Bush administration - the latest expansion of Moscow's ties with a region beset by declining U.S. influence.
Iran and China are also actively courting several nations in the region. The efforts typically target nations that have turned leftward in democratic elections, with Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela among the most prominent.
"The Embassy of Russia has officially requested that a government delegation come to Moscow to discuss cooperation in anti-drug efforts," Felipe Caceres, Bolivia's drug czar, told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Thursday.
"There are two kinds of support we are talking about. First is support for officials and personnel, and the other is the possible use of high-altitude helicopters."
Tensions between Bolivia and the United States neared the breaking point this month, when dozens of people were killed in a battle between loyalists and opponents of the government of leftist President Evo Morales for control of natural gas exports.
Bolivia and the U.S. have expelled each other's ambassadors, and the U.S. has begun evacuating nonessential personnel from its embassy in La Paz amid bloody battles that pitted Morales supporters - mostly Indians from the nation's eastern highlands - against Bolivians of European descent in the energy-rich east.
As the battles raged, the Bush administration "decertified" Bolivia as a nation cooperating in the U.S.-led war on drugs, putting up to $30 million in U.S. aid in jeopardy.
Mr. Caceres said proposed cooperation with Moscow was not intended as a slight to the U.S. and that Bolivia welcomes help "from any state that does not put conditions on us."
In recent years, Russia has stepped up its outreach to Latin America, as has China and, to a lesser extent, Iran. Efforts typically include foreign aid, joint ventures to develop energy resources, technology transfers and weapons sales - developments that defy centuries of U.S. domination of the Western Hemisphere under what is known as the Monroe Doctrine.
Russia Successfully Fires New Ballistic Missile
By VOA News
18 September 2008
Russia has successfully fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
Russian Defense Ministry officials say the Bulava missile was launched Thursday from a Russian nuclear submarine. Its warheads struck their designated targets on Russia's far-eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Bulava missile has a range of 10,000 kilometers and can carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads. Some previous tests of the missile failed and Russia appointed a commission to investigate.
Bulava missiles will be deployed in new Borei-class nuclear submarines - the first of which is to be commissioned this year. News media reports in Russia say the Bulava missile has the ability to penetrate any future missile shield.
The Bulava test comes as the United States has reached agreement on deploying an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The plan to put 10 missiles in Poland and tracking radar in the Czech Republic has angered Russia. But U.S. officials say the system is designed only to counter potential threats from rogue states that develop missiles that could threaten the U.S. and its allies.
CHRISTIAN APPEASERS WELCOME AHMADINEJAD
September 24, 2008
On September 25, there will be a press conference and a rally outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City at 5:30 p.m. to protest the five Christian organizations that are welcoming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Those organizations are the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, the Americans Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee and the Quaker United Nations Office; they are hosting a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner (Iftar).
Over 50 organizations have now joined the protest, which is being sponsored by Women International; see www.925rally.org for more information. Catholic League president Bill Donohue explains why his organization is participating:
“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has secured evidence from 10 countries demonstrating Iran’s nuclear development activities. Because Iran is not cooperating with IAEA inspectors, the U.N. Security Council has thrice imposed sanctions on Ahmadinejad’s regime. The concerns are obvious: the Iranian president has said that Israel ‘must be wiped off the map.’ Moreover, Iran is now about to formalize its stricture on apostasy: this would mean certain death to any Muslim who converts. But none of this matters to the Christian appeasers who will greet him tomorrow.
“The most prestigious organization welcoming Ahmadinejad is the World Council of Churches (WCC). Its politics are so radical that its agenda could easily be endorsed by any Marxist atheist. It was not for nothing that Jewish interreligious leader Israel Singer once branded the WCC ‘the head office for the dissemination of antisemitic statements.’ Indeed, after Yasser Arafat died, the WCC stated that the Arab terrorist ‘came to the recognition that true justice embraces peace,’ something that many Israeli mothers must have found mind-boggling.
“To appease someone like Ahmadinejad is sickening, but for it to be done in the name of Christianity is enough to induce vomiting. We strongly encourage Catholics and others to attend the rally.”
And the good news keeps on rolling in.....