Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"The Soviet Story" Chronicles the Abuses of the USSR

"The Soviet Story" is a documentary by Edvins Snore detailing the abuses and horrors of the Soviet Union over a seventy-four year period. I picked up on it when I read that Mikheil Saakashvili had attended the premiere in Tbilisi. The summary listed by IMDb is below.

"The Soviet Story" is a unique first time documentary film by director Edvins Snore. The film tells the story of the Soviet regime and how the Soviet Union helped Nazi Germany instigate the Holocaust. The film shows recently uncovered archive documents revealing this. Interviews with former Soviet Military intelligence officials reveal shocking details. "The Soviet Story" was filmed over 2 years in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Germany, France, UK and Belgium. Material for the documentary was collected by the author, Edvins Snore, for more than 10 years. As a result, "The Soviet Story" presents a truly unique insight into recent Soviet history, told by people, once Soviet citizens, who have first-hand knowledge of it.

Although the theatrical release date in the US was in October of this year, there has yet to be any details of a DVD yet. Below is a trailer of the film.

Russian Activists Assail Government Treason Bill

Just in from the AP, this report is threateningly corrosive to what little democracy Russia has left under its current prime minister. Here's to you, Time Magazine, on your excellent choice for Person of the Year.

MOSCOW – Russian rights activists say that a new law drafted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's Cabinet would allow authorities to label any government critic a traitor.

The draft extends the definition of treason from breaching Russia's external security to damage to the nation's constitutional order, sovereignty or territorial integrity.

A group of prominent rights activists, including head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva and head of Civic Assistance Svetlana Gannushkina, said in a statement Wednesday that passage of the bill would return the nation's justice system to the times of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's purges.

The government systematically rolled back Russia's post-Soviet political freedoms during Putin's eight-year presidential tenure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Central Asia: Russian General Claims US Wants to Build Two Military Bases in Region

I noticed that General Makarov had been making the news a lot lately, so here is an additional article from EurasiaNet about his thoughts on US involvement in Central Asia (naturally, Russia's sphere of influence).

The United States is planning to set up military bases in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Russia’s top general is claiming.

Russia’s armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, revealed the news during an event at the Academy of Military Science in Moscow on December 16, saying that he had information that Washington was actively pursuing new facilities in Central Asia. "American military bases are dotted throughout the world. The US has opened bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and according to our information, [it] plans to establish [new bases] in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan," the official RIA Novosti news agency quoted Makarov as saying.

"It is clear that Russia is concerned by the deployment near its borders of NATO’s advanced forces and bases ready to start combat operations within hours," Makarov continued.

Kazakhstan currently permits American planes to fly over its territory, but last week officials in Astana denied reports that it would allow American planes to land at Kazakhstani facilities. Uzbekistan evicted American forces from their strategically important airbase at Karshi-Khanabad in 2005. Manas Airbase, at Bishkek’s international airport in Kyrgyzstan, remains America’s only base in the region.

Russia May Buy Israeli-Made Spy Drones

A follow-up article by Michael Schwirtz (12/16/2008) of The New York Times to an analysis posted in August on Israeli-made UAVs, but this time concerning Russian acquisition.

MOSCOW - Russia is considering buying an unspecified number of remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft from Israel, the head of the Russian military said Tuesday, in what may be an attempt by the Kremlin to strengthen its intelligence-gathering capacity following the August war with Georgia.

A Russian purchase of such aircraft from Israel would be a significant expansion of military business between the countries.

“We are working on this issue,” Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, told the Interfax news agency. “We are talking about a test batch of Israeli drone planes."

In recent months, the Russian Defense Ministry has unveiled sweeping changes aimed at streamlining the armed forces. The changes include thinning the officer corps, improving training and living standards for troops, and buying modern weapons systems.

Talk of the purchase was probably prompted by intelligence-gathering failures by the Russian military during the August war with Georgia, a country that already has Israeli-made spy aircraft, said Aleksandr Golts, an independent Russian military analyst.

"The war in Georgia showed us that we are frightfully lagging behind in terms of technical reconnaissance," Mr. Golts said. “There were many failures of intelligence.”

Russia has been unable to develop its own pilotless spy plane, though it had clear military dominance in the conflict, which lasted five days and severely weakened the Georgian military. Still, Georgia made effective use of Israeli-made spy aircraft in two Russian-backed Georgian separatist regions before the August conflict, angering Moscow. Last April, an Israeli-built Hermes 450 reconnaissance plane operated by Georgia was shot down over Abkhazia, one of the separatist Georgian regions. A United Nations report later concluded that a Russian fighter jet destroyed the aircraft. The episode contributed to escalating tensions that precipitated the conflict.

Moscow convinced the Israeli government to cut off sales of military equipment to Georgia just days before Georgia’s government ordered an artillery bombardment of the separatist enclave of South Ossetia on Aug. 7. That bombardment, independent military observers have said, sparked the war.

Russia has bought military-related electronic systems and other hardware from Israel before, Mr. Golts said, but buying the remotely piloted planes would raise Russian-Israeli weapons trade to a new level.

The negotiations concerning the spy planes are happening against a backdrop of strong Israeli objections to a possible sale by Moscow of advanced antiaircraft systems to Iran and Syria, two vocal adversaries of Israel.