Former Soviet link-o-rama

+The propagandists say the West is attacking the Russian middle class, and that's good for Putin:
The meme of Russia's nascent bourgeois having their middle class dreams dashed by the West's financial malfeasance is convenient for a couple of reasons. It lets the Russian elite off the hook for their own mismanagement and for failing to diversify an economy dangerously dependent on high energy prices. And it adds a new melody to the regime's ever-present xenophobic mood music at time when the Kremlin appears to be preparing the ground for Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency.

+Maybe they're just afraid of our chess players:
The United States’ status in the global chess hierarchy is rising, while Russia’s once dominant position is waning.

+Russia and Venezuela will hold joint naval exercises soon:
It's widely seen as a demonstration of Kremlin anger over aid delivered by U.S. warships to Georgia after its fighting with Russia. Russian officials deny that.

+It looks like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty are getting kicked out of Azerbaijan:
[E]nding the broadcasts would also send the wrong signal if Azerbaijan has a desire to strengthen U.S.-Azerbaijani relations with President-elect Barack Obama.

+Ukraine is starting to pay back a bill it owes to Gazprom:
The row over payment erupted just as Russia and Ukraine were about to negotiate the price for gas supplies next year.