Despite efforts of Medvedev and Putin, Russia corruption forces businesses to add as much as 40 percent to production costs.
Russia made unexpected concessions to Ukraine, averting a winter gas stand-off. Some saw a second deal: Vladimir Putin supporting Yulia Tymoshenko to sideline her rival, pro-West President Viktor Yushchenko.
A new Russian doctrine – which says it can use nuclear weapons preemptively against small regional adversaries – is seen either as a sign of aggression or bluster to mask insecurity.
Ties may be fraying: Russia announced another delay in Bushehr, the Iran nuclear plant it is building, and has refused to fulfill a contract to supply advanced missiles.
In a state-of-the-nation speech Thursday, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev reviewed his own pet economic innovations but didn't criticize the tightly controlled political edifice
Strategists say that President Barack Obama's decision to scrap a controversial missile shield for Eastern Europe has mollified Russia, and could open the door for cooperation against common nuclear threats.
Russia's National Media Group cites economic motives in moving REN TV and the outspoken St. Petersburg Channel Five. But critics worry the partnering move with Russia Today may presage a loss of editorial freedom.
US Vice President Joe Biden toured Eastern Europe this week with a new missile-defense plan designed to reassure the Czech Republic and Poland that they aren't being forgotten as relations warm with Moscow.
On Thursday, a Thai prosecutor said Thailand would resist US pressure to extradite Viktor Bout to the US. In August, a Thai court dropped all criminal charges against Bout, widely suspected of being a key player in the shadowy arms-smuggling world.