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Author Topic: Russia-- Europe  (Read 17496 times)
Quijote
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« on: January 09, 2007, 03:30:19 AM »

The german chancellor already is thinking about stopping Germany's plans to close its nuclear reactors. Russia has a power in Europe with its energy ressources. Germany is the first to feel it now.

Quote
SPIEGEL ONLINE - January 8, 2007, 03:34 PM
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,458401,00.html

ENERGY WARS
Russia Halts Oil Deliveries to Germany

In an apparent escalation of a gas and oil dispute with Belarus, Russia on Monday temporarily halted oil deliveries to Germany. By shutting off the Druzhba pipeline, Moscow cut off the source of 20 percent of Germany's oil imports.

The conflict between Moscow and Minsk over energy prices worsened on Monday, with potentially serious consequences for Western Europe. Russian pipeline operator Transneft shut down its Druzhba pipeline, which is the source of 20 percent of Germany's oil imports.
Transneft has accused Belarus of illegally tapping oil from the Druzhba pipeline, whose name translates as "friendship". Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Transneft chief Simon Vainshtock as saying that the company had stopped oil transports through the pipeline -- which is used to export oil to Poland and Germany -- during the night. The company said it is currently seeking alternative routes for transporting oil to Poland and Germany, but did not provide any information on when the pipeline might be reopened.

The Druzhba pipeline is an enormously important part of Germany's energy supply. Of the total of 112 million tons of oil that are consumed in Germany each year, 20 percent travel through the pipeline.

"I view the closure of the important Druzhba pipeline with concern," German Economics Minister Michael Glos said Monday. "I expect the deliveries through the pipeline to resume completely as soon as possible."

"Druzhba is very relevant for Germany," a spokesperson for the Association of the German Petroleum Industry told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Most German oil imports from Russia travel through the pipeline. The only alternative would be through tanker deliveries, the spokesperson said, but this would cover "only a small portion" of the lost oil. According to the association, there are no other pipelines available to do the job.

Poland's Economics Ministry also confirmed that oil supplies had been interrupted through the Druzhba pipeline on Monday morning. Germany's Economics Ministry confirmed similar trouble.

A spokesperson for European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the European Commission in Brussels will investigate the interruption of oil supplies. "We have contacted the Russian and Belarussian authorities and demanded an urgent and detailed explanation for this interruption," spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny said.

In the short term, however, physical shortages aren't expected because Germany has strategic oil reserves that can last up to 130 days and Poland has at least 70 days' worth.

Earlier on Monday, deputy Polish economy minister Piotr Naimski told Polish TV station TVN24 that the pipeline had been shut off because of the ongoing energy dispute between Minsk and Moscow. Russia dramatically increased gas prices on Jan. 1 and acquired a controlling interest in Belarussian natural gas pipeline operator Beltransgas. In addition, the Russian government imposed an export duty of $180 per ton on petroleum.
The government in Minsk responded by promptly applying a €34 per ton transit fee for Russian oil exports to Western Europe. So far, Transneft has refused to pay the tax.

Ernst Uhrlau, president of Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, said the pipeline outage on Monday underscored the importance of energy security for Germany. Uhrlau said it was important to gather and analyze information about conflicts between states affected in order to try to prevent repeats of the current crisis.

dsl/wal/reuters/dpa/afp
« Last Edit: August 25, 2008, 02:46:10 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged

"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2007, 06:40:10 PM »

Europe: Feeling the Pinch from the Russo-Belarusian Dispute
Summary

Oil refineries in Europe reported Jan. 8 that interruptions in the shipment of Russian crude oil via Belarus were causing supply shortages. Though the supplies likely will be back to normal within a few days, this is not the first -- or the last -- disruption in Russian energy supplies to Europe. Whether due to commercial disputes with its former states and satellites or Moscow's use of energy as a political weapon, secure and string-free energy from Russia is a thing of the past.

Analysis

Energy firms across Poland and Germany reported Jan. 8 that Russian oil supplies transported through Belarus were not arriving according to agreed-upon schedules. Refineries in Ukraine and Hungary appear to be on the cusp of similar problems. These disruptions have not and will not force shutdowns -- all the states and facilities have sufficient emergency supplies to operate for weeks without the Russian crude -- but they are a none-too-gentle reminder that the days of reliable energy supplies to Europe from the East are a thing of the past.

These are hardly the first interruptions in Russian energy supplies to Europe. Since they started three years ago, such disruptions have included disputes or shortages that limited oil, natural gas and/or electricity deliveries to nearly every European state.

Some of those interruptions -- like the one involving Belarus -- can be explained as commercial disputes.

In this case, Russia on Jan. 1 ended a deal that had formerly existed to reward Minsk for its loyalty, halting subsidies for crude oil to Belarus and imposing a $24.65 per barrel duty. Under the old terms, Russia sent Belarus more crude than it needed, so not only was the Belarusian economy subsidized with cheap energy, but Minsk could then ship the extra oil to Europe at market rates, pocketing the profit -- nearly $2 billion in 2006.

The end of the deal punched a mammoth hole in the budget of Belarus, a country in which the gross domestic product totals only about $30 billion. In retaliation, and to compensate for the shortfall, Minsk unilaterally increased transit tariffs on the 1.8 million barrels per day of crude that Russia ships across Belarus to Europe. The new rates were supposed to kick in Jan. 6. But a related price-and-supply dispute between the Russian government (which controls the oil transport network) and Minsk left Belarus' two refineries without assured supplies.

Russia reduced oil deliveries to Belarus by the amount normally used by Belarus' refiners, but the Belarusians kept tapping the pipelines and shortages manifested downstream in Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Hungary. Russia -- in order to punish Belarus -- then simply shut down the line completely.

The dispute is a reflection of a forming geopolitical fissure between Russia and what once was its only reliable ally. This issue likely will be sewn up quickly, if only because Russia is Belarus' sole energy supplier. But that hardly means the sniping -- and the disruptions -- will not resurface.

Though this -- like a near-disruption of natural gas supplies in December 2006 involving Belarus and one in January 2006 involving Ukraine -- can be called a commercial dispute, it is obvious to all but the propaganda experts that there is a core political aspect as well. Anytime a country in Russia's near abroad has a conflict of interest with Russia -- not exactly a rare occurrence -- the energy supplies of European states farther down the pipeline become threatened. In Moscow's unofficial rhetoric, this is one reason Europe should encourage Russia to keep a tight grip on its near abroad. But for most European states -- particularly those in Central Europe -- it is one more reason to find alternatives to Russian energy.

Since it cannot rely on Russian energy, Europe is looking for ways to mitigate the risk. However, it will not be easy to find substitute sources for all the kinds of energy Russia supplies to Europe.

The hardest to replace is natural gas. Since natural gas is, well, a gas, it is difficult to transport without a multibillion dollar pipeline infrastructure. Since one of those -- the world's most extensive -- already exists between Russia and Europe, Europeans would have to be quite put out with Moscow to invest in replacement options, which include building massive new connections to Algeria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Egypt -- states that few put at the top of their list of reliable partners. Other possibilities are tankering the stuff in liquefied form, doing away with the industries that use natural gas (with the obvious adverse effects on the European economy) or substituting nuclear power for natural gas-fired electricity plants. All options are expensive, time-consuming and accompanied by their own problems -- yet most of the European states affected are moving forward on some or all of these options.

Oil is easier. Though there is an oil pipeline network, similar to the natural gas network, linking Russia to Europe, oil is a liquid and is more readily transportable via tanker. In fact, the Polish refineries affected by the recent Belarusian-Russian problems have already announced that they will simply switch to waterborne (probably Norwegian) supplies.

At the end of the day, it matters little to the European states whether Russian energy interruptions occur because the Russians are pressuring someone, because there is a commercial dispute or because the Russians – because of cold weather, creaking infrastructure or failing reserves -- are simply unable to deliver supplies. The bottom line is that the needed energy is not there, and the Europeans must plan accordingly.

As the European Commission said in a statement regarding the Jan. 8 interruptions, "There is no reason to be alarmed now, but we are going to take all necessary measures just in case."
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Quijote
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2007, 05:55:33 AM »

Russia's energy ressources have become Russia's strong leverage on Europe and the former SU states. An unbearable thought.
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"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 08:32:30 PM »

The Adventure continues!

Stratfor.com

===========================

The Belarusian Crisis: An Opportunity for Germany
By Peter Zeihan

Picture this scenario: After months of acrimonious negotiations over energy prices, Russian leaders put their foot down and inform the government of a former Soviet republic that the gravy train has screeched to a halt -- no more subsidized energy supplies. At the dawn of a new year, Moscow ratchets up prices by orders of magnitude, the former vassal state begins siphoning off Russian exports destined for customers in Europe and the Europeans complain vociferously about interruptions to their supplies.

If this sounds familiar, it's because just such a sequence of events occurred in early January 2006, in a spat between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies.

Almost exactly a year later, the scenario has repeated itself, though this time it concerns oil, rather than natural gas, and Belarus, rather than Ukraine. But from a geopolitical standpoint, there are some important differences between the two energy crises. In 2006, Russia used the crisis with Ukraine -- a state crucial to its own national security and territorial integrity -- to drive home a political point to European powers. The point, essentially, was that the ability of everyday Poles, French or Germans to keep warm during the northern European winters was directly tied to their governments' support for Russia on wider geopolitical issues. Recent events involving Belarus, however, might lead to a very different outcome: a foundation for unity among European states and at least a limited assertion of European power.

The Russian Sphere

To understand this, it's important to consider the former Soviet region from Moscow's perspective.

The natural gas cutoffs to Europe last year were all about Russia bringing a post-Orange Revolution Ukraine to heel, and enlisting wider support in its attempts to do so. By ratcheting the price dispute with Kiev into an energy crisis for Europe in the dead of winter, Moscow demonstrated that having a pro-Russian government in Ukraine would mean stable energy supplies for Europe, while the consequences of an anti-Russian government in Ukraine would be economic instability for Europe. Having made that point, Russia spent much of 2006 raking back its influence in Kiev -- a process that culminated in the selection of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich as prime minister.

For Russia, such events -- like Moscow's defeat in the Orange Revolution before them -- were core considerations. Without Ukraine in its orbit, Russia's economic and strategic coherence frays, making it impossible for Russia to function as a global power.

The Russian calculus concerning Belarus, however, is quite different. Ukraine's geographic location and infrastructure make the state critical to Russia's ability to control the Caucasus, feed its population, field a navy, interact with Europe and defend its heartland. While Belarus is more economically developed than Ukraine, it has less than half the land mass and only a quarter of the population. In fact, Belarus likely would be only a footnote in Moscow's strategic planning, but for the fact that some of Russia's natural gas and oil exports pass through it en route to Europe. The Belarusians are well aware of their position.

The leader of Belarus since shortly after the Soviet breakup has been President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Once a Soviet bureaucrat assigned to the USSR's agricultural cooperatives, Lukashenko cut a deal with the Russians upon attaining power: Support me with Soviet-era subsidies and I will sing your praises -- and curse your rivals -- loudly, reflexively and for all time.

The deal served both parties fine. Russia kept an unflinching ally and Lukashenko maintained his popularity through cheap energy supplies -- which fueled the local economy (both literally and figuratively, as Minsk was able to re-export Russian oil and oil products to the West at market rates). Putting a precise monetary value on the benefits to Belarus is difficult, given the murkiness of Russian accounting, but it certainly comes to much more than the Soviet Union spent annually on Cuba during the Cold War. In 2006, for example, the energy subsidies alone amounted to $5 billion.

There were some ancillary benefits for Lukashenko as well. As the years rolled on, his anti-Western rhetoric was so steadily vitriolic that many of Russia's nationalists privately wished he were one of their own. Some of the more, shall we say, colorful of these nationalists took to leaking "poll results" encouraging him to run for the Russian presidency; talks soon ensued about ways to merge the two states into a new union reminiscent of the USSR. For Lukashenko, this was quite attractive: In such an arrangement, he would undoubtedly become the vice president, and -- considering that then-President Boris Yeltsin was known to have the blood alcohol level of a dry martini -- Lukashenko was certain it would be only a matter of time before a failed quadruple bypass made him the revered premier of a revived Soviet empire.

But things changed sharply in 2000, when (the teetotal and healthy) Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. It did not take long for Putin to decide he cared little for Lukashenko, personally, professionally and politically, and relations between Moscow and Minsk steadily cooled. By the end of 2005, Putin had succeeded in reducing the influence of those Russian officials who enjoyed Lukashenko's sharp-edged rhetoric, replacing them with a new cadre of pragmatic strategists who had little desire to keep a significant "Lukashenko" line item on the accounts payable portion of the Russian budget. The Russians steadily cut back on subsidies: As of Jan. 1, natural gas prices were forcibly doubled (with more price increases in the works), and Belarus was stripped of its rights to cut-rate oil.

Moscow's threats to Minsk gave way to unilateral Belarusian tariff increases on Russian exports, and from thence to siphoning of oil exports and a Russian cutoff, announced Jan. 8. With that, Lukashenko's career as the world's best-paid cheerleader came to an unceremonious end.

From the standpoint of the West, however, Lukashenko is no Ukraine: No one is all that concerned about his fate. Make no mistake, Russia's decision to end energy subsidies for Belarus means that the loyalties of this decently developed state perched on the edge of Europe are indeed in play. In fact, should there be a political opening in Minsk, Belarus would be a slam-dunk destination for foreign investment and could even squeeze itself onto the short list of candidates for EU membership. However, 12 years of Lukashenko haranguing the West has taken a toll. If the Belarusian leader now wishes to plot a course away from Russia, he will be starting at square one.

Crisis Averted?

As to the current imbroglio, the Russians have used their many levers of influence to badger Lukashenko into backing away from a trade war. The Belarusian transit tariff that led the Russians to halt their oil exports to Europe was cancelled Jan. 10, with the Russians recommencing exports within a few hours. But, with the political loyalties of Belarus in play, there is certainly no guarantee that disruptions will not recur -- and that is of no small consequence.

The Soviet-era oil pipeline that carries Russian crude to Europe is the Druzhba (which, ironically in the context of Belarus, translates as "friendship"). At full capacity, the line carries 2.0 million barrels per day to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany and, of course, Belarus.




Shutting down that pipeline, even for a short time, presents the Russians with an atypical problem. Russia produces about 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and gas condensates -- a number that has not changed appreciably in the past four years because the state has not invested in additional export routes. Overflow production -- what the pipes cannot handle under normal conditions -- typically is shipped by more expensive rail and river barge networks; but, as this is winter, Russia's rivers are frozen over and the river barge option is temporarily off the table.

Though Russian refineries might be able to take some of the surplus, most of that oil -- at least 1.0 million bpd -- has literally nowhere to go so long as the Druzhba pipeline is suspended. On Jan. 9, Putin directed the government to consult with Russia's oil magnates (some of whom were in the room with him at the time, due to Russia's ongoing efforts to nationalize its energy industry) and explore the possibility of a production cut.

That would be problematic anywhere, but even more so in Russia, where energy reserves are located in regions of extreme cold. When production is halted, starting Russian oil wells back up is neither cheap nor easy; many of the wells will actually freeze solid and will have to be redrilled before production resumes. Under these circumstances, it could take the Russians as long as a year to bring output back to pre-crisis levels.

At this point, an output reduction appears unlikely, since Belarus is in the process of caving to Russian demands -- but there is a larger political question to be considered. Lukashenko has been humiliated and now must do some political math. His options are to kowtow meekly to Moscow, bereft of those once-generous subsidies, and mark time until he loses power -- or attempt to use what energy leverage he has over Russia to make a friend in Brussels and/or Washington. For Lukashenko -- who has demonstrated that his loyalty is for sale -- the options are wide and the consequences are unpredictable.

An Agenda Downstream

With oil deliveries to five European states already having been suspended for three days, the Belarus-Russian spat obviously has implications far beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union.

As could be expected, the mood in Europe has been one of angered panic. Though oil -- which enjoys a robust spot market and can be shipped easily by tanker -- is easier to scrape together in a pinch than natural gas, it is hardly a snap to replace the Druzhba supplies. European leaders have been outspoken, issuing sound bites peppered with phrases like "destroyed trust," "unreliable," "urgent need to diversify" and "unnecessarily vulnerable." The Europeans were particularly put out that the Russians did not send so much as a notification memo that roughly 2 million bpd of crude deliveries were about to be halted.

In sum, political leaders throughout Europe were soundly in agreement on the issue.

This does not happen often.

Throughout its history, continental Europe has been driven by ideological, religious, cultural, geographic and economic divisions. After the Cold War ended, the Europeans attempted to put those differences aside and work toward not just an economic union but also a political one. But the fiction that these diverse states could act in concert on much beyond trade issues largely was ended by their differences over the Iraq war -- including the decision of many to support the U.S. invasion -- and the failure of the EU constitution. This fracture has sapped much of the enthusiasm for the European Union as a concept and is a contributing factor in deepening "enlargement fatigue."

The Belarus issue, however, provides the Europeans with a stellar opportunity. Energy -- Russian energy, in particular -- is a hot-button issue on which the EU states already share similar views. All that remains now is for some enterprising leader to turn those views into a set of policies that can bind Europe together.

The question, of course, is: who?

Considering the domestic situation for most of the traditional European powers (Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been reduced to attaching confidence votes to legislation simply to force his unwieldy coalition to vote for his policies, and the French and British heads of state are both slated to leave office in a matter of months), there is really only one political heavyweight available: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Throw in the fact that Germany holds the EU presidency until July 1 and the G-8 chairmanship until the year's end, and it is a foregone conclusion that she is the only leader who can make a serious attempt at forging a new sense of unity.

It has been a long time since the Germans were a serious political player in Europe. The European mantra after World War II was not much more complicated than, "Use the French-led EU to keep the Germans boxed up economically and the American-led NATO to keep them down militarily." During his tenure, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder managed to open a crack in these long-held convictions, but ultimately he did not challenge the idea that European interests would automatically equate to German interests.

Merkel, however, does. For the first time since the Third Reich, Germany has a leader who wants -- and who even, in some ways, is expected by European neighbors -- to stake out a leadership position for the entire continent. And now the Belarus-Russian spat has handed her an issue she can use to make that stick.

The longer-term implications of this are critical. While the Bush administration is a huge fan of "Angie," the United States historically has been wary of German power. The core tenet of U.S. strategic doctrine is to block the rise of any state that potentially could exert control over an entire continent. For all practical purposes, the United States is the only major power that falls into that category, and so long as a rival does not emerge, its hegemonic position is secure.

This is one of the reasons U.S. relations with the European Union as a whole have never been more than lukewarm -- and those with Russia, in truth, have never been more than coolly polite. Both entities retain the potential to become such a continent-spanning rival. And as European history illustrates, whenever the Germans have ended up on top in Europe, the Americans have marched to war.

To be sure, Merkel has plenty of obstacles to overcome if she intends to prove she is the woman to lead Europe as something more than a figurehead:


Germans might like the idea of being back in the game, but that does not mean Merkel enjoys full support at home for the details of what she will need to do. Any EU-wide energy program doubtless will involve at least a re-examination of nuclear power -- which is a point of contention within Merkel's own governing coalition. If she is not able to muscle the center-left Social Democrats into line, new elections likely will result. And even if Merkel were to come out ahead in those polls, her ability to act as a coherent arbiter of European issues would stall during the foregoing campaign.


There is an issue of balance in energy supplies. Most of the roughly 6 million bpd of oil and oil products exported by Russia end up in Europe, and nearly half of Europe's natural gas imports come from Russia as well. Reducing those dependencies will necessitate a wrenching political and economic shift among European states. Tens of billions of dollars in new pipeline infrastructure to places such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria would be needed -- not exactly a Who's Who of desirable partners in politically correct Europe.


Merkel's existing plans also could hamper her ability to capitalize on the opportunity afforded by Belarus. Before the Russian oil cutoff, she outlined a dozen major issues she planned to address during her EU presidency -- all of them time-consuming and controversial. The sheer size of her agenda, and pledges of attention to the failed EU constitution, have placed her at risk of squandering her leadership opportunity by biting off more than she can chew.

That said, there is now an issue that poses a clear and immediate danger to the union, involving a matter on which member states already share common views. All that remains is for Merkel, as EU president, to set aside her existing to-do list and translate those agreements into a common policy. And this seems to be the direction she is leaning.

As she stated on Jan. 9 as the Belarusian crisis deepened, "For us, energy is what coal and steel used to be." This direct reference to the European Coal and Steel Community -- which provided the early glue for the forebears of today's European Union -- is an excellent signal of just how ambitious the chancellor is.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2007, 08:31:53 PM »

Europe, Russia and a New Kind of 'Cold' War
Summary

A Russian oligarch is predicting natural gas shortages in Russia. Europe has good reason to be worried.

Analysis

Anatoly Chubais, CEO of Russian electricity megafirm Unified Energy System (UES), said at a Feb. 15 news conference that planned changes to the country's electricity sector will result in increased demand for natural gas -- which in turn will lead to shortages of the fuel. Those most likely to suffer from the evolution will be European consumers as Russia discovers it has insufficient supplies for export.

After a decade of false starts, the Russian electricity sector is finally beginning its long-awaited reform, which for UES means getting broken up into a large number of regional and local power generating companies -- in theory at least.

One of the many consequences of this will be increased electricity production. Russia's oligarchs currently have to cut deals (and often plead) with UES to make sure they have enough electricity to supply their corporate empires. Now they can simply pay -- through the nose if need be -- to acquire power generation assets for themselves, and add on or modify them as necessary to meet their needs. Particularly in the case of power-intensive industries such as aluminum production, such assets will be constantly run to the red line to ensure full profitability.

As Chubais went on to note, such increased power generation will invariably lead to greater consumption of the natural gas used to produce electricity -- and that is a problem.

Although Russia remains the world's largest producer and exporter of natural gas, state energy firm Gazprom has not excelled at exploring for and developing new natural gas sources. Add in higher electricity demand and an ugly word crops up: shortage. Chubais -- one of the few people in Russia with access to all the data -- projects that in 2007 national demand plus export contracts will edge out supply by 4 billion cubic meters (bcm), ramping up to 40 bcm by 2010.

The results of such a shortfall are fairly easy to predict. Russian electricity and natural gas demand is highest in the winter, when the Russians huddle around their heaters in a desperate effort to avoid freezing solid. Their collective demand for power means that not enough natural gas is left over to meet Gazprom's export contracts. Flows to Europe consequently slacken, as happened for the first time in the early weeks of 2006. Chubais, intentionally or not, is putting Europe on notice that supply interruptions will become an annual affair in the future.

It is probably beyond Gazprom's technical capabilities to turn this situation around without a major change in worldview -- which is not in the cards at the moment. The mammoth firm can do a couple of things, however, to mitigate the coming shortages. First, it can use its political heft -- Gazprom is far and away the most politically powerful firm in the country -- to increase domestic Russian prices. Higher natural gas prices on the subsidized Russian market translate into lower Russian consumption, freeing up more natural gas for export.

Second, Gazprom is working to reduce natural gas' share of the market as an electricity feedstock. On Feb. 8 Gazprom swallowed up (that is: "initialed a deal to form a joint venture with") Siberian Coal Energy Co., which produced about 90 million metric tons of coal in 2006, supplying 30 percent of Russian demand and 20 percent of Russia's coal exports. The deal also brings under Gazprom's control most of the country's electricity generation that is not currently under UES. Gazprom's plan is simple: replace natural gas with coal in as many power plants' fuel mixes as possible.

Both of these strategies are smart and will work, but bridging a 40 bcm gap -- for reference, France uses about 45 bcm a year -- in three years is simply not feasible. Europe will need to learn to get by with less, and even that assumes the Kremlin's political goals do not further limit supplies.

Europe's takeaway should be simple. Regardless of whether European leaders believe Russia's energy policies are politicized (and they are), Russia will soon lack the capability to supply Europe with all the natural gas it wants -- even if the Russians are able to maintain their output levels in the long term (which is in doubt). So, unless Europe wants to feel the cold of winter more keenly, it will need either to find replacement supplies, move its economies away from natural gas, or both.




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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2008, 04:30:22 PM »

Russia: The Significance of Missiles in Belarus
Stratfor Today » July 29, 2008 | 1832 GMT

EVGENY STETSKO/AFP/Getty Images
The Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missileSummary
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) states (read: Belarus) could consider deploying offensive weapons on their territory at their next meeting at the end of August according to CTSO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha. Though this remains purely Russia’s call, the potential deployment has military — and more importantly, symbolic — importance.

Analysis
The secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia’s Nikolai Bordyuzha, stated July 28 that the member states of his organization (which include Russia and Belarus) could consider stationing both Iskander short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and strategic bombers on their borders with Europe in response to U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) efforts in Europe. He spoke more directly about military infrastructure improvements on CSTO borders July 26. Though Bordyuzha’s comments are not a direct statement of intent from the Kremlin, Bordyuzha is a powerful ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and is not known for exaggeration. While most of his propositions are of mixed consequence militarily, such a move could carry immense symbolism.

A meeting of representatives of CSTO members — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Uzbekistan — is to take place at the end of August, and potential responses to U.S. BMD efforts now look to be at the top of the agenda. However, as the pivot around which the CSTO moves as well as the enabling power in terms of military equipment, Russia’s position is the only one that really matters (another reason Bordyuzha’s statement is of import). Though there has been no shortage of rhetoric out of the Kremlin of late, there has been no actual military movement yet. The Kremlin is still calculating its next move.





(click image to enlarge)
As a response to the U.S. BMD plans, placing SRBMs in Belarus (the only CSTO member other than Russia northwest of the Black Sea, and one of Russia’s most loyal allies) would not be as militarily effective as placing them in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (also under consideration), which is better geographically positioned to target the proposed U.S. interceptor site at Redzikowo, Poland. Both positions would put Russian Iskander SRBMs in range of Warsaw, but neither position would put them in range of the proposed X-band radar site at Misov in the Czech Republic (or even the Czech border, for that matter).

Though mobile Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles (known to NATO as the SS-25 “Sickle”) were indeed stationed in Belarus during the Cold War, Russia’s few mobile Topol-M (SS-27) missiles are safer in Russia and would not be able to target either Poland or the Czech Republic from such a short distance anyway. The deployment of strategic missiles there for purposes of threatening U.S. BMD installations in Europe is extremely unlikely.

Of course, the CSTO’s plan is all premised on the long-delayed Iskander program (known to NATO as the SS-26 “Stone”), which has long been underfunded. The Kremlin’s ability to threaten the Polish site at Redzikowo depends on its ability to field this particular system in numbers — something it has yet to demonstrate. Any deployment of a Russian battery equipped with Iskanders to Belarus would be the first foreign deployment of the weapon system.

Unfortunately for Russia, the evisceration that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty inflicted on Moscow’s land-based missile arsenal has left it without the appropriate tools to target either site from its core territory behind the Baltics.

Related Links
Russia: A Military Response to U.S. BMD
Russia: The Fundamentals of Russian Air Defense Exports
Related Special Topic Pages
Russia’s Military
The Russian Resurgence
Ballistic Missile Defense
Moving Russia’s strategic bombers back into Belarus, meanwhile, would put a component of Russia’s long-range strategic deterrent at higher risk while undermining its greatest asset — range. Like the prospect of Topol-M deployments to threaten installations not at strategic distances, this is also unlikely. The shorter-range Tu-22M Backfire is a more likely candidate in terms of capability, though it would only encourage heightened NATO air patrols along the border.

But while the military value of any such move would be limited, the symbolism is immense.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia frantically moved its military assets (especially its nuclear weapons and top-tier weapon systems) back to its own territory, or they became assets of the newly independent former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact allies. Moscow has even continued to attempt to consolidate additional strategic assets inside its own territory. And while it is unclear whether the Kremlin might simply sell Iskanders to Belarus or whether it is considering actually stationing a Russian missile battery on Belarusian territory, such a move would be a military push toward Europe — reversing a trend now approaching more than a decade in the making (though there is not yet any real indication beyond rumors and rhetoric that Russia might actually redeploy nuclear weapons).

Nothing is certain yet, but it is clear that such a move would be the aggressive military counter that Poland fears. If Russian SRBMs end up in either Kaliningrad or Belarus, the Poles will be clamoring for further support from both the United States and NATO. Though it is now only a threat, an actual deployment could bring a new dynamic to Warsaw’s BMD negotiations with Washington. Meanwhile, the Baltic states to the north would be outflanked by the Russian military — bringing back fears of encirclement and even being swallowed up once again.

But from a more geopolitical standpoint, such a move could re-establish a front line in a new Cold War, with Russian weapons targeting a NATO country and U.S. weapons (either defensive or offensive) pointing back. While it would not be as intense an affront to the United States as a Cuban deployment, it will feel precisely like that to Central Europe.
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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2008, 09:00:04 AM »

Kremlin 'Capitalism'
Is a Threat to the West
By PETER CHARLES CHOHARIS
August 16, 2008; Page A11

Moscow has much more than a military threat to intimidate countries in its neighborhood. Long before its foray into Georgia, Russia was using its market strength in oil and gas resources to strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the United States and the European Union. As NATO considers how to respond to Russian troops in Georgia, the West should also consider how to counter Kremlin capitalism.

Ever since Vladimir Putin became Russia's president in 2000, Russian authorities have used the power of the state to gut Russian companies and seize their assets for a fraction of their value. Yukos, once Russia's largest oil producer, was seized by Russian authorities allegedly for back taxes. Its assets were auctioned off at bargain prices to Russia's state-owned energy giants, Rosneft and Gazprom, while its CEO and other company officials were arrested and imprisoned.

The government's seizure also deprived ExxonMobil and Chevron from buying major stakes in Yukos. Sibneft, Russneft, and other Russian hydrocarbon companies have suffered similar fates.

More recently, TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil company and a joint venture between British Petroleum and a group of Russian billionaires, has been the target of Russian government investigations. BP calls the government's scrutiny a campaign of harassment. The company's British head, Robert Dudley, was forced to flee Russia two weeks ago, and its British CFO abruptly resigned. This after Gazprom wrested control of the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project from Royal Dutch Shell for a fraction of market value.

BP vows to use "all legal means" to protect its investment. But lawyers won't be enough. For the TNK-BP dispute is about geopolitics and Russian hegemony as much as it is about money.

Since Mr. Putin became president, the Russian government has renationalized much of the energy sector; it now owns 50% of the country's oil reserves and 89% of the gas reserves. Beyond ownership, the Kremlin has positioned high-ranking government officials and other Putin-loyalists -- elites in the security services known as siloviki (men of power) -- to key positions in leading Russian companies, even while they keep their government jobs.

Before becoming Russia's current president, Dmitry Medvedev was both Gazprom's chairman and Russia's first deputy prime minister. siloviki also control major companies in metals, mining and other strategic sectors. While profits are fine, the Kremlin ensures that these companies promote Russia's foreign-policy goals.

This strategy extends beyond energy. Two weeks ago, Moscow announced the formation of a state grain-trading company to control up to half of the country's cereal exports, which are the fifth-largest in the world. Its purpose, most analysts believe, is to provide the government with greater leverage over food-importing nations at a time of rising food costs and shortages.

But it is in the natural gas sector where the Kremlin wields the most power. Numerous Western European countries depend heavily on Moscow for natural gas to heat homes and produce electricity, with some Eastern European countries almost completely dependent. Beyond supply, Russia also enjoys a near monopoly of the pipelines transporting gas to Europe from the east. In a further bid to extend its grip on gas supplies, Russia -- along with such anti-U.S. governments as Iran and Venezuela -- is supporting the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which some fear will become an OPEC-like cartel.

While Russia may or may not intend to start a new Cool War, it is not afraid of leaving Europeans out in the cold -- literally. In the middle of winter 2006, it cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and parts of Western Europe. It has also cut off gas to Moldova, Belarus and Georgia.

This past spring, critics charge that, in part due to Russian pressure, Germany opposed Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia, the first step toward NATO membership. They point to a Gazprom-led consortium building the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia underneath the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, while circumventing pro-U.S. countries like Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. (Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's role as Nord Stream chairman could not have hurt Russia's influence.)

Last month, after the Czech Republic supported an antiballistic missile system opposed by Russia, the flow of Russian oil dropped 40%. President Medvedev had promised "retaliatory steps."

Aware of their vulnerability, in March 2007 the Europeans developed an "Energy Policy for Europe" to coordinate energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. But agreeing on principles has been far easier than acting on them. Moscow continues to exploit differences among EU member states -- whose dependence on Russian gas, voracity for lucrative pipeline transit fees and desire to tap into Russian energy markets vary considerably -- in order to promote greater European dependence on Russian gas and pipelines.

Thus, when a consortium of European countries proposed the Nabucco pipeline, to pump gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe without going through Russia, Mr. Putin earlier this year personally met with foreign government and corporate leaders on behalf of South Stream, a rival pipeline that would go from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and the rest of Europe. To ensure that South Stream would have gas to transport, Gazprom upped its offer to Caspian region suppliers to pay higher rates for natural gas. It also just signed a deal with Turkmenistan to invest in its gas infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Nabucco pipeline's future is cloudy, with one of its original sponsors, Hungary, switching to South Stream due in part to European dithering and skillful Russian negotiating.

Just as NATO's response to Georgia will be crucial for American credibility throughout Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, so too U.S. leadership is vital to maintain Europe's energy security.

Short of sanctions, the West does not currently have much economic leverage. European, Japanese and American export credit agencies could refuse to finance any deals involving Russian companies that have acquired assets expropriated from foreign investors. European countries could also bar such Russian firms from operating in Europe, or could impose a special fee to reimburse expropriated investors. And rather than expel Russia from the G-8 as John McCain has proposed, members should demand that Russia respect the rights of foreign investors and ratify the Energy Charter Treaty.

Longer term, the U.S. needs to use its diplomatic and financial clout to push forward alternative energy routes. Washington's backing was vital to building the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in five years. One of the longest of its kind, the pipeline bypasses Russia and carries crude oil from offshore fields in the Caspian Sea across Georgia to the Mediterranean. Washington must make financing and constructing the NABUCCO gas pipeline a top priority.

Washington also needs to reach out to Central Asia, and should push for a Trans-Caspian pipeline from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and west to Europe. Years of Russian domination have made these countries open to Western investment. Moreover, they understand the strategic importance of diversifying sales and transport options for their oil and gas. Western companies also offer superior technology.

But after Russia's use of military force in Georgia, these countries are wary of antagonizing their former overseer. Without a strong American presence, it is impossible for the West to compete in the region. Yet Turkmenistan has lacked a full-time U.S. ambassador for more than a year.

The markets can also help hold Russia accountable for its heavy-handedness. Two weeks ago after Mr. Putin targeted Mechel, a steelmaking giant -- suggesting that Russian antitrust and tax authorities investigate the company -- Russia's stock market lost $60 billion. Market forces may not protect BP's Russian investments or save Georgia, but they could make it far more costly for the Kremlin to proceed.

Mr. Choharis is a principal in Choharis Global Solutions, an international law and consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He recently returned from a trip to Turkmenistan.
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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2008, 08:47:45 AM »

NATO's 'Empty Words'
August 20, 2008; Page A18
"Empty words." That's how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO's criticism yesterday of Russia's continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

The most NATO ministers could muster at their meeting in Brussels was a statement that they "cannot continue with business as usual" with Russia. There was no move to fast-track Georgia's bid to join NATO, nor a pledge to help the battered democracy rebuild its defenses.

Asked about NATO reconstruction aid, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pointedly said, twice, that it would go for "civilian infrastructure." So here we have a military alliance going out of its way to stress that it will not be providing any military aid. The alliance didn't even cancel any cooperative programs with Russia, though Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said "one can presume" that "this issue will have to be taken into view." That must have the Kremlin shaking.

NATO leaders also failed to mention Ukraine, another applicant for NATO membership that has angered Moscow in recent years and could become its next target. Also missing was any indication that the alliance would begin making long-delayed plans for defending the Baltic member states and other countries on its eastern flank in case of attack. The only good news of the day was that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will eventually send up to 100 monitors, albeit unarmed, to Georgia.

Meanwhile, Russia found new ways to ignore the West and punish the Georgians who are actually abiding by a cease-fire. After exchanging prisoners with Georgia, Russian troops took about 20 Georgians prisoner after briefly retaking the oil port of Poti, blindfolded them and held them at gunpoint. Russia also sank another Georgian navy vessel and stole four U.S. Humvees that had been used in U.S.-Georgian training exercises and were waiting to be shipped out of the country.

All of this continues the Russian pattern of the past week, in which it agrees to a cease-fire and promises to withdraw, only to leave its forces in place while continuing to damage Georgia's military and even its civilian centers. Russian commanders had the cheek to suggest that a return to the troop placements before war broke out on August 8 means that 2,000 Georgian soldiers would have to return to Iraq, from which they had been airlifted home.

One of Moscow's goals is clearly to humiliate Georgia enough to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili, so he can be replaced with a pliable leader who will "Finlandize" the country, to borrow the old Cold War term for acquiescing to Kremlin wishes. In the bargain, it is also betting it can humiliate the West, which will give the people of Ukraine real doubts about whether joining NATO is worth the risk of angering Moscow. Judging by NATO's demoralizing response on Tuesday, the Kremlin is right.
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2008, 08:26:03 AM »

No thread is ideal for this piece, but this one seems plausible for it.
===========

Georgia's Guerrilla Option

Reihan Salam

 

Russia's attack on Georgia raises the question of how weak states can defend
themselves against strong states.

 

The Russian assault on Georgia holds a number of important lessons. As a
weak state facing a regional hegemon committed to its dismemberment and
isolation, Georgia sought to integrate into NATO and other trans-Atlantic
institutions, hoping that powerful friends would defang the Russian threat.
But as Robert D. Kaplan argued earlier this week, European dependence on
Russian energy exports gives Russia a great deal of political leverage. Fear
of provoking Russia led European states to resist accepting Georgia as a
member of NATO last year, and it has deterred them from taking strong action
to punish Russia for its actions in the current crisis.

 

Georgia's military humiliation also suggests that smaller powers that seek
protection under the American security umbrella will increasingly have to go
it alone. Constraints on American power - the ongoing U.S. military presence
in Iraq and Afghanistan, a renewed distaste for armed intervention on the
part of the American public, even the yawning size of the federal budget
deficit - will most likely lead the next president to look inward, to seek
conciliation over confrontation even if that means giving inconvenient
allies the cold shoulder. One has to assume that Taiwan has watched the
tepid American response to Russia's power-grab very closely.

 

As for Russia, its actions in Georgia make a great deal of sense when viewed
through the lens of petro-politics. As military analyst John Robb
<http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/08/russias-hostil
e.html> notes, Russia's coercive efforts in its so-called "Near Abroad" have
generally been prompted by a desire to control the flow of energy to the
rich democracies. Estonia tried to scuttle the creation of a pipeline that
would cut them out of transit revenues, so the Russians orchestrated a
series of thuggish cyberattacks. Ukraine tried to control the pipelines
crossing its sovereign territory, which led the Russians to cut off the
energy spigot. When a pipeline running from Azerbaijan to Georgia to the
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey threatened to displace traffic from
an exisiting Russian pipeline, the Russians sabotaged Georgia's energy
infrastructure. The only thing new about the Russian aggression we've seen
this past week is that it's been overt.

 

So what are the Georgias of the world to do? Weak states might take a page
from the most fearsome non-state actors: guerrillas and criminal gangs.
During its 2006 military campaign in Lebanon, Israeli forces severely
degraded Hezbollah's military capabilities, but Hezbollah survived.
Hezbollah continued to use a variety of asymmetric attacks throughout the
conflict to spread fear throughout Israel's civilian population. The
resilience of Israeli society saw to it that Hezbollah could do no lasting
damage, but Hezbollah exacted a stiff price all the same.

 

It would be sheer insanity for Georgia to wage a Hezbollah-style terror
campaign against Russian civilians. But in a detailed scenario about the
Chechen fight for independence, John Robb devised a potentially very
effective strategy that draws on the guerrilla playbook. Just as Russia
disrupted Georgia's critical infrastructure in 2006, Georgia might consider
identifying key economic chokepoints - ports, power plants, long-distance
electrical transmission lines, and of course natural gas pipelines - and
training unconventional military forces to deliver crippling blows. While
Russia would be prepared for a few discrete acts of sabotage, they would
have a hard time dealing with a rolling, unpredictable series of attacks
targeting multiple locations. By disrupting Russia's infrastructure, Georgia
could inflict severe pain at relatively low cost. Moreover, Europe would be
impacted as well - which would make the European public think twice about
acquiescing to Russia's thuggish tactics in its own backyard.

 

To be sure, Russia might then decide to level Georgia - but they'd have to
do so with their economy and ruins and their international reputation in
tatters.

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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2008, 02:49:21 AM »

Eastern Europe Can Defend Itself
By MAX BOOT
August 25, 2008; Page A13

Eastern Europeans are rightly alarmed about the brazenness and success of the Russian blitzkrieg into Georgia. For many living in Russia's shadow, this is reviving traumatic memories -- of 1968 for Czechs, 1956 for Hungarians, 1939 for Poles. It does not help that senior Russian generals are threatening to rain nuclear annihilation on Ukraine and Poland if they refuse to toe the Kremlin's line.

Even those states which, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, are already in NATO can take scant comfort. As Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, says, "Parchments and treaties are all very well, but we have a history in Poland of fighting alone and being left to our own devices by our allies."

Warsaw's response has been to draw closer to the United States, by rapidly concluding an agreement in long drawn-out negotiations over the basing of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil. That's a good start, but it's a move of symbolic import only. The small number of interceptors are designed to shoot down an equally small number of Iranian missiles -- not the overwhelming numbers that Russia deploys. Poland and other states should be under no illusion they can count on the U.S. in a crisis. In the past we left Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the lurch. More recently we haven't done much to help Georgia.

The only thing that the frontline states can count on is their own willingness to fight for independence. But willingness alone is not enough. They also need the means to fight, and at the moment they don't have them. We have already seen how the tiny Georgian armed forces -- with fewer than 30,000 men -- were routed by the Russian invaders.

What gets ignored is that Georgia, although a small country (population: 4.6 million), has the potential to do far more for its defense. According to the CIA's World Factbook, Georgia has over 900,000 men between the ages of 16 and 49. It could easily create a larger military force than it has, but that would require spending more on defense. By the CIA's estimate, its defense budget was just 0.59% of GDP in 2005.

Georgia's military spending has grown in recent years, but not Eastern Europe's. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, only one country in Eastern Europe spends more than 2% of GDP on defense. That would be Bulgaria at 2.2%. Romania is in second place at 1.9%, followed by Poland at 1.8%. Nor do these countries maintain large standing forces. Poland has 7.9 million males of military age but only 127,266 active-duty personnel in its armed forces. Hungary could mobilize 1.9 million men but has only 32,300 in uniform. Bulgaria has 1.3 million potential soldiers but only 40,747 actual soldiers. And so on.

There is one exception to this demilitarizing trend. Russia, which has more than a million soldiers under arms, has been increasing its defense budget from the lows of the immediate post-Soviet era. Based on official figures it spends at least 2.5% of GDP on its military. But if you add in expenditures on paramilitary forces and other items, the total comes closer to 4% -- roughly the same percentage that the U.S. is spending.

Small states have often shown the ability to humble great powers. In 1920, under the inspired leadership of Marshal Josef Pilsudski, the Poles staged a brilliant counterattack to save Warsaw and drive the Red Army off their soil. In the winter war of 1939-1940 the plucky Finns held off Soviet invaders, forcing the Kremlin to settle for a slice of its territory rather than all of it. More recently, the Afghan mujahedeen drove the Red Army out of their country altogether, thereby helping to bring down the Soviet Union.

But if they have any hope of emulating such feats -- or, more precisely, of deterring the Russians from threatening them in the first place by making it clear that they could emulate such feats -- today's Eastern Europeans have to do much more to prepare a robust defense. They should double their military spending to make themselves into porcupine states that even the Russian bear can't swallow.

The U.S. can help, as we helped the Afghans in the 1980s and as the French helped the Poles in 1920. That will require a readjustment in our military assistance strategy, which has been to create in Eastern Europe miniature copies of our own armed forces. Our hope, largely realized, has been that these states will help us in our own military commitments in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But in addition to developing NATO-style expeditionary capacity, these states need to be able to conduct a defense in depth.

That means having large reserves ready for fast call-up and plenty of defensive weapons -- in particular portable missile systems such as the Stinger and Javelin capable of inflicting great damage on Russia's lumbering air and armor forces. That's more important than fielding their own tanks or fighter aircraft. We should offer to sell them these relatively inexpensive defensive systems, and to provide the advisory services to make the best use of them. But the first step has to be for the Eastern Europeans to make a larger commitment to their own defense.

Mr. Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author, most recently, of "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today" (Gotham Books, 2006).

See all of today's
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« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2008, 10:05:46 AM »

'Stop! Or We'll Say Stop Again!'
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
September 2, 2008

With apologies to comedian Robin Williams, that's the line that comes to mind when weighing the European Union's declaration yesterday on Russia's continued occupation of Georgia.

At a special meeting in Brussels, EU national leaders told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to abide by the terms of a French-brokered cease-fire, including a pullback of Russian troops to their preconflict positions. If he doesn't do so, they warned, they will hold another meeting.

That's all. It's been almost three weeks since Mr. Medvedev signed the cease-fire, and five days since Moscow broke with the rest of the world by recognizing the self-declared independence of Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Yet Europe's leaders evidently need more time to ruminate over the situation in the Caucasus.

Well, that's almost all. The European leaders did make one concrete "threat." The EU said it would freeze negotiations with Moscow on a new economic cooperation agreement if Russian forces haven't pulled back to their pre-August 7 positions by next Monday. But this is meaningless. It had taken the Europeans months to agree among themselves to begin the talks, and even before the Russian invasion of Georgia Eastern European leaders had signaled that their countries were unlikely to sign off on any deal anytime soon. Nor was Moscow pushing very hard for it.

During a postsummit press conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating EU presidency, got the obvious question: Is the EU a "paper tiger"? Mr. Sarkozy, visibly angered by the suggestion, responded that "Demonstrations of force, verbal aggression, sanctions, countersanctions . . . will not serve anyone." He didn't say how Brussels' latest tsk-tsk-ing serves anyone in Georgia.

Mr. Sarkozy also insisted that his efforts to reach a cease-fire had borne fruit. Again, the Georgians might beg to disagree. Russia has used the agreement's vague language to justify a continued presence in Georgia far beyond the original conflict zone. The cease-fire called for international talks about security and stability for the separatist regions, but that didn't stop Mr. Medvedev from recognizing their independence. Europe's call yesterday to begin these talks rang hollow; that horse isn't going back into the barn.

The most cynical comment of the day, though, was Mr. Sarkozy's attempt to use the conflict to bully the Irish over their rejection of the union's Lisbon Treaty in June. "This crisis has shown that Europe needs to have strong and stable institutions" like those it would have gotten under Lisbon, Mr. Sarkozy said.

No, what Europe needs is political will -- and a new treaty isn't going to solve that. Rather than scolding Irish voters for exercising their democratic rights, Mr. Sarkozy would do better to name and shame those member states whose desire to curry favor with Moscow kept the EU from taking a firmer stand yesterday.

For now, the Continent is determined to talk things out with Moscow. When will it realize that Moscow doesn't to listen?
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« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2008, 01:09:12 AM »

 
Geopolitical Diary: More Ripples in the Post-Georgia Pond
September 4, 2008

There are two disparate and odd bits of news that together might add up to something of interest. First, according to the RIA Novosti press agency, two farms in Estonia have formed an independent “Soviet republic” and plan to ask for Russian recognition, according to a group of Estonian communists.

In itself this is not important, to say the least. It is interesting that RIA Novosti would decide to publicize it beyond its worth, but at this point, everyone is hypersensitive to anything that happens, and publicizing it under current circumstances makes some sense. What it does do is to point to real underlying tensions in the Baltics. The Baltic states have large Russian minorities. Many of these are Russian citizens. The Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians have bad memories of Russian occupation and view their countries’ Russian populations with a degree of unease. The Russians claim to be discriminated against. Between ethnic and some degree of ideological differences, there is tension.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recently said that Moscow is responsible for Russian citizens wherever they live. That statement implicitly targeted the Baltic states, essentially saying that Moscow speaks for the Russian minorities and that, therefore, Moscow has a role to play in the internal affairs of these countries. On the assumption that the local Bolsheviks who declared independence are Russian — a fair bet — the Russians could theoretically claim to be responsible for them in some way.

The Russians are not behind this stunt, although they clearly want to publicize it. But it points to a flash point that is truly dangerous. If the Russians were to challenge the legitimacy of the Baltic countries’ treatment of Russians, they would not have problems identifying substantial numbers of Russians who would claim grievances. The Baltics, unlike Georgia, are members of NATO and any political conflict there would inevitably involve NATO. We doubt that the Russians would have any interest in invading the Baltics, but we don’t doubt that under the current conditions they might be interested in stirring up problems in the Baltics. The Russians clearly enjoyed the Georgian crisis, and their appetite for confrontation might be growing. This is a stunt. But it is being reported by Russian media. It is not serious, but the underlying issue is.

Along the lines of straws in the wind, a second nation has recognized the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first was Russia. Now it is joined by Nicaragua. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was, for those old enough to remember, president of Nicaragua in the 1980s, when he led a Marxist government. He was elected again a few years ago, and no one seemed to care very much, including us, since being a Marxist and pro-Soviet didn’t really matter much. Nicaragua’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia does not, by itself, rise to significance, but it does make two points.

The first is that the Russians, should they choose to follow a confrontational course, have recourse to the old Soviet strategy of posing problems for the United States by supporting Soviet allies around the world, and particularly in Latin American where the United States was always sensitive. That strategy is alive because there are Latin American leaders looking for a major power prepared to support them. Nicaragua is one, but Venezuela and Cuba have also spoken in support of Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (stopping short of outright recognition). There are also rumors that Russia might consider putting military bases in Venezuela and Cuba — another chance for Moscow to push Washington’s buttons.

Second, there appears to be an expectation of support from Russia in return for recognition. We need to be very careful not to assume either that Russia will simply follow a Soviet-model foreign policy or that it has the resources to do so even if it wanted to. Ortega might simply be enjoying a nostalgic moment. Alternatively, Ortega might be fishing for something from the Russians. As with the Baltics, it will be interesting what the Russians do with this opening, or if they even see it as an opening. We are beginning to have opportunities to measure the distance between Russia’s new foreign policy and traditional Soviet policies and see the delta between the two. How the Kremlin deals with these potential openings could indicate just how far the new Russian foreign policy is willing to push.
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2008, 06:14:50 PM »

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, during a press conference Sept. 12, said that Ukraine has no plans to dissolve its agreement allowing Russia to keep its Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol, but he wants to resolve issues with Russia over its military presence in Ukrainian territory.

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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2008, 12:29:49 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: Russia Rethinks Energy Pricing Policy
November 13, 2008 | 0126 GMT
Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, will start dropping natural gas prices for European consumers at the beginning of 2009, CEO Alexei Miller. Miller’s stated rationale for making such a move in midwinter, when demand is highest, is that the export price for natural gas to Europe in the fourth quarter of 2008 was at a record high of more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters. With the global economy in recession and energy consumption dropping across the board, that price would naturally have to come down.

Such an announcement would not be anomalous were it not Russia doing the talking. The Russians are reducing natural gas prices for the Europeans not out of economic pragmatism, nor out of the goodness of their hearts; instead, this is primarily a political move designed to keep the window of opportunity for manipulating Europe open as long as possible.

Russia is a powerful producer and exporter of both crude oil and natural gas. Because oil can be loaded and shipped across the world in a variety of ways — tanker, pipeline, truck or rail car — the laws of supply and demand more clearly dictate the price of oil than that of natural gas. Now that the world’s economic hubs are being hit with recession, there is little preventing the price of oil from plunging as demand drops. Thus, Russia also announced Wednesday that it is drastically revising its budget downward, anticipating oil prices falling to at least $50 per barrel in 2009 amid the global financial crisis.

Natural gas pricing works differently. Gas can be shipped easily only through existing pipeline networks, making the relationship between the producer and the consumer much tighter, and therefore much more politicized. As a result, prices for Europe are dictated far more by the Kremlin’s naughty-and-nice list than by market forces. This economic reality is all too familiar to countries like Ukraine, Lithuania and the Czech Republic: All have felt the wrath of Moscow, through price hikes or natural gas supply cutoffs, when they moved against Russia’s geopolitical interests.

Russia is the primary natural gas supplier for many former Soviet republics as well as for Turkey and Europe, with Europe dependent on Russian natural gas for about 25 percent of its energy supply. This economic interdependence gives Russia a big bat to swing in Eurasia, in order to sustain its influence on matters like NATO expansion in the region and the installation of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield. When winter rolls around, countries like Germany and Ukraine get especially nervous, knowing they have no adequate alternatives to Russia for keeping their lights and heat on. And with the price of oil plunging and Russia expecting to lose some $600 million per day in oil revenues compared to July highs, it has seemed all the more likely that Russia would compensate for these losses by keeping the price of natural gas high.

So why are the Russians talking about reducing the price instead? Gazprom’s announcement likely has to with a growing fear in Russia that a huge energy shift is sweeping across Europe — an energy shift that, for once, is leaving Russia out in the cold.

Russia’s energy leverage strategy, while effective in the past, has strong potential to backfire on the Kremlin over the long term. Since early winter 2006, when Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe (as punishment for the Western-backed Orange Revolution in Ukraine), energy security has become the dominant theme of every EU summit. With plenty of encouragement from the United States, Europe has accelerated efforts to break its dependence from the Russian natural gas monopoly. Its moves have involved such things as constructing new nuclear reactors and new pipelines, building terminals for the import (by tanker) of more expensive liquefied natural gas, and promoting alternative energy sources and conservation. The Europeans’ grand plan is to reduce total energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, and to get 20 percent of the remainder from renewable energy sources, thereby significantly reducing Russia’s ability to twist their arm on political matters.

While the European moves to break Russia’s energy grip have been under way for a couple of years now, the pace at which the change is taking place is astounding — much to Stratfor’s surprise and Russia’s deep discontent.

According to a report by Russian newspaper Vremya Novosti, Russian natural gas exports fell 8.3 percent year-on-year in October. The report also revealed that Germany, Turkey and Italy, Russia’s top three natural gas clients, cut their imports from Russia after Gazprom on Oct. 1 hiked prices to $460-$520 per 1,000 cubic meters.

An 8.3 percent drop in Russian natural gas imports, dwarfing a 1 percent decline in 2007, is very troubling news for the Russians. The Kremlin realizes that the more aggressive its stance toward Europe on energy matters, the faster Europe will move to cut the Russians out of the equation. By reducing the price of natural gas in the winter, the government — through Gazprom — could be toning down energy policy in efforts to win back some of Europe’s faith in Russia as a reliable, or at least less belligerent, energy supplier.

But Gazprom will not be entirely even-handed in its energy pricing this winter. According to Stratfor sources at Gazprom, the company is likely to apply the price breaks selectively. States that have been friendlier to Russian interests on recent matters will get a better deal. Most notably, this includes Germany — which has consciously refrained from taking a strong stance against Russia over the Georgian war and has spoken out against NATO expansion for Ukraine and Georgia — and the Czech Republic, which recently has become much more apprehensive over its BMD deal with the United States. Selective price breaks for EU states would be in direct violation of EU law, which stipulates that no individual economic deals can be made without the consent of the 27-member bloc. But Moscow won’t want to pass up the chance to whittle away at the EU’s economic coherence in the middle of a financial crisis, and to reward countries that are more willing to align with Russian interests.

However Gazprom chooses to implement these price cuts, the European trend of diversifying and seeking greater independence from Russian energy likely will continue. With the window of opportunity for political exploitation closing, the onus is now on Russia to maintain the credibility of its threats in Europe. The energy lever has been effective in the past, and Russia will continue to use it moving forward. But as tough tactics lose their effectiveness, the Kremlin needs a more nuanced approach to slow Europe’s drive toward energy independence.

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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2008, 10:22:15 AM »

Russia needed only a few days this August to drive Georgia's army into retreat. In the aftermath, Europe has held out only a bit longer than Tbilisi's troops.

EU leaders on Friday said they were resuming talks with Moscow toward an economic-cooperation agreement. The negotiations were put on ice 10 weeks earlier because of Russia's invasion of its tiny neighbor and refusal to abide by a French-brokered cease-fire. But by Friday's EU-Russia summit in Nice, France, Moscow's fulfillment of "a large part of its obligations" was good enough for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thus ends the lone sanction Europe placed on its belligerent neighbor after the August war. The talks are back on, but Georgians are still waiting for the promised pullback of Russian soldiers to their prewar positions. Numerous Russian troops remain in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose self-declared independence has been recognized by only Russia and Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians are still unable to return to their homes both in and outside the conflict zone. EU and other Western observers remain blocked from entering the most war-torn areas, and as recently as Sunday were still reporting incidents in which they'd been fired upon near Abkhazia.

A second round of peace talks between Russia and Georgia is slated to begin today in Geneva. But with Europe in retreat, Moscow will be under no pressure to compromise with Tbilisi. This round is likely to end almost as soon as it begins, just like a first set of negotiations in October.

In today's Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Iraq 'Fails' UpwardRussia Out of RehabThe Public Payroll Always Rises

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: 'No Excuses' for Liberals
– Bret StephensMain Street: Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal – William McGurn

COMMENTARY

Our Spendthrift States Don't Need a Bailout
– Steve MalangaHow to Help People Whose Home Values Are Underwater
– Martin FeldsteinDon't Negotiate With the Taliban
– Ann MarloweThere's a Better Way to Prevent 'Bear Raids'
– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamEurope's reversal is embarrassing on a number of levels. Russia hardly seemed bothered by the suspension in the first place -- and wasn't exactly begging Brussels to come back to the table. Worse were the rationales for resuming the talks, as offered by Mr. Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Perhaps anticipating the decision, Mr. Sarkozy noted on November 7 that the negotiations had not been suspended but "postponed" -- and that this meant he and Mr. Barroso had the authority to decide how long the postponement would last.

Mr. Barroso even scolded EU members such as Lithuania and Poland for standing in the way of consensus on the bloc's stance toward Russia. "You may not like the common EU position entirely," he said, "but it is in your own interest to have one rather than three or four different positions."

One might expect the Poles and Baltic nations to have a better idea than Mr. Barroso of how to deal with Russia. As for us, we recall a conversation in August with a U.S. diplomat about approaching Russia after the war in Georgia. Rather than trying to wallop Russia's political and business elites with some large penalty while they were in the flush of victory, the diplomat suggested, it would be better to produce a steady stream of measures over time, "so that they realize this isn't going to pass."

What Russia no doubt realizes after last week is that Europe has the will to do absolutely nothing, and that its invasion will in fact "pass" without consequence.
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2008, 08:55:12 PM »

Rehabbing this jacka$$, second only to Mao in the corpse collection contest and leaving Hitler a distant third, is pretty darn scary.

The sinister resurrection of Stalin
The Soviet leader’s triumphant imperialism is the key to his rehabilitation under Putin, believes Anne Applebaum.

Who is the greatest Russian of all time? In the unlikely event that you answered “Stalin”, you would be in good company. One of the 20th century’s most horrific dictators has just come third in an opinion poll conducted by a Russian television station. Some 50 million people are said to have voted.

Myself, I have some doubts about the veracity of this poll, particularly given that the television station in question is state-owned, and therefore manipulated by the Kremlin. Also, first place went to Alexander Nevsky, a medieval prince who defeated German invaders – and an ideal symbol for the Putinist regime, which prides itself on its defiance of the West. Second place went to Piotr Stolypin, a turn-of-the-century economic reformer who, among other things, gave his name to the cattle cars (Stolypinki) in which prisoners were transported to Siberia – another excellent symbol for the “reformer with an iron fist” label to which both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev aspire.

Both seem too good to be true; neither had ever before seemed like candidates for such an august title. Had the poll been completely free, I expect Stalin would have come in first place. Why wouldn’t he? After all, the government, media and teaching professions in Russia have spent a good chunk of the past decade trying to rehabilitate him – and not by accident.
All nations politicise history to some extent, of course. But in Russia, the tradition of falsification and manipulation of the past is deeper and more profound than almost anywhere else. In its heyday, the KGB retouched photographs to remove discredited comrades, changed history books to put other comrades in places where they had not been, monitored and tormented professional historians. Russia’s current leaders are their descendants, sometimes literally.

But even those who are not the children of KGB officers were often raised and trained inside the culture of the KGB – an organisation that believed that history was not neutral but rather something to be used, cynically, in the battle for power. In Putinist Russia, events are present in textbooks, or absent from official culture, because someone has taken a conscious decision that it should be so.

And, clearly, a decision has been made about Stalin. In a recently released, officially sanctioned Russian history textbook, in public celebrations and official speeches, the attitude towards him runs something like this: “Mistakes were made… errors were committed… but great things were achieved. And it was all worth it.”

This public portrayal of Stalin is highly selective. The many, many millions who died in the Gulag, in mass deportations or in mass murders are mentioned only as a kind of aside. Stalin’s purges of his closest colleagues and revolutionary comrades are given short shrift. The terror that made people afraid to speak their minds openly, that made children turn their parents in to the police, that stunted families and friendships, is absent from most contemporary accounts. Even Stalin’s programmes of industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation – which modernised the country at enormous cost to the population, the environment, and Russia’s long-term economic health – are not dwelled upon.

Instead, it is Stalin’s wartime leadership that is widely celebrated, and in particular his moment of imperial triumph in 1945, when Soviet-style communism was imposed on Russia’s western neighbours. In that year, Eastern Europe became a Russian colony and, more to the point, Stalin negotiated as an equal with Roosevelt and Churchill.

Annually, Russia’s May celebrations of the anniversary of victory in 1945 grow more elaborate. Last year, they included several thousand Russian soldiers dressed in Soviet uniforms, waving the Soviet flag and singing Soviet songs. Major pieces of weaponry were paraded across Red Square, just like in the old days, to enormous applause.

Books about the war have also now become a major publishing phenomenon in a country that, up until a few years ago, hardly published any popular history at all. Most major bookstores now have a war section, often featuring books like one I picked up in Moscow a few months ago. Entitled We Defeated Berlin and Frightened New York, it is the memoir of a pilot who describes the joy of bombing raids and revels in Russia’s long-lost power to frighten others.

Even more significant is the role that the celebration of the Soviet Union’s imperial zenith now plays in a larger narrative about recent Russian history, namely the story of the 1980s and the 1990s. Famously, Putin once said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, presumably larger than either world war. He, along with the Russian media and the current Russian president who echo him, now considers the more open discussion of the Stalinist past that took place during Gorbachev’s glasnost to have been a distraction, a moment of national weakness. More to the point, they openly attribute the economic hardships of the 1990s not to decades of communist neglect and widespread theft, but to deliberate Western meddling, Western-style democracy and Western-style capitalism.

In fact, this argument now lies at the heart of the current Russian leadership’s popular legitimacy. Summed up, it goes something like this: communism was stable and safe; post-communism was a disaster. Putinism, within which Medvedev fits naturally, represents a return at last to the stability and safety of the communist period. Cheer for Stalin, cheer for Putin, cheer for Medvedev, and the media will once again be predictable, salaries will be paid on time, Russia’s neighbours will be cowed, and Russia’s leaders will, once again, negotiate on equal terms with the leaders of the West.

Besides, the more people take pride in the Stalinist past, the less likely they are to want a system that is more genuinely democratic and genuinely capitalist – a system in which the Russians might, for example, vote their president out of power, or hold a street revolution of the kind that brought down corrupt, post-Soviet governments in Georgia and Ukraine. The more nostalgia there is for Soviet-era symbols, the more secure the KGB clique is going to be.

None of which implies that the current Russian government is itself Stalinist either. As the recent election of Medvedev proved, Putin does not need that level of repression in order to stay in power. Too much violence might even threaten his legitimacy which is, as I say, based on an implied guarantee of stability and safety.
Nor was this rewriting of history ever inevitable. Despite the clichés people often spout about Russians invariably leaning towards authoritarianism or dictatorship, Russia was never condemned to celebrate this version of history.

On the contrary, a future government could, instead, rediscover the legacy of Russian liberalism at the beginning of the 20th century or even the legacy of the Russian dissidents, who in the 1960s and 1970s essentially invented what we now call the modern human rights movement. Every country has a right to celebrate some positive elements of its past, and Russia is no exception. But that Putin and his colleagues have chosen, of all things, to celebrate Stalinist imperialism tells us a good deal about their vision of their country’s future.

Anne Applebaum is the author of 'Gulag: a History’ (Penguin)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/4015983/The-sinister-resurrection-of-Stalin.html
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2009, 09:02:25 AM »

Russia's Gazprom cuts all gas supplies to Ukraine

By LYNN BERRY, Associated Press Writer
30 mins ago
MOSCOW – Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom cut all natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday morning after talks broke down over payments for past shipments and a new energy price contract for 2009.
Gazprom officials said the cuts began as planned at 10 a.m. (0700GMT and 2 a.m. EST) and the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz confirmed a steady drop in supplies.
The festering dispute between the two uneasy neighbors raised fears that a cutoff could lead to a repetition of the January 2006 gas crisis, when a similar dispute between Russia and Ukraine briefly interrupted gas shipments to many European countries.
Europeans get about a quarter of their gas from Russia, and Ukraine controls the pipelines through which Russia supplies most of its customers in Europe. Natural gas is used for heating and to generate electricity, and the cutoff to Ukraine comes as Europe approaches the depths of winter.
While cutting gas to Ukraine, Gazprom said it also increased the amount of gas pumped through pipelines that mainly serve Europe.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine against diverting gas intended for other customers, saying that could have "quite serious consequences for the transit country itself" by damaging relations with Europe.
Ukraine's president and prime minister issued a statement saying they would guarantee the uninterrupted transit of natural gas through Ukrainian territory to Europe.
However, the Ukrainian president's energy adviser said it appeared that Gazprom had reduced supplies by more than Ukraine's quota of the deliveries and was not shipping enough to satisfy European customers. Despite this, Ukraine was fulfilling its obligations to deliver gas westward, Bohdan Sokolovsky said Thursday.
It was not possible to confirm his observations.
Naftogaz director Oleh Dubina has said Ukraine has enough gas in reserve to last it through early April.
European countries also have built up their gas storage since the 2006 crisis and would be unlikely to see any disruption for several weeks, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib bank.
The deadlock over gas supplies reflects the deep political split between Moscow and Kiev.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has angered the Kremlin through his efforts to build ties to Western Europe and his support of Georgia in its August war with Russia.
Ukraine's position in the dispute is further complicated by divisions in the country's leadership. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, bitter political rivals, are at odds over gas policy and relations with Russia, among other issues.
Gazprom had warned it would cut gas supplies unless Ukraine paid off all of a $2.1 billion debt and signed a deal setting prices for 2009 deliveries by midnight. Neither was done.
Naftogaz paid $1.5 billion to the Swiss-based gas trader Rosukrenergo, which it says covers the debt. But Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said late Wednesday that Gazprom had not yet received the money. Gazprom claims Ukraine owes $600 million more in fines for late payment.
Rosukrenergo is half owned by Gazprom. It was not immediately clear why the money had not been transferred to Gazprom.
"This is an issue of Gazprom's dealings with Rosukrenergo," Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky said. "Naftogaz has fulfilled all its obligations."
The other stumbling block was the failure to sign a contract for 2009 gas deliveries.
Gazprom had first insisted that Ukraine pay $418 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2009, more than double the $179.50 it paid the previous year.
On Wednesday, Gazprom offered a contract with gas set at $250, which Ukrainian officials said was still too high.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko offered early Thursday to pay Russia $201 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas if Russia agrees to raise the future price it pays to use Ukraine's pipelines to $2 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers.
Russia has said the $250 offer is contingent on the current transit fee of $1.70 remaining unchanged.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the offer from Ukraine's leadership came after the Naftogaz delegation had left Moscow.
"The main problem was not that we disagreed on the price of gas but that the Naftogaz delegation did not have a mandate to sign a new contract," he told reporters.
Sokolovsky, the Ukrainian energy adviser, denied this.
While Gazprom's European customers now pay more than $400, the cost of gas is expected to fall sharply in the spring as a result of the steep drop in the price of oil.
___
Associated Press writer Maria Danilova contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090101/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_russia_ukraine_gas;_ylt=AmwKrOQpQkkecEJBx2Bx.JayBhIF

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2009, 11:25:05 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: From a Chill to a Freeze in Europe
January 8, 2009
Related Links
Russia, Ukraine: Update on the Natural Gas Cutoff

Russia raised the stakes in the natural gas crisis with Ukraine even higher on Wednesday by shutting off the last of the supplies piping into the country. The standoff has now lasted seven days, with a dozen states in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe seeing their imports shut down 100 percent, and a handful of other countries — like Germany and Italy — seeing the bulk of their supplies disappear.

Russia has changed the game from a simple threat to a possible real crisis. During Russia’s 2006 cutoff of natural gas to Ukraine (and subsequently to Europe), Moscow never cut supplies fully, and it only reduced the flow for two days, so the move had no real impact. It was meant to get Europe’s attention, not to concretely harm the Continent. Russia was letting the West know that it was time for Moscow to get Ukraine back under its umbrella, something that has been shaking out over the past few years.

The current crisis looked as if it were following the same path — until Wednesday, when Russia did not just prolong the cutoff, but expanded it into a full shutdown of supplies through Ukraine. Some European states — Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia — are shutting down industrial complexes and decreasing access to centralized heating, all while an arctic front moves across the Continent.

So far, the cutoff’s real effects are being felt only in the less-influential European states. Russia’s next step would be to prolong the cutoff, causing industries to close and heating supplies to dwindle in the more influential countries, like Germany. Russia might be just testing out its energy lever on the smaller states to see how long it takes to break them, before threatening (or actually inflicting) the same treatment on the more critical states.

The Russians have the Europeans at break point. Europe can’t bear a Russian natural gas cutoff for much longer. Even with all its energy diversification plans on the table, the fact is that Europe is still heavily dependent on Russian supplies for the next few years. The Europeans have issued ultimatums, held meetings and sent warnings to the Russians, but there is nothing concrete that they can do right now.

Europe’s next practical step would be accommodation. And the main target the Russians want the West to back off on is still Ukraine. A deal on scaling down Western influence in Ukraine won’t be struck within a day, but a more solid and prolonged reversal within Ukraine will be seen — most likely with the end result of a pro-Russian government being installed.

It seems that discussions on this topic already are under way; Stratfor has heard rumors that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a phone conference during the night. Merkel is struggling to make sure that the trap Russia has laid by freezing the Europeans isn’t sprung on Germany, and, at the moment, the price for such assurance is Ukraine.

But this does not mean Russia won’t ask for more than just Ukraine in the near future. Russia has a long laundry list of things it wants to accomplish before it is countered by a freed-up United States, including locking Germany into a neutral stance, restoring its hegemony in the Caucasus, starting up a crisis in the Baltic states and intimidating Poland. But for now (and only now), Russia will settle for Ukraine.
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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2009, 10:14:24 AM »

The behavior of Russia is very strange.  This is certainly a reminder that no one should rely on enemies or even unreliable friends for things that are life-sustaining or in this case sovereignty-sustaining.

I've long had a theory that Saudi will not cut off oil supply because that also necessarily means closing their cash register, and China will not destroy our currency because they the are heavily invested.  Yet at a time when Russia's asset values and cash flows have imploded, they cut off their own arm in what is obviously some form of warfare that goes beyond economic.  As in the case of strange behavior before the Georgia invasion, I assume that something dramatic from Russia follows this, I think regardless of whether their demands are met.

They said the Georgia aggression was timed with the distraction of the Olympics and this perhaps timed maybe to the transition distraction in the U.S. but mostly to winter and unrest at home in Russia.

I don't see how an act of war draws now-sovereign nations to want to re-join them.  Living in a cold climate, we have survived price spikes with heating gas and very short outages with electricity but I can't remember a natural gas interruption in my lifetime.  The pipeline has constant pressure.

Too bad that we are in no position to help those countries with energy... or security.  I suppose it is too far to ship coal and our leftist electorate won't let us produce more energy anyway.  Still I wonder what a U.S. or world response should be.  At the very least this rogue nation should be removed immediately from the security council and wishfully from the UN.  If the charter does not allow removal of a 'permanent' member then it is a good time IMO to form a new group - and be a little more selective this time.
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« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2009, 11:53:14 PM »


Geopolitical Diary: Ukrainian Politics and the Natural Gas Crisis
January 13, 2009

On Monday, the 12th day of a natural gas crisis, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement -— for the second time —- for Russian natural gas supplies to Europe to resume. The deal resolved the cutoff prompted by a pricing and debt dispute between Moscow and Kiev and Ukraine’s subsequent siphoning of supplies transiting its territory. The deal also included a plan to deploy European monitors to Ukraine, to check Russian natural gas flows to Europe.

Russian and EU officials initially signed the deal Friday and then sent it to Ukraine, where it was signed it early Sunday. However, Kiev attached an addendum saying that Ukraine had never siphoned natural gas headed to Europe, that Russia owed Ukraine natural gas to make up for a loss in supplies, and that Ukraine no longer owes Russia any debt. These three points are items Moscow could not agree to, and the agreement was broken late Sunday night.

Negotiators reconvened Monday in Brussels and signed the original deal (without the addendum), and the deputy head of Russia’s natural gas monopoly, Alexander Medvedev (no relation to the Russian president), pledged to restart supplies Tuesday morning “if there are no more obstacles.” It is this last caveat which is keeping everyone on edge in Europe, especially as many countries are rationing natural gas supplies and power has been shut off in many Central European states.

The obstacle that Gazprom’s Medvedev was referring to was Ukraine. Though a deal has been struck and natural gas supplies were to resume early Tuesday, Moscow and Kiev have not resolved the debt issue or the price to be paid for natural gas in the coming year —- the issues that gave rise to the most recent crisis and similar crises in years past. This means that at any time, Russia can close the valves again.

Russia will continue using energy to mold the internal political situation in Ukraine, in hopes of shaping the pro-Western government into a more Kremlin-friendly regime. There was evidence Monday of two large steps toward this goal.

First, the pro-Russian Party of Regions in Ukraine began calling for the pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to resign, and there are rumors that when parliament resumes on Wednesday the impeachment process could begin. Second, the first official poll since the latest natural gas crisis erupted was released in Ukraine. According to the National Academy of Sciences, if presidential elections were held today, Yushchenko would win only 2.9 percent of the vote, while Regions’ leader Viktor Yanukovich would take 30.3 percent and the (currently) pro-Russian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko would take 16.7 percent.

In short, Russia’s moves on Ukraine have pushed voters toward pro-Russian candidates and furthered Yushchenko’s decline -— exactly what Moscow wanted. This does not mean things cannot and will not shift before Ukraine’s next elections, which could take place anytime from the end of 2009 through early 2010 unless Yushchenko is removed from office early. In the meantime, Russia’s use of energy as leverage seems to be creating the effects Moscow wants in Ukraine.
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« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2009, 07:14:23 PM »

Europe: Obstacles to Escaping the Russian Energy Grip
Stratfor Today » January 20, 2009 | 1919 GMT

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Construction site of the Flamanville nuclear facility in France in October 2008Summary
After a three-week standoff, Russia and Ukraine have finally resolved their natural gas row, a conflict that has caused supply disruptions throughout much of Europe. Despite the agreement, European countries have begun laying out plans for new energy projects to lessen the impact of future disruptions. Many obstacles lie ahead for Europe’s plans, however, meaning Russia is likely to retain its powerful supplier role in the near future.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
Nearly three weeks into a major dispute over natural gas prices, Russia and Ukraine finally reached a substantive deal Jan. 19. No one is happier than Europe. This is especially true of Central and Southeastern Europe, which have had to cope with diminished natural gas supplies (or none at all) over the course of the extensive row, causing major heating and electric shortages and a costly drop in industrial production.

But while natural gas shipments from Russia through Ukraine and on to the European states will slowly resume over the next few days, the Europeans will remain uneasy about the future of their energy security — and will feverishly proceed with plans to escape Moscow’s energy grip as soon as possible.

Europe made similar declarations, and had the same intentions, in 2006, the last time its natural gas supply was jeopardized by an energy row between Russia and Ukraine. In the years since then, nine new energy projects actually have come online. These include two natural gas pipelines and six liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, which bring an annual 62 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, and one nuclear plant that produces and annual 650 megawatts of electricity (MWe).

To put this in context, Europe consumed more than 500 bcm of natural gas in 2007, receiving around 160 bcm (more than a quarter of supplies) from Russia. In addition, Europe’s annual demand for natural gas is projected to increase to more than 800 bcm over the next decade. While the recent projects account for a considerable amount of new energy supplies, nearly all of them are in Western Europe, thus providing little help to Central and Southeastern Europe.

Russia supplies the amount of natural gas it does to Europe for good reason. Europe shares a land border and a deep history of energy ties with Russia, unlike other suppliers such as the Middle East or North Africa. The pipelines from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula to Europe cover a large distance and were fairly expensive to build, but they were constructed in the Soviet era under a central-planning system that did not prioritize efficiency and returns on investment; it is doubtful such projects could or would be built today. The volume and nature of Russian natural gas dictates that it can be transported most efficiently via pipeline. And Russia has a vast and established pipeline network it uses to send energy throughout Europe. Finding a cost-effective alternative to this network will be doubly hard in the current period of financial instability.

Rather than focusing on rumors of new energy projects circulating in Europe, examining which efforts to shift to energy alternatives actually have made it past the planning phase will prove more helpful in understanding the future of European energy dependence on Russia.





Click to view map

Pipelines
One option for Europe is to build new natural gas pipelines or expand existing networks. Geography, however, limits where Europe can receive its natural gas via pipeline. Aside from the resources its gets from Russia, Europe can only look north to Norway, south to North Africa, and southeast to the Middle East and Central Asia. While no projects are under way in Norway, several pipeline projects are under way elsewhere.

One is the expansion project known as the Poseidon pipeline, which routes natural gas to Europe from Turkey (which in turn gets its supplies from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan). The first phase of the expansion linked Greek and Turkish infrastructure. The second phase, an underwater pipeline to the Italian mainland, is under construction and slated to come on line at the end of 2009. There are also two projects under way to build new pipelines from Algeria to Europe, indicating the potential of North Africa as an energy supplier. The Medgaz and Galsi natural gas pipelines will transit supplies from the Hassi R’mel field in Algeria and connect to Spain and Italy, respectively. As it stands, there are no Europe-bound energy projects in the Middle East — a huge energy-producing region — under construction.

LNG Facilities
Another option for Europe is to expand its energy consumption through the form of LNG. LNG is produced when natural gas is supercooled into liquid form, enabling it to be shipped by tanker — and therefore allowing Europe to get natural gas from all over the world. An LNG liquefaction plant that could boost European supplies is currently under renovation in Libya. Libya recently has opened to the West after shedding its pariah status, creating great potential for (though by no means ensuring) commerce with Europe in the area of energy and trade.

LNG is one of the most expensive and technologically difficult forms of energy to produce and import, but it eases the geographical barriers of the supplier-consumer relationship. (Conversely, it increases competition over supplies). A number of LNG import facilities are under construction in France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. One of these, the United Kingdom’s South Hook facility, will import natural gas from Qatar’s North Field when it comes on line later in 2009. A coastline is required to import LNG, putting much of Central and Southern Europe out of the loop unless additional massive pipeline infrastructure is built to accommodate the transfer of natural gas inland. These are the countries most dependent on Russian energy, and therefore most beholden to Russian energy maneuvers.

Nuclear

Aside from natural gas, nuclear energy provides another option for Europe that would relieve countries from reliance on hostile and distant energy providers. Though nuclear plants can ease the burdens associated with foreign dependence, nuclear energy has been a taboo in much of the European Union. The union actually required many of the Central and Southeastern European members to shut down their nuclear sites upon accession for health and safety concerns — particularly by environmentally conscious Austria, which shares a land border with Central European ex-Soviet states.

Serious consideration by some of these countries to reopen their nuclear plants or build new ones has raised Western European hackles. There will be many EU hurdles to reopening old and dangerous nuclear plants, and funding for this will be lacking due to the particularly severe effects of the financial crisis experienced in Central Europe. (This also will undermine efforts to build new reactors.) If these states become more desperate for alternative sources of energy, however, the likelihood of old plants reopening would increase.

Clearly, European plans for energy diversification away from Russia are fraught with obstacles and complications. Moscow will take note of these troubles, making sure to exploit divisions in order to keep Europe under its energy thumb as long as possible.
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« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2009, 01:49:02 PM »

January 28, 2009
Russian military a 'paper tiger' despite symbolic comeback, says IISS

The Russian Navy's heavy A-Cruiser 'Pyotr Veliky'
Michael Evans, Defence Editor

Russia may be flexing its military muscle once again, sending warships into international waters and dispatching long-range bombers on reconnaissance trips, but the former superpower remains a paper tiger, according to a respected London think-tank.

The recent naval manoeuvres in the Mediterranean and Latin America were symbolic gestures – the former maritime giant was able to deploy only a small number of ships, while the rest of the fleet was anchored at home without enough money to keep it at sea, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says.

In February last year a naval force led by the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov completed a two-month deployment, including a period in the Mediterranean – one of the longest of its kind since the Cold War, the IISS said in The Military Balance, its annual assessment which was published yesterday.

However, Oksana Antonenko, a senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the institute, said: “In military terms it was all very modest. This is not a major military comeback, it was just a symbolic deployment.”

She cast doubt on the ability of Russia to project force and said that the victory of Russian troops in Georgia in August merely exposed the Army’s shortcomings. She predicted that the Russian defence budget next year would suffer from an even greater deficit.

The Navy plans to build six carrier battle groups, but the publication said: “The Russian military has a long way to go to recover from 20 years of mismanagement and neglect.

“Only 12 nuclear-powered submarines, 20 major surface warships and one aircraft carrier remain in service with the Russian Navy, the last of which is routinely followed by two tugs in case of breakdown,” it added.

According to the institute’s estimate of Russian defence expenditure, the percentage of GDP devoted to military spending dropped from 5.25 per cent in 1998 to 3.9 per cent in 2007.

The assessment is contrary to the high-profile foreign policy approach adopted by Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister.

There was not enough money for Russia to achieve what it wanted in military terms, Ms Antonenko said. There was also a lack of consensus in the Russian armed forces. Some sections of the Army want to remain focused on territorial defence and the nuclear establishment insists on training for work beyond Russia’s borders.

The Military Balance said that national pride in Russia’s military forces was being restored, however.

Russia remained sensitive to the enlargement programme of Nato, particularly since Georgia and Ukraine had been put on the list of potential new members of the alliance, Ms Antonenko said.

She added that there was no clear understanding in Moscow of what Nato was trying to do with its enlargement programme and she called for a different dialogue between Russia and the alliance.

Ms Antonenko said there were signs of a better working arrangement, with the announcement that Russia was willing to consider allowing Nato to use a northern corridor through its territory for delivering supplies to alliance troops in Afghanistan.

John Chipman, the director-general and chief executive of the IISS, said that since the conflict in Georgia the Russians had announced plans for radical reforms, including turning the Army into a fully professional force.

“This restructuring could make Russian armed forces more capable to operate against modern threats and potentially better interoperable with Western forces,” he said.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5599603.ece
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« Reply #22 on: March 24, 2009, 05:34:47 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Motives Behind Russia's Security Proposal
March 23, 2009

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on Sunday blasted Russia’s proposal for a new security agreement with Europe and said the Americans should not force Poland into “regretting its trust in them.” Speaking at the 2009 Brussels Security Forum, Sikorski was reacting to a proposal that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented March 21, intended to create a new treaty to combat terrorism. According to Lavrov, the agreement would “respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of countries, inadmissibility of the use of force, guarantees for the provision of equal security, basic parameters of control over armaments and reasonable sufficiency in the development of military capability.” The initiative is meant to prove that no outside state and no international organization has the exclusive right to security in Europe.

Russia’s audience for the proposal was the United States, NATO and the European Union. While the treaty is said to be an anti-terrorism agreement, the Poles — and many others — see the true motives behind Lavrov’s proposal. The measure looks more like an attempt to re-create circumstances in which the United States is not invited to interfere in Russo-European affairs. It also could be intended to create a situation in which Europe is not allowed to cross into the former Soviet sphere dominated by Russia, since Lavrov’s proposal came just days after the European Union decided to launch partnership agreements with many countries in that sphere.

EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana — who happens to be a former NATO secretary-general — immediately shot down Lavrov’s proposal, adding that it is “a very intelligent set-up” for Europe to have the United States as the key guarantor of its security.

But it seems not everyone in Europe is as confident in the U.S.-European relationship as Solana.

The initiative Lavrov spoke of is actually based on a new treaty that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev placed before a select group of his European counterparts in June 2008. During the summer, Medvedev and others were very tight-lipped on what exactly this security agreement entailed and whether it actually could serve as a counter to U.S. and NATO influence in Europe. But at the time, STRATFOR sources said German leaders were considering Medvedev’s proposals. The point of that security agreement was to begin fracturing the U.S. hold over Europe and NATO by targeting individual states and pulling them out of Washington’s orbit.

Since Medvedev’s first push for an exclusive security agreement with certain European states, much has happened: the Russo-Georgian war, another natural gas shut-off from Russia to Ukraine (affecting Europe) and a possible move forward in U.S.-Russian negotiations. The time is ripe for Moscow to again try to create a more permanent structure involving Russia and Europe — especially one that counters the United States. Country by country, Moscow is attacking the Europeans’ confidence in Washington. In Moscow’s view, the Russians have the upper hand now: In the war with Georgia, they proved they are willing to invade a U.S. ally; with the natural gas cutoff, they issued a reminder that Europeans still depend on Russian natural gas; and the ongoing U.S.-Russian negotiations have many U.S. allies concerned about what Washington will barter away.

Solana has discounted the idea that any European country will be interested in Russia’s new security deal. However, it seems that some countries might not be quick to pass it up, while others fear the United States cannot follow through on its security guarantees.
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« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2009, 11:43:24 AM »

Caspian Pipeline Consortium
Stratfor Today » April 30, 2009 | 2115 GMT

Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2008Summary
Russia is on the cusp of acquiring BP’s stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, which would give Moscow majority ownership of a vital energy asset. This shows that Russia is actively pursuing consolidation in the energy sector and working to make Europe’s plans to diversify away from Russian energy all the more difficult.

Vagit Alekperov, president of Russian oil firm LUKoil, is in Kazakhstan until May 1, meeting with officials from the Kazakh government and BP to negotiate on the acquisition of BP’s 6.6 percent stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) oil pipeline. According to STRATFOR sources in Moscow, Alekperov will finalize a deal to acquire BP’s share of a joint venture it holds with LUKoil known as LUKARKO B.V. The joint venture has a 12.5 percent stake of the total pipeline; LUKoil’s acquisition would give Russia majority ownership of the strategic energy asset.


The CPC pipeline has a history of garnering significant attention from regional and global players in the energy industry, and for good reason. First commissioned in 2001, the CPC was designed to bring Kazakhstan’s hefty oil resources from the Tengiz oil field to the export terminal in Russia’s port city of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea coast. With a capacity of around 700,000 barrels per day flowing from the Caspian across the Caucasus, this pipeline is of vital strategic importance. Furthermore, the CPC is the only major pipeline traversing Russian territory that is not majority-owned by the Russians; rather, it is split among a hodgepodge of governments and businesses.

This lack of majority ownership has long been a thorn in Moscow’s side, as much of Russia’s strategic strength and foreign policy decisions are driven by its dominance of energy resources. Consequently, Moscow has been working to block any progress on the CPC pipeline and to eventually become a majority owner. Russia used heavy-handed tactics, such as charging enormous taxes and transit fees on the pipeline, to block any effort to expand it. In addition, Moscow sought to increase its ownership in the consortium in order to have more decision-making power regarding the pipeline. Russia purchased a 7 percent stake owned by Oman in November 2008, but this only gave Moscow 31 percent outright ownership of the pipeline — not a controlling stake. Moscow also gained partial ownership in the Rosneft-Royal Dutch/Shell joint venture (which holds a 7.5 percent stake) and the LUKoil-BP LUKARKO joint venture, but still failed to surpass the 50 percent threshold needed for majority ownership.

That will now change. If the meeting between Alekperov and Kazakh and BP officials produces an agreement, which is all but guaranteed, LUKoil (a private company that is not directly owned by the Kremlin but is frequently used to the Kremlin’s advantage), will own LUKARKO’s entire 12.5 percent stake in the CPC, giving Russia majority ownership. This likely will have enormous consequences, as Russia will be in control of decision-making for the pipelines, and the pipeline expansion plans the Kremlin has blocked up until now could change or move forward with the Kremlin as the primary overseer.

It will not be all smooth sailing, however. After the completion of the LUKoil-BP deal, Russian ownership of the CPC will be split among three major constituencies: LUKoil, state-owned oil giant Rosneft and pipeline monopoly Transneft. The Kremlin masterminded this arrangement so that Russia would not appear to have overwhelming influence in the consortium, as ownership would be divided among an independent player that happens to be based in Russia (LUKoil) and government-owned firms. But these companies are not just competitors; they are actually adversaries, in that they are involved with different oligarchs’ clans that are vying for power within the Russian elite.

Moscow understands this and has been consolidating power massively, nationalizing and taking control of assets from a wide range of strategic industries — from banking to energy and everything in between —that were once solely under the oligarchs’ control. The ongoing economic recession, which has hit Russia quite hard, has actually facilitated this process, allowing Moscow to keep all the important players within its borders and beyond in check. Thus, the Kremlin has made plans to consolidate the CPC shares held by Transneft, Rosneft, and LUKoil under one umbrella, though this will not be easy, as none of these companies will want to relinquish its portion of the pipeline. Moscow will have to either fight or accept that its control over the shares is weakened, as the shares are split up — though they are still in Russian hands.

Ultimately, the move to acquire BP’s stake in the CPC pipeline will strengthen Russia’s dominance, giving it ownership of all the major energy infrastructure that touches its soil. As seen in the recent deal to take over Turkmenistan’s strategic pipeline to Iran, Moscow is vigorously reasserting itself in the region through energy deals. The most important intended audience for these moves are the Europeans, who must sit back and watch as their plans for energy diversification away from Russia take another blow.

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« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2009, 02:43:42 PM »

Summary

Armenian officials said May 5 that the country will not engage in upcoming NATO military drills in Georgia, joining several other countries that have declined to partake in the drills, most notably Latvia and Estonia. The two Baltic countries’ decision raises the question of NATO’s effectiveness in protecting its two smallest members.

Analysis

Armenia announced May 5 that it will not take part in the upcoming NATO military exercises scheduled for May 6-June 1 in Georgia. Yerevan’s withdrawal makes it the sixth country to announce its absence from NATO’s drills — which will include more than 1,300 troops from 19 member countries and ally states — in addition to Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Estonia and Latvia. While most of these countries either hold strong political ties to Russia or are wary of angering Moscow and thus come as no surprise in missing the drills, it is the withdrawal of the two Baltic states — Estonia and Latvia — that is particularly unexpected and noteworthy.

The implications of the Baltic countries’ absence from the NATO exercises is symbolically significant. It shows that the two NATO members are making their own decision to opt out of the drills — exercises that they would normally be thrilled to be a part of to maintain their image as firmly in the Western camp. More importantly, their abstention goes against the idea of NATO providing an unflinching security blanket to all of its members, weakening the unity of the security bloc as well as the perception of NATO by outside powers.

Estonia and Latvia hold some of the most confrontational stances towards Moscow of all European countries. This is largely due to geography, as the two countries sit extremely close to Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, with no real terrain barriers to invasion and no strategic depth whatsoever. This vulnerability dates back to nearly a century of domination by the Kremlin, when the two states were republics of the former Soviet Union. Ethnically different from their past Russian rulers (Estonia is closely linked to Finland), the Baltics are deeply resentful of having been ruled with a strong hand by Moscow during the Soviet era.


When the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse, Estonia and Latvia (along with their Baltic neighbor, Lithuania) were among the first countries to declare independence from Moscow in 1991. In 2004, the two Baltic states joined the European Union and, more significantly in their eyes, NATO (originally designed to counter Russia) to cement their place in the Western camp. The proximity to Russia and Moscow’s traditional dominance over the Baltic region meant that entering into a military alliance with the United States and Western Europe was a key imperative for Latvia and Estonia. Their entry into NATO, however, put the Western alliance at the doorstep of St. Petersburg and was perceived as a threat by the Kremlin, although the only NATO military presence thus far has been a small rotation of fighter jets from allied nations to monitor their airspace.

Latvia and Estonia’s animated opposition to Russian foreign policy is grounded in the very reasonable fear of being dominated by Moscow. Estonia’s population is about 1.3 million people, while Latvia’s is just more than 2 million — not even half the size of St. Petersburg. This fear was only exacerbated by Russia’s war with Georgia in the summer of 2008. Moscow’s resurgence has therefore only reinvigorated the Baltic States’ sense of dread that Russia’s return to prominence could put them in Kremlin’s sights in the very near future.

Membership in NATO is key for Estonia and Latvia because it gives them an actual lever against Moscow in a contest where it seems like the Kremlin holds all the levers on the Baltics. From significant Russian populations residing within their borders to cyberwarfare tactics being deployed in the two countries in 2007, Tallinn and Riga are extremely sensitive to Russian maneuvers, a fact the Kremlin is eager to exploit. Moscow also has started to deploy a force of 8,000 troops along the borders of the two countries as part of its Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) force, specifically meant to counter NATO’s expansion plans.

What the two Baltic countries (Lithuania is held in a slightly different vein, as it does not actually border mainland Russia) did gain with their NATO membership were chances to make mainly symbolic moves against their former master, be it siding with Georgia in the Russo-Georgia war or expressing explicit support for U.S. plans to place ballistic missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO membership, however, has not given much to the Baltic States in terms of concrete security. NATO members all pledge to aid allies in the event of an attack. However, the Baltic states have little else vis-a-vis the threat of Russia. Upholding the principle of alliance unity (and reminding their West European allies that Russia is indeed a threat) is therefore the key Latvian and Estonian foreign policy principle and a core national interest. As such, while the two countries have relatively tiny military forces, they would also participate in the number of NATO drills held every year, mainly out of solidarity with the Western military bloc.

But now even that has changed. Estonia and Latvia have been severely affected by the ongoing economic crisis, with both countries facing double-digit drops in gross domestic product forecast for 2009 (-10.1 percent and -13.1 percent, respectively) as a result of foreign capital flight and exports that are in free fall. Extreme social tension has set in as a result of the harsh economic realities, with both countries witnessing violent protests in January. In the meantime, the Latvian government collapsed early in 2009, and Riga has had to take out a $2.4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Estonia’s government is set to face a vote of no confidence this week, and a similar loan from the IMF is likely later in 2009.

These conditions have caused Estonia and Latvia to temper their aggressive stance toward Russia. While the two countries are typically vocal and eager to take advantage of Russia’s weaknesses for media attention, they are now backing down as they realize their own positions are weak while Russia’s position is growing stronger. This explains Estonia’s and Latvia’s withdrawal from the NATO exercises, as they realize that their participation would be far more damaging to their relationship with Russia and that their financial situations would make joining in on the drills even more difficult. For these two countries, showing solidarity and support for Georgia makes a great deal of sense in theory (i.e., supporting in principal Georgia’s struggle against Russian influence). But it becomes increasingly hard to justify in practice when Russian influence is being felt in a real sense on their home turf.

During a time of immense security challenges posed by Russia and beyond, perception is key. Moreover, this is not an event that can easily be isolated, as the perception of unity is critical to alliances at all times — and has been a perennial issue for NATO.

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« Reply #25 on: July 01, 2009, 02:09:36 AM »

stratfor

Geopolitical Diary: The BMD Issue Comes to the Fore
June 30, 2009

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, told Polish military officials in Warsaw on Monday that Washington is still undecided on how to proceed with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Speaking at a news conference with his Polish counterpart, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, Mullen said that the BMD deployment is still under review, but that “the United States is committed to the relationship with Poland and certainly supporting modernization of the Polish military.”

With U.S. President Barack Obama set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev — as well as with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the man truly in charge at the Kremlin — between July 6 and 8, Moscow and Washington are accelerating their political exchanges. One issue will dominate the activity before Obama’s visit and the meetings: increased U.S. military involvement in Central Europe, encapsulated by the proposed BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

From Moscow’s perspective, greater U.S. involvement in Central Europe illustrates a key shift in Washington’s posture in Europe. While the Cold War ultimately was about the disposition of Germany — and Germany therefore was torn apart by the geopolitical forces of the period — the “new” Cold War between resurgent Russia and the United States, the global hegemon, is about the disposition of Poland. A weak and insecure Poland isolated on the open North European plain, between Germany and Russia, poses no threat to Moscow, nor would it be able to counter Russia’s influence on its borders — particularly in the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine. However, a confident Poland bolstered and armed by an aggressive patron would not be simply a regional competitor, but a jumping-off point for a host of anti-Russian forces. Thus, it would pose a threat to Russia — one that could counter Moscow’s designs for the region.

Poland is hoping that the United States will be that patron. For Warsaw, the BMD system has little to do with potential nuclear threats emanating from the Middle East (or even from Moscow). It is about entrenching a U.S. presence in Poland for the long haul — committing Washington to defending the portion of the North European plain between the Oder and Bug rivers, in much the same way that Washington was committed to the defense of West Germany during the Cold War.

Thus, Obama’s visit to Moscow next week has prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity between Moscow, Washington and Warsaw. For its part, Moscow is trying the stick-and-carrot approach. The Russian military began a major military exercise in its North Caucasus region on Monday, likely to signal that NATO and its ally Georgia are powerless to prevent Russian dominance in the region.

However, Moscow also has nudged Kyrgyzstan to reverse its decision to end the U.S. lease of the Manas airbase, which is vital for NATO military operations in Afghanistan. And the Russians have signaled that they might agree to the transport of “lethal” military supplies through Russian territory (including its airspace) to Afghanistan, thus allowing Washington to avoid shipping supplies through turbulent Pakistan. Meanwhile, Washington has softened its stance on BMD: Mullen suggested that Washington is considering a Russian proposal about using Soviet-era radar facilities in Gabala, Azerbaijan — a statement that Russian media have given particular attention since Mullen’s visit. (STRATFOR has noted the marginal utility of this radar.)

Ultimately, even if the Russians and the Americans arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement on the BMD program during talks next week, the question of Poland will remain. A deepening of Polish-U.S. military ties would not stop with a BMD system — even one in which Russia is involved. Washington already has completed delivery of nearly 50 F-16C/D fighter jets in the latest Block 52 configuration — among the most modern F-16s flown in the NATO alliance — to Poland. The Pentagon is quickly closing in on a deal to deploy U.S. Patriot missiles to Poland and/or sell them to Warsaw directly.

Therefore, even if the United States backs away from the BMD issue, the victory would be a Pyrrhic one for Moscow — for it is this arrangement that the Kremlin has truly feared all along. The BMD issue – which would put 10 ballistic missile interceptors near Poland’s Baltic coast – was one issue on which the Kremlin felt it could gain a lot of traction. But an aggressive, confident and U.S.-backed Poland perched on Russia’s borders would be a real geopolitical problem for Moscow.
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« Reply #26 on: July 03, 2009, 12:15:14 AM »

Russia Is Back on the Warpath
The West must reaffirm its support for Georgia
 
By CATHY YOUNG
With President Barack Obama's trip to Moscow on Monday, you might expect Russia to avoid stirring up any trouble. Yet the Russian media are now abuzz with speculation about a new war in Georgia, and some Western analysts are voicing similar concerns. The idea seems insane. Nonetheless, the risk is real.

One danger sign is persistent talk of so-called Georgian aggression against the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states after the war last August. "Georgia is rattling its weapons . . . and has not given up on attempts to solve its territorial problems by any means," Gen. Nikolai Makarov, who commanded Russian troops in Georgia in 2008, told the Novosti news agency on June 17. Similar warnings have been aired repeatedly by the state-controlled media.

Independent Russian commentators, such as columnist Andrei Piontkovsky, note that this has the feel of a propaganda campaign to prepare the public for a second war. Most recently, Moscow has trotted out a Georgian defector, Lt. Alik D. Bzhania, who claims that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili "intends to restart the war."

Yet Russia is the one currently engaged in large-scale military exercises in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and adjacent regions. Russia has also kicked out international observers from the area. On June 15, Moscow vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution renewing the mandate of U.N. monitors in Abkhazia because it mentioned an earlier resolution affirming Georgia's territorial integrity. Negotiations to extend the mission of monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have broken down thanks to Russian obstruction. Now, 225 European Union monitors are the only international presence on the disputed borders.

The expulsion of neutral observers seems odd if Russia is worried about Georgian aggression. But it makes sense if Russia is planning an attack.

What would the Kremlin gain? A crushing victory in Georgia would depose the hated Mr. Saakashvili, give Russia control of vital transit routes for additional energy resources that could weaken its hold on the European oil and gas markets, humiliate the U.S., and distract Russians from their economic woes. Mr. Piontkovsky also believes the war drive comes from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is anxious to reassert himself as supreme leader.

Still, the costs would be tremendous. Last year the Kremlin repaired some of the damage to its relations with Europe and the U.S. by portraying the invasion of Georgia as a response to a unique crisis, not part of an imperial strategy. Another war would cripple Russia's quest for respectability in the civilized world, including its vanity project of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

And after the patriotic fervor wears off, domestic discontent would likely follow. Moreover, Russia would almost certainly find itself mired in a long guerilla war. This would further destabilize a region where Russia's own provinces, Ingushetia and Dagestan, are plagued by violent turmoil.

Given all this, a war seems unlikely. What's more probable is that Russia will seek to destabilize Georgia without military action. This saber-rattling may be meant to boost Georgian opposition to Mr. Saakashvili.

Still, Moscow's actions are not always rational. If the pro-war faction believes that the Western response to an assault on Georgia would be weak and half-hearted, it could be emboldened. In a June 25 column on the EJ.ru Web site, Russian journalist Yulia Latynina writes that the probability of the war "depends solely on the Kremlin's capacity to convince itself that it can convince the world that the war is its enemies' fault."

That is why it's essential for the United States and the EU to respond now -- by increasing their non-military presence in Georgia, expressing a strong commitment to Georgian sovereignty, and reminding Russia of the consequences of aggression. Such a statement from President Obama in Moscow would go a long way toward preventing the possibility of another tragedy.

Ms. Young is a columnist for RealClearPolitics.com and the author of "Growing Up in Moscow" (Ticknor & Fields, 1989).

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124649267530483121.html#mod=djemEditorialPage

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« Reply #27 on: July 03, 2009, 02:22:56 AM »

Many good points in this article.

That said, I find myself wishing its thinking were placed more into a historical context. 

Did not President Clinton promise that we would not take NATO into eastern Europe?

What was the point of our supporting the creation of a breakaway country in the former Yugoslavia against extremely strong Russian discontent on the point? (for reasons of the implications in international law for regions on their periphery IIRC)

How would we feel about Mexico forming military alliance with Russia?

Was it not a major error of President Bush to start something with Russia that we were not in a position to back up?  We still have 130,000 troops in Iraq, and our generals in Afpakia have been told not to ask for any more troops, even though they need them.  If Pakistan goes down the toilet, how will we supply our troops in Afg?  President BO seems to think cutting a deal with Putin et al is the way to go.  (The blithering stupidity of such a course of action I trust is apparent to all here.)  The Russians continue to play balance of power politics pitting us and the Iranians with occasional support for Iranian nukes and militarization.

Good rule:  Don't finish what you can't start.

Led as we are at the moment, with our economy rapidly spiraling into serious vortexes, are we up to this?
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« Reply #28 on: July 03, 2009, 11:39:14 AM »

Russia is opening bases in South America again. Last summer they did joint exercises with Cuba and Venzuala

Many good points in this article.

That said, I find myself wishing its thinking were placed more into a historical context. 

Did not President Clinton promise that we would not take NATO into eastern Europe?

What was the point of our supporting the creation of a breakaway country in the former Yugoslavia against extremely strong Russian discontent on the point? (for reasons of the implications in international law for regions on their periphery IIRC)

How would we feel about Mexico forming military alliance with Russia?

Was it not a major error of President Bush to start something with Russia that we were not in a position to back up?  We still have 130,000 troops in Iraq, and our generals in Afpakia have been told not to ask for any more troops, even though they need them.  If Pakistan goes down the toilet, how will we supply our troops in Afg?  President BO seems to think cutting a deal with Putin et al is the way to go.  (The blithering stupidity of such a course of action I trust is apparent to all here.)  The Russians continue to play balance of power politics pitting us and the Iranians with occasional support for Iranian nukes and militarization.

Good rule:  Don't finish what you can't start.

Led as we are at the moment, with our economy rapidly spiraling into serious vortexes, are we up to this?
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« Reply #29 on: July 03, 2009, 12:03:50 PM »

I saw about the joint exercises, but as far as the logic of the point goes, were they or we doing this first?

As far as opening bases goes, when?  Where?

You are a serious student of this part of the world (Georgia, etc) so I would be particularly glad to get your assessment of my additional questions/points.
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« Reply #30 on: July 03, 2009, 04:55:40 PM »

I saw about the joint exercises, but as far as the logic of the point goes, were they or we doing this first?

As far as opening bases goes, when?  Where?

You are a serious student of this part of the world (Georgia, etc) so I would be particularly glad to get your assessment of my additional questions/points.


I was talking to our office there this week.  Russia has moved a considerable amount of men and supplies into Georgia's break away regions and are provoking the Georgians on a daily basis.  Shootings, assassination's and motarings are common on the border areas.  The Georgians are desperate to get into Nato, they figure if they are not admitted soon the Russians will walk in and take Georgia back.

One thing that was not reported last time around, the Georgian military did not tuck tail and run.  They were killing russians at a rate of 10-1.  They did rush their armor back to Tbilisi but they figured that they were going to be forced to make a last stand.  this time Russia will probably not stop, they will install a new govt and say they were freeing the people from a tyrant

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« Reply #31 on: July 03, 2009, 06:04:32 PM »

Huss:

You know I consider you a brother in arms, so forgive a moment of smart-assedness, but I gather your response means you are backing off your claim of the Russians opening bases in Latin America, and therefore acknowledging the point implicit in my question about how we might feel about a Russian base/alliance of mutual defense with Russia-- yes?

Turning to the situation in Georgia:  What you report is quite consistent with what I read in Stratfor and elsewhere.  Sucks for the Georgians!!!  And yes the Russkis are being their bad old KGB, imperialistic, butthole selves.  That said-- my question about Bush's judgment in getting us involved and getting the Georgians to rely upon us is questionable.   To harp on a point I have made several times before, in the 2004 election even his weenie opponent was calling for expanding the US military by 50,000 troops-- but Bush-Rumbo, still too proud to admit that what was going on in Iraq was more than a bunch of Saddamite remnants, refused to admit that we needed to expand our military.

I have nothing inherently against trying to knock out the Russkis as a major power while they were down, but it seems distinctly unsound to try it with all our bandwidth used up.  As best as I can tell, Bush showed very poor judgment here and left us badly overextended.
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« Reply #32 on: July 03, 2009, 09:36:32 PM »

Huss:

You know I consider you a brother in arms, so forgive a moment of smart-assedness, but I gather your response means you are backing off your claim of the Russians opening bases in Latin America, and therefore acknowledging the point implicit in my question about how we might feel about a Russian base/alliance of mutual defense with Russia-- yes?


Personally, i think Russia was encouraged to start up the cold war games after we rammed the seperation of Kosovo away from serbia down the throats of the russians and serbs.  Im still trying to figure out why we took a city that is considered the cradle of the orthadox church away from the serbs and gave it to muslims who can only trace their ansestry there back to the 1500's and the last ottoman crusade into europe.

A new Cuban missile crisis? Russia eyes bomber bases in Latin America
It could be bluffing or it might be payback – Russia says it's 'ready to fly' bombers to Venezuela and Cuba.
http://www.siberianlight.net/russian-nuclear-bombers-cuba/
http://features.csmonitor.com/globalnews/2009/03/15/a-new-cuban-missile-crisis-russia-eyes-bomber-bases-in-latin-america/
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« Reply #33 on: July 18, 2009, 10:03:51 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Central Europe's Longstanding Fears
July 17, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Munich on Thursday. The meeting produced talk of a Russian-German manufacturing alliance, a 500 million-euro ($704.7 million) joint investment agreement, several business deals that included infrastructure and transportation development, and a lot of chatter on Europe’s energy issues, such as the proposed Nord Stream and Nabucco natural gas pipelines. The business deals are further evidence of a burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Berlin that is evolving into more than just a partnership of convenience based on German imports of Russian natural gas.

More important than the nitty-gritty details of the talks (none of which were wholly unexpected) was the fact that the German and Russian leaders were meeting shortly after both met with U.S. President Barack Obama. If one was ignorant of Germany’s status as an unwavering U.S. ally, with troops in Afghanistan and nearly 70 years of pro-American foreign policy, it might be tempting to conclude that Merkel and Medvedev were comparing notes on their visits with Obama — which could constitute a level of geopolitical coordination far more important than deals to build new rail cars. In other words, Berlin and Moscow could be seen as getting quite close to each other, to a degree that cannot be accounted for solely by Germany’s energy dependence on Russia.

But this is exactly how ex-communist states in Central Europe perceive the relationship between Berlin and Moscow, precisely because they do not consider Germany to be a staunch and unwavering U.S. ally. In fact, Central European states — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania — see much in German foreign policy that might be drifting away from the United States. For this group of countries, the NATO alliance has not proved to be the warranty against geopolitical instability they had hoped it to be. In fact, since Central European states have been taking part in NATO, Russia has freely manipulated domestic politics in Ukraine and the Baltics, intervened militarily in Georgia and played energy politics with the entire region, through natural gas cutoffs to Ukraine.

Through each episode of Russian brinkmanship, NATO has remained on the sidelines, unwilling to intervene. During the Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008, Germany even tried to minimize NATO’s reaction and, since then, has vociferously opposed expanding the alliance to include Ukraine and Georgia.

In light of concerns about Germany’s commitment to their defense and NATO’s ability to stand up to Russia, a group of 22 former leaders from Central and Eastern European states wrote a letter to Obama on Thursday, imploring him not to abandon them in the face of continued Russian meddling in the region. The letter specifically referred to the U.S. plans to build ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, stating that canceling the program “can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.”

For now, the United States is remaining silent on the BMD issue in order to see whether it can win any short-term concessions from Russia, particularly where Afghanistan and Moscow’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned. Central European states fear that their concerns about Russian power and their own security could be overruled by American interests in the Middle East. Leaders therefore want a firm commitment from the United States to the region, exemplified through the positioning of the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian and German domination are familiar themes for Central Europe. Since both Germany and Russia historically have had interests in the region, states often looked to outside protectors with no immediate designs for the territory — examples include the inter-war U.K.-Polish and Little Entente (between France and Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) alliances. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a similar arrangement was made with the United States through NATO, or so the states of Central Europe had hoped.

However, the reality is that neither the Little Entente concept of the 1920-1930s nor the U.K.-Polish alliance prevented the region from being overrun by combined Russian and German invasions. Now, the Central Europeans are feeling abandoned by the one power that could provide security against the traditional German-Russian threat: the United States. The question, however, is whether Central European leaders will perceive the U.S. stall as a temporary realpolitik move or permanent abandonment. And if they perceive permanent abandonment, will the region’s leaders continue to write concerned letters to the U.S. president, or will they begin forming a security alliance amongst themselves — with the implicit purpose is countering Russia’s presence in the region?

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #34 on: August 15, 2009, 09:58:52 AM »

Warsaw's Reality on the North European Plain
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGERLA MERKEL will travel to Sochi, Russia, on Friday to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, one day after her personal intervention seems to have pushed a deal on German auto maker Opel to a Russian-backed bid. General Motors Corp. reportedly agreed in principle on Thursday with Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International to sell its stake in the troubled Opel unit. The Magna bid is backed by state-owned Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and would include close cooperation between Opel and GAZ, the second-largest Russian car manufacturer.

While GM was worried that the deal would transfer U.S. technology incorporated into Opel to the Russians, Merkel personally lobbied for the deal, spurning GM’s delay and pressuring the U.S. company to accept the Canadian-Russian bid over a rival Belgian offer. The agreement is only one of a number of recent business deals that illustrate the burgeoning economic relations between Russia and Germany.

“Given its geography, Poland historically has had only two foreign policy strategies”
For Germany, the business deals with Russia are a way to increase demand for German exports, particularly for automobiles and heavy machinery that account for the majority of German manufacturing. Since exports account for 47 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product, the Russian market is an important part of Berlin’s strategy to get out of the current recession. For Russia, the deals are meant both as a means of modernizing the Russian economy and as a way to increase Moscow’s political influence with Berlin. As the trade links crystallize, Berlin and Moscow will not be tied together solely by natural gas exports.

This is undoubtedly going to make Poland uncomfortable. If a newly assertive Germany, which for 60 years has not been allowed to have an opinion in matters of foreign policy, chooses not to be hostile to a resurgent Russia, then the situation for Poland becomes difficult. Warsaw is located on the North European Plain — Europe’s superhighway of conquest — directly between Berlin and Moscow. As such, the Poles are categorically fearful of a Russian-German alliance.

Given its geography, Poland historically has had only two foreign policy strategies. The first, employed when Warsaw is in a powerful position, is to use the lowlands of the North European Plain to its own advantage and expand as much as possible, particularly into Ukraine, the Baltic States and Belarus. This is the aggressive Poland of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which in the 16th century was one of the most powerful and largest countries in Europe. As an example of its power, it was only through the intervention of Polish King Jan III Sobieski that Vienna, and thus Europe by extension, was saved from the Ottomans in 1683.

The second strategy, favored when Warsaw feels threatened, is to find an ally outside of the region determined to guarantee Polish independence. This was the case with Napoleonic France in the early 19th century and with the United Kingdom between the two world wars. This is also the situation today, with Poland hoping that the United States will commit to it with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) installation. BMD, from Poland’s perspective, would mean having U.S. troops on its soil, which would extend the alliance between the two countries past what Warsaw sees as nebulous guarantees of NATO.

However, the United States currently is not looking to challenge Russia overtly. Washington is concentrating on Iran, and the last thing the United States wants is for Russia to counter American moves in Poland by supporting Iran through transfer of military technology, nuclear or conventional.

This makes Warsaw nervous: If Poland cannot employ one of its two favored strategies, it tends to cease to exist as a country. The various partitions of Poland, all in the late 18th century, are still fresh in Warsaw’s collective memory. At that time, a rising Prussia and a surging Russian Empire (along with Austria) broke Poland bit by bit until it no longer existed on the European map. The same situation, also well remembered, was the consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, which led to the combined Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

That historical event will bring the current leaders of Poland, Russia and Germany together on Sept. 1 in Gdansk, Poland. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has invited Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to ceremonies mark the 70-year anniversary of the World War II invasion.

The meeting is indicative of the balancing act that Warsaw is forced to play, lacking a clear signal from the United States on its commitment to Poland. It is also a signal to Washington that, although the invasion occurred 70 years ago, Poland is still stuck in the middle — between of Moscow and Berlin — on the North European Plain.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #35 on: September 02, 2009, 04:59:21 AM »


The Long Arm of the Kremlin
ON TUESDAY, THE LEADERS OF SEVERAL EUROPEAN COUNTRIES will be in Gdansk, Poland, for the 70th anniversary of the day Warsaw considers to have been the beginning of World War II. This anniversary has taken an unusual turn, in that Warsaw is using the occasion to extend an olive branch to Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Poland for the ceremonies and will meet privately with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk. In June, Tusk called the anniversary an opportunity for Warsaw and Moscow to mend their relationship — a major overture by the Poles, who traditionally have had an aggressive foreign policy toward Russia. But Poland is under pressure at the moment — fearing abandonment by the United States, while Russia is resurging and commanding influence in Central Europe, and the relationship between Berlin and Moscow is growing closer.

“A year ago, it was not clear how effective Russia would be in re-establishing its influence on the Continent.”
For Russia, the anniversary is more than a chance to woo Poland; it is an opportunity for Moscow to demonstrate that it has rebuilt relationships across Europe. Putin will meet not only with Tusk, but also with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and new Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. These leaders are from countries that are part of Russia’s overall plan to turn the tide of pro-Western sentiment in Eastern and Central Europe – something that has been in effect since basically the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A year ago  (i.e. until BO's probable electoral victory: Marc), it was not clear how effective Russia would be in re-establishing its influence on the Continent. Although its successes are not set in stone, some are now apparent: Over the past year, Ukraine and Bulgaria have become pro-Russian, Germany has become Russia-friendly and Poland is at least considering how to tolerate a stronger Russia. Tuesday’s meetings in Gdansk are Putin’s chance to solidify Russia’s gains and show the world that Russia can roll back Western influence, even in a country like Poland.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West began working to push its boundaries in Europe rapidly eastward, destroying Russia’s ability to influence the region. The pro-Western lines have continued moving to the east for the past two decades, via NATO and EU expansion, until they pushed hard up against Russia’s borders. But this was before the United States became preoccupied with other parts of the world and its relationships with European countries began to fracture. The vacuum left by Washington’s inattentiveness to Europe has given Russia a chance to start pushing back against pro-Western sentiment in the former Soviet sphere.

Officials in Moscow know there is only limited time before Washington’s focus returns to Russia, and that now is the time to solidify Russian influence in the former Soviet states and then neutralize or partner with states just beyond that sphere. Once the United States decides to counter Russia, things will get messy on the European geopolitical battlefield once again.

But for now, it seems Russia is making some progress in its roll back across Europe. A question we are considering in Russia’s resurgence is how much longer the United States will allow Russia a window of opportunity. Washington has a full plate right now – with issues including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan — but the Americans are aware of Moscow’s moves in the former Soviet region. The next thing to watch for is whether Poland can maintain a neutralized position between Russia and Germany — two countries that historically have invaded Poland in the process of invading each other.

If Poland can be neutralized and the United States’ influence in Europe remains low, what will Russia’s next move be? Which countries are next on Moscow’s list as it seeks to rebuild influence in the region? These are questions that many Baltic and Central European countries will be asking on the 70th anniversary of World War II.
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« Reply #36 on: October 23, 2009, 09:13:22 AM »

Serbia: Russia's Eyes on the Balkans
SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IVICA DACIC and Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a deal on Wednesday to set up by 2012 a humanitarian center for emergencies in Nis, a city in southeastern Serbia. At a press conference, the ministers said the center would be a regional hub for emergency relief in southeastern Europe, and that it will include a mine-clearance center.

To those familiar with the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations and its longtime minister, this announcement should give pause. It has the potential to redefine how the world looks at the Balkans and Russia’s involvement in the region.

Given the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the independence of Kosovo, the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU and NATO, and the general enlargement of NATO to the Balkans, the West has had the luxury of being able to forget about the Balkans, for the most part. This is historically anomalous, considering the region’s generally unstable past and its penchant for causing wide-ranging conflagrations. Certainly, trouble spots remain: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are still overt Western protectorates with potential for flaring up, and Serbia is generally dissatisfied with Kosovo’s independence. However, with Serbia practically surrounded by NATO members or candidates, the West has believed that it has the time to digest the remaining Balkan problems at a leisurely pace.

Enter the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

This is anything but a minor ministry in the Russian government. Shoigu has essentially run the ministry since 1994. He is a member of the powerful and selective Russian Security Council -- a key advisory body to the Russian executive on national security -- and has roots in the foreign military intelligence directorate, better known as the GRU, which is one of the most powerful and shadowy institutions in Russia. The ministry is an unofficial wing of the GRU and an outgrowth of its activities. It handles more than natural emergencies: It is involved in the suppression of militant activity in the Caucasus and is in charge of the Russian civil defense troops -- which basically gives the ministry its own paramilitary force, as well as access to the rest of the Russian military. In addition, it has considerable airlift capability due to Russia’s vast geography and often inhospitable climate, which means that in many situations the only means to deliver supplies to an area in need is by aircraft.

It is not clear what this arrangement with Serbia might entail in terms of logistical capability. The region is prone to a variety of natural disasters, especially forest fires, and the center could have a role in aiding their resolution. However, all neighboring countries are either member states of NATO or the EU, or on their way to joining one of the two organizations. And though Serbia's West-friendly neighbors can always use the extra help, they hardly need a regional logistical center manned by Moscow and Belgrade.

Therefore, if one considers the links to the GRU and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations' experience with airlift and related logistics, it has to be considered that Moscow might lay logistical groundwork that -- intentionally or not -- has military value. This could range from nothing more than surveys of the airport’s capability to the prepositioning of logistical equipment, allowing the facility to be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis. The United States has littered the Balkans with exactly such installations, referred to as lily pads -- most notably in neighboring Romania, where it has four. These are a threat to Russian interests in Moldova and Ukraine, and something Moscow has wanted to counter.

Nis is an interesting location for the new emergency center because it long has been a military hub – first for Yugoslavia and later for southern Serbia. It is located on a key north-south transportation link in southeastern Europe, has a major airport and is home of the Serbian special forces' 63rd Paratroopers’ Battalion, quite possibly Belgrade’s (if not the region’s) most effective fighting force.

There are some serious impediments to an effective Russian lily pad. First, Serbia is practically surrounded by NATO states, which means its airspace easily could be closed off during a crisis. Second, there is only so much equipment Russia can set up in Serbia before the “equipped logistical base” starts to look suspicious. Third, Russia is, ultimately, a land-based force, and despite the recent rhetoric about the need to establish expeditionary forces, there has not been much concrete movement in that direction.

Despite these limitations, which make the move largely symbolic for the near future, Moscow is on its way to setting up its first logistical center with potential military uses outside of the former Soviet Union. In addition, the center will be run by a ministry that serves as the wing of the Russian military intelligence unit. If one puts this in the context of the recent visit to Belgrade by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, with his pledge for a $1.5 billion loan for credit-starved Serbia, it must be concluded that Russia is moving into the Balkans with enthusiasm.

Belgrade likely hopes that Russia’s moves in the region will spur the West into action over Serbia’s long-delayed, but much-promised, integration into the EU. This strategy seemed to bear immediate fruit: The EU countered Russia’s lending with loans of its own, including a proposal for a $1.5 billion investment over five years.

However, there is danger in this strategy. It is one thing to play one loan off of another and quite another to be seen as a potential ally of Moscow. Serbia easily could find itself in the middle of a whirlwind, with the potential reopening of the Balkans as a major point of contestation between the West and Russia.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #37 on: January 14, 2010, 11:22:33 AM »

Summary
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Jan. 12 praised Russia’s proposal for a new European security treaty as “timely” and in line with Europe’s interests. By putting forth that proposal Russia is not necessarily hoping to get Europe to agree to a particular security arrangement; rather, Moscow is looking to sow discord among European countries, particularly NATO members.

Analysis
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visited Moscow on Jan. 12. Moratinos, whose country currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, called Russia’s proposal for a new European security treaty “timely” and said its implementation would be in line with Europe’s interests. He also specifically mentioned NATO’s ongoing efforts to create a new “Strategic Concept” document, saying that these efforts manifest “considerable interest” in the Russian security proposal.

Moratinos’ comments were not echoed at a Jan. 12 session of a group of experts, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, which met in Prague to draft proposals for the new NATO strategy document. Central European delegates at the meeting expressed considerable anxiety over NATO’s future, asking for assurances that NATO’s Article 5 — the very heart of the NATO alliance, which states that attack on one member is attack on the entire alliance — is still alive and well.

At the core of Central Europe’s unease are Russia’s ever-improving relations with Western European states.

NATO is undergoing its most significant strategic mission revamping since 1999, when it last updated its Strategic Concept document. In that update, NATO took into account the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and outlined the parameters for NATO operations outside its membership zone, paving the way for the alliance’s role in such theaters of operations as Afghanistan. In 2010, the alliance plans to update its strategic vision at a conference to be held in Lisbon at the end of the year, prior to which it will hold a number of meetings such as the one in Prague.





(click here to enlarge image)
Central European NATO member states are well aware that they now form the buffer zone between Western Europe and a resurgent Russia. Ever since the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008, Central Europe has asked for greater reassurances from the United States that NATO is willing to protect them. Poland, the Czech Republic and most recently Romania have been involved with U.S. ballistic missile defense, while the Baltic states have asked the United States for greater military cooperation on the ground.

The response, however, has not been to their satisfaction. First, Western Europe and the United States stood idly by while Georgia, a stated U.S. ally, lost its brief war with Russia in 2008. Second, Washington decided to (briefly) abandon its BMD plans in Poland and the Czech Republic in the fall of 2009 in an effort to elicit Russia’s cooperation in Afghanistan and on the Iranian nuclear program. While the U.S. eventually amended its decision, Prague and Warsaw got the sense that they were expendable in the grand geopolitical game. Finally, Central Europeans are closely observing Russia’s warming relations with the main Western European states — particularly Germany, France and Italy. The Kremlin is signing energy deals with these states and offering lucrative assets in the upcoming privatizations of state enterprises in Russia.

The last straw for Central Europe may be Russia’s proposed new European security treaty, meant to integrate Russia more into Europe’s security decision-making. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev first hinted at the proposal after the Georgian war. It was then put forward as a slightly less vague — but still unclear — draft at the beginning of December 2009. For Russia the draft and the treaty itself are not important. Moscow understands well that Western Europe has no intention of abandoning NATO. However, the positive response the draft received from Western European nations — such as the Spanish foreign minister’s comments — is exactly what Russia wanted. For Russia, the point is not to sway Western Europe into an unrealistic new security alliance (although it would love to do just that), but rather to sow discord among NATO member states.

The Central Europeans therefore are taking the lead in refocusing the debate about NATO’s new strategy — which until now has been about identifying new global threats such as energy security, cyberwarfare and climate change — toward Russia. They are asking for concrete assurances that Article 5 is alive and well. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, hosting the Jan. 12 meeting on NATO’s new strategy, explicitly said that “it is critical for us that the level of security is the same for all members, meaning that Article 5 … is somehow re-confirmed.” One of the proposals at the meeting included drafting a clear and precise defense plan in the case of an attack against the region, presumably by Russia.

The question now is how these demands will be met by Western Europe — and Berlin specifically — which is unwilling to upset its relationship with Russia, particularly not for the sake of Central Europeans. While the United States and Western Europe may be willing to grant a token reaffirmation of Article 5, it is unlikely that Berlin would want to get into the specifics of designing a military response to a hypothetical Russian attack, particularly not one that would be publicly unveiled. Washington might be more amenable to such concrete proposals, but with Russian supply lines crucial for U.S. efforts to sustain a troop surge in Afghanistan, it is not certain that even Washington would be able to give a more direct reassurance.

Ultimately, a token reassurance may not be enough for Central Europe. The coming debate over NATO’s 2010 strategic revamp — with the next meeting scheduled for Jan. 14 in Oslo — could therefore open fissures in the alliance, an outcome Moscow had in mind from the start.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #38 on: April 11, 2010, 10:40:08 AM »

Freedom lost a friend in the plane crash that killed Poland's president. 
-----
http://www.newsweek.com/id/236220
What's Next for Poland

In the United States, all you have to do is say "Pearl Harbor," and everyone knows what you are talking about. In Poland—a country that was invaded countless times by Russians from the east and Germans from the west—there are far more names of places that everyone instantly recognizes because of their tragic symbolism. But one stands out above all others: Katyn. The fact that the plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including a who's who of the Polish political and military elite, crashed as it was attempting to land in the western Russian city of Smolensk near the Katyn forest, makes this national tragedy overwhelming in its emotional impact.

Kaczynski and the others on the ill-fated flight were supposed to go to the Katyn forest to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the execution of 21, 857 Polish POWs and civilians on the direct orders of Joseph Stalin and his Politburo. When I was growing up in our family's new home in the United States, my father—who had served in the Polish Army in 1939 and then fled to the West, joining Polish forces under British command—made sure that his children knew the full meaning of Katyn. Poland hadn't only been invaded by Hitler, he reminded us; it had also been invaded by Stalin's armies, and then they had attempted to wipe out any future source of opposition by executing so many of its top officers and men.

The fact that Stalin and subsequent Soviet and Polish communist regimes insisted on blaming this crime on the Nazis, who invaded Russia only much later, just magnified Katyn's potency as a symbol. When I started visiting Poland as a student and then as a journalist in communist times, people only had to whisper the word "Katyn" to signal their opposition to the government and its wholesale falsification of history. You could talk openly about the truth of Katyn only in the West, where Polish exiles like my father and grandfather, who served in the Polish government-in-exile in London during World War II, kept insisting that the cover-up was as bad as the original crime.

But things began to change after the fall of communism in 1989, triggered by Solidarity's successful battle for freedom in Poland, which included the freedom to tell the full truth about Katyn. In a goodwill gesture to Poland in 1992, Russia's new President Boris Yeltsin finally released the order from Stalin's Politburo that confirmed Soviet responsibility for the murders. While this briefly improved Polish-Russian relations, Yeltsin's successor Vladimir Putin took a harder line on history, initially encouraging a more positive view of Stalin ("the most successful Soviet leader ever," proclaimed a Russian teacher's manual in 2007) and renewed equivocation about his record of mass murder. That included new efforts by some Russians to deny the truth about Katyn.

The irony is that this year, on the 70th anniversary of those murders, there was renewed hope that the truth would really set both countries free.  Four days before the fatal crash, Putin had accompanied Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to Katyn and admitted Stalin's responsibility for what happened—although he also tossed in a pseudo-justification by claiming the Soviet leader was avenging earlier mistreatment of Russian POWs by Poles in the two countries' war of 1920.

That was precisely the kind of statement that still infuriated Poles, and particularly someone like President Kaczynski, 60, whose experience as a Solidarity activist in the 1980s made him instinctively distrustful of Russian leaders who weren't willing to come completely clean about their history. When I interviewed Kaczynski shortly after Russia's brief war with Georgia in August 2008, he was uncompromising in his language. "There was a test of strength, and Russia showed the face it wanted to show—an imperial face," he told me. He also blasted the West for its passive response.

Yet even Kaczynski, as tough as he was on the Russians, could imagine a better day—so long, as he put it, that the world would "convince Russia that the imperial era is over." And the very fact that such high-level Polish delegations, representing so much of recent Polish history, were flying often to commemorate the Katyn massacre demonstrated how times have changed. Among those who died today was Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish president-in-exile in London, who officially gave up his post when former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was elected president of a newly free Poland in 1990. Kaczorowski's government was a largely symbolic continuation of the first Polish government-in-exile during World War II, the government my grandfather was a part of. To Poles, all these connections feel personal.

And then there was a whole new generation of parliamentarians and government officials who died today as well. Among them was Undersecretary of Defense Stanislaw Komorowski, a gifted former scientist who then embarked on a diplomatic career. I met him at a small dinner party in Warsaw in October. As he juggled urgent calls on his cell about Vice President Biden's visit to Poland to discuss missile defense plans, he was both witty and highly knowledgeable, covering a broad range of issues in a coolly analytical way that was quite different from the more impassioned style of slightly older ex-opposition activists like President Kaczynski.

But nothing can be coolly analytical about the way Poles are thinking about Katyn. Now it's not only a name that connotes a past tragedy with continuing political overtones; it will also live in the memories of today's Poles as a symbol of the loss of so many of their countrymen who experienced the full range of the country's recent history—and its battles over the meaning of the place where they, too, came to die.

Newsweek's former Warsaw bureau chief Andrew Nagorski is now vice president and director of public policy at the EastWest Institute. He is the author of  The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II.
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G M
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« Reply #39 on: April 11, 2010, 10:43:42 AM »

When I heard the news the other night, my first thought was "Putin".

I have nothing to offer as evidence, but my gut is not often wrong.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #40 on: April 11, 2010, 11:09:16 AM »

I have heard no foul play.  What a tragedy for all 97 aboard.  I'm sure no tears were shed though by Putin regarding Kaczynski.  Can't help being reminded of whistle blower Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive poisoning and Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin poisoning.
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G M
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« Reply #41 on: April 11, 2010, 11:26:17 AM »

The Russian media is now pushing the "Plane was technically sound" story.

This just in, henhouse security top notch, says fox.  rolleyes
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #42 on: April 12, 2010, 11:21:17 AM »

Russia’s presidential representative in the Central Federal District, Georgy Poltavchenko, said late April 10 that the Polish flight crew of the crashed presidential plane had been advised by Russian air traffic controllers to deviate from their flight plan to Smolensk and land in Minsk or Vitebsk in Belarus. This was later echoed by Russian Transportation Minister Igor Levitin, who said that the decision to land the plane was taken by the Polish pilot, which has been confirmed by flight recordings recovered from the crash site. According to Levitin, the visibility at the airport was 400 meters due to heavy fog, whereas the required landing visibility is at least 1,000 meters. Levitin also said the two flight recorders will be taken to Moscow where they will be examined in cooperation with Polish investigators. According to STRATFOR sources in Poland, the decision to land in Smolensk, and not in Belarus, may have been influenced by the fact that the ceremonies marking the 70-year anniversary of the Katyn massacre were due to take place within an hour of the supposed landing. In addition, the Tu-154 presidential plane was built in 1990 and had recently been serviced in Russia. In January 2010, Russian airline Aeroflot ceased to fly the model, which was designed in the 1960s. Polish President Lech Kaczynski — who, along with 96 others died in the crash — was known to take risks, demanding that his pilot lands his presidential plane in Tbilisi during the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. His pilot at the time refused to land in a war zone, instead diverting the plane to Azerbaijan. According to sources in Poland, that pilot was reprimanded and never flew with the president again.
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G M
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« Reply #43 on: April 12, 2010, 11:34:12 AM »

Levitin also said the two flight recorders will be taken to Moscow where they will be examined in cooperation with Polish investigators.

**I hope the Polish investigators have the skill sets required to do a proper forensic analysis of the evidence.**
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DougMacG
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« Reply #44 on: April 12, 2010, 01:34:55 PM »

"I hope the Polish investigators have the skill sets required to do a proper forensic analysis of the evidence."

Agree and they should seek assistance from whoever are the best at this.  My doubt isn't that Putin is morally incapable of this, just that I assume the Polish President is more an annoyance than a threat to him. Putin is a shrewd politician and downing an airliner full of innocent people could hurt even his reputation.
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« Reply #45 on: April 12, 2010, 05:21:46 PM »

Didn't Russia just foment the overthrow the govt of Krygyztan (sp?) where we have a now suspended base vital to supply the Afghan War?

Isn't this the same Russia that invaded Georgia without consequence?

Isn't this the same Russia that uses its status as a natural gas supplier to squeeze and nudge Europe towards desired behaviors?

Isn't this the same Russia that just backed down the US from anti-missile defense for Europe from Iranian attack?

etc etc
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DougMacG
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« Reply #46 on: April 12, 2010, 06:45:21 PM »

Didn't Russia just foment the overthrow the govt of Krygyztan...invaded Georgia without consequence...uses its status as a natural gas supplier to squeeze and nudge Europe towards desired behaviors...backed down the US from anti-missile defense for Europe...?

Yes, and shame on us.  They are ruthless and on a roll. Why would they risk all that for an inefficient takedown of a Polish leader who annoys them?  There is a difference between assassination and terrorism.  Downing an airliner doesn't make sense to me. I like the other story about a powerful person thinking this can't or won't happen to them better, it fits the aviation mentality of JFK jr, Paul Wellstone, Ron Brown and maybe John Denver.  Not excusing Russians from their other crimes.
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« Reply #47 on: April 12, 2010, 09:38:25 PM »

As I said before, there is no evidence of a crime, but the timing and extent of damage to Poland is awfully convenient for Putin.
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DougMacG
Power User
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Posts: 6085


« Reply #48 on: April 12, 2010, 11:41:28 PM »

Besides mass murder speculation, another thing that follows from the list of violations by Russia brought to light here is what a joke it is that we still go through the UN 'Security Council' for crucial matters of global security with Russia sitting as an equal 'partner'.

I hope that in the next generation of leaders someone has the courage to stand up to this farce a la Reagan addressing the value of the wall:  Mr. Secretary General of the UN, tear down this phony security council.  To the Ways and Means chair and the UN, we wont pay one dollar more than Uganda or Congo pays ever again or bring important issues before the security council until the council includes only countries with a sincere interest in global security.
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Rarick
Guest
« Reply #49 on: April 13, 2010, 05:39:03 AM »

Yeah, there is a Putsch going on probably with Putin and some other nationalists behind it.  If it were electorates talking I would probably be forced to shrug it off, but there are obvious indicators otherwise.  There seems to be a "War of Peace" syle coordinated attack going on. Infrastructure, Economy and Reputaional/political attacks are being coordinated to pull countries back into the old "Pact".
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