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Topic: Russia-- Europe (Read 31185 times)
Gas pipeline project to Bulgaria halted
Reply #100 on:
July 01, 2014, 09:35:33 AM »
Pressure builds on France to not proceed with warships sale to Russia
Reply #101 on:
July 25, 2014, 12:32:53 PM »
Check out the picture of one of the ships.
I'm calling BS on the parity of our sales to Egypt.
Stratfor: Pilsudki's Europe
Reply #102 on:
August 09, 2014, 01:06:06 PM »
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 03:22 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Russia's geopolitical threat to Central and Eastern Europe should have everyone's mind rushing in the direction of a protean Polish revolutionary, statesman and military leader, Jozef Pilsudski, and his concept of the Intermarium -- Latin for "between the seas;" Miedzymorze in Polish. This was a belt of independent states from the Baltic to the Black seas that would work in unison against Russian tyranny from the east and German tyranny from the west. While geopolitics may be about the impersonal influence of geography upon international relations, human agency still applies, so that the idea of an individual Pole from the early 20th century could provide a means for defending freedom in our own era.
Pilsudski dominated Polish affairs from the middle of World War I until his death in 1935. In the words of the late British-educated academic Alexandros Petersen, Pilsudski was from a "staunchly Polonized" family of "disestablished nobility" that had held lands in present-day Lithuania and originally owed its position to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the great powers of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. The destruction of that colossal geopolitical force at the hands of invaders from both east and west provided the motivation behind Pilsudski's vision of a belt of small states to hold in check both Russia and Germany. It was not an altogether new idea. The British geographer Halford Mackinder had proposed something similar a few years earlier in 1919. But whereas Mackinder was only a well-known scholar writing in a book, Pilsudski was a dynamic political leader.
Pilsudski's vision was a product not only of his family history but also of his own bloody experience. He had saved Poland from invading Soviet forces in 1920 in the midst of a number of border wars and went on to become the primary founder of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. Pilsudski's belief in a multicultural Poland to encompass his own Lithuanian background played well with his expansive vision of this anti-Russian belt of states that was, in turn, a spiritual and territorial descendant of that vast tract of territory that had constituted the late medieval and early modern Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched at its zenith from the shivering flatlands of northeastern Europe to the confines of the Ottoman Empire -- in present-day Ukraine.
Pilsudski's realization that the independence of the Baltic states, the Balkans and Ukraine was central to Poland's own security lives on today in the country's post-Cold War foreign policy. To wit, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has been publicly tireless and ever-present in pushing NATO and the European Union toward a tougher stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. Of course, the European Union's expansion to include Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, together with their incorporation into NATO, has represented the partial institutionalization of Pilsudski's idea -- even if Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of the Caucasus lie stranded in the neither-nor geopolitical landscape of the European Union's Eastern Partnership, which offers insufficient protection against the designs of Russia.
But while danger lurks in the east, the west is less worrisome. For Germany has emerged as a benevolent giant, satisfied with its borders and providing the engine for the European economy. Thus, despite Putin's Revanchism, the European security environment still contains more possibilities than at any time since some of those comparatively dull 19th century decades following the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna. Of course, the relative peace of the 19th century had lulled Europeans into the false sense of security common to all people who have lost their sense of the tragic. And because a sense of the tragic is necessary to avoid tragedy, the result was World War I.
Poland and Romania are two pivotal countries that need no lessons in cultivating the sense of the tragic, for both have long been borderlands between stronger states and imperial forces coming from the east and west. And it is Poland and Romania, the two largest NATO states in northeastern and southeastern Europe respectively, that are crucial to the emergence of an effective Intermarium to counter Russia. Together they practically link the Baltic with the Black Sea.
Though they appear distinctly separated on the current map (even as both countries can claim whole or partial membership in Mitteleuropa), the shadow of Poland has in the course of history crept well into Romanian lands. While a traveler must cross the winding Carpathians twice to get from one country's capital to the other, Poland and Romania have at times been closer than you might think. For example, in the Romanian town of Targu Neamt, I craned my neck up at the citadel that had been conquered by Polish forces under King John III Sobieski in 1691. Lionized by English poet John Milton and praised by military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Sobieski waged war against the Moslem Turks far away to the south from his native Poland and Ukraine in epic campaigns that helped save the Austrian Habsburgs and thus the Christian West. Sobieski's distant forays southward toward the shadowlands of the Black Sea were certainly part of Pilsudski's mental map -- a map that is still critical to Europe's future as a liberal Western dynamo.
Indeed, during a recent visit to Romania, the president, the president's national security adviser and the prime minister all told me in separate meetings that Poland and Turkey were critical countries for Romania in light of the Ukrainian crisis. Throughout my stay in Bucharest, calls for closer relations with Warsaw and Ankara as part of an anti-Russian alliance were made explicit. While Pilsudski's vision of an Intermarium extended from Finland to Bulgaria, an expanded version fitted to 21st century geopolitical realities would naturally include Turkey and the Caucasus. Turkey is the geographical organizing principle for half of the Black Sea and Azerbaijan's vast hydrocarbon wealth gives it the financial and political leverage to keep Russia from wholly dominating the Caucasus, now that Armenia hosts thousands of Russian troops and Georgia is under threat.
The new Intermarium is still far from crystalizing. Turkey is compromised by its appetite for Russian natural gas via the Blue Stream pipeline. Bulgarian and Serbian politics are heavily influenced by Russian money, criminal networks and -- like Turkey -- the need for Russian natural gas. Romania looks south to Bulgaria and rather than see an ally, sees a weak, at times chaotic state trying to steer a middle path between Russia and the European Union. And while Romania sees Poland as a more powerful, more economically vibrant and strongly institutionalized version of itself -- one that cuts a larger profile in the world media -- Poland looks south to Romania and sees merely a burdensome, weaker and more corrupt state than itself.
Nevertheless, a trend is discernible. High-level meetings between the Intermarium countries have intensified, as the Pentagon and State Department act as hubs for all these countries' militaries, intelligence services and diplomatic corps to interact. Stronger U.S. support to Eastern and Central Europe must be matched by stronger bilateral ties between the countries themselves -- to say nothing of increased defense expenditures in the region. This is all a function of geography that Mackinder and especially Pilsudski were the first to address. Pilsudski knew from his own experience that geography is only destiny if you don't turn it to your advantage. The real balance of power should not be a cynical formulation of the status quo between America and Russia, but a bulwark of democracies blocking the path of tyranny.
Read more: Pilsudski's Europe | Stratfor
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Three things to do right now
Reply #103 on:
September 03, 2014, 09:40:07 AM »
About fg time! What about the other one? What about CANCELLING both?!?
Reply #104 on:
September 03, 2014, 11:13:08 PM »
France will halt its delivery of the first of two Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia in response to Russia's involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, a Sept. 3 statement from French President Francois Hollande said, Reuters reported. France had been reluctant to halt the sale of the ships because the contract with Russia was worth $1.58 billion.
How fg feeble-- looks like French are still looking for a way to make the sale
Reply #105 on:
September 04, 2014, 06:10:47 AM »
France Threatens to Suspend Warship Delivery to Russia, Citing Ukraine
Under Pressure from Western Allies, Hollande Shifts Rhetoric on Moscow Defense Deal
By Inti Landauro in Paris and
Stacy Meichtry in Newport, Wales
Updated Sept. 3, 2014 8:14 p.m. ET
The Vladivostok, the first of two Mistral-class warships ordered for the Russian navy, awaits delivery in the French shipyard of Saint-Nazaire. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
France backed off from plans to deliver a controversial warship to Russia next month, saying that the Kremlin's support of breakaway forces in eastern Ukraine endangered Europe.
The threat to suspend the delivery marks a shift in rhetoric from Paris, which had insisted on moving ahead with a €1.2 billion ($1.58 billion) contract to supply two ships to the Russian navy despite pressure from Western allies to cancel the deal.
Despite talks over a possible cease-fire in Ukraine, "the conditions that would allow France to authorize the delivery of the first Mistral-class ship aren't met as of now," President François Hollande's office said.
Moscow shrugged off France's decision. "The Defense Ministry doesn't see a particular tragedy in this," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told the official Tass news agency. "But it is, of course, unpleasant and puts a certain tension in the interactions with our French partners."
France issued the warning a day ahead of a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Welsh town of Newport, during which members of the military alliance are expected to discuss how to contain Russia.
The carefully worded statement, though, left open the possibility that France could complete the delivery on schedule if Russia pulls back from its intervention in Ukraine and moves to calm the crisis.
As the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists has escalated in recent months—and despite objections by the U.S. and other allies—the French government had insisted the program was on track.
In July, days after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine—Mr. Hollande floated the possibility that he might cancel the delivery of the second vessel, scheduled for 2015, but said Paris was forging ahead with plans to supply the first ship in October.
In possibly delaying the first delivery, French officials said they aimed to shore up the country's credibility with allies heading into this week's NATO summit, where members of the alliance are gathering in a show of unity.
Paris, for months, had defended its plans to deliver the ships as merely the fulfillment of an international contract, arguing that its possible cancellation would force France to reimburse Moscow for the costly ships and place more than a thousand French jobs at risk.
But Russia's decision to send troops and supplies into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside separatists, French officials say, raised the stakes.
While Moscow has denied sending any support to the rebels, French officials said they had proof of a Russian incursion, which they declined to disclose.
Mr. Hollande would have faced a dilemma of "coherence," one French official said, if he moved forward with the warship delivery as NATO allies were gathering to discuss ways to rein in Moscow and defend European borders.
On Tuesday, French officials called Washington and other allied capitals to notify them of the potential suspension and provide reassurances ahead of the summit, the official said. "We do think that was a wise decision," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of France's threat to stop the warship delivery. "We certainly support their decision."
While France is weighing options, a group of about 400 Russian seamen continues training on board the first Mistral, named Vladivostok, off the French port city of Saint-Nazaire, a person familiar with the matter said.
Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen refrained from exercising direct pressure on Paris but said he expected shows of solidarity from members of the alliance.
"It is not for NATO as an alliance to interfere with such national decisions," Mr. Rasmussen said Monday. "Having said that, I am confident that each and every allied government will take such decisions mindful of the overall security situation and concerns expressed by fellow allies."
The two Mistral-class carriers ordered by Moscow are capable of launching helicopter, tank and missile attacks from the sea and would boost the military might of the Russian forces.
The contract is important for the French shipyard located in Saint-Nazaire on the French Atlantic Coast, which has counted on the Russian order to help stay afloat.
Re: Russia-- Europe
Reply #106 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:17:18 AM »
George Will very persuasively asserts that Putin represents a greater threat than ISIS. (I would arguess that both represent grave threats.)
Vladimir Putin’s Hitlerian Mind
The Russian president’s fascist revival in Eastern Europe poses a unique threat to the West.
By George Will
The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.
Putin’s serial amputations of portions of Ukraine, which began with his fait accompli in Crimea, will proceed, and succeed, until his appetite is satiated. Then the real danger will begin.
Suppose Ukraine is merely his overture for the destruction of NATO, the nemesis of his Soviet memory. Then what might be his version of the Gleiwitz radio-station episode 75 years ago?
On the evening of August 31, 1939, Nazi SS personnel pretending to be Polish partisans seized the station, which was about four miles inside Germany (Gliwice is now in Poland), proclaiming that Poland was invading Germany to achieve “our just [territorial] claims,” and shot a German prisoner dressed in a stolen Polish uniform, giving Hitler his pretext for declaring war the next day.
Putin has discarded the minor inhibitions of what NATO calls his “hybrid war” — giving slightly surreptitious aid to Russian separatists; brazenly infiltrating Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms. Russia has invaded Ukraine, although the Obama administration likes the semantic anesthesia of calling it an “incursion.” Putin does not pretend that it will be, like President Nixon’s 1970 “incursion” into Cambodia, temporary.
So, suppose Putin, reprising his Ukrainian success, orchestrates unrest among the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia. Then, recycling Hitler’s words that his country “could not remain inactive,” Putin invades one of these NATO members. Either NATO invokes Article 5 — an attack on any member is an attack on all — or NATO disappears and the Soviet Union, NATO’s original raison d’être, is avenged.
Although no one more thoroughly detested Hitler’s regime that General Erwin Rommel served, Winston Churchill acknowledged in January 1942 in the House of Commons the talent of Britain’s enemy: “We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” Putin is, the West should similarly acknowledge, more talented and dangerous than either Nikita Khrushchev or Leonid Brezhnev. Their truculence was not fueled by fury. Putin’s essence is anger. It is a smoldering amalgam of resentment (of Russia’s diminishment because of the Soviet Union’s collapse), revanchist ambitions (regarding formerly Soviet territories and spheres of influence), cultural loathing (for the pluralism of open societies), and ethnic chauvinism that presages “ethnic cleansing” of non-Russians from portions of Putin’s expanding Russia.
This is more than merely the fascist mind; its ethnic-cum-racial component makes it Hitlerian. Hence Putin is “unpredictable” only to those unfamiliar with the 1930s. Regarding the roles of resentment and vengeance, remember where Hitler insisted that France formally capitulate in 1940 — in the railroad carriage near the town of Compiègne, where Germany signed the 1918 armistice.
Since its emancipation by the Soviet Union’s demise, Ukraine has been ravaged by corruption that frays national sentiment, which even before this was a tenuous phenomenon. In The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, David Reynolds of Cambridge University cites a British diplomat’s 1918 analysis:
Were one to ask the average peasant in the Ukraine his nationality, he would answer that he is Greek Orthodox; if pressed to say whether he is a Great Russian, a Pole, or an Ukrainian he would probably reply that he is a peasant; and if one insisted on knowing what language he spoke, he would say that he talked “the local tongue.”
Ukraine may be an ethnic casserole susceptible to diminishment by Putin’s ladle. But the Baltic States, by virtue of their NATO membership, are, regardless of their histories or sociologies, decisively different. And given Putin’s animus, nourished by his negligibly resisted success in Ukraine, he is more dangerous than the Islamic State.
This group is perhaps 20,000 fighters possessing some artillery and armor but no air force. It is an island of tenuously occupied territory in a sea of hostile regimes — those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has its own regime. These command approximately 2 million troops who, with ample air power, can pulverize the Islamic State whenever the regimes summon the will to do so.
U.S. participation in this should be conditional on the regional powers’ putting their militaries where their mouths (sometimes) are in the fight against radical Islamists. U.S. participation in defense of the Baltic States is unconditional.
— George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist.
ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus
Reply #107 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:43:28 AM »
News from a couple of days ago:
ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus
Interesting that our two greatest enemies will soon be at war with each other.
One might take from this that a post-Putin Russia could very easily or at least logically become a strategic ally of the United States.
Stratfor: NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
Reply #108 on:
October 17, 2014, 07:21:02 AM »
Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
October 16, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Members of the U.S. Army 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, unload Stryker Armored Vehicles at the railway station near the Rukla military base in Lithuania, on Oct. 4, 2014. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Oct. 15 that she would push to limit Russian television broadcasts inside the country. The statement came only two days after Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Jonas Vytautas Zukas announced plans to form a new rapid reaction force in Lithuania. These moves highlight Lithuania's mounting concerns over the threat Russia poses to the small but strategic country, particularly in light of Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.
The Lithuanian president's plan to limit Russian media follows similar trends emerging in other Baltic states. The creation of the rapid reaction force, however, represents a new strategy. Zukas said that Lithuania must be ready for "unconventional attacks by unmarked combatants" -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Vilnius' plan will not be sufficient to counter potential Russian moves against Lithuania. It is instead an initial response to an evolving security environment in which the conventional Russian military threat to the Baltic states is overshadowed by that of hybrid warfare, which includes the use of proxies, special forces and information campaigns.
In his statement, Zukas said Lithuania's rapid reaction forces would consist of 2,500 troops from Lithuania's 7,000-person military. These troops would be placed on high alert beginning in November and would have the capacity to mobilize within two to 24 hours. Their mission would be to counter unconventional security threats such as attacks by unofficial armed groups, illegal border crossings and the foreign manipulation of national minorities.
Lithuania formulated this rapid reaction plan within the context of the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine -- a conflict that has spread throughout the former Soviet periphery. The Baltic states are on the front lines of this broader conflict and are particularly concerned about Russian encroachment into their territory because of their small size and close proximity to the Russian heartland. This is especially concerning because the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, have been strong supporters of Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West, putting them squarely in Moscow's sights.
There has already been a great deal of Russian activity inside the Baltic states and the area surrounding them. Russia has built up its forces near St. Petersburg and in the exclave of Kaliningrad, both of which border Baltic states. Moscow has also increased the scale of its military exercises in both areas, while the Russian minorities in several Baltic states have held pro-Russia demonstrations. The rallies are of particular concern because of the size of the Russian minority populations: 24.8 percent of the population in Estonia, 26.9 percent in Latvia, and 5.8 percent in Lithuania. Cross-border incidents between the Baltic states and Russia have also been on the rise in recent months. The Russian coast guard detained a Lithuanian fishing boat, and Russian officials held an Estonian official in custody for allegedly crossing the border on a spying mission, a charge Estonia denied.
The Baltic states see these recent actions in the context of the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where Moscow's support for demonstrations eventually led to the deployment of Russian military and unofficial militant forces. This has given way to concerns that the Baltics could be the next target for hybrid warfare. As NATO members protected by the Article 5 collective defense clause, the Baltics are somewhat insulated from a Russian conventional military threat. The classification of a threat as subject to Article 5, however, requires a unanimous NATO council vote. This leaves effective defense of the Baltics subject to Western Europe's political will to intervene. A rapid NATO response would be even more doubtful in the case of hybrid or asymmetrical warfare. The Baltic states have called for a permanent NATO military presence within their territory. Instead, NATO and the United States have only stepped up troop rotations for joint exercises and military training to a semi-permanent basis.
Lithuania's decision to organize its own rapid reaction force is an effort to build the capacity to preemptively counter or contain Russian actions and reassure the public that the government is taking concrete action. Given Russia's larger security forces and broader financial resources, however, Lithuania's new force is unlikely to fully neutralize the threat. Maintaining more than a third of Lithuania's forces at that level of readiness will require substantial resources, raising questions about the initiative's long-term sustainability. At best, the plan supplements NATO's efforts, which include launching the bloc's own rapid reaction forces that can be deployed to the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Lithuania will continue to call for a greater U.S. and NATO commitment to regional security.
For its part, Russia will likely continue to use the same methods of hybrid warfare it implemented in Ukraine to project power regionally. Lithuania's creation of a rapid reaction force is simply an acknowledgement of this reality and the need to confront it in a more flexible and creative manner.
Read more: Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares | Stratfor
Russia/west relationship IS reset
Reply #109 on:
November 06, 2014, 11:23:57 AM »
Stratfor: What the Fall of the Wall did NOT change
Reply #110 on:
November 12, 2014, 12:47:28 PM »
What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
Twenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany's partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix.
Twenty-five years later, we take for granted the moral bankruptcy of Soviet communism, along with its geopolitical weakness. It is difficult for us to remember how seductive Marxism was, and how frightening Soviet power was. For my generation, at the better universities, Marxism was not an exotic form of oriental despotism but a persuasive explanation of the world and how it worked, as well as a moral imperative that a stunning number of students and faculty were committed to. The vast majority of Marxists in what was called the New Left adopted it as fashion more than passion. A small segment of the New Left, particularly in Europe and supported by Soviet intelligence, took direct action and took risks, killing, wounding, kidnapping and blowing things up in the pursuit of political aims. The latter had courage; the former were shallow and cynical. There is no doubt that the shallow and cynical were more praiseworthy.
Still, ideologically, Marxism in its several varieties had a persuasive power that is difficult for even those of us who lived through it to recall. Its pull had little to do with industrial democracy, although songs from the labor movement were sung regularly. It was far less about the proletariat and more a revolt against what was seen as the shallow one-dimensionality of affluence. It was never clear to me what Marxists had against affluence, as I was relatively poor, but the venom against the previous generation's capitulation to ordinary life was intense.
Marxism had become the ideology of the young, who celebrated its moral superiority. This should not be dismissed. The young have driven European revolutions since 1789, and they have always been driven by a deep sense of moral superiority. The passion of the young Karl Marx, writing amid the risings of 1848, led directly to Lenin and then Stalin. The self-righteous young have consequence, something no one attending a major Euro-American university in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet empire could ignore. Bitterness against those over 30 (then considered old) was a greater driver than class struggle. That the young feel superior to the old is built into the Enlightenment. We believe in progress, and the young have more of a future than the old.
In looking at pictures of the celebrants at the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it was the young who had risen up. I was not in Berlin in those days, but I had been to Berlin before, and Berlin was a dynamo of Marxism. I am morally and statistically certain that many of those celebrating the collapse of the wall were Marxists.
When the wall came down, it for the most part destroyed Marxism. The so-called New Left believed Soviet Communism was a betrayal of communism. Since Marxism argued that history was in some sense deterministic, how Marxism could have failed from a Marxist point of view was never clear to me. But in the end, the Marxism of my generation had more to do with the fact that their parents, shaped in the Great Depression and World War II, were content with a house and a car, a spouse and some savings. The young always have greater aspirations than to simply live, but they grow out of it.
The fate of Marxism in Europe and the United States differed greatly from its fate in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Marxism died in the Soviet Union with Stalin. With Mao, Stalin was the last great Communist. It was not just that he believed, but that he acted on that belief. At the heart of communism was the class struggle, and that didn't end when the Communist Party had won. The Party and the people had to be purged, shaped and forged into something unprecedented. It was to be an agonizing process, and Stalin was prepared to impose the agony. Stalin is the finest argument there is against sincerity. He sincerely believed not only in the possibility of creating a new society, but in the brutal actions needed to achieve it.
Stalin killed communism. He was right that creating a new society required agony. He didn't realize, or perhaps in the end didn't care, that the agony required made the new society pointless, corrupt before it was born. Nikita Khrushchev tried to build a communist state without Stalinism. But when Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny overthrew Khrushchev in 1964, it was the revolution of the exhausted. Their lives were built on a single triumph: They had survived Stalin. Their goal was to continue surviving. Brezhnev destroyed communism by trying to hold absolute power and do as little with it as possible. He sank into corruption and weakness, as did his regime. The empire didn't revolt. It simply took advantage of the fact that the Soviet Union was too corrupt and self-indulgent to hold onto them. It was less a revolution than the fact that the jailhouse door had been left unlocked.
Marxism destroyed itself because it took power, and putting Marxism on display in power ultimately cost it its credibility. Had it never been in power, more than the tiny handful who are still Marxists might take it seriously.
Marxism was repudiated as an ideology, even as it had repudiated ideology in general. It was the culmination of the Enlightenment, not only because Marxism had the most extreme notion of equality imaginable but also because it was ruthlessly consistent. It had views not only on politics and economics, but also on art, the proper raising of children, proper methods of plowing and the role of sports in society. It had views on everything, and with the power of the state at its disposal, nothing was outside its purview. In the end, Marxism discredited the Enlightenment. It was the reductio ad absurdum of systematic reason. Marxism shattered the Enlightenment into an infinite number of prisms, each free to live the one life Marxism could not tolerate: a life of contradictions. We are heir to the incoherence it left.
But the truth was that Marxism not only failed to create the society it wished, it also did not effectively motivate the New Left. Marxism never succeeded in escaping the primordial reality of the human condition. I don't mean this as not escaping self-interest or corruption. What it failed to do was escape the reality of community as the foundation of human existence, more important than the individual, and certainly more important than class.
From the beginning to the end, the Soviet Union was an empire. It had a center in Moscow and an apparatus that controlled other, lesser vassal states. It could claim that the Soviet Man was being created, but the truth was that the Russian was a Russian, the Kazakh a Kazakh, and the Armenian an Armenian. Stalin never crushed this reality as much as he tried. And when he died, and as the Soviet state grew weaker and more corrupt, these national differences became even more important.
But even more than this, the Soviet Union acted in the world as an empire. On taking power, Lenin made a deal with Germany, exchanging land for peace. Indeed, Lenin came to power essentially as a German operative, delivered to St. Petersburg in a sealed train and funded to overthrow the government and make peace with Germany on Berlin's terms. Lenin made this deal in order to take power. When Germany was defeated, he regained the lost lands and the rest of the empire in a civil war that reclaimed Peter the Great's empire for himself. When we look back, the class struggle was merely the preface. The reality was what Marx called Oriental Despotism, coupled with a capitulation to geopolitical reality.
Stalin later spent the 1930s preparing for war with Germany, purging the military, starving peasants in order to buy steel factories, and building weapons. That he miscalculated the beginning does not change the end. Stalin waged a ruthless war for the motherland and pushed the Soviet empire west to the center of Germany and into the Carpathians. The Soviet Union anchored itself in the center of Europe waging a war with the United States for the former European empires cast free by the collapse of European power. It is one of the great ironies of history that the greatest imperial conflict was waged by the two great anti-imperial powers, the United States and the Soviet Union.
We all now know that the Soviet Union was doomed. It was not nearly so clear to the United States as it fought to a stalemate in Korea and lost in Vietnam. It was not clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis or during the Berlin blockade. Above all, it was not clear in 1980, when the United States had lost in Vietnam and was reeling economically. Iran had expelled American power, and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Tito was dead in Yugoslavia, and the Soviets were fishing in muddy waters. Greek society was torn apart, and the Soviets were funding all sides of an incipient civil war in Turkey. The American strategy of containment was solid in Europe and had added China to the frontier, but it appeared to be rupturing on a line from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan.
In retrospect, we can see that the Soviet Union had long since lost its will to power. It could not have taken risks even if it wanted to. By 1980, it could poke at the United States and its allies, but a full-blooded thrust was something that haunted only American minds. Still, the Soviets played the geopolitical game. Surrounded, they sought openings, and failing to find those, they tried to drive the Americans off-balance throughout the world. They were everywhere. But in the end, their economy was weak, their satrapies were restless and the leaders wanted to enjoy their dachas and their pleasures. It was partly that they had lost all belief, but it was also, in retrospect, that they knew they were weak.
Marx argued that the revolution would come in an advanced industrial country, like Germany. Instead, it came in a place that violated his theory and where building communism was impossible. It arrived in the vast European Mainland, not on the European Peninsula. It came in an impoverished, landlocked country with terrible transportation and a dispersed population, not on the maritime peninsula, with excellent transportation and a concentrated population. This meant that their thrust in Germany and Eastern Europe left them with a region that now shared Russian poverty, and which had to be occupied and defended. The American solution was simple: to wait. There was really no other solution, as an invasion of the mainland had destroyed Napoleon and Hitler. Geopolitics imposed a strategy of waiting on both sides, and the Soviets had less time than the Americans and their allies.
And so the wall came down. The most fantastic dreams of the Enlightenment were shattered. The young Marxists of Berlin, confused by a history that could not conform to their contradictory dreams, got jobs at Siemens or Deutsche Bank or perhaps in Brussels. The Americans claimed a victory that is somewhat reasonable, if the strategy of doing nothing is allowed into the rules of geopolitics. And the empire shattered into small pieces that cannot be rebuilt, in spite of a leader who would like to think of himself as Stalin, but is really a better-dressed Brezhnev.
The most important thing that happened on that day, and which must not be forgotten, is that Germany became once more reunited. From 1871 onward, a united Germany has posed a problem for Europe. It is too productive to compete with and too insecure to live with. This is not a matter of ideology; it is a matter of geography and culture. The young men and women at the wall now emphatically support austerity in Europe, not accepting responsibility for the rest of Europe's fecklessness. Why should they?
The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago served as an exclamation point in history ending an ideology and an empire. It did not end history, but rather it renewed the puzzle that has dogged Europe since 1871. What will Germany do next and what will the outside world do with Germany? This once slightly unsettling question has become a moderately unsettling one. In Europe, history sometimes throws a party and then presents an unpleasant surprise. But then, Europe is always a surprise, or at least pretends to be.
Read more: What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change | Stratfor
Russia's South Stream Decsion changes regional dynamics
Reply #111 on:
December 11, 2014, 07:19:32 PM »
I have drawn attention to this matter of Russia, natural gas, and Europe many times:
Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
December 4, 2014 | 10:30 GMT Print Text Size
Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
A construction worker stands in front of two giant pipes arranged to be welded together near the Serbian village of Sajkas on Nov. 24, 2013. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
The fallout from Russia's decision to abandon its ambitious South Stream pipeline deal continued Dec. 3, as Italian energy services firm Saipem announced that it would lose almost $2 billion because of Moscow's move. On Dec. 2, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev called for the South Stream project's European partners to have a say in its future. The head of Serbia's Gas Association, Vojislav Vuletic, said his country is still interested in South Stream, while Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country will have to look for alternative natural gas sources to replace South Stream supplies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to abandon the pipeline deal on Dec. 1, while visiting Turkey. Putin publicly blamed the European Commission's opposition to the planned pipeline, though the project faced other growing constraints (mainly financing). At the same time, Putin announced that Russia would instead build a pipeline similar to South Stream but ending in Turkey, which could then become a hub for Russia's natural gas exports. The decision changes not only the dynamics of energy in the region, but also many relationships in Europe, Turkey and Russia.
South Stream was a large pipeline project by Russian natural gas behemoth Gazprom to export Russian natural gas from the Russian mainland, under the Black Sea, to Southern and Central Europe — Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. The primary purpose of the pipeline was to connect Europe to Russia directly without transiting Ukraine, which previously transported 80 percent of Russian natural gas to Europe. Gazprom held 50 percent of the project, Italy's ENI held 20 percent, Germany's Wintershall held 15 percent and France's EDF held 15 percent. The initial plan was for the South Stream pipeline to reach a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2018, which would accommodate approximately 40 percent of Russia's natural gas exports to Europe if run near capacity.
The project became increasingly important to Moscow over the past year as the crisis in Ukraine threatened the reliability — both politically and technically — of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine. However, the project has encountered a string of obstacles since its conception in 2007.
Russian-European Natural Gas Networks
Click to Enlarge
First, the European Union has contested the pipeline, saying it violates the Third Energy Package, European legislation that splits energy production and transmission. The European Commission has used the legislation to pressure all of the EU states that had signed agreements with Russia for the construction of the pipeline. As a result, Bulgaria halted the construction of its section of the pipeline in June.
The second constraint was the rising cost of the pipeline. Gazprom projected a $10 billion price tag in 2007, but projected costs grew to $30 billion in 2014 and likely would have risen further. In mid-November, ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi warned that ENI would leave the project if prices continued to rise. Gazprom is relatively healthy financially, unlike its oil company sister, Rosneft. However, with many large and costly projects lined up for the next few years, including the Yamal natural gas project and the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, Gazprom most likely would not be able to foot most of the bill for South Stream without financial assistance from the Kremlin. And with Russia in a sharp economic decline and oil prices falling, the Kremlin has refrained from handing out large sums of money like it has in the past.
Gazprom has already spent $4.5 billion on South Stream, mostly on 300,000 tons of underwater trunk pipelines that have been delivered to the Black Sea coastline. However, these pipes could still be of use in the construction of Russia's new proposed pipeline to Turkey. According to Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, the alternative pipeline could have a capacity of 63 bcm, of which Turkey could purchase 14 bcm of natural gas and transit the rest to southeastern Europe to the same countries that would have received natural gas from South Stream. In short, the change in the pipeline projects is merely one of route; the outcome would be nearly the same. However, the way that natural gas would be transported is in question, since any new pipeline infrastructure reaching into Europe would be subject to the same EU regulations that haunted South Stream.
The Political Aftermath
By scrapping South Stream and proposing a Russo-Turkish pipeline, Russia has shifted the political and energy dynamics of the region. First, Russia had been using South Stream as leverage over Ukraine and several southeastern European countries. Russia offered Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary investment sweeteners — promises of energy security, construction jobs and transit revenues — for their support of the South Stream project. For example, Bulgaria was set to receive an estimated $500 million annually for transiting natural gas from South Stream. Moscow also used the potential for natural gas transit alternatives in its energy negotiations with Kiev. With South Stream abandoned, Russia's leverage has diminished.
Russia's decision to abandon South Stream also damages Moscow's political ties with some of its European partners in the project. Countries such as Hungary and Serbia spent a great deal of political capital in defying the European Union to support the pipeline's construction. Now some of these same countries are saying they will have to look to the European Union to help secure energy supplies.
Changing Energy Relationships
Should the proposed Russo-Turkish pipeline be constructed, Russia will add capacity to directly supply Turkey, its largest natural gas customer, much like Russia's Nord Stream pipeline connects Russia to Germany, its second-largest customer. Moreover, Turkey is likely to receive a 6 percent discount on its current natural gas supplies as part of the construction deal. With Turkey connected directly to Russia, natural gas supplies will not rely on politically prickly transit states such as Ukraine. Turkey currently receives approximately half of its natural gas supplies from routes going to Europe.
However, the Russo-Turkish pipeline would introduce yet another transit state into Russia's export routes to Europe. The point of South Stream was to directly supply southeastern Europe with Russian natural gas, bypassing Ukraine. Under the new plan, energy supplies would still bypass Ukraine, but would now be contingent on Turkey transiting the supplies. Russia does not hold the influence over Turkey that it has held in Ukraine, meaning that Moscow will be less able to politicize natural gas supplies going to the Continent.
Yet adding a natural gas supply route through Turkey would give Moscow more flexibility in supplying Europe. Russia already has pipelines running to Europe through Belarus, Ukraine and Germany. Adding another major route through Turkey would give Russia a greater ability to shift supplies from one route to another, targeting specific European countries for cutoffs depending on how Moscow wants to shape the political climate.
The proposed Turkish energy connection also adds complexity to other energy projects involving Turkey. The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline has been proposed to move Turkmen natural gas across the Caucasus to Turkey and Europe. Turkey is already moving forward with a similar connection, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will carry Azerbaijani natural gas. Discussions have gone on for a long time about the possibility of natural gas giant Turkmenistan supplying these routes via the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Just as the South Stream project competed with these plans, so will the proposed pipeline to Turkey. Ankara will continue to try to balance Moscow with alternative suppliers such as Azerbaijan. However, with natural gas coming straight from Russia, the incentive to continue wooing Turkmenistan for supplies could be reduced.
All of this said, Russia's announcement that it is abandoning South Stream was contingent on the current political tension between Moscow and the European Union. Russia could revisit its plans for South Stream should this relationship change. For now, the abandonment of South Stream looks like a major setback for Russia's energy strategy in Europe, but Russia could simply be playing the similar projects off each other to shape its overall energy and political discussions in the region.
Read more: Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics | Stratfor
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Beware Putin's Special War in 2015
Reply #112 on:
January 03, 2015, 04:49:42 PM »
December 23, 2014
Beware Putin’s Special War in 2015
December 2014 is the month Putin’s Russia was plunged into undeniable crisis. Between the dramatic drop in oil prices and the collapse of the ruble, under Western sanctions pressure, Russians are going into the new year in a dramatically different, and lessened, economic situation than the one they enjoyed at the beginning of the year now ending.
This will bring myriad hardships to Russians, particularly because even Moscow is admitting that low oil prices may be the “new normal” until the 2030’s. Caveats abound here. The vast majority of Russians don’t travel abroad, much less have vacation properties in Europe, nor do they have hard-currency mortgages (the ruble now having returned to its Soviet-era pariah status). Moreover, the average Russian has a physical and mental toughness about getting by in tough times — it is an unmistakable point of national pride — that Westerners cannot really fathom. In no case now does Russia face the sort of complete economic collapse that it endured in the 1990’s, when the Soviet implosion pushed poor Russians to the edge of survival (were not so many Russians but one generation removed from the farm, and therefore had access to their own food supply, famine might well have happened under Yeltsin). Life in Yeltsin’s Russia, particularly beyond the bright lights of Moscow and St. Petersburg, where few Westerners visit, was harsh and frankly dismal.
Nevertheless, the economic undoing of Putinism over the last weeks, brought about by Western sanctions in response to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine which began in early 2014, heralds major changes for the Kremlin, and not just in its domestic affairs. While Russia has far deeper hard currency reserves than it possessed in 1998, the last time the ruble’s bottom fell out, and it’s clear that Moscow will try to prevent banks from failing, there should be little optimism among Putin’s inner circle. Russia now faces a protracted and serious financial-cum-economic crisis that will get much worse before it gets better. Since much of Putin’s popularity has derived from the impressive economic growth his fifteen years in the Kremlin have brought, a rise in living standards that has benefited average Russians as well as oligarchs, the political implications of this collapse for Russia’s president are grave.
But are they enough to get Putin to cease his aggression and, in the long run, perhaps even leave office? Western politicians, eager to avoid armed confrontation with Russia, have assumed that enough sanctions-related pain will force Putin’s hand and get him to back off in Ukraine and elsewhere. This was always a questionable assumption. In the first place, sanctions tend to work as intended mostly against countries that strongly dislike being a global pariah, like apartheid-era South Africa, whose English-speaking white elites hated how they suddenly were no longer welcome in the posh parts of London. There is no evidence that Putin and most average Russians find being despised by the West particularly objectionable; on the contrary, many seem to revel in it.
Then there is the touchy fact that sanctions sometimes work not at all as intended. Using economic warfare to break a country’s will, which entails real hardship for average citizens, can cause more aggression rather than cease it. The classic example is Imperial Japan, which faced grim economic realities once U.S.-led oil sanctions took effect in retaliation for Tokyo’s aggressive and nasty war in China. Lacking indigenous petroleum, Japan was wholly dependent on imports that Washington, DC, blocked with sanctions. These placed Japan on what strategists would term “death ground,” since without imported oil its economy and its military could not function. Moreover, the sanctions were seen — correctly — by Tokyo as a sign that the United States and its allies did not want Japan to dominate the Western Pacific region, which constituted an intolerable affront to Japanese pride. The closest place to get the oil Japan needed was the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia, and Tokyo resolved to seize the oil there by force. To do that, Japan first had to drive the Royal Navy out of Singapore and the U.S. Navy out of the Philippines, and to enable that they had to disable America’s Pacific Fleet, which was ported in Pearl Harbor…and the rest of the story you know.
Japan in 1941 believed it was already facing defeat through oppressive sanctions, so engaging in actual war seemed like a logical choice. The total defeat of the Japanese Empire in 1945 indicates that Tokyo’s decision to bomb Pearl Harbor was madcap, but had things worked out differently at, say, Midway in June 1942, such choices might look very different to historians today. When sitting on promotion boards for battle-tried colonels hoping for selection to general in his army, something he enjoyed, Napoleon liked to ask of a candidate, pointedly: “Yes, but is he lucky?” Japan was not at all lucky in the war it started in December 1941, but its defeat was hardly preordained, and the salient point is that Tokyo felt that the Americans really started that war with their harsh sanctions.
Might Putin do the same and decide that since Russia is facing defeat at the hands of Western sanctions, which represent a kind of war, why not opt for actual war, in which Moscow at least has a chance of victory? It’s too early to determine that, but 2015 will be the year such grave decisions are made. To date, there are no indications that Putin intends to back down in Ukraine, or anywhere, thanks to Western sanctions. It’s important to note that Putin’s narrative, which he has elaborated on several occasions and is accepted by most Russians, is straightforward: He has done nothing illegal in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he is only protecting Russia and ethnic Russians, which is a legitimate national interest. Moreover, it is the height of cheek for the Americans, who after all invade countries all over the world in the name of “freedom,” to call Moscow’s legitimate actions on Russia’s borders “aggression.” Russia will defend itself against this rancid hypocrisy and will resist the West’s warlike sanctions, which are intended to punish Russia for defending itself and its rightful interests.
Putin’s public statements this month make clear that backing down now is not in the cards. At a press conference last week, he pointedly blamed the financial crisis on the West (“The current situation was obviously provoked primarily by external factors.”) while promising the economy will eventually improve. (Close observers will note that Putin cited “The main achievement of the year in the social sphere is of course positive demographics.”) The usual KGB-style tough talk, however, was on display, as a British journalist explained:
He brooked no compromise on the annexation of Crimea, and renewed his lambasting of the West’s policies since the fall of the Berlin Wall, accusing it of putting up new “virtual walls” and wanting to “chain” the Russian bear. He said that even if the bear were to “sit tight… supping berries and honey” and “abandon its hunting instincts”, the West would still “seek to chain us… then rip out our teeth and claws”. The bear, he said, had no intention of being turned into a “soft toy”. It would defend its sovereignty.
On the weekend, specifically on 20 December, a holiday that honors Russia’s “special services” — this was the day in 1917 that the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, was founded by “Iron Feliks” Dzierżyński; in a normal country this would be a day of national mourning not celebration — Putin addressed Russia’s security posture, noting this year’s spike in espionage against the country. He proudly asserted that Russian counterintelligence, Putin’s former employers, had uncovered 230 foreign spies operating in the country during 2014. He minced no words about this threat:
Frank statements are being made to the effect that Russia should pay dearly for its independent stance, for its support for its compatriots, for Crimea and Sevastopol – for merely existing, it sometimes seems. Clearly, no one has ever succeeded in scaring, suppressing or isolating Russia and never will. Such attempts have been made regularly, over the centuries, as I have said publicly on numerous occasions, and in the 20th century it happened several times: in the 1920s, the 1940s and later. It did not work then and it will not work now. Meanwhile, we have to be prepared to experience certain difficulties and always rebuff any threats to our sovereignty, stability and the unity of our society.
This is not a man who is about to back down; doubling-down seems decidedly more likely. To be fair to Putin, Russia is a democracy of sorts, and popular opinion matters. He has dangerously stoked nationalist fires throughout the year now ending, regularly citing alleged Ukrainian Nazis eager to commit genocide against innocent Russians, so it’s difficult to see how he can turn those passions off with a switch, not least because beating the nationalist drum, while making the diplomatic equivalent of obscene gestures at the West, is popular with the Russian masses.
Neither does Western behavior always help matters. It seems not to have occurred to many Western politicians that gleeful public statements about how sanctions will cripple Russia might make Russians view these devastating acts as tantamount to war waged against them. President Obama, too, has not always been wise in his comments. In the first place he has not explained why a half-century of sanctions on tiny and impoverished Cuba failed to work — hence his opening to Havana last week — but sanctions on vast and largely self-sufficient Russia should be expected to deliver as advertised. Last weekend, Obama’s comments on his adversary in the Kremlin took a strange turn:
There was a spate of stories about how he is the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And right now, he’s presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction. That doesn’t sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America.
Obama’s offensive defensiveness here speaks volumes — the self-reference in the third person is revealing — and will be read in Moscow as weakness mingled with taunting. If this is what prep school Ivy League lawyers think passes for tough talk in Chicago, the Chekists in the Kremlin, who are actual hard men with much blood on their hands, will be happy to give lessons to faux-macho poseurs in the West Wing, and in 2015 they will.
I don’t know if there will be war — real war — between Russia and the West in the new year. Surely such a possibility cannot be ruled out, not least because NATO has signally failed to implement the modest deterrence posture in Eastern Europe that I recommended six months ago, eschewing actual defense in favor of some showy yet small-scale exercises without strategic impact. It’s not surprising that some NATO frontline states are planning for possible invasion and occupation by Russia, since their faith in the staying power of the Atlantic Alliance, particularly in Obama’s resolve, is increasingly in doubt.
It is unlikely that Putin will soon choose overt aggression against a NATO country with the intent of causing major war, but such a conflict may result anyway in 2015. Rising Kremlin military and espionage operations in Northern Europe are a cause for concern, while Kremlin provocations against Estonia, that tiny country being a particular bugbear for Putin, indicate where the next Russian “microaggression” — here meaning an engineered “misunderstanding” at a border town to test Alliance resolve — may perhaps fall. It’s a tricky game deciding where Obama’s “redlines” are, particularly because the president himself seems not to know in Syria, Ukraine, or anywhere, so it’s dangerously easy to envision a scenario where the angry gamblers in Moscow roll the dice one time too many, forcing NATO’s hand, without realizing it until it’s too late. War can happen by a kind of accident, with a risky Kremlin operational game gone wrong, and since NATO is not seriously prepared to resist Russian aggression on its eastern frontier, in 2015 it just might.
What I am absolutely certain of, however, is that the new year will bring the West more of what I’ve termed Special War emanating from the East. Moscow is far from ready to wage sustained conventional war against NATO, not least because the oil-plus-ruble collapse will delay its long-overdue military modernization program, but it is eminently prepared to engage in the witches’ brew of espionage, subversion, and terrorism that makes up Special War. Here the West must be vigilant, since Kremlin Special War can do real damage, and represents something that NATO is poorly conditioned to recognize, much less defeat and deter.
First, espionage, which is a long-standing Russian core competency. Kremlin intelligence operations against the West are not only rising in number and intensity — even the media has belatedly noticed that Moscow’s special services are as active against us as they ever were during the Cold War — but in aggressiveness as well. Putin takes a deep and personal interest in the activities of Russia’s intelligence agencies, which formed his unmistakably Chekist personality, and he has given them wide latitude to “get tough.” Just as in Israel, though not at all in the United States, Russian spies know that “the top” has their back if an operation goes wrong, as some inevitably will; Moscow prefers a bias for action, not inaction, in its huge espionage arm. Moreover, the persistent inability of Westerners to see Russian espionage as the serious threat to our secrets and safety that it is — here the blindness of even some NATO governments to the painful reality of the Snowden Operation does not encourage — gives the Kremlin a latitude to wage Special War against the West that it does not deserve.
Which leads to the matter of subversion, a term which has fallen out of favor since the Cold War but which needs a rebirth as soon as possible. Russian intelligence and its helpers have a sophisticated doctrine, honed over decades, to wage what we would term Political Warfare against their enemies. To further the Kremlin’s aims, they cultivate Western politicos, activists and journalists to disseminate pro-Russian views on a wide range of issues; much of this is now conducted online. These Western partners range from being full-fledged agents of the Russian special services to mere pro-Putin influencers, not always entirely wittingly. Nevertheless, this Kremlin brand of espionage-based psychological operations — the proper term is Active Measures, which has no doctrinal NATO equivalent — can achieve devastating results through lies, half-truths, and forgeries. Russia takes advantage of Western gullibility, niceness, and unwillingness to accept just how dishonest the enemy is, sometimes to strategic effect. Subversion is back, with online disinformation as its main weapon, and the sooner we accept this the West can begin to counter Russian agitprop that aims to psychologically and politically disarm and divide NATO without fighting.
On the political front, Putin holds quite a few European cards. The Kremlin has successfully established important, multilayered agent-of-influence networks in NATO countries, as I’ve explained previously, and the current political ferment in Europe offers Putin an inroads there that Russia has not enjoyed since the early years of the Cold War. Moscow has long supported far Left parties and activists in the West, but in recent years they have made major inroads on the far Right as well, whose star is ascendant in many European Union states, thanks to hot-tempered debates about immigration and national identity. Simply put, if the EU fails to deal with such issues in an effective way, and soon, it will surrender them to the far Right, i.e. Putin’s allies, in a manner that will have strategic results that will benefit Moscow in important ways.
Last, there’s terrorism. In the 21st century this takes many forms, from blowing up bombs to raiding computer networks. It’s remarkable how few Westerners seem to notice that the sudden and devastating “cyber-vandalism” (to cite Obama) against Sony hits the presses just as Russia’s economy buckles under sanctions. Russian acumen at cyber-terrorism is not exactly news — just ask Georgia and Estonia — but it has yet to be employed against major NATO countries in a strategic fashion. Yet this should be anticipated as an ancillary to other warlike secret Russian operations against NATO and the EU. Moreover, the difficulty of establishing firm attribution in cyber-espionage and cyber-terrorism means that many acts that remain officially unresolved — meaning what Western governments are willing to say publicly — actually have the fingerprint of Russian intelligence on them. And more is coming.
The notion that an angry Russia would employ actual terrorism, meaning killers and bombers, against the West sounds fanciful to some but it ought not, given decades of Russian activities in this arena. The Soviet intelligence services engaged a wide range of foreign terrorist groups beginning in the 1960’s, and terrorists as diverse as the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction, and the PLO, among many others, obtained aid and training from the KGB and GRU, the Kremlin’s military intelligence arm, as well as from East Bloc sister services. Among major transnational terrorist groups in the late Cold War, only the PFLP-GC was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kremlin, while the Soviets were content to give aid, comfort, and cover to the PLO and let it kill innocents as it pleased, as long as the KGB’s fingerprint remained difficult to detect. (As a senior KGB officer who dealt with the PLO in the 1970’s replied, when I asked him why the Kremlin never told Arafat’s Fatah terrorists what to attack, “Why give them orders? Everything they do is good!”) It should be noted that the idea the KGB and its East Bloc partners gave assistance to terrorists in the 1970’s and 1980’s was derided at the time as a “conspiracy theory” by nearly all Western “terrorism experts,” yet turned out to be entirely true, we learned, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Hence Moscow’s present-day murky links to international terrorism, even al-Qa’ida, merit close examination.
Moscow need not employ cut-outs and false-flags to conduct terrorism abroad, it has plenty of in-house talent in those areas, which fall under the rubric of what Russian spies term “wetwork.” In recent years, Putin has not been shy about wetwork abroad, even when the Kremlin’s footprint is obvious. The 2006 London murder of the defector Sasha Litvinenko, the infamous radioactive tea assassination, was transparently the work of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s biggest intelligence agency and Putin’s power-base. Two years earlier, GRU assassins blew up Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, exiled leader of the Chechen resistance, with a bomb placed in his vehicle; the device exploded on the streets of Doha, Qatar, killing Yandarbiyev and two of his bodyguards. GRU was sloppy, however, and Qatari authorities quickly arrested the two bombers. At trial, they admitted Moscow had sent them to Doha to assassinate the Chechen leader, yet they were returned to Russian custody in early 2005 amid promises they would serve their jail sentence for murder in Russia. In best Putin fashion, the GRU officers served not a day in a Russian jail, instead getting a heroes’ welcome home, including decorations for their good work abroad, then disappeared from public view.
Contrary to myth, the Cold War KGB and GRU were decidedly cautious about wetwork in the West. Assassinations of “state enemies” abroad were commonplace in Stalin’s time, but they waned in the 1950’s after several embarrassing missteps, including the defection of one would-be KGB assassin to the Americans. The 1959 assassination of Stepan Bandera, the top Ukrainian nationalist, in Munich with cyanide was the last operation of its kind, as the KGB’s footprint on the crime was obvious and embarrassing to the Kremlin. After that, the Chekists became notably cautious about wetwork in the West, not least because such an operation gone wrong would lead to the expulsion of many undercover Soviet intelligence officers, undoing years of hard espionage work.
While KGB and GRU maintained significant wetwork capabilities, they were used very sparingly down to the end of the Cold War. Yuri Andropov, who headed the KGB from 1967 to 1982, was notably cautious in such matters, quashing numerous proposals to assassinate defectors and dissidents in the West. When the Bulgarian DS, a close partner agency, asked for Soviet help to murder a troublesome defector, Andropov told the KGB to help but to steer very clear of the killing itself. The Soviets gave the Bulgarians a special new weapon, an umbrella that fired a micro-pellet filled with highly toxic ricin, which the DS used to assassinate Georgi Markov in London in October 1978 — a crime that British investigators correctly pinned on the DS, though the case, never prosecuted, officially remains open. Yet the Soviets had nothing to do with the killing itself, per Andropov’s orders.
In contrast, Putin shows none of Andropov’s caution. He has been willing to send Russian spies abroad to kill people that the Kremlin does not like, and as Russia finds itself increasingly in a corner and willing to lash out at the West, this ought to concern all Western governments. Increased espionage and subversion against NATO and the EU, directed by Russian special services, should be considered a given. The West would also be wise to anticipate Russian terrorism, the ugly side of the Kremlin’s Special War, as Putin seeks ways to punish the people whom he blames for his increasingly dire politico-economic predicament.
Everything from cyber-attacks to bombings to assassinations of prominent Westerners should be considered eminently possible. The good news is that vigilant Western counterintelligence, employed in a joint and strategic fashion, can blunt Russia’s well-honed Special War acumen and will prevent terrorism by the Kremlin and its friends and various false-flags. By blunting espionage, you also cut short things much worse. The bad news is that NATO and the EU remain seriously deficient in counterintelligence, beyond the merely tactical realm, and are not yet ready to take on the Russians in this most important game. Money, motivation and cultural change inside U.S. and Western security services are needed urgently to develop serious counterintelligence vision and competence.
The new year will be filled with many Kremlin operational games of various kinds. Expect regular media reports of “unattributed” cyber attacks, “unexplained” acts of sabotage, “unresolved” online scandals, and “mysterious” terrorist incidents across the West. This can be stopped, and must be; there is little time to waste. I will be spending 2015 doing my part to assist the West as it learns to wage Special War against the number-one-ranked team in the game. I used to be a player, now I’m just a consultant. If you would like to contact me about how to fight smart, feel free to do so.
Reply #113 on:
January 24, 2015, 01:17:35 PM »
Russian Aggression, Western Talk
Vladimir Putin wages war on Ukraine, while Europe hopes to ease sanctions.
Updated Jan. 23, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET
Barack Obama devoted two short paragraphs in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to the crisis in Ukraine. “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small,” the President said, “by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.” Thanks to American and European sanctions, he added, “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.”
Vladimir Putin begs to differ. Russian forces on the same day opened fire on Ukrainian positions in the rebel-controlled Luhansk region, not far from the Russian border, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cut short his trip to Davos to deal with the “worsening situation” on the home front.
Moscow has issued the usual denials about reinforcing the rebels in Luhansk, calling its regulars “volunteers” and sneering at “hallucinations about a ‘Russian invasion,’” as a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman put it. There are now some 9,000 such volunteers fighting alongside pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine, according to Mr. Poroshenko, and they are armed with hundreds of tanks, heavy artillery and personnel carriers.
“For months now there has been a push by the separatists for expansion of their territory,” a Western diplomat at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told us. The rebels have “a lot of ammo,” the official said, “and that’s coming from somewhere. This could not be happening without sophisticated logistical support from the Russian Federation.”
Meanwhile, the Western diplomatic push continues. The German, French, Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers held a new round of talks in Berlin on Wednesday. The aim is a cease-fire along the lines of September’s failed Minsk Protocol, but as Mr. Poroshenko told reporters, “To have a complete de-escalation we don’t need any blah-blah-blah. We need just to withdraw Russian troops.”
It doesn’t help that the West’s commitment to sanctions is flagging. “I think the sanctions must stop now,” French President François Hollande said on Jan. 5. He added: “It has been costly for him. . . . Mr. Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the NATO camp.”
Mr. Hollande’s musings on Russia’s intentions were echoed by European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, whose bureaucracy in a discussion paper circulated to EU foreign ministers suggested bifurcating the Ukraine issue into the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s “destabilization of eastern Ukraine.” If Moscow pulls back from eastern Ukraine, the paper said, sanctions could be rolled back and cooperation resumed.
European foreign ministers later clarified that there are no immediate plans to lift sanctions, but the Mogherini paper revealed the depth of Western misunderstanding of Russia: Just as Mr. Putin feels the pressure of falling oil prices, Mr. Hollande and Ms. Mogherini telegraph a willingness to welcome him back into good Western graces if only he’ll settle for his gains so far. The West should instead be maintaining the pressure, so the Russian people come to understand the costs of Mr. Putin’s revanchism.
The Russian leader doesn’t want to deal with the West like a normal nation. He wants to re-create Kremlin dominance over Russia’s near abroad and use energy exports as a political weapon against Western Europe. If the West permits him, he will consolidate his gains, continue to stir trouble in Ukraine and wait until the right moment to go on the offensive again.
Re: Russia-- Europe, Walter Russell Mead, Putin still thinks he can win
Reply #114 on:
January 29, 2015, 11:51:27 AM »
WRM, my favorite Democrat, is always a very worthwhile read:
The post-1990 European order has taken much more damage than much of U.S. elite opinion has fully understood, and that damage poses much greater dangers to vital U.S. interests than most people think. Intelligent U.S. engagement in the rethinking and reforming of Europe is as necessary now as it was earlier in the 20th century.
From the Kremlin’s perspective, the world may have looked better a year ago when oil was expensive and Moscow’s coffers were flush. But while Russia had some ugly surprises in 2014, Putin seems to believe that the false foundations underneath the imposing façade of the West continue to erode at an accelerating pace. It does not take a strong push to knock over a house of cards; Putin, one suspects, still thinks he can win. He is certainly acting that way.
WSJ: Putin cracks the Atlantic Alliance
Reply #115 on:
February 17, 2015, 12:04:04 PM »
Putin Begins to Crack the Atlantic Alliance
The British are on the outs, and German elites float a European Treaty Organization to replace NATO.
Feb. 16, 2015 7:30 p.m. ET
While the Germans, seconded by their French character witnesses, negotiated an ethereal Ukraine cease fire with Vladimir Putin in Minsk, Belarus, last week, Britain was kept informed by regular messages from the conference room.
It was a drip-feed from an arena of bad history in the making to a distant sideline. Call it either a gesture of consideration and respect, or a sign of the largely self-inflicted downgrading of a onetime Great Game player. Whatever, here was Britain home alone, although in no sense in the strategically assertive manner of Benjamin Disraeli ’s notion of Splendid Isolation.
David Cameron ENLARGE
David Cameron Photo: Bloomberg News
The Minsk deal was “terrible,” a senior U.K. official told me afterward, with holes in it so gaping as to allow Russia to drive tanks unhampered through an open Ukrainian border for next to forever. There might be some regrets that London wasn’t there as a “practitioner,” the official said, “but the deal was so bad that we now see our distance as an advantage.”
In theory, after the Obama administration outsourced the response to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine to Angela Merkel ’s Germany, only U.N. Security Council member Britain was (very theoretically) left in Europe to take sides and name names. But London chose not to press for an active role. Ms. Merkel then signaled that Germany’s “strategic patience” with Mr. Putin’s asymmetrical war could last for decades.
As a result, over the course of the past two weeks Mr. Putin got an up-close lesson in Western halfheartedness.
French President François Hollande, as Germany’s sidekick in meetings with Mr. Putin in Moscow and Minsk—Ms. Merkel didn’t want it to go down as a German-Russian deal—exclaimed, “I don’t want to say anything about the responsibilities of one or the other” combatants. He added, “Will someone please explain to me what the difference is between an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon?”
Here goes. Offensive weapon: a Russian tank. Defensive: a Ukrainian soldier with an antitank guided missile, one of the kinds of arms Barack Obama is fussing about delivering to the government in Kiev.
Britain’s response was a “no” to supplying Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons, coupled with a statement by Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond that, “We’re happy that the Germans have taken the lead.”
This isn’t Britain at its bravest, cleverest or most famously resourceful. Its slide has been accelerated by a U.S. administration that hung Britain out to dry by abandoning its promised willingness to come on board with London on a more muscular approach to Syria in 2012-13. Since then, Mr. Obama’s steadfastness has been regarded warily by some British officials.
A more immediate explanation for this effaced approach is the national election May 7, in which Prime Minister David Cameron ’s Conservative Party sees the prospect of a fragmented vote requiring the formation of a coalition government.
His strategists don’t want to wander from a single campaign message on the improvement in the British economy. Polls say that foreign affairs aren’t among the top 10 issues of voter concern and that only 17% “think the United Kingdom has a moral responsibility to support popular uprisings against dictators,” a negative measure of potential public engagement on Ukraine.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the British fade is that it bolsters Mr. Putin’s conviction that he is succeeding in splitting apart the Atlantic Alliance. A frequently silent, self-involved, scarcely active and less goading Britain, one obviously less confident in its trans-Atlantic instincts and its trans-Atlantic ties, reinforces the Russian idea that it really can reverse the post-Soviet security order in Europe.
Britain ought to be fighting this out loud. In Germany, echoing the Gerhard Schröder years, the weekly Die Zeit made reference without particular alarm to a Europe now “wrestling” with its “emancipation” from the U.S. Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a newspaper close to the chancellor, last week referred to Ms. Merkel as a “mediator” between the U.S. and Russia, a notion she refutes but that has wide appeal in Germany.
Sueddeutsche’s chief editor, Kurt Kister, wrote on Saturday that “the Americans hardly play a role anymore” in Europe and recommended its countries begin thinking of setting up a “European Treaty Organization or EUTO.”
That’s crackpot stuff. How could a Europe without America ever muster a credible nuclear deterrent against Russia? But there’s the potential for a rewrite of Europe’s security treaties lurking out there that could make for trouble. The German foreign ministry of Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Russians want “to discuss” such a rewrite. What could Britain be saying but isn’t?
Malcolm Rifkind, who is on a German-appointed panel of “eminent persons” to begin that discussion, gave a glancing but interesting answer via a question to Ms. Merkel at the recent Munich Security Conference. The former Conservative foreign and defense minister asked if her no-military-solution thesis on Ukraine could ever be successful without the threat of force being attached. She dodged the essence of the question.
Mr. Rifkind, in a later conversation, saw the possibility of an altered tone from a re-elected Conservative-led government in Britain. He said, “A change can come if there’s an American-led policy that’s less ambiguous and unabashedly robust.”
Good to hear it said. But he shouldn’t hold his breath.
Lithuania reinstitutes the draft
Reply #116 on:
February 24, 2015, 09:15:01 PM »
WSJ: Europe defense shrinks as Putin threat grows
Reply #117 on:
March 04, 2015, 01:02:42 PM »
Europe’s Defense Wanes as the Putin Threat Grows
Most NATO members are going to fail to meet pledges to stop declines in military spending.
March 3, 2015 7:08 p.m. ET
The chill of a new Cold War is descending over Europe. In Ukraine, ripped apart by Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s adventurism, a shaky cease-fire holds but there are growing fears of a new onslaught on the key port city Mariupol. In Estonia, one of the increasingly nervous Baltic states, a Feb. 24 Independence Day celebration in Narva, 300 yards from the Russian border, was marked by a NATO show of strength with troops from seven nations, including the U.S. and U.K., marching in the slush.
On the same day Russian troops drilled on their side of the border in Pskov, with 1,500 paratroopers swooping from the sky in exercises to capture an “enemy” airfield. Meanwhile, Lithuania revealed plans to reintroduce conscription in response to “growing aggression” while Norway is restructuring its armed forces to ensure faster response to Russian threats.
A few days earlier, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon had warned of “real and present” danger to the Baltic states. In Moscow, Kremlin-connected pundits debate whether nuclear war is “winnable” while opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov, shot in the back last week, are murdered. Russia is probing NATO reactions and response times, with four times as many interceptions made for breaches of Baltic airspace last year than in 2013. Twice recently the Royal Air Force scrambled fighter jets to escort Russian bombers flying over the English Channel.
But when a Russian submarine was suspected of slinking into Scottish waters late last year, weeks after another was spotted off the Swedish coast, the RAF had to summon NATO assistance for sea patrol planes to hunt it down. Such is the state of the British armed forces, cut by governments desperate to cash in the “peace dividend” after the last Cold War and then hit by financial meltdown. Sadly, the U.K. now appears reliant on allies for aircraft to search its own waters. With fewer than 100,000 full-time troops, Great Britain now has a smaller army than during the mid-19th-century Crimean War.
Meanwhile, a new report by the European Leadership Network think-tank reveals that most NATO members are failing to fulfill pledges to reverse declines in defense spending. It found six key countries cutting budgets, including the economic powerhouse of Germany, while the cash flow is flatlining in France, the other big spender. Budgets are rising in frontline states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, but only one country—Estonia, with defense spending of less than $500 million—will meet the NATO target this year of all alliance members spending at least 2% of GDP on defense.
Five months ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged NATO members to hit the 2% defense-spending target at a summit in Wales. Now he is coming under growing pressure from disgruntled military chiefs and grumbling backbench members of Parliament as the country falls below the NATO target, and defense spending sinks to its lowest level in 25 years while inflated budgets for dubious foreign-aid projects soar.
Rory Stewart, a widely admired Tory member of Parliament and chairman of the House of Commons defense select committee, rightly argues that the NATO defense-spending target is symbolically important when the world is so dangerous—as well as sending a crucial message to an opportunistic Russian president testing his neighbors’ resolve. “This puts the spotlight on whether European nations are even capable of being regional powers in their backyard,” he recently told me.
Germany has been asserting its leadership in recent weeks by seeking to resolve the two major crises confronting the continent, with Chancellor Angela Merkel heading cease-fire talks over Ukraine before taking a firm stance on Greek debt repayments. The country is also arming Kurds in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq. Yet Berlin’s defense spending has plunged to 1.09% of GDP this year from 1.3% in 2013—despite leaked parliamentary reports last year revealing the shocking state of outdated military equipment.
While Mr. Putin has lied consistently about Russian involvement in Ukraine since the start of his seizure of Crimea, he has been relatively open about his determination to modernize his nation’s creaking military machine. His biographer, Masha Gessen, points out that six of the first 11 decrees Mr. Putin passed after taking office concerned the military, with defense spending soaring despite deep economic problems. Russia’s annual defense spending has doubled over the past decade—surpassing Great Britain’s—and Moscow has plans to replace over two-thirds of the country’s aging military equipment by 2020.
Restraint of Russian expansionism is about more than spending, of course—and U.S. defense budgets still dwarf those of Russia (although Washington seems more focused these days on its “pivot” to Asia and the rapid buildup of China’s arsenal). But Europe needs to wake up after witnessing the first annexation on the continent since 1945, followed by the willful wrecking of Ukraine.
European leaders have been woefully slow to appreciate the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s gangster-style presidency furled in the flag of nationalism. Moscow will strategize on the basis of Western weakness, while continuing to chip away at European divisions. Mr. Putin, for instance, has just awarded a €2.5 billion loan to the financially challenged government of Cyprus—a European Union member opposed to Russian sanctions—in return for naval access to its ports.
NATO is planning a rapid response unit and mounting more exercises. But is this really enough to stop more “little green men,” whether in Russian uniforms or not, from sparking another conflict? As Malcolm Chalmers, research director at the Royal United Services Institute in London, recently told me: “The danger is that Russia next bites off a bit of Estonia, then asks what NATO is going to do about it.”
As we fight this new Cold War, Western leaders need to relearn the old lessons of crisis management and deterrence that defeated Mr. Putin’s Soviet predecessors—and relearn them quickly.
Mr. Birrell is a contributing editor of the U.K. newspaper the Mail on Sunday and a former speechwriter for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Re: Russia-- Europe
Reply #118 on:
March 14, 2015, 09:26:37 PM »
Where is Putin ?Interesting rumor
Swedish model beloved of Progressives has a weak link , , ,
Reply #119 on:
August 10, 2015, 01:18:40 PM »
Russia leans on Poland
Reply #120 on:
September 19, 2015, 04:24:30 PM »
Russian Non-Linear Warfare
Reply #121 on:
November 15, 2015, 10:31:44 AM »
A good dissection of current Russian tactics in Europe and the Baltics:
Putin's welcome mat for emmigrating Jews
Reply #122 on:
January 20, 2016, 09:27:53 PM »
I did not see this coming , , ,
Re: Putin's welcome mat for emmigrating Jews
Reply #123 on:
January 20, 2016, 10:18:24 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 20, 2016, 09:27:53 PM
I did not see this coming , , ,
I can say i'm a bit surprised as well.
FP: Third US tank brigade headed to Europe
Reply #124 on:
March 30, 2016, 08:54:51 AM »
European surge. A year from now, there will be thousands more U.S. soldiers stationed in Eastern Europe. And they’re bringing their tanks, howitzers, and armored Bradley infantry carriers with them.
Pentagon officials have long talked about their plan to rotate a third Army brigade in and out of Europe to bolster the two brigades already there. The plan was for the third brigade to move around Eastern Europe conducting training exercises with local allies nervously watching their borders for the next potential Russian provocation. On Wednesday, the U.S. European Command added a new wrinkle to the plan, announcing that this new armored brigade will bring its own tanks and other equipment along, instead of falling in on a prepositioned set of combat-ready equipment already on the continent. The move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced tanks, cannons, and other ground vehicles to the force. It will also free up an entire brigade’s worth of weapons currently being used by American forces training on the continent, which will be stored in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the event that more U.S. troops need to be rushed to the continent on short notice.
The Pentagon currently has about 65,000 troops assigned to the U.S. European Command, down from about 200,000 during the height of the Cold war in the 1980s. Then new deployments will be paid for using the European Reassurance Initiative, for which the White House requested $3.4 billion in its 2017 budget submission to Congress. The plan’s 2016 budget was $800 million.
Lithuania says Russia threatens NATO countries
Reply #125 on:
April 26, 2016, 02:48:20 PM »
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