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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: July 07, 2009, 01:02:55 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Obama Goes to Moscow
July 6, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama left for Moscow on Sunday for his summit with Russian leaders. The meetings have both a personal and geopolitical dimension, and in this case the two intersect, at least for the short run. The Russians have let it be known through multiple channels that they view Obama as a weak leader. The Russians don’t have any idea what kind of leader Obama is, but they are trying to goad him.

The context for this, of course, is the famous summit between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961. Tradition has it that Kennedy came to the meeting unprepared and retreated in the face of pressure from Khrushchev. Khrushchev decided that Kennedy would be a weak adversary, and this caused Khrushchev to become more aggressive, culminating in the Cuban missile crisis. Whether it happened this way is subject to dispute, but it sets the stage for this summit. Obama has been compared to Kennedy. That is not a great comparison when dealing with the Russians, so Obama has to go to Moscow to prove he is no Kennedy.

As far as the Russians are concerned, the audience for this summit is not limited to the Americans. Russia is far more interested in the European — particularly the German — perception of the summit. If Obama comes across as too weak, the Russians can tell the Germans that he is a weak champion. If he comes across as too aggressive, they can tell the Germans that he is dragging them into another Cold War. At this point, the core of Russian strategy is to deepen tensions between the Americans and the Germans. The Russians are not betting on personalities to carry the day, but this is one step in the long resurrection process the Russians have put into play.

Obama has tried to open the summit with his own head games. After saying that former Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is too deeply enmeshed in Cold War thinking, the Americans started implying that President Dmitri Medvedev — Putin’s putative boss — was a much more reasonable person and that they were much more interested in dealing with him than with Putin. If Obama’s Achilles’ heel is Europe and the Europeans’ wariness of him, the Russian vulnerability might lie in the fact that Medvedev could be developing ambitions of his own. More likely, the vulnerability is in Putin’s nascent paranoia about Medvedev’s intentions. In either case, the Americans have tried to set up the meeting in such a way that Putin might feel excluded.

Such games have limited value, but they become more important as chances that the summit will achieve anything substantial decline. The Americans charged that Putin was enmeshed in Cold War thinking. The Russians shot back that it isn’t the Russians that are building the NATO bloc — the ultimate Cold War tool — and expanding it wherever it can go. Washington then said that on the key question of ballistic missile defense in Poland, the Russians must understand that the missiles would be there against Iran and not against Russia. The Russians, of course, understand this fully, though they might not agree with it. Their problem is not who the missiles are directed against, but that they would be present in Poland. And Obama’s problem is that if he gives them up without major concessions in return, he will appear exactly as he can’t afford to: weak.

Just before take-off, the Russians gave Obama a present: an offer to allow the United States to transport weapons across Russian territory to troops in Afghanistan. That is not a trivial concession, but it is not one the United States really needs at the moment, nor is the United States likely to want to become dependent on routes that could be closed easily.

Three major issues remain: U.S. relations with states of the former Soviet Union, the status of Poland as a forward U.S. base or a neutral zone, and Russian support for the U.S. stance on Iran.
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HUSS
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« Reply #51 on: August 04, 2009, 10:50:52 PM »

Russian Subs Patrolling Off East Coast of U.S.

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WASHINGTON — A pair of nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines has been patrolling off the eastern seaboard of the United States in recent days, a rare mission that has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about a more assertive stance by the Russian military.

The episode has echoes of the cold war era, when the United States and the Soviet Union regularly parked submarines off each other’s coasts to steal military secrets, track the movements of their underwater fleets — and be poised for war.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union all but eliminated the ability of the Russian Navy to operate far from home ports, making the current submarine patrols thousands of miles from Russia more surprising for military officials and defense policy experts.

“I don’t think they’ve put two first-line nuclear subs off the U.S. coast in about 15 years,” said Norman Polmar, a naval historian and submarine warfare expert.

The submarines are of the Akula class, a counterpart to the Los Angeles class attack subs of the United States Navy, and not one of the larger submarines that can launch intercontinental nuclear missiles.

According to Defense Department officials, one of the Russian submarines remained in international waters on Tuesday about 200 miles off the coast of the United States. The location of the second remained unclear. One senior official said the second submarine traveled south in recent days toward Cuba, while another senior official with access to reports on the surveillance mission said it had sailed away in a northerly direction.

The Pentagon and intelligence officials spoke anonymously to describe the effort to track the Russian submarines, which has not been publicly announced.

President Obama spoke by telephone with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether the subject of the submarines came up, although another source of friction between the two countries did. Mr. Medvedev called Mr. Obama to wish him a happy birthday and the White House said the president used the opportunity to urge Russia to work through diplomatic channels to resolve rising tensions with Georgia.

The submarine patrols come as Moscow tries to shake off the embarrassment of the latest failed test of the Bulava missile, a long-range weapon that was test fired from a submarine in the Arctic on July 15. The failed missile test was the sixth since 2005, and some experts see Russia’s assertiveness elsewhere as a gambit by the military to prove its continued relevance.

“It’s the military trying to demonstrate that they are still a player in Russian political and economic matters,” Mr. Polmar said.

One of the submarines is the newer Akula II, officials said, which is quieter than the older variant and the most advanced in the Russian fleet. The Akula is capable of carrying torpedoes for attacking other submarines and surface vessels as well as missiles for striking targets on land and at sea.

Defense Department officials declined to speculate on which weapons might be aboard the two submarines.

While the submarines have not taken any provocative action beyond their presence outside territorial waters of the United States, officials expressed wariness over the Kremlin’s motivation for ordering such an unusual mission.

“Anytime the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry,” said a senior Defense Department official who has been monitoring reports on the submarines’ activities.

The official said the Navy was able to track the submarines as they made their way through international waters off the American coastline. This can be done from aircraft, ships, underwater sensors or other submarines.

“We’ve known where they were, and we’re not concerned about our ability to track the subs,” the official added. “We’re concerned just because they are there.”

Once among the world’s most powerful forces, the Russian Navy now has very few ships regularly deployed on the open seas. Moscow has contributed warships to the international armada searching for Somali pirates. In addition, a flotilla of Russian warships participated in exercises with Venezuela last year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/wo...trol.html?_r=1
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #52 on: August 05, 2009, 12:04:13 AM »

"Yoo-hoo, Barry, what'cha gonna do?" I think is the point of the sub provocation.
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G M
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« Reply #53 on: August 05, 2009, 08:34:43 AM »

Exactly.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #54 on: August 05, 2009, 10:16:18 AM »

Well, what DO you think he/we should do?
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G M
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« Reply #55 on: August 05, 2009, 10:51:25 AM »

Aside from the 2012 elections? Gird your loins and hope the worst thing Obama does is wreck the economy.
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #56 on: August 05, 2009, 11:08:48 AM »

Well, what DO you think he/we should do?

Park a destroyer on top of the subs and SONAR ping the snot out of them making sure all on board get no sleep, then sneak an attack sub in behind them to trail them in silence and run attack drills. Note Russia's belligerence, remind them that this behavior last time around forced them into an arms race that they lost, causing their empire to crumble, question whether they want a return to those days, and state that the ballistic missile defense they are very much against will be implemented fully in view of their habit of provocation. State we can't do much about their penchant for killing journalists and critics opposed to their thugocracy, while making clear that does not mean we are unable to define our interests and protect them.
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G M
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« Reply #57 on: August 05, 2009, 11:21:21 AM »

Well, what DO you think he/we should do?

Park a destroyer on top of the subs and SONAR ping the snot out of them making sure all on board get no sleep, then sneak an attack sub in behind them to trail them in silence and run attack drills. Note Russia's belligerence, remind them that this behavior last time around forced them into an arms race that they lost, causing their empire to crumble, question whether they want a return to those days, and state that the ballistic missile defense they are very much against will be implemented fully in view of their habit of provocation. State we can't do much about their penchant for killing journalists and critics opposed to their thugocracy, while making clear that does not mean we are unable to define our interests and protect them.

Yeah, if we had a president who wasn't wearing a trainee hat and didn't have a head full of leftist anti-americanism, he'd do exactly that.
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G M
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« Reply #58 on: August 05, 2009, 11:44:28 AM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/08/04/great-news-russian-attack-subs-spotted-off-east-coast-of-us/

Great news: Russian attack subs spotted off east coast of U.S.
POSTED AT 9:55 PM ON AUGUST 4, 2009 BY ALLAHPUNDIT   


You know what this calls for? An Obama speech in Red Square about the common humanity that unites us in a struggle for blah blah blah blah.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union all but eliminated the ability of the Russian Navy to operate far from home ports, making the current submarine patrols thousands of miles from Russia even more surprising for military officials and defense policy experts.

“I don’t think they’ve put two first-line nuclear subs off the U.S. coast in about 15 years,” said Norman Polmar, a naval historian and expert on submarine warfare…

The submarine patrols come as Moscow tries to shake off the embarrassment of the latest failed test of the Bulava missile, a long-range weapon that was test fired from a submarine in the Arctic on July 15. The failed missile test was the sixth since 2005, and some experts see Russia’s assertiveness elsewhere as a gambit by the military to prove its continued relevance…

While the submarines had not taken any provocative action beyond their presence outside territorial waters of the United States, officials expressed wariness over the Kremlin’s motivation for ordering such an unusual mission.

“Any time the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry,” said a senior Defense Department official who has been monitoring reports on the submarines’ activities.

A few possibilities off the top of my head for What This Might Mean in addition to the NYT’s “Bulava missile” theory. (1) Russia wants to see how much The One will let them get away with, just as Biden predicted would happen last year. (2) Russia’s pissed at Biden for his crack a few weeks ago about their economy “withering” and is flexing some muscle in response. (3) Russia’s looking to expand its presence in the western hemisphere more generally, which explains its naval exercises with Venezuela in December. (4) Russia’s gearing up to make another move on Georgia and is putting The One on notice that they’re not to be trifled with when they do. (5) Russia’s got a fee-vah and the only prescription is more bare-chested Putin photos, and a display of military strength in America’s backyard makes for nice optics on the front page tomorrow next to Vlad’s pecs. You’re free to vote for more than one theory — they’re hardly mutually exclusive — but as of right now I’m leaning towards number 4.
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #59 on: August 05, 2009, 09:58:19 PM »

Another test for BHO?

Russia Charges US Is Rearming Georgia
By VOA News
05 August 2009

A top Russian diplomat says the United States is quietly rearming the Georgian military, and he warns the U.S. move will force Moscow to react.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karasin leveled the accusation Wednesday in Moscow.  He did not describe the weapons, nor indicate what form Russia's response would take. 

A top Russian general says Moscow is not planning any offensive in the Caucasus as the anniversary of last year's brief war with Georgia approaches on Friday.  However, General Anatoly Nogovitsin says Russia's armed forces are alarmed by Georgia's military buildup.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday that U.S. resources are currently aimed at training Georgian forces.  But he said other forms of help could be offered in the future.

Tuesday, President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev spoke by telephone about reducing tensions in Georgia.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also telephoned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.  Biden stressed the need to avoid actions that could further destabilize the region.

Moscow has warned it will use "all available force" to protect the pro-Russian populations of South Ossetia and a second breakaway territory, Abkhazia.

Georgian President Saakashvili told the Reuters news agency Sunday that he knows Georgia can not use the military to retake control of South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

Russian forces swept into Georgia August 7, 2008, following Georgian attempts to regain control of breakaway South Ossetia by force.  Georgia said it only shelled South Ossetian targets after Russian forces invaded.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Wednesday called the war an "unforgiveable adventure" launched by Mr. Saakashvili.  He told Russian television hundreds of lives were lost in the conflict, which he described as a tragedy for the Georgian people.

Moscow later recognized both territories as independent countries, despite strong protests from Western governments.

http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-08-05-voa21.cfm
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #60 on: September 28, 2009, 12:16:10 PM »

Oy vey.

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

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
Published: September 27, 2009
MOSCOW — The Kremlin has long responded to proposals for tougher sanctions against Iran with arms folded and a scowl. Last week, that attitude began softening, bringing the Obama administration closer to a diplomatic coup in its efforts to contain the Iranian nuclear program.

President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Friday at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh.
But the relatively conciliatory statements by Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, present an opening to the administration that could turn out to yield little. Russia, a neighbor of Iran, is far more intertwined with it geopolitically than any other world power, and has more concerns about upsetting relations.

Russia is also reluctant to mass the might of the United Nations Security Council against a single country, especially at Washington’s behest. That in part explains why Russia has historically sought to dilute sanctions, as it did in previous rounds against Iran.

Moreover, the Kremlin might go slowly because it senses that in a world where it has less influence than it did during Soviet times, it can use its veto power in the Security Council to ensure attention and respect. If Russia were to accede right away to calls for a crackdown, it would risk becoming just another country lining up behind the United States. The Kremlin’s pride would almost certainly not allow that.

Already, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, appears to be positioning Russia to back away from the supportive stance suggested by Mr. Medvedev’s comments.

Asked about the announcement on Friday by the United States, Britain and France that Iran had failed to disclose a secret uranium enrichment plant, Mr. Lavrov said it was not evident that Iran had done anything wrong. He said it was premature to assert that new sanctions were necessary.

“As I understand it, there is no clarity regarding the legal issues,” Mr. Lavrov said.

He also chided the Western powers for not telling Russia earlier that their intelligence agencies had discovered the Iranian enrichment plant.

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s paramount leader, who tends to be more hawkish than Mr. Medvedev toward the United States, in recent days has not echoed Mr. Medvedev’s views on sanctions.

Still, Moscow’s overall outlook toward the United States has unquestionably warmed in recent months, largely because of President Obama’s drive to “reset” relations, and that could ultimately be pivotal.

Mr. Obama’s decision this month to cancel an antimissile system in Eastern Europe proposed by the Bush administration has achieved a particularly galvanizing effect. The Kremlin had deemed the antimissile system a direct threat to Russia, though the United States had said it was intended to protect against attacks from countries like Iran.

Mr. Medvedev regularly expressed his appreciation for Mr. Obama last week, drawing a contrast with the tensions between Moscow and Washington in the later Bush years. Obama administration officials cited Mr. Medvedev’s remarks as proof that their attempt to engage Moscow was paying off, and could lead to action against Iran.

“We do have various doubts about what Iran is doing,” Mr. Medvedev said last week. “If all possibilities for influencing the situation have been exhausted, we could consider international sanctions.”

“Sometimes, there is no other option,” he added.

Russia has said that it does not want Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but it has also articulated misgivings about Western assertions of Iranian nuclear advances. While Russia is not one of Iran’s largest trading partners, it does sell military hardware to Iran and is building a civilian nuclear power plant there.

What is clear is that Russia considers sanctions as not solely an Iranian issue, but one of several that revolve around its dealings with Washington. It is negotiating a treaty to reduce the size of strategic nuclear forces, and remains alarmed by the possible expansion of NATO into former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia.

If those issues are handled to the Kremlin’s liking, then it will be more apt to agree to stiff sanctions.

“For Russia, Iran is a very good bargaining chip,” said Vladimir Sotnikov, a senior research associate at the Center for International Security in Moscow. “And that is why, for now, I don’t think that Russia is going to be ready to wholly support major new sanctions.”

The dynamic is complicated by China, another sanctions opponent with a Security Council veto. The Kremlin can publicly show more leeway toward sanctions — in essence, offering gratitude to Mr. Obama for canceling the antimissile system in Eastern Europe — while knowing that China may continue standing in their way.

China trades heavily with Iran, and its skeptical comments on Friday after the announcement about the new enrichment plant indicated how reluctant it may be on sanctions.

At the same time, though, if China senses that Russia is more amenable, the Chinese may feel that they have to shift because they do not want to be isolated.

And Mr. Medvedev’s criticism of Iran last week has put more pressure on its leadership before nuclear talks on Thursday in Geneva between Iran and the United States and five other powers, including Russia.

Even so, in interviews over the weekend, experts in Moscow were somewhat unconvinced that the Kremlin would back forceful steps against Iran, though they did not rule it out.

Vladimir Sazhin, a commentator at the state-run Voice of Russia radio and one of the nation’s leading Iran analysts, said it was important to understand that Russia considered Iran to be a vital ally on regional issues. After the disputed Iranian presidential election in June, in fact, Mr. Medvedev congratulated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Both countries are on the Caspian Sea and have territory in the Caucasus Mountains. (The Soviet Union had a border with Iran, but Russia is now about 100 miles away, separated from Iran by another former Soviet republic, Azerbaijan.) Both Russia and Iran want to prevent NATO from setting up bases in the region.

Mr. Sazhin said Russia had been pleased that Iran had not questioned Russia’s actions in Chechnya, a Muslim region in the Caucasus where the federal authorities have fought two brutal civil wars to put down a separatist Muslim insurgency.

“The Kremlin’s politics come down to the fact that they do not want to inflame relations with Iran, because of Russia’s regional interests,” Mr. Sazhin said.

Mr. Sazhin said he would not be surprised if Mr. Medvedev continued to imply that he was open-minded toward sanctions, in large part because the Russian leadership realizes that China may not relent and Iran will find a way to prolong the dispute.

“The Kremlin can play a good game because it knows that nothing will probably come of it,” he said.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #61 on: October 08, 2009, 07:50:48 AM »

Biden's Visit to Central Europe
Stratfor Today » October 7, 2009 | 2156 GMT

White House officials said Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to three Central European countries to discuss ballistic missile defense infrastructure and bilateral security ties. The purpose of Biden’s visit is twofold: to reassure Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania that the United States is still a powerful security guarantor, and remind Russia that the United States has clout in its geopolitical backyard. The timing of the visit coincides with the U.S.-Russian tussle over Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.

Analysis

The White House confirmed Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24. According to the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the visit will include talks regarding supporting infrastructure for the U.S. SM-3 ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans, which U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Sept. 17.

The intent of Biden’s visit to Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania is to assure Central Europe — but particularly Warsaw — that the United States has not abandoned the region following its decision to withdraw Bush administration plans for a ground-based interceptor BMD system. Most of Central Europe interpreted that decision as a move to appease Russia, since the United States wants the Kremlin to stop helping advance the Iranian nuclear program and eventually pressure Iran to abandon it.

However, since the U.S. decision to withdraw plans for the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia has not responded by pulling back its support for Iran. Instead, Russia has recently reiterated that support. From Moscow’s perspective, Russia never viewed the U.S. decision to scrap BMD in Central Europe as a concession; Russia still has not seen any real evidence of U.S. pullback as the United States is still maintaining strong ties to Central Europe. Furthermore, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Borodavkin made it clear on Oct. 6 that Moscow intends to continue its military-technological cooperation with Iran, though it will strictly adhere to the framework of international laws.

Enter U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden and U.S. Foreign Policy

Biden is a serious player when it comes to the Obama administration’s foreign policy. This will not be Biden’s first — or last — high-profile mission. In May, he went on a tour of the Balkans to try to calm regional tensions. In July, he went to two key states on the Russian periphery, Georgia and Ukraine. Biden’s visit to Tbilisi and Kiev followed U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev, a visit that the United States felt Russians did not take seriously. Biden’s trip to Ukraine and Georgia was therefore a not-so-subtle reminder to Moscow that Washington can still exert power in the Russian sphere of influence, even in states that Russia feels it has brought under its control.

It should therefore not come as a surprise that Biden is going to three key Central European states immediately following the Kremlin’s explicit intent to continue cooperation with Iran. Biden’s purpose is to say things that the U.S. administration is thinking but does not want to say without plausible deniability. He is known for his “blustery rhetoric” and “outbursts”; therefore the Obama administration can always distance itself from the actual language he uses, but the rest of the world — especially Russia — knows to listen carefully.

In effect, Biden is actually being deployed much as the National Security Council (NSC) chief often is — as the man who knows what the president really thinks. Secretaries of state are frequently marginalized because they are selected for political reasons whereas the head of the NSC is almost always a key foreign policy player. Furthermore, Biden is known as a blunt critic of Russia; during his visit to Ukraine and Georgia he explicitly said that Russia would ultimately bend to the U.S. will due to its tattered economy and in effect called Russia a weak state. Russians understandably do not like Biden, but they understand his role very well. He is therefore a perfect tool for the Obama administration to remind Russia that United States can make aggressive moves in the region — an obvious reminder to the Kremlin that it is more profitable to play ball with the United States.

Biden’s Visit in the Geopolitical Context
With that in mind, it is worth analyzing what the U.S. relationship is with the countries that Biden will be visiting. For Poland and the Czech Republic, Biden’s visit will define U.S. relations, while in Romania, Biden is expected to strengthen the already close — and unwavering — military ties.

The U.S.-Polish relationship took a hit following Obama’s decision to pull back the BMD system from Poland. Poland’s immediate reaction was one of shock, or one of trying to hide that the country was in shock with many analysts and politicians assuring the public that they “expected the decision”. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk tried to put a positive spin on the decision by saying that the new U.S. plans were beneficial for Europe, while Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski hinted at plans to tie Polish national security more closely to the European Union.

However, Poland is in a geographically unenviable position. It occupies the vast expense of plains between Germany and Russia, but matches neither country’s population nor economic resources. It can certainly strive to have cordial relations with both, but it cannot depend on either for security guarantees, and it cannot come to a consensus about making deals with Germany or Russia. The idea of tying its security to the European Union is complicated because the European Union has few concrete security guarantees. Even with the Lisbon Treaty likely to be ratified, it is unclear how Poland would spur the rest of Europe to speak with a common voice on security and defense matters.

With its geography forcing Poland to look nervously both ways, its only foreign policy strategy is to look for allies beyond its neighborhood as an external security guarantor. Between World War I and World War II, Warsaw turned to London and Paris; after the retreat of the Soviet Union, Warsaw turned to Washington. Poland therefore can take Obama’s spur and build better relations with Germany and France in terms of security arrangements, and the plan for its EU Presidency, set for 2011, calls for working close with France on the bolstering of EU defense policy, an example of this strategy. However, considering the limitations of European security guarantees, the alternative for Poland is to let the emotions on the BMD pullback pass and listen to what the United States has to offer instead.

The Czech Republic is in a less critical situation. Its location on the European continent is not directly exposed to Russia and it is integrated geographically in the German defensive perimeter. It is also a smaller and less powerful player than Poland; therefore, it is less worried about its security since there is less it can do about its own security than Poland. Czech public opinion has also been much more vociferously opposed to the U.S. BMD system than Polish public opinion, and Czech politicians did not have a consensus on the matter, which has been passed up by both former Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s government as well as the current government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer. Nonetheless, Biden will seek to reassure the Czechs that the United States is still a player in the region and that it is not necessary for Prague to discount the United States as a security ally.

Finally, Biden’s visit to Central Europe will finish with a stop in Romania. Romania does not have a reason to feel abandoned by the United States since it was never part of the BMD system. The United States has made Romania home for four of its lily pad bases since 2005, bases that house pre-positioned equipment and can be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis.

While Washington’s entanglements in the Middle East colored the initial thinking on close Romanian-U.S. relations — Romania is a great European location to project air power into the Middle East — it is also a direct line into the Russian underbelly. Romania sits on the only other geographical access point — other than the North European Plain — between Russia and the European Continent as the Carpathian Mountains block off the route in between. This is the Bessarabian lowlands between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea. Romania also has shown interest in aggressively looking to project its own power into neighboring Moldova, which Moscow considers part of its sphere of influence.

Biden’s visit to Central Europe is therefore part of the ongoing contest between Russia and the United States for influence in Europe, but also the broader geopolitical tussle over Iran. With Russia confirming that it intends to continue its collaboration with Tehran, the United States is sending Biden to Central Europe as a message that it too can continue playing hardball where it hurts Russia.
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #62 on: October 14, 2009, 10:50:32 PM »

http://reason.com/blog/2009/10/14/shrewd-gutsy-and-naive
Reason Magazine


Shrewd, Gutsy, and Naive?

Michael C. Moynihan | October 14, 2009

To his legion of online supporters, Obama's first foreign policy coup was caving to Russian pressure on missile defense, they claimed, in exchange for Moscow's assistance in applying sanctions on Tehran. Brendan Nyhan argued that Obama didn't "appease" Moscow because the move was "part of a quid pro quo in which Russia agreed to support tougher sanctions against Iran." Ubiquitous liberal blogger Matt Yglesias scoffed that, contra Obama's critics, in the "real world, Obama’s approach is working" by getting Russia behind the administration's Iran policy. In Salon, Juan Cole argued that Obama "has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran." "The US right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve," Cole wrote, "But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the US in regard to Iran's nuclear research program."

It would have perhaps been shrewd (but not "gutsy") had the Russians not played the neophyte president like a fiddle. Reuters:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was "premature". Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia's paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.

"There is no need to frighten the Iranians," Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
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« Reply #63 on: October 14, 2009, 11:08:27 PM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/10/14/russian-security-advisor-we-reserve-the-right-to-nuke-you-preemptively/comment-page-1/#comments

Russian security advisor: We reserve the right to nuke you preemptively
posted at 6:12 pm on October 14, 2009 by Allahpundit

Just a little follow-up to Ed’s post earlier, tracking the progress of The One’s global disarmament efforts.
Hey — the committee did say that Nobel was aspirational.
In an interview published today in Izvestia, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Kremlin’s security council, said the new doctrine offers “different options to allow the use of nuclear weapons, depending on a certain situation and intentions of a would-be enemy. In critical national security situations, one should also not exclude a preventive nuclear strike against the aggressor.”
What’s more, Patrushev said, Russia is revising the rules for the employment of nukes to repel conventionally armed attackers, “not only in large-scale, but also in a regional and even a local war.”
Gulp. If I were in Georgia — or in any other country Russia considers part of its sphere of influence — that formulation would make me pretty anxious…
In the interview, he takes a swipe at the United States and NATO, saying that the alliance “continues to press for the admission of new members to NATO, the military activities of the bloc are intensifying, and U.S. strategic forces are conducting intensive exercises to improve the management of strategic nuclear weapons.”
“The military activities of the bloc are intensifying”? After Obama just pulled long-range missile defense out of Poland and the Czech Republic? The oddest thing about this isn’t Moscow’s willingness to nuke its neighbors — I’ve always taken that as a given, even though none of them could ever conceivably threaten Russia — but the fact that they’re willing to rattle their saber so soon after The One made a major concession to them. Are they trying to make him turn hawkish? Because that’s what’s going to happen, whether he wants it to or not, if foreign policy somehow becomes a key issue in 2012. Why not string him along for a bit and see if they can milk a few more concessions out of him? Who knows? He might be willing to yank eastern European missile defense entirely if they play ball on Iran.
Well, at least we know it can’t get much worse. Or can it
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #64 on: October 15, 2009, 10:49:12 AM »

Vladimir Putin and the Russian Inferiority Complex

By James Lewis
Vlad "the poisoner" Putin isn't such a tough guy after all. He's a sucker for Russian power and glory. That is why he has just proclaimed that it's OK for Ahmadinejad and the Twelver Suicide Cult of Tehran to have nuclear weapons. Putin is a fool. Like all the Soviet leaders, he is going to end up harming his nation to pursue his own grandiosity.

The Russian inferiority complex is a cliché of European history. It has always existed, but it is often dated back to Peter the Great, who tried desperately to bring Imperial Russia into the 17th century. Peter went to study ship-building and other new technology in the Netherlands, which is one reason why the Russian flag and the Dutch flag have the same colors. Communism was the way many Russians believed they could leapfrog Europe and America to get to become the most "progressive" nation in the world.

Putin has called the breakdown of the Soviet Empire (by its internal contradictions) the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. It wasn't that. It was a great blessing, as the Poles and Czechs still remember. Even some Western Europeans haven't forgotten, though they like to rage against the United States. When push comes to shove they always come to Uncle again.

So Putin is desperately trying to make Russia a Great Power again, for reasons of national ego. That's what inferiority feelings do; they make people flip into phony grandiosity. You can see it in the White House today. But Obama's terrible weakness of will is Putin's opportunity. This is a game of fools playing against fools.

What's wrong with Putin's reasoning? Vladimir Putin has proclaimed that any Iranian nuclear attack would be preempted by the Russian Empire, Vsn. 2.00 (vaporware). I mean that about vaporware, because while Russia is playing chess on the international scene, A'jad and his imam, Mohzen Yazdi, are playing Russian Roulette -- The Martyrdom for Allah.

Russia has been defeated before by gamers playing by different rules. Imperial Russia was beaten in 1904 by Imperial Japan, which stunned the Tsar by ignoring the western rules of combat, failing to openly declare war before attacking. Russia played a game of defense and delay, while Japan was relentlessly powered. The Bushido warriors were happy to die for the glory of their Divine Emperor, while Russian soldiers and sailors were not so fanatically devoted to Tsar Nikolas, who went down thirteen years later when the Bolsheviks shot him and his family, and thus ended four centuries of Romanov rule.

The lesson still is unlearned that martyrdom warriors playing from a nontraditional playbook have an inherent advantage over chess players. They are more willing to die. Putin's "preemptive nuclear strategy" makes the crucial assumption that the Russians have penetrated Tehran so deeply that they will be able to predict and preempt that crucial moment when A'jad's finger, hovering over the nuclear button, will descend and launch nukes. But nobody knows that moment of decision, probably not even the Khomeiniacs themselves. Two months ago Iranian college students were getting bloodied in the streets of Tehran by Basiji and Revolutionary Guards. The regime is unstable. Would Hitler have launched nukes rather than be overthrown by the Junker Coup? You bet. Would Tojo? Yes. Would A'jad?

Who knows? Vladimir Putin says he knows. What he is really hoping is that (a) Russia will get more influence and control in the Middle East by driving the Americans back, using Tehran as a proxy; (b) the inevitable nuclear arms race between Sunni Arabs and a new Persian Nuclear Caliphate will allow Russia to coordinate oil prices with OPEC, so as to raise add more gold to its coffers.

Both of those calculations are wild gambles, putting vast numbers of human lives on the line. Putin is letting the nuclear genie out of the bottle; but the original genie is a Persian-Arab Jinn, and the psychology of the Persian and Arab world is still wildly fantasy-driven. Russia is a European nation in its thinking, with a huge Asian appendix. The Arabs and Persians are now going through a massive regression to medieval times, when the Muslims conquered the known world in three generations. They were just more willing to die for Allah than the ancient Persians and Byzantines. Tehran is a throwback to that time. Saudi Arabia never emerged from it.

Putin's cover for the Tehran nuke program may be the biggest strategic mistake in history, bar none. In the next two years it will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that wiser heads have been desperately trying to prevent. There's a reason why the Saudis have not developed nukes -- it's because they fear that arms race, knowing the long historical split between Sunnis and Shiites. It's not comfortable for the Saudis to see Iranian nukes fifty miles from their oil fields, and a few hundred miles from Mecca and Medina. But now they may have no choice; they have financed Pakistani nukes and missiles, and can all but pick up the phone and have them flown in.

Only American protection has kept the lid on the Middle East. With Obama playing Jimmy Carter, our protective umbrella has lost its credibility. Without credibility none of our defensive guarantees can last -- NATO, Japan, Taiwan, the Middle East. If the Europeans cannot trust the United States to defend it against a strategic attack, they will have to turn to the only alternative, Russia. Over the next decade they will finally have to develop both the political will and the weapons to threaten retaliation. Like the rest of the industrial world, they will also start building missile defenses just as fast as they can.

Between Putin and Obama the world has just been dragged much closer to the precipice. It's amazing what inferiority complexes will do.

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/10/vladimir_putin_and_the_russian_1.html at October 15, 2009 - 11:46:57 AM EDT
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« Reply #65 on: October 16, 2009, 11:34:30 AM »

Two quotes onthe current situation:

http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/
To Russia With Love. Do you laugh or cry about our policy with Russia? When we serially cried out “reset” button, blamed Bush for the new Cold War with Russia, and promised to “listen”, we knew the US was walking blindfolded up the steps of Putin’s guillotine. So we humiliated the Czechs and the Poles (who have suffered far worse from the Russians) in exchange for the mythical “help” with sanctions on Iran. Today, Putin’s brief verdict of “premature” on sanctions said it all. If we can reconstruct the Obama/Hillary disaster, it goes something like this: Putin always liked the win/win/win/win idea of a nuclear Iran (the missiles point at the U.S., good profits for Russian companies, tensions in the Gulf always a help with high oil prices, everyone begs Russia to “leash” their new feral nuclear bulldog). So he entraps the idiotic Americans by vague promises of Iranian sanctions in exchange for reestablishing Russian fear and obedience in the former Soviet sphere—while revealing how America’s economic dive and strategic hesitation are proof of a more endemic decline. When Hillary talks of how delighted she is that Russia is “so supportive”, are we to cry for the beloved country? It is as if Putin not only knew he would win on this one, but get the added bonus of showing the world how obsequious, naïve, and impotent the new U.S. was in the bargain.
----

http://www.powerlineblog.com/
Throughout the Cold War, except to some extent during the Carter years, the U.S. responded more or less in kind to Russian hard-bargaining. In the modern era, President Bush, prodded by Vice President Cheney, eventually did so as well.

It probably never occurred to the Russians that a U.S. president would come to power hoping to "reset" relations with Russia on some basis other than the hard bargain and the "trust but verify" mentality. Yet this is precisely what has fallen into the Kremlin's lap. From what I've heard, the Russian elites can neither believe their good fortune nor hide their amusement.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #66 on: October 16, 2009, 11:47:20 AM »

This from Statfor:  Who'd a thunk it?

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

Poland: Patriot Missiles From the U.S.
Stratfor Today » October 16, 2009 | 1450 GMT

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images
A fire unit of a U.S. Patriot missile batteryPolish Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said Oct. 16 that the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense battery to Poland and that the discussions with Washington about hosting part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system are ongoing. Komorowski made his remarks after talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow. Although there is still no official U.S. response to the Polish announcement, the revelation tracks closely with STRATFOR’s forecast that the U.S. cancellation of the Bush-era BMD program in Poland and the Czech Republic does not constitute a serious break with Washington’s intention to maintain Poland as its key ally in Europe.

It is not yet clear what this deployment might actually entail. On one end of the spectrum is a long-term deployment of a Patriot battery. On the other end is a short joint exercise where a U.S. Patriot unit is in Poland only briefly — and perhaps with inert rather than live missiles. The former is a major step for Washington; the latter is merely a signal to Moscow. In any event, nothing irreversible has been done.

But the bottom line is that the potential of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland will not please Russia, which is why the United States is floating the idea. Russia opposed the original BMD in Poland not because the system would have posed a direct threat, but because it symbolized increasing U.S. presence in a key Central European state near Russia. In a way, the Patriot missiles in Poland are an even greater threat to Russian interests in the region because they are actually operational and will constitute not only a high-tech operational defense for Poland, but also a deepening symbiotic relationship between Warsaw and Washington.

The United States had hoped that with its initial move to scrap BMD in Central Europe, Russia would reciprocate by toning down its support of Iran. Instead, Moscow stated it would continue its military-technical cooperation.

Washington has since made it clear to Moscow that it has the ability to play in Russia’s backyard. The announcement on Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20-24 was the opening salvo of the latest U.S. offensive. This was followed by Vershbow’s statement on Oct. 9 that the United States would consider adding Ukraine to its BMD network and that it would look to expand its military cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine.

The latest announcement from Poland suggests that the United States will use Vershbow — a former ambassador to Russia who is well versed on former Soviet Union matters and an important player in the U.S. defense establishment — as a prime tool to keep Russia on its toes in the ongoing confrontation over Iran. The Patriots in Poland, along with support of Ukraine and Georgia militarily, are U.S. proof to Russia that Washington has plenty of options to threaten Russia in its periphery.
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #67 on: October 16, 2009, 11:51:08 AM »

Wow, Chuck ain't pulling any punches.

Debacle in Moscow
Obama’s foreign policy is amateurishness, wrapped in naïveté, inside credulity.

By Charles Krauthammer

About the only thing more comical than Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was the reaction of those who deemed the award “premature,” as if the brilliance of Obama’s foreign policy is so self-evident and its success so assured that if only the Norway Five had waited a few years, his Nobel worthiness would have been universally acknowledged.

To believe this, you have to be a dreamy adolescent (preferably Scandinavian and a member of the Socialist International) or an indiscriminate imbiber of White House talking points. After all, this was precisely the spin on the president’s various apology tours through Europe and the Middle East: National self-denigration — excuse me, outreach and understanding — is not meant to yield immediate results; it simply plants the seeds of good feeling from which foreign-policy successes shall come.

Chauncey Gardiner could not have said it better. Well, at nine months, let’s review.

What’s come from Obama holding his tongue while Iranian demonstrators were being shot and from his recognizing the legitimacy of a thug regime illegitimately returned to power in a fraudulent election? Iran cracks down even more mercilessly on the opposition and races ahead with its nuclear program.

What’s come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking human rights off the table on a visit to China and from Obama’s shameful refusal to see the Dalai Lama (a postponement, we are told). China hasn’t moved an inch on North Korea, Iran, or human rights. Indeed, it’s pushing with Russia to dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

What’s come from the new-respect-for-Muslims Cairo speech and the unprecedented pressure on Israel for a total settlement freeze? “The settlement push backfired,” reports the Washington Post, and Arab-Israeli peace prospects have “arguably regressed.”

And what’s come from Obama’s single most dramatic foreign-policy stroke — the sudden abrogation of missile-defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia had virulently opposed? For the Eastern Europeans it was a crushing blow, a gratuitous restoration of Russian influence over a region that thought it had regained independence under American protection.
But maybe not gratuitous. Surely we got something in return for selling out our friends. Some brilliant secret trade-off to get strong Russian support for stopping Iran from going nuclear before it’s too late? Just wait and see, said administration officials, who then gleefully played up an oblique statement by Pres. Dmitry Medvedev a week later as vindication of the missile-defense betrayal.

The Russian statement was so equivocal that such a claim seemed a ridiculous stretch at the time. Well, Clinton went to Moscow this week to nail down the deal. What did she get?

“Russia Not Budging on Iran Sanctions: Clinton Unable to Sway Counterpart.” Such was the Washington Post headline’s succinct summary of the debacle.

Note how thoroughly Clinton was rebuffed. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that “threats, sanctions, and threats of pressure” are “counterproductive.” Note: It’s not just sanctions that are worse than useless, but even the threat of mere pressure.

It gets worse. Having failed to get any movement from the Russians, Clinton herself moved — to accommodate the Russian position! Sanctions? What sanctions? “We are not at that point yet,” she averred. “That is not a conclusion we have reached. . . . It is our preference that Iran work with the international community.”

But wait a minute. Didn’t Obama say in July that Iran had to show compliance by the G-20 summit in late September? And when that deadline passed, did he not then warn Iran that it would face “sanctions that have bite” and that it would have to take “a new course or face consequences”?

Gone with the wind. It’s the U.S. that’s now retreating from its already flimsy position of just three weeks ago. We’re not doing sanctions now, you see. We’re back to engagement. Just as the Russians suggest.

Henry Kissinger once said that the main job of Anatoly Dobrynin, the perennial Soviet ambassador to Washington, was to tell the Kremlin leadership that whenever they received a proposal from the United States that appeared disadvantageous to the United States, not to assume it was a trick.

No need for a Dobrynin today. The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and “reset” buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever, or even serious behind it. It is amateurishness, wrapped in naïveté, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.

National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=N2VkYzFkYmQyN2NlMDE4YjcyMjQ4MzEwNGRiNTJlNWE=
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #68 on: October 24, 2009, 05:41:52 AM »

Yes I know Biden is a buffoon, but still this is interesting.  Stratfor has often spoken of how geopolitical interests constrain leaders far more than we realized.  Given how the Russians have been fcuking with us on Iran, what this piece describes makes sense.
==========================

Biden Rallies Central Europe
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN was in Bucharest on Thursday to meet with Romanian government officials, during his whirlwind three-country tour of Central Europe. Biden's trip thus far has been mostly about "reassuring" countries in Central Europe that Washington would not abandon the region to Russia’s influence.

However, during his address at the Bucharest University Central Library, Biden significantly upped the rhetorical ante from merely being reassuring about continued U.S. commitments. He encouraged Central European states to actively subvert Russia's influence in states on its periphery.

Related Link
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on America, Central Europe, and Partnership in 21st Century
(STRATFOR is not responsible for content from other Web sites.)
After a cursory introduction – during which he discussed plans for the new ballistic missile defense system to be based in Poland -- Biden launched into the meat of his message. "The United States stands against the 19th-century notion of 'spheres of influence.' We will not tolerate it, nor will we be co-opted by it," he said. The point was simple and direct: The United States does not accept Russia's demand that it be given free rein in its periphery. Biden has said this before -- at the Munich Security Conference in February and many other times since -- but what followed on Thursday was an elaboration of a strategy for how Washington intends to pressure Russia and the rest of Central Europe.

"Biden not only encouraged Central European countries to seek political change in their eastern neighbors; he essentially offered them U.S. support in their efforts."
"We know from history that destroying old oppressive regimes is a great deal easier than building new flourishing democracies," Biden said. "But you've delivered on the promise of your revolution. You are now in the position to help others do the same."

And then:

"You can help guide Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine along the path of lasting stability and prosperity. It's your time to lead. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus can benefit from your personal experiences. … And we will partner with you in working to fulfill the promise of 1989. But your leadership needs to be bold and your voices loud."

With this address, Biden not only encouraged Central European countries to actively seek political change in their eastern neighbors; he essentially offered them U.S. support in their efforts. As he concluded in the speech, "We no longer think in terms of what we can do for Central Europe, but rather in terms of what we can do with Central Europe." This is an important detail. Biden was not idly telling the Central Europeans to start fires in neighborhoods to their east. It apparently was a promise from the U.S. vice president that Washington would supply the matches and lighter fluid, and even give them a lift to the bonfire.

In effect, the United States has given Moscow notice that it intends to actively push against its entire periphery and to conscript the Central European states of NATO as its foot soldiers.

It is not surprising that Biden used his trip to Romania to lay out this vision. More than most countries in the region, Romania enthusiastically has sought political change in the former Soviet countries along its borders -- specifically in Moldova. The Romanians were very active during the April election protests in Moldova: They supported pro-Western parties during the upheaval and even offered to give Romanian passports to 1 million Moldovans -- one-quarter of the population.

Bucharest does not currently have the capacity to devote to spurring political change along the Russian periphery; it is embroiled in a serious economic and political crisis. The government collapsed last week and has been replaced by a cabinet of technocrats. Meanwhile, massive strikes are taking place and the presidential elections on Nov. 22 are likely to paralyze the country for more than a month.

Nevertheless, the significance of making this kind of an address in Bucharest will not be lost on Russia and the regimes that Biden referred to as needing "an example." There were multiple revolutions in Central Europe in 1989, and Romania's was particularly violent. Its longtime communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in a revolution that did not resemble the non-violent "color" revolutions that the United States has supported during the past decade. The Romanian revolution was an all out-coup by elements of the army, combined with a mass citizen uprising. It ended with the execution of both Ceausescu and his wife.

Therefore, when Biden states that Central Europeans today should "fulfill the promise of 1989," the countries that Biden claimed need "leadership" will remember the bloody Romanian revolution of 1989. Biden's message to Russia is crystal clear: The Americans are in Eastern Europe, and they’re ready to play hardball.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #69 on: October 26, 2009, 03:50:18 PM »

Russia, Iran and the Biden Speech
By George Friedman and Peter Zeihan

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

While the Obama administration strongly denied that the decision to halt the BMD deployment and opt for a different BMD system had anything to do with the Russians, the timing raised some questions. Formal talks with Iran on nuclear weapons were a few weeks away, and the only leverage the United States had in those talks aside from war was sanctions. The core of any effective sanctions against Iran would be placing limits on Iran's gasoline imports. By dint of proximity to Iran and massive spare refining capability, the Russians were essential to this effort -- and they were indicating that they wouldn't participate. Coincidence or not, the decision to pull BMD from Poland and the Czech Republic did give the Russians something they had been demanding at a time when they clearly needed to be brought on board.

The Biden Challenge

That's what made Biden's trip interesting. First, just a few weeks after the reversal, he revisited these countries. He reasserted American commitment to their security and promised the delivery of other weapons such as Patriot missile batteries, an impressive piece of hardware that really does enhance regional security (unlike BMD, which would grant only an indirect boost). Then, Biden went even further in Romania, not only extending his guarantees to the rest of Central Europe, but also challenging the Russians directly. He said that the United States regarded spheres of influence as 19th century thinking, thereby driving home that Washington is not prepared to accept Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Most important, he called on the former satellites of the Soviet Union to assist republics in the FSU that are not part of the Russian Federation to overthrow authoritarian systems and preserve their independence.

Related Link
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on America, Central Europe, and Partnership in 21st Century
(STRATFOR is not responsible for content from other Web sites.)
This was a carefully written and vetted speech: It was not Biden going off on a tangent, but rather an expression of Obama administration policy. And it taps into the prime Russian fear, namely, that the West will eat away at Russia's western periphery -- and at Russia itself -- with color revolutions that result in the installation of pro-Western governments, just as happened in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004-2005. The United States essentially now has pledged itself to do just that, and has asked the rest of Central Europe to join it in creating and strengthening pro-Western governments in the FSU. After doing something Russia wanted the United States to do, Washington now has turned around and announced a policy that directly challenges Russia, and which in some ways represents Russia's worst-case scenario.

What happened between the decision to pull BMD and Biden's Romania speech remains unclear, but there are three possibilities. The first possibility is that the Obama administration decided to shift policy on Russia in disappointment over Moscow's lack of response to the BMD overture. The second possibility is that the Obama administration didn't consider the effects of the BMD reversal. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the one had nothing to do with the other, and it is possible that the Obama administration simply failed to anticipate the firestorm the course reversal would kick off in Central Europe and to anticipate that it would be seen as a conciliatory gesture to the Russians, and then had to scramble to calm the waters and reassert the basic American position on Russia, perhaps more harshly than before. The third possibility, a variation on the second scenario, is that the administration might not yet have a coordinated policy on Russia. Instead, it responds to whatever the most recent pressure happens to be, giving the appearance of lurching policy shifts.

The why of Washington decision-making is always interesting, but the fact of what has now happened is more pertinent. And that is that Washington now has challenged Moscow on the latter's core issues. However things got to that point, they are now there -- and the Russian issue now fully intersects with the Iranian issue. On a deeper level, Russia once again is shaping up to be a major challenge to U.S. national interests. Russia fears (accurately) that a leading goal of American foreign policy is to prevent the return of Russia as a major power. At present, however, the Americans lack the free hand needed to halt Russia's return to prominence as a result of commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Kremlin inner circle understands this divergence between goal and capacity all too well, and has been working to keep the Americans as busy as possible elsewhere.

Distracting Washington While Shoring Up Security
The core of this effort is Russian support for Iran. Moscow has long collaborated with Tehran on Iran's nuclear power generation efforts. Conventional Russian weapon systems are quite popular with the Iranian military. And Iran often makes use of Russian international diplomatic cover, especially at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia wields the all-important veto.

Russian support confounds Washington's ability to counter more direct Iranian action, whether that Iranian action be in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration would prefer to avoid war with Iran, and instead build an international coalition against Iran to force it to back down on any number of issues of which a potential nuclear weapons program is only the most public and obvious. But building that coalition is impossible with a Russia-sized hole right in the center of the system.

The end result is that the Americans have been occupied with the Islamic world for some time now, something that secretly delights the Russians. The Iranian distraction policy has worked fiendishly well: It has allowed the Russians to reshape their own neighborhood in ways that simply would not be possible if the Americans had more diplomatic and military freedom of action. At the beginning of 2009, the Russians saw three potential challenges to their long-term security that they sought to mitigate. As of this writing, they have not only succeeded, they have managed partially to co-opt all three threats.

First, there is Ukraine, which is tightly integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland. A strong Ukrainian-Russian partnership (if not outright control of Ukraine by Russia) is required to maintain even a sliver of Russian security. Five years ago, Western forces managed to short-circuit a Kremlin effort to firm up Russian control of the Ukrainian political system, resulting in the Orange Revolution that saw pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko take office. After five years of serious Russian diplomatic and intelligence work, Moscow has since managed not just to discredit Yushchenko -- he is now less popular in most opinion polls than the margin of error -- but to command the informal loyalty of every other candidate for president in the upcoming January 2010 election. Very soon, Ukraine's Western moment will formally be over.

Russia is also sewing up the Caucasus. The only country that could challenge Russia's southern flank is Turkey, and until now, the best Russian hedge against Turkish power has been an independent (although certainly still a Russian client) Armenia. (Turkish-Armenian relations have been frozen in the post-Cold War era over the contentious issue of the Armenian genocide.) A few months ago, Russia offered the Turks the opportunity to improve relations with Armenia. The Turks are emerging from 90 years of near-comatose international relations, and they jumped at the chance to strengthen their position in the Caucasus. But in the process, Turkey's relationship with its heretofore regional ally, Azerbaijan (Armenia's archfoe), has soured. Terrified that they are about to lose their regional sponsor, the Azerbaijanis have turned to the Russians to counterbalance Armenia, while the Russians still pull all Armenia's strings. The end result is that Turkey's position in the Caucasus is now far weaker than it was a few months ago, and Russia still retains the ability to easily sabotage any Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Even on the North European Plain, Russia has made great strides. The main power on that plain is the recently reunified Germany. Historically, Germany and Russia have been at each other's throats, but only when they have shared a direct border. When an independent Poland separates them, they have a number of opportunities for partnership, and 2009 has seen such opportunities seized. The Russians initially faced a challenge regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel is from the former East Germany, giving her personal reasons to see the Russians as occupiers. Cracking this nut was never going to be easy for Moscow, yet it succeeded. During the 2009 financial crisis, when Russian firms were snapping like twigs, the Russian government still provided bailout money and merger financing to troubled German companies, with a rescue plan for Opel even helping Merkel clinch re-election. With the Kremlin now offering to midwife -- and in many cases directly subsidize -- investment efforts in Russia by German firms such as E.On, Wintershall, Siemens, Volkswagen and ThyssenKrupp, the Kremlin has quite literally purchased German goodwill.

Washington Seeks a Game Changer
With Russia making great strides in Eurasia while simultaneously sabotaging U.S. efforts in the Middle East, the Americans desperately need to change the game. Despite its fiery tone, this desperation was on full display in Biden's speech. Flat-out challenging the Central Europeans to help other FSU countries recreate the revolutions they launched when they broke with the Soviet empire in 1989, specifically calling for such efforts in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, is as bald-faced a challenge as the Americans are currently capable of delivering. And to ensure there was no confusion on the point, Biden also promised -- publicly -- whatever support the Central Europeans might ask for. The Americans have a serious need for the Russians to be on the defensive. Washington wants to force the Russians to focus on their own neighborhood, ideally forgetting about the Iranians in the process. Better yet, Washington would like to force the Russians into a long slog of defensive actions to protect their clients hard up on their own border. The Russians did not repair the damage of the Orange Revolution overnight, so imagine how much time Washington would have if all of the former Soviet satellites started stirring up trouble across Russia's western and southern periphery.

The Central Europeans do not require a great deal of motivation. If the Americans are concerned about a resurgent Russia, then the Central Europeans are absolutely terrified -- and that was before the Russians started courting Germany, the only regional state that could stand up to Russia by itself. Things are even worse for the Central Europeans than they seem, as much of their history has consisted of vainly attempting to outmaneuver Germany and Russia's alternating periods of war and partnership.

The question of why the United States is pushing this hard at the present time remains. Talks with the Iranians are under way; it is difficult to gauge how they are going. The conventional wisdom holds that the Iranians are simply playing for time before allowing the talks to sink. This would mean the Iranians don't feel terribly pressured by the threat of sanctions and don't take threats of attack very seriously. At least with regard to the sanctions, the Russians have everything to do with Iran's blase attitude. The American decision to threaten Russia might simply have been a last-ditch attempt to force Tehran's hand now that conciliation seems to have failed. It isn't likely to work, because for the time being Russia has the upper hand in the former Soviet Union, and the Americans and their allies -- motivated as they may be -- do not have the best cards to play.

The other explanation might be that the White House wanted to let Iran know that the Americans don't need Russia to deal with Iran. The threats to Russia might infuriate it, but the Kremlin is unlikely to feel much in the form of clear and present dangers. On the other hand, blasting the Russians the way Biden did might force the Iranians to reconsider their hand. After all, if the Americans are no longer thinking of the Russians as part of the solution, this indicates that the Americans are about to give up on diplomacy and sanctions. And that means the United States must choose between accepting an Iranian bomb or employing the military option.

And this leaves the international system with two outcomes. First, by publicly ending attempts to secure Russian help, Biden might be trying to get the Iranians to take American threats seriously. And second, by directly challenging the Russians on their home turf, the United States will be making the borderlands between Western Europe and Russia a very exciting place.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #70 on: November 13, 2009, 04:29:10 AM »

A Speech, the Russian Economy and U.S. Relations
AS RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRI MEDVEDEV was preparing to make his second State of the State address on Thursday, some major shifts in Russian domestic and foreign policy appeared to be taking place. Those shifts seemed destined to affect not only the speech, but Russia as a whole.

The address was postponed for a month. The annual State of the State address can be delivered anytime in October or November, but STRATFOR sources in the Kremlin have said that the speech was put on hold while Medvedev awaited permission from Russia’s decision-maker-in-chief, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, on launching massive economic reforms.

“The speech will be a test for U.S.-Russian relations.”
These reforms reportedly will be the heart of Medvedev’s speech. The global financial crisis hit Russia pretty hard, but it also has revealed some deep and dangerous inefficiencies in the Russian economy that could seriously damage the country in the future. As previously discussed, in order to combat these inefficiencies, Medvedev – along with his mentor, Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin — have come up with a plan to invite Western investment and technology back into the country, taking many key companies private and quashing mismanagement — mostly by the security services — in some critical Russian corporations.

These reforms have been highly controversial: They not only would reverse the centralization of the Russian economy – a trend that has been under way for the past four years – but would deprive many within the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) of their economic power.

On Wednesday, the day before Medvedev’s speech, we learned that criminal investigations have been launched into 22 state companies — all of which are tied to the FSB. Also, late Tuesday night, Medvedev signed a document calling for a major overhaul of state firms.

These are signs that Putin has signed off on the plan by Medvedev’s clan to reform the Russian economy. The president’s speech was expected to make those changes public.

But the speech also was to be a test for U.S.-Russian relations. The Russian presidents — first Putin, then Medvedev — have used the State of the State address as a vehicle for criticizing the West. Last year, Medvedev used Soviet-era rhetoric and declared Russia’s return to the ranks of the world’s great powers.

Relations between the United States and Russia seem to have taken a sharp downturn since that speech, with Washington continuing its support for former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states like Georgia and Poland, and with Russia continuing its support for Iran.

But Russia’s stance may be shifting. In the past week, Medvedev has said that he might be open to shifting Moscow’s position on Iran to support Western-organized sanctions. There also have been a string of statements out of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, pushing for Iran to agree to a nuclear deal with the West.

The question is whether Russia means it or not. Medvedev may be opening a window of opportunity for the United States on the Iran issue. The Russians know they need Western investment and technology in order to strengthen and stabilize their economy. But the West has not wanted to deal with Russia while there were no guaranteed protections for investors and Russia was supporting anti-Western regimes like Tehran.

Moscow could be stringing all these issues together — conceding on Iran, while giving the West an opportunity to forge a new economic relationship with Russia.

The tone of Medvedev’s speech therefore was expected to signal whether Russia is really going to extend an olive branch to the West or continue with the current standoff.

All of these gestures — the speech, economic reforms and shifts on Iran — come just ahead of a meeting between Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama, who will talk in Singapore on Sunday. And that could be the true litmus test of how serious both sides are about a change in relations.

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« Reply #71 on: February 02, 2010, 01:44:17 PM »



Paulson claims Russia tried to foment Fannie-Freddie crisis
By Krishna Guha in Washington

Published: January 29 2010 21:06 | Last updated: January 29 2010 21:06

Russia proposed to China that the two nations should sell Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in 2008 to force the US government to bail out the giant mortgage-finance companies, former US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson has claimed.

The allegation is in his memoir On the Brink in which he also suggests that Alistair Darling, the UK chancellor, blocked a rescue takeover of Lehman Brothers by Barclays Bank when he refused to support special treatment by UK regulators.

Mr Paulson said that he was told about the Russian plan when he was in Beijing for the Olympics in August 2008. Russia had gone to war with Georgia, a US ally, on August 8.

“Russian officials had made a top-level approach to the Chinese, suggesting that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE holdings to force the US to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies,” he said.

Fannie and Freddie are known as GSEs or government sponsored enterprises.

“The Chinese had declined to go along with the disruptive scheme, but the report was deeply troubling,” he said. A senior Russian official told the Financial Times that he could not comment on the allegation.

Separately, Mr Paulson makes it clear that he believes that Mr Darling prevented a takeover of Lehman by Barclays out of fear that it would endanger the UK bank.

Mr Paulson said that Mr Darling telephoned him on Friday September 12 – as the US authorities were scrambling to find a buyer for Lehman – to express concern about a possible Barclays deal. Mr Paulson said that he did not realise at the time that this was a “clear warning”.

He was stunned to discover on Sunday September 14 that the UK Financial Services Authority would not approve the merger on an accelerated timetable or waive the requirement for a shareholder vote.

Tim Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, called Callum McCarthy, the head of the UK’s Financial Services Authority, to ask him to waive the vote requirement.

“But the FSA chief put the onus on Darling, saying that only the chancellor of the exchequer had the authority to do that,” Mr Paulson said.

He said that Mr Darling “made it clear, without a hint of apology in his voice, that there was no way Barclays would buy Lehman”. Lehman filed for bankruptcy the next day.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. Print a single copy of this article for personal use. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others.

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« Reply #72 on: March 20, 2010, 07:26:29 AM »

A Russian-American Faceoff in Moscow
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON arrived in Moscow on Thursday for the latest session of the Middle East Quartet, which comprises Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations. The main topics for the meeting, which is scheduled to begin on Friday and last through the weekend, include Iran and reviving peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. In addition to this multilateral session, there will also be several bilateral meetings held on the sidelines. STRATFOR is particularly interested in one of these sideline meetings; it was announced at the last minute, and will be held between Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Clinton and Putin have plenty to talk about at the moment. As representatives of two of the world’s most powerful countries, it is only natural that Russia and the United States would brush up on each other and share competing goals and interests. But current geopolitical circumstances have put Moscow and Washington not only within each other’s field of vision, but also practically in each other’s face. And this goes beyond the oft-delayed Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) talks, and is only tangentially related to the Israelis and Palestinians.

“The United States, even with the many pressing issues it is dealing with, has not completely shied away from playing in Russia’s near abroad.”
With the United States embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cautiously seeing its way through a shaky economic recovery, Washington’s attention has largely been focused on its immediate problems at hand. This has given Russia an opportunity to build up levers in its near abroad over the past few years, and allowed it to regain much of the influence it lost in the aftermath of the Cold War, particularly in the former Soviet states. Russia has not only resurged in places like Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan, it has leveraged its strengthened position in its own neighborhood to support key players that are thorns in Washington’s side, and serve to distract the United States even further, especially when it comes to Iran.

This support comes in many forms, from threatening to sell missile defense systems to Iran, to hobbling the “crippling” sanctions that Israel has demanded the United States enact over Iran’s nuclear program. The support also includes the nuclear program itself, with Russia assisting Iran in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant. It has been publicly stated that the plant is meant only for peaceful purposes, but it is inherently provocative given Iran’s refusal to make its nuclear operations transparent.

But the United States, even with the many pressing issues it is dealing with, has not completely shied away from playing in Russia’s near abroad. Washington has adamantly refused to turn away support for pro-Western countries like Georgia, and is currently participating in NATO air exercises over the Baltic countries in a show of solidarity with these small countries who are growing increasingly nervous over Russia’s next move. These crucial countries are next on Moscow’s list of states it is attempting to pull back into its sphere of influence. And with these countries, Washington has simply refused to budge.

It is perhaps no coincidence that one day after these exercises began — and on the very day that Clinton landed in Moscow — Russia let loose a barrage of rhetoric in support for Iran. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin took the opportunity to call for strengthening ties with Iran in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart. Putin then upped the ante when he said that the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which has long been set for completion, but which never can seem to get finished due to technical (though really political) reasons, will be completed and become operational this summer. While many statements have been made about Bushehr finishing “soon” or “late this year,” previous such statements were not made by Putin himself, and the timetable was never this specific or early. Clinton immediately responded to Putin’s statement, urging that the launch of the plant be delayed until Tehran proves it is not pursuing nuclear weapons; in other words, indefinitely.

And this sets the stage for Clinton’s meeting with Putin. Clearly, the two will not be going into their meeting on friendly turf. Even if there is a breakthrough in the START talks, and the reset button is pushed a thousand times, Russia and the United States will remain in a tense standoff. Both countries are making demands on one another and not backing down, and both are acting as if they do not need to back down to achieve their goals. The latter, of course, is far from the truth. Whether and how they will budge, and on what issues, will help determine everything including START, the Israeli-Palestinian talks and really strategic issues like Iran.
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prentice crawford
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« Reply #73 on: September 13, 2010, 10:59:47 PM »

Woof,
 Since this is turning into a battle of wills between Russia and a American company this probably works here on this thread better. However, with the global economy as it is now, I see more conflicts and interactions between governments with restricted freedoms and companies from more democratic nations becoming more of a problem in the future, with companies finding themselves at odds with diplomatic efforts and government policies of other nations as well as their own. China to has had very contentious relations with internet companies as well as others.

   www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39157877/ns/business-the_new_york_times

                          P.C.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2010, 11:03:56 PM by prentice crawford » Logged

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« Reply #74 on: September 26, 2010, 07:12:28 PM »

Summary
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Sept. 22 signed a decree banning Russia from transferring heavy military equipment, including the S-300 strategic air defense system, to Iran. On the same day, the United States expressed interest in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joining the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which Russia has wanted since the Baltic states gained their independence. This trade-off is the result of Moscow and Washington reaching an informal agreement on several contentious issues. However, these concessions are not without problems and loopholes.

Analysis
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed a decree Sept. 22 banning Russia from transferring the S-300 strategic air defense system, armored vehicles, warplanes and helicopters to Iran, in compliance with the U.S.-led U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against the country. On the same day, the United States said it is interested in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) joining the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which Russia has been pushing for since the countries gained their independence and began joining Western institutions.

These developments come as Moscow and Washington have reached at least an informal temporary agreement on a series of contentious issues between them and on the eve of the foreign ministers’ meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in New York. But the concessions by Russia and the United States come with problems and loopholes.

Russia’s decision to ban the transfer of heavy military equipment to Iran falls under Russia’s agreement to the UNSC sanctions against Iran, signed in June. The decree also bans several Iranians involved in Iran’s nuclear activities from transiting Russian territory and prohibits Russian legal entities or individuals from rendering financial services to operations if there are reasons to believe the operations might be related to Iran’s nuclear activities. The ban on nuclear-related personnel and financial services is interesting because Russia built the bulk of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility and still has some 200 scientists in Iran running the plant.

Russia’s move is meant to make a statement: Moscow and Washington are coordinating on the Iran issue. Russia wavered on agreeing to the U.S.-designed sanctions for years in order to use its vote as leverage against the United States, as tensions were rising between Moscow and Washington. Iran traditionally was part of the game between the two countries; for example, when Washington pursued military agreements with Georgia, Moscow would do the same with Iran.

But in the past six months, Russia and the United States seemed to have evolved from this tenuous relationship and have come to a temporary agreement on a series of issues. Russia signed onto the Iran sanctions, agreed to allow increasing amounts of U.S. military supplies to transit its territory to Afghanistan, and agreed to upgrade and repair NATO members’ military equipment used in Afghanistan. In turn, Washington has agreed to a series of large modernization deals in Russia and has backed off its bilateral relationships with many former Soviet states (like Georgia and Ukraine), allowing Russia time to consolidate its power in the former Soviet sphere.

Medvedev’s decree comes as Washington is considering opening talks with Tehran. Iran was more able to stand up to the United States while Russia was its primary power patron. Russia’s apparent abandonment of Iran decreases Tehran’s leverage in any future talks with Washington.

But as with most of Russia’s concessions, there is a loophole in the decree. The document specifies that vehicles, vessels or aircraft under the Russian state flag will not transfer military equipment to Iran. This means Russia could deliver the equipment using other states’ territory or transportation methods. Russia also could fulfill its military contracts with Iran through its military industrial joint ventures with its neighbors, such as Kazakhstan and Belarus. In short, Russia has quite a bit of room to maneuver should it need to use Iran as leverage against the United States again.

On the same day as Russia’s latest concession to the United States, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said the Baltic states should join the CFE — a Cold War arms control treaty that is a central pillar of Europe’s military-security and conventional arms control architecture. The CFE places explicit and itemized ceilings on conventional military hardware — such as main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, attack helicopters and fighter aircraft — throughout the European theater for both NATO and the former Warsaw Pact states (including Russia west of the Urals). Russia’s problem with the CFE is that it was signed before many of the post-Soviet states existed — when Soviet forces were stationed in East Berlin, not when NATO was encroaching on St. Petersburg. The Baltic states’ absence from the CFE is one of Russia’s biggest fears because the three countries are NATO members and are on Russia’s doorstep.

Washington has made similar statements on the CFE before, but this latest statement comes as Russia is increasing pressure on the Baltic states to become more neutral toward Russia. The Baltics have already been concerned during the past few months about losing their traditional Western patron, Poland, and the trio could see any pressure to join the CFE as the United States also giving in to Russia.

Like the Russian concession, the U.S. statement on the CFE is not without its problems. There is no guarantee the Baltics will follow through on Washington’s suggestion. The United States has announced before that it is interested in the Baltics joining the treaty, but no such action has been taken yet. And while the United States has given assurances about pulling back its support for Georgia, the Baltic states remain NATO members — unlike Georgia — and continue to enjoy the alliance’s security guarantee.

Washington and Moscow are using hollow, rhetorical promises to each other in order to maintain the warming trend in their bilateral relations. In order to resolve larger issues of interest for each state — such as the U.S. standoff with Iran and the war in Afghanistan, and Russia’s resurgence and drive for modernization — the countries need each other. Neither the United States nor Russia believes the current detente will last; rather, Washington and Moscow are working to deal with larger issues in the short term.
========================
Thursday, November 18, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

U.S.-Russian Relations in Pre-Summit Flux

Just days before the NATO summit in Lisbon in which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet, Medvedev has postponed his annual State of the State address from Nov. 22 to Nov. 30 to account for a possible shift in U.S.-Russian relations, according to STRATFOR sources in Moscow.

Over the past six months, Moscow and Washington had set many of their disagreements aside to achieve more critical goals. Russia wanted aid on its modernization and privatization programs, a cessation of Western support for Georgia and Ukraine, and a freeze on ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Russia’s periphery. The United States wanted Russia to sign onto sanctions against Iran and to drop support for Tehran, as well as provide increased logistical support for the war in Afghanistan. On all these issues, there was some sort of common ground found, meaning that Moscow and Washington seemed to have struck a temporary detente.

“START seems to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.”
One bellwether to judge U.S.-Russian relations has been the new START Treaty — the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. Obama and Medvedev agreed on START in April and it looked as if it would pass in both countries’ legislatures, especially in time for the November NATO summit. STRATFOR sources in Moscow even indicated that a delegation from the United States two months ago ensured that relations were in a warming period and that START would be signed.

But there has been a shift in Washington in the past month since the November U.S. elections.

Since the elections, the U.S. Senate — which must ratify START – has shifted positions. There are senators who are either vociferously opposed to the START document or against it in its current form. There is even a concern that since the elections, START may not even make it to the floor for debate. Russian officials have directly linked the Senate’s stall on START to a possible break of any reset in relations between Moscow and Washington. Part of the Senate debate on START is whether the United States should even contribute to Russia’s modernization program, which Obama agreed to on Medvedev’s last visit. A delay or reversal on either issue on the U.S. side is an indication that Washington is either divided over the future of Russian relations or is starting to cool from its recent warming.

But problems in the Senate over relations with Russia seem to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.

The next issue is that at the NATO summit, there is the NATO treaty on BMDs that could possibly include Russia’s participation in some yet undefined format in any future BMD projects. But this Russian participation would not preclude Washington from making a bilateral deal on setting up missile defense installations – in countries such as Poland and Czech Republic. While Russia would enjoy being included in a NATO treaty on BMD, it is much more concerned with Washington’s bilateral deals on BMD projects in Central Europe. This is an issue Russia had previously assumed was frozen, but without the new NATO treaty covering U.S. bilateral deals, the issue of BMD in Central Europe is back on the table much to Russia’s chagrin.

Lastly, there are rumors that military support from the West is returning to Georgia. At this time, STRATFOR cannot confirm these rumors from Moscow sources, but if true, every guarantee Russia struck over the summer with the United States on forming a temporary detente has been abandoned.

This is the fear Moscow has going into this NATO summit over the weekend. Russia seems to be unsure if all the recent signs over the past few weeks on START, modernization, BMD and Georgia are really a decision in the United States to return to an aggressive stance with Russia, or if there are other explanations, like party politics in Washington. This is why Medvedev has pushed back his State of the State address, and sources say that a second version of the speech is being written in which the president won’t be so warm on relations with the United States.

What happens next will be key. If the U.S. has abandoned its understandings with Russia, then it is time for Moscow to reciprocate. This could mean that everything from resuming support for Iran to pulling back on support for the mission in Afghanistan could be considered in the Kremlin.

« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 08:06:21 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #75 on: November 19, 2010, 07:55:23 AM »

Senior Eurasia analyst Lauren Goodrich examines the prospects for this weekend’s crucial NATO summit in Lisbon on the alliance’s future.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Colin Chapman: NATO is at a crossroads. Friday and Saturday see the most important meeting of the organization since the end of the Cold War. The meeting to be held in the Portuguese capital Lisbon will be attended by the president of Russia for the first time. So does NATO face just a facelift or a transformation?

Welcome to Agenda. And joining me to discuss this is STRATFOR Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich. Lauren, the agenda looks very different at this NATO summit. It’s not going to be about Afghanistan, is it?

Lauren Goodrich: Not at all. This is the most critical NATO summit in over a decade because they’re going to be drafting the Strategic Concept Document. This Strategic Concept Document is pretty much the mission statement of NATO. It’s the third one drafted since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Strategic Concept during the Cold War, of course, was to contain the Soviets. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, the strategic concept changed to pretty much deal with the fall of the Soviet Union at first, and then shifted again in 1999 in order to expand NATO’s ability to intervene outside the Eurasian theatre. This allowed NATO to militarily intervene in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, etc… So now it’s time for the third strategic concept document to actually be drafted. This one is going to set what is NATO’s focus for the next decade. What is the threat for the next decade?

Chapman: So what is the threat in the next decade?

Goodrich: Well that’s the problem. You have 28 members now of NATO all with differing interests and different definitions of what a threat is. This is where we go into pretty much how NATO is divided into three camps.

The first camp is what I would call the Atlanticists – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark. The Atlanticists are interested in the non-Eurasian theatre. They want NATO to focus on the threats that we’ve seen recently such as the war in Afghanistan and nontraditional threats such as terrorism.

The second camp is actually the core Europeans led by the French and Germans. They are interested in limiting NATO, a leaner NATO, having the members not be as committed and limiting their ability to commit. And also having NATO work with other organizations such as the United Nations.

The third group within NATO which is the Intermarium states. This is the more interesting group because it’s newer NATO members - mainly the ones from Central Europe. What they see as a threat is what the core and the root level NATO theat was going back to the beginning of NATO - the Soviets. And the Central Europeans want NATO to focus back on the Russians.

Chapman: It’s called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but after this is it going to emerge as something completely different?

Goodrich: Well that depends on the Strategic Concept Document that’s drafted this weekend. But how do you draft a common document when you have so many diverging interests in NATO at this moment? The Strategic Concept Document looks like it’s only going to show how divided the alliance is now.

Chapman: Let me throw that question back to you. Could this all really be resolved in just two days?

Goodrich: Well the negotiations over this concept document have been going on for quite a while now. But we are not seeing any ability for them to come together. Even in the past week we’ve seen statements out of France and the Poles, the United States, United Kingdom, the Germans - everyone’s on a different page.

Chapman: Lauren – why did the Russians accept an invitation to attend – what do they expect to get out of it?

Goodrich: Well the NATO summit is actually in two parts. The first part is the NATO summit in which they will be discussing the Strategic Concept Document. The second part is actually the Russian-NATO summit, which is why Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was invited. Medvedev is going with two goals. The first goal is to see what comes out of the first part of the summit. The more divided NATO is especially over the Strategic Concept Document, the better it is for the Russians. The Russians know that as long as NATO is divided, it can never agree on things like expansion – especially into the former Soviet states. Or declaring Russia as the target of their focus.

The second is for Medvedev to sit down with U.S. President Barack Obama. This is the very first one-on-one since the U.S. elections. The Russians were very wary going into these elections because they know the Republicans tend to have a firmer, more aggressive take on Russia. Since the elections, which did not go in Obama’s favor occurred, Russia has grown wary as to whether Obama would stick to his previous commitments on having warmer relations with Russia.

Chapman: I suppose one of the ironies of all this is just as things look as if they could change, they might not change because of the state of America’s politics.

Goodrich: Very much so. The United States and Russia seemed as if they were on a warming period under Barack Obama – starting in about April – but really fleshing out over the summer. The United States and Russia decided that it was better to have a temporary detente between their two countries in order to focus on more important issues of the moment.

For the United States this meant that they needed Russia to agree to sanctions on Iran and logistical support for Afghanistan. For Russia, this meant that they needed the U.S. to cease support for Georgia and Ukraine, freeze ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe, as well as aiding Russia in its modernization and privatization programs. Both sides actually agreed to all of this until the elections.

The START Treaty ended up being the bellwether of whether this temporary detente was being successful or not. It looked like it was going to slide through both legislatures in both Russia and the United States easily - until the elections. So now we have a stall on START.

Chapman: So summing up, its’t NATO really just playing into Russia’s hands? As these groups in NATO argue about the future, the Russians just get on about their own business.

Goodrich: Very much so. They’re counting on the divisions within NATO. As long as it’s divided Russia will have a much easier time in order to clamp down on its resurgence especially in its former Soviet states and be able to start even pushing on the NATO members themselves.

Chapman: Thanks very much Lauren. Lauren Goodrich there, and that’s Agenda for this week. I’m Colin Chapman. See you next time.
=================
Thursday, November 18, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

U.S.-Russian Relations in Pre-Summit Flux

Just days before the NATO summit in Lisbon in which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet, Medvedev has postponed his annual State of the State address from Nov. 22 to Nov. 30 to account for a possible shift in U.S.-Russian relations, according to STRATFOR sources in Moscow.

Over the past six months, Moscow and Washington had set many of their disagreements aside to achieve more critical goals. Russia wanted aid on its modernization and privatization programs, a cessation of Western support for Georgia and Ukraine, and a freeze on ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Russia’s periphery. The United States wanted Russia to sign onto sanctions against Iran and to drop support for Tehran, as well as provide increased logistical support for the war in Afghanistan. On all these issues, there was some sort of common ground found, meaning that Moscow and Washington seemed to have struck a temporary detente.

“START seems to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.”
One bellwether to judge U.S.-Russian relations has been the new START Treaty — the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. Obama and Medvedev agreed on START in April and it looked as if it would pass in both countries’ legislatures, especially in time for the November NATO summit. STRATFOR sources in Moscow even indicated that a delegation from the United States two months ago ensured that relations were in a warming period and that START would be signed.

But there has been a shift in Washington in the past month since the November U.S. elections.

Since the elections, the U.S. Senate — which must ratify START – has shifted positions. There are senators who are either vociferously opposed to the START document or against it in its current form. There is even a concern that since the elections, START may not even make it to the floor for debate. Russian officials have directly linked the Senate’s stall on START to a possible break of any reset in relations between Moscow and Washington. Part of the Senate debate on START is whether the United States should even contribute to Russia’s modernization program, which Obama agreed to on Medvedev’s last visit. A delay or reversal on either issue on the U.S. side is an indication that Washington is either divided over the future of Russian relations or is starting to cool from its recent warming.

But problems in the Senate over relations with Russia seem to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.

The next issue is that at the NATO summit, there is the NATO treaty on BMDs that could possibly include Russia’s participation in some yet undefined format in any future BMD projects. But this Russian participation would not preclude Washington from making a bilateral deal on setting up missile defense installations – in countries such as Poland and Czech Republic. While Russia would enjoy being included in a NATO treaty on BMD, it is much more concerned with Washington’s bilateral deals on BMD projects in Central Europe. This is an issue Russia had previously assumed was frozen, but without the new NATO treaty covering U.S. bilateral deals, the issue of BMD in Central Europe is back on the table much to Russia’s chagrin.

Lastly, there are rumors that military support from the West is returning to Georgia. At this time, STRATFOR cannot confirm these rumors from Moscow sources, but if true, every guarantee Russia struck over the summer with the United States on forming a temporary detente has been abandoned.

This is the fear Moscow has going into this NATO summit over the weekend. Russia seems to be unsure if all the recent signs over the past few weeks on START, modernization, BMD and Georgia are really a decision in the United States to return to an aggressive stance with Russia, or if there are other explanations, like party politics in Washington. This is why Medvedev has pushed back his State of the State address, and sources say that a second version of the speech is being written in which the president won’t be so warm on relations with the United States.

What happens next will be key. If the U.S. has abandoned its understandings with Russia, then it is time for Moscow to reciprocate. This could mean that everything from resuming support for Iran to pulling back on support for the mission in Afghanistan could be considered in the Kremlin.


« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 08:08:04 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #76 on: November 25, 2010, 01:15:51 PM »

I preface this by noting
a) that IMHO Bush's approach to Russia failed and left us in a very weak position; and
b) that Reagan wanted to share Star Wars with the Russians.  Now, a mere 25 years or so later, Obama appears to be thinking of something similar.

Reporting from Washington —

As he flew to Yokohama, Japan, this month, President Obama was on the way to the sleeper event of the fall, a peripheral get-together almost entirely overlooked amid a battery of colossal global summits.

Hardly anyone outside the White House even knew of the one-on-one with the Russian president, quietly scheduled for a Sunday morning two weeks ago.

Even Obama's team didn't realize that he and Dmitry Medvedev were on the brink of a deal that could eventually bring the Russians in on a plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in cooperation with NATO, the organization whose longtime mission was to keep Moscow's nuclear threat in check.

For weeks, Russian negotiators had been putting the brakes on missile talks. One top Obama advisor was ready to let it go for at least a year.

But it was to be a lesson in summitry for a White House entourage — officials, advisors and journalists — that had been focused on the big-name acronym summits this month. Especially stinging for Obama had been the failure to achieve key objectives at the G-20 summit of industrialized nations days earlier in Seoul, leaving the United States on its own in dealing with its fragile economy and high unemployment rate.

In the realm of diplomacy, though, deals that seem entirely on track can fall apart when the titans convene. And newer, more significant ones can appear out of thin air.

"It's interesting," deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said in retrospect, "how a bilateral meeting at one summit is necessary to yield results at another."

Just before boarding Air Force One to Yokohama, the president shook off the headlines that had irritated him in Seoul. Such meetings don't always produce "revolutionary progress," he said, but rather "evolutionary progress."

The Nov.13-14 trip to Japan was devoted almost entirely to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. A meeting on the sidelines with Medvedev was expected to be just another get-together for the two fortysomething lawyers.

That Sunday morning, the presidents and their top advisors arranged themselves around a long table in a small meeting room of the InterContinental Yokohama Grand Hotel and started talking about previously negotiated issues: Afghanistan, trade, the START arms treaty they'd signed but not ratified.

On missile defense, Obama knew that the negotiators in Brussels had not worked out the important issues, such as how to agree on common threats or resume joint-defense exercises. He turned the conversation there anyway. And as he did, advisors in the room were surprised by Medvedev's demeanor.

"He was leaving himself wiggle room," said one senior Obama administration official who was there, "and not committing to anything. But he was clearly very friendly and open to what the president was saying."

That meant something to the Americans at the table. In treaty talks the year before, when Medvedev had wanted to give some ground but hadn't yet built support for it back home, they'd seen him adopt the same mien.

Four days later, U.S. Ambassador Ivo Daalder, Obama's NATO point man in Brussels, called to report a development. The Russian brakes were off, he said.

Indeed, at the final summit of the month — of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in Lisbon — the Russians shook hands on some surprising plans, although the details have yet to be worked out. Medvedev agreed to work toward cooperation with NATO on a missile shield designed to protect Europe and the United States, beginning with a study of each side's technologies and how they might be interwoven.

Missile defense was no longer a problem in U.S. and NATO relations with Russia, Daalder said. Instead, it was now "a means to foster greater cooperation with Russia."

The plan is far from reality. Medvedev is imposing some conditions that have to be studied, and it may be more likely that the best result will be cooperative development of separate NATO and Russian missile defense systems.

Still, analysts say there was a breakthrough in Lisbon, owing in large part to the "reset" in relations with Russia that began when Obama came to office and pledged to start over with Moscow.

"This was an important moment to show we're moving beyond that confrontational relationship," said Stephen Flanagan, former Russia advisor to President Clinton and a now scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Just getting Medvedev to show up for the NATO summit was a feat, he said, as was the fact that the European nations welcomed his presence.

Obama sees the Russian relationship as a long game, said Mike McFaul, his top Russia advisor. The reboot of the American relationship had to come first, and a fresh start with NATO could follow.

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« Reply #77 on: December 12, 2010, 08:52:25 PM »



Venezuela acquires 1,800 antiaircraft missiles from Russia


BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -
Russia delivered at least 1,800 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Venezuela in 2009, U.N. arms control data show, despite vigorous U.S. efforts to stop President Hugo Chavez's stridently anti-American government from acquiring the weapons.
The United States feared that the missiles could be funneled to Marxist guerrillas fighting Colombia's pro-American government or Mexican drug cartels, concerns expressed in U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and first reported in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
It had been unclear how many of the Russian SA-24 missiles were delivered to Venezuela, though the transfer itself was not secret. Chavez showed off a few dozen at a military parade in April 2009, saying they could "deter whatever aerial aggression against our country." A high-level Russian delegation told American officials in Washington in July of that year that 100 of the missiles had been delivered in the first quarter of 2009.
Then earlier this year, Russia reported to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, which records the transnational sale of weaponry, that the deal totaled 1,800 missiles.
The U.N. registry did not reveal the model of the delivered weaponry. But the American commander for military forces in Latin America, Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, publicly expressed concern this year that Venezuela was purchasing as many as 2,400 of the missiles, also called the IGLA-S.
Matt Schroeder, a missile expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the missiles are among the most sophisticated in the world and can down aircraft from 19,000 feet.
"It's the largest recorded transfer in the U.N. arms registry database in five years, at least. There's no state in Latin America of greater concern regarding leakage that has purchased so many missiles," he said, referring to reports of Venezuelan arms flowing to Colombian guerrillas.
The database also shows that from 2006 through 2008, Russia delivered to Venezuela 472 missiles and launching mechanisms, 44 attack helicopters and 24 combat aircraft, purchases funded by Venezuelan oil sales.
A self-styled Socialist who claims that successive U.S. governments want to topple him, Chavez told his countrymen during the 2009 military parade that "we don't want war with anyone, but we are obligated to prepare." Months later, in December 2009, he said in a nationally televised address that "thousands of missiles are arriving" but did not say what kind.
Secret American cables said that the United States was concerned about the Chavez government's acquisition of Russian arms, which also included attack helicopters, Sukhoi fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
A State Department cable on Aug. 10, 2009, to embassies in Europe and South America said Russian sales to Venezuela total "over $5 billion last year and growing." There was also concern about Spain's plans to sell aircraft and coastal patrol boats to Venezuela.


The cables show how both the Bush and Obama administrations tried to stop the arms sales by highlighting the possibility that the weapons could end up with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a rebel group that Colombian officials say has received material support from Chavez's government.
"In early March, Secretary Clinton raised the sale with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov," the August 2009 cable says, referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russia's foreign minister.
A cable from Washington to Moscow dated Feb. 14, 2009, said FARC computer files seized by Colombia's army indicated that Venezuela tried to facilitate arms market deals for the rebels. It expressed fear that missiles acquired by the FARC, which is mired in the drug trade, could wind up with Mexican cartels that "are actively seeking to acquire powerful and highly sophisticated weapons."
Chavez has long denied that his government assists the FARC. A spokeswoman for the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington said diplomats there could not respond to the allegations by U.S. officials. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in Caracas did not respond to phone calls.
The August 2009 cable notes that Russian ammunition sold to Venezuela was found in FARC hands and that U.S. officials raised the issue with Russian diplomats visiting Washington.
The American efforts to derail Russian and Spanish arms sales to Venezuela appeared to strain U.S. relations with both countries.
In a meeting in Moscow in 2005, Anatoliy Antonov, who oversaw disarmament issues for the Russian foreign ministry, told a U.S. Embassy official that Washington was trying to restrict Russian access to the arms market.
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« Reply #78 on: December 23, 2010, 02:17:20 PM »

I almost put this in the nuclear war thread, but it addresses larger issues as well and so I put it here.
===============
Colin: The United States Senate approves the much-debated nuclear treaty with Russia. But is it really a new start? In the end, many Republicans decided to back the treaty and it achieved the required two-thirds majority with a vote of 71 for, 26 against.

Colin: Welcome to Agenda, today with George Friedman. George, in terms of global geopolitics, how important is this Senate vote?

Dr. Friedman: From the point of view of this particular treaty, it’s not very significant at all. The reduction in warheads really doesn’t affect the balance of terror, apart from everything else because there is no balance of terror. This is an issue from 30 years ago. That’s when it mattered. Now, it really doesn’t. However, it did matter from the standpoint of the ability of President Obama to conduct foreign policy. If he couldn’t take this fairly innocuous treaty and get it through the Senate, it would have indicated that really his foreign policy capabilities were crippled. At the same time, as Republicans pointed out, it left open a bunch of questions that weren’t properly part of this treaty but really mattered, such as the Russian relationship to ballistic missile defense, the status of tactical nuclear weapons, and more importantly the general relationship between the United States and Russia.

Colin: Will this essentially Republican decision refresh Obama?

Dr. Friedman: No, what Obama had on this was a near-death experience, which he survived. But there’s very little victory here because in the end what he got was a fairly vanilla treaty, and the other issues between the U.S. and Russia really weren’t expressed. What you really did see was the extent to which rather an uncontroversial treaty — endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, the secretary of state, and all sides and so on, and the shows that Obama put on how — close it came to not passing. I mean I think that’s the most important thing. Obama is back against the wall in making foreign policy and what this entire incident shows is just how weak he is. This should not have been a debate.

Colin: Would it smooth the path of some of those negotiations you’ve just mentioned, such as with Iran and over a European ABM system?

Dr. Friedman: Well, let’s begin with why this treaty emerged and why it became important. After the famous restart button incident with Hillary Clinton, there was a question of how to get relations with Russia better. And the theory was that it was important to have something to build confidence and this treaty was an easy thing to do and get the two sides used to working together. Well, that didn’t happen — it almost fell apart, it didn’t build confidence. Most importantly, the theory that confidence building would change the American or the Russian position on Iran or their position on ballistic missile defense — I think it was basically flawed. Russia and the United States disagree on some really important issues that affect the national security of each country. There’s some overlap in their views, there’s some difference in their views, neither country is going to change their position because they got the warm and fuzzy feeling from getting this passed.

Colin: The treaty still leaves much of nuclear arms reduction still to do, but presumably it will alleviate the fears of European countries like Germany.

Dr. Friedman: The Germans have really serious disagreements with the United States, both over financial matters and over the future of NATO. I doubt that the Germans are going to relax over this because I don’t think they regard it as that significant. It may well have been that if it had failed it would have increased nervousness, and I really think that’s the way this treaty should be viewed. Had Obama not been able to get this passed, there would have been some serious questions, not so much about the United States, but about Obama’s credibility as president. That he got it passed doesn’t solve those problems. It doesn’t alleviate the question of whether or not Obama is capable and in control of his foreign policy because he shouldn’t have had a crisis in the first place over it.

Colin: Is it a given that the treaty will now pass through Russia’s Duma?

Dr. Friedman: Well, I think the Russians will probably pass it and I think they’re going to have a parallel crisis over it to show that the Russians also have a democratic system, they also have to ratify it and it’s not a slam dunk that they will. So the Russians will now posture serious questions, and they’ll posture the serious questions not because Putin and Medvedev don’t control the Duma, but because they don’t want to have been almost embarrassed by the U.S. Senate without almost embarrassing them back.

Colin: Assuming it’s all signed and sealed by, say, March, what will then be the next step in negotiations between the United States and Russia?

Dr. Friedman: Well, I mean it’s the same steps that are in place right now. Russian relations with the former Soviet Union, the status of NATO and EU expansion, the Iranian question, a host of issues. The Russians have shifted their policy somewhat from a singular focus on rebuilding the former Soviet Union — their sphere of influence at least — beyond that. They feel that they’ve achieved the core of what they needed to achieve. And they’re prepared now to be more flexible, both for example in terms of what their prepared to tolerate in Ukraine and in terms of what they’re willing to negotiate with the European and the Americans. So the Russians have entered a new sphere. The Americans, at the same time, are now in a deep debate over every issue on the table, including foreign policy, with clearly a disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats over core issues such as the relationship with Russia. I think we will see the Russians testing the Americans around the periphery, in places like Georgia, Moldova and the Baltics. They will be trying to test how strong or weak Obama is, how resolute he is. I think what they come away with from this entire affair is the old Russian understanding that where there’s weakness, move. And I think they’re smelling a great deal of weakness.

Colin: George, thank you.

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« Reply #79 on: December 28, 2010, 11:16:50 AM »

I found this piece glib on concerns about our limiting our anti-missile defense capabilities, but the larger discussion interesting.
=============

Making Sense of the START Debate
December 28, 2010


By George Friedman

Last week, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which had been signed in April. The Russian legislature still has to provide final approval of the treaty, but it is likely to do so, and therefore a New START is set to go into force. That leaves two questions to discuss. First, what exactly have the two sides agreed to and, second, what does it mean? Let’s begin with the first.

The original START was signed July 31, 1991, and reductions were completed in 2001. The treaty put a cap on the number of nuclear warheads that could be deployed. In addition to limiting the number of land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and strategic bombers, it capped the number of warheads that were available to launch at 6,000. The fact that this is a staggering number of nuclear weapons should give you some idea of the staggering number in existence prior to START. START I lapsed in 2009, and the new treaty is essentially designed to reinstate it.

It is important to remember that Ronald Reagan first proposed START. His initial proposal focused on reducing the number of ICBMs. Given that the Soviets did not have an effective intercontinental bomber force and the United States had a massive B-52 force and follow-on bombers in the works, the treaty he proposed would have decreased the Soviet quantitative advantage in missile-based systems without meaningfully reducing the U.S. advantage in bombers. The Soviets, of course, objected, and a more balanced treaty emerged.

What is striking is that START was signed just before the Soviet Union collapsed and implemented long after it was gone. It derived from the political realities that existed during the early 1980s. One of the things the signers of both the original START and the New START have ignored is that nuclear weapons by themselves are not the issue. The issue is the geopolitical relationship between the two powers. The number of weapons may affect budgetary considerations and theoretical targeting metrics, but the danger of nuclear war does not derive from the number of weapons but from the political relationship between nations.

The Importance of the Political Relationship
I like to use this example. There are two countries that are historical enemies. They have fought wars for centuries, and in many ways, they still don’t like each other. Both are today, as they have been for decades, significant nuclear powers. Yet neither side maintains detection systems to protect against the other, and neither has made plans for nuclear war with the other. This example is from the real world; I am speaking of Britain and France. There are no treaties between them regulating nuclear weapons in spite of the fact that each has enough to devastate the other. This is because the possession of nuclear weapons is not the issue. The political relationship between Britain and France is the issue and, therefore, the careful calibration of the Franco-British nuclear balance is irrelevant and unnecessary.

The political relationship that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s is not the same as the relationship that exists today. Starting in the 1950s, the United States and Soviet Union were in a state of near-war. The differences between them were geopolitically profound. The United States was afraid that the Soviets would seize Western Europe in an attack in order to change the global balance of power. Given that the balance of power ran against the Soviet Union, it was seen as possible that they would try to rectify it by war.

Since the United States had guaranteed Europe’s security with troops and the promise that it would use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union to block the conquest of Europe, it followed that the Soviet Union would initiate war by attempting to neutralize the American nuclear capability. This would require a surprise attack on the United States with Soviet missiles. It also followed that the United States, in order to protect Europe, might launch a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet military capability in order to protect the United States and the balance of power.

Until the 1960s, the United States had an overwhelming advantage. Its bomber force gave it the ability to strike the Soviet Union from the United States. The Soviets chose not to build a significant bomber force, relying instead on a missile capability that really wasn’t in place and reliable until the mid-1960s. The Cuban missile crisis derived in part from this imbalance. The Soviets wanted Cuba because they could place shorter-range missiles there, threatening the B-52 fleet by reducing warning time and threatening the American population should the B-52s strike the Soviet Union.

A complex game emerged after Cuba. Both sides created reliable missiles that could reach the other side, and both turned to a pure counter-force strategy, designed to destroy not cities but enemy missiles. The missiles were dispersed and placed in hardened silos. Nuclear submarines, less accurate but holding cities hostage, were deployed. Accuracy increased. From the mid-1960s on the nuclear balance was seen as the foundation of the global balance of power.

The threat to global peace was that one side or the other would gain a decisive advantage in the global balance. Knowledge of the imbalance on both sides would enable the side with the advantage to impose its political will on the other, which would be forced to capitulate in any showdown.

The Russo-American Strategic Balance
Therefore, both sides were obsessed with preventing the other side from gaining a nuclear advantage. This created the nuclear arms race. The desire to end the race was not based on the fear that more nuclear weapons were dangerous but on the fear that any disequilibrium in weapons, or the perception of disequilibrium, might trigger a war. Rather than a dynamic equilibrium, with both sides matching or overmatching the other’s perceived capability, the concept of a treaty-based solution emerged, in which the equilibrium became static. This concept itself was dangerous because it depended on verification of compliance with treaties and led to the development of space-based reconnaissance systems.

The treaties did not eliminate anxiety. Both sides continued to obsessively watch for a surprise attack, and both sides conducted angry internal debates about whether the other side was violating the treaties. Similarly, the deployment of new systems not covered by the treaties created internal political struggles, particularly in the West. When the Pershing II medium-range ballistic missiles were deployed in Europe in the 1980s, major resistance to their deployment from the European left emerged. The fear was that the new systems would destabilize the nuclear balance, giving the United States an advantage that might lead to nuclear war.

This was also the foundation for the Soviets’ objection to the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars.” Although Star Wars seemed useful and harmless, the Soviets argued that if the United States were able to defend itself against Soviet attack, then this would give the United States an advantage in the nuclear balance, allowing it to strike at the Soviet Union and giving it massive political leverage. This has always been the official basis of the Russian objection to ballistic-missile defense (BMD) — they said it upset the nuclear balance.

The United States never wanted to include tactical nuclear weapons in these treaties. The Soviet conventional force appeared substantially greater than the American alliance’s, and tactical nuclear weapons seemed the only way to defeat a Soviet force. The Soviets, for their part, would never agree to a treaty limiting conventional forces. That was their great advantage, and if they agreed to parity there it would permanently remove the one lever they had. There was no agreement on this until just before the Soviet Union collapsed, and then it no longer mattered. Thus, while both powers wanted strategic stability, the struggle continued on the tactical level. Treaties could not contain the political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And now we get to the fundamental problem with the idea of a nuclear balance. The threat of nuclear war derived not from some bloodthirsty desire to annihilate humanity but from a profound geopolitical competition by the two great powers following the collapse of European power. The United States had contained the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was desperately searching for a way out of its encirclement, whether by subversion or war. The Soviet Union had a much more substantial conventional military force than the United States. The Americans compensated with nuclear weapons to block Soviet moves. As the Soviets increased their strategic nuclear capability, the American limit on their conventional forces decreased, compensated for by sub-strategic nuclear forces.

But it was all about the geopolitical situation. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Soviets lost the Cold War. Military conquest was neither an option nor a requirement. Therefore, the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance became meaningless. If the Russians attacked Georgia the United States wasn’t about to launch a nuclear war. The Caucasus is not Western Europe. START was not about reducing nuclear forces alone. It was about reducing them in a carefully calibrated manner so that no side gained a strategic and therefore political advantage.

New START is therefore as archaic as the Treaty of Versailles. It neither increases nor decreases security. It addresses a security issue that last had meaning more than 20 years ago in a different geopolitical universe. If a case can be made for reducing nuclear weapons, it must be made in the current geopolitical situation. Arguing for strategic arms reduction may have merit, but trying to express it in the context of an archaic treaty makes little sense.

New START’s Relevance
So why has this emerged? It is not because anyone is trying to calibrate the American and Russian nuclear arsenals. Rather, it goes back to the fiasco over the famous “reset button” that Hillary Clinton brought to Moscow last March. Tensions over substantial but sub-nuclear issues had damaged U.S.-Russian relations. The Russians saw the Americans as wanting to create a new containment alliance around the Russian Federation. The Americans saw the Russians as trying to create a sphere of influence that would be the foundation of a new Moscow-based regional system. Each side had a reasonable sense of the other’s intentions. Clinton wanted to reset relations. The Russians didn’t. They did not see the past as the model they wanted, and they saw the American vision of a reset as a threat. The situation grew worse, not better.

An idea emerged in Washington that there needed to be confidence-building measures. One way to build confidence, so the diplomats sometimes think, is to achieve small successes and build on them. The New START was seen as such a small success, taking a non-objectionable treaty of little relevance and effectively renewing it. From here, other successes would follow. No one really thought that this treaty mattered in its own right. But some thought that building confidence right now sent the wrong signal to Moscow.

U.S. opposition was divided into two groups. One, particularly Republicans, saw this as a political opportunity to embarrass the president. Another argued, not particularly coherently, that using an archaic issue as a foundation for building a relationship with Russia allowed both sides to evade the serious issues dividing the two sides: the role of Russia in the former Soviet Union, NATO and EU expansion, Russia’s use of energy to dominate European neighbors, the future of BMD against Iran, Russia’s role in the Middle East and so on.

Rather than building confidence between the two countries, a New START would give the illusion of success while leaving fundamental issues to fester. The counter-argument was that with this success others would follow. The counter to that was that by spending energy on a New START, the United States delayed and ignored more fundamental issues. The debate is worth having, and both sides have a case, but the idea that START in itself mattered is not part of that debate.

In the end, the issue boiled down to this. START was marginal at best. But if President Barack Obama couldn’t deliver on START his credibility with the Russians would collapse. It wasn’t so much that a New START would build confidence as it was that a failure to pass a New START would destroy confidence. It was on that basis that the U.S. Senate approved the treaty. Its opponents argued that it left out discussions of BMD and tactical nuclear weapons. Their more powerful argument was that the United States just negotiated a slightly modified version of a treaty that Ronald Reagan proposed a quarter century ago and it had nothing to do with contemporary geopolitical reality.

Passage allowed Obama to dodge a bullet, but it leaves open a question that he does not want to answer: What is American strategy toward Russia? He has mimicked American strategy from a quarter century ago, not defined what it will be.

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« Reply #80 on: January 20, 2011, 10:08:37 AM »

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1441481

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« Reply #81 on: March 09, 2011, 05:56:48 PM »



U.S. Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the official part of his two-day tour to Moscow today. It is his first visit to Russia since taking office. The trip comes at a very interesting time in which Russian-U.S. relations are pretty ambiguous after the so-called “reset” in 2009. All the hostilities and differences of years past still remain.

Vice President Biden is someone that Moscow watches very closely. This is because of a 2009 speech Biden gave at the Munich conference in Bucharest in which he blasted the Russians for maintaining a Soviet mentality in attempting to dominate Eurasia. Since then, there was the so-called “reset” in which Russia and the United States pulled back from being overtly aggressive into attempting to show that relations were warmer and that there was more flexibility and they could work together and cooperate on many issues.

The main reasons for the so-called “reset” are: first, Russia was becoming more comfortable in its dominance over the former Soviet states that it could change tactics. Russia could start moving back and forth between being unilaterally hostile to more cooperative in order to use each tactic depending on what worked best for the relationship at that time. At the same time, the United States was becoming dangerously entrenched in the Islamic theater to the point where it pretty much couldn’t give any focus or bandwidth into its relationship and issues in Eurasia. It got to the point to where the United States needed Russia to help out with certain issues in the Islamic theater, such as Iran and Afghanistan. But the problem is that all the differences of pasts still remain.

The number one issue between Russia and the United States is the division of their power and dominance in Eurasia. Russia, as I said, has dominated the former Soviet states but it has also in recent years created a strategic bargain with Germany and France, creating this very powerful axis across the European continent. At the same time, the United States has created a very solid alliance with not only Poland but the Central Europeans. This is geographically divided Europe. Not only that, it has started to divide and bleed over into NATO relations — seeing a fracture along the exact same geographic lines between Russian issues and Russian influence in the United States’ power.

So the question is what happens when the United States starts wrapping up in the next few years its focus on the Islamic theater and actually has the ability to turn back into Eurasia? What happens to all the differences that have been put aside that will naturally lead to a conflict between the United States and Russia once again? This is the question which Biden is discussing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This is the issue in which the United States is starting negotiations with Russia before things lead back to an overt conflict. This is not an easy discussion, a simply resolvable discussion or one in the short term, but it is the issue that will define Eurasia as a whole as well as NATO itself for the coming years.

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« Reply #82 on: October 31, 2011, 01:53:07 PM »

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/31/fbi-releases-russian-spy-trove/?hpt=hp_c2
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« Reply #83 on: October 31, 2011, 02:20:40 PM »

Interesting.  Please post on the Intel thread as well.
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« Reply #84 on: December 06, 2011, 05:23:52 AM »

Dispatch: Perceptions Versus Reality in the Russian Elections
December 5, 2011 | 2256 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
 

Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich examines the international and domestic reactions to Russia’s preliminary election results.
With votes still being counted, Russia’s Central Election Commission announced today that the ruling United Russia party is projected to take 49.54 percent of the vote—which means that the party, which is run by Premier Vladimir Putin, will still hold majority of seats when the parties that did not meet threshold fall away from consideration.
As STRATFOR has said, United Russia’s hit has been orchestrated as part of a large smoke-and-mirrors campaign called “managed democracy” in which Russia’s election system and parliament look more democratic, while Putin still holds full control behind the curtain.
This theater continued to play out today where the Kremlin is possibly purging top United Russia figures – like State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov – from his position, in order to restructure United Russia after its slide from dominating Duma. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev came out and said that such a restructuring was normal for any democratic political party, who needs to constantly change in order to meet the needs of the people.
So the Kremlin is continuing to play out its intended perception of United Russia acting as a real democratic group, instead of the authoritarian party of the past.
But what is interesting is that despite United Russia still holding onto majority power, Western media has been calling these elections a major hit to Putin’s power. The West also came out against the elections in general, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that she was “seriously concerned” how fair the elections were.
It is to be expected that the Russian elections most likely had some fraudulent practices – as is common in most Russian elections. However, even if United Russia garnered less vote than is being projected, Putin still has control and heavy influence over the other political parties projected to get into Duma —the Communist Party, Just Russia, and the Liberal Democratic Party. Even today, the leaders of Just Russia and the Communist Party said that they would work on many issues with United Russia—even using words like “coalition”, showing that they are not really opposition parties.
But what the West is trying to push is the idea that Putin is not as strong of a leader as he was in the past—true or not. The West (especially the US) has to push this idea because Putin is set to return to the Russian presidency in March. Putin’s return has set many countries on edge – particularly those that are on the frontline between Russia’s sphere of influence and the West’s, mainly Central Europe.
The US is looking to guarantee that it is still a strong partner to protect those countries – but with many physical guarantees (like missile defense) still years away, the US is currently looking to ensure that Russia isn’t as strong as may be perceived. And in order to do this, the US is hitting at the perception of Putin and his hold over his own country.
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« Reply #85 on: December 10, 2011, 07:06:12 AM »



Central Europe Watches As Washington, Moscow Clash Over BMD
In a meeting with military attaches in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of Russian armed forces, said that the Russian military has begun to implement several military measures in response to U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Europe. These measures, which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev outlined in a televised address two weeks earlier, include activating an early warning radar in Kaliningrad and strengthening Russia’s defensive capabilities for strategic nuclear forces installations.
“Central Europeans are caught in the middle. In the face of a resurgent Russia, a concrete security commitment from Washington is exactly what these countries need. “
In the same speech two weeks ago, Medvedev stressed Russia’s desire to cooperate with Washington in a joint BMD framework, and said measures such as deploying advanced offensive systems — including Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missiles — would only be enacted if “the aforementioned measures prove to be insufficient.”
But Russia has wasted no time following through on many of those harsher measures. On the same day as Makarov’s statements, the press service of Russia’s Western Military District said that an S-400 surface-to-air missile regiment will be placed on combat duty in Kaliningrad before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the chief of the Belarusian Armed Forces’ General Staff said his country expects to receive Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia this month, adding that an Iskander deployment to the country would soon follow.
Russian opposition to U.S. BMD plans is nothing new. For Russia, the fundamental issue at hand is not the BMD system itself (which is nominally geared toward countering the ballistic missile capabilities of states like Iran), but the U.S. military presence the system would bring with it. U.S. BMD plans are focused on Central Europe, which abuts Russia’s former Soviet periphery. Moscow can’t help but feel threatened by the U.S. military commitment to the region that the system represents.
Russia Escalates Its Opposition
While Russia has publicly expressed its opposition to U.S. BMD plans on many occasions over the past few years, Wednesday marked a clear escalation by Moscow on the issue, particularly since Russia softened its stance on U.S. missile defense after the so-called “reset” in Russo-American relations in 2009. The timing of this escalation is important. On Thursday, a foreign minister-level Russia-NATO Council meeting will take place in Brussels, and Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with Washington’s unwillingness to even discuss the BMD issue with Russia in the weeks leading up to the meeting.
According to STRATFOR sources, the United States has also been preparing to take BMD off the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, and possibly even exclude it from the more significant NATO-Russia summit slated for March in Chicago. Russia continues to press the issue and demand talks, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating that he plans to clarify Medvedev’s position on the issue during Thursday’s meeting.
More important than the timing of the upcoming meeting is the development of a more significant shift, between Washington and Moscow, over the position of U.S. BMD. Washington has no shortage of issues to deal with. It must wrap up the war in Afghanistan; address Iran’s increased influence in strategic Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Syria; shift its focus to the Western Pacific region; and prepare for a possible economic collapse in Europe that would have global implications. These concerns have served to distract Washington and limit its room for maneuver outside of the theaters it is already committed to. The last thing the United States needs is another crisis on its hands.
Conversely, Russia has seen its position steadily improve. Unlike the United States, the Russian military is not drawn into protracted conflicts far from home. Russia is flush with cash from energy revenues and has been looking to take advantage of the crisis raging in Europe. Most importantly, Russia has increased its leverage vis-à-vis Washington thanks to the United States’ increased reliance on the Russian-dominated Northern Distribution Network (NDN), at the expense of Pakistan-based supply lines into Afghanistan. Moscow has already begun threatening to close the NDN if its interests over BMD are not taken into account.
Central Europeans are caught in the middle. In the face of a resurgent Russia, a concrete security commitment from Washington is exactly what these countries need, and the BMD system has come to serve as a symbol of that future commitment. Russia knows this and has worked to chip away at this commitment by attempting to wedge the United States between two bad scenarios: either abandon the BMD system and with it the Central Europeans, or risk a potential disruption to Washington’s pressing commitment in Afghanistan. Essentially, Russia is attempting to force the United States to make a decision — over whether it wants the NDN now or BMD later — hoping that Washington leaves the Central Europeans out to dry.
Yet Russia knows that, whatever levers it may hold against the United States, it is not immune to global economic problems and to blowback from Afghanistan. Moscow knows it must be careful not to press its current advantage too far. The United States, despite its current relatively poor position, is still the dominant power on which the global system pivots. It can bring a range of forces to bear against Moscow if it deems them necessary. Ultimately, in any sparring match between the United States and Russia, neither player can deliver a knockout punch. And however long the match between the two powers drags out, it is the Central Europeans that will continue to be caught in the middle.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #86 on: December 13, 2011, 08:50:59 AM »


Russia's Plan to Disrupt U.S.-European Relations
December 13, 2011

 

By Lauren Goodrich
Tensions between the United States and Russia have risen in the past month over several long-standing problems, including ballistic missile defense (BMD) and supply lines into Afghanistan. Moscow and Washington also appear to be nearing another crisis involving Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The crises come as Washington struggles over its many commitments in the world and over whether to focus on present events in Afghanistan or future events in Central Europe. Russia has exploited the U.S. dilemma, using its leverage in both arenas. However, if Moscow takes its aggressive moves too far, it could spark a backlash from the United States and Central Europe.
The Persisting Disagreement over BMD
The U.S. BMD scheme for Europe has long been a source of U.S.-Russian tensions. Washington argues that its European BMD program aims to counter threats emerging from the Middle East, namely Iran, but its  missile defense installations in Romania and Poland are not slated to become operational until 2015 and 2018, respectively, by which time Russia believes the United States will have resolved its issues with Iran. Moscow thus sees U.S. missile defense strategy as more about the United States seeking to contain Russia than about Iran. Moscow does not fear that the United States is seeking to neutralize or erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent, however; the issue is the establishment of a physical U.S. military footprint in those two states — which in turn means a U.S. commitment there. Romania and Poland border the former Soviet Union, a region where Russia is regaining influence.
Russia previously pressured key states in the Bush-era BMD scheme, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, to reconsider acceding to such plans. This assertiveness peaked with its 2008 invasion of Georgia, which both proved that Moscow was willing to take military action and exposed the limits of U.S. security guarantees in the region. The Russian move in Georgia gave the Central Europeans much to think about, prompting some attempts to appease the Kremlin. Still, these states did not abandon all faith in the United States as a strategic counter to Russia.
Russia has since shifted its BMD strategy. Instead of categorically opposing the plan, Moscow proposed a cooperative, integrated scheme. The Kremlin reasoned that if Iran and other non-Russian threats were the real reason for expanding missile defense, then Russian involvement — which would strengthen the West’s defenses — would be welcomed. Russia’s BMD capabilities span the Eurasian continent, though their practical utility to and compatibility with U.S. systems is questionable. This plan was seen as a way to take a more conciliatory approach with the same end goal: blocking the placement of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe.
The United States and most of NATO refused Russia’s proposals, however, leaving the door open for the Kremlin to introduce a new defense strategy, which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev outlined Nov. 23. Medvedev emphasized that Russia had exercised the “political will” to open a fundamentally new chapter in relations with the United States and NATO, only to have the United States spurn the offer. U.S. resistance to Russian inclusion in the BMD system forced Moscow to make other arrangements to counter U.S. plans in Central Europe — precisely the outcome it had hoped for.
Medvedev also said that if United States continues to refuse BMD cooperation with Russia, Moscow would carry out plans for the deployment of the Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missiles and the activation of an early-warning radar system in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. He said Russia also would consider the deployment of other Iskander systems, particularly along his country’s western and southern borders, and would hasten to fit its ballistic missiles with advanced maneuverable re-entry vehicles and penetration aids, a process that has long been under way. The prospect of Russian strategic weapons targeting BMD facilities was also raised. Medvedev added that more measures could be implemented to “neutralize the European component of the U.S. missile defense system,” concluding that all these steps could be avoided in favor of a new era of partnership between the United States and Russia if Washington so desired.
The U.S. Dilemma
The United States was expected to respond to Russia’s renewed strategy during the Dec. 8 meeting between NATO and Russian foreign ministers in Brussels. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided doing so, however, reiterating that the BMD scheme was about Iran, not Russia. Clinton’s move highlights the dangerous U.S. position with regard to Russia. Washington has no intention of abandoning its commitment to Central Europe in the face of a resurging Russia, but commitments elsewhere in the world may prevent the United States from resisting Russia in the short term.
At present, Washington is struggling to halt the deterioration of relations with Pakistan, which have reached a new low after a U.S. helicopter strike on the Afghan-Pakistani border killed some two dozen Pakistani servicemen. After the strike, the Pakistanis forbade the shipment of fuel and supplies for the NATO-led war effort in Afghanistan across the Pakistani border, leaving the United States and its allies wholly dependent on the Northern Distribution Network, at least temporarily. Moscow used this as an opportunity to remind Washington that it could cut this alternative route, leaving NATO and the United States in a catastrophic position in Afghanistan — a move tied directly to Russia’s negotiations over missile defense.
While Russia has used previous threats against U.S. interests, such as increased support for Iran, as leverage in its BMD negotiations, its present threat marks a new dynamic. Washington called Moscow’s bluff on its threatened support for Iran, knowing Russia also did not want a strong Iran. But it cannot so easily dismiss the specter of interrupted supplies into Afghanistan, as this puts more than 130,000 U.S. and allied troops in a vulnerable position. Consequently, the United States must work to mitigate the BMD situation.
American Olive Branch or New Crisis?
In recent months, the United States has cultivated one potential olive branch to defuse short-term tensions. Previously, there was little the United States could offer Russia short of abandoning U.S. strategy in Central Europe. When tensions escalated in 2009 and 2010, the United States offered to facilitate large economic deals with Russia that included modernization and investment in strategic sectors, mainly information technology, space and energy. Since Russia had just launched its sister programs of modernization and privatization, it jumped on the proposal, reducing tensions and eventually joining U.S. initiatives such as sanctions against Iran. Now, the United States is extending another carrot: WTO membership.
Russia has sought WTO membership for 18 years. Even though it has the 10th largest economy in the world, it has failed to win accession to the 153-member body. Though the country’s extreme economic policies have given members plenty of reason to exclude Russia, the main barriers of late have been political. For its part, Moscow cares little about the actual economic benefits of WTO membership. The benefits it seeks are political, as being excluded from the WTO made it look like an economically backward country (though its exclusion has given it a convenient excuse to rail against the United States and Georgia).
As Russia sorted through its economic disputes with most WTO members, Georgia alone continued to block its bid because of the Russian occupation of the disputed Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In recent months, Georgia has dropped its opposition under U.S. pressure — pressure that originated from Washington’s need for something to offer the Russians. With all obstacles cleared, the WTO should approve Russia’s candidacy Dec. 15-16, apparently giving the United States the olive branch it sought.
Unfortunately for the United States, however, once Russia is voted in, each member-state must “recognize” Russia as a member. No WTO members, not even Georgia, have indicated that they intend to deny Russia recognition. But there is one country that cannot legally recognize Russian membership: the United States.
The United States still has a Soviet-era provision in federal law called the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which bars trade relations with certain countries guilty of human rights violations (namely, the Soviet Union). The measure continued to apply to Russia after the Soviet collapse, though every U.S. president has waived its provisions by decree since 1992. Only Congress can overturn it, however, and until it does so, the United States cannot recognize Russia as a WTO member.
The White House has called for the provision’s immediate repeal, but with Congress and the White House divided over so many issues, it seems unlikely the issue will be resolved swiftly — if at all — under the current Congress and presidency. This gives Russia another opportunity to increase U.S.-Russian tensions. Indeed, Moscow could noisily decry the insult of the United States making Russian WTO accession possible only to derail it.
Balancing Crisis and Strategy
Just how many crises in U.S.-Russian relations does Moscow want, and what is its goal? Moscow’s strategy involves using these crises with the United States to create uncertainty in Central Europe and to make the Europeans uncomfortable over perceptions that the United States has forced Russia to act the way it is acting. Thus, it is not a break between Russia and the United States that Moscow seeks but a break between Europe and the United States.
Indications are emerging that the Central Europeans are in fact growing nervous, particularly following Medvedev’s new defense strategy announcement. With the United States not responding to the renewed Russian aggression, many Europeans may be forgiven for wondering if the United States is planning to trade its relationship with Central Europe in the short term to ensure the supply lines via Russia into Afghanistan remain open. It isn’t that the Central Europeans want a warmer relationship with Russia, only that they may feel a need to hedge their relationship with the United States. This was seen this past week with Poland announcing it would be open to discussions with Russia over missile defense (albeit within the paradigm of separate BMD systems), and with the Czech Republic, a previous American missile defense partner, signing multibillion-dollar economic deals with Russia.
But with more opportunities arising for Russia to escalate tensions with the United States, Moscow must avoid triggering a massive crisis and rupture in relations. Should Russia go too far in its bid to create an uncomfortable situation for the Europeans, it could cause a strong European backlash against Russia and a unilateral unification with the United States on regional security issues. And it is in Russia’s interest to refrain from actually disrupting the Northern Distribution Network; Moscow is seeking to avoid both complications in the Afghan theater that could hurt Russian interests (one of which is keeping the United States tied down in Afghanistan) and a strong U.S. response in a number of other areas. Moscow must execute its strategy with precision to keep the United States caught between many commitments and Europe off balance — a complex balancing act for the Kremlin.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #87 on: March 26, 2012, 10:53:51 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304177104577305182847032866.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

By CAROL E. LEE
SEOUL—U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday that his re-election campaign has tied his hands in resolving differences with Russia over U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, and suggested an agreement would be more likely after November
 
"This is my last election, and after my election I'll have more flexibility," Mr. Obama said to Mr. Medvedev after a meeting in Seoul, according to audio picked up by television cameras that apparently wasn't intended to be heard by reporters.  (!!!)

"I understand," Mr. Medvedev replied.

"I transmit this information to Vladimir," he added, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House confirmed that the exchange came after a discussion about the missile-defense shield, saying in a statement that the issue, which has strained U.S.-Russia relations, won't be resolved before Americans vote in November.

Mr. Medvedev said on Friday that Russia was unconvinced that a planned U.S.-led missile defense shield in Europe is meant to deter an attack by countries such as Iran.

continued
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G M
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« Reply #88 on: March 26, 2012, 04:22:56 PM »

Manchurian president.

Pretty sloppy tradecraft, KGB recruited assets are not supposed to openly meet with their handlers to avoid this very thing.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304177104577305182847032866.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

By CAROL E. LEE
SEOUL—U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday that his re-election campaign has tied his hands in resolving differences with Russia over U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, and suggested an agreement would be more likely after November
 
"This is my last election, and after my election I'll have more flexibility," Mr. Obama said to Mr. Medvedev after a meeting in Seoul, according to audio picked up by television cameras that apparently wasn't intended to be heard by reporters.  (!!!)

"I understand," Mr. Medvedev replied.

"I transmit this information to Vladimir," he added, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House confirmed that the exchange came after a discussion about the missile-defense shield, saying in a statement that the issue, which has strained U.S.-Russia relations, won't be resolved before Americans vote in November.

Mr. Medvedev said on Friday that Russia was unconvinced that a planned U.S.-led missile defense shield in Europe is meant to deter an attack by countries such as Iran.

continued
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ccp
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« Reply #89 on: March 26, 2012, 04:47:14 PM »

It wouldn't surprise me if OBama asked him for a campaign donation and promised after the election he would cut Vladimir a good deal.

This certainly makes one speculate that Obama, if he wins, will absolutely cut lose on his leftist agenda far beyond what we have seen.

I wonder if this was before or after he handed over all the codes.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #90 on: May 13, 2012, 11:01:24 AM »

While no one's political attention seems to be on questions like how to deal with Russia, it is an area where the candidates could not disagree more.  A few excerpts of a NY Times piece below.  Question is presented as to whether Romney will be a better negotiator in America's interests by starting with a stronger stance (while Obama already signaled his desire to make greater concessions after his reelection).
---
"Mr. Obama, who came to office promising to “reset” relations with Moscow, only to find that Russia can be a difficult partner."
...
"Mr. Romney signaled his stance toward Russia two years ago, when he argued that the New Start missile treaty with Russia should be rejected, putting him at odds with a long line of former Republican secretaries of state and defense."
...
"Mr. Romney felt the missile treaty was a bad deal partly because it would impede American defenses..."
...
"Mr. Romney also criticized a White House decision scrapping a proposed antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/us/politics/romneys-view-of-russia-sparks-debate.html?_r=2
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #91 on: June 20, 2012, 08:59:47 AM »



By HILLARY CLINTON
Later this summer, Russia will join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the culmination of a process that began nearly two decades ago. This is good news for American companies and workers, because it will improve our access to one of the world's fastest-growing markets and support new jobs here at home.

U.S.-Russian bilateral trade isn't reaching anything close to its full potential today. While that trade has increased over the past few years, America's exports to Russia still represent less than 1% of our global exports. Given the potential for expanding these links, Russia's WTO membership will be a net benefit for our economy.

But there is one obstacle standing in the way. American businesses won't be able to take advantage of this new market opening unless Congress terminates the application of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and extends "permanent normal trading relations" (PNTR) to Russia.

Enlarge Image

CloseReuters
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on Monday
.Jackson-Vanik, which restricts U.S. trade with countries that limit their people's emigration rights, was adopted by Congress in the early 1970s to help thousands of Jews leave the Soviet Union. It long ago achieved this historic purpose.

Now it's time to set it aside. Four decades after the adoption of this amendment, a vote to extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia will be a vote to create jobs in America. Until then, Russia's markets will open and our competitors will benefit, but U.S. companies will be disadvantaged.

Extending permanent normal trading relations isn't a gift to Russia. It is a smart, strategic investment in one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services. It's also an investment in the more open and prosperous Russia that we want to see develop.

As the demonstrations across Russia over the past six months make clear, the country's middle class is demanding a more transparent and accountable government, a more modern political system, and a diversified economy. We should support these Russian efforts.

When Russia joins the WTO, it will be required—for the first time ever—to establish predictable tariff rates, ensure transparency in the publication and enactment of laws, and adhere to an enforceable mechanism for resolving disputes. If we extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia, we'll be able to use the WTO's tools to hold it accountable for meeting these obligations.

The Obama administration is under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. WTO membership alone will not suddenly create the kind of change being sought by the Russian people. But it is in our long-term strategic interest to collaborate with Russia in areas where our interests overlap.

Already our work together over the past three years has produced real results, including the New Start Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation, military transit arrangements to support our efforts in Afghanistan, and cooperation on Iran sanctions. With permanent normal trading relations, we would add expanded trade to the list.

To be sure, we have real differences with Russia. We disagree fundamentally about the situation in Georgia. On Syria, we are urging Russia to push Bashar al-Assad to implement former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's six-point plan, end the violence, and work with the international community in promoting a transition.

In addition, President Obama and I have clearly expressed our serious concerns about human rights in Russia. And we have taken steps to address these challenges, including support for programs that promote human rights, rule of law, and civil society there. We have strengthened ties between nongovernmental organizations in both countries, from political activists to groups working for women's rights. Following the tragic death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who blew the whistle on official corruption, we imposed restrictions to ensure that no one implicated in this crime can travel to the United States. We are continuing to work with Congress on addressing these issues.

Some argue that continuing to apply Jackson-Vanik to Russia would give us some leverage in these areas of disagreement. We disagree—and so do leaders of Russia's political opposition. They have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case. In fact, retaining Jackson-Vanik only fuels more anti-American sentiment in Russia.

Russia's membership in the WTO will soon be a fact of life. Failing to extend permanent normal trading relations will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide a lever with which to change Moscow's behavior. It will only hurt American workers and American companies. By extending those trading relations, we can create new markets for our people and support the political and economic changes that Russia's people are demanding. These reforms will ultimately make Russia a more just and open society as well as a better partner over the long term for the U.S.

Ms. Clinton is U.S. secretary of state.

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bigdog
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« Reply #92 on: July 14, 2012, 07:47:18 PM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/13/dark_soldiers_of_the_new_order
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #93 on: September 04, 2012, 02:30:09 PM »

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/report-russian-nuclear-attack-sub-patrolled-waters-off-gulf-for-a-month-undetected/
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bigdog
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« Reply #94 on: September 21, 2012, 05:33:40 AM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/17/yes_russia_is_our_top_geopolitical_foe?page=full
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #95 on: October 06, 2012, 12:42:31 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/blog/severe-economic-crisis-in-russia-looms/?singlepage=true
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« Reply #96 on: October 17, 2012, 11:36:13 AM »

President Obama has lost much of his poll advantage on foreign policy, and in this case Mitt Romney's debating skills have nothing to do with it. The real world is doing the job, notably with the attacks in Benghazi but also in Russia, where Mr. Obama once vowed to "reset" relations for the better.

Last week, the Russian government unilaterally pulled out of a two-decade old partnership with the U.S. to safeguard nuclear and chemical weapons. The so-called Nunn-Lugar program, named after its Senate authors, was a genuine post-Cold War success. It nudged Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to give up their atomic missiles and ensured that loose Soviet nukes didn't fall into terrorist hands. Well, so much for that.

This slap in the face follows Moscow's decision last month to close the U.S. Agency for International Development mission to Russia. USAID helped feed Russia in the darkest days after the Soviet collapse. But its recent support for local vote monitors and other Russian NGOs—as part of a modest democracy-building effort—cramped Vladimir Putin's authoritarian style. Then this week the Washington Free Beacon reported that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is shutting down its Russian broadcasts after six decades because of a new law restricting foreign-owned media.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to obstruct international action to end the Syria crisis. Moscow has vetoed three U.N. resolutions on Syria while arming a Damascus regime that has killed 30,000 in 19 months. On Wednesday, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger jet coming from Moscow. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the plane was carrying Russian military equipment and ammunition.

President Obama may not wish to publicly bury this part of his foreign policy, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is happy to oblige. Last week, he told the Moscow daily Kommersant: "If we talk about the 'reset,' it is clear that, using computer terminology, it cannot last forever. Otherwise it would not be a 'reset' but a program failure." Failure about sums it up.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #97 on: November 14, 2012, 08:49:45 AM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/world/europe/moscow-reopens-a-communication-channel-with-washington.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121114&_r=0
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ccp
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« Reply #98 on: November 14, 2012, 04:39:12 PM »

I just read Putin's *grandfather* was a "celebrity" cook.

He was get this, the cook for Stalin, AND Lenin, AND, get this, - Rasputin.

Now of course the destroyer of the US, no not Putin, I mean Obama, is going to offer what to the KGB's Tsar of the oligarchs  (Putin)?
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ccp
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« Reply #99 on: November 14, 2012, 05:04:14 PM »

"is going to offer what...."

I mean with reference to his "off the mike" comment to Medved (that was still on the mike) "just wait until after the election".

WEll I learned first hand how EASY it is to bribe people as witness to what happened to us from the music entertainment industry.

Let this be a lesson to everyone else how easy it is to bribe Americans to take the cash at the same time they give the country away. cry cry
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