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Topic: US-Russia (Read 14680 times)
U.S. had plans to nuke the moon
Reply #100 on:
November 28, 2012, 09:33:22 PM »
From the article:
It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.
It was hatched in 1958 - a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world's first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.
Goldman: Russia thinks we are wrecking the world on purpose
Reply #101 on:
April 02, 2013, 07:41:58 AM »
The Russians Think We’re Wrecking the World on Purpose
Posted By David P. Goldman On March 19, 2013 @ 1:09 pm In Uncategorized | 189 Comments
“In Russia, most analysts, politicians and ordinary citizens believe in the unlimited might of America, and thus reject the notion that the US has made, and continues to make, mistakes in the [Middle East]. Instead, they assume it’s all a part of a complex plan to restructure the world and to spread global domination,” writes Fyodor Lukyanov on the Al Monitor website today. Lukyanov, who chairs Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, laments what he derides as a “conspiracy theory.” Nonetheless, he reports, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian elite think that the United States is spreading chaos as part of a diabolical plot for world domination:
From Russian leadership’s point of view, the Iraq War now looks like the beginning of the accelerated destruction of regional and global stability, undermining the last principles of sustainable world order. Everything that’s happened since — including flirting with Islamists during the Arab Spring, U.S. policies in Libya and its current policies in Syria — serve as evidence of strategic insanity that has taken over the last remaining superpower.
Russia’s persistence on the Syrian issue is the product of this perception. The issue is not sympathy for Syria’s dictator, nor commercial interests, nor naval bases in Tartus. Moscow is certain that if continued crushing of secular authoritarian regimes is allowed because America and the West support “democracy,” it will lead to such destabilization that will overwhelm all, including Russia. It’s therefore necessary for Russia to resist, especially as the West and the United States themselves experience increasing doubts.
It’s instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term “paranoid Russian” is a pleonasm. “The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them,” I wrote in 2008 under the title “Americans play monopoly, Russians chess.” Russians have dominated chess most of the past century, for good reason: it is the ultimate exercise in paranoia. All the pieces on the board are guided by a single combative mind, and every move is significant. In the real world, human beings flail and blunder. For Russian officials who climbed the greasy pole in the intelligence services, mistakes are unthinkable, for those who made mistakes are long since buried.
From a paranoid perspective, it certainly might look as if Washington planned to unleash chaos. The wave of instability spreading through the Middle East from Syria is the direct result of American actions. I wrote yesterday in Asia Times Online:
Syria’s Sunni majority started an insurgency against the minority Alawite government of Basher al-Assad in response to the ill-named Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa. America’s abrupt dismissal of its long-ally Hosni Mubarak and the ascendancy of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood emboldened Syria’s long-suffering Sunni majority to stake its claim to power. Like Mubarak, the Assads suppressed the Muslim Brothers, but far more viciously, leveling the Sunni town of Hama in 1982 with casualties estimated at between 20,000 and 40,000.
Western policy thus provoked Syria’s civil war. The prospect of a Sunni fundamentalist regime in Egypt under American patronage, the emergence of the ”Sunni Awakening” in Iraq during the Petraeus ”surge”, and the victory of Western-backed Sunni jihadists over Libya’s Gaddafi, gave Syria’s Sunnis little choice. America’s fecklessness with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, moreover, gave Saudi Arabia and Turkey strategic reasons to fund and arm various branches of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.
In this tightly scripted tragedy, America’s blundering provided the impetus for each step, except, of course, for the blundering of the European Union. The Europeans forced Assad to undertake agricultural reforms among the conditions for a new trade treaty, forcing tens of thousands of small farmers off their land in the Sunni Northeast of the country, into tent cities around Damascus.
Iran responded to the Sunni insurgency in the obvious way, by sending Revolutionary Guard regulars as well as its Lebanese-based Hezbollah auxiliaries into Syria to fight for its ally, the Assad regime. Iran’s involvement prevents the loosely organized insurgent coalition from toppling a minority regime.
The depleted ranks of the regular Syrian army will be replenished with Iranian soldiers or surrogates. The Alawite regime will continue to commit atrocities in order to convince its own base as well as the Syria’s Christian, Kurdish and Druze minorities that they must fight to the death because Sunni vengeance would be horrible. Saudi Arabia will continue to filter jihadists and weapons into Syria and Turkey will continue to provide logistical support.
Could the Americans really have been such idiots?, the Russians ask. Of course we could. George Bush and his advisers actually believed that we were going to bring democracy to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The Russians understood matters differently. Fyodor Lukyanov writes:
In the summer 2006, when then-President George W. Bush came to St. Petersburg for a summit of the “Big Eight,” an interesting dialogue took place between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference. Bush drew attention to the challenges posed by democratic freedoms, especially freedom of the press, in Russia — and then noted that things had gotten much better in Iraq. Putin immediately responded, “Well, we really would not want the kind of democracy they have in Iraq.” The room filled with applause, and not everyone heard Bush’s response: “Just wait, it’s coming.” What Bush had in mind was increased stability in Iraq, but it sounded more ominous: you’ll see, democracy will be brought to you as well…
If the Russians sound mad, consider this: there is another substantial body of opinion that sees an evil conspiracy behind American blundering in the Middle East, and it votes for Ron Paul and Rand Paul. I am not suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul is a paranoid, I hasten to clarify: I have never met the man and don’t presume to judge his state of mind. But his popularity stems in no small measure from conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. government really is planning to criss-cross the continental United States with killer drones and pick off American citizens on their home soil. A lot of the same people think that America invaded Iraq on behalf of the oil companies (who would make a lot more money if Iraq were zapped by space aliens) or by the Israelis (who never liked the project from the outset). A fair sampling of such paranoia gets posted on the comments section of this site.
Thus we have the strangest pair of bedfellows in modern politics, the Russians and the rubes. Try to explain to them that George W. Bush was a decent and well-intentioned man without a clue as to the consequences of his actions, and they will dismiss it as disinformatsiya. Tell them that the New York Times and the Weekly Standard both believed in the Arab Spring as the herald of a new era of Islamic democracy, and they will see it as proof of a conspiracy embracing both the Democratic and Republican establishments. How, the paranoids ask, could two administrations in succession make so many blunders in succession? It stretches credibility. I wish it were a conspiracy. The truth is that we really are that dumb.
Article printed from Spengler:
URL to article:
Kasparov: Shared Enemies does not mean shared values
Reply #102 on:
May 13, 2013, 07:06:45 PM »
By GARRY KASPAROV
When Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, the announced list of topics included finding "common ground" on Syria. It also mentioned antiterror cooperation in light of the Russian origins of Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers. It is very unlikely Mr. Kerry found common ground on either subject.
The humanitarian catastrophe in Syria is of no concern to Mr. Putin, as is clear from the Kremlin's support for the murderous Assad regime. Mr. Putin also seeks to stoke the instability that helps keep the price of oil high. The similar pattern of Russian interference in Iran and Venezuela is no coincidence. Energy revenue is what keeps Mr. Putin and his gang in power and therefore oil prices are always his top priority.
Terror would seem to be a more likely area for U.S.-Russian collaboration, especially regarding the virulent brand of Islamist extremism that has been bubbling over in Russia's southwestern Caucasus region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet the Kremlin's cooperation on the Islamist threat has been remarkably selective.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waits for Russia's President Vladimir Putin before their meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.
Soon after the suspects' names in the Boston bombing became known, the Russian security services announced that they had warned the FBI about the elder Tsarnaev, Tamerlan, in 2011. But what about during and after Tamerlan's visit to Russia's North Caucasus in 2012? That's when he reportedly was indoctrinated and trained by radicals in Dagestan.
Why were there no communications in 2012 from the FSB (the successor of the KGB) about a suspected radical, an American no less, training in the hottest of Caucasus terrorist hotbeds and then returning to the U. S.? It is beyond belief that the extensive police state that monitors every utterance of the Russian opposition could lose track of an American associating with terrorists.
Tamerlan reportedly met with Makhmud Mansur Nidal, a known terror recruiter, and William Plotkin, a Russian-Canadian jihadist. Both men were killed in Dagestan by the Russian military just days before Tamerlan left Russia for the U.S. If no intelligence was sent from Moscow to Washington, all this talk of FSB cooperation cannot be taken seriously.
This would not be the first time Russian security forces seemed strangely impotent in the face of an impending terror attack. In the Nord-Ost theater siege by Islamist Chechens in 2002 and the Beslan school hostage attack by Chechen and other Islamist radicals in 2004, it later came to light that there were FSB informants in both terror groups—yet the attacks went ahead unimpeded. Beslan was quickly used by Mr. Putin to justify shredding the last vestiges of Russian democracy by eliminating the election of regional governors.
With such a track record, it is impossible to overlook that the Boston bombing took place just days after the U.S. Magnitsky List was published, creating the first serious external threat to the Putin power structure by penalizing Russian officials complicit in human-rights crimes. Practically before the smoke in Boston cleared, Mr. Putin was saying "I told you so" and calling for cooperation.
Secretary Kerry's visit validated every Putin instinct. The Russian president kept the American waiting in a hall for three hours—no doubt impressing Mr. Putin's cronies. On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry was allowed to meet with a small group of Russian human-rights activists whose activities have been under assault as the Putin government cracks down ever harder on free speech and all forms of opposition.
But the meeting avoided mention of the two most significant developments in Russian human rights: the Magnitsky List and the dozens of protesters arrested at a political protest in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow a year ago. Mr. Putin is creating a new generation of political prisoners, with show trials unseen since Joseph Stalin, and Mr. Kerry goes to Russia to find common ground? As for Syria, the day after Mr. Kerry left, the Journal reported that advanced Russian S-300 antiaircraft missiles were headed to Syria.
Islamist terror is a genuine threat that will continue to take Russian and American lives unless it is met with a strong response. But having a shared enemy does not mean having shared values. Respect for human life and individual rights are the most potent weapons the civilized world possesses and where any discussion of common ground must begin. The Putin regime's dubious record on counterterrorism and its continued support of terror sponsors Iran and Syria mean only one thing: common ground zero.
Mr. Kasparov, a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal, is the leader of the Russian pro-democracy group United Civil Front and chairman of the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation.
Re: US-Russia - Putin 'infuriated' by Obama's 'bored kid' "slouch" quip
Reply #103 on:
August 29, 2013, 09:27:57 AM »
After all the trouble Nobel Prize winner Pres. Obama and then Sec Clinton went to, resetting relations with a gag gift that actually translated "overcharge", the 'tell Vladimir I will have more flexibility to disarm after my reelection' US President went out of his way to rip him personally in a recent press conference. I was listening live and it sounded planned and scripted.
“I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid at the back of the classroom,”
Russian president Vladimir Putin was "infuriated" by President Obama's joke that he looked "like the bored kid in the back of the classroom," according to a Kremlin official quoted anonymously by the New York Times.
What harm can a little ad hominem Presidential rip to a world audience do...
Russian news service Interfax is citing military sources as saying Moscow is dispatching an anti-submarine ship and a cruiser to the Mediterranean. Interfax says the moves are being made due to the "well-known situation" there -- referring to the Syria crisis.
Reply #104 on:
August 29, 2013, 10:28:26 AM »
Russia's View on the Possible Syria Intervention
August 29, 2013 | 0849 Print Text Size
Russia's View on the Possible Syria Intervention
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a news conference on Syria on Aug. 26. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia has emphasized its opposition to a military intervention in Syria at the U.N. Security Council, but a U.S. operation in Syria could actually benefit Moscow. The Russian and Chinese envoys to the United Nations walked out of the Security Council meeting in New York on Aug. 28 after U.S. Permanent Representative Samantha Power called for immediate action in Syria. The United Kingdom also submitted a draft resolution to the five permanent members of the Security Council -- Russia, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France -- that called for "authorizing all necessary measures to protect civilians" in Syria, including an armed operation in the country.
Russia has long used its relationship with the Syrian regime against the West, particularly the United States. Despite warnings from the West, Moscow has supplied the Syrians with weapons and provisions during their two-year conflict. Russia's plan has long been to use its ties to Syria to prevent the West from going too far in areas that truly affect Russia, including issues that involve former Soviet states.
Russia's position at the Security Council is that it does not want to vote on the option for intervention in Syria without having seen the U.N. inspectors' report on whether the regime used chemical weapons. With the U.N. experts in Syria until Aug. 31, no one has seen what the investigation has uncovered. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, "Certain states are ready to use force even before U.N. experts make public the results of their investigation. Our country will be committed to international law."
Limits to Russian Support for Syria
For Russia, Syria is a bargaining chip, not a country that affects Russia's primary interests. While Russia supports the regime in Damascus, its support does not extend to militarily defending the regime should the West move to intervene. Russia does have a military presence in Syria at the port of Tartus, but it is not willing to put its own military personnel at risk in defense of Damascus. Nor has Russia shown any inclination to move its military or air defense systems, such as the S-300, to Syria in recent days.
With a possible U.S. military intervention closing in, if Russia wanted to raise the risk level for a U.S. operation then its window to act could already be closed. In addition, Russia does not want to attempt a military reply in Syria, as it did in 1999 in Kosovo, and risk looking foolish. In the Kosovo War, Western countries ignored Russia's opposition to military intervention and took measures before a U.N. Security Council decision. In response, Russia deployed 200 airborne troops to the Kosovar capital, Pristina, to head off the NATO troops' arrival. However, French and British troops limited Russian troops to the airport, embarrassing Moscow. Of course, Russia in 1999 was far weaker than Russia today, but the uncertainty of trying to militarily aid Syria is not worth the risk for Moscow.
In addition, Russia may use Syria as leverage with the West, but it will not support the Syrian regime to the point that it would break relations with key Western partners such as the United Kingdom or France, which are part of the U.S. intervention plans. Moscow's relationships with London and Paris have grown more important in recent months following a string of energy and economic deals. At a time when cracks in the Russian economy are starting to show, Russia will not alienate those European partners -- especially not for Syria's situation.
Russia is attempting to turn the situation to its favor in other ways. First, the Moscow media campaign is in full swing. Russia is stressing how brash the United States would be if it moved toward a military operation without Security Council support or before the U.N. investigation is complete. In Russian Deputy Premier Dmitri Rogozin's words, the United States is behaving as if it were a "monkey with a hand grenade."
In turn, the Russians are promoting themselves as pragmatists when it comes to Syria. Russia will continue this spin going into next week, when it will host the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, which U.S. President Barack Obama will attend. Another reason for its commitment to diplomacy thus far is that Russia wants to ensure that the world's leaders will still attend the summit.
Ultimately, Russia would benefit if the United States became bogged down in another domestically unpopular military intervention in the Middle East. Even if it went with a limited and quick military intervention, the United States would have a difficult time handling the post-war situation and the intervention's ramifications across the region. Russia used earlier opportunities, when the United States was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, to strengthen its country and reassert its influence in its region. Russia's re-emergence continues today in the former Soviet states and Europe, so having Washington preoccupied in the Islamic world gives Russia more room to work.
But a U.S. intervention in Syria also presents an opportunity for Moscow and Washington to work together after the military campaign, thawing the current cold between the two. The United States has given signs that even if it does intervene, it does not aim to break the regime in Damascus. Russia has close ties with many elites in the regime and could be in a position to try to negotiate a diplomatic option to extricate Bashar al Assad from the situation.
For the United States and Russia, tensions have been worsening in recent months over a series of issues, including Russia's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Russia's resurgence in Europe and the two sides' differing views on Syria. Although it would seem to make relations even worse if the United States ignored Russia's opposition to a military intervention in Syria, it would clear one major disagreement from the table in the long term while presenting an opportunity for the two to work together. Then again, such opportunities have come and gone in the past with both sides unwilling to break the standoff.
Read more: Russia's View on the Possible Syria Intervention | Stratfor
Putin's letter to Baraq
Reply #105 on:
September 06, 2013, 08:13:44 PM »
This post makes my day
Reply #106 on:
September 07, 2013, 07:12:36 AM »
I really am laughing "out loud".
Keep it up and I may be able to survive three and a quarter more years - though I don't know about the country.
At least if we were going to have a nerd as CiC it should have been an IT/CEO stud like a Gates, or Ellison. Then we could have had a "Revenge of the Nerds 3" with them beating the heck out of Putin.
Stratfor: Putin's Bluff
Reply #107 on:
September 13, 2013, 03:30:15 PM »
Syria, America and Putin's Bluff
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 04:07 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
In recent weeks I've written about U.S. President Barack Obama's bluff on Syria and the tightrope he is now walking on military intervention. There is another bluff going on that has to be understood, this one from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin is bluffing that Russia has emerged as a major world power. In reality, Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that he doesn't have, and he has done it well. For him, Syria poses a problem because the United States is about to call his bluff, and he is not holding strong cards. To understand his game we need to start with the recent G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Putin and Obama held a 20-minute meeting there that appeared to be cold and inconclusive. The United States seems to be committed to some undefined military action in Syria, and the Russians are vehemently opposed. The tensions showcased at the G-20 between Washington and Moscow rekindled memories of the Cold War, a time when Russia was a global power. And that is precisely the mood Putin wanted to create. That's where Putin's bluff begins.
A Humbled Global Power
The United States and Russia have had tense relations for quite a while. Early in the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up in Moscow carrying a box with a red button, calling it the reset button. She said that it was meant to symbolize the desire for restarting U.S.-Russian relations. The gesture had little impact, and relations have deteriorated since then. With China focused on its domestic issues and with Europe in disarray, the United States and Russia are the two major -- if not comparable -- global players, and the deterioration in relations can be significant. We need to understand what is going on here before we think about Syria.
Twenty years ago, the United States had little interest in relations with Russia, and certainly not with resetting them. The Soviet Union had collapsed, the Russian Federation was in ruins and it was not taken seriously by the United States -- or anywhere else for that matter. The Russians recall this period with bitterness. In their view, under the guise of teaching the Russians how to create a constitutional democracy and fostering human rights, the United States and Europe had engaged in exploitative business practices and supported non-governmental organizations that wanted to destabilize Russia.
The breaking point came during the Kosovo crisis. Slobodan Milosevic, leader of what was left of Yugoslavia, was a Russian ally. Russia had a historic relationship with Serbia, and it did not want to see Serbia dismembered, with Kosovo made independent.
There were three reasons for this. First, the Russians denied that there was a massacre of Albanians in Kosovo. There had been a massacre by Serbians in Bosnia; the evidence of a massacre in Kosovo was not clear and is still far from clear. Second, the Russians did not want European borders to change. There had been a general agreement that forced changes in borders should not happen in Europe, given its history, and the Russians were concerned that restive parts of the Russian Federation, from Chechnya to Karelia to Pacific Russia, might use the forced separation of Serbia and Kosovo as a precedent for dismembering Russia. In fact, they suspected that was the point of Kosovo. Third, and most important, they felt that an attack without U.N. approval and without Russian support should not be undertaken both under international law and out of respect for Russia.
President Bill Clinton and some NATO allies went to war nevertheless. After two months of airstrikes that achieved little, they reached out to the Russians to help settle the conflict. The Russian emissary reached an agreement that accepted the informal separation of Kosovo from Serbia but would deploy Russian peacekeepers along with the U.S. and European ones, their mission being to protect the Serbians in Kosovo. The cease-fire was called, but the part about Russian peacekeepers was never fully implemented.
Russia felt it deserved more deference on Kosovo, but it couldn't have expected much more given its weak geopolitical position at the time. However, the incident served as a catalyst for Russia's leadership to try to halt the country's decline and regain its respect. Kosovo was one of the many reasons that Vladimir Putin became president, and with him, the full power of the intelligence services he rose from were restored to their former pre-eminence.
The United States has supported, financially and otherwise, the proliferation of human rights groups in the former Soviet Union. When many former Soviet countries experienced revolutions in the 1990s that created governments that were somewhat more democratic but certainly more pro-Western and pro-American, Russia saw the West closing in. The turning point came in Ukraine, where the Orange Revolution generated what seemed to Putin a pro-Western government in 2004. Ukraine was the one country that, if it joined NATO, would make Russia indefensible and would control many of its pipelines to Europe.
In Putin's view, the non-governmental organizations helped engineer this, and he claimed that U.S. and British intelligence services funded those organizations. To Putin, the actions in Ukraine indicated that the United States in particular was committed to extending the collapse of the Soviet Union to a collapse of the Russian Federation. Kosovo was an insult from his point of view. The Orange Revolution was an attack on basic Russian interests.
Putin began a process of suppressing all dissent in Russia, both from foreign-supported non-governmental organizations and from purely domestic groups. He saw Russia as under attack, and he saw these groups as subversive organizations. There was an argument to be made for this. But the truth was that Russia was returning to its historical roots as an authoritarian government, with the state controlling the direction of the economy and where dissent is treated as if it were meant to destroy the state. Even though much of this reaction could be understood given the failures and disasters since 1991, it created a conflict with the United States. The United States kept pressing on the human rights issue, and the Russians became more repressive in response.
Then came the second act of Kosovo. In 2008, the Europeans decided to make Kosovo fully independent. The Russians asked that this not happen and said that the change had little practical meaning anyway. From the Russian point of view, there was no reason to taunt Russia with this action. The Europeans were indifferent.
The Russians found an opportunity to respond to the slight later that year in Georgia. Precisely how the Russo-Georgian war began is another story, but it resulted in Russian tanks entering a U.S. client state, defeating its army and remaining there until they were ready to leave. With the Americans bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, no intervention was possible. The Russians took this as an opportunity to deliver two messages to Kiev and other former Soviet states. First, Russia, conventional wisdom aside, could and would use military power when it chose. Second, he invited Ukraine and other countries to consider what an American guarantee meant.
U.S.-Russian relations never really recovered. From the U.S. point of view, the Russo-Georgia war was naked aggression. From the Russian point of view, it was simply the Russian version of Kosovo, in fact gentler in that it left Georgia proper intact. The United States became more cautious in funding non-governmental organizations. The Russians became more repressive by the year in their treatment of dissident groups.
Since 2008, Putin has attempted to create a sense that Russia has returned to its former historic power. It maintains global relations with left-wing powers such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba. Of course, technically Russia is not left wing, and if it is, it is a weird leftism given its numerous oligarchs who still prosper. And in fact there is little that Russia can do for any of those countries, beyond promising energy investments and weapon transfers that only occasionally materialize. Still, it gives Russia a sense of global power.
In fact, Russia remains a shadow of what the Soviet Union was. Its economy is heavily focused on energy exports and depends on high prices it cannot control. Outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, life remains hard and life expectancy short. Militarily, it cannot possibly match the United States. But at this moment in history, with the United States withdrawing from deep involvement in the Muslim world, and with the Europeans in institutional disarray, it exerts a level of power in excess of its real capacity. The Russians have been playing their own bluff, and this bluff helps domestically by creating a sense that, despite its problems, Russia has returned to greatness.
In this game, taking on and besting the United States at something, regardless of its importance, is critical. The Snowden matter was perfect for the Russians. Whether they were involved in the Snowden affair from the beginning or entered later is unimportant. It has created two important impressions. The first is that Russia is still capable of wounding the United States -- a view held among those who believe the Russians set the affair in motion, and a view quietly and informally encouraged by those who saw this as a Russian intelligence coup even though they publicly and heartily denied it.
The second impression was that the United States was being hypocritical. The United States had often accused the Russians of violating human rights, but with Snowden, the Russians were in a position where they protected the man who had revealed what many saw as a massive violation of human rights. It humiliated the Americans in terms of their own lax security and furthermore weakened the ability of the United States to reproach Russia for human rights violations.
Obama was furious with Russia's involvement in the Snowden case and canceled a summit with Putin. But now that the United States is considering a strike on the Syrian regime following its suspected use of chemical weapons, Washington may be in a position to deal a setback to a Russia client state, and by extension, Moscow itself.
The Syria Question
The al Assad regime's relations with Russia go back to 1970, when Hafez al Assad, current President Bashar al Assad's father, staged a coup and aligned Syria with the Soviet Union. In the illusion of global power that Putin needs to create, the fall of al Assad would undermine his strategy tremendously unless the United States was drawn into yet another prolonged and expensive conflict in the Middle East. In the past, the U.S. distraction with Iraq and Afghanistan served Russia's interests. But the United States is not very likely to get as deeply involved in Syria as it did in those countries. Obama might bring down the regime and create a Sunni government of unknown beliefs, or he may opt for a casual cruise missile attack. But this will not turn into Iraq unless Obama loses control completely.
This could cause Russia to suffer a humiliation similar to the one it dealt the United States in 2008 with Georgia. The United States will demonstrate that Russia's concerns are of no account and that Russia has no counters if and when the United States decides to act.
The impact inside Russia will be interesting. There is some evidence of weakness in Putin's position. His greatest strength has been to create the illusion of Russia as an emerging global power. This will deal that a blow, and how it resonates through the Russian system is unclear. But in any event, it could change the view of Russia being on the offensive and the United States being on the defensive.
Putin made this a core issue for him. I don't think he expected the Europeans to take the position that al Assad had used chemical weapons. He thought he had more pull than that. He didn't. The Europeans may not fly missions but they are not in a position to morally condemn those who do. That means that Putin's bluff is in danger.
History will not turn on this event, and Putin's future, let alone Russia's, does not depend on his ability to protect Russia's Syrian ally. Syria just isn't that important. There are many reasons that the United States might not wish to engage in Syria. But if we are to understand the U.S.-Russian crisis over Syria, it makes sense to consider the crisis within in the arc of recent history from Kosovo in 1999 to Georgia in 2008 to where we are today.
Read more: Syria, America and Putin's Bluff | Stratfor
Senator Barasso of WY
Reply #108 on:
September 15, 2013, 08:15:14 PM »
By John Barrasso
When the Obama administration announced its "reset" of relations with Russia in 2009, Americans never expected that it would include making Vladimir Putin the de facto U.S. ambassador to Syria in 2013. Yet the Russian president has in effect taken over U.S. diplomacy with the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus.
The most recent evidence came this weekend with the announcement in Geneva that Secretary of State John Kerry had reached a "framework" deal brokered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Syria's chemical weapons. Assad is supposed to provide an accounting of all his chemical weapons within a week, international inspections begin in November, and Syria's stockpiles of the weapons must be removed or destroyed by next summer.
Most experts on chemical weapons say the timetable is unworkable. But ridding Syria of chemical weapons is not the point. The Kerry-Lavrov agreement is simply a Russian delaying tactic on behalf of its Syrian ally—a tactic we've seen before.
On May 7, amid reports that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, the Obama administration joined the Russians in announcing plans for an international conference to help end Syria's civil war. Within two weeks, Moscow was supplying Assad with advanced cruise missiles.
Moscow's military support of the Assad regime is one of the main reasons that more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the current conflict. On the political front, the Russians have vetoed every attempt by the United Nations Security Council to do something to bring about an end to the civil war. For example, on Feb. 4, 2012—one day after Syrian forces slaughtered 250 of their own citizens—Russia vetoed a resolution that would have condemned the violence there. This was after Russia had weakened the resolution so that it included no sanctions. Mr. Putin's government even voted against a nonbinding resolution that expressed "grave concern at the continuing escalation of violence."
It is extremely unlikely that Russia is suddenly now going to cooperate with the U.S. on Syria. It is downright naïve to think that Mr. Putin will do anything that President Obama asks him to do without exacting a huge price in return. We have also seen this before. For more than four years, the Obama administration has capitulated to Mr. Putin's demands and accepted his rebukes.
It began with the New START treaty on arms control signed in April 2010. U.S. negotiators limited our missile defense deployments, reduced our delivery systems and hampered our ability to monitor Russian missile production plants. In return, Russia gave up little to nothing of value: The U.S., for example, allowed limits on missile delivery vehicles requiring us to make unilateral reductions, as Russia was already well below the limits.
Later, in March 2012, a microphone accidentally picked up President Obama telling Dmitry Medvedev that following his re-election he would have "more flexibility" to grant the Russians further concessions on missile defense. Mr. Medvedev memorably replied: "I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
Russia's actions in Syria are not the only reasons to distrust Mr. Putin. Moscow has opposed attempts by the U.N. in November 2011 to increase sanctions against Iran for its illicit nuclear program. The Russians voted against a December 2011 resolution that expressed only tepid concerns about repression in North Korea. And Russia continues to refuse to extradite the fugitive Edward Snowden, who stole U.S. national-security secrets.
Meanwhile, the human-rights situation in Russia continues to deteriorate. The country is consistently ranked among the world's most corrupt and least free.
Moscow is not even complying with a commitment to eliminate its own chemical weapons. A State Department assessment in January reported that Russia has provided an "incomplete" list of its chemical agents and weapons to be destroyed. It has also missed deadlines to convert former chemical-weapon production plants. Why would we expect Moscow to help enforce similar restrictions against Syria?
Assad is fighting for survival and has no interest in surrendering his chemical weapons voluntarily. Russia wants Assad to stay in power and will not do anything to risk his position. Nor will Mr. Putin need to do so, since the Kremlin has bent the Obama administration to its will before.
Secretary of State Kerry himself has dismissed the plan he is now pursuing. On Monday last week, he said that the U.S. could ask Assad to turn over his chemical weapons, "but he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done." That assessment is likely to prove correct. But Russia and Syria cynically seized on Mr. Kerry's words and now are feigning an effort to prove that it can be done.
Based on the experience of the past four years, the Russians, like the Iranians, are well aware that pretending to go along can buy time until the Obama administration becomes distracted with another issue. The U.S. should be prepared for the diplomatic effort on Syria to fall flat and have more effective alternatives ready.
The president needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a coherent, realistic Syria policy—one that does not rely on Russia's cooperation.
Dr. Barrasso is a Republican senator from Wyoming.
Re: Senator Barasso of WY
Reply #109 on:
September 16, 2013, 10:11:55 AM »
"The president needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a coherent, realistic Syria policy—one that does not rely on Russia's cooperation."
Sen. Barrasso does a very nice job of articulating what we all seem to know about the Russians and this non-solution to a problem that we just elevated to the level of deciding the course of human history.
Russia, poised for failure
Reply #110 on:
September 19, 2013, 05:29:23 PM »
From the article:
On the surface, Russia seems to be a nation on the march. Last week, Russia's larger-than-life president, Vladimir Putin, strong-armed the United States into accepting his plan for dealing with Syria's chemical weapons. There are signs Putin is preparing to expand Russia's role in Iran and its nuclear program, which successive American administrations have failed to shut down.
But today's appearance of strength hides growing weakness that could do more damage to American interests than any mischief Russia can cause today. Russia is fast approaching a monumental transformation, one that promises to be as profound as the collapse of the U.S.S.R. 20 years ago. The result could spell the end of the nation as we know it
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