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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities => Politics & Religion => Topic started by: Quijote on January 09, 2007, 01:30:19 AM

Title: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: Quijote on January 09, 2007, 01:30:19 AM
The german chancellor already is thinking about stopping Germany's plans to close its nuclear reactors. Russia has a power in Europe with its energy ressources. Germany is the first to feel it now.

SPIEGEL ONLINE - January 8, 2007, 03:34 PM

Russia Halts Oil Deliveries to Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 09, 2007, 04:40:10 PM
Europe: Feeling the Pinch from the Russo-Belarusian Dispute

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the European Commission said in a statement regarding the Jan. 8 interruptions, "There is no reason to be alarmed now, but we are going to take all necessary measures just in case."
Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Quijote on January 10, 2007, 03:55:33 AM
Russia's energy ressources have become Russia's strong leverage on Europe and the former SU states. An unbearable thought.
Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 10, 2007, 06:32:30 PM
The Adventure continues!


The Belarusian Crisis: An Opportunity for Germany
By Peter Zeihan

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

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

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

The Russian Sphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis Averted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Agenda Downstream

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

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

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

This does not happen often.

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

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

The question, of course, is: who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As she stated on Jan. 9 as the Belarusian crisis deepened, "For us, energy is what coal and steel used to be." This direct reference to the European Coal and Steel Community -- which provided the early glue for the forebears of today's European Union -- is an excellent signal of just how ambitious the chancellor is.
Title: Euro-Russian Cold War
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 15, 2007, 06:31:53 PM
Europe, Russia and a New Kind of 'Cold' War

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 29, 2008, 02:30:22 PM
Russia: The Significance of Missiles in Belarus
Stratfor Today » July 29, 2008 | 1832 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Moving Russia’s strategic bombers back into Belarus, meanwhile, would put a component of Russia’s long-range strategic deterrent at higher risk while undermining its greatest asset — range. Like the prospect of Topol-M deployments to threaten installations not at strategic distances, this is also unlikely. The shorter-range Tu-22M Backfire is a more likely candidate in terms of capability, though it would only encourage heightened NATO air patrols along the border.

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

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

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

But from a more geopolitical standpoint, such a move could re-establish a front line in a new Cold War, with Russian weapons targeting a NATO country and U.S. weapons (either defensive or offensive) pointing back. While it would not be as intense an affront to the United States as a Cuban deployment, it will feel precisely like that to Central Europe.
Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 16, 2008, 07:00:04 AM
Kremlin 'Capitalism'
Is a Threat to the West
August 16, 2008; Page A11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Choharis is a principal in Choharis Global Solutions, an international law and consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He recently returned from a trip to Turkmenistan.
Title: Re: Russia's relation to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 20, 2008, 06:47:45 AM
NATO's 'Empty Words'
August 20, 2008; Page A18
"Empty words." That's how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO's criticism yesterday of Russia's continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

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

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

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

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

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

One of Moscow's goals is clearly to humiliate Georgia enough to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili, so he can be replaced with a pliable leader who will "Finlandize" the country, to borrow the old Cold War term for acquiescing to Kremlin wishes. In the bargain, it is also betting it can humiliate the West, which will give the people of Ukraine real doubts about whether joining NATO is worth the risk of angering Moscow. Judging by NATO's demoralizing response on Tuesday, the Kremlin is right.
Title: Go Guerilla!
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 23, 2008, 06:26:03 AM
No thread is ideal for this piece, but this one seems plausible for it.

Georgia's Guerrilla Option

Reihan Salam


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Title: WSJ: East Europe can defend itself
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 25, 2008, 12:49:21 AM
Eastern Europe Can Defend Itself
August 25, 2008; Page A13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See all of today's
Title: WSJ: Stop or we will say "Stop!" again
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 02, 2008, 08:05:46 AM
'Stop! Or We'll Say Stop Again!'
September 2, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For now, the Continent is determined to talk things out with Moscow. When will it realize that Moscow doesn't to listen?
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 03, 2008, 11:09:12 PM
Geopolitical Diary: More Ripples in the Post-Georgia Pond
September 4, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, there appears to be an expectation of support from Russia in return for recognition. We need to be very careful not to assume either that Russia will simply follow a Soviet-model foreign policy or that it has the resources to do so even if it wanted to. Ortega might simply be enjoying a nostalgic moment. Alternatively, Ortega might be fishing for something from the Russians. As with the Baltics, it will be interesting what the Russians do with this opening, or if they even see it as an opening. We are beginning to have opportunities to measure the distance between Russia’s new foreign policy and traditional Soviet policies and see the delta between the two. How the Kremlin deals with these potential openings could indicate just how far the new Russian foreign policy is willing to push.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 12, 2008, 04:14:50 PM
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, during a press conference Sept. 12, said that Ukraine has no plans to dissolve its agreement allowing Russia to keep its Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol, but he wants to resolve issues with Russia over its military presence in Ukrainian territory.

Title: Stratfor: Russia rethinks pricing policy
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 14, 2008, 10:29:49 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia Rethinks Energy Pricing Policy
November 13, 2008 | 0126 GMT
Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, will start dropping natural gas prices for European consumers at the beginning of 2009, CEO Alexei Miller. Miller’s stated rationale for making such a move in midwinter, when demand is highest, is that the export price for natural gas to Europe in the fourth quarter of 2008 was at a record high of more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters. With the global economy in recession and energy consumption dropping across the board, that price would naturally have to come down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: WSJ: Europe kitties out again
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 18, 2008, 08:22:15 AM
Russia needed only a few days this August to drive Georgia's army into retreat. In the aftermath, Europe has held out only a bit longer than Tbilisi's troops.

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

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

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

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

In today's Opinion Journal

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


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


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

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

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

What Russia no doubt realizes after last week is that Europe has the will to do absolutely nothing, and that its invasion will in fact "pass" without consequence.
Title: Good Ol' Uncle Joe, Revised
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on December 29, 2008, 06:55:12 PM
Rehabbing this jacka$$, second only to Mao in the corpse collection contest and leaving Hitler a distant third, is pretty darn scary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Applebaum is the author of 'Gulag: a History’ (Penguin)
Title: Russia Cuts Gas Supply to Ukraine
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on January 01, 2009, 07:02:25 AM
Russia's Gazprom cuts all gas supplies to Ukraine

By LYNN BERRY, Associated Press Writer
30 mins ago
MOSCOW – Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom cut all natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday morning after talks broke down over payments for past shipments and a new energy price contract for 2009.
Gazprom officials said the cuts began as planned at 10 a.m. (0700GMT and 2 a.m. EST) and the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz confirmed a steady drop in supplies.
The festering dispute between the two uneasy neighbors raised fears that a cutoff could lead to a repetition of the January 2006 gas crisis, when a similar dispute between Russia and Ukraine briefly interrupted gas shipments to many European countries.
Europeans get about a quarter of their gas from Russia, and Ukraine controls the pipelines through which Russia supplies most of its customers in Europe. Natural gas is used for heating and to generate electricity, and the cutoff to Ukraine comes as Europe approaches the depths of winter.
While cutting gas to Ukraine, Gazprom said it also increased the amount of gas pumped through pipelines that mainly serve Europe.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine against diverting gas intended for other customers, saying that could have "quite serious consequences for the transit country itself" by damaging relations with Europe.
Ukraine's president and prime minister issued a statement saying they would guarantee the uninterrupted transit of natural gas through Ukrainian territory to Europe.
However, the Ukrainian president's energy adviser said it appeared that Gazprom had reduced supplies by more than Ukraine's quota of the deliveries and was not shipping enough to satisfy European customers. Despite this, Ukraine was fulfilling its obligations to deliver gas westward, Bohdan Sokolovsky said Thursday.
It was not possible to confirm his observations.
Naftogaz director Oleh Dubina has said Ukraine has enough gas in reserve to last it through early April.
European countries also have built up their gas storage since the 2006 crisis and would be unlikely to see any disruption for several weeks, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib bank.
The deadlock over gas supplies reflects the deep political split between Moscow and Kiev.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has angered the Kremlin through his efforts to build ties to Western Europe and his support of Georgia in its August war with Russia.
Ukraine's position in the dispute is further complicated by divisions in the country's leadership. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, bitter political rivals, are at odds over gas policy and relations with Russia, among other issues.
Gazprom had warned it would cut gas supplies unless Ukraine paid off all of a $2.1 billion debt and signed a deal setting prices for 2009 deliveries by midnight. Neither was done.
Naftogaz paid $1.5 billion to the Swiss-based gas trader Rosukrenergo, which it says covers the debt. But Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said late Wednesday that Gazprom had not yet received the money. Gazprom claims Ukraine owes $600 million more in fines for late payment.
Rosukrenergo is half owned by Gazprom. It was not immediately clear why the money had not been transferred to Gazprom.
"This is an issue of Gazprom's dealings with Rosukrenergo," Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky said. "Naftogaz has fulfilled all its obligations."
The other stumbling block was the failure to sign a contract for 2009 gas deliveries.
Gazprom had first insisted that Ukraine pay $418 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2009, more than double the $179.50 it paid the previous year.
On Wednesday, Gazprom offered a contract with gas set at $250, which Ukrainian officials said was still too high.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko offered early Thursday to pay Russia $201 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas if Russia agrees to raise the future price it pays to use Ukraine's pipelines to $2 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers.
Russia has said the $250 offer is contingent on the current transit fee of $1.70 remaining unchanged.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the offer from Ukraine's leadership came after the Naftogaz delegation had left Moscow.
"The main problem was not that we disagreed on the price of gas but that the Naftogaz delegation did not have a mandate to sign a new contract," he told reporters.
Sokolovsky, the Ukrainian energy adviser, denied this.
While Gazprom's European customers now pay more than $400, the cost of gas is expected to fall sharply in the spring as a result of the steep drop in the price of oil.
Associated Press writer Maria Danilova contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.;_ylt=AmwKrOQpQkkecEJBx2Bx.JayBhIF

Title: Stratfor: Update on the cutoff
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 08, 2009, 09:25:05 PM
Geopolitical Diary: From a Chill to a Freeze in Europe
January 8, 2009
Related Links
Russia, Ukraine: Update on the Natural Gas Cutoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this does not mean Russia won’t ask for more than just Ukraine in the near future. Russia has a long laundry list of things it wants to accomplish before it is countered by a freed-up United States, including locking Germany into a neutral stance, restoring its hegemony in the Caucasus, starting up a crisis in the Baltic states and intimidating Poland. But for now (and only now), Russia will settle for Ukraine.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on January 09, 2009, 08:14:24 AM
The behavior of Russia is very strange.  This is certainly a reminder that no one should rely on enemies or even unreliable friends for things that are life-sustaining or in this case sovereignty-sustaining.

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

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

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

Too bad that we are in no position to help those countries with energy... or security.  I suppose it is too far to ship coal and our leftist electorate won't let us produce more energy anyway.  Still I wonder what a U.S. or world response should be.  At the very least this rogue nation should be removed immediately from the security council and wishfully from the UN.  If the charter does not allow removal of a 'permanent' member then it is a good time IMO to form a new group - and be a little more selective this time.
Title: Stratfor: Russia-Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 13, 2009, 09:53:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, Russia’s moves on Ukraine have pushed voters toward pro-Russian candidates and furthered Yushchenko’s decline -— exactly what Moscow wanted. This does not mean things cannot and will not shift before Ukraine’s next elections, which could take place anytime from the end of 2009 through early 2010 unless Yushchenko is removed from office early. In the meantime, Russia’s use of energy as leverage seems to be creating the effects Moscow wants in Ukraine.
Title: Stratfor: Under my thumb , , ,
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2009, 05:14:23 PM
Europe: Obstacles to Escaping the Russian Energy Grip
Stratfor Today » January 20, 2009 | 1919 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to view map

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

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

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

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


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

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

Clearly, European plans for energy diversification away from Russia are fraught with obstacles and complications. Moscow will take note of these troubles, making sure to exploit divisions in order to keep Europe under its energy thumb as long as possible.
Title: Russian Paper Tiger
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on February 02, 2009, 11:49:02 AM
January 28, 2009
Russian military a 'paper tiger' despite symbolic comeback, says IISS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This restructuring could make Russian armed forces more capable to operate against modern threats and potentially better interoperable with Western forces,” he said.
Title: The Motives behind Russia's security proposal
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 24, 2009, 03:34:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Motives Behind Russia's Security Proposal
March 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solana has discounted the idea that any European country will be interested in Russia’s new security deal. However, it seems that some countries might not be quick to pass it up, while others fear the United States cannot follow through on its security guarantees.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 01, 2009, 09:43:24 AM
Caspian Pipeline Consortium
Stratfor Today » April 30, 2009 | 2115 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 06, 2009, 12:43:42 PM

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: US, Poland, Russia, and BMD
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 01, 2009, 12:09:36 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore, even if the United States backs away from the BMD issue, the victory would be a Pyrrhic one for Moscow — for it is this arrangement that the Kremlin has truly feared all along. The BMD issue – which would put 10 ballistic missile interceptors near Poland’s Baltic coast – was one issue on which the Kremlin felt it could gain a lot of traction. But an aggressive, confident and U.S.-backed Poland perched on Russia’s borders would be a real geopolitical problem for Moscow.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: HUSS on July 02, 2009, 10:15:14 PM
Russia Is Back on the Warpath
The West must reaffirm its support for Georgia
With President Barack Obama's trip to Moscow on Monday, you might expect Russia to avoid stirring up any trouble. Yet the Russian media are now abuzz with speculation about a new war in Georgia, and some Western analysts are voicing similar concerns. The idea seems insane. Nonetheless, the risk is real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 03, 2009, 12:22:56 AM
Many good points in this article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Led as we are at the moment, with our economy rapidly spiraling into serious vortexes, are we up to this?
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: HUSS on July 03, 2009, 09:39:14 AM
Russia is opening bases in South America again. Last summer they did joint exercises with Cuba and Venzuala

Many good points in this article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Led as we are at the moment, with our economy rapidly spiraling into serious vortexes, are we up to this?
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 03, 2009, 10:03:50 AM
I saw about the joint exercises, but as far as the logic of the point goes, were they or we doing this first?

As far as opening bases goes, when?  Where?

You are a serious student of this part of the world (Georgia, etc) so I would be particularly glad to get your assessment of my additional questions/points.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: HUSS on July 03, 2009, 02:55:40 PM
I saw about the joint exercises, but as far as the logic of the point goes, were they or we doing this first?

As far as opening bases goes, when?  Where?

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

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

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

Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 03, 2009, 04:04:32 PM

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

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

I have nothing inherently against trying to knock out the Russkis as a major power while they were down, but it seems distinctly unsound to try it with all our bandwidth used up.  As best as I can tell, Bush showed very poor judgment here and left us badly overextended.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: HUSS on July 03, 2009, 07:36:32 PM

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

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

A new Cuban missile crisis? Russia eyes bomber bases in Latin America
It could be bluffing or it might be payback – Russia says it's 'ready to fly' bombers to Venezuela and Cuba.
Title: Strat: Central Europe's fears
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 18, 2009, 08:03:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Central Europe's Longstanding Fears
July 17, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Munich on Thursday. The meeting produced talk of a Russian-German manufacturing alliance, a 500 million-euro ($704.7 million) joint investment agreement, several business deals that included infrastructure and transportation development, and a lot of chatter on Europe’s energy issues, such as the proposed Nord Stream and Nabucco natural gas pipelines. The business deals are further evidence of a burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Berlin that is evolving into more than just a partnership of convenience based on German imports of Russian natural gas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 15, 2009, 07:58:52 AM
Warsaw's Reality on the North European Plain
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGERLA MERKEL will travel to Sochi, Russia, on Friday to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, one day after her personal intervention seems to have pushed a deal on German auto maker Opel to a Russian-backed bid. General Motors Corp. reportedly agreed in principle on Thursday with Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International to sell its stake in the troubled Opel unit. The Magna bid is backed by state-owned Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and would include close cooperation between Opel and GAZ, the second-largest Russian car manufacturer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meeting is indicative of the balancing act that Warsaw is forced to play, lacking a clear signal from the United States on its commitment to Poland. It is also a signal to Washington that, although the invasion occurred 70 years ago, Poland is still stuck in the middle — between of Moscow and Berlin — on the North European Plain.
Title: Stratfor: The Kremlin's long arm
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 02, 2009, 02:59:21 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Poland can be neutralized and the United States’ influence in Europe remains low, what will Russia’s next move be? Which countries are next on Moscow’s list as it seeks to rebuild influence in the region? These are questions that many Baltic and Central European countries will be asking on the 70th anniversary of World War II.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 23, 2009, 07:13:22 AM
Serbia: Russia's Eyes on the Balkans
SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IVICA DACIC and Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a deal on Wednesday to set up by 2012 a humanitarian center for emergencies in Nis, a city in southeastern Serbia. At a press conference, the ministers said the center would be a regional hub for emergency relief in southeastern Europe, and that it will include a mine-clearance center.

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

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

Enter the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, there is danger in this strategy. It is one thing to play one loan off of another and quite another to be seen as a potential ally of Moscow. Serbia easily could find itself in the middle of a whirlwind, with the potential reopening of the Balkans as a major point of contestation between the West and Russia.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 14, 2010, 09:22:33 AM
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Jan. 12 praised Russia’s proposal for a new European security treaty as “timely” and in line with Europe’s interests. By putting forth that proposal Russia is not necessarily hoping to get Europe to agree to a particular security arrangement; rather, Moscow is looking to sow discord among European countries, particularly NATO members.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately, a token reassurance may not be enough for Central Europe. The coming debate over NATO’s 2010 strategic revamp — with the next meeting scheduled for Jan. 14 in Oslo — could therefore open fissures in the alliance, an outcome Moscow had in mind from the start.
Title: Poland
Post by: DougMacG on April 11, 2010, 08:40:08 AM
Freedom lost a friend in the plane crash that killed Poland's president. 
What's Next for Poland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsweek's former Warsaw bureau chief Andrew Nagorski is now vice president and director of public policy at the EastWest Institute. He is the author of  The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on April 11, 2010, 08:43:42 AM
When I heard the news the other night, my first thought was "Putin".

I have nothing to offer as evidence, but my gut is not often wrong.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on April 11, 2010, 09:09:16 AM
I have heard no foul play.  What a tragedy for all 97 aboard.  I'm sure no tears were shed though by Putin regarding Kaczynski.  Can't help being reminded of whistle blower Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive poisoning and Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin poisoning.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on April 11, 2010, 09:26:17 AM
The Russian media is now pushing the "Plane was technically sound" story.

This just in, henhouse security top notch, says fox.  :roll:
Title: Stratfor
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 12, 2010, 09:21:17 AM
Russia’s presidential representative in the Central Federal District, Georgy Poltavchenko, said late April 10 that the Polish flight crew of the crashed presidential plane had been advised by Russian air traffic controllers to deviate from their flight plan to Smolensk and land in Minsk or Vitebsk in Belarus. This was later echoed by Russian Transportation Minister Igor Levitin, who said that the decision to land the plane was taken by the Polish pilot, which has been confirmed by flight recordings recovered from the crash site. According to Levitin, the visibility at the airport was 400 meters due to heavy fog, whereas the required landing visibility is at least 1,000 meters. Levitin also said the two flight recorders will be taken to Moscow where they will be examined in cooperation with Polish investigators. According to STRATFOR sources in Poland, the decision to land in Smolensk, and not in Belarus, may have been influenced by the fact that the ceremonies marking the 70-year anniversary of the Katyn massacre were due to take place within an hour of the supposed landing. In addition, the Tu-154 presidential plane was built in 1990 and had recently been serviced in Russia. In January 2010, Russian airline Aeroflot ceased to fly the model, which was designed in the 1960s. Polish President Lech Kaczynski — who, along with 96 others died in the crash — was known to take risks, demanding that his pilot lands his presidential plane in Tbilisi during the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. His pilot at the time refused to land in a war zone, instead diverting the plane to Azerbaijan. According to sources in Poland, that pilot was reprimanded and never flew with the president again.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on April 12, 2010, 09:34:12 AM
Levitin also said the two flight recorders will be taken to Moscow where they will be examined in cooperation with Polish investigators.

**I hope the Polish investigators have the skill sets required to do a proper forensic analysis of the evidence.**
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on April 12, 2010, 11:34:55 AM
"I hope the Polish investigators have the skill sets required to do a proper forensic analysis of the evidence."

Agree and they should seek assistance from whoever are the best at this.  My doubt isn't that Putin is morally incapable of this, just that I assume the Polish President is more an annoyance than a threat to him. Putin is a shrewd politician and downing an airliner full of innocent people could hurt even his reputation.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 12, 2010, 03:21:46 PM
Didn't Russia just foment the overthrow the govt of Krygyztan (sp?) where we have a now suspended base vital to supply the Afghan War?

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

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

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

etc etc
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on April 12, 2010, 04:45:21 PM
Didn't Russia just foment the overthrow the govt of Krygyztan...invaded Georgia without consequence...uses its status as a natural gas supplier to squeeze and nudge Europe towards desired behaviors...backed down the US from anti-missile defense for Europe...?

Yes, and shame on us.  They are ruthless and on a roll. Why would they risk all that for an inefficient takedown of a Polish leader who annoys them?  There is a difference between assassination and terrorism.  Downing an airliner doesn't make sense to me. I like the other story about a powerful person thinking this can't or won't happen to them better, it fits the aviation mentality of JFK jr, Paul Wellstone, Ron Brown and maybe John Denver.  Not excusing Russians from their other crimes.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on April 12, 2010, 07:38:25 PM
As I said before, there is no evidence of a crime, but the timing and extent of damage to Poland is awfully convenient for Putin.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on April 12, 2010, 09:41:28 PM
Besides mass murder speculation, another thing that follows from the list of violations by Russia brought to light here is what a joke it is that we still go through the UN 'Security Council' for crucial matters of global security with Russia sitting as an equal 'partner'.

I hope that in the next generation of leaders someone has the courage to stand up to this farce a la Reagan addressing the value of the wall:  Mr. Secretary General of the UN, tear down this phony security council.  To the Ways and Means chair and the UN, we wont pay one dollar more than Uganda or Congo pays ever again or bring important issues before the security council until the council includes only countries with a sincere interest in global security.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Rarick on April 13, 2010, 03:39:03 AM
Yeah, there is a Putsch going on probably with Putin and some other nationalists behind it.  If it were electorates talking I would probably be forced to shrug it off, but there are obvious indicators otherwise.  There seems to be a "War of Peace" syle coordinated attack going on. Infrastructure, Economy and Reputaional/political attacks are being coordinated to pull countries back into the old "Pact".
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 13, 2010, 11:03:13 AM

Russia's efforts to reassert influence along its territorial periphery are currently evident in numerous ways. A customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus -- which took effect on Jan. 1, 2010 -- was quickly followed by elections in Ukraine, which brought a pro-Russian president to power in February. Last week, a revolt in Kyrgyzstan toppled the government of independent-minded President Kurmanbek Bakiyev; the speed with which an interim government was formed and Russian troops were flown into the country has strongly suggested that Moscow helped to orchestrate events in Bishkek. And to the west, a "charm offensive" launched months ago, in hopes of softening anti-Russian sentiments in Poland, has gained new traction following the deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and dozens of military, economic and political officials in an April 10 plane crash near Smolensk.
Title: 'Russia engineered air crash that killed President Kaczynski,'
Post by: G M on April 13, 2010, 07:44:48 PM
'Russia engineered air crash that killed President Kaczynski,' claims Polish MP
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 8:09 AM on 13th April 2010
Comments (91) Add to My Stories The Russian government prevented the Polish president's plane from landing four times to divert him from a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, according to an MP.

Artur Gorski said the Russians 'came up with some dubious reasons' that the aircraft couldn't land because they feared President Leck Kaczynski's presence would overshadow a similar event hosted by the Russian prime minister a few days before.
And their alleged plan ended in disaster when the Polish pilots made one final and disastrous attempt to land, killing Mr Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 others on board the plane.

Read more:
Title: Toppled Kyrgyz leader insists he is still president
Post by: DougMacG on April 21, 2010, 07:56:30 AM
 I would not want to be this guy's food tester...
AFP - Kyrgyzstan's ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev insisted Wednesday that he was still the rightful leader of his country, breaking several days of silence after his flight into exile.
"I, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, am the legally elected president of Kyrgyzstan and recognised by the international community," he said, speaking to reporters in Belarus where he took refuge earlier this week
"I do not recognise my resignation. Nine months ago the people of Kyrgyzstan elected me their president and there is no power that can stop me. Only death can stop me," Bakiyev said in the Belarussian capital Minsk.
Bakiyev was toppled by a popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago that brought a new interim government to power in the former Soviet republic.
After holding out in his stronghold in southern Kyrgyzstan for about a week, Bakiyev flew to neighbouring Kazakhstan, and the interim government announced that he had submitted his resignation.
On Monday he and several family members left Kazakhstan and arrived in Belarus at the invitation of strongman Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Speaking in the Minsk-based headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of former Soviet republics, Bakiyev lashed out at the interim government which replaced him.
"Everyone must know the the bandits who try to take power are the executors of a external force and have no legitimacy," he said with steely determination.
"I call on leaders of the international community: do not set a precedent and do not recognise this gang as the legitimate authorities," he said.
"Kyrgyzstan will be nobody's colony. My people want to be free and will become free," Bakiyev added.
Title: Ignored Soviet Archives
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on May 12, 2010, 08:01:26 PM
Claire Berlinski
A Hidden History of Evil
Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives?
Spring 2010
In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.

For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian exile in London, has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. He stole them in 2003 and fled Russia. Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet he can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, he can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all.

Then there’s Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who once spent 12 years in the USSR’s prisons, labor camps, and psikhushkas—political psychiatric hospitals—after being convicted of copying anti-Soviet literature. He, too, possesses a massive collection of stolen and smuggled papers from the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which, as he writes, “contain the beginnings and the ends of all the tragedies of our bloodstained century.” These documents are available online at, but most are not translated. They are unorganized; there are no summaries; there is no search or index function. “I offer them free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them,” Bukovsky writes. “Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

The originals of most of Stroilov’s documents remain in the Kremlin archives, where, like most of the Soviet Union’s top-secret documents from the post-Stalin era, they remain classified. They include, Stroilov says, transcripts of nearly every conversation between Gorbachev and his foreign counterparts—hundreds of them, a near-complete diplomatic record of the era, available nowhere else. There are notes from the Politburo taken by Georgy Shakhnazarov, an aide of Gorbachev’s, and by Politburo member Vadim Medvedev. There is the diary of Anatoly Chernyaev—Gorbachev’s principal aide and deputy chief of the body formerly known as the Comintern—which dates from 1972 to the collapse of the regime. There are reports, dating from the 1960s, by Vadim Zagladin, deputy chief of the Central Committee’s International Department until 1987 and then Gorbachev’s advisor until 1991. Zagladin was both envoy and spy, charged with gathering secrets, spreading disinformation, and advancing Soviet influence.

When Gorbachev and his aides were ousted from the Kremlin, they took unauthorized copies of these documents with them. The documents were scanned and stored in the archives of the Gorbachev Foundation, one of the first independent think tanks in modern Russia, where a handful of friendly and vetted researchers were given limited access to them. Then, in 1999, the foundation opened a small part of the archive to independent researchers, including Stroilov. The key parts of the collection remained restricted; documents could be copied only with the written permission of the author, and Gorbachev refused to authorize any copies whatsoever. But there was a flaw in the foundation’s security, Stroilov explained to me. When things went wrong with the computers, as often they did, he was able to watch the network administrator typing the password that gave access to the foundation’s network. Slowly and secretly, Stroilov copied the archive and sent it to secure locations around the world.

When I first heard about Stroilov’s documents, I wondered if they were forgeries. But in 2006, having assessed the documents with the cooperation of prominent Soviet dissidents and Cold War spies, British judges concluded that Stroilov was credible and granted his asylum request. The Gorbachev Foundation itself has since acknowledged the documents’ authenticity.

Bukovsky’s story is similar. In 1992, President Boris Yeltsin’s government invited him to testify at the Constitutional Court of Russia in a case concerning the constitutionality of the Communist Party. The Russian State Archives granted Bukovsky access to its documents to prepare his testimony. Using a handheld scanner, he copied thousands of documents and smuggled them to the West.

The Russian state cannot sue Stroilov or Bukovsky for breach of copyright, since the material was created by the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, neither of which now exists. Had he remained in Russia, however, Stroilov believes that he could have been prosecuted for disclosure of state secrets or treason. The military historian Igor Sutyagin is now serving 15 years in a hard-labor camp for the crime of collecting newspaper clippings and other open-source materials and sending them to a British consulting firm. The danger that Stroilov and Bukovsky faced was real and grave; they both assumed, one imagines, that the world would take notice of what they had risked so much to acquire.

Stroilov claims that his documents “tell a completely new story about the end of the Cold War. The &#937;commonly accepted&#8776; version of history of that period consists of myths almost entirely. These documents are capable of ruining each of those myths.” Is this so? I couldn’t say. I don’t read Russian. Of Stroilov’s documents, I have seen only the few that have been translated into English. Certainly, they shouldn’t be taken at face value; they were, after all, written by Communists. But the possibility that Stroilov is right should surely compel keen curiosity.

For instance, the documents cast Gorbachev in a far darker light than the one in which he is generally regarded. In one document, he laughs with the Politburo about the USSR’s downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983—a crime that was not only monstrous but brought the world very near to nuclear Armageddon. These minutes from a Politburo meeting on October 4, 1989, are similarly disturbing:

Lukyanov reports that the real number of casualties on Tiananmen Square was 3,000.

Gorbachev: We must be realists. They, like us, have to defend themselves. Three thousands . . . So what?

And a transcript of Gorbachev’s conversation with Hans-Jochen Vogel, the leader of West Germany’s Social Democratic Party, shows Gorbachev defending Soviet troops’ April 9, 1989, massacre of peaceful protesters in Tbilisi.

Stroilov’s documents also contain transcripts of Gorbachev’s discussions with many Middle Eastern leaders. These suggest interesting connections between Soviet policy and contemporary trends in Russian foreign policy. Here is a fragment from a conversation reported to have taken place with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad on April 28, 1990:

H. ASSAD. To put pressure on Israel, Baghdad would need to get closer to Damascus, because Iraq has no common borders with Israel. . . .

M. S. GORBACHEV. I think so, too. . . .

H. ASSAD. Israel’s approach is different, because the Judaic religion itself states: the land of Israel spreads from Nile to Euphrates and its return is a divine predestination.

M. S. GORBACHEV. But this is racism, combined with Messianism!

H. ASSAD. This is the most dangerous form of racism.

One doesn’t need to be a fantasist to wonder whether these discussions might be relevant to our understanding of contemporary Russian policy in a region of some enduring strategic significance.

There are other ways in which the story that Stroilov’s and Bukovsky’s papers tell isn’t over. They suggest, for example, that the architects of the European integration project, as well as many of today’s senior leaders in the European Union, were far too close to the USSR for comfort. This raises important questions about the nature of contemporary Europe—questions that might be asked when Americans consider Europe as a model for social policy, or when they seek European diplomatic cooperation on key issues of national security.

According to Zagladin’s reports, for example, Kenneth Coates, who from 1989 to 1998 was a British member of the European Parliament, approached Zagladin on January 9, 1990, to discuss what amounted to a gradual merger of the European Parliament and the Supreme Soviet. Coates, says Zagladin, explained that “creating an infrastructure of cooperation between the two parliament would help . . . to isolate the rightists in the European Parliament (and in Europe), those who are interested in the USSR’s collapse.” Coates served as chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights from 1992 to 1994. How did it come to pass that Europe was taking advice about human rights from a man who had apparently wished to “isolate” those interested in the USSR’s collapse and sought to extend Soviet influence in Europe?

Or consider a report on Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, who led Spain’s integration into the European Community as its foreign minister. On March 3, 1989, according to these documents, he explained to Gorbachev that “the success of perestroika means only one thing—the success of the socialist revolution in contemporary conditions. And that is exactly what the reactionaries don’t accept.” Eighteen months later, Ordóñez told Gorbachev: “I feel intellectual disgust when I have to read, for example, passages in the documents of &#937;G7&#8776; where the problems of democracy, freedom of human personality and ideology of market economy are set on the same level. As a socialist, I cannot accept such an equation.” Perhaps most shockingly, the Eastern European press has reported that Stroilov’s documents suggest that François Mitterrand was maneuvering with Gorbachev to ensure that Germany would unite as a neutral, socialist entity under a Franco-Soviet condominium.

Zagladin’s records also note that the former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, approached Gorbachev—unauthorized, while Kinnock was leader of the opposition—through a secret envoy to discuss the possibility of halting the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear-missile program. The minutes of the meeting between Gorbachev and the envoy, MP Stuart Holland, read as follows:

In [Holland’s] opinion, Soviet Union should be very interested in liquidation of “Tridents” because, apart from other things, the West—meaning the US, Britain and France—would have a serious advantage over the Soviet Union after the completion of START treaty. That advantage will need to be eliminated. . . . At the same time Holland noted that, of course, we can seriously think about realisation of that idea only if the Labour comes to power. He said Thatcher . . . would never agree to any reduction of nuclear armaments.
Kinnock was vice president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, and his wife, Glenys, is now Britain’s minister for Europe. Gerard Batten, a member of the UK Independence Party, has noted the significance of the episode. “If the report given to Mr. Gorbachev is true, it means that Lord Kinnock approached one of Britain’s enemies in order to seek approval regarding his party’s defense policy and, had he been elected, Britain’s defense policy,” Batten said to the European Parliament in 2009. “If this report is true, then Lord Kinnock would be guilty of treason.”

Similarly, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is now the European Union’s foreign minister, was treasurer of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from 1980 to 1982. The papers offer evidence that this organization received “unidentified income” from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Stroilov’s papers suggest as well that the government of the current Spanish EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Joaquín Almunia, enthusiastically supported the Soviet project of gradually unifying Germany and Europe into a socialist “common European home” and strongly opposed the independence of the Baltic states and then of Ukraine.

Perhaps it doesn’t surprise you to read that prominent European politicians held these views. But why doesn’t it? It is impossible to imagine that figures who had enjoyed such close ties to the Nazi Party—or, for that matter, to the Ku Klux Klan or to South Africa’s apartheid regime—would enjoy top positions in Europe today. The rules are different, apparently, for Communist fellow travelers. “We now have the EU unelected socialist party running Europe,” Stroilov said to me. “Bet the KGB can’t believe it.”

And what of Zagladin’s description of his dealings with our own current vice president in 1979?

Unofficially, [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Senator Richard] Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for “human rights.” . . . In other words, the collocutors directly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.
Remarkably, the world has shown little interest in the unread Soviet archives. That paragraph about Biden is a good example. Stroilov and Bukovsky coauthored a piece about it for the online magazine FrontPage on October 10, 2008; it passed without remark. Americans considered the episode so uninteresting that even Biden’s political opponents didn’t try to turn it into political capital. Imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to have spent the prime of your life in a Soviet psychiatric hospital, to know that Joe Biden is now vice president of the United States, and to know that no one gives a damn.

Bukovsky’s book about the story that these documents tell, Jugement à Moscou, has been published in French, Russian, and a few other Slavic languages, but not in English. Random House bought the manuscript and, in Bukovsky’s words, tried “to force me to rewrite the whole book from the liberal left political perspective.” Bukovsky replied that “due to certain peculiarities of my biography I am allergic to political censorship.” The contract was canceled, the book was never published in English, and no other publisher has shown interest in it. Neither has anyone wanted to publish EUSSR, a pamphlet by Stroilov and Bukovsky about the Soviet roots of European integration. In 2004, a very small British publisher did print an abbreviated version of the pamphlet; it, too, passed unnoticed.

Stroilov has a long list of complaints about journalists who have initially shown interest in the documents, only to tell him later that their editors have declared the story insignificant. In advance of Gorbachev’s visit to Germany for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Stroilov says, he offered the German press the documents depicting Gorbachev unflatteringly. There were no takers. In France, news about the documents showing Mitterrand’s and Gorbachev’s plans to turn Germany into a dependent socialist state prompted a few murmurs of curiosity, nothing more. Bukovsky’s vast collection about Soviet sponsorship of terrorism, Palestinian and otherwise, remains largely unpublished.

Stroilov says that he and Bukovsky approached Jonathan Brent of Yale University Press, which is leading a publishing project on the history of the Cold War. He claims that initially Brent was enthusiastic and asked him to write a book, based on the documents, about the first Gulf War. Stroilov says that he wrote the first six chapters, sent them off, and never heard from Brent again, despite sending him e-mail after e-mail. “I can only speculate what so much frightened him in that book,” Stroilov wrote to me.

I’ve also asked Brent and received no reply. This doesn’t mean anything; people are busy. I am less inclined to believe in complex attempts to suppress the truth than I am in indifference and preoccupation with other things. Stroilov sees in these events “a kind of a taboo, the vague common understanding in the Establishment that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, not to throw stones in a house of glass, and not to mention a rope in the house of a hanged man.” I suspect it is something even more disturbing: no one much cares.

“I know the time will come,” Stroilov says, “when the world has to look at those documents very carefully. We just cannot escape this. We have no way forward until we face the truth about what happened to us in the twentieth century. Even now, no matter how hard we try to ignore history, all these questions come back to us time and again.”

The questions come back time and again, it is true, but few remember that they have been asked before, and few remember what the answer looked like. No one talks much about the victims of Communism. No one erects memorials to the throngs of people murdered by the Soviet state. (In his widely ignored book, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of perestroika under Gorbachev, puts the number at 30 to 35 million.)

Indeed, many still subscribe to the essential tenets of Communist ideology. Politicians, academics, students, even the occasional autodidact taxi driver still stand opposed to private property. Many remain enthralled by schemes for central economic planning. Stalin, according to polls, is one of Russia’s most popular historical figures. No small number of young people in Istanbul, where I live, proudly describe themselves as Communists; I have met such people around the world, from Seattle to Calcutta.

We rightly insisted upon total denazification; we rightly excoriate those who now attempt to revive the Nazis’ ideology. But the world exhibits a perilous failure to acknowledge the monstrous history of Communism. These documents should be translated. They should be housed in a reputable library, properly cataloged, and carefully assessed by scholars. Above all, they should be well-known to a public that seems to have forgotten what the Soviet Union was really about. If they contain what Stroilov and Bukovsky say—and all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they do—this is the obligation of anyone who gives a damn about history, foreign policy, and the scores of millions dead.

Claire Berlinski, a contributing editor of City Journal, is an American journalist who lives in Istanbul. She is the author of There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 13, 2010, 05:45:39 AM

You raise a fascinating point here, one of import beyond the confines of this thread.  If you have more in this vein, maybe I should expand the definition of the Fascism thread , , ,
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 22, 2010, 04:55:26 PM

By George Friedman

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on
a joint proposal for Russian-European "cooperation on security," according to a
statement from Westerwelle's spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks
between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev
earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Peschke said, "We want to
further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and
Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister."

On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily
structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the
ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed
consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia's foreign

All of this seems rather mild until we consider three things. First, proposals for
deepening the relationship between Russia and the European Union have been on the
table for several years without much progress. Second, the Germans have taken this
initiative at a time when German foreign policy is in a state of flux. And third,
the decision to take this deal to France and Poland indicates that the Germans are
extremely sensitive to the geopolitical issues involved, which are significant and

Reconsidering Basic Strategy
The economic crisis in Europe has caused the Germans, among others, to reconsider
their basic strategy. Ever since World War II, the Germans have pursued two national
imperatives. The first was to maintain close relations with the French -- along with
the rest of Europe -- to eliminate the threat of war. Germany had fought three wars
with France since 1870, and its primary goal was not fighting another one. Its
second goal was prosperity. Germany's memory of the Great Depression plus its desire
to avoid militarism made it obsessed with economic development and creating a
society focused on prosperity. It saw the creation of an integrated economic
structure in Europe as achieving both ends, tying Germany into an unbreakable
relationship with France and at the same time creating a trading bloc that would
ensure prosperity.

Events since the financial crisis of 2008 have shaken German confidence in the
European Union as an instrument of prosperity, however. Until 2008, Europe had
undergone an extraordinary period of prosperity, in which West Germany could
simultaneously integrate with East Germany and maintain its long-term economic
growth. The European Union appeared to be a miraculous machine that automatically
generated prosperity and political stability alongside it.

After 2008, this perception changed, and the sense of insecurity accelerated with
the current crisis in Greece and among the Mediterranean members of the European
Union. The Germans found themselves underwriting what they regarded as Greek
profligacy to protect the euro and the European economy. This not only generated
significant opposition among the German public, it raised questions in the German
government. The purpose of the European Union was to ensure German prosperity. If
the future of Europe was Germany shoring up Europe -- in other words, transferring
wealth from Germany to Europe -- then the rationale for European integration became

The Germans were certainly not prepared to abandon European integration, which had
given Germany 65 years of peace. At the same time, the Germans were prepared to
consider adjustments to the framework in which Europe was operating, particular from
an economic standpoint. A Europe in which German prosperity is at risk from the
budgeting practices of Greece needed adjustment.

The Pull of Russia
In looking at their real economic interests, the Germans were inevitably drawn to
their relationship with Russia. Russia supplies Germany with nearly 40 percent of
the natural gas Germany uses. Without Russian energy, Germany's economy is in
trouble. At the same time, Russia needs technology and expertise to develop its
economy away from being simply an exporter of primary commodities. Moreover, the
Germans already have thousands of enterprises that have invested in Russia. Finally,
in the long run, Germany's population is declining below the level needed to
maintain its economy. It does not want to increase immigration into Germany because
of fears of social instability. Russia's population is also falling, but it still
has surplus population relative to its economic needs and will continue to have one
for quite a while. German investment in Russia allows Germany to get the labor it
needs without resorting to immigration by moving production facilities east to

The Germans have been developing economic relations with Russia since before the
Soviet collapse, but the Greek crisis forced them to reconsider their relationship
with Russia. If the European Union was becoming a trap in which Germany was going to
consistently subsidize the rest of Europe, and a self-contained economy is
impossible, then another strategy would be needed. This consisted of two parts. The
first was insisting on a restructuring of the European Union to protect Germany from
the domestic policies of other countries. Second, if Europe was heading toward a
long period of stagnation, then Germany, heavily dependent on exports and needing
labor, needed to find an additional partner -- if not a new one.

At the same time, a German-Russian alignment is a security issue as well as an
economic issue. Between 1871 and 1941 there was a three-player game in continental
Europe -- France, Germany and Russia. The three shifted alliances with each other,
with each shift increasing the chance of war. In 1871, Prussia was allied with
Russia when it attacked France. In 1914, The French and Russians were allied against
Germany. In 1940, Germany was allied with Russia when it attacked France. The
three-player game played itself out in various ways with a constant outcome: war.

The last thing Berlin wants is to return to that dynamic. Instead, its hope is to
integrate Russia into the European security system, or at least give it a sufficient
stake in the European economic system that Russia does not seek to challenge the
European security system. This immediately affects French relations with Russia. For
Paris, partnership with Germany is the foundation of France's security policy and
economy. If Germany moves into a close security and economic relationship with
Russia, France must calculate the effect this will have on France. There has never
been a time when a tripartite alliance of France, Germany and Russia has worked
because it has always left France as the junior partner. Therefore, it is vital for
the Germans to present this not as a three-way relationship but as the inclusion of
Russia into Europe, and to focus on security measures rather than economic measures.
Nevertheless, the Germans have to be enormously careful in managing their
relationship with France.

Even more delicate is the question of Poland. Poland is caught between Russia and
Germany. Its history has been that of division between these two countries or
conquest by one. This is a burning issue in the Polish psyche. A closer relationship
between Germany and Russia inevitably will generate primordial fears of disaster in

Therefore, Wednesday's meeting with the so-called triangular group is essential.
Both the French and the Poles, and the Poles with great intensity, must understand
what is happening. The issue is partly the extent to which this affects German
commitments to the European Union, and the other part -- crucial to Poland --is what
this does to Germany's NATO commitments.

The NATO Angle
It is noteworthy the Russians emphasized that what is happening poses no threat to
NATO. Russia is trying to calm not only Poland, but also the United States. The
problem, however, is this: If Germany and Europe have a security relationship that
requires prior consultation and cooperation, then Russia inevitably has a hand in
NATO. If the Russians oppose a NATO action, Germany and other European states will
be faced with a choice between Russia and NATO.

To put it more bluntly, if Germany enters into a cooperative security arrangement
with Russia (forgetting the rest of Europe for the moment), then how does it handle
its relationship with the United States when the Russians and Americans are at
loggerheads in countries like Georgia? The Germans and Russians both view the United
States as constantly and inconveniently pressuring them both to take risks in areas
where they feel they have no interest. NATO may not be functional in any real sense,
but U.S. pressure is ever-present. The Germans and Russians acting together would be
in a better position to deflect this pressure than standing alone.

Intriguingly, part of the German-Russian talks relate to a specific security matter
-- the issue of Moldova and Transdniestria. Moldova is a region between Romania and
Ukraine (which adjoins Russia and has re-entered the Russian sphere of influence)
that at various times has been part of both. It became independent after the
collapse of communism, but Moldova's eastern region, Transdniestria, broke away from
Moldova under Russian sponsorship. Following a change in government in 2009, Moldova
sees itself as pro-Western while Transdniestria is pro-Russian. The Russians have
supported Transdniestria's status as a breakaway area (and have troops stationed
there), while Moldova has insisted on its return.

The memorandum between Merkel and Medvedev specifically pointed to the impact a
joint security relationship might have on this dispute. The kind of solution that
may be considered is unclear, but if the issue goes forward, the outcome will give
the first indication of what a German-Russian security relationship will look like.
The Poles will be particularly interested, as any effort in Moldova will
automatically impact both Romania and Ukraine -- two states key to determining
Russian strength in the region. Whatever way the solution tilts will define the
power relationship among the three.

It should be remembered that the Germans are proposing a Russian security
relationship with Europe, not a Russian security relationship with Germany alone. At
the same time, it should be remembered that it is the Germans taking the initiative
to open the talks by unilaterally negotiating with the Russians and taking their
agreements to other European countries. It is also important to note that they have
not taken this to all the European countries but to France and Poland first -- with
French President Nicolas Sarkozy voicing his initial approval on June 19 -- and
equally important, that they have not publicly brought it to the United States. Nor
is it clear what the Germans might do if the French and Poles reject the
relationship, which is not inconceivable.

The Germans do not want to lose the European concept. At the same time, they are
trying to redefine it more to their advantage. From the German point of view,
bringing Russia into the relationship would help achieve this. But the Germans still
have to explain what their relationship is with the rest of Europe, particularly
their financial obligation to troubled economies in the eurozone. They also have to
define their relationship to NATO, and more important, to the United States.

Like any country, Germany can have many things, but it can't have everything. The
idea that it will meld the European Union, NATO and Russia into one system of
relationships without alienating at least some of their partners -- some intensely
-- is naive. The Germans are not naive. They know that the Poles will be terrified
and the French uneasy. The southern Europeans will feel increasingly abandoned as
Germany focuses on the North European Plain. And the United States, watching Germany
and Russia draw closer, will be seeing an alliance of enormous weight developing
that might threaten its global interests.

With this proposal, the Germans are looking to change the game significantly. They
are moving slowly and with plenty of room for retreat, but they are moving. It will
be interesting to hear what the Poles and French say on Wednesday. Their public
support should not be taken for anything more than not wanting to alienate the
Germans or Russians until they have talked to the Americans. It will also be
interesting to see what the Obama administration has to say about this.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Copyright 2010 Stratfor.

Title: Russia-US "reset"
Post by: ccp on June 24, 2010, 01:34:53 PM
If I wasn't crying out loud I would be laughing out loud.

"Obama declared Thursday that he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have "succeeded in resetting""  :roll:

"Obama gave Russia perhaps the biggest gift it could have wanted from the meetings: an unqualified, hearty plug for Moscow's ascension to the World Trade
Organization." -  :cry: (The GREAT ONE did it again - Medvedev sound like he was swayed by greatness - even Mort Zucker is sickened)

***FOX News By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press Writer Desmond Butler, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 12 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama declared Thursday that he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have "succeeded in resetting" the relationship between the former Cold War adversaries that had dipped to a dangerous low in recent years.

Obama directly acknowledged differences in some areas, such as Moscow's tensions with neighboring Georgia, but said "we addressed those differences candidly." And he announced that the U.S. and Russia had agreed to expand cooperation on intelligence and the counterterror fight and worked on strengthening economic ties between the nations.

Obama gave Russia perhaps the biggest gift it could have wanted from the meetings: an unqualified, hearty plug for Moscow's ascension to the World Trade Organization. Russia has long wanted membership but U.S. support in the past has come with conditions.

"Russia belongs in the WTO," Obama said as the two leaders stood side-by-side in the East Room after several hours of meetings — including an impromptu trip to a nearby burger joint for lunch.

The leaders faced questions about the U.S.-led Afghanistan war, and Obama promised that the U.S. will "not miss a beat" because of the change in military command that he ordered on Wednesday. Obama accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation and replaced him with his direct boss, Gen. David Petraeus.

Petraeus "understands the strategy because he helped shape it," Obama said.

Medvedev seemed reluctant to wade into the topic, recalling the ultimately disastrous Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

"I try not to give pieces of advice that cannot be fulfilled," Medvedev said. "This is a very hard topic, a very difficult one."

Yet he said that Russia supports the U.S. effort if it can result in Afghanistan emerging from extreme poverty and dysfunction to have "effective state and a modern economy."

"This is the path to guarantee that the gravest scenarios of the last time will not repeat," he said.

Obama said the two had also agreed to coordinate on humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan, wracked by turmoil in the wake of the president's ouster. Kyrgyzstan's president was driven from power in April amid corruption allegations, sparking violence that has left about 2,000 people dead and 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks homeless.

Asked about a major flashpoint between the U.S. and China, Obama said Washington would judge the effect of Beijing's latest currency announcement over the course of the year, rather than overnight. Obama and Medvedev go this weekend to Canada for the G-20 summit, with China's leader also attending. Obama faces pressure from Congress and the U.S. business community to press Beijing more aggressively on its currency policy.

The U.S. argues that the weak Chinese yuan hurts American exports. On Saturday, China announced it would loosen its controls on the currency, but the move may not strengthen the yuan enough for U.S. tastes.

The agenda for Obama and Medvedev was modest, and mostly focused beyond security issues to expanding trade and economic cooperation. Russia has the world's eighth-largest economy but ranks 25th among U.S. trading partners.

"The true significance of Medvedev's visit is that it brings us closer to a relationship that doesn't require Cold War-style summits to sustain itself," says Sam Charap, a Russia analyst at the Center for American Progress. "The lack of headlines is actually a sign of progress."

Medvedev arrived at the White House on a sweltering summer morning for a series of meetings with Obama and U.S. officials. It was their seventh meeting since Obama took office 17 month ago.

Leaving the formality of the White House, they sneaked away for an impromptu ride across the Potomac River to a popular hamburger joint — Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. Customers cheered when the two walked in.

Later, at the news conference, Medvedev called the burgers "probably ... not quite healthy but it's very tasty."

After their joint news conference, Obama and Medvedev were going together to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Ahead of the talks, U.S. officials pointed to signs that Obama's much-heralded efforts to start fresh with Moscow have delivered results, from Russian support for new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program to the signing of a major treaty to reduce the two countries' stockpiles of nuclear weapons. They say the U.S. is standing its ground with Russia but shifting the tone away from conflict.

But conservative critics see Obama as too conciliatory and say he hasn't resolved disputes over issues such as Moscow's human rights record, missile defense and the legacy of the Russia-Georgia war of 2008. They charge that by speaking softly on those issues, the United States is compromising its influence among Russia's neighboring countries.

Medvedev began his U.S. visit in California, where he toured Silicon Valley high-tech firms as part of his push to establish a high-tech center in Russia.***
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 24, 2010, 01:55:15 PM
I caught a flash of the Prez's speech; IIRC we are selling them an excrement load of Boeing Aircraft and some chickens , , ,
Title: Stratfor: The
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 20, 2010, 11:45:20 AM
Paris, Berlin, Moscow and the Emerging Concert of Europe

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday and Tuesday at the French Atlantic resort of Deauville. The summit is being described by Western media as an opportunity for Russia to improve its relations with NATO, with Paris and Berlin lending a hand toward the reconciliation between Moscow and the West.

In a way, the press on the summit is correct: The summit is ultimately about the West’s relationship with Russia. Unfortunately for the United States, Central Europeans, the United Kingdom and a large part of Europe’s firmly pro-U.S. countries such as the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, it’s about the West as defined by Paris and Berlin — which is to say … Paris and Berlin.

“For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner.”
The topics of the meeting will be wide ranging, concentrating on security and Moscow’s relationship with NATO and the European Union. Specifically, the Russian president will bring up the Russian proposal for a new European Security Treaty. While Moscow claims that the proposal is not intended to replace NATO, the United States and its European allies — particularly Central Europeans worried about Russia’s intentions — see it as attempting to do exactly that.

Both Sarkozy and Merkel have indicated that they will listen to what Medvedev has to say on the proposed treaty. Just the fact that Berlin and Paris are willing to listen to Moscow’s proposal is worrisome to the rest of Europe. In fact, the timing of the summit is particularly jarring. The NATO heads of state summit — at which the alliance will approve a new Strategic Concept — is to be held in exactly one month, and yet Paris and Berlin have no problems so openly coordinating European security with Moscow. It is akin to spending a weekend on the sea with a mistress ahead of one’s 25-year marriage anniversary.

Paris and Berlin are both feeling like their marriage with NATO is getting stale. For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner. And neither Berlin nor Paris wants to be part of any future “American adventurism” outside of the European theater of operations, since both see efforts in Afghanistan as largely an enormous expenditure of resources for dubious benefits. The divergent interests of the various NATO member states have France and Germany looking to bring matters of European security back to the European theater, and that means talking to Russia.

France has an additional motive in wanting to make sure that as Germany and Russia get close, France is the one organizing the meeting and therefore keeping an eye on the developing Berlin-Moscow relationship (as evidenced by the fact that Sarkozy is the one hosting the other two leaders). In this context, we can consider Sarkozy’s idea to set up a European Security Council, which according to German newspaper Der Spiegel he would propose at the Deauville summit. Paris is trying to compensate for the strong Berlin-Moscow relationship by going out of its way to create structures that would involve Paris in the future European security architecture. France wants to be able to control the discussion and the makeup at these forums and introduce outside players if it feels that it needs to balance Moscow and Berlin.

While no public or official proposals or agreements may be seen out of the Deauville meeting, Russia is more interested in striking a very real understanding with France and Germany. The lack of public announcements should not detract from the fact that Medvedev is meeting with Sarkozy and Merkel to get a sense of their willingness to offer Russia clear security concessions. Russia wants a commitment and an understanding from France and Germany that they are willing to allow Russia its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and that they intend to coordinate with Russia on any future security matters that affect Moscow. Moscow does not want to be blindsided in the future as it was with the West’s decision to back Kosovo’s independence or to be completely left outside of European security matters as it was during the 1990s and doesn’t want to cross a red line with Paris or Berlin as it resurges. Tuesday’s meeting is most likely about creating guidelines on what Russia is allowed to do and what is going too far. Russia is currently at a delicate place in its resurgence during which it may cross into territory that could be construed as being beyond its direct sphere — specifically Moldova — so it needs to know where France and Germany stand now.

The entire episode is beginning to look very much like the Concert of Europe congress system of diplomacy. Between 1815 and 1914, Europeans resolved most geopolitical disagreements by holding a “Congress” at which concessions were made and general geopolitical horse-trading was conducted among the European powers. And if a particularly problematic country refused to make concessions — or was the very subject of the meeting — it could be denied access to the Congress in question.

Whether the Deauville summit results in concrete proposals or not, the significance is not in statements that follow but in the fact that Berlin and Paris no longer see anything wrong in spending a few days by the sea with Russia, especially as the rest of their supposed European allies wait for their input at the NATO summit. This tells us that Europe may have already entered a new Concert era, whether or not post-WWII institutions such as NATO still exist.

Title: Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 10, 2010, 08:16:27 AM

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski ended a visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The visit comes amid some tensions between Poland and the United States, as Warsaw is dissatisfied with Washington’s level of commitment to Polish security. Poland is thus looking elsewhere for security guarantees to guard against the Russian resurgence. It has begun cooperating with Sweden and discussing security issues with other Central European countries and, more recently, has been developing a cooperative relationship with Turkey.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski wrapped up a two-day visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The most significant result of the visit was U.S. President Barack Obama’s official commitment to a previous Washington proposal to station U.S. land-based SM-3 interceptors in Poland by 2018 as part of its NATO-wide missile defense system and an offer to periodically station F-16 fighter jets and C-130 transport planes in Poland starting in 2013 for joint military exercises. Poland confirmed the latter offer, but Washington has not issued confirmation as of this writing.

The periodic stationing of U.S. Air Force assets in Poland is significant in that it will enhance Poland’s ability to use its own F-16s, purchased from the United States in 2003. However, neither the SM-3s nor the F-16s — nor the current rotational deployment of a unarmed Patriot missile battery — are enough to guarantee that the United States is fully committed to Poland’s defense. Poland therefore could look to enhance its strategic situation through a multitude of partnerships much closer to home, particularly with Sweden, other Central Europeans and potentially Turkey.

Komorowski’s visit to the United States came amid slight tensions between Washington and Warsaw. Recently leaked U.S. diplomatic cables showed that Warsaw was not satisfied with the rotational deployment of the unarmed Patriot missile battery; one senior Polish military official quoted in the cables referred to them as “potted plants.” But the tensions preceded the leaks and even the Patriot missile system’s deployment. Specifically, they have been building ever since September 2009, when Washington reneged on the ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans struck between the previous U.S. administration and Warsaw. What irked Warsaw in particular was the perception that the United States changed the BMD plans in order to gain assurances from Russia that it would not sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran and that it would support the U.S. effort to impose U.N. sanctions on Tehran. The perception in Warsaw was that the United States was trading Poland’s security guarantees for concessions from Russia in a part of the world completely unrelated to Warsaw’s security.

What Poland Wants
Essentially, Warsaw wants Washington to explain its grand strategy so that Poland understands where it fits in it. As Komorowski directly said during his visit, Poland has “no interests either in Iraq or Afghanistan,” and it followed the United States into both countries purely out of principle. In other words, Poland sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that it can receive strong security guarantees from the United States in Europe.

The unarmed Patriot battery, the horse-trading between the United States and Russia on BMD, and the rotational, for-exercise-only deployment of F-16s is an inadequate commitment from Warsaw’s perspective. The deployment of F-16s is not a complete throwaway, however; it will help Poland become proficient in flying and maintaining its own F-16s and thus enhance its security. But Poland has wanted a permanent U.S. deployment of some sort for a long time, a point that Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich reiterated in his visit to Washington on Sept. 30. The rotational and temporary nature of both the Patriot and F-16 offers is insufficient. And the fact that the F-16s only come into the picture in 2013 — and the SM-3 BMD component in 2018 — adds to Poland’s suspicion that the United States simply is not ready to commit itself to Polish security fully.

Poland’s geopolitical situation is difficult. Komorowski pointed this out by saying, “We are between Russia and Germany and this is such a place where, even if someone integrates, even if we have a common European home, or NATO, there are still some drafts. No matter on which floor someone opens a door or window, we Poles still have a runny nose.”

Looking Elsewhere
Without a firm U.S. commitment, Poland is looking to patch up its security holes as best as it can. It has turned to Sweden for help on the diplomatic front, jointly applying pressure on the Russians in Eastern Europe. The Polish and Swedish foreign ministers have made joint visits to Ukraine and Moldova in the past three weeks. Warsaw is also looking to its fellow Central Europeans via the Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — a group that in 2010 began discussing security matters seriously, including cooperation among members’ air forces. It also intends to make EU defense policy — a concept that has not really carried much weight in policymaking circles for much of the last 60 years — one of the main pillars of its EU presidency in the latter part of 2011, a big part of which will mean turning to France to try to spur greater cooperation on defense matters.

However, Poland’s solutions come with their own problems. Cooperation with Sweden has not (yet) included defense matters. The Central Europeans — even combined — do not have the strength to counter Russia (and often bicker with each other). And any EU defense policy would have to include Germany, which is unlikely to offer Poland any true security guarantees due to its budding relationship with Russia.

This is why STRATFOR is watching carefully the cooperation developing between Poland and Turkey. While Komorowski was in Washington, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Ankara meeting with the Turkish leadership. The talks were broad and concentrated on everything from general cooperation in NATO, Turkish EU prospects and a potential EU visa waiver for Turkish citizens. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan specifically stated that cooperation between the countries’ defense industries will increase. But what is interesting is that both Poland and Turkey are sizable regional powers that are trying to manage a Russian resurgence in their own regions. The two countries have no outstanding security concerns, nor are they politically at odds on any significant issue. Neither country wants to be outwardly hostile toward Russia, but both want the credibility and strength to give Moscow notice that there are red lines and limits to the spread of its power. There are differences as well, with Ankara far more reserved about openly aligning with the United States on contentious issues like Russia.

The more Warsaw feels that the U.S. alliance, which Poland has no intentions of abandoning, is insufficient for its security, the more it will look to the countries in its immediate region that perceive the Russian resurgence with as much — or almost as much — trepidation as Poland does. Sweden and Turkey both fit this profile. What they perceive as their own spheres of influence — Stockholm in the Baltics and Ankara in the Balkans and Caucasus — are experiencing heavy Russian involvement. They are therefore potentially useful allies in countering Russia while the United States is constrained by its operations in the Middle East.

Read more: Poland Examines its Defense Partnership Options | STRATFOR
Title: Fg French
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 29, 2010, 08:59:15 AM
 :x :x :x

PARIS — Since a low-key Christmas Eve announcement of a French sale of assault ships to Russia, high-level government deal makers have boasted about the multimillion-euro deal like it was a soccer game triumph. “France wins,” declares the Web site for the Élysée Palace.

Enlarge This Image
Anatoly Maltsev/European Pressphoto Agency
A French Navy Mistral amphibious assault ship,docked on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2009.
But critics — particularly among Russia’s neighbors including Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania — are raising alarms that France may have pioneered the way for other Western countries to sell Russia whatever they have to offer, from high-technology military equipment to rights for oil pipelines.

“It’s a scandal,” said André Glucksmann, a French philosopher and critic of the deal. He said in an interview on Tuesday that the announcement was timed for the busy Christmas season to bury the “dirty details.”

The boxy, 600-foot-long Mistral vessel is an advanced helicopter carrier equipped with a command center and hospital for military landing operations. It is the first major arms purchase by Russia abroad and the first sale by a NATO country, illustrating the shifting role of an alliance once conceived to counter Soviet military power.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was whether the deal would include advanced naval weapons and defense systems. In the months leading to the deal, a series of French officials softened their stand, saying that France was willing to supply the technology without restrictions.

The French have said nothing in the last few days to spell out the level of technology the Russians will gain. But Russia’s neighbors are clearly worried.

“It’s a little bit premature to take this step because it establishes a precedent,” said Rasa Jukneviciene, the Lithuanian defense minister. In the past, she said, French officials assured Lithuania that sensitive technology would not be included. “But now we are getting information that it is included,” Ms. Jukneviciene said.

The Baltic states have long raised concerns, keenly aware of the comments of Russia’s naval chief, Adm. Vladimir S. Vysotsky, who last year bluntly evaluated the potential benefits the equipment could have offered during the five-day Georgian war in 2008: “Everything that we did in the space of 26 hours at the time, this ship will do within 40 minutes.”

Nino Kalandadze, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister, says that the ships can carry up to 16 helicopters and more than 450 troops, giving Moscow much greater command of its coastlines.

“We hope that Russia will use the ships according to international law as a self-defense mechanism,” Ms. Kalandadze said. “But Russia’s current leadership is not one that can always be trusted. It’s known for its disregard for international laws.”

Urmas Paet, the Estonian foreign minister, took a more muted view of the deal. “We do not see the sale of these two or possibly four ships as a major challenge for the security environment in the Baltic Sea region,” he wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “The possible impact is still something that we have to take into account in our long-term planning.”

Under the deal, two of the ships will be built in the French shipyards of St.-Nazaire on France’s Atlantic coast and the next two will be built in St. Petersburg, Russia. The sale underlines Russia’s rising military ambitions and the deterioration of its own arms industry. It is struggling, for example, to finish repairs to upgrade the Admiral Gorshkov, a heavy-aircraft carrier purchased by India. Some analysts predict that construction of a Mistral ship in Russia will also lag.

“In principle, Russia is capable, but it will take a lot longer because the productivity here is inferior. France is more technologically advanced and also, there is no experience building a ship like this in Russia,” said Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Russian research organization that analyzes the arms trade.

Much of the geopolitical wrangling about the deal emerged in secret American diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates raised the issue with President Nicolas Sarkozy and France’s defense minister at the time, Hervé Morin.

According to the ambassador’s report of the meeting, Mr. Gates noted that Russia failed to honor an armistice in Georgia brokered by Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Gates also was scornful of the top deal makers: “Russian democracy has disappeared, and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services.”

Title: Strat: Euro perception of Biden's Russian visit
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 10, 2011, 09:26:24 PM
The European Perception of Biden's Russian Visit

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden began his official visit to Russia on Wednesday by meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, to be followed by a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Prior to his visit, Biden made a half-day stopover in Helsinki, where he met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen and had a working lunch with Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi.

The Finland visit was relatively low-key — the main topic of discussion was the economy and not strategic matters — and amounted to little more than a refueling stop on Biden’s way to Moscow. The highlight of Biden’s trip is the U.S.-Russian relationship and the subsequent visit to Moldova. During Biden’s previous European visits, he concentrated on Washington’s relationship with its Central European allies. Europe, particularly Western Europe, does not play a minor role in the complex relationship between Washington and Moscow.

“Germany and France are not engaging Russia for the sake of transforming Russia into some sort of liberal democracy — that is merely the explanation given to the United States and Central Europe — but because it is in their national and economic interests to do so.”
Core Europe — as Germany and France refer to their European Union leadership duo along with the surrounding Western European countries — has for the past 16 months been preoccupied by the eurozone sovereign crisis that has already claimed Greece and Ireland and could require a Portuguese bailout by the end of March. Despite this general preoccupation, France and Germany have increased their engagement with Russia in several ways. First, Paris and Berlin lobbied for Moscow to be included as a “strategic partner” during the negotiations for NATO’s Strategic Concept, essentially the alliance’s mission statement, to the chagrin of Central European — former Soviet sphere — member states. Second, France has stood firm regarding plans to sell Mistral helicopter-carrier amphibious assault ships to Russia, despite criticism from the same Central European states, especially the Baltics. Third, Germany has in the last few weeks boosted its military relationship with Russia, with German defense contractor Rheinmettal offering to build a training center in Russia, and only days ago concluding a contract to provide Moscow with armor plating.

From the perspective of Germany and France, Russia is no longer the existential threat that it was during the Cold War. Russia is in fact a lucrative business partner. Central Europe’s fears of a Russian resurgence are therefore bad for business. Russia needs to be engaged via trade and business, which will lead to an internal transformation of Russia to be more like Europe. Or at least that is the view that German government officials circulate regarding their dealings with Russia, arguing that the “soft power” of trade and economic links will lead to a change in attitude toward Russia. Whether Berlin and Paris actually believe that story is largely irrelevant; it is a useful explanation — especially when talking to American officials and the media — recounting why they are pursuing a relationship with Russia that is counter to the interests of their fellow NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe.

A central tenet of this argument is the supposed leadership style difference between Medvedev and Putin. Most Western European officials genuinely believe that Medvedev, were he actually powerful enough, would have a different leadership prerogative that would be more favorably inclined toward the West. However, European officials also play up the supposed differences between Medvedev and Putin as an explanation for why they are so earnestly engaging Russia. The argument goes something like this: Business contacts and technology transfers that boost Russia’s ongoing modernization efforts will favor Medvedev and increase his standing in the leadership pantheon of the Kremlin. Therefore, Europe should continue to engage Moscow, and the United States and Central Europe should not stand in its way, since aggression will only turn Russia inward.

The problem with this logic, however, is that Europeans operated the same way even with Putin and even immediately after Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008. Germany and France are not engaging Russia for the sake of transforming Russia into some sort of a liberal democracy — that is merely the explanation given to the United States and Central Europe — but because it is in their national and economic interests to do so.

A good example of this dynamic is precisely the negotiations for Russia’s inclusion as a NATO “strategic partner.” Europeans argued that this was a monumental development since Russia committed in the text of the NATO Strategic Concept to a number of supposed benchmarks on democracy and rule of law. However, it is not clear anyone in Paris or Berlin takes Moscow’s commitments seriously.

Meanwhile, Russia knows how to play the game with Western Europe. Specifically, it knows how to show hints of internal “reform” to satisfy the “soft power” complex of Europe. But at the same time, it is using its enhanced military relationship with France and Germany as a way to counter American influence in countries like Poland and Romania. Moscow feels that it doesn’t necessarily have to respond to every U.S. encroachment in Poland with a tit-for-tat counter — Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to counter U.S. Patriot missile battery deployment for example — but instead by further developing a relationship with Germany and France and showing both the United States and Central Europe that it is a serious player on the continent.

This obviously begs the questions: What does the future hold for NATO? And how do Paris and Berlin intend to manage their supposed obligations to fellow NATO member states with economic interests with Russia?

Title: WSJ: Russia and Nat Gas supplies
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 21, 2011, 10:04:17 AM
Russia has assumed an unusually cooperative role in Japan's nuclear crisis, presenting itself as eager to ease strains on global natural gas markets after years of being criticized for using its energy reserves as a political weapon.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia's OAO Gazprom could pipe more natural gas into the European Union to allow EU-bound cargoes of liquefied natural gas to be diverted to Japan, which was forced to shut down a big chunk of its nuclear power capacity after the March 11 earthquake.

But analysts say it's unclear whether European customers actually want more Russian gas, which is linked to the price of oil and is much more expensive than imports of LNG from places like Qatar.

Russia's reputation as a dependable energy exporter was badly tarnished by a series of pricing disputes with Ukraine which led to cut-offs of Russian gas deliveries to Europe in the middle of winter. Moscow was accused at the time of using its natural riches to pressure its neighbors.

But in the wake of the earthquake that damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant and plunged the country into a nuclear crisis, Russia has offered Japanese companies stakes in two big natural gas fields in Siberia, pushed a proposed "energy bridge" that would bring Russian-generated electricity via underwater cable to Japan, and said it was ready to increase gas supplies to Europe in order to free up LNG for Japan. The announcement was part of efforts by Russia to position itself as a kind of Saudi Arabia of natural gas—able to provide swing capacity at short notice to stabilize markets.

Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italian oil and gas company ENI SpA, said the crisis in Japan and the unrest in Libya, which triggered a sharp decline in oil and gas exports from the North African country, would strengthen Russia's position in European markets, as well as that of other big exporters of pipeline gas. Events in Japan and Libya "mean more piped gas coming from the three traditional suppliers into Europe—Algeria, Russia and Norway," he said in an interview.

Italy asked Gazprom late last month to increase deliveries of gas from 30 million cubic meters a day to 48 million cubic meters after ENI shut down a key pipeline bringing natural gas under the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy.

Analysts say the crisis in Japan, which has eroded confidence in nuclear power worldwide, is generally supportive of gas demand globally. China, India and others have said they will need to re-examine their long-term nuclear strategy, and Germany has closed down seven of its oldest nuclear reactors. An analysis by Deutsche Bank found that if just 10% of nuclear power facilities around the world were shut down due to safety concerns, the world would need an additional 7 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas—an increase of 2.3% over 2010 consumption levels. That could lead to upward pressure on spot prices for gas, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, analysts say.

But Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, was skeptical that Europe would want to increase its imports of Russian gas. He said many of Gazprom's biggest customers are taking the minimum set out in their long-term "take-or-pay" contracts with the Russian export monopoly and have little desire to boost those volumes.

"The Russians are desperate to pump more gas into Europe, but they're insisting on an oil-linked price," he said.

A spokesman for Gazprom's export arm declined to comment on how events in Japan and Libya would affect the gas market. But he said they were "clearly positive for all gas producers, including Gazprom of course."

"So far this year, we've supplied less than contracted, so we have the ability to increase supplies to Europe," the spokesman said. But he acknowledged that none of Gazprom's European customers apart from Italy had so far asked for increased deliveries of gas.

Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 22, 2011, 06:19:24 AM
Visegrad: A New European Military Force
May 17, 2011 | 0859 GMT PRINT Text Resize:   

By George Friedman

With the Palestinians demonstrating and the International Monetary Fund in turmoil, it would seem odd to focus this week on something called the Visegrad Group. But this is not a frivolous choice. What the Visegrad Group decided to do last week will, I think, resonate for years, long after the alleged attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn is forgotten and long before the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved. The obscurity of the decision to most people outside the region should not be allowed to obscure its importance.

The region is Europe — more precisely, the states that had been dominated by the Soviet Union. The Visegrad Group, or V4, consists of four countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — and is named after two 14th century meetings held in Visegrad Castle in present-day Hungary of leaders of the medieval kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. The group was reconstituted in 1991 in post-Cold War Europe as the Visegrad Three (at that time, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were one). The goal was to create a regional framework after the fall of communism. This week the group took an interesting new turn.

(click here to enlarge image)
On May 12, the Visegrad Group announced the formation of a “battlegroup” under the command of Poland. The battlegroup would be in place by 2016 as an independent force and would not be part of NATO command. In addition, starting in 2013, the four countries would begin military exercises together under the auspices of the NATO Response Force.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the primary focus of all of the Visegrad nations had been membership in the European Union and NATO. Their evaluation of their strategic position was threefold. First, they felt that the Russian threat had declined if not dissipated following the fall of the Soviet Union. Second, they felt that their economic future was with the European Union. Third, they believed that membership in NATO, with strong U.S. involvement, would protect their strategic interests. Of late, their analysis has clearly been shifting.

First, Russia has changed dramatically since the Yeltsin years. It has increased its power in the former Soviet sphere of influence substantially, and in 2008 it carried out an effective campaign against Georgia. Since then it has also extended its influence in other former Soviet states. The Visegrad members’ underlying fear of Russia, built on powerful historical recollection, has become more intense. They are both the front line to the former Soviet Union and the countries that have the least confidence that the Cold War is simply an old memory.

Second, the infatuation with Europe, while not gone, has frayed. The ongoing economic crisis, now focused again on Greece, has raised two questions: whether Europe as an entity is viable and whether the reforms proposed to stabilize Europe represent a solution for them or primarily for the Germans. It is not, by any means, that they have given up the desire to be Europeans, nor that they have completely lost faith in the European Union as an institution and an idea. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable to expect that these countries would not be uneasy about the direction that Europe was taking. If one wants evidence, look no further than the unease with which Warsaw and Prague are deflecting questions about the eventual date of their entry into the eurozone. Both are the strongest economies in Central Europe, and neither is enthusiastic about the euro.

Finally, there are severe questions as to whether NATO provides a genuine umbrella of security to the region and its members. The NATO Strategic Concept, which was drawn up in November 2010, generated substantial concern on two scores. First, there was the question of the degree of American commitment to the region, considering that the document sought to expand the alliance’s role in non-European theaters of operation. For example, the Americans pledged a total of one brigade to the defense of Poland in the event of a conflict, far below what Poland thought necessary to protect the North European Plain. Second, the general weakness of European militaries meant that, willingness aside, the ability of the Europeans to participate in defending the region was questionable. Certainly, events in Libya, where NATO had neither a singular political will nor the military participation of most of its members, had to raise doubts. It was not so much the wisdom of going to war but the inability to create a coherent strategy and deploy adequate resources that raised questions of whether NATO would be any more effective in protecting the Visegrad nations.

There is another consideration. Germany’s commitment to both NATO and the EU has been fraying. The Germans and the French split on the Libya question, with Germany finally conceding politically but unwilling to send forces. Libya might well be remembered less for the fate of Moammar Gadhafi than for the fact that this was the first significant strategic break between Germany and France in decades. German national strategy has been to remain closely aligned with France in order to create European solidarity and to avoid Franco-German tensions that had roiled Europe since 1871. This had been a centerpiece of German foreign policy, and it was suspended, at least temporarily.

The Germans obviously are struggling to shore up the European Union and questioning precisely how far they are prepared to go in doing so. There are strong political forces in Germany questioning the value of the EU to Germany, and with every new wave of financial crises requiring German money, that sentiment becomes stronger. In the meantime, German relations with Russia have become more important to Germany. Apart from German dependence on Russian energy, Germany has investment opportunities in Russia. The relationship with Russia is becoming more attractive to Germany at the same time that the relationship to NATO and the EU has become more problematic.

For all of the Visegrad countries, any sense of a growing German alienation from Europe and of a growing German-Russian economic relationship generates warning bells. Before the  Belarusian elections there was hope in Poland that pro-Western elements would defeat the least unreformed regime in the former Soviet Union. This didn’t happen. Moreover, pro-Western elements have done nothing to solidify in Moldova or break the now pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Uncertainty about European institutions and NATO, coupled with uncertainty about Germany’s attention, has caused a strategic reconsideration — not to abandon NATO or the EU, of course, nor to confront the Russians, but to prepare for all eventualities.

It is in this context that the decision to form a Visegradian battlegroup must be viewed. Such an independent force, a concept generated by the European Union as a European defense plan, has not generated much enthusiasm or been widely implemented. The only truly robust example of an effective battlegroup is the Nordic Battlegroup, but then that is not surprising. The Nordic countries share the same concerns as the Visegrad countries — the future course of Russian power, the cohesiveness of Europe and the commitment of the United States.

In the past, the Visegrad countries would have been loath to undertake anything that felt like a unilateral defense policy. Therefore, the decision to do this is significant in and of itself. It represents a sense of how these countries evaluate the status of NATO, the U.S. attention span, European coherence and Russian power. It is not the battlegroup itself that is significant but the strategic decision of these powers to form a sub-alliance, if you will, and begin taking responsibility for their own national security. It is not what they expected or wanted to do, but it is significant that they felt compelled to begin moving in this direction.

Just as significant is the willingness of Poland to lead this military formation and to take the lead in the grouping as a whole. Poland is the largest of these countries by far and in the least advantageous geographical position. The Poles are trapped between the Germans and the Russians. Historically, when Germany gets close to Russia, Poland tends to suffer. It is not at that extreme point yet, but the Poles do understand the possibilities. In July, the Poles will be assuming the EU presidency in one of the union’s six-month rotations. The Poles have made clear that one of their main priorities will be Europe’s military power. Obviously, little can happen in Europe in six months, but this clearly indicates where Poland’s focus is.

The militarization of the V4 runs counter to its original intent but is in keeping with the geopolitical trends in the region. Some will say this is over-reading on my part or an overreaction on the part of the V4, but it is neither. For the V4, the battlegroup is a modest response to emerging patterns in the region, which STRATFOR had outlined in its 2011 Annual Forecast. As for my reading, I regard the new patterns not as a minor diversion from the main pattern but as a definitive break in the patterns of the post-Cold War world. In my view, the post-Cold War world ended in 2008, with the financial crisis and the Russo-Georgian war. We are in a new era, as yet unnamed, and we are seeing the first breaks in the post-Cold War pattern.

I have argued in previous articles and books that there is a divergent interest between the European countries on the periphery of Russia and those farther west, particularly Germany. For the countries on the periphery, there is a perpetual sense of insecurity, generated not only by Russian power compared to their own but also by uncertainty as to whether the rest of Europe would be prepared to defend them in the event of Russian actions. The V4 and the other countries south of them are not as sanguine about Russian intentions as others farther away are. Perhaps they should be, but geopolitical realities drive consciousness and insecurity and distrust defines this region.

I had also argued that an alliance only of the four northernmost countries is insufficient. I used the concept “Intermarium,” which had first been raised after World War I by a Polish leader, Joseph Pilsudski, who understood that Germany and the Soviet Union would not be permanently weak and that Poland and the countries liberated from the Hapsburg Empire would have to be able to defend themselves and not have to rely on France or Britain.

Pilsudski proposed an alliance stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and encompassing the countries to the west of the Carpathians — Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In some formulations, this would include Yugoslavia, Finland and the Baltics. The point was that Poland had to have allies, that no one could predict German and Soviet strength and intentions, and that the French and English were too far away to help. The only help Poland could have would be an alliance of geography — countries with no choice.

It follows from this that the logical evolution here is the extension of the Visegrad coalition. At the May 12 defense ministers’ meeting, there was discussion of inviting Ukraine to join in. Twenty or even 10 years ago, that would have been a viable option. Ukraine had room to maneuver. But the very thing that makes the V4 battlegroup necessary — Russian power — limits what Ukraine can do. The Russians are prepared to give Ukraine substantial freedom to maneuver, but that does not include a military alliance with the Visegrad countries.

An alliance with Ukraine would provide significant strategic depth. It is unlikely to happen. That means that the alliance must stretch south, to include Romania and Bulgaria. The low-level tension between Hungary and Romania over the status of Hungarians in Romania makes that difficult, but if the Hungarians can live with the Slovaks, they can live with the Romanians. Ultimately, the interesting question is whether Turkey can be persuaded to participate in this, but that is a question far removed from Turkish thinking now. History will have to evolve quite a bit for this to take place. For now, the question is Romania and Bulgaria.

But the decision of the V4 to even propose a battlegroup commanded by Poles is one of those small events that I think will be regarded as a significant turning point. However we might try to trivialize it and place it in a familiar context, it doesn’t fit. It represents a new level of concern over an evolving reality — the power of Russia, the weakness of Europe and the fragmentation of NATO. This is the last thing the Visegrad countries wanted to do, but they have now done the last thing they wanted to do. That is what is significant.

Events in the Middle East and Europe’s economy are significant and of immediate importance. However, sometimes it is necessary to recognize things that are not significant yet but will be in 10 years. I believe this is one of those events. It is a punctuation mark in European history.

Title: Stratfor: Russia hooking Germany up
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 19, 2011, 09:45:24 PM

Energy projects are likely to be at the center of the July 18-19 talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Hanover, Germany. Prominent items on the agenda will be Gazprom’s interest in partnering with German utility companies, the expansion of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline and methods to circumvent EU unbundling reforms. The deals are a sign of the increasingly close relations between the two powers, and they also represent Germany’s willingness to make deals with Russia as Moscow attempts to expand its influence in its neighboring states and Central Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev are scheduled to meet privately July 19 on the sidelines of a two-day bilateral summit in Hanover aimed at bolstering economic ties between Moscow and Berlin. A number of issues are expected to be discussed during the talks, but the discourse will center on the recent increase in Russo-German energy cooperation. This cooperation is categorized by Russian energy giant Gazprom’s interest in engaging in joint ventures with German utility companies, the expansion of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline project, and efforts to deal with the European Union’s third energy package. The new EU mandates are a series of reforms that would require energy retail and production assets be unbundled, a requirement that could pose a threat to future bilateral cooperation.

The deals under discussion in Hanover hold significant strategic importance to Moscow and could be a financial boon for Germany. The energy cooperation agreements that Merkel and Medvedev will be discussing are an indicator of the  rapidly strengthening ties between Russia and Germany as well as of Berlin’s willingness to stand as an unconcerned actor in  Moscow’s efforts to increase its influence in its periphery and in Central Europe.

A major point of discussion between Merkel and Medvedev will likely be the July 14 preliminary agreement on a potential joint venture between Gazprom and RWE. State-owned Gazprom’s interest in RWE stems from a variety of strategic reasons. First, Gazprom stands to make inroads into the increasingly lucrative German electricity market, where natural gas-fired power plants are expected to increase production to compensate for the loss of electricity generated by the nuclear reactors that Berlin has decided to phase out. Second, Russia would gain access to Germany’s technological expertise in the construction and operation of natural gas-fired plants. Such knowledge is particularly valuable given Russia’s own faltering electricity sector. Finally, Moscow seeks to acquire major Central European energy and electricity assets held by German utility companies. A successful joint venture would grant Russia influence over the energy and electricity sector of the region. Moscow is willing to supply the German companies that agree to a joint venture with lower prices for natural gas, making such a deal financially appealing to Berlin.

Other deals between Russian natural gas suppliers and German utility companies will also be on the meeting’s agenda. Gazprom has shown interest in acquiring power plants and shares from E.On, Germany’s largest utility provider, which also holds significant assets in Central Europe. Thus far, RWE has countered this possibility by including a negotiation exclusivity clause for the next three months, signaling the Essen-based company’s strong interest in the deal. In addition to Gazprom, Russia’s largest independent natural gas provider, Novatek, is negotiating an 800 million euro (about $1.1 billion) cooperative venture with German utility company Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Despite the mutual interest in expanded energy cooperation, the European Commission’s unbundling directive is poised to become a major obstacle to additional Russo-German energy collaboration. A key topic of the Hanover talks will be the ongoing legal battle between Lithuania and Gazprom wherein Gazprom stands accused of violating the unbundling directive. The current energy utility deals are almost certain to encounter vehement opposition from the European Commission and Central European countries. However, Berlin and Moscow established a precedent of sidestepping the EU directive, which forbids energy companies from establishing a producer-to-consumer supply chain, during the creation of the Nord Stream pipeline. Merkel and Medvedev likely will want to replicate this exception and avoid repeating Lithuania’s situation.

The recently completed Nord Stream pipeline will also likely be a matter of discussion, with the two leaders discussing its operational timeline as well as tentative plans for expanding its capacity and output. Nord Stream is one of the main pillars of Germany and Russia’s deepening economic cooperation and a fundamental part of Moscow’s strategy toward its periphery. The direct link between Gazprom’s natural gas fields and Germany’s shoreline via an underwater pipeline in the Baltic Sea allows Russia to sidestep Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries in natural gas delivery. This bypass ensures Russia can pursue more aggressive energy policies toward its periphery if it so chooses without affecting Germany’s downstream supply.

Title: Can it get any worse?
Post by: ccp on August 02, 2011, 11:58:16 AM  :cry: :oops: :-(
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 02, 2011, 10:14:57 PM
Ummm , , , wouldn't that be better placed in the Russia-US thread or the Cognitive Dissonance thread?

Anyway, you are right  :oops: :oops: :oops:
Title: STratfor:
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 24, 2011, 06:36:40 PM

Dispatch: Romania's Role in Europe's Geopolitical Trends
August 24, 2011 | 1856 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

On his way to Romania, analyst Eugene Chausovsky explains Romania’s important role in three different Central European geopolitical trends.

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

Related Links
Russia’s Case to NATO for Integrated Missile Defense
The Divided States of Europe
Germany’s Choice: Part 2
STRATFOR is currently following three major geopolitical trends in Central Europe. One country that serves as an insightful case to look into these trends is Romania, where I am traveling to next.

The first trend that we are following is growing pressures on two key European institutions: the EU and NATO. The EU continues to be mired by weak economic growth as a result of the ongoing European financial crisis. Two of the leading EU economies, Germany and France, posted little to no growth in the second quarter of this year. Romania, which relies on these countries, particularly Germany, as a market for its exports, grew only 0.2 percent in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, NATO has been showing early signs of devolution into regional blocs. The biggest divergence between NATO members is a camp that is willing and happy to work with the Russians and a second camp that is more concerned with a growing Russian resurgence. Romania is firmly in the latter camp as it has contentious issues with Russia over Moldova, and it is concerned over a Russian buildup in the Black Sea.

The second trend that we are following is Russia taking advantage of these growing pressures on the EU and NATO. Russia has been building its relationship with major Western European countries like Italy, France and especially Germany. Moscow is using these growing relationships to leverage its position in Central Europe. For example, Russia and Germany are currently in talks for Russia to acquire energy utility companies, many of which have assets in Central Europe. Russia has also begun to purchase stakes in some of Austria’s banks, which are quite active in Central Europe. These developments are of concern to Romania.

The third trend is an intensifying geopolitical competition over Central Europe between the U.S. and Russia. Due to the growing relationship of Russia and some of the key Western European countries, the United States has pledged to increase its cooperation with many of the Central European states. One key aspect of this is the U.S. ballistic missile defense, or BMD, which is said to become operational by 2015, and Romania is one of the sites of such a system. However, given that the U.S. has already changed some of its BMD plans and security plans in the face of a resurgent Russia, Romani and the other central European countries are nervous that these U.S. security commitments to them are not set in stone. (Translation:  Baraq's chickenexcrement deal with the Russkis trading the BMD for , , , a "reset", continues to have costs unmeasured by the Pravdas of wester MSM) Therefore, Romania is directly impacted by all three developing trends in central Europe and will serve as an important bellwether of how these trends play out in the coming months and years.

Title: Putin's return to Presidency, NATO, & East Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 27, 2011, 03:09:09 AM
Putin's Candidacy Draws Varied Reactions

Two days following the announcement that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek a return to the presidency in March 2012, the decision is already bearing consequences — the first of which is a split inside the Kremlin. Putin’s nomination as the candidate for the ruling United Russia party has actually been welcomed by many within the Kremlin. After all, it is no secret that Putin continued to act as Russia’s top decision maker, even after stepping back from the presidency to the premiership.

“Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.”
But the decision to shift Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to the premiership has caused many of Putin’s loyalists to rebel. Medvedev is seen as weak and too willing to accommodate pro-Western policies. His role as president was accepted as long as Putin served as a buffer in the premiership. But many inside the Kremlin’s ministries are unhappy with Medvedev directly overseeing them. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has already resigned, and STRATFOR sources in Moscow say that other ministers and staff are considering doing the same.

While the announcement was expected to cause some controversy, Putin cannot afford a divided Kremlin as elections for the presidency and parliament approach. Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.

Meanwhile, international reaction to Putin’s announced return has been varied. Powerful states such as the United States and Germany have an established near-term relationship with Russia, and said they will work with whoever is in charge. Smaller countries, like the Baltic states and many Central European countries, have a different view on Putin’s possible return to the presidency. They see it as a sign that Russia is about to return to a more assertive foreign policy.

These states are not entirely incorrect. As STRATFOR discussed in the lead-up to the ruling tandem’s decision, Putin, while not fond of the idea of returning to the presidency, feels his return may be necessary in light of the foreign policy challenges that lie ahead.

Putin will focus much of his attention on how to manage the further fracturing of NATO and the European Union. NATO is divided on a number of issues, but disagreements over the alliance’s strategic focus are especially splintering the alliance. NATO members France, Italy and Germany want to hold a close relationship with Moscow. This runs against the interests of other members — mainly the Central European countries — that want to make countering Russia a top priority for NATO. These Central European states think Moscow will use Putin’s return, and the more aggressive stance they think Russia will assume under his leadership, to further divide alliance members.

While NATO’s fracturing has arguably been in the works for decades, the tipping point for Putin’s return was most likely the impending crises in the European Union. Putin, as president, will try to assure the Russian people that he is strong enough to prevent the European crises from rippling through Russia. But the crises in Europe are not limited to the financial realm. A fundamental rift has opened up between the various identities united under the banners of the European Union and the eurozone, and the rift seems likely to worsen in the foreseeable future. As with the NATO fracturing, Russia is primed to take advantage of such fissures in order to continue to divide Europe to its own advantage.

Putin’s presence is also intended to show Europe that whatever chaos lies ahead, Russia will remain a beacon of stability and strength — one that Europe could rely on should they choose to. And for those European states who choose not to, life could be made much more difficult.

Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on January 03, 2012, 08:28:29 PM
When I heard the news the other night, my first thought was "Putin".

I have nothing to offer as evidence, but my gut is not often wrong.

Gaping holes in Russia's Polish air crash report

By:Diana West | 12/31/11 8:05 PM
Examiner Columnist.
Tis the season for media listmania, but rather than note the top 10 stories of the year, I submit my entry for the great unsolved mystery of 2011.
 What really happened in the forests at Smolensk, Russia, when a Polish aircraft carrying Poland's national leadership crashed in April 2010, killing all 96 people on board, including Poland's president and first lady?
The answers Russia presented to the world in its official 2011 crash report are wholly unsatisfactory. Indeed, the Moscow-controlled crash investigation seems to have been designed to suppress or tamper with evidence to exonerate Russia of all responsibility for an accident -- or guilt for a crime.
Like a tired rerun of an old horror movie, the Russian pattern of investigation into the 2010 Smolensk crash is the Russian pattern of investigation into the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre.
It's hard to overstate the significance of that fateful flight by those Polish leaders, now deceased. They lost their lives trying to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn, the mass murder of 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia killed by Stalin in 1940 to make way for a pro-Soviet, Communist Poland.
After their graves were discovered by Nazi German armies in 1943, Stalin denied responsibility for this crime against humanity. Roosevelt and Churchill let him, thus joining in a Big Lie; Stalin's successors lied about it until Boris Yeltsin came along in 1995.
The 2010 anniversary was to be a public, ceremonial Russian admission of guilt. That those who cared so much about Katyn were killed nearby -- and quite possibly assassinated -- is one of history's darkest ironies.
The Russians assert that Polish pilot error, induced by pressure to land supposedly by the Polish president himself, caused the crash. Poles, particularly those associated with the late president's conservative Law and Justice party, see something far more sinister.
In this worst case scenario, Russian air controllers incorrectly informed Polish pilots they were on the proper glide path when that wasn't true. On purpose? If so, the world has witnessed the mass assassination of a government. And done nothing.
I don't claim to judge the evidence. But it's clear an impartial investigation is warranted because of a Moscow-run investigative process marked by irregularities. These include the red flag of a fact that Russia has refused to return the black boxes of the Polish plane to Poland.
Other irregularities, as summarized in a November 2011 Polish document known as the Smolensk Status Report, are that crash evidence was crudely destroyed (including by bulldozers), tampered with, and lied about (Russian investigators claimed no radar video recording existed, for example, but then cited it in the report). The document notes some Russian pathological reports on victims included descriptions of organs that had been surgically removed before the crash.

A glaring discrepancy concerns the cockpit voice recording. To prove the pilots were under third-party pressure to land, the Russians reported a Polish crew member twice says "He will go crazy" if the plane doesn't land.
Both the Polish Investigation Committee and the Polish Prosecutor's Office publicly contended no such statement was made, and that the Russians altered the CVR to create the statement.

In 1952, Congress investigated the Katyn Forest Massacre and proved Soviet guilt; in 2010 and 2011, there were calls in Congress for an independent investigation into the Smolensk crash.
Such an investigation is urgently required in 2012, and not only to solve the mystery of a vexing crash. We must find out whether the West has once again been party to another Big Lie out of Moscow.
Examiner Columnist Diana West is syndicated nationally by United Media and is the author of "The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization."

Read more at the Washington Examiner:
Title: Alternate gas route
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 26, 2012, 09:02:26 AM
This seemingly dry article is actually rather important IMHO.  If central Asia gas can be delivered to Europe, Russian leverage is dimininshed considerably.  The strategic implication on this front were part of the calculus IMHO of the Russian invasion of Georgia.

U.S. Shifts Policy On Gas Pipelines.
By Alessandro Torello
The lengthy battle over which pipeline project will get the go-ahead to carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe is finally starting to pick up  momentum.

The much talked-about Nabucco project had to be dramatically downscaled, while Shah Deniz –the consortium that is extracting the gas out of a field offshore Azerbaijan–has excluded one contender, the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy, in what was the first big development in the battle for some time.

As events unfold, the U.S. is adjusting its policy on an issue on which it has been highly influential. Washington has been a strong supporter of the idea of getting gas from Central Asia –and in first instance from Azerbaijan– to Europe. It has considered this key to boosting Europe’s security of supply and reducing its energy dependence on Russia.

While initially it favored Nabucco –the most prominent, biggest and most expensive of the pipeline projects– the U.S. administration has slowly shifted its position, moving to a broader support for the so-called Southern Corridor, as the future pipeline path from Azerbaijan to the European Union, across Georgia and Turkey, is called.

Here’s how Richard Morningstar, the U.S. special envoy for Eurasian energy, one of the main policy makers behind the U.S. policy on Central Asian energy, explained it.

“We were perceived, certainly three years ago, [to be] very Nabucco-centric,” Mr. Morningstar said speaking at a conference over the weekend in Brussels. But “it’s become apparent, at least in the first instance, that there is not enough gas… to fill a full Nabucco pipeline, so our policy… is that we support the Southern Corridor,” he said.

Until a month ago, four projects were competing for that corridor. Nabucco and the BP-backed South-East Europe Pipeline both planned to carry gas to Central Europe, possibly all the way to Austria, while the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and ITGI would supply it to Italy.

But the exclusion of ITGI in February increased TAP’s chances. According to some, this clearly gave TAP the pole position in the overall race: One of TAP’s main sponsors is Norway’s Statoil, which also holds a stake in Shah Deniz, as does BP.

That could raise some concerns. If the Caspian gas goes to Italy, it will not offer much relief to countries in central Europe –Bulgaria first in the list– that are almost totally dependent on Russian gas.

Relieving that dependence was the original aim of the whole Southern Corridor concept, and Mr. Morningstar suggested in an interview that this goal hadn’t been forgotten in Washington. “The first priority has to be getting at least a reasonable amount of gas to the Balkans,” he said. “I think the Shah Deniz consortium and BP understand that if they were to build TAP, significant gas would have to be left in the Balkans,” he explained.

Whether that is feasable, will all depend on how much gas will be reaching Europe. TAP is designed to carry between 10 and 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually, so any significantly lower amount would be a challenge to its profitability, since the lower the volume carried, the higher per cost per unit. It would certainly not make economic sense if it could carry only 5 bcm a year.

Considering that no more than about 10 bcm a year are scheduled to be transported to Europe from the Shah Deniz field to Europe in the current decade, things could be tricky.

Unless, that is, more gas becomes available in the Caspian. If it does, the conundrum could be resolved. “We will know a lot more in the next year, year-and-a-half  (about whether) there is any more than the 10,” Mr. Morningstar said.

Title: Russia squeezes Ukraine gas pipeline
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 01, 2012, 05:12:33 AM

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
Russia raised the stakes Friday over its efforts to take control of Ukraine’s gas-pipeline system, as it started diverting gas supplies to Europe away from the former Soviet republic. But Moscow has yet to play its most powerful card that could put an end to the saga about gas transit through Ukraine.

Ukraine said earlier Friday that Russia had almost halved gas-transit volumes through its pipeline system to Europe in recent days.

“This is only the beginning,” a Gazprom spokesman said not long after, adding that lowering volumes was part of a move to redirect gas from Ukraine to the Nord Stream pipeline and through Belarus.

Russia — a major supplier of natural gas to Europe — relies strongly on Ukraine, through which Russian gas travels west to Europe. The two neighbors remain locked in talks over a new gas-supply contract; Kiev is pushing for cheaper gas in order to balance its budget, but in exchange for lower-priced gas, Moscow is aiming to gain control of Ukraine’s pipeline system.

In a sign that tensions are building, the move to lower transit volumes comes after a Russian bank — which is 41%-owned by Gazprom — indicated it will provide a $2 billion loan to allow the Ukrainian gas-transit company to buy gas from Russia.

“I’m not sure if it is a case of carrot and stick,” said Timothy Ash, an analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC in London.

Russia is also putting additional pressure on Ukraine by speeding up construction of the South Stream pipeline to carry Russian gas under the Black Sea to Europe.

However, as strains build, Moscow’s could yet pull a rabbit out of its hat. ”A gas-price discount is still Russia’s main bargaining chip, as it looks to secure control of the pipelines,” Mr. Ash said.

Kiev is trying desperately to secure cheaper gas from Moscow. The Ukrainian government refuses to increase gas prices for domestic consumers ahead of parliamentary elections in October, and it is keeping the state gas company afloat with repeated injections of capital from the state budget.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said recently that he hopes to reach a new gas deal with Russia in May.

Such a deal “would probably be part of an agreement that would give Gazprom a stake in or control over Ukraine’s gas transmission system,” said Andrew Neff, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

Title: Stratfor: Poland modernizes its armed forces
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 25, 2012, 08:57:26 AM

Polish soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Editor's note: The first in our two-part series on the evolving Polish armed forces focuses on Poland's geography and alliance options. The second focuses on how NATO membership is influencing Poland's military modernization efforts.
Poland needs alliance structures to guarantee its security, meaning Warsaw's primary military imperative is to maintain and increase interoperability between its armed forces and NATO. Integrating the Polish military into Western defense structures after nearly 45 years of operating within Soviet systems has been a large, expensive and protracted undertaking. The main priority in this transition is moving away from late-model Soviet equipment in favor of more modern equipment that can integrate with NATO systems on land, sea and in the air.
The Polish army has focused heavily on replacing or upgrading older Soviet hardware to become a more effective and modern army and to increase NATO interoperability. This has included upgrading and modernizing its main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile systems, munitions, helicopters and more. In general, Poland is restructuring its ground troops into a smaller, more flexible force with expeditionary capabilities more reflective of NATO's defense priorities.
Poland contributes significantly to NATO's mission in Afghanistan with some 2,420 troops deployed with the International Security Assistance Force, making Poland the fifth-largest troop contributor outside the United States. Poland contributed a similar-sized force to U.S.-led operations in Iraq, with a total troop deployment of approximately 2,500. The operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have been an opportunity for Poland to be extremely active in NATO, helping facilitate its forces' transition into the alliance network and to cement security ties. Poland's contributions to both wars are far more indicative of Warsaw's need for a tight security relationship with the United States than of any common military objectives.
Poland's navy suffers from the same basic geopolitical constraints that its land forces do when they come up against much more powerful neighbors in difficult geographic conditions. Even a small naval force easily can block both of Poland's main ports, Gdansk and Gdynia, given the numerous chokepoints in the eastern Baltic Sea. Access to the Atlantic Ocean requires passage through the Skagerrak, the strait that connects the North and Baltic Seas that can -- and has been -- blocked by the Swedes, the Danes and the Germans. Once past the Skagerrak, a Polish fleet would still have to traverse either the North Sea or the English Channel before reaching the Atlantic, which brings British naval forces into the equation. As such, the main priority of Poland's navy traditionally has been access denial and defense of the coast against hostile forces approaching by sea.

Poland has a large and well-equipped indigenous fleet of minehunters and minesweepers. This is both a legacy of the Cold War, during which Polish shipyards produced mostly landing craft and minesweepers given the Polish navy's role under the Warsaw Pact of dominating the Baltic Sea. This role coincided with Poland's maritime geography, since Polish naval and commercial vessels are vulnerable to a blockade of the Skagerrak. Poland's resulting relatively extensive minesweeping capabilities are a unique and valuable skillset it can provide within the NATO alliance structure.
Since joining the NATO security structure, Poland's navy has become less focused on coastal defense and instead is prioritizing increased integration and interoperability with NATO and international naval forces. Poland has invested millions in the development of advanced naval command and control, or C2, capabilities. This allowed for the full integration of the national C2 system -- including computer systems, radios and other assorted communication devices -- with the NATO network. It is difficult to overstate the degree of technical overhaul required to transition C2 systems. Soviet and NATO hardware simply cannot communicate with each other.
Modernizing an air force is a slow process because it tends to be more technology heavy than other branches and, thus, expensive. Poland has spent millions upgrading and modernizing late-model Soviet aircraft like the MiG-29 that would otherwise need to be retired as well as procuring 48 F-16C/D fighters from the United States. Poland also has purchased five C-130E Hercules cargo planes being refurbished by the United States. Building out its transport and logistical capabilities will strengthen Poland's position in NATO, since these types of aircraft are critical for transporting personnel and military equipment in the expeditionary type of operations typical of NATO forces.
Recently, Poland announced that rather than upgrade its 38 Soviet-built Su-22 fighter jets, its Defense Ministry plans to replace the fleet with 123 to 205 unmanned combat aerial vehicles. These require more personnel to pilot, maintain, launch and track the vehicle than a manned platform, but training personnel to operate them takes less time than training pilots. The specifics on exactly what type of unmanned combat aerial vehicles Poland plans to purchase have not been announced. A fleet of unmanned combat aerial vehicles could not replace the specific capabilities of an Su-22, but the shift to more unmanned vehicles is the general trend among most modern militaries. While extremely expensive to develop, investing in this type of technology puts Poland along the path of the future of aerial combat. In the long run, this should be more cost beneficial than continuously upgrading outdated platforms. It is a process, however, that takes significant time and money and may hinder the Polish air force in the meantime.
Other Procurements
Poland's need for an external power to guarantee its security means that the Polish military must take into consideration not only Poland's national imperatives but the imperatives of its allies as well. This applies to procuring some defense equipment and/or developing military capabilities not only suited for Poland's national defense needs but also meant to endear the Polish military to its allies. Examples of this include Poland's leasing of 40 Cougar mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles from the United States to be used in Afghanistan as well as Poland's purchase of eight Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles, four of which are slated for use in Afghanistan as well. Poland can certainly make use of the unmanned aerial vehicles when they are no longer necessary in Afghanistan. The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles are especially well suited for NATO's counter-insurgency mission, since they provide some of the best protection against the improvised explosive devices used to target Western forces in Afghanistan. But though mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles could be used as typical transport vehicles in Poland, it would prove expensive, meaning they most likely will be returned to the United States.
Poland continues to prioritize its "special" bilateral relationship with the United States. Most important to Poland is retaining some U.S. military presence on Polish soil. In May 2011, the United States sent a number of F-16s from the California National Guard to train alongside Polish F-16s. As of next year, U.S. forces will be stationed in Poland for the first time, though still only on a rotational basis. Poland has been hoping to secure even more of a U.S. commitment by hosting land-based SM-3 ballistic missile defense interceptors as part of a U.S.-led missile defense system in Europe. But Washington's commitment to ballistic missile defense in Europe has shifted repeatedly over the years as a result of changes in the U.S. administration, technological advances and strategic priorities regarding the U.S. relationship with Russia and Central/Eastern Europe. Consequently, Warsaw has been increasing its emphasis on the promotion of regional security groupings with various Central and Eastern European states, the Baltics and even the Nordic states, moves that attest to Poland's centrality in a number of different alliance structures.
Fortunately for Poland, the current security environment in Eurasia has created an atmosphere in which the traditional threats to Poland are more hypothetical than immediate. The longer this remains true, the more time Poland will have to develop its military capabilities. Whether it uses this time to bulk up depends upon whether Warsaw prioritizes increasing its independent military force instead of relying solely on the existence of NATO and the European Union to guarantee its security. While necessary, too much dependence on outside powers is ultimately a gamble for Poland and could leave it vulnerable. On the other side of the equation, however, the resources required to create a strong military capable of independently defending Poland against its traditional geopolitical threats would require a massive expenditure of revenues, manpower and time.

Read more: The Transformation of the Polish Armed Forces: NATO and Military Modernization | Stratfor
Title: Putin yanks Brits chain
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 05, 2013, 06:36:29 PM
Title: Stratfor: Pipelines of Empire
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 15, 2013, 07:00:49 PM
By Robert D. Kaplan and Eugene Chausovsky

At this juncture in history, the fate of Europe is wound up not in ideas but in geopolitics. For millennia, eruptions from Asia have determined the fate of Europe, including invasions and migrations by Russians, Turkic tribes and Byzantine Greeks. Central and Eastern Europe, with their geographical proximity to the Asian steppe and the Anatolian land bridge, have borne the brunt of these cataclysms. Today is no different, only it is far subtler. Armies are not marching; rather, hydrocarbons are flowing. For that is the modern face of Russian influence in Europe. To understand the current pressures upon Europe from the east it is necessary to draw a map of energy pipelines.
Russian-European Natural Gas Networks

One-quarter of all energy for Europe comes from Russia, but that statistic is an average for the whole continent; thus, as one moves successively from Western Europe to Central Europe to Eastern Europe that percentage rises dramatically. Natural gas is more important than oil in this story, but let us consider oil first.

Russia is among the top oil producers worldwide and has among the largest reserves, with vast deposits in both western and eastern Siberia. Crucially, Russia is now investing in the technology necessary to preserve its position as a major energy hub for years and decades to come, though it is an open question whether current production levels can be maintained in the long term. Russia's primary gateway to Europe for oil (and natural gas) is Belarus in the north and Ukraine in the south. The Druzhba pipeline network takes Russian oil through Belarus to Poland and Germany in the north and in the south through Ukraine to Central Europe and the Balkans, as well as to Italy. Russia certainly has influence in Europe on account of its oil, and has occasionally used its oil as a means of political pressure on Belarus and Ukraine. But moving westward into Europe, negotiations over Russian oil are generally about supply and pricing, not political factors. It is really with natural gas that energy becomes a useful political tool for Russia.

Russia is, after the United States, simply the largest producer of natural gas worldwide, with trillions of cubic meters of reserves. Europe gets 25 percent of its natural gas from Russia, though, again, that figure rises dramatically in Central and Eastern Europe; generally, the closer a country is to Russia, the more dependent it is on Russian natural gas. Central Europe (with the exception of Romania, which has its own reserves) draws roughly 70 percent of the natural gas it consumes from Russia. Belarus, Bulgaria and the Baltic states depend on Russia for 90-100 percent of their natural gas needs. Russia has used this dependence to influence these states' decision-making, offering beneficial terms to states that cooperate with Moscow, while charging higher prices and occasionally cutting off supplies altogether to those that don't. This translates into real geopolitical power, even if the Warsaw Pact no longer exists.

The Yamal pipeline system brings Russian natural gas to Poland and Germany via Belarus. The Blue Stream pipeline network brings Russian natural gas to Turkey. Nord Stream, which was completed in 2011, brings Russian natural gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, cutting out the need for a Belarus-Poland land route. Thus, Belarus and Poland now have less leverage over Russia, even as they are mainly dependent on Russia for their own natural gas supplies by way of separate pipelines.

The next major geopolitical piece in this massive network is the proposed South Stream pipeline. South Stream would transport Russian natural gas across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, with another line running to Italy via the Balkans and the Adriatic. South Stream could make Central Europe and the Balkans more dependent on Russia, even as Russia does not require Ukraine for the project. This, combined with Nord Stream, helps Russia tighten its grip on Ukraine.

But there is also Caspian Sea oil and natural gas to consider, particularly from Azerbaijan, which inhibits Russia's monopoly. Oil and natural gas pipelines built with the help of Western energy companies in the 2000s bring energy from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku through Georgia to Turkey and onwards to Europe. Furthermore, the Nabucco pipeline network has the potential to bring Caspian Sea natural gas across the Caucasus and Turkey all the way to Austria, with spur lines coming from Iraq and Iran. Obviously, this is a complex and politically fraught project that has not materialized. Winning out over Nabucco has been the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a far less ambitious network that will bring Azerbaijani natural gas across Turkey to Greece and Italy. Because TAP avoids Central Europe and the Balkans, its selection over Nabucco constitutes a clear victory for Russia, which wants Central and Eastern Europe dependent on it and not on Azerbaijan for energy. In fact, Russian political pressure was a factor in TAP's victory over Nabucco.

The real long-term threat to Russian influence in Europe comes less from Azerbaijan than from the building of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. These are facilities located on coastlines that convert LNG back to natural gas after it has been liquefied to enable transport across seas and oceans. With an LNG terminal, a country is less dependent on pipelines emanating from Russia. Poland and Lithuania are building such terminals on the Baltic Sea and Croatia wants to build one on the Adriatic. The Visegrad countries of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been building pipeline interconnectors, in part to integrate with -- and take advantage of -- these Baltic terminals. This LNG comes from many sources, including North Africa, the Middle East and North America. That is why Russia is deeply concerned about vast shale gas discoveries in the United States and elsewhere in Europe -- natural gas that could eventually be exported with the help of LNG terminals to Central and Eastern Europe.

Russia is also worried about the European Union's attempt to break its energy monopoly through legal means. According to new legislation known as the Third Energy Package, which is still in the process of being implemented, one energy company cannot be responsible for production, distribution and sales, because the European Union defines that as a monopoly. And such monopolistic practices actually describe Russian energy companies like Gazprom. If the European Union gets its way, Russian corporate control will be unbundled.

Therefore, we forecast that Russia's use of energy to extract political concessions will weaken over time, but will nevertheless remain formidable in parts of Central and Eastern Europe. While energy has served as an effective tool for Russia to wield political influence in Europe, Moscow is first and foremost concerned about maintaining the revenue from energy exports that has become so crucial for Russia's own budget and economic stability. In this sense, maintaining European market share (and further developing market share in Asia) takes precedence over political manipulation for Moscow.

Consequently, Russia will have to become even more subtle and sophisticated in the way that it deals with its former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact satellites.

Read more: Pipelines of Empire | Stratfor
Title: WSJ: Russia vs. Europe in the Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 17, 2013, 06:42:34 AM
Russia and Europe Vie to Win the Prize of Ukraine
Putin's grand plan to restore the Russian empire may depend on which way Kiev goes later this month.
by Walter Russell Mead
Nov. 15, 2013 6:27 p.m. ET

This could be the month that determines the success or collapse of Vladimir Putin's strategic plan for Russia. Even as shrewd Russian diplomacy runs rings around a stumbling White House on Syria, and as NSA revelations by Mr. Putin's honored guest Edward Snowden continue to strain U.S. ties with allies, the Russian president's imperial dream is hanging by a thread.

His problem is Ukraine, which since the early 1990s has resisted multiple attempts by Russia—some diplomatic, some subversive, some bellicose—to bring it back under Moscow's control. The turning point may be Ukraine's decision later this month on whether to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union.

The collapse of the Soviet Union ended 200 years of Russian expansion and empire building. Under the czars, Russian territory stretched past Warsaw into the heart of Central Europe; Stalin's armies camped on the Elbe. President Putin called the Soviet collapse "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

Russia has lots of reasons to want its old empire back. Control of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan will give Russia more control over world oil and gas markets. Central Asia is rich in resources and Russia fears both Chinese and Islamist ambitions there. The Baltic republics occupy part of what Russia regards as a necessary security frontier against NATO and the West around St. Petersburg. The Baltics also cut Russia off from the Kaliningrad enclave (formerly known as Königsberg and seized from Germany at the end of World War II) and contain sizable Russian minorities.

But there is no doubt that, psychologically and practically, the crown jewel of Russia's lost empire is Ukraine. Its capital Kiev was the birthplace of Russian culture and for many Russians it is an integral part of their homeland. The Crimea is a mostly ethnic-Russian region that Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily deeded over to Ukraine in 1954. The eastern half of the country speaks Russian and many people there would be happy to return to Moscow's arms.

It isn't just nostalgia that draws Russia to Ukraine. It's also about power and security. With Ukraine back in the fold, Russia has the potential to become the kind of great European power whose interests the EU cannot disregard. Recovering Ukraine is how Vladimir Putin can become Vladimir the Great, ranking with Peter, Catherine and Alexander I as a dominant figure in Russian history.

Mr. Putin's chosen instrument for the first stage in the restoration of Russia as a great power is what he calls the Eurasian Union. This counterpart to the European Union would bring the former Soviet states first into a customs union and then increasingly move toward integration as the EU has done. To get ex-Soviet states to join, Russia is pulling out all the stops.

Kazakhstan and ever-loyal Belarus have already signed up. Armenia has announced its intention to join. Georgia's prime minister says that his country would consider membership if Russia returned the Georgian territories it holds, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But Ukraine is the pearl of great price. With Ukraine, the Eurasian Union is on the road to becoming a significant force; without Kiev, it is little more than a bluff.

The Kremlin has had reason to be optimistic about Ukraine since the current president, Viktor Yanukovych, defeated his archrival, the pro-Western Yulia Tymoshenko, as power returned to political parties based in the eastern, more pro-Russian half of Ukraine. When the Yanukovych government had Ms. Tymoshenko jailed for corruption in 2011, the EU responded by pressuring Mr. Yanukovych to release her and more generally to make government more transparent. From a Kremlin point of view this looked promising; Mr. Yanukovych and the oligarchs around him would surely prefer a closer, no-questions-asked relationship with Moscow than to enter a free-trade agreement with the busybodies of the EU.

Yet to Moscow's profound displeasure, Ukraine has so far shown strong signs of preferring the EU to Russia as its primary trade and political partner. Even Russian-speaking oligarchs in eastern Ukraine believe that the EU offers greater opportunities and perhaps more security for their wealth than a closer association with Mr. Putin's Russia.

November looks like the month of decision. On Nov. 28 the EU is holding a summit in Vilnius for eastern countries like Ukraine, and Ukraine at that point will either sign a free-trade agreement with the EU or not. If it signs, Kiev is on a path that might one day bring it into the EU but will in any case keep it out of Mr. Putin's Eurasia.

The sticking point is Ms. Tymoshenko. The EU, and especially the Germans, believe that her trial was politicized, and they want her freed. This is more than a question about the fate of one person. The fate of Ms. Tymoshenko is being taken as a sign of whether Ukraine's government is prepared to accept the judicial and political standards of the EU.

As Ukraine moves toward its decision, there is frantic maneuvering on all sides. The EU is sweetening its offer by suggesting that Ukraine could begin to enjoy the benefits of a trade deal even before all EU member states have ratified it. It is proposing to help Ukraine with its gas supply if an angry Russia retaliates by shutting the pipelines yet again. And it is pushing the International Monetary Fund to offer Ukraine $10 billion to $15 billion of standby financial support in the event of Russian pressure.

Russia has characteristically responded with a diplomacy of threats: Ukrainian exports to Russia have been mysteriously held up at the frontier and Russian officials from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on down have warned Ukraine of serious consequences should it side with the EU. Meanwhile, in its continuing efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, Ukraine has signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron CVX +0.42% —news that cannot have brought much joy to Gazprom. OGZPY +0.95%

It is not clear what President Yanukovych will do. Releasing Ms. Tymoshenko would be a bitter pill, and Ukraine may decide that Europe's price is too high. But the Putin regime has so threatened Ukraine that even some of Russia's natural allies in the country are looking west.

And there is one more question. Losing the chance to reel in Ukraine will be the greatest blow to Mr. Putin's prestige since he emerged on the Russian political stage. As the hour of decision approaches, what if anything will he try in a last-ditch effort to delay Russia's permanent relegation to a secondary role in global power politics?

President Yanukovych and his allies want to stoke a bidding war between the EU and Russia for Ukrainian support. The stakes, for Mr. Putin especially, could not be higher.

Mr. Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.
Title: WSJ: Russia Squeezing Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 09, 2013, 03:50:33 PM
Stratfor has long emphasized the geopolitical importance of Ukraine, a point which I have echoed here, see my post of the other day in the Foreign Policy thread by  , , , I forget who, but it was a good piece.

The Stakes in Ukraine
The U.S. should warn Putin not to stoke violence in Kiev.
Updated Dec. 9, 2013 5:48 p.m. ET

For the second consecutive Sunday, more than half a million people filled the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The anti-government demonstrations are an important moment for the future of Europe, though you wouldn't know it from America's indifference.

Ukraine straddles a faultline between autocratic Russia and free Europe. The country of 46 million is divided between Russian-speakers in the east and nationalists in the west, but most Ukrainians want their country to get closer to Europe. The protests show that Ukrainians are fed up with their rapacious political system and aspire to live under the rule of law.
Enlarge Image

A protester smashes a statue of Lenin with a sledgehammer in Tarasa Shevchenko Boulevard, central Kiev. Zuma Press

President Viktor Yanukovych, who is from eastern Ukraine, surprised his countrymen last month by shelving a free-trade deal with the EU he had promised to sign. Russian President Vladimir Putin had imposed trade sanctions and other punitive economic measures on Ukraine to stop the EU deal and drag Kiev into his own trade and political bloc as he tries to reconstitute a Russian empire.

The protests exploded last week after riot police broke up an encampment of pro-EU demonstrators in central Kiev. The protests have since become less about the EU and now include demands for a new government, early elections and constitutional changes. Mr. Yanukovych fanned public anger on Friday when he met Mr. Putin in Sochi, their third recent tête-à-tête. Rumors swirled that Mr. Yanukovych has secretly promised to bring Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union. The Kremlin and Mr. Yanukovych deny it.

The EU's trade offer was a modest first step to attract Ukraine, but the bloc lacks the vision or ability to offer more. The West's leadership role used to fall to the U.S., which during the Clinton and Bush years actively helped Ukraine become a stronger state. Now the U.S. has lost interest.

Early last week Secretary of State John Kerry offered platitudes about peaceful protests and suggested America's ties with Russia were a bigger priority. He also put his diplomatic foot in it by repeatedly referring to "the Ukraine." Kiev dropped the article "the" after independence in 1991, believing it suggested that Ukraine was merely a region as opposed to a sovereign state. At the end of the week a senior U.S. official finally criticized Mr. Yanukovych's turnabout on Europe.

A peaceful compromise doesn't have to remove Mr. Yanukovych, who is up for re-election in 2015. With the economy sinking along with his support, he's unlikely to win an honest election. A new cabinet and constitutional changes to weaken the presidency could satisfy the streets, and the EU deal could be revived.

But that doesn't account for Mr. Putin, who will play rough to keep Kiev in his orbit. There are rumors of Russian provocateurs in the crowds and the mobilization of riot police to move toward Kiev. For two decades Ukraine has been the powder keg that never blew, mocking a CIA prediction in the early 1990s of likely civil war. But violence is now a possibility, which could destabilize Europe. If Mr. Yanukovych does move toward a Moscow customs union by fiat, he would split the country.

The protests could also set Ukraine on a better course, and that should be the U.S. goal. At a minimum the Obama Administration can make clear to Mr. Putin that he will pay a price if he stokes violence or promotes a crackdown. It would also help if President Obama found his voice for a change on behalf of freedom and the West.
Title: WSJ: How the US lost Ukraine to Putin
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 11, 2013, 08:54:06 AM
Edward Lucas: How the West Lost Ukraine to Putin
The Ukrainian leader weighed both sides' offers and chose the one promising him power and money—Russia's offer.
By Edward Lucas
Dec. 10, 2013 6:33 p.m. ET

The scenes from the Ukrainian capital are extraordinary: Lenin's statue toppled, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving protesters, police raids on media outlets and opposition parties. But they are a sideshow to the big picture: the collapse of the European Union's efforts to integrate its ex-Soviet neighbors in the face of an audacious bid by Vladimir Putin's ex-KGB regime to restore the Russian empire.

The EU's expansion to the east was one of its greatest achievements. The countries that joined in 2004—the so-called EU-8 of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia—now represent some of the Continent's most striking success stories. Even grudging voices in "Old Europe" concede that the EU is stronger, not weaker, because of its new members.

But that triumph was based on some particular circumstances. The EU offered genuine membership. These countries truly wanted to reform, modernize and integrate with the West. Their governments and people alike realized that joining the EU was the only way to do it. They were willing to instigate and accept tough reforms. And nobody was able to stop them.

These advantages are absent in the countries of the "Eastern Partnership," the EU's misguided plan to forge closer ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. These six countries are ill-assorted. Oil-rich Azerbaijan wants strategic ties with the West but has scores of political prisoners and tightly controlled media. Belarus has a marginally less bad human-rights record but hews to the Kremlin line in its foreign policy. Armenia has little love for Russia but depends on it for survival against Azerbaijan. Georgia and Moldova are pro-Western but weak, small and vulnerable. And Ukraine is larger than all the others put together.

They do have three things in common, none of them helpful. Their abilities to make deep reforms range from weak to nil. The EU does not want them as full members. And the Kremlin wants to keep them in its orbit.

The result has been an unfolding disaster. The Eastern Partnership has gotten nowhere in Belarus. Azerbaijan said it wanted easy visas to the EU, but its government showed no desire to make political reforms. Armenia tried to engage but was swatted back into line by Russia and in September rejected the EU agreement. Last month, on the eve of the EU's summit in Lithuania, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych suddenly announced that he won't sign either. Russia was making him and his country an offer they could not refuse.

The details of that offer are still unfolding. It appears to involve an emergency loan for Ukraine's stricken economy, one without the tough conditions, such as higher gas prices, that would be required in any deal with Western lenders such as the International Monetary Fund. It will involve some cheap gas, probably supplied through a murky but well-connected intermediary company. Russia will deploy its huge media resources, especially its television channels, which are widely watched in Ukraine, against the demonstrators and in favor of the Yanukovych regime.

In return, Vladimir Putin will move Ukraine closer to the planned Eurasian Customs Union, the Russian president's pet project for extending Kremlin influence in the former empire.

Those were the carrots for Kiev rejecting closer EU ties, but there were sticks, too. Ukraine is vulnerable to Russian economic sanctions, some of which Moscow had already imposed. Mr. Yanukovych's personal safety is a factor too: He is terrified of being poisoned and travels with an entourage of food-tasters and flunkies that would not disgrace the Byzantine imperial court. In 2004, opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin after challenging Kremlin influence in Ukraine. He lived—and became president—but was permanently disfigured.

The EU cannot match that. It does not do death threats or bribes. It helps countries improve their intellectual-property laws and food-safety procedures. It demands proper elections, courts and media regulation, all anathema to the likes of Mr. Yanukovych, who thrives on rigged elections, propaganda machines and phony justice.

The other benefits the EU offers are free trade, which brings a sharp competitive shock first and benefits later, and easier visas, which are of no interest to Mr. Yanukovych, who can travel wherever he wants. Having weighed up both sides' offers, the Ukrainian leader chose the one that promised power and money: the Kremlin's offer.

That decision left EU officials baffled. They do not understand people like Mr. Yanukovych and their feral approach to politics. Nor do they understand Russia. They missed the fundamental point about Russian foreign policy: To feel secure, Moscow needs a geopolitical hinterland of countries that are economically weak and politically pliable. The EU's Eastern Partnership could make Russia's borderlands economically strong and politically secure. Therefore the partnership must be destroyed.

The EU's failure to deal properly with Ukraine is a scandal. It is no exaggeration to say that the country determines the long-term future of the entire former Soviet Union. If Ukraine adopts a Euro-Atlantic orientation, then the Putin regime and its satrapies are finished. The political, economic and cultural success of a large, Orthodox, industrialized ex-Soviet country would be the clearest signal possible to Russians that their thieving, thuggish, lying rulers are not making the country great, but holding it back.

But if Ukraine falls into Russia's grip, then the outlook is bleak and dangerous. Not only will authoritarian crony capitalism have triumphed in the former Soviet Union, but Europe's own security will also be endangered. NATO is already struggling to protect the Baltic states and Poland from the integrated and increasingly impressive military forces of Russia and Belarus. Add Ukraine to that alliance, and a headache turns into a nightmare.

Western leaders have missed no chance to show the Kremlin that they are not to be taken seriously. The EU merely murmured when the Kremlin imposed trade sanctions on Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Lithuania. Its leaders have done little to make waverers in Ukraine think that Europe is to be counted on in a crisis. The belated diplomatic support that the Obama administration has given the EU in its eastern neighborhood is commendable. But it also highlights the shameful neglect of previous years.

The best way Europe or America can help Ukraine—and Georgia and Moldova—is to take a much tougher stance with Russia. The EU should freeze Russia's request for visa-free travel for holders of "official" passports. The U.S. and EU should also freeze Russia's application to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based good-governance club. The EU should intensify its scrutiny of Gazprom's OGZPY -1.12% behavior in the European gas market and pursue a pending antitrust "complaint" (in effect a prosecution) against the Russian state-owned giant with the greatest vigor possible.

It is time to show Mr. Putin that his hunting license in Russia's neighborhood is now canceled. Don't hold your breath.

Mr. Lucas is the author of "Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today" (Walker, 2012) and "The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West" ( Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
Title: WSJ: US actually acts!
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 16, 2013, 06:44:28 AM
Leading From the Front in Ukraine
A welcome exception to the Obama foreign policy.
Dec. 15, 2013 7:00 p.m. ET

Addressing hundreds of thousands at Kiev's Independence Square on Sunday, John McCain said, "We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently." The Arizona Senator's appearance was a highlight of the latest pro-democracy rally in the Ukrainian capital. And for once the vocal critic of President Obama's foreign policy was reinforcing rather than dissenting from Administration policy.

Entering the fourth week of protests, the outcome of the political showdown in Ukraine hasn't been decided. But this crisis is a good reminder that the U.S. can still bring influence to bear even on internal foreign disputes in a way that no other country can. Over the past five years the Obama Administration has repeatedly shown friends and adversaries that it is reluctant to stand up for America's interests and values. Ukraine shows what the better policy of leading from the front looks like.

For weeks the U.S. had maintained a guarded neutrality in the standoff. The Administration finally found its voice when President Viktor Yanukovych sent his riot police early last Wednesday morning to clear a large encampment from Independence Square. The images from Kiev even roused a remarkable public intervention from Secretary of State John Kerry, who noted his "disgust" with the Yanukovych government. "That's the strongest statement John Kerry has ever given in his life," Mr. McCain told us in Kiev.

Vice President Joe Biden has made several calls to Mr. Yanukovych. The U.S. threatened to impose visa bans and financial sanctions on Ukrainian leaders, whose worst nightmare is to be denied access to their bank accounts and property in the West. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reinforced the message in a telephone call to the country's military chief, who can be counted on to share it with others in the security establishment. The Europeans made similar noises.

Lo and behold, such Western pressure can work, especially when it sides with a popular uprising against an oppressive ruler. Mr. Yanukovych has pulled the riot police back and reached out to the opposition while still offering few concessions. The protests were sparked by his refusal to sign an "association" treaty with the EU, and Mr. Yanukovych is still looking to get an economic lifeline from Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the protest movement has broadened beyond the EU question to demands for the rule of law and more democratic transparency in this post-Soviet country of 46 million.

Victoria Nuland provided one of many enduring images from Ukraine's uprising. After her meeting with President Yanukovych in Kiev last Wednesday after the attempted crackdown, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs said in a light snow storm: "I hope the people of Ukraine know that the U.S. stands with you in your search for justice, for human dignity and security for economic health, and the European future that you have chosen and deserve."

We're not sure what accounts for the Administration's change of heart and mind. Perhaps it is a recognition, at last, that Mr. Putin means no good for U.S. interests. Whatever the motivation, we'll take it.
Title: How to help the Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 02, 2014, 07:41:31 PM
Title: WSJ: Ukraine-Russia, US needs to move on sanctions
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 26, 2014, 09:35:32 AM
America and Ukraine
As the crisis in Kiev worsens, the U.S. needs to move on sanctions.

Jan. 24, 2014 6:40 p.m. ET

The Ukraine showdown between pro-Western demonstrators and President Viktor Yanukovych is escalating, with at least five dead, violent clashes in Kiev and provincial governments joining the opposition this week. It's past time for the U.S. to get more engaged.

Russia's Vladimir Putin has stoked this crisis from the first and isn't about to let up. The Russian strongman has put $15 billion in aid and billions more in cheap energy on the table to make Ukraine an authoritarian state in Moscow's image. His goal is to make it part of a new Greater Russia. He pressured the ruling clique in Kiev to drop an EU "association" treaty in November, which led to the first protests, and Mr. Yanukovych further inflamed the streets last week with repressive new laws.

Yet this country of 46 million has also built a close relationship with Washington since independence in 1991. The U.S. has leverage with Mr. Yanukovych and his entourage that it so far hasn't employed.

On Thursday, Joe Biden finally called the Ukrainian president "to urge an immediate de-escalation in the standoff . . . and to meaningfully address the legitimate concerns of peaceful protesters." That's good, but what took so long? The Veep should have called last week when the Ukrainian parliament passed the inflammatory laws.

Secretary of State John Kerry has also been MIA while chasing windmills in the Middle East. In Davos on Friday he finally said that, "We will stand with the people of Ukraine." And President Obama ? Who?

After the first deaths of protestors in Ukraine's modern history this week, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev on Wednesday revoked the visas of officials linked to the violence. No names were specified. Washington has promised to "consider" other sanctions, and State and Treasury have debated the names of Ukraine officials and business oligarchs who could be put on a list for a visa ban and U.S. asset freeze.

Now's the time to act. Targeted travel and financial sanctions can be imposed by executive order, and the Administration can urge the EU and its member states to do the same. Little scares Ukrainian elites as much as losing access to their London flats or Cypriot bank accounts.

The Obama Administration has largely ignored Europe during its tenure, but the strategic reality is that only Washington can lead an effort to pull Ukraine out of Moscow's orbit. The EU is divided and irresolute. Worrying parallels to Europe's mishandling of the Balkans in the early 1990s aren't far-fetched. Now as then the EU doesn't seem to realize what's at stake in preventing a violent crisis in its neighborhood. The bulk of Europe's energy supplies come through Ukraine, and pipelines crisscross the western regions with local governments that on Thursday fell to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators.

Talks between opposition leaders and Mr. Yanukovych broke down again on Friday and clashes with security forces resumed. Mr. Yanukovych is under pressure from Moscow to put down the uprising. U.S. and EU sanctions can help isolate Mr. Yanukovych by clarifying that there is a price for repression.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 26, 2014, 07:36:51 PM
Title: WSJ: Ukraine -- pressure mounts on leader
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 27, 2014, 04:48:20 AM
KIEV, Ukraine—Antigovernment protests intensified on Sunday, posing the most serious threat to President Viktor Yanukovych's rule since demonstrations began here more than two months ago and raising the stakes in a battle for influence between Russia and the West.

Tens of thousands of protesters across Ukraine besieged government facilities and dug in at local administrations buildings they are occupying in several regional capitals, in a challenge to Mr. Yanukovych's pivot to the east and Russia's attempts to assert political and economic power in former Soviet republics.

The widening rebellion throws into question the future of Mr. Yanukovych, who in December sealed a multibillion-dollar bailout from Russia that appeared to secure his political future after abruptly turning his back on a partnership deal with the European Union.

Supporters carry the coffin of Mykhailo Zhyznevsky, an antigovernment protester who was killed during recent rallies, during his funeral in Kiev on Sunday. The widening rebellion has thrown into question the future of embattled President Viktor Yanukovych. david mdzinarishvili/Reuters

For Russian President Vladimir Putin, winning Ukraine's allegiance was a significant victory in his quest to reassert influence over former Soviet republics. Ukraine was the centerpiece of an EU program aimed at coaxing democratic overhauls in the region in return for free-trade agreements. Now, only tiny Moldova and Georgia are on track to sign deals.

Ukraine, which Mr. Putin often calls a "brotherly nation," is also a sensitive domestic issue for Russians. A defeat for Mr. Yanukovych could send a powerful signal within Russia, whose tough antiprotest laws and security tactics seem to have served as a model for his response to the demonstrations. The Ukrainian president this month introduced laws mirroring Russian legislation that strictly curbs dissent, and authorities began a brutal crackdown on protesters that left three dead and hundreds injured.

To be sure, Mr. Yanukovych is far from bowed. Police and security services have remained loyal. The loans and cheaper gas secured from Russia in December have patched up Ukraine's economy. Powerful business tycoons have urged a peaceful resolution to protests and allowed their television channels to broadcast events, but haven't openly challenged the president.

But the crackdown and the laws triggered uprisings across Ukraine in recent days that appear to have thwarted Mr. Yanukovych's attempt to take a more authoritarian grip on this country of some 46 million.

The Kremlin, which has endorsed the crackdown and Mr. Yanukovych's labeling of protesters as radicals, must now be worried, said Steven Pifer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"It is hard to see how they can influence the situation now. It has gotten out of hand and they don't have any levers to pull," said Mr. Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

On Saturday, Mr. Yanukovych for the first time offered significant concessions, including appointing two opposition leaders to the government.  But the opposition, urged on by protesters who blame the president for last week's police crackdown in Kiev and have called for his ouster, said it would demand additional measures, including snap presidential elections and an amnesty for all protesters.

"No deal," read a post Sunday on the Twitter account of opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was offered the job of prime minister as part of the president's concessions. "We're finishing what we started. The people decide our leaders, not you."

The U.S. State Department didn't comment Sunday on Mr. Yanukovych's latest offer, but has been calling for "substantive discussions" between the government and protesters with an aim of "national reconciliation."

Protests began in November, when Mr. Yanukovych shelved the long-planned integration pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.  Protests evolved into a broader outcry against official corruption, police brutality and the president's authoritarian turn. Protesters are also angered by the passing of laws this month that strictly curb dissent and mirror Russian legislation. Repealing them is a key demand.

"Mr. Yanukovych doesn't have the money or the strength" to institute a Russian-style authoritarian regime, said Andrew Wilson, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The uprisings in recent days started in Ukraine's west, where Mr. Yanukovych is most unpopular. The mayor of Lviv, a major center of dissent, said the new laws wouldn't apply there.  Protests have even spread to regions east of Kiev that for years have been loyal to Mr. Yanukovych.  In cities across Ukraine, crowds stormed local government buildings in recent days, shouting, "Get the gang out!" and "Get the criminal out!" a reference to the two prison terms Mr. Yanukovych served in his youth for theft and assault. Many protesters who occupied local administration and council buildings declared loyalty to the People's Council, set up by the opposition in Kiev.

The opposition and analysts credit the new fronts outside the capital as forcing Mr. Yanukovych, who for weeks has largely ignored the protests in the capital, to change tack.

"Yanukovych's mood was very different. He was not the same as two days ago," Oleh Tyahybok, a nationalist leader who heads one of the three main opposition parties, told the crowd on Kiev's central square after talks on Saturday.

The president's offer, which came in a three-hour meeting with the three main opposition leaders on Saturday, also includes a promise to consider rolling back constitutional changes that handed him more power, a potential amnesty for protesters if they clear the streets and possible release for protesters detained on the front lines in recent days.  The opposition said it wanted actions, not promises, as it didn't trust him to keep his word.

A key showdown will be the emergency session of parliament on Tuesday, when the president's allies say an amnesty law and amendments to the authoritarian laws could be considered.  The opposition has raised concerns the president could use the session to institute a state of emergency and a broader crackdown, which the government denies.

Analysts said the offer looked like a trap for the opposition, which is divided and has lost support on the square in recent days amid suspicions some leaders are simply ambitious for power and don't have the mettle to take on Mr. Yanukovych.

"This is a bluff, since the loss of control over administrations has put the Yanukovych regime in a dangerous position," said Taras Berezovets, a political analyst at Berta Communications. "They're trying to bring discord into the ranks of the opposition."

The mood on the square in Kiev was defiant on Sunday. After the speeches Saturday night, protesters smashed windows and tossed Molotov cocktails in an attack on a convention center nearby where they said riot police were hiding out in preparation for an attack. They eventually called a truce and allowed police, who were outnumbered, to leave. One group of activists occupied the Justice Ministry late Sunday.

The attack reflects a growing militancy among protesters. Hundreds of men armed with clubs and makeshift shields stand at barricades to defend the Kiev camp, which covers the square and several connected roads.  In the country's east on Sunday, thousands of protesters in Zaporizhya and Dnipropetrovsk surrounded city administration buildings.  In a sign of increasing unity across Ukraine, hard-core soccer fans known here as "Ultras" pledged to protect protesters from police in many cities.

In Volyn in the country's west, the city's governor, a presidential appointee, knelt briefly before hundreds of protesters asking them not to storm the building, according to video shared by protesters online. When one man entered the building to ask police not to assault protesters, an officer wearing a black helmet told him: "We're with the people. We're Ukrainians." They then embraced. The governor later resigned. In Poltava, the local police chief halted an attempt to storm the governor's offices by taking off his hat and singing the national anthem, local news agencies reported. Protesters seized the building later. 

Some attacks on buildings were less peaceful. In Vinnytsia, protesters stormed the regional administration, spraying fire extinguishers and tossing wooden chairs at riot police.

—Alan Cullison and Katya Gorchinskaya contributed to this article.
Title: Stratfor: Perspectives on the Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 30, 2014, 03:35:36 PM
By George Friedman

A few months ago, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was expected to sign some agreements that could eventually integrate Ukraine with the European Union economically. Ultimately, Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements, a decision thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. The demonstrations later evolved, as they often do. Protesters started calling for political change, and when Yanukovich resisted their calls, they demanded new elections.

Some protesters wanted Ukraine to have a European orientation rather than a Russian one. Others felt that the government was corrupt and should thus be replaced. These kinds of demonstrations occur in many countries. Sometimes they're successful; sometimes they're not. In most cases, the outcome matters only to the country's citizens or to the citizens of neighboring states. But Ukraine is exceptional because it is enormously important. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had to pursue a delicate balance between the tenuous promises of a liberal, wealthy and somewhat aloof Europe and the fact that its very existence and independence can be a source of strategic vulnerability for Russia.

Ukraine's Importance

Ukraine provides two things: strategic position and agricultural and mineral products. The latter are frequently important, but the former is universally important. Ukraine is central to Russia's defensibility. The two countries share a long border, and Moscow is located only some 480 kilometers (about 300 miles) from Ukrainian territory -- a stretch of land that is flat, easily traversed and thus difficult to defend. If some power were to block the Ukraine-Kazakh gap, Russia would be cut off from the Caucasus, its defensible southern border.

Moreover, Ukraine is home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol, which are even more important to Russia than the port of Novorossiysk. Losing commercial and military access to those ports would completely undermine Russia's influence in the Black Sea and cut off its access to the Mediterranean. Russia's only remaining ports would be blocked by the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap to the west, by ice to the northeast, by Denmark on the Baltic Sea, and by Japan in the east.

This explains why in 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power and sued for peace, the Germans demanded that Russia relinquish its control of most of Ukraine. The Germans wanted the food Ukraine produced and knew that if they had a presence there they could threaten Russia in perpetuity. In the end, it didn't matter: Germany lost Word War I, and Russia reclaimed Ukraine. During World War II, the Germans seized Ukraine in the first year of their attack on the Soviet Union, exploited its agriculture and used it as the base to attack Stalingrad, trying to sever Russia from its supply lines in Baku. Between the wars, Stalin had to build up his industrial plant. He sold Ukrainian food overseas and used it to feed factory workers in Russia. The Ukrainians were left to starve, but the industry they built eventually helped the Soviets defeat Hitler. After the Soviets drove the Germans back, they seized Romania and Hungary and drove to Vienna, using Ukraine as their base.

From the perspective of Europe, and particularly from the perspectives of former Soviet satellites, a Ukraine dominated by Russia would represent a potential threat from southern Poland to Romania. These countries already depend on Russian energy, fully aware that the Russians may eventually use that dependence as a lever to gain control over them. Russia's ability not simply to project military power but also to cause unrest along the border or use commercial initiatives to undermine autonomy is a real fear.

Thinking in military terms may seem more archaic to Westerners than it does to Russians and Central Europeans. For many Eastern Europeans, the Soviet withdrawal is a relatively recent memory, and they know that the Russians are capable of returning as suddenly as they left. For their part, the Russians know that NATO has no will to invade Russia, and war would be the last thing on the Germans' minds even if they were capable of waging one. The Russians also remember that for all the economic and military malaise in Germany in 1932, the Germans became the dominant power in Europe by 1939. By 1941, they were driving into the Russian heartland. The farther you move away from a borderland, the more fantastic the fears appear. But inside the borderland, the fears seem far less preposterous for both sides.
Russian Perspectives

From the Russian point of view, therefore, tighter Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potentially mortal threat to Russian national security. After the Orange Revolution, which brought a short-lived pro-EU administration to power in the mid-2000s, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that he regarded Ukraine as essential to Russian security, alleging that the nongovernmental organizations that were fomenting unrest there were fronts for the U.S. State Department, the CIA and MI6. Whether the charges were true or not, Putin believed the course in which Ukraine was headed would be disastrous for Russia, and so he used economic pressure and state intelligence services to prevent Ukraine from taking that course.

In my view, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War had as much to do with demonstrating to Kiev that Western guarantees were worthless, that the United States could not aid Georgia and that Russia had a capable military force as it did with Georgia itself. At the time, Georgia and Ukraine were seeking NATO and EU membership, and through its intervention in Georgia, Moscow succeeded in steering Ukraine away from these organizations. Today, the strategic threat to Russia is no less dire than it was 10 years ago, at least not in minds of the Russians, who would prefer a neutral Ukraine if not a pro-Russia Ukraine.

Notably, Putin's strategy toward the Russian periphery differs from those of his Soviet and czarist predecessors, who took direct responsibility for the various territories subordinate to them. Putin considers this a flawed strategy. It drained Moscow's resources, even as the government could not hold the territories together.

Putin's strategy toward Ukraine, and indeed most of the former Soviet Union, entails less direct influence. He is not interested in governing Ukraine. He is not even all that interested in its foreign relationships. His goal is to have negative control, to prevent Ukraine from doing the things Russia doesn't want it to do. Ukraine can be sovereign except in matters of fundamental importance to Russia. As far as Russia was concerned, the Ukrainian regime is free to be as liberal and democratic as it wants to be. But even the idea of further EU integration was a clear provocation. It was the actions of the European Union and the Germans -- supporting opponents of Yanukovich openly, apart from interfering in the internal affairs of another country -- that were detrimental to Russian national interests.
European Perspectives

Ukraine is not quite as strategically significant to Europe as it is to Russia. Europe never wanted to add Ukraine to its ranks; it merely wanted to open the door to the possibility. The European Union is in shambles. Given the horrific economic problems of Southern Europe, the idea of adding a country as weak and disorganized as Ukraine to the bloc is preposterous. The European Union has a cultural imperative among its elite toward expansion, an imperative that led them to include countries such as Cyprus. Cultural imperatives are hard to change, and so an invitation went out with no serious intentions behind it.

For the Europeans, what the invitation really meant was that Ukraine could become European. It could have the constitutional democracy, liberalism and prosperity that every EU state is supposed to have. This is what appealed to most of the early demonstrators. However improbable full membership might be, the idea of becoming a modern European society is overwhelmingly appealing. Yanukovich's rejection made some protesters feel that their great opportunity had slipped away -- hence the initial demonstrations.

The Germans are playing a complex game. They understood that Ukrainian membership in the European Union was unlikely to happen anytime soon. They also had important dealings with Russia, with which they had mutual energy and investment interests. It was odd that Berlin would support the demonstrators so publicly. However, the Germans were also managing coalitions within the European Union. The Baltic states and Poland were eager to see Ukraine drawn out of the Russian camp, since that would provide a needed, if incomplete, buffer between them and Russia (Belarus is still inside Russia's sphere of influence). Therefore, the Germans had to choose between European partners, who cared about Ukraine, and Russia.

The Russians have remained relatively calm -- and quiet -- throughout Ukraine's protests. They understood that their power in Ukraine rested on more than simply one man or his party, so they allowed the crisis to stew. Given Russia's current strategy in Ukraine, the Russians didn't need to act, at least not publicly. Any government in Ukraine would face the same constraints as Yanukovich: little real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. Certainly, the Russians didn't want a confrontation just before Sochi.

The Russians also knew that the more tightly pro-Western forces controlled Kiev, the more fractious Ukraine could become. In general, eastern Ukraine is more oriented toward Russia: Its residents speak Russian, are Russian Orthodox and are loyal to the Moscow Patriarchy. Western Ukraine is oriented more toward Europe; its residents are Catholic or are loyal to the Kiev Patriarchy. These generalities belie a much more complex situation, of course. There are Moscow Orthodox members and Russian speakers in the west and Catholics and Kiev Orthodox in the east. Nevertheless, the tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country. If that were to happen, the bloc would find itself operating in chaos, but then the European Union did not have the wherewithal to operate meaningfully in Ukraine in the first place. The pro-EU government would encounter conflict and paralysis. For the time being that would suit the Russians, as unlikely as such a scenario might be.
U.S. Perspectives

As in most matters, it is important to understand where the United States fits in, if at all. Washington strongly supported the Orange Revolution, creating a major rift with Russia. The current policy of avoiding unnecessary involvement in Eurasian conflicts would suggest that the United States would stay out of Ukraine. But Russian behavior in the Snowden affair has angered Washington and opened the possibility that the United States might be happy to create some problems for Moscow ahead of the Sochi Olympics. The U.S. government may not be supporting nongovernmental organizations as much as its counterparts in Europe are, but it is still involved somewhat. In fact, Washington may even have enjoyed putting Russia on the defensive after having been put on the defensive by Russia in recent months.

In any case, the stakes are high in Ukraine. The Russians are involved in a game they cannot afford to lose. There are several ways for them to win it. They only need to make the EU opening untenable for the Ukrainians, something Ukraine's economic and social conditions facilitate. The Europeans are not going to be surging into Ukraine anytime soon, and while Poland would prefer that Ukraine remain neutral, Warsaw does not necessarily need a pro-Western Ukraine. The United States is interested in Ukraine as an irritant to Russia but is unwilling to take serious risks.

A lot of countries have an interest in Ukraine, none more so than Russia. But for all the noise in Kiev and other cities, the outcome is unlikely to generate a definitive geopolitical shift in Ukraine. It does, however, provide an excellent example of how political unrest in a strategically critical country can affect the international system as a whole.

In most countries, the events in Kiev would not have generated global interest. When you are a country like Ukraine, even nominal instability generates not only interest but also pressure and even intervention from all directions. This has been the historical problem of Ukraine. It is a country in an important location, and the pressures on it tend to magnify any internal conflicts until they destabilize the country in excess of the significance of the internal issues. Germany and the United States may continue to pursue goals that will further irritate Russia, but as Stratfor indicated in our 2014 annual forecast, they will avoid actions that would risk harming Moscow's ties with Washington and Berlin. Russian influence in Ukraine is currently being limited by the proximity of the Olympics and the escalation in protests on the ground, but the fundamental geopolitical reality is that no country has a higher stake in Ukraine than Russia, nor a better ability to shape its fate.

Read more: Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests | Stratfor

Title: Interesting report from Ukraine
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 02, 2014, 07:22:22 PM
Title: US-Europe putting together substantial aid package to blunt Russian pressure
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 03, 2014, 06:54:08 AM
second post
Title: Stratfor: Ukraine-- new Russian backed group forms
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 13, 2014, 07:15:11 AM


In early February, the pro-regime Ukrainian Front was established in Kharkiv to provide a counterweight to the anti-regime movement unified around Maidan Square in Kiev. Although formed at a local conference administered by a branch of the ruling Party of Regions, several grassroots groups, including a cage-fighting club and a veteran's union, have affirmed their patronage. Unofficial support for the Ukrainian Front from President Viktor Yanukovich's government and Russia could turn the new organization into an important element of the Party of Regions' strategy for confronting opposition protesters.

A local Party of Regions branch in the eastern city of Kharkiv officially founded the Ukrainian Front at a conference Feb. 1. Described as an umbrella organization consisting of several different social and political groups, the Ukrainian Front aims to set up voluntary militias and give a voice to Ukrainians who support Yanukovich. The group's goals include providing a structure for the diverse set of pro-government elements that have emerged locally and on social media. While the Yanukovich government has shied away from cracking down on protesters over the past few weeks, the establishment of the Ukrainian Front may be the first step in a new strategy for Kiev to confront protesters indirectly.

Click to Enlarge

The Ukrainian Front enjoys official support from certain members of the Party of Regions as well as elements of the Communist Party. Its political base is currently concentrated in the eastern cities of Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv. The governor of Kharkiv Oblast, Party of Regions politician Mikhail Dobkin, has described the Ukrainian Front as an instrument for defending Ukraine, purging it of those who intend to "invade the country." While it is mainly Party of Regions members from eastern localities who have been most vocal in promoting the new group, they are unlikely to be acting independently of the party's central leadership.

The Ukrainian Front has also received support from local groups, especially in the Kharkiv region. The proposal for the front's formation came from the local chapter leader of the Union of Afghan War Veterans. In addition, the Kharkiv-based Oplot (a cage-fighting club) is currently mobilizing to oppose the Maidan movement. Oleh Tsaryov, a Party of Regions lawmaker from Dnipropetrovsk and one of the Ukrainian Front's leaders, has argued that "people's militias" should be a part of the front's organization. Members of the veterans' group and the Oplot fight club will likely make up the core of these militias in the Kharkiv area.
From the Grassroots Up

In its present form, the Ukrainian Front is unable to present a serious challenge to anti-government protesters. The group is geographically concentrated in eastern cities that serve as strongholds for the ruling Party of Regions. Yet opposition protesters are largely clustered in Kiev and western cities. Furthermore, while individuals in the country's industrial east tend to work in factories with fixed work schedules, seasonal work is common in the more agricultural west. As a result, workers in the east generally require greater incentives to engage in political protests. Even though hundreds of politicians and local activists attended the conference in Kharkiv, the organization's first official public protest -- the picketing of the Lithuanian Embassy in Kiev on Feb. 6 -- saw a turnout of only 30 activists.

Leader of the Oplot fight club, Yevgeny Zhilin
Click to Enlarge

The Ukrainian Front's ability to influence events has the potential to evolve if it receives significant, albeit unofficial, support from Ukrainian and Russian officials. Tsaryov, a member of parliament and the Ukrainian Front's most vocal supporter, has close ties to Moscow and recently attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, giving him an opportunity to interact with the heads of Russia's security apparatus. Moreover, although the Ukrainian Front has no official ties to Russia, the leader of the Oplot fight club, Yevhen Zhilin, visited St. Petersburg in early February to rally support among Russians for the anti-Maidan cause. There are also reports that Russian bikers have arrived in Sevastopol, which adds a different dimension: Groups such as the Night Wolves, a prominent biker gang, eschew anti-establishment bombast, supporting Russian patriotism instead.

Organizing pro-government activists away from Kiev could give the Ukrainian Front breathing space to solidify its plans. Meanwhile, the group is in a position to prevent the protest movement from spreading to the eastern parts of Ukraine. Its intent may be to expand its operations to Kiev once its organization is ready to confront the large Maidan crowds and local self-defense groups.

This grassroots movement is similar to those that have been seen in Russia in the past. In late 2011 to early 2012, as anti-Kremlin protests erupted in Russia, President Vladimir Putin adopted a new strategy for confronting the opposition movement. Instead of sponsoring an official crackdown that would have elicited a strongly negative reaction from the international community and potential investors, the Kremlin recruited local thugs -- reportedly workers from a Ural tank factory -- to disperse protesters in Moscow and surrounding regions. Using unofficial grassroots groups to confront opposition movements allowed Putin to evade responsibility for the thugs' actions.

The Ukrainian Front's leadership has not revealed the details of the organization's future activities, though it is clear that the role of local Party of Regions officials, combined with the support of grassroots militant groups such as the Oplot fight club, will be pivotal. These factors, as well as emerging ties with Russia, point to a new direction for the Yanukovich government and its reaction to the Maidan protesters. Like Putin before him, Yanukovich may be looking for a different method of dispersing protesters while being able to downplay his own role in any ensuing violence. Moreover, the Kremlin has an interest in quietly aiding pro-Russian grassroots movements, which can ultimately help the Yanukovich government tighten its hold on power. The newly founded Ukrainian Front may play an important role in the next stage of Ukraine's crisis.

Read more: Ukraine: The Opposition Faces a New Threat from the Ukrainian Front | Stratfor
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Title: Swiss cut trade talks
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 19, 2014, 10:43:18 AM
Title: WSJ: Waking up to the Russian threat
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 14, 2014, 02:46:20 PM
Included in this piece is mention of a point I have been making here for some time about Central Asian gas needing to break up Russia's monopsony status and how that was and is forestalled by the Russian invasion of Georgia:

Waking Up to the Russian Threat
The head of NATO says Europe has misread Vladimir Putin for years and now must scramble to push back against the Kremlin's widening ambitions.
By Sohrab Ahmari
April 11, 2014 6:35 p.m. ET


Until recently, members of the Russian delegation to NATO were free to roam at will about the Western alliance's headquarters here on the outskirts of the Belgian capital. The Russians had an awkward habit of listening intently to others' conversations at the cafeteria, yet their presence was tolerated in the name of dialogue.

Not anymore. In response to Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea, NATO earlier this month suspended all practical cooperation with Moscow. Now most of the 70 or so Russian personnel enjoy about the same level of access to the alliance headquarters as journalists. It's a small but significant sign of what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls "the new security environment" in Europe.

With his salt-and-pepper hair, chiseled jaw and crisply pressed navy suit, Mr. Rasmussen, 61, cuts a handsome figure. The former Danish prime minister is also one of Europe's most serious thinkers on defense matters—a hawkish figure, by European standards, who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite considerable opposition at home. His term as NATO secretary-general, which began in 2009, was supposed to come to a close in December but was extended through September 2014 so he might oversee preparations for the alliance's September summit in Cardiff, Wales.
Enlarge Image

Neil Davies

Mr. Rasmussen sits down with me in a meeting room decorated with solemn portraits of his predecessors—men who led NATO through the Cold War and helped usher in "a Europe whole and free," as then-President George H.W. Bush put it in a 1989 speech commemorating the alliance's triumphant 40th anniversary.

Now that vision of Europe is imperiled once more. "I see Ukraine and Crimea in a bigger context," Mr. Rasmussen says. "I see this as an element in a pattern, and it's driven by President Putin's strong desire to restore Russian greatness by re-establishing a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space."

Destabilizing Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus is a pillar of the Kremlin's strategy. "It's in Russia's interest to see frozen, protracted conflicts in the region, such as in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Transnistria in Moldova, and Crimea," Mr. Rasmussen says of regions where Moscow has asserted control. "If you look at a map, you will see why it's of strategic importance for Russia."

    The West Leaves Ukraine to Putin
    Russia's Second Invasion

Moscow's interfering with states on the Continent's eastern periphery prevents them from joining NATO, Mr. Rasmussen says, since the alliance is reluctant to accept new members involved with border disputes. "At the same time," he says, "it plays a role in energy security. The possibility to establish alternative pipelines circumventing Russia—including through Azerbaijan and in the South Caucasus—is very much dependent on peace and stability in that region. All this is part of President Putin's geopolitical and strategic thinking."

The Kremlin needs modern weapons systems and well-trained forces to realize its vision, and Mr. Rasmussen is alarmed by the improvements he has seen in the Russian military during the past few years. Contrasting Russia's military action against Georgia in 2008 with its invasion of Crimea this year, he says, "we have seen an incredible development of the Russian ability to act determinedly and rapidly. We have seen better preparation, better organization and more rapid action. They have also invested in more modern capabilities. We shouldn't underestimate the strength of the Russian armed forces." Now 40,000 of those troops are massed on the border of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow boosted military spending by 79% in the past decade, according to a Brookings Institution estimate, and military spending amounted to 4.5% of Russian gross domestic product in 2012, according to the World Bank. Most Western European states, by contrast, began cutting defense long before the recession and have kept doing so even as their economies have stabilized. France spent 1.9% of its GDP on defense in 2013; Denmark spent 1.4%; Germany, 1.3%; and Spain, 0.9%.

"We in Europe have disarmed too much, for too long," Mr. Rasmussen says. "We can't continue to cut defense budgets deeply while Russia is increasing her defense budget. . . . It has created a growing gap across the Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe. Today the U.S. spends around 75% of the overall NATO defense investment. I'm concerned that in the long run it will weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance if this trend continues."

Then there is Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas. Mr. Rasmussen thinks the dependency risks interfering with Western self-defense: "There's no doubt that Europe should reduce its dependency on imported energy from Russia," he says. So does the NATO secretary-general endorse shale-gas fracking? The drilling technique that has led to a U.S. energy boom has met much green resistance in Europe. He chuckles and declines to make specific recommendations: "It's a question of a more diversified energy supply, including the establishment of alternative pipelines."

Equally worrying is the West's drive to unilaterally disarm its nuclear arsenal just as the Russian expansionist tide rises. The U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday announced that it will disable 56 submarine-based nuclear-launch tubes, convert 30 B-52 bombers to conventional use, and remove 50 missiles from America's underground silos—all well ahead of the 2018 deadline set by the New Start Treaty with Russia and despite the crisis in Ukraine.

Reductions to Western nuclear forces "must take place in a balanced manner, based on more transparency" from Russia, Mr. Rasmussen says. "The fact is that since the end of the Cold War, NATO nuclear powers have reduced the number of nuclear weapons significantly, while you haven't seen the same on the Russian side."

The result is that "today you have a clear imbalance between the NATO powers and Russia in that respect," Mr. Rasmussen says. "And in the light of ongoing events in Ukraine, I don't think there is the right climate for moving forward when it comes to nuclear disarmament or arms control. There's no sign whatsoever that Russia will provide more transparency." (Following the interview, a NATO spokesman said Mr. Rasmussen wanted to add this clarification: "Reductions in U.S. strategic forces under the New Start Treaty do not affect the significant U.S. commitments to NATO or the U.S. nuclear-force posture in Europe.")

Behind the NATO capability crisis lies a more fundamental problem of entrenched worldviews. In the years after the Cold War, Western leaders came to believe that European security depended not on confronting the Kremlin, but on engaging it. "We were all very enthusiastic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the removal of the Iron Curtain, and the breakdown of communism and the Warsaw Pact," Mr. Rasmussen says. "It seemed that we could develop a new vision of Europe whole, free and at peace—in cooperation with Russia."

In 1997, the alliance and Russia adopted the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, resolving to "build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security." The NATO-Russia Council was formed five years later. The council opened NATO headquarters to Russian diplomats—a step that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War.

The Kremlin seemed to respond positively at the time. "In my previous capacity as prime minister of Denmark I have met President Putin on several occasions," Mr. Rasmussen recalls. "I still remember when we established the NATO-Russia Council in 2002. I remember a Putin who delivered what I would call a very pro-Western speech. I left with the impression that he felt strongly committed to delivering this relationship between Russia and NATO."

So what changed? "I think he changed his worldview," Mr. Rasmussen says of the Russian leader. "We still remember his famous speech at the Munich Security Conference, at which he stated that the breakdown of the Soviet Union was the biggest tragedy of the last century. That was the first indication that he had changed his worldview, and now we have seen it implemented in practice, first in Georgia in 2008 and now reaffirmed in Crimea."

The Kremlin and its Western apologists attribute the shift in Russian behavior to NATO expansion in the early 2000s. Mr. Rasmussen rejects this line of thinking. "I hope that Mr. Putin doesn't believe his own words," he says. "He can't seriously consider NATO as an enemy, as a threat. We have never had an intention to attack Russia."

States on Europe's periphery are eager to join NATO, Mr. Rasmussen says, "because we represent basic values that people desire to see implemented in their countries, such as individual liberty, democracy, the rule of law and on top of that economic opportunities, because our community of nations also represents economic freedom. . . . So while Putin tries to establish his Eurasian Union using pressure, not to say oppression, people are queuing up to join our organization voluntarily."

NATO's outreach to Russia, meanwhile, didn't stop even after Mr. Putin bared his fangs in the South Caucasus. "Despite the setback in 2008—the Georgia crisis—in 2010 at the NATO-Russia Summit we decided to develop what we call a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia," he says. "We invited Russia to cooperate on missile defense. You will see during these post-Cold War years we have done a lot to promote NATO-Russia cooperation."

Has NATO's engagement and cooperation with Moscow paid any security dividends? "Obviously not," Mr. Rasmussen replies without hesitation. "We have seen a revisionist Russia trying to redraw the European map by force. That's a wake-up call. That's a completely new security environment and of course we have to adapt to that." He adds: "This goes far beyond Crimea."
Title: Sweden, Finland debate entering NATO
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 17, 2014, 07:08:52 PM
 Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership
April 17, 2014 | 0435 Print Text Size
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Swedish soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force outside Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. (KAZIM EBRAHIMKHIL/AFP/Getty Images)

The West's standoff with Russia over Ukraine is triggering debate over the adequacy of defense spending and cooperation to confront a more assertive Russia across Europe. In Finland and Sweden, an important element in this debate is whether the two countries should join NATO.

While the events in Ukraine strengthen the argument for NATO membership, general support for the idea is still lacking in both countries -- such a step would represent a big shift from Finland's and Sweden's strategy of avoiding too strong a military alignment with the West in order to prevent any conflict with Russia.

Only if the crisis in Ukraine persists, and if Russia grows more assertive in the Baltics, might public opinion in Sweden and Finland shift strongly enough to make NATO membership likely. Before joining NATO, the two countries would try to strengthen regional collaboration and bolster their own national defenses.

The standoff between the West and Russia is increasingly affecting Nordic Europe. On April 15, the Barents Observer reported that politicians in Norway are debating whether plans to cooperate with Russia on hydrocarbons exploration along the countries' shared border should be put on hold in light of the events in Ukraine. In Finland and Sweden, the crisis is fueling the debate over eventual NATO membership. Finland and Sweden are both members of the European Union, and thus have tight economic and institutional bonds with the West, but both have stayed out of NATO.

Sweden, after suffering great territorial losses to Russia in the early 19th century, has abided by a neutrality policy since the end of the Napoleonic wars. It maintained that policy at least nominally throughout the two world wars, though it did provide economic and logistical assistance to the Germans, the Allies and the Finns in World War II. Neutrality was meant as a way to minimize the risk of further defeats comparable to the ones Sweden was dealt in the early 1800s.
The Nordic Countries and Russia
Click to Enlarge

Finland, the only Nordic eurozone member and a country that shares a long border with Russia, was once absorbed by the Russian Empire, remaining Russian territory for more than a century before declaring independence in 1917. Finland aligned with Germany during World War II to fight the Soviets but ultimately could not recover the territory it lost during the Winter War in 1939 and 1940.

These experiences strongly influenced the Finns' strategy in dealing with their eastern neighbor. During the Cold War, Finland and the Soviet Union had an understanding that Moscow would accept Finland's independence as long as Helsinki abstained from stronger military integration with the West. Finland, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, has integrated institutionally with Western Europe and has procured a growing proportion of its weapons from the West. Much like Stockholm, Helsinki has established strong ties with NATO through joint missions and training. Still, unwilling to sour its relationship with Russia, Finland has abstained from formally joining the military alliance.

As a result of the past decades of European integration and collaboration with NATO -- for example in Afghanistan -- the nonalignment policy in both countries has been a constant issue of debate and is drawing renewed attention as a consequence of the tensions with Russia.
Lacking Support

The Finnish and Swedish political elite has been split over the question of NATO membership for a long time. Governments, including those run by parties that advocate NATO membership, have refrained from holding a referendum on the question due to general public opposition in both countries to joining the military alliance.

In a poll carried out in late 2013, about one-third of Swedes supported NATO membership. In Finland, a poll carried out online of members of the Finnish Reservists' Association (conscripts who have finished their military service) in early April indicated that more than 40 percent would like Finland to join NATO within a few years. According to Finnish media, this is a 10 percentage point jump from a similar poll conducted a year ago. The increase was probably strongly influenced by the events in Ukraine. Polls from the general public give far lower numbers. A February poll, commissioned before Russia annexed Crimea, showed that less than 20 percent of Finns favored NATO membership, a percentage comparable to the levels in 2002, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.

A number of factors explain the middling support for NATO membership in Finland and Sweden. Russia is Finland's greatest security concern, but it is also an important economic partner -- one with which Helsinki hopes to maintain a stable relationship. According to Trade Map, Russia was Finland's second-largest import and export market in 2013, behind Sweden. Russia would not likely use its military to keep Finland from joining NATO, but Moscow would probably implement policies that would hurt Finland economically. With Europe going through a structural economic crisis and Finland itself caught in the midst of an economic crisis, keeping good economic ties with Russia is of particular importance. Sweden would face fewer repercussions than Finland, because it does not share a border with Russia. Sweden and Finland would likely coordinate efforts to join NATO, but membership remains unlikely until other revisions in defense policy have been made.

Debates over Swedish and Finnish defense policy are gaining more attention because of the crisis in Ukraine, but NATO membership is just one element. The core question under debate is whether the Swedish and Finnish governments should focus more on protecting their own borders after years of defense spending cuts and foreign engagement. While there is growing support for higher defense spending, this does not necessarily translate into greater enthusiasm to join NATO because it is debatable whether formal accession would add much in terms of national security.

The current status of Finland's and Sweden's relationships with NATO allows both to show their commitment to certain Western allies without having obligations toward all NATO members. Sweden and Finland, despite their nonalignment, could also likely count on material assistance from NATO and European partner countries in case of a military conflict because of their geographic position. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Sweden or Finland were attacked and the NATO members surrounding it simply stood by. Seeing security in the Baltic Sea region threatened, NATO member states would probably be drawn into any such conflict.

Before formally considering NATO membership, Sweden and Finland will seek stronger regional defense collaboration. The five Nordic countries -- Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland -- have a relatively long history of collaboration since they share similar geopolitical concerns. In the late 1940s, the Nordic countries considered forming a defense union, but differences among the countries, the presence of NATO and the strengthening of the European institutions weakened Nordic collaboration. However, in recent years, the will for stronger regional defense collaboration has seen somewhat of a revival through the establishment of the Nordic Defense Cooperation.

This collaboration could strengthen, but its growth will depend on how NATO evolves as a consequence of the current crisis in Ukraine. The difficulty for Sweden and Finland will be to get the other Nordic countries to commit to further regional collaboration. Norway, Iceland and Denmark already are NATO members and hence see less urgency to build an additional alliance. Such an alliance would be particularly de-emphasized if the United States made moves to strengthen NATO. Other regional defense cooperation initiatives, such as the cooperation among the Visegrad states, are dealing with similar issues -- countries see that NATO's weaknesses could be corrected through regional cooperation platforms, but the countries have different national security concerns, slowing efforts to build alliance mechanisms. Stalling collaboration among the Nordic countries would perhaps increase the support for NATO membership in Sweden and Finland.

Moscow is watching events in Nordic Europe with worry, although the debate over Finnish and Swedish NATO membership could quickly die down if the crisis in Ukraine does not escalate further. Russia knows there is a great risk that the more aggressive it is in its periphery, the more a rationale will exist for stronger U.S. military involvement in Eastern Europe, or for a strengthening of military alliances among European countries.

Read more: Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership | Stratfor

Title: Putin: From Vladivostok to Lisbon
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 24, 2014, 08:16:45 AM
Title: WSJ: Germany on the fence
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 29, 2014, 04:07:33 AM
Germany Turns Against the West on Russia
Angela Merkel meets with Obama this week and says she's on America's side. But some think she's being played by Vladimir Putin.
By John Vinocur
Updated April 28, 2014 7:16 p.m. ET

Heinrich August Winkler is a major German historian whose book "Der Lange Weg nach Westen'' ("The Long Road West") is considered the standard reference work on Germany's postwar democratization, and what Mr. Winkler saw as the end of its dangerous geopolitical notions of playing an ambivalent midstream role between East and West.

In an important essay published earlier this month in Der Spiegel magazine, Mr. Winkler expressed alarm about a current rise in German sentiment, both left and right, showing understanding or even traces of support for Vladimir Putin's aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.

Mr. Winkler, a Social Democrat, writes that this trend is creating "new doubts about Germany's calculability." He describes the Russian president as having become "the patron of reactionary forces'' throughout Europe, barely a decade after having inspired Western hopes that Russia could become a pluralistic and strategic partner. Now, Mr. Winkler asserts, "the West, until further notice, must say goodbye" to those hopes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Washington on Thursday to talk to U.S. President Barack Obama about the crisis between Russia and the West—or as Mrs. Merkel's government euphemizes it, "the events in Ukraine." It is highly doubtful that she will use the occasion to say anything publicly with the force or finality of Mr. Winkler's judgment.

What Mrs. Merkel hasn't done, and doesn't seem to want to do, is commit herself out loud to any notion that could confront the German public's visibly heightened dissatisfaction with being embedded in the West. As I heard an official in Berlin say privately last week, such a confrontation by Mrs. Merkel would mean stating the unpleasantly obvious: that, since a break-point with Russia was reached through its Crimea takeover, there can be no return to a comfortable status quo ante in German-Russian relations.

To me, Mrs. Merkel doing so would signify a basic change in Germany's Russia position, from "why-can't-we-all-just-be-friends" (and "we're-in-the-money") to a position that accepts, in relation to Mr. Putin's lawless ambitions, a containment-oriented revision in the Western posture on energy, trade and NATO strategy.

Instead, we have a chancellor who—regardless of Germany's participation in new sanctions, or German officers being held captive by pro-Russian separatists—has spent much of her time since Russia's annexation of Crimea waiting on the phone to Moscow for positive signals from Mr. Putin.

This has turned out to be like staring out a window looking for Halley's comet (which appears every 75 to 76 years).

In her statement on Ukraine in mid-March, Mrs. Merkel said blandly that the problem was "about principles and methods of accommodating conflicting interests in the 21st century." A couple of weeks ago, she characterized Russia's annexation of Crimea as "a one-off case," rejecting a comparison with the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Such statements come instead of any expression of concern by Mrs. Merkel that, for instance, one poll this month found that 49% of Germans want their country to mediate between Russia and the U.S.—outnumbering the 45% who want to see Germany siding unmistakably with the West.

Irrespective of the fact that the Obama administration has made clear it won't engage militarily in the defense of Ukraine, a non-NATO member, the poll also showed a majority of Germans rejecting a regular presence of NATO forces in the Alliance countries bordering Russia. Symbolic contingents of American troops were sent last week to Poland and the three Baltic states.

In the conservative newspaper Die Welt, Jacques Schuster commented last week on "Germany experiencing a creeping de-Westernization" and a return to the "old ghosts of the middle-ground."

That is clearly where Mr. Putin wants the Germans. So why hasn't Mrs. Merkel, in straightforward language, marked out where she stands and where Germany must not drift? Here are the answers I have come up with:

1. Not her style.

2. She doesn't want "to frighten" public opinion (or alienate voters ahead of May's European Parliament elections).

3. By way of responses in question form: "When's the last time America won a war?'' Or, after backing out of attacking Syria, "What do its redlines mean anymore?''

All this, on the official level, comes with reassurances that Angela Merkel is truly, truly on America's side. But you have to wonder hard about this if, as the New York Times reported last week, Mr. Obama is focused, come what may, on isolating Mr. Putin's Russia to the point that it becomes a pariah state.

Some observers have pointed out that Mrs. Merkel, in grasping for de-escalatory straws, got played by Mr. Putin when, at the end of March, her spokesman said she had been informed that Russia was in the process of diminishing its troop presence on the Ukrainian border. A Russian account of the telephone conversation following the German announcement didn't contain the nonexistent good news.

And in Brussels a senior NATO official told me flatly that, concerning projected middle- and long-term changes in the Alliance's force posture to counter Russia's belligerence, "the Germans are on the fence.''

Could anything then come out of this week's Merkel-Obama meeting? For sure, she will be praised as a great leader—while other views of reality, at least publicly, are pushed aside.

About reality in April 2014: Michael Naumann, who served as the minister of culture in Gerhard Schröder's second-term cabinet, offered me a definition in a conversation last week. "The Germans, now and historically, are scared of Russia," said Mr. Naumann, "and Putin knows this.''

Mr. Obama can't miss taking this reality into consideration as the United States comes to terms with facing Russia essentially alone.

Mr. Vinocur is former executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.
Title: Stratfor: Borderlands-- serious read
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 12, 2014, 06:54:00 AM

 Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 03:03 Print Text Size

By George Friedman

I will be leaving this week to visit a string of countries that are now on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. A tour like that allows you to look at the details of history. But it is impossible to understand those details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I realize that what has happened in Ukraine can only be understood by considering European geopolitics since 1914 -- a hundred years ago and the beginning of World War I.

In The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman wrote a superb and accurate story about how World War I began. For her it was a confluence of perception, misperception, personality and decisions. It was about the leaders, and implicit in her story was the idea that World War I was the result of miscalculation and misunderstanding. I suppose that if you focus on the details, then the war might seem unfortunate and avoidable. I take a different view: It was inevitable from the moment Germany united in 1871. When it happened and exactly how it happened was perhaps up to decision-makers. That it would happen was a geopolitical necessity. And understanding that geopolitical necessity gives us a framework for understanding what is happening in Ukraine, and what is likely to happen next.

The German Problem

The unification of Germany created a nation-state that was extraordinarily dynamic. By the turn of the 20th century, Germany had matched the British economy. However, the British economy pivoted on an empire that was enclosed and built around British interests. Germany had no such empire. It had achieved parity through internal growth and exports on a competitive basis. This was just one of the problems Germany had. The international economic system was based on a system of imperial holdings coupled with European industrialism. Germany lacked those holdings and had no politico-military control over its markets. While its economy was equal to Britain's, its risks were much higher.

Economic risk was compounded by strategic risk. Germany was on the North European Plain, relatively flat, with only a few north-south rivers as barriers. The Germans had the Russians to the east and the French to the west. Moscow and Paris had become allies. If they were to simultaneously attack Germany at a time of their choosing, Germany would be hard-pressed to resist. The Germans did not know Russo-French intentions, but they did know their capabilities. If there was to be war, the Germans had to strike first in one direction, achieve victory there and then mass their forces on the other side.

When that war would be fought, which strategy the Germans chose and ultimately whether it would succeed were uncertainties. But unlike Tuchman's view of the war, a war that began with a German strike was inevitable. The war was not the result of a misunderstanding. Rather, it was the result of economic and strategic realities.

The Germans struck against the French first but failed to defeat them. They were therefore trapped in the two-front war that they had dreaded, but they were at least fully mobilized and could resist. A second opportunity to implement their strategy occurred in the winter of 1917, when an uprising took place against the Russian czar, who abdicated on March 15, 1917. (Germany actually set the revolution in motion in March by repatriating Lenin back to Russia via the infamous sealed train car.) There was serious concern that the Russians might pull out of the war, and in any case, their military had deteriorated massively. A German victory there seemed not only possible, but likely. If that happened, and if German forces in Russia were transferred to France, it was likely that they could mass an offensive that would defeat the British and French.

In April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. There were multiple reasons, including the threat that German submarines might close the Atlantic to American shipping, but also the fear that events in Russia might defeat the allies. The United States had a deep interest in making certain that the Eurasian landmass would not fall under the control of any single nation. The manpower, resources and technology under the control of the Germans would more than outmatch the United States. It could not live with a German victory, and therefore within a year it had sent more than a million men to Europe and helped counter the German offensive after the October 1917 Russian Revolution pulled Russia from the war. The peace treaty ceded Ukraine to the Germans, placing Russia in danger if the Germans defeated the Anglo-French alliance. Ultimately, the American intervention defeated the Germans, and the Russians regained Ukraine.

The American intervention was decisive and defined American strategy in Eurasia for a century. It would maintain the balance of power. As the balance shifted, Washington would increase aid and, if absolutely necessary, intervene decisively in the context of an existing and effective military alliance.

World War II was fought similarly. The Germans, again in a dangerous position, made an alliance with the Soviets, assuring a single-front war, and this time defeated France. In due course, Germany turned on Russia and attempted to dominate Eurasia decisively. The United States was first neutral, then provided aid to the British and Russians, and even after entering the war in December 1941 withheld its main thrust until the last possible moment. The United States did invade North Africa, Sicily and the rest of Italy, but these were marginal operations on the periphery of German power. The decisive strike did not occur until June 1944, after the German military had been significantly weakened by a Soviet army heavily supplied by the United States. The decisive campaign in northern Europe lasted less than a year, and was won with limited U.S. losses compared to the other combatants. It was an intervention in the context of a powerful military alliance.

In the Cold War, the Soviet Union positioned itself by creating deep buffers. It held the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine as its first line of defense. Its second defensive tier consisted of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, the Soviet buffer moved to the center of Germany on the North German Plain. Given history, the Soviets needed to create as deep a buffer as possible, and this line effectively precluded an attack on the Soviet Union.

The American response was more active than in the first two wars, but not as decisive. The United States positioned forces in West Germany in the context of a strong military alliance. This alliance was likely insufficient to block a Soviet attack. The United States promised the delivery of additional troops in the event of war and also guaranteed that if needed, it was prepared to use nuclear weapons to stop a Soviet attack.

The model was in that sense similar. The hope was to maintain the balance of power with minimal American exposure. In the event the balance broke, the United States was prepared to send substantially more troops. In the worst case, the United States claimed to be prepared to use decisive force. The important thing to note was that the United States retained the option to reinforce and go nuclear. The Soviets never attacked, in part because they didn't need to -- they were not at risk -- and in part because the risk associated with an attack was too high.

Thus, the United States followed a consistent strategy in all three wars. First, it avoided overexposure, limiting its presence to the minimum needed. The United States wasn't present in World War I until very late. In World War II, America's presence consisted of peripheral operations at relatively low cost. In the Cold War, it positioned a force sufficient to convince the Soviets of American intent, but always under its control and always poised for full intervention at the latest opportune time, with minimal losses, in the context of an effective military alliance.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the revolutions of 1989 stripped away the buffers that the Soviets had captured in World War II. Their strategic position was worse than it was before the world wars or even since the 17th century. If the inner buffer, the Baltics, Belarus or Ukraine, were to become hostile and part of a Western alliance system, the threat to Russia would be overwhelming. The Baltics were admitted to NATO and the alliance was now less than 100 miles from St. Petersburg. If Ukraine and Belarus went the same route, then the city of Smolensk, once deep in the Soviet Union and the Russian empire, would be a border town, and the distance to Moscow from NATO territory would be 250 miles.

The mitigating factor was that NATO was weak and fragmented. This was not much of a consolation for the Russians, who had seen Germany transform from a weak and fragmented country in 1932 to a massive power by 1938. Where there is an industrial base, military capability can be rapidly generated and intentions can change overnight. Therefore, for Russia, preventing the Western alliance system from absorbing Ukraine was critical, as the events of previous months have shown.
The U.S. Approach

The American strategy in Europe remains the same as it was in 1914: to allow the European balance of power to manage itself. Public statements aside, the United States was comfortable with the weakness of European powers so long as the Russians were also weak. There was no threat of a hegemon emerging. The American strategy was, as always, to let the balance maintain itself, intervene with any aid needed to maintain the balance and intervene militarily in the context of a robust alliance at the decisive moment and not before.

It follows from this that the United States is not prepared to do more than engage in symbolic efforts right now. The Russian military may be able to capture Ukraine, although the logistical challenges are serious. But the United States is not in a position to deploy a decisive defensive force in Ukraine. The shift in the European balance of power is far from decisive, and the United States has time to watch the situation develop.

At this point, the United States is likely prepared to increase the availability of weapons to the countries I will visit, along with Bulgaria and the Baltics. But the United States' problem is that its historical strategy relies on the existence of a significant military force, and where multiple countries are involved, a working alliance. It is pointless for the United States to provide weapons to countries that will not cooperate with each other and are incapable of fielding sufficient force to use these weapons.

Since the events in Ukraine, many European countries have discussed increased defense spending and cooperation. It is not clear that NATO is a vehicle for this cooperation. As we saw during the meetings between U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany's willingness to engage in assertive action is limited. In southern Europe, the economic crisis still rages. The appetite of the British and French or the Iberians to become involved is limited. It is hard to see NATO playing an effective military role.

The United States looks at this as a situation where the exposed countries must take decisive steps. For the United States, there is no emergency. For Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan, along with the other countries along the buffer line, there is not yet an emergency. But one could materialize with surprising speed. The Russians are not intrinsically powerful, but they are more powerful than any of these countries alone, or even together. Given American strategy, the United States would be prepared to begin providing aid, but substantial aid requires substantial action on the part of the buffer countries.

The first and second world wars were about the status of Germany in Europe. That was what the Cold War was about as well, although framed in a different way. We are once again discussing the status of Germany. Today it has no western threat. The eastern threat is weak, far away and potentially more of an ally than a threat. The force that drove Germany in two world wars is not there now. Logically, it has little reason to take risks.

The American fear of a Eurasian hegemon is also a distant one. Russia is far from being able to pose that kind of threat. It is still struggling to regain its buffers. Just as Germany is not prepared to engage in aggressive actions, the United States will continue its century-old strategy of limiting its exposure for as long as possible. At the same time, the buffer countries face a potential threat that prudence requires they prepare for.

However, it is not clear that the Russian threat will materialize, and it is not clear that, rhetoric aside, the Russians have the political will to act decisively. The buffer states' optimal solution would be a massive NATO intervention. That won't happen. The second best would be a massive American intervention. That won't happen either. The buffer states want to shift the cost of their defense to others -- a rational strategy if they can achieve it.

The impersonal forces of geopolitics are driving Russia to try to retake its critical borderland. Having done that, the nations bordering Russian power will not know how far the Russians will try to go. For Russia, the deeper the buffer, the better. But the deeper the buffer, the higher the cost of maintaining it. The Russians are not ready for any such move. But over time, as their strength and confidence grow, their actions become less predictable. When facing a potential existential threat, the prudent action is to overreact.

The buffer states need to arm and ally. The United States will provide a degree of support, regardless of what the Germans, and therefore NATO, do. But the basic decision is in the hands of the Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, Serbians and Azerbaijanis, along with those in the other buffer states. Some, like Azerbaijan, have already made the decision to arm and are looking for an alliance. Some, like Hungary, are watching and waiting. Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." There is a rhyme that we can hear. It is in its early stages and few are yet locked into a course as Germany was in 1914. The forces are beginning to gather, and if they do, they will not be controlled by good will.

I will be listening for that rhyme on this trip. I need to see if it is there. And if it is, I need to see if those most at risk to its verses hear it too. I will let you know what I hear.

Read more: Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape | Stratfor
Title: WSJ: Putin's Euro Enablers
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 16, 2014, 09:13:58 AM
Putin's European Enablers
France moves ahead with a $1.6 billion arms sale to Russia.
May 15, 2014 7:28 p.m. ET

U.S. officials and Russia's neighbors are protesting France's plan to sell Vladimir Putin's navy amphibious assault ships, and rightly so. But the French are hardly the only Europeans who want to continue business as usual with a revanchist Russia.

French President François Hollande this week vowed "for now" to honor the $1.6 billion contract signed in 2011 to build two Mistral -class carriers for Russia. France also opposes an effort by the EU's Eastern European countries to include an arms embargo in the next round of sanctions in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine. Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms agency, on Wednesday praised "France's reliability as a partner."

The contract was a terrible idea even before Mr. Putin showed his full imperial colors. Ignoring objections from the Pentagon and NATO allies, former President Nicolas Sarkozy promoted the sale as a sign of post-Cold War normalization. He knew better. In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia and stole the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Mr. Sarkozy negotiated the cease-fire that Russia failed to honor.

The Mistral can carry some 700 soldiers, four landing craft, 13 tanks and 16 helicopters. As an added nationalist bonus, one of the cruisers will be called the Sevastopol, after the Crimean port annexed by Moscow in March. With the delivery of the first vessel due this fall, the Mistrals will significantly upgrade Russia's fleets in the Black and Baltic seas, and threaten Georgia as well as the three Baltic members of NATO.

The French insisted that the largest military sale to Russia in history showed their faith in post-Cold War partnership. The U.S. had pushed Moscow's entry into the G-8, the World Trade Organization and the OSCE, among other Western clubs. Business was good. "We can't have a double discourse of saying they are partners and then talking about relations with Russia as if it were pre-1991," then French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said in 2010.

Now Mr. Putin has invaded Ukraine—very pre-1991 behavior—yet Western Europeans still prefer to look away. The French aren't even the worst offenders. Germany's business establishment is fighting to preserve billions in trade and energy business with Russia—to hell with Kiev.

Britain's David Cameron has ruled out trade sanctions as well as steps to restrict access for Putin allies to London's financial center. As author Ben Judah has written, the Tories want to "protect the City of London's hold on dirty Russian money."

Neither Mr. Hollande nor Mr. Cameron will be mistaken for another Winston Churchill. As Lord of the Admiralty at the start of World War I, he had to decide what to do with two state-of-the-art Dreadnought battleships built by Britain for the Axis-allied Ottoman Empire, which had paid in full. Britain and Turkey weren't yet at war, but Churchill took the ships for the Royal Navy.

The French aren't about to swallow the loss of $1.6 billion if everyone else in the West is still cashing in. The best solution would be for Canada or other European militaries to buy the Mistrals. Or, as Rep. Eliot Engel proposed last week, NATO could buy or lease them as a shared alliance asset. This would weaken Russia's navy, strengthen NATO, and signal overdue unified Western resolve against Russian aggression.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 16, 2014, 09:39:09 AM
Second post:

And while the fg French are selling ships to the Russkis,  :x :x :x  Ukraine goes begging , , ,


Ukraine Needs Immediate U.S. Military Aid
Antitank and antiaircraft weaponry are essential to deterring Putin's aggression.
By Andriy Parubiy
May 15, 2014 6:48 p.m. ET

On Dec. 5, 1994, Ukraine signed the Budapest Declaration and agreed to give up the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal in exchange for security guarantees from the United States, the U.K. and Russia. Two months ago, the Russian Federation blatantly violated that agreement by annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Last month Russian separatists seized government buildings in the city of Donetsk, while 40,000 Russian troops massed nearby on Ukraine's eastern border. Ukraine is now in dire need of the fulfillment of those Budapest Declaration security guarantees from the U.S. and U.K.

Vladimir Putin's goal is to destroy the independent Ukrainian state because it had the courage to choose a better future with Europe, rather than continue the status quo as Russia's "little brother." When Ukraine's Kremlin-controlled President Victor Yanukovych rejected a pending European Union association agreement, choosing instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia, Ukrainians began huge, peaceful protests that resulted on Feb. 22 in the ouster of Mr. Yanukovych, who shamefully fled the country to Russia. A new government was formed in Kiev on the basis of Western values and principles, and the Kremlin lost control of our country. Mr. Putin must have been in shock.

As former U.S. national security chief Zbigniew Brzezinski noted at the time, "without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire." Thus, deliberately flouting the basic principles of international security and the inviolability of borders, Mr. Putin illegally annexed Crimea, put his armies on Ukraine's eastern borders, and began an economic war with Ukraine by ordering Gazprom OGZPY +2.32% to raise natural-gas prices by nearly 50%. Russia also began to embargo Ukrainian products, such as chocolates and agricultural goods. Mr. Putin is now stirring up separatist movements in multiple regions of Ukraine in the hope of annexing even more Ukrainian territory.

Neither Vladimir Putin nor his saboteurs and terrorists will be able to intimidate Ukraine. We signed the European Association Agreement last month and negotiated Western financing from the International Monetary Fund, the U.S., the EU and Japan. Ukraine's path to Europe is clear and no amount of pressure from Moscow will prevent the country from getting there.

However, Ukraine can't do everything on its own. It needs support from the U.S. To win the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan practiced an American policy of "peace through strength." That is what Ukraine must do. Unfortunately, we now realize that our defense forces were deliberately sabotaged and weakened by the previous government in Kiev, in collaboration with Moscow, to subordinate Ukraine to Russia's imperialist policies. We inherited a dilapidated army, a security and intelligence service awash with Russian agents, a demoralized law-enforcement system and corrupt courts and prosecutors. Corruption in Mr. Yanukovych's government permeated all state bodies and became a shadow government aimed at looting the state.

The Ukrainian military and security forces need reform, training and modern equipment if they are to protect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity from Russia and other aggressors. Ukraine is a peaceful nation, but no country can accept the annexation of its historical lands. With help from the U.S. and Europe, we can regain stability. Thus we hope to have America's help in building a strong military deterrent. The U.S. has already granted Ukraine nonlethal assistance, and we are grateful.

But the Ukrainian armed forces need much more to withstand Russian aggression. We have submitted a complete list of what is needed to the U.S.—assistance in the form of antiaircraft and antitank weaponry, as well as bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles. As the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, said of Mr. Putin in an interview last month, if he "knows that Western antitank and antiaircraft equipment are part of Ukraine's military arsenal, the price of an invasion rises dramatically." Ukraine does not ask for American soldiers to defend it. We ask only for the tools to defend our nation.

The U.S. can also greatly help Ukraine by applying the maximum sanctions against Russia's economy, against the key personnel running the Putin regime, and against the government's business partners.

America has been an ally and friend of Ukraine since we gained our independence in 1991. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian and technical assistance to Ukraine, which has tremendously helped the country's democratic and economic development.

Now the U.S., with the security guarantees agreed to under the Budapest Declaration, can complete the job of helping Ukraine with the sale of antiaircraft and antitank weaponry. By providing us with these deterrents, America will ensure Ukraine's sovereignty and allow us to follow our path to Europe.

Mr. Parubiy is secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
Title: POTH: Far Right Fever for a Europe Tied to Russia
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 21, 2014, 10:46:44 AM
Some deep implications here; IMHO this is worth considerable contemplation:

Far Right Fever for a Europe Tied to Russia

LE CHESNAY, France — At a rally last week near the Palace of Versailles, France’s largest far right party, the National Front, deployed all the familiar theatrics and populist themes of nationalist movements across Europe.

A standing-room-only crowd waved the national flag, joined in a boisterous singing of the national anthem and applauded as speakers denounced freeloading foreigners and, with particular venom, the European Union.

But the event, part of an energetic push for votes by France’s surging far right ahead of elections this week for the European Parliament, also promoted an agenda distant from the customary concerns of conservative voters: why Europe needs to break its “submission” to the United States and look to Russia as a force for peace and a bulwark against moral decay.

While the European Union has joined Washington in denouncing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the chaos stirred by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe’s right-wing populists have been gripped by a contrarian fever of enthusiasm for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe,” said a study by Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far right parties, “spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify previously marginal pro-Russian voices.

Pro-Russian sentiment remains largely confined to the fringes of European politics, though Mr. Putin also has more mainstream admirers and allies on both the right and the left, including Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, and Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor. Mr. Putin’s authoritarian leanings and pugnacious nationalism have generated widespread and diverse opposition to him across Europe; at a gay pride event in Brussels on Saturday, marchers wore masks featuring Mr. Putin’s face, colored pink and daubed with blue eye shadow and red lipstick.

Even among far right groups, the sympathy for Russia and suspicion of Washington are in part tactical: Focused on clawing back power from the European Union’s bureaucracy, they seize any cause that puts them at odds with policy makers in Brussels and the conventional wisdom of European elites.

But they also reflect a general crumbling of public trust in the beliefs and institutions that have dominated Europe since the end of World War II, including the Continent’s relationship with the United States.

“Europe is a big sick body,” said Alain de Benoist, a French philosopher and a leading figure in a French school of political thought known as the “new right.” Mr. de Benoist said Russia “is now obviously the principal alternative to American hegemony.” Mr. Putin, he added, is perhaps “not the savior of humanity,” but “there are many good reasons to be pro-Russian.”

Some of Russia’s European fans, particularly those with a religious bent, are attracted by Mr. Putin’s image as a muscular foe of homosexuality and decadent Western ways. Others, like Aymeric Chauprade, a foreign policy adviser to the National Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, are motivated more by geopolitical calculations that emphasize Russia’s role as a counterweight to American power.
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Russia has added to its allure through the financing, mostly with corporate money, of media, research groups and other European organizations that promote Moscow’s take on the world. The United States also supports foreign groups that agree with it, but Russia’s boosters in Europe, unlike its leftist fans during the Cold War, now mostly veer to the far right and sometimes even fascism, the cause Moscow claims to be fighting in Ukraine.

Hungary’s Jobbik, one of Europe’s most extreme nationalist parties and a noisy cheerleader for Moscow, is now under investigation by the Hungarian authorities amid allegations that it has received funding from Russia and, in a case involving one of its leading candidates for the European Parliament, that it has worked for Russian intelligence.

No longer dismissed, as they were for decades, as fringe cranks steeped in anti-Semitism and other noxious beliefs from Europe’s fascist past, the National Front and like-minded counterparts elsewhere on the Continent are expected to post strong gains in this week’s election, which begins on Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands and then rolls across Europe through Sunday.

But they are unlikely to form a cohesive bloc: Nationalists from different countries tend to squabble, not cooperate.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, a group zealously opposed to the European Union, and a critic of American foreign policy, is already engaged in a bitter feud with Ms. Le Pen.

But Mr. Farage and Ms. Le Pen have at least found some common ground on Russia. The British politician recently named Mr. Putin as the world leader he most admired “as an operator but not as a human being,” he told a British magazine.

Ms. Le Pen has also expressed admiration for Mr. Putin and called for a strategic alliance with the Kremlin, proposing a “Pan-European union” that would include Russia.
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Recent Comments
9 minutes ago

This seems to be a spreading contagion. No place is immune. No quarter will be given.Sounds like a recipe for viscous conflict to me.
31 minutes ago

"Russia has added to its allure through the financing, mostly with corporate money, of media, research groups and other European...
31 minutes ago

The distortion of Putinist astroturfers here is at once both distressing and reassuring to read across all the Western media.It is...

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In general, said Doru Frantescu, policy director of VoteWatch Europe, a Brussels research group, the affections of far right Europeans for Mr. Putin are simply opportunistic rather than ideological, “a convergence of interests toward weakening the E.U.”

This convergence has pushed the far right into a curious alignment with the far left. In European Parliament votes this year on the lifting of tariffs and other steps to help Ukraine’s fragile new government, which Russia denounces as fascist but the European Union supports, legislators at both ends of the political spectrum banded together to oppose assisting Ukraine.

“Russia has become the hope of the world against new totalitarianism,” Mr. Chauprade, the National Front’s top European Parliament candidate for the Paris region, said in a speech to Russia’s Parliament in Moscow last year.

When Crimea held a referendum in March on whether the peninsula should secede from Ukraine and join Russia, Mr. Chauprade joined a team of election monitors organized by a pro-Russian outfit in Belgium, the Eurasian Observatory for Elections and Democracy. The team, which pronounced the referendum free and fair, also included members of Austria’s far right Freedom Party; a Flemish nationalist group in Belgium; and the Jobbik politician in Hungary accused of spying for Russia.

Luc Michel, the Belgian head of the Eurasian Observatory, which receives some financial support from Russian companies but promotes itself as independent and apolitical, champions the establishment of a new “Eurasian” alliance, stretching from Vladivostok in Russia to Lisbon in Portugal and purged of American influence. The National Front, preoccupied with recovering sovereign powers surrendered to Brussels, has shown little enthusiasm for a new Eurasian bloc. But it, too, bristles at Europe’s failure to project itself as a global player independent from America, and looks to Russia for help.

The European Union, said Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a member of the French Parliament and the niece of Marine Le Pen, “is the poodle of the United States.”

Russia offers the prospect of a new European order free of what Mr. Chauprade, in his own speech, described as its servitude to a “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses.”

The view that Europe has been cut adrift from its traditional moral moorings gained new traction this month when Conchita Wurst, a bearded Austrian drag queen, won the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Russian officials and the Russian Orthodox Church bemoaned the victory — over, among others, singing Russian twins — as evidence of Europe’s moral disarray.

At the National Front’s pre-election rally, Mr. Chauprade mocked the “bearded lady” and won loud applause with a passionate plaint that Europeans had become a rootless mass of “consumers disconnected from their natural attachments — the family, the nation and the divine.”
Title: WSJ: Ukraine and the Shame of Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 23, 2014, 08:16:21 PM
Ukraine and the Shame of Europe
From the left to the right, Kiev's putative friends found reasons to think that Putin isn't such a bad fellow.
By Ian Birrell
May 21, 2014 6:57 p.m. ET

There are flickers of hope that calm can descend again on Eastern Europe. We are told that those threatening Russian military forces on the Ukraine border will be pulled back, amid hints that Moscow might be able to do business with the oligarch seemingly set to become Ukraine's next president. We must hope that this is the case, that the conflict and violence has ended. It is not too early to reflect on the performance of Kiev's putative European allies in this disturbing episode, or to reach the conclusion that their response has been shameful.

Consider the facts. A large, fledgling democracy in the Continent's biggest country struggled to take flight after years of stagnation under an obscene kleptocracy, only to be ruthlessly dismembered by its belligerent and even bigger neighbor. First came the invasion of Crimea, taken with scarcely a whimper from the West despite being the first such annexation in postwar European history, then the cruel carving up of the country's wealthy industrial heartlands.

Clearly these events were choreographed by Moscow, driven by an authoritarian regime fearful of an upsurge of freedom and consequent loss of influence over the lands ringing Russia. For those of us reporting on the brutal slaughter of protesters in Kiev in February, then the brazen theft of Crimea weeks later, and finally similar stunts in a "spontaneous" uprising in the Donbas region, the evidence points in one direction. Only the most myopic could fail to see this.
Enlarge Image

David Gothard

But it is depressing how many people in Europe fell for the parodic propaganda pumped out by Russian President Vladimir Putin, thereby weakening attempts to marshal a unified response. Disunity ensured that even the wan sanctions imposed by Washington seem strong by comparison, while highlighting divisions that undermine any dreams of European unity. The clash over Ukraine is often viewed as an old-fashion struggle between global powers, yet at its core lies the determination of most Ukrainians to share in their Continent's noblest ideals.

Unfortunately Mr. Putin has plenty of useful idiots on both left and right who view the tragic events in Ukraine through the prism of their own prejudices. On the right, these include ascendant populist politicians whose dislike of the European Union is so intense that they endorse an imperial aggressor rather than individuals seeking liberty and modernity. On the left are those whose visceral contempt for the United States is so hard-wired that they side with any of Uncle Sam's opponents—even if that means indulging a homophobic despot who has crushed dissent at home and sent his forces to stifle democracy abroad.

The most recent example of such reactionary anti-Americanism came last week from the celebrated British-based journalist John Pilger, who made his name covering Vietnam. He blamed the breakup of Ukraine on Washington's warmongers who "masterminded the coup in February" and were orchestrating attacks on ethnic Russians. "For the first time since the Reagan years, the U.S. is threatening to take the world to war," he told Guardian readers. Similar paranoid accusations have been made by the leader of the Stop the War Coalition, Britain's most prominent peace group.

Such deluded analysis is far from unique on the European left. In Germany, a left-wing daily newspaper has run headlines that could have been written by Russian propagandists about fascists controlling Ukraine. One German ex-cabinet minister said Kiev "had to be taught" that it could not join NATO immediately, while former Social Democrat chancellors have publicly hugged Mr. Putin, defended the annexation of Crimea, and blamed the West for causing the crisis.

It is strange to see those who had been incensed by the American invasion of Iraq defending this devastating intervention in another nation. The most charitable explanation is that they have fallen for propaganda about rampaging fascists taking over Ukraine. They turn a blind eye to the rather more uncomfortable reality that ultranationalists have captured the Kremlin. Renewed reverence for Russia on the left is one more curious Cold War echo with this conflict.

Yet it is reflected on the right too. Perhaps this makes more sense: The populist parties riding the anti-politics wave sweeping Europe can identify with Mr. Putin's patriotism, his cultural conservatism, his economic interventionism, his antipathy to globalization, his muscular alliance with the religious establishment. But the populists' support is really rooted in loathing of the European Union. This makes them oblivious to pain caused in Ukraine, let alone the dangers of a complex crisis spiraling out of control. "We have been told the EU stands for peace," Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders told the Dutch Parliament. "Now . . . we know better: the EU stands for warmongering."

Far-right fringe parties are expected to do well in elections this month for the European Parliament, which can only weaken resolve to impose tough new restrictions on Russia. In France, the National Front is leading in opinion polls; its leader, Marine Le Pen, has been courted by the Kremlin while her foreign-affairs chief defended the discredited Crimea referendum and echoed Moscow's language about an "illegitimate" government in Kiev. Little wonder an unpopular Socialist government in France recently opted to carry on with the sale of two aircraft carriers to Russia, ignoring U.S. pleas to pull the deal.

In Britain, the U.K. Independence Party is also predicted to win the forthcoming European parliamentary ballot. Ukip leader Nigel Farage alleged that the EU had "blood on its hands" after meddling in Ukraine and professed his admiration for Mr. Putin's political skills. But even some prominent members of the ruling Conservative Party seem to prefer the former KGB apparatchik to those hated bureaucrats in Brussels—former party chairman Lord Tebbit recently expressed sympathy for Russia, having seen the bullying EU "annex" chunks of central Europe.

Such are the delusions on both left and right. Ukraine's travails were sparked by the desire for democracy and self-determination, powerful forces that populists of all persuasions elsewhere in Europe take for granted. Now we can only watch nervously as this wounded country plans an election for May 25, seeking a path to freedom and prosperity while, in the distance, Vladimir Putin seethes and Europe shrugs.

Mr. Birrell is a contributing editor of the U.K. newspapers the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday and a former speechwriter for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Title: Armenian politician on Putin's intentions
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 27, 2014, 08:49:02 AM
Title: French backstab NATO, sell rope to their hangman
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 04, 2014, 09:31:04 AM
Contrast Barq's offer of MREs to Ukraine:

ARIS—France is preparing to train hundreds of Russian seamen to operate a powerful French-made warship this month, defying calls from the U.S. and other Western allies to keep the vessel out of the Kremlin's hands, say people familiar with the matter.

A group of 400 Russian sailors are scheduled to arrive on June 22 in the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire to undergo months of instruction before some of them pilot the first of two Mistral-class carriers back to Russia in the fall, said one of these people.

The training is a pivotal step that deepens France's commitment to fulfilling the €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) contract to supply Russia with the carriers, which are built to launch amphibious attacks with landing craft, helicopters and tanks.

The U.S. and other allies have called on the government of President François Hollande to cancel the contract, arguing the ships will significantly enhance Russian naval power at a time when the Ukraine crisis has raised tensions with the Kremlin to their highest levels since the Cold War.

Under that pressure, Paris insists the training doesn't tie its hands and that it won't make a final decision on the delivery until October. But Mr. Hollande's government also has said France intends to honor the contract, and privately officials give no indication they will renege.

France's ability to reverse course on the delivery, defense analysts say, will be diplomatically and commercially constrained once the Russian Navy arrives on its shores to begin the training and prepare to drive the carrier home.

"Four hundred Russian trainees are rather difficult to keep below the radar," said Nick Witney, a defense analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations. Other observers say that Paris's credibility to deliver on future contracts is also at stake.

French officials say Mr. Hollande is expected to discuss the Mistral deliveries with President Barack Obama when the leaders meet in Paris on Thursday, the eve of D-Day commemorations on the beaches of Normandy.

For months, France has faced staunch opposition from the Obama administration and other Western governments including the U.K. to the plan to sell the ships—criticism that has grown in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's breakaway Crimea region. In an interview published in French daily Le Monde on Monday, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski warned Russia might use the ships to "threaten neighbors."

"We have named Russia as an aggressor in Crimea, and I don't think France would want to be supplying useful arms to an aggressor," Mr. Sikorski said.

The tug of war over the Mistral illustrates how Europe's reliance on Russian resources risks unraveling strategic alliances that helped the West win the Cold War. The European Union is deeply divided over how far the bloc should go in imposing sanctions on Russia over its Ukraine incursion. Russian natural gas powers homes and businesses across Germany, the EU's biggest economy, while Russian oligarchs store their fortunes in U.K. banks.

France's economy—hobbled by decades of deindustrialization and rising labor costs—is hungry for large defense contracts that could help get the country's beleaguered shipyards back on their feet. Saint Nazaire, a port which boasts a proud history of building France's biggest ships, now relies on the occasional cruise-ship contract for economic survival.

The government says about a thousand jobs are at stake, in a country with more than 10% unemployment and a stalled economy.

Calling off the Mistral contract, a French official said, would be akin to "shooting yourself in the foot," forcing Paris to take the costly step of reimbursing Moscow.

France has already completed the first ship and built half of the second Mistral, which is scheduled for delivery in 2015. The second ship is named The Sevastopol after the Crimean port that serves as a headquarters for Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

The Mistral, which looms over the town, is a potent weapon. The length of more than two football fields, the ship is designed to edge up to a shoreline and deploy more than a dozen tanks and attack helicopters as well as hundreds of troops. This type of ship is also an integral part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's defenses, using sensitive communications technology to coordinate operations with other NATO ships. The potential transfer of that technology to Russia has long worried policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The ship also plugs a crucial gap in Russia's armed forces. Moscow boasts one of the world's largest armies and a formidable air force. But Russia's Black Sea fleet lacks an amphibious vessel like the Mistral, capable of launching a land invasion. That weakness deprived Moscow of a crucial knockout punch in 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgia but never managed to dominate the former Soviet countries shoreline, forcing a stalemate.

Demonstrators protest against the Mistral contract in Saint-Nazaire, France, on June 1. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

"A ship like that would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes," Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotkiy said at the time.

The proposal to sell France's prized warship to Russia grew out of the Georgian conflict. In October 2008, France's president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy met with his counterpart President Dmitry Medvedev in the Alpine town of Evian in a bid to shore up a fragile truce Mr. Sarkozy had brokered between Russia and Georgia weeks earlier. By offering to sell Russia the Mistrals, Mr. Sarkozy aimed to persuade the Russians that NATO was no longer an enemy.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili flew to Paris to protest the sale, but Mr. Sarkozy brushed aside his complaints during a tense meeting in the Élysée Palace, according to a French official. "Look Mikheil, Russia is not going to invade Georgia with this boat," Mr. Sarkozy said, according to the official. Mr. Sarkozy then quipped that it was no use worrying about a Russian invasion, because the Russians were "already in your territory."

Years later, the sale has come back to haunt France's government.

Western diplomats huddled in Vienna to devise a response to Russia's military incursion in Crimea in March. There, a French diplomat recalled how a Canadian colleague cornered him with a question: "Is France going to cancel the sale of those warships to Russia?"

Last month, Assistant Secretary for Europe Victoria Nuland told U.S. lawmakers: "We have regularly and consistently expressed our concerns about this sale."

French officials, meanwhile, haven been poring over the technical details of the training session and deliberating how to temporarily house the Russian troops while they are in French territory without attracting too much attention, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

Russia and France had planned to lodge the troops in a Russian vessel docked in Saint-Nazaire, but the person said French officials are reviewing more discreet options.
Title: Bulgaria suspends work on south stream pipeline
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 09, 2014, 07:52:14 AM
Title: Gas pipeline project to Bulgaria halted
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 01, 2014, 07:35:33 AM
Title: Pressure builds on France to not proceed with warships sale to Russia
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2014, 10:32:53 AM

Check out the picture of one of the ships.

I'm calling BS on the parity of our sales to Egypt.
Title: Stratfor: Pilsudki's Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 09, 2014, 11:06:06 AM

 Pilsudski's Europe
Global Affairs
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 03:22 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

Russia's geopolitical threat to Central and Eastern Europe should have everyone's mind rushing in the direction of a protean Polish revolutionary, statesman and military leader, Jozef Pilsudski, and his concept of the Intermarium -- Latin for "between the seas;" Miedzymorze in Polish. This was a belt of independent states from the Baltic to the Black seas that would work in unison against Russian tyranny from the east and German tyranny from the west. While geopolitics may be about the impersonal influence of geography upon international relations, human agency still applies, so that the idea of an individual Pole from the early 20th century could provide a means for defending freedom in our own era.

Pilsudski dominated Polish affairs from the middle of World War I until his death in 1935. In the words of the late British-educated academic Alexandros Petersen, Pilsudski was from a "staunchly Polonized" family of "disestablished nobility" that had held lands in present-day Lithuania and originally owed its position to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the great powers of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. The destruction of that colossal geopolitical force at the hands of invaders from both east and west provided the motivation behind Pilsudski's vision of a belt of small states to hold in check both Russia and Germany. It was not an altogether new idea. The British geographer Halford Mackinder had proposed something similar a few years earlier in 1919. But whereas Mackinder was only a well-known scholar writing in a book, Pilsudski was a dynamic political leader.

Pilsudski's vision was a product not only of his family history but also of his own bloody experience. He had saved Poland from invading Soviet forces in 1920 in the midst of a number of border wars and went on to become the primary founder of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. Pilsudski's belief in a multicultural Poland to encompass his own Lithuanian background played well with his expansive vision of this anti-Russian belt of states that was, in turn, a spiritual and territorial descendant of that vast tract of territory that had constituted the late medieval and early modern Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched at its zenith from the shivering flatlands of northeastern Europe to the confines of the Ottoman Empire -- in present-day Ukraine.

Pilsudski's realization that the independence of the Baltic states, the Balkans and Ukraine was central to Poland's own security lives on today in the country's post-Cold War foreign policy. To wit, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has been publicly tireless and ever-present in pushing NATO and the European Union toward a tougher stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. Of course, the European Union's expansion to include Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, together with their incorporation into NATO, has represented the partial institutionalization of Pilsudski's idea -- even if Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of the Caucasus lie stranded in the neither-nor geopolitical landscape of the European Union's Eastern Partnership, which offers insufficient protection against the designs of Russia.

But while danger lurks in the east, the west is less worrisome. For Germany has emerged as a benevolent giant, satisfied with its borders and providing the engine for the European economy. Thus, despite Putin's Revanchism, the European security environment still contains more possibilities than at any time since some of those comparatively dull 19th century decades following the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna. Of course, the relative peace of the 19th century had lulled Europeans into the false sense of security common to all people who have lost their sense of the tragic. And because a sense of the tragic is necessary to avoid tragedy, the result was World War I.

Poland and Romania are two pivotal countries that need no lessons in cultivating the sense of the tragic, for both have long been borderlands between stronger states and imperial forces coming from the east and west. And it is Poland and Romania, the two largest NATO states in northeastern and southeastern Europe respectively, that are crucial to the emergence of an effective Intermarium to counter Russia. Together they practically link the Baltic with the Black Sea.

Though they appear distinctly separated on the current map (even as both countries can claim whole or partial membership in Mitteleuropa), the shadow of Poland has in the course of history crept well into Romanian lands. While a traveler must cross the winding Carpathians twice to get from one country's capital to the other, Poland and Romania have at times been closer than you might think. For example, in the Romanian town of Targu Neamt, I craned my neck up at the citadel that had been conquered by Polish forces under King John III Sobieski in 1691. Lionized by English poet John Milton and praised by military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Sobieski waged war against the Moslem Turks far away to the south from his native Poland and Ukraine in epic campaigns that helped save the Austrian Habsburgs and thus the Christian West. Sobieski's distant forays southward toward the shadowlands of the Black Sea were certainly part of Pilsudski's mental map -- a map that is still critical to Europe's future as a liberal Western dynamo.

Indeed, during a recent visit to Romania, the president, the president's national security adviser and the prime minister all told me in separate meetings that Poland and Turkey were critical countries for Romania in light of the Ukrainian crisis. Throughout my stay in Bucharest, calls for closer relations with Warsaw and Ankara as part of an anti-Russian alliance were made explicit. While Pilsudski's vision of an Intermarium extended from Finland to Bulgaria, an expanded version fitted to 21st century geopolitical realities would naturally include Turkey and the Caucasus. Turkey is the geographical organizing principle for half of the Black Sea and Azerbaijan's vast hydrocarbon wealth gives it the financial and political leverage to keep Russia from wholly dominating the Caucasus, now that Armenia hosts thousands of Russian troops and Georgia is under threat.

The new Intermarium is still far from crystalizing. Turkey is compromised by its appetite for Russian natural gas via the Blue Stream pipeline. Bulgarian and Serbian politics are heavily influenced by Russian money, criminal networks and -- like Turkey -- the need for Russian natural gas. Romania looks south to Bulgaria and rather than see an ally, sees a weak, at times chaotic state trying to steer a middle path between Russia and the European Union. And while Romania sees Poland as a more powerful, more economically vibrant and strongly institutionalized version of itself -- one that cuts a larger profile in the world media -- Poland looks south to Romania and sees merely a burdensome, weaker and more corrupt state than itself.

Nevertheless, a trend is discernible. High-level meetings between the Intermarium countries have intensified, as the Pentagon and State Department act as hubs for all these countries' militaries, intelligence services and diplomatic corps to interact. Stronger U.S. support to Eastern and Central Europe must be matched by stronger bilateral ties between the countries themselves -- to say nothing of increased defense expenditures in the region. This is all a function of geography that Mackinder and especially Pilsudski were the first to address. Pilsudski knew from his own experience that geography is only destiny if you don't turn it to your advantage. The real balance of power should not be a cynical formulation of the status quo between America and Russia, but a bulwark of democracies blocking the path of tyranny.

Read more: Pilsudski's Europe | Stratfor
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Title: Three things to do right now
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 03, 2014, 07:40:07 AM[Manual]-test-sept2
Title: About fg time! What about the other one? What about CANCELLING both?!?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 03, 2014, 09:13:08 PM

France will halt its delivery of the first of two Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia in response to Russia's involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, a Sept. 3 statement from French President Francois Hollande said, Reuters reported. France had been reluctant to halt the sale of the ships because the contract with Russia was worth $1.58 billion.


Title: How fg feeble-- looks like French are still looking for a way to make the sale
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 04, 2014, 04:10:47 AM
France Threatens to Suspend Warship Delivery to Russia, Citing Ukraine
Under Pressure from Western Allies, Hollande Shifts Rhetoric on Moscow Defense Deal
By Inti Landauro in Paris and
Stacy Meichtry in Newport, Wales
Updated Sept. 3, 2014 8:14 p.m. ET

The Vladivostok, the first of two Mistral-class warships ordered for the Russian navy, awaits delivery in the French shipyard of Saint-Nazaire. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

France backed off from plans to deliver a controversial warship to Russia next month, saying that the Kremlin's support of breakaway forces in eastern Ukraine endangered Europe.

The threat to suspend the delivery marks a shift in rhetoric from Paris, which had insisted on moving ahead with a €1.2 billion ($1.58 billion) contract to supply two ships to the Russian navy despite pressure from Western allies to cancel the deal.

Despite talks over a possible cease-fire in Ukraine, "the conditions that would allow France to authorize the delivery of the first Mistral-class ship aren't met as of now," President François Hollande's office said.

Moscow shrugged off France's decision. "The Defense Ministry doesn't see a particular tragedy in this," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told the official Tass news agency. "But it is, of course, unpleasant and puts a certain tension in the interactions with our French partners."

France issued the warning a day ahead of a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Welsh town of Newport, during which members of the military alliance are expected to discuss how to contain Russia.

The carefully worded statement, though, left open the possibility that France could complete the delivery on schedule if Russia pulls back from its intervention in Ukraine and moves to calm the crisis.

As the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists has escalated in recent months—and despite objections by the U.S. and other allies—the French government had insisted the program was on track.

In July, days after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine—Mr. Hollande floated the possibility that he might cancel the delivery of the second vessel, scheduled for 2015, but said Paris was forging ahead with plans to supply the first ship in October.

In possibly delaying the first delivery, French officials said they aimed to shore up the country's credibility with allies heading into this week's NATO summit, where members of the alliance are gathering in a show of unity.

Paris, for months, had defended its plans to deliver the ships as merely the fulfillment of an international contract, arguing that its possible cancellation would force France to reimburse Moscow for the costly ships and place more than a thousand French jobs at risk.

But Russia's decision to send troops and supplies into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside separatists, French officials say, raised the stakes.

While Moscow has denied sending any support to the rebels, French officials said they had proof of a Russian incursion, which they declined to disclose.

Mr. Hollande would have faced a dilemma of "coherence," one French official said, if he moved forward with the warship delivery as NATO allies were gathering to discuss ways to rein in Moscow and defend European borders.

On Tuesday, French officials called Washington and other allied capitals to notify them of the potential suspension and provide reassurances ahead of the summit, the official said. "We do think that was a wise decision," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of France's threat to stop the warship delivery. "We certainly support their decision."

While France is weighing options, a group of about 400 Russian seamen continues training on board the first Mistral, named Vladivostok, off the French port city of Saint-Nazaire, a person familiar with the matter said.

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen refrained from exercising direct pressure on Paris but said he expected shows of solidarity from members of the alliance.

"It is not for NATO as an alliance to interfere with such national decisions," Mr. Rasmussen said Monday. "Having said that, I am confident that each and every allied government will take such decisions mindful of the overall security situation and concerns expressed by fellow allies."

The two Mistral-class carriers ordered by Moscow are capable of launching helicopter, tank and missile attacks from the sea and would boost the military might of the Russian forces.

The contract is important for the French shipyard located in Saint-Nazaire on the French Atlantic Coast, which has counted on the Russian order to help stay afloat.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on September 05, 2014, 09:17:18 AM
George Will very persuasively asserts that Putin represents a greater threat than ISIS.  (I would arguess that both represent grave threats.)
Vladimir Putin’s Hitlerian Mind
The Russian president’s fascist revival in Eastern Europe poses a unique threat to the West.
By George Will

The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.

Putin’s serial amputations of portions of Ukraine, which began with his fait accompli in Crimea, will proceed, and succeed, until his appetite is satiated. Then the real danger will begin.

Suppose Ukraine is merely his overture for the destruction of NATO, the nemesis of his Soviet memory. Then what might be his version of the Gleiwitz radio-station episode 75 years ago?

On the evening of August 31, 1939, Nazi SS personnel pretending to be Polish partisans seized the station, which was about four miles inside Germany (Gliwice is now in Poland), proclaiming that Poland was invading Germany to achieve “our just [territorial] claims,” and shot a German prisoner dressed in a stolen Polish uniform, giving Hitler his pretext for declaring war the next day.

Putin has discarded the minor inhibitions of what NATO calls his “hybrid war” — giving slightly surreptitious aid to Russian separatists; brazenly infiltrating Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms. Russia has invaded Ukraine, although the Obama administration likes the semantic anesthesia of calling it an “incursion.” Putin does not pretend that it will be, like President Nixon’s 1970 “incursion” into Cambodia, temporary.

So, suppose Putin, reprising his Ukrainian success, orchestrates unrest among the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia. Then, recycling Hitler’s words that his country “could not remain inactive,” Putin invades one of these NATO members. Either NATO invokes Article 5 — an attack on any member is an attack on all — or NATO disappears and the Soviet Union, NATO’s original raison d’être, is avenged.

Although no one more thoroughly detested Hitler’s regime that General Erwin Rommel served, Winston Churchill acknowledged in January 1942 in the House of Commons the talent of Britain’s enemy: “We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” Putin is, the West should similarly acknowledge, more talented and dangerous than either Nikita Khrushchev or Leonid Brezhnev. Their truculence was not fueled by fury. Putin’s essence is anger. It is a smoldering amalgam of resentment (of Russia’s diminishment because of the Soviet Union’s collapse), revanchist ambitions (regarding formerly Soviet territories and spheres of influence), cultural loathing (for the pluralism of open societies), and ethnic chauvinism that presages “ethnic cleansing” of non-Russians from portions of Putin’s expanding Russia.

This is more than merely the fascist mind; its ethnic-cum-racial component makes it Hitlerian. Hence Putin is “unpredictable” only to those unfamiliar with the 1930s. Regarding the roles of resentment and vengeance, remember where Hitler insisted that France formally capitulate in 1940 — in the railroad carriage near the town of Compiègne, where Germany signed the 1918 armistice.

Since its emancipation by the Soviet Union’s demise, Ukraine has been ravaged by corruption that frays national sentiment, which even before this was a tenuous phenomenon. In The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, David Reynolds of Cambridge University cites a British diplomat’s 1918 analysis:

Were one to ask the average peasant in the Ukraine his nationality, he would answer that he is Greek Orthodox; if pressed to say whether he is a Great Russian, a Pole, or an Ukrainian he would probably reply that he is a peasant; and if one insisted on knowing what language he spoke, he would say that he talked “the local tongue.”

Ukraine may be an ethnic casserole susceptible to diminishment by Putin’s ladle. But the Baltic States, by virtue of their NATO membership, are, regardless of their histories or sociologies, decisively different. And given Putin’s animus, nourished by his negligibly resisted success in Ukraine, he is more dangerous than the Islamic State.

This group is perhaps 20,000 fighters possessing some artillery and armor but no air force. It is an island of tenuously occupied territory in a sea of hostile regimes — those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has its own regime. These command approximately 2 million troops who, with ample air power, can pulverize the Islamic State whenever the regimes summon the will to do so.

U.S. participation in this should be conditional on the regional powers’ putting their militaries where their mouths (sometimes) are in the fight against radical Islamists. U.S. participation in defense of the Baltic States is unconditional.

— George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist.
Title: ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus
Post by: DougMacG on September 05, 2014, 09:43:28 AM
News from a couple of days ago:
ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus

Interesting that our two greatest enemies will soon be at war with each other.

One might take from this that a post-Putin Russia could very easily or at least logically become a strategic ally of the United States.
Title: Stratfor: NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 17, 2014, 05:21:02 AM
 Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
October 16, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Lithuania Prepares
Members of the U.S. Army 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, unload Stryker Armored Vehicles at the railway station near the Rukla military base in Lithuania, on Oct. 4, 2014. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)


Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Oct. 15 that she would push to limit Russian television broadcasts inside the country. The statement came only two days after Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Jonas Vytautas Zukas announced plans to form a new rapid reaction force in Lithuania. These moves highlight Lithuania's mounting concerns over the threat Russia poses to the small but strategic country, particularly in light of Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.

The Lithuanian president's plan to limit Russian media follows similar trends emerging in other Baltic states. The creation of the rapid reaction force, however, represents a new strategy. Zukas said that Lithuania must be ready for "unconventional attacks by unmarked combatants" -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Vilnius' plan will not be sufficient to counter potential Russian moves against Lithuania. It is instead an initial response to an evolving security environment in which the conventional Russian military threat to the Baltic states is overshadowed by that of hybrid warfare, which includes the use of proxies, special forces and information campaigns.


In his statement, Zukas said Lithuania's rapid reaction forces would consist of 2,500 troops from Lithuania's 7,000-person military. These troops would be placed on high alert beginning in November and would have the capacity to mobilize within two to 24 hours. Their mission would be to counter unconventional security threats such as attacks by unofficial armed groups, illegal border crossings and the foreign manipulation of national minorities.

Lithuania formulated this rapid reaction plan within the context of the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine -- a conflict that has spread throughout the former Soviet periphery. The Baltic states are on the front lines of this broader conflict and are particularly concerned about Russian encroachment into their territory because of their small size and close proximity to the Russian heartland. This is especially concerning because the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, have been strong supporters of Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West, putting them squarely in Moscow's sights.

There has already been a great deal of Russian activity inside the Baltic states and the area surrounding them. Russia has built up its forces near St. Petersburg and in the exclave of Kaliningrad, both of which border Baltic states. Moscow has also increased the scale of its military exercises in both areas, while the Russian minorities in several Baltic states have held pro-Russia demonstrations. The rallies are of particular concern because of the size of the Russian minority populations: 24.8 percent of the population in Estonia, 26.9 percent in Latvia, and 5.8 percent in Lithuania. Cross-border incidents between the Baltic states and Russia have also been on the rise in recent months. The Russian coast guard detained a Lithuanian fishing boat, and Russian officials held an Estonian official in custody for allegedly crossing the border on a spying mission, a charge Estonia denied.

The Baltic states see these recent actions in the context of the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where Moscow's support for demonstrations eventually led to the deployment of Russian military and unofficial militant forces. This has given way to concerns that the Baltics could be the next target for hybrid warfare. As NATO members protected by the Article 5 collective defense clause, the Baltics are somewhat insulated from a Russian conventional military threat. The classification of a threat as subject to Article 5, however, requires a unanimous NATO council vote. This leaves effective defense of the Baltics subject to Western Europe's political will to intervene. A rapid NATO response would be even more doubtful in the case of hybrid or asymmetrical warfare. The Baltic states have called for a permanent NATO military presence within their territory. Instead, NATO and the United States have only stepped up troop rotations for joint exercises and military training to a semi-permanent basis.

Lithuania's decision to organize its own rapid reaction force is an effort to build the capacity to preemptively counter or contain Russian actions and reassure the public that the government is taking concrete action. Given Russia's larger security forces and broader financial resources, however, Lithuania's new force is unlikely to fully neutralize the threat. Maintaining more than a third of Lithuania's forces at that level of readiness will require substantial resources, raising questions about the initiative's long-term sustainability. At best, the plan supplements NATO's efforts, which include launching the bloc's own rapid reaction forces that can be deployed to the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Lithuania will continue to call for a greater U.S. and NATO commitment to regional security.

For its part, Russia will likely continue to use the same methods of hybrid warfare it implemented in Ukraine to project power regionally. Lithuania's creation of a rapid reaction force is simply an acknowledgement of this reality and the need to confront it in a more flexible and creative manner.

Read more: Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares | Stratfor

Title: Russia/west relationship IS reset
Post by: ccp on November 06, 2014, 09:23:57 AM
Title: Stratfor: What the Fall of the Wall did NOT change
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 12, 2014, 10:47:28 AM

What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size

By George Friedman

Twenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany's partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix.
Marxism's Sway

Twenty-five years later, we take for granted the moral bankruptcy of Soviet communism, along with its geopolitical weakness. It is difficult for us to remember how seductive Marxism was, and how frightening Soviet power was. For my generation, at the better universities, Marxism was not an exotic form of oriental despotism but a persuasive explanation of the world and how it worked, as well as a moral imperative that a stunning number of students and faculty were committed to. The vast majority of Marxists in what was called the New Left adopted it as fashion more than passion. A small segment of the New Left, particularly in Europe and supported by Soviet intelligence, took direct action and took risks, killing, wounding, kidnapping and blowing things up in the pursuit of political aims. The latter had courage; the former were shallow and cynical. There is no doubt that the shallow and cynical were more praiseworthy.

Still, ideologically, Marxism in its several varieties had a persuasive power that is difficult for even those of us who lived through it to recall. Its pull had little to do with industrial democracy, although songs from the labor movement were sung regularly. It was far less about the proletariat and more a revolt against what was seen as the shallow one-dimensionality of affluence. It was never clear to me what Marxists had against affluence, as I was relatively poor, but the venom against the previous generation's capitulation to ordinary life was intense.

Marxism had become the ideology of the young, who celebrated its moral superiority. This should not be dismissed. The young have driven European revolutions since 1789, and they have always been driven by a deep sense of moral superiority. The passion of the young Karl Marx, writing amid the risings of 1848, led directly to Lenin and then Stalin. The self-righteous young have consequence, something no one attending a major Euro-American university in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet empire could ignore. Bitterness against those over 30 (then considered old) was a greater driver than class struggle. That the young feel superior to the old is built into the Enlightenment. We believe in progress, and the young have more of a future than the old.

In looking at pictures of the celebrants at the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it was the young who had risen up. I was not in Berlin in those days, but I had been to Berlin before, and Berlin was a dynamo of Marxism. I am morally and statistically certain that many of those celebrating the collapse of the wall were Marxists.

When the wall came down, it for the most part destroyed Marxism. The so-called New Left believed Soviet Communism was a betrayal of communism. Since Marxism argued that history was in some sense deterministic, how Marxism could have failed from a Marxist point of view was never clear to me. But in the end, the Marxism of my generation had more to do with the fact that their parents, shaped in the Great Depression and World War II, were content with a house and a car, a spouse and some savings. The young always have greater aspirations than to simply live, but they grow out of it.

The fate of Marxism in Europe and the United States differed greatly from its fate in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Marxism died in the Soviet Union with Stalin. With Mao, Stalin was the last great Communist. It was not just that he believed, but that he acted on that belief. At the heart of communism was the class struggle, and that didn't end when the Communist Party had won. The Party and the people had to be purged, shaped and forged into something unprecedented. It was to be an agonizing process, and Stalin was prepared to impose the agony. Stalin is the finest argument there is against sincerity. He sincerely believed not only in the possibility of creating a new society, but in the brutal actions needed to achieve it.

Stalin killed communism. He was right that creating a new society required agony. He didn't realize, or perhaps in the end didn't care, that the agony required made the new society pointless, corrupt before it was born. Nikita Khrushchev tried to build a communist state without Stalinism. But when Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny overthrew Khrushchev in 1964, it was the revolution of the exhausted. Their lives were built on a single triumph: They had survived Stalin. Their goal was to continue surviving. Brezhnev destroyed communism by trying to hold absolute power and do as little with it as possible. He sank into corruption and weakness, as did his regime. The empire didn't revolt. It simply took advantage of the fact that the Soviet Union was too corrupt and self-indulgent to hold onto them. It was less a revolution than the fact that the jailhouse door had been left unlocked.
Marxism's Failure

Marxism destroyed itself because it took power, and putting Marxism on display in power ultimately cost it its credibility. Had it never been in power, more than the tiny handful who are still Marxists might take it seriously.

Marxism was repudiated as an ideology, even as it had repudiated ideology in general. It was the culmination of the Enlightenment, not only because Marxism had the most extreme notion of equality imaginable but also because it was ruthlessly consistent. It had views not only on politics and economics, but also on art, the proper raising of children, proper methods of plowing and the role of sports in society. It had views on everything, and with the power of the state at its disposal, nothing was outside its purview. In the end, Marxism discredited the Enlightenment. It was the reductio ad absurdum of systematic reason. Marxism shattered the Enlightenment into an infinite number of prisms, each free to live the one life Marxism could not tolerate: a life of contradictions. We are heir to the incoherence it left.

But the truth was that Marxism not only failed to create the society it wished, it also did not effectively motivate the New Left. Marxism never succeeded in escaping the primordial reality of the human condition. I don't mean this as not escaping self-interest or corruption. What it failed to do was escape the reality of community as the foundation of human existence, more important than the individual, and certainly more important than class.

From the beginning to the end, the Soviet Union was an empire. It had a center in Moscow and an apparatus that controlled other, lesser vassal states. It could claim that the Soviet Man was being created, but the truth was that the Russian was a Russian, the Kazakh a Kazakh, and the Armenian an Armenian. Stalin never crushed this reality as much as he tried. And when he died, and as the Soviet state grew weaker and more corrupt, these national differences became even more important.

But even more than this, the Soviet Union acted in the world as an empire. On taking power, Lenin made a deal with Germany, exchanging land for peace. Indeed, Lenin came to power essentially as a German operative, delivered to St. Petersburg in a sealed train and funded to overthrow the government and make peace with Germany on Berlin's terms. Lenin made this deal in order to take power. When Germany was defeated, he regained the lost lands and the rest of the empire in a civil war that reclaimed Peter the Great's empire for himself. When we look back, the class struggle was merely the preface. The reality was what Marx called Oriental Despotism, coupled with a capitulation to geopolitical reality.

Stalin later spent the 1930s preparing for war with Germany, purging the military, starving peasants in order to buy steel factories, and building weapons. That he miscalculated the beginning does not change the end. Stalin waged a ruthless war for the motherland and pushed the Soviet empire west to the center of Germany and into the Carpathians. The Soviet Union anchored itself in the center of Europe waging a war with the United States for the former European empires cast free by the collapse of European power. It is one of the great ironies of history that the greatest imperial conflict was waged by the two great anti-imperial powers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

We all now know that the Soviet Union was doomed. It was not nearly so clear to the United States as it fought to a stalemate in Korea and lost in Vietnam. It was not clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis or during the Berlin blockade. Above all, it was not clear in 1980, when the United States had lost in Vietnam and was reeling economically. Iran had expelled American power, and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Tito was dead in Yugoslavia, and the Soviets were fishing in muddy waters. Greek society was torn apart, and the Soviets were funding all sides of an incipient civil war in Turkey. The American strategy of containment was solid in Europe and had added China to the frontier, but it appeared to be rupturing on a line from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan.

In retrospect, we can see that the Soviet Union had long since lost its will to power. It could not have taken risks even if it wanted to. By 1980, it could poke at the United States and its allies, but a full-blooded thrust was something that haunted only American minds. Still, the Soviets played the geopolitical game. Surrounded, they sought openings, and failing to find those, they tried to drive the Americans off-balance throughout the world. They were everywhere. But in the end, their economy was weak, their satrapies were restless and the leaders wanted to enjoy their dachas and their pleasures. It was partly that they had lost all belief, but it was also, in retrospect, that they knew they were weak.

Marx argued that the revolution would come in an advanced industrial country, like Germany. Instead, it came in a place that violated his theory and where building communism was impossible. It arrived in the vast European Mainland, not on the European Peninsula. It came in an impoverished, landlocked country with terrible transportation and a dispersed population, not on the maritime peninsula, with excellent transportation and a concentrated population. This meant that their thrust in Germany and Eastern Europe left them with a region that now shared Russian poverty, and which had to be occupied and defended. The American solution was simple: to wait. There was really no other solution, as an invasion of the mainland had destroyed Napoleon and Hitler. Geopolitics imposed a strategy of waiting on both sides, and the Soviets had less time than the Americans and their allies.

And so the wall came down. The most fantastic dreams of the Enlightenment were shattered. The young Marxists of Berlin, confused by a history that could not conform to their contradictory dreams, got jobs at Siemens or Deutsche Bank or perhaps in Brussels. The Americans claimed a victory that is somewhat reasonable, if the strategy of doing nothing is allowed into the rules of geopolitics. And the empire shattered into small pieces that cannot be rebuilt, in spite of a leader who would like to think of himself as Stalin, but is really a better-dressed Brezhnev.

The most important thing that happened on that day, and which must not be forgotten, is that Germany became once more reunited. From 1871 onward, a united Germany has posed a problem for Europe. It is too productive to compete with and too insecure to live with. This is not a matter of ideology; it is a matter of geography and culture. The young men and women at the wall now emphatically support austerity in Europe, not accepting responsibility for the rest of Europe's fecklessness. Why should they?

The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago served as an exclamation point in history ending an ideology and an empire. It did not end history, but rather it renewed the puzzle that has dogged Europe since 1871. What will Germany do next and what will the outside world do with Germany? This once slightly unsettling question has become a moderately unsettling one. In Europe, history sometimes throws a party and then presents an unpleasant surprise. But then, Europe is always a surprise, or at least pretends to be.

Read more: What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change | Stratfor
Title: Russia's South Stream Decsion changes regional dynamics
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 11, 2014, 05:19:32 PM
I have drawn attention to this matter of Russia, natural gas, and Europe many times:

 Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
December 4, 2014 | 10:30 GMT Print Text Size
Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
A construction worker stands in front of two giant pipes arranged to be welded together near the Serbian village of Sajkas on Nov. 24, 2013. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

The fallout from Russia's decision to abandon its ambitious South Stream pipeline deal continued Dec. 3, as Italian energy services firm Saipem announced that it would lose almost $2 billion because of Moscow's move. On Dec. 2, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev called for the South Stream project's European partners to have a say in its future. The head of Serbia's Gas Association, Vojislav Vuletic, said his country is still interested in South Stream, while Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country will have to look for alternative natural gas sources to replace South Stream supplies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to abandon the pipeline deal on Dec. 1, while visiting Turkey. Putin publicly blamed the European Commission's opposition to the planned pipeline, though the project faced other growing constraints (mainly financing). At the same time, Putin announced that Russia would instead build a pipeline similar to South Stream but ending in Turkey, which could then become a hub for Russia's natural gas exports. The decision changes not only the dynamics of energy in the region, but also many relationships in Europe, Turkey and Russia.

South Stream was a large pipeline project by Russian natural gas behemoth Gazprom to export Russian natural gas from the Russian mainland, under the Black Sea, to Southern and Central Europe — Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. The primary purpose of the pipeline was to connect Europe to Russia directly without transiting Ukraine, which previously transported 80 percent of Russian natural gas to Europe. Gazprom held 50 percent of the project, Italy's ENI held 20 percent, Germany's Wintershall held 15 percent and France's EDF held 15 percent. The initial plan was for the South Stream pipeline to reach a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2018, which would accommodate approximately 40 percent of Russia's natural gas exports to Europe if run near capacity.

The project became increasingly important to Moscow over the past year as the crisis in Ukraine threatened the reliability — both politically and technically — of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine. However, the project has encountered a string of obstacles since its conception in 2007.
Russian-European Natural Gas Networks
Click to Enlarge

First, the European Union has contested the pipeline, saying it violates the Third Energy Package, European legislation that splits energy production and transmission. The European Commission has used the legislation to pressure all of the EU states that had signed agreements with Russia for the construction of the pipeline. As a result, Bulgaria halted the construction of its section of the pipeline in June.

The second constraint was the rising cost of the pipeline. Gazprom projected a $10 billion price tag in 2007, but projected costs grew to $30 billion in 2014 and likely would have risen further. In mid-November, ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi warned that ENI would leave the project if prices continued to rise. Gazprom is relatively healthy financially, unlike its oil company sister, Rosneft. However, with many large and costly projects lined up for the next few years, including the Yamal natural gas project and the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, Gazprom most likely would not be able to foot most of the bill for South Stream without financial assistance from the Kremlin. And with Russia in a sharp economic decline and oil prices falling, the Kremlin has refrained from handing out large sums of money like it has in the past.

Gazprom has already spent $4.5 billion on South Stream, mostly on 300,000 tons of underwater trunk pipelines that have been delivered to the Black Sea coastline. However, these pipes could still be of use in the construction of Russia's new proposed pipeline to Turkey. According to Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, the alternative pipeline could have a capacity of 63 bcm, of which Turkey could purchase 14 bcm of natural gas and transit the rest to southeastern Europe to the same countries that would have received natural gas from South Stream. In short, the change in the pipeline projects is merely one of route; the outcome would be nearly the same. However, the way that natural gas would be transported is in question, since any new pipeline infrastructure reaching into Europe would be subject to the same EU regulations that haunted South Stream.
The Political Aftermath

By scrapping South Stream and proposing a Russo-Turkish pipeline, Russia has shifted the political and energy dynamics of the region. First, Russia had been using South Stream as leverage over Ukraine and several southeastern European countries. Russia offered Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary investment sweeteners — promises of energy security, construction jobs and transit revenues — for their support of the South Stream project. For example, Bulgaria was set to receive an estimated $500 million annually for transiting natural gas from South Stream. Moscow also used the potential for natural gas transit alternatives in its energy negotiations with Kiev. With South Stream abandoned, Russia's leverage has diminished.

Russia's decision to abandon South Stream also damages Moscow's political ties with some of its European partners in the project. Countries such as Hungary and Serbia spent a great deal of political capital in defying the European Union to support the pipeline's construction. Now some of these same countries are saying they will have to look to the European Union to help secure energy supplies.
Changing Energy Relationships

Should the proposed Russo-Turkish pipeline be constructed, Russia will add capacity to directly supply Turkey, its largest natural gas customer, much like Russia's Nord Stream pipeline connects Russia to Germany, its second-largest customer. Moreover, Turkey is likely to receive a 6 percent discount on its current natural gas supplies as part of the construction deal. With Turkey connected directly to Russia, natural gas supplies will not rely on politically prickly transit states such as Ukraine. Turkey currently receives approximately half of its natural gas supplies from routes going to Europe.

However, the Russo-Turkish pipeline would introduce yet another transit state into Russia's export routes to Europe. The point of South Stream was to directly supply southeastern Europe with Russian natural gas, bypassing Ukraine. Under the new plan, energy supplies would still bypass Ukraine, but would now be contingent on Turkey transiting the supplies. Russia does not hold the influence over Turkey that it has held in Ukraine, meaning that Moscow will be less able to politicize natural gas supplies going to the Continent.

Yet adding a natural gas supply route through Turkey would give Moscow more flexibility in supplying Europe. Russia already has pipelines running to Europe through Belarus, Ukraine and Germany. Adding another major route through Turkey would give Russia a greater ability to shift supplies from one route to another, targeting specific European countries for cutoffs depending on how Moscow wants to shape the political climate.

The proposed Turkish energy connection also adds complexity to other energy projects involving Turkey. The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline has been proposed to move Turkmen natural gas across the Caucasus to Turkey and Europe. Turkey is already moving forward with a similar connection, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will carry Azerbaijani natural gas. Discussions have gone on for a long time about the possibility of natural gas giant Turkmenistan supplying these routes via the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Just as the South Stream project competed with these plans, so will the proposed pipeline to Turkey. Ankara will continue to try to balance Moscow with alternative suppliers such as Azerbaijan. However, with natural gas coming straight from Russia, the incentive to continue wooing Turkmenistan for supplies could be reduced.

All of this said, Russia's announcement that it is abandoning South Stream was contingent on the current political tension between Moscow and the European Union. Russia could revisit its plans for South Stream should this relationship change. For now, the abandonment of South Stream looks like a major setback for Russia's energy strategy in Europe, but Russia could simply be playing the similar projects off each other to shape its overall energy and political discussions in the region.

Read more: Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics | Stratfor
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Title: Beware Putin's Special War in 2015
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 03, 2015, 02:49:42 PM

December 23, 2014
Beware Putin’s Special War in 2015

December 2014 is the month Putin’s Russia was plunged into undeniable crisis. Between the dramatic drop in oil prices and the collapse of the ruble, under Western sanctions pressure, Russians are going into the new year in a dramatically different, and lessened, economic situation than the one they enjoyed at the beginning of the year now ending.

This will bring myriad hardships to Russians, particularly because even Moscow is admitting that low oil prices may be the “new normal” until the 2030’s. Caveats abound here. The vast majority of Russians don’t travel abroad, much less have vacation properties in Europe, nor do they have hard-currency mortgages (the ruble now having returned to its Soviet-era pariah status). Moreover, the average Russian has a physical and mental toughness about getting by in tough times — it is an unmistakable point of national pride — that Westerners cannot really fathom. In no case now does Russia face the sort of complete economic collapse that it endured in the 1990’s, when the Soviet implosion pushed poor Russians to the edge of survival (were not so many Russians but one generation removed from the farm, and therefore had access to their own food supply, famine might well have happened under Yeltsin). Life in Yeltsin’s Russia, particularly beyond the bright lights of Moscow and St. Petersburg, where few Westerners visit, was harsh and frankly dismal.

Nevertheless, the economic undoing of Putinism over the last weeks, brought about by Western sanctions in response to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine which began in early 2014, heralds major changes for the Kremlin, and not just in its domestic affairs. While Russia has far deeper hard currency reserves than it possessed in 1998, the last time the ruble’s bottom fell out, and it’s clear that Moscow will try to prevent banks from failing, there should be little optimism among Putin’s inner circle. Russia now faces a protracted and serious financial-cum-economic crisis that will get much worse before it gets better. Since much of Putin’s popularity has derived from the impressive economic growth his fifteen years in the Kremlin have brought, a rise in living standards that has benefited average Russians as well as oligarchs, the political implications of this collapse for Russia’s president are grave.

But are they enough to get Putin to cease his aggression and, in the long run, perhaps even leave office? Western politicians, eager to avoid armed confrontation with Russia, have assumed that enough sanctions-related pain will force Putin’s hand and get him to back off in Ukraine and elsewhere. This was always a questionable assumption. In the first place, sanctions tend to work as intended mostly against countries that strongly dislike being a global pariah, like apartheid-era South Africa, whose English-speaking white elites hated how they suddenly were no longer welcome in the posh parts of London. There is no evidence that Putin and most average Russians find being despised by the West particularly objectionable; on the contrary, many seem to revel in it.

Then there is the touchy fact that sanctions sometimes work not at all as intended. Using economic warfare to break a country’s will, which entails real hardship for average citizens, can cause more aggression rather than cease it. The classic example is Imperial Japan, which faced grim economic realities once U.S.-led oil sanctions took effect in retaliation for Tokyo’s aggressive and nasty war in China. Lacking indigenous petroleum, Japan was wholly dependent on imports that Washington, DC, blocked with sanctions. These placed Japan on what strategists would term “death ground,” since without imported oil its economy and its military could not function. Moreover, the sanctions were seen — correctly — by Tokyo as a sign that the United States and its allies did not want Japan to dominate the Western Pacific region, which constituted an intolerable affront to Japanese pride. The closest place to get the oil Japan needed was the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia, and Tokyo resolved to seize the oil there by force. To do that, Japan first had to drive the Royal Navy out of Singapore and the U.S. Navy out of the Philippines, and to enable that they had to disable America’s Pacific Fleet, which was ported in Pearl Harbor…and the rest of the story you know.

Japan in 1941 believed it was already facing defeat through oppressive sanctions, so engaging in actual war seemed like a logical choice. The total defeat of the Japanese Empire in 1945 indicates that Tokyo’s decision to bomb Pearl Harbor was madcap, but had things worked out differently at, say, Midway in June 1942, such choices might look very different to historians today. When sitting on promotion boards for battle-tried colonels hoping for selection to general in his army, something he enjoyed, Napoleon liked to ask of a candidate, pointedly: “Yes, but is he lucky?” Japan was not at all lucky in the war it started in December 1941, but its defeat was hardly preordained, and the salient point is that Tokyo felt that the Americans really started that war with their harsh sanctions.

Might Putin do the same and decide that since Russia is facing defeat at the hands of Western sanctions, which represent a kind of war, why not opt for actual war, in which Moscow at least has a chance of victory? It’s too early to determine that, but 2015 will be the year such grave decisions are made. To date, there are no indications that Putin intends to back down in Ukraine, or anywhere, thanks to Western sanctions. It’s important to note that Putin’s narrative, which he has elaborated on several occasions and is accepted by most Russians, is straightforward: He has done nothing illegal in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he is only protecting Russia and ethnic Russians, which is a legitimate national interest. Moreover, it is the height of cheek for the Americans, who after all invade countries all over the world in the name of “freedom,” to call Moscow’s legitimate actions on Russia’s borders “aggression.” Russia will defend itself against this rancid hypocrisy and will resist the West’s warlike sanctions, which are intended to punish Russia for defending itself and its rightful interests.

Putin’s public statements this month make clear that backing down now is not in the cards. At a press conference last week, he pointedly blamed the financial crisis on the West (“The current situation was obviously provoked primarily by external factors.”) while promising the economy will eventually improve. (Close observers will note that Putin cited “The main achievement of the year in the social sphere is of course positive demographics.”) The usual KGB-style tough talk, however, was on display, as a British journalist explained:

He brooked no compromise on the annexation of Crimea, and renewed his lambasting of the West’s policies since the fall of the Berlin Wall, accusing it of putting up new “virtual walls” and wanting to “chain” the Russian bear. He said that even if the bear were to “sit tight… supping berries and honey” and “abandon its hunting instincts”, the West would still “seek to chain us… then rip out our teeth and claws”. The bear, he said, had no intention of being turned into a “soft toy”. It would defend its sovereignty.

On the weekend, specifically on 20 December, a holiday that honors Russia’s “special services” — this was the day in 1917 that the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, was founded by “Iron Feliks” Dzierżyński; in a normal country this would be a day of national mourning not celebration — Putin addressed Russia’s security posture, noting this year’s spike in espionage against the country. He proudly asserted that Russian counterintelligence, Putin’s former employers, had uncovered 230 foreign spies operating in the country during 2014. He minced no words about this threat:

Frank statements are being made to the effect that Russia should pay dearly for its independent stance, for its support for its compatriots, for Crimea and Sevastopol – for merely existing, it sometimes seems. Clearly, no one has ever succeeded in scaring, suppressing or isolating Russia and never will. Such attempts have been made regularly, over the centuries, as I have said publicly on numerous occasions, and in the 20th century it happened several times: in the 1920s, the 1940s and later. It did not work then and it will not work now. Meanwhile, we have to be prepared to experience certain difficulties and always rebuff any threats to our sovereignty, stability and the unity of our society.

This is not a man who is about to back down; doubling-down seems decidedly more likely. To be fair to Putin, Russia is a democracy of sorts, and popular opinion matters. He has dangerously stoked nationalist fires throughout the year now ending, regularly citing alleged Ukrainian Nazis eager to commit genocide against innocent Russians, so it’s difficult to see how he can turn those passions off with a switch, not least because beating the nationalist drum, while making the diplomatic equivalent of obscene gestures at the West, is popular with the Russian masses.

Neither does Western behavior always help matters. It seems not to have occurred to many Western politicians that gleeful public statements about how sanctions will cripple Russia might make Russians view these devastating acts as tantamount to war waged against them. President Obama, too, has not always been wise in his comments. In the first place he has not explained why a half-century of sanctions on tiny and impoverished Cuba failed to work — hence his opening to Havana last week — but sanctions on vast and largely self-sufficient Russia should be expected to deliver as advertised. Last weekend, Obama’s comments on his adversary in the Kremlin took a strange turn:

There was a spate of stories about how he is the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And right now, he’s presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction. That doesn’t sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America.

Obama’s offensive defensiveness here speaks volumes — the self-reference in the third person is revealing — and will be read in Moscow as weakness mingled with taunting. If this is what prep school Ivy League lawyers think passes for tough talk in Chicago, the Chekists in the Kremlin, who are actual hard men with much blood on their hands, will be happy to give lessons to faux-macho poseurs in the West Wing, and in 2015 they will.

I don’t know if there will be war — real war — between Russia and the West in the new year. Surely such a possibility cannot be ruled out, not least because NATO has signally failed to implement the modest deterrence posture in Eastern Europe that I recommended six months ago, eschewing actual defense in favor of some showy yet small-scale exercises without strategic impact. It’s not surprising that some NATO frontline states are planning for possible invasion and occupation by Russia, since their faith in the staying power of the Atlantic Alliance, particularly in Obama’s resolve, is increasingly in doubt.

It is unlikely that Putin will soon choose overt aggression against a NATO country with the intent of causing major war, but such a conflict may result anyway in 2015. Rising Kremlin military and espionage operations in Northern Europe are a cause for concern, while Kremlin provocations against Estonia, that tiny country being a particular bugbear for Putin, indicate where the next Russian “microaggression” — here meaning an engineered “misunderstanding” at a border town to test Alliance resolve — may perhaps fall. It’s a tricky game deciding where Obama’s “redlines” are, particularly because the president himself seems not to know in Syria, Ukraine, or anywhere, so it’s dangerously easy to envision a scenario where the angry gamblers in Moscow roll the dice one time too many, forcing NATO’s hand, without realizing it until it’s too late. War can happen by a kind of accident, with a risky Kremlin operational game gone wrong, and since NATO is not seriously prepared to resist Russian aggression on its eastern frontier, in 2015 it just might.

What I am absolutely certain of, however, is that the new year will bring the West more of what I’ve termed Special War emanating from the East. Moscow is far from ready to wage sustained conventional war against NATO, not least because the oil-plus-ruble collapse will delay its long-overdue military modernization program, but it is eminently prepared to engage in the witches’ brew of espionage, subversion, and terrorism that makes up Special War. Here the West must be vigilant, since Kremlin Special War can do real damage, and represents something that NATO is poorly conditioned to recognize, much less defeat and deter.

First, espionage, which is a long-standing Russian core competency. Kremlin intelligence operations against the West are not only rising in number and intensity — even the media has belatedly noticed that Moscow’s special services are as active against us as they ever were during the Cold War — but in aggressiveness as well. Putin takes a deep and personal interest in the activities of Russia’s intelligence agencies, which formed his unmistakably Chekist personality, and he has given them wide latitude to “get tough.” Just as in Israel, though not at all in the United States, Russian spies know that “the top” has their back if an operation goes wrong, as some inevitably will; Moscow prefers a bias for action, not inaction, in its huge espionage arm. Moreover, the persistent inability of Westerners to see Russian espionage as the serious threat to our secrets and safety that it is — here the blindness of even some NATO governments to the painful reality of the Snowden Operation does not encourage — gives the Kremlin a latitude to wage Special War against the West that it does not deserve.

Which leads to the matter of subversion, a term which has fallen out of favor since the Cold War but which needs a rebirth as soon as possible. Russian intelligence and its helpers have a sophisticated doctrine, honed over decades, to wage what we would term Political Warfare against their enemies. To further the Kremlin’s aims, they cultivate Western politicos, activists and journalists to disseminate pro-Russian views on a wide range of issues; much of this is now conducted online. These Western partners range from being full-fledged agents of the Russian special services to mere pro-Putin influencers, not always entirely wittingly. Nevertheless, this Kremlin brand of espionage-based psychological operations — the proper term is Active Measures, which has no doctrinal NATO equivalent — can achieve devastating results through lies, half-truths, and forgeries. Russia takes advantage of Western gullibility, niceness, and unwillingness to accept just how dishonest the enemy is, sometimes to strategic effect. Subversion is back, with online disinformation as its main weapon, and the sooner we accept this the West can begin to counter Russian agitprop that aims to psychologically and politically disarm and divide NATO without fighting.

On the political front, Putin holds quite a few European cards. The Kremlin has successfully established important, multilayered agent-of-influence networks in NATO countries, as I’ve explained previously, and the current political ferment in Europe offers Putin an inroads there that Russia has not enjoyed since the early years of the Cold War. Moscow has long supported far Left parties and activists in the West, but in recent years they have made major inroads on the far Right as well, whose star is ascendant in many European Union states, thanks to hot-tempered debates about immigration and national identity. Simply put, if the EU fails to deal with such issues in an effective way, and soon, it will surrender them to the far Right, i.e. Putin’s allies, in a manner that will have strategic results that will benefit Moscow in important ways.

Last, there’s terrorism. In the 21st century this takes many forms, from blowing up bombs to raiding computer networks. It’s remarkable how few Westerners seem to notice that the sudden and devastating “cyber-vandalism” (to cite Obama) against Sony hits the presses just as Russia’s economy buckles under sanctions. Russian acumen at cyber-terrorism is not exactly news — just ask Georgia and Estonia — but it has yet to be employed against major NATO countries in a strategic fashion. Yet this should be anticipated as an ancillary to other warlike secret Russian operations against NATO and the EU. Moreover, the difficulty of establishing firm attribution in cyber-espionage and cyber-terrorism means that many acts that remain officially unresolved — meaning what Western governments are willing to say publicly — actually have the fingerprint of Russian intelligence on them. And more is coming.

The notion that an angry Russia would employ actual terrorism, meaning killers and bombers, against the West sounds fanciful to some but it ought not, given decades of Russian activities in this arena. The Soviet intelligence services engaged a wide range of foreign terrorist groups beginning in the 1960’s, and terrorists as diverse as the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction, and the PLO, among many others, obtained aid and training from the KGB and GRU, the Kremlin’s military intelligence arm, as well as from East Bloc sister services. Among major transnational terrorist groups in the late Cold War, only the PFLP-GC was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kremlin, while the Soviets were content to give aid, comfort, and cover to the PLO and let it kill innocents as it pleased, as long as the KGB’s fingerprint remained difficult to detect. (As a senior KGB officer who dealt with the PLO in the 1970’s replied, when I asked him why the Kremlin never told Arafat’s Fatah terrorists what to attack, “Why give them orders? Everything they do is good!”) It should be noted that the idea the KGB and its East Bloc partners gave assistance to terrorists in the 1970’s and 1980’s was derided at the time as a “conspiracy theory” by nearly all Western “terrorism experts,” yet turned out to be entirely true, we learned, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Hence Moscow’s present-day murky links to international terrorism, even al-Qa’ida, merit close examination.

Moscow need not employ cut-outs and false-flags to conduct terrorism abroad, it has plenty of in-house talent in those areas, which fall under the rubric of what Russian spies term “wetwork.” In recent years, Putin has not been shy about wetwork abroad, even when the Kremlin’s footprint is obvious. The 2006 London murder of the defector Sasha Litvinenko, the infamous radioactive tea assassination, was transparently the work of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s biggest intelligence agency and Putin’s power-base. Two years earlier, GRU assassins blew up Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, exiled leader of the Chechen resistance, with a bomb placed in his vehicle; the device exploded on the streets of Doha, Qatar, killing Yandarbiyev and two of his bodyguards. GRU was sloppy, however, and Qatari authorities quickly arrested the two bombers. At trial, they admitted Moscow had sent them to Doha to assassinate the Chechen leader, yet they were returned to Russian custody in early 2005 amid promises they would serve their jail sentence for murder in Russia. In best Putin fashion, the GRU officers served not a day in a Russian jail, instead getting a heroes’ welcome home, including decorations for their good work abroad, then disappeared from public view.

Contrary to myth, the Cold War KGB and GRU were decidedly cautious about wetwork in the West. Assassinations of “state enemies” abroad were commonplace in Stalin’s time, but they waned in the 1950’s after several embarrassing missteps, including the defection of one would-be KGB assassin to the Americans. The 1959 assassination of Stepan Bandera, the top Ukrainian nationalist, in Munich with cyanide was the last operation of its kind, as the KGB’s footprint on the crime was obvious and embarrassing to the Kremlin. After that, the Chekists became notably cautious about wetwork in the West, not least because such an operation gone wrong would lead to the expulsion of many undercover Soviet intelligence officers, undoing years of hard espionage work.

While KGB and GRU maintained significant wetwork capabilities, they were used very sparingly down to the end of the Cold War. Yuri Andropov, who headed the KGB from 1967 to 1982, was notably cautious in such matters, quashing numerous proposals to assassinate defectors and dissidents in the West. When the Bulgarian DS, a close partner agency, asked for Soviet help to murder a troublesome defector, Andropov told the KGB to help but to steer very clear of the killing itself. The Soviets gave the Bulgarians a special new weapon, an umbrella that fired a micro-pellet filled with highly toxic ricin, which the DS used to assassinate Georgi Markov in London in October 1978 — a crime that British investigators correctly pinned on the DS, though the case, never prosecuted, officially remains open. Yet the Soviets had nothing to do with the killing itself, per Andropov’s orders.

In contrast, Putin shows none of Andropov’s caution. He has been willing to send Russian spies abroad to kill people that the Kremlin does not like, and as Russia finds itself increasingly in a corner and willing to lash out at the West, this ought to concern all Western governments. Increased espionage and subversion against NATO and the EU, directed by Russian special services, should be considered a given. The West would also be wise to anticipate Russian terrorism, the ugly side of the Kremlin’s Special War, as Putin seeks ways to punish the people whom he blames for his increasingly dire politico-economic predicament.

Everything from cyber-attacks to bombings to assassinations of prominent Westerners should be considered eminently possible. The good news is that vigilant Western counterintelligence, employed in a joint and strategic fashion, can blunt Russia’s well-honed Special War acumen and will prevent terrorism by the Kremlin and its friends and various false-flags. By blunting espionage, you also cut short things much worse. The bad news is that NATO and the EU remain seriously deficient in counterintelligence, beyond the merely tactical realm, and are not yet ready to take on the Russians in this most important game. Money, motivation and cultural change inside U.S. and Western security services are needed urgently to develop serious counterintelligence vision and competence.

The new year will be filled with many Kremlin operational games of various kinds. Expect regular media reports of “unattributed” cyber attacks, “unexplained” acts of sabotage, “unresolved” online scandals, and “mysterious” terrorist incidents across the West. This can be stopped, and must be; there is little time to waste. I will be spending 2015 doing my part to assist the West as it learns to wage Special War against the number-one-ranked team in the game. I used to be a player, now I’m just a consultant. If you would like to contact me about how to fight smart, feel free to do so.
Title: Euro weenies
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 24, 2015, 11:17:35 AM
Russian Aggression, Western Talk
Vladimir Putin wages war on Ukraine, while Europe hopes to ease sanctions.
Updated Jan. 23, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET

Barack Obama devoted two short paragraphs in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to the crisis in Ukraine. “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small,” the President said, “by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.” Thanks to American and European sanctions, he added, “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.”

Vladimir Putin begs to differ. Russian forces on the same day opened fire on Ukrainian positions in the rebel-controlled Luhansk region, not far from the Russian border, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cut short his trip to Davos to deal with the “worsening situation” on the home front.

Moscow has issued the usual denials about reinforcing the rebels in Luhansk, calling its regulars “volunteers” and sneering at “hallucinations about a ‘Russian invasion,’” as a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman put it. There are now some 9,000 such volunteers fighting alongside pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine, according to Mr. Poroshenko, and they are armed with hundreds of tanks, heavy artillery and personnel carriers.

“For months now there has been a push by the separatists for expansion of their territory,” a Western diplomat at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told us. The rebels have “a lot of ammo,” the official said, “and that’s coming from somewhere. This could not be happening without sophisticated logistical support from the Russian Federation.”

Meanwhile, the Western diplomatic push continues. The German, French, Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers held a new round of talks in Berlin on Wednesday. The aim is a cease-fire along the lines of September’s failed Minsk Protocol, but as Mr. Poroshenko told reporters, “To have a complete de-escalation we don’t need any blah-blah-blah. We need just to withdraw Russian troops.”

It doesn’t help that the West’s commitment to sanctions is flagging. “I think the sanctions must stop now,” French President François Hollande said on Jan. 5. He added: “It has been costly for him. . . . Mr. Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the NATO camp.”

Mr. Hollande’s musings on Russia’s intentions were echoed by European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, whose bureaucracy in a discussion paper circulated to EU foreign ministers suggested bifurcating the Ukraine issue into the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s “destabilization of eastern Ukraine.” If Moscow pulls back from eastern Ukraine, the paper said, sanctions could be rolled back and cooperation resumed.

European foreign ministers later clarified that there are no immediate plans to lift sanctions, but the Mogherini paper revealed the depth of Western misunderstanding of Russia: Just as Mr. Putin feels the pressure of falling oil prices, Mr. Hollande and Ms. Mogherini telegraph a willingness to welcome him back into good Western graces if only he’ll settle for his gains so far. The West should instead be maintaining the pressure, so the Russian people come to understand the costs of Mr. Putin’s revanchism.

The Russian leader doesn’t want to deal with the West like a normal nation. He wants to re-create Kremlin dominance over Russia’s near abroad and use energy exports as a political weapon against Western Europe. If the West permits him, he will consolidate his gains, continue to stir trouble in Ukraine and wait until the right moment to go on the offensive again.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe, Walter Russell Mead, Putin still thinks he can win
Post by: DougMacG on January 29, 2015, 09:51:27 AM
WRM, my favorite Democrat, is always a very worthwhile read:

The post-1990 European order has taken much more damage than much of U.S. elite opinion has fully understood, and that damage poses much greater dangers to vital U.S. interests than most people think. Intelligent U.S. engagement in the rethinking and reforming of Europe is as necessary now as it was earlier in the 20th century.

From the Kremlin’s perspective, the world may have looked better a year ago when oil was expensive and Moscow’s coffers were flush. But while Russia had some ugly surprises in 2014, Putin seems to believe that the false foundations underneath the imposing façade of the West continue to erode at an accelerating pace. It does not take a strong push to knock over a house of cards; Putin, one suspects, still thinks he can win. He is certainly acting that way.
Title: WSJ: Putin cracks the Atlantic Alliance
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 17, 2015, 10:04:04 AM
Putin Begins to Crack the Atlantic Alliance
The British are on the outs, and German elites float a European Treaty Organization to replace NATO.
John Vinocur
Feb. 16, 2015 7:30 p.m. ET

While the Germans, seconded by their French character witnesses, negotiated an ethereal Ukraine cease fire with Vladimir Putin in Minsk, Belarus, last week, Britain was kept informed by regular messages from the conference room.

It was a drip-feed from an arena of bad history in the making to a distant sideline. Call it either a gesture of consideration and respect, or a sign of the largely self-inflicted downgrading of a onetime Great Game player. Whatever, here was Britain home alone, although in no sense in the strategically assertive manner of Benjamin Disraeli ’s notion of Splendid Isolation.
David Cameron ENLARGE
David Cameron Photo: Bloomberg News

The Minsk deal was “terrible,” a senior U.K. official told me afterward, with holes in it so gaping as to allow Russia to drive tanks unhampered through an open Ukrainian border for next to forever. There might be some regrets that London wasn’t there as a “practitioner,” the official said, “but the deal was so bad that we now see our distance as an advantage.”

In theory, after the Obama administration outsourced the response to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine to Angela Merkel ’s Germany, only U.N. Security Council member Britain was (very theoretically) left in Europe to take sides and name names. But London chose not to press for an active role. Ms. Merkel then signaled that Germany’s “strategic patience” with Mr. Putin’s asymmetrical war could last for decades.

As a result, over the course of the past two weeks Mr. Putin got an up-close lesson in Western halfheartedness.

French President François Hollande, as Germany’s sidekick in meetings with Mr. Putin in Moscow and Minsk—Ms. Merkel didn’t want it to go down as a German-Russian deal—exclaimed, “I don’t want to say anything about the responsibilities of one or the other” combatants. He added, “Will someone please explain to me what the difference is between an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon?”

Here goes. Offensive weapon: a Russian tank. Defensive: a Ukrainian soldier with an antitank guided missile, one of the kinds of arms Barack Obama is fussing about delivering to the government in Kiev.

Britain’s response was a “no” to supplying Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons, coupled with a statement by Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond that, “We’re happy that the Germans have taken the lead.”

This isn’t Britain at its bravest, cleverest or most famously resourceful. Its slide has been accelerated by a U.S. administration that hung Britain out to dry by abandoning its promised willingness to come on board with London on a more muscular approach to Syria in 2012-13. Since then, Mr. Obama’s steadfastness has been regarded warily by some British officials.

A more immediate explanation for this effaced approach is the national election May 7, in which Prime Minister David Cameron ’s Conservative Party sees the prospect of a fragmented vote requiring the formation of a coalition government.

His strategists don’t want to wander from a single campaign message on the improvement in the British economy. Polls say that foreign affairs aren’t among the top 10 issues of voter concern and that only 17% “think the United Kingdom has a moral responsibility to support popular uprisings against dictators,” a negative measure of potential public engagement on Ukraine.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the British fade is that it bolsters Mr. Putin’s conviction that he is succeeding in splitting apart the Atlantic Alliance. A frequently silent, self-involved, scarcely active and less goading Britain, one obviously less confident in its trans-Atlantic instincts and its trans-Atlantic ties, reinforces the Russian idea that it really can reverse the post-Soviet security order in Europe.

Britain ought to be fighting this out loud. In Germany, echoing the Gerhard Schröder years, the weekly Die Zeit made reference without particular alarm to a Europe now “wrestling” with its “emancipation” from the U.S. Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a newspaper close to the chancellor, last week referred to Ms. Merkel as a “mediator” between the U.S. and Russia, a notion she refutes but that has wide appeal in Germany.

Sueddeutsche’s chief editor, Kurt Kister, wrote on Saturday that “the Americans hardly play a role anymore” in Europe and recommended its countries begin thinking of setting up a “European Treaty Organization or EUTO.”

That’s crackpot stuff. How could a Europe without America ever muster a credible nuclear deterrent against Russia? But there’s the potential for a rewrite of Europe’s security treaties lurking out there that could make for trouble. The German foreign ministry of Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Russians want “to discuss” such a rewrite. What could Britain be saying but isn’t?

Malcolm Rifkind, who is on a German-appointed panel of “eminent persons” to begin that discussion, gave a glancing but interesting answer via a question to Ms. Merkel at the recent Munich Security Conference. The former Conservative foreign and defense minister asked if her no-military-solution thesis on Ukraine could ever be successful without the threat of force being attached. She dodged the essence of the question.

Mr. Rifkind, in a later conversation, saw the possibility of an altered tone from a re-elected Conservative-led government in Britain. He said, “A change can come if there’s an American-led policy that’s less ambiguous and unabashedly robust.”

Good to hear it said. But he shouldn’t hold his breath.

Title: Lithuania reinstitutes the draft
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 24, 2015, 07:15:01 PM
Title: WSJ: Europe defense shrinks as Putin threat grows
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 04, 2015, 11:02:42 AM
Europe’s Defense Wanes as the Putin Threat Grows
Most NATO members are going to fail to meet pledges to stop declines in military spending.
Ian Birrell
March 3, 2015 7:08 p.m. ET

The chill of a new Cold War is descending over Europe. In Ukraine, ripped apart by Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s adventurism, a shaky cease-fire holds but there are growing fears of a new onslaught on the key port city Mariupol. In Estonia, one of the increasingly nervous Baltic states, a Feb. 24 Independence Day celebration in Narva, 300 yards from the Russian border, was marked by a NATO show of strength with troops from seven nations, including the U.S. and U.K., marching in the slush.

On the same day Russian troops drilled on their side of the border in Pskov, with 1,500 paratroopers swooping from the sky in exercises to capture an “enemy” airfield. Meanwhile, Lithuania revealed plans to reintroduce conscription in response to “growing aggression” while Norway is restructuring its armed forces to ensure faster response to Russian threats.

A few days earlier, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon had warned of “real and present” danger to the Baltic states. In Moscow, Kremlin-connected pundits debate whether nuclear war is “winnable” while opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov, shot in the back last week, are murdered. Russia is probing NATO reactions and response times, with four times as many interceptions made for breaches of Baltic airspace last year than in 2013. Twice recently the Royal Air Force scrambled fighter jets to escort Russian bombers flying over the English Channel.

But when a Russian submarine was suspected of slinking into Scottish waters late last year, weeks after another was spotted off the Swedish coast, the RAF had to summon NATO assistance for sea patrol planes to hunt it down. Such is the state of the British armed forces, cut by governments desperate to cash in the “peace dividend” after the last Cold War and then hit by financial meltdown. Sadly, the U.K. now appears reliant on allies for aircraft to search its own waters. With fewer than 100,000 full-time troops, Great Britain now has a smaller army than during the mid-19th-century Crimean War.

Meanwhile, a new report by the European Leadership Network think-tank reveals that most NATO members are failing to fulfill pledges to reverse declines in defense spending. It found six key countries cutting budgets, including the economic powerhouse of Germany, while the cash flow is flatlining in France, the other big spender. Budgets are rising in frontline states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, but only one country—Estonia, with defense spending of less than $500 million—will meet the NATO target this year of all alliance members spending at least 2% of GDP on defense.

Five months ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged NATO members to hit the 2% defense-spending target at a summit in Wales. Now he is coming under growing pressure from disgruntled military chiefs and grumbling backbench members of Parliament as the country falls below the NATO target, and defense spending sinks to its lowest level in 25 years while inflated budgets for dubious foreign-aid projects soar.

Rory Stewart, a widely admired Tory member of Parliament and chairman of the House of Commons defense select committee, rightly argues that the NATO defense-spending target is symbolically important when the world is so dangerous—as well as sending a crucial message to an opportunistic Russian president testing his neighbors’ resolve. “This puts the spotlight on whether European nations are even capable of being regional powers in their backyard,” he recently told me.

Germany has been asserting its leadership in recent weeks by seeking to resolve the two major crises confronting the continent, with Chancellor Angela Merkel heading cease-fire talks over Ukraine before taking a firm stance on Greek debt repayments. The country is also arming Kurds in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq. Yet Berlin’s defense spending has plunged to 1.09% of GDP this year from 1.3% in 2013—despite leaked parliamentary reports last year revealing the shocking state of outdated military equipment.

While Mr. Putin has lied consistently about Russian involvement in Ukraine since the start of his seizure of Crimea, he has been relatively open about his determination to modernize his nation’s creaking military machine. His biographer, Masha Gessen, points out that six of the first 11 decrees Mr. Putin passed after taking office concerned the military, with defense spending soaring despite deep economic problems. Russia’s annual defense spending has doubled over the past decade—surpassing Great Britain’s—and Moscow has plans to replace over two-thirds of the country’s aging military equipment by 2020.

Restraint of Russian expansionism is about more than spending, of course—and U.S. defense budgets still dwarf those of Russia (although Washington seems more focused these days on its “pivot” to Asia and the rapid buildup of China’s arsenal). But Europe needs to wake up after witnessing the first annexation on the continent since 1945, followed by the willful wrecking of Ukraine.

European leaders have been woefully slow to appreciate the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s gangster-style presidency furled in the flag of nationalism. Moscow will strategize on the basis of Western weakness, while continuing to chip away at European divisions. Mr. Putin, for instance, has just awarded a €2.5 billion loan to the financially challenged government of Cyprus—a European Union member opposed to Russian sanctions—in return for naval access to its ports.

NATO is planning a rapid response unit and mounting more exercises. But is this really enough to stop more “little green men,” whether in Russian uniforms or not, from sparking another conflict? As Malcolm Chalmers, research director at the Royal United Services Institute in London, recently told me: “The danger is that Russia next bites off a bit of Estonia, then asks what NATO is going to do about it.”

As we fight this new Cold War, Western leaders need to relearn the old lessons of crisis management and deterrence that defeated Mr. Putin’s Soviet predecessors—and relearn them quickly.

Mr. Birrell is a contributing editor of the U.K. newspaper the Mail on Sunday and a former speechwriter for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: ya on March 14, 2015, 07:26:37 PM
Where is Putin ?Interesting rumor
Title: Swedish model beloved of Progressives has a weak link , , ,
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 10, 2015, 11:18:40 AM
Title: Russia leans on Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 19, 2015, 02:24:30 PM
Title: Russian Non-Linear Warfare
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on November 15, 2015, 08:31:44 AM
A good dissection of current Russian tactics in Europe and the Baltics:
Title: Putin's welcome mat for emmigrating Jews
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 20, 2016, 07:27:53 PM
I did not see this coming , , ,
Title: Re: Putin's welcome mat for emmigrating Jews
Post by: G M on January 20, 2016, 08:18:24 PM
I did not see this coming , , ,

I can say i'm a bit surprised as well.
Title: FP: Third US tank brigade headed to Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 30, 2016, 06:54:51 AM
European surge. A year from now, there will be thousands more U.S. soldiers stationed in Eastern Europe. And they’re bringing their tanks, howitzers, and armored Bradley infantry carriers with them.

Pentagon officials have long talked about their plan to rotate a third Army brigade in and out of Europe to bolster the two brigades already there. The plan was for the third brigade to move around Eastern Europe conducting training exercises with local allies nervously watching their borders for the next potential Russian provocation. On Wednesday, the U.S. European Command added a new wrinkle to the plan, announcing that this new armored brigade will bring its own tanks and other equipment along, instead of falling in on a prepositioned set of combat-ready equipment already on the continent. The move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced tanks, cannons, and other ground vehicles to the force. It will also free up an entire brigade’s worth of weapons currently being used by American forces training on the continent, which will be stored in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the event that more U.S. troops need to be rushed to the continent on short notice.

The Pentagon currently has about 65,000 troops assigned to the U.S. European Command, down from about 200,000 during the height of the Cold war in the 1980s. Then new deployments will be paid for using the European Reassurance Initiative, for which the White House requested $3.4 billion in its 2017 budget submission to Congress. The plan’s 2016 budget was $800 million.
Title: Lithuania says Russia threatens NATO countries
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 26, 2016, 12:48:20 PM
Title: Russian navy exercises off Britain
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 20, 2016, 12:01:54 PM
Title: Russian Subversion in Montenegro
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 27, 2016, 01:53:39 PM
Title: Reagan Park in Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 05, 2016, 11:29:20 PM
Title: Stratfor: East Europe may have to band together
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 09, 2016, 09:52:03 PM

Picking Up Where the West Leaves Off
December 9, 2016 | 09:00 GMT Print
Text Size
Members of Poland's and Lithuania's special operations forces descend from a helicopter during joint military exercises in Croatia in 2009. As the Russia-West conflict intensifies, the countries stuck in the middle will increase their cooperation. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

    Shifting European and U.S. politics will weaken the West's support for states along Russia's periphery, or at least give that impression.
    As Western countries become more divided and Russia's position strengthens, Eurasian countries will band together and increase their cooperation with one another.
    Ukraine and Georgia will be particularly energetic in their pursuit of regional integration as they look to their neighbors for strength and protection.


This year has rattled Western politics to their core. The Brexit vote laid bare the deep rifts crisscrossing the Continent, while far-right and anti-establishment parties across Europe have gained momentum. Across the Atlantic, the United States witnessed a similar political upheaval in the surprise November election of Donald Trump as the country's next president. With several more votes scheduled for 2017 in many of the European Union's biggest member states, including France, Germany and now perhaps Italy, next year is shaping up to be just as turbulent as the last.

The effects of these sweeping changes will ripple beyond the United States and Europe. Russia, in particular, could have a chance to gain the upper hand in its tense standoff with the West, which has been ongoing since Ukraine's Euromaidan uprising in 2014. Not only will the upcoming transitions in the United States and Europe weaken the West's resolve to maintain its sanctions against Russia, but they will also shift the West's attention inward to its own divisions. This may give Moscow room to strengthen its influence among the nations in its periphery.

The states that lie between Russia and Europe will no doubt feel the impact of the political upsets occurring outside their borders. Countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union have watched the changes underway with growing unease, and they are likely re-evaluating their stances toward the competing giants looming on their eastern and western flanks. All of them, from those in Eastern Europe to those in the Caucasus, will have to prepare for a new geopolitical environment in which Russia may no longer be able to be ignored and the West may no longer be able to be counted on.
An Eastern European Union?

As these countries reassess their situations, they will likely turn to each other for help. Ukraine will be particularly important to watch: For the past three years, it has relied on the West's backing in its spat with Russia over the eastern region of Donbas. But now, as the European Union fragments and as the incoming U.S. administration weighs its commitment to NATO allies and its collaboration with the Kremlin, Ukraine cannot be sure that Western economic, political and defense aid will continue.

And so it will look to its neighbors as an insurance policy in the event that NATO and the United States scale back their military presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Neither Poland nor the Baltic states are in a position to fully replace EU or NATO forces, but they could form a supplemental alliance of sorts with Ukraine. In fact, Ukraine has already begun to ramp up its joint training and military exercises with Poland and Lithuania, and it will probably continue to do so in the coming year.

Mutual defense may not be the only thing Ukraine seeks from its neighbors. Poland and the Baltic states have made great strides in diversifying their energy portfolios away from Russian natural gas by building liquefied natural gas import terminals and pipeline interconnectors throughout the region. Ukraine, which is also working to reduce its dependence on Russian energy by reversing natural gas flows from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, will likely try to join their burgeoning energy network in the years ahead. After all, greater energy connectivity with Poland and the Baltics — including a planned pipeline linking Ukraine and Poland with a capacity of 5 billion cubic meters that will be complete by 2020 — could give Kiev more opportunities for energy diversification.
Cooperation in the Caucasus

The nascent Ukrainian bloc is not the only one of its kind. Like Ukraine, Georgia has become concerned by the potential withdrawal of Western aid. Tbilisi is currently engaged in a dispute with Moscow over the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it has tried to integrate more closely with the European Union and NATO. Both organizations, however, have repeatedly put off Tbilisi's requests for membership plans. As their focus turns inward in the years ahead, Georgia's aspirations for deeper integration with Europe will be put in even greater jeopardy.

Georgia, too, will respond to the West's distraction by cozying up to two of its key neighbors and allies, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Tbilisi has already forged sturdy economic and energy ties with Baku and Ankara that will likely grow stronger in the coming years. Georgia serves as a vital transit state for oil and natural gas flowing from Azerbaijan to Turkey through the South Caucasus Pipeline, and construction is underway on the Trans-Anatolian and Trans-Adriatic pipelines. The two projects will bring an extra 16 bcm of natural gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II field to Turkish and European markets by 2018 and 2020, respectively. Along with the pipelines will come new transportation links, with the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway scheduled for completion in 2017.

The three countries, meanwhile, have also begun to expand their defense cooperation. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey now hold trilateral military exercises that will probably increase in scope and frequency next year. Georgia's chief of staff of the armed forces has already announced that the biggest exercises the three nations have ever held will take place in summer 2017.

The Ukrainian and Georgian blocs will undoubtedly encounter many challenges in the months ahead. Turkey's reluctance to directly challenge Russia will heavily influence the political dynamics of the Caucasus, while volatility in Ukraine could hamper Kiev's efforts to form a Baltic alliance. At the same time, Europe and NATO will by no means halt their activities in the region. But as the West becomes a more reluctant partner to the Eurasian states on Russia's doorstep, they will have little choice but to lean on each other for support.

Lead Analyst: Eugene Chausovsky
Title: Russia using domestic groups to unsettle Europe; Russia-Estonia
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 25, 2016, 07:08:59 AM

Title: Marie le Pen on board with Russki annexation of Crimea
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 04, 2017, 09:27:28 AM
Title: Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 14, 2017, 11:04:30 PM

As shifts in the global order expose Poland's inherent vulnerabilities, the country has no choice but to look outward for support. Poland will do what it can to boost its own defense capabilities, but in its search for security and stability, Warsaw will also focus on building its web of political military alliances. In the Eurasian borderlands, Poland will work to bolster defense cooperation with countries near the Baltic and Black seas that are likewise wary of the potential for Russian aggression. Poland will also seek to reinforce ties with the broader European Union; though Warsaw will push against EU interference, it will ultimately support efforts to prevent the bloc's collapse. And as EU states diverge on policies toward the new U.S. presidential administration, Warsaw will try to protect its own bilateral ties with the White House.

The uncertainties surrounding policy shifts under U.S. President Donald Trump's administration are forcing European countries to adapt their own foreign policy strategies. Germany, for example, is focused on trying to avoid a trade war with the United States and on developing closer ties with the administration. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom wants to negotiate a free trade agreement with Washington that would give London more flexibility as it navigates the Brexit process. Poland's main concern regarding the new global order is the same as it's always been: national security.

Warsaw's concerns are rooted in its age-old geographic vulnerabilities. Poland is at the heart of the Great European Plain, the largest mountain-free territory in Europe, which stretches from the French Pyrenees in the west to the Russian Ural Mountains in the east. Poland has no clear geographic borders and historically has been surrounded by powerful neighbors such as Germany, Russia and, earlier, Austria. It has repeatedly been invaded and partitioned by its neighbors.
Poland's Geographic Challenge

Poland's fragile geopolitical situation explains why a key element of Warsaw's foreign policy strategy is to look for as many alliances as possible to protect its territorial integrity. After the end of the Cold War, Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. It also sought to create regional alliances such as the Visegrad Group (with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and the Weimar Triangle (with Germany and France). But Warsaw is particularly keen to maintain strong ties with the United States, which it sees as its ultimate protector against Russian aggression.
The American Question

In recent years, Poland's foreign policy strategy has faced two major challenges: The first is the evolution of the European Union's economic crisis into a political crisis, resulting in stark internal divisions within the Continental bloc. The current Polish government has been critical of some aspects of the process of Continental integration, requesting the repatriation of some powers from Brussels back to national governments. But Warsaw is interested in reforming, not dissolving, the European Union. The second challenge has been the crisis in Ukraine, which put the spotlight on an aggressive Russia and a divided Europe. Some EU members, including the Baltic states and Germany, still defend strong sanctions against Moscow. But others, including Polish political allies such as Hungary, would like to lift them as soon as possible. (Thus far, all EU members have repeatedly voted to extend sanctions.)

The fragmentation of the European Union will be easier for Poland to digest if it preserves strong relations with the United States. But Warsaw is worried that the Trump administration might take a very different approach to foreign policy. The U.S. president has called NATO "obsolete" and has showed interest in improving relations with Russia, compelling Polish leaders to redouble their outreach to the White House. According to Polish President Andrzej Duda, in a phone call shortly after the U.S. election, Trump reassured him that bilateral cooperation would remain strong. In early February, Krzysztof Szczerski, one of Duda's senior advisers, met with Michael Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, and invited the new president to visit Poland. On Feb. 5, Trump confirmed that he will attend a NATO summit in Brussels in late May.

Warsaw is looking for more than rhetorical reassurances. In mid-January, the U.S. deployed heavy weaponry and thousands of soldiers to Central and Eastern Europe, but this move was originally ordered by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Poland said it expects the Trump administration to honor the deal reached at the NATO summit last July, when Washington agreed to deploy some 4,000 troops on a rotational basis to Poland and to increase military exercises in the region.

Some of Trump's recent moves have put EU members in the awkward position of having to criticize the White House while simultaneously remaining in its good graces. For Poland, this balance should be easier to maintain, as the ruling Law and Justice party is ideologically close to Trump on several issues. In fact, Poland was one of the few EU governments to actually praise Trump's recent moves to limit immigration into the United States. The Polish government also hopes that the Trump administration will be less involved in Polish domestic political affairs than the Obama administration, which sought to strengthen the rule of law and to amp up the fight against corruption in the region.
Looking at the Baltic Sea

Even if Polish officials have reason to be optimistic about relations with Washington remaining strong during the Trump administration, they are also making preparations for an increasingly uncertain global order. At home, Warsaw's strategy centers around an ambitious plan to modernize its defense capacities. This involves increasing military spending and strengthening its domestic defense industrial base. In December, Poland's Ministry of Defense announced plans to spend more than 61 billion zlotys ($14.5 billion) to acquire weapons and military equipment between 2017 and 2022.

At the regional level, Warsaw is interested in stronger political and military cooperation with its neighbors. A natural area for Poland to seek allies is the Baltic Sea, where countries have similar concerns about Russia's recent moves. Poland already has strong ties with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of which have recently increased their own military spending. In fact, Poland and Estonia are among the only five NATO members that currently meet the organization's defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product. (The others are the United States, the United Kingdom and Greece.) Each of these countries generally wants a stronger and, if possible, permanent NATO presence in the region.

Poland and the Baltic countries are also interested in coordinating defense strategies. In mid-2016, for example, they began discussions with defense contractors to create a regional anti-aircraft missile shield. Such cooperation has a political element as well; Warsaw and its Baltic peers often join forces to preserve EU sanctions against Russia and to increase European economic and political cooperation with Ukraine. They are also boosting efforts to strengthen ties with Ukraine outside of the EU context.

Poland's Baltic strategy involves cooperation with Sweden, too. Stockholm has been one of the main supporters of developing closer ties between the European Union and countries in the former Soviet sphere, particularly Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, to bring them closer to the West. And over the past three years, Swedish officials have repeatedly warned about the worsening security situation in the Baltic area. Though Sweden is not a NATO member, since the start of the war in Ukraine the country has deepened its cooperation with the military alliance. In May 2016, for example, Sweden signed an agreement with NATO that allows the alliance to operate more easily on Swedish territory during training or in the event of a conflict.

In late 2015, Sweden and Poland signed their own military cooperation agreement, highlighting their shared interest in deterring potential Russian aggression. Closer Swedish-Polish links open the door for tighter cooperation between Nordic and Baltic countries, as Finland (another neutral, non-NATO country) often coordinates its foreign policy with Sweden. But despite its concerns regarding Russia, Sweden has remained neutral since the early 19th century, and there are no guarantees that Stockholm is ready to change its position and take a more confrontational military position toward Russia. Opinion polls in Sweden show that people are becoming increasingly supportive of NATO membership, but the issue remains controversial.
The Limits of the Visegrad Group

Poland's foreign policy strategy also involves keeping close ties with its fellow partners in the Visegrad Group: Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The bloc has a military component, as its members recently developed a Visegrad EU Battlegroup. But though the group is an effective tool giving Poland political influence within the European Union, is may not be as useful when it comes to dealing with Russia.

Because of differences in their respective geographic positions, not all the members of the Visegrad Group have the same sense of urgency when it comes to Russia. The crisis in Ukraine highlighted the oft-diverging foreign policy goals within the group. Hungary, for example, has openly demanded the lifting of EU sanctions against Russia, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been more guarded in their criticism of Moscow's actions. Internal political dynamics also play a role, as Poland sees itself as the natural leader of the Visegrad Group, a view that is not necessarily shared by the other three governments.

This has led Poland to show interest in going beyond its Visegrad allies and developing closer ties with Romania. Before the Ukrainian crisis, Polish-Romanian relations were not particularly active. But Russia's annexation of Crimea put Romania on alert, given that the peninsula is barely 140 miles from the Romanian border. Transdniestria, a breakaway territory of Moldova with close cultural links to Romania but militarily backing from Russia, is even closer. Like Poland, Romania also considers a more active Russia as a threat. Thus, Romania joined forces with Poland to demand a greater NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe. These days, Romanian representatives are often invited to meetings of the Visegrad Group, and Polish and Romanian authorities been meeting more frequently. Poland supports Romania's request for a larger NATO presence in the Black Sea.
Outreach to Germany

Finally, the new global order could open the door for better ties between Poland and Germany, whose bilateral relations have been relatively cool in recent years. The Polish government has refused to join a German-backed plan to distribute asylum seekers across the European Union, and Berlin has criticized Polish judicial reforms. Warsaw's calls for EU reforms to weaken the central institutions in Brussels and to repatriate powers back to national governments is at odds with Germany's view of a federal Europe.

But Germany is preoccupied with keeping the European Union together amid rising geopolitical uncertainty and sees Poland's cooperation in that regard important. Warsaw, in turn, is concerned that after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, it will lose a key ally in its push to preserve tough EU policies on Russia and to maintain strong EU ties with NATO and the United States. More important, for all of Warsaw's criticism of the European Union, the bloc is still a substantial source of funding and protection for Poland. In the current context of EU fragmentation, Germany and other member states have identified defense as one of the few areas on which additional cooperation is still possible. Considering Poland's foreign policy concerns, Warsaw is likely to support initiatives in this area.

Thus, Poland's strategy to cope with an increasingly uncertain global system will once again focus on developing as many international alliances as possible. At home, Poland will continue to focus on modernizing its military. Abroad, it will seek deeper ties with countries from the Baltic to the Black seas. Poland will remain a critic of some aspects of the European Union, but it will protect its membership within the bloc. And as EU member states struggle to form a united response to the new U.S. government, Warsaw will focus on bolstering its own ties with Washington.
Title: WSJ: Putin endorses Le Pen
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 27, 2017, 01:54:55 PM
March 26, 2017 3:46 p.m. ET

Marine Le Pen made a surprise visit to the Kremlin Friday, and Vladimir Putin’s warm reception left little doubt about Moscow’s choice to win the French Presidential election in a month.

The French National Front leader was looking for at least a de facto Kremlin endorsement a month from the first round of voting, and she received it with news footage that showed the Russian strongman smiling next to her.

“We do not want to influence events in any way,” Mr. Putin said, and how would anyone get that idea? Pro-Kremlin news sites merely published reports that the Kremlin had pledged to “help” Ms. Le Pen’s cash-strapped campaign before correcting the stories and deleting the tweets. In 2014 the National Front received a $10 million loan from a Kremlin-linked bank.

Ms. Le Pen returned the public admiration, saying Mr. Putin represents a “new vision” of conservative nationalism and sovereignty along with Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That’s an insult to Messrs. Trump and Modi, who have won fair elections. She also called on Paris and Moscow to join forces to combat “globalization and Islamic fundamentalism.”

Ms. Le Pen made clear that she’d pursue a policy of appeasement toward Russian aggression against the countries that live in Moscow’s shadow. Sovereignty is sacred to her—unless you’re Georgian or Ukrainian. “I was one of the few politicians in France who were defending their own point of view on Ukraine that coincided with that of Russia,” she said at the Russian Parliament.

She went on to denounce Ukraine’s elected government using rhetoric that would make the producers at Russia Today blush: “We are forced to deal with a government that came to power illegally, as a result of the Maidan revolution, and now bombs the population in Donetsk and Luhansk. This is a war crime.” She vowed to fight European sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and proxy invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Ms. Le Pen has long been a Putin apologist, but the difference is that now she has a plausible path to the Élysée Palace. Being open to negotiations with Mr. Putin is one thing, excusing and endorsing Russian imperialism another. If she’s elected, Mr. Putin will have an overt fifth columnist in the heart of NATO.  

(MARC:  Forgive me if I have this wrong, but is France in NATO?)
Title: Re: WSJ: Putin endorses Le Pen
Post by: G M on March 27, 2017, 02:11:12 PM
March 26, 2017 3:46 p.m. ET

Marine Le Pen made a surprise visit to the Kremlin Friday, and Vladimir Putin’s warm reception left little doubt about Moscow’s choice to win the French Presidential election in a month.

The French National Front leader was looking for at least a de facto Kremlin endorsement a month from the first round of voting, and she received it with news footage that showed the Russian strongman smiling next to her.

“We do not want to influence events in any way,” Mr. Putin said, and how would anyone get that idea? Pro-Kremlin news sites merely published reports that the Kremlin had pledged to “help” Ms. Le Pen’s cash-strapped campaign before correcting the stories and deleting the tweets. In 2014 the National Front received a $10 million loan from a Kremlin-linked bank.

Ms. Le Pen returned the public admiration, saying Mr. Putin represents a “new vision” of conservative nationalism and sovereignty along with Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That’s an insult to Messrs. Trump and Modi, who have won fair elections. She also called on Paris and Moscow to join forces to combat “globalization and Islamic fundamentalism.”

Ms. Le Pen made clear that she’d pursue a policy of appeasement toward Russian aggression against the countries that live in Moscow’s shadow. Sovereignty is sacred to her—unless you’re Georgian or Ukrainian. “I was one of the few politicians in France who were defending their own point of view on Ukraine that coincided with that of Russia,” she said at the Russian Parliament.

She went on to denounce Ukraine’s elected government using rhetoric that would make the producers at Russia Today blush: “We are forced to deal with a government that came to power illegally, as a result of the Maidan revolution, and now bombs the population in Donetsk and Luhansk. This is a war crime.” She vowed to fight European sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and proxy invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Ms. Le Pen has long been a Putin apologist, but the difference is that now she has a plausible path to the Élysée Palace. Being open to negotiations with Mr. Putin is one thing, excusing and endorsing Russian imperialism another. If she’s elected, Mr. Putin will have an overt fifth columnist in the heart of NATO.  

(MARC:  Forgive me if I have this wrong, but is France in NATO?)
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 27, 2017, 02:23:29 PM
Well, it appears senility now has a toe hold on me.  Where the hell did I get that idea?
Title: Crimea
Post by: DDF on March 27, 2017, 07:31:59 PM
I have to say... I'm loving the trend in the world right now.

I will look back in a few years here, to see if I still feel the same way.

EDIT: BTW.... The Crimeans aren't Ukrainian. They never have been. They are a distinct ethnic culture, and going back far enough, it wasn't anyones. Kruschev "gifted" it to the Ukrainian SSR, when the Soviet Union was still effective, and not as anything to do with a national sovereignty, with a right to their own constitutions and languages (investigate the differences between Russian federal entities (republics, and krays,) compared to those that don't (regions, districts, & 3 federal cities), listed in rank, and each having the capacity historically to be subjected the the preceding, with the exception of the federal cities. Crimea was "gifted" to the Ukrainian SSR as a matter of administrative convenience as well as personal convenience (being that Kruschev is Ukrainian).

The Crimea  is now recognized by Russia, as "The Republic of Crimea," which gives them several rights that they would not have under Ukrainian rule, amongst them, the right to their own constitution and a certain level of self governance and determination.

Also interesting, is the fact that this isn't the only problem Ukraine is having, as with the Donetsk People's Republic (also backed by Russia).

Just throwing that out there. It seems that Russia is a lot more willing, to give locals a lot more power than Ukraine is willing to do.
Title: Stratfor: Russia stirring things up in the Balkans
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 01, 2017, 12:05:24 PM

    Russia will keep trying to exploit divisions in the western Balkans, traditionally a theater of competition for many world powers.
    Russian influence will continue to spread in some of the Balkans' most turbulent areas, including Serbia, northern Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia.
    By stoking tensions in the region, Moscow could engineer a series of crises too challenging for the West to contain.


The Balkan Peninsula has long stood at the edge of empires. The region, with its jumble of ethnicities, religions and political movements, has been a playing field for competing world powers throughout its history. Russia began to vie with the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires for influence over the area in the 19th century. During the Cold War, Yugoslavia became a battleground between the Soviet Union and the West, despite its officially nonaligned status following World War II. While the West tried to woo the country with economic aid, the Soviets played to its ruling Communist Party, and the two sides continued in deadlock through the 1980s. Once the country dissolved in 1991, however, the tides turned. The collapse of the Soviet Union left Moscow in no position to see Yugoslavia's constituent states through their transition to sovereignty, leaving that task to the European Union. The West has dominated the Balkan states' economic and security relationships ever since.

Russia still maintained its footholds in the Balkans, though. And today, as the European Union's divisions deepen and uncertainty prevails within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Moscow has turned its focus to the region once more. The Balkans' stability has been such a hot topic in Russian President Vladimir Putin's meetings with the Kremlin Security Council this year that the council's chief even said it was a top priority for Moscow. Incidents of Russia's meddling in the Balkans have been on the rise, meanwhile, raising questions about whether it will be the next theater in Moscow's ongoing struggle against Western power and unity. After all, stoking tensions in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia offers the Russian government a convenient means to increase its influence and further distract the West.

Rattling Sabers in Serbia

Since the end of the Cold War, Serbia, unlike many of its Western-leaning neighbors, has stayed in the middle of the Russia-West dynamic. The country has drawn on its cultural and religious bonds to Russia to keep a strong relationship with Moscow while also pursuing membership in the European Union. Over the past two years, however, Russia's influence in Serbia has grown noticeably. The number of Russian media outlets and nongovernmental organizations in the country has jumped from fewer than a dozen to more than 100 since 2015, according to the Belgrade-based Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies. The Kremlin's two main news networks, Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today), have both begun offering television programming, online news and radio broadcasts in Serbian. In addition, Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta prints Nedeljnik, a widely read weekly, in Moscow before delivering it to Serbia. The publications make frequent use of anti-Western rhetoric, for instance through references to NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia and Moscow's support for Belgrade during that conflict. And the strategy seems to be working: A poll conducted in February by Serbian weekly Vreme indicated that some 68 percent of Serbs prefer relations with Russia to ties with the European Union.

At the same time, Russia and Serbia have flaunted their military connections in recent months. A Russian plane carrying 40 metric tons of food, clothing and medical supplies from Serbia set off for Syria in October 2016. The following month, the Russian and Belarusian militaries held drills in Serbia to coincide with NATO exercises just across the border in Montenegro. The government in Belgrade, moreover, will receive six Mikoyan Mig-29 fighter jets and dozens of tanks and combat vehicles in the next few weeks as a gift from Moscow, which has also offered to sell it the Buk anti-aircraft missile systems. (The equipment will be a welcome update to the Soviet technology that the Serbian military still relies on.)

Much of this saber rattling is political theater meant to appeal to Serbia's nationalist voters ahead of the April 2 presidential election. But beneath Belgrade's politicking runs an undercurrent of tension between the country and its neighboring states — particularly Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not acknowledge. The two almost fell into conflict in January when Kosovo's government deployed special police forces to stop a train headed from Belgrade to the state's northern territory, home to mostly Kosovar Serbs, and emblazoned with the phrase "Kosovo is Serbia" in 21 languages. Responding to the incident, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci accused Serbia of attempting to use the "Crimean model" to take over the northern part of his country. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, meanwhile, telephoned his Russian counterpart to ask for support, sparking fears that a new war was nigh.
How to Create a Crisis

Now that Kosovo is once again flirting with the idea of transforming its lightly armed security force into a bona fide army, relations between the two states are coming under further strain. The United States and its fellow NATO members have threatened to rescind their support and protection for Kosovo if it follows through with the plan. Even so, Thaci sent a draft law approving a regular army to the legislature during the week of March 20, citing Serbia's recent military deals with Russia and Belgrade's influence in northern Kosovo as grounds for the measure. The Kosovar government in Pristina is concerned that between the European Union's internal divisions and the new administration in Washington, the West won't have the time or attention to devote to keeping the nine-year-old sovereign state safe. And if tensions continue to mount between Kosovo and Serbia, Russia could use them to engineer a full-blown crisis down the line. 

In fact, Moscow is currently facing allegations that it tried to do just that in Montenegro. The country's government has accused Russian security forces of plotting to assassinate Milo Djukanovic, then the prime minister, just before parliamentary elections in October in an effort to thwart its bid for NATO membership. Russia's former deputy military attache to Poland, who was ejected from Warsaw in 2014 for espionage, organized the plan, according to Montenegro's chief special prosecutor. Adding to the intrigue, Djukanovic said Moscow poured money into the country's parliamentary campaigns in the runup to the elections. Serbia detained and deported a group of Russians accused of planning the coup in the weeks after the vote, and another 21 suspects were arrested in Montenegro. Moscow, for its part, has denied involvement in the plot and accused the country's government of falsifying events to cast it in a negative light. Regardless, a prospective new election in 2018 could give Russia another opportunity to sow seeds of discord in Montenegro's fragile government.
A Referendum on Russia's Influence?

A vote in Bosnia-Herzegovina's Republika Srpska, likewise, could give Moscow a chance to increase its sway there. The republic's president, Milorad Dodik, has called for a referendum next year on the independence of Republika Srpska, which is home primarily to Orthodox Serbs. (The proposal recalls the independence vote that Crimea held just before Russia annexed it.) Dodik, who first suggested the referendum during his campaign for the presidency in 2014, has made no secret of his ties to the Kremlin. Two weeks before the presidential vote, he traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin, and on election day itself, he liaised with Russian ultranationalist and propagandist Konstantin Malofeev at a posh hotel after casting his ballot. Malofeev is an agent of Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov; together, the two have reportedly organized and funded referendums in Ukraine's restive Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. What's more, he arrived at the election day meeting with a group of Russian Cossacks later seen walking the streets near polling sites.

Dodik managed only a slim victory in the vote, limiting the amount of clout Russia has in Bosnia-Herzegovina through him. Nevertheless, more and more Russian media has been creeping into the country over the Serbian border for the past two years to spread Moscow's word. Though voters in Republika Srpska are divided over the issue of secession, the Kremlin's media campaigns will likely ramp up as the possible referendum approaches, perhaps igniting one of the largest political powder kegs in the Balkans today.
Disseminating Disinformation

The mostly Slavic state of Macedonia is already in the thick of a Russian disinformation campaign. Russia's Foreign Ministry has accused the European Union and United States of supporting separatist movements among the inherently fragile country's Albanian minority, which makes up 25 percent of the population. Over the past few weeks, Macedonians have taken to the streets to protest Macedonian Albanians' demands for their own government. Moscow is stoking the unrest, claiming that the West is supporting calls for the creation of a so-called Greater Albania. According to a Stratfor source, the German and Austrian embassies in the country are trying to counter Russia's propaganda, as is the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Even so, recent polls show that most Macedonians would sooner turn to Russia for help in the future than to the West because they doubt Western governments' commitment. (Indeed, Washington is reportedly planning to cut funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, creating a vacuum in the Macedonian media for Russia to fill.)

Although the instability in Macedonia pales in comparison with that in Kosovo or Republika Srpska, the situation there offers yet another example of Russia's activities in the Balkans. Of course, not all states in the region have accepted Moscow's advances: Croatia, a member of the European Union as well as NATO, has actively worked to keep Russian or pro-Russian media from spreading inside its borders, according to a Stratfor source. A fellow NATO member, Albania, has also attempted to resist Russia's influence as the Kremlin's media outlets have expanded their coverage to include Albanian-language services. Still, the campaigns are sure to continue. For Moscow, meddling in the Balkans is a low-cost and high-yield endeavor. The Russian government has no illusions that it will be able to win the Balkan countries over to its side. Instead, it views the region as a hornet's nest. By stirring it up, Moscow could create a series of crises too deep for the European Union or NATO to contain, thereby giving it another card to play in its negotiations with the West.
Title: US-- Russia-- Europe in the aftermath of the Trump visit
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 28, 2017, 08:27:17 PM

Title: Russian covert ops and Sistema?!?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 29, 2017, 11:47:18 AM
Not quite sure what to make of this , , ,
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: ccp on May 29, 2017, 02:50:14 PM
CIA could recruit stick fighters as counter intelligence  8-)
Title: Macron warns Putin
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 29, 2017, 08:31:18 PM
Russia has committed many terrible war crimes in Syria.  I am quite fine with Macron showing some spine.
Title: Re: Macron warns Putin
Post by: G M on May 29, 2017, 08:36:21 PM
Russia has committed many terrible war crimes in Syria.  I am quite fine with Macron showing some spine.

I'm sure Putin took him very seriously.  :roll:
Title: NATO's essential minnows
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 14, 2017, 11:31:05 PM
Though I disagree with the article's challenge to the importance of the 2% minimum for the minnows-- think of it as having skin in the game/a show of will and commitment-- this article has a number of intelligent observations.
Title: Re: NATO's essential minnows
Post by: G M on June 15, 2017, 07:05:59 AM
Though I disagree with the article's challenge to the importance of the 2% minimum for the minnows-- think of it as having skin in the game/a show of will and commitment-- this article has a number of intelligent observations.

Why protect people who won't protect themselves? Who sneer at us every chance they get? Who are allowing themselves to be swallowed by islam anyway?
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 15, 2017, 07:36:30 AM

I read the article to be talking about Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia-- aren't they paying their 2%?
Title: Re: Russia-- Europe
Post by: G M on June 15, 2017, 07:43:19 AM

I read the article to be talking about Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia-- aren't they paying their 2%?

I was thinking primarily about Norway.
Title: President Trump in Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2017, 10:55:14 AM
Title: Nord Stream II Russian Gas Pipeline
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2017, 12:11:27 PM

EU: Energy Meeting Tackles the Thorny Issue of Ties With Russia

    Regions & Countries



Once again, energy ties with Russia have become a source of controversy in the European Union. On July 25, representatives from member states gathered in Brussels to discuss their joint energy strategy at a meeting chaired by the Estonian government. Estonia currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and is interested in diversifying the union's energy sources and reducing its dependence on Russian natural gas.

One of the thorny dilemmas under discussion at the meeting was the future of the Nord Stream II pipeline project, which would transport additional natural gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, bypassing Eastern Europe. The pipeline is controversial in Europe, and 13 EU members recently protested the project, arguing that it would increase European dependence on Russian natural gas. To make things more complex, the offshore section of the pipeline lies outside the jurisdiction of the union's set of energy sector rules, known as the Third Energy Package, thus putting the project in uncertain legal territory.

In June, the European Commission asked member states for authorization to negotiate the pipeline project on their behalf, and though the move is backed by countries such as Poland, Estonia and Denmark, it puts Germany in an awkward position. Despite Berlin being one of the main proponents of a hard line on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, it is also one of the main supporters of Nord Stream II. Defenders of the project argue that as long as the European energy market is well-integrated, Russia's dominance will be mitigated, because Moscow will be unable to single out individual nations as it has done in the past. And while the Nord Stream II project would transport gas to countries other than Germany, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Berlin’s position as the European Union’s main political player means it must decide whether or not to use its influence to push ahead with the project. If it does, Germany risks alienating countries in Central and Eastern Europe and deepening east-west frictions within the union.

To further complicate matters, the July 25 meeting took place as the U.S. Congress prepared to approve additional sanctions against Russia, which would allow for the discretionary application of financial sanctions on any firm taking part in any Russian pipeline project. While the European Commission said on July 24 that it was ready to take the issue to the World Trade Organization, or even consider the introduction of countersanctions, the bloc remains divided on the issue.
Title: Stratfor on US sanctions bill
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2017, 05:51:48 PM
U.S. Congressional Sanctions Carry Consequences Beyond Russia
Sanctions legislation in Congress not only could increase tensions with Moscow and block President Donald Trump from easing or lifting sanctions against Russia, but the package also could complicate relations with some European allies.
(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)


    Regions & Countries


Stratfor's geopolitical guidance provides insight on what we're watching out for in the week ahead.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on July 25 that would place new sanctions on Russia and also put a check on President Donald Trump's ability to remove sanctions that are already in place. The 419-3 vote in the House came three days after congressional leaders reached an agreement on the heavily debated bill, which includes sanctions language on North Korea and Iran as well. The compromise sanctions package now moves to the Senate, where a previous version passed overwhelmingly in June.

The key elements of the sanctions bill include the following:

    The congressional review mechanism on removing sanctions or the application of sanctions remains intact. If the president wants to remove sanctions against Russia, he must submit a report to Congress citing his rationale for doing so and the effect it would have on U.S. national security interests. The House and Senate would have 30 days to either agree with the president or block him. That decision could be vetoed by the president, but Congress could override him with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.
    The financial sanctions on certain Russian energy companies that limit U.S. persons and firms from dealing in certain maturities of debt now covers all debt with a maturity length of over 60 days rather than 90 days.
    A provision, also in the previous Senate version of the bill, that could lead to a ban on investing in Russian sovereign debt.
    The sanctions preventing U.S. persons and companies from participating in Russian Arctic offshore, deepwater and shale oil projects have been changed. U.S. persons and companies will now not be allowed to work in any new Arctic offshore, deepwater or shale project globally where certain Russian energy companies have either a controlling stake or a "substantial" minority stake defined to be 33 percent or higher.
    The bill now makes it mandatory rather than optional for the United States to impose sanctions on foreign firms that are investing in or helping Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale projects in the Russian Federation or its exclusive economic zone. The president can waive these sanctions if it's in the U.S. national security interest to do so. Europe essentially has the same sanctions, but the European Commission gave waivers to companies that had existing blocks (like Eni's Black Sea and Arctic offshore projects).
    The optional sanctions on firms helping develop Russian energy export pipelines, such as the German companies involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, also remain.

The package thus adds considerable congressional oversight on Trump in the application of sanctions and makes several restrictive changes to the energy-related components of the sanctions. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said July 23 that the Trump administration was "able to work with the House and Senate, and the administration is happy with the ability to do that and make those changes that were necessary," adding that "we support where the legislation is now." This statement appears to indicate that Trump will sign the sanctions package once the Senate passes it, possibly before Congress breaks for its August recess. Given the strong support the bill has on both sides of the aisle in both chambers, should the president reject the bill, his veto would likely be overridden.

The compromise bill is likely to add considerably to the tensions between Moscow and Washington at a time when Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are still reaching for low-hanging fruit — such as a resolution to the seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States — to set the U.S.-Russia relationship on a conciliatory track. Russia has said that it views the new sanctions "extremely negatively" but that it will reserve its judgment until the official details of the sanctions are made clear, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating "we have heard certain adjustments and will wait with patience when this position is worded clearly."

Assuming the bill's language remains unchanged from its current form and it is signed by Trump, Russia could seek to retaliate against the United States in various ways. Russia could increase its own economic restrictions against the United States, for example, or ratchet up pressure against the United States in any number of theaters. One primary theater would be Ukraine, where Russia can drive separatists to escalate fighting in Donbas as a means to pressure Kiev and its Western backers. Indeed, a recent spike in fighting and a proposal by a rebel leader to form a new "Malorossiya" state could be seen as signals of Moscow's displeasure with the negotiation process. Another primary theater would be in Syria, where Russia can back out of a recently introduced cease-fire agreement with the United States and play more of a spoiler role against Western-backed rebel forces in the long-running conflict.

Russia also has been building ties in other, secondary theaters as a means to increase its leverage with the United States in their ongoing negotiation process. In Venezuela, where a long-simmering political crisis has the potential to accelerate in light of growing signs that the United States could impose sanctions against state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela, Russia has been increasingly involved in asylum negotiations for embattled President Nicolas Maduro. In North Korea, Russia has been building economic and energy ties to the country, just as the United States has been preparing a sanctions vote over North Korea's missile tests in the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has veto power. And in Afghanistan, Russia has been building diplomatic and potential security ties with the Taliban, just as the United States has been working to increase its military presence in the country.

Russia is not the only power concerned about the proposed U.S. sanctions. The European Union also has reacted negatively, given that its energy operations would be affected by the sanctions. The European Commission warned of "wide and indiscriminate" unintended consequences, while countries such as Germany have threatened to retaliate against the United States if the sanctions affect projects like Nord Stream 2. The mandatory secondary sanctions are essentially the same sanctions that Europe has in place, but Europe gave waivers to companies that had existing blocks — like Eni's Black Sea and Arctic offshore projects — and this is where things could get complicated. If the United States, for example, decides to apply secondary sanctions on Italy's Eni, which plans to start drilling in the Black Sea this summer, then Italy will object. Italy's biggest course of action could be asking the European Union to restart an age-old debate around the international legality of U.S. secondary sanctions, which could include bringing it up to the World Trade Organization. According to one internal memo within the European Commission, if the sanctions are enacted, Europe will respond "within days." Thus the congressional sanctions legislation not only is likely to worsen the standoff between the United States and Russia, but it also will complicate ties between the United States and EU countries affected by the energy-related sanctions.
Title: Russian military maneuvers in Belarus
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 01, 2017, 01:44:16 PM
Russia is planning several days of military maneuvers in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, The New York Times reported Aug. 1. Estimates of the numbers of troops likely to be involved in the September exercises range from 13,000 — according to Russia — to as many as 100,000. The drills have been planned for several months and are not a direct reaction to threats of new U.S. economic sanctions. The Kremlin is trying to reach an understanding with the West over Russia's sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.



By Orde F. Kittrie
July 31, 2017 7:05 p.m. ET

The U.S. spends heavily to defend Europe, yet most North Atlantic Treaty Organization members don’t spend 2% of their GDP on defense, as the alliance’s guidelines call for. Worse, many of these free riders also punish U.S. companies for manufacturing weapons used by the Pentagon to defend NATO allies and other countries. Specifically, several NATO member governments have divested from or even criminalized the purchase of stock in U.S. defense contractors.

Between 2005 and 2013 Norway’s government pension fund divested from U.S. defense contractors such as Boeing , Honeywell , Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman “because they are involved in production of nuclear weapons.” The fund, controlled by Norway’s Finance Ministry, is worth some $900 billion. At the end of 2015, approximately $180 billion was invested in 2,099 American companies.

Norway, a NATO member, divested even though these companies produce nuclear weapons only for the U.S. government, and NATO’s 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review describes U.S. nuclear weapons as “the supreme guarantee” of members’ security. The hypocrisy goes further: In 2016 Norway authorized its pension fund to invest in Iranian government bonds—even though Iran has sponsored terrorism for decades and is a patron of Bashar Assad’s atrocities in Syria.

So far only Norway has divested from companies for producing nuclear weapons. But the government pension funds of Denmark, France and the Netherlands have joined Norway in divesting from American companies that produce other weapons stocked by the U.S. military. These countries have targeted General Dynamics , Raytheon and Textron for manufacturing cluster munitions and land mines, in some cases after production reportedly has stopped.

Six European countries—NATO members Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain, plus nonmember Liechtenstein—make it illegal for their nationals to invest in companies that produce cluster munitions or land mines. In Switzerland, citizens can be imprisoned for five years for direct and indirect financing, including stock purchases, of companies that manufacture nuclear weapons, cluster munitions or land mines.

While these weapons often pose a threat to civilians even after conflicts end, the U.S. government deems them necessary. The Obama administration acknowledged in 2014 that land mines are needed to protect South Korea. The State Department has long said the elimination of cluster munitions “from U.S. stockpiles would put the lives of its soldiers and those of its coalition partners at risk.”

Many NATO governments joined the 2008 international treaty to ban cluster munitions and the 1997 agreement to forbid land mines. Boycotts targeting companies producing these weapons derive from expansive interpretations of particular provisions in these accords. Both treaties say that “never under any circumstances” will a country “assist, encourage, or induce” anyone to engage in activities such as the development or production of the banned weapons.

The treaty banning nuclear weapons, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on July 7, includes similar language. Many of the 122 governments that voted for the nuclear treaty will likely divest from and criminalize purchase of stock in nuclear-weapons manufacturers. No NATO government supported the nuclear ban treaty. Yet Norway’s divestment from stock in nuclear-weapons manufacturers shows the fervor generated by movements against disfavored weapons can spur such boycotts even if a country ultimately doesn’t support the treaty.

The danger of European economic warfare against Israel—including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement—deservedly has received considerable attention. In contrast, European economic warfare against U.S. companies for implementing U.S. government policy has avoided the spotlight and elicited virtually no response from Washington. This must change. The targeted U.S. firms together employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. For allied governments to penalize such companies for filling U.S. government orders is unacceptable. It could even increase costs to the U.S. taxpayer, who ultimately would pay extra legal or financing costs associated with producing these weapons.

If left unchecked, this problem will grow. Norway’s pension fund has divested from Wal-Mart , America’s largest employer, for “serious violations of human rights,” according to the fund’s website. The fund has also divested from two U.K. companies for producing Britain’s nuclear arsenal and one Israeli company for involvement with Israel’s antiterrorism fence.

Congress and the executive branch should spotlight, and vigorously oppose, ally and partner government boycotts that target the defense industrial base of the U.S. and key allies such as Israel and the U.K. Governments must know that such boycotts, if continued, will subject them and their companies to commensurate penalties.

Mr. Kittrie, a law professor at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is author of “Lawfare: Law as a Weapon of War” (Oxford, 2016).
Title: what is trump thinking?
Post by: ccp on August 02, 2017, 05:54:54 AM
Can anyone think of ANYTHING that Trump could be thinking in "restoring relations with Russia".
since when has the US ever been close to Russia?
And how could we be?  What is god's name is Trump thinking?
Title: Good job DJT
Post by: ccp on August 02, 2017, 08:23:30 AM

not that this would SHUT CNN up for even two seconds
Title: GPF: The Russian Alternative for Germany
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 16, 2017, 08:43:46 AM

Oct. 16, 2017 Either through alliance or conquest, Russia is an alternative to the U.S. and EU.

By George Friedman

Last week, a delegation of executives from major German corporations met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such delegations are unremarkable. Sometimes they travel together to meet with foreign leaders. It is sometimes routine, sometimes a courtesy. But occasionally, it has significance. In the case of Russia-Germany relations, such meetings are always potentially significant.

Unsteady Relations

There are two relationships that are central to Germany. One is with the European Union, the other is with the United States. Neither relationship is stable right now. Brexit, the Spanish crisis, German feuding with Poland and the unsolved economic problems of southern Europe are tearing at the fabric of the European Union. The Germans and the EU apparatus claim that none of these threaten the fundamental health of the bloc, and point to the fact that, almost a decade after 2008, Europe appears to be achieving very modest economic growth.

The Germans, of course, know the dangers that lie ahead, even if Brussels does not. Many of the EU’s problems are political, not economic. Poland and Germany have butted heads over the tension between the right to national self-determination and EU rules. This is also what Brexit was about. Spain is locked in a dispute over the nature of a nation and the right of a region to secede, while the EU considers what role it should play in the domestic matters of a member state. And although southern Europe’s problems are economic, the fact that Europe has eked out minimal growth means neither that such growth is sustainable nor that the growth rate comes close to solving the Continent’s deep structural problems. As the de facto leader of the EU, Germany has to appear confident while considering the implications of failure.

The German relationship with the United States is at least as unsettled – and not just because of President Donald Trump’s personality. The strategic and economic situation in Europe has changed dramatically since the early 1990s – when the Soviet Union fell, Germany reunified and the all-important Maastricht treaty was signed – but Germany’s structural relationship with the U.S. has not. Both are members of NATO, but they have radically different views of its mission and its economics. Germany has the world’s fourth-largest economy, but its financial contribution to NATO doesn’t reflect that.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends a meeting in Sochi on Oct. 12, 2017, with heads of German companies. Chairman of the Management Board of METRO AG Olaf Koch is seen in the background. MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images

Then there is Russia. The American policy toward Russia has hardened since the Democratic Party adopted an intense anti-Russia stance following the presidential election – more intense even than that of the Republican Party, which has always been uneasy with Russia. The Ukraine crisis continues to fester while U.S. troops are deployed in the Baltics, Poland and Romania. This has widened rifts within the EU. Germany isn’t interested in a second Cold War; Eastern Europe believes it’s already in one. The Eastern Europeans are increasingly alienated from the Germans on the issue and more closely aligned with the Americans. At a time when German relations with key Eastern European countries are being tested, the added strain of U.S. policy in the region is a threat to German interests. Germany wants the Russia problem to subside. The U.S. and its Eastern European allies think the way to accomplish that is through confrontation.

A Most Dangerous Option

Germany’s foreign policy has remained roughly the same since 1991, even as the international reality has changed dramatically. This is forcing Germany toward a decision it doesn’t want to make. But it must consider what happens if the EU continues to disintegrate and if European foreign policy and politics continue to diverge from its own. It must consider what happens if the U.S. continues to shape the dynamics of Europe in such a way that Germany will have to confront American enemies with it, or refuse to do so. This isn’t just about Russia – we can see the same issue over Iran.

Germany can’t exist without stable economic partners. Never has it been self-sufficient since it reunified. It must explore alternatives. The most obvious alternative for Germany has always been Russia, either through alliance or conquest. Germany needs Russian raw materials. It also needs the Russian market to be far more robust than it is so that it can buy more German goods. But Russia is incapable of rapid economic development without outside help, and with the collapse of oil prices, it needs rapid development to stabilize its economy. Germany needs Russia’s economy to succeed, and what it has to offer Russia is capital, technology and management. In exchange, Russia can offer raw materials and a workforce. An alignment with Russia could settle Eastern Europe in Germany’s orbit. With the way things are going, and given Germany’s alternatives, the Russian option is expensive but potentially very profitable.

But Germany has a problem with Russia. Every previous attempt at alignment or conquest has failed. Building up the Russian economy to create a robust market for German goods would certainly benefit both countries, but it would also shift the balance of power in Europe. Right now, Germany is militarily weak and economically strong. Russia is moderately powerful militarily and economically weak. An alignment with Germany could dramatically strengthen Russia’s economy, and with it, its military power. Having moved away from the United States and de-emphasized military power in the rest of the European peninsula, Germany could find itself in its old position: vulnerable to Russian power, but without allies against Russia.

The corporate chiefs’ trip to Russia is not a groundbreaking event, nor does it mark a serious shift in German policy. But it is part of an ongoing process. As the international reality shifts from what Germany needs, Germany must find another path. In the short term, the United States is vulnerable to a cyclical recession, and hostility toward Germany is increasing in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. China is facing internal challenges of its own. There are few other options than Russia, and Russia is historically a most dangerous option for Germany.
Title: Poland offers to pay for US military base
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 29, 2018, 10:33:38 AM
Title: Trump colludes in the Baltics
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 17, 2018, 12:55:18 PM
Title: WSJ: Trump's NATO progress
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 09, 2018, 11:19:42 AM

By The Editorial Board
July 8, 2018 6:22 p.m. ET

President Trump will attend a summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization national leaders this week, and the stakes are unusually high for everyone. He plans to meet Vladimir Putin shortly afterward, and Mr. Trump will be at a disadvantage if he doesn’t set the right tone in Brussels.

That tone should be a united front between America and its allies, within a NATO committed to and capable of deterring new threats. This doesn’t mean Washington must always avoid raising uncomfortable truths within the alliance. It does mean Mr. Trump should recognize how NATO benefits America, and how it can help him avoid the diplomatic traps into which his predecessor fell.
Foreign Edition Podcast
NATO Summit Preview; Merkel's Migration Compromise

The good news is that Mr. Trump is doing better on this score than many of the pearl-clutchers among foreign-policy worthies will admit. He has taken a particularly aggressive stance on defense spending among NATO members, most recently in a series of testy letters reportedly sent to other national leaders. Allies have pledged to spend at least 2% of GDP, a promise they repeated at the 2014 Wales summit. Mr. Trump is continuing a long tradition of bipartisan frustration in Washington when they don’t meet that pledge.

But Mr. Trump should also give credit where it’s due, especially when he can claim part of the credit for success. Inflation-adjusted defense spending among non-U.S. NATO members has increased each year since 2014, and at an accelerating rate that likely will deliver the largest annual spending growth since the Cold War this year. More than half of NATO’s 29 members are on track to meet their 2% pledge by 2024, compared to four or five in a typical year before 2014. Mr. Trump’s win here is keeping up the pressure for more burden sharing as memories of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea fade.

NATO also is making important progress on the capabilities that new money buys. Since 2015 the alliance has ramped up investment in a spearhead force capable of deploying up to 5,000 troops to trouble spots within 48 hours. Now the challenge is how to mobilize larger forces if needed, and Mr. Trump has an opportunity to lead real progress.

Defense ministers last month signed off on a new “four 30s” commitment—that by 2020 NATO Allies should be able to deploy 30 troop battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 warships within 30 days. By encouraging his peers to give this plan their final endorsement, Mr. Trump can signal that the alliance is committed to being an effective deterrent.

Movements of troops across borders within NATO can still face considerable legal and bureaucratic obstacles, and cutting this red tape requires cooperation from defense ministries and interior ministries across Europe. In addition to his focus on spending, Mr. Trump could help America and the alliance by demanding firm commitments to fix this problem, perhaps with a deadline.

All of this would help Mr. Trump as he prepares to face off with Mr. Putin. The weakness in Mr. Trump’s NATO diplomacy so far, and it’s a big one, has been his willingness to denigrate the alliance, even to the point of suggesting America might withdraw from it.

Maybe that’s meant to scare other members into meeting their financial commitments, but when Mr. Putin hears the same comments they sound like a weak and fracturing West. His strategic goal is to crack the alliance so he can have a freer hand to dominate Eastern Europe and reassemble at least a de facto version of Greater Russia. He could then use his military leverage to influence diplomatic and economic decisions across Europe.

Mr. Putin snatched Crimea and invaded Ukraine because he learned over time that President Obama had no stomach for confrontation. Mr. Trump presumably isn’t eager to be humiliated in similar fashion. That is more likely to happen if he agrees to ease sanctions in return for Russian promises of good behavior, even as Mr. Putin concludes that NATO would struggle to respond to harassment of its eastern members.

Ronald Reagan knew better. His successful diplomacy with Moscow—which ended the Cold War—started with a strong commitment to Europe and friendly relations with Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Schmidt and then Helmut Kohl. His model of a willingness to negotiate, but only from a position of strength, can serve Mr. Trump well. A start will be to talk up, and expand on, NATO’s progress while renewing his commitment to the alliance.
Title: Russia/US-- Europe, More on that pipeline NS2
Post by: DougMacG on July 12, 2018, 08:12:17 AM
The Economist 2017
German Russian Pipeline smells funny to America

[Also Putin's pipeline
How reliant is Europe on Russian Gas, The Economist 2014]
Germany’s Russian gas pipeline smells funny to America
Angela Merkel says Nord Stream 2 is no one’s business but Germany’s
Jun 22nd 2017
LIKE vinyl records and popped collars, rows between the United States and Europe over Russian energy are making a comeback. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan’s attempts to thwart a Soviet pipeline that would bring Siberian gas to Europe irritated the West Germans and drove the French to proclaim the end of the transatlantic alliance. The cast of characters has shifted a little today, but many of the arguments are the same. In Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a proposed Russian gas pipeline, Germany sees a respectable project that will cut energy costs and lock in secure supplies. American politicians (and the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe) detect a Kremlin plot to deepen Europe’s addiction to cheap Russian gas. They decry German spinelessness.

NS2, which its backers hope will come online at the end of 2019, would supply gas directly from Russia’s Baltic coast to the German port of Greifswald, doubling the capacity of Nord Stream 1, an existing line. Its defenders, including a consortium of five European firms that will cover half its cost of €9.5bn ($10.6bn), say that it will help plug a projected gap between Europe’s stable demand for gas and declining production in the Netherlands and North Sea. Germany’s government, especially the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the junior coalition partner, shares this view. (Gerhard Schröder, a former SPD chancellor of Germany, chairs NS2’s board.) Some Germans quietly hope that NS2 could transform their country into a European energy hub.

Such arguments strike sceptics—countries like Poland and the Baltic states, energy experts at the European Commission, foreign-policy hawks and a handful of German renegades—as myopic. NS2, they say, might lower fees for Germans but raises them for eastern Europeans further down the chain. It undermines the European Union’s stated aim to diversify its sources of energy (Russia accounts for 34% of the EU’s overall gas market, but far more in some countries). It allows Gazprom, the Kremlin-backed energy giant, to bypass existing pipelines in Ukraine, depriving the Ukrainians of lucrative transit fees. By squeezing existing supply routes, NS2 might also leave Ukraine obliged to negotiate cap-in-hand with its arch-enemy (Kiev has not imported gas directly from Gazprom since 2015). Gazprom has proved willing to wage energy wars before. Why contribute to its arsenal?

To this fiery brew has now been added America’s toxic Russia politics. Earlier this month the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would, among other things, allow the Treasury to slap sanctions on foreign companies that invest in Russian pipelines. (The bill is not yet law: it awaits debate in the House of Representatives, and Donald Trump has yet to opine on its merits.) The move spooked Europe’s firms and enraged some of its politicians. “Europe’s energy supply is Europe’s business, not that of the United States of America,” thundered Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and Austria’s chancellor, Christian Kern, in a joint statement. The pair were particularly incensed that the bill included a call to increase American exports of liquefied natural gas, implying that blocking Russian gas was partly an effort to help American energy companies. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, let it be known that she supported her minister.

The timing of the Senate bill is awful. On June 26th the EU’s 28 governments will begin debating whether to allow the European Commission to negotiate the terms of NS2 directly with Russia. Mrs Merkel argues that EU institutions have no business intruding in a purely commercial enterprise. But countries like Sweden and Denmark, which must grant environmental permits if the project is to proceed, want the commission to get involved so that they are not left alone to stare down the Kremlin. Foes of NS2, like Poland, think bringing in the commission might be a way to slow the project down. The discussion will be a fascinating test of Germany’s ability to sway opinion inside the European club.

Don’t look back to Angie

For observers who see Mrs Merkel as Vladimir Putin’s main European adversary, her stance is perhaps the biggest puzzle. The chancellor helps broker negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Against domestic and foreign opposition, she has held the line on the EU’s sanctions against Russia over its land grabs. Her strategy looked like a textbook case of European leadership, placing German interests to one side for the greater cause of EU unity and resistance to outside aggressors.

But the chancellor’s tacit yet clear support for NS2 suggests that a correction may be in order. Her commitment to Ukraine is not in doubt, and she is infuriated by Mr Putin’s lies. But Germany has never accepted the mantle of European or global leadership that so many would like to thrust upon it, especially when it comes to the politics of energy. Outsiders should not be surprised to see it behave like any other European country favouring its own consumers and firms (two of the five companies investing in NS2 are German). American intervention may only strengthen Germany’s resolve to protect its commercial interests.

Those hoping to slow NS2 would do better to look to Brussels. The commission will be happy to smother the pipeline in bureaucracy, should the EU’s governments give it a chance. Its legal brains say that EU energy law does not apply to offshore pipelines outside the internal market. But the commission dislikes NS2 and distrusts Gazprom, which it thinks abuses market dominance. “If Gazprom was Statoil [Norway’s national energy firm], we wouldn’t have a problem,” says one official.

So NS2 may yet be asked to obey parts of EU law, including third-party access to the pipeline and transparency on pricing. Ukrainian anxieties might be allayed by insisting that Gazprom commit to maintaining supply through existing pipelines after 2019, when the current contract expires. This might ease fears that NS2 will leave parts of Europe in hock to the Russians for decades to come. But before then a thousand things can go wrong.
Title: Russia/US/Germany: Ukraine's POV on the gas pipeline
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 13, 2018, 08:48:21 AM
Title: Stratfor: NATO
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 13, 2018, 09:01:24 AM
With the world transfixed by the high-visibility spat between U.S. President Donald Trump and other NATO leaders about defense spending in the alliance, less attention was paid to the significant agreements struck by members during the latest summit. These agreements include the following:

    One of the most notable of the summit's achievements is the agreement to improve the readiness of NATO forces. Known as the "Four Thirties" plan, the agreement envisions having 30 additional major naval ships, 30 heavy or medium maneuver army battalions, and 30 air squadrons, with enabling forces, ready for combat within 30 days. This was a key U.S. initiative going into the summit, with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in particular emphasizing this effort to enhance NATO's overall rapid response force.
    Building on the recent setup of NATO's Atlantic and logistics commands, as well as its Multinational Division North East, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia signed into life the new Multinational Division North, with Canada, Great Britain and Lithuania on board as "contributing countries." Scheduled to reach initial operational capability in early 2019, this regional command will better focus NATO's defense of the Baltics.
    NATO also agreed to establish a Cyberspace Operations Center in Belgium to better coordinate the alliance's cyber defenses.

All of these initiatives highlight how NATO continues to make progress on improving its overall combat readiness, as well as continues to emphasize the potential for a conflict with Russia. An enhanced readiness force will allow NATO to quickly respond to a Russian attack, and the new Baltic multinational division command will cover one of the most important fronts with Russia. With Russia increasingly leveraging its cyber capabilities, the Cyberspace Operations Center is representative of how NATO is moving to put a priority on its ability to respond to Moscow's cyber operations.
Title: Re: Stratfor: NATO
Post by: DougMacG on July 13, 2018, 11:11:56 AM
"This was a key U.S. initiative going into the summit, with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in particular emphasizing this effort to enhance NATO's overall rapid response force."

We haven't heard Mattis' name much while we had shiny objects turnover in so many other areas.  It probably means he is doing his job and has won the President's confidence.  This is a big accomplishment, committing these countries to defense and readiness.
Title: Spengler: NATO's problem is that Euro won't fight.
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 14, 2018, 04:56:28 PM
Title: Re: Spengler: NATO's problem is that Euro won't fight.
Post by: G M on July 14, 2018, 05:32:48 PM

They can’t be bothered to interfere with the muzzie rape gangs roaming their cities. We should pull out and let them go to their fate.
Title: Glick: A glimpse of Europe's true face
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 14, 2018, 09:22:27 PM
Title: Proposal to move US troops from Germany to Poland
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 15, 2018, 05:12:48 PM
Title: Re: Proposal to move US troops from Germany to Poland
Post by: G M on July 15, 2018, 07:09:22 PM

We should.

I wonder if German Hillary every thinks about her status as the second worst German leader in history.

Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 15, 2018, 08:32:22 PM
The logic is there viz the Germans, but what consequences viz our dealings with the Russians (cyber, Syria/Iran, Ukraine, elsewhere)?
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: G M on July 16, 2018, 05:59:00 AM
The logic is there viz the Germans, but what consequences viz our dealings with the Russians (cyber, Syria/Iran, Ukraine, elsewhere)?

Poland is an actual friend, Germany is not. Protect your friends.
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: DougMacG on July 16, 2018, 08:23:34 AM
The logic is there viz the Germans, but what consequences viz our dealings with the Russians (cyber, Syria/Iran, Ukraine, elsewhere)?

Poland is an actual friend, Germany is not. Protect your friends.

The main threat of Russian aggression would tend to be in the Balkans. Poland is much closer. Better ABM location. Friendlier to the US. More effective overall and probably less expensive.

The objection to the Russian gas pipeline is real. Why defend a country in bed with the threat. A waste of our resources.
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: rickn on July 16, 2018, 04:45:39 PM
Today, Trump said that the collusion claims between Russia and his campaign have impeded current Russia-US relations.  The media reports it as the entire Mueller investigation has impeded current US-Russia relations.  No.  Just the collusion narrative.

Trump's statement about giving him a reason to believe his DNI assessment or Putin's claim of denial struck me as saying that neither side has proven themselves to be more credible than the other.  Especially when federal government investigators never seized Clinton's servers but relied upon a third party assessment of the intrusions allegedly made on it by Russian GRU agents.  For defense lawyers, there would be a huge chain of custody issue here since the government would be presenting hearsay evidence about what intrusions occurred on that server instead of the best evidence itself, the server itself.

The "both sides have caused relations to deteriorate is true."  What was the US involvement in the orange uprising in Ukraine in 2004?  What was the US involvement in the 2014 events in Ukraine that caused a change in government there? 

This does not mean that Putin is a good guy or a victim.  He isn't.  But it does mean that when you are trying to thaw diplomatic relations, you don't stand up there and berate your opponent in public. 

Nor does this mean that Trump himself spoke in a classically diplomatic way.  He did not. 

It should be noted that Putin received nothing from the US at Helsinki other than a promise to talk some more.  They did not even get a lousy reset button this time.
Title: Russia, Germany, Ukraine, and Russian geopolitical use of pipelines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 18, 2018, 09:24:33 AM
Title: GPF
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 19, 2018, 08:53:21 AM
GPF Staff |August 18, 2018
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A four-way summit with Germany, France, Russia and Turkey may soon take place. And it appears that their opposition to U.S. policy is a major reason it will be held. Advisers are already planning to hold preparatory talks, confirming statements made earlier by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany on Saturday for informal talks over the Ukraine conflict, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, Turkey’s finance minister and his French counterpart agreed over the phone to jointly confront U.S. sanctions against Turkey. Delegations from the two countries will meet later this month to discuss further economic cooperation options.

Poland has renewed calls for a permanent U.S. military presence in the country. The most recent request was made by President Andrzej Duda. If the U.S. is going to favor bilateral defense ties over multilateral ones, then engaging Eastern Europe, especially Poland, makes a lot of sense. The region is flanked by Germany and Russia, and though they don’t see eye to eye on everything, they still share a lot of interests, especially in response to some recent U.S. policies. This puts Poland in an uncomfortable position, hence its calls to the U.S. military. Washington has yet to respond.
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 19, 2018, 10:10:38 PM
U.S. Opposition to Pipeline Hangs Over Meeting Between Putin and Merkel
Sanctions could be used to stop completion of Nord Stream 2 pipeline amid concerns it would heighten Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas
A vessel laying pipe for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea near Lubmin, Germany, on Thursday. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
By Bojan Pancevski in Meseberg, Germany and
Emre Peker in Brussels
Updated Aug. 18, 2018 2:42 p.m. ET

As President Vladimir Putin met with Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday to try to safeguard a controversial Russian-German gas pipeline, the U.S. wasn’t present but it could have a big say in the outcome.

The U.S. has in hand a package of sanctions that could be used to try to stop completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is already in its advanced stages, by targeting companies, and potentially financial firms, involved in its construction. Current and former U.S. officials said such sanctions had been discussed and could be mobilized in a matter of weeks, though they added that no action was imminent.

The pipeline, a key issue in the two leader’s talks, would channel natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The project is being developed by Russian state-controlled gas-exporting monopoly Gazprom , along with European companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC , Wintershall AG, Uniper SE , OMV AG and Engie SA .

“Together with German partners we are working on the new natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, which will complete the European gas transport system, minimize the transit risks, and secure the growing consumption in Europe,” Mr. Putin said at a joint press statement with Ms. Merkel before the start of the meeting.

But consecutive U.S. administrations have long opposed the pipeline, which would run alongside an existing one, over concerns that it would increase Europe’s already-high dependence on Russian natural gas and give the Kremlin political leverage and substantial revenues.

Gas Spat

Germany-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline would double direct Russian gas imports, as President Trump accuses Berlin of being "captive to Russia."


Nord Stream (existing)


Nord Stream 2 (planned)

Narva Bay












100 miles



100 km

Source: Nord Stream 2

U.S. opposition to the project escalated after Russia was accused of interfering in the 2016 election and as the Trump administration grew increasingly skeptical that internal resistance within Europe would stop the plan, officials said.

In August 2017, Congress gave President Trump power to impose sanctions on companies and individuals working on the pipeline following revelations of Russian interference in the U.S. election, a power several U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal would now be used to try to block the project.

One U.S. official said work on the measures was being finalized between the White House and the State, Commerce and Energy Departments.

The official said the only decision left before enforcing the sanctions was whether to levy them only on the companies that would lay the pipes in the Baltic Sea, or to extend them to banks and other firms involved in financing the pipeline. Washington would give the European Union advanced warning before enforcing the sanctions, this person added.

German officials have countered that Western countries had been buying Russian natural gas at the height of the Cold War. One aide to Ms. Merkel said the U.S. push was motivated by Mr. Trump’s desire to sell more U.S. liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Europe.

The EU in late July pledged to ramp up U.S. LNG purchases as part of an effort to de-escalate trans-Atlantic trade tensions, triggered by Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs on European producers.

A spokesman for Ms. Merkel declined to comment on the possibility of U.S. sanctions against the pipeline. A Nord Stream 2 representative also declined to comment, saying the company wasn’t informed about the Trump administration plans.

A White House spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We have been clear that firms working in the Russian energy export-pipeline sector are engaging in a line of business that carries sanctions risk,” said Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany. U.S. and German officials said Mr. Grenell has raised the issue repeatedly since arriving in Berlin in May.

Mr. Trump himself has been scathing in public about the project and brought it up in his bilateral meetings with Ms. Merkel, according to officials on both sides.

One concern about the pipeline is that it could make it easier for Russia to stop delivering natural gas via Ukraine after Gazprom’s transit contract expires at the end of 2019. The country, which has been locked in a bitter conflict with Moscow since Russian troops seized part of its territory in 2014, currently acts as a transit country for Russian natural-gas exports to the EU and levies a fee on this trade.

Ms. Merkel had hoped that assurances by Mr. Putin to continue channeling a substantial amount through Ukraine even after Nord Stream 2 comes online would placate the U.S.

“In my view Ukraine must retain its role in the transit of gas,” Ms. Merkel said on Saturday.

Mr. Putin reiterated his pledge but emphasized that the transit volume would need to suit economic demand. Ukrainian officials have complained that once Nord Stream 2 is built, demand for transit via their country would drop.

A U.S. official said Washington was chiefly concerned with curbing Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas, which the Kremlin has used in the past as a means to pressure recipient nations.

“Russian influence will flow through that pipeline right into Europe, and that is what we are going to prevent,” the U.S. official said.

The original Nord Stream pipeline came online in 2011 with a capacity to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year through its German terminal on the Baltic Sea coast. It delivered a record 51 billion cubic meters last year. Nord Stream 2, set to go online next year, would double this capacity.

A European energy executive familiar with the discussions said company representatives had told John McCarrick, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, that the five European companies and Gazprom had already provided €5.5 billion ($6.3 billion) in financing and the project wouldn’t be stopped even if the U.S. were to impose sanctions.

Other issues the two leaders said they would discuss included Iran, Ukraine and the situation in Syria. Mr. Putin, whose country is involved in the conflict on the side of President Bashar al Assad, said that it was important to provide economic support for the rebuilding of Syria.

Germany hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, but Berlin officials said that they were wary of providing economic support for Mr. Assad’s regime without a political agreement on the country’s future.

Mr. Putin arrived at the meeting at the government‘s guest house in Meseberg after attending the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl at a countryside estate in the province of Styria, where he was pictured dancing with the bride. He also brought a Cossack choir.

—Tim Puko and Ian Talley in Washington and Ann M. Simmons in Moscow contributed to this article.
Title: Stratfor: The US threatens Russia over missiles
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 02, 2018, 10:09:09 AM
By George Friedman
The US Threatens Russia Over Missiles
Washington claims Moscow violated an arms control treaty.

The United States has threatened to pre-emptively strike Russian missiles aimed at Europe. Its stated justification is that the missiles in question are medium range and thus in violation of a 1987 anti-missile treaty. They were initially singled out in the treaty because they could be rapidly prepared for launch and arrive on target with minimal or no warning time. That meant that it could knock out European retaliatory capability, undermining the deterrent effect of Europe-based systems.
Washington’s ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said the U.S. remained committed to finding a diplomatic solution but was prepared to consider a military strike if Russian development of the medium-range system continued. She made it clear that the onus of diplomacy would fall on Washington’s European allies. Presumably, this means Germany, which has a somewhat functional relationship with Russia. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would address the issue with his NATO counterparts tomorrow.

The U.S. has expressed concern about these missiles before, but this is the first time it has threatened to destroy them. It’s unclear what a pre-emptive strike would involve, but it’s safe to assume Russia would consider it an act of provocation and could escalate conflict accordingly.

Our initial reaction is that it is a test of NATO. Most of the U.S. comments appear to be directed not at Russia but at its European allies, many of which, Washington believes, have been overly permissive about Russian missiles. If NATO is content to allow what the U.S. claims are violations of a Russian treaty commitment, then it says a lot about NATO. The U.S. has made military action contingent on the failure of the diplomatic route. And here, the U.S. expects the Europeans to take the lead. In a sense, the U.S. is trying to force Europe to take this seriously. And it’s reminding its allies that it won’t shrink from unilateral action, however unlikely the prospect may be.
Russia’s intentions are difficult to parse. The threat posed by these missiles does change the balance of power in Europe somewhat. Russia seemed to think that apart from the expected rhetoric from the U.S., and absent anachronized notions of nuclear deterrence, nothing would happen. From the American point of view, a treaty violation is significant. But the incident raises perhaps an even more important question: If the Russians see the nuclear balance as archaic and threats to Europe as outmoded, then why is it deploying this missile? The development of the missile likely indicates that the Russians do not see this as archaic. For the U.S., threatening to strike the Russian sites is meant to galvanize the Europeans and drive home the fact that in geopolitics, nothing is archaic.
Title: Big NATO exercises in Norway
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 25, 2018, 08:39:16 PM
OSLO  Military forces from 31 countries began NATO's largest exercise in decades, stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland, on Thursday, practicing military manoeuvres close to Russia, which itself held a huge military drill last month.

As temperatures fell below freezing across training grounds in central Norway, giving a taste of what it means to defend NATO's vast northern flank, some 50,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 10,000 tanks, trucks and other land-based vehicles were ready.

"Forces are in position, they are integrating and starting combat enhancement training for major battlefield operations over the next two weeks," Colonel Eystein Kvarving at Norway's Joint Headquarters told Reuters.

Dubbed Trident Juncture, the exercise is by far the biggest in Norway since the early 1980s, a sign that the alliance wants to sharpen its defences after years of cost cuts and far-flung combat missions.

Increasingly concerned about Russia since it annexed Crimea in 2014, Norway has sought to double the number of U.S. Marines receiving training on its soil every year, a move criticized by Moscow.

Russia last month held its biggest manoeuvres since 1981, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), mobilising 300,000 troops in a show of force close to China's border which included joint drills with the Chinese and Mongolian armies.

NATO's war games were originally meant to involve 35,000 troops, but the number grew in recent months and included the late addition of an aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman with some 6,000 personnel.

NATO fears Russia's military build-up in the region could ultimately restrict naval forces' ability to navigate freely, and on Oct. 19 the Truman became the first American aircraft carrier to enter the Arctic Circle since before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Although a solid majority of Norwegians support membership of NATO, whose secretary general is former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, some parties on the left would prefer that the country quit the alliance and form some type of military cooperation arrangement with its Nordic neighbours.

"The effect of this activity will increase the tension between Norway and Russia," Socialist member of parliament Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes said of the exercise, adding that the presence of an aircraft carrier caused particular concern.

"You have to be quite hawkish to view this as something that brings peace in any way," he told Reuters.
Title: GPF: Sailing by the Bear
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 06, 2018, 06:02:30 PM
Sailing by the bear. The United States has conducted a freedom of navigation operation near the Sea of Japan to challenge Russian maritime claims there. Though these kinds of operations are routinely used to counter Chinese claims in the Western Pacific, this was the first one directed at Russia since 1987. Soon after, the U.S. notified Turkey of its intent to sail a warship through the Bosporus and Dardanelles into the Black Sea, presumably in response to Russia’s recent seizure of Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. (Notifying Turkey is required under the 1936 Montreux Convention.) The U.S. and Turkey may be at odds on issues such as the Kurds and the Syrian war, but mutual enemies have a way of bringing countries together. Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Russia in and around the Black Sea, will likely welcome this show of force by the U.S.
Title: US Ambassador Grennell: Germany, take a stand against Nord Stream 2
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 16, 2018, 11:07:44 PM

Germans, Take a Stand Against Nord Stream 2
The pipeline project would aggravate dependence on Russia, harming European states’ national security.
By Richard A. Grenell
Dec. 16, 2018 3:21 p.m. ET
A vessel lays concrete-coated pipe for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline near Lubmin, Germany, Aug. 16.
A vessel lays concrete-coated pipe for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline near Lubmin, Germany, Aug. 16. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images


Russia’s recent aggression in the Sea of Azov reminds us of the need for vigilance against Vladimir Putin’s malign activities. The U.S. and Germany have responded by strongly condemning Moscow’s blockade of the Kerch Strait, a clear violation of international law. While we appreciate Germany’s support for European solidarity, action should be taken to show Russia that its aggressions have consequences.

With this in mind, we ask Berlin to join the chorus of nations that view Gazprom ’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project for what it is—an affront to Europe’s energy and national-security goals.

Russia’s actions highlight the danger of giving Moscow more sway over Germany’s energy supply. In 2017 Germans imported more than 50% of their natural gas from Russia. If Nord Stream 2 is built, bypassing our Eastern European allies, it is bound to increase Germany’s reliance on Russia even further. Russian influence would flow through the pipeline along with gas.

And what would flow the other way? Billions of euros that would support Moscow’s destabilizing foreign policy, including its increasingly aggressive posture along NATO’s eastern flank. We hope Germany pursues other supply options that would drive a competitive natural-gas market, rather than help Mr. Putin dominate the market.

If built, Nord Stream 2 and a second line of TurkStream would allow Russian gas to bypass Ukraine and undermine its security. That’s clearly what Mr. Putin wants. Nord Stream 2 would open the door to increased aggression against Kiev, since Moscow would no longer have to worry about how its activities could affect its gas sales to Western Europe. The Ukrainian government would also lose billions in essential gas-transit income—a sum roughly equivalent to Kiev’s entire defense budget. We welcome the commitment of Germany’s chancellor to ensure that gas delivery through Ukraine will continue. Unfortunately, time and again Russia has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to uphold its promises or its contractual obligations.

Ukraine has no greater friend than the U.S. in the face of continued Russian aggression. Europe should send Moscow that clear message, too. The U.S. will continue its decades of strong support for the European goal of energy security through diversification. The latest Russian provocations show how urgent this effort is. Many German policy leaders already recognize this reality. Leading Bundestag members from the Christian Democratic Union and Green Party have called for a restriction on Russian gas imports to Germany. That would be a step in the right direction.

Germany has made tireless efforts to resolve tensions between Russia and Ukraine through diplomacy. Now it is uniquely placed to use its political and economic clout to hold Russia accountable for its actions. By taking a tough stance through action on Nord Stream 2, Germans can show that they stand in solidarity with Ukraine and the rest of Europe, and that Mr. Putin won’t get away with continued aggression.

Mr. Grenell is U.S. ambassador to Germany.
Title: Trump baffles the New Yorker with his Euro policy
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 17, 2018, 01:00:24 PM
Title: Stratfor: Update on Nord Stream 2
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 08, 2019, 01:29:38 PM
EU: Germany Might Take the Lead in Negotiations With Russia on Nord Stream 2

The Big Picture

After years of Russia manipulating natural gas supplies to Europe for its political ends, the European Union began fighting back through legal mechanisms. But while it revolutionized its onshore pipeline rules in the Third Energy Package, the bloc did not set rules for offshore pipelines, which have come into the spotlight with Nord Stream 2. Now, following much debate, the European Union appears to have figured out how to oversee them — and Germany couldn't be happier.

What Happened

The Council of the European Union on Feb. 8 approved new rules on offshore energy pipelines originating in non-EU member states. The European Parliament will now consider the Franco-German compromise measure, which assigns negotiating authority over pipeline rules and exemptions to the country where the duct's first interconnector is located.

Why It Matters

If passed, the measure would give Germany negotiating power with regard to Nord Stream 2, a 55 billion-cubic-meter (bcm) pipeline connecting Russia and Germany across the Baltic Sea. Berlin has long supported the pipeline, arguing it is not a political project but an economic one. This has not sat well among Eastern and Central European states such as Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia, which stand to lose lucrative transit contracts for Russian natural gas traversing their territory on the way to Germany via older, onshore pipelines. Eastern and Central European countries also fear Russia would be more likely to halt shipments of natural gas to them for political ends, since Nord Stream 2 would lessen the impact of such cutoffs on customers further downstream, like Germany.

Even if Germany ultimately receives negotiating power, the project would still have to surmount many legal and economic challenges before it becomes a reality.

If Berlin takes over negotiations regarding Nord Stream 2 with Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly, the pipeline would likely win EU approval. In the process, Germany would demand pro-competition concessions like requirements that Gazprom sell an allotment of the natural gas on spot market exchanges. This would force Gazprom to compete on the open market, promoting the EU goal of moving away from long-term oil-indexed prices and contracts. Brussels, however, would still play a strong role in the regulation of onshore pipelines connecting to Nord Stream 2, meaning that, even if Germany ultimately receives negotiating power, the project would still have to surmount many legal and economic challenges before it becomes a reality.


Central and Eastern European countries aren't the only ones opposed to Nord Stream 2. The United States also takes a dim view of the project on the grounds that it would increase European dependence on Russian natural gas and make it far easier for Russia to cut off gas to Ukraine to gain leverage over Kiev. The United States has even threatened to sanction companies involved in Nord Stream 2, though it has not done so yet.

This year will also be crucial for talks between Moscow and Kiev on natural gas contracts at large. The transit contract between Russia and Ukraine, the main conduit for Russian gas to Europe at present, expires at the end of 2019. Russia and Gazprom have been open to signing a new contract, but various leaks and statements have suggested that Russia is considering a new transit deal offering only 10 bcm to 15 bcm per year, far below the 87 bcm of Russian gas that transited Ukraine on the way to the European Union and Moldova in 2018. The precipitous decline likely stems from Russia's expectation that it will be able to bypass those countries and cut straight to EU markets.

In public announcements and talks with Moscow in 2018, Berlin began to link the Nord Stream 2 project to the Ukrainian transit issue. If Germany becomes lead negotiator on Nord Stream 2, it could well make rules on supplies and volumes contingent on Russia's continued use of the Ukrainian route (in addition to Nord Stream 2), and a new transit contract between Moscow and Kiev. The issue is likely to come up during the next round of trilateral gas talks featuring the European Union, Ukraine and Russia in May, as well as subsequent meetings.
Title: GPF: US-- Central Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2019, 11:10:38 AM
The U.S. in Central Europe. During a trip to Hungary, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Washington would try to re-engage with Central and Eastern Europe to prevent the region from building closer ties to China and Russia. Pompeo also warned of the risks of building networks using Chinese tech firm Huawei’s equipment and said cooperation with countries that have a strong Huawei presence could stall. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto responded by saying suggestions that Hungary was too friendly with Moscow and Beijing were an example of the West’s “enormous hypocrisy,” adding that cooperation with Russia didn’t prevent Hungary from being a reliable U.S. partner and NATO member. Despite the somewhat contentious exchange, Pompeo and Szijjarto agreed on a defense cooperation agreement that will allow the U.S. military greater freedom to move through Hungary and could increase Hungary’s purchase of U.S. arms. Pompeo is on a tour through Central and Eastern Europe that will also include visits to Poland and Slovakia
Title: GPF: US-Germany, Huawei & 5G
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 12, 2019, 10:40:23 AM
Huawei headaches. In the latest drama surrounding Chinese tech giant Huawei, Washington raised the possibility of limiting intelligence sharing with Berlin if Germany were to use Huawei in the construction of its 5G network. This comes after German officials said there was no evidence to justify a ban on the company. The issue adds to the list of topics the U.S. and Germany do not see eye to eye on. The threat of changes in intelligence sharing must be taken seriously. Germany needs whatever help it can get to bolster its domestic security as foreign fighters make their way back to Europe. And the issue could have an impact on NATO cooperation. The organization is already on rocky ground, and restricting or downgrading intelligence sharing between two leading members would only further weaken the alliance.
Title: Poland-US discussing deal to station US troops
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 13, 2019, 03:15:05 PM
Title: Re: GPF: US-Germany, Huawei & 5G
Post by: G M on March 13, 2019, 07:45:13 PM
Time to leave Germany.

Huawei headaches. In the latest drama surrounding Chinese tech giant Huawei, Washington raised the possibility of limiting intelligence sharing with Berlin if Germany were to use Huawei in the construction of its 5G network. This comes after German officials said there was no evidence to justify a ban on the company. The issue adds to the list of topics the U.S. and Germany do not see eye to eye on. The threat of changes in intelligence sharing must be taken seriously. Germany needs whatever help it can get to bolster its domestic security as foreign fighters make their way back to Europe. And the issue could have an impact on NATO cooperation. The organization is already on rocky ground, and restricting or downgrading intelligence sharing between two leading members would only further weaken the alliance.
Title: GPF: Italy, China & the BRI, and America
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 18, 2019, 04:33:48 PM
March 18, 2019
By Jacob L. Shapiro

Italy Signs Up for the Belt and Road Initiative

Rome’s decision has provoked stern but ultimately empty U.S. warnings.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been making significant inroads in Europe despite repeated U.S. warnings to its European allies. On March 8, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed that Italy would become the 17th European country to join BRI. According to Conte, Italy will sign a memorandum of understanding during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Rome later this week. Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that Luxembourg is also in advanced negotiations with China to sign a similar agreement.

(click to enlarge)

Washington was quick to respond to Conte’s remarks. The day after his announcement, the U.S. National Security Council took to Twitter to express its displeasure, warning that Italy’s participation in BRI would “bring no benefits to the Italian people.” The Italian government is also facing backlash from its own foreign policy establishment, at least some of which is aghast at the potential sale of the cornerstone of Italian strategy since 1945 – strong relations with the U.S. – for the low price of unspecified amounts of Chinese capital to build infrastructure.

MOUs are nonbinding and generally full of unrealistic aspirations rather than concrete plans. Still, the deeper problem is that Italy is counting on the U.S. to buy significant amounts of Italian debt in 2019. This is especially crucial for Italy since the European Central Bank concluded its bond-buying program in December. If the U.S. decided to voice its displeasure by, say, encouraging investors to eschew buying Italian debt, it could increase Italian borrowing costs at a time when the country is already in recession and its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio is at 133 percent. At least on the surface, Italy appears to be risking an awful lot for an awful little.

Why, then, would it be willing to make such a move? Thus far, U.S. warnings against cooperating with China have been more bark than bite. Stalwart U.S. allies such as Poland, New Zealand and Israel have also signed MOUs on BRI with little consequence. Even France and the European Commission have appeared open to cooperation with China on BRI projects in various joint declarations. Italy is debt-ridden and cash-starved, and if China is willing to throw some money its way, Italy has every reason to accept it. It’s taking a calculated risk, but considering U.S. reactions to other MOUs, it’s not an especially dangerous one.

For China, Italy’s participation in BRI is an insignificant though welcome step toward its much broader strategic ambitions. China’s success in this long-term endeavor will not be determined by the endorsement of a single country, even one as important as Italy. The broader project is to connect the entire Eurasian landmass via ports, roads and rail. Even if successful – and that’s a big if – it will be many decades before such infrastructure can be built let alone pay dividends. It will also take a lot more than MOUs for such a plan to work.

Many have described BRI as a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan. But it’s a faulty comparison because it misunderstands the scope and goals of both projects. The Marshall Plan’s aim was to rebuild Western Europe so it could hold the line against the Soviet Union. In trying to reorient Eurasia away from the Western Hemisphere and toward the Middle Kingdom, BRI is entirely different in scope. The United States would never have contemplated a Eurasian-wide Marshall Plan because it would have laid the groundwork for precisely the type of power the U.S. has been obsessed with thwarting for over two centuries.

As overly ambitious as China’s larger strategic goal may be, it is precisely that strategic aim that so irks the United States. While it doesn’t particularly care if China builds a port in Italy or high-speed rail in Poland, it does care about the potential emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia. Whether it’s China or some other power bridging the Eurasian landmass, the threat to the United States is the same. Being able to seamlessly connect markets from Shanghai to Lisbon would hamper the United States’ ability to prevent the rise of a Eurasian hegemon or a Eurasia less dependent on Washington’s support and approval.

There’s just one small problem with China’s plan: It would be nearly impossible to execute. China doesn’t possess the levels of financial and political capital needed to complete such a project. Even if it did, it would face tremendous political challenges in implementation. Many great powers have dreamed of ruling Eurasia. They have all been thwarted by Eurasia’s tremendous diversity. China’s vision of two continents stitched together by shared economic interests is wildly idealistic because not everything is about shared economic interests. Consider the European Union, and the level of discord in that multilateral organization despite its immense wealth. China has promoted the idea that Eurasian countries should cooperate to build a more prosperous and stable Eurasia. It’s a noble idea, but the promise of infrastructure spending will not be enough to encourage countries as varied as Italy, Iran and Uzbekistan to work together to build a Chinese-led Eurasian order.

Even if China’s ultimate aim to link Eurasia is more dream than reality, BRI is still potentially problematic because China’s ability to convince countries to sign MOUs undermines U.S. relationships throughout the world. The United States' insistence that its allies reject BRI funds or Huawei 5G equipment falls on deaf ears because the United States hasn’t offered any compelling alternatives. The U.S. built and sustained a global world order based on maximum freedom and independence for all actors. Countries that agreed to play by U.S. rules gained unfettered access to trade and protection from potential adversaries. At its best, the system is largely non-coercive and works in the interests of its stakeholders. But it wasn’t envisioned as a kind of American empire, in which an American emperor could direct countries not to buy the best technology available because the U.S. didn’t like who was making it. Indeed, in 1945, the U.S. was interested in destroying empires, not building one of its own.

When the U.S. takes such a heavy-handed approach on issues like BRI and 5G, it plays directly into China’s hands because such is the behavior of an empire. The aspect of U.S. policy that is most attractive to most countries is precisely how hands-off U.S. foreign policy is. The U.S. has no desire to dominate Eurasia – it simply wants to make sure no one else does. China, with its authoritarian system and historical preference for social stability over the protection of individual rights, does have an interest in dominating Eurasia, not to mention a history of conquering vast swaths of it. That’s why, at a political level, even a country as distant as Italy can’t seriously contemplate an alliance with China. Accepting investment is one thing, but Italy isn’t about to seek to replace a system that has sustained it through the most united and profitable period in Italian history since the Roman Empire.

The only thing that could really push countries like Italy and Poland into China’s waiting arms is if the U.S. breaches the rules of its own system and, in doing so, harms the national interests of those who participate in it. The U.S. is insisting other countries ban Huawei technology or not sign BRI MOUs, without providing better, or at least comparable, alternatives. If the best the U.S. can do in these situations is threaten to impose tariffs or other economic penalties, it is indicative of the kind of sclerotic self-righteousness that often appears when global superpowers either take power for granted or fail to maintain their relative advantages. Six years after China announced the Belt and Road Initiative, the U.S. response is to send angry tweets. That is far more of a boon to Chinese strategy than any MOU could ever be.
Title: US-- Poland vs. Russia for defending Baltics
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 29, 2019, 05:11:00 PM
Title: US-Poland, Fort Trump, and demands for reparations
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 16, 2019, 08:12:26 AM
Title: Gertz on russian sub accident
Post by: ccp on July 11, 2019, 05:34:08 AM
Title: Russian warship enters Ukrainian gunfire exercise area
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 12, 2019, 05:33:06 AM
Title: GPF: Russia preparing Ukranian invasion?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 30, 2019, 09:35:11 AM

Charges of Russian aggression. In an interview with Obozrevatel, a member of Ukraine’s top brass said he suspects Russia is preparing a large-scale military operation against Ukraine. Lt. Gen. Vasily Bogdan said powerful Russian military units – including more than 200,000 troops backed by rocket artillery, missiles and electronic warfare systems – are concentrated on the Russia-Ukraine border. On top of this, the Ukrainian Military Portal reported that, starting July 24, Russia blocked off five zones in the Black Sea totaling nearly 119,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) – more than a quarter of the sea’s total area. The zones closed off international shipping routes to Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine, effectively cutting off these countries’ sea access. Russia said the closures, which are scheduled to continue through Aug. 19, were for “combat training” and other navigational purposes.
Title: recent context of recent explosion in Russia
Post by: ccp on August 14, 2019, 09:09:47 AM
in the "New"

Cold War:

19 minute part 1

Title: part two phoney russian hoax
Post by: ccp on August 14, 2019, 09:18:35 AM
stephen Cohen
a good listen
(even if this is his wife : Katrina vanden Heuvel)

Dr Cohen thinks it began in the CIA not FBI under Obama Administration -  and is largest scandal in American history (the MSM completely ignoring unlike when they had a Republican president in their crosshairs):

~ 21 minutes

I would be shocked if we will find out ever.  let alone before the election
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe nuclear Monitoring stations went silent after explosion
Post by: DougMacG on August 19, 2019, 03:56:51 AM

"communication and network errors"
Title: GPF: Russia-Serbia
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 24, 2019, 09:57:16 AM
Russia and Serbia get cozier. While most of Europe’s political leaders have been busy lambasting French President Emmanuel Macron for blocking North Macedonia’s and Albania’s bids to join the European Union, a much bigger country in the Western Balkans has been pulling away from Brussels’ sphere of influence. Last month, Russian troops trained their Serbian counterparts on the use of Russia’s S-400 air defense system during a joint air defense exercise in southern Serbia. On Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that it had airlifted the S-400 and battery of short-range Pantsir-S1 missile systems to Serbia for phase two of those same exercises, known as Slavic Shield. The Serbian military is due to receive a shipment of Pantsir-S1s, and Serbian politicians have discussed purchasing S-400s as well. In addition, the two countries are scheduled on Friday to sign an agreement creating a free trade area between Serbia and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. The European Commission has repeatedly warned Belgrade, which began accession negotiations with the EU in 2014, that it cannot be a member of both economic unions. But Serbia’s government has proceeded undeterred; President Aleksandar Vucic told the Financial Times this week that Brussels’ decision on Western Balkan expansion vindicated his approach.
Title: GPF: Exploring the Eastern Flank of the Euro War Theater
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 25, 2019, 12:06:23 PM
    Exploring the Eastern Flank of the European War Theater
By: Jacek Bartosiak

It is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that Russia’s foreign policy, which aims to reestablish dominance in the region, is supported by a military policy meant to ensure its security at the expense of its neighbors. Indeed, Moscow has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to do so. Over the past few years alone, Russia has reconstituted so-called “strike armies” that had been defunct since the end of the Cold War.

These strike armies have been deployed to mostly to Russia’s west in a clear attempt to intimidate the countries on NATO’s eastern flank. And while they have not yet been battle tested, they appear capable: Joint strategic command staff exercises in recent years show that they can operate on a front stretching from the Baltics to the Sea of Azov, an area comprising the entire Intermarium.
(click to enlarge)

Yet the main focus of Russian military posturing is on preventing NATO from enlarging its eastward power projection toward the Russian heartland. It’s a tall order, considering that for more than 30 years the U.S. has relied on supremacy in four of five domains of warfare – land, sea, air, space and information. U.S. dominance in this regard has been a function of seamless air-ground operations as land forces have increasingly depended on other domain capabilities to enable freedom of action on the ground. Russia’s military modernization efforts are meant to achieve parity on these fronts.

With the change in the contemporary warfighting technology and geography in Central and Eastern Europe, ground forces might now be required to provide freedom of action to other domains by eliminating the enemy’s land-based anti-air, space, maritime and cyber capabilities. This is a novel situation for the (thus far) superior U.S. forces that enjoy “artillery support” of F-16s and other tactical aircraft. The so-called Air-Land Battle Concept, which was the foundation of U.S. capabilities in Europe, has been undermined by advancements in Russian anti-access/area denial, electromagnetic and cyber warfare capabilities. Put simply, if allied units can be detected electronically, they can be hit, destroyed, disrupted or spoofed.

Power projection now matters again. The U.S. must deploy and sustain itself over contested lines of communication to deter or counter Russia deep into the European Peninsula to reach Poland and the Baltic States. The problem is that United States lacks the ability to project power in sufficient quantity within the required time frames if opposed by a peer or near-peer enemy. Turns out, old military doctrines weren’t enough to defeat the new generation of Russian warfare – at least not as quickly or as cheaply as the United States would prefer.

Washington’s answer has been to demonstrate credible warfighting capability to deter Russians by denial and to be postured to fight and win if deterrence by denial fails. This new operational concept, called Multi-Domain Battle, marries capabilities as part of a joint team to create temporary windows of superiority across multiple domains and throughout the depth of the battlefield in order to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative; defeat enemies; and achieve military objectives. Time will tell how this concept transforms the European battlefield.

Far from the Atlantic coast and from the rimlands of Central and Eastern Europe is a different set of parameters for executing war, a place where Continental wars were waged for European domination. There are pivotal areas in in this theater that are critically important to sustain proper and credible military posture. I will explore them in detail in Part 2 of this article.   

Title: German back stab of Poland going through
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 30, 2019, 01:34:14 PM
Title: Stratfor: Belarus: a barometer between Russia and the West
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 31, 2019, 12:33:11 PM

Belarus: A Barometer Between Russia and the West
Eugene Chausovsky
Eugene Chausovsky
Senior Eurasia Analyst, Stratfor
Oct 31, 2019 | 09:00 GMT. The country is trying to stake out a place between Russia and the West.


The collapse of the INF Treaty and Russia and NATO's military buildups are increasing pressure on countries in the European borderlands, especially Belarus.

Belarus has leveraged its strategic location to act as a mediator between the two sides, but its small size and geographic exposure present more risks than benefits for Minsk.

Rather than solve the intractable tensions between Russia and the West, Minsk will provide an indication of the scale and intensity of issues like the conflict in Ukraine and the future of arms control.

The warning could hardly be starker: "Mankind is moving to the brink of the abyss," Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko said earlier this month in an address to international officials and experts at the Minsk Dialogue Forum. "The confrontation between Russia and the West is at its highest level; in a couple of minutes, the stage of nuclear war can be reached." For Belarus, the standoff between Russia and the West is especially worrisome, given its position sandwiched between the two powers at a time when the recent collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty eliminates some of the safeguards preventing nuclear proliferation. What's more, both NATO and Russia are conducting military buildups in Belarus' immediate vicinity in countries such as Lithuania and Poland. Against that backdrop, Belarus is uniquely placed to show which way the breeze is blowing in the standoff between Russia and the West — even if its geopolitical position means those winds are destined to present some turbulence.

The Big Picture

As the standoff between Russia and the West intensifies, Belarus is becoming increasingly embroiled in it. In this, the small but strategic country is providing a barometer regarding the prospects for the Moscow-West standoff.

Aspirations Vs. Reality

Lukashenko's sentiments might be somewhat exaggerated, but they nevertheless reflect the sense of alarm in Belarus. The worries also loomed large at the forum, which — uniquely for other gatherings in the region — brought together representatives from Russia, the United States, the European Union, former Soviet countries and China on Oct. 7-8 with the explicit goal of finding workable solutions to regional security issues. As in past editions, this gathering took place in a "dialogue" format, in which the organizers of panels on issues like arms control and Ukraine purposefully mixed representatives from different countries so that participants interacted with one another and the broader audience, rather than delivering monologues. Organizers hoped the structure would cultivate an atmosphere generating new ideas and more constructive dialogue — with Lukashenko urging the forum's participants to "get together in a calm, peaceful place, discuss our problems, and work together to resolve them."

In practice, however, the forum largely reinforced the conflicting viewpoints and opposing positions of its participants, particularly where Russia and the United States were concerned. When it came to discussions about the INF, for example, Russian representatives blamed the U.S. withdrawal for the treaty's collapse, while U.S. representatives blamed Russian breaches and a lack of transparency for the INF's undoing. When it came to Ukraine, Russian representatives continuously referred to the conflict as a civil war, whereas U.S. representatives (in concert with the Ukrainians) termed it a war of Russian aggression. From there, the sides presented and repeated accounts of the other's transgressions in detail, illustrating the difficulty of getting Moscow and Washington to even agree on a common frame of reference over the problems that divide them, much less explore possible solutions.

This map shows locations in Poland and Belarus where NATO and Russia could deploy more military forces.

Belarus' Unenviable Position

This is not to condemn Belarus or the forum specifically for any shortcomings; rather, it lays bare the geopolitical realities that are currently in play. The standoff between Russia and the West — and particularly between Moscow and Washington — is a product of deep-seated and conflicting interests, with Russia seeking to pull the states of the former Soviet Union into its sphere of influence, just as the United States and NATO are striving to keep those countries out of Moscow's orbit. When it comes to countries like Ukraine, which is geographically exposed in the European borderlands and caught on the frontlines of the standoff, the conflicting interests can have disastrous consequences.

Belarus desperately seeks to avoid similar consequences. For years, it was a close ally of Russia and, to a certain degree, a pariah in the West, but the Belarusian government changed tack following the Euromaidan uprising in Kyiv and the ensuing conflict in Ukraine, positioning itself as a mediator between Russia and the West and as a country that could work with both sides. This shift had both political and geopolitical motivations — political in that Lukashenko wanted to avoid the fate of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who was forced out by Western-backed protests and an uprising against his rule, and geopolitical in that Belarus wished to prevent the Ukrainian conflict or other proxy wars from spilling onto its soil. Belarus, accordingly, has become a key negotiating site for the conflict in Ukraine (producing the Minsk protocols to pave the way for its diplomatic resolution), while its government has somewhat softened the suppression of its own opposition, earning better ties with the West and prompting the European Union to ease sanctions as a result.

Nevertheless, Belarus has been careful not to stray too far from Russia lest it alienate Moscow; indeed, its strategic alignment with Russia has only deepened in recent years. Despite occasional tiffs between Moscow and Minsk over energy prices and export tariffs, Belarus has remained a loyal member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Moscow-based Collective Security Treaty Organization. Belarus has resisted Russia's efforts to establish an air base on its territory in order to preserve as much autonomy as possible, but it has further integrated with Russia on security matters like joint air defense networks and aircraft purchases. In the meantime, Belarus has expressed deep concern over U.S. military expansion in Poland and, most recently, the deployment of an additional U.S. brigade in Lithuania. Minsk has duly vowed to respond to the buildup, suggesting that Belarus' calculations regarding Russian military deployments in the country could soon change.

In essence, Belarus is trying to maintain a balance between Russia and the West to reduce risks and identify opportunities, while also reaching out to other influential powers, most notably China.

In essence, Belarus is trying to maintain a balance between Russia and the West to reduce risks and identify opportunities, while also reaching out to other influential powers, most notably China. Although the forum concentrated largely on issues of European security, the topic of China was inescapable. From growing security ties between Moscow and Beijing to China's Belt and Road Initiative and China's role in the breakdown of arms-control deals, Chinese activities were a prominent element of virtually all discussions, reflecting the country's growing regional and global clout. Beijing is also important for Minsk specifically, as Belarus is a key hub of the Belt and Road Initiative in Eastern Europe.

It is in this context that Belarus, in general, and the Minsk Dialogue Forum, in particular, provide an important barometer of key geopolitical issues, including the strategic competition among the great powers, huge infrastructural initiatives to connect the continents, as well as the global arms race. Ultimately, given its size and its position among larger and much more powerful neighbors, Belarus cannot take decisive action on such issues on its own. Nevertheless, it has and will continue to use platforms like the forum to shape the conversation among key powers and maneuver in an increasingly complex and contentious environment. As one Belarusian official put it, "Supporting peaceful initiatives in the region is a matter of our survival" — something that reveals Minsk's broader strategy as much as the current geopolitical competition highlights its limitations.
Title: Fiona Hill says Putin says American Fracking is a big threat to Russia
Post by: DougMacG on November 21, 2019, 02:29:31 PM
Congressional testimony:
Title: Re: Putin: American Fracking is a big threat to Russia
Post by: G M on November 21, 2019, 05:16:39 PM
Congressional testimony:

It is, as it is to Iran and other scummy places.
Title: Re: Russia/US Which President is/was Russia's puppet?
Post by: DougMacG on December 02, 2019, 09:43:50 AM
Walter Russell Mead wrote in 2017:

If Trump were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
Blocking oil and gas pipelines
Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
Cutting U.S. military spending
Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran.

Yep. You know who did do these things? Obama. You know who supports these things now? Democrats.

Hat tip, Glenn Reynolds.

Title: GPF: Russia, Belarus, China-- an opening for Trump?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 20, 2019, 12:23:41 PM
December 20, 2019   Open as PDF

    China’s Enigmatic Loan to Belarus
By: Ekaterina Zolotova
Rather than continue drawn-out negotiations for a Russian loan, Belarus on Monday signed an agreement with the China Development Bank for a five-year, $500 million loan. From an economic perspective, this case is of little interest, since Chinese loans are a common practice in the countries of the post-Soviet space, especially if the country is included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. But from a geopolitical perspective, this could be a significant event. Belarus is integral to the balance of power in Eastern Europe, and any disruption or interference can change the behavior of Russia and the West. The thorny question, then, is why China is disturbing this balance with moves that apparently help Belarus to reduce its dependence on Russia – especially just days before an important meeting between the presidents of Russia and Belarus – which is sure to annoy the Kremlin and please the West.
No Strings Attached
The economy of Belarus is not going through the best of times. Changes to Russian tax policy – a so-called tax maneuver – are expected to cost Belarus more than $10 billion by 2024, including a direct hit to the budget of nearly $3.24 billion. (Despite an agreement reached by Moscow and Minsk on a “compensation” scheme for the tax maneuver, Moscow will not return the full amount. Russian subsidies could amount to $1.5 billion.) Moreover, Minsk owes some $3.8 billion in 2020 in foreign loan repayments and interest, and it is looking for ways to refinance previous credit payments without relying on Russia and increasing Russia’s leverage over it. Belarus’ geopolitical strategy hangs on balancing Russian influence with the promise of greater cooperation with Europe. Falling too firmly into the Russian camp would undermine the strategy and put Belarus squarely in Russia’s pocket. One need only look at the recent loan issue for a demonstration of what that might look like. In February, Minsk asked Moscow for $600 million. The Kremlin agreed in April, but it linked the transfer to progress on the integration of the two countries as part of the Union State. (Negotiations on the $200 million seventh tranche of a loan from the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development were also cut short.) So in the summer, because of the lack of progress in negotiations with Russia, the Belarusian Ministry of Finance turned to the China Development Bank for the money.
China and Belarus have recently been interacting more and more intensively. In fact, this is not the first Chinese loan to Belarus. In 2015, the China Development Bank and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus signed a credit agreement worth $700 million. Belarus received from China another approximately $450 million in 2016, $300 million in 2017, and $500 million in 2018. Two other agreements were concluded in April 2019: The China Development Bank provided $110 million to Belarusbank, and the Export-Import Bank of China allocated about $70 million to state-owned Belarusian Railway.
(click to enlarge)
Most of the Chinese loans and investments go to finance joint projects between Belarus and China (like the BelGee automobile assembly plant, the Vitebsk hydroelectric station, the Great Stone industrial park and the Minsk-Gomel high-speed rail project), which significantly increases China's position as an important trading partner for Belarus. In 2018, bilateral trade grew by 17.1 percent, to $3.5 billion, making China Belarus' third-largest trading partner. When Moscow over the past decade restricted Belarusian agricultural products' access to the Russian market, Chinese imports helped pick up the slack. In 2018, for example, as the value of Russia’s imports of Belarusian milk and dairy products fell to $578 million, an approximately 20 percent decline from the previous year, China bought $60 million worth of the same goods – a more than 900 percent increase. China is also giving Belarus a boost in military procurement, which traditionally is Russia’s sphere. The headline project is the joint creation of the Polonez multiple launch rocket system, which could be deployed against tank groups and infantry dispersed over large areas.
Simply put, another Chinese loan to Belarus couldn’t be called unexpected. But this latest loan, unlike the others before it, is unconditional; the funds can go anywhere and are not required to be invested in Chinese projects or used to refinance previous Chinese loans. This is highly unusual for China, whose loans typically fall into one of two categories – soft loans and commercial loans – and which are normally secured or guaranteed by the government of the borrowing country. Previous Chinese loans to Belarus were intended to set up joint projects, with the condition that the Chinese component of the project would be at least 50 percent, or financed state programs with the participation of Chinese partners. For example, funds allocated for the modernization of the railway in Belarus and the purchase of 18 trains immediately went to Chinese suppliers.
Winners and Losers
It isn’t clear yet how Belarus will use the loan, but there are two main possibilities. One is that Minsk could pay off some previous Chinese loans coming due in 2020. In this case, the loan wouldn’t ultimately be a significant deviation from China’s usual practice, in that the funds would return to China. Still, this would serve as a reminder of China’s growing economic influence in Belarus – not to mention a potential Chinese debt trap. The other possibility is that the new loan could be used to refinance loans from Russia. This would be significant in that it would slightly reduce Moscow’s leverage over Minsk. Russia owns about 50 percent of Belarusian foreign debt, amounting to some $7.5 billion to $8 billion out of a total debt of $16.6 billion as of Nov. 1.
In trying to understand why Beijing attached no conditions to this loan, it’s worth considering which countries the loan benefits. The main beneficiaries of a decline in Russian influence over Belarus – aside from Belarus itself – would be Poland and the United States. Neither the U.S. nor the European Union is willing to antagonize the Kremlin by providing credit to Belarus. No such impediment exists for China. Since the U.S. and China are still negotiating a trade agreement, this could be interpreted as a small concession by Beijing as part of the phase-one deal, or it could be linked to sanctions relief for North Korea. But we don’t think that China is interested in driving a wedge between Russia and Belarus to satisfy the United States, particularly since any help to the U.S. in containing Russia only frees up Washington to focus more on containing China.
Of course, it’s also true that Belarus occupies an important geographical position, the last piece needed to link China’s Belt and Road Initiative to Europe. But since China sees Russia as a much more important partner than Belarus, it is not in Beijing’s interest to anger Moscow. The trade turnover between Russia and China is many times that between Belarus and China, plus Russia-China trade has been growing steadily in recent years – by 2.2 percent in 2016 compared to the year before, by 20.8 percent in 2017 and by 27.1 percent in 2018. Russian exports to China in 2018 amounted to $56 billion, while Belarusian exports were worth only $480 million. From January to October 2019, agricultural imports from Russia grew by 12.4 percent in annual terms, and automobile exports from China to Russia grew by more than 66 percent. There’s also the recently inaugurated Power of Siberia gas pipeline, which will increase Chinese reliance on Russian gas.
(click to enlarge)
For now, Belarus can rejoice that it found the additional funds – and on favorable terms, with less politicized conditions. From Minsk’s perspective, the loan will significantly strengthen its negotiating position with Moscow, enabling the country to attain better terms when its president meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to hammer out a deal on energy prices, subsidies and economic integration. The Kremlin, for its part, is unlikely to react to the Chinese loan. But if Moscow starts to suspect ill intentions on the part of Beijing, it will think carefully about how to express its dissatisfaction.   

Title: Walter Russell MeadL Euros try to have it both ways
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 18, 2020, 02:53:22 PM
Europeans Try to Have It Both Ways
They expect American protection but aren’t prepared to defend their own countries.

By Walter Russell Mead
Feb. 17, 2020 4:20 pm ET

How solid is the West? At last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering of security policy makers and officials, the theme was “Westlessness,” referring to the sense of disorientation that many Europeans feel in this age of America First.

Since the 1940s, U.S. leadership in the service of a united and secure Europe has been the one unchanging feature in the Continental landscape. For generations, the U.S. committed to protect Europe from Russia, maintain bases in Germany to prevent it from threatening its neighbors, and promote European integration. Now Europeans don’t know where they stand, and a mixture of bafflement, anger, disappointment and fear fills the atmosphere at conferences like the one in Munich.

There’s little doubt that Trump administration policies, ranging from trade wars to toughness on Iran, have tested trans-Atlantic relations to the breaking point. But to understand the growing weakness of the Western alliance, Europeans need to spend less time deploring Donald Trump and more time looking in the mirror. A good place to begin is with a Pew poll released earlier this month on the state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Superficially, the poll looks like good news. In 14 European countries plus Canada and the U.S., a median 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of NATO, while only 27% saw the alliance unfavorably. Despite double-digit declines in NATO’s favorability among the French and the Germans, these numbers aren’t bad. Mr. Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are all less popular in their home countries than NATO is.

So far, so good—but that support is thin. When asked if their country should go to war with Russia if it attacked a NATO ally, 50% of respondents said no, and only 38% supported honoring their commitment to NATO allies.

Let those numbers sink in. Only 34% of Germans, 25% of Greeks and Italians, 36% of Czechs, 33% of Hungarians and 41% of the French believe their country should fulfill its treaty obligation if another European country is attacked. Only the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Lithuania had a majority in favor of honoring the NATO commitment to mutual defense.

Europeans often contrast the “nationalism” of backward political cultures like Russia, China and the U.S. with their own supposedly enlightened attitude of cosmopolitan solidarity. Yet if these numbers are accurate, Europeans haven’t replaced nationalism with European solidarity. They have replaced nationalism with fantasy: the belief that one can have security and prosperity without a strong defense.

That vision leaves Europe vulnerable, and it is threatening to let the West unravel. European leaders believe they are trading parochial loyalties for higher and broader commitments, when in truth their countries lack the solidarity that makes international order possible. Those who dream that they can have security without the willingness to fight for it are slowly turning NATO into the paper tiger that its enemies hope it will become.

Meanwhile, Europeans still, mostly, trust America. Seventy-five percent of Italians believe the U.S. would rally to NATO’s defense if Russia attacks, as do 63% of Germans and 57% of French. Despite European ambivalence about fulfilling NATO obligations, the alliance is held together by their confidence that America—Mr. Trump’s America—will fulfill its obligations.

Europe’s problem isn’t Mr. Trump. It isn’t nationalism. It isn’t that others aren’t wise or enlightened enough to share Europe’s ideals. It is that too few Europeans stand ready to defend the ideals they claim to embrace. That young Germans no longer dream of fighting and dying to conquer Poland is an excellent thing, but it is a bad and even a dangerous thing that so few young Germans think Europe is important enough to defend and, if necessary, to risk their lives for.

This problem won’t be easy to solve. For many Europeans, the essential purpose of European integration was to end war. For centuries, the restless nationalisms of European peoples plunged the Continent into one wretched war after another. The European Union was meant to bury those national antagonisms and end the cycle of war. To love Europe was to enter a posthistorical age of perpetual peace. For voters who grew up in the European cocoon, the military defense of European ideas sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can you build peace by making war?

In contrast, Americans continue to believe that Europe is worth defending. We must hope that over the next few years more Europeans will come around to that position; otherwise, the prospects for “Westlessness” will only grow.
Title: Defense News: Poland becoming America's key NATO ally
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 24, 2020, 01:03:37 PM
Title: President Trump orders massive troop cut in Germany
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 05, 2020, 03:40:38 PM
Title: WSJ disagrees
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 30, 2020, 09:05:06 AM
Trump’s Spite-Germany Plan
He’ll weaken America’s military posture and get nothing in return.
By The Editorial Board
Updated July 29, 2020 9:02 pm ET

Soldiers of the U.S. Army disembark from an airplane upon their arrival at Poznan Airport in Poznan, Poland, July 16.
Beneath the din of media condemnation, it can be hard to sort the good from the bad in President Trump’s unorthodox foreign policy. Some initiatives scorned by foreign-policy elites have been wise, like pulling out of failing arms accords. Yet the Pentagon’s plan to withdraw almost 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany is far from a stroke of populist genius. It’s a blow to U.S. interests that won’t fulfill the cost-saving objective Mr. Trump claims to be concerned with.

Amid souring relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Trump in June ordered thousands of U.S. troops withdrawn from the country. On Wednesday Secretary of Defense Mark Esper sketched out the plan. He said the U.S. will cut its troop presence in Germany to 24,000 from 36,000, with some 5,600 moved elsewhere in Europe, including Belgium and Italy, and 6,400 stationed back in the U.S.

Who Will Win the Biden Veepstakes?

The Pentagon is presenting the move as improving its flexibility. Yet the U.S. presence in Germany—along with infrastructure and knowledge built over decades—is strategically located in the geopolitical and economic heart of Europe. Moving forces south or west in the Continent is a retreat that reduces U.S. ability to surge into the theater if Russia makes a military move. Indebted countries like Italy or Spain are unlikely to pay more than wealthy Germany for the U.S. presence.

The Obama Administration in 2012 and 2013 withdrew U.S. combat brigades from Germany, and Vladimir Putin responded by invading Ukraine in 2014. Expect the Kremlin to get similar signals from President Trump’s move. Mr. Esper said some forces will move to Poland, but there is no agreement yet to do so. One reasonable suggestion is moving the U.S. Africa Command, now based in Germany, to southern Europe so it is closer to the Mediterranean.

As for the troops coming home, Mr. Esper says many will return on rotations “in the Black Sea region.” This will be costly. The Journal reports that the retreat from Germany may cost $6 billion to $8 billion.

Mr. Trump is legitimately impatient about Germany’s failure to meet its Nato defense commitments, its support for Russia’s gas pipeline, and its naivete about China. He might have emphasized the last point by announcing that the Indo-Pacific is now a more important theater than Europe and moving a few thousand U.S. troops to Asia to pressure Berlin.

Instead he appears to be undermining America’s military position out of pique—moving U.S. forces to punish Germany, though many will go to countries that also aren’t pulling their weight. Oh, and in the middle of an election campaign he’s undermining the case, which he supported with action over three years, that he is tougher than Democrats on Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump’s erratic foreign-policy impulses remain the greatest risk of a second term.
Title: Stratfor: Belarus and the fight for Russia's borderlands
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 04, 2020, 11:16:01 AM
In Belarus, an Election Fuels the Fight for Russia's Borderlands
Sim Tack
Sim Tack
Senior Global Analyst , Stratfor
Aug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.

(SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)

The likely tumultuous aftermath of Belarus's upcoming presidential election could significantly shake up the balance of power in the strategic borderland region between Russia and Western Europe. Amid the growing popularity of opposition movements in Belarus, the outcome of the country's Aug. 9 presidential election is widely expected to be heavily contested. The likely emergence of post-election protests will cast doubt over President Alexander Lukashenko's grasp on power and could open the door to a potential regime change. Belarus's importance to Russia's external security strategy will make Moscow extremely invested in the outcome of any power struggle in the country, which could prompt Russia to intervene directly.

A Heated Political Battle

Lukashenko's heavy-handed crackdowns against political activism have consolidated support for increasingly popular opposition candidates. The Belarusian government's repression of opposition activities, in particular — including detainments and refusal to register candidates — has concentrated opposition backing behind Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko's primary challenger in the upcoming election. His government's perceived poor handling of the country's COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic crisis, as well as ongoing concerns over Lukashenko's moves to limit political freedoms, has also helped propel her bid for the presidency. In response to EU demands and sanctions, Lukashenko scaled back pressure on opposition activities during the 2010 and 2015 presidential elections. But the current rise of opposition support and anti-government sentiment has resulted in a renewed culture of repression and crackdowns ahead of this year's election.

The opposition is unlikely to win the election given Belarus's history of electoral interference, which will almost certainly fuel intense protests rejecting the outcome. Lukashenko's regime depends on the active repression of political opposition and has been suspected of rigging elections to secure its grasp on power. There is no reason to believe this year's vote will be any different, especially given the particularly heated opposition campaign. Opposition candidates are calling for a high turnout to make any falsification of votes obvious. They are also already priming the Belarusian population to defend their vote after the election, though opposition leaders have yet to outright call for post-election protest action for fear of prosecution. The outcome of the 2006 election in Belarus resulted in protests that were eventually quelched by security forces. A repeat of those 2006 events, later dubbed the "Denim Revolution," is likely following the Aug. 9 presidential ballot. This time, however, post-election protests have the potential to escalate into larger or more violent persistent demonstrations given the current levels of opposition activity and large turnout at rallies.

President Lukashenko's ability to weather the coming round of post-election unrest is uncertain and may largely depend on his ability to maintain the loyalty of security forces. In many cases where governments have fallen to similar protests in the past, such as Ukraine's Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014, the alignment of security forces was decisive in shaping the outcome. Lukashenko maintains an active policy of frequently reassigning government officials and leaders of security branches to keep any individual position from amassing too much power. But while this practice avoids the rise of internal competitors, it also leads to weaker patronage structures that Lukashenko may come to depend upon to remain in control throughout intense protests. The position of security forces, and their behavior in response to post-election protests, will thus be critical in establishing the strength of Lukashenko's continued ability to repress dissent.

Gauging the Russian Response

A regime change in Belarus would intensify the geopolitical competition between Russia and the West by upending the current balance of power in Moscow's borderlands. The Belarusian opposition led by Tikhanovskaya has demonstrated a clear pro-Western orientation, meaning her rise to power could reorient the country toward the European Union and the United States. Such a geopolitical shift would present a clear existential threat to Russia, which depends on Belarus as it's last real buffer between it and NATO. Losing influence with Belarus would deny Russia of the strategic depth the country provides, and would leave Russia's core dangerously exposed to potential expansions of Western influence to its borders, which are located less than 400 kilometers (or roughly 250 miles) away from Moscow.

Russia's Slipping Grasp On Its Borderlands

Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have decisively pivoted Kyiv toward the West in recent years. This shift, which itself followed over 20 years of gradual NATO expansion into Eastern Europe toward Russia's borders, has drastically remapped the balance of power between Russia and the West in the borderlands that lie between them. In trying to balance between its powerful neighbors, Belarus has also flirted frequently with the West, as evidenced by Lukashenko's government agreeing to host NATO forces for military exercises earlier this year. But a complete pivot to a clearly pro-Western administration would solidify Russia's losing battle against the eastward encroachment of NATO's influence.

The potential for a significant upheaval of Belarus governance will force Russia to choose between either throwing its weight behind Lukashenko, or finding other means to guarantee its influence over the country. Russia will take whatever actions necessary to try and guarantee an election outcome that doesn't shift Belarus even closer to the West. But while Russia actively supported Lukashenko in the past, his government's oil diversification efforts over the past year, as well as Minsk's resistance to Moscow's push for deeper political and economic integration, has recently driven a wedge between the two countries. Russia would still prefer Lukashenko over the pro-Western opposition. Though if his position becomes untenable, Moscow may go to great lengths — including the deployment of covert military actions — to try and gain control over the political transition process in Belarus. Indeed, the recent arrest of 30 suspected Russian mercenaries in Belarus could indicate that Moscow is already preparing such plans. This approach, however, would be prone to strategic risk or miscalculations, as was the case in Ukraine. But Moscow is unlikely to stand idly by if there is a real risk of losing Belarus entirely to the West.

A complete pivot to a pro-Western administration in Minsk would solidify Moscow’s losing battle against the encroachment of NATO’s influence.

If Lukashenko manages to hold on to power, he will find himself strengthened in countering both Russian integration efforts and Western demands for political liberalization. Lukashenko's ability to survive heavily contested elections, whether through Russian support or by his own means, would grant him a greater degree of maneuverability. Lukashenko would be in an even better position to negotiate beneficial energy trade terms with Moscow, as well as resist Russian demands for greater economic and political integration. His firm grasp on power would also enable him to ward off European demands for political liberalization, though the oppression of opposition activity during the presidential election and possible violent crackdowns against protests thereafter could raise the risk of EU sanctions. Such sanctions would most likely target individuals engaged in violence against civilians as opposed to having a broader economic impact, thus representing only a temporary rollback in the warming of Minsk-EU relations.
Title: WSJ: Trump-Merkel clash thirty years in the making.
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 04, 2020, 11:27:18 AM

The German press is running heavy with last Wednesday’s Pentagon press conference, in which Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed the U.S. will withdraw 11,900 troops from Germany. Markus Söder, minister president of the state of Bavaria, called the decision “inexplicable,” while Angela Merkel’s trans-Atlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer, said it “makes no sense geopolitically for the United States.” For its part, Germany’s anti-American Left Party welcomed the decision. Its Bundestag leader proclaimed on prime-time television: “I can’t get enough of this punishment,” referring to Donald Trump’s seeming insistence that the move is more retaliatory than strategic.

Strains on the U.S.-German alliance have been attributed to everything from Mr. Trump’s bullying and ignorance and Ms. Merkel’s excessive circumspection to Vladimir Putin’s talent for sowing chaos abroad. But even if all these assumptions are accurate, none are root causes. The trans-Atlantic fissures predate Mr. Trump and Ms. Merkel and will outlast them, with potentially tectonic consequences for Germany’s role in Europe.

The core problem with trans-Atlantic relations is that they never evolved after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the original bargain struck after 1945, the U.S. provided security to its European allies and supported their struggling economies. In return, those allies backed the U.S. on most major issues related to the Soviet Union in Europe. This model of trans-Atlantic relations was founded on the reality of a near-hegemonic America, and a Europe that was economically poor, politically fragile, and militarily vulnerable to the Soviet threat.

Challenges to this model date to at least the Nixon administration, and no U.S. president has been entirely satisfied with Europe’s contribution to the Western alliance. But once the Soviet Union collapsed, and the European Union emerged as one of the world’s largest economies, many Americans began to think it unwise to keep bearing more than 70% of defense expenditures for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Even President Obama, whose personal relations with Ms. Merkel were famously warm, left office frustrated about the trans-Atlantic imbalance. In March 2016 he affirmed an “anti-free-rider campaign,” meant to dissuade the Europeans “from holding our coats while we did all the fighting.” “We expect others to carry their weight,” he explained.

While Mr. Trump hasn’t cultivated the personal touch exhibited by his predecessor, he has sustained Mr. Obama’s parting challenge to the trans-Atlantic model. If Joe Biden succeeds in November, he too will struggle to justify the viability of pre-1989 security and trade imbalances in a world in which Europe is no longer poor and the U.S. is no longer hegemonic.

It remains too early to judge the efficacy of U.S. sanctions on German gas pipelines, demands on German telecommunications infrastructure, pressure on German military spending, and general shaming of Germany’s international diplomacy. But critics aghast at the Trump administration’s continued preoccupation with alleged German delinquency would do well to consider how far a Biden administration would get in the opposite direction.

Would a President Biden find it easy to uphold unconditional security guarantees to Germany and its neighbors, even if Berlin buys more gas from Moscow, expands trade links with Beijing, and declines to help address U.S. trade concerns in Brussels?

These are not mere questions of “fairness,” but of the foundations of contemporary Germany. Consider the precarious circumstances which underwrite Germany’s position as both the wealthiest country in Europe and one of the most pacifist members of NATO.

While the Russian threat looms over Poland, Sweden, Finland and the Baltics, the Kremlin is hardly considered a menace in Italy, Spain or Portugal. France is attempting to revive a full-fledged Franco-Russian partnership, while Britain is no longer shackled to the consensus demands of Brussels. Given the wild asymmetry of European threat perceptions, a lopsided U.S. presence truly is the glue that keeps the continent’s security architecture together, and Germany’s postwar identity intact.

But if the U.S. ever withdraws from Europe in a significant way—as Mr. Trump’s troop plan suggests it could, and as events in the South China Sea seem almost designed to achieve—Germany will find itself in a kind of straitjacket.

As the seat of political and economic power in Europe, Berlin would become the main target of Nordic, Baltic and Visegrád pleas to do and spend more on defense, of French appeals to de-Americanize European security, and of Russian fears of German remilitarization. German leaders would also face a whirlwind of competing domestic passions, from advocacy for a renewed era of German military confidence to sheer terror at the notion of reopening the darkest box in Germany’s psychological attic.

Ms. Merkel has spent 15 years betting that steady growth, full employment and high wages can keep that box shut, and that U.S. forces can keep Germany’s nightmare scenario forever at bay. It is the tragic irony of her final year in office that these two strategies have collided, and that trans-Atlantic ties have frayed so much under her watch.

Mr. Stern was chief of staff and a senior adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, 2019-20.
Title: Merks is pissed
Post by: ccp on August 19, 2020, 05:46:59 PM

that us should are ask them to pay up to their promises:

and of course the left will stamp and stomp there feet and say this is an example of we are mean to our enemies

(and of course add the obligatory "Trump cozies up to despots like Putin - another phony Russiagate angle)
Title: D1: Potentially deadly blow to NATO
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 29, 2020, 10:34:20 AM
D1 is definitely Trump hostile.  FWIW here is their POV:
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: ccp on September 29, 2020, 11:16:31 AM
R.D. Hooker, Jr. served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council from April 2017 to July 2018
wonder what he thinks if Joe Biden , or better yet Kamala Harris  could lead the free world

or nato etc.
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 29, 2020, 11:27:43 AM
What President Trump is doing here IS a major change in long standing American geopolitical strategy.  It is normal and understandable that people sincerely dedicated to the previous strategy would be concerned.
Title: Re: Russia/US-- Europe
Post by: ccp on October 21, 2020, 06:13:04 AM

we keep hearing how Russia ran campaign to get Trump elected

can ANYONE  please tell exactly what they did and if it mattered?

not a peep about China doing the same with bribing everyone in US
   and infiltrating academics industry etc

This comment is curious:

"According to Ioffe, the scope of the attacks is actually much larger than previously known to the public ― CIA agents all over the globe have suffered its effects, which include lasting brain damage ― and, under the Trump administration, the United States is not doing much to stop them."

This suggests that Russian knows who the CIA agents are - how is this