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Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal

By Reva Bhalla

When a group of weary diplomats announced a framework for an Iranian nuclear accord last week in Lausanne, there was one diplomat in the mix whose feigned enthusiasm was hard to miss. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left the talks at their most critical point March 30, much to the annoyance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who apparently had to call him personally to persuade him to return. Even as Lavrov spoke positively to journalists about the negotiations throughout the week, he still seemed to have better things to do than pull all-nighters for a deal that effectively gives the United States one less problem to worry about in the Middle East and a greater capacity to focus on the Russian periphery.

Russia has no interest in seeing a nuclear-armed Iran in the neighborhood, but the mere threat of an unshackled Iranian nuclear program and a hostile relationship between Washington and Tehran provided just the level of distraction Moscow needed to keep the United States from committing serious attention to Russia’s former Soviet sphere.

Russia tried its best to keep the Americans and Iranians apart. Offers to sell Iran advanced air defense systems were designed to poke holes in U.S. threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Teams of Russian nuclear experts whet Iran’s appetite for civilian nuclear power with offers to build additional power reactors. Russian banks did their part to help Iran circumvent financial sanctions.

Viewing Russia From the Inside

By George Friedman
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Last week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn’t rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital.
Our host, who was from the Russian intelligence community, met us and we quickly went to work getting a sense of each other and talking about the events of the day. He had spent a great deal of time in the United States and was far more familiar with the nuances of American life than I was with Russian. In that he was the perfect host, translating his country to me, always with the spin of a Russian patriot, which he surely was. We talked as we drove into Moscow, managing to dive deep into the subject.

From him, and from conversations with Russian experts on most of the regions of the world — students at the Institute of International Relations — and with a handful of what I took to be ordinary citizens (not employed by government agencies engaged in managing Russia’s foreign and economic affairs), I gained a sense of Russia’s concerns. The concerns are what you might expect. The emphasis and order of those concerns were not.

Russians’ Economic Expectations

I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people’s minds. The plunge of the ruble, the decline in oil prices, a general slowdown in the economy and the effect of Western sanctions all appear in the West to be hammering the Russian economy. Yet this was not the conversation I was having. The decline in the ruble has affected foreign travel plans, but the public has only recently begun feeling the real impact of these factors, particularly through inflation.

But there was another reason given for the relative calm over the financial situation, and it came not only from government officials but also from private individuals and should be considered very seriously. The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

The Russians suffered terribly during the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin but also under previous governments stretching back to the czars. In spite of this, several pointed out, they had won the wars they needed to win and had managed to live lives worth living. The golden age of the previous 10 years was coming to an end. That was to be expected, and it would be endured. The government officials meant this as a warning, and I do not think it was a bluff. The pivot of the conversation was about sanctions, and the intent was to show that they would not cause Russia to change its policy toward Ukraine.

Russians’ strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations. It was also pointed out that they tend to support the government regardless of competence when Russia feels threatened. Therefore, the Russians argued, no one should expect that sanctions, no matter how harsh, would cause Moscow to capitulate. Instead the Russians would respond with their own sanctions, which were not specified but which I assume would mean seizing the assets of Western companies in Russia and curtailing agricultural imports from Europe. There was no talk of cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe.

If this is so, then the Americans and Europeans are deluding themselves on the effects of sanctions. In general, I personally have little confidence in the use of sanctions. That being said, the Russians gave me another prism to look through. Sanctions reflect European and American thresholds of pain. They are designed to cause pain that the West could not withstand. Applied to others, the effects may vary.

My sense is that the Russians were serious. It would explain why the increased sanctions, plus oil price drops, economic downturns and the rest simply have not caused the erosion of confidence that would be expected. Reliable polling numbers show that President Vladimir Putin is still enormously popular. Whether he remains popular as the decline sets in, and whether the elite being hurt financially are equally sanguine, is another matter. But for me the most important lesson I might have learned in Russia — “might” being the operative term — is that Russians don’t respond to economic pressure as Westerners do, and that the idea made famous in a presidential campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” may not apply the same way in Russia.

The Ukrainian Issue

There was much more toughness on Ukraine. There is acceptance that events in Ukraine were a reversal for Russia and resentment that the Obama administration mounted what Russians regard as a propaganda campaign to try to make it appear that Russia was the aggressor. Two points were regularly made. The first was that Crimea was historically part of Russia and that it was already dominated by the Russian military under treaty. There was no invasion but merely the assertion of reality. Second, there was heated insistence that eastern Ukraine is populated by Russians and that as in other countries, those Russians must be given a high degree of autonomy. One scholar pointed to the Canadian model and Quebec to show that the West normally has no problem with regional autonomy for ethnically different regions but is shocked that the Russians might want to practice a form of regionalism commonplace in the West.

The case of Kosovo is extremely important to the Russians both because they feel that their wishes were disregarded there and because it set a precedent. Years after the fall of the Serbian government that had threatened the Albanians in Kosovo, the West granted Kosovo independence. The Russians argued that the borders were redrawn although no danger to Kosovo existed. Russia didn’t want it to happen, but the West did it because it could. In the Russian view, having redrawn the map of Serbia, the West has no right to object to redrawing the map of Ukraine.

I try not to be drawn into matters of right and wrong, not because I don’t believe there is a difference but because history is rarely decided by moral principles. I have understood the Russians’ view of Ukraine as a necessary strategic buffer and the idea that without it they would face a significant threat, if not now, then someday. They point to Napoleon and Hitler as examples of enemies defeated by depth.

I tried to provide a strategic American perspective. The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

The United States has been conditioned to be cautious of any rising hegemon. In this case the fear of a resurgent Russia is a recollection of the Cold War, but not an unreasonable one. As some pointed out to me, economic weakness has rarely meant military weakness or political disunity. I agreed with them on this and pointed out that this is precisely why the United States has a legitimate fear of Russia in Ukraine. If Russia manages to reassert its power in Ukraine, then what will come next? Russia has military and political power that could begin to impinge on Europe. Therefore, it is not irrational for the United States, and at least some European countries, to want to assert their power in Ukraine.

When I laid out this argument to a very senior official from the Russian Foreign Ministry, he basically said he had no idea what I was trying to say. While I think he fully understood the geopolitical imperatives guiding Russia in Ukraine, to him the centurylong imperatives guiding the United States are far too vast to apply to the Ukrainian issue. It is not a question of him only seeing his side of the issue. Rather, it is that for Russia, Ukraine is an immediate issue, and the picture I draw of American strategy is so abstract that it doesn’t seem to connect with the immediate reality. There is an automatic American response to what it sees as Russian assertiveness; however, the Russians feel they have been far from offensive and have been on the defense. For the official, American fears of Russian hegemony were simply too far-fetched to contemplate.

In other gatherings, with the senior staff of the Institute of International Relations, I tried a different tack, trying to explain that the Russians had embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama in Syria. Obama had not wanted to attack when poison gas was used in Syria because it was militarily difficult and because if he toppled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, it would leave Sunni jihadists in charge of the country. The United States and Russia had identical interests, I asserted, and the Russian attempt to embarrass the president by making it appear that Putin had forced him to back down triggered the U.S. response in Ukraine. Frankly, I thought my geopolitical explanation was a lot more coherent than this argument, but I tried it out. The discussion was over lunch, but my time was spent explaining and arguing, not eating. I found that I could hold my own geopolitically but that they had mastered the intricacies of the Obama administration in ways I never will.

The Future for Russia and the West

The more important question was what will come next. The obvious question is whether the Ukrainian crisis will spread to the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus. I raised this with the Foreign Ministry official. He was emphatic, making the point several times that this crisis would not spread. I took that to mean that there would be no Russian riots in the Baltics, no unrest in Moldova and no military action in the Caucasus. I think he was sincere. The Russians are stretched as it is. They must deal with Ukraine, and they must cope with the existing sanctions, however much they can endure economic problems. The West has the resources to deal with multiple crises. Russia needs to contain this crisis in Ukraine.

The Russians will settle for a degree of autonomy for Russians within parts of eastern Ukraine. How much autonomy, I do not know. They need a significant gesture to protect their interests and to affirm their significance. Their point that regional autonomy exists in many countries is persuasive. But history is about power, and the West is using its power to press Russia hard. But obviously, nothing is more dangerous than wounding a bear. Killing him is better, but killing Russia has not proved easy.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. In the scheme of things, that does not mean much. Presidents come and go. But it is a reminder that things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled — not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them. That is the most dangerous thing about the situation. It is not what is intended, which seems genuinely benign. What is dangerous is the action that is unanticipated, both by others and by Russia.

At the same time, my general analysis remains intact. Whatever Russia might do elsewhere, Ukraine is of fundamental strategic importance to Russia. Even if the east received a degree of autonomy, Russia would remain deeply concerned about the relationship of the rest of Ukraine to the West. As difficult as this is for Westerners to fathom, Russian history is a tale of buffers. Buffer states save Russia from Western invaders. Russia wants an arrangement that leaves Ukraine at least neutral.

For the United States, any rising power in Eurasia triggers an automatic response born of a century of history. As difficult as it is for Russians to understand, nearly half a century of a Cold War left the United States hypersensitive to the possible re-emergence of Russia. The United States spent the past century blocking the unification of Europe under a single, hostile power. What Russia intends and what America fears are very different things.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia’s fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives. All of the good will in the world — and there is precious little of that — cannot solve the problem of two major countries that are compelled to protect their interests and in doing so must make the other feel threatened. I learned much in my visit. I did not learn how to solve this problem, save that at the very least each must understand the fears of the other, even if they can’t calm them.

Read more: Viewing Russia From the Inside | Stratfor
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AS PUTIN DEPLOYS TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO CRIMEA, OBAMA REDUCES READINESS

RUSSIA STOCKS UP WHILE OBAMA DEPLETES READINESS

Does it bother you at all that while Putin moves tactical nuclear weapons into his recent annexation of Crimea, US President Barack Obama is making plans to drastically reduce America military readiness in Europe? It should.

Russia is moving tactical nuclear weapons systems into recently-annexed Crimea while the Obama administration is backing informal talks aimed at cutting U.S. tactical nuclear deployments in Europe.

Three senior House Republican leaders wrote to President Obama two weeks ago warning that Moscow will deploy nuclear missiles and bombers armed with long-range air launched cruise missiles into occupied Ukrainian territory.

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“Locating nuclear weapons on the sovereign territory of another state without its permission is a devious and cynical action,” states the letter signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.) and two subcommittee chairmen.

“It further positions Russian nuclear weapons closer to the heart of NATO, and it allows Russia to gain a military benefit from its seizure of Crimea, allowing Russia to profit from its action.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent months “has escalated his use of nuclear threats to a level not seen since the Cold War,” they wrote.

In a related development, the Obama administration is funding non-official arms control talks with Russia through a Washington think-tank that are aimed at curbing U.S. tactical nuclear arms in Europe.

Authoritarian Putin Faces New Instability as Up to 26,000 Russians March Against Ukraine Invasion

Protest Moscow banner
UK Guardian

By Alec Luhn in Moscow

Thousands of people gathered in central Moscow on Sundayto protestagainst their country’s involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine at an All-Russian March for Peace, the first large anti-Kremlin rally since the conflict started in April.

The march for an “end to the Russian regime’s irresponsible, aggressive policy” in Ukraine drew 5,000 protesters, according to the interior ministry. But official estimates of opposition march numbers have been notably low in the past, and the volunteer group White Counter, which was tallying participants as they passed through police metal detectors at the beginning of the march, said put the number at 26,000 people.

Although some far-left groups, such as Autonomous Action – whose members carried a banner reading “No to war between peoples! No to peace between classes!” – participated in the march, the main contingent of the protest was similar to the movement that shook Moscow in 2011-2013. Other banners read “Hands off of Ukraine!” and “Freedom to the 6 May prisoners”, a reference to those jailed on charges of inciting riots after an anti-Putin rally in Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 that degenerated into clashes between police and protesters.

Others carried pictures of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russian independent media have reported on the growing number of soldiers who have gone missing after being deployed to eastern Ukraine, and secretive funerals have been held for some servicemen in places like the provincial city of Pskov.

Sunday’s march was organised by longstanding opposition parties including Yabloko, Solidarity and Parnas, as well as newcomers like the Party of Progress organised by popular anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who is currently under house arrest as part of what many see as a politically motivated criminal case.

The protesters represented a variety of political views, but most were united in their opposition to what they see as a Kremlin policy to escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine by sending arms and soldiers across the border.

“My last name may be the same as Putin’s, but I’m against him,” said Oksana Putina. “We can wake up the Russian people, so that we won’t see any more Russian troops in Ukraine … Let Putin take out his troops, and Ukraine will deal with its own problems.”

Vadim Kryuchkov and Varvara Daryevskaya, who were holding Russian and Ukrainian flags, said they didn’t believe the protest would change the Kremlin’s course but felt it was their duty to express their opposition. Kryuchkov said he was originally from a town near Luhansk and supported the greater local autonomy for the region, but was againstRussia sending troops and arms to eastern Ukraine. “We want Ukraine to see that there are people in Russia who don’t support the war,” Kryuchkov said. “Russia is directly participating in this war.”

“In fact, Russia started it,” Daryevskaya said.

A few thousand protesters also assembled in St Petersburg, while peace marches in other cities drew far fewer people. According to the human rights organisation OVD Info, a peace march organiser in Yekaterinburg was briefly detained by police but later returned to the protest….
A few thousand protesters also assembled in St Petersburg, while peace marches in other cities drew far fewer people. According to the human rights organisation OVD Info, a peace march organiser in Yekaterinburg was briefly detained by police but later returned to the protest.

The Moscow march was tailed by a few hundred pro-Kremlin protesters holding the flags of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics declared by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. At least one minor scuffle broke out but lines of riot police for the most part kept the two camps apart.

“The whole reason for this crisis is that Russia has refused to recognise Ukraine’s European choice,” said Higher School of Economics professor Nina Belyayeva, who was holding a sign reading, “Ukraine’s European choice = an example for Russia”. She was soon confronted by several pro-Kremlin protesters, who argued that the protests in Kiev this winter that toppled former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich’s regime had been organised by the United States.

Police did confiscate signs from some protesters, including one reading, “Putler kaput!” When asked about the seizure, a police officer would only say that the signs “didn’t correspond to the topic of the protest”.

“It strongly affects the police officers’ nerves when it’s something related to Putin,” said organiser Ilya Mishenko.

Putin Teams Up With Left Wing Activists to Stall Fracking

fracking-reuters
Russia is behind the campaign to discredit hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (fracking) as part of a “disinformation” operation designed to ensure the West remains reliant on the former Soviet country’s gas.
NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told the Chatham House think tank that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to the Guardian.
Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
A NATO spokesman made clear that the comments represented the personal views of Mr Rasmussen, not official policy. He also declined to elaborate on exactly what Russia is doing, describing his opinions as an “interpretation.”
Fracking is the process by which water and chemicals are injected into shale, to release tiny pockets of gas. The shale itself is like a sponge that was hold huge amounts of gas despite looking solid.
In America fracking has brought down gas prices by as much as 80 percent but perhaps more importantly it has made the country increasingly energy independent. A similar situation in Europe would cause Russia significant financial harm as the economy is based on gas and oil exports.
Fracking would also undermine Vladimir Putin’s powers as he has used Russia’s position as the world’s only energy super-power to bully neighbouring countries. Only this week Russia turned off the gas supply to Ukraine, with whom it has had a troubled relationship with recently.
Environmental groups were keen to deny any links to Russia, Andrew Pendleton, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, added: “Perhaps the Russians are worried about our huge wind and solar potential and have infiltrated the UK government.” A Greenpeace spokesman said: The idea we’re puppets of Putin is so preposterous that you have to wonder what they’re smoking over at Nato HQ,”
However, despite the claims of campaigners, it is clear that there is a well organised negative campaign against Fracking. It is not always clear who is behind it and Russia certainly has a great deal to gain from ensuring the West is not self-sufficient in gas.

A legacy for Barack Obama - Syria Will Surrender Chemical Weapons to Russia

By Wes Prudwn
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A war nobody believes in, led by a man nobody trusts. If Barack Obama is still looking for a legacy, here it is. Everything about the Syrian dilemma stinks.
Bashar Assad is recognized by nearly everybody as the source of at least half the stink. But only half. The rest of the stench is supplied by the rebels. It’s tempting to suggest that Mr. Obama, who yearns for applause, deserves the dilemma.
A war nobody believes in, led by a man nobody trusts. If Barack Obama is still looking for a legacy, here it is. Everything about the Syrian dilemma stinks.
In U.S. and around world, doubts grow over attack on Syria
Bombers always sound to the uneducated ear like the cheap, quick and sensible way to punish international bad guys. Lots of bang-bang, fire, smoke and bravado is exciting, stimulating and inspiring, guaranteed to warm the blood of those who are not required to shed the blood. Bombs usually accomplish considerably less than expected, as decades of war on nearly every continent have demonstrated to anyone paying attention.
But cutting an American president, any president, off at the knees is no strategy, either, even if he’s a president who deserves punishment for screwing up everything he touches and threatens to make incompetence the national virtue. If the president really wants to go to war over Syria’s chemical weapons, and doing it alone unless you count the French, he should have done it without consulting Congress, since he thinks congressional permission is not really necessary. Congress only wants to belabor the obvious, anyway, and spend the rest of summer and early autumn debating, preening and trying to avoid responsibility for saying either yea or nay.obama-biden_s160x224
Several “key” senators put together a bipartisan version of an administration deal with Congress, and the resolution is a corker. In fact, it was written by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican, and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democrat. The actual architect was whoever invented Swiss cheese, because it has many loopholes, some of them large enough to drive an Abrams main battle tank through and on to Damascus, breaking off just enough cheese for an omelet. Mr. Menendez emerged from the negotiations bubbling with pride of authorship.
The deal would give the president “the authority he needs to deploy force,” he said, while “assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the armed forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria.”
This is a cheesy way to fight a war, and ineffective besides. A war requires more than boots on the ground, and John Kerry keeps assuring us that no American footwear will touch Syrian sand. But change always happens. Anyone who has heard these promises before, beginning with Lyndon Johnson (“We seek no wider war”), is naturally skeptical. Harry Truman never called the Korean War a war; it was only “a police action.” FDR promised in 1940 that he would never send “American boys” to a foreign war. Circumstances change.
The cliche about boots does not impress Charlie Rangel, the Democratic congressman from Harlem, who brought a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star home from Korea. “You cannot be part pregnant in international conflicts,” he says, “and once you get in, all these resolutions mean nothing.” He doesn’t think most members of Congress “have any skin in the game.”
He makes the obvious point that the makers of war are rarely the fighters in the war. “You know, they don’t get these volunteers for combat from Harvard or Yale,” he says. “They get them from communities like mine … if members of Congress thought for one minute that [the country would be] drafting their kids and their grandkids, you would not see this overwhelming sense of patriotism that you see.”
The invasion of France was the most carefully plotted battle of World War II; the quartermasters calculated down to the last bean how many beans the Navy would need for its signature soup in the ships off Normandy. Dwight Eisenhower ruefully conceded on the eve of D-Day that once the first shots are fired all the carefully drafted plans are gone with the wind. Congressional resolutions, however eloquently parsed, mean nothing once the war begins.
Saying “pox on both your houses” is no policy, either, even if it replaces “no policy.” Barack Obama painted himself into this corner, taking the rest of us with him, and in a fair and ordered world, we could walk away to let the Islamic precincts of the Middle East stew in their own bile, venom and malignant evil.
If the president loses the vote, his credibility will be lost for sure and for good, but so will the credibility of the United States. For better or worse, the credibility of the president, any president, and the credibility of the nation are bound together. That’s what makes this dilemma particularly and spectacularly bad. This one may be a hold-your-nose vote to give Barack Obama his legacy.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/5/pruden-a-legacy-for-barack-obama/#ixzz2eQFEzBMS
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Putin Sends A Letter To Americans!

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent an open letter to Americans and what it says might make you look at him in an entirely different light. In fact, in reading his letter, I can only wish that Barack Obama thought much the same way as him on the most pertinent issues. Why is it that Barack Obama is supporting these same Unholy, Unruly, Jihadi Muslims that Vladimir Putin is hoping to crush? In fact, Putin’s interview below is quite thought provoking, especially when he admits that his good friend and ally Bashar Al-Assad IS capable of possible launching such an attack upon his own people. Putin also has called the US government ‘outlaws’ if they strike out at Syria as shared in the video at the bottom of the story. The first two sentences of Putin’s letter makes it plainly clear Putin is aiming much of his talk to the ‘sheeple’.
putin-obama_2252410b

How do I put this politely? You Americans are dumb. Today, Russia and America are fighting each other over fighting the Muslim radicals. Instead, we should be uniting to crush these violent Islamists, once and for all.

You Americans want to remove my ally, the Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad. To borrow a phrase from your John F. Kennedy, Assad may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s my son-of-a-bitch.

So if you want to destroy him, what are you going to give me in return? If your answer is, “We will give you nothing,” well, why would I ever agree to that? That’s not negotiation, that’s dictation; it’s a return to the bad Yeltsin days, when Holy Mother Russia was pushed into the mud like a used whore.

Look, I’ll be the first to say that Obama’s “red line” comment was dumb. It’s obvious he hadn’t thought it through; one can see it in the words he used to express his policy. He said that the “red line” would be crossed if “a whole bunch” of chemical weapons were used. What kind of language is that? How does one quantify a “whole bunch”? This is the President of the High-and-Mighty United States, and he’s talking like a schoolboy? All for this silliness over sarin in Syria?

Do I think that Assad did it? Gassed those people? I don’t know; I’ve never asked him. He’s certainly capable of it, and yet only the Americans think that the case against Assad is a “slam dunk.” Everyone else agrees that the case is murky. Everyone else follows the first rule of intelligence-gathering: Consider the source–namely, the pro-rebel media. In this instance, the rebels were losing, and then they got “gassed”–and now Uncle Sam is rushing to their side. How convenient.

So, even Putin thinks that Assad is capable of launching chemical weapons attacks against his own people; however, at least he would prefer to wait until the United Nations report is released before launching attacks against him. So, does Putin even have a solution or is he all just talk, talk, talk? He ends his letter to the American people with a few suggestions.:

So those are the real evil empires: Iran and Pakistan. Bringing them to heel won’t be easy, of course, but we Russians have never shied away from strong measures. The Americans could learn a lot from us.

So that’s my vision. Let’s stop worrying about silly little niceties about the right and the wrong way to fight a war. Let’s stop trying to bring democracy to barbarians. Instead, let’s bring them the only thing they understand–force.

Let’s all of us–Moscow, Washington, London, Paris, Brussels, Jerusalem, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Beijing, New Delhi–come together in a new Holy Alliance, similar to that which kept Europe safe from radicalism in the early 19th century. Let’s join one another to crush the unholy, unruly, jihadi Muslims. The good Muslims will thank us for it. And if they don’t–too bad.

Admit it: You, too, think it’s a good idea.

Putin Puts Obama in the Hot Seat

Vladimir-Putin_4-301x350, PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin has a strange way of speaking straightforwardly, without all the artificial and “morally superior” airs one expects from Western politicians.

Earlier, for example, he wondered why Western leaders were supporting cannibals in Syria:
You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years.

Putin was referring to the notorious video of a jihadi leader biting into the organs of a Syrian soldier while screaming Islamic slogans.

Now, the straightforward Russian has asked another equally important and straightforward question — the sort of question so full of common sense that most Western politicians never expect to hear a fellow politician asking (and, as usual, one the Western media have failed to report on, though Arabic media is abuzz with it).

In a videotaped interview published today concerning U.S. attempts to go to war in Syria, not only did Putin criticize Secretary of State John Kerry’s dissembling concerning the nature of the Syrian opposition, but he also said:

There is another question: if it turns out that the armed rebels are the ones who used weapons of mass destruction, what will the United States do with the armed rebels? And what will it do with those sponsoring the rebels? Will they stop supplying them with arms? Will they start fighting against them?

Indeed. Considering that invading Syria is almost entirely being rationalized in the context of Assad violating the human rights of others, what will the U.S. — Obama, Kerry, McCain, et. al. — do if it turns out that the al-Qaeda led rebels are, in fact, the ones using such weapons, assignificant evidence already indicates?

Probably what they are doing now: continue misleading Americans and go to war anyway, since — and once again — this has nothing to do with chemical weapons.

Direct British military involvement in Syria will not be authorised in Thursday's House of Commons vote, after Labour threatened to oppose the Government's motion.

David Cameron Returns Early From Holiday To Deal With The Escalating Syrian Crisis
Any direct action by UK forces will require a further vote in the Commons once the United Nations has considered a report from weapons inspectors investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus.

But the motion will ask MPs to agree the principle that a “strong humanitarian response” is required from the international community and “this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons”.

Chief Political Correspondent Jon Craig said: “This motion looks very bland, very uncontroversial.

“(Prime Minister David Cameron) has put off a decision really and that will be seen as a climbdown.”

Labour had said it would oppose the Government’s motion on Syria unless it insisted on waiting for UN inspectors’ report.

It tabled an amendment outlining conditions it said should be met before any intervention to deter the further use of chemical weapons, after last week’s attack that allegedly killed more than 1,300.

It demanded “compelling evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of these weapons”, that action would be legal in international law and that the Parliament can vote on UK participation.

A Labour source said: “We cannot give the PM a blank cheque. We should see the UN evidence before making a decision. This conflict has been going on for two and a half years. If it takes another two and a half days we will do so.”

In New York, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also told the British Government that the United Nations Security Council should not consider a draft resolution before inspectors reported their findings there, saying it was necessary “to wait for the results”

Earlier Foreign Secretary William Hague had said the UK may act whether or not a consensus was reached by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

“We believe that it’s time the United Nations Security Council shouldered its responsibilities on Syria, which for the last two and a half years it has failed to do,” he said.

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit wounded people affected by an apparent gas attack, at a hospital in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya
A UN weapons inspector visits wounded Syrians after the alleged gas attack
“We’re clear that if there isn’t agreement at the United Nations, we and other nations still have a responsibility on chemical weapons.

“We have to confront something that is a crime against humanity. If we don’t do so we will have to confront even bigger war crimes in the future.”

Mr Hague said “all the evidence” pointed to Bashar al Assad’s regime being behind the chemical weapon attack.

He repeated David Cameron’s statement that the National Security Council (NSC) had “agreed unanimously that the use of chemical weapons by Assad was unacceptable – and the world should not stand by”.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister claimed Britain, the US and France helped “terrorists” use chemical weapons in Damascus.

“The terrorist groups are the ones who used them with American, British and French encouragement. This encouragement should stop,” said Faisal Al-Miqdad.

But the US is reportedly certain the poison gas attack in Syria was carried out by the Assad-regime after listening to intercepted telephone calls.

Intelligence officers allegedly overheard panicked conversations in which a Syrian defence official demanded an explanation for the attack from a leader of a chemical weapons unit.

Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus
More than 1,300 are said to have died as the result of the alleged attack
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had urged all sides to prioritise a diplomatic solution and said his team needs until Sunday to establish the full facts of the alleged chemical attack.

UN weapons inspectors visited at the site of the alleged attacks again on Wednesday morning, a day after suspending their mission over safety concerns.

The inspectors came under sniper fire when they began their operation on Monday.

This afternoon’s NSC meeting discussed intelligence gathered by UN inspectors from their initial visit to Mouadamiya.

General Sir Nick Houghton, chief of the defence staff, was also expected to outline a series of options for targeted attacks.

It is understood the most likely military response would be a strike launched from US Navy warships, several of which have been repositioned in the eastern Mediterranean, against targets such as command and control bunkers.

But defence analyst Francis Tusa told Sky News: “I’m not necessarily sure it puts any particular pressure on the regime to change its behaviour. Losing the odd bit of hardware that the Russians will replace for free doesn’t seem to be that much of value.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded to the rising tensions, reportedly saying that US military intervention would be “a disaster for the region”.
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A child is treated after the alleged chemcial attack
“The region is like a gunpowder store and the future cannot be predicted,” Iran’s ISNA agency quoted him as saying.

Turkey and Iraq both say they have placed their military on high alert.

Nato has given its support for tough action against Syria, “condemning in the strongest possible terms these outrageous attacks” and saying “those responsible must be held accountable”.

But hundreds of protesters, carrying banners and chanting slogans such as “Hands off Syria” and “Cut War Not Welfare”, gathered outside Downing Street to oppose any Western intervention in Syria.

While political momentum towards intervention mounts, the British public has yet to be persuaded.

A YouGov survey for The Sun revealed that nearly three-quarters of people oppose the deployment of British troops to Syria.

And a majority of 3-1 believe the Government should be bound by Parliament’s vote.

Surprize, Surprize!!! Russia is Cheating on Arms Treaties, Obama Ignores Warnings

BY: Bill Gertz, The Washington Free Beacon:putin-angry-banks

Russia is engaged in a major violation of the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States by building a new medium-range missile banned under the accord, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Disclosure of the treaty violation comes as President Barack Obama last week called for a new round of arms negotiations with Moscow aimed at cutting deployed nuclear warheads by one-third.

Intelligence officials said internal assessments identified Russia’s new Yars M missile that was tested earlier this month as an INF missile with a range of less than 5,500 kilometers.

“The intelligence community believes it’s an intermediate-range missile that [the Russians] have classified as an ICBM because it would violate the INF treaty” if its true characteristics were known, said one official.

However, Russia is denying its new Yars M missile represents an INF violation.

Retired Lt. Gen. Victor Yesin, a former commander of Russian strategic forces and current consultant to the chief of the general staff, said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon that Russia is complying with the terms of INF because the Yars M, also known as RS-26, is an ICBM and not a banned intermediate-range system.

“According to the information I have, Russia closely follows the obligations arising from the 1987 INF Treaty and 2010 New START Treaty,” Yesin said. “The RS-26 ballistic missile, which is a Topol class ICBM, is not covered by the INF Treaty as its range is over 5,500 kilometers. Russia officially informed the U.S. about that in August 2011.

The issue of Russian INF compliance was raised in Moscow on Monday by presidential aide Sergei Ivanov, who told a television interviewer that Russia would not adhere to INF treaty constraints indefinitely.

“A legitimate question arises: On the one hand, we have signed the Soviet-U.S. treaty, and we are honoring it, but this can’t last endlessly,” Ivanov said according to Interfax.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said June 19 that some of Russia’s “neighbors,” a reference to China, were developing INF missiles and suggested Moscow would not allow the INF treaty to hinder its strategic arms buildup.

“We cannot accept a situation that would put the strategic deterrent system out of balance and make our nuclear forces less effective,” Putin said on the same day Obama announced plans for a one-third cut in the U.S. deployed nuclear warhead arsenal.

Two U.S. intelligence officials said the new Yars M mobile missile is not an ICBM and that the administration needs to confront the Russians on the system or risk undermining the entire arms control agenda.

The Russian INF violation initially was disclosed in vague terms by members of Congress, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.).

McKeon and Rogers wrote to Obama in April describing earlier concerns over what they called “a massive Russian violation and circumvention of an arms control obligation to the United States of great significance to this nation and its NATO allies.”

“Briefings provided by your administration have agreed with our assessment that Russian actions are serious and troubling, but have failed to offer any assurance of any concrete action to address these Russian actions,” the two chairman stated in the April 12 letter.

They noted that Senate Intelligence Committee members also have raised concerns about “clear examples of Russia’s noncompliance with its arms control obligations.”

McKeon and Rogers said they expected the administration’s annual arms control compliance report, due to Congress April 15, to “directly confront the Russian violations and circumventions.”

“We also seek your commitment not to undertake further reductions to the U.S. nuclear deterrent or extended deterrent until this Russian behavior is corrected,” they said.

McKeon said in a statement in response to Obama’s Berlin disarmament speech that “Russia is cheating on a major existing nuclear arms control treaty.”

“I have been urging the president through classified and unclassified correspondence to take seriously these violations by Russia since last year, but the president has ignored these concerns,” he said.

In February, McKeon and Rogers wrote to Obama asking why he had not responded to a classified Oct. 17 letter outlining “significant arms control violations by the Russian federation.”

“It is clear that the Russian Federation is undertaking both systemic violation and circumvention of a significant arms control obligation to the United States,” they said. “Such is the reality that confronts the United States, despite four years of your best efforts to ‘reset’ relations with that country.”

“How can President Obama believe [the Russians] are going to live up to any nuclear treaty reductions when he knows they are violating the INF treaty by calling one of their missiles something else?” one official said…

U.S. officials said the first details about the INF-range RS-26 missile emerged last year and intelligence assessments later confirmed the missile violates the INF treaty.

However, senior Obama administration officials so far have played down or dismissed the violation to avoid upsetting current and future arms talks with Moscow, the officials said.

Mark B. Schneider, a specialist on Russian missiles at the National Institute for Public Policy in Virginia, said the new Yars M missile appears to be an INF violation.

“There is increasing evidence that the ‘new’ Russian ICBM that they now call the Yars M or Rubezh is either a circumvention or violation of the INF Treaty,” Schneider stated in an email.

Other potential INF violations outlined in Russian press reports include Moscow’s development of a new ground-launched cruise missile, and reports that the Russians have used anti-ballistic missiles and surface-to-air missiles as surface-to-surface missiles, Schneider said…

A House Armed Services Committee staff member said administration officials recently told Congress that Russia was complying with the New START treaty.

The staff member said the issue of Russian treaty violations is not new and efforts were made in last year’s defense authorization bill to press the administration for answers to concerns expressed by both House and Senate members.

The refusal to address what one official called a “militarily significant” arms treaty violation led to the inclusion of language in last year’s version of the defense authorization bill that limited implementation of the 2010 New START arms treaty.

The fiscal 2014 defense bill includes a similar provision passed by the House earlier this month.

McKeon said the current legislation was approved “by an overwhelming margin” and “would prohibit further reductions while Russia is violating—if not in material breach of—its current obligations.”

“There is bipartisan agreement that faithfulness and an honest, open exchange are the heart of any successful arms control process,” McKeon said.

In response to the legislative provision in last year’s bill, Obama threatened to veto it if the provisions blocking New START implementation were in the final bill.

Obama’s pro-Moscow mentors Frank Marshall Davis and Alice Palmer and his friends in the Communist Party USA, worked for years to weaken the US.. military in favor of the Soviet Union.

It would be wise to work on the basis that Obama is deliberately continuing their agenda.

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