Trouble brewing for the self-appointed World's Policeman - November, 2014

One would never know it watching CNN but serious trouble is brewing around the world for the self-appointed World's Policeman. Washington has not had it this difficult, at least in recent memory. Vice-President Biden's last minute decision to flee from a public meeting with the chocolate king in Kiev; the ugly name calling against the Hungarian president; China's economy overtaking the US; growing anti-EU sentiments in eastern Europe; the theft of Moldova's pro-Russia vote; the ouster of Georgia's Western-backed Defense Minister; the increasingly desperate acts of Armenia's Western-led political opposition; the massive energy deal struck between Moscow and Beijing; and more recent major energy deal agreed to between Moscow and NATO member Ankara are symbolic of serious American foreign policy failures around the world today. And renewed racial tensions flaring in the American heartland and yet another looming "government shutdown" are symbolic of the country's many persistent and potentially catastrophic domestic ailments.

Make no mistake about it, trouble is brewing for the self-appointed World's Cop. From eastern Europe to the Caucasus, from the Middle East to the Far East, chess pieces long positioned to benefit the Western world are beginning to move in favor of the Eastern world. 

It was not supposed to be this way.

They found themselves alone on the very top of the world's food chain in 1991 when the Soviet Union suddenly imploded and ceased to exist as a deterrence. Fate would hand the Western political establishment the world on a silver platter. With a massive geopolitical vacuum thus created before them, "forces of freedom" began raiding Middle Eastern oil fields with impunity, and they also began the systematic invasion of former Soviet nations with "forces of democracy". Without a capable opponent on the other side of the political divide to check their actions, they moved the chess pieces around at will and with great disregard to human suffering, and despite persistent complaints from places such as Tehran, Moscow and Beijing. 

But fate would also have it that their tenure at the top of the world would not last very long. By 2007/2008 things began to go awry. Western powers have since suffered a series of geopolitical setback on the world stage. Now that they have begun losing control over strategic regions of the world where they have had an iron grip over, Washington is exhibiting clear signs of ailments. The Western political order may be coming the Sick Man of the world. With the following I have outlined some of its more apparent symptoms.

The Sick Man of the world

Recent years have revealed to the world public that the Western financial system is essentially a virtual reality, a massive Ponzi scheme and that the impressive castle Western powers have build for themselves is essentially a house of cards. More-and-more Americans are beginning to recognize that the US Dollar's "reserve currency" status is a double edged sword that will harm the US in the long term. We have also come to learn that the so-called "growth based" economic model of the Anglo-American-Jewish world is doomed to fail because it is unnatural, irrational and unsustainable -
The virtual might of the US Dollar will come to an end, the economy will begin to shrink and the fancy house-of-cards will come crashing down one day. Without its artificial luster, Western civilization - the low quality Anglo-American-Afro-Jewish pop culture that has created an ignorant, selfish, materialistic, violent, vulgar and Godless society where apathy rules and perversions are rampant - will surely fall apart. But we are not there just yet. But give it time and it will come to pass. A deeply flawed economic/financial system and a deeply corrupted society are not Washington's only long-term problems. Washington is suffering a series of major geopolitical setbacks in recent years.

Western powers have already been evicted from former Soviet territory in Central Asia and the Caucasus. There are also now a number of nations within the Western political orbit - Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Moldova, Hungry and Turkey in particular - that if given the chance may actually break from the West and seek better ties with the East. In their haste to expand NATO eastward, Western powers incorporated into their structures a number of such nations that will prove very problematic for them in due time. In Ukraine, the Western experiment to weaken Russian influence in Europe is in tatters as Russia takes back Ukrainian territory bit-by-bit, and the West is left with paying for Ukraine's mounting bills which is growing day-by-day. Russia's resurgent military seems to be everywhere: Strategic bombers patrols and naval warships have been appearing throughout Europe and the Far East, and there is talk that Russia will for the first time in its history begin strategic bomber patrols right in Washington's backyard. In the south Caucasus, Georgia seems well on its way to freeing itself of the Western infestation it was afflicted with some ten years ago. In the Middle East, Moscow has managed to keep Assad's government in power and even when the inevitable happens and Syria is broken up, Moscow will continue to maintain it's military presence in Tartus within a newly formed Alewite state. In Iran, Moscow and Tehran are involved in a number of high profile projects. In Asia, despite Washington's efforts to derail Russo-Sino relations, the strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing forges ahead as never before. Perhaps more importantly, discussions about breaking the US Dollar's hold over humanity is gaining traction around the world. Moscow has in recent years managed to roll back most Western advances in Eurasia. More importantly, it has begum taking the initiative in various theaters of operation.

Things are getting very difficult for the World's Policeman.

Although the American news press did its best to paint the US President's recent visit to China as a victory for American diplomacy and a sign of US leadership in the world, the reality of the matter was a bit different. The agreement on global warming signed between Washington and Beijing was meaningless fluff. In other words, all show, no substance. As Moscow and Beijing are getting closer militarily, politically, economically and financially, Washington and Beijing are drifting further-and-further apart. If you page through the large number of nonsense appearing in the US news press, you may be able to find a handful of articles that are closer to the not-so-comfortable reality that currently exists between the US and China. The following two articles can be characterized as such -
What really happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi and the back story the media won’t tell you: http://www.salon.com/2014/11/13/
The international gathering in Beijing was not the only noteworthy global event in recent weeks. Coming on the heels of the China summit, President Putin made a grand arrival at the G20 meeting in Australia - with a naval armada! More poignant than the Russian president's stylish naval escort was the warning the Russian president gave Western leaders during his appearance there that Moscow is prepared to deal with anything Western powers decide to do against Russia. Besides preparing to whether the economic/financial war being waged against it by Western powers, Moscow is also preparing for the worst case scenario, just in case things escalate out of control.

Things are getting very difficult for the World's Policeman.

Western aggression in places such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine may ostensibly suggest Western prowess at first glance but it's actually a good indicator that the Western political order is desperate and in a panic. They are essentially out on a killing spree to ensure their survival in this rapidly changing world. With the resurrection of the Russian Bear and with the rise of China - and with the resilience of the Shiite regime in Iran - the Western political order is suddenly faced with its inability to stop the political tides around the world from changing. This is why Washington is growing increasingly desperate. This is why Western powers are - directly and indirectly - engaged in military actions around the world. And their desperate effort to maintain global supremacy at a time of historic changes has been the main motivating factor behind their aggression towards Russia. I talk more about this in a previous commentary -
Worried for its loss of hegemony the West is bent on bringing down Russia (July, 2014):http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2014/08/worried-for-its-lose-of-hegemony-west.html
Within the American homeland, the mainstream news press is rife these days with complaints about Washington's impotency in foreign affairs and establishment authors are publicly lamenting America's retreat on the global stage. Although many prominent voices across the US are blaming the House Negro serving in the White House for the empire's woes, the problems the American empire faces today are much larger and much deeper than any one president. In fact, the problems the empire faces today are global in scope and fundamental in nature.

Forecasting an inevitable weakening of Western power, Kremlin officials are carefully and meticulously positioning Russian assets in strategic areas of the world. Kremlin's intent is to see the Russian Federation pick up where Washington leaves off. Yes, Moscow is seeking to become a global power once more. We see this Kremlin agenda in the creation of the Eurasian Union. We see this Kremlin agenda in the creation of CSTO to rival NATO. We see this Kremlin agenda in the forging a strategic alliance with China, the world's soon to be largest economy in the world. We see this Kremlin agenda in the rekindling of Russian ties in South America. We see this Kremlin agenda in its stockpiling of gold. We see this Kremlin agenda in the historic rearmament and modernization of the Russian armed forces. We see this Kremlin agenda in the increasing numbers of strategic bomber and nuclear submarine patrols around the world. We see this Kremlin agenda in Moscow's active participation in non-Western multinational bodies such as SCO and BRICS. We see this Kremlin agenda in making its voice heard around the world. Finally, and perhaps more poignantly, we see this Kremlin agenda in the effort against the most powerful weapon in the Western arsenal - US Dollar. What only a few years ago was unthinkable, how to dethrone the US Dollar and free the world from Anglo-American-Jewish control has become a favorite problem solving game for senior officials in Moscow and Beijing -
Russia And China Try To End The Dominance Of The Dollar: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/putins-revenge-russia-china-try-131700912.html
Eurasian Economic Union Reportedly Set to Abandoning Dollar, Euro: http://www.armradio.am/en/2014/12/02...n-dollar-euro/
I am not under any illusions. I do understand that breaking the iron grip the US Dollar has over the world will be a very complicated, drawn-out and bloody affair. But it has to be done for the sake of humanity. I personally feel it will happen sooner or later. Emerging powers such as Russia, China, India, Iran and Brazil are preparing for the inevitable dethronement of the Western world's most powerful weapon-of-mass-destruction. But we still have a very long way to go. In the meanwhile, the reader would do well to stop forming opinions on money and politics based on what Western "indicators" such as the Dow Jones, Corruption Perception Index, Moody's Credit Ratings or the Forbes Magazine have to say. These Western institutions are ultimately meant to create a Western-centric, alternative reality for the global sheeple. Humanity needs to stop looking at the world through Western prisms. 

Once the reader can psychologically break free of the alternative reality Western institutions have created, the reader will begin recognizing the corrosive nature of Western influence and begin seeing that its power and influence is indeed currently in decline.

Having squandered the good image is had come to enjoy during much of the 20th century; having reached its political and financial pinnacle in the years following the Soviet Union's collapse; American power and influence today is clearly waning and it will never get back to where it was before its downturn because the historic circumstances that helped create its ascent to the top of the world are long gone. If I were to put a symbolic date on Washington's historic decline as a global power, I would date it to the summer of 2008. More specifically, August of 2008 -
Russians burning American flag in American built military base in Georgia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKciOFc5zYM
It was back in the summer of 2008 when the Russian Bear humiliated the Western/Turkish/Israeli-backed criminal regime of Saakashvili and all Western powers could do was sit back and watch in horror. It's been down hill ever since as Washington has suffered one setback after another. Virtually all of the Western gains in the south Caucasus and Central Asia have been reversed.

In an effort to regain momentum against Russia's resurgence Washingtonians have embarked on a global PR tour. As I said, President Obama's visit to China did not produce anything tangible. Washington's sudden conciliatory tone with regards to Tehran are signs of desperation and it will not yield tangible results. Vice-President Biden's visit to Kiev did not go well, to say the least. Actually, Americans cant seem to get respect anywhere anymore. Even in "allied" territory there seems to problems today. Here we see Turks assaulting American servicemen in broad daylight -
Yes, I understand that Turks will be Turks. But what does the rest of the world think of Washington? Well, in a recent Gallup Poll that asked people in 65 countries "what nation presents the largest threat to world peace today" the US came in first place. In an increasingly anti-American Germany, an astounding 40% of Germans support Russia's annexation of Crimea. Even within France, pro-Russian sentiments run high particularly amongst those in the country who are tired of watching France turn into a Third World cesspool as a result of post-war European liberalism. While 63% of Greeks dislike the US, 61% of them express positive views about Russia. 22% of Bulgarians want to abandon the EU and join the Eurasian Union. And a staggering 75% of Armenians view Moscow favorably.

Even in places where Russophobia runs deep, there is no real love for Uncle Sam. In a secret recording a couple of months ago, Poland's Western trained foreign minister (with a well connected Jewish-American wife nonetheless) was heard describing in graphic detail what he thought of the nature of American-Polish relations -
"You know that the Polish-U.S. alliance isn't worth anything. It is downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security ... Complete bullshit. We'll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians and we'll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers."
Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
At the end of the day, this Western trained Sikorsky's homoerotic description of Poland's relationship with the US is a pretty good indicator of just how deep (no pun intended) the Western empire's friendships and alliances go these days. Outside of the Anglo-American-Jewish world (i.e. US, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel) virtually all of the Western world's alliances are based on financial/economic enslavement and bribes (i.e. aid money, that which the Federal Reserve prints on an as needed basis). Once the US Dollar eventually loses its luster (that which is maintained around the world by military actions and that which will eventually end) the Western order-of-things, along with its alliances, will all crumble overnight. Remaining on the topic of Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski, the following report that came out in the Russian press is very revealing -
Anne Applebaum Sikorski Can't Account for $800,000 Income: http://russia-insider.com/en/politics
Sikorski's Jewish-American wife is financed by Washington? Very interesting, but not in the least bit surprising. Information like this simply reveals to us how the Western political world operates. In high level politics, nothing is left to chance. Every square millimeter of the world's political landscape needs to be placed under control, one way or another. Therefore, Sikorski's marriage with the well-connected American Jewess - who is also a well known war monger - was no doubt an arranged marriage by Uncle Sam. Incidentally, Poland's Sikorski has two equivalents in Armenia.

Opposition activist Alik Arzumanyan married his American wife while he still had a very influential position in the Armenian government. It would not surprise me one bit if it was discovered that Arzumanyan also made his living through his wife. The other political leader who is married to a well connected foreigner is the "great Armenian patriot" Paruyr Hayrikian. He wed his CIA-connected Jewess while he was still a Soviet dissident. They have since divorced but they maintain family ties. Both he and his wife (who currently lives in Boston with her Jewish kids) get financial support from the US government essentially for the role they played in destroying the Soviet Union, and in Paruyr's case, also for representing Washingtonian interests in Armenia today.

Back to the main topic: Washington doesn't even seem to be getting much respect at home. US Congress's approval rating is at a historic low. At a time when President Putin has been enjoying unprecedented popularity at home, President Barack Obama's popularity rating in the US hovers around a dismal 30%. Anti-government voices in American society is on the rise today. I am not talking about African-Americans. I am not talking about libertarians. Interestingly enough, one of the most vociferous anti-government groups are US military veterans.

Trouble is brewing at home. Trouble is brewing in Europe. Trouble is brewing in Asia. US power and influence is in steady retreat. Things are thus getting very difficult for the self-appointed World's Policeman and westerners are beginning to see it -
Ron Paul: ‘US provoking war with Russia, could result in total destruction: http://rt.com/usa/211799-paul-congress-russia-war/
China's Silk Road challenges U.S. dominance in Asia: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/10/china-apec-silkroad-idUSL6N0T03CY20141110
 Anti-West Alliance Forming in the East: http://www.dw.de/anti-western-alliance-in-asia/a-17914677
US control is diminishing, but it still thinks it owns the world: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/04/us-control-diminishing-own-world
The US Needs To Recognize Russia’s Monroe Doctrine: http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/12/us-needs-recognize-russias-monroe-doctrine/100557/
World order principles should be changed to avoid 3rd world war — Italian journalist: http://itar-tass.com/en/world/768197
Paul Craig Roberts The War Against Putin: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/11/22/27588/
Russia is the last major check on US imperial status: http://presstv.com/detail/2014/06/09/366260/russia-last-check-on-us-imperial-status/
The Rise of German Imperialism and the Phony “Russian Threat”: http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2014/12/06/512468-the-rise-of-german-imperialism-and-the-phony-russian-threat/
The Western aggression against Russia is actually a by-product of a Western weakness that ironically comes about from being alone at the very top of the global food-chain. From a Western perspective: Russia is too powerful, too technologically advanced, too independent, too ambitious, too large and Russian territory simply has too much natural wealth for one nation. From a Western perspective: The Western world has exhausted much of its natural wealth and it has become too finely developed during the past twenty-five years. When you are at the very top, the only place left for you to go when your time comes is straight down. They thus see a serious, long term threat looming in the eastern horizon. The threat cannot be left alone for the fear that it might develop into a global competitor. That's a problem for the West because there is no place at the top for two competitive giants. The Russian nation, much more so than China, poses the number one geostrategic threat to the Western political order. Western sanctions imposed on Russia - as well as the Western instigated civil wars in Ukraine and Syria - need to be looked at as desperate measures to undermine Russia's rise as an independent global power. The Western effort, drawing from past experiences against the Soviet Union, is a desperate measure to stop the creation of a global counterweight to the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance.

Russia needs to cut its umbilical cord

Mayer Amschel Rothschild - the wealthiest man in history, the founding father of international finance and the patriarch of the infamous Rothschild dynasty - is best known for saying: "permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws." Within a span of a single century, the Rothschild dynasty came to control the finances of the Anglo-American empire, helped in the destruction of the Russian Empire through its funding of Bolshevism and funded the creation of the Zionist state of Israel. But the Rothschild legacy would not end there. The financial paradigm of the modern world - also known as the Western banking system - is the evolutionary by-product of what Mayer Amschel Rothschild started some two hundred years ago. When Western powers invade and annex nations around the world, be it militarily, culturally or economically, one of the first things they take control of are its banks. Consequently, virtually all "Central Banks" on earth today (including Armenia's) serve the Anglo-American-Jewish political order in varying degrees. And Russia is no exception. During the Cold War the Soviet Politburo is said to have cooperated with international bankers, which many people claim was actually the reason for its demise. By the 1990s, Russia had been taken over by international bankers. One of President Putin's greatest domestic challenges during the past fifteen years has been against this internal enemy.

The exclusive ability to "issue and control" the money of nations around the world is the Western political order's number one strength and their most powerful weapon-of-mass-destruction. Until this ability of theirs is not taken away, or at least reduced to a significant degree, the Western political order will retain its global hegemony and will act with reckless impunity. With that in mind, I think the following news items are very important developments coming out of Moscow today: In one of his finest hours, President Putin called for more self-reliance for the Russian state and blamed currency speculators in Russia for the Ruble's recent troubles -
Putin threatens crackdown on currency speculators: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0d2b7f14-7b9b-11e4-b6ab-00144feabdc0.html
Russian Leader Accuses Central Bank of Economic Sabotage: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/russian-leader-accuses-central-bank-195000381.htm
Predictably, the sanctions that the Anglo-American-Jewish global cartel has placed against the Russian Federation is having the exact opposite effect of what they were seeking. The sanctions are accelerating the inevitable by forcing Moscow to crackdown on Western assets inside the country. The sanctions have forced Russians to seek total self-reliance. The sanctions have forced Russians to seek even closer relations with emerging economies around the world. The sanctions have hardened Russia's stance on regional maters. The sanctions have helped in fomenting a drastic rise in Russian nationalism as well as spawning hatred of the political West in ways the Kremlin could not ever dream of doing. The sanctions have forced Russians to seek true independence, even in cyberspace. The sanctions have set Moscow on a course to finally cut its umbilical cord (i.e. dependency) with the West. 

Fully cognizant of the power the Western political order yields today I do understand that the Russian Federation may yet suffer considerable economic pain during its transition away from the Western financial paradigm to a homegrown economic/financial system based on the sound principles of nationalism and socialism. But this pain is something Russia must endure for it will prove greatly beneficial in the long term. To ultimately free itself of financial and thus political bondage and servitude - and realize the great potential that awaits it in the 21th century - Moscow must free itself of Western control.

What Westerners suffering from imperial hubris such as the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal fail to understand is that the sanctions against Russia have started a process that will eventually end up undermining Western power around the world. Despite what Forbes Magazine says, despite what Moody's Corporation says, despite what any Western index shows, the Russian nation is stable and secure. The sanctions will in the long run prove immensely beneficial to Russia's economic, financial and political health. The sanctions will also help in the formation of a multipolar political world. Therefore, take everything you have been hearing from officials, political analysts and economic experts in the Western world with a grain of salt. Despite their sanctions and despite their manipulation of oil prices to punish Moscow, the Russian Bear will not bow to Western pressure. The Russian President is enjoying the kind of popularity at home that is very seldom seen. The Russian military is in the midst of a historic modernization and rearmament program. The Russian state is on a diplomatic offensive from the far east to the far west. I strongly believe that the modern Russian state will prove more resilient than its Soviet predecessor. The Russian nation will weather the current crisis and come out of it stronger than before.

There was a time when the US Dollar was backed by gold and humanity (including Soviet peoples) looked up to the Western world. Today, the US Dollar is backed by armed interventions around the world and the global masses look at the West with fear and disdain. There was a time when the Western world was the world's sole industrial power. Today, the Western world lives by killing (i.e. creating wars around the world) and by imposing itself as the middleman in global trade. Today, the Western world is nothing but a lavish house-of-cards. One well placed strike will bring down the entire system. Even some of the top financial gurus of the Western world, Jim Rogers and George Soros, are beginning to recognize that the end of the road is near. The imperial hubris of the Western global order will eventually make it collapse under its massive weight. A new, multipolar world is slowly but surely emerging. In the opinion of many, including myself, the future - if there is one, after all this mess is over - will belong to Eurasia. If the twentieth century was the American century, the twenty-first century promises to be a Eurasian century. Baring any unforeseen calamities in Moscow, I firmly believe that Russia will be in the driver's seat - politically, militarily and economically - within the twenty-first century. Many nations around the world are beginning to see this as well.

"Corruption" in the Czech Republic

Western officials have been treating the Czech Republic with white gloves and great sums of money has been poured into it during the past twenty-five years. Soon after its political transformation over two decades ago, the Czech Republic was turned into an epicenter for Western operations in central/eastern Europe - as well as into an open-air whorehouse, but that's another matter. Yet, despite all its geographic and political advantages, the Czech Republic is apparently not doing very well and that favorite Western catchphrase "corruption" seems to be a major problem in the country. The BBC unexpectedly reported on this matter recently - 
Corruption remains major problem in Czech Republic: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27670980
Prague is within the Western political orbit. The topic of "corruption" would therefore not have been covered by a major Western institution like the BBC. I therefore suspect that something must have gone wrong recently. Well, it apparently did. Upon a little research, it became glaringly obvious as to why the BBC had gone out of its way to report on corruption in one of the Western strongholds in eastern Europe. Apparently, President Zeman of the Czech Republic, like his counterparts in Hungary and Serbia, were not being totally obedient to Uncle Sam -
President Zeman calls for lifting of Russia sanctions at event organized by Putin associate: http://www.czech.cz/en/Nouvelles/President-Zeman-calls-for-lifting-of-Russia-sancti
Therefore, the problem in Prague is not "corruption", the problem in Prague seems to be the weakening of Western control. As I have said, as long as you whore yourself to Western powers you get a free pass to do anything. Examples for this are many: Mexico, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Pakistan, Myanmar, Albania, etc. If you, however, dare try to exercise politics independently of the West or pursue polices that run contrary to Western interests, you get targeted by hordes of Democracy Now(!) extremists - or Islamic fanatics depending on what part of the world you live in. 

And speaking of Islamic fanatics, is it not curious that Washington is also in the business of promoting Islam in Czech Republic? -
US Government Promoting Islam in Czech Republic: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4262/islam-czech-republic
Nevertheless, since the Czech Republic is still part of the Western world in a political sense, and as long as it stays that way, Prague's problems will not be exploited and used to foment a regime change there as they have done in so many other places. In other words, as long as Prague remains politically expedient to the West, don't expect Washington to foment any kind of sociopolitical unrest in the country despite any of its internal problems. Therefore, the BBC report and the street protests are essentially meant to warn Zeman's government and keep his government in order.

Closer to home: In the eyes of Washingtonians, Armenia's real problem is not "corruption" in the country, it's merely the lack of a Western presence in the country. In other words, had Armenia been one of their many open-air whorehouses around the world, Armenians officials would do no wrong. With Russian boots in the house, however, Armenians officials can do no right.

With regards to "corruption" I have always maintained that generally speaking nations like Armenia and Russia are no better or no worst than any developing nation around the world. Moreover, the main, fundamental difference between the developed West and the developing rest is the simple fact that "corruption" in the West has evolved through generations to become primarily institutionalized (i.e. reserved for the political/financial elite). The Western world (primarily the Anglo-American world) has historically had some of the most corrupt regimes in the world. But centuries of relative peace and stability in the West
(i.e. the absence of chaotic regime changes that has plagued much of the rest of the world) has helped it accumulate immense wealth that which has trickled down to the masses and has helped it evolve a semblance of law and order.


With that said, what we need to keep in mind is that the ONLY way to limit/curb corruption in ANY society is through good education, good employment opportunities and, more importantly, through long periods of peace and political stability. To this I'll add that Western style "liberal democracy" is a very good way to keep nations politically unstable, economically enslaved and culturally in decline.

The power of Western psy-ops is so that whether we realize it or not we have all been conditioned to think that "corruption" or the lack of liberal democracy in places such as Russia or Armenia is the main problem. The stupid notion that if only corruption is fought against and the lower masses are given a say in politics everything will be well is misleading and ultimately dangerous. Fighting corruption is like concentrating all of one's effort in treating the symptom of an illness without ever attempting to cure its cause. And, needless to say, giving the masses a real say in politics is suicidal, especially for developing/emerging nations. Distracting developing societies with such utter nonsense has in the bigger picture been the Western world's greatest advantage over vulnerable nations it has targeted in recent decades.


Hungary looking East

Serbia recently honored President Putin as a national hero during a military parade the kind of which the Serbian nation had not seen in several decade. I must admit however that the royal reception Serbians gave President Putin was somewhat expected. What was not expected was Washington's recent complaints against the government in Hungary. I suspect the reason Washington has for its recent actions against Budapest are more serious than it appears on the surface. I am sure there is more to the story than what's being reported. I say this because American officials would not have suddenly gone to such an overtly aggressive route with an important regional player such as Budapest had Hungarian President Viktor Orban's grave sin had simply been to have close economic/energy dealings with Moscow. Needless to say, a lot of eyebrows have been raised with the recent spat between Washington and Budapest.

Although most European governments are meekly parroting Washington's Russophobic narrative about Ukraine, a significant portion of the European citizenry sees the criminality of the West in Ukraine and elsewhere. Being that President Orban's government is quite popular with Hungarians and that Hungary in particular is a pivotal nation in the region, I suspect we will see more nations in the region following suit in the coming years. Although it's a bit premature to predict anything at this point, there are natural political tendencies that are working against Western interests. This means trouble for these are serious, long-term geostrategic problems for Western officials. In fact, Hungary and Serbia are not the only concerns Western officials have in the European sphere. Georgia and Moldova are also becoming serious concerns.

The tectonic shifts we are currently seeing in the geopolitical landscape of the world today are in my opinion the natural progression of things (i.e. nature's way or if I may, God's way of bringing balance and order to human ecology). 

But, for Western officials, it was not meant to be this way.

Almost twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union in Europe, Russia has grown very powerful once again; parts of war torn Ukraine have been brought back under Russian control. EU/NATO member Hungary, EU/NATO member Bulgaria, EU aspirant Serbia, EU aspirant Moldova and EU aspirant Georgia clearly seem to have set a political course that will taken them back to Moscow. And NATO member Turkey is becoming too dependent on Moscow. These historic shifts away from the West may be the reason why twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall (the dismantling of which was not supported by the West at the time), a new wall is forming but this time it is being erected by Western powers.

More importantly, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Soviet republics - perhaps with the notable exceptions of Baltic states and Poland - are increasingly beginning to come to the realization that Westernization/Americanization/Globalization is a new and more powerful form of Bolshevism and that membership or participation in Western structures such as IMF, NATO and the EU are detrimental for the natural development of their nations.

In other words, t
he sudden disappearance of the Soviet Union almost twenty-five years ago did not meet utopian expectations, to say the least. This is the context within which recent developments regarding Hungary and elsewhere should be viewed.

An extension of the Hapsburg Dynasty of Austria, Hungary started the twentieth century as one of the wealthiest and most powerful empires in the world. By the end of the Second World War, Hungry had entered Moscow's orbit as a communist republic and a member of the Warsaw Pact. Like their Polish and Yugoslavian counterparts, Hungarians lived pretty well under communism. But by the mid-1980s, when the Soviet union seemed susceptible for a collapse, the relentless lure of the Western lifestyle proved too much for anyone to resist. Budapest was amongst the first to break from Moscow. With a lot of wide-eyed anticipation and great expectations, Hungarians, like so many other former Soviet peoples, embraced the Western world. This unconditional embrace of the West proved to be a serious vulnerability for these nations for it allowed Western powers a free hand in the region.

That was then, this is now.

A lot has changed in the world since the Soviet collapse, a period in time that gave the victorious political West unprecedented powers over humanity.
A lot has changed since the days when Western powers would act around the world with impunity. A lot has changed in the world since the days when a global superpower like Russia had been turned into a failed state under the threat of breaking apart into several states.

Hungarians may have finally come to the realization that living under Western powers came at a terrible cost to their political sovereignty, their economy and their national culture. Hungarians may have finally come to the realization that the Western world was nothing like what they had seen in Hollywood blockbusters all their lives. Hungarians may have finally come to the realization that affordable electronic gadgets, blue jeans and rock-n-roll were not the only things that the Western lifestyle had in store for them. Hungarians may have finally come to the realization that sexual decadence, pedophilia, child pornography, poor education, abject poverty, dysfunctional family life, political empowerment of minorities, police brutality, political empowerment of society's fringe elements, elitist political system, wealth gap, multiculturalism, interracialism, metal illness, high rates of suicide, high rates of rape, high rates of crime, proliferation of hazardous pharmaceuticals, junk foods, drug addiction, political corruption, veneration of Jews, encouragement of third world emigration, militant atheism and state sanctioned promotion of homosexuality were even bigger part of the much coveted Western lifestyle.

More importantly, more-and-more people are coming to the realization that "democracy" or "liberalism" were not the "secret" to Western power and wealth but war plunder and exploitation of man. If, relatively speaking, Westerners today are living happy, carefree lives its because their governments have brought slavery, death and destruction to the far-corners of the world for the past few centuries. If Westerns can enjoy affordable high quality goods, it's not because of a wonderful democratic system, it's the result of exploitation of human resources around the world. If Westerners are living happy, carefree lives in recent years it's because for generations their parents, their grandparents and their great grandparents toiled like slaves for the nation's elite before some of the accrued wealth began tricking down to the masses. This is especially so in the Anglo-American heartland of the western world, where the average citizen lived not much unlike a serf until modern times. That the happy-go-lucky lifestyle in the West today is gradually coming to an end is a discussion that is beyond the scope of this commentary.

Ultimately, 2008 proved very pivotal in that two major events occurred during that year. It was 2008 that saw the awakening of the Russian Bear from its two decades long hibernation and it was 2008 that made the West's vulnerability apparent when the economic/financial crisis descended upon the Western world. Events of 2008 conveyed to nations around the world that Russia was no longer going to be a passive power and that the Western world was not invincible after all. In my opinion, these had far reaching geostrategic implications for these two major events that occurred in 2008 have been shaping world events ever since.

With Washington recently growing ever more audacious and aggressive in Europe and pushing front line nations in the region into direct confrontation with Russia, it was only inevitable that there would be some push-back. It is now very apparent that Budapest and Belgrade are the ones pushing back.


Nevertheless, although as an Armenian I despise what Viktor Orban's government did two years ago when they prematurely set free an Azeri scum who had murdered a young Armenian officer in his sleep, in the bigger geopolitical context, I am glad Europe has governments like the one in Budapest that are willing to stand up to Western aggression because in the big picture the "Western lifestyle" and Western powers are threats not only to Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela - but also to Armenia and to the rest of mankind in general.

Serbia looking East

Two decades ago Yugoslavia fell victim to geostrategic calculations formulated in Washington, Brussels and London. Fifteen years ago, Serbia was mutilated essentially because it was the last pro-Russian bastion in Europe. The Western aggression against Serbia in the Balkans came at a time when Moscow was down on its knees and on the verge of a total collapse. Russia could only watch as a natural ally like Serbia was mercilessly bombed by NATO and one of its historic regions forcefully severed from it and placed essentially under Turco-Islamic rule. Incidentally, the Balkans in the 1990s was also one of the several war zones where Western intelligence agencies worked hand-in-hand with Al-Qaeda terrorists.

Serbia was eventually bestowed the unfortunate honor of being the first victim of a successful Color Revolution. Serbia has since been utterly saturated by Western funded operatives and subversive agencies. The manner with which Serbia was severed and a West-leaning government placed in power in the country has in fact become a blueprint for Western operations elsewhere in the world. In fact, the so-called "Arab spring" followed the same template. What the West perfected in Serbia are being executed in places such as Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Ukraine, Armenia, Russia and more recently in Hong Kong. 

Many of Armenia's political opposition movements such as Pre-Parliament are part of the same mold.

Having had enough of Western style corruption and oppression, two years ago Serbians elected a nationalist president who had publicly promised better relations with Moscow. The great nation of Serbia thus began waking-up from its Eurotic nightmare -

Serbs had enough of Tadic oligarchy that kept them in poverty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IH2nCKRu74&feature=plcp

The victory of a “pro-Russian” candidate in Serbia a surprise to the West: http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia//2012_05_21/75489956/

The promise made by President Tomislav Nikolic back in 2012 was finally manifested when the Russian President was the guest of honor at a recent military parade in Belgrade, the first of its kind in thirty years. Serbian officials reaffirmed their commitment to the Russian-sponsored South Stream gas pipeline project which has since been put off. Russian officials reaffirmed their commitment to support Serbia on Kosovo. To cap it off, Serbia conducted military drills with Russia. The signs out of Belgrade are unmistakable. Serbia is on an Eastern path.

President Nikolic's election victory two years ago and President Vladimir Putin's recent appearance at a military parade in Belgrade can be marked as turning points for Serbia for they are major victories for Serbian nationalism and a strategic success for Moscow. In my opinion, it's no longer a matter of if Belgrade will be bringing Kosovo back under its fold but simply a question of when. Before any of this happens, however, Serbians need to thoroughly cleanse Serbia of its Anglo-American-Zionist infestation.

Armenians would do well to recognize that the tragic fate that befell Serbia in 1999 - with its NATO bombing and the loss of its historic province of Kosovo - was a fate that would have befallen Armenia as well had the south Caucasus not be so crucially important for Moscow. Had it not been for Moscow and its close allies in the Armenian government during the past 15 years, Artsakh, and most probably portions of Zangezur, would have been part of Azerbaijan and/or Turkey today and the Armenian nation would have been subservient to Ankara, at least economically. The military wing of Western oil and gas interests - NATO and the regions Turkic/Islamic terrorists - would have made sure of it. I thank God that Armenian officials have been mature enough to recognize the paramount importance of having Russian boots on the ground in Armenia. With that said, I'm very glad to see Serbians coming back to their nationalistic senses.

Bulgaria looking East 

One of the many nations within the "Western" sphere that is tethering on the brink of disaster is Bulgaria. The Christian Orthodox, Slavic nation that has had over two centuries of close ties with Russia is torn between East and West. Just like in much of eastern Europe, the irresistible lure of the Western lifestyle proved to be an illusion. Bulgarians are not happy with their government's Western orientation. Corruption in Bulgaria today is rampant, even western Europeans are participating in it. Crime, unemployment, energy costs are very high. Hundreds-of-thousands of Bulgarian are fleeing their country to the EU's power-centers (i.e. France, Germany and Britain). Similar to Greece, which has been systematically reduced to being a subsidized nation barely making a living on German handouts, EU/NATO member Bulgaria is on the verge of becoming a failed state. The following is a closer look at some of Bulgaria's problems as reported by Western sources -
Interestingly, in stark contrast to Western news reports about Armenia, reports about Europe's most destitute nations are seldom covered in detail by mainstream news agencies or Western NGOs. In other words, they can't complain about Bulgaria's "oligarchs" because all of Bulgaria's biggest "oligarchs" reside in Brussels, London and Washington. They cant even blame Moscow this time. Therefore, there is no Western agenda to foment political unrest or a regime change in places such Bulgaria. As a result, Western propagandists avoid seasoning news stories with political incitement. As messy as Bulgaria is, as far as Western officials are concerned, Bulgaria is slowly developing and progressing... because it is bending-over to Western institutions and not Moscow or anybody else. 

Despite the best face they put on it, the reality of the matter is that Bulgarians are utterly disillusioned by their Western orientation. BBC recently fear mongered about the Bulgarian military's continuing ties with Russia. And despite the fact that their political and financial/economic system is in Western hands, they could not hide the fact that 22% of Bulgarians favor abandoning the EU and joining Russia Eurasian Union. Even if this poll result is proven to be accurate, the cited figure of 22% is very large considering Bulgaria's circumstances. In their haste to expand Western borders to the doorstep of Russia, they incorporated a number of nations like Bulgaria that will prove very problematic for them in the future.

Moldova not allowed to look East

Much of what I described for Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia applies to Moldova as well. The small, landlocked nation wedged between Ukraine and Romania has also been adrift in a turbulent post-Soviet sea. While the nation's natural tendencies gravitate it towards Russia, a strong, opposite pull from Western institutions and activists in the country is unmistakable. Also let down by the shattered dreams of Western orientation, Moldovans have been gradually seeking reorientation with the East.

Due to Moldova's very strategic location, the Moldovan people's desire to have closer relations with Moscow proved too much for Western powers to bare. Faced with yet another looming geopolitical disaster in Europe, we very recently saw the ugly face of Western-style corruption reveal itself once more. Moldova's pro-Russian vote was blatantly stolen by essentially those who have been preaching "free and fair elections" around the world. While a tactical victory of sorts, this egregious manipulation of the pro-Russian vote in Moldova will prove counterproductive for Western powers in the long term. Needless to say, don't expect CNN or the BBC to spend the next month or two talking about this election violation.

Simply put: Moldovans are not being allowed to look East by the forces of "freedom and democracy".

As I have been proclaiming for many years now, faced with insurmountable obstacles around the world, the Western political order is slowly revealing an ugly face that has long been hidden behind an appealing mask. The Soviet Union may have been primitive in many ways, but the Western political order is evil and destructive in many ways. It's high time for humanity to wake-up and see the political West for what it truly is.

Being stupid during the Cold War was somehow excusable because there seemed to be something more ominous on the other side of the iron curtain. Being stupid today, in this age of information, especially after what we have seen Western powers do in places such as Venezuela, Argentina, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Ukraine is totally inexcusable!

Georgia looking North?

For years there has been talk in Moscow about the revitalization of a major Soviet era railway project in the Caucasus. The main purpose of this Moscow-sponsored initiative was to tie south Caucasus nations to Russia via a broad trade network that would also include motorways and perhaps extend to Iran as well. These projects, strategic in scope, have gone beyond talk in recent years. In fact, a lot of money has already been spent on them by interested parties and much more is being promised. In fact, some work on the project had already begun in Abkhazia and Armenia. Looking at the picture, however, one could immediately see a major problem: Georgia is essentially the missing link. Georgia is absent in a rail and road network that is envisioned to stretch from Russia to Iran traversing Abkhazia, Georgia and Armenia. Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have actually been down right hostile during much of the past ten years. This raises an obvious question: Why would Moscow embark on such a grandiose project if Georgia would not be part of the equation?

It is obvious that such a project could only be realized after normalization of relations between Tbilisi and Moscow, and it is equally obvious that Moscow would not have spent all this effort on the project in question had it's future been unpredictable. In my opinion, it can therefore be safely speculated that Moscow was quietly working on and expecting a reversal of course in Tbilisi. The following is a chronological look at events-
Saakashvili Confronts Russians in Disputed Region in Georgia (October, 2007): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2009/02/words-wont-do-it-any-justice.html
Saakashvili Says Whoever Opposes Azerbaijan is Georgia’s Enemy (September, 2011): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/09/saakashvili-says-whoever-opposes.html
Clashes at Anti-Government Protest in Georgia (May, 2011): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/05/although-bit-late-georgians-are.html
What Could the "Georgian Dream" Mean For the South Caucasus? (October, 2012): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/10/what-could-georgian-dream-mean-for.ht
Russians actually started working on portions of the railroad just before the Russo-Georgian war. When Russian troops crushed the Georgian military and liberated Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a matter of two or three days in August, 2008, it became very apparent that after nearly a twenty year hibernation the Russian Bear had finally set its sights back onto the troublesome south Caucasus. By 2009, it became obvious that Moscow had serious plans for the Western-backed dictator in Tbilisi. By 2011, is become obvious that Saakashvili's regime was not doing well. By 2012, the wealthiest man in Georgia, a man who had made his money in Russia and one who had good relations with Moscow was in power. With Ivanishvili's arrival, Saakashvili was exiled to Brooklyn. With Saakashvili's departure, Tbilisi began a tedious/arduous process of mending its ties with Moscow and rooting out Western operatives inside the Georgian government. The most recent example of this was the dismissal of Georgia's West-leaning Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania. With Moscow becoming a major factor in Tbilisi once more, Western propagandists are fear-mongering. Recent news reports indicate, however, that the Moscow sponsored railroad project is moving fast forward now that the Eurasian Union has become a viable factor in the region.

These are all very positive signs that Georgia's gradual departure from its disastrous Western-orientation is well on course. Tbilisi is gradually warming to the idea of becoming an integral part of a Russian-led trade network in one way or another. It was only a matter of time before the government in Georgia would be brought to its good senses… because there was a real chance that Tbilisi would also lose its Armenian populated region of Javakhq. From Tbilisi's perspective, seeking better relations with the Russian Bear was therefore simply a matter of political sanity and an inevitability. Facing further political disasters, Georgian officials accepted the realities of south Caucasian realpolitik -
Georgia Ready to Provide Armenia Free Route to EEU: http://asbarez.com/129320/georgia-ready-to-provide-armenia-free-route-to-eeu/

Yakunin: Russian Railways considers launching rail link to Armenia: http://news.am/eng/news/235403.html
Putin suggests building railway linking Moscow to Yerevan through Sukhumi and Tbilisi: http://www.armradio.am/en/2014/11/25/putin-suggests-building-railway-linking-moscow-to-yerevan-through-sukhumi-and-tbilisi/
Russia gets greater control over Black Sea region: http://news.yahoo.com/deal-gives-russia-greater-control-over-abkhazia-140627302.html
For nearly ten years Georgians foolishly placed trust in Westerners, Jews and Turks and turned against their northern and southern neighbors. While they could have gotten away with their anti-Armenian policies, their anti-Russian policies proved to be their undoing. Similar to the plight that befell Serbians and Ukrainians, the Georgian pursuit of Western fairytales destroyed their nation (Abkhazia and South Ossetia are forever gone, Javakhq and Ajaria have the potential of seceding). Tbilisi needed to stop its political mistakes before it ruined Georgia. 

Georgia will not enter NATO or the EU. It had no real chance to begin with. Politically speaking, Baku continues to be a hostage to Moscow as Turkey now is increasingly becoming an economic one.

At the end of the day, the status quo in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh will remain as is. Tbilisi and Baku will dance to the music coming out of the halls of the Kremlin. Sooner or later, in one way or another, there will be a rail link between Armenia and Russia. Sooner than later, Tbilisi and Baku will be either absorbed fully into the Eurasian Union or simply made to cooperate with it. According to recent reports, Georgia seems to be half way there already. In a historical context, Georgians and Azeris lose, Armenians and Russians win.

I never thought I would say this, but Armenians have proven to be much smarter that Georgians and Azeris put together. But in rejoicing let's also keep in our minds that we continue to have our share of suicidal idiots. The main difference between our idiots and their idiots is that their idiots are in government whereas our idiots are in the political opposition. Many of Armenia's Washington financed political activists like Paruyr Hayrikian and Raffi Hovanissian wanted Yerevan to pursue a suicidal Georgian route. Moreover, generally speaking, Armenians were in awe of everything about Saakashvili's Georgia. Awash in tens-of-billions of dollars in loans from Western, Turkish, Jewish and Arabian sources, Georgia was dazzling in lights for a while and Armenia's self-destructive peasantry was astonished. Despite the glitter and the perception of progress in Tbilisi, however, those who understood history and the natural tendencies of regional geopolitics predicated that the Georgian fantasy would sooner or later come to an abrupt end. It came much sooner than thought.

Placing Georgia within the Russian fold thereby severing it from the clutches of Western oil corporations, Turks, Azeris and Israelis will greatly benefit Armenia and regional peace. Landlocked and blockaded by two predatory neighbors, Armenia's most promising border connection proved to be its weakest geographical link for the past twenty-five years. The free flow of regional trade is one of the ways in which Pax Russicana in the south Caucasus will prove extremely beneficial for Armenia. We are certainly heading in that direction. Washington and its lemmings inside Armenian society will certainly try to sabotage it. Nevertheless, all sides recognize that better Russian-Georgian relations is key to Armenia's economic and thus political health. If Armenia is not to have common borders with Russia, it must have Georgia within the Russian orbit. Tbilisi is headed in that direction. Pax Russicana in the south Caucasus is one step closer.

Turkey looking North?

Although mainstream news media outlets in the US are trying their best to characterize Moscow's abandonment of the strategic South Stream pipeline project and the recent deal it reached with Ankara as a "diplomatic defeat" for Putin, the reality of the matter is that Moscow's move was a very serious setback for Western powers. In fact, it was a brilliant move by the Kremlin in my opinion. The South Stream was meant to provide south eastern Europe with Russian natural gas. Regional nations - Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Italy, Greece - were very enthusiastic about the project... but not Brussels, London or Washington. By pulling back (perhaps ostensibly) from the South Stream project and reaching a deal with Ankara instead, Moscow is punishing the EU. It is also luring Ankara further way from Western powers and creating a real potential of a clash between European nations affected by the matter and Western powers. Bulgaria, perhaps predictably, has been one of the first ones to raise its voice of concern. More nations affected by this development will surely follow.

And there are yet other serious geopolitical ramifications to closer economic ties between Russia and Turkey.

The Russian-Turkish deal is a serious insult to Baku and Kiev for it threatens lesser Turkish support for both nations. More importantly, Western powers are in danger of losing more of their leverage over Ankara. Some of the readers may recall that back in the autumn of 2008 NATO came close to losing Turkey. Fearing at the time Moscow would send its tanks all the way down to the Georgian-Turkish border, a panic-stricken Ankara placed its bet with Mother Russia and began signalling that it was ready to abandon NATO and seek closer ties with Moscow. It was at this time when Turks put aside their pan-Turkic pride, paid Armenia an official visit and announced their intention to form a "Caucasus Union", envisioned to include Russia, Turkey Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia -
Turkey in tight spot between Russia and NATO (September, 2008): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2009/06/turkey-historic-presidential-day-trip.html
Turkey lays out plans for Caucasian alliance as Georgian FM in Istanbul (September, 2008): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2009/06/despite-objections-from-baku-and.html
This fit perfectly within Moscow's grand geostrategic in the region for it had been trying to lure Ankara away from NATO as a part of Russia's historically successful divide and conquer approach to regional politics. And to put this all in an Armenian context, I'd like to remind the reader once more that despite Moscow's very lucrative trade deals with Ankara during the past two decades, Moscow has not stopped recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Russian officials have not stopped from appearing at the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan - nor has it stopped the Russian military from paying less attention to the security of the Armenian-Turkish border. Unlike in the Western world, where virtually everything has its price, Moscow approach to regional politics is based on its national security needs, and Armenia is an integral part of Russia's national security. Moreover, the further Ankara drifts away from Western powers, higher the chances that it will suffer serious repercussions. After all, Western powers and Jews still maintain quite a bit of influence in Turkey, especially amongst its secular population, especially within its industrial sector. Ultimately, Moscow may or may not succeed in luring Ankara out of NATO. I personally do not think it will happen because taking Turkey out of NATO without destroying it in the process cannot be done. Regardless of what may or may not happen with Ankara's NATO membership, what is important, from an Armenian perspective, is Turkey's increasing reliance on Russian trade and energy. After all, Russia is the dominant force in the Black Sea region and its clout is continuing to grow. Russian-Turkish trade is primarily one way - Russian energy to Turkey's energy starved economy. In other words, Turkey needs Russia more than Russia needs Turkey. Better relations with Moscow will in fact force Ankara to abandon its Pan-Turkic and/or Neo-Ottoman wet-dreams in the Caucasus. With better relations between Moscow and Ankara, the Armenian-Turkish border may just open after all. After all, the so-called "protocols" were at least in part a Russian agenda -
Looking at Armenian-Turkish Relations - Without the Paranoia, Obsessions or the Hysteria: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2010/08/looking-at-armenian-turkish-relations.html
Moreover, the recent agreement between Moscow and Ankara, in conjunction with the heightened tensions between Moscow and the West, may also result in Western powers placing more emphasis on Baku and the Western-funded Nabucco pipeline which is Europe's only source of Central Asian energy that does not pass through Russia. This will make Baku's already difficult geopolitical situation suddenly more complex and Sultan Aliyev will automatically become even more vulnerable in the eyes of Western powers, Moscow, Tehran and Yerevan - and less important in the eyes of Ankara. Such signs are already appearing. I have a gut feeling that recent development in the region, as well as falling oil prices, will cause very serious problems for the dictatorship in Baku.

At the end of the day, despite the West's wishes, Russia will not be brought down to its knees be it financially, economically or militarily. At the end of the day, Europe still needs massive supplies of natural gas. The Russian Federation is still the world's number one natural gas provider. Don't believe the bullshit coming out of Fox News, liquified natural gas or shale gas from the US is currently not nor will it ever be a viable and/or practical alternative to Russian energy for Europe. And the construction of new pipelines from the Middle East to Europe is still very, very far away... if at all possible -
Thanks to Western aggression and machinations, the entire Middle East has been turned into one big bloody battlefield and there seems no end in sight for the cycle of ethnic and religious violence there. Today's carnage will bare bad fruit for generations to come. Europe can forget about replacing Russian energy with Middle Eastern energy for the foreseeable future. If Moscow follows through and actually abandons the South Stream project and reroutes its pipelines to Turkey, the EU will have screwed itself. The EU will have in fact been screwed by Western miscalculations and political blunders. Europeans will still have to purchase Russian natural gas - but now from Turks and at a higher price. With that said, I personally think the South Stream project may still be revived. Nevertheless, the more troubles Ankara has with the Western powers, the better it will be for Russians and Armenians. The Turkish state will sooner-or-later fall apart and Armenians will reclaim what belong to Armenia. For now, however, we need to concentrate on strengthening the Armenian statehood we have today. And one of the ways with which the Armenian statehood will be strengthened is through the unconditional opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, within the context of the Russian-led Eurasian Union.

We are living in historic times

Merely twenty five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union we are living through historic change once more. This time around, however, the impending change may eventually prove more fundamental in nature. Humanity may finally succeed in breaking from the post-Napoleonic era's Anglo-American-Jewish paradigm and enter into a multipolar one. As the political epicenter of the world shifts eastward, so with prosperity. Only with the Western political order out of the way will projects that hold great potential for humanity will become realized. Needless to say, it will not be a pretty journey. Now that the Western political order has effectively become the Sick Man of the world, we will see increasing bloodshed. As another Sick Man in history has shown, terminally ill political systems based on militarism, exploitation, arrogance and illusion do not quietly fade into history. We have a problem in the world today because Western power and influence is far reaching. 

Cecil Rhodes, the ardent British imperialist, mining magnate and one who masterminded the creation of the Anglo-American empire, once looked up to the heavens and said -

"I would annex the planets if I could"
 
While the inheritors of his grandiose imperial vision have not been able to annex the planets, they have managed to annex, in one way or another, much of the world we live in today. For the past two hundred years humanity has been living in an Anglo-American-Jewish era. The aforementioned trinity permeates virtually every single aspect of life on planet earth today. If they had their way they would even "privatize" and tax the air we breath as well. Well, come to think of it, the Western crusade against "climate change" is in fact closely related to their imperial desire to control the air we breath through their laws and their taxes.

Their ability to influence course of events in faraway lands are unprecedented in human history. They have the powerful tools - political, military, psychological, cultural, financial and organizational - to manipulate and exploit societies across the world. They have powerful news media outlets to disseminated Western propaganda. They have a massive array of well-funded NGOs championing all kinds of causes that serve all kinds of Western interests. They have the financial means to bribe officials and enslave nations. They control the commodities trade. They control global trade routes. They control the creation and dissemination of money around the world. They have an all-powerful music and film industry to craft human behavior. They have provocateurs and hitmen ready to incite unrest whenever and wherever needed. They have professional agents working behind-the-scenes under the guise of "journalists", "aid workers", "humanitarian activists" and "environmentalists". They have the highly refined tools to mesmerize, stupefy and create an alternative reality for the global sheeple. Consequently, they have a great multitude of brainwashed activists around the world to organize "opposition" groups and take to the streets every time their spiritual leaders and financiers in the West call on them -
U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&emc=eta1&
George Soros and his open society: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncdisau7rBs
NGO documents plan Ukraine war: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEcZFgSnVP0

Does the US engineering revolutions?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpXbA6yZY-8

US has history of supporting anti-govt upheavals: http://rt.com/news/us-sponsored-coups-ukraine-517/ 

Documents Leaked by WikiLeaks Show an Organization Training Opposition Around the World: http://revolution-news.com/documents-leaked-wikileaks-show-organization-trains-opposition-around-world/ 

How to Start a Revolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO1t4Fif2c0 

Revolution Engineering: US know-how and 'colourful' technology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0xlOeZ8Dr8&feature=plcp 

South of the Border: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vBlV5TUI64 

NGOs, an extension of US foreign policy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-raqX4KKY1Q 

Washington on the War Path: Civil Society as Battering-Ram: http://rt.com/politics/washington-war-russia-putin-023/ 

US NGO uncovered in Ukraine protest: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/01/07/us-ngo-uncovered-in-ukraine-protests/#sthash.mJPpqq63.dpuf

Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China and Armenia have been some of their most persistent targets.


Speaking of Armenia: With official entry into the Russian-led Eurasian Union just a few weeks away now, Uncle Sam's operatives in Armenia are getting increasingly desperate - as was predicted. Last week, "Pre-Parliament" members got their automobiles set on fire (most probably done by them to attract media coverage and gain public sympathy). Now, the same are claiming that they will attempt a regime change in Armenia - by the use of arms if need be! And when are these Western-financed terrorists planning to carry out their violent revolution? Next April 24, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of all times! Alarmingly, they are also implying that the murder of Armenian security officials and politicians is justified now because the two serve foreign interests (i.e. Russian interests) -
Սթափվե´ք, այլապես կգա այն օրը, երբ ժողովուրդը կստիպի ձեզ սթափվել: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNEz5W9_lKo
As you can see, Armenia's self-destructive peasantry are once again ready and very willing to burn down their village to save it from imaginary monsters. Very surreal indeed. Even more surreal is the lack of outrage amongst Armenians at statements made by Pre-Parliament representatives. I say, perhaps the killing of Pre-Parliament members is now justified as well, specially since their actions in Armenia directly serve the interests of Western powers and Turks. Although they speak of "nationalism", "human rights" and "civil society", these characters are wolves in sheep's clothing. These characters serve foreign masters and are in fact the enemies within. It is their kind that has ruined Armenian statehood time-and-again. It is their kind that has turned Armenia into a desolate battlefield time-and-again. It is their kind that has kept Armenia torn between great powers. It is their kind that murdered and beheaded the great Mkhitar Sparapet and presented his severed head to the Turkish Pasha as a peace offering.

Representatives of Pre-Parliament - along with Paruyr Hayriikyian's National Self-Determination Union, David Grigorian's Policy Forum Armenia, Raffi Hovanissian's Heritgate Party and Vartan Oskanian's Civilitas - represent the single greatest threat to Armenian statehood for they are cancerous cells within the Armenian body.

I'm now actually looking forward to the day when these vermin try to do what they are promising for that will most probably be their final end. With that said, it should also be said that these people are as impotent as they are pathetic. They bring a Shakespearian quote to mind: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Their time has in fact passed. Their best chance for a Color Revolution was in early 2008. Back then, a few of them were shot down, the rest fled for their lives. Today, these vermin would be lucky to get several thousand prostitutes, homosexuals, senile seniors, pedophiles, clueless peasants, ignorant adolescent, lunatics and professional Western mercenaries out to the streets. 

Like I said, their time has long passed. Armenia is moving on.

These types of "democracy" movements we are seeing spring-up around the world today appeal to the lowest, most primitive instincts of mankind. Let it surprise no one therefore that advocates of such movements in developing or underdeveloped nations tend to be those on the fringes of normal society. In their personal quest to bring about change (change within which they would feel better for themselves), often times homosexuals, open or otherwise, become leading activists for such movements. We see this process in Armenia as well. Nevertheless, similar to Bolshevism one hundred years ago and Christianity before that, Western-led democracy movements today appeal to the disgruntled masses of the world with false promises of a better life. Similar to what Bolshevism was one hundred years ago, democracy movements today are weaponized and exported to targeted nation - nations of the world that are not subjugated by Western financial institutions or nations that are not under the Western boot.

On the eve of the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War, Russian lands are once again under attack by corrosive ideological movements formulated in and promoted from Western lands. "Westernization" and "Globalization" are new and more potent forms of Bolshevism that should be fought against by all of humanity. In a larger context, this is not only Russia's fight - this is humanity's fight. This is indeed a fight between good and evil. I pray for peace - but I hope Kremlin officials are getting their big guns ready just in case, because we simply cannot afford a replay of 1917.

In closing, I would like to remind the reader that we are living in a very interesting period in human history and very turbulent times are ahead. If Western powers are unable to subdue Moscow through measures they have currently adopted, they may resort to more drastic measures out of desperation. There is a real risk that if Moscow is not made to comply with Western dictates through a renewed cold war (i.e. political, financial and/or economic measures) they may transform their effort into a hot war. 

Why do I think this is a very real risk? Simply because Western powers are too wealthy, too well-fed and too blinded by their perceived strength and arrogance to allow upstarts like Russia to weaken their global hegemony. They realize that they are in a serious predicament: If they cannot secure a position at the very top of the global food-chain, they may have to sink all the way to the bottom. In their neo-imperial pursuit of total global dominance - Russia is the only political entity on earth standing in their way. If threatened, a gluttonous monster who has been unchallenged in the world can be very dangerous animal indeed.

With that said, I predict that the monster in question will be either tamed or killed.

The only thing today that is saving mankind from total subjugation by the Anglo-American-Zionist global order is nuclear deterrence: Moscow's willingness to use its nuclear arsenal if threatened. I personally believe that the increasing threat of a nuclear catastrophe will force Western officials to calibrate their actions against Russia. Russia will therefore persevere. Washington will continue losing its outposts throughout Eurasia in the coming decades. Western power and influence will diminish. Western-funded usurpers around the world posing as "democracy" movements will gradually lose their luster. A multipolar world will emerge from the current turmoil. Although Western control around the world is gradually diminishing, imperial officials in Washington still think they should own the world. Therefore, the assault against nation-states that do not comply with Western dictates will continue. After all, as all trigger-happy American policemen, Uncle Sam's self-appointed role as the World's Policeman has proven to be a very bloody affair indeed. Its demotion from that role may be an even much bloodier affair still, but it has to be done for the greater good. It will be done.

Arevordi
November, 2014

***

Should America Continue Being the World’s Policeman?


Bush did too much and Obama too little—but a ‘broken-windows’ model of U.S. foreign policy can be just right

When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, Americans must sometimes feel like Goldilocks in the three bears’ house. The porridge that was President George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda”—promising democracy for everyone from Karachi to Casablanca—was too hot. The mush that has been President Barack Obama ’s foreign policy—heavy on rhetoric about resets, pivots and engagement but weak in execution and deeply ambivalent about the uses of U.S. power—is too cold.

What we need instead, as the fairy tale has it, is a foreign policy that is just right—neither too ambitious nor too quiescent, forceful when necessary but mindful that we must not exhaust ourselves in utopian quests to heal crippled societies.

The U.S. finds itself today in a post-Cold War global order under immense strain, even in partial collapse. Four Arab states have unraveled since 2011. The European Union stumbles from recession to recession, with each downturn calling into question the future of the common currency and even the union itself. In Asia, China has proved to be, by turns, assertive, reckless and insecure. Russia seeks to dominate its neighbors through local proxies, dirty tricks and even outright conquest. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and Iran’s effort to develop one tempt their neighbors to start nuclear programs of their own. And even as the core of al Qaeda fades in importance, its jihadist offshoots, including Islamic State, are metastasizing elsewhere.

As for the U.S., the sour experience of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has generated a deep—and bipartisan—reluctance to interfere in foreign conflicts, on the view that our interventions will exact a high price in blood and treasure for uncertain strategic gains. One result is that aggressive regimes seem to think that they can pursue their territorial or strategic ambitions without much fear of a decisive U.S. response. Another is that many of our traditional allies, from Israel to Saudi Arabia to Japan, are quietly beginning to explore other options as the old guarantees of the postwar Pax Americana no longer seem as secure as they once were.

How should an American president navigate through this world of ambitious rogues and nervous freelancers? How can the U.S. enforce some basic global norms, deter enemies and reassure friends without losing sight of our global priorities and national interests? How do we conduct a foreign policy that keeps our nightmares at bay, even if we can’t always make our dreams come true?

When it comes to restoring order in places widely assumed to be beyond the reach of redemption, there is a proven model for us to consult. But it has nothing to do with foreign policy; it has to do with policing our toughest inner cities. And it has brought spectacular—and almost wholly unexpected—results.

The year 1991 was a year of foreign policy triumphs for the U.S., from victory in the Gulf War to the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it was the annus horribilis for American crime, with nearly 1.1 million aggravated assaults, 106,590 forcible rapes and 24,700 murders. In every category, crime was up from the year—and the decade—before. As late as 1995, some criminologists were predicting that a new wave of “super-predators” would descend on American neighborhoods. “If current trends continue, the number of arrests of juveniles for violent crimes will double by the year 2010,” reported the New York Times, citing a Justice Department report.
 
“Current trends” did not continue.

In 1990, New York City registered a homicide rate of 30.7 murders for every 100,000 people. By 2012, it had fallen to a rate of 5. A similar, if slightly less dramatic, story unfolded in every other major U.S. city. The social deliverance happened despite the fact that many of the factors often cited to explain crime—bad schools, broken homes, poverty, the prevalence of guns, unemployment—remained largely the same from one decade to the next.

What happened? The crack epidemic crested in the early 1990s. The police began developing new techniques to track and control patterns of criminal activity. Between 1992 and 2008, the number of law enforcement personnel rose by 141,000, a 25% increase, and from 1990 to 2000, the adult incarceration rate nearly doubled. More cops on the streets; more bad guys behind bars. It was bound to have an effect.
 
But something else was at work. In 1982, George Kelling, a criminologist at Rutgers, and James Q. Wilson, a political scientist at Harvard, wrote an essay for the Atlantic Monthly titled “Broken Windows.”
 
Their core insight turned on a social-science experiment conducted in 1969 by Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford. Dr. Zimbardo parked a car on a street in the Bronx, with the hood up and without license plates. Within 10 minutes, vandals begin to pick the car clean of its valuables: battery, radiator, tires. By the next day, people began destroying the car, ripping up pieces of upholstery and smashing windows.

Dr. Zimbardo then conducted the same experiment in tony Palo Alto, Calif., near the Stanford campus. This time, the car—also with the hood up and the license plates removed—sat untouched for several days. So Dr. Zimbardo smashed a window with a sledgehammer. “Soon, passersby were joining in,” wrote Drs. Kelling and Wilson. “Within a few hours, the car had been turned upside down and utterly destroyed.” What to conclude?

“Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence,” Drs. Kelling and Wilson argued. It had long been known that if one broken window wasn’t replaced, it wouldn’t be long before all the other windows were broken too. Why? Because, they wrote, “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”

The idea that the mere appearance of disorder encourages a deeper form of disorder cuts against the conventional wisdom that crime is a function of “root causes.” Yet municipalities that adopted policing techniques based on the broken-windows theory—techniques that emphasized policing by foot patrols and the strict enforcement of laws against petty crimes and “social incivilities”—tended to register sharp drops in crime and improvements in the overall quality of life.

We are disposed to think that, over time, order inevitably dissolves into disorder. But the drop in crime rates reminds us that we can go the other way—and impose order on disorder. Could it be that there’s a “broken windows” cure not just for America’s mean streets but for our increasingly disorderly world?

President Obama often talks about rules. After Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas to murder more than 1,000 people near Damascus in August 2013, Mr. Obama warned that “if we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.” After Russia seized Crimea in 2014, he denounced the Kremlin for “challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force.”

The language is elegant; the words are true. Yet the warnings rarely amount to much. The U.S. succeeded in getting Mr. Assad to give up much of his chemical arsenal, but the Syrian dictator goes on slaughtering his people, sometimes using chlorine gas instead of sarin. The president’s immediate response to the seizure of Crimea was to sanction a handful of Russians, send a few fighter jets to Poland and Lithuania, and refuse Ukrainian requests for military support.

This is how we arrive at a broken-windows world: Rules are invoked but not enforced. Principles are idealized but not defended. The moment the world begins to notice that rules won’t be enforced, the rules will begin to be flouted. One window breaks, then all the others.

The most urgent goal of U.S. foreign policy over the next decade should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder. The broken-windows theory emphasizes the need to put cops on the street—creating a sense of presence, enforcing community norms, serving the interests of responsible local stakeholders. It stresses the need to deter crime, not react to it, to keep neighborhoods from becoming places that entice criminal behavior.

A broken-windows approach to foreign policy would require the U.S. to increase military spending to upward of 5% of GDP. That is well above the 3.5% of GDP devoted to defense in 2014, though still under its 45-year average of 5.5%. The larger budget would allow the Navy to build a fleet that met its long-stated need for 313 ships (it is now below 290, half its Reagan-era size). It would enable the Air Force to replace an aircraft fleet whose planes are 26 years old on average, the oldest in its history. It would keep the U.S. Army from returning—as it now plans to do, over the warnings of officers like Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno —to its pre-World War II size.

The key to building a military ready to enforce a broken-windows policy is to focus on numbers, not on prohibitively expensive wonder-weapons into which we pour billions of research dollars—only to discover later that we can afford just a small number of them.

Broken-windows foreign policy would sharply punish violations of geopolitical norms, such as the use of chemical weapons, by swiftly and precisely targeting the perpetrators of the attacks (assuming those perpetrators can be found). But the emphasis would be on short, mission-specific, punitive police actions, not on open-ended occupations with the goal of redeeming broken societies.

The central tragedy of the Iraq war is that it took nine months, at a cost of some 480 American lives, to remove Saddam Hussein from power and capture him in his spider hole—which ought to have been the central goal of the war. Yet we spent eight years, and lost an additional 4,000 Americans, in an attempt to turn Iraq into a model of Arab democracy—a “root cause” exercise if ever there was one. There’s a big difference between making an example of a regime like Saddam’s Iraq and trying to turn Iraq into an exemplary state.

A broken-windows foreign policy would be global in its approach: no more “pivots” from this region to that, as if we can predict where the crises of the future are likely to arise. (Did anyone see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine coming?) But it would also know how to discriminate between core interests and allies and peripheral ones.

As Henry Nau of the George Washington University notes in a perceptive recent essay in the American Interest, we should “focus on freedom where it counts the most, namely on the borders of existing free societies.” Those are the borders that divide the free countries of Asia from China and North Korea; the free countries of central Europe from Russia; and allies such as Israel and Jordan from many of their neighbors.

A broken-windows foreign policy wouldn’t try to run every bad guy out of town. Nor would it demand that the U.S. put out every geopolitical fire. American statesmen will have to figure out which of those fires risks burning down the entire neighborhood, as the war in Syria threatens to do, and which will probably burn themselves out, as is likely the case in South Sudan.

Then again, foreign crises rarely present a binary choice between doing nothing and conducting a full-scale military intervention. A cruise-missile strike against a single radio tower in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide could have helped to prevent Hutus from broadcasting instructions for murdering Tutsis, potentially saving thousands of innocent lives at minimal cost to the U.S. Bomb strikes by NATO to lift the siege of Sarajevo helped to turn the tide of the war in the former Yugoslavia against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, also at no serious cost to the U.S. Perhaps it is time for a strategy that enshrines the principle that preventing tragedy should enjoy greater moral legitimacy than reacting to it.

In his famous 1993 essay, “Defining Deviancy Down,” the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed how Americans had become inured to ever-higher rates of violent crime by treating as “normal” criminal activity that would have scandalized past generations of Americans. “We are getting used to a lot of behavior that is not good for us,” the senator from New York wrote. Twenty years later, the opposite has happened. We have defined deviancy up. But having done so, we have tended to forget how much better things are now than they were before.

Americans have lived in a relatively orderly world for so long that we have become somewhat complacent about maintaining it. Perhaps that explains why, in recent years, we have adopted a foreign policy that neglects to do the things that have underpinned that orderly world: commitments to global security, military forces adequate to those commitments, a willingness to intervene in regional crises to secure allies and to confront or deter aggressive regimes.

In recent months, however, and especially since the rise of Islamic State and the beheading of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, Americans have begun to rediscover certain truths about Pax Americana: If our red lines are exposed as mere bluffs, more of them will be crossed. If our commitments to our allies aren’t serious, those allies might ignore or abandon us. If our threats are empty, our enemies will be emboldened, and we will have more of them.

In other words, if the world’s leading liberal-democratic nation doesn’t assume its role as world policeman, the world’s rogues will try to fill the breach, often in league with one another. It could be a world very much like the 1930s, a decade in which economic turmoil, war weariness, Western self-doubt, American self-involvement and the rise of ambitious dictatorships combined to produce catastrophe. When President Franklin Roosevelt asked Winston Churchill what World War II should be called, the British prime minister replied, “the unnecessary war”—because, Churchill said, “never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle.” That is an error we should not repeat.

To say that the U.S. needs to be the world’s policeman isn’t to say that we need to be its preacher, spreading the gospel of the American way. Preachers are in the business of changing hearts and saving souls. Cops merely walk the beat, reassuring the good, deterring the tempted, punishing the wicked. Not everyone grows up wanting to be a cop. But who wants to live in a neighborhood, or a world, where there is no cop? Would you? Should an American president?


America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder
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At a recent event in New York City, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens was introduced to an audience of hundreds. As he introduced Stephens, the MC enthusiastically shared that the highlight of his week occurred on Tuesday mornings when he opened the Journal’s op-ed pages to read Stephens’ latest column and insights. Similarly, it was with great anticipation that I opened the pages of Stephens’ new book, America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. And as I expected, he did not disappoint. Stephens is an historian as well as a prolific writer and deep thinker, the combination of which has led to a thoughtful, well-researched and factually-supported manuscript. His book is a direct result of years of failed U.S. foreign policy:
Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, the political order of the Arab world has nearly unraveled. The economic order of the European world is under strain. The countries of the Pacific Rim are threatened by a China that is by turns assertive, reckless, and insecure. Despite its fundamental weaknesses, Russia seeks to dominate its “near-abroad” through a combination of local proxies, dirty tricks, and outright conquest. Another international order – the nuclear one – is being fundamentally challenged by the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by two uniquely dangerous states, Iran and North Korea, which in turn invites their nearest neighbors to consider their own nuclear options. Al Qaeda may be diminished in some corners of the Middle East, but it is metastasizing in others. The United States is more reluctant than it has been for decades to intervene abroad, judging that there is better security in inaction than action. Traditional allies of the United States, uncertain of its purposes, are beginning to explore their options in what they suspect is becoming a post-Pax Americana world, encouraging freelancing instincts which Washington has a diminishing ability to restrain.
How did America, the leader of the free world for a variety of reasons including its military strength, powerful international alliances, and unrivaled visionary leadership, come to a place at which scholars, journalists, enemies, and friends debate whether it is in decline or temporary retreat? This is a distinction with a difference that Stephens addresses early in his book as he optimistically concludes that America is not in decline -- we still have a choice. In making the case that the dismal state of affairs can be reversed, he also develops a powerful argument for the next president to be a neocon who recognizes the imperative role of America as the world’s policeman.

In examining the “Retreat Doctrine” of “rebalance, resize, and retreat,” Stephens notes that Obama’s foreign policy approach is not simply a retreat in military might. It is also “a diplomatic approach, a strategic posture, perhaps even a national ideal.” He walks the reader through Obama’s “Light Footprint” approach to foreign policy that rests upon the belief that “the containment most needed in the twenty-first century is not of authoritarian adversaries such as China, Russia, or Iran” but of “the United States itself.”

Stephens further makes the point that while Obama, when speaking about foreign policy, tends to do so in moral terms, “so much so that it sounds as if he’s running not a superpower but a social movement,” what the president is actually doing is retreating “from ordinary moral judgment.” The problem with Obama’s Retreat Doctrine in this regard is that he does not follow through on moral decisions from ignoring human rights violations in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Russia, and China to ignoring the Green Movement in Iran in 2009.

Stephens also calls attention to the isolationists’ mistaken belief that all of these foreign policy failures are taking place, and will remain, far from America’s shores. He expounds upon the observation of Leon Trotsky that “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you” and observes, “[o]ne can only be alone when one is left alone. We will not be left alone.” However, he also recognizes that “No great power can treat foreign policy as a spectator sport and hope to remain a great power.”

For those concerned with the apparent divide in the Republican Party, Stephens’ chapter on “Republicans in Retreat” is interesting. He notes that “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism,’ a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.” He then attacks those claims and points out that American retreat:
Ultimately requires a return to the very thing small-government conservatives hate most: the expensive, intrusive, security-conscious state. It’s also no accident that democratic countries that do the most to slash their military budgets and global commitments also have comparatively bigger welfare states.
After investigating the foreign policy divide within the conservative movement and in particular, the influence of the Tea Party and “Realists” and how they led to isolationist ideals, Stephens concludes that only conservative foreign policy will achieve the maintenance of global order.

Stephens’ historical analysis is compelling. “The tragedies of the 1930s are well known. What’s forgotten is how they flowed from the illusions of the 1920s, the same illusions that conservative advocates of the Retreat Doctrine harbor today.” Against this backdrop, he debunks the claims of those who support this doctrine and who believe the world will sort itself out without American intervention. He exposes the failures of concepts such as liberal peace, balance of power, and collective security as alternatives to Pax Americana. “A balance of power may seem plausible in theory. But the nature of power is that it seeks pre-eminence, not balance.” Again, it is clear that the only alternative to Pax Americana is global disorder.

After recognizing America’s recent weak responses to provocations (N. Korea’s testing of a ballistic missile and nuclear weapons, Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Russia’s seizure of Crimea), Stephens proscribes a way out of this mess. The immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the slide, introduce a “broken-windows” approach of deterrence rather than reaction, put cops on the street by deploying personnel globally, increase military spending, punish violations of geopolitical norms, be global in approach, distinguish core interests, and prevent local conflicts from escalating into regional catastrophes. While this may seem like a common sense approach, our current policy-makers and leaders would benefit from a tutorial.
There is a growing sense that if America provides no leadership, authoritarian regimes will quickly fill the breach; that if our red lines are exposed as mere bluffs, more of them will be crossed; that if our commitments to our allies – both the ones we generally like and the ones we have no option but to accept – aren’t serious, those friends might abandon us; that if our threats against our enemies are empty, our enemies will be emboldened, and we will have more of them.  If history does not end – and it hasn’t – then the United States does not get a holiday from it.
Through the use of historical facts and analyses, the inclusion of compelling statistical realities, and the embrace of practical analogies (“No police or fire department would wait until a house is consumed in flames before it started putting it out”), Stephens makes the case that the coming global disorder is inevitable if the country continues on a path of retreat. He even includes a chapter entitled, “A Scenario for Global Disorder” peeking into the looking glass of the adventures in the Democrats’ wonderland if Hillary were to win in 2016. But he also gives readers like me, who feared prior to reading his book that America’s decline was irreversible, a rational basis for hope that our preeminent place in history and the world can in fact be restored under the right leadership. It is not too late for America -- especially if everyone reads America in Retreat.


Heritage Foundation: Russia's Aggression Isn't Stopping in Ukraine

This file photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin

NATO confirmed on Wednesday that Russian tanks were moving into rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine. But Russia's aggression under Vladimir Putin didn't begin in Ukraine and, unless the West stops vacillating, it won't end there, either.

After the 2003 Rose Revolution, the nation of Georgia, in the Caucasus, became a staunch American ally. But in 2008, it was invaded and partially occupied by Putin's Russia, and in 2012 its pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, lost the parliamentary elections. Since then, Georgia has been governed by a coalition founded by a shadowy billionaire who made his money in Russia. But recently, the Georgian defense minister was fired and its foreign minister quit. Both advocated closer ties to the West. Georgia is drifting into Russia's orbit.

Next to Georgia are Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia, heavily armed by Russia, supports a separatist territory inside Azerbaijan, which is a major oil producer. As Russia also exports energy, it has a lot to gain from threatening Azerbaijan. Last week, in a sequel to major border clashes in August, Azerbaijan's military shot down an Armenian helicopter. Armenia is not a mere Russian puppet, but by backing Armenia, Russia perpetuates the conflict and again makes Russian influence felt in the Caucasus.

If Armenia is a problem, Iran is a threat. Russia announced a contract last week to build eight new nuclear reactors in Iran. There is nothing new about Moscow's nuclear ties to Tehran: Russia completed Iran's nuclear facility at Bushehr. Supposedly the new reactors, like Bushehr, will produce only electricity. But the West can't even monitor Iran's existing nuclear program; with eight new reactors, monitoring will be far tougher.

The Obama administration badly wants a nuclear deal with Iran. While Russia is a party to the negotiations with Iran, its new nuclear contract seems designed to make the administration's quest for an agreement look unbearably foolish. Even if the West gets access to Bushehr, Iran will, thanks to Russia, simply draw new nuclear cards. And by selling to Iran, Russia wins leverage over the West: By creating a threat, it can perversely demand that it must be part of the diplomatic efforts to address that threat.

Nor are the Balkans free from Russian meddling. In late 2013, Montenegrin newspapers reported that Montenegro had turned down a Russian request for a naval base, which Russia apparently wanted because it feared losing its Syrian port at Tartus. As long as Montenegro has a hope of joining NATO, it is likely to reject Russian requests. But Bosnia is more vulnerable, and Russia has close ties to Republika Srpska, the Serbian part of Bosnia. In March, Milorad Dodik, the Serbian president, met with the Russian foreign minister. Dodik, the Russians announced, was in Moscow to receive an award from the "International Public Fund of Unity of Orthodox People." Translation: The Serbs are Slavic brothers, and just like the Ukrainian rebels and the occupied parts of Georgia, they are under Russian protection.

In a recent speech, Putin defended the pact between Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin that divided Poland and launched World War II. That was both a hint that he is willing to cut a dirty deal with the West and a threat to his neighbors: cooperate with Russia or, like Poland, be divided.

If the West cannot give Russia's neighbors a better option, they will have to accept Putin's terms. Putin has the West pegged: We always condemn Russian actions, but invariably, we soon decide it's time to talk again. The West needs to draw a line and stand by it: No more forgive and forget.

Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Source: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/russia-s-aggression-isn-t-stopping-in-ukraine-ted-bromund-1.9618880

Putin Visits Turkey: Oil Prices, Ukraine, Georgia, Cold War, World War

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Putin’s state visit to Erdogan yesterday in Ankara, a summit meeting between the world’s two top pseudo-democratic authoritarian regimes, can determine the direction of history for some decades. If you think I exaggerate, keep reading. Anyone moderately literate in the world’s strategic balances knows exactly what I mean. I will add some less visible but pivotal factors that, in toto, could affect all our lives. At stake is not merely the future of Syria, ISIS and the like, but the price of oil, the fate of sanctions, the democracy vs. autocracy struggle, Nato, EU, Cold War, even Nuclear War. The world is poised so precariously that, as others have noted, we could be at a pre-WW1 moment on the verge of Great Power conflict.

Back in mid-October I discussed the likely drop in oil price, now occupying headlines, to outline how Saudi Arabia meant to use oil power to push back Moscow for supporting Assad http://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkay...r-is-shifting/ Moscow aimed veiled threats at the Saudis for playing a political game in collusion with the US. Riyadh knows that Putin’s bluster evaporates domestically without gas and oil revenues, and externally without pipeline leverage. In the column I point out how, in fact, Saudi Arabia intends to push back against the US equally; a very low oil price endangers the cost-effectiveness of fracking. The Saudis aren’t pleased with Washington’s increasing alignment with the Shiite Crescent in the Mideast. Then, in November, I wrote in this space about a telephone quarrel between Erdogan and Putin. I dwelt on Erdogan’s gas deal with Turkmenistan and Putin’s narrowing timeline for bullying Ukraine with a compliant EU – compliant because of EU dependence on Russian gas supplies http://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkay...nvade-ukraine/.

That’s the background to the Ankara summit meeting. Up to now, Putin was able to slow down all manner of alternatives to Russian fuel by lowering prices, intimidating suppliers and users, and condign gestures of violence. It is all on the verge of busting out of his control. Gazprom has just announced they’re abandoning a pipeline plan to circumvent Ukraine. In addition, as the link shows, Erdogan signed a deal to import and pass on Turkmen gas ultimately to Europe. Plus, a pipeline via Turkey from Azerbaijan will reach Europe in four years.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg just published a report on the Ankara visit saying the meeting will result in lots of harmony because Turkey has no alternate to Russian gas. The report also asserts that Russia serves as Turkey’s second largest trade partner. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-1...fferences.html . With all due respect, the truth is much more complicated. Erdogan understands Moscow’s increasing weakness. Indeed, Erdogan himself embodies the weakening threat, being the conduit for multiple ways Europe will get fuel supplies – from Azerbaijan, from Turkmenistan, from Iraq. On the other hand, like others in the region, he has begun to detach from the West. He’s actually planning to have Russia build nuclear power stations in Turkey. The stupidity of this idea has many layers, not least the dependence on Moscow. Clearly Erdogan wants to acquire a nuclear guarantee for himself and his regime, not a happy sign for Turkey’s future democracy. 

Meanwhile, Putin has made his moves to pressure Turkey. Not many people know that Georgia’s current government acceded to Russian demands to build a strategic road from Russian Daghestan through Georgia to the Azerbaijan border. This will allow the Kremlin to move assets to seal off the Azeri border at any time. Meaning, isolating Azerbaijan from trade with Turkey via Georgia, and with Georgia itself, in effect sealing off Azerbaijan from the world. You can be sure that Georgia’s regime will act in solidarity with Moscow. The PM in Tbilisi just said, in a November 25 interview with the FT, that he opposes Western arms for Ukraine. This is the same government that has not uttered a word against Putin or for Ukraine against Putin. Essentially, the Kremlin’s message to Turkey goes something like this: don’t bank on your Azerbaijan supplies, neither for yourself nor as a conduit to Europe. Nor should you have faith in the future autonomy of Azerbaijan to make choices, and that goes for Turkmenistan too. Do you think that the US or Nato will come to your side when Russian tanks invade those places and cut you off from their oil and gas? So far Erdogan has no reason to doubt Putin’s threat. The last thing Erdogan can handle, with its southern border aflame, is a military threat reopening on Turkey’s northern flank.

So that’s how the forces are balanced at the summit. Putin will keep raising the threshold of his threats – many think he will actually use nuclear weapons, even if through deniable proxies, even if only tactical weapons. After Assad’s chemical weapons, and pro-Russian rebels downing a civilian airliner – without consequences – can we dismiss the notion? For sure, Erdogan can’t. Having alienated Nato and emasculated his army, he knows nobody will fight a world war to defend him. As for the US and EU, they have a lot to answer for by ignoring Putin’s aggression in Georgia and then in Ukraine. They emboldened him to believe that no single country’s fate will spur them to face him down. They’ve dropped all red lines so at no juncture were his atrocities pivotal. He has built up his threat incrementally, stealthily. He has made his message clear. He doesn’t think he needs to up the ante anymore but he will if necessary – it might even lead to a world war, if necessary. That’s the message. With the drop in oil prices, he may have to and the West will have to respond.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkay...war-world-war/

Viktor Orban Steers Hungary Toward Russia 25 Years After Fall of the Berlin Wall

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A quarter-century ago, as Hungary helped ignite the events that would lead to the collapse of communism, the ferment produced a new political star. Viktor Orban was 26 then and a longhaired law graduate. In June 1989, five months before the Berlin Wall came down, he lit up a commemoration of the failed 1956 revolt against Moscow with a bold call for free elections and a demand that 80,000 Soviet troops go home.

Now, as the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is commemorated Sunday, Hungary is a member of NATO and the European Union and Mr. Orban is in his third term as prime minister. But what was once a journey that might have embodied the triumph of democratic capitalism has evolved into a much more complex tale of a country and a leader who in the time since have come to question Western values, foment nationalism and look more openly at Russia as a model.

After leading his right-wing party to a series of national and local election victories, Mr. Orban is rapidly centralizing power, raising a crop of crony oligarchs, cracking down on dissent, expanding ties with Moscow and generally drawing uneasy comparisons from Western leaders and internal opponents to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“He is the only Putinist governing in the European Union,” said Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister. Some other Eastern European countries, especially Poland, have remained oriented toward the West and still harbor deep suspicions of Russia long after the Cold War ended.

But Hungary is one of several countries in the former Soviet sphere that are now torn between the Western ways that appeared ascendant immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union and the resilient clout of today’s Russia. Money, culture and energy resources still bind most regional countries to Russia as tightly as to Europe. Mr. Putin’s combative nationalism is more popular here than what many see as Western democratic sclerosis.

Mr. Orban has laid out a philosophical vision and justification for his authoritarian-leaning approach that suggests a long-term commitment to turning Hungary into something quite different from what the West anticipated when the Iron Curtain collapsed and the Berlin Wall came down. In a speech this summer, Mr. Orban declared liberal democracy to be in decline and praised authoritarian “illiberal democracies” in Turkey, China, Singapore and Russia.

He traced his views to what he portrayed as the failures of Western governments to anticipate and deal adequately with the financial crisis that started in 2008 and the ensuing deep recession. He called that period the fourth great shock of the past century — the others being World War I, World War II and the end of the Cold War — and the impetus for what he called today’s key struggle: “a race to invent a state that is most capable of making a nation successful.”

Western democracies “will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly,” Mr. Orban said in the speech, according to an English translation on the government’s website.

Hungary, he said, will be “breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West” and will instead build a “new Hungarian state” that will be “competitive in the great global race for decades to come.”

Achieving that vision will require tougher stances toward outside forces, including nongovernmental organizations, the European Union and foreign lenders and investors, he said. As recently as 2008, Mr. Orban was a fierce critic of Mr. Putin. But the tone has changed, and the two have grown friendly, with Russia investing heavily in Hungary.

“Orban is a populist who acts, doesn’t just talk,” said Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute in Budapest, an independent research organization. As a result, he added, Hungary “can serve as a role model in Eastern Europe,” enticing countries like Romania and Bulgaria to follow an authoritarian path.

The only difference between Mr. Orban and authoritarians in other countries, Mr. Kreko said, is that “when they turn to the West, they try to smile, and Orban doesn’t even try.”

The grand center of Budapest, with its floodlit palaces flickering in the Danube, its sophisticated cafes, crowded theaters and the tourist-choked streets, betrays little sense of authoritarian unease. Yet behind the designer boutiques, young and struggling artists worry about when their state financing might be cut off if they fail to hit the proper note, and government watchdog groups suffer attacks in the state-controlled media while waiting anxiously for the arrival of investigators.

In the west of Hungary, German auto plants and other foreign investments create the semblance of a Western European lifestyle. But the feeling is quite different in the rural east, where destitute families, many of them Roma, either toil in one of Mr. Orban’s public works projects or languish in hopes the economy will improve.

Even the iconography of Budapest has taken on Mr. Orban’s stamp, exemplified by a much-derided statue unveiled last summer near Parliament showing a German eagle attacking an angel, meant to represent the Hungarian people — widely seen as an attempt by Hungarian nationalists to whitewash the country’s alliance with the Nazis during World War II. Mr. Orban’s subordinates in the ruling party, Fidesz, which he firmly controls, say that he is unchanged from the anti-communist rabble-rouser of the past and that charges of incipient dictatorship are left-wing fantasies.

“He is the same guy he used to be 25 years ago,” said Zoltan Kovacs, the prime minister’s international spokesman. “He wants to get rid of the attitudes, the remnants of the former system — get rid of the attitude that people live on social aid rather than work.”

Even his harshest critics concede that Mr. Orban has gone to nowhere near the lengths of Mr. Putin in silencing opponents. No one has been tossed in prison for criticizing the government. There has been no overt censorship. Recent mass protests against a proposed Internet tax were allowed to proceed and ended up forcing a retreat by Mr. Orban.

Nonetheless, foreign criticism is mounting. When President Obama recently listed states that are silencing civil society groups, Hungary was the only European country named. Washington has barred six unidentified public officials, deeming them too corrupt to enter the United States.

After the first free elections in 1990, Mr. Orban was one of several figures who had helped topple communism to jostle for power and influence. Most Hungarians, like others in Central and Eastern Europe, had unrealistic expectations of a quick, good life under democracy and capitalism.

They embraced NATO membership, which in 1999 came with the immediate duty to oppose Russia and fight in the war over Kosovo. They chafed at long negotiations, but like seven other former Soviet bloc nations welcomed European Union membership in 2004.

Hungarians perhaps felt the hardship of transition more bitterly than most because they had lived better than many others in the Soviet bloc under communism. Hungary had “goulash communism,” said Balint Ablonczy, domestic political editor of the pro-government journal Heti Valasz. Liberal democracy brought freedom of speech, but also the loss of jobs and of a sense of security, he said. In 1998, voters threw out the Socialist government and handed power to Mr. Orban and his party.

But as prime minister in that first term, “he overdid the nationalist ideology,” said Julia Lakatos, an analyst at the Center for Fair Political Analysis, a research group in Budapest. In 2002, the Socialists won back power. In 2010, though, voters turned back to Mr. Orban, who appeared to have learned from his previous mistakes.

Critics contend that the government uses its purse strings to control the arts and make the news media compliant. Dissent is attacked in the official press and sometimes investigated by the government. Even some conservative supporters are slightly wary of the extent to which Mr. Orban has systematically assembled power: packing courts and the chief prosecutor’s office with loyalists, altering the Constitution and laws so his party dominates.

“He ran as someone who would bring the two sides together in Hungarian politics, but when he got in he said, no, it is the time of the right, the time for revenge on the left,” said Mr. Ablonczy, the editor. “For him, politics is fighting. I am a man of the right, but my deepest disappointment with this government is this logic of always fighting.”

Fidesz won a second consecutive four-year term in April, its coalition again eking out a two-thirds majority in Parliament that essentially allows it to pass whatever laws it pleases. The party also won the European Parliament elections in May and local elections Oct. 12, a rare triple in fractious Europe these days.

Signs abound of the distance Hungary has traveled since communism’s fall. Laszlo Magas helped organize a Pan-European picnic in Sopron on the Austrian border that, in 1989, provided a first death knell for the Berlin Wall. Hundreds of East Germans used the occasion to pour across the once-sealed frontier.

Now a Fidesz member of the Sopron City Council, Mr. Magas refused to discuss politics at all, he says, because foreigners do not understand the country. Western news media, he says, seek out only opponents of Mr. Orban, who are a tiny minority in today’s Hungary.

They embraced NATO membership, which in 1999 came with the immediate duty to oppose Russia and fight in the war over Kosovo. They chafed at long negotiations, but like seven other former Soviet bloc nations welcomed European Union membership in 2004. Hungarians perhaps felt the hardship of transition more bitterly than most because they had lived better than many others in the Soviet bloc under communism.

Hungary had “goulash communism,” said Balint Ablonczy, domestic political editor of the pro-government journal Heti Valasz. Liberal democracy brought freedom of speech, but also the loss of jobs and of a sense of security, he said. In 1998, voters threw out the Socialist government and handed power to Mr. Orban and his party. But as prime minister in that first term, “he overdid the nationalist ideology,” said Julia Lakatos, an analyst at the Center for Fair Political Analysis, a research group in Budapest. In 2002, the Socialists won back power.

In 2010, though, voters turned back to Mr. Orban, who appeared to have learned from his previous mistakes. Critics contend that the government uses its purse strings to control the arts and make the news media compliant. Dissent is attacked in the official press and sometimes investigated by the government.

Even some conservative supporters are slightly wary of the extent to which Mr. Orban has systematically assembled power: packing courts and the chief prosecutor’s office with loyalists, altering the Constitution and laws so his party dominates.

“He ran as someone who would bring the two sides together in Hungarian politics, but when he got in he said, no, it is the time of the right, the time for revenge on the left,” said Mr. Ablonczy, the editor. “For him, politics is fighting. I am a man of the right, but my deepest disappointment with this government is this logic of always fighting.”

Fidesz won a second consecutive four-year term in April, its coalition again eking out a two-thirds majority in Parliament that essentially allows it to pass whatever laws it pleases. The party also won the European Parliament elections in May and local elections Oct. 12, a rare triple in fractious Europe these days.

Signs abound of the distance Hungary has traveled since communism’s fall.

Laszlo Magas helped organize a Pan-European picnic in Sopron on the Austrian border that, in 1989, provided a first death knell for the Berlin Wall. Hundreds of East Germans used the occasion to pour across the once-sealed frontier. Now a Fidesz member of the Sopron City Council, Mr. Magas refused to discuss politics at all, he says, because foreigners do not understand the country. Western news media, he says, seek out only opponents of Mr. Orban, who are a tiny minority in today’s Hungary.


The bullying of Hungary – the country that dared to disobey the US and EU

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25 years ago, Hungary was being toasted in the West for opening its border with Austria to East Germans, in a move which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now the Western elites are not happy with Budapest which they consider far too independent.

The refusal of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party to join the new US and EU Cold War against Russia, which has seen the Hungarian parliament approving a law to build the South Stream gas pipeline without the approval of the European Union, in addition to the populist economic policies Fidesz has adopted against the largely foreign owned banks and energy companies, has been met with an angry response from Washington and Brussels.

Hungarian officials have been banned from entering the US, while the European Commission has demanded that the Hungarians explain their decision to go ahead with South Stream. That’s on top of the European Commission launching legal action against the Hungarian government for its law restricting the rights of foreigners to buy agricultural land. The bullying of Hungary hasn’t made many headlines because it’s so-called “democrats” from the West who have been doing the bullying.

Viktor Orban is not a communist, he is a nationally-minded conservative who was an anti-communist activist in the late 1980s, but the attacks on him and his government demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what label you go under - if you don’t do exactly what Uncle Sam and the Euro-elite tell you to do - your country will come under great pressure to conform. And all of course in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.”

Fidesz has been upsetting some powerful people in the West ever since returning to power in 2010. The previous “Socialist”-led administration was hugely popular in the West because it did everything Washington and Brussels and the international banking set wanted. It imposed austerity on ordinary people, it privatized large sections of the economy, and it took out an unnecessary IMF loan. Ironically, the conservative-minded Fidesz party has proved to be much better socialists in power than the big-business and banker friendly “Socialists” they replaced.

One of the first things that Fidesz and its coalition allies, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, (KDNP) did was to introduce an $855m bank tax - the highest such tax in Europe - a measure which had the financial elite foaming at the mouth. Orban clashed with the IMF too, with his government rejecting new loan terms in 2012, and paying off early a loan taken out by the previous government, to reduce interest payments.

In 2013, Orban took on the foreign-owned energy giants with his government imposing cuts of over 20% on bills. Neoliberals expressed their outrage at such “interventionist” policies, but under Orban, the economy has improved. Although it’s true that many still look back nostalgically to the days of “goulash communism” in the 1970s and 80s when there were jobs for all and food on the table for everyone. Unemployment fell to 7.4 percent in the third-quarter of this year; it was around 11 percent when Fidesz took power, while real wages rose by 2.9 percent in the year up to July.

The man his enemies called the “Viktator,” has shown that he will pursue whatever economic policies he believes are in his country’s national interest, regardless of the opinions of the western elite who want the Hungarian economy to be geared to their needs.

His refusal to scrap his country’s bank tax is one example; the closer commercial links with Russia are another. Russia is Hungary’s third biggest trading partner and ties between the two countries have strengthened in the last couple of years, to the consternation of western Russophobes. In April, a deal was struck for Moscow to loan Hungary €10 billion to help upgrade its nuclear plant at Paks.

Orban’s policy of improving trade and business links with Russia, while staying a member of the EU and NATO, has however been put under increasing strain by the new hostile policy towards Moscow from Washington and Brussels.

Orban again, has annoyed the West by sticking up for Hungary’s own interests. In May he faced attack when he had the temerity to speak up for the rights of the 200,000 strong Hungarian community living in Ukraine.”Ukraine can neither be stable, nor democratic, if it does not give its minorities, including Hungarians, their due. That is dual citizenship, collective rights and autonomy.” Hungary’s Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Kiev. Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland, the US’s most obedient lapdog in Eastern Europe, called Orban’s comments “unfortunate and disturbing” as if it was anything to do with him or his country.

In August, Orban accurately described the sanctions policy of the West towards Russia as like “shooting oneself in the foot.”“The EU should not only compensate producers somehow, be they Polish, Slovak, Hungarian or Greek, who now have to suffer losses, but the entire sanctions policy should be reconsidered,” Orban said.

In October, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also questioned the sanctions on Russia, revealing that his country is losing 50 million forints a day due to the policy. Hungary has made its position clear, but for daring to question EU and US policy, and for its rapprochement with Moscow, the country has been punished.

It’s democratically elected civilian government which enjoys high levels of public support, has ludicrously - and obscenely - been likened to military governments which have massacred their opponents. "From Hungary to Egypt, endless regulations and overt intimidation increasingly target civil society," declared US President Barack Obama in September. Last month there was another salvo fired at Hungary - it was announced that the US had banned six unnamed Hungarian government officials from entering America, citing concerns over corruption- without the US providing any proof of the corruption.

"At a certain point, the situation, if it continues this way, will deteriorate to the extent where it is impossible to work together as an ally," warned the Charge D’Affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest, Andre Goodfriend. The decision and the failure to provide any evidence, understandably caused outrage in Hungary. “The government of Hungary is somewhat baffled at the events that have unfolded because this is not the way friends deal with issues," said Janos Lazar, Orban‘s chief of staff.

The timing of the ban has to be noted, coming after the Hungarian government had criticized the sanctions on Russia and just before the national Parliament was due to vote on the South Stream pipeline. The pipeline, which would allow gas to be transported from Russia via the Black Sea and the Balkans to south and central Europe without passing through Ukraine, is a project which Russophobes in the West want cancelled.

"I am inclined to think that it is a punishment for the fact that we talk to Russia," said Gabor Stier, the head foreign policy editor of the leading Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet. "America thinks that we are corrupt, but we are a sovereign state, and it is our business. Many people in the United States do not like that Viktor Orban is very independent…..Corruption is just an excuse."

It’s hard to disagree with Stier’s conclusions. Of course, there is corruption in Hungary, as there is in every country, but it pales in comparison with some countries who are faithful US allies and who Washington never criticizes. The 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, reveals that Latvia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina are all below Hungary, as indeed is Italy. Yet it’s Hungarian officials that the US is banning.

True to form, the attacks on Orban and his government in the Western media have chimed with the political attacks. ‘Is Hungary, the EU’s only dictatorship?’ asked Bloomberg View in April. The BBC ran a hostile piece on Orban and Fidesz in October entitled Cracks Emerge in leading party, and which referred to “government corruption” and “the playboy lifestyle of numerous party officials.”

The piece looked forward to the end of Fidesz rule. While earlier this week, the New York Times published an OpEd by Kati Marton, whose late husband Richard Holbrooke, was a leading US diplomat, entitled Hungary’s Authoritarian Descent. You’d never guess that the Hungarian government wasn’t the flavor of the month in the West would you? The question which has to be asked is: will Hungary be the next country to be the target of a US/EU sponsored regime change? We all know what happened to the last Viktor who refused to sever links with Russia. Will Orban suffer the same fate as Ukraine’s Yanukovich? There are good reasons for believing that he won’t.

Fidesz did make a mistake by announcing the introduction of a new internet tax last month, which brought thousands onto the streets to protest but they have since dropped the plans and the problem for the US and EU is that Orban and his government remain too popular. In October’s local elections Fidesz won 19 of Hungary’s 21 larger towns and cities, including the capital city Budapest, not bad for a party that‘s been in power since May 2010.

Orban’s brand of economic populism, combined with moderate nationalism, goes down well in a country where people remember just how awful things were when the neoliberal “Socialists” were in power. His style of leadership may be authoritarian, but Hungarians prefer having a leader who has cut fuel bills and reduced unemployment to one who mouths platitudes about “liberal democracy” but who imposed harsh austerity measures and leaves them unable to afford the daily essentials.

Moreover Hungary, is already a member of the EU and NATO unlike Ukraine under Yanukovich and isn't about to leave either soon. On a recent visit to America Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the US TODAY newspaper “US is our friend, US is our closest ally.” The US clearly wants more from Hungary than just words, but while both Washington and Brussels would like to see a more obedient government in Budapest, the “liberal” and faux-left parties they support simply don't have enough popular support for the reasons outlined above. And things would be even worse for the West if the radical nationalist party Jobbik, the third largest party in Parliament, and which made gains in October’s local elections, came to power- or if there was a genuine socialist/communist revival in the country. The fact is that Orban is in a very strong position and he knows it. That’s why he feels able to face down the threats from abroad and maintain a level of independence even though total independence is impossible within the EU and NATO.

We can expect the attacks on Orban and his government to intensify but the more the West attacks, the more popular Orban, who is able to present himself as the defender of Hungary’s national interests, becomes. Hungary gave the West everything it wanted in 1989, and, as I pointed out here, its “reform” communist leadership was richly rewarded. But in 2014 it’s a very different story. In the interests of democracy and small countries standing up to bullying by powerful elites, long may Hungary’s spirited defiance continue.


President Zeman calls for lifting of Russia sanctions at event organized by Putin associate

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The Czech president addressed the Dialogue of Civilizations conference on the Greek island of Rhodes in fluent Russian. The annual event is organized by a Vienna-based group called World Public Forum. Its president is the Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, who has himself been targeted by US sanctions. In his 17-minute address on Friday, Mr Zeman criticized the sanctions imposed by the EU and US on Russian over Moscow’s support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. 

"We have to remove the sanctions which are not only useless but they cause a reverse effect than their authors hoped to achieve. We need to develop a dialogue based on the exchange of people, commodities and capital as well as completely uncensored information,” Mr Zeman said.

Much of the president’s remarks dealt with the threat of the terrorist group Islamic State, which Mr Zeman said was a cancer compared to the “civil war” in Ukraine. The West and Russia must join forces in fighting Islamic terrorism, he said. Indeed, Mr Zeman warned, Ukraine could in the future become a terrorist haven just like Libya and Iraq. The president’s remarks contradict past declarations by the Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, who last month denounced the incursion of Russian armed forces into Ukraine. But Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has also questioned the effectivity of the sanctions, and asked for concessions to protect the Czech industry. David Frous is a spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry. 

"I don’t think they were necessarily in conflict with what Czech Republic’s view. We have repeatedly emphasized that not all the sanctions applied have the expected impact on the Russian economy, and in consequence on the Russian behaviour towards Ukraine.”

However, the president Mr Zeman has come under fire in the Czech media both for the content and the form of his Rhodes address. Some commentators criticized his very participation in the event which he first attended in 2005 but this arrived for the first time as the president of his country. Commentator Jefim Fištejn says the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have become the most vocal opponents of the EU’s stance on Russia which could have serious consequences for the countries’ future. 

“We are part of the western of the Western civilization with all its achievements and values. Trying to be in between, trying to be in between the different worlds is dangerous for such a country whose geopolitical position is very delicate. Any unclear and dubious statements weaken the country’s geopolitical roots.”

The Czech public seems to be split on the issue of Russian policies in Ukraine and the EU’s reaction to it. In the latest survey, one third of the respondents opposed the sanctions while 48 percent supported them. Some 10,000 people have meanwhile signed petitions calling for a tougher stance on Russia.


Serbia Greets Putin With Historic Military Parade

RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneev

The country next in line to join the European Union staged a spectacle not seen in a generation Thursday to honour Russian President Vladimir Putin. Serbia held its first military parade since the days of former President Josip Broz Tito as part of the celebrations during the Russian leader's six-hour visit Thursday. The festivities commemorated the Soviet Union's role in liberating the country from Nazi occupation in World War II, according to the government in Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, an ally of strongman Slobodan Milosevic during Yugoslavia's bloody breakup, is balancing the nation's EU aspirations with traditional Russian ties. Putin's visit gives him an opportunity to show the 28-nation bloc that he has other foreign-policy options if membership criteria become unpalatable, according to Djordje Vukadinovic, an analyst at the Belgrade-based New Serbian Political Thought institute.

"Vucic is honoring Putin with the military parade to consolidate his own standing within his electorate," Vukadinovic said. "At the same time, he's sending a message to the EU that he actually has an alternative if they press him too hard on democracy, human rights or media freedoms."

The European Commission, the EU's executive, last week called on Serbia to improve democracy, the rule of law, media freedoms, the economy and ties with Kosovo. Serbia has yet to open any of the 35 policy-reform areas needed to join the EU after starting the process in January. As the talks drag on, with former Yugoslav partners Slovenia and Croatia already in the trading bloc, public support for membership fell to 46 per cent in June from 51 per cent six months earlier, according to a survey of 1,015 people.

The split is between proponents of closer ties with the EU, Serbia's largest trading partner, and Russia, which supplies the country's energy and supports its rejection of international recognition for Kosovo's independence. Vucic withstood calls to join sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. The Belgrade parade, the first since the collapse of Yugoslavia, included tanks and other military vehicles and a fly-over of fighter jets.

"We have left wars behind," President Tomislav Nikolic said before the parade started. "Today, Serbia bases its growth on free access to the Russian market and investments from Russia." Nikolic awarded "dear brother Vladimir" the highest Serbian decoration, the Order of the Republic. Putin was greeted in Belgrade by cheering crowds, standing in the rain, with one of the banners saying: "Vladimir, Save Us."

Soviet troops helped guerrillas led by Tito oust German troops in 1944 and establish the communist regime. Tito later opposed Joseph Stalin's plan to make Yugoslavia a Soviet satellite, resulting in the country's expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau in 1948. The rupture oriented Yugoslavia westward even before the fall of communism. The EU today accounts for 64 per cent of Serbia's foreign trade and 72 per cent of investment, according to Serbia's statistics office and central bank. Russian investment was 598 million euros between 2005 and 2013, compared with total investments of 13.3 billion euros.

Russia may consider allowing a quota of cars made by Italian manufacturer Fiat SpA in Serbia to be exported to Russia, Putin said in Belgrade. He also sees a chance for Serbian farm exports to triple to 390 million euros if various agreements have been implemented. Russia has banned imports of European foodstuffs and Serbia has promised Russia it won't allow EU countries to use its territory to export food.

Western sanctions "provide opportunities" for countries that "want to cooperate with Russia," Putin said in Belgrade. "If there's no luck, then misfortune can help."

Serbia's further EU integration is years away, even after Vucic and Nikolic vowed to press for membership in 2019. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on 30 September new members won't be accepted before the turn of the decade. That gave Putin an opening amid Russia's worst standoff with the EU, the United States and their allies since the end of the Cold War, according to Dimitar Bechev, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Vucic's six-month-old administration is trying to jump-start economic growth and create jobs as the economy faces its third recession since 2009. His policies are designed to quell growing public discontent, with sporadic protests by industrial workers, teachers and police over planned public wage cuts. Students, who demonstrated this week in Belgrade, are being forced to pay more for their studies as state universities increase fees.

The premier is trying to "improve his image among his own supporters, who have totally different views" on issues including public wage and pension cuts or the Gay Pride parade organised last month, said Vukadinovic at the Serbian Political Thought. Demonstrating a closeness with Putin may win back some of that support, he said.

"For Serbian citizens, the love for Russia is purely emotional and irrational" and political leaders "have been encouraging the emotional bond with Russia," Svetlana Logar, a sociologist and researcher at the Belgrade-based pollster Ipsos Strategic Marketing, said in an interview. "But when you ask them about a country they'd like to move to, it's Germany."


Vladimir Putin moves to strengthen ties with Serbia at military parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a speech at the 'Victor's March" military parade on 16 October 2014 marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from fascist invaders. (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Vladimir Putin set the seal on Russia’s closest alliance in central Europe on Thursday exchanging vows of support with Serbia and attending a military parade in Belgrade on a scale that has not been seen in the region since the Cold War.

The Russian president vowed never to recognise Kosovo’s independence, a priority for Serbia which refuses to accept the loss of the former province after a war in the late 1990s. In return, his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolić, pledged not to bow to European Union pressure to take part in sanctions against Russia, over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

“Europe can count on it that we will not impose sanctions and that’s that,” Nikolic said at the Palace of Serbia, a huge socialist-era building on the banks of the River Sava. “Serbia will not endanger its morality by any hostility towards Russia.”

The reaffirmation of Russian-Serbian ties, at an event to celebrate the alliance in two world wars, was a boost for Putin on his way to the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders in Milan, where he can expect a frosty reception from western and Ukrainian leaders. The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said she would raise the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, allegedly by Russian separatists in Ukraine, in which 298 people were killed, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

After arriving in Milan from Belgrade, Putin was due to meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said she would press him on observance of a September ceasefire agreement which remains tenuous.

“It is above all Russia’s task to say clearly that the Minsk plan is really respected,” Merkel said as she arrived for the summit. “Unfortunately, there are still very, very big shortcomings. But it is important to seek dialogue here.”

On Friday, Putin will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko to attempt to strengthen the truce and also come to a deal over Russian gas supplies to Ukraine. Much of the Russian gas supplied to the EU passes through pipelines crossing Ukraine, and Putin warned that Russia would cut supplies intended for Europe if Ukraine siphons off gas intended for Europe, as it did in 2008. “Russia always has been a reliable supplier. But there are big transit risks,” he said in Belgrade.

Putin enjoyed a brief respite from those pressures while in the Serbian capital for a military march-past commemorating the centenary of the first world war and the 70th year since the Soviet army and Yugoslav partisans liberated Belgrade. An enthusiastic crowd, estimated by the Serbian government as 100,000-strong, lined the parade route and chanted “Putin, Putin”, and “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the [European] Union”.

Nikolic awarded him a large medal and chain of precious metals, named the Order of the Republic of Serbia, the country’s new highest honour, having been specially created for the occasion.

The march-past involved 300 military vehicles, including scores of tanks, as well as anti-aircraft missiles on trailers, and over 3000 troops marching in high-stepping unison under a sudden torrential downpour. At the same time, Serbian and Russian jet fighters roared overhead and paratroopers dropped from the sky. It was the biggest military parade in Serbia and the Balkan region since 1985, when it was the Yugoslav army marching past the country’s communist leaders.

Big screens over the crowd showed footage of the country military’s past, including the recapture of Belgrade, with Red Army help, from the Nazis in October 1944. The screens also showed military parades of the socialist era watched by the white-gloved, blue-uniformed Yugoslav dictator Tito.

What was missing from the visual history was Serbia’s role in the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovo wars of the 1990s, all of which the country lost under Tito’s successor, Slobodan Milosevic. However, there were reminders that the territorial and ethnic issues fuelling those wars have not been resolved. The Russian and Serbian leaders made Kosovo a constant theme, and the Serb separatist leader in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, fresh from a narrow election win, was given pride of place in the front row of the viewing platform, close to Putin. It was a clear show of support for Dodik who has vowed to weaken the Bosnian state and lead the country’s Serbs to independence.

Nikolic: Serbia won’t join anti-Russian sanctions club despite EU pressure
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Serbia is not planning to impose sanctions on Russia, said its President Tomislav Nikolic after meeting EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn. The latter said the EU expects Serbia to bring its policy in line with the European one if it seeks to enter the union. Nikolic said that Serbia is not planning to introduce sanctions at the moment, though admitting the country is seeking EU membership which implies an obligation to pursue common policies, including foreign.

"What I heard from Hahn is the same what you have heard from him: Serbia is not an EU member and it can be independent in pursuing its foreign policy; but EU membership would have implied a commitment to pursue a common foreign policy," the President said at a media conference after talks with Hahn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Good-Neighbourly Relations visiting Belgrade on Thursday.

In turn Hahn emphasized the importance of a common policy in the EU and Serbia’s commitment to it if the country wants to join the union. But he admitted that currently Serbia is not a member and “will definitely not impose sanctions on Russia."

Later in an interview with the local newspaper Vecernje Novosti, Hahn used harsher rhetoric saying Serbia is legally bound to harmonize its policies with Europe on such issues. He elaborated that he understands the historic connection between the two countries and accepts the fact this decision will not be easy.

“Your country identified EU accession as its key strategic objective, which Prime Minister [Aleksandar] Vucic confirmed during the recent visit of [Russian] President Putin to Serbia," he said. "It is very important and we expect of Belgrade to meet its commitment," he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic also said that though the EU is Serbia’s “strategic goal” the country won’t impose sanctions over Ukraine in line with the Union.

"I am going to tell you what I keep saying to everybody wherever I go: Moscow, Washington, Brussels, Belgrade or Kosovska Mitrovica. Everything I have said about Serbia's policy, our path to the EU and our attitude to Russia, I have also said to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and Mr. Hahn," Vucic stressed meeting Hahn.

Moscow and Beijing criticize EU’s push

On Thursday, the EU pressure was criticized by Russian MP Aleksey Pushkov, who said that the EU is trying to force Serbia into the Russia sanctions club.

“Presently the European Union is trying to force Serbia, which is not an EU member, to join their sanctions program. They are practically blackmailing Serbia: either it joins the sanctions against Russia or [the bloc] won’t see it as a country with a chance of joining the EU,” the head of Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee said. “The problem for Serbia is that in any case it has no prospects for joining the EU anytime soon. Even if they join the anti-Russian sanctions now, they would simply succumb to blackmailers and no one would accept them in the EU in one year for doing this,” he added.

China has also replied to Hahn’s statement in tune with Russia saying that EU is trying to impose its values on Serbia.

"As I know the accession to the European Union is the priority task for Serbia. By taking this opportunity the EU is trying to impose its values on Serbia and sets the imposition of sanctions on Russia as a condition for entering the Union," Vice-Minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Zhou Li said on Thursday as quoted by TASS.

China "considers any sanctions counter-productive in international relations", Zhou Li said. "In essence this problem is the choice that the Serbian government, the ruling party and the opposition face."

Russian Troops Hold Drills in Serbia

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Camouflage-clad Russian soldiers parachute from the sky, armored vehicles fire live rounds on an open field after being dropped from military transport jets and helicopters fire missiles against enemy positions. Although the flat terrain resembles the Ukrainian war zones, this is not an armed Russian intervention against its neighbor. It's the first-ever joint Serb-Russian military exercise in Serbia, the Balkan country that has been performing a delicate balancing act in between its Slavic ally Russia and Western Europe, with which Belgrade wants to integrate.

The "anti-terrorist' drill on Friday — the first such by the Russians outside the former Soviet Union — of elite Russian troops in northern Serbia, not far from NATO-member Croatia, has stirred controversy both here and abroad.

"Serbia's government wants to try and keep everyone happy," said prominent Balkan political analyst Tim Judah. "So, the U.S. helps finance and modernize Serbia's army while now Serbian soldiers train with Russians. In normal times there would be little to say about this, but post-Crimea, these are not normal times anymore."

Although Serbian officials say they respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and do not support Russia's annexation of Crimea, they have refused to impose sanctions against Russia like the EU and the U.S. have. Russia and Serbia have traditionally close historic and cultural ties, and Moscow has backed Belgrade's bid to maintain its claim over Kosovo — a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008 with the support of Washington and its allies.

The show of Russian military might in a country seeking to join the European Union comes as Russia, blamed by the West for fomenting the Ukraine crisis, tries to increase the Kremlin's presence in the Balkans. During our short stay in Serbia, we established the basis for expanding of our military relations," said Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamatov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Belgrade last month where he received a hero's welcome that included a Soviet-style military parade. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, arrived in Belgrade on Friday.

"Serbia says it supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine, yet it welcomes Putin with a military parade and its soldiers are training with the army that annexed Crimea and is fighting in Ukraine," Judah said. "As the (Ukrainian) war goes on this is an increasingly untenable position and Serbia's government will just annoy both Russia and its Western friends rather than being on good terms with all."

Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic said he believes Serbian "neutrality" is tenable and defended holding the drill with the Russians. "There are no secrets about this exercise," he said after the drills that included a mock live-ammunition attack against a terrorist base with armored vehicles and about 200 troops, some deployed by Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft.

"We are militarily neutral and we would like to maintain good relations with everyone, including Russia, the European Union, the United States and China," Gasic said, adding that Serbia — which has never been part of any Russian or Western military alliance — will also hold military drills with the Americans next month in Serbia. In Washington, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the military exercise regrettable.

"Although it is our understanding that this Russian-Serbian joint military drill had been planned for some time, we regret that Serbia decided to proceed. In light of Russia's actions in Ukraine and its disregard of international law and norms, this is no time for 'business as usual' with Russia," Psaki told The Associated Press.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russian-troops-hold-drills-serbia-162814039.html

Moldova’s elections show major success of pro-Russian forces — Russian expert


The people of Moldova demonstrated their desire to build closer ties with Russia and the Russia-led Customs Union

Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Moldova showed major success of the country’s pro-Russian forces, a Russian political scientist said on Monday. Struggle between supporters and opponents of European integration was in the focus of the election campaign that ended on November 30. For that reason, the polls were called a foreign policy referendum. In summer, Moldova signed an association agreement with the European Union, which cancelled visas for Moldovan citizens. Opinion polls, however showed that the majority of the population in Moldova wanted integration with the Customs Union. More than 90 % of people in the unrecognized Dniester Republic and the Gagauz Autonomy also voted for the integration with the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia) at their referendums.

“It is clear that the current elections were a major success for the pro-Russian forces,” Grigory Dobromelov, director of the Institute of Applied Political Studies, said.

The people of Moldova demonstrated their desire to build closer ties with Russia and the Russia-led Customs Union, Dobromelov went on to say. He stressed the importance of Russia’s decision to declare a migration amnesty for Moldovans working in Russia from November 5 to 30. Konstantin Romodanovsky, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service, who met Igor Dodon, the head of the Moldovan Party of Socialists, early in November, said that FMS would allow Moldovans who had violated migration rules to go home and take part in the vote. He also promised they would face no barriers or obstacles upon their return to Russia and would be given assistance in getting work permits.

“That step, which was absolutely unique in its nature, produced a significant impact on the state of mind of Moldovan voters. It was extremely important for them that Russia had singled Moldova out of other allies and countries that supply migrants to it,” Dobromelov explained.

He said that Russia has carried out a deep analysis of processes that are taking place in Moldova and that its decision was based on the right vision and understanding of the situation in the country. “We did not do anything to exert pressure on the people of Moldova but we did, however, do everything to persuade them into making a pro-Russian choice,” Dobromelov concluded.

For the moment, vote count has been completed at 89.4% of the polling stations. The opposition Party of Socialists received 21% of votes; Moldova’s Liberal-Democratic Party (19%); the Communist Party of Moldova that led the elections in the past 15 years gained (17.9%); the Democratic Party of Moldova (15.7%); the Liberal Party of Moldova /9%/.

According to the monitors, these figures make it possible to predict that a coalition of pro-European parties has a chance to form a parliamentary majority, which, nevertheless, will have to reach an agreement with the opposition to elect a new president. Incumbent President Nicolae Timofti is ending his tenure in 2015. The inability to reach a consensus in appointing the country’s new president plunged Moldova into chaos in 2009. According to Moldova’s Central Electoral Commission, the turnout at November 30 parliamentary elections was 55%, which was a drop of 8% since 2010.

Source:  http://en.itar-tass.com/world/764541

Russia says 'gross violations' in Moldova election

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Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday there had been "gross violations" of election rules during the campaign for the Nov. 30 parliamentary election in Moldova and on voting day. International monitors said the election had been well-run but criticized a last-minute decision to exclude the party of Russian businessman Renato Usatii from the race on the grounds that it had been funded from abroad. "Moscow has taken note of international experts' assessments following the results of the parliamentary elections in Moldova," the ministry said in a statement. "At the same time one cannot ignore that the conclusions on their transparent and democratic character do not go down well, with gross violations allowed in the preparations and the conduct of the election process." Three pro-European parties look likely to form a new ruling coalition after the vote even though Moldova's Socialist Party, which favors joining a Russia-led economic bloc rather than moving toward the European Union, won the most votes. The ministry said the results showed many Moldovans want deeper ties with Moscow, which supports close ties with Transdniestria, a pro-Russian breakaway region in Moldova.


Old Russian Ties Pull Bulgaria in Two Directions

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As part of our series on Russia’s relations with its European neighbours, we put the spotlight on Bulgaria. The country’s old tensions over commitments to East or West have come to the fore over the Ukraine crisis and were a key issue during the general election earlier this month. Sofia-based international relations expert Plamen Ralchev looks at where Bulgaria goes from here.

Modern relations between Bulgaria and Russia began about two centuries ago when Russia sought geopolitical advantages in the Balkans and strategic access to the Turkish Straits. Russia positioned herself as a guardian of Balkan Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire, which included the people in latterday Bulgaria. With linguistic similarities also in common, the Russians became supporters of the 19th-century Bulgarian liberation movement against the Ottoman rule.

By the time of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78, Russia’s paternalistic approach to Bulgaria nurtured a kind of dependency mentality among many Bulgarians. After the Ottoman defeat and the subsequent congress of Berlin, Russia ended up with a mandate to supervise the Principality of Bulgaria that emerged.

Bulgarian bed-hopping

Both the Bulgarian public and Russian-speaking elite were deeply in favour of Russian involvement as the army, police force and public administration were set up. Yet sentiment became more divided after 1885 as the question of full statehood moved up the agenda. And when Bulgaria embarked on a modernisation project in the late 19th century, it tacked towards the European mainstream and particularly Germany.

This continued until after the Yalta conference of 1945, when Bulgaria was relinquished to Soviet influence. For the next 45 years Soviet dominance built upon previous pro-Russian sentiments in Bulgarian society. This turned the country into a communist stronghold, the staunchest and most obedient Soviet ally.

Bulgaria lost prestige internationally and became heavily dependent on the Soviets. Even after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, Bulgaria was hesitant for several years about which way to go. And in the intervening years of Euro-Atlantic integration, the pro and anti-Russian divisions have re-emerged at every challenge.

Bulgaria joined NATO (2004) and the European Union (2007), and signed an agreement with the US in 2006 for a joint military training facility within the country, all of which have been heavy blows to Russia. This has put Bulgaria in a precarious position because the Russians have various kinds of leverage over her.

Life’s not a gas

Bulgaria has remained energy-dependent on Russia due to the unwise political choices of several governments. Not only does Russia provide most of its gas, the Russian energy giant Lukoil owns Bulgaria’s only oil refinery. Lukoil and Gazprom also have a network of petrol and gas stations throughout the country. Bulgaria depends on Russia for all of its nuclear fuel (though it recently signed a deal to have a new reactor built by Japanese-owned Westinghouse). The net result of this energy dominance is that Russia maintains a strong “energy lobby” in Bulgarian political and expert circles.

In recent months this lobby has been working overtime over the “South Stream” pipeline, which is being built from Russia across the Black Sea, through the Balkans to north-east Italy. Crucially this gives the Russians a second gas export route to Europe that doesn’t go through Ukraine. Bulgaria ordered work on the pipeline to stop in the summer under pressure from Brussels that it did not conform to EU law. It appears not to have resumed since.

Disagreements over the suspension were among various issues that helped bring down the Bulgarian coalition government in July. This led to an election earlier in October, where the pipeline was a key point of debate. The pro-suspension centre-right GERB party finished first, but it is not yet clear whether it can form a stable coalition.

Inferiority complex

Aside from energy, Russia is heavily interested in the Bulgarian military-industrial complex, most of whose equipment is Soviet-made and depends on Russia for maintenance. The outgoing Bulgarian defence minister was recently quoted saying this puts the country in a vulnerable position, particularly regarding its ageing jet fighters. Any question of upgrading with equipment from elsewhere runs counter to Russian interests, so is unlikely to be welcomed by Moscow.

Russian companies’ and citizens’ investments in Bulgarian property have meanwhile increased in recent years, while the Bulgarian tourist industry relies on Russian visitors. Russia is also good at using propaganda. It frequently puts a spin on assistance or benefits to Bulgaria as being “from Moscow with love”. This is attractive to those Bulgarians whose affection for Russia remains strong. And it suits Russia when the Bulgarians are unsure whether to look East or West, such as during the Ukraine crisis.

The Russians see this as an opportunity to tip the scales by playing one side against the other. This cropped up over South Stream, for instance, where there are rumours that the previous government would have allowed the pipeline work to continue despite the EU objections. Some observers believe that Russia will also have a hand in determining the make-up of the next coalition government.

If Bulgaria is to overcome its Russian obsession and inferiority complex, the elite needs to use more political imagination and be more willing to make difficult policy choices. It cannot handle its eastern neighbour alone, because Russia is much more powerful. If the EU and US are determined to play tough on Russia, Bulgaria is one of the places where they will have to face their opponent. The security context will be determined by whether the West stands firmly alongside Bulgaria, and whether the Bulgarian government sustains Russian pressure or opts to “play both ways”.

Bulgaria unfortunately has to survive in a swirl where the European mainstream meets the Russian current near the Turkish Straits. Having had to cope with the interference of Russia, Germany and Turkey throughout its existence, these countries still have the biggest stakes in Bulgaria’s future.

It is not that Bulgaria could become another Ukraine, since here Russia has always preferred to play in the shadows. There is no Russian-speaking population with an identity crisis that presents a similar opportunity. Rather it is a question of influence and political decisions. Being in NATO and the EU gives Sofia certain credentials with the West. But it has to strengthen these further to curb the pro-Russian drift and overcome the two countries' complex and deep-rooted past.


Bulgaria May be the Next US-Russia Flashpoint

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Will Bulgaria be the next testing ground in the escalating confrontation between Putin’s Russia and the West—and why should you care? The answer may have something to do with gas.

Follow the Pipelines

“If the Russians get their way in Ukraine, we will be the next country they will turn their attention to,” said Evgeniy Dainov, a political science and sociology professor at New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. He is a staunch critic of the Kremlin who nevertheless refuses to support a Western initiative to wean Bulgaria off Russian energy by letting big American companies such as Chevron “frack” in its most fertile land. Just like Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine, where clashes are currently taking place, Bulgaria has considerable shale gas reserves—and these reserves are near the heart of the East-West dispute.

A Russian Trojan Horse?

Bulgaria was once the Soviet Union’s most loyal ally—now it’s a member of the European Union and NATO but it continues to have close economic and cultural ties with Russia. So much so, in fact, that some Europeans worry that having Bulgaria in their midst will prove to be a “Trojan horse” from Russia. The Bulgarians—along with the rest of Europe, and the West—are nervous about what they view as Russia’s intensifying expansionism: Kremlin influence inevitably follows direct investments and business deals with Russian entities. These can quickly morph into channels of political pressure—as in the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, when the Russians cut off the gas to 16 European Union countries.

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Those Who Can Be Intimidated

A senior fellow and head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Bulgarian office, Dimitar Bechev explained to WhoWhatWhy his view on how Russia wields its power: “The Russian regime has a very cynical attitude and divides people into two categories: those who can be intimidated and those who can be bought.” Those who can be intimidated would include the Bulgarians, for many reasons. One reason: they depend on Russia for 90 percent of their natural gas, and they saw what happened during the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute (see map above).

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There seems to be no limit to those who can be bought. Though Russia complains about “Nazis” in Ukraine, it has been funding extreme-right movements around Europe, which helps explain why the main ultranationalist party in Bulgaria just threatened to bring down the Sofia government if it approves sanctions against Russia. “It is obvious that Russia is co-opting people and buying influence—these methods are much more visible in the former Soviet countries, but are also being implemented throughout the Balkans, in Bulgaria as well as in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and elsewhere,” Bechev said.

Russian money has helped produce an odd-fellows alliance between the far right and the left in Bulgaria—though in the case of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which controls the current coalition government and is also widely perceived as a conduit of Russian influence, there is more than money involved. It is the successor of the former Communist Party, whose graying constituency remembers fondly the old regime.

Western Interference Not Welcome Either

However, it’s not just financial self-interest or a kind of institutional nostalgia that leads Bulgarians to be suspicious of the West and its own brand of neo-liberal expansionist policies. Many Bulgarians have bitter personal memories of Western interference in their affairs in the post-Communist era. Indeed, Western-supported “economic liberalization” focused on the fire sale of state-owned industries contributed to the country’s financial ruin in the 1990s. As an editor for Anthropology News observed:

“Thugs were everywhere. In almost every nice restaurant I visited, there were thick-necked former wrestlers with handguns shoved into the backs of their pants, bodyguards of the new superrich. Rapid economic liberalization created economic growth, but this wealth was concentrated in the hands of a new domestic pack of oligarchs. Western investors had no problem doing business with these robber barons, people who did not innovate or produce, but who bribed and stole their way to wealth. Government regulators were happy to sell off state assets at reduced prices as long as they were given their generous slice of the spoils.”

Then, once the failure of the precipitous “economic liberalization” was clear, the IMF came in 1997 and imposed fiscal austerity on the country—in effect, punishing ordinary Bulgarians for the economic collapse brought on by the previous Western-imposed policy. “Fiscal austerity” involved cutting budget deficits through reduced government spending, which meant, among other things, lower incomes for Bulgarian workers.

“Bulgaria provides stark evidence that an economic strategy based on low wages and labour market flexibility will fail,” the International Trade Union Confederation wrote in a prescient report in 2012. “For more than a decade Bulgaria has been encouraged to pursue such a strategy by both the IMF and the European Union…. The Bulgaria record demonstrates that the draconian labour market reforms being forced on workers in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and other peripheral countries in Europe are misplaced.”

Just a year after the report was published, the failure of this second Western-imposed policy had resulted in daily protest marches in front of Parliament. Sociologists from the Sofia-based polling agency Alpha Research concluded in a report that “Bulgarian society is sliding down the spiral of institutional and political collapse.”

If parts of this story sounds similar to Ukraine’s, it is hardly a coincidence. When Ukraine, mired in financial trouble, applied to the IMF for financial aid last year, the IMF demanded painful austerity reforms, among them an end to fuel subsidies to Ukrainian families. The Ukrainian government refused and turned to Russia, which offered $15 billion with foreign policy strings attached but no demands that would hurt the average Ukrainian. The rest is history. (It bears noting that the new revolutionary government finally forced the subsidy cut through last month.)

It’s no surprise, then, that at a recent pro-Ukraine demonstration in Bulgaria, few people viewed things as black and white. One demonstrator articulated his nuanced frustration this way: “I am here to protest the interference of all foreign powers in Bulgaria, as well as in Ukraine.”


Russia gets greater control over Black Sea region


Russia tightened its control Monday over Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia with a new treaty envisaging closer military and economic ties with the lush sliver of land along the Black Sea. The move drew outrage and cries of "annexation" in Georgia and sent a chill through those in Abkhazia who fear that wealthy Russians will snap up their precious coastline. It also raised further suspicions in the West about Russian President Vladimir Putin's territorial aspirations after his annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.

Under the treaty signed by Putin and Abkhazia's leader in the nearby Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian and Abkhazian forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander. Putin said Moscow will also double its subsidies to Abkhazia to about 9.3 billion rubles (over $200 million) next year.

"I'm sure that cooperation, unity and strategic partnership between Russia and Abkhazia will continue to strengthen," he said. "Ties with Russia offer us full security guarantees and broad opportunities for socio-economic development," Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba said.

Russian troops have been deployed in Abkhazia for more than two decades since the region of 240,000 people broke away from Georgia in a separatist war in the early 1990s. Still, Monday's agreement reflected a clear attempt by Moscow to further expand its presence and came only after a change of leadership in the territory.

Coming amid a chill in Russia-West ties over the Ukrainian crisis, the deal raised concern about Moscow's plans. The Black Sea region has always been important for Putin, who justified the annexation of Crimea by saying it would guarantee that NATO warships would never be welcome on the peninsula, the home base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

NATO's secretary-general condemned the treaty, stressing that the alliance supports Georgia's sovereignty. He also called on Russia to reverse its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway province, as independent states.

"This so-called treaty does not contribute to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia," Jens Stoltenberg said. "On the contrary, it violates Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and blatantly contradicts the principles of international law, OSCE principles and Russia's international commitments."

The U.S. also said it wouldn't recognize Russia's move and expressed continued support for Georgia's sovereignty.

"The United States will not recognize the legitimacy of any so-called 'treaty' between Georgia's Abkhazia region and the Russian Federation," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Abkhazia's former leader, Alexander Ankvab, was forced to step down earlier this year under pressure from protesters who reportedly were encouraged by the Kremlin. Khadzhimba, a former Soviet KGB officer, was elected president in an early vote in August that Georgia rejected as illegal.

Unlike Ankvab, who had resisted Moscow's push to let Russians buy assets in Abkhazia, Khadzhimba has appeared more eager to listen to Russia's demands. The Georgian Foreign Ministry denounced the new agreement as a "step toward the de-facto annexation" of Abkhazia and called on the international community to condemn the move. Russian-Georgian relations were ruptured by war in August 2008 after former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attempted to restore control over South Ossetia. The Russian military routed the Georgian forces in five days and Moscow recognized both rebel provinces as independent states.

The Georgian Dream bloc led by Russia-friendly billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, which unseated Saakashvili's party in the 2012 vote, has sought to repair ties with Moscow. But while economic relations have improved, political ties have remained frozen because of Moscow's refusal to compromise on the status of Georgia's separatist regions.

Saakashvili's United National Movement party has accused the Georgian government of kowtowing to Moscow. "The Georgian government has done practically nothing," said party leader David Bakradze, who urged the government to join Western sanctions against Russia and opt out of political talks with Moscow.


Russian analyst’s article on “straight way” to Armenia via Georgia stirs controversy

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In Russia they start voicing plans for the “opening” of a straight way to Armenia via Georgia. In particular, this is what deputy director of the Center of Strategic Situations Mikhail Chernov wrote in his article on the Russian lenta.ru portal. His article was taken as a provocation and probing of sentiments, still it caused a sharp reaction both in Armenia and Georgia.

The essence of the article by Chernova is that the military-strategic treaties between Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are being prepared for signing, may become prerequisites for Russia’s reaching the border with Armenia. Now the only overland route from Russia to Armenia lies through Georgia, and it is almost an insurmountable obstacle for the integration of Armenia into the “neo-Soviet” space.

The texts of the treaties are already in the Russian State Duma, and, according to Chernov, “the institution of bilateral treaties may become a new tool of Russian foreign policy allowing Russia to meet its objectives in the South Caucasus without unnecessary complications in international relations.”

“Russia has two such basic tasks in the region and they are closely related to each other. The first one is to prevent the creation of NATO military infrastructure in Georgia. The second objective is to ensure a reliable direct transport link with Armenia,” the Russian expert says. Besides, control of the Russian Federation over transport communications will provide full functioning of the Russian military base in Armenia.

The mechanism has also been devised. It turns out that on October 31 Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s republic of North Ossetia hosted a congress of the International Public Movement called “The Supreme Council of the Ossetians”, which was also attended by former president of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity. He raised the question of Trusovsky gorges and Kobin hollow being part of Ossetia. Presence in Kazbegi region will make it possible to control a small section of the strategically important Georgian Military Highway – the shortest route from Russia to Armenia.

“At the same time, Russia is more interested in the development of the Trans-Caucasian Highway. The ‘western’ route to Armenia passes through the Gori district, bypasses Trialet Ossetia, where a considerable number of Ossetians lived before the early 1990s, as well as the Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Javakheti region,” Chernov writes.

He hopes that if by some chance in Georgia on the basis of the current political crisis Maidan-like events start, Russia may introduce troops into Georgia for the “protection” of Ossetians and thus open up its route towards Armenia.

In an interview with Newspost former defense minister of Georgia Dimitri Shashkin said: “Alarm should be sounded over the document relating to the Tskhinvali region, which officially entered the [Russian State] Duma. Russian experts have already started openly speaking about the threat that concerns Russia’s big desire to create a direct link with its base in Gyumri (Armenia).”
 

 According to Shashkin, on the basis of treaties being prepared with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Russia is openly stating that it will protect them against Georgians.
“[Russian] protection of Georgian regions is another new challenge. It turns out that if about a hundred people are paid for setting up a group of provocateurs, they [Russians] may invade Kakheti in order to protect the local population. A hundred provocateurs can be found easily,” Shashkin said.

No official reaction to these statements have yet been made in Armenia, Georgia and Russia, however, at the level of experts there are opinions that such provocations can sow discord between Georgians and Armenians. Former Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who stepped down recently, has repeatedly stated that the Russian base in Armenia is a threat for Georgia. It is these threats that do not allow Georgia and Armenia to establish mutually beneficial relations.



Georgia Ready to Provide Armenia Free Route to EEU


Georgia is ready to provide Armenia with a free transit corridor for exporting its goods to the Eurasian Economic Union, Armenian deputy economy minister Emil Tarasyan said Wednesday during a public discussion on Armenian exports to the Russia-led trade bloc organized by the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Armenia.

According to him, the issue on the transit of Armenian cargo through the territory of Georgia was included in the list of the main documents that Armenia signed with the Eurasian Economic Union, “because Armenia is the only country of the trade bloc that shares no common border with any of the bloc’s members.”

“Today we are working to secure an uninterrupted shipment of Armenian goods to the Eurasian Economic Union’s markets,” said Tarasyan, adding that Armenian goods will be exempted from customs checks at the border.

Armenia formally joined the Eurasian Economic Union on October 10. The agreement was signed by the heads of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia in Minsk, Belarus. The agreement on establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union comes into force in 2015. Russia may open a “green corridor” for Armenian trucks at Upper Lars border crossing on its frontier with Georgia, Gagik Kocharyan, a senior official of the Armenian economy ministry, said.

The Upper Lars is the only overland conduit to the outside world for Armenian businesses. It is of utmost importance for Armenia, which is subjected to transportation blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey. According to Kocharyan, Armenian diplomats in Russia are discussing now the green corridor “issue with the Russian side.

In turn, the chairman of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Arsen Ghazaryan, said Armenian business people are facing problems now when going through the Upper Lars crossing because of the large number of trucks.

“Since Turkey did not join the Western sanctions against Russia, it has significantly increased its exports to the Russian Federation, carried out mainly by trucks. As a result, Armenian trucks have to stand in long lines at the checkpoint,” said Ghazaryan.

Some 40 states plan to create free trade zone with Eurasian Economic Union — lawmaker

Sergey Naryshkin

Around 40 states have plans to establish a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Sergey Naryshkin, told an international conference in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Monday.

“Five countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have already made a Eurasian choice, and another 40 countries across the world have officially voiced their wish to set up a free trade zone with our integration association,” Naryshkin said.

The Eurasian Economic Union, which comes into force in January 2015, offers a unique chance for cooperation between Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region, the lawmaker said. The EEU members are currently Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan is expected to join the union soon.

Naryshkin said those who consider the EEU as a threat only confirm that “a new and serious geopolitical player is indeed emerging in the world.” “It will probably build those lacking bridges which will unite Western Europe with the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region,” he stressed. The lawmaker warned against regarding the new bloc as a threat, saying it gives a “unique chance in which the peoples of Europe, Asia and the world in general are strategically interested.”

Naryshkin said the Eurasian Economic Union will enlarge. “We see what interest other states have in the Eurasian Economic Union. I am sure it will enlarge and strengthen,” he said. The Kazakh Senate’s Chairman Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev noted the significance of the EEU formation. “It is an adequate response to what is happening in the world and to world economy shocks,” he said.

The idea of Eurasian integration was voiced first by Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994. Finally, the Eurasian Economic Union has been formed and will begin working on January 1, 2015.

The first attempt to form an economic international organization was made when the Commonwealth of Independent States concluded an agreement on an economic union, but the project was not implemented. In 1995, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on a customs union, which was joined by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The countries concluded an agreement on the Customs Union and the common economic space in 1999 to build a common market.

In 2009, the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh presidents agreed on a deeper economic integration form - the Common Economic Space. The three agreements on the Eurasian Economic Union, the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space are open for other states to join.

Can China and Russia Squeeze Washington Out of Eurasia?  

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The Future of a Beijing-Moscow-Berlin Alliance

A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.

Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast — ISIS/ISIL/IS — for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.

No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane.  For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable.  After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space — military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer — is little short of a religious doctrine.  Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria. 

NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.

Divide and Isolate

So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt?  Washington’s approach to each — in Ukraine and in Asian waters — might be thought of as divide and isolate.

In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.

In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders Poland and the Baltic nations) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all. 

For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold.  Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian.  But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington — especially from a rising China with its newly minted “Chinese dream” (Zhongguo meng).

As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.” 

In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world.  Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.

Moscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China.  These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.

It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already sounded the alarm, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive.

China’s Silk Road Banquet

China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to incendiary levels.

The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region — via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force — without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should prove a triumph of integrated infrastructure — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports — that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.

In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.  

China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.

Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks — would link the region to China.

Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in the Hindu prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”

The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region — with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent.  People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”

Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)   

An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads

The $400 billion “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk.  It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market.  It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based strategic alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s top trading partner by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.

A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset.  For this, Ukraine remains the key.  If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing — a suggestion that is anathema to Washington — the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition.

It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon.  Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia.  Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.

Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war.  On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.”

There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia).  It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported Eurasian Union. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom relations with Russia remain essential, are paying close attention.

After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission — Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.

Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing. Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.

“Losing” Russia

In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed.  They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” agreed to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran.  The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of its own version of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” economic rapprochement, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.

So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in Asia.  It’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and petroruble in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization.

All of this lies in the future, however.  In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in Eurasia.  Beijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be — as the Chinese would say — a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.

Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.   

In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century.  The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to apply to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon.  They’ll be called in by 2025.  

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT, and a TomDispatch regular. His new book, Empire of Chaos, will be published in November by Nimble Books.


As Russia Draws Closer to China, U.S. Faces a New Challenge

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President Obama flies to Beijing on Sunday to renew efforts to refocus American foreign policy toward Asia. But when he lands, he will find the man who has done so much to frustrate him lately, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “You are pivoting to Asia,” Russia’s ambassador to Washington said last week, “but we’re already there.”

Mr. Obama is returning to Asia as Russia pulls closer to China, presenting a profound challenge to the United States and Europe. Estranged from the West over Ukraine, Mr. Putin will also be in Beijing this week as he seeks economic and political support, trying to upend the international order by fashioning a coalition to resist what both countries view as American arrogance.

Whether that is more for show than for real has set off a vigorous debate in Washington, where some government officials and international specialists dismiss the prospect of a more meaningful alliance between Russia and China because of the fundamental differences between the countries. But others said the Obama administration should take the threat seriously as Moscow pursues energy, financing and military deals with Beijing.

“We are more and more interested in the region that is next to us in Asia,” said Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. “They are good partners to us.” He added that a recent natural gas deal between Moscow and Beijing was a taste of the future. “It’s just the beginning,” he said, “and you will see more and more projects between us and China.”

The Russian pivot to China factors into a broader White House-led review of American policy toward Moscow now underway. The review has produced several drafts of a policy to counter what officials call Putinism over the long term while still seeking silos of cooperation, particularly on issues like Iran, terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.

Though there is not a wide divergence of opinion inside the administration over how to view Mr. Putin, there is a debate about what to do. The review has pitted officials favoring more engagement against those favoring more containment, according to people involved. The main question is how the Ukraine dispute should define the relationship and affect other areas where the two countries share interests.

Within the administration, Mr. Putin’s efforts at accord with China are seen as a jab at Washington, but one fraught with a complicated history, mutual distrust and underlying economic disparity that ultimately makes it untenable. “They’ll use each other,” said one government official, who declined to be identified discussing the internal review. “And when one of them gets tired or sees a better deal, they’ll take it.”

But others warned against underestimating the potential. “There’s just so much evidence the relationship is getting stronger,” said Gilbert Rozman, a Princeton scholar who published a book, “The Sino-Russian Challenge to the World Order,” this year and an article in Foreign Affairs on the subject last month. The rapprochement began before Ukraine, he added, but now there is a “sense that there’s no turning back. They’re moving toward China.”

Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, said Mr. Putin seemed to have forged a strong bond with President Xi Jinping of China. “There’s a personal chemistry you can see,” he said. “They like each other, and they can relate to each other. They talk with each other with a candor and a level of cooperation they don’t find with other partners.”

Mr. Xi made Russia his first foreign destination after taking office and attended the Sochi Olympics as Mr. Obama and European leaders were boycotting them. Each has cracked down on dissent at home, and they share a view of the United States as a meddling imperialist power whose mismanagement of the world economic order was exposed by the 2008 financial crisis.

While past Chinese leaders looked askance at the Kremlin leader, “Xi is not appalled by Putin,” said Douglas Paal, an Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The twin crises in Ukraine and Hong Kong have encouraged the alignment. State television in Russia portrays democracy protests in Hong Kong as an American-inspired effort to undermine China, much as it depicted the protests in Kiev as an American effort to peel away a Russian ally from Moscow. Chinese media present Mr. Putin as a strong leader standing up to foreign intervention.

In May, as the United States and Europe were imposing sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine, Mr. Putin sealed a $400 billion, 30-year deal providing natural gas to China. Last month, China’s premier, Li Keqiang, signed a package of 38 deals in Moscow, including a currency swap and tax treaty. Last week, Mr. Putin said the two countries had reached an understanding for another major gas deal. The two had already bolstered economic ties. China surpassed Germany in 2010 to become Russia’s largest trading partner, with nearly $90 billion in trade last year, a figure surging this year as business with Europe shrinks.

“The campaign of economic sanctions against Russia and political pressure is alienating Russia from the West and pushing it closer to China,” said Sergei Rogov, director of Moscow’s Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies. “China is perceived in Russia as a substitute for Western credits and Western technology.”

Masha Lipman, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the pivot to China “is taken very seriously” in Moscow and that “commentators regard this shift as a given, a done and irreversible deal.” Yet talk of a Russian-Chinese alignment has persisted for decades without becoming fully realized, given deep cultural differences and a Cold War competition for leadership of the communist world. And Beijing has long opposed separatist movements, making it uncomfortable with Moscow’s support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

In Moscow, some fear Russia, out of weakness, has made itself a junior partner to a rising China. While China is now Russia’s largest trading partner, Russia is only China’s 10th largest — and the United States remains its biggest. Moreover, big Russian state companies can make deals, but China will not replace Europe for most corporations and banks, as there is no developed commercial bond market for foreigners in China akin to Eurobonds.

John Beyrle, a former American ambassador to Moscow, said discussions with Russian business leaders revealed nervousness, a sense that the turn to China was out of necessity as loans and investment from the West dry up. “One of them said that dependence on China worries the Russian elite much more than dependence on the West,” he said.

Lilia Shevtsova, a Moscow-based analyst with the Brookings Institution, said: “The pivot is artificial. And the pivot is to the disadvantage of Russia.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin will cross paths twice this week, first in Beijing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and then in Brisbane, Australia, at a meeting of the Group of 20 nations. Mr. Obama hopes to advance a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Russia and China are acutely aware they have been excluded from the proposed bloc, and Mr. Putin says it would be ineffective without them. Such issues only fuel Russia’s move to China, Russian officials said. If the United States and Europe are less reliable, long-term partners, then China looks more attractive. “We trust them,” said Mr. Kislyak, “and we hope that China equally trusts us.”


Lavrov Lays Out Russia's New, China-Centric Foreign Policy Line

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Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, gave a tour d'horizon of his country's rapidly evolving foreign policy, including some of the most explicit hints to date that the country is reorienting away from Europe and toward Asia -- especially China. In an October 20 speech to members of the country's ruling party, United Russia, Lavrov addressed familiar topics like the need for a multipolar world and perfidy of the West. But in the past Russian officials tend to elide the details of what an alternative to the Western-led world would look like.  Particularly striking in Lavrov's speech was the attention given to China. This was in his introduction:
The realignment, or, I would even say, the deconcentration of the global balance of forces, is a hallmark of our time. Most clearly, this can be seen in the greater economic power and increasing political clout of the Asia-Pacific Region. These countries have largely assumed the role of a driver of global economic growth, a role which was traditionally performed by the United States,Western Europe and Japan. As we can see, China achieved the greatest success on this path and, according to the latest report issued by the International Monetary Fund, has for the first time become the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity Based on the findings of the IMF experts, the seven largest so-called “emerging economies,” including our country, outdid the seven industrialized Western countries in terms of combined GDP. That’s a totally new picture of the world that does not fit into the centuries-old notion of Western dominance in the global economy, finance and politics.
And later, he expanded on Russia's growing ties with Asia and particularly China, though he emphasizes that this is not a reaction to the fallout with Europe and the United States, but a longer-term strategy:
We have recently done a great deal to develop partner relations with the Asia-Pacific countries. In this context, some said that Russia was reorienting its foreign relations from the West to the East, under the influence of US and EU sanctions. In reality, deeper cooperation with the Asia-Pacific countries, including in the interests of boosting the development of our eastern regions, has been a long-standing priority of Russia’s multi-vectoral foreign policy, which is sealed in a concept that was approved by President Vladimir Putin. The policy of developing relations with Asia-Pacific and the area’s regional integration organisations will be implemented despite the possible changes in other parts of the world. Of course, the recent restrictive measures have provided an impetus for more actively developing relations with our partners in the East, although we would rather do this simultaneously with developing our traditional cooperation with the West than instead of it.
We have made a breakthrough in the development of our strategic partnership with China. The relevant facts and figures have been provided in the context of a recent meeting of the heads of government of Russia and China in Moscow, during which we signed approximately 40 agreements. This cooperation is very important not only for promoting bilateral relations and economic cooperation, addressing social issues and strengthening cultural cooperation between our nations, but also for strengthening the stability of international relations. Our cooperation has become a fact of international life, and its role has been growing. We are actively cooperating with China within the SCO, BRICS and other multilateral organisations, not to mention the UN Security Council.

'Putin's Revenge': Russia And China Try To End The Dominance Of The Dollar

'Putin's Revenge': Russia And China Try To End The Dominance Of The Dollar

Russia and China just agreed to a second major gas deal, worth slightly less than the $400 billion agreement reached earlier this year, according to Bloomberg. The details of the deal mean Russia will supply China with another 30 billion cubic metres of gas every year for the next three decades through the Altai pipeline, a proposed pipe transporting the gas from western Siberia to China. 

Many analysts see the move as evidence that Moscow is pivoting away from reliance on European customers and toward East Asia, where relatively rapid economic growth should prop up demand. It's also a political move, as relations with the rest of Europe have become increasingly cold after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the tit-for-tat sanctions between the European Union, United States, and Russia. 

The value of the Russian rouble has collapsed recently as the price of oil has declined. Russia's economy is dependent on oil, so the currency fluctuates with the oil price. The price declines in turn threaten Russia's ability to meet its budget obligations and pay debt. In sum, the country faces an economic crisis if it can't find new demand for oil and currency .

But the rouble is rallying against the dollar today. Here's the US currency dropping by nearly 3% against the rouble after the central bank announced it would stop trying to defend the currency's collapse. The China deal helps both Russia and China lessen their economic dependence on the West. It also helps Russia get around the economic sanctions imposed by the West because of the Ukraine situation. The Moscow Times notes:

Curtailing the dollar's influence fits well with China's ambitions to increase the influence of the yuan and eventually turn it into a global reserve currency. With 32 percent of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves invested in US government debt, China wants to curb investment risks in dollar. The quest to limit the dollar's dominance became more urgent for Moscow this year when US and European governments imposed sanctions on Russia over its support for separatist rebels in Ukraine.


Russian Senator: “Russia Supports Multipolar World, Rejects Exceptionalism”

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Andrei Klimov, the Russian Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, held a press conference on Friday at Rossiya Segodnya’s multimedia press center, where he discussed US pressure aimed at the Eurasian Economic Union project, Russia’s strained relations with PACE, the country’s search for alternative forums for inter-parliamentary dialogue, and the shift of the world away from US-based unipolarity.

On US Attempts to Halt the Process of Eurasian Economic Integration

Speaking about the integration processes of the Eurasian Economic Union, Klimov noted that “in her own time, Mrs. Clinton, as Secretary of State, said that under no circumstances should Eurasian integration ‘in the Russian scenario’ be allowed.”

Klimov noted that since then the US has been searching for “weak links” and is willing to use “any means necessary” to “destabilize the situation in the countries that neighbor Russia,” noting that such destabilization measures have most recently been realized in Ukraine.

“They have already done what they could [in Ukraine]...the system has already been broken...the abscess has been created, the crisis is set to last a long time, and their direct control [over events] is no longer necessary,” Klimov said. “They are trying to work via our neighbors. Now in Yerevan [Armenia] there are attempts to create unrest. There are similar attempts in Kazakhstan,” he added.

Presently, “the Kazakh people are being told by someone via local NGOs that their Russian neighbors have some not-very-good thoughts with regard to Kazakhstan. And we are also told through various ‘experts’ that we will lose more through the Eurasian Union than we gain.”

Noting the aftermath of the color revolutions and other destabilization attempts, Klimov stated that former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is presently having trouble entering the US, noting that “our Ukrainian colleagues would do well to see how the great friendship with Uncle Sam ends.”

Questions on PACE Membership

Klimov discussed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which deprived Russia of the right to vote, to participate in its statutory bodies and to monitor activities this past April due to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. He said that while Russia sees no reason to leave the organization, it is far from the only platform for inter-parliamentary dialogue, and “we should reevaluate our position within the organization.”

Klimov noted that considering “the global processes which are occurring today,” there are “a variety of inter-parliamentary institutions” to work with, adding that Russia has had “a somewhat exaggerated idea” about the importance and manner of PACE discussions.

“The world is changing, and we shouldn’t remain frozen,” Klimov said. Still, he added that Russia has made many concessions to enter PACE it the past, and from an economic perspective, and the perspective of Russian citizens working, living and vacationing in PACE countries, the organization remains an important partner for Russia.

Prospects for Other Inter-Parliamentary Platforms

Among the alternative inter-parliamentary platforms which Russia has recently been reorienting itself towards, Klimov mentioned the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEM), a platform for inter-parliamentary dialogue stretching from Europe to Asia and Oceania, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization Klimov calls “old, tested and proven.”
 
Klimov noted that at the most recent ASEM meeting in Rome on October 6-7, calls were made from all sides for the reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He added that Russia “can’t wait for the reform of these institutions, which at present are dominated by the West, and undeservedly so, from our perspective.”

The Senator noted that interesting proposals were made in Rome to “turn [ASEP] into something similar to PACE...to constitute an organization,” including a permanent secretariat. “Possibly something like a Eurasian Assembly will form out of this, which based on our goals, would be very beneficial [for Russia].”

Klimov noted that one of the reasons Russia is so eager to expand its participation in ASEP is the country’s size. “Russia has two dozen neighboring countries, all of them very different from one another...thus for us, formats where they are all present are objectively preferable ...[Russia is] a big country, and it’s very difficult to conduct our international affairs based on small groupings because what we are dealing with [a dispute somewhere along the country’s border] is not necessarily interesting to, for example, a small European country. In this regard, considering our potential and interests as well as our size, the Inter-Parliamentary Union is [the most comfortable forum], and we regret that we are only now beginning to understand this.”

Speaking about the upcoming meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on October 13 in Geneva, Klimov noted that Russia would bring its White Book on human rights violations in Ukraine, as well as other material from Russian political and civil organizations, and will be ready to present evidence, if necessary, that would convince the world community to come to independent conclusions based on the evidence. Klimov mentioned other organizations which Russia has been working with, including the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum and the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, which Russia has recently joined.

On the European Economic Crisis, Financial Bubble:

At the ASEP forum in Rome, Klimov noted that he had heard figures during the course of discussions which he had found interesting; he had discovered that "the EU accounts for more than 60% of all social spending worldwide" despite having a population of only 600 million people. At the same time, the EU’s contribution to global GDP is only 15 percent. Obviously someone has to pay for the difference. These questions are very worrisome to people who represent countries which make a much greater contribution to the creation of [global] GDP."

Klimov said that “the fact that the discussion took place in Italy only made it more relevant, considering that unemployment among the country’s youth stands at 40 percent today. Imagine such a high unemployment rate in our country. It would result in a tremendous outcry, and justifiably so... Against this background, it is understandable that when such tremendous resources are spent on social needs, the region becomes attractive to immigrants...and now in the EU there is no idea about what to do with this issue. On one hand, the unions attempt to prevent the bar from being lowered; while on the other hand, their economies haven’t been capable of dealing with the problem for a long time, and money and other financial instruments are utilized. All of this affects the world financial system’s [stability], since this bubble is set to burst sooner or later; similar processes are occurring in the United States; this is what the discussions [in Milan] were about.”

Growing International Interest Toward the Eurasian Union and BRICS

Klimov noted that among parliamentary circles and foreign business communities, interest in the Eurasian Union project and the five BRICS economies “is greater even than in our own country...Our people seem to have become accustomed to thinking on the scale of Russia, which of course is correct, and they have not yet come to understand that the Eurasian Economic Union is a new supranational entity whose decisions are binding for participating countries; there are a lot of interesting processes taking place in this regard. Our international partners seem to have observed this attentively, together with what is going on in the BRICS.”

Klimov noted that Russian delegations are asked about developments on these issues at forums throughout the world, “from Caracas to Colombo,” and also among Western leaders, “especially its business class,” adding that “the political class is also interested but tries to hide it.”

Need for and Movement Toward a Multipolar World Order

Klimov noted that Russia “today and in the foreseeable future, will support a multipolar world, toward which we are presently working with all our efforts...including through inter-parliamentary dialogues with our colleagues.” Klimov added that Russia rejects the ideas of national exceptionalism and of one power deciding for everyone. The Senator said toward the conclusion of his meeting that currently “the US often just avoids those platforms where they do not have a dominant position...they have even left the platform organized by the countries of Latin America, which pushed them out, together with the Canadians. And if we are to speak about who is isolated, in inter-parliamentary terms, it’s the United States...Because if you observe the countries that do not have very close relations with them –even just the inter-parliamentary dialogue between the EU and the US, you will see a lot of interesting things in this regard.”


Russia Surpasses US in Nuclear Weapons Technology, NATO "Scared"

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Crisis in Ukraine has sparked even more controversies as Russia accuses the United States of pushing for regime change in Moscow. Tension across the globe has also been rising following the country's aggressive military mobilizations on Ukraine with recent evaluations saying that Russia may now be at par, perhaps even beyond, the nuclear capabilities of the West. Are Vladimir Putin and his country a rising threat? 

Last September 1, 2014, a report from the US State Department claimed that in 40 years and for the first time following the USSR collapse, Russia achieved strategic nuclear weapons' parity with the United States. More importantly, Washington said that Moscow may have regained a status similar to the mid-70′s Sovient Union. To be exact, the State Department revealed that Russia now has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons capable of carrying 1,643 warheads. The United States, as per the report, manages 794 vehicles including 1,652 nuclear warheads. 

The report considers Russia's weapons advanced than US primarily because it guarantees parity on warheads with a fewer strategic nuclear weapons' carrier. The gap may even widen in the future considering the promise of Russian defense officials to add new generation missiles to Russia's SNF. 

The reportedly growing military power of Russia injects more tension as its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia attacks the West's sanctions on the country. According to the minister (via CNN): "As for the concept behind the use of coercive measures, the West is making it clear it does not want to try to change the policy of the Russian Federation ... they want to change the regime -- practically no one denies this." This reflects the waning ties between the United States and several European nations with Russia. These countries condemned Russia's move on Ukraine such as sending troops to the region to overthrow Ukrainian government forces. 

CNN also reported that Moscow has been vocal about its support to the rebels in Ukraine even sending aid convoys. However, the region did deny being militarily involved. Reuters' report, on other hand, demonstrates new lows in country relations for Russia. In order to pressure Russia in its involvement with Ukraine, the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on the country. Reuters quoted Putin: "We understand the fatality of an 'Iron Curtain' for us." 

"We will not go down this path in any case and no one will build a wall around us. That is impossible!"

Ukraine has been a source of tension for both Russia and the United States since the Cold War. Fatalities in the region have reached 4,300 people since chaos erupted around mid-April. Academic director at the German government's Federal Academy for Security Policy in Berlin also noted the impact of Russia's move in Ukraine to NATO.

"The rapid mobilization of 20,000 to 40,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border scared the hell out of NATO," Bloomberg quoted the director. 


Russian bomber patrols to reach Gulf of Mexico

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Russia's long-range bombers will conduct regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, the military said Wednesday, a show of muscle reflecting tensions with the West over Ukraine. A statement from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu comes as NATO has reported a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean. It came as NATO's chief commander accused Moscow of sending new troops and tanks into Ukraine — a claim quickly rejected by Moscow. Shoigu said Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. He added that "in the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico."

He said that the increasing pace and duration of flights would require stronger maintenance efforts and relevant directives have been issued to industries. Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers were making regular patrols across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans during Cold War times, but the post-Soviet money crunch forced the military to cut back. The bomber patrol flights have resumed under Putin's rule and have become increasingly frequent in recent years. Earlier this year, Shoigu said that Russia plans to expand its worldwide military presence by seeking permission for navy ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for replenishing supplies and doing maintenance. He said the military was conducting talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.

Shoigu said Russia was also talking to some of those countries about allowing long-range bombers to use their air bases for refueling.

Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank, said the bomber patrols were part of Kremlin's efforts to make the Russian military "more visible and more assertive in its actions." The new bomber flights "aren't necessarily presaging a threat," Kearns said. "They are just part of a general ramping-up of activities." But he said "the more instances you have of NATO and Russian forces coming close together, the more chance there is of having something bad happening, even if it's not intentional."

On Monday, the European Leadership Network issued a report that found a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March, including violations of national airspace, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, harassment of reconnaissance planes, close overflights over warships and Russian mock bombing raid missions.

Three of the nearly 40 incidents, the think tank said, carried a "high probability" of causing casualties or triggering a direct military confrontation: a narrowly avoided collision between a civilian airliner and a Russian surveillance plane, the abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer and a large-scale Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine that yielded no result. In September, the report said, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea off Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the U.S. Earlier this year, in May, the report said, Russian military aircraft approached within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the California coast, the closest such Russian military flight reported since the end of the Cold War. Russia-West ties have dipped to their lowest point since Cold War times over Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. The West and Ukraine have continuously accused Moscow of fueling the rebellion with troops and weapons — claims Russia has rejected.

Fighting has continued in the east despite a cease-fire agreement between Ukraine and the rebels signed in September, and Ukraine and the West accused Russia recently of sending in new troops and weapons. U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove said Wednesday that in the last two days "we have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine."
Breedlove, who spoke in Sofia, Bulgaria, wouldn't say how many new troops and weapons have moved into Ukraine and wouldn't specify how the alliance obtained the information. The Russian Defense Ministry quickly rejected Breedlove's statement as groundless. Breedlove said that the Russia-Ukraine border is "completely wide open," and "forces, money, support, supplies, weapons are flowing back and forth across this border completely at will." "We need to get back to a situation where this international border is respected," he said.



Russia To Build Unified Network Of Military Facilities On Its Arctic Territories In December

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Russia is planning to set up the headquarters of its Arctic Command at a naval base used by its Northern Fleet, and the new facility will become operational on Dec. 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Monday. The Arctic Command is part of Russia’s plan to form a combined arms group and construct a unified network of military facilities in the country’s Arctic territories, by hosting troops, advanced warships and aircraft to strengthen the protection of its northern borders, Ria Novosti reported.

“A new strategic command in the Arctic, based at the Northern Fleet, will become operational on December 1 this year,” Putin reportedly said, in a meeting with top military commanders on Monday. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that the newly formed Arctic Command, dubbed “North,” will include the country’s Northern Fleet, two Arctic-warfare brigades, in addition to its air force and air defense units by 2017, according to Ria Novosti.

The latest announcement by Russia follows recent media reports that Norwegian scientists had spotted a Russian submarine surface in the Arctic Circle in October. The submarine was reportedly the 13,700-ton Delta class boat Orenburg, a newly refurbished ballistic missile bomber. In October, a senior Russian military commander said that the country would strengthen its military forces with more airfields and radar stations in the Arctic.

“We are planning to build 13 airfields, an air-ground firing range, as well as ten radar and vectoring posts,” Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center, was quoted as saying at the time, by Ria Novosti. Russia’s Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi also reportedly said in October that the country could submit another request to the United Nations, seeking to expand its Arctic borders by 1.2 million square kilometers (more than 463,322 square miles).

A Russian expert also said that the country’s prospective submission to the U.N. to expand the limits of its Arctic borders is backed by scientific research. Over the past few years, the Russian government has reportedly been undertaking several political, economic and military measures to safeguard the country’s interests in the Arctic. In October 2013, Putin vowed never to "surrender" Russia's Arctic area. He later ordered the Defense Ministry to take steps to protect Russia’s interests in the region, Xinhua reported.


Russia Tensions Move Closer to US

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu makes the military salute at the Red Square in Moscow, on May  9, 2014, during a Victory Day parade.

Russia’s increasingly assertive – and some say militaristic – foreign policy hit a little closer to home recently. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian military would soon be conducting bomber patrols worldwide, including in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico – the United States’ proverbial backyard. “In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” said Shoigu, apparently in response to accusations from NATO officials that Russian troops are heading into Ukraine.

Shoigu reportedly added that the flights would be “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications,” presumably referring to the U.S.

If Shoigu’s announced plans were to materialize, the Russian flights would constitute the most significant Russian international military escalation since the Cold War. By some standards, bomber sorties in the Gulf of Mexico would surpass even Cold War-era tensions, as Russian forces reportedly did not routinely patrol North America’s southern flank. “Such a policy is highly reminiscent of Soviet military activity during the Cold War,” says Laura Linderman, a research fellow with the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. “This is a calculated escalation by Moscow to see just how far they can push the U.S.”

Shoigu’s comments come amid a major increase in Russian airborne “probing” missions in the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and throughout European airspace. However, those flights were largely launched from Russia itself. Even occasional missions skirting U.S. airspace near Alaska or California can be launched from Russian bases. Flying patrols to the Gulf of Mexico, to say nothing of the further-flung Caribbean, would require a constellation of refueling and maintenance facilities throughout the region to support aircraft making the approximately 5,500-mile journey from Russia’s frozen East to the balmy Gulf.

This makes it unlikely that Russia will be able to fly patrols in the Gulf and Caribbean as announced without first establishing those facilities, experts say. It is also possible that while several high-profile missions may indeed go forward, they will be used more as a demonstration of capability rather than establishing a regular surveillance route. But either way, it underlines Russian intentions to boost its presence in the Western Hemisphere and, more broadly, to lay claim to the return of Russia as a global power.

Lincoln Mitchell, an associate research scholar at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, supports the view that the Russian plan cannot be ignored despite the obvious logistical difficulties. “In the last year or so, what seems unlikely one day with Russia has had a way of happening the next,” says Mitchell. The leadership “has been very smart about seeing just how far they can go. You can’t rule it out just because it seems implausible today.”

Though the Russian bomber sorties, should they ever happen, will involve aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the actual military threat they pose is relatively low. The Russian long-range bomber of choice, the Tupolev TU-95 “Bear,” is of 1950s vintage and an easy mark for U.S. air forces – including the hypersophisticated F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighters that make up an ever-larger portion of the U.S. fighter fleets.

The greater danger may be the risk of an incident between Russian and U.S. planes. A collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter in 2001 brought relations to deep lows even without the volatile context that increasingly surrounds U.S.-Russian ties. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, in which Russian forces appear to be actively engaged in supporting separatist groups in the country’s East, has been a major point of contention between the U.S. and Russia since the conflict began in earnest in March.

Russia has denied its involvement in Ukraine, saying that any of its citizens fighting there are only “volunteers.” However, U.S. leaders reject this claim. According to U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, NATO forces have confirmed “columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine.”

In Washington, the response to all this activity and rhetoric has not been particularly well-defined. “Russia is invading Ukraine, but the administration will not call it an invasion. Is this a strategy?” asks Linderman. “As far as I can tell, in the run-up to this situation, the administration has not shown itself to be sufficiently strategic.”

Instead, it has leaned on a tool kit of sticks and carrots in an effort to nudge Moscow toward compromise. On one hand, Washington has used sanctions, aid and military reassurance deployments to pressure Moscow for its alleged excesses, but it has kept the door open rhetorically for a figurative “off-ramp” that would lead to de-escalation. “I think Obama has been one of the cooler heads in Washington,” says Mitchell. He “is a lame duck who is likely going to be replaced by a more hawkish president in 2016. In a way, this frees up Obama to do what he wants on the issue.”

But the threat of Gulf flights appears to show that Moscow is not interested in reversing course anytime soon. Instead, the Russian government has signaled its intent to continue pushing unless its claims to leadership – which its critics consider to be neo-imperial impulses – over states in its so-called near abroad region are acknowledged and respected by Western powers. Yet the U.S. and its allies in Europe say these countries should be free to choose their foreign policy orientation, which makes the two sides essentially irreconcilable.

However, Mitchell sees the administration’s current approach as prudent. “We already have superior military power,” he notes. There’s a difference between Russia doing something the U.S. disapproves of, he says, “and being an actual threat to Americans – and that’s a distinction that is ultimately up to the president to make.”

Still, the specter of Russian bombers flying regular patrols along American shores adds yet another dimension to the increasing rivalry between Russia and NATO. Though the patrols may not be a direct military threat to the U.S. mainland, they highlight a growing gap between U.S. and Russian foreign policies – one that may not be solved for years.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/11/28/russia-tensions-move-closer-to-home 


Russia launches ‘wartime government’ HQ in major military upgrade

NDCC war room. Computer simulation. Image by Defence Ministy

Russia is launching a new national defense facility, which is meant to monitor threats to national security in peacetime, but would take control of the entire country in case of war. The new top-security, fortified facility in Moscow includes several large war rooms, a brand new supercomputer in the heart of a state-of-the-art data processing center, underground facilities, secret transport routes for emergency evacuation and a helicopter pad, which was deployed for the first time on Nov. 24 on the Moscow River. The Defense Ministry won’t disclose the price tag for the site, but it is estimated at the equivalent of several billion dollars.

The new National Defense Control Center (NDCC) is a major upgrade on what was previously called the Central Command of the General Staff, a unit tasked with round-the-clock monitoring of military threats against Russia, particularly ballistic missile launches, and deployment of strategic nuclear weapons. It was roughly a counterpart to the US National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s principal command and control site.

The NDCC inherits all those functions, but also has plenty of extra roles as well. In peacetime, an additional task is to monitor all of Russia’s important military assets, from hardware being produced by defense contractors to the state of oil refineries, to weather conditions and their effect on transportation routes. And if Russia does get into a war, the center would act as a major communication hub and a form of wartime government, delivering reports to the country’s military command and giving orders to all ministries, state-owned companies and other organizations, according to the needs of the armed forces.
“The creation of NDCC was one of the biggest military projects of the past few years. The closest analogy in the past in terms of functions and tasks was the Commander-in-Chief HQ in 1941-45, which centralized all controls of both the military machine and the economy of the nation in the interests of the war,” Lt. General Mikhail Mizintsev, the NDCC chief, told Lenta.ru in an interview.

The military says the upgrade has been long overdue. The national security situation may be very fluid in modern times, and instead of days the leadership may have only an hour to take crucial military decisions. The center’s job is to offer the Defense Minister and the President options in case of emergency, which would be based on facts, figures and accurate projections.

Potentially the biggest part of the upgrade was the creation of communication and data processing equipment that would give the military computer power and software needed to factor in hundreds of parameters in their mathematical models. The Defense Ministry had to use only domestically-produced hardware due to security considerations, which limited its options.

According to officials, the result is a very robust computer network with state-of-art data encryption and multiple backup sites spread throughout the country, which would keep the center functional even if its main facility in Moscow is damaged by an enemy attack or sabotage.

The center employs over 1,000 officers working on a rotating watch system. Mizintsev said the armed forces selected their best officer for the posts, many of which are new for the Russian military and require skills not previously taught to officers on a regular basis until recently. They have been operating in trial mode since April. A thoroughly military facility, the NDCC has an unexpected civilian component to it. Its location in Moscow is close to two major hospitals, including the Pirogov trauma center. Both hospitals are quite old and their original designs didn’t provide for dedicated helicopter pads. The Defense Ministry said the medics can share NDCC’s new pad on the Moscow River for emergency patient transportation. The pad can accommodate helicopters weighing up to 15 tons, enough to land a Mil Mi-8, world’s most-produced transport helicopter, or a Mil Mi-38, its designated replacement.

Source: http://rt.com/news/210307-russia-national-defence-center/

Forbes: Is The Breakup Of Ukraine Inevitable?

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Ukraine is the very definition of the word “inevitable” — that which cannot be avoided.  Ukraine is going broke. It may lose more of its territory. Investors are running for the door, betting that things are going to get worse.  All of this is now unavoidable. The market used to think the Ukraine crisis would cool down by the December.  All bets for that outcome are now off the table. Ukraine is shrinking, in more ways than one.

On March 16, 2014, Ukraine saw a large chunk of its territory annexed by Russia. The Crimea peninsula, then an autonomous region of the country, voted to secede after a perceived anti-Russia government took over Kiev. Crimea is dominated by ethnic Russians. Now, two regions continue to keep Ukraine in the news: Luhansk and Donetsk.  Leaders there have decided it is best to become autonomous republics too. Like Crimea, this may very well be another way of saying goodbye to Kiev, if not Ukraine altogether.

Even if territorial integrity remains, Ukraine’s finances are deteriorating. The nation’s currency, the hryvnia, has lost 91.5% of its value so far this year, falling rapidly after the Central Bank decided on Nov. 4 to abandon its 12.95 peg to the dollar. The BNY Mellon Ukraine Index is down 40.18% year-to-date, much of it coming after the Bank’s decision. It’s panic time for Ukrainian money.

The probability of Ukraine defaulting during the next five years, according to the CDS markets, is now greater than 70%. “Economically, Ukraine is being transmogrified into a failed state,” says Vladimir Signorelli, co-founder and senior international economist at Bretton Woods Research in New Jersey.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has stuck with his policy of austerity since taking over the country in February. He has followed the International Monetary Fund’s prescription of shock therapy policies of tax increases, devaluation and spending cuts. Monetarily, “Ukraine is beginning to look like an IMF basket-case from South America or Africa from the 1970s and 80s,” Signorelli says, adding he expects inflation to go even higher than the 19.8% levels hit last month.

According to Reuters, one third of Ukraine’s deposits have been withdrawn from the banking system since Sept. 21, or nearly $6.8 billion. Ukraine’s foreign reserves stand at a mere $12.6 billion as of October. Not surprisingly, the probability of Ukraine defaulting during the next five years, according to the credit default swaps market, is now greater than 70%.

To make matters worse, Ukraine still owes Russia’s state owned natural gas company, Gazprom, $1.6 billion by year-end. Meanwhile, the IMF’s next loan tranche — of its $17 billion dollar bailout program – is expected to be delayed, possibly into next year. So where is this country going to get money to keep its government afloat? Russia reportedly holds about one fifth of Ukrainian sovereign bonds, with frontier markets giant Franklin Templeton owning about 40% of Ukraine’s debt.
 
A default scenario for Ukraine, which was not among the assumptions in the European Central Bank’s recent stress tests of 130 banks, would create significant market volatility and introduce the threat of contagion in the E.U. Back in April, European banks owned nearly $1.4 trillion of loans to Eastern European countries. Loans to Eastern Europe comprise approximately 35% of total foreign loans by Austrian banks, 27% by Italian banks, and 18% to 20% by Greek and Portuguese banks.

“A Ukraine default scenario could become analogous to the Mexican Crisis in 1982. Similar to the way Fed Chairman Paul Volcker was able to monetize Mexico’s debt in 1982, thereby quickly reflating the dollar and taking off the table a sovereign default by the Mexican government, we believe there is the potential for a similar monetization by the ECB should Ukraine teeter on the brink of default,” Signorelli says.

Political map of Ukraine, highlighting the Crimean peninsula in pink. The four provinces along the Russian border are in favor of becoming autonomous zones, separate from Kiev. That might be the best case scenario. The worst case will be those four provinces being annexed one-by-one by the Russian Federation next door.

The Map

Crimea is now part of the Russian map. A number of regions along the eastern Ukraine border, starting with Luhansk and Donetsk, are on the verge of following in Crimea’s footsteps.

Last week, the top U.S. commander for NATO said Russia was effectively working to re-draw the Ukrainian border. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said on Nov. 3 that “Hybrid war is what we are coming to call what Russia has done clearly in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. I’m concerned that the conditions are there that could create a frozen conflict,” one that ultimately sees more regions either become autonomous from Kiev, with greater allegiances to Russia, or building on a civil war that will eventually lead to a secession.

Over 4,000 people have been killed in military skirmishes between pro-Russia fighters and the Ukrainian military. Russia denies funding the militants, though Washington insists on evidence of Russian troop movement heading into Ukraine. Russia usually says the vehicles are carrying humanitarian aid.

One thing is certain: Russia, Ukraine and the E.U. cannot agree on how to stop fighting. The Sept 5 cease-fire agreement between Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin is basically dead. Instead of broader negotiations, escalation appears to be at hand with separatists unwilling to recognize Kiev. Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko faces a dilemma. He agreed with Washington, Brussels and Moscow that sending in more troops to Eastern Ukraine was a bad idea. But he’s doing it anyway as separatists continue to spark civil unrest in the Donbas region.

On Nov. 4, Poroshenko ordered more troops to the eastern cities despite the fact that the U.S., E.U. and Russia have agreed that the disposition of the eastern provinces cannot be resolved on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Poroshenko has also suspended all budget subsidies earmarked for the territories, basically starving them of a federal lifeline. Yatsenyuk announced this week that $2.6 billion in state support, including benefits and pension payments to retirees, would be withheld from Donetsk and Luhansk until the fighting ceases. The move is unlikely to pacify those already against the government.

A partition of the country is becoming more likely. If so, it could stretch from Luhansk in the northeast all the way down to the Kherson province in the southeast, on the Crimean border. Ukraine’s problems may be bad for European banks and frontier market bond holders like Templeton. It is even worse for Russia.

The Ukrainian crisis has led to a direct weakening of the Russian ruble — down 41% year to date. Sanctions on Russian banks and energy companies like Gazprom became active on June 28, hurting business sentiment and sending the Market Vectors Russia (RSX) exchange traded fund down 21.09%.

“We want to see this crisis end, too, ” Putin told a gathering of more than 1,500 investors and executives during last month’s Russia Calling! investor conference in Moscow. “ We consider the Ukrainians close family. We share cultural and religious history and want to remain a close ally to Ukraine,” he said.

Even worse for Russia has been the coincident decline in oil prices, which appears to be reflecting the collision of increased supply and falling demand in China and Europe. Falling oil prices has added another risk to the Russian economy, which is highly reliant on oil for public finances. Meanwhile, an escalation of the Ukraine crisis is more inevitable than not. This will also hurt Russian investor, but will surely push Ukraine’s finances to the brink and possibly redraw the Ukrainian map longer term.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/11/12/is-the-breakup-of-ukraine-inevitable/?partner=yahootix

Will Georgia Be the Next Ukraine?

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As the world observes the continuing clash between Russia and the West in Ukraine, tensions are rising further south, in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Like in Ukraine, rivalries among political factions and ethnic groups in Georgia dangerously intersect with the broader Russian and Western struggle for influence in the former Soviet space. Without the dialogue necessary for peace, a serious conflict could erupt here as well, with very negative implications for regional and international security. The situation can’t be ignored.

Located at a strategic crossroads between East and West, Georgia has been a major theater of contention for many years. A country rich in history and hospitality, it is viewed by Washington as a conduit to Central Asian energy and as a means of expanding influence into the former Soviet Union. Moscow views it as an important component of its traditional security structure, enhanced by history and the shared ties of Orthodox Christianity.

In 2003, the Washington-backed Rose Revolution in Tbilisi swept Georgian President and former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze out of power, and brought in the American-educated, staunchly pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili’s government immediately sought to join the European Union and NATO and engaged in provocative anti-Russian rhetoric. Relations with Moscow quickly deteriorated. The situation reached the boiling point in August 2008, when Saakashvili launched a military assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which was protected by Russian peacekeepers. The attack precipitated a five-day war in which Russia expelled Georgian forces from South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, and then formally recognized both as independent states. In response, Saakashvili severed ties with Moscow. Six years later, Russo-Georgian relations remain at a standstill.

In many respects, the 2008 conflict seemed to be a prelude to the developments that are now unfolding in Ukraine. In both conflicts, NATO expansion and attempts by Washington to strengthen US influence in the region played key roles. In both cases, pro-Western governments—overtly antagonistic toward Moscow—did much to fan the flames. And in both cases, Moscow stood firm in protecting its interests.

In the years following the 2008 conflict, Saakashvili’s regime gradually collapsed. In October 2012 his party, the United National Movement (UNM), lost to the Georgian Dream coalition headed by the charismatic Imeretian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili’s victory seemed to herald a new era for Georgia. It was to be one informed more by balanced pragmatism than by Saakashvili’s penchant for pro-Western bluster.

As a leader, Ivanishvili was neither entirely pro-Russian nor pro-Western. He understood the benefits of a relationship with Moscow and vowed to repair relations with the hope of fully restoring diplomatic ties. He also sought reconciliation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and advocated for reopening the Abkhaz railway, which linked Armenia to Russia during the Soviet era. He kept Georgia’s NATO and EU ambitions on the table, likely as negotiating chips with Moscow to help ensure a peace deal with the Abkhaz and Ossetes. At the same time, he openly considered the idea of joining the Moscow-backed Eurasian Union.

Despite Ivanishvili’s reformist stance and his strategic and diplomatic posturing, he was limited in his ability to fundamentally change the situation because Saakashvili remained the nominal head of state in a power-sharing arrangement. After Saakashvili’s final defeat in the 2013 presidential election and Ivanishvili’s decision to retire from politics, they were replaced by two Ivanishvili associates: the philosopher and bon vivant Giorgi Margvelashvili as president and Irakli Garibashvili as prime minister, a mere 31 years old at the time of his appointment. With Saakashvili out of office, a new hope emerged that Russo-Georgian relations would be finally restored. The high point in this growing thaw occurred during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, when Russian President Vladimir Putin personally invited Margvelashvili to a one-on-one meeting.

However, when all eyes turned toward the Maidan, the meeting was put on hold indefinitely. As the Ukraine crisis intensified, the United States and the European Union stepped up their efforts to enhance their geopolitical position in the former Soviet space. US officials emphasized the importance of a Georgian future in NATO and full US support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Meanwhile, the EU moved up the date of the signing of its Association Agreement with Tbilisi from August to June, granted more money to Tbilisi and persuaded the pro-Moscow leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church to support EU membership. In the absence of full diplomatic relations with Tbilisi, Russia was powerless to counteract any of these moves.

There were domestic concerns too. Within the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, there are divisions between pragmatists (like Prime Minister Garibashvili) and hawks (like Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili) over how to pursue relations with Moscow. Even within the pragmatist camp, disagreements have emerged between Garibashvili and President Margvelashvili. Points of contention range from who should meet with Putin to who should sign the Association Agreement. The delineation between the power of the president and that of the prime minister in Georgia’s developing political system remains a subject of debate, and has been at the center of the ongoing Margvelashvili-Garibashvili feud. Until recently, both Margvelashvili and Garibashvili were planning to attend the UN Climate Summit, which would have made Georgia the only country represented by two heads of state. In the end, Margvelashvili canceled his participation at the event.

It is noteworthy that Ivanishvili has criticized Margvelashvili but has been largely silent amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis. In March, he only briefly touched on Ukraine when he predicted that Russia will “not concede regarding Crimea.” In an interview published in the weekly Kviris Palitra on September 15, he commented further. “God forbid the continuation of what is now going on in Ukraine,” he said. “Of course, it is horrible what is happening in Ukraine. We, all of us, and I personally support our neighboring country, Ukraine.” He also hoped “very much that everything will be settled in the near future” and for “peace to be established there soon.”

Contrast this to former President Saakashvili who has been a vocal supporter of Kiev and even served as an unofficial advisor to the post-Maidan Ukrainian government. The former Georgian leader’s involvement with Kiev led to protests from the Georgian government as well as the government of breakaway Abkhazia. In Georgia’s southern neighbor, Armenia, it was lampooned on ArmComedy, the Armenian version of The Daily Show. Speculation in the Caucasus about an official Saakashvili advisorship increased after the election of Petro Poroshenko. On May 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized a potential Saakashvili appointment, while Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili offered some “friendly advice” to Kiev: “keep Saakashvili at bay.” In the end, Poroshenko opted to appoint Kakha Bendukidze, a Saakashvili political ally, instead.

Today, Saakashvili is in self-imposed exile in Brooklyn, New York and with good reason. He is a wanted man in Georgia. Initially targeted for questioning with regard to the murder of former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, he is now the subject of an investigation into alleged abuses and excesses of power during his presidency. Tbilisi’s prosecutor has issued a warrant for his arrest, and efforts are now under way to seize his property, freeze his assets and issue an international arrest warrant via Interpol. In addition, Russia has spoken of a possible arrest warrant for Saakashvili’s attacks against civilians in the 2008 war in South Ossetia.

In response, Saakashvili laughed off the charges and promised to “arrive in Georgia” not as a criminal but as a hero, threatening to bring his own Maidan to Tbilisi. The Georgian government noted these declarations with concern. In April, Tbilisi’s Interior Ministry claimed that Saakashvili and the UNM were planning to “destabilize” Georgia with the aim of “overthrowing state institutions.” Interior Minister Aleksandr Tchikaidze also claimed that UNM members purchased car tires to stage Maidan-style burning barricades. In his interview, Ivanishvili warned that Saakashvili and the UNM “want Georgia to burn in flames, because they are no longer in power.” He maintained that “God saved us that they are no longer in power.”

Significantly, on September 10, the Interior Ministry raised these concerns for a second time. Prime Minister Garibashvili commented on the initial reports in April, stating that “no one will dare to stir destabilization in this country while we are in the government; if anyone has any such desire or attempt, they will be strictly punished.” He responded similarly to the second report in September. The possibility of widespread civil unrest is particularly troubling to Georgian officials, as the memory of the civil war in Georgia during the 1990s is still fresh in many people’s minds.

Yet, even though Saakashvili’s popularity is marginal in Georgia, and though his regime undoubtedly committed many abuses, the criminal charges from Tbilisi against him still prompted a barrage of criticism from the West. US senators from both parties expressed “extreme disappointment” and “concern” with the charges against Saakashvili, while EU officials and members of the Obama administration accused Tbilisi of “selective justice,” backsliding on its democratic obligations, and “deviating from the European path.” Georgia reacted with surprise to these accusations from its Western “partners.” Responding to Western criticism of the initial charges against Saakashvili, Prime Minister Garibashvili retorted that “no one should demand from us to be more Catholic than the Pope.”

In response to further criticism from the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, Garibashvili remarked that their reactions were not surprising as they represented members of a “kind of a club of Saakashvili’s friends. Regrettably, they were not aware of those terrible things that had been happening in Georgia for years.” On Twitter, Bildt replied that “if the Georgian Prime Minister does not want to listen to the best friends of his country in EU that’s his choice.”

Moscow has expressed concern about other recent developments. Georgia’s signing of the EU Association Agreement in June led to the suspension of the Russo-Georgian Free Trade Agreement, which had been in place since 1994. Bilateral trade between Russia and Georgia increased by 35 percent in the first few months of 2014, largely due to the restoration of trade relations under Ivanishvili. The Association Agreement threatens these dynamic new trade relations between both countries.

Moving toward the EU and potentially joining it carries even more serious economic risks for Georgia. As the Eurozone struggles to recover from a severe currency crisis, it is unlikely to deliver on the promise of a major economic transformation for Georgia. The EU’s newest Eastern European members (Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia) have already stopped converging with their Western European counterparts. Citizens of several other Eastern European (and increasingly Southern European) countries have emigrated west, with no return in sight. For a country like Georgia, with a GDP per capita of about $6,000 and continued poverty and unemployment in the countryside, membership in the EU would not bring any dramatic changes and may, in the long term, serve to turn the population against the political elite.

A far greater concern to Moscow is Georgia’s continued pursuit of its NATO ambitions. At the height of the Ukraine crisis, Georgia’s hawks hoped that NATO would grant Tbilisi a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the NATO summit in Wales in September. Despite signs that Washington might support such a move, Germany’s Angela Merkel quickly shot it down before it even reached serious discussion. Instead, Tbilisi was granted a NATO package that would, among other things, establish a NATO training facility in Georgia and give NATO the right to “occasionally” hold military exercises in the Caucasus country. Moscow was less than thrilled, though the denial of a MAP must have been a relief. Still, Putin took precautionary measures. In the run-up to the NATO summit, Russia began the process of forging a defensive military alliance with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. After the NATO summit, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Tbilisi and pledged military aid to Georgia. This increased militarization of the Caucasus region is a troubling development and could have negative implications for broader European and the Middle Eastern regional security.

So, what is to be done? Georgia and Russia have to come to the table and start talking. Even without formal diplomatic relations, the leaders of both countries must meet. Putin’s invitation to Georgia’s Margvelashvili remains open. A meeting like this could set the tone for warmer relations, including a possible resolution of the longstanding Abkhaz and South Ossetian issues along federal or confederal lines.

Meanwhile, the West should recognize that efforts to expand NATO and the EU are not helpful to the pursuit of peace and should instead encourage all parties involved to settle their differences peacefully, amicably and naturally. Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia could work with the West as partners toward greater economic and political integration. The vision of a united Europe without walls, stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, might then be realized. It could also lead toward a common security structure to address global problems, such as nuclear nonproliferation, limited water resources, world hunger, threatening diseases and common threats like ISIS.

The alternative to this option is the continued expansion of NATO into the post-Soviet space and the realization of Russia’s fear that NATO bases are creeping closer to its border. The ultimate nightmare would be to see these divisions entrenched and militarized with the presence of nuclear weapons. Suddenly, there would be a new cold war dividing line running directly through the volatile Caucasus. If the West persists with expanding into this region, it could very well make Georgia the next Ukraine.


Is Putin’s Next Move Against Azerbaijan?

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Azerbaijan is a key American ally. The only country to border both Iran and Russia, it has angered both with its consistent efforts to orient itself to the United States. While many Americans point out Azerbaijan’s democratic deficit, President Ilham Aliyev’s strategy of building up the middle class first has merit: To force reforms prior to establishing a strong, stable middle class would play into the hands of both Iran and Russia, neither of which care an iota about democracy.

As much as Azerbaijan orients itself toward the West, neighboring Armenia has planted itself firmly in Russia’s orbit. Indeed, Armenians are perhaps the only people who would willingly vote to embrace Russia rather than the West even if Russia did not lift a finger to influence or force them. Culturally, Russians and Armenians have much in common, and Russia remains Armenia’s chief patron.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh erupted into hot conflict almost immediately upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the regaining of independence by both states. In December 1991, Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh declared their own republic, one of those fictional states that the Kremlin has helped prop up with increasing frequency—for example, Transnistria in Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and more recently Crimea and Donetsk in the Ukraine.

Visiting Georgetown University Professor Brenda Shaffer is right when she writes in the Wall Street Journal that “Freezing lawless regions invites conflicts.” Nagorno-Karabakh has become a center for money laundering, weapons trafficking, and general instability. In sum, it has become the typical Putin proxy.

With the West distracted by events in Iraq, it seems Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh sought to make their move against a pro-Western ally which has moved to become an energy hub outside Russia’s orbit. Clashes began last week, and have escalated over subsequent days. When it comes to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, there’s a tendency by American policymakers to engage in moral equivalence or simply to seek quiet, regardless of principle. This is wrong on four counts:

First, while Western policymakers see diplomacy as a means to conflict resolution, Russian Present Putin sees international relations as a zero-sum game in which for Russia and its client states to win, the United States and its allies must lose.

Second, whatever the emotional commitment many in the Armenian Diaspora in the United States have toward Armenia and their desire to seek acknowledgement for the events of a century ago, the fact of the matter is that the Armenian government has repeatedly undercut U.S. interests, even going so far as ship Iranian weaponry to be used to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

Third, it’s time the White House recognize that friendship and alliance go two ways. We cannot expect Azerbaijan to so continuously align itself with the United States and promote American interests if we turn our back on its friendship in its hour of need.

And fourth, there is no longer any excuse to not see Putin for what he is. No more Bush-era soul gazing, or Obama-era reset. That Bush and Obama hardly reacted when Russian forces invaded Georgia surely contributed to Putin’s willingness to invade Ukraine. That Obama fiddled and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to appease in the aftermath of that crisis only encouraged Putin to move once again to destabilize the South Caucasus, and its most consistent pro-Western republic. If the United States does not stand up for Azerbaijan, then Putin will understand that we are neither serious about freedom or liberty, friendship or alliance. In such a case, beware Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and even Poland.


Ukraine Clash Shows Azeris Who’s Boss as Russia Ties Bind


Peeling away former Soviet republics from their U.S. and European allies is getting easier for Russia after its show of force in Ukraine. Azerbaijan is changing tack after months of steering clear of the showdown 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) away. First Deputy Premier Yaqub Eyyubov broke the silence in September, calling Russia his country’s “closest, most fraternal” ally. As a sign of the warming ties, Russian warships last month docked at in the capital, Baku, for the first time in more than a year. The nation, which provides the only westward route for central Asian oil bypassing Russia, has grown alarmed that Ukraine was left to fend for itself as President Vladimir Putin had his way in Europe’s biggest crisis since the Iron Curtain fell 25 years ago. That was a “very bad” signal, according to Elnur Soltanov, head of the Caspian Center for Energy and Environment, a research group focused on foreign policy in Baku. “It told everybody who is the real boss in the region, who is the real hegemon,” he said. “Ukraine is the biggest jewel among the post-Soviet states and if Russia comes in broad daylight and occupies Ukraine and the Western world shows this limited reaction -- it tells us that if something goes wrong with Russia, we shouldn’t trust anybody to come and save us.”

Oil Effect

As Azerbaijan redraws its foreign policy, its $74 billion economy is being buffeted by falling crude output and an oil-market selloff. Gross domestic product expanded 2.8 percent in the January-October period, slowing from 5.7 percent a year earlier. Hydrocarbons, which account for 45 percent of GDP, make up more than 90 percent of total Azeri exports, up from 60 percent in the late 1990s, according to the International Monetary Fund. The Caspian Sea country is backtracking on its two-decade drive to forge closer ties with the U.S. and Europe as tensions escalate with Russian ally Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The government has also come under greater scrutiny for its commitment to media freedoms and human rights. Azerbaijan last week shot down what it said was an Armenian helicopter that violated its airspace, an attack that threatens to escalate the conflict. More than 20 troops were killed in August as the skirmishes turned the deadliest in 20 years. With Russian troops already stationed in neighboring Georgia and Armenia, leaders in the nation of 9.6 million people are concerned about leaving the country’s other flanks exposed after seeing the failed efforts to counter Putin’s actions in Ukraine. 

‘Closer Relationship’ 

President Ilham Aliyev has visited Putin twice in the past three months and has recently hosted a range of senior officials from Moscow. Along with Turkey and Israel, Russia is among the biggest suppliers of weapons to Azerbaijan, selling it military hardware including T-90 battle tanks. Speaking at a meeting with Putin last year, Aliyev said Azeri arms trade with Russia was worth $4 billion. The government in Baku plans to increase defense spending by 27 percent next year. “We definitely see a closer relationship between Baku and Moscow in the past year,” said Thomas de Waal, senior associate at the Russia and Eurasia program of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Azerbaijani elite is seeking an equal relationship with both Russia and the West, while retaining its own economic and political independence.” Azerbaijan’s shift toward Russia is also straining relations with the U.S. and Europe. 

Obama, OSCE 

U.S. President Barack Obama in September singled out Azerbaijan as a country where “laws make it incredibly difficult for NGOs even to operate.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe this month urged the government to end its “ongoing and increasing number of repressive actions against independent media and advocates of freedom of expression,” according to a statement. After winning independence 23 years ago, Azerbaijan has developed energy and security ties with the U.S. and the European Union. In partnership with oil companies including BP Plc (BP/), Statoil ASA (STL) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the Caspian Sea nation built the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which ships Asian oil to Europe bypassing Russia. The country also sent troops to fight alongside U.S. forces in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO relies on Azerbaijan for a third of non-lethal shipments to Afghanistan. It also joined GUAM, a U.S.-backed alliance with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. All bar Azerbaijan tied their future to the European Union in June by signing free-trade agreements with the 28-nation bloc. Azerbaijan rejected such an offer. 

Separatist Challenges 

Like the three other members of the group, Azerbaijan has struggled to regain control over a breakaway region. The message is that confrontation with Russia by Georgia and Moldova worsened separatist challenges, as it did in Ukraine said Rasim Musabayov, a member of the international relations committee in Azerbaijan’s parliament. Azerbaijan is locked in a territorial dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict that erupted after the Soviet breakup in 1991. Although major hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire in 1994, no peace agreement has been signed. Armenia hosts the only Russian military base in the region and gets Russian weapons at discounted prices. “Azerbaijan has drawn lessons from what has happened to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine,” Musabayov said. “Azerbaijan realizes that it can’t get Nagorno-Karabakh resolved without Russia’s involvement."


The US Is On A Collision Course With An 'Absolutely Indispensable' Ally

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The US and Turkey are headed for a showdown over Syria, as evidence mounts that Ankara is enabling groups that Washington is actively bombing. Discord between the two allies is now more public than ever following a new report by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer and Merve Tahiroglu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "Bordering on Terrorism: Turkey’s Syria Policy and the Rise of the Islamic State" details Turkey's apparent willingness to allow extremists — including militants from the Islamic State (aka IS, ISIS, or ISIL) — and their enablers to thrive on the 565-mile border with Syria in an attempt to secure the downfall of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. "The IS crisis has put Turkey and the US on a collision course," the report says. "Turkey refuses to allow the coalition to launch military strikes from its soil. Its military also merely looked on while IS besieged the Kurdish town of Kobani, just across its border. Turkey negotiated directly with IS in the summer of 2013 to release 49 Turks held by the terrorist group. In return, Ankara reportedly secured the release of 180 IS fighters, many of whom returned to the battlefield.

"Meanwhile, the border continues to serve as a transit point for the illegal sale of oil, the transfer of weapons, and the flow of foreign fighters. Inside Turkey, IS has also established cells for recruiting militants and other logistical operations. All of this has raised questions about Turkey’s value as an American ally, and its place in the NATO alliance."

Schanzer, a former counterterrorism analyst for the US Treasury Department, told Business Insider that Ankara was "like that guy at the casino who keeps doubling down on a bad bet. Each time the policy has failed, Turkey appears to have decided to go back and do it again, but with higher stakes." Throughout the Syrian civil war, Turkey's southern border has served as a transit point for cheap oil, weapons, foreign fighters, and pillaged antiquities. As the conflict progressed, the fighters taking advantage of Ankara's lax border policies were more and more radical. "What began with scattered opposition forces exploiting the border became something that was really focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, which then became something that was utilized by [Salafist rebel group] Ahrar al Sham, which was then utilized by [al-Qaeda affiliate] The Nusra Front, which is now utilized by ISIS," Schanzer told Business Insider. He added that given various reports of jihadi financiers sitting in hotels on the border between Syria and Turkey, "it is impossible that [Turkey's intelligence agency] MIT is not aware" of what's going on. The financiers "are doling out cash to those who come back with videos of attacks, proof of what they've done against the Assad regime or other enemies," said Schanzer, who previously detailed Turkey's terrorism finance problem to Business Insider. Those videos are then used as propaganda to raise more money for funding fighters.

America's Role

The report notes that policy of the administration of US President Barack Obama regarding Syria may have indirectly instigated Turkey's dangerous policy. After supporting Turkey's cause of ousting Assad, Washington didn't follow up with significant support to the moderate opposition while Assad dropped Scud missiles and barrel bombs on playgrounds and bakeries. Obama then balked at enforcing his "red line" after Assad's forces killed an estimated 1,400 people in four hours by firing rockets filled with nerve gas on rebel-held territory near the capital. "I was in Turkey during the Ghouta attacks, and [Turkish officials] were incredulous," Schanzer said. "They believed that the United States was squarely behind [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, not only just in terms of steering Syria into soft landing, but also that it would back up its words with deeds and take action in light of an ongoing slaughter. "So I think in a sense once it became clear that the US was not going to be holding to its word, there was a sense among the Turks that they had to do this themselves." 

ISIS And Blowback 

"Turkey does not have a conflict with ISIS, doesn't want a conflict with ISIS, and ISIS is benefiting from [Turkey's] border policies," Schanzer said. "Beyond that it gets a lot more fuzzy, but the point is that the Turks are not being forthcoming about this relationship." He added that despite no evidence that Turkey was actively working with ISIS, "it cannot be denied that Turkey is helping to facilitate the activities of a terrorist organization that has killed Americans and is destabilizing the region." Furthermore, ISIS is gaining a following in the country. The report cites an email from Turkey-based BuzzFeed reporter Mike Giglio that highlighted his concern about the "level of ISIS support among the 1-million-plus Syrians living in Turkey. I don't see how they can successfully weed out ISIS supporters from among these refugees."

Schanzer said that as the suspected presence of ISIS inside Turkey increased, and with it support inside Turkey for ISIS and other extremist groups, it becomes that much more difficult for Turkey to do anything. "They've inadvertently created a mechanism that can yield blowback for them that could be extremely painful," Schanzer said. "You have a lot of people now that are invested in the business of extremism in Turkey. If you start to challenge that, it raises significant questions of whether" the militants, their benefactors, and other war profiteers would tolerate the crackdown

Impossible To Maintain

Tensions between Ankara and Washington won't dissipate "so long as Turkey tries to remain neutral with regard to ISIS while all of these things are happening on its border," according to Schanzer. Consequently, the report argues, Washington must find a way to work with Turkey. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described Turkey as "absolutely indispensable" to the ISIS fight. Turkey would need to shut down the border, wrap up known nodes of Nusra and ISIS supporters, remove ISIS recruitment cells, and dismantle ISIS logistical operations inside the country. (Schanzer noted that the US or NATO could assist.)

"A lot of this is going to come down to the will of Ankara right now," Schanzer said, adding that a lack of cooperation could result in Treasury Department sanctions against "individuals who are taking an active role in these illicit pipelines" on the Turkish side of the border. "After that, I think we do begin to question whether security or intelligence cooperation can continue when there isn't an honest give and take with what's happened," Schanzer added. The report concludes that Ankara must understand that "while America's Syria policy may have been feckless, its border policy has been reckless." And the repercussions of doubling down even further would jeopardize relations with a crucial ally.  "No one wants to scuttle this relationship. But I do think that as more and more of this comes to light, it becomes ... essentially impossible to maintain the status quo," Schanzer said. "If we've decided that ISIS is an enemy worth defeating, it becomes impossible to maintain the relationship as it is."


Russia Can Survive An Oil Price War

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Yves here. This article is an important sanity check on the impact of the current oil price war on Russia. We’ve seen similarly skewed conventional wisdom  on the Saudis:  “No, they can’t make it on a fiscal budget basis at below $90 a barrel,” completely ignoring the fact that the Saudis clearly believe it is in their long-term interest to suffer some costs to inflict pain on some of their enemies, and render some (a lot) of shale oil and alternative energy development uneconomical, which increases their ability to extract more in the long term from their oil asset.

By Colin Chilcoat, a writer at OilPrice. Originally published at OilPrice

After a frosty reception at the G20 summit in Australia this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin required some much needed rest, at least according to the official explanation given for his conspicuously early departure from the proceedings. All things considered it could have been a lot worse. Russia finds itself in familiar territory after a controversial half-year, highlighted by the bloody and still unresolved situation in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the prospect of further sanctions looms low and Russia’s stores of oil and gas remain high.

Shortsighted? Maybe, but Russia has proven before – the 2008 financial crisis for example– that it can ride its resource rents through a prolonged economic slump. Higher oil price volatility and sanctions separate the current downturn from that of 2008, but Russia’s economic fundamentals remain the same – bolstered by low government debt and a large amount of foreign reserves. Moreover, Western involvement in Russian oil and gas plays is more pronounced than ever.

Economic diversification has not come easy for Russia, arguably for a simple, but effective reason; oil and gas are a source of tremendous wealth for the country. However, the dire straits of the 2008 global crisis illustrated the importance of financial diversification. Since then, Russian state-owned oil and gas giants Rosneft and Gazprom have increasingly allowed Western majors like BP, Eni, Exxon, Shell, Statoil, and Total access to some of Russia’s underdeveloped, but prized projects. Western companies have an estimated $35 billion tied up in Russian oil with hundreds of billions more planned and service providers Halliburton and Schlumberger each derive approximately five percent of their global sales from the Russian market.

The Western majors remain committed to their extra-national ventures and these powerful relationships ultimately limit the sanctions’ scope. Still, with their cooperation put on hold, Russia has been forced to look elsewhere, and increasingly within. Rosneft is set to announce new Arctic partners by the end of the year, a role formerly dominated by Exxon. China appears a likely suitor as the two countries have already embarked on a promising oil partnership in Russia’s Far East in addition to the highly publicized long-term gas deals. Domestically, Rosneft and Gazprom have strengthened their alliance and Putin has approved the creation of a state-owned oil services company.

The learning curve will likely be steep, but early successes have bred high hopes and oil production is not projected to contract. Gazprom Neft just completed its third delivery from their Prirazlomnoye project, the world’s first stationary Arctic platform. Shipments from the promising field have now exceeded 1,400,000 barrels on the year. Onshore, homegrown technology and execution has already yielded huge results in East Siberia, which looks to overtake West Siberia as Russia’s primary producing region in the near future.

The picture is incomplete without a discussion of price, and oil’s sinking value – a combination of low demand and increasing supply, US shale included – spells trouble for a number of major players, Russia among them. The breakeven price, or the production cost per barrel, is the central figure here however, and in an international game of ‘how low can you go’, OPEC is in the driver’s seat.

Still, the lower prices – Brent crude has averaged $81 per barrel thus far in November – are in no party’s best interest and OPEC will do their best to keep prices high while defending their market share. The cartel’s upcoming meeting in Vienna on the 27th will go a long way in determining the future trajectory of oil prices. The global supply glut will be the focus, but theories surrounding both US and Saudi collusion and conflict give doubt to any plan for unified production cuts.

Business as usual in Vienna would be a welcome sight for Russia, who would see a decline in the United States’ ability to define geopolitical events in the Eastern Hemisphere. The truth is, the US can’t win any volume or price-based game of brinkmanship with the traditional producing states, Russia included. Shale plays in both Russia and the US will soon be priced out with continued slippage. Unlike the States however, a majority of Russia’s production comes from cheaper, though declining, fields in West Siberia. The International Energy Agency already predicts a 10 percent decline in US shale investment in 2015.

Whether or not that’s enough to stunt global supply remains to be seen. Shaky situations in Iraq and Libya could just as easily remedy pricing woes overnight. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger, but Russia can survive a price war.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Russia-Can-Survive-An-Oil-Price-War.html

Russia eyes economic self-reliance, proves national strength amid Western pressure

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Russia seeks for more independent economic development and has proved its national strength amid Western sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday

URGING ECONOMIC SELF-DEVELOPMENT

Russia depends on itself for economic development, remains open to world investments and is not interested in arm races, Putin said in his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly. Western sanctions encourage Russia to attain more economic efficiency, he said, adding the government should overcome disorganized administration, irresponsibility and bureaucracy, which are "direct threats to our security."

Russian economy should get out of the trap of zero growth rate and reach an above-world-average development rate in the coming three to four years, so as to increase its share in the global economy and therefore strengthen economic independence, Putin said in the Kremlin Palace. The government is tasked with solving the problem of high inflation and ensuring economic growth at the same time, as well as reversing the depreciation of the Russian ruble, Putin added.

Inflation rate should be brought down below 4 percent, while annual labor productivity should be no less than 5 percent, according to Putin. He added that the Central Bank and other relevant departments have been asked to take harsh and coordinated measures to fight speculators in the currency market. More proposals were made by the president to ensure a more independent Russian economy, such as the establishment of a new and transparent supervision system between business and government by 2015 in order to prevent obsessive governmental control, as well as a one-time full amnesty for repatriated offshore capital.

Alexei Makhlai, president of the Social Policy Research Center, a non-governmental organization, said Putin's capital amnesty proposal could succeed and help revive the stagnated economy. "Putin hinted that the authorities would consider repatriation of the assets not only as an economic move, but also as a political sign of support to the Russian state, as a manifestation of patriotism," he told Xinhua. Meanwhile, Maxim Osadchy, head of analysis at Moscow-based Corporate Finance Bank, disagreed, citing the lack of trust between businessmen and politicians.

"The other thing is, the investors' behavior depends on real economic situation much more than on any politician's words," the expert told Xinhua. Russia's economy has been hit hard due to the continuous fall of world oil prices and Western sanctions, with the country's Economic Development Ministry estimating a 0.8 percent contract in 2015. The Russian currency, ruble, has also lost nearly 40 percent of its value against dollar and euro.

HAILING NATIONAL STRENGTH

The events of the departing year demonstrated Russian state and people's strength and proved the necessity for the country to remain strong and sovereign amid Western pressure, Putin noted. "This year we have passed through trials that only a mature and united nation, a truly sovereign and strong state can cope with," Putin said at the beginning of the address. He accused the United States of its attempts to influence the relations between Russia and neighboring countries "directly or indirectly."

Russia has respected and will always respect the inalienable right of every nation, including Ukraine, to choose its own path of development, allies as well as political and economic systems, Putin said. Current focus should be on the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis, as well as political and economic reform of Ukraine, "instead of politicking and empty promises," he said.

"(The West) attempts to contain Russia's growing influence. If it wasn't for sanctions, they'd invent something else. But it's senseless to talk to Russia from the position of force, even when Russia faces internal difficulties," Putin said.

While pointing out that western sanctions also hurt those who initiate them, Putin stressed that Russia will not bow because "the more we retreat, the more our opponents will behave cynically and aggressively." Putin ruled out curtailing cooperation with Europe and the United States, saying that Moscow will restore and broaden traditional ties "with the south of the American continent and will continue cooperation with Africa and Middle Eastern countries."

The president stressed Russia is not to engage in a costly arms race and will not seek self-isolation despite current challenges. "No one can reach military superiority over Russia ... We've got enough strength, will and courage to defend our freedom," Putin stated. Putin warned that the U.S. global missile defense system threatens the security of not only Russia but the entire world, bringing possible disruptions of the strategic balance of forces.

"After the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, it continues intense work to set up a U.S. global missile defense system, including in Europe," Putin said. "I think it is detrimental to the United States itself, as it creates a dangerous illusion of invincibility and increases the desire for unilateral and, as we often see, injudicious decisions."

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/europe/europe/2014-12/05/c_127278182.htm

Putin Is Hoarding Gold and Rattling Sabers--What’s He Up to Now?
The Russian government has spent the last few days giving the world a lot more to worry about. From moving more tanks into Ukraine, to transferring nuclear weapons-capable units to Crimea, to announcing that it will start flying long-range bombers over the Gulf of Mexico, the Kremlin hasn’t exactly been a stabilizing force in global affairs for the past few days.  Then, there’s this: It turns out that in addition to invading neighbors and taking an increasingly belligerent global posture, the Russian government has been stockpiling gold. Lots and lots of gold. 

The World Gold Council, which tracks demand for the metal, said in its report for the third quarter of 2014 that the Russian central bank accounted for more than half of the gold purchased by central banks in the three months ending with September. Since this time last year, Russia has increased its total gold holdings by 25 percent, meaning its gold reserve is now the fifth largest in the world. Its holdings have tripled in the past decade.

Now, generally, advice to start hoarding gold comes from people who also predict imminent economic catastrophe. Or war. So, has Vladimir Putin has been watching too many Glen Beck reruns? Is he planning to start World War III? Fortunately, there is another likely driver of Russia’s gold purchases. 

The Russian ruble has been taking a beating in the foreign exchange markets this year, largely due to the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies after the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula over the summer, and the continued Russian participation in the ongoing civil war in eastern Ukraine. 

A large gold reserve would give the Russian government the wherewithal to further prop up its currency in the global foreign exchange market, one presumably insulated from currency fluctuations, should the confrontation with the West continue for an extended period, which seems increasingly likely. While it’s increasingly unclear just what Putin is thinking and planning, hopefully his increasing interest in gold is simply an indicator of monetary insecurity rather than crisis planning based on inside information.